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.
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.
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.