Bringing the Gospel to the Basques

Church Planters, Matthew and Bethany McDonald moved their family from Florida to Idaho to plant a church to reach the Basque people living in Boise.

Boise, ID – What do amazing food, an unreached people group, and the North American Mission Board church planting department have in common? You probably wouldn’t answer “Downtown Boise” but if you did, you’d be right.

The Basque are the most famous people in the world of whom no one has ever heard. They built and sailed Columbus’ ships to the new world. They were the first to bring chocolate to Europe, circumnavigated the globe with Magellan, and have gastronomy that is world-renowned. Yet, they remain a people unreached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. While most Basques would tell you they are Catholic, the vast majority only have a cultural identity with the church and no real religious practice. It is estimated that they are 0.03% evangelical, with no church that is Basque in its culture or identity. They have a language that is unrelated to any other and may be the oldest in Europe.

So, what does this have to do with Boise? Boise is home to more than 16,000 Basques, the largest concentration of Basques outside of their homeland in northern Spain and southern France. They started immigrating in the 19th century to herd sheep and continue to arrive today, working in all sectors of life and community. The Basque community remains a very tight-knit group that holds tightly to their cultural identity. While most now speak English as their first language, Euskara (or “Basque”) is widely spoken by many from 5th to 1st generation Basque Americans. Hidden in the plain sight of Caucasian America, the Basque remain in desperate need of the Gospel. There are Basque restaurants, dance groups, choirs, clubs, sports leagues, and even a museum, but no Basque church. As a people on mission, what we must see in this unique situation is opportunity! 

Matthew and Bethany McDonald moved their family to Boise in April as NAMB church planters. Their goal is to do what has never been done—to start a Basque church! The word Etxea (Eh-chay-uh) is a Basque word that means “house” or “home” and is traditionally the generational “house of my father.” The Lord has given the McDonalds the vision that in Etxea Church, the Basque would feel the call of God to come to the house of their heavenly Father. What would it look like for God to begin a church in Boise that then started churches in other Basque communities in the United States, and then in their homeland in Europe? The McDonalds are praying that He would do exactly that, and they have hit the ground running.

Over 16,000 Basque people call Boise home

Through volunteering at the Basque Museum, Matthew and Bethany have been building relationships in the Basque community. This summer, teams from Florida and Tennessee joined forces to help do evangelism in this new work. Through community surveys, café conversations, prayer walking, attending community cultural events, and serving at a Basque festival downtown, these eighteen volunteers helped the McDonalds make new contacts with people at various interest levels. One week later, a team from Salmon Valley Baptist Church and a fellow church planter, David Pryor, joined the McDonalds for the “Basque to School” block party downtown. Using the TVSBA block party trailer, they served chorizo, bottled water, popcorn, cotton candy, and snow cones to 176 people throughout the evening on the Basque block. They also gave out over 200 backpacks, played with families in bounce houses and various lawn games, gave out Bibles, and shared the Gospel with all who would listen.

Pray for the McDonalds as they connect with partners and develop Disciple Making opportunities among the Basque people of Boise.

The result of all these activities is a list of forty-five contacts, with more than a dozen that are interested in Bible studies. Thank you for giving to support this incredible work that God is doing. Pray that as the McDonalds follow up with people over the next few weeks, that new Bible studies would begin that lead to disciples that make disciples. Pray, also, for events going on this fall that will help this team to continue to engage with this people precious to the Lord. If you would like to be involved in what God is doing through this work, contact Matthew at matthew@etxeachurch.org.

This article was reprinted with permission from the Treasure Valley Baptist Association Newsletter by Michelle Ring.