In 1989 God called Joel and Beverly Shoaf and their young family to leave America to start a church in New Zealand. After three years of presenting their passion for New Zealand in over one hundred churches in America, they had raised sufficient support to begin their ministry.
In September 1992 they arrived in New Zealand. For the first 15 months they settled into “Kiwi life” and developed the youth and children’s ministries at Calvary Baptist Church in Mt. Maunganui. They knew God wanted them to start a church that focussed on sound Biblical teaching…but where? They surveyed numerous cities in the North and South Island. Which one! God led them to Napier.
In December of 1993, Pastor Joel and Beverly Shoaf made the move from Mt. Maunganui to Napier. This move was preceded by much prayer by the Shoafs and Christians both in New Zealand and many in America. The Shoafs had surveyed many cities throughout New Zealand before feeling confident that Napier was the place of God’s choosing. This was, for the Shoafs, a move of apprehension and absolute realisation that God would have to do the work. Joel vividly remembers a question asked by one of the young people from the church at Mt. Maunganui, “Pastor Shoaf, do you know anybody in Napier?” His answer, “No, no one except the Realtor!” reinforced in the Shoafs minds that human effort would not build a church in Napier, they would have to place their faith and trust in God! Psalm 37:5 Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass. Was a verse that brought much reassurance to this family during those days!
Napier Independent Baptist Fellowship’s first official event was a one day “Kid’s Club” held at the Arthur Miller School Hall. The club was held during the January 1993 School holidays. 16 children attended as well as several mum’s, all having the opportunity to hear the gospel.
That same January, after having run an announcement in the paper, the Shoafs began a Wednesday evening adult Bible study and children’s time. This was once again held at the Arthur Miller School Hall. The question, “Would anyone come?” weighed heavily on their minds that first evening. Much to their encouragement, God sent two families and one other adult. From that first study, one of those families, the Harrow’s, are still a part of the fellowship, and, have become a very vital part of the church. It is worth noting that even in the coming of one of these couples, God’s working, not man’s, was apparent. This couple later told the Shoafs that they did not subscribe to the newspaper, but just “happened” to read the church announcement in a paper at a friend’s house!
A few weeks later, on February 13, Sunday morning worship services were added to the Wednesday evening Bible studies. Over the next two and a half years, the fellowship saw many people come to worship. What was overwhelmingly apparent throughout this time was God’s hand of blessing and direction. All praise goes to God many adults and teens who trusted Christ as their Saviour through the fellowship’s ministry as well children saved in “Kid’s Clubs”.
On 14 July, 1996, this group of believers were officially organised into a local New Testament Church called Napier Independent Baptist Church. The church was later renamed Bay Baptist Church.
Now Twenty-two years later, Bay Baptist Church is a close group of followers of Christ who love to spend time together, have fun and encourage each other. This church is still actively involved in Hawkes Bay seeking to accomplish Christ’s final command to us to make disciples.