BENICIA – “I was born in the church and grew up in the church,” Howard Burkhart says. “The pastor kept talking about people being lost and not having Jesus. When I was about seven, I realized I didn’t have Jesus, so, on my own I prayed to receive Christ as my Savior. I was baptized shortly thereafter.”
Howard is a church planting catalyst with the California Southern Baptist Convention (CSBC) Church Starting Group. His ministry includes planting churches among often-overlooked language groups, working with the deaf and hearing impaired, and coordinating “Basic Training for Church Planters.”
“I was going to college and the church I attended started a deaf ministry, so I started to learn sign language,” Howard recalled. “I went to seminary and found out about the huge need for missionaries for the deaf.” While in seminary, Howard married his church’s sign language teacher, Tina.
The combination of two experiences led Howard as a young college student to recognize that God was calling him to be a missionary: learning sign language and going to Israel as an International Mission Board (IMB) summer missionary. The IMB assigned Howard to a missionary compound where they ran weeklong day camps for kids. He spent his time there as a camp counselor and lifeguard. The camps attracted Arabic-speaking children and children whose parents worked at various international embassies in the area.
“As a summer missionary in Israel, I was exposed to many different cultures in an area where I was no longer in the dominant culture. I was very fortunate to be able to see that,” Howard recalled. “The first day of camp, we registered children who lived in Nazareth and in Cana. I thought that was way cool!
“I fully enjoyed the cross-cultural aspect of things, too, which I had not done a lot of before,” he continued. “I found out that I was comfortable doing that.”
Howard attended the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, completing a degree in marketing and business administration. In 1984, after graduating from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary with a master of divinity degree, Howard accepted a position with CSBC and he and Tina headed for California.
While serving California Southern Baptists statewide, the Burkharts currently live in Benicia, in a home built in the 1800s., Howard works to start churches in the Bay Area and in Northern California as well, Over the years he has helped start churches in 21 different languages, this year he added English to the list.
“It’s a lot of fun to watch a church planter start the process and walk along with that planter until that church is doing well. That’s a lot of fun, and very rewarding!” Howard exclaimed.
“One of the challenges to my work is finding church planters,” he continued. “If we had a dozen church planters tomorrow, we could start a dozen churches. Another challenge is finding partnering churches to come alongside a church planter on various levels of engagement.”
Howard has helped start Romanian, Mongolian, Vietnamese, Ethiopian, Indonesian, Burmese, Japanese, Haitian, Brazilian, Hispanic, Kenyan, Filipino, Samoan, Chuuk, Deaf, Deaf Korean, and several other language churches. He taught seminary classes for the deaf for 15 years as part of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary’s diploma program.
Howard and Tina have two children, Nathan and Victoria. Tina has master’s degrees in deaf education and religious education.
Howard’s message to California Southern Baptists:
“Church planting is fun! A healthy church is also a reproducible church. If a church is not reproducing, it is not healthy. Being involved as a partnering church in church planting adds to a sense of purpose for a partnering church.
“Involvement gives people in the partnering church, who are spiritually gifted in certain areas, an outlet for ministry that they might not have in their own church. People in the partnering church get fresh ideas about being relevant in their own community. Certainly, the planting church benefits by having the help of a partnering church. I see it as a win/win/win situation.
“Come partner with us and take a mission trip and experience church planting in the Bay Area.”
Howard’s prayer requests:
- Pray for Howard and Tina’s daughter, Victoria, who has many health needs and has been housebound for a number of years.
- Pray for the churches reaching the various immagrant and refugee people as they look to adapt to the United States, learn English and look for employment.
- Pray that God will continue raising up church planters for the San Francisco-Oakland region.
- Pray that the Lord of the Harvest (Luke 10:2) will answer the prayers of those who are intentionally missional and praying for harvest hands every morning at 10:02. Set your alarms and join them.
- Pray that God will open doors to reach smaller people-groups such as the Khuen, Ethiopian-Eritreans, and those speaking little-known Chinese dialects.
- Pray that God will open door to the many Native American Reservations in California and that church planters will be raised up and identified.
- Pray for some of the rural communities in Northern CA who need a new church and for some of the churches that need to be replanted.
- Pray for generous giving to the Cooperative Program, California Mission Offering and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.
- Praise God for the great work He is doing in the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Area and throughout California.
- Praise God for the church planting partnerships He is developing in the Bay Area.
- Praise God for the mission trips people are making to help reach people for Christ in the Bay Area.
- Praise God for those who participate in the statewide Basic Training for Church Planters workshops.
Did you know?
Basic Training for Church Planters is an intensive 18-hour workshop that walks teams through the process of church planting. More than 75 church planting teams attend the workshops each year.
Howard’s contact information:
229 West G St
Benicia California 94510