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Church with prime location seeks ways to evangelize neighbors

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP)–Evangelism, ministry and missions are at the forefront of Haven Baptist Church, and Haven is at the forefront of new development at the western edge of Kansas City.

Haven was stop No. 42 Sept. 29 on Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch’s bus tour of Southern Baptist churches across the nation, underscoring the cause of evangelism through “The Everyone Can Kingdom Challenge for Evangelism” campaign which has the goal of “Witness, Win and Baptize … ONE MILLION!” in one year.

“When five families started this church in 1951, there was nothing in this area,” said Don Andrews, Haven Baptist’s pastor since 2001. “Today we sit directly north of the Kansas Speedway racetrack, where they have NASCAR races.”

The church is one block north of a major commercial complex. At least seven nearby restaurants have opened in the last year, and one of the biggest furniture stores in North America is across the street from the church. More significantly, thousands of homes have sprouted on the other three sides of the church since the 1980s, most in the last five years.

“That’s our first mission field,” Andrews said. “It’s a predominantly Catholic community. We have a lot of people who are not in church at all, but they hold to the traditions of their childhood.

“That’s where FAITH [evangelism strategy] helps us, because we’re able to use the key question to determine their understanding of the Gospel,” the pastor continued. “Also, it takes a lot of time to build relationships with people because they’re not trusting of other denominations. We’re not winning a lot of people during FAITH visits, but we are in the relationships we first establish during those visits.”

Fifteen people have been baptized so far this year at Haven compared to 17 in all of last year.

“A couple of months ago we baptized a 72-year-old man,” Andrews said. “He came to our church over a year ago, just showed up one day. [He] said the Lord had been dealing with him about his life. I shared some Scripture with him. He disappeared. [He] showed up again several months later and I shared more Scripture with him.

“In May he told me, ‘I need to follow the Lord and be baptized,’ and he’s been regular at church almost every Sunday since,” the pastor said. “It’s a pretty amazing story.”

Haven ministers locally most often through Backyard Bible Clubs. One last year was at a mobile home park in Edwardsville, about 10 miles south of the church. More than 100 youngsters were enrolled, and about 60 attended each day.

The church saw a need to follow up and started Pioneer Clubs last September. About 40 children attend Pioneer Clubs each week, where 4th- to 6th-graders learn helpful skills.

“A group of young boys took a small motor apart and put it back together,” Andrews said. “Little things like that intrigue kids that age.”

The program is similar to AWANA and Team Kid in that it includes Scripture memory, he said.

The Edwardsville Backyard Bible Club was significant for another reason. One boy who attended had a dad whose life was less than stellar, the pastor said.

“The Lord saved him, changed him and brought him out of that,” he recounted. “He’s in church every Sunday now, and two of his sons also have come to know the Lord.”

In addition to its local Backyard Bible Club outreaches, Haven members go on short-term mission trips each summer. They went to Bend, Ore., to help with a Vacation Bible School and block party. They’re in the planning stages of a mission trip to Canada, where they will do similar activities.

Starting in October, Haven plans to go through the “40 Days of Purpose” campaign that will include, for the first time in the church’s history, in-home small group meetings.

“We’re using this as a time for spiritual growth as well as outreach, and we’re going to promote missions involvement,” the pastor said. “We believe it is going to help us to obey God. The people who do it are going to challenge the people around them.

“That’s what happens with FAITH,” Andrews added. “The first time people share their testimony, other people hear them and say, ‘If she can do it, or he can do it, I can do it.’ Things like FAITH and 40 Days of Purpose give opportunities for our members to live out what the Lord has called us to do. It helps us realize this isn’t all about us. It’s about following Christ and helping others know about the Lord.”