GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala (BP)–Noteworthy returns for the Great Commission more than justify the efforts and energies of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Global Evangelical Relations initiative, as Garry Eudy sees it.
Eudy, a retired International Mission Board worker and pastor, believes the results from GER strategist Bobby Welch’s efforts in Guatemala over the last three years clearly demonstrate GER’s Great Commission value.
Eudy said Welch’s presence and his efforts in linking Southern Baptists to ministry in the country have strengthened relationships with the Convention of Baptist Churches in Guatemala and opened the door for more Southern Baptists to join and support their efforts to present the Gospel to every person in the Central American nation.
“When Dr. Welch moves on to other places, there are Southern Baptist pastors and leaders who will have an interest here, and they will continue to build and foster the relationships here — to extend and expand upon that relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention — all for the Gospel,” Eudy said.
Eudy, who served as an IMB missionary in Central America for 18 years before returning to the United States to pastor, helped facilitate a Guatemalan Baptist pastors’ and leaders’ conference in Guatemala City jointly sponsored by the Guatemalan convention and the Guatemala Baptist Seminary where it was held, with featured speakers and seminar leaders from Southern Baptist churches, all coordinated through GER.
Pastors and church leaders from across the nation, some traveling over rough terrain for more than eight hours, participated in the April 11-12 sessions. The number of attendees was more than double that of any previous event, and Eudy tied it directly to the connection with the Southern Baptist Convention and Welch’s presence.
“I see Brother Bobby as an ambassador of goodwill for the SBC. In the past, no more than 75-125 would have attended, but more than 250 showed up to this,” Eudy told SBC LIFE, the journal of the SBC Executive Committee, noting that the response was a result of Welch’s efforts and presence as an official representative of the SBC. “They [the pastors and leaders] feel like they are being recognized as brothers and sisters, as part of the family. They are being esteemed.”
Eudy said the conference was designed “to encourage and equip Guatemalan pastors in the work of the ministry and in leading their churches in evangelism and discipleship.”
In the evening plenary sessions, the pastors and leaders were challenged and encouraged by Welch to remain faithful to their calling in the places where God has them, regardless of how overwhelmed they might feel or how menial and insignificant their ministries might seem.
During the day, they attended seminars on various ministry topics including preaching, stewardship and discipleship. The seminars were led by various Southern Baptist pastors and lay leaders from the United States including Charles Q. Carter, pastor emeritus of First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Ga., and John Pennington, pastor of First Baptist Church in Douglasville, Ga.
The conference was part of a seven-day effort, which was jointly sponsored and coordinated by GER and Central Baptist Church in Douglasville, Ga., where Eudy served as pastor until his recent retirement. GER is a ministry on behalf of Southern Baptists, launched following the SBC’s withdrawal from the Baptist World Alliance, that cultivates already established international relationships and attempts to build others.
On the Saturday night prior to the conference, GER cosponsored a crusade in Guatemala City which more than 1,000 attended, with more than 50 people professing faith in response to the Gospel. The next morning, Welch and the rest of the team visited and spoke at churches throughout Guatemala City, and Sunday night they traveled to a church in the mountains three hours from Guatemala City. The three days following the conference were devoted to investigating potential ministry sites for future mission trips.
Welch said there is a difference between his participation in the Guatemala conference and what might result from Baptist church mission trips.
“First, the SBC Executive Committee and GER are here officially on behalf of all SBC causes. Next, we are meeting directly with the country’s Baptist convention and all of its entities,” he said.
“Finally, the International Mission Board is participating through the presence of Mark Frike, an IMB mission strategist for the area. All of these combine to cultivate widespread unity and cooperation for the Gospel.”
While some excellent individual Baptist churches might sponsor mission trips that have significant value and impact in the areas where they minister, Welch said his official representation of Southern Baptists has the potential to significantly broaden the ministry scope and impact.
“What makes this unique is that we are coming on behalf of the Southern Baptist Convention, and that opens the doors for revitalizing relationships and reconnecting [on a national scale] for the sake of the Gospel — to encourage and help expedite the spread of the Gospel,” Welch said.
“The clear distinctive of this ministry action [the leadership conference] is the fact that GER and the Guatemala Baptist Convention are connected for all causes of the GBC, but also of the SBC. We are connected to help,” he said. “In fact, this is a leadership conference at a seminary which Southern Baptists helped start.”
Welch said his primary assignment is to build relationships to complement and encourage all causes of the Southern Baptist Convention with a goal of moving forward in the Great Commission with other believers around the world. His strategy is as simple as A-B-C.
“‘A’ is for acquaintance,” Welch said. “I typically will plan a trip just to get acquainted with key leaders in an area. Two years ago I met with the key leaders here in Guatemala. That meeting had representatives from the Guatemala Baptist Convention, the International Mission Board and the SBC Executive Committee.”
The next step, “B,” sometimes a year later, is to broaden the base of connectivity. “In that meeting we try to strengthen the relationship and raise the prospect of an encouragement conference,” he said.
“‘C’ is for conference. This is where all the local pastors and leaders attend and see the connection with the SBC,” Welch said.
For these encouragement conferences, Welch invites key Southern Baptist churches and pastors to participate, which helps establish long-term relationships that open the door for further ministry.
During the encouragement conferences, Welch typically presents a framed declaration of appreciation recognizing the ministry efforts of the pastors and leaders in the area. The declaration is signed by Welch and Frank Page, president and chief executive officer of the SBC Executive Committee.
The declaration goes a long way in building and strengthening relationships for the Gospel, Welch said.
Welch relayed how the president of the Guatemala Baptist Convention, Jose Angel Samol, displayed the Guatemalan declaration at two churches over the weekend prior to the conference.
“Jose stood up and reminded those churches, ‘We are remembering tonight that Southern Baptists brought the Gospel [to our community] first. We are all here because of these people, and we still have that relationship,'” he said.
Welch, who recently joined the Tennessee Baptist Convention as the associate executive director/church growth, will continue to work with the Executive Committee to strategize and lead GER efforts around the world, but on a limited basis.
One of several components that allow him to do so is what he terms “global extenders” — SBC pastors and leaders who extend the efforts globally, far beyond what only one person could ever accomplish.
“These global extenders are the hidden heroes of GER’s wide and deep relations worldwide,” Welch said.
Eudy, he said, is a dynamic example of a global extender.
As a result of the GER efforts in Guatemala, doors are open now with the more than 600 Guatemalan Baptist churches to coordinate mission trips and activities ranging from assisting with Vacation Bible School to hosting soccer camps to sponsoring medical clinics.
“We are working through the Guatemala convention structure to strengthen these precious churches and advance the Gospel, maximizing the existing infrastructure for the glory of God,” Eudy said.
Meanwhile, Welch continues to finalize overseas plans for 2012 and 2013 while preparing to be in Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Cuba, Zambia, North Korea, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in the near future.
“None of us ever dreamed God would have so powerfully blessed GER’s efforts so much, so quickly, for so many lost souls,” Welch said.
John Revell is editor of SBC LIFE, journal of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee.