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WEEK OF PRAYER: Partnership enters new era

A housing settlement in North Africa is one place church leaders want to begin a new church. Courtesy Photo

EDITOR’S NOTE: This year’s Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention is Dec. 3-10. Each year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions supplements Cooperative Program giving to support Southern Baptists international missionaries’ initiatives in sharing the Gospel. This year’s offering goal is $200 million. To find information and resources about the offering, go here.

Prison ministry. Sports ministry. Developing national missionaries. The dreams discussed around the table were big. International Mission Board missionaries Matt and Gretchen Clay saw the passion rising as the group of pastors and lay ministers figured out ways to introduce their North African neighbors to the Gospel. But the Clays didn’t have the resources to invest at the deep level needed by their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Don Haneline and Tim Maynard of Fruit Cove Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, try on local clothing while on a survey trip to North Africa. The two scoped out how three Florida churches can partner better with IMB missionaries and local believers. The goal is to mentor and empower believers to share the gospel and multiply. Courtesy Photo

They knew who could, though. The missionaries called their partnering churches in Florida — Fruit Cove Baptist Church and Aspire Church — and asked for help in mentoring and empowering these believers to multiply and plant new churches.

“I think the direction we are going to see global missions moving is to partner more with the global church to mobilize workers and increase momentum,” Gretchen explained about the need for help in this ripening harvest field of North Africa. “Using U.S. fellowships along with national partners is a way to multiply the work force.”

This trifecta partnership — the IMB missionaries, two Florida churches and church leaders in North Africa — was decades in the making. A collaboration of churches in Jacksonville, Fla., began praying for this area of the world back in the late ‘90s. They sent short-term teams through the years to do everything from Vacation Bible School to ministry in the villages. This newest request, however, was different.

The North Africans didn’t need someone to come “do” prison ministry; in fact, Americans aren’t even allowed in the facility. They needed someone with experience, like Fruit Cove, to listen to their ideas and step in as mentors. They wanted to be trained as a healthy, multiplying church.

“We have a robust prison ministry here [in Florida] and it only makes sense for us to share knowledge,” said Tim Maynard, Fruit Cove’s senior pastor, noting that each of the Florida churches has different expertise to offer. “This partnership is more about discipling believers who want to go to areas where there are no believers. They need encouragement and training.”

A woman prepares a special meal for guests to their church. Three Jacksonville, Florida, churches are partnering with IMB missionaries and North African churches to share the gospel. Courtesy Photo

Just thinking about how much the national churches have matured and grown through the years gets Gary Webber, the Aspire Church senior pastor, excited. He remembers when no one in this area was even interested in Jesus, let alone sharing the Gospel. To see churches request training and be equipped to multiply and reach the lost is something they’ve prayed to happen for years.

As the decades-old partnership naturally morphs into a new era, the Clays sit back and watch the excitement grow among the Americans and North Africans. They know that church planting and multiplication lead to local ownership of God’s mission.

Pray for these partners as they seek to take the Gospel to areas previously untouched by the Good News of Jesus Christ. Praise God for requests to be trained and mentored. Ask for continued fruit in the work of the Clays, who are a steadfast presence among the lost.

Some names have been changed due to security.