BLOOMFIELD, Iowa – Creative efforts on the part of several Missouri churches and associations are contributing to the start-up efforts of a new congregation here this summer.
The southern Iowa town is only a few miles north of the Missouri border, but there are no other Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) churches in Bloomfield or in Davis County. Church Planter Roger Marlow and his wife, Mileta, are Bloomfield natives who are leading efforts to start Bloomfield Fellowship there.
With help from several churches in Missouri, two associations in Missouri and Iowa and a lot of energy from volunteers, the new church has gathered a core group who meet on Sunday evenings in a community center.
This summer Marlow and the ministry partners began an ambitious plan which included three nearly back-to-back events. The first was an entry in the town’s 4th of July parade followed by an event at the town’s rodeo pavilion where a horse-whisperer cowboy preacher, David Kenyon of Deer Creek Church in Cuba, broke a wild horse to lead while sharing the gospel with onlookers. The next week a Vacation Bible School (VBS) was held on the courthouse square. That was followed by a block party with food, entertainment, games and door prizes.
Ten people have accepted Jesus to date through these efforts including one adult at the horse whisperer event and nine at the VBS. Marlow said they have discovered 47 prospects from the three projects including 11 who indicated they want to know more about the Sunday evening Bible study.
“The neat thing about this is the variety of churches and associations that came together from across Missouri and Iowa to work on this thing,” said Larry Gibson, pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church, Kirksville–the sponsor church of the new church start.
First Baptist Church, Plattsburg, sent 11 teenagers and four adults including Youth Pastor Christopher Argent to lead the VBS July 16-19. Even though the temperatures were above 100 degrees several days, they led a spirited VBS worship with 17 children from the community.
“We had the opportunity to talk to these kids about the Bible stories and they don’t come from a Christian background of church,” said Zach Shelton, 17, one of the First Plattsburg youth. “I led the Bible stories and I learned how to prepare for that. I’m a bit nervous about the door-to-door visiting, but it’s been fun.”
Brianna Mitchell, 14, said, “I wanted to interact with the kids. I am helping with the crafts. I love watching the kids as they are singing, doing the VBS motions. It makes me happy.”
Argent said he learned about the mission trip opportunity when he attended the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) last fall and stopped by an Iowa booth. He met Marlow and decided their youth needed to come to Iowa to help this summer.
Two MBC summer missionaries who are serving in northeast Missouri, Jennifer Rivera and Jessica Thompson, assisted with the three projects. Their service was met with appreciation by the locals.
“As we were giving out free water bottles and soda pop to the area business employees on the town square prior to the parade they were saying, ‘Free? What do you mean free?’” Rivera said.
“Their faces were incredulous. We had opportunities to pray for some people who are having surgery and they said ‘Who are you people and why are you here?’ We asked this one man if we could pray for him and he said ‘Pray for my wife, that she is up in heaven,’ and then he started crying.”
Area residents were mixed in their reactions to the new church and the activities on the town square but they were generally supportive, some even offering the missionaries and youth group members refreshments as they stopped at their homes.
“They followed one group and thanked them with bottles of water,” Argent said.
Marlow was delighted.
“We hit our demographics in this project,” he said. “We found kids who are not going to church anywhere. Some got saved. We found some kids in families where there were difficult home situations. The VBS was a touch in their lives from a different way of life. God was reaching out and touching them with love.”
He added the new church and their leaders want Missouri and Iowa Baptists to “please continue to pray for us in this process.” Potential volunteers are invited to call Marlowarlow at (641) 799-8365 or email him at email@example.com.
About 75 Bloomfield residents joined the group for the July 20 block party on the town square. Ethan and Kwon Butler of First Baptist Church, Winigan, spent about 20 hours roasting a hog in a barbecue smoker to feed the crowd. The Jack Thompson Family, a group of local musicians, sang praise songs and Gibson spoke to the crowd with an evangelistic message. The South-Central Iowa Baptist Association loaned its block-party trailer to the effort. Roasted pork sandwiches were distributed to the townspeople along with the love of the Missouri and Iowa volunteers.
About 10 people have started attending the Sunday night Bible study. (Richard Nations is director of missions for the Thousand Hills Baptist Association, Kirksville.)