Alejandro's faith reflects CP synergy
Posted on Jun 1, 2012 | by Karen L. Willoughby
BALL, La. (BP) -- Alejandro, a tribal leader in one of seven related villages in Ecuador, is a Christian today stemming from the synergy of the Cooperative Program and the missions involvement of Kingsville Baptist Church.
Two years into his faith, the 60-year-old father of four grown children is leading them and others in the village toward their own professions of faith. As a result, God's Word is rippling out through the Tsa'chila villages in the jungle west of Quito, Ecuador's capitol.
"The Cooperative Program allows every Southern Baptist church to be directly involved in global and local missions. It can go where we might not be going," said Bart Walker, Kingsville's pastor since 2007. "What a glorious privilege to be a part of God's work of redeeming people from every tongue, tribe and nation!"
Kingsville, in central Louisiana, works with the SBC's International Mission Board as volunteer teams travel to Ecuador twice a year to provide an evangelistic witness and discipleship training. The church also has ongoing missions commitments in Brazil.
In North America, Kingsville's commitments are in Lethbridge and Toronto, Canada, and in Kalispell, Mont.
Through Louisiana's North Rapides Baptist Association, the church is involved in community ministries through Main Street Mission in Pineville. It is also starting Gospel Community Church across the Red River in Alexandria.
Still closer to home, there is an ongoing hospitality ministry to truckers -- church members constructed a log-like building and outside picnic area at the edge of the church property where truckers can relax while they wait for their loads to be readied at a nearby manufacturing facility. The cozy structure is staffed with volunteers ready with a kind word, spiritual comfort and Gospel witness.
Kingsville also hosts an annual springtime Upward Soccer program for 350 or more youngsters in the community.
"I believe it was never the intent of the Cooperative Program to diminish the need for direct missionary involvement by every church," Walker said. "It is not a matter of either CP or direct missions. It is CP fueled by the fires of a people rejoicing in their salvation in such a way as to have that joy overflow into direct personal involvement and fervent prayer and giving that enables others to go."
The Cooperative Program is the way Southern Baptist churches support the missions and ministry efforts of state conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention. Kingsville allocates 12.5 percent of its undesignated offerings for missions through the Cooperative Program; in all, 26.5 percent of its operating budget goes to various missions initiatives.
For all the Cooperative Program does in the United States and around the world, there is much that isn't being done because the giving is not what it needs to be, Walker said. He used carbonated beverages to make his point:
"There are about 313 million people in the USA, and Southern Baptists claim about 16 million -- or 5 percent -- of them," the pastor said. "According to an article published March 20 by the Reuters news agency, the U.S. carbonated soft drink sales in 2011 accounted for a gross retail revenue of $75 billion.
"If Southern Baptists are 'average' carbonated drink consumers -- and I believe they are -- then they account for about 5 percent of that $75 billion, or $3.75 billion," Walker continued. "Compare that with the entire budget of the International Mission Board for 2012: a bit more than $324 million. This means we as Southern Baptists are spending 11 times as much on carbonated drinks annually as we are on CP missions. Churches have to address this -- through increasing CP giving, increasing Lottie and Annie giving, as well as increasing direct missions involvement." ("Lottie" is a reference to Southern Baptists Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and "Annie," the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions.)
"There is presently a literal and huge stream of humanity flowing into hell, with very few people who are even attempting to stem the flow," Walker said. "But is there anything better in the world than to be involved in being used by God to joyfully rescue people from hell and show them how they can be joyfully and eternally glad in God?"
Kingsville member Jason Hiles, a team leader in Ecuador, met Alejandro two years ago "when he first began to soften to the Gospel message," Hiles said. "Alejandro began asking great questions about how one is saved. … [Later] he arranged for me to preach the Gospel to a large gathering in the rural community where he lives."
Since 2002, when the work first started among what then was an unreached people group, people in six of the seven Tsa'chila villages have made professions of faith and been baptized. The first didn't make a public profession until 2005. In 2011, nine people acknowledged their faith and trust in God, and eight were baptized.
"In many ways our work on an annual basis depends on the sustained work of an IMB missionary who facilitates what we do each year and who continues to minister to the Tsa'chila in our absence," Hiles said. "Furthermore, a church in Santo Domingo that has benefited from the IMB's work in the past has partnered with us in reaching the Tsa'chila and has provided key support for us and that ministry when we leave the area to return to the States.
"At the end of the day I would say that this direct mission work is a complex collaborative effort that depends on direct mission work by [Kingsville], the support of IMB missionaries, the support of a Baptist church in Ecuador and the grace of Almighty God who has superintended this complex affair for about a decade now. We are beginning to see indigenous leadership develop in Ecuador, and we are very hopeful that the Tsa'chila will form a church that can sustain this Gospel work for generations to come."
Baptist Global Response, an international relief entity, partnered with Kingsville last year in water projects in two -- so far -- of the Tsa'chila communities.
"One of the best examples I have of the Cooperative Program at work is the partnership between the IMB, BGR and KBC in developing clean water for the Tsa'chila people group," Walker said. "This partnership has brought filtered water to every home in two villages. …
"Some of our access to this group has been enhanced by this partnership as the Tsa'chila have seen genuine love from the Southern Baptist Convention through this cooperative effort. June 1, we will take 32 people back into this people group to teach the Gospel through the parables of Jesus for five days in each of six different schools, reaching nearly 700 students -- nearly one-fourth of the population" of all seven villages.
About 500 people participate in Sunday morning worship at Kingsville. Information is given each week about missions projects and opportunities, often with big-screen video presentations that sometimes consist of members telling how they have been changed as a result of hands-on involvement in God's work.
"We receive the joy of being a part of one of God's mechanisms for carrying out the Great Commission and the Great Command," Walker said. "We receive the joy of fellowship with other believers in the SBC in the task."
Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Baptist Message (www.baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.