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  • Baptist Beacon

Digital church becomes a reality, connecting families from Central America

by Scott Barkley

Jeff Gongwer, left, stands with Pastor Neftali Coronado and Dave Nelson, associational missions strategist of Kimball and Central associations. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Gongwer)

GREENSBORO – The physical effects of COVID-19 hit people hard, but the impact is felt just as strong in areas a little harder to measure.

Pastor Neftali Coronado arrived in the United States from southern Mexico 21 years ago and would soon plant La Iglesia Bautistia El Buen in Central Baptist Association. A prolific church starter, he would go on to begin congregations in the Georgia cities of Washington, Athens, and most recently, Milledgeville. With the onset of COVID-19 and subsequent shutdown in travel, many of those Hispanic church members were cut off from visiting their families.

Coronado, said Georgia Baptist Missions East Central Region consultant Jeff Gongwer, decided to use technology in helping keep families together digitally.

Communications tools such as Whats App and Zoom have helped Pastor Neftali Coronado keep families in Georgia and Central America connected. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Gongwer)

“Pastor Neftali had the idea of connecting his church members’ families who had COVID-19 through What’s App and Zoom,” Gongwer stated. “He’d get the phone numbers of their loved ones in Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and other Central American countries to do this.”

Neftali himself would become part of the calls, asking questions as to how he could pray for the families. Over time, he would present the gospel.

“In one instance he led an entire family of six to the Lord,” Gongwer reported. “The mother of this family had COVID and was in a coma. He prays over her during Zoom calls often.”

Three times a week, Neftali produces recordings of him singing Christian songs and sharing Scripture. The recordings of 2-3 minutes are received by approximately 120 people.

The effort has become a long-distance digital outreach, one where consistency has been the key.

“He’s also leading several families through basic discipleship materials, focusing on five subjects,” Gongwer said. “Those are ‘Read the Bible,’ ‘Memorize the Bible,’ ‘Share the Bible,’ ‘Apply the Bible,’ and ‘Meditate on the Bible.’”

In addition, people from different churches and countries join for the worship services Neftali leads on Tuesdays and Thursdays over Zoom. The services stay within the 45 minutes limited on Zoom’s free accounts.

Future plans include Coronado contacting pastors local to those he has reached. Whether they have become believers or are still investigating Christianity, finding a nearby church home is important to maintain personal contact.

Hispanic church planting is a growing need in the Peach State, Gongwer stated, and ministers such as Coronado are leading the way.

“Pastor Neftali’s passion is for the gospel and planting churches,” he testified. “He’s always looking for opportunities to plant churches or to assist others to do that. His dream is to have a center where he can train Hispanic church planters and see churches started.”



Scott Barkley is editor of The Christian Index.



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