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Riverbend Baptist Church takes Jesus command to witness seriously
Mission groups of all ages from Riverbend Baptist Church in Gainesville participated in trips across 3 continents recently. The missionaries spent time in Portugal, India and Argentina, helping communities build sports programs, churches and aiding orphaned children and seniors.

Riverbend Baptist Church

Where: 1715 Cleveland Hwy., Gainesville

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While the leadership of Riverbend Baptist Church takes all of the Bible's teachings to heart, they are especially mindful of the scriptures that call followers to the mission field.

"‘Don't join Riverbend if you don't have a passport,' has been sort of a catchphrase here because missions are something that we really push," said Chris Orr, the church's worship leader.

"We believe in missions because God believes in missions. You either go, send or you disobey."

Although the church has always performed missionary-minded tasks, they pumped up their activities five years ago.

"In January 2006 we launched a vision for our church body and part of that vision was a missions goal. That goal was to minister to all 24 time zones around the world and all 50 states by year 2020," said the Rev. Matt Wethington, Riverbend's senior pastor.

"We take very seriously Jesus' command to be his witness in all the world. We carry the gospel to wherever God opens doors for us."

Last month, the church completed simultaneous mission trips on three different continents — four if you count their regular work right here.

"The idea was never to see if we could get on three different continents," Orr said.

"It just sort of happened that way."

One group of Riverbend members traveled to Argentina in South America, where they worked in nursing homes and ministered to members of the Mapucha tribe.

Another group traveled to Asia where they used athletics to minister to the youth in two villages in India by conducting sports camps.

And the third group, which was lead by Orr, traveled to Portugal, which is in Europe.

"In Portugal, we did various things from ministering in a children's home and a senior adult home, to helping with several different church (projects)," Orr said.

"Portugal is 98 percent unevangelized, so it's a brand new focus area for the international mission board."

The members of the missions teams range in age from teenagers up to senior adults.

"It's not a youth thing and it's not an adult thing. Missions is an everybody thing at Riverbend," Orr said.

"Missions is at the forefront of everything we do.

"If what we're doing, whether it's an event or a program that occurs daily, (isn't related to that goal), it is something we're trying to trim back on because missions is what we want to be about."

While they've travelled to several international locations, the church hasn't forgotten about local needs.

"We understand that the Bible command to ‘go in all the world and make disciples in all nations' begins right here in our own community," Orr said.

"We do a thing called Joe's Place, which we run out of a house next to our church (1715 Cleveland Hwy., Gainesville) every Tuesday.

"Joe's Place provides food service, a place to take a shower, to wash clothes and things like that."

Although they've already accomplished a lot missions wise, church administrators say their work isn't done yet.

"This summer, we're sending a team of almost 25 to Vancouver and another team to Bolivia," Orr said.

"In all, we'll probably take about 10 to 12 trips this calendar year. We are sort of radicals when it comes to missions.

"It's not to say that we're better than other churches for doing it. It's a calling that we take seriously from the Bible, to go into all the world sharing the gospel."



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