SPRINGFIELD – The exact wording of Acts 1:8 commands Jesus’s followers to go make disciples “in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth.” For the churches of Greene County Baptist Association, that translates to “Springfield, Nebraska and India.” And don’t forget Guadalajara, Mexico, where a team of 17 representing seven churches from the association has been witnessing to spectators at the Pan American Games since Oct. 13.
“The churches embrace Acts 1:8,” said Mike Haynes, Greene County director of missions. “We’ve got 94 churches and missions that constitute the association and the great majority on some level are sending money or people for these partnerships. We’re blessed with some great churches.”
The Greene County churches have been making several trips a year in the last several years to the west-central Mexican city as part of a partnership with the regional Baptist convention there.
“Our churches do vacation Bible schools, construction projects and for the past several springs our association has paid for and have conducted a leadership training conference for their pastors and wives,” Haynes said.
Guadalajara is the second-largest city in Mexico and this week is hosting the Pan American Games, an international, Olympics-style competition among 42 North and South American nations. The city expects roughly 500,000 visitors for the games, including the mission team from Greene County.
“The Baptists and other evangelicals are really doing a great job trying to bring in groups and hosting activities to share the Gospel with the spectators and just meeting people,” Haynes said.
The team will be passing out free bottles of water with the Gospel printed on the labels and copies of the Gospel of John.
At “the ends of the earth,” churches in the association are in a long-term partnership with an association of churches in northwest India, centered around the city of Chandighar. Their most recent trip was in March of this year.
“We’ve seen the Lord work in a powerful way in that part of India,” Haynes said.
The association works with a pastor-church planter in Chandighar, who has been pastoring for more than 30 years. Through that one church, more than 400 churches and missions have sprung up in the region. They promote sponsoring children in a local Christian school and have helped in its construction, and like in Guadalajara, they hosted a leadership conference for 40 pastors, many of whom traveled 200 miles and slept on the floor to be there. But perhaps their biggest ministry in India isn’t one that immediately comes to mind to most people who think about international missions: motorcycles.
“So many of the pastors are leading several churches in two or three different villages, but they are limited by a lack of transportation,” Haynes said. “We dreamed of ways to help them in that regard and in the last three years we’ve bought probably 20 motorcycles for pastors there. They go from people able to plant churches in three or four villages, to 15 villages. It’s been a very rewarding ministry.”
A little closer to home, the churches of the association are partnering with churches in eastern Nebraska to spread the Gospel.
“The primary thing we’ve done is promote needs from the churches there and each summer several of our churches go up there working with church plants, or working with churches in downtown Omaha or Lincoln,” Haynes said. “It’s only a seven-hour drive up there, so we churches can do a short weekend trip if that’s what works or longer doing Bible schools, helping do the legwork with a church plant or whatever they need.”
BRIAN KOONCE/staff writer