Posted on : Thursday May 17, 2018

Friendship Baptist Church, Sykesville, and Southern Calvert Baptist Church, Lusby, stress importance of missions to the local church

Friendship Baptist Church’s commitment to missions, which is huge, began with the church’s founder and current pastor, Mark Massey. As an Arkansas State University student attending a missions conference at Southwestern Seminary in 1978, Massey said, “I felt the call of God to missions. My first trip was in 1990 with John Faris (then BCM/D’s Chief Financial Officer) for 21 days in Rwanda—the hardest 21 days of my life!” He grins widely. But it was a life-changing trip, and he surrendered his life.

Massey started Friendship in Sykesville, Md., in 1984, while still a seminary student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. The church met in many different places in the first few years: a Sunday School room at a local Presbyterian church, a mental institution (Springfield Hospital Center), various area schools and an old hardware store in Sykesville. From the beginning, the church fully embraced an Acts 1:8 strategy, ministering in Mexico, Jamaica, Rwanda, Uganda, and San Francisco, and locally at homeless shelters and in schools.

In February 2018, the church returned from their 18th trip to Puebla, Mexico, where they’ve been helping Hananeel Baptist Church transition from a taco stand-type building, where people stood outside for worship, to a facility that accommodates 300 people, plus a three-story educational building. Now almost two decades later, with the larger sanctuary, there are still people standing outside, and the church is moving to two services. It also has several church plants.

Massey believes strongly in long-term partnership missions, to build foundations physically, emotionally and spiritually. The friendships forged have been strong and now, the Friendship team not only does work for the Puebla church, but with the church.

“We’ve gone with people in Puebla to Southern Mexico and taught other churches to do Vacation Bible School. We’ve been on the Honduran border, and we’ve done theological education in Veracruz,” Massey said, adding that hundreds have been saved in Puebla.

Puebla is their connection to Friendship’s San Francisco work. For years they worked with Puebla’s International Mission Board Missionaries Andrew and Connie Flagg. The Flaggs retired from the IMB two years ago, but have continued helping Friendship with their trips. Now the Flaggs are starting a Spanish-speaking church in San Francisco, and Friendship is lending a hand with help in VBS, construction and visitation.

John Hevey, associate pastor of membership and missions, and Layman Pat Collins, who serves as volunteer missions coordinator, lead annual trips to Rwanda and Uganda. In Rwanda, they support an IMB missionary who has served for 25 years and adopted several orphans whose parents were victims of the 90’s genocide in the country. In both countries, they’re helping to reach indigenous people groups and get the Gospel into their languages.

“We use SIM cards that go into telephones with the embedded ‘Jesus film’ (for adults and children) … and hygiene videos. We take them in four different languages for Rwanda, Kenya, Swahili, English and Burundi,” Hevey said.

“People come from all over Rwanda. They’ll go sit on a bus and play the videos. They watch the whole thing and show their friends. We’re throwing out (spiritual) seeds,” Hevey said.

Neville Johnson, associate pastor overseeing student ministry, leads the church’s mission trips to Jamaica. Johnson grew up in Jamaica going to Bible summer camps. Now he goes back working with children and teens, exposing them to the Gospel and the love of Jesus.

Close to home, Mark Klimovitz, associate pastor of outreach and education, leads the church in school partnership missions outreaches that include a mentoring program, backpack giveaway, school property enhancements, and financial help for school field trips and meals for families who need some extra help.

The church supports all of their missions projects through their prayer, their giving, and their time and energy in going. Massey encourages churches to support Southern Baptist missionaries in every way available.

“Missionaries are in hard places and need help,” he said.

“Most churches look at mission as secondary instead of primary,” Pat Collins said. “Most will miss their real calling.”

Senior Pastor Steve Fehrman also understands the importance of missions. For the past three years, he has led Southern Calvert Baptist Church to do missions in Los Mocios, the capital city of Sinaloa, Mexico.

This town is famous, he says, because the Mexico drug warlord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán lives there. Teams drive by his house every time they go to help grow Laroka Baptist Mission through construction projects, evangelism, and Vacation Bible School.

The first team to go found the church plant only had a small 16 feet by 20 feet concrete block building, where “everyone packed in” to hang out. The team jumped in and installed bathrooms with running water, painted the exterior of the building, and laid out a 70 feet by 25 feet concrete slab for recreational activities, like basketball.

It’s on this concrete slab that VBS occurs, Fehrman said, explaining just last year, the team worked with over 200 kids on that block.

“It’s been a miracle, I tell you,” he exclaimed.

When the church needed a sanctuary, Southern Calvert partnered with another church, a Russian church, in Denver. “The Russians put in the walls and roof, and Southern Calvert went recently to pour the floor.”

Fehrman said church members are excited to see such progress. They got especially excited when Laroka’s Pastor Julio,” a seminary grad and a good solid Baptist man who has started the mission church,” came to the United States and spoke at Southern Calvert.

“It helped make the mission even more personal,” Fehrman said.

Southern Calvert’s mission team members have worked in Julio’s home in Mexico, converting his upstairs to four bedrooms with bunk beds and air conditioning, preparing it as a missions headquarters for team members to stay.

Southern Calvert also allows people to designate money directly to support the Mexican pastor so he doesn’t haven’t to work a secular job and can give his full attention to church-planting.

Recently, the church also reached out to do VBS at Verayes (which means “viceroy”) in the slums nearby.

“I tell you, it’s so rough out there.,” Fehrman said. “We host VBS right out in the street, blocking off the street with tables at each end. We pull out our materials and lead VBS right under the shade trees.” Even still, local guys sell drugs right in front of the teams and the kids.

“But they don’t mind us being there because we keep the kids busy,” Fehrman noted. “We’ve never felt in danger. There is a lot of prostitution and drug activity but no church. We’re hoping to establish [another] church.”

When Fehrman arrived at Calvert 11 years ago, the church’s only missions experience was giving to the annual Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for National Missions and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. But he knew that if, as pastor, he set the example, the people would follow.

During his second year there, he went on associational trip to Mexico. The next year, he offered for others to go. Four people decided to go.

“When those four people came back and shared their stories, there was a buzz throughout the church,” Fehrman said.

Fehrman had led missions in Africa – but it was cost prohibitive and many church members who work with the U.S. government couldn’t get clearances to go.

Since then, the church has gone twice a year, once in the spring to work on the church building and its property, and a second time to lead the children’s programs.

“We typically have about 12-14 people participate in the VBS trips, and around eight people doing construction,” he said, adding, “And it’s never been the same team twice!”

The church also goes on mission trips to W. Va. and to Graffiti Church in Baltimore.

And all along, “our missions budget has never decreased,” he added. “Giving is even better, and more people are involved than ever before.”

He added, “Pastors have to step out in faith and set the example, and a lot of people will respond. Even going on one mission trip and doing one thing really ignites the desire to do more!”