Don Hannel says he prayed for years to reach the communities near the church he pastors, First Baptist Church of Pleasant Hill, but doors did not open until this spring.
Located in the narrow wedge between the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers about thirty miles south of Pleasant Hill, Hardin has no Southern Baptist church. First came the opportunity to host a Bible study. Next a door opened for a block party. Hannel decided to spread the love, hosting three block parties in one weekend.
The church partnered with Hangar Church from Mississippi. They started June 26 in Kampsville with bounce houses, food service provided by Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief, and worship led by Hangar Church. Hannel tallied 162 local guests. The next day, they set up camp in Hardin and reached 138 guests. Then on Sunday, FBC held their regular services and closed the weekend in Pleasant Hill with 133 guests.
Hannel plans to continue this momentum with Bible studies called Journey Groups in Hardin.
Illinois students aid Dakota church launch
Their plans for a mission trip at the beach over spring break fell through, so a team from Southern Illinois University (SIU) headed for the mountains at the close of the semester. They drove west to South Dakota to work with church planter Kenneth Brock. His plant, Mercy Gate, launched this year.
The team included Baptist Campus Ministry team leader Brandon McNeely, IBSA Church Planting Director Kevin Jones, and six college students. “Our goal is to facilitate the local church wherever we go,” said Jones, who also specializes in collegiate ministry for the state association. “We walked door-to-door, then worked the bounce houses and games at the block parties so Mercy Gate’s congregation could connect with their neighbors.”
The group arrived May 16 and attended Mercy Gate’s Sunday morning worship service. That afternoon they mingled with the congregation and prepared for their work. Monday through Wednesday the group canvassed the areas around Summerset, the church’s Rapid City neighborhood, inviting residents to the block party, then shared Christ or prayed with them as the opportunity was presented.
Block parties on Monday and Tuesday reached between 200 and 300 people each. Four people came forward to profess faith in Christ at a service Wednesday evening.
“One woman in her late sixties said, ‘I’ve never heard that, nor have I ever been to church.’” Brock reported. “We also had over 120 people in the Sunday service after the block parties. This was a first for our new church plant.” The new pastor said he feels deeply the lostness in South Dakota. Brock said he is excited to follow up with connections that were made that week. He hopes to plant two new churches there.