NEW ORLEANS – Edith Sampson Park near the Desire Housing Project buzzed with activity June 16 as kids from the surrounding neighborhood played on a giant slip-n-slide and munched on hot dogs. The event was one of 38 block parties hosted by Southern Baptist churches around metro New Orleans during Crossover 2012.
Crossover, coordinated by local associations and churches in partnership with the North American Mission Board, is an evangelism event that precedes the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting.
Celebration Church organized the block party in the park to support Desire Street Fellowship, its church plant located two blocks away led by pastors Richard Johnson and Oscar Brown.
“We believe God has told us to grow deep before we grow wide,” Johnson said. “We’re trying to teach the folks around us about the eternal love of God.”
His mission field is big. Before Katrina, Desire Housing Project was one of the largest in the nation with 20,000 residents. Floodwaters from Katrina inundated it, and the old “projects” are being replaced with handsome townhouses. Desire now has 6,000 to 8,000 residents, which Johnson said will grow to 16,000, a city in itself.
Hope Church, a two-year-old church plant in Metairie, La., hosted volunteers from four churches in four states – Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and Maryland. Volunteers handed out invitations to a family movie night that evening and painted the dance studio that has become the church plant’s home.
Volunteers from Gilead Baptist Church in Glendale, Ky., focused on the painting efforts. Hoping to give the dance studio’s pink walls a more gender-neutral look, church planter Matt Tipton approached the studio’s owner about repainting. When the owner offered to pay for the painting to be done, Tipton was able to tell her he’d do it for free as a way to build the church’s relationship with the studio and give the worship space a new look.
For the past two years Gilead Baptist has been an important partner church for Hope Church, providing at least four teams of volunteers along with financial support. The partnership began partly because of the desire of Gilead’s pastor to engage his people in long-term work in North American missions.
“When we’ve done one-and-done mission trips, you really don’t get to see the results of that,” said Sam Hinkson, Gilead’s pastor. “I wanted our people to see a church plant grow. I also hoped it would be good for us and for them. These trips always spark great discussion about what we can do in our own community.”
Talking about some of the outreach efforts the churches had participated in throughout the week, such as inviting people to the movie night on Saturday, Tipton said he sees their efforts as “tilling the soil,” which he believes is essential in a place like New Orleans. Much of the outreach efforts were around a local magnet school, Airline Park Academy for Advanced Studies, where Tipton serves as the PTO president.
“After the mission project is over at the school this week, it isn’t over with the school,” Tipton said. “I’m still PTO president. We’re still building relationships and will continue to have groups loving on the school, loving on the people here.”
At least one New Orleans church birthed a new church campus out of Crossover 2012. A new church in Chalmette, La., had been on the heart of Horeb Spanish Baptist Mission pastor David Rodriguez since his seminary days more than a decade ago. When a meeting location at an English-speaking church in Chalmette became available, Rodriquez turned to his youth minister, who also wanted to see a Spanish-speaking church started in the Chalmette area. Horeb’s main campus is in Gretna, La.
Jose Lore, the youth minister who will pastor the new campus, works at a refinery near the church’s meeting location. For years as he traveled to work, he prayed God would help him reach the Spanish speakers in the nearby area, knowing there were no Spanish-speaking congregations for people to attend. The block party during Crossover offered Horeb an opportunity to introduce themselves to the community a week before their June 24 launch of the campus.
“This is the first time we’ve started something new like this at our church,” Rodriguez said. “We want to see this city won for Christ.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mickey Noah & Tobin Perry write for the North American Mission Board.)