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Can’t go? Then pray

BELLVIEW, Fla. (BP)–When Harvey and Jennifer Sparks accepted God’s call to missions among a people group in Mozambique in 2004, they didn’t know they were a church’s answer to prayer.

First Baptist Church in Belleview, Fla., had been praying for several years that God would send missionaries to the Koti, a people group of about 65,000. Before the Sparkses came along, the Koti had no known access to the Gospel. Churches like Belleview, with an average attendance of around 500, show that congregations of all sizes can impact the world through prayer.

“Prayer works, and as a result of that, we have recognized that prayer is the priority,” says Ron Walker, Belleview’s pastor for nearly 20 years.

“We [don’t] have to be a big church to pray.”

During the past 10 years, the church has partnered with the International Mission Board through an effort called PRAYERplus, which links churches with people groups who have been strategically identified by overseas field leadership.

Through their partnership with the Koti and other people groups, Belleview members have prayed for the salvation of the lost and for God to send missionaries into areas where workers are needed. Right now, there are 1.6 billion people with no known access to the Gospel.


Last year, the Sparkses, of Norman, Okla., finished their two-year assignment, but Belleview continues to pray and send mission teams to the Koti. Since the partnership with the Koti began, the church has taken its partnership to the next level by sending three mission teams to Mozambique. The congregation hopes to send another team there this year.

“Once we started praying for [the Koti] and … getting information about what God was doing among them, we obviously fell in love with the people,” Walker says.

“That put a passion in our heart to go there and be among them … all of that through our prayer for them.”

Belleview members’ first prayer partnership was among a people group in East Asia in 1997, and they began their third partnership in 2001 among the Ladakhi in South Asia. Since then, missionary work has started among both groups. The church recently decided to take on a fourth partnership among the Flemish people in Belgium, where a couple from Belleview plans to serve as career missionaries.

“This is our very first career [missionary couple] from our church, and we are so excited about that,” says Sarah Fitzgerald, Belleview’s director of mission ministries.

“To see God at work and to have that one-on-one contact with folks on the field just brings us so much closer to the edge [of missions]. He has blessed our church for it.”

Within the last three years, several youth at the church also have made commitments to missions. Walker hopes other churches will get involved in praying for missions, noting, “My personal challenge would be to say to them it doesn’t matter how big or small you think you are, you can pray … and watch to see what God does and how He expands and enlarges that.”


Once churches decide to begin a partnership with PRAYERplus, they can call the IMB’s prayer office at 1-888-462-7729 or e-mail [email protected].

The prayer office works with the IMB’s 11 regions to select three people groups for a church to choose from. Once churches select a group, they work with a regional prayer advocate to learn more about specific prayer needs. The purpose is for churches to pray specifically that God will send missionaries to work among their adopted people group.

“Our overall objective is to engage all people groups with populations greater than 10,000 by 2010,” says Ed Cox, director of the IMB’s international prayer strategy office.

“We hope to do this by getting churches to pray to the Lord of the harvest that He will send missionaries to work among [unengaged people groups].” Prayer is essential if the Gospel is to reach every people group, Cox says.

“People approach me all the time and say, ‘Well, I can’t go, but at least I can pray,’” he said. “That is not the least you can do. That is one of the best things you can do.”
For more ways to pray, order a free Prayerwalking Resource packet, Global PrayerGram and Today’s Prayer at imb.org/compassionnet or by calling 1-800-999-3113.

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  • Shawn Hendricks