TUCSON, Ariz. — When church planter Gary Monroe leads Lifework Church’s first preview service on Easter morning, he’ll know there is a church full of people in Jackson, Tenn., praying for his new congregation in Tucson. In fact, they’ve done more than pray.
Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson has mobilized multiple missions teams to Arizona in the past two years to come alongside existing ministries and to help facilitate church planting efforts. According to the congregation’s outreach pastor, David Taylor, the people of Englewood have developed a passion and burden for assisting Christians who are trying to reach the lost in Arizona.
The connection between Englewood Church and Arizona Southern Baptists began when David Holmes, an Englewood church member who also coordinates Arizona Southern Baptists’ missions partnership in the Caribbean, introduced the idea to Taylor. Previously Englewood had focused most of its North American outreach efforts and resources on Montana. With their goals in that state accomplished, the church began to pray for God to open another door for ministry in a pioneer state. “We wanted a place where we could reach out to a largely lost population and introduce them to God’s kingdom,” Taylor says. “We also wanted a place where we could get multiple groups of people in our church involved from different areas and ages.”
And they have done just that. Thus far, missionaries from Englewood have included groups of adults, teenagers, senior adults, and men. Teams of senior adults, college students, ninth and tenth graders, and adults will come to Arizona in 2014 to help Monroe launch Lifework Church in the Star Valley community of Tucson.
Brian Hedstrom, a trucking company administrator in Jackson, participated in the church’s first missions trip to Arizona in July 2012. Besides helping with a VBS and canvassing neighborhoods for several church plants, Hedstrom and the other missionaries became aware of some of the physical plant needs at Rio Vista Center in Phoenix. The group painted, repaired holes in the walls and did some rewiring, but they realized there was much more to do. So in March 2013, Hedstrom helped lead a construction team back to Rio Vista with the financing and manpower to do additional work at the center.
Englewood plans to continue its partnership with Arizona Southern Baptists for at least three more years, potentially five. “Serving in Arizona has been a huge blessing to our people, because believers in Arizona have really impacted our church,” Taylor said. “We see people in Arizona reaching out to a people who are harder to reach, and we admire that. And their passion and hard work inspires us to do the same here in Tennessee.”