BOLIVAR—A church has been planted in the Western Gateway Cluster of the Sub-Saharan Affinity Group of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) partnership by a team led by a graduate of Southwest Baptist University.
James Shuler was recently ordained and is en route to a January ministry position as a pastor of discipleship under lead pastor Scott Watson at River Bluff Fellowship in Ozark. Shuler led the team in November that planted the church for the “S” people. The team that enjoyed success in Africa was built around the missionary heart of Freshwater Church here, which has now planted the first church on African soil to come out of the MBC initiative entered into in 2009.
“We had been praying in line with the strategy of that area, that God would lead us to a person of peace well thought of and connected with leaders of the community that could quickly open doors to outsiders like ourselves,” Shuler said.
The specific location is not listed for safety reasons, but the church is located somewhere on the mainland of West Africa, in one of the following countries: Senegal; The Gambia; Mali; Guinea-Bissau; Guinea; Sierra Leone; or Liberia.
The MBC is also seeking to plant churches in the island nation of Cape Verde.
Shuler has been going to Africa since November 2010. He was first invited into the imam’s compound in a Muslim village. The church came a year later when he and two other people went in to share a story called “Creation to the Church.” That story was shared in a couple of villages.
A Southern Baptist church in this part of Africa is not like a Southern Baptist church in the United States of America.
The order of service is different. For example, a church in this part of Africa may gather to hear stories. That may be what they would call church.
Part of what the Shuler-led church plant team is doing is helping the people in practical ways. For example, they are helping with instruction at a school.
They also are helping to provide clean drinking water.
Shuler’s strength in the Freshwater effort to plant the first church rests
in his expertise with small groups.
Recognizing his leadership ability, MBC Partnership Missions Specialist Rick Hedger ordained him into the ministry. Joshua Hedger, Rick’s son and the pastor of Freshwater, also had complete trust in Shuler to execute the task in Africa.
The S people are 30,000 strong.
“We are praying that God would add local churches to partner with us to continue walking through open doors that God gives us in the entire area near the S people,” Shuler said. “How exciting it would be if, upon our return in April, there is a regional church growing, in spite of the needed teaching and discipleship amongst the local leadership we left behind.”
By Allen Palmeri / associate editor