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Strategy offers new hope for isolated ‘micro’ people groups

PANAMA CITY, Panama (BP)–Southern Baptists have a unique opportunity to be directly responsible for initiating church planting movements among the “micro” people groups of western South America.

Most of western South America’s micropeople groups — sparsely populated indigenous tribes consisting of 5,000 to 25,000 people — have no evangelical church and no gospel witness in their heart language. There are more than 90 such groups scattered throughout the mountains and jungles of Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina.

Because of the number of groups and the limited number of missionaries, the people have little chance to hear the gospel.

But REAP (Rapid Entry and Advance Plan) is their hope to hear the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. Through the REAP plan, Southern Baptists have the opportunity to start and rapidly multiply churches among these unreached people groups.

That’s a major step beyond sending short-term volunteers to help missionaries on the field, said Larry Gay, regional leader for the International Mission Board’s work in western South America.

“Obviously we are talking about a greater commitment than an occasional trip to conduct a missions project overseas,” Gay said. “We envision stateside churches preparing to take on full strategy coordination responsibilities for reaching the people where we will not have IMB missionaries.”

Churches are the most likely candidates for filling the church planter’s role with a member trained as strategy coordinator, but the possibilities are endless, said Mike Weaver, the IMB missionary coordinating REAP.

“Associations can take on the church planting responsibilities or maybe two or more churches could partner,” Weaver said. “What we are looking for are people with missions experience. Many churches take several missions trips a year to different places. We are asking them to invest those same resources into one group of people that will reap a long-term return.”

Those accepting the challenge will receive the training necessary to develop strategies for reaching the specific people group with whom they choose to work. Weaver said there are many areas of involvement for those who are a part of REAP teams.

“There is an opportunity for everyone in a church to be involved,” he said. “From praying for the people group and the teams that actually go, all the way through to discipleship training and leadership development.”

For more information about REAP, or to schedule an interactive presentation, contact Mike and Kathy Weaver at [email protected] or Doug Floyd at the International Mission Board at 1-800-999-3113, ext. 1358.