LOUISVILLE—Beechland Baptist Church in Louisville understands the need to reach their community. They’ve concentrated their efforts by starting two, soon to be three, international churches within their English-speaking church.
The new ministries are Beechland Karen Baptist Church, an outreach to the Karen people of what was formerly Burma; Iglesia de la familia Ministerio Hispano de Beechland, a ministry for the Hispanic speaking community, including Cubans, Mexicans, Hondurans and others; and Primeira Igreja Batista do Louisville, soon to be the first Brazilian Baptist church in Kentucky.
When Beechland’s pastor, Chuck Love, came to Louisville from Wilmington, N.C., he brought with him a passion for reaching internationals. His wife is Brazilian, and he spent time in Brazil as a missionary and is fluent in Portuguese. At his church in North Carolina, he became familiar with the Karen people and their plight through refugee ministry.
But the church itself was already missions and international ministry minded. More than 100 members have spent time in the Dominican Republic doing missions, and the church also hosted guests from the Dominican Republic. Years ago, they had a Hispanic ministry, so restarting it and reaching out was simply natural for them.
“(In) some churches, the pastor is welcoming, but the people aren’t quite ready for it. This church, they really do make the people feel welcome. They’re happy when they come,” Love said.
Beechland Karen church
The Karen people from Myanmar have historically been Baptist since Adoniram Judson, the first Baptist American missionary, settled in Burma and started a ministry. Because most of the people surrounding them are Buddhist, they face persecution. More than 100,000 Karen people live in refugee camps in Thailand. A few of those are granted American visas.
When Love connected with Lac Poe, a matriarch of some of the Karen people, they decided to partner together to reach the Karen people in their community. This October, the ministry will celebrate its first anniversary and has grown to 80 people attending weekly.
The Karen church comes together to worship or for outreach or prayer every day of the week. They also have a passion for music. “Most churches aren’t really singing that loud. But the Karen people sing. They all sing. A bunch of the kids play musical instruments, so I’m trying to sort of work with our youth to get them (to be) more musical,” Love said.
Their pastor, Saw Gay, moved from Georgie in July.
“I committed to God in my life, after I left Bible college, whenever I heard His call for His ministry, I would serve Him. I heard His call for Louisville at Beechland Karen Baptist Church to serve Him. My family and I agreed to come to this ministry here in Kentucky,” he shared.
The members of his church make it a purpose to walk with newcomers and those who have not yet made a profession of faith and help them adjust to life in America. “We’re planning to keep growing our gospel ministry by the glory of God,” Gay added.
Iglesia de la familia Ministerio Hispano
Love connected with a pastor who had a heart for Hispanic ministry at a Kentucky Baptist Convention short-term missions conference. His church members had already been inquiring about starting another Hispanic ministry. Love then met with Leonid Marsan, and three months ago, they started the Hispanic ministry at Beechland.
Outreach is a big focus, with members and the pastor visiting houses, businesses and making phone calls, letting the community know that they are there and they care.
At the end of July, they held a bilingual baptism service where many were baptized. They plan to have another baptism service soon, and that will bring their membership to 20 people.
“I give thanks to God because we see God’s hand moving and blessing the church, and we’re seeing many lives come to know the truth. And that’s a joy that I have and I think God is confirming it was His will for us to come here to Louisville,” Marsan said.
Primeira Igreja Batista
In addition, Beechland, through the combined efforts of Love and Marsan, is in the early stages of starting a Brazilian church in Louisville.
“Brazilians, a lot of times, will fit in with the Hispanic community, but they don’t speak the same language.” Love explained that, although, Brazilians can learn Spanish fast because Portuguese and Spanish are similar, it’s not immediate.
“What we want to do is reach folks with the gospel. Like any immigrants when they first get here, they have lots of needs. It’s an opportunity to share the gospel because they are open and looking for friends and are so thankful that any Americans will reach out to them,” Love said.
Learning from each other
“I think it’s good for our churches to learn from each other. There’s plenty of ways we can help them and they help us,” Love added. “We can learn so much from them because the body of Christ is all Christians and they have things that we don’t. They worship in different ways.
“I think that the church should look like the society it’s living in,” he added. “You can’t reach out and disciple people if you tell them about Jesus, but then say, now you go to that church over there.
“I think we should all be together because we want to be. Because we love each other,” Love said. “That was important to us coming to Beechland. There’s already people of all different ethnicities and you can really feel the love.” (WR)