Just a few weeks ago during the main worship service of Poquoson Baptist Church in Poquoson, Virginia, about 125 people sang in Spanish. I understand this may seem woefully insignificant. After all, who’s ever heard of Poquoson, Virginia? And why in the world would anyone care about the worship practices of a small Baptist church in a small backwater town?
God often does amazing things through underwhelming means. What happened that Sunday morning was significant because our church is nestled in an isolated fishing community that, according to the United States Census Bureau, is less than 3 percent Hispanic and Latino. But beyond the oddity of a group of small-town Christians singing in broken Spanish, what happened that Sunday morning was significant because it was evidence of how God is turning the hearts of his people to the nations.
Short-Term Mission Trip to Long-Term Partnership
In the summer of 2018, the people of PBC sent thirteen members on a mission trip to Mexico City to work alongside our friends, IMB Missionaries Carlos and Lily Llambes. At the time, our goals were modest. We wanted to inject a love for the nations in the hearts of PBC members by actually experiencing evangelism and discipleship in another culture. We had no idea God would turn that simple mission trip into a partnership.
“Our partnership in Mexico City isn’t an isolated interest of the members who went on the trip; the entire congregation is invested.”
With God’s help, our church has committed to work alongside his people in Mexico City to help strengthen local churches in the city and help plant a gospel-preaching local church in a town north of Mexico City that has little gospel presence. What began as a leap of faith for thirteen church members in 2018 has turned into two scheduled trips in 2019, an upcoming visit from our missionaries this spring, and several tangible expressions of love and support from our church to theirs. Not to mention an audible symbol of solidarity and unity with our brothers and sisters in Mexico City by singing to God in their language.
Benefits of Missionary Partnerships
We are a small church cultivating a missionary partnership. And if you’re reading this, chances are you desire the same thing. If God can do things like these in our church, he can do similar things in yours. So, let me give you four benefits of establishing a long-term missionary partnership in your local church.
“Building long-term relationships can be fuel for the joy of God’s people as we rejoice together in the ways God works to call to himself people from every tribe, nation, and tongue.”
Cultivating a long-term relationship with missionaries and local churches in Mexico has strengthened our focus as a church. Many churches adopt a shotgun approach to missions engagement, scattering prayer, resources, and involvement all over the place. One year a church sends teams to Jamaica, the next year to Kenya, and the year after that to Navajo reservations in Arizona. While we applaud the broad efforts of churches seeking to reach the lost wherever they’re found, we have found we’re able to have an exponentially greater impact by focusing more resources on fewer areas.
Cultivating a long-term relationship has strengthened our unity as a church. Our partnership in Mexico City isn’t an isolated interest of the members who went on the trip; the entire congregation is invested. Church members helped support our team members financially. Many came to hear the reports of what God did during our trip. The entire church sang along with us as we recorded a video to send to our sister church in Mexico City. If our involvement with Mexico City ended after one trip, we would never see the way God has strengthened our unity.
I believe establishing a long-term partnership has strengthened our giving as a church, particularly to international missions. Two years ago we set an ambitious goal for our Lottie Moon Christmas Offering giving, and even though we came close we didn’t reach it. This past year we set an even more ambitious goal and exceeded it. I believe the difference was due to the love for the nations in Mexico City that has gripped the hearts of our people. The call to give to international missions is no longer abstract. We can mentally visualize specific missionaries and real local churches ministering to real people who need Jesus.
Cultivating a long-term missionary relationship has increased our joy as a church. This really shouldn’t surprise us because Paul’s letters are overflowing with joy for the people and churches in which he invested. Getting involved and building long-term relationships with missionaries, peoples, and towns with little gospel presence can be fuel for the joy of God’s people as we rejoice together in the ways God works to call to himself people from every tribe, nation, and tongue.
So don’t lose heart. And don’t miss out on the tiny, seemingly insignificant things God may be doing in your neck of the woods to turn the hearts of his people to the nations. Who knows? Maybe before we know it we’ll be hearing about some small church in small town USA singing in Mandarin or Arabic.
Hopson Boutot has been happily married to his wife, Holly, for over twelve years. They have four children, Jonah, Zoë, Phoebe, and Ella with another child coming through adoption in the future. He is the lead pastor of Poquoson Baptist Church in Poquoson, Virginia. Hopson received his MDiv from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary and a PhD in Christian Preaching from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.