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Laredo: 727 new Christians, 4 new churches
Keith Manuel, Baptist Press
June 29, 2011

Laredo: 727 new Christians, 4 new churches

Laredo: 727 new Christians, 4 new churches
Keith Manuel, Baptist Press
June 29, 2011

LAREDO, Texas — Many times in the darkest and most dangerous

places the light of the gospel shines even brighter. Such is the case in

Laredo, Texas, stemming from the “GPS 2020” evangelism and church planting

initiative of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC).

The darkness and danger are readily apparent in Laredo. The Mexican drug cartel

and the violence attached to the $20 billion illegal enterprise cast an ominous

shadow on the border town. Additionally, the satanic influence of “La Santa

Muerte,” the Saint of Death, and its cult following continues to grow rapidly

among the people of Laredo and beyond.

In this darkness, SBTC churches lifted high the torch of the gospel. Jack

Harris, associate for personal and event evangelism with the convention, led

the charge. Working with churches from various regions of the state, Harris

organized volunteers to prepare “Gospel Bags” to touch 50,000 homes with the

hope of planting four churches from the effort.

Photo by Jerry Pierce

A group of Laredo-area children register for door prizes at a block party in the small community of El Cenizo, a short distance from the Rio Grande southeast of Laredo. Over spring break, 15 church groups held five block parties in the Laredo area, 15 outdoor evangelist meetings, and delivered the gospel in English and Spanish to more than 35,000 households.

“Biblically, you evangelize an area and then you start a church,” said Don

Cass, SBTC evangelism director. “The way we do it, and I’m convinced it’s the

proper way, is to go door-to-door with the gospel, invite people to a big

event, give a clear presentation of the gospel with an invitation, and through

the follow-up with all decisions, create a core group that will start a

congregation.”

The strategy is built around the four biblical markers of GPS 2020: 1) praying,

2) equipping, 3) sowing and 4) harvesting.

First, teams of trained volunteers covered the Laredo area through organized

prayerwalks, praying over the venues and the neighborhoods where the gospel

would be sown.

Second, volunteers were equipped to share the gospel through hanging Gospel

Bags on doors in the community while others were equipped to share the gospel

at a community event featuring Team Impact, a team of evangelists who use feats

of strength as a bridge to share the gospel. Third, volunteers sowed the gospel

in the neighborhoods with the Gospel Bags. The bags contained a gospel witness

in English and Spanish along with an invitation for 10 people to come to the

Laredo Energy Arena to see Team Impact perform such feats as crushing bricks

and breaking stacks of boards. At the Energy Arena, Team Impact presented the gospel

to 5,000 people at the community-wide harvest event. During the invitation, 727

people surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ.

Now, the churches are working to establish the new congregations. The 727

people who made decisions were immediately introduced to four church planters

at the harvest event. The church planters and volunteers from participating

Laredo churches are in the process of following up on every decision made.

Chuy Avila, a jointly funded missionary with the SBTC and the North American

Mission Board, is assisting the church planters. Avila noted that three

established congregations that helped with the event also are experiencing

higher attendances in their worship services because of the initiative.

One of the new church plants, Impacto Juvenil, led by church planter Hervin

Antonio, held their first service May 27. The aim of the ministry is to connect

with the younger adults in their community, thus the name Youth Impact. The

first meeting was attended by 40 people. The new plant continues to meet every

Friday as a core group is developed.

“We are focused on reaching the lost generation of young adults that are not

going to church,” Antonio said. “We are going to connect with them and make the

church a place where they can come and encounter Christ in a contemporary way

while hearing the Word preached.”

The next step for the church plant is to bring in strategic partners to help

with the work, such as First Baptist Church in Mandeville, La. Cory Veuleman,

First Baptist’s student family pastor, led his team in door-to-door evangelism,

Vacation Bible School, prayerwalks and a block party to share the gospel to

help Impacto Juvenil develop relationships with their neighbors.

Laredo may have a dark and dangerous edge, but the light of Jesus is shining

bright through the cooperative work of Southern Baptists.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Manuel is an evangelism associate with the Louisiana Baptist

Convention’s evangelism and church growth team.)