By Richard E. Bray
Pastor, Rock Hill Baptist Church, Lexington
Southern Baptists are a missions people. In fact, the glue that holds the Southern Baptist Convention together has always been cooperative missions. I grew up attending Southern Baptist churches where I was exposed to missions on a regular basis. My seminary studies added to my understanding of Southern Baptists as a missions people. My Ph.D. studies in the field of missiology further confirmed this truth.
I not only learned about how Southern Baptists cooperated to do missions, but also experienced cooperative missions firsthand. God called my wife, Lesa, and me to serve as missionaries. Southern Baptists through the International Mission Board gave us the opportunity to live out our calling in Chile. We were with the IMB from 1989 to 1997. Since that time, I have had the privilege of participating in and leading several mission trips.
During a recent mission trip to Guatemala, God reminded me of how He works through these trips to grow His kingdom. Several years ago, Kim Margrave, volunteer missions specialist at the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board (TBMB), asked me to go to Guatemala to do leadership training with pastors and church leaders. I prayed about the opportunity but was unable to go due to extenuating circumstances.
Last November (2018) I saw Kim at the Tennessee Baptist Convention and indicated if an opportunity presented itself to go to Guatemala, I would prayerfully consider it. As a result of that conversation, she walked me over and introduced me to Pastor J. Salvador Zapeta G., the president of the Guatemalan Baptist Convention.
We talked for several minutes, and I thought this was the end of the matter. However, early this year Kim contacted me and asked me to pray about going to Guatemala in this year to teach in their annual pastor’s conference.
Soon I received an invitation from Pastor Zapeta to come and teach missions to the pastors and leaders there. God confirmed this matter and Rock Hill Baptist Church, Lexington, where I serve as pastor, allowed me to go. The church and Beech River Baptist Association provided monetary support for the trip. Little did I know what God had planned.
In preparation for the trip, I asked my church family to pray that God would help me to remember Spanish, people would come to know Christ as personal Savior, pastors would develop a passion for missions and God would call some to be missionaries. God truly answered the prayers of His people.
Before I even left the country, God began to answer the first request. I stopped teaching on Wednesday night before leaving on Friday for Guatemala because my mind was functioning half in Spanish and half in English, and my words were not coming out right.
I arrived in Guatemala on Friday night and immediately began speaking in Spanish with my translator. By the time I preached in Spanish on Sunday morning, much of the language had come back to me.
The pastor’s conference started on Monday morning, and by the end of the day, some of the pastors came to me and indicated they were excited about what they were learning and would be sharing this information with their congregations.
On the last day of the conference, I had one responsibility remaining. I was to preach a message on missions. The Lord woke me up about 2 a.m., and I began to pray.
I felt very strongly the Lord wanted me to give an invitation asking individuals to consider God’s call to missions. After preaching from Genesis 12:1-4, God’s call of Abraham, the invitation was given, and nine individuals came forward indicating they believed God was calling them to be missionaries.
As I reflect back on what God did, I am reminded it was a team effort. God’s people cooperated together to pray and to send, and God moved in a powerful way. As I shared with Rock Hill Baptist Church when I returned, only God knows the impact this partnership for the sake of the gospel will have on God’s future kingdom.
The Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, the Guatemalan Baptist Convention, Beech River Baptist Association and Rock Hill Baptist Church worked together to send me to a group of pastors and church leaders who were prepared by God to receive His message.
As Southern Baptists have always known, we can accomplish so much more when we work together than by ourselves. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow!” B&R