Larry Barker and other Missions representatives recently attended the celebration of the first Garifuna-language church plant in America — Misión Bautista Garifuna Missionary Redención (Redemption Garifuna Missionary Baptist Mission). David Dickson, whose relationship with the Garifuna began in 1980, was an important part of the celebration.
Barker said, “I wish everybody could have been there when David Dickson read from the Garifuna Bible. I looked around and saw faces light up. People are always drawn to their mother tongue when they hear it spoken, so it was an amazing moment, particularly because of Bro. David’s love for the Garifuna.”
While Bro. David and his family were on vacation in 1980, he heard two boys speaking an unknown language and asked them about their people group. He immediately felt a burden for them, and two years later their relationship had strengthened, resulting in a Garifuna-language Bible translation.
Garifuna churches were first planted in Latin American countries like Honduras and Belize, and now there are 12 churches in the region. In addition to the Bronx church, there are Garifuna congregations in Louisiana, Houston and Atlanta, and each of their pastors and church planters attended the Bronx, NY event.
Two years ago, Larry Barker went to Redemption Garifuna church’s first service. It was held in the basement of an apartment complex, which they quickly outgrew. The objective for American church planters is to have a self-sustaining church within five years. The rapid growth of the Garifuna church is remarkable, but not unusual because ethnic church plants grow much more rapidly.
According to Bro. Larry, “Ethnic congregations understand the concept of the church better than we do. Brick and mortar buildings are not important to them, so they focus on relationships. They lean on one another, encourage one another and pray for one another. They do life together. We (Americans) are guilty of ‘consumerism’ and focus on consuming the service then getting on with our lives.”
“If we believe the church is not a structure but a congregation of baptized believers doing mission together, then we understand that it can be birthed in many different contexts, including a living room, an elementary school or a shade tree. All the functions of a church can be done without a building. American culture puts the emphasis on all the bells and whistles, but the Bible emphasizes building relationships so there can be gospel conversations with people. And that’s what a community of believers is anyway.”
Almost every week, Misión Bautista GM Redención baptizes people who immediately begin the discipleship process. During the recent celebration service, five new believers came forward with their decisions to follow Christ. They were then told that salvation is only the beginning, and the discipleship process begins immediately. Bro. Cherry and his ministry leaders are intentional about teaching and training new believers.
The United States is the most one-language nation on earth, so Garifuna speakers are drawn to churches like Redemption Missionary Baptist Mission. Because they share a common language, they quickly become a faith community as they adjust to a difficult-to-understand culture and learn English. In addition to Garifuna, the other BMA America language churches include those that speak Russian, Arabic, Urdu and Spanish.
Sharing a common language, building relationships, then sharing the gospel is critical and necessary for generational multiplication, and Redemption has clearly accepted the challenge to evangelize and disciple. Bro. Larry said, “The gospel is for everybody, and I do want our churches to think about being multi-ethnic, but it takes time to reach them, win them, teach them and train them.”