By Kayla Rinker
NEOSHO – There are approximately 378,000 Mandyak people (pronounced mon-jock) living in the world today. Of those, 114,000 Mandyak live in Senegal, a country located in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Because there are so few missionaries and so many unreached people groups, the International Mission Board (IMB) is not able to send missionaries to people like the Mandyak. If a people group does not have a missionary assigned to them, sadly, they have no way of hearing the stories of Jesus.
That is where Calvary Baptist Church in Neosho (and other Baptist churches) comes in.
Four years ago Calvary Baptist, led by God and its former pastor, Rick Hedger (now the partnership missions specialist for the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC)), signed an agreement to be the driving missionary effort to the Mandyak people of West Africa (Senegal, Guinea Bissau, and Gambia). Other partners working with them include Ridgecrest Baptist Church in St. Charles; Peninsula Korean Baptist Church in Newport News, Va.; Dublin Baptist Church in Carson, Miss.; and the Covington-Jeff Davis Baptist Association in Collins, Miss.
“We are on mission with God and it’s been amazing,” said Sam Turner, minister of missions and senior adults at Calvary.
Turner joined the Calvary staff a few months before the church committed itself to the Mandyak. He liked the fact that Calvary was planning an Acts 1:8 approach to missions that would be “member-led rather than staff-led.” He said the Mandyak mission began and continues to rely heavily on the power of prayer.
“You get a lot of ‘it just so happened’ when you are on your knees in prayer,” Turner said. “Many times when churches do mission work in their own communities they become ‘activities as usual’ because the people rely too much on their own powers.
“God has made our mission to the Mandyak possible. God will orchestrate a whole lot if we just let Him.”
Since starting the missionary work in 2005, Calvary has sent teams to Senegal about three times a year. They have sent research teams, provided medical clinics, taught English in classrooms and trained leaders.
“Our research found that the two most felt needs in Africa, especially in West Africa, were for medical assistance and education,” he said. “Also, using those as a platform helps us become well-known fast because the people there know that the only reason we are working there is because we care about them.”
Turner said they are always looking for opportunities to present Jesus to the Mandyak people.
“We are seeing new villages open up including two new places this year,” he said. “We are working toward sending an English team and a medical team each year, as well as five other trips dedicated to teaching and training new Christians.”
Calvary’s missionary relationship with the Mandyak is a snapshot of the missions partnership Missouri Baptists approved at their annual meeting in October with the Western Gateway Cluster (Senegal, Gambia, Mali, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cape Verde.) The goal is that many more churches will be willing to engage as missionaries to small people groups in these countries.
Turner, who spent 25 years as an IMB missionary to Kenya, has some advice for churches who feel God calling them to be a missionary to a West African people group.
“Be prepared for spiritual warfare,” he said. “West Africa has been a sort of graveyard of missions for years. It is the heart of the lostness.”
He said during one trip to Africa he remembers an instance when he put up the message, “Jesus Christ is Lord” on a chalkboard in a church where he and Calvary’s current pastor, Roger Brumley, were teaching a group of leaders.
“A group of men and boys started throwing rocks, banging on metal gates and beating what we would call machetes together,” he said. “Satan did not like the message saying he will be defeated. Spiritual warfare is alive there, as well as here, and prayer is essential.”