By Kayla Rinker
COLDWATER, Ontario – Inspiration, encouragement, a symbol of hope and a guiding light. These words and phrases not only describe the word, beacon, they also fittingly describe the first Canadian National Baptist Convention (CNBC) and Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) partnership church plant, Beacon Baptist Church.
“We see Beacon as a starting point, a catalyst for a number of other churches that will be planted in the area,” said Pat Armstrong, CNBC Church Starting Advocate for Northern Ontario and pastor at Beacon Baptist Church.
This first church plant started about a year ago when Armstrong and his wife, Nadine, started meeting with another family for Bible study. Since then Beacon Baptist, which the CNBC recently recognized as an established church, has grown to about 25 members.
“The Lord has brought every one of our members to us,” Armstrong said.
Though Coldwater may seem an unlikely candidate for an initial church plant (the town has a population of about 1,100 while nearby Midland boasts 16,300), Armstrong said Coldwater is where the people have been the most receptive and where he has found the highest concentration of Christian strength.
“We are currently leading another Bible study in Midland and we are hoping it will also grow into a church but until then, we know the Lord wants us to be patient,” he said.
Armstrong said another interesting fact about Coldwater is that before Beacon Baptist Church, the community did not have a single evangelical church, and it’s been that way for decades.
“You might say Coldwater is a cold community, at least religiously speaking,” he said. “It’s interesting how the Lord has led us here.”
MBC Partnership Missions Specialist Rick Hedger recently preached during a Sunday morning service for Beacon Baptist at its current meeting place, in a room adjacent to a curling rink. He said the new church plant fits right in with what the Northern Ontario partnership is working to accomplish. The partnership’s goal is to establish five platform churches and 45 house churches.
“This church is beginning as what would be considered a platform church, in that they are large enough that they have already moved out of a house and mission teams have began working and partnering with them,” he said.
He said having an actual church to partner with is appealing to Missouri Baptists who will decide to serve God in Ontario in the coming months.
“Beacon Baptist will serve as sort of an organizing mother church that will rely on the manpower of Missouri Baptists,” Hedger said. “They form the strategy and we serve as the hands and feet. That’s a doable partnership for any Baptist church to take on.”
And some already have. Dennis Manley, director of missions for Miller County Baptist Association, recently led a mission team to Coldwater in June.
While there, Manley said the team’s mission was entirely evangelical. They hit the streets passing out God’s Plan for Sharing (GPS) gospel presentations, Beacon Baptist Church flyers and advertising for a one-day Vacation Bible School that the mission team helped put on.
“We had about 30 kids come to the VBS, 80 total people,” Manley said. “It rained so we had to go with plan B and have the event inside but people still came and we had a wonderful worship service. But I’m telling you, this part of the world is not like El Salvador. Down there they don’t have all the things we have. In Coldwater, they have all the stuff we have—all the stuff that is turning our country away from God. It’s going to be very difficult there. Building long-term relationships is the only way. They put their Bible on a shelf long ago and many have put God on the shelf right next to their Bible.”
Though Manley and his team were only there for a short while, he said he knew they were where God wanted them to be.
“The church was so appreciative of our efforts and still are,” he said. “I believe God is going to start a great work there.”
For more information on how to become part of the Northern Ontario partnership mission, call Rick Hedger at 1-800-736-6227 ext. 620 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.