Although Ernesto Chicas didn't live to see it, his vision for a church in Tecoluca, El Salvador, took a step forward on Aug. 7 when about 20-25 people gathered for Bible study and committed to meeting each Saturday.
"I first went to Tecoluca in November 2007 with Pastor Chicas," Concord Baptist Association Director of Missions Calvin Brown explained. "We prayerwalked the city of about 20,000, met with the mayor and dreamed about starting a church."
Chicas, founding pastor of Eben Ezer Baptist Church in neighboring Zacatecoluca, began exploring possibilities. In August 2008, a team from Concord association hosted a soccer tournament in Tecoluca. But continued outreach to the area slowed when Chicas passed away unexpectedly in December that year. His wife, Carmen, shared Chicas' vision, but her time and energy were already stretched thin as principal of the church's private school for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. And at her husband's death, she took on some of his responsibilities as well.
In addition to its school, Eben Ezer Baptist has a strong youth group that ministers in the area through drama and puppetry. The church began a sewing ministry last year after Concord association purchased five sewing machines and sent a team to teach a class. The congregation now offers ongoing three-month-long classes as a community outreach.
The church also hosts a variety of Bible studies, and under Carmen's leadership, is exploring ways to minister to women vendors in the marketplace and to reach out to another Zacatecoluca neighborhood. Carmen and her sons, Ernesto and Denny, have kept the congregation's eyes on Tecoluca as well. The church has offered worship experiences in the community and has visited residents door to door, distributing tracts and offering words of encouragement.
But Eben Ezer's members, Concord association's multicultural specialist Mauricio Vargas and Brown continued to envision a more permanent work in Tecoluca. They began praying for a person of peace -- someone to whom God was already speaking -- to open his or her home for a consistent, long-term Bible study. And they prayed for someone to step up to lead a fledgling mission point.
God answered during Concord's latest mission trip to El Salvador July 30-Aug. 8. Brown and Ryan Stiffler, pastor of Corticelli Baptist Church, joined Eben Ezer members in personal evangelism, a children's program and a worship service targeted to adults.
About 18 people responded, with at least 11 committing to attend a Bible study each Saturday. Three individuals offered their homes for the study. And the Chicas' son, Ernesto, and wife Lucy stepped up to lead the effort. The weekly study began Aug. 7.
A quick survey revealed that among all the people who attended the worship service that week, only three had a Bible for their household. The Concord team and the association contributed enough funds to purchase two cases of Bibles for Tecoluca.
The Concord group offered another first for Baptist ministry in the Central American country. A three-woman team -- Carolyn Vargas of First Baptist Church, Jefferson City, and Regina Wyrick and Betsy Hoback of High Point Baptist Church -- led baking classes at First Baptist churches in San Vicente and Zacatecoluca. Association churches funded purchase of two stoves with ovens.
Elaine Foster of Concord Baptist Church, Jefferson City, Amy Wyrick and the association's summer missionary, Lynne Davis, ministered to children during the baking classes.
Harold VanDeMark of Lamar and Bud Veverka of Crocker helped complete construction of a house for a San Vicente police officer who had lost his home to flooding earlier this year. When rain delayed the work one day, the pair joined Habitat for Humanity International on another project in the city. Veverka's wife Wendy taught clowning and puppet ministry skills at both Zacatecoluca churches and at San Vicente.