By Holly Jo Linzay, Special to the Message
SLIDELL/SHREVEPORT – Two church plants illustrate the value of the Georgia Barnette Offering for Louisiana Missions to the state’s ethnic population.
Years ago, LBC Missions Strategist James Jenkins said, to effectively reach all the different people groups, the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board would have sent out missionaries to the various countries.
“But now God is bringing all the nations and tribes here to our nation,” Jenkins said, adding that by starting ethnic church plants, Southern Baptists are helping to make “disciples of all nations.”
Several people hugged each other, while others sat and happily chatted. No one appeared to be in a rush to leave. There was a sense of unity, of a church family, as members of Iglesia Buenas Nuevas in Slidell lingered to bask in fellowship after the service.
“They hang out for more than an hour after service,” said Lonnie Wascom, Northshore Baptist Association’s director of missions, about the ethnic church plant.
“No one is in a hurry to leave. That’s a good sign of a healthy body. It’s a tremendous work, and the church is growing. God is all over Iglesia Buenas Nuevas.”
Last March, Iglesia Buenas Nuevas started as a church plant specifically to reach the lost Hispanic community for Christ. The congregation meets for services in the fellowship hall of First Baptist Church of Slidell, which sponsors Iglesia Buenas Nuevas.
With a growing multicultural population in the nation, ethnic church planting has become a priority in reaching the unchurched in America. Marvin Mercado, a church planter and the pastor of Iglesia Buenas Nuevas, believes church planting is evangelism that results with a harvest of souls.
“Iglesia Buenas Nuevas is touching lives by preaching and teaching the Gospel,” Mercado noted, adding that he will be baptizing seven people at the church at the end of the month. “When the Gospel touches people’s lives, lives are changed. The Lord has been so faithful to us. The Holy Spirit is moving in the church, and the people are developing as brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Iglesia Buenas Nuevas is the third church plant that Mercado said he has been blessed to have started. After Hurricane Katrina, the Hispanic community increased in Slidell. There was only one other Baptist Hispanic church in Slidell. Mercado, and his wife, Martha, had begun a Spanish ministry at Calvary Baptist in Slidell in 1991. In 1999, the couple opened a Spanish ministry at Roseland Park Baptist Church in Picayune, Miss.
“There’s a definite need to have more than one Hispanic ministry in Slidell due to the increased Hispanic population,” Mercado said, adding that Iglesia Buenas Nuevas is averaging about 80 people each Sunday morning. “If we don’t reach the Hispanic community for Christ, we will miss out on the blessing that God has for us as a community, a sponsoring church and as an association.”
Starting a church plant is a team effort. Besides the LBC, associations and sponsoring churches, church planters often need assistance from resources such as the Georgia Barnette State Missions Offering.
“The Georgia Barnette offering is very important,” Mercado said. “It helps make into reality for what God is telling us to do.”
“We are called to go into all the world to preach the good news to all creation,” Le says. “The Georgia Barnette offering helps support missions and sharing the Gospel.”
The Northwest Louisiana Asian Fellowship, which officially started in January, is running about 40 in worship Sunday mornings. Eastwood Baptist Church is the premier sponsoring church of the fellowship, and Summer Grove Baptist Church allows them to meet in their church facilities.
About 10 adults and 10 children recently accepted the Lord as their Savior, Pastor Le said. The Northwest Louisiana Asian Fellowship offers the community English as a Second Language classes, Vietnamese-language classes, U.S. citizenship courses and Bible study classes.
“We are reaching out and filling a need,” Le said. “They are learning to live a better way, God’s way.”
Both Le and Mercado both have a “definite call” on their lives to work the mission field and do not seem to be overwhelmed by the challenges of planting churches, Jenkins said.
“These church plants and others like them are helping to fulfill the Great Commission by reaching out to the world and spreading the Gospel,” the LBC missions strategist said. “Your gifts to the Georgia Barnette Offering help them as they lead people born in other nations to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. The dream is that some day they may be able to return to their native land and complete the circle.”