Park City, UT – “But I consider my life of no value to myself; my purpose is to finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.” Mark Dance started the Recharge: Pastors and Wives Retreat with those words of encouragement from Acts 20:24. The room was filled with pastors, church staff, mission partners and their spouses from several states and entities. Each one came to this event with many different burdens and stressors put on them by life and leading the churches they serve. This event sought to help pastors and their spouses carry the weight of their mission call upon their lives. They don’t have to carry that weight alone.
“The hope for this event is that pastors and their wives know they are appreciated for the work they do serving churches across our two states” commented Rob Lee, UISBC Executive Director.
Our 2023 Recharge: Pastors and Wives Retreat at Newpark Resort in Park City, UT held July 18-20 was a huge success and would not have been possible without partnership between three entities working together with one goal in mind: to bless the pastors and their wives who bless our churches across Utah and Idaho. GuideStone Financial Resources provided travel and accommodations for Mark and Janet Dance who oversees Pastoral Wellness at GuideStone. Worship was provided by Danny Kugelberg from Church at the Gates in Missoula, MT. North American Mission Board provided gifts and meals, as well as the majority of the financial expenses to allow our pastors to attend with no personal financial burden to themselves other than transportation to the resort. Utah Idaho SBC picked up the remainder of the expenses for meals and rooms. Every pastor and their spouse was blessed with resources, gifts, and gift cards from all the ministry partners who participated.
The three days were highlighted by four sessions led by Mark and Janet Dance with the focus on encouragement and also allowed several hours of free time for couples to interact with other guests, or to just spend time together as a couple. The facility was the perfect setting for all of those missions to be accomplished.
Dallas Claypool of Sand Hollow Baptist Church in the Treasure Valley area of Idaho came with his wife, JoEllen. He commented on his social media after the event concluded “the best part was meeting some of the awesome pastors and their wives who are fighting the good fight. They spoiled us rotten and refilled our hearts and souls. My only regret is that it’s taken me seventeen years to make the time to go. If you are pastor and they invite you to the next one of these events, drop everything and GO! You won’t be disappointed.”
Amy Mamatela, whose husband Dan pastors in the Millcreek area of Salt Lake City commented to one of the convention staff, “you all make us feel like royalty with such wonderful rooms and thoughtful gifts. Thank you so much, we are glad we came”.
The next Recharge: Pastors and Wives Retreat will be in McCall, Idaho in the spring of 2024. The schedule and format will be very similar to the Utah event, running Thursday-Saturday, April 25-27. If you are interested, block out those dates on your calendar and stay tuned for more details which will be posted and distributed through our website and UI Connections monthly email blast.
We are grateful for the partnership between GuideStone, North American Mission Board, and your State Convention in providing these events. Through partnership, we are more effective than any of us could be on our own. Thank you to our ministry partners and friends who made Recharge 2023 possible.
The following article by UI Connections and National Baptist Press correspondent, Karen Willoughby, was published by Baptist Press on June 9, 2023. For the original article, visit Baptist Press
BOISE, Idaho (BP) – From their first date, Matthew and Bethany McDonald talked about their mutual interest in international missions.
“We wanted to serve where Christ had not been known,” McDonald told Baptist Press. They prayed about Africa, Asia, the Middle East, but “certainly not western Europe,” McDonald said. However, upon hearing about the Basque, an unreached people group in Spain, they said yes to a career appointment with the International Mission Board (IMB).
After almost four years, there was a small group of believers in northern Spain, but life interrupted and the McDonald family resigned because of opportunities that arose while on stateside assignment. They were called to a music/evangelism pastorate at a church in western Washington, and five years later returned to a senior pastorate in their home state of Florida.
“The adventure was over, we thought,” McDonald said. “But we were within an hour of family. With the local association, we started a partnership with Mexican nationals in Mexico, and then COVID hit. Doors closed. We decided we needed to engage with church planting in the United States.”
Their associational director of missions pointed them to Idaho, where there was “a great need for more churches” and, most unexpectedly when they checked into it, talk of a Basque church planter, though when they got there, they learned there wasn’t one.
At least 60,000 people with Basque heritage live in the western United States: south Texas; San Francisco Bay, Central Valley and Los Angeles areas in California; Reno and northern Nevada; Wyoming; and the largest group: a population of about 18,000 in southwest Idaho.
Rob Lee, executive director of the Utah Idaho Southern Baptist Convention, had his heart stirred for the Basque people while on an overseas trip decades ago.
“In 2003, the International Mission Board (IMB) invited state collegiate directors to attend their national meeting in Spain,” Lee recalled. “The IMB team trying to reach the Basque invited me [and others from Wyoming and Nevada] to spend time with them in Basque Country. The team leader requested us because of the Basque who live in our states. It was an incredible trip.
“I came back and did some exploring in Boise and met a number of Basque at the museum and in the area,” Lee continued. “So, I have been praying since 2003 for a church plant reaching out to the Basque.”
Place names such as Durango, Colorado, attest to the fact that the Basque have been in North (and South) America since the time of Spanish Conquistadores, but the first real migration push coincided with California’s 1848 gold rush.
Thwarted as were most people in the mid-1800s search for gold in California and silver in Idaho and Nevada, the industrious Basque turned to supplying the needs of other miners. Though primarily fishermen in the northern Atlantic Ocean in Europe, they also herded sheep in the Pyrenees mountains and used both skills to meet miners’ needs.
A second major immigration movement for the Basque came during wartime labor shortages in the 1940s, a thrust that lasted until the 1970s. The discrimination the Basque experienced for more than 100 years as a result of being “different” solidified their community, McDonald said.
“I realized 10 years ago that we needed a specific Basque church,” said Mike Palmer, Send Network’s church planting leader for the mountain west region. “The largest concentration of Basque people in North America live in southwest Idaho, the Boise area.”
Palmer, tasked with showing the area to the McDonald couple, said, “Matthew asked me, ‘What’s going on with the Basque people?’ I told him, ‘You’re the first person ever to say the word Basque back to me,’ and his wife started crying.”
McDonald wasn’t so easily convinced. By that time, he’d been pastoring the Florida church for four years, and things were going well. Plan A was helping a church planter, not being one.
“Mike told us, ‘Normally I try to talk people out of this. It’s hard work here,’ and I told Bethany, ‘If God wants me to do this, He’s going to have to compel me,’” McDonald said. He paused in thought.
“It would take me a couple of hours to tell you the ways God compelled me,” McDonald said “One thing: We were replacing the floor tiles at our HOA’s Community Lake House, and a pallet got dropped. We had 300 tiles, and every one of them was broken into the shape of Idaho.”
He applied to be a North American Mission Board (NAMB) Send Network church planter. Then came the assessment and fundraising process. The McDonald family, which includes three teenage children, arrived in Idaho in April 2022.
“We strive to engage in our community, building relationships, being the hands and feet of Jesus,” McDonald said. “We’re looking to make disciples first. We’re not going to launch the church tomorrow.”
The McDonalds study the Basque language alongside Basque residents. They volunteer at Boise’s Basque Museum, Basque social club and at Basque festivals. A Basque woman in her 70s who also volunteers recently asked McDonald, “What is the Bible?” Reared in the Catholic faith, she had been taught since childhood to not study the “confusing” Bible.
“Now she’s starting to think maybe she should study the Bible,” McDonald said. “Others are asking questions about who God is. Tonight, we should have three to four young people here, studying the Bible.
“So far we’ve had one profession of faith, a young man whose friends had taken him to Young Life, and he was curious,” the planter continued. “I’ve challenged him to consider walking with me in weekly discipleship; he’s thinking about it.”
“They dress and live like us but culturally they’re very different. They have maintained their cultural identity better than any other group,” the planter said. “It’s important to Basque families that their kids have a foundation in the Basque language and culture.”
Boise has an Ikastola, a Basque preschool, the only one outside of Basque Country. They also send teens “home” to Europe for a year to better understand Basque life.
“We have families that have been here three or four generations and others who just moved to the community,” McDonald said. “The great news for us is that many speak English. Often, it’s their first language, but not their heart language.”
He meets with Basque people “on their time: coffee break, lunch break, evenings after work,” the planter said. “I’m out in the community, engaging them with the Gospel.”
Among community outreaches, the McDonalds last fall hosted a “Basque to School” event that drew about 200 families for bounce houses, games and 300 backpacks stuffed with school supplies.
This January they started hosting monthly Pintxo (pronounced pincho) gatherings, which are “big in Basque culture,” McDonald said. These include multiple small plates of food – Pintxo means “to skewer” – and engaging in meaningful conversation.
Last month’s menu: pitted dates stuffed with softened goat cheese and wrapped in bacon.
“Building relationships is the best way to reach people,” McDonald said. “To be present in their life, sharing stories. Then the doors open to tell God’s story.
“The work is slow. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. Our desire is that we see a church here that is effective in sending people back to Europe with the knowledge and desire to reach others with the Gospel.”
And, in God’s timing, the planter added, plant more Basque churches in the United States.
Salmon, ID – Preacher School is a two day preaching practicum aimed at helping pastors raise up teachers and preachers from within the local church. The amazing thing is that God has used it for more than a decade to do so much more. God has called out church planters, pastors, and evangelists from among those that initially show up wondering why God wants them to attend. Preacher school grew out of a need. Our churches of the Intermountain West didn’t always have access to immediate local training. Preacher school flows from the heart of a seminary professor and a couple of pastors in the west that wanted to create an opportunity for the lay leader to gain practical training in how to prepare and deliver life changing, Gospel-centered sermons.
The entire experience revolves around a simple preaching method, but the strength is not in the method. The method is powerful because it constantly drives the preacher back to God’s word. The method utilizes a simple preaching prep worksheet that continually drives the speaker to the truth and accountability of presenting God’s Word for what it says and not what the speaker would prefer to say. Pastors from across the West bring some their lay leaders and future teachers to Preacher School in Wyoming or Salmon for Biblical and practical training. God has used the experience to raise up leaders within those churches and leaders to plant the next churches. Last year a young man sent me a video from his first ever live sermon just weeks after preacher school. Many leaders return for multiple years and tell us stories of starting new groups, preaching new sermons, and all that God is doing in their lives. Over the years hundreds of leaders have been trained, but many more have been ministered to through the work of those men and women who experienced Preacher School.
If you are interested this year, please contact Mike soon. There is still room for you.
Reprint of original story published on the February 6, 2023 issue of Baptist Press
EMMETT, Idaho (BP) – Riverside Church, having successfully grown a 2019 church plant into a constituted church later that same year, plans to emphasize evangelism in 2023.
Starting its first community groups to disciple and organically nurture emerging leaders also is anticipated this year, Pastor Hugh Orr told Baptist Press.
“God has really put a burden on my heart for our church to step up our efforts in evangelism, to encourage people to understand there are people every day who are dying who don’t know Christ, right here in Emmett,” Orr said. “It’s every Christian’s privilege and responsibility to tell people about the Gospel and what Jesus has done for the world.
“I’m trying to remind people that, if we love our neighbors, we have to do this. That’s our emphasis this year, to stoke that fire in people’s hearts, to tell the Good News.”
Orr’s first class at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary a few years ago, had included a video on the Cooperative Program, the way Southern Baptists work together spreading the Gospel in North America and throughout the world. At the time he wasn’t Southern Baptist.
He chose Southeastern because it was the only seminary that offered a half-price tuition break to military veterans.
“I watched that video and was sold immediately,” Orr said. “I was living in Idaho, going to Creekside, and I told the pastor, ‘This is great! A little church like us can actually be involved in church planting in North America, and overseas missions too.’ I sold him on the idea to become a Southern Baptist church – I think it was 2015 – and that’s my total exposure to the SBC.”
The idea that eventually became Riverside Church started with a video Orr saw, about a church of 80 that had planted several churches. He was part of another 80-member congregation, Creekside Baptist Fellowship (now Creekside Bible Fellowship) in Eagle, Idaho, about 30 minutes south of Emmett, in southwest Idaho near Boise.
“Wouldn’t it be great,” Orr said to his pastor, “if we were to plant a church some day?”
Or maybe Riverside Church started with the prayers of another church in the association. Orr, at the time an associate pastor at Creekside in Eagle while working for the U.S. Postal Service and attending seminary online, talked about church planting at a gathering that included Clint Henry, pastor of Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho.
“We’ve been praying for a church in Emmett for at least 10 years,” Henry said, according to Orr’s recollection.
It was early 2018. Orr, soon to graduate with his M.Div., had been considering what to do with God’s call to the ministry, though Orr hadn’t considered church planting until Henry brought the need in nearby Emmett to the forefront of his mind.
Later that year, “Two, three, four families from Emmett – none of them knew each other – started coming [to Creekside in Eagle] right at the time I was getting geared up to plant the church,” Orr said. “We told them early next year we’d be planting.
“We kind of had a built-in launch team from the beginning. Five families were excited about it. I preached every Sunday for three months, so they got a preview of what the preaching would be like at the new church.”
Orr and his wife Pam, who had moved to Emmett in late 2018, opened their home to a Bible study followed by supper on Sunday afternoons. In early February the fledgling congregation moved, at the unsolicited invitation of the pastor of Gem Community Church, to share their building.
“Since our people were used to meeting Sunday afternoons at our home, it was not hard to transition,” Orr said. “We had 21 at the beginning, and about 30 within six months in that small church building.”
The congregation moved in October 2019 to Sunday morning services at a much larger Seventh-day Adventist church building. That same month they constituted as a stand-alone congregation that allocated 10 percent of undesignated offerings to missions through the Cooperative Program.
Riverside Church this January started an eight-week course in evangelism.
“The first half is laying the foundation, learning what is evangelism, what is your personal testimony and some of the reasons we don’t evangelize,” Orr said. “The rest of it will be ‘how to,’ like how to steer conversations to things of God.
“A lot of evangelism is just intentionality,” the pastor continued. “Community groups will help with that. Community groups are an onramp to get introduced to the Gospel.”
As friends and neighbors join in the community groups, the Gospel will be shared, and “sharing with others will encourage others to do the same,” Orr said.
Riverside’s main outreach each year is Emmett’s annual Cherry Festival, which takes place in June. The church has a booth manned by church volunteers, who pass out free ice water, share the Gospel, invite people to church, give Bibles upon request, and pray for those drawn by the church’s sign, which says “Can we pray for you?”
The church’s mission statement is, “Making disciples who will exalt the name of Jesus in Emmett and beyond.”
Like everywhere, people in Emmett, known as the “gateway to Idaho’s backcountry,” often are too busy, focused on what’s happening in their lives on any given day, the pastor said.
“The way I try to change that [with those who attend Riverside] is by emphasizing, ‘This is real, my friends. People are going to go to hell. You might be the only Christian they ever meet. Engage them. See where they’re at.’
“I was much more fervent when I was first saved,” Orr continued. “I was fired up because it was so new, so real in my life. I think that’s true for many Christians. Then the years go by. Now, when we stop and think about it, we say, ‘I really should do more.’ It’s so hard to find the time. That’s why we talk here [at Riverside Church] about trying to – needing to – create the time. And pray that the Lord will give us opportunities, divine appointments.”
By Karen L. Willoughby A frequent contributor to UI Connections and Baptist Press. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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 email@example.com.
This article was reprinted with permission from the Treasure Valley Baptist Association Newsletter by Michelle Ring.
TWIN FALLS, ID – “You’re going to want to sit down for what I’m about to tell you.” When you’re a church planter and Mike Palmer, Send Utah-Idaho Network Coordinator uses that sentence to begin a conversation with you, you know God is about to do something big. And that’s just what happened in November and December of 2021. For the next six weeks, the UISBC helped Twin Falls Community Church serve 10,800 boxes of food filled with produce, milk, and yogurt to the Magic Valley Community in Idaho.
Though our conversation happened in the second week of November, the people of Twin Falls Community Church had been praying for several months that God would open doors to help us reach three local people groups: Refugees, the Foster Care System, and the Public School System. When I received the phone call from Mike, I knew immediately that God was answering our corporate prayer requests. Mike explained that an anonymous donor had given 1800 boxes of food to be delivered every Monday from November 22 to the end of the year. Though we were not yet a year old and only had 17 members of our baby church, I knew that God was going to take our “five loaves and two fish” to literally feed five thousand…10,800 to be precise.
Since we were a baby church, I reached out to Pastor Paul Thompson of Eastside Baptist Church and a handful of other pastors in our area to ask them if they would join us in serving our community. I explained that our goal was not just to fill bellies but to feed souls. Every pastor I asked was eager to jump on board, including a handful of pastors who are not a part of the Southern Baptist Convention. I asked 9Marks ministries to donate tracts to hand out and asked the UISBC to help us with funding to be able to support such a missions endeavor. God answered prayer after prayer.
Through the collaborative work of six local churches (SBC and non-SBC), God gave us the opportunity to reach our three target people groups mentioned above, as well as hundreds more in the Magic Valley. While food distribution is not our mission as a church, it is a part of our function as a church as we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves…to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this broken world.
We praise God for what He accomplished this last year and look forward to seeing HIM yield more fruit for His glory in the coming days, weeks, months, and years. We also thank the churches of the UISBC that helped Twin Falls Community Church pull off such a large operation. We pray that God will continue to water the seeds of the gospel that were planted at the end of 2021 and that those seeds will yield fruit for His glory for all eternity.
Aaron Scott is the planting pastor of Twin Falls Community Church in the Magic Valley Association of Idaho.
If you or your church would like to be a part of stories like this, reach out to one of our UISBC Missionary staff and we would be happy to brainstorm ways in which we can assist you in your mission to reach your community. Funding may be available from our State Missions Offering accounts, as well as through our national network partnerships.