The partnership between IMB’s Asia Pacific Peoples Affinity Group (APAC) and CSBC is now in the 2nd year of a 5-year partnership. California’s rich diversity makes APAC an obvious choice for how God can use California Baptist churches to impact lostness. While Covid has made it impossible for members to travel to these countries, there is a sense of great anticipation to partner with field teams as borders begin to open. Much of that excitement can be attributed to advancements already made in various training opportunities across the state; working with Baptist entities in designing mission opportunities; offering vision trips to APAC fields; developing Asian ethnic diaspora church partnerships, and various giving opportunities for specific gift projects and to IMB in general. Through such efforts, we trust God is calling out California Baptists to partner together with IMB to impact lostness in APAC.
As a resource to churches, pastors were provided opportunities to be trained in Explore Missions, a 7-week curriculum that explores obeying the Great Commandment and Great Commission of Jesus Christ in the context of missions. In talking with Jennard Cahatol, an outreach Pastor of Pathway Bible Church in Freemont, he shared, “the class encouraged me so much that we will offer the course for members to sign up in Pathway University and be used as a study before future short-term teams.” Other training also occurred in local churches in their mission conference. An emphasis on how to reach Muslim-majority countries and peoples became a specific topic of interest.
During the 2021 CSBC Annual Meeting, IMB missionaries hosted an event called APAC1DAY that offered attendees an opportunity to learn about the structure and organization of APAC and what the missionary task is that is found in IMB’s foundations document. The training provided attendees the opportunity to hear from missionaries about how they used volunteer teams to:
- help with entry into new fields,
- evangelize among different people groups and places,
- disciple new believers,
- plant churches,
- equip emerging leaders, and
- help in sending indigenous missionaries.
This provided a platform to share all the various short-term volunteer opportunities found within the APAC affinity to attendees.
At the beginning of 2022, Gateway Seminary partnered with Send Relief and IMB to host their missions conference. IMB offered eight workshops, which gave a feel of what “Missions College,” normally a three-day training event, is like. The Missions College was highlighted by a signing ceremony featuring CSBC and IMB to jointly sponsor students to serve on Gateway’s Beyond Teams in APAC areas (a gift that could total up to $100,000 over a five-year period). The pandemic made it impossible for Gateway to host its missions conference for two years; however, almost 200 participants, both in-person and students, watched online each day of the two-day event. This, by far, exceeded expectations and sets the stage for February 2023 when the full Missions College event comes to the West Coast for the first time to train churches how to practically serve in foreign, cross-cultural contexts.
Lastly, the annual conference of the Vietnamese Baptist Fellowship and the biennial North America Chinese Baptist Fellowship were held in California this year. In both conferences, IMB personnel worked with CSBC’s Mission Team Leader, Francis Chung, along with local church leaders to provide training opportunities for pastors, ministers, and lay leaders who attended the event. For APAC, this was an invaluable opportunity to connect with ethnic diaspora leaders all at once, where we could encourage attendees who have a heart for missions to partner directly with field teams on various projects. In these events, specific issues related to their fellowship allowed CSBC/IMB to customize topics to be discussed and shared. In this, along with all the training events mentioned, people interested in serving with IMB received personal time with a candidate consultant to help them discover God’s call on their lives.
Baptist Entities Designed Opportunities
The Great Commission Association, along with Linda Bergquist, a NAMB church planting catalyst, helped its association of churches look at the diaspora UPGs (unreached people groups) in their communities in an effort called “Loving Our Neighbors.” The Bay Area, home to so many South, East, Central, and Southeast Asians, made for a natural opportunity for IMB personnel to help equip churches with worldview and evangelistic approaches in engaging specific people groups that would be considered unreached in their country of origin. To this end, Se J. Won, Associate Director of Missions for GCA, said, “GCA has been praying for the UPGs in the Bay Area for the last ten years and have participated and hosted multiple UPG mission trainings and awareness. Back in November 2020, GCA hosted Zoom webinars led by IMB missionaries as panelists. Currently, GCA has two UPG and mission work to Afghanis and Uyghur Muslims.”
The Fellowship of California Directors of Missions invited IMB personnel to attend their annual March meeting in Fresno. As a first for IMB’s participation in this meeting, Dr. Mike Stewart, then President of the fellowship and DOM for GCA, shared, “It’s a new day working with IMB.”
California WMU, like national WMU, has been a long-time friend to IMB. The pandemic forced many APAC personnel to be stateside in California. After more than two years, some haven’t been able to return to their mission field assignment. The benefit to this has been the availability of missionaries to speak at various WMU events. Eva De La Rosa, executive director of Ca WMU, said, “We’ve had APAC personnel at a Children’s Mission Day Explosion, three WMU’s priority regional events, two Associational Missions Discipleship training events, one Missions Dinner and Celebration, one Annual WMU Gathering, as well as referring them to churches for Mission Fairs or Mission-Focused church services.”
Gateway Seminary Kim School of Missions Director, Dr. Eddie Pate, shared he wanted to design a program for students to adopt a UPG in APAC. After several considerations, Francis Chung, along with APAC counsel and advice, suggested a country in Southeast Asia. The benefit of this people group would allow students to first partner with local ethnic Baptist churches in Southern California to learn how to share the gospel among that people group. Students can then go to their country of origin to do the same. With much enthusiasm from local churches in California and field leadership overseas, the initial design of the program has been set.