Virginia Congregation Continues Lesotho Connection

Brent Cumming (left) attending a worship service in Lesotho. Source: Baptist Press

The COVID-19 pandemic might have stopped international travel and limited in-person activities, but it did not break the resolve of one Virginia congregation to connect to its mission partners in Lesotho.

Since 2015, missionaries from the First Baptist Church of Roanoke, Virginia, began traveling to Lesotho to lead bible studies, worship services, and prayer groups. In 2020, Brent Cummings, the minister to young adults at First Roanoke planned to spearhead a team to plant a church in one of the country’s fertile agricultural valleys during their next visit.

Cummings said, “We were certainly disappointed and frustrated because we knew we had a group of young believers and we wanted to disciple them and help them grow in their faith, and we didn’t want them to think we had forgotten about them.”

Using WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, church members were able to sustain their relationship throughout the pandemic, exchanging messages of encouragement.

“Jesus called us in the Great Commission to make disciples, not just intellectual converts, and so we truly want to make life-long disciples of Jesus,” Cummings said. “When you go there and you see the need, it just compels you to continue to go back. There was a very real element that we realized of, ‘If we don’t go, who will go?’ These people will be born and live their lives and they will never hear the name of Jesus. We just knew we had to be the church to adopt this valley.”

Daren Davis, the affinity groups leader for Sub-Saharan Africa for the International Mission Board, said the Southern Baptist Convention has been encouraging congregations to connect using technology until travel restrictions could be lifted.

“Many churches essentially said, ‘We can’t go, but we still want to carry out the Great Commission,’ and churches found ways to do that even though they couldn’t put their boots on the ground,” Davis said.

The partnership between First Baptist Roanoke initially began when the missionary husband and wife team Jim and Teresa Flora, began evangelizing in the country over a decade ago. 

When the Floras’ learned that First Roanake was interested in supporting their work, Jim Flora was elated that his dream of planting a church might become a reality.

Tragically, Jim  passed away in May 2021 at the age of 63 after long battle with cancer. However, Jim’s dream remains alive. Currently, Davis with the IMB is consulting with First Roanoke to make this vision a reality.

“I remember standing on the side of the road looking down a valley and praying with Jim that U.S. churches would adopt that valley,” Davis said. “The valley that First Roanoke adopted is very similar to that valley. They (the Floras) helped train First Baptist Roanoke, and the church is now walking through what it takes to engage a particular people group.”

Cummings said his congregation had been praying for an international mission partner, and was excited to learn about the work of the Davis’. Cummings said, “We caught the vision and we wanted to carry on that legacy and do what they set out to do.”

If you are a member of a congregation interested in discerning what a partnership with a missionary in Africa might be, please visit the IMB’s 55 in 5 initiative, aimed at engaging 55 unreached people groups in Sub-Saharan Africa by the year 2025.

Source: Baptist Press