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Tenn., Costa Rican churches welcome two-way partnership

SMYRNA, Tenn. (BP)–Their names are Kenneth and Leo. Their relationship is Paul and Timothy.
Kenneth Hubbard is pastor of First Baptist Church, Smyrna, Tenn., while Leo Chevarria is pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista de Heredia, the oldest Baptist church in Costa Rica.
The two met in 1996 when Hubbard visited Costa Rica with a team from the Tennessee Baptist Convention “to firm up the partnership (between the TBC and Baptists in Costa Rica).” In January 1997, he preached a revival in Chevarria’s church.
“Leo’s very interested in church growth,” Hubbard said during an interview. “We spent hours talking through an interpreter.”
As Hubbard left to return to the United States, Chevarria told him, “You have been my Paul.”
Hubbard’s response, “From this day forward, you’re going to be my Timothy.”
One of Hubbard’s first actions was to lead his Tennessee church to buy Sunday school and discipleship training literature published in Spanish by the Baptist Sunday School Board for their Costa Rican brothers and sisters in Heredia.
“The first material we received was a blessing,” Chevarria said during a May visit to Tennessee. “When teachers received it they were surprised and amazed. It forces the teachers to study more to prepare their lessons. This helps our church.”
Along with curriculum, copies of the quarterly devotional guide, “Quietud,” were provided.
Chevarria estimated 90 percent of his members had no personal devotional time. Quietud immediately became a valued tool for daily devotionals.
In addition to their own use, Chevarria said church members turn in their periodicals at the end of each quarter so they can “share the blessing” with other churches.
Hubbard also invited Chevarria to the Smyrna church to preach to both the Anglo and Hispanic congregations. During the Sunday morning worship service, church members sang hymns together in Spanish and English.
“We’re building a partnership,” he said. “If you’re just doing it one way, I don’t think you reach the apex of what you want to do.”
Smyrna’s First Baptist, which will break ground for a new building in September, will send a team to Costa Rica in October to do construction work at a camp and at Chevarria’s church. Others from the church’s puppets and clowning ministries will work at the camp in 1998.
Ramon Martinez, director of the BSSB multicultural leadership department, said he hopes more churches will follow the example of FBC, Smyrna, in a two-way partnership and providing literature to Hispanic churches.
“We can accomplish much more in ministry, sharing and training through a relationship in both directions. More needs can be satisfied,” Martinez said.
Terry Sharp, director of partnership volunteer missions for the Tennessee Baptist Convention, said “building relationships and finding out and meeting needs is what we’re really trying to encourage. One of the strengths of partnership missions is relationships.”
Chevarria described FBC, Smyrna, as a church with a “big heart.”
Hubbard said the firsthand involvement has “heightened the interest of our people in missions.”

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  • Linda Lawson