MBC celebrates El Salvador partnership, begins with Iowa Baptists, Missouri National Guard - Word&Way

MBC celebrates El Salvador partnership, begins with Iowa Baptists, Missouri National Guard

OSAGE BEACH – Missouri Baptists said goodbye to one partnership and took on two new ones at the Missouri Baptist Convention annual meeting Nov. 1.

Dignitaries from San Vicente, El Salvador, said thank you to the Missouri churches, associations and individuals who had assisted with the Mi Casa es Su Casa building project that followed severe flooding in the region following Hurricane Ida in late 2009.

In January 2010, the convention coordinated building low-cost homes to replace those wiped out by the flood.

Interim Executive Director of Iowa Baptists Tom Law shares his hopes for a new partnership agreement between Baptists in his state and Missouri. Behind him from left are MBC Partnership Strategist Rick Hedger, MBC Executive Director John Yeats and John Shaw, partnership coordinator for Iowa Baptists.

First Baptist Church in San Vicente coordinated volunteers and connected Missouri volunteers with the police department because several officers lost their homes as well.

"Many have come to know the love of God and many have met the Lord," San Vicente Pastor David Ayala said through interpreter Mauricio Vargas, who coordinated the El Salvador partnership for the MBC.

Ayala presented a certificate of honor from his church to the MBC.

When the partnership began five years ago, El Salvador had 44 Baptist churches. Now there are 69 churches and 109 missions. The partnership officially ends on Dec. 31.

San Vicente Mayor Hernando Lado and Police Chief Raul Avarego also attended. "We say thanks to God because we have seen over 20 percent growth in the churches and 40 percent of our missions have grown to become churches," noted Sonya Valiente, who has coordinated volunteer teams arriving in El Salvador.

Missouri National Guard Chaplain Colonel Gary Gilmore describes the needs of Guardsmen families who will benefit from a relationship with Missouri Baptist churches, particularly in times of crisis.

MBC Partnership Strategist Rick Hedger presented a plaque to Valiente for her work. She gave a Bible to him and to Vargas, and presented a plaque to Vargas for his efforts. Annual meeting attendees honored the longtime MBC worker with a standing ovation.

Messengers agreed to two new partnerships during the meeting. Missouri will partner with the Iowa Baptist Convention for four years, beginning on Jan. 1, 2012, with an option to extend the partnership for another four years.

Currently, there is one Baptist church for every 5,000 people in Missouri, but only one Iowa Baptist church for every 26,000 people in that state, explained IBC Interim Executive Director Tom Law. Two-thirds of Iowa's counties have little or no evangelical witness, he added.

Law hopes that, through the partnership, churches will adopt Iowa counties. His dream is that by the end of the partnership, every county in Iowa will have a strong church.

"Then we can move out into the over 900 towns that have no Iowa Baptist church," he said. "And then we will pray that when the politicians come to Iowa, they will find Jesus."

In addition, Missouri Baptists will partner with the Missouri National Guard to connect churches to Guardsmen and their families. Chaplain Col. Gary Gilmore, a Baptist pastor for 25 years and now full-time in the chaplaincy, stressed the importance of family support.

Last year, Missouri tied with Texas in the number of suicides among Guardsmen. The Missouri unit sought the MBC partnership as a way to provide additional support for the state's citizen-soldiers, Col. Gilmore said.

The chaplaincy office also has proposed a chapel to be built at the Ike Skelton Training Center in Jefferson City.