Marcus Merritt talks to the group of pastors about being securely fastened to God’s truth during a devotional time in Nazareth. Merritt, state missionary in Church Minister Relations, led the trip that will finish this week. JOHNNY NIX/Facebook
ISRAEL — Yesterday, two men approached a group of 30 Georgia Baptist pastors touring the Holy Land.
It happened during a trip that began last Friday, Jan. 10 for the pastors and remains ongoing through this week. The men walked up to Marcus Merritt, Georgia Baptist state missionary in Church Minister Relations who had organized the journey. While the excursion had definitely met its purpose as a fellowship of Georgia pastors from various backgrounds, it was also about to become church.
“I was approached at the baptismal site by a Jewish guide not associated with our group,” Merritt told The Index. “He asked me if we had any ordained men in our group because he had two men from Guatemala who wanted to be baptized. I asked the tour guide if the men were believers, but he didn’t know. So, I found Javier Chavez.”
Though a traveler whose church, Amistad Cristiana in Gainesville, has campuses and ministries throughout the world, this was Chavez’s first visit to the Holy Land. Quickly he was talking to the men in Spanish about Jesus.
“We invited them to join our group even though they admitted to Javier that while they were religious, they were not born again,” continued Merritt.
“We walked to the banks of the Jordan River and spoke to our GBC group about baptism. Then I invited Javier to come forward and present the Gospel in Spanish.”
Both men responded positively to the message, praying to receive Christ. Immediately, they walked into the Jordan River and were baptized.
“They were beaming when they came out of the water,” Merritt said.” Our group was crying, laughing, and shouting all at the same time! Javier got the contact info from the two men and plans to follow up with them.”
Chavez posted a video of the baptism to his Twitter account.
In the Jordan River, two Guatemalan men (father&son) Aparicio & Esdras Gonzalez were looking for a priest but found a pastor. I led them to Christ then baptized them in Spanish. My @GABaptist friends have rejoiced greatly. SBC leaders must win people to Christ! Jesus es Señor! pic.twitter.com/dCyp5CIkZX
— Javier Chavez (@jynchavez) January 13, 2020
“The experience has been refreshing and challenging,” Chavez told The Index. “Refreshing because it allows me to build and solidify friendships with other men who are serving in the ministry in Georgia.
“It’s challenging because I feel like the three disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration. I’d love to stay here, but down the hill – back home – there are people who need Christ. Just like that father who brought his son to the other nine disciples, there are families and communities engaged in a spiritual warfare against the enemy. We have the authority in the name of Jesus Christ to bring healing and redemption to them.”
Johnny Nix, senior pastor of Pickett’s Mill Baptist Church in Dallas, has joined others in posting pictures on social media with the hashtag #gbcIsrael. He said the trip with other Georgia Baptist pastors would be “a lifetime of memories.”
“My heart has been moved by the land of Israel, I am enjoying it with men I admire and respect,” said Nix. “This trip may have been one of the most practical and refreshing things I have ever done as a pastor.”
Nix also thanked Merritt, who organized the trip. Pastors either paid their way or were assisted by their churches. Merritt hinted at another such visit to Israel with pastors taking place in 2021 while talking about the experience of leading the diverse group this year.
“We are a mix of African American, Caucasian, and Hispanic pastors, but have become one body in Christ. We are western Gentiles being guided by a Middle Eastern Jew. But we are one in Christ. We have developed into a cohort of Christ-followers. We have made friends for a lifetime.”
Scott Barkley serves as editor of The Christian Index.