September 17, 2014


EUROPE (BP) -- When Nick Hodges decided to watch the Southern Baptist Convention online last summer, he never dreamed he would be navigating the "tubes," trains and taxis of a major European city as a result.

When Hodges heard about Embrace during the SBC meeting, "it was like a light went on inside of me." Embrace is an initiative to encourage Southern Baptist churches to choose an unreached, unengaged people group (UUPG) and establish an active church-planting strategy among them.

"We're supposed to just go and carry out the Great Commission," Hodges said of the stirring he felt.

Hodges is pastor of 80-member Emmanuel Baptist Church in Oakdale, La. He and members of 1,100-member First Baptist Church in Mansfield, Texas, spent the last week of April in Europe with International Mission Board trainers to begin their journey to embrace one of the world's 3,800 UUPGs, 500 of which can be found in Europe.

They are the first churches to make Embrace connections with their people group on the ground in Europe.

Johnny Dickerson, senior pastor of FBC Mansfield, said, "The thing that appealed to me about Embrace was that we were stepping into places and situations where there was not already an IMB missionary on the ground.

"When we decided we were going to do this," Dickerson recounted, "I told our church, 'We are not sending a missionary -- we are sending you.'"

Meanwhile, Hodges and his wife Dawn had never been on a mission trip or out of the country before going to Europe for training.

"All of this is very new to us. Not to mention the fact that we are both introverts," he said. "I think we [Emmanuel Baptist] represent the typical Southern Baptist church, and I'm hoping that people will see us and say, 'If they can do it, then we can too.'"

Before the team traveled to Europe, the two churches spent time investigating the world's UUPGs and praying about which to embrace. After meeting with IMB personnel, each European Embrace church is assigned a "coach" who acts as a consultant for the church as it fulfills its commitment to the outreach for eight weeks per year for eight years. Read More

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