Although Renee* lives in Raleigh, she often feels like she is living in a different country. Her friends speak different languages and come from different religious backgrounds. Some did not attend her wedding because the ceremony was in a Christian church. They are nervous to have their cars seen in a church parking lot.
When she visits in the homes of her friends she sometimes has to be careful what she says about Jesus; if someone from the mosque drops by unannounced that kind of conversation could get her friends in trouble.
Among Renee’s friends are Muslims from the horn of Africa, atheists and agnostics from Central and Eastern Europe, and Buddhists from Southeast Asia.
“Christians are not allowed in some of their countries. In some of their countries, there’s almost no doubt they would be killed for being a Christian,” said Renee, who is a church planting missionary catalyst with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).
For others, being a Christian in their homeland or even converting while living in the United States would mean being completely ostracized by family and friends.
Renee’s friends are curious about her faith, but not yet hungry to really know more.
Photo by Kelvin Joseph
A Muslim man ceremonially washes his hands before praying at the historic Jama Mosjid (mosque) in Delhi, India. Renee* tries to reach immigrants and other unreached people who are living in Raleigh.
They accept her and love her, and therefore will listen when she shares her faith, but earning the right to do that took time.
Really, life isn’t much different for Renee here than it was while living overseas as a missionary with the International Mission Board (IMB). She is still trying to reach unreached people with the gospel.
She is still facing a long road ahead because conventional methods such as inviting people to church or outreach events don’t work.
She builds relationships with people in order to earn their respect, their trust, and hopefully a willingness to hear the gospel. “They invite me to birthday parties, graduation parties, and to the hospital for a baby’s birth. They treat me like family,” Renee said. “Whatever they need, they know they can call.”
They know to call because Renee has made it clear that she cares about them and wants to invest in their lives.
As a church planting missionary, Renee is receiving financial support from the BSC just as other BSC funded church planters, but she is not serving in a preaching or teaching role.
Rather, Renee works alongside a team of volunteers to help facilitate the planting of new churches among unreached people groups, explore areas for possible church plants, and develop strategies for planters to use when initiating new church plants.
“What I do is not possible without God’s provision of help from my team and the support of the Convention, association and churches,” she said.
The ministry is challenging, Renee said. Many people she builds a relationship with strongly object to the gospel. Some think she is arrogant to say that faith in Jesus is the only way to salvation. Others believe doing good works is what religion is about.
“There’s a lot of spiritual warfare with this type of work. It’s continual; there’s always something. But you have to keep going. Hebrews 12 tells us not to lose heart,” Renee said.
Renee is not giving up. The theme verse for her and the team is 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, which reminds them that Christ’s love compels them to continue reaching out, to continue sharing their faith.
“If you are a disciple, you are a disciple 24/7. You should be ready in season and out of season,” Renee said.
“Always be watching to see who Jesus wants you to love and where you can truly invest.”
Long road home
Renee knew she needed to leave the mission field in Central Europe in order to attend seminary, but her plan was to return as soon as possible.
“I came kicking and screaming off the mission field. Southeastern was the closest seminary to my family and friends in South Carolina. I prayed, ‘Lord, get me out of here as fast as I can so I can go back,’” Renee said.
It wasn’t long before Renee learned God had not brought her away from the mission field, but brought her closer to it. In her own neighborhood she met people from Central Europe, from the very people she once worked with.
After seminary Renee thought about getting a full time “regular” job, but “that didn’t sit right at all,” she said.
As she began building relationships and serving people in various ways, such as leading English as a Second Language classes in homes, she knew God was calling her to remain in North Carolina to help share the gospel and facilitate new church plants.
“I’m praying that they will develop a hunger for the gospel, and not just have a curiosity about it, so that they can carry the truth of the gospel to their community” Renee said.
Renee has learned that ministering and serving the people God has called her to serve is going to be a long process with fruit coming slowly. “If you push and push, you will lose the relationships,” she said.
“But they know who I love and who I serve. Whenever I am talking with them, I’m imparting the Word to them. God’s Word does not return void.”
Renee is committed to doing what it takes to be faithful to serve among those who need to know Jesus Christ.
“It’s about dying to yourself daily for the cause of the gospel, and serving the needs of others, not just yourself,” Renee said. “It’s about being a Christ-centered, missional disciple all the time.”
To learn more about Renee’s ministry efforts, or about BSC church planting efforts and how you can get involved, visit ncbaptist.org/churchplanting.