At Wildwood Community Church, our mission is to live out God’s mission in the world as one local congregation following Jesus together for the glory of God.
The greatest challenge to this mission is to remember God’s power and grace as we consider how overwhelming his mandates are: to walk worthy of our calling and to make disciples of Christ locally and globally. The scope of this charge is daunting!
Thankfully, the span of God’s power and grace is just as comprehensive as the mission. And as we rest in his power and grace, we invite others to follow him with bite-sized steps that help them engage in God’s mission moment-by-moment every day.
Our investment in the spiritual heritage of the next generation is so strong that in 2008 we built a large annex specifically for our children’s ministry. As God blessed our growth, we wondered: What if we paid off the remaining debt early? What if we could free up more funds for Great Commission work locally and globally.
It was an exhilarating thought to entertain!
We put the challenge out to the congregation, and the result was absolutely amazing! Within a year we found ourselves in an enviable position: Through God’s grace, sense of purpose and our people’s generosity we paid off the building debt ahead of schedule. Remarkable!
After this amazing response, we had two key questions to resolve.
The first question: What bigger projects does the Lord have for us?
We are a missions-minded church. We pray for and celebrate evangelical wins that we experience vicariously through the missionaries we support. The missionary reports we hear are great, but something was missing — something that would capture the hearts of all the young families drawn to Wildwood Community Church because of our children’s ministry.
The second question: What would penetrate these families’ busy lives — on a daily and ongoing basis — to engage them actively in God’s work around the world?
Through a series of God-ordained moments, I heard about Church Plant Partnerships with Compassion International. The idea is two-fold: Contribute funds for the construction of a new church facility in a developing country and help the church launch a Compassion Child Development Center by sponsoring children who need socio-emotional, physical and spiritual nurturing.
The more I heard, the more I realized how many cylinders this fired in our criteria for global engagement. This had to be it! This was what we were looking for to connect our congregation personally to God’s mission around the world.
The Vetting Process
I knew Compassion’s reputation was good. However, I needed to vet this is-this-really-as-good-as-it-sounds idea. I sought counsel from our Global Outreach Director who spent 20 years as a missionary to Brazil. Thinking Brazil could be our focus, I asked him to research Compassion’s work there. Through his contacts with Brazilian pastors, God overwhelmingly confirmed our opportunity to partner with Compassion.
Still, I wanted to see Compassion at work, especially in Latin America, so I traveled to Nicaragua. Several things really impressed me when I was there:
- Ministry was flowing through a local church. There was a real pastor, real people, a real building.
- Compassion’s name was not publicized. The local church uses Compassion’s program to draw their community to Christ but the focus is always on the church.
- The indigenous church was similar to Wildwood Community Church. Although I did not understand all the Spanish, I could tell by what they were doing that it mirrored what we do in Norman, Oklahoma. There was like-mindedness.
The Small, Forgotten Place
The conversation with Compassion continued, and in April 2018 we contributed funds for the construction of a church plant in Lagoa de São Francisco, Brazil. We began praying for them as we followed the progress of construction, and, again, there was a like-minded connection. Pastor Josafa speaks English well, and he and I have become friends through this process.
Lagoa de São Francisco is a community of 1,000+ in the northeast region of Brazil. There is no running water, and upon entering you realize that this is a small, forgotten place in the jungle. If this is not “the ends of the earth” that Acts 1:8 refers to, you can surely see it from there.
And yet this community is a tangible illustration of Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep (Matthew 18:12-14). The Good Shepherd left the 99 sheep to look for the one lost sheep because the Shepherd’s heart aches for those not in his fold. Jesus knows the heart of each person in Lagoa de São Francisco, and we have the privilege of showing up there with the gospel and inviting them into eternity with us.
In January 2019 we visited Brazil to celebrate the first services in the new church building. God had done so much already, but he was just getting started.
Missions Has a Name
In March we promoted child sponsorship heavily, and when we offered the opportunity to sponsor children from Lagoa de São Francisco the congregants sponsored them all. Now 200 families in Norman are connected to 200 families in Lagoa de São Francisco.
The Great Commission can be overwhelming. How do you share the gospel with 7.5 billion people on the earth? I don’t know, but I can certainly pray for Mirian Maria dos Santos Lima, the three-year-old in Lagoa de São Francisco that my family sponsors. My family prays that she and her family will come to know Christ. It’s a daily, bite-sized action that makes the mission less overwhelming.
And now this same, daily engagement in the mission is replicated throughout our congregation. It is a win because there is a name to missions. It’s not just the name of an American missionary giving a report from the pulpit on Sunday. The name is a child in another culture who doesn’t know Christ as Savior.
I reflect on the small, bite-sized decisions we ask our congregants to make throughout the week — decisions that honor God through obedience. When summed up over a lifetime, these decisions define who we are.
I am confident that our resolve to love the children of Lagoa de São Francisco will rank as a milestone in our walks of faith — individually for each sponsoring family and corporately for Wildwood Community Church.