About 150,000 people live here, and Southern Baptists have one Anglo church where about 125 people attend worship each Sunday, one Korean church and one recently established Hispanic mission.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – About 150,000 people live here, and Southern Baptists have one Anglo church where about 125 people attend worship each Sunday, one Korean church and one recently established Hispanic mission.
Southern Baptist work only exists in seven of the 22 counties in Siouxland Baptist Association, southeast South Dakota. And in Dakota Baptist Convention, which includes the 119 counties of North and South Dakota, there are a total of 85 Southern Baptist congregations.
Jackson Baptist Association in north-central Louisiana learned this during a 2005 ‘vision tour’ of Dakota. A vision tour, funded in part by Cooperative Program dollars, brings together people with an interest in a new work state, and people in that state. Jackson Director of Missions Clovis Sturdivant had been invited to participate in the vision tour by Dakota Baptist Convention Director of Missions John Guillott.
Guillott, a DeQuincy, La,, native and former pastor of churches in Mittie, La. and Oberlin, La., has been in Dakota since 1999.
Sturdivant and Randy Lee, associational missions coordinator and pastor at Ebenezer Jonesboro, participated in the vision tour and led Jackson Association in 2006 to enter a three-year partnership with Siouxland Association.
“It’s a good fit for those associations,” Guillott said. “We have some rural churches that match up well with the rural churches in Jackson Association, and Jackson also has a vision for reaching Sioux Falls. They see the huge need we have there.”
Jackson Association sent at least 80 people to Siouxland Association last summer, which nearly overloaded the association’s ability to provide for them, so this summer, the group is going to be about 50 people, including some from Winn and Shady Grove Associations, which Sturdivant also serves.
Partnerships work both ways.
“ It’s really had a unifying effect on our association,” Lee said. “Our people spent a week working together last summer in South Dakota, and that really had a bonding effect that’s carried over to what we do here.”
But the benefit they’ve received – which was unexpected – isn’t the reason the association got involved with the partnership, the pastor said.
“I just really want to minister to the pastors and just encourage them,” Lee said. “If they’re called to serve there, in that harsh environment, where there isn’t another [Southern Baptist] pastor anywhere near, at least I can encourage them while they serve.
“The [pastors from the southern U.S.] who pastor there have pretty much lost their support group,” Lee said. “Up there it’s not like it is in the South, where several pastors in a town can get together whenever they want. The guys there were 25 miles apart at the least, and that was close. For some of the pastors in the state, they might be a hundred miles or more from the nearest [Southern Baptist] pastor.
“What we’re doing with this partnership is telling them that they now have people who care about them, even when they’re feeling so remote,” Lee continued. “If nothing else, we can keep the pastors encouraged and doing ministry.”
Sturdivant wants even more.
“In North and South Dakota there are 85 churches,” the DOM said. “Just in my area [in Louisiana], I have 60 churches, so you see the need. There are entire communities up there that not only don’t have a Southern Baptist witness, they don’t have any church. It’s just pioneer work. I’d love one day to go back and see a healthy congregation in the area where we’ve been working, and know it was from some of our work.”
Jackson Association last August participated in a variety of activities in Siouxland Association, such as vacation Bible school, sports camps, evening block parties, prayer walks and more, all to help raise the visibility of Southern Baptists in an area that’s predominantly Catholic/Lutheran.
“Sioux Falls is a missions field in its own right; at least 111 languages are spoken here,” said Jim Pratt, Siouxland Association director of missions. “It’s basically an international missions field right here.”
A local benefactor announced in February his gift of $400 million for a medical center that will bring 70,000 new jobs to Sioux Falls, Pratt said. Already 10 new schools have been platted to address the thousands of new residents expected. This is just another reason Southern Baptists need to increase their visibility and start new churches in Sioux Falls, he explained.
“Our greatest need is people, laypersons and committed pastors,” the DOM said. “We are hindered by a lack of people resources and financial resources. We would ask for prayer for people who would come and plant their lives in Dakota, and for people who may be retired, people who would commit two to three years to teaching Sunday school, mowing the grass, whatever is needed to establish strong, healthy churches.”
The partnership with Jackson Baptist Association is another way of supporting the work in Dakota. In addition to prayerwalks, VBS, sports camps and block parties, one of the South Dakota pastors teaches karate and will give demonstrations in a local park. The Louisianians will join South Dakotans in roaming through the crowds and talking with people.
Nine from Louisiana are to leave mid-week for Sturgis, S.D., site of a massive motorcycle rally. Dakota Baptist Convention plans a significant presence there again this year. Last year 744 people of about 2,000 who listened to a three-minute evangelistic message made professions of faith; hopes are strong for a similar response this year. Additional Southern Baptists are needed to present God’s plan of salvation.
Information about the needs and opportunities in the Dakotas was presented in Jackson Association in early May. Dakota Baptist Convention Executive Director Jim Hamilton, Siouxland Director of Missions Pratt and several pastors spoke in area churches during what was billed as a Kingdom Growth conference.
“This partnership pulls our area together,” Sturdivant said. “We’ve done other things before, but this is the first time we’re coming together in a focused direction. We’re working on something together. We can act as a spear and make a difference.”
The concept is a microcosm of the Cooperative Program, Sturdivant said.
“The result is that we’re looking at something bigger than just us,” the DOM continued. “We’re having a kingdom mentality.”