A crowd gathers for a baptismal service at a lake in Guatemala where First Baptist Church of Villa Rica planted a church.
By Roger Alford
VILLA RICA – Southern Baptist leaders from across Central America will come together next week with a group of Georgia Baptists for a summit aimed at getting more Peach State churches engaged in missions in the impoverished region.
The summit comes at the behest of Georgia Baptist Convention President Kevin Williams, the Villa Rica pastor who is one of Georgia’s greatest champions for international missions. He teamed up with Garry Eudy, a former International Mission Board missionary who now heads the mission group E3, for three days of meetings in Costa Rica.
“What I hope to accomplish is to get Georgia Baptists linked up with ministry opportunities in Central America,” Williams said. “I hope this summit will impact other churches in the same way that connecting with missions has impacted my own church.”
Williams has seen First Baptist Church of Villa Rica thrive because of its involvement in missions since he became pastor in 2013.
“I wanted to create a culture in the church that was infectious about serving God and reaching people,” he said. “We have had more people go on foreign mission trips than we had sitting in the worship service the first day I preached in the church. We have now baptized over 1,000 people and watched God move in so many ways. I would love to see what has happened at my church be the same for as many churches as possible across this state.”
Eudy said he and Williams have had a shared vision for the Central American summit, which begins May 17. Eudy said he’s thrilled that it’s finally happening.
The goal is to help set up church-to-church partnerships. Baptist presidents from Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama, Guatemala and Honduras will attend the summit, as will a handful of invited representatives from Tennessee and Alabama.
“If anything lasting comes of this meeting, it will be because the Lord anoints our time together to create a fellowship in the Gospel and a vision to partner together in the Great Commission,” Eudy said. “I do hope all of us can depart drawn to the vision and needs of one or more of the Central American leaders’ countries and inspired to plan vision trips to explore and plan for specific partnerships.”
First Baptist Church of Villa Rica has planted a church in Guatemala that is now averaging 280 people in attendance in a remote Mayan village. Off that single church, more churches are now being planted in other Guatemalan villages.
It was a trip Williams took to Guatemala last October that solidified the idea of pulling Central American Baptist leaders together so that they could personally discuss the region’s needs with Georgia Baptists.
After the summit, Williams and others from the Georgia Baptist Convention will return home with plans to host 12 meetings across the state to share what they learned from the Central American Baptist presidents about mission opportunities there.
“Ultimately, this gives the church something to see that’s way bigger than themselves,” Williams said. “Churches that engage in missions really catch fire, so the impact isn’t just internationally, it’s at home, too. It can totally transform a church.”