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Operation GO projects see souls saved, set up Bible studies through local churches for disciplingcomment (0)

January 4, 2007

By Grace Thornton

It may be early Monday morning, but rush hour isn’t bumper to bumper in Santa Barbara, a town of about 6,000 near Guatemala’s Pacific coast.

Unless you count a few tennis shoes pounding fervently on the cobblestone streets as heavy traffic, the going is easy.

But the urgency is there in the pace nonetheless.

On 36 Mondays this year, a team of Baptists — many times from Alabama — is taking the gospel to the streets of a Guatemalan town, starting a week of door-to-door visits with a full Monday morning of prayer walking.

It’s called Operation GO (Gospel Outreach) and the results are good — very good, according to James Best, associate pastor of Thomasville Baptist Church in Clarke Baptist Association.

On a recent GO trip to Santa Barbara, Best and a team of seven other Alabama Baptists saw 39 saved — 40 if you include the man whom one translator led to the Lord on the bus ride home.

"It was just a fantastic trip. I’m pleased that it was so successful," Best said.

The trip was the first GO project for Allen and Laurelle Stoudenmire, International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries from Best’s church, to lead without the aid of GO strategy coordinators Larry and Sarah Plyler. And though it was their first, their schedule is already loaded up for all but two weeks of 2007.

"We are thrilled because the majority of the teams we’ll be leading will be Alabama teams," Laurelle Stoudenmire said. "When we were called to work with this project, we had no idea that Alabama Baptists were partnering with Guatemala. God worked out that blessing for us without our knowledge."

On a typical GO project, the team divides into small groups that go door to door in the community alongside local Baptists and translators after bathing the area in prayer. At each individual home, a team gives residents cassettes and books with Bible stories in Spanish, asks them about their relationship with Jesus Christ and leads them through the plan of salvation if they desire.

"We’re not there to change their religion — God will do that," Allen Stoudenmire said, noting that a large number of Guatemala’s people are Catholic by tradition. "We’re interested in finding out if they have a personal relationship with Jesus."

But it doesn’t end there.

Before the teams ever arrive, the Stoudenmires have already laid the groundwork for a follow-up ministry to help the new Christians grow. The missionary couple scouts out the site prior to the trip, finding a town with a Baptist church nearby. Other missionaries working with them in the area then train the church’s staff and layleaders to go into the homes of those won to the Lord and lead Bible studies in weeks following.

The response to the team and the local Baptists who accompany it is many times favorable, Allen Stoudenmire said — like with the 39 who accepted Christ in Santa Barbara, 22 of whom wanted to host weekly Bible studies in their homes.

The hope of Operation GO is that the small home Bible studies will grow into bigger Bible studies that will one day grow into new churches, he explained. "It really is a church-planting strategy as well as an evangelism strategy."

In fact, some new Baptist churches have already been planted this way as the weekly home studies have developed over time, he said.

The GO project has been going on in Guatemala for about five years.

"The follow-up is the signifcant part. We wouldn’t do this if we didn’t know they would come behind us and teach the ones who make decisions," he said.

The church members who are to follow up are energized by the team’s visit as well, Best said.

"They were just absorbing the encouragement we were giving them during the visits, and I think they will continue to do this by themselves," he said.

And more encouragement comes when local Baptists and missions team members walk through the streets and hear the cassette’s stories coming from the homes in the neighborhoods just canvassed.

"I’m convinced GO is the way to plant churches," Best said. "The work we started hasn’t ended."

For information on participating in Guatemala missions, call 1-800-264-1225, Ext. 239.

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