News Articles

FROM THE STATES: Va., Ky., Ala. evangelism/missions news; ‘… God has multiplied our efforts …’

Today’s From the States features items from:
Procalimer (Virginia)
Western Recorder (Kentucky)
The Alabama Baptist


Va. churches reach Hispanic
neighbors with ‘Soul Food’

By Staff

WOODSTOCK, Va. (Proclaimer) — Looking over the harvest field of thousands of Spanish-speaking people in the vicinity of Woodstock, Va. (12 percent of the town’s population), Pastor Banks Swanson’s heart became burdened. He wondered how his predominately Anglo congregation at Shenandoah Community Fellowship could reach them with the Gospel. Pastor Banks shares, “I would hate to stand before God knowing that our church did not do something to reach these people with the love of Jesus.”

In January of 2012, Shenandoah Community Fellowship began Soul Food Ministry. God gave church member Kara Miller a desire to help feed the hungry beyond the church’s annual Christmastime outreach. Kara explains:

“Over the past four years, the Soul Food Ministry has grown from serving 35-50 meals once a month at the church to delivering 400 meals twice a month to folks in need! Through the gifts to the SBC of Virginia Vision Virginia Offering, God has multiplied our efforts to minister to our community.

“While we were on deliveries to these lower income neighborhoods, it became apparent that though there was a great need for physical food, there was an even greater need for spiritual food for one particular group in the community — the Hispanic population. The food that we delivered twice a month was simply a key to open a door to a greater purpose — being the hands and feet of Jesus and showing the world His love.”

A burden for the Hispanic community drove not only Pastor Banks but other SBC of Virginia pastors in the Shenandoah area to join in prayer. They prayed for six months that the Lord of the harvest (Luke 10:2b) would send a Hispanic man of God to partner with them to reach Spanish-speaking people with the Gospel. God answered their prayer through a family from the Shenandoah area who had met a godly Cuban couple 13 years prior while on mission in that country.

Through a number of amazing circumstances, God brought Manuel and Yuneisy Ferradas to the United States and eventually to the Shenandoah area. Pastor Manuel recalls, “We started thinking about coming to the U.S. in 2013, but the impossibility in human eyes was big, [but] God gave us the visas when human hands were short and the impossibility was huge.” The Lord led Manuel and Yuneisy to join Shenandoah Community Fellowship, where they immediately became involved in the Soul Food Ministry, helping deliver meals.

Pastor Banks and the church family embraced this precious couple as their own family and supported their call to plant a Hispanic church. After completing the immigration process, Manuel and Yuneisy launched Valle de Dios Iglesia Bautista Hispana (Valley of God Hispanic Baptist Church) on the afternoon of Sunday, April 12, 2015 at Shenandoah Community Fellowship.

By knocking on doors with Pastor Banks, Pastor Manuel was able to meet Spanish-speaking people, build relationships with them, and show them Christ’s love. Prior to the first service at Valle de Dios, he had more than 80 contacts with whom he was sharing the Gospel.

Although this infant church may only have 12–25 in attendance on a Sunday afternoon, the miracle of salvation has already come to this small congregation. In early 2016, all four members of the Rodríguez family confessed Jesus as Lord and were baptized by Pastor Manuel.

Miranda Rodríguez shares her family’s story:

“We met this church through the granddaughter of Pastor Banks Swanson and began a friendship with them. After the arrival of Manuel and Yuneisy, we came and began to hear the teachings of the Gospel. Although we had heard it on other occasions, it was not until now that we took the step of commitment in our faith accepting Christ as our Lord.

“We like to go to the church family on Sunday because we are filled with joy to hear the Word and share in giving thanks to God for all the things He has done for us. It is a great joy to go to [Valley de Dios] Hispanic Baptist Church. It doesn’t matter that we are just a few in number, we are still in the presence of God.”

The Rodríguezes are growing and sharing their faith with others where they work, live, and play.

“Every Spanish speaker in Woodstock knows Manuel,” says Pastor Banks. Shenandoah Community Fellowship and Valle de Dios have gained the reputation in the area as “the ones who deliver food” and care for their community. God is glorifying Himself through this miracle in the harvest fields of the Hispanic population in Woodstock.

Please join Shenandoah Community Fellowship and Valle de Dios in praying that harvest will continue. PRAY that the Lord will continue to expand the Soul Food Ministry.

PRAY that Valle de Dios Iglesia Bautista Hispana will continue to make disciples.

PRAY that the Lord will multiply the two churches’ efforts through new small groups being planted to reach the Hispanic population in the Shenandoah area.

If you are burdened over the ethnic population outside the doors of your church and desire a partnership to reach them with the Gospel, contact Larry Black, SBC of Virginia’s church planting people group strategist ([email protected]).
This article appeared in The Proclaimer (sbcv.org/articles/category/proclaimer), newsmagazine of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia.


Ky. church seeks to
reach South Asian neighbors

By Cary Donnell

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Western Recorder) — Hurstbourne Baptist Church could tell their neighbors next door were hurting and in need. But it wasn’t a need for food, clothes or shelter. It was far greater.

“Several years ago the Missions Team from Hurstbourne gained a burden for the hundreds of South Asians that live near our church campus and began a strategic work,” said Cameron Debity, senior pastor of the Louisville congregation.

“A key phrase that the leaders have rallied around is, ‘A healthy church reflects the community in which it is a part of,'” he said. “So, many of our folks began to long for an ethnically diverse congregation, filled with individuals from our immediate community.”

The church began an outreach mission to reach a nearby — perceivably lost — community of Indian immigrants, who are living in an apartment complex near the church. The mission specifically arose from a vision from the senior pastor to make the congregation more diverse and look more like the vision of heaven in Revelation.

“I believe our church has become a place of peace and a conduit for friendship-building for our South Asians,” added Debity. “They are an incredibly communal people so we provide many opportunities for them to connect with one another and for our faith family to connect with them.”

The ministry is led by Prasad Aghamkar, a doctoral student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who is originally from Mumbai, India. He has been serving as a South Asian ministry catalyst at Hurstbourne since 2014.

“I was praying that God should show me a new way in which to reach out to the Indian community,” said Aghamkar. “Hurstbourne Grand Apartments, adjacent to Hurstbourne Baptist Church, has a very large Indian population. God answered my prayer of reaching out to these people by giving me this unique idea, which is culturally relevant and non-threatening to these people.”

The ministry, called the Aashirwad Asian Fellowship, meets every month in the church’s fellowship hall. People from many different nationalities, backgrounds and faiths gather and hear the Gospel proclaimed through devotionals, music and testimonies.

The ministry also includes a social aspect, where Indians visit and talk over free tea every Thursday in the church parking lot from 5:30-8 p.m., a time strategically selected because many are out for their evening walk. On average, about 25-30 people show up to the “Tea Stall” each week.

“Indians are very fond of tea or ‘chai.’ It’s part of our culture to have tea and talk,” continued Aghamkar. “Our main goal is to build relationships to have dialogue and discussion so that we can ultimately share the Gospel with them.”

The church understands that patience is necessary to see how the fruits of their labor will pay off.

“This is definitely a long-term ministry effort,” stated Debity. “For the foreseeable future, it seems that we will be neighbors to one of the largest South Asian populations in the city. We believe that God has strategically placed our church in close proximity to this people group for such a time as this.”

The goal is to see the community of Indian immigrants come to faith in Jesus.

“We hope to continue to build relationships and to build trust, so that we can give a credible witness,” said Debity. “As one pastor said, ‘We want to be a church who does good deeds, to foster good will, so that we can share the good news of the Gospel.’ We are praying for that first Indian family to turn to Christ as Savior and Lord.”
This article appeared in the Western Recorder (westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Cary Donnell writes for the Western Recorder.


Global Impact Alabama seeks to
reach immigrants in state with gospel

By Grace Thornton

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (The Alabama Baptist) — A lot could change if we’d be willing to just go in a grocery store and strike up a conversation with the people who work there.

At least that’s what Alan Cross says. “Imagine if you moved to South Asia. You would want to know somebody local in the community. It just makes your life better.”

And Alabama Baptists can make that happen here for someone else by being willing to befriend the South Asian — or immigrant from any other country — here in our state.

“It’s amazing how much first-generation immigrants are open to having relationships with Americans,” said Cross, president and executive director of Community Development Initiatives and former pastor of Gateway Baptist Church, Montgomery. “If we just got to know people and built relationships with them, what a vehicle that could be for the gospel.”

That’s the thought behind Global Impact Alabama, an effort to reach out to immigrant populations around the state with the Gospel, he said.

Gaining traction

A spinoff of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions’ (SBOM) Impact Alabama effort, the new initiative focuses on gaining traction specifically in multihousing developments, he said.

It’s a joint project with SBOM and the North American Mission Board and it’s something near and dear to Cross, who works with immigrant and refugee ministry and advocacy across the Southeast.

“We are trying to plant missional communities … in apartment complexes, mobile home communities and housing projects … in the 12 largest Alabama cities,” he said. “If there are people here in our community from other countries, then it’s our privilege and opportunity to share Christ with them.”

Unreached people groups

For example in Montgomery, one apartment complex is host to a large population of Mixtec people, an unreached people group from southern Mexico, he said.

“We had a couple who went in and rented an apartment there and took on tangible ministry helping with schoolwork and English classes,” he said.

In Tuscaloosa a group has started reaching out to an apartment complex with 900 immigrants from Guatemala, Cross said.

And he and others are praying about sending a church planter to the Huntsville and Madison area, where about 15,000 Hispanics live with no Baptist church of their own to serve them.

“It’s just journeying alongside people and finding out how we can love them,” Cross said.

The project is in its initial stages, he said, noting that at the moment they are just trying to “look at these pockets of people” and get a handle on what’s already happening around the state.

It’s just conceptual for the moment, but Global Impact Alabama is hoping to harness a lot of resources for the sake of the Gospel among the state’s immigrant population — like partner with churches already running English as a Second Language (ESL) programs, or connect with International Mission Board missionaries returning from overseas.

Kristy Kennedy, state missionary who leads ESL ministry efforts for SBOM, said, “We want to find the ministries and churches that are already doing it really well and be able to connect other churches with them to learn how they’re doing it. A lot of exciting things are happening and people are coming to know Christ. We have a lot of good stories already and we just want to see it grow.”

Gift from God

Kennedy said it’s a gift from God that these immigrants have come to our state, and Cross agreed.

“We should be going toward people instead of running away from them,” Cross said. “As Christians that’s what we should be about.”

For more information or to share about ministries happening in your area, email Kristy Kennedy at [email protected].

This article appeared in The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Grace Thornton is assistant editor of The Alabama Baptist.


EDITOR’S NOTE: From the States, published each Tuesday by Baptist Press, relays news and feature stories from state Baptist papers and other publications on initiatives by Baptist churches, associations and state conventions in evangelism, church planting and Great Commission outreach, including partnership missions. Reports about churches, associations and state conventions responding to the International Mission Board’s call to embrace the world’s 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups also are included in From the States, along with reports about church, associational and state convention initiatives in conjunction with the North American Mission Board’s call to Southern Baptist churches to broaden their efforts in starting new churches and satellite campuses. The items appear in Baptist Press as originally published.

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