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FBC Cullman adopts Northern Conchucos Quechua people in Perucomment (0)

July 19, 2012

By Maggie Walsh

When International Mission Board (IMB) President Tom Elliff challenged churches to adopt an unreached and unengaged people group at the 2011 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, First Baptist Church, Cullman, took the message to heart.

Since that time, Pastor Edwin Hayes has been urging the First, Cullman, congregation to pray about which of the 3,500 people groups to adopt. Its decision to adopt the Northern Conchucos Quechua people in the Yanama Valley of Ancash, Peru, is a direct result of that prayer. 

Members of First, Cullman, voted unanimously to adopt this group in a church conference June 24. The church also reached out to First Baptist Church, Athens, and Crosshaven Baptist Church, Hanceville, to partner in this ministry.

Crosshaven Baptist’s congregation has approved the adoption and partnership. First, Athens, will bring the pending partnership before its congregation in August. Edwin Jenkins, pastor of First, Athens, said the church is “definitely planning on lending a hand and giving support,” but that it was too early to determine the depth of its involvement.

“It’s just thrilling,” said Jim O’Dillon, minister of education and outreach at First, Cullman, on adopting the Northern Conchucos Quechua people group. “God has opened our eyes. Our people have seen the need.”

On its own, First, Cullman, could not adopt a people group, O’Dillon said. By partnering together, the West Cullman Baptist Association churches will be able to make this ministry to one of the poorest areas in Peru tangible.

Crosshaven Baptist Pastor Jason Murphree said the partnership was a “natural fit” since he and his brother, Josh, have connections to both churches. First, Cullman, is the men’s home church and Josh Murphree was a staff intern at First, Athens, before becoming a Southern Baptist representative in Peru.

Jason Murphree said Crosshaven’s decision to adopt a people group was simultaneous with Elliff’s challenge. The church, which was formed in 2004, determined it was time to stop focusing inward and start reaching outward. Crosshaven has sent many teams to Peru in past years because of its change in focus.

In addition to adopting this people group, O’Dillon said First, Cullman, will have one of its own, Taylor Novara, serving in the Yanama Valley as a journeyman with IMB in this area for two years after he completes eight months of training and language school.

Novara was a member of the vision team sent to Peru on April 27 to May 6 to “get a sense of God’s purpose” for the ministry, said Phillip McAfee, deacon and chairman of the missions committee at First, Cullman. McAfee, Brian Witcher and Lee Underwood, all of First, Cullman, were also members of the vision team. Witcher is the minister of music and Underwood is a deacon.

The trip was educational, McAfee said, but he noted it was also difficult because of Yanama Valley’s altitude of 13,000 feet. Despite the rough conditions, the team was able to travel across the valley and see the natives’ needs. 

“We felt an immediate connection with the people in that area,” McAfee said. “I felt a great desire to minister to them and lead them to the Lord.”

Less than 2 percent of the Yanama Valley population — estimated to be about 60,000 to 100,000 people — are Christians. 

McAfee said the team was well received despite their status as outsiders. “We found everyone to be friendly and hospitable,” he said. “It’s hard not to fall in love with them.”

The network of churches plans to send a team to Peru every six to eight weeks once the paperwork and training have been completed, O’Dillon said. When asked about funding this ministry, O’Dillon recited the old hymn “Trust and Obey.” 

“God will provide the funding,” he said. 

“I don’t need to worry — He’s taking care of it.”

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