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Resort missionary pointing tourists, athletes to Christ

Former Georgia pastor


Morris Abernathy

Derek Spain, right, moved his family, including a 4-year old son Andrew, from Georgia to the northern reaches of New York State to follow God's call to resort missions. They minister to community residents as well as Olympic athletes training for winter sports.

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. - Derek Spain stands in the driving snow, bracing against the harsh wind and the 15-degree temperature. Strangers ask directions and he gives a greeting, turns, and points them in the right direction.

After four hours he feels fatigued and is glad when he gets a chance to go inside to rest for a while. It's draining work to be outside in such cold temperatures, but he understands the symbolism of what he's been doing all afternoon.

On one level he's serving as a volunteer for the ESPN Great Outdoor games, giving directions from the backside of a parking lot. But his real calling is to point the truly lost in the right direction of a relationship with Christ.

Spain is not a native to cold weather, having been raised in Dacula. And he has not always lived in New York. It was divine intervention which drew him and his wife, Kim, from a comfortable youth ministry position at Hebron Baptist Church in Dacula to serve as resort missionaries for the Baptist Convention of New York.

The couple is among nearly 5,200 missionaries in the United States and Canada supported by the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions. They are featured during the March 6-13 Week of Prayer and North American Mission Study, which this year focuses on the theme, "Answer His Call."

Morris Abernathy

Resort missionary Derek Spain teaches a Bible study at his church in Lake Placid, N.Y. The church has grown from 40 members to more than 140 since Spain arrived three years ago.

"The Lord had to do a lot of things to get us ready for this move. But Kim and I learned that if God is calling you to go outside your comfort zone, you've got to be prepared to do it," he remembers thinking.

"Lake Placid is an international sports town that excels in winter sports. It hosted the 1932 and the 1980 Winter Olympics, and averages nearly 2 million visitors each year. They have bobsled, luge, figure skating, and ski jumping events all the time," he explains.

Spain wears three hats in the community: as resort missionary, director of North Country Ministries (NCM), and as pastor of Lake Placid Baptist Church. As director of NCM, he ministers in the community through servant evangelism and by providing volunteers for the sports venues.

"Olympic athletes, who regularly train at Lake Placid, worship with us at Lake Placid Baptist Church. We also lead a Bible study on the Olympic Training Center every Tuesday night" he explains.

Servant evangelism is the most visible outreach of the NCM ministry as it provides volunteers for a variety of events.

"Servant evangelism has provided us with a real platform to share our faith. They don't mind that we do it because we have such a gentle approach. The downside is that because it's such a nontraditional approach we may never see the end result but that's OK because we are

Morris Abernathy

SBC missionary Derek Spain, right, picks up supplies at a local hardware store for Lake Placid (N.Y.) Baptist Church, which is building additional space. Spain uses everyday encounters to share the Gospel and invite residents to church.

planting the seeds that one day may lead to the harvest. And, that's all that God asks of us. We will plant so others can reap."

The Spains are partners in the ministry. While a full-time mother to their sons, Kim frequently joins the volunteers to help them be more effective in their outreach.

"Kim does a wonderful job working to build relationships in the community, because relationships are the foundation of all that we do," he says.

Another companion in his ministry, he says, is the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.

"The offering reminds me that Southern Baptists are participating in God's work in creative settings throughout North America. And I appreciate the trust they place in me as a steward of those gifts. Because of their generosity Kim and I can share the gospel in ways they could never imagine."


Related stories:
The big picture on resort missions
Getting to know Annie Armstrong
Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions overview