WEEK OF PRAYER: 'No superstar' church a piece of puzzle

EDITOR'S NOTE: This year's Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention is Dec. 2-9 with the theme "Every Church. Every Nation." The theme undergirds the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. The offering, in tandem with Cooperative Program gifts from Southern Baptist churches, supports international workers in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission. Gifts to the Lottie Moon offering are received through local Southern Baptist churches or online at IMB.org/lmco, where there are resources to promote the offering. This year's goal is $160 million.

SÃO PAULO, Brazil (BP) -- In their home in São Paulo, Brazil, Scott and Joyce Pittman have a giant map of the city plastered across their wall. It's a picture of the work still to be done in the metro area of 22 million people. And now that image is plastered across the hearts of the members of Highland Baptist Church in Shelbyville, Ky., too.

Since members of Highland Baptist Church in Shelbyville, Ky., have traveled to Brazil and met its people, they now feel the weight of their own responsibility -- and the blessing of partnering with International Mission Board missionaries to reach the people of Brazil with the Gospel.
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Ever since Highland Baptist began partnering with the Pittmans -- city strategy leaders with the International Mission Board -- several years ago, they haven't been able to get São Paulo out of their minds.

"When you see that map, you can see the vision Scott and Joyce have for the city," said pastor Chris Platt. "They do a great job of explaining what it will take to reach it. Then when you go out into the city and meet the people, your love for missions just comes alive. You give more, you pray more, and you think more about missions."

And ever since the Kentucky Baptist Convention kicked off a partnership with the Pittmans in São Paulo, teams from Highland Baptist have traveled regularly to the city to participate in a "variety pack" of ministry. They arrange basketball camps, children's clubs and women's events, all through a partnership with a specific local church. It's a relationship forged for the sake of offering encouragement and support to the believers there.

Bible studies like this one are cropping up in the darkest corners of Brazil's big cities. That's the kind of thing members of Highland Baptist Church in Shelbyville, Ky., saw for themselves when they visited Brazil for the first time a few years ago and their hearts grabbed hold of the vision.
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"We've been able to model for them how to go door to door, how to share the Gospel and show the love of Christ to the community, and they seem to be embracing what we're doing," Platt said. Then when the Highland Baptist team is back in Kentucky, they keep up with that local church throughout the year.

"It gives our people a church to call their own," he said. "It has made it real for people. They've known about missions in the past, but now they know faces and names -- they know they need to pray for Pastor Fabio."

Highland Baptist is "no superstar missions church," Platt points out. But the annual trips have bolstered the work in Brazil and made the church see that it is "one piece of the puzzle."

"God's leading the way, and we are really growing in missions," the pastor said. "You've got missionaries doing what they can and the church doing what we can. I think our partnership has created something tangible. It puts a face on missions."

Scott Pittman noted it makes a big difference.

Brazil's faces are hard to forget -- at least that's what members of Highland Baptist Church in Shelbyville, Kentucky, say. Now that they have visited, they know the people who make up the staggering statistics of deep spiritual need in the country.
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"Hundreds if not thousands of churches need to be planted in order to reach the people of our city," the IMB missionary said. Their partnership with Highland Baptist "builds long lasting relationships, gives support to our work, and the work of the churches and makes it possible to multiply ourselves," he said.

Pray for:

-- Missionaries like the Pittmans to be effective in strategizing ways to reach big cities with the Gospel.

-- Church partners to rise up and be a piece of the missions puzzle through praying, giving and going.

IMB staff released this story. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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