TULSA-Since 1995, Parkview Church has been working in central Venezuela to build the church body. What began as a construction project with one church, Luz y Vida, located in the city of Acarigua, has grown hugely. Today, Parkview is working with 36 churches and their approximately 50 missions.
An 18-member group just completed two weeks of work that included four baseball clinics, two Bible Schools, preaching in 29 locations by seven members of the group, a seminary mini-conference for 70 church leaders, and a planning tour of more than 40 locations for future work. The work includes cities in five states covering a broad swath of east-central Venezuela. By 2010, these churches in Venezuela plan to more than double their membership.
Parkview has forged what some believe is a new model for successful missions work. This model is based on the following principles:
1. Local ownership is key. The local people are building their part of His church . . . we are only helpers.
2. Build relationships. Send a broadly representative age-group of men, women and youth.
3. Go to the same area year after year. Mutual love and trust takes time to build.
4. Make the tie directly church to church. Don’t allow separation by any administrative body.
5. Be responsive to their needs. Begin with one thing and grow your work together as God leads.
6. Be flexible. Nothing will work exactly as you plan. God will make it better if you change to follow His lead.
7. Share your story back home. Even those who can’t “go” can participate and grow as you share your personal experience.
8. All for one and one for all. Encourage and help the local pastors to work and cooperate together for the greater good.
9. Use discernment. Financially help only congregations with both proven, godly leadership and a good plan.
10. Maintain the right focus. You may provide lots of “stuff,” but the focus should always remain on Christ.
By consistent and repeated work in the same areas, close friendships, love and trust have grown. As many missions projects do, we began by building a church . . . but today . . . together with our brothers and sisters in Venezuela, we are building His church, and we’re building it one hug at a time.
As a result of Parkview’s leadership, two other groups are now sharing in the work. Firstfruits Ministries is working in Barquisimeto with one church and its missions, and Broken Arrow, First is working in San Felipe with another church and its missions. Other U.S. churches have worked in the region from time to time, but more long term help is needed.
The International Mission Board has moved its full-time missionary focus to unchurched areas, largely using them as church planters. This leaves many areas with small existing churches largely “on their own.” In a poor country, the ways an American church can help (and be helped) are nearly countless.
The encouragement of long relationship is probably the best help, but leadership training, Bibles, study libraries, financial help, VBS materials, door-to-door visitation, eyeglasses, vitamins, tools and interesting “draws” such as baseball clinics are also valuable.
The people of Venezuela have a passion to grow the church, they just lack some important resources . . . resources we can provide. But to provide them, we have to go. What follows are some measures of what Parkview has accomplished since 1995:
_ 13 church buildings built or expanded.
_ 13 church properties purchased.
_ 6,800 professions of faith (during the annual mission trip weeks only).
_ 5,000 Baseball camp enrollment.
_ 21,500 Bibles distributed. (shared by more than 85 churches and missions).
_ 10,000 clothing items distributed.
_ 800 reading glasses distributed.
_ 90 pastoral libraries distributed.
_ 60 youth leader libraries distributed.
_ 700 children’s Bible story books distributed.
_ 3,000 study books distributed.
_ 2 church leader seminars conducted. Numbers completely fail, however, to capture the joy, love and unity experienced by everyone who goes. We can tell you the facts, but can’t begin to convey the experience. This year, one of Parkview’s first timers, Eddie Collins, said he had one major complaint . . . that those of us who had gone before had fallen “way short” in conveying the joy of working in Venezuela with our brothers and sisters there. The pure passion experienced for the Lord is totally unlike anything most of us ever experience at home. For many who go, it is as though they had stepped back into the early Church.
Sam Porter, Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma partnership missions specialist, said, “Parkview has shown what one church can do when they make a total commitment to volunteer missions. This is the kind of model we are seeking our churches to emulate in most of our partnership areas, that is, literally partner with another church or town to impact an area for Christ.
“This is especially true in Guerrero, Mexico, where we are trying to plant many new churches.”
For more information about Tulsa, Parkview’s efforts, e-mail email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org. To explore BGCO partnership missions opportunities, contact Porter at email@example.com, or call 405/942-3000, ext. 4337.