Ohio MPT training
Since 2004, American Baptist International Ministries (IM) has been working to create a relationship-based model of sustainable mission support that provides missionaries with prayer, encouragement and resources and enables local churches and individuals to be more fully engaged in God’s work through our missionaries. This initiative involves building Missionary Partnership Networks (MPNs) of churches and individuals who have a relationship with a particular missionary. A typical MPN can have from 50 to 1000 members.
At the core of each MPN is a Missionary Partnership Team (MPT), a group of five to ten individuals invited by the missionary or missionary couple to join them and the IM staff in expanding their network.
That first year, eight MPTs were oriented and began working with their missionaries. Today we have 66 teams in place with over 500 individuals providing direct care and support for the missionaries they serve.
It has been exciting to see these teams catch the vision for how they, too, are being called to mission service by providing various kinds of assistance to their missionaries. Over half of the MPT members have worked on site with the missionaries, traveling either as part of a short-term mission team or making a commitment for a longer term of volunteer service lasting several months.
Some MPT members are helping to post journals and news updates on the IM website on behalf of their missionaries. This is especially evident at the moment for MPT members relating to missionaries currently serving in or helping with relief efforts following the Haiti earthquake.
Other MPT members are taking an active role in scheduling speaking itineraries for their missionaries, some even traveling with their missionaries to the various assignments. Many MPT members represent their missionaries at region and association events, setting up displays or sharing stories on behalf of the missionaries.
Most MPTs are now actively helping to mobilize individuals and local churches to provide ongoing prayer and financial support to enable their missionaries to have uninterrupted service on the field. Some are even designing and hosting creative fundraising events that reach out to the local community.
We cannot easily quantify the extent of the difference that MPT members are making as they carry out their supportive ministries. But a recent newsletter from David and Leslie Turley indicated a direct correlation in someone coming to faith.
“David learned that a local man, to whom MPT member Roger Adams had witnessed in 2008, came to believe in Christ as his personal Savior. Our family joyfully celebrated his baptism on May 17. This was teamwork at its best because the West Virginia mission team, led by Roger Adams in 2008, was involved in that man’s decision. Your prayers, your funding, your “coming onto the field” with us bore fruit for our Lord’s kingdom.”
In MPT orientations and trainings, we often share the experience of the Philippian church that provided all kinds of support (tangible and financial) to the Apostle Paul, even to the point of sending one of their own members, Epaphroditis, to help in Paul’s ministry.
But even beyond MPT involvement, congregations are discovering a wider perspective in how personal relationships and involvement with IM missionaries can impact their own perspective on missions…not only related to an international field but also in how they respond to needs in their own community.
The most dramatic story that we have noted to date is that of Crossroads Community Baptist Church in Erie, Pa. Katie White, co-pastor, not only spearheaded the local association of churches to adopt two missionary units (the Binkleys and Kit Ripley), but she took the vision of getting her local church involved with mission in a powerful way. Because of her direct involvement with the Binkleys and seeing the need to assist with the Karen refugees who were coming to live in the Erie area, her church has now welcomed Karen, Chin, Bhutanese and others into the congregation. The church has changed from a small, white-haired group to an international church almost overnight. This also has had a significant effect on Katie’s life. Initially, she started making contact with the resettlement agency, which was not very interested in getting involved with a church. Now Katie is a full-time staff member at the agency as well as continuing to serve as co-pastor at the church!