JEFFERSON CITY—On Nov. 19, just back from a long trip to Africa where he encouraged two Missouri Baptist teams on the field, Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Partnership Missions Specialist Rick Hedger said the year-old effort is “well on target” and “a little bit ahead of where I thought it would be.”
Approximately 14-18 churches and associations are actively involved in the Western Gateway Cluster of the continent, an area that covers nine countries and 55 million people. Hedger was in Senegal and Gambia from Nov. 3-17 to work with teams from Concord Baptist Church, Jefferson City, and Freshwater Church, Bolivar. He also participated in International Mission Board (IMB) training Nov. 5-12 in the village of K (name not identified for security reasons).
“I want to say, ‘Bravo!’” Hedger said of the foothold Missouri Baptists have gained in Africa. “I would like 36 engaging churches, but if we got 36-50 churches over the life of the partnership involved in the Western Gateway Cluster, that’s doing great.”
The gains are flowing purely out of Hedger’s decade-long concentration on Africa. As pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Neosho, from 2002-2007, he led the people from being a partnering (helping) church to being an engaging (acting as the missionary to an unreached people group) church. Now as an MBC specialist, he is coordinating a statewide strategy and sitting in on IMB training times that he wishes he would have had 20 years ago. He is trusted and beloved by many.
“There is more than just the fact that I’m a mobilizer,” Hedger said. “I really do consider many of those missionaries my personal friends. They are extremely appreciative of all that I’m able to do to get them these partners to make this happen.
“We will work it out somehow where we can give Missouri Baptist churches this training that IMB missionaries get for their working there so that our MBC churches will know the same thing IMB missionaries know.”
Hedger is referring to the foundational instruction he received in K. The IMB facilitators took the group through a systematic process of how to see an indigenous church planting movement both start and spread in an oral society. It involves understanding concepts of pre-entry, entry, evangelism, discipleship, church formation, leadership development, and exit strategy.
“It was a very common sharing,” Hedger said. “It is not a bunch of information that you just absorb like a sponge, then you go away then you do your own thing.
“A missionary team might have several units. One of them had four family units that were working with the one people group. When they broke up to do their brainstorming, that unit went together because they were trying to consider the stories from Scripture that would best work within their people group. So I noticed there’s a lot of flexibility. It’s not a hard, fast you must do this.”
The ultimate goal is to train Africans to do everything that is needed in church so that the locals are not looking to the Americans for leadership. This is how Hedger is communicating what needs to be done with Missouri Baptists.
“Everything has to be reproducible within that environment, whether it’s Africa, India, Latin America, Ontario, wherever it is,” Hedger said.
ALLEN PALMERI/associate editor