KINGSVILLE – Elm Spring Baptist church has chosen to “be the missionary” for a people group in sub-Saharan Africa, and pastor Robin Dale hopes other Missouri Baptist churches will follow their example.
They’ll have the opportunity at the International Mission Board’s (IMB) “Base Camp,” Feb. 21-22, at Elm Spring. Base Camps are training and networking conferences for churches interested in impacting the unreached and unengaged people groups of sub-Saharan Africa. It’s an opportunity to hear testimonies of God’s work and pick up practical techniques for new missions ministries. Workshops will include cultural discipleship, cultural preparation, vision casting, mission planning and more.
Elm Spring has been through a base camp and has “been the missionary” to the unengaged, unreached Mning people group of northern Uganda since 2009.
“It began with prayer, then planning,” Dale said. “We made our first attempt to find the Mning, but were actually unable to find them. We learned a little bit about them, but we were unable to locate them.”
This past October, on the church’s second trip to Uganda, they were able to find some pockets of their unreached people group.
“They’d been out of touch with outside people for so long, there was a lot of misinformation about them,” Dale said. “They’re not a people group that intermixes well, so a lot of what we thought we knew had been passed from one person to another to another and wasn’t always correct. We had to go through that process before we could even begin to share the gospel with them.”
The best guesses from IMB and other missions agencies said that the Mning were a nomadic warring people of hunters and gatherers. The Elm Spring group discovered that the group had split in the 1960s, with the warring group migrating to southern Sudan. This left a pocket of agriculture-focused Mning in northern Uganda that was open to building a relationship with the church, though the Missourians found zero professing Christians.
“Now is the exciting time in the journey,” Dale said.
Dale said any size church can be the missionary for an unreached people group. Elm Spring averages 150 on a Sunday morning, just above average for Missouri.
“They’ve lost view of the size of the church and locked onto the view of what God can do. I want every church to know the joy of finally reaching an unreached people group,” he said. “That’s why we’re hosting the base camp.”
For more information on the base camp, go to subsaharanafricanpeoples.imb.org. Registration is $25 and includes materials and meals.
“Let God use this event,” Dale said, “to give you a greater vision for being a part of the generation that sees the Great Commission fulfilled – reaching every tribe, nation, kindred, and tongue! Every day I pray for God to give us His passion for the fulfillment of the Great Commission, that each church would start asking themselves, ‘Why can’t we be the generation that sees “all these things come to pass” – the fulfillment of the Great Commission?’”
Koonce earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Oklahoma Baptist University in 2005.