Parkwood Baptist plugs into ministry in Central Asia

Parkwood Baptist Church in Gastonia, North Carolina, has spent the last five years investing in and committing to ministry in Central Asia through partnership with International Mission Board teams. Church leaders say this intentional focus has allowed them to raise the ceiling on the help and encouragement they can provide ministry partners there.

“We chose to be a part of Central Asia,” Andrew Brafford, global disciple-making pastor for Parkwood, shared. “It was a conscious decision.”

The mission team from Parkwood Baptist encounters a shepherd on a hillside in Central Asia. Parkwood Photo

The church focuses on that region in several ways. Under Senior Pastor Jeff Long’s leadership, Brafford met and connected with Winfield Scott, an IMB leader among those reaching Central Asian people groups. They observed the way his team did ministry, and Long and Brafford knew this was the place for Parkwood to plug in.

The church began by providing childcare for meetings of IMB workers. After seeing that the middle and high school missionary kids (MKs) only met together as a larger group once every three or four years, the church knew they wanted to help provide more time for fellowship for the MKs of Central Asia. They soon began a MK retreat which the church funds and hosts annually in that region.

The Parkwood mission team walks the streets in Central Asia, encountering a neighborhood bazaar. Parkwood Photo

Their involvement progressed to conversational English intensives, where they spend a week at a time engaging in conversations with nationals so that they can practice their English. This not only provides avenues to share the gospel, but it frees the missionaries up for language study and to do other aspects of cross-cultural ministry.

The church’s involvement has been a blessing, Scott said. He met Long at an IMB trustee meeting eight years ago.

“At the time they had minimal involvement with IMB teams but were looking to change that,” Scott said. Soon after their meeting, Long came on a vision trip to Central Asia.

“He and his leadership team loved the idea that there were Unreached People Groups (UPGs) with whom they could make a difference. The church has made our [region] their primary cross-cultural focus for disciple making and church planting,” Scott said.

In addition to sending multiple volunteer teams to support IMB teams dedicated to UPGs, they intentionally pray.

“They regularly pray for our personnel by name as a church. They are in this for the long haul,” Scott said.

Recently, a large group of personnel had to be relocated quickly. During the process, childcare support was a significant need.

“We called Parkwood on Monday. By Friday they had eight of their church members on the ground half-way around the world to help us. They came fully prepared to do whatever we asked of them,” Scott said.

He added, “Parkwood Baptist Church also contributes hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering®. We love Parkwood Baptist Church and their biblical understanding of missions.”

Lately, the church has been shifting their focus from all of Central Asia to three specific UPGs. This gives their volunteers and prayer partners something specific to pray for and give to while seeking to do their part in the Great Commission.

This missional focus is kept alive in the hearts of church members because, “The gospel has fostered a heart for the nations,” Brafford said. From the pulpit, missions is being kept before the congregation. During prayer time, it’s the focus. In Growth Groups (their discipleship program), missions is being discussed. The church members are hearing about their people groups of focus from their peers who have returned from trips.

“Prayer, investment and engagement” in missions in Central Asia undergird the heart of the church. And that is evidenced in tangible ways.

Andrew Brafford, second from right, enters a village in Central Asia with the mission team from Parkwood Baptist. Parkwood Photo

Churches looking to follow Parkwood’s example and increase their involvement with the IMB can do so in the following ways:

Some names may have been changed for security reasons.

The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® is a registered trademark of Woman’s Missionary Union.