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NAMB, Frank Page honor church planters

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–After being labeled “heroes” by Southern Baptist Convention President Frank Page, four North American Mission Board missionaries were named “Church Planting Missionaries of the Year” for their work to start new churches during 2006.

The four were honored for “outstanding contributions to church planting” before a crowd of some 250 church planters from across North America at an awards presentation climaxing the annual Church Planting Missionaries Forum, Feb. 28-March 3 in Atlanta.

Don Overstreet, church planting missionary/strategist for NAMB in Riverside, Calif., was honored with an “Eagle Award for Outstanding Contributions to Church Planting” for starting 20 churches per year over the past decade. In all, Overstreet, who was unable to attend due to serious illness, has started some 350 new churches during his missionary career.

Born in Lynwood, Calif., Overstreet has served as a director of missions in Pomona Valley, Calif., as an adjunct professor and as a foreign missionary. A graduate of California Baptist College and Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, he and wife Leesa have six children.

Named “Hispanic Church Planting Missionary of the Year,” Jesus Pacheco is a church planting missionary who has served Hispanics in Louisville and central Kentucky since 1991. In the last two years, Pacheco has planted eight new churches –- a total of 30 over his long ministry. Born in Caracas, Venezuela, he earned his M. Div. degree from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. He and Marcela, his wife of 30 years, have four children.

Vietnam native An Van Pham received the “Asian Church Planting Missionary of the Year” award. A multi-ethnic church planting missionary and trainer based in Duluth, Ga., Pham is jointly funded by NAMB and the Georgia Baptist Convention. He works with 100 Asian congregations -– Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese and Filipino. Last year he planted seven new Asian churches in Georgia -– and 15 over the past two years.

Born in QuangNam, Vietnam, Pham is a graduate of Wingate College, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Married to wife Lienhoa for 29 years, they have two children.

Gary Smith, a church planting missionary based in Montreal, Quebec, was named “Anglo Church Planting Missionary of the Year.” Smith oversees church planting for eastern Canada — including Quebec, Ontario, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island -– and has started 30 churches in the region in the last year and 14 in 2005.

Smith earned his bachelor’s degree at Ottawa University, Ottawa, Kan., and also studied at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Grace University. Smith and his wife Sue have four children.

Speaking to the dozens of North American church planters at the annual forum, Page referred to the story of David and Goliath in telling them that “giants want to destroy our church plants, our families and us personally.”

“Churches across this convention are declining and dying because the giants of apathy, lethargy and factionalism have come in and destroyed church after church. Like David, we must be giant-killers in the name of the Lord God Almighty. I believe these giants will fall all across the nation, across Canada and across this continent. I feel God is still powerful enough to take this continent for Christ -– but we can’t do it alone, by our own intelligence, acumen, strength or education. We must rely on God,” Page said.

“You’re all heroes to me,” Page said. “I know many of you personally. The work you’re involved in is front-line Kingdom work of the first order, first importance and first magnitude. Our churches are in desperate need of help and transformation.”

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  • Mickey Noah