LAS VEGAS (BP)–In the midst of one of the largest “swap meets” in the western United States, Jim Guenther had an opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with a Hispanic man and his family May 5.
“I didn’t really have time to bring them to a point of really making a commitment then, but the end result was that they came the next morning to [a nearby Hispanic church] and made a public profession of faith in the service,” said Guenther, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in suburban Albany, N.Y.
It was the sort of experience that excites Southern Baptist volunteers on a regular basis throughout the country. But for Guenther — who serves as a trustee of the North American Mission Board — it also was an opportunity to play a meaningful role in one of the board’s most important strategic initiatives. Loving Las Vegas, the local presence of the agency’s Strategic Focus Cities outreach effort, operates the booth each weekend in an effort to distribute free copies of the “Jesus” video and help people discover a personal relationship with Christ.
Guenther was one of about two dozen trustees and their wives who participated in a three-day mission trip focused on the Loving Las Vegas effort preceding their regularly scheduled May 8-9 meeting in the city.
In addition to the booth at the swap meet — similar to a flea market in other parts of the country — other trustees the morning of May 5 participated in evangelistic block parties sponsored by two existing churches. A fourth group walked through neighborhoods praying for households in an area of town where a new church is being started with the help of Strategic Focus Cities resources.
The next day trustees preached in or attended churches throughout the city and prayed over the city from the observation deck of the Stratosphere — the tallest building in Las Vegas. They also were given a guided tour May 7 of several churches and mission points where they heard of the work being done by Southern Baptists in the past and present.
“It is one thing to talk about missions, fund missions and even send missionaries … it is another thing to do missions,” said Robert E. Reccord, NAMB’s president.
“NAMB was delighted to offer the opportunity to involve our trustees and their spouses in missions in one of our strategic focus cities — Las Vegas. The response was predictable — a heightened excitement about living an on-mission lifestyle, churches that were greatly encouraged and people that were saved!”
Reccord noted that the trustees have requested that similar Strategic Focus Cities missions experiences be a regular part of the May board meeting each year.
At the block parties, trustees focused on manning games for children, staffing food lines and otherwise serving in support roles — freeing up volunteers from local churches to share Christ with those attending.
“We came here to do the service so the church can do the ministry,” said David Fannin, pastor of Nassau Bay Baptist Church in Houston. As chairman of the NAMB subcommittee responsible for overseeing Strategic Focus Cities he also was glad other trustees were able to participate personally.
“I think it’s good for them to see how critical and crucial their task is,” he said. “Our task is to reach the United States and Canada for Christ, and if we ignore the cities we’ll never do it.”
Will Fields, a lay member of Crusade Baptist Church in Conyngham, Pa., said he appreciated the opportunity to connect personally with the ministry efforts trustees deal with regularly from an administrative standpoint.
“As long as we’re going to have a Strategic Focus Cities initiative like this we need to be involved in it. We need to be on mission,” he said.
Fields added that it also gave trustees an opportunity to work shoulder-to-shoulder in ministry and get to know each other better — something he believes will help them work together more effectively as a body.
“I have much more of an appreciation for the board members here,” added Pat Northrop, a trustee from First Baptist Church, Opp, Ala. “They came with a passion to share the Lord, and I’ve seen them take advantage of every opportunity.”
She also said the experience gave her much more of an appreciation for the Strategic Focus Cities efforts.
“I think when you’re exposed to something you know how to pray for them more effectively,” she said.
“We can hear about this when we sit in committee meetings … but it’s totally different when you get out in the field where the ministry is,” added Danny Souder of Dallas, who concluded a term as NAMB’s chairman May 9.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: WITNESS IN VEGAS, TRUSTEE FELLOWSHIP and SWAP MEET WITNESS.