OWENSBORO, Ky. (KT) – The DNA of Bellevue Baptist Church in Owensboro very much includes international missions. They have become an open door and a lifesaver for refugees looking for a place to worship and hear the gospel message.
Families from the nations have settled in Owensboro after it became a resettlement center about 10 years ago, said Danny Gray, a layperson who is the director of mission at the church.
“It was pretty unusual for a city our size to have a resettlement agency,” Gray said. “We were set up as a satellite office of Bowling Green and averaged about 100 to 125 refugees a year for seven to eight years.”
Gray’s work with international missions at the church started well before Owensboro became a resettlement center. He said he began his involvement with missions in 1994 and continues to be heavily involved. “I’m a layperson. God has given me a job where I work out of my home,” he said. “I’ve been able to use that opportunity to do what the Lord wants me to do.”
Bellevue Pastor Greg Faulls and the staff are involved in missions as well and lead by example. Many of the staff members are involved in local and state missions as well as going on short-term international projects. Leading from the pulpit is encouraging to the entire church.
“I believe that’s why Bellevue has been so blessed with volunteers that are involved in all types of mission opportunities,” Gray said. “It has been pretty amazing. Pastor Greg Faulls credits this outpouring of reaching the nations as a volunteer movement. We have a long history of international missions. People have gone (on mission projects) and seen the needs. God has blessed Bellevue in a very unique way. We often look around in deacons’ meeting and other leadership gatherings and pinch ourselves because this is not normal.”
Recently, they have helped start a Congolese ministry on campus that has grown to more than two dozen despite having a long break with COVID-19.
“We began a Spanish language fellowship about 18 years ago led by Pastor Jesus Amaya. That congregation is now part of the KBC network of church planting,” Gray said. “We have two additional Spanish speaking pastors that are planting churches in several cities around the Owensboro area: Sebree, Henderson, Madisonville. Pastor Amaya also is the chaplain at Ellis Park Raceway. He has Bible study there and spends time ministering to the spiritual needs of the Spanish speaking community.”
Bellevue began a Karen language church eight years ago that left the Bellevue campus and purchased their own building and averages about 150 people each week led by Pastor Nay Lui. The Karen are a Burmese people group.
“We also have a Burmese language church that meets on our campus,” Gray said. “They are participating with the KBC’s church planting network and are led by Pastor Kam Len Thawng.”
And it’s not just lip service. The gospel message is being received by the refugees and they are becoming believers because of it.
Last week, Gray said, four people from the Burmese congregation were baptized.
“It’s not just the fact of getting together and being together speaking the language,” he said. “Pastors in all these churches are preaching the good news. We are so blessed to be connected with the Kentucky Baptist Convention and can take advantage of the Cooperative money in this way. People are being reached for the kingdom.”
A lot of what happens is the result of hearts being stirred when members from the church become involved in a short-term mission trip, Gray said.
“I think God touched people when they went on these projects,” he said. “I was in Thailand eight years ago. When that team returned, Owensboro was in the process of becoming a resettlement city. Many from that team understood needs and developed a love for people from Asia. A majority of the refugees that settled in Owensboro were from Myanmar and refugee camps in Thailand. What a great opportunity! The world is coming to Owensboro.”
Partnerships with the Kentucky Baptist Convention and the local Baptist churches in the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association have furthered the international mission causes. Eddie Torres, John Barnett and Carlos De Le Barra of the KBC have been especially helpful to Bellevue, Gray said.
As international churches are established, more refugee families look at Owensboro as a place to settle. The world is coming to Kentucky and the Kentucky Baptist Convention has been vital in assisting local churches to fulfil the Great Commission.