Baptist and Reflector

Charles Pratt, left, assists a Filipino pastor in baptizing a new Christian in the South China Sea. Pratt directs Cross Partners Ministry.

Charles Pratt, left, assists a Filipino pastor in baptizing a new Christian in the South China Sea. Pratt directs Cross Partners Ministry.

SOMERVILLE — A team of nine missions volunteers serving on the Cross Partners Ministry team recently returned from two weeks in the Republic of the Philippines where they served with more than 30 churches in four different Baptist associations.

The team participated in more than 100 evangelistic crusades with Filipino Baptists across Luzon Island and saw 10,056 professions of faith and 300 other decisions for Christ.

The team was led by Charles Pratt, director of missions for Fayette Baptist Association based in Somerville. Pratt also is president and founder of Cross Partners Ministry, Inc. He has been leading volunteer missions teams on 5 continents for over 26 years to serve on short time missions trips.

The Tennessee volunteers served in several areas, including Central Luzon Baptist Association in the Angeles City area, where Clark Airfield is located. Clark was the site of the largest U.S. military installation in the world outside of the USA, until it was downsized in 1991.

The Philippines is comprised of 7,100 islands with a land mass equivalent to the state of Arizona and a population of more than 104 million people. The predominate religion is Roman Catholic though the Muslim religion is growing very fast, according to Pratt.

The partnership mission work was developed in 1989 by the Tennessee Baptist Convention and has been continued through the efforts of Cross Partners Ministry.

The volunteers raised their own support, as well as, much money for Bibles. The team gave away more than 8,000 Bibles and 15,000 gospel tracts. They shared their faith openly in public high schools, colleges, public town squares, prisons, street crusades and were able to baptize hundreds of Filipinos awaiting baptism in the South China Sea before they returned home.

Before baptizing, the volunteers and Filipino pastors conducted a worship service on the beach. Pastor Randy Crews of Springhill Baptist Church, Dyersburg, preached a message on Bible baptism. Afterwards an invitation was given for others to receive Jesus as their Savior and 36 more people came forward to accept the Lord as Savior on the beach. The CPM volunteers assisted the Filipino pastors in the mass baptism of candidates in the ocean. The candidates had gone through discipleship training during the past few weeks.

Crews has been to the Philippines more than 20 times, he said. “It was so special to see old friends and to make new ones as thousands came to the knowledge of Jesus. What keeps me coming back are these wonderful people that are so open to the gospel.”

Volunteer Donya Welch of Beech Grove Baptist Church near Halls was on her first overseas missions trip. She noted that one church she attended was a small shed with half walls and no air conditioning on the side of a mountain. “The church was overflowing with people to hear the Word of God. I thought of our paved roads and church buildings with heat and air conditioning in America that have so many empty seats.”

Loren Stephens, pastor of Southside Baptist Church, Dyersburg, is a veteran of the trips to the Philippines. The reason he keeps returning? “There are more and more people that are receptive to the gospel that I get to witness to on each trip.”

Latonya Chilcutt of Woodland Baptist Church in Brownsville had not been on an overseas missions trip for 25 years. The experience helped her become “aware of how important it is to spread the gospel so that all may hear.” She added that the trip also made “me more bold in my witness at home.”

Pastor Randy Boals of Hopewell Baptist Church, Lavina, said that “it is hard to believe the openness to the gospel that exists in the Philippines. “God is doing a great work there as a result and I am humbled that God would allow me to be involved in such a ministry.”

Other volunteers included: Willie Pounds, pastor, St. Paul Baptist Church, Kenton; Donald Williams, Beech Grove Baptist; and Mike Hopper, missions pastor, Hope of Glory Church, sponsored by Zion Baptist Church, Brownsville.