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Vision trip to South America reveals lots of areas for Georgia Baptists to do ministry

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My recent vision trip to Colombia was a trip that I will never forget because of a certain scripture that really pressed on my heart. It was the scripture that speaks into the life of those who are followers of Jesus Christ.

The scriptures say that we should be “doers of God’s word and not only Hearers of God’s word,” according to James 1:22. It comes to my attention that in this season of our lives, we can live out God’s purpose and plans by being doers.

In Colombia, I had the privilege to walk alongside some incredible men who model being doers of God’s word and “being on missions with God,” according to the Acts 1:8 model. These men were Mark Jones, pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Cordele, Georgia, and Gary Leutzinger, associational mission strategist for the South-Central Baptist Network.

All of us understood the importance of hearing from our partners in the mission field on what God is doing and how he is working among the Colombians, especially during this time of a pandemic around the world. We listened to the needs and how God is providing for them in this amazing effort the body of Christ is doing.

As I traveled and visited the people, I was able to meet some great International Mission Board partners in Colombia. I met Mike and Jennifer Brungardt who serve in Bogota, as Bogota City team leader, and Elizabeth Leininger who serves in Cucuta, as team leader for the Venezuela Response Taskforce. They serve the displaced refugees and Venezuelan families crossing the Simon Bolivar Bridge and Venezuelans/Colombian borders.

I met Dr. Manuel Rodriguez and Amaryllis Heartsill serving in Santa Marta, as the Indigenous Cluster Team members. They serve among the indigenous communities in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains.

It is encouraging to see that they are excited and enthusiastic about the future partnership with Southwest Georgia Baptist Pastors and churches and the Colombia missions.

Bogota, Colombia

Mike and Jennifer Brungardt introduced me to their teams, one of which was Matthew Fisher, church planting catalyst among the Venezuelan refugee and urban poor population. They told me about the need to continue to plant churches and the need to come alongside three church planters who are working in different communities. I spoke with them on partnering with Hispanic pastors and congregations to join their effort in reaching the community.

I met Michael and Rachel Koch, church planting catalysts among the university students and youth population segment through the ages of 18-35. They told us that there are more than 112 universities in Bogota, and the need for BCM volunteers to come and help reach college students with the Gospel. We agreed that I will have some conversations with our Southwest regional BCM leaders to present possibilities of mobilizing Georgia students to Bogota, Colombia.

I heard of the needs of five church planters in another area just outside of Bogota in Facatativa, Colombia. They are located approximately an hour and a half northwest of Bogota. They need VBS, medical/dental clinics, discipleship development, pastoral training, spiritual formation and help with family community groups development. I agreed to have conversations with some of our pastors, associational missionaries, and churches in the Southwest Region of Georgia to help with the different needs that were being presented for these church plants, thus building up a strong relationship with them.

I was able to meet with Arnulfo Duran, national coordinator for ministries, missions, and church planting for the Colombian Baptist Convention. He shared that the biggest need in partnering with church planters is to strengthen their efforts in reaching their communities through local outreaches, VBS, small groups, equipping, and training church planters and pastors. It was clear that the partnerships will be from pastor to pastor and church to church.

Cucuta, Colombia

I also met with Elizabeth Leininger, IMB missionary partner and with Jonathan Mata, coordinator of Casa de Misión (The Missions House) that serves different groups like those who are walking with their families and children, crossing the borders from Venezuela to the Colombia highway, providing clinics in the Venezuelan border. And for those who are walking from the Colombian border into the Colombian Highway, Casa de Mision provides needed food and supplies.

Their biggest needs are food, clothing, footwear, water and personal hygiene products.

I also met with Luis Eberto, leader of Belen Humanitarian House and is also the senior pastor from First Baptist Church Cucuta. He works with 10 church planters. His wife Ingrid Cogollo works in social ministires that include shoemaking, baking and sewing.

The top three needs are leadership retreats, planting churches, and a recreation area for children.

Santa Marta, Colombia

I met with our partners Dr. Manuel Rodriguez and Amaryllis Heartsill, working with the 12 indigenous communities in the area called Sierra Nevada Mountains, which has an altitude of 6,000 feet above sea level. There are approximately 50,000 indigenous people in the mountain and the three needs that they presented are:

  • medical and nurses volunteers who can provide services for children and adults,
  • personal hygiene products, and multivitamins,
  • antidote for snake bites that will not only help children up to 5 years old but would help adults; and the medicine that prevents lice and parasites.

In conclusion, there are many opportunities where God is opening doors in Columbia. Will you start praying and asking God where you can join His work that is being done there?

Stay tuned for more information about opportunities in Bogota, Cucuta, and Santa Marta, Colombia. You will not want to miss reading about it.

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