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Missionaries settle in Mormon area to kindle hearts for church planting

POCATELLO, Idaho (BP)–Missionaries Clay and Pat Coursey are returning to America to spend part of their retirement planting churches in a city with a heavy Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints influence after 25 years of planting churches among Kenya’s Giriama people.

In Pocatello, Idaho, a city of 75,000, Clay Coursey said, “Our desire is to see God do something great in this L.D.S. area.

“Our people are really building up enthusiasm for seeing the kingdom grow. In fact, Luman Gilman, [one of the pastors] in Pocatello, meets with the pastors of evangelical churches here in town. He says that these pastors are the most turned on toward seeing the kingdom grow than they have been during his entire 30 years as pastor here,” said Coursey, who will serve two years with the Eastern Idaho Southern Baptist Association and the North American Mission Board.

The key challenge in Pocatello, Coursey said, will be to nurture a deeper desire to start new churches on the part of the two local Southern Baptist churches’ leadership.

“I don’t know how it is humanly possible to start so many churches here,” Coursey said, “but in Kenya we were told that because of so many Muslims in the area, starting churches would be impossible. Yet it happened.”

Twenty-five years ago, as missionaries with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, the Courseys envisioned a time when the Giriama people of Kenya would be able to start churches on their own without the help of American missionaries. Over the years, through prayer, building relationships and planting seeds of the gospel, the vision became a reality.

Before leaving Kenya, the Courseys embarked on one final church-starting venture. Working in partnership with the IMB, they organized the East Kenya Baptist Evangelistic Effort (EKBEE). The project, which took place June 12-July 13, 1999, involved many Southern Baptist laypeople who came from America to Kenya to evangelize and help start new churches. From this effort 131 churches were started.

“My own heart says that in a city this size we need 10-15 churches,” Coursey said of Pocatello. “The association here hasn’t had a [director of missions] for two-and-a-half to three years. Our biggest goal right now is to develop fellowship between already existing Southern Baptist churches and to develop the spirit of church planting.”

Starting churches in Kenya was in some ways easier than in Idaho, but both places require divine intervention, Coursey said.

“It takes miracles of the Lord,” he said. “I’ve seen God work in such unusual ways overseas, and I know he can do the same here.

“People here feel that fellowship is already soaring,” Coursey observed. “More churches are represented now at associational meetings than in years past and communication is improving.”

Natives of Texas, the Courseys moved to Gooding, Idaho, in 1963, where they started First Southern Baptist Church. While serving in Gooding, the Lord called the Courseys to international missions.

“My wife likes to say that we were first called to foreign missions when we were called to Idaho,” Coursey joked.

“It is foreign in many ways up here compared to Texas,” added Pat Coursey, “but everything we’ve ever done has always prepared us for what we are going to do next.”

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  • Gini Moreau