ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–An international city known as a North American gateway for Asian immigrants — Vancouver, British Columbia — has been chosen as the next site for the North American Mission Board’s Strategic Focus City outreach effort.
Southern Baptists will work in partnership with the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists and churches of the Capilano Baptist Association to provide hundreds of volunteers and other resources for a variety of church planting, evangelism and other ministry projects. Preparation for the effort will begin this year, with the primary implementation phase set for 2006.
“We’re very excited about the choice of Vancouver as a Strategic Focus City,” said Gerry Taillon, national ministry team leader for the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists. “We feel like it’s a wonderful opportunity to work in a world-class city like Vancouver. And it’s a great opportunity for the churches in Vancouver to really sense God’s direction and guidance, and get together to see what they can do to impact the Kingdom of God.”
Noting the area is about 25 percent Asian, he called the effort “a wonderful opportunity to not only impact Vancouver and the surrounding areas, but to impact the world.”
Vancouver will be the ninth major city in North America to be impacted by Strategic Focus Cities, which began in 2000 with efforts in Chicago and Phoenix. Other SFC efforts have touched Boston, Las Vegas, Seattle and Philadelphia, and this is the first year of implementation for the Miami effort. Next year a two-year implementation period will begin for New York City.
As of the end of 2002, more than 37,000 individuals had made first-time commitments to Christ through SFC initiatives, and 255 new churches were started to help new believers grow in their faith and reach others. A total of 28,947 volunteers from across the country were mobilized for a variety of outreach efforts.
Gary Frost, vice president for NAMB’s strategic initiatives group, said Vancouver was selected in part because of the strong base of Southern Baptist churches already in the area.
“From our assessment, we have seen that God is up to something in Vancouver and we want to join him there,” he said.
Frost also noted the strong ethnic presence in the city. First Chinese Baptist Church, with a membership of about 1,500 and the largest Southern Baptist church in the area, promises to be a key part of the SFC effort.
“By the year 2020 Vancouver is projected to be the largest city with a Chinese population outside of the Orient,” noted Doug Metzger, who directs NAMB’s Strategic Focus Cities team.
Vancouver also likely will benefit from the leadership and experience of Southern Baptists just to the south in Seattle, which has seen 58 churches started during the “Embracing Seattle” SFC emphasis.
The 2001 population of Vancouver is estimated at about 582,000, with about 2 million people living in the metropolitan area. The region makes up about half of the total population of British Columbia — southern Canada’s westernmost province.
The SFC process will begin with the selection of a coordinator for the effort, Metzger said, followed by the formation of teams of local leaders who will help shape the strategy for Vancouver. The process generally calls for two years of strategy developed, followed by one year of implementation and two years of follow-up efforts.
Frost called on all Southern Baptists to begin now praying for the Vancouver effort, and how they might become involved.
“We would like to see, first of all, a prayer response because we know that unless God cultivates the soil any planting that we do there will be unsuccessful,” he said. “And so we need the body of Christ to be praying, and also planning to come to join us there during our years of implementation.”
“The invitation,” added Canada’s Taillon, “would be to go to God and ask where He would have you fit into this whole process, and to consider Vancouver as an opportunity to be on mission with God.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: LOOKING NORTH.