Through the generous support of Arkansas Baptist Churches through the Cooperative Program and the Dixie Jackson State Missions Offering, Church Planting Strategist Chanson Newborn led two church plants on a mission trip in Detroit, Michigan, July 17-23. This first domestic mission trip was to three NAMB Send City missionaries in partnership with the ABSC Church Planting Team and ABSC Missions Team.
The nine members of this Arkansas group spent a week partnering with the following church planters in Detroit: Tito Diaz, Steven Perry, and Cornelius Roberson. Tito Diaz was the first planter that the team connected with in Ann Arbor, a city west of Detroit. Tito is planting pastor of Rhiza Church (rhiza is the Greek word for root), and he said, “it was so amazing to have a group of church planters from Arkansas who are currently in the early stages of planting, to come and serve alongside our church and help us reach our community for Jesus. It is more than a partnership to us – it’s a friendship.”
Diaz unpacked with the team his heart and passion for reaching his community, whose population is 119,000. With 67% of this population claiming no religious affiliation, there is a great need for a gospel-centered church. Diaz shared with the team that when a person has a spiritual conversation with someone in his community, you can mention any religion; however, when you say the name of Jesus, people immediately become offended and redirect the conversation. Despite this, God is at work in Ann Arbor and has opened doors for them to build relationships with the diverse people groups there. One way God has opened doors is by allowing them to share space with a non-profit organization. They have decided to partner with this organization to make a positive impact and to build relationships with people. The Arkansas team was able to spend a day cleaning, decluttering, and reorganizing the space in preparation for an upcoming outreach event.
Two days were spent with Cornileus Roberson pastor of Heart and Soul Community Church which is located in the heart of Detroit. Charles Simmons, pastor of Connect Church in Little Rock, said that when he arrived at Heart & Soul Community Church in Detroit, it reminded him of his mission field in Little Rock. Simmons said, “As we drove through the neighborhood, it surprised me as to the conditions in which some of the church planters were doing ministry. I noticed dilapidated, abandoned houses everywhere, a vast number of homeless people walking around. It was a picture of brokenness, and therefore it broke my heart.”
Simmons said that one of the reasons for him wanting to go on this mission trip was to do the same for others what is being done for him. He said, “because we have an incredible sponsor church, First Baptist Church Little Rock, we have had teams to come alongside us to help us reach our community with the gospel and participate in various projects for the church. I am inspired and motivated to lead my church to get involved in doing missions.” So, Simmons found himself doing yard work, landscaping, and light construction. When asked how God had spoken to him in this experience, he said, “I was encouraged by God to keep going. . . to know that even in some of the most crime-infested places, God is still using others to change lives and make a difference through the gospel.”
For Arkansas church planter Torvac Amos, pastor of Fresh Start Community Church in Sherwood, this was new territory for him. On the last day of the mission trip, Amos spent the day cleaning the bounce house, preparing the equipment, and passing out invite cards in the community. Amos said, “I am thankful for the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus while in Detroit. I got a chance to help prepare for their upcoming VBS that was about to take place the next week.” He continued, “I realized how partnering with others allows you to do so much more than trying to accomplish the work by yourself.” Amos started thinking about his upcoming outreach event and how grateful he was for his partnership with First Baptist Church in Sherwood.
This was Beverly Newborn’s second time going on a mission trip. She stated, “One of the things I enjoyed the most was getting an opportunity to pray for and share the Gospel with people.”
Newborn and church planter wife Dee Simmons told the story of an encounter they had with a young lady. When they approached the lady and asked if they could pray for her, she was receptive to them. They started sharing their testimony, and she opened up to them about her story and how her family was robbed at gunpoint. With tears in her eyes, she recounted the details of this horrible event. When the members of her family were tied up on the floor, the only response she could think of was to call on the name of Jesus for help. She emphatically expressed that although she was a person who had gone to church, she knew she did not have a personal relationship with Jesus and would spend eternity separated from Him. As she continued to call out, “Jesus,” the gunmen miraculously decided to leave the scene, leaving the family safe and unharmed. When she finished her story, Newborn began to share the Gospel and pointed the lady to the church in which she was serving.
Moving forward these Arkansas Baptist church planters will keep praying for these new relationships and partnerships that they have forged with these three Detroit church planters. They hope to receive more opportunities in the future to go on mission trips and to take members of their own congregations to help reach more people for Jesus.