The Week of Prayer for North American Missions is March 6–13, 2022. For more information, click here.
Jared and Jennifer Huntley had been praying for someone to be the bridge to help them reach Marine Barracks Washington, D.C. They just didn’t know his name yet.
So, when the young man reached out to them, they knew he was an answer to their prayers.
“Johnathan originally got in touch with me, actually before he moved to D.C.,” Jared said. “It was right around the time we were launching.”
The Huntleys had moved to the area to relaunch Pillar Church of Washington, D.C., part of the Praetorian Project, a family of multiplying churches in military communities. The Huntleys are just one example of thousands of North American Mission Board missionaries who are serving in challenging areas.
A mission close to their hearts
And reaching out to military communities with the gospel is close to the Huntleys’ heart. Jared himself formerly served in the Army and had been deployed to the Middle East, so he’s seen the struggles that can affect military personnel — especially when they’re navigating trauma without Christ.
“I know the spiritual need that exists within the armed services,” Jared said.
But another reason he loved the idea of discipling and equipping military personnel and their families is because they’re set up for missions — they live close together in the barracks and can spread the gospel rapidly, and they’re already transient, as the military moves them around.
It’s a missions field that comes with challenges, but Jared sees it as a natural missions-sending machine.
“We’re supposed to send,” he said. “If the government is already moving these people all over the place naturally, why not, instead of seeing that as a problem, see that as an opportunity to say, ‘Let’s disciple these families, and then they’re going to take the gospel with them everywhere.’ To me, it seems like a great way to accomplish the Great Commission.”
Before the Huntleys arrived, Pillar Church was struggling. Leaders of the plant met with leaders of another local church, which had a campus nearby, and talked about a merger that would relaunch as a new Pillar Church plant. They brought Jared in to lead that effort.
Once on the ground, the Huntleys began making connections with nearby military bases. But they hadn’t yet been able to make any inroads at Marine Barracks Washington, D.C.
“There’s about 1,200 Marines posted there, and it’s a really strategic place,” Jared said. “And we just were praying that we could get a foothold in there, because we didn’t really have one at that point. And we felt like that was a specific place that God was calling us to reach.”
That’s where Johnathan comes in. He had heard of the Praetorian Project, and he reached out to Jared to see how he could help.
“So, he showed up in town, and we met up,” Jared said. “He started attending the church, and it quickly became clear that he had a heart for evangelism and specifically wanted to share the gospel with other Marines like himself.”
Johnathan latched onto that vision. Jared began to equip him, and he started putting what he was learning into practice at the barracks and inviting Marines to church with him.
“Little by little, we just started seeing more and more Marines start to trickle in,” Jared said.
A military chaplain also got involved, and Jared was able to develop a relationship with him. “And then we saw our first convert, so the first Marine gave his life to Christ, and then we got to baptize him during the pandemic and saw another Marine give his life to Christ, and we got to baptize him later on,” Jared said.
Since then, they’ve had more Marines attend and join the church, and “it’s just been amazing to watch,” he said. “It seems like we have new Marines showing up almost every Sunday at this point.”
That’s a big change from the zero contact the Huntleys had back in September 2019 when they relaunched the church.
“To see what God’s done in 18 months has just been amazing,” Jared said. “And God has used Johnathan as a key part of that.”
Not only that — they’ve been able to reach into the neighborhood around the church, which has a lot of poverty, drugs and crime.
As more people from the military and the community join, the church becomes more and more diverse, which Jared said he loves.
“I think that what I love about our church is that whether it’s the Marines or it’s one of our young families or anybody like that, everybody’s focused on the kingdom of God and wants to serve and share the gospel and make disciples of all nations,” he said. “So, it doesn’t matter what background somebody comes from, they’re going to be treated the same. They’re going to be welcomed the same way.”
Southern Baptists help support the Huntleys’ work through giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. The offering provides half of NAMB’s annual budget, and 100% of the proceeds go to help equip missionaries for ministry. This includes training, support and care for missionaries and for evangelism resources.
Week of Prayer for North American Missions
The Week of Prayer for North American missions is annually observed by Southern Baptist churches to pray for missionaries, their ministries and their families. Prayer is the fuel for spiritually sustaining missionaries in places where the gospel is greatly needed, but often opposed. The official date is the first Sunday in March through the second Sunday. This year it is March 6–13, 2022. Churches can choose this date or another time during the Easter season to participate. The offering goal for this year is $70 million.
275 million people are estimated lost in North America. That’s men, women, young adults and children. Among that population is more than 40 million people living in the United States who were born in another country. That’s about 1/5th of the world’s migrant population—more than any other country.
More than a decade ago, Michael and Traci Byrd moved out of a rough inner-city neighborhood of St. Louis, swearing they’d never go back. But God called them to return and plant Faith Community Bible Church. Their mission is to care for people who feel abandoned, Michael said. The neighborhood, which is 95% African-American, has a high poverty rate, a high crime rate, and mostly single-parent homes.
Itamar Elizalde says Puerto Rico is an island that just can’t catch a break. In the past seven years, it’s faced an economic crisis, two major hurricanes, a political scandal, six weeks of non-stop earthquakes and the COVID-19 pandemic. But God is opening doors for the gospel. As a NAMB’s Send Relief ministry coordinator, Itamar mobilizes local churches and leads volunteer teams to help people in crisis.
Jared and Jennifer Huntley had a heart for military personnel long before they launched Pillar Church of Washington, D.C. Jared had served in the Army and knows firsthand how difficult it can be to navigate the unique challenges of the military culture — especially without Christ. Now the couple is discipling and equipping military personnel and their families to follow Christ and share the gospel wherever they go.
In the area where they live — the Niagara region of Canada — 89-90% of the population of 400,000 doesn’t believe in God. Since planting Sevilla Chapel in 2019, Steven and Cindy Martins have been strategically and intentionally going door to door in the city of St. Catharines. They’ve been sharing, and people are listening.
Brianna McKinney says Denver is a lonely place for many people. Some might go to a coffee shop where they’re surrounded by others — but they’re still alone. And the chances are slim the gospel will make it into their personal space. The city only has one evangelical church for every 32,000 people. Meanwhile, there’s a marijuana dispensary for every 2,000 people and one brewery for every 7,000.
Amer and Vicki Safadi weren’t sure at first that Cincinnati was where God wanted them to plant a church. They’d been there before, just after leaving the Middle East, and it hadn’t been easy. But then they met Travis Smalley, lead pastor of Lakota Hills Baptist Church, who said his church wanted to come alongside them. Within three months of planting their church, they had 55 Arabic-speaking people from eight countries visiting the church.
Millions of Southern Baptists will faithfully pray this week for the featured missionaries, their families, their churches and their communities. They are only a few representatives of a larger missionary force. These faithful prayers and giving are allowing thousands more workers to reach people throughout North America, across the divides of culture, language and ethnicity with the gospel.
Prayer guides and videos with these stories and more are available for individuals, groups and churches to download or order for free. For more information on the Week of Prayer, click here.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This article was originally published by the North American Mission Board for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.