First Baptist Church in Rogers launched a Summer Mission Intern Program during the summer of 2022. The Father graciously provided workers to address the Hispanic/Latino, South Asian and Hmong population segments in northwest Arkansas. Daniel and Nelly Armendariz, Nelly Juarez Villegas, and Priscilla Krolis joined the Hispanic/Latino Team; Bose and Shiny Varghese and Fnu Zoherliana joined the South Asia Team; and Geur Chang joined the Hmong Team.
These summer mission interns were involved in conducting demographic and ethnographic research to determine where these diverse ethnic populations in northwest Arkansas live, work, shop, and play. They developed and nurtured relationships with members of these communities for the purpose of displaying His love and declaring the good news of Jesus Christ. They were engaged missionally in broader outreach projects and ministries throughout the summer which impacted children, youth and adults for the kingdom. God richly blessed their faithfulness to the Gospel!
Our research revealed the need for a church plant among the Hispanic/Latino population segment in Siloam Springs. We partnered with Covenant Church in Siloam Springs in this new church plant, and they provided housing for the three units on the team. They were gracious to offer their facilities as a potential location for this new church plant, but God had different plans. We were approached by Scott Hobbs, Director of Missions for the Northwest Baptist Association, and then later by Tim Wicker who serves on the Church Planting Team for the Arkansas State Baptist Convention (ABSC) about the possibility of 4:12 Fellowship in Siloam Springs gifting their property on Highway 412 to First Baptist Rogers. They had learned about our church planting strategy in Siloam Springs and our desire to launch several different language congregations addressing these growing minority segments. Therefore, when we launched the new Hispanic/Latino congregation, All Nations Community Church en Español on July 24, we were able to begin at this new location. Daniel and Nelly sensed God’s call to lead out in this church planting effort, and they have plans to join our two-year Church Planting Residency Program beginning in January 2023. They have been in the Church Planter Assessment process through the ABSC and the North American Mission Board (NAMB).
During the summer, the Hispanic/Latino Team canvassed neighborhoods, engaged business leaders, went to public parks, gyms/fitness centers and restaurants, and they developed relationships with 181 different family units. There were weekly small-group meetings where they studied John 14:6, which says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”. Bible Storying Sets built on The Way, The Truth and The Life were used for this study and it was accompanied by different craft projects for the women engaged in the study. Our team had 42 spiritual conversations, and they shared a full gospel witness on 39 occasions. There were nine people who professed faith in Jesus Christ through their witnessing encounters. There have been an additional seven people who have come to saving faith in the past two months as well. The church just had their first two baptisms this past week, and we are excited to see the great things God has in store for this new church.
We launched the South Asian focused work in the west Bentonville and Centerton area, because this is where the largest South Asian population segment resides. Extensive connections were made through door-to-door visitation, contact with South Asian owned and operated businesses, as well as going to parks, hiking trails and fitness centers. We are beginning to see how the Father is opening doors for a church plant among multiple language groups in this area. Bose and Shiny Varghese have sensed the Father’s leadership to join our two-year Church Planting Residency Program. Bose is currently a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), and he is scheduled to graduate in May 2023. We are in the process of securing a religious worker for their family to stay and engage full-time in this work. We are getting them into the Church Planter Assessment Process with ABSC and NAMB. The South Asia Team hosted Chai parties in their home during the summer. First Baptist Rogers hosted a large South Asia Connection Event on June 24-25 in order to provide tools and training to equip our members in effective communication and hospitality strategies. During the summer, the South Asian Team developed and nurtured relationships with 195 family units. They had 105 spiritual conversations over the course of eight weeks. They shared a full gospel witness 115 times and they saw eight people come to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
We researched, canvassed neighborhoods and engaged the Hmong community in several townships, businesses and churches. There are incredible opportunities to plant among this people group as there are only a few churches for this large population segment that is geographically dispersed throughout northwest Arkansas, southwest Missouri, and northeastern Oklahoma. The greatest opportunities to plant would be among the second and third generation Hmong who were born in the USA, as most of the existing churches are primarily first-generation Hmong who migrated from Laos. We are prayerfully considering opportunities to engage in church plants among this population segment in Siloam Springs, but also in Jay or Grove, Oklahoma. We have a couple that is prayerfully considering joining our Church Planting Residency to take leadership for this work. This single unit team made deep connections with 32 family units over the summer. He had 32 spiritual conversations and shared a full Gospel witness 21 times. We didn’t see anyone come to Christ over the summer, but I have high hopes for the future.
It was a great blessing to work alongside these summer mission interns. I particularly enjoyed the training and shared ministry opportunities, as well as hosting meals in our home and doing life-on-life together. This has already proven to be a great pool for potential candidates for our Church Planting Residency Program as we seek to enter new fields, evangelize, make disciples, plant healthy multiplying churches, develop leaders, and partner together in the advance of the Gospel.
Written by Steve Ellis, Executive Pastor of Missions and Church Planting, First Baptist Church, Rogers