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International missions gifts soar as church ventures out in faith

SEYMOUR, Ind. (BP)–“We were in tears, rejoicing at what God had done,” Gustavo Vasquez said after the congregation he pastors, Iglesia Baptista El Calvario, raised $10,145.85 for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions — up from $1,600 the year before.

Vasquez and El Calvario’s 45 members in Seymour, Ind., have developed a strong missions focus, having hosted Indiana’s statewide missions conference the last two years, with strong representation from Hispanic churches across the state.

The seeds for the church’s upsurge in gifts to support Southern Baptist International Mission Board workers worldwide were planted at the missions conferences, Vasquez said.

“The 2005 conference last September really put a burden on our members’ hearts for missions,” said Vasquez, a native of Honduras who founded El Calvario in 1998. “We saw the need, and missions mobilizer Mauricio Alvarez with the IMB motivated people to base our giving by faith. He challenged us saying, ‘Pray, and whatever God tells you, then make a faith promise on that amount.’”

What resulted is a testament to the members’ faith.

“I prayed, and God told me to give five times more than I had ever given to missions,” Vasquez recounted.

That would be $500 for the pastor -– a sacrificial gift on his part, beyond his normal means. The commitments didn’t stop with him; members -– most of whom are factory workers — made faith promises of their own.

“After I testified to what God laid on my heart, a sister said she would give a whole paycheck -– two weeks’ pay -– as an offering,” Vasquez said. “Another brother offered $1,500, another $500 and another $300.”

The church as a whole then set its Lottie Moon goal in November based on what God laid on their hearts. Various goals were mentioned including $2,000 and $3,000.

“Then one member said $6,000 and everyone was quiet,” Vasquez said. “We had never reached anywhere near this amount. I immediately took all the money out of my wallet, $40, and put it in the offering plate.”

A banner declaring their goal was placed in the church that El Calvario shares with Calvary Baptist Church of Seymour.

Then God’s blessings began to unfold.

“After my faith promise, I received $250 from another church as a Christmas gift,” Vasquez said. “Then I got a $50 gift and another $50….

The woman who had committed two weeks’ pay received an unexpected extra week’s pay, the pastor said. “A brother received a Christmas bonus from the company he worked for, which the factory had never done before.

“With the brother who promised $1,500, we were a bit discouraged because he lost his job. But he found a job just before the final offering.”

El Calvario collected three offerings for the Lottie Moon gifts. After the second offering, the church’s total was only $4,000.

If El Calvario were to meet the $6,000 goal, Vasquez knew it would have to be through prayer. So he and church members prayed constantly, he said, and trusted and believed the Lord would provide.

The final offering was received Jan. 8. On that day, members gave more than $6,000, to surpass $10,000.

“When God answered, I was overjoyed because the Lord showed us that His Holy Word is always true. 1 John 5:14-15 says if we ask anything that is according to His will, He will give it to us. This promise became a reality before our own eyes.”

Along the way during its faith journey, El Calvario also made an impression on its parent church, Calvary Baptist, whose Lottie Moon goal was $3,500. The banner in the sanctuary declaring El Calvario’s $6,000 goal motivated Calvary members to give more than ever before. They did, reaching $6,400.

“The American congregation was very impressed with our members and the goal,” Vasquez said.

“We have learned that when something is God’s goal, we should pray and believe it will happen. Our faith jumped in what God is able to do. Our members took the challenge and they were blessed. I still can’t get my arms around what has happened. God has done something wonderful.”

Vasquez believes the Lottie Moon offering was an example for his congregation of putting Scripture into practice.

“With giving, when you trust in the Lord with all your heart, then you won’t miss anything in life,” Vasquez said.

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  • Bruce Mills