BRENTWOOD — Kevin and Laura Baggett, Southern Baptist International Mission Board missionaries to Argentina, are thrilled that Tennessee Baptists approached them several years ago about a partnership.
“There’s no confusion about who is doing the work,” said Kevin Baggett. “God is opening doors and hearts in Buenos Aires,” referring to the capital city of Argentina where they live and serve.
Baggett spoke Feb. 11 at the Baptist Center of the Tennessee Baptist Convention to church leaders in the state about the 2014-2018 Tennessee/Buenos Aires Baptist Partnership. The couple are natives of Georgia but Laura has family who are members of Brainerd Baptist Church, Chattanooga.
“I really believe that Buenos Aires is the best city in the world,” he said, “not only because it is a great city, but because God has called us to this city as missions strategists. I also believe that because it is such a challenging city. The potential of BA (Buenos Aires) to impact the country and the world is huge,” explained Baggett, who has been a missionary there for eight years.
The challenge “is so big and the resources are few. The only way this happens is if God does it,” he added, referring to reaching more residents for Christ. Only about 3-7 percent of residents of BA are evangelical Christians which of course includes Baptists, he noted. About 92 percent of the 13 million residents say they are Catholic but only 20 percent practice that faith, he added.
Opportunities for volunteers
Baggett said he is ready to work with Tennessee Baptists who will be ministering in a huge city where the opportunities are many and varied. For instance the socioeconomic groups living there span the very poor to the very rich and include sizeable ethnic populations of Jews, Chinese, other Asians, Muslims, Europeans, Africans, and others. Many of these are third or fourth generation, so they speak Spanish as their primary language, he explained.
Tennessee Baptists will learn that many cultural barriers to ministry in other countries don’t exist in BA, said Baggett. Volunteers may stay in apartments with WiFi and certainly will enjoy the food, he explained. Translators will also be provided to Tennessee Baptists to cross the language barrier, he added.
To prepare for the partnership, pastors of the churches in BA have been praying together and reaching out into their communities to start new congregations, reported Baggett. Some churches have begun using 1-5-1 Harvest Plants from the TBC in Spanish. They have adapted it into 1-3-1 Harvest Plants because of the small meeting space available in most homes, Baggett explained.
Harvest Plants are geared toward off-campus efforts aimed specifically at non-Christians for the purpose of sharing the gospel. Most churches that embrace this strategy make a commitment to start no less than 1 plant in the next year, making an effort with the Lord’s help to reach, win, and baptize 5 people through each plant, and planning on each plant to start 1 plant by the end of the first year.
Many Baptist churches in BA are struggling, said Baggett. Most of the members are older women and most of the pastors are older. This is true despite the fact that Southern Baptist missionaries have served there for 100 years and a Baptist seminary is located there, he noted. Part of the struggle of the Baptists is linked to the diversity of the city and to the proud identity of the people, he explained, which sometimes doesn’t promote reliance on each other.
The Baggetts and their eight fellow IMB missionaries in BA hope to work with Tennessee Baptist churches, though they will work with individuals, said Baggett. They desire to work with Tennessee churches who prayerfully make a two to three year commitment to a BA Baptist church. Baggett said he envisions the Tennessee Baptist churches sending two to five teams a year, but a team can be made up of just two to six individuals, he explained. The purpose of this strategy is to enable Tennessee Baptists to develop relationships with Argentines, which is an important aspect of the culture, he added.
Wide range of opportunities
The Tennessee Baptists who serve in BA will be working closely with Argentine Baptists of a church assisting them, continued Baggett.
Some very creative approaches by North Americans have worked in BA, he reported. Two music ministers came and performed drawing a group of upper-class believers and their friends. A lawyer came and compared the constitutions of the United States and Argentina drawing a good crowd of lawyers. An entrepreneur spoke to professionals on workplace creativity. In all instances, the Baptist visitors also witnessed of their faith in Jesus Christ, Baggett added.
Other visiting Baptists have led training in prayer, discipleship, and church health for BA churches. Volunteers also may be needed to lead Vacation Bible Schools for children and health care clinics for needy people, Baggett added.
He encouraged Tennessee Baptists who come to help Argentines to be themselves. “We are here to help you find where that fits best,” he stated.
Baggett suggested that volunteers work with Kim Margrave, church health/volunteer missions specialist, TBC, who coordinated the meeting, to plan their trips and help them consider details such as buying insurance.
For more information, go to www.missionbuenosaires.com or contact Margrave at 615-812-0886 or firstname.lastname@example.org.