By Susan Mires
MANSFIELD – A partnership with Colorado has stirred a passion for missions in the Wright-Douglas-Ozark Baptist Association in south-central Missouri.
For the last four years, the association sent mission teams to Colorado, sharing the Gospel through many different venues.
“It’s been a work of love and it’s been wonderful,” said Dick Wakefield, director of missions for the association. “It has changed our association.”
The partnership with Colorado has drawn to a formal close, but the spirit of missions continues to grow. At their annual meeting in September, Wright-Douglas-Ozark approved a new partnership with Dryden, Ontario. Messengers at the Missouri Baptist Convention Oct. 26-28 are expected to approve a statewide partnership with Ontario.
Wakefield said Missourians from his association are already planning for the Canadian connection.
“There is so much excitement about going up there,” he said. “We’re just open to do what the Lord wants us to do.”
Experiences in Colorado provide plenty of incentive to follow the Lord’s leading to missions. Wakefield had worked with Belarus through the International Mission Board and, after talking with pastors in the association, felt called to pursue a project in the United States.
In 2005, the association’s first team traveled 1,000 miles from southern Missouri to western Colorado. The team of 20 people included about 14 adults, a few youth and even a 3-year-old child. Wakefield said that at first, he was concerned about bringing children on the trip.
“One of the best things we did was take those kids with us,” he said.
The young missionaries proved an asset in hosting a Vacation Bible School at the community center in Palisade, Colo., Wakefield said. The trip resulted in 10 professions of faith. In the fall of 2005, Antioch Baptist Church from Wright-Douglas-Ozark held a revival in Palisade. More decisions were recorded and the mission partnership was off and running.
“After we were there, we asked the director of missions if he would come back to Missouri for our annual meeting,” Wakefield said. At that time, the association formed a missions partnership with the Grand Valley Baptist Association of Colorado.
In the second year, Wright-Douglas-Ozark sponsored seven mission trips to Colorado. One church took a youth group and rented a campground, hosting a camp with the Colorado youth and showing local churches how to conduct a camp.
Then Wakefield got an idea.
“We sent the youth (so) I thought why couldn’t we take a group of senior adults?” he said.
The association rented a motor coach and took 32 retirees to Grand Junction. The seniors prayer-walked and did street evangelism. They led more than 30 people to Christ and became energized about sharing the Gospel.
“To see those people be revived and become such warriors for Christ in their church, it’s worth it,” Wakefield said.
The association contributed fuel money for any church that organized a trip. The association’s 27 churches include a few larger churches, but most average less than 100 each week, some less than 20.
“All of our churches, even our smaller churches, participate as they can through giving, prayer, or going. It’s a mission project for the whole association,” Wakefield said.
This summer, the senior adult mission team worked on renovations at the mission center in New Castle, Colo., as well as evangelism. Richard Eakins, pastor of First Baptist Church, Mansfield, led the trip and said the team was able to accomplish a great deal in a short amount of time. The four-year partnership has yielded many blessings, Eakins said, and other associations may want to consider it.
“Your people will come home with a new attitude about missions. They’ll come changed in that aspect. That’s good for the whole mission program,” he said.
Over the four-year partnership period, the association had about 15 mission trips to Colorado and saw 200 people come to Christ.
Now, Wright-Douglas-Ozark is focusing north. Wakefield said this partnership will be different, because the community in Canada does not even have a church planter. The association is looking at ways to get introduced in the community, perhaps something as simple as picking up trash during a festival this summer.
“Once we get that door open, we feel like we can be in ministry,” Wakefield said.