Thursday, July 18, 2013

Out of Many, One People

by Brian Kaylor

Earlier this month I joined more than 400 Baptist from more than 40 nations in Jamaica. With the national motto of "Out of Many, One People"” the island nation served as a fitting place for the Annual Gathering of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA). We lived out this theme each day during the morning worship services as we listened to scriptures read in multiple languages, and we joined in with responsive readings and songs offered simultaneously in multiple languages. As our words mixed together and poured upward, it became a small taste of some depictions of the nations worshipping in Heaven. Although we came out of many nations, lands, and cultures, we are one people in Christ. As the BWA’s logo notes - borrowing from Ephesians 4:5 - we are united by "one Lord, one faith, one baptism."

Churchnet, a member body of the BWA, was well represented at the gathering with Executive Director Jim Hill and Vice President Forestal Lawton also at the week-long event for meetings, forums, worship, and fellowship. Hill serves on the BWA’s Promotion and Development Advisory Committee, as President of the North American Baptist Fellowship (a regional BWA body), and presided over the NABF's meeting in Jamaica. Lawton leads the BWA’s Men’s Department. I serve on the BWA's Communications Advisory Committee and spoke at a Communications Training Seminar for Jamaican Baptists that was hosted at a local Baptist church by the BWA and the Jamaican Baptist Union.

In addition to the morning worship services, another highlight of the week for me was the day at spent at Ocho Rios Baptist Church for the Communications Training Seminar. Appreciating the opportunity to leave the conference hotel and visit with Jamaican Baptists at a local church, I enjoyed fellowshipping during breakout sessions, lunch, and coffee breaks. Listening to the discussions, I heard fresh perspectives about communication, news, worship, and church. I also enjoyed getting to lead a session on writing news articles and press releases. Communication - which in English shares linguistic connections with communion and community - can be a sacred act that both helps us relate to God and to our neighbors.

Between worship times and meetings, the BWA's Annual Gathering also provided times to learn about important global issues. For instance, I attended a session on Baptist-Muslims relations in the Middle East where I heard from speakers from various nations, including a Lebanese Baptist and the General Secretary of the European Baptist Fellowship (a regional BWA body that includes Baptists in Israel and the Palestinian Territories). In another fascinating session, I learned about Sam Sharpe, a Jamaican revolutionary hero, as speakers from Jamaica, the United Kingdom, and the United States offered insights based on their research. Sharpe, a black Baptist in the 19th Century, led a nonviolent revolt among enslaved persons often called the "Baptist War" since many of the leaders were Baptists. Although Sharpe and other enslaved persons were executed because of their strike for wages, the violent against them ultimately helped lead to the abolition of slavery in Jamaica and throughout the British Empire. Inspired by the story, I brought home as a souvenir a Jamaican fifty-dollar bill that features Sharpe. Hopefully more people will learn of Sharpe's nonviolent witness for justice and freedom.

My mind still races with what I saw, heard, and thought during my week on the island nation. I remain thankful for the journey, those I met, and all that I learned. Since the body of Christ does not merely consist of people in my own church, denomination, or nation, the chance to dialogue with my brothers and sisters from another nation was in a way a holy act. The church's membership is not defined by human-created national borders. And so being connected to the global Baptist family through the BWA strengthens Churchnet. Perhaps an excerpt from the second stanza of the Jamaican National Anthem captures this vision of what the BWA attempts to accomplish by bringing the global Baptist family together:
Teach us true respect for all
Stir response to duty’s call
Strengthen us the weak to cherish
Give us vision lest we perish
Knowledge send us, Heavenly Father,
Grant true wisdom from above
Justice, truth be ours forever.

You can contact Brian Kaylor, Churchnet Editorial Assistant, at (888) 420-2426 ext. 704 or at bkaylor@thechurchnet.org.

NOTE: To see more photos from the BWA Annual Gathering in Jamaica, check out the photo album on Churchnet's Facebook page here.

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Exceeding Our Missions Goal

by Jim Hill

Each year at our Annual Gathering our Missions Mobilization Team hosts our Annual Missions Banquet. It is always a wonderful time of fellowship. Our Missions Leaders also provide an update regarding our mission partnerships. The Missions Banquet is also a time when we receive gifts and pledges to help support our mission partnerships. Following the Annual Gathering we invite others who were not able to be present for the banquet to make contributions to the Missions Banquet Offering for Partnership Missions.

This year our goal for the Missions Banquet Offering was $12,000. These funds were to support our mission partnerships in three ways. First, these gifts help to provide scholarships for approximately 90 participants in the Guatemala Training Events that are held in July and January each year. These regional training events are at the heart of our ongoing mission partnership with the Guatemala Baptist Convention, and they were developed in direct response the needs identified by the Guatemala Baptists. Scholarships of $75 cover the cost of lodging, meals, and materials for each participant.

The Missions Banquet Offering also provides funds for the Tabitha Ministry which cares for women and children living near the Guatemala City dump. The Tabitha Ministry provides a variety of services and assistance including a school for the children. A gift of $35 provides for a child for a month.

The third mission partnership project partially funded by the Missions Banquet Offering is our Ukrainian Church Planter. Churchnet is partnering with the European Baptist Federation to provide $350 per month for church planter serving in Ukraine. Churchnet supplements the gifts from our Missions Banquet Offering to fund all of these mission partnership projects.

The exciting news we have exceeded our goal of $12,000 this year. To date we have received $13,180 in gifts and pledges and more gifts are coming in each month. If you have not had an opportunity participate we would welcome your gift.

In addition to these gifts, First Baptist Church of Lee's Summit gave an entire week's offering (more than $38,000) to support the work of the Tabitha Ministry in Guatemala. This was the second time the church has made this type of sacrificial gift to missions. What a generous congregation they are!

We have another team going to Guatemala this month to lead the Leadership Training Event. This year we are also adding a special women’s track during one day of the event and inviting an even larger group of women from the area churches to participate. Marilyn Nelson will be leading this special session.

Several of our Churchnet congregations have taken groups from their congregation to Guatemala to assist with mission projects. Our relationship with the Guatemala Baptists has grown each year. We would love to have you and/or your congregation become involved as we work our brothers and sisters in Guatemala to share Christ and extend his kingdom. Give us a call and let us share how you can be a part of our mission partnerships.

You can contact Jim Hill, Churchnet Executive Director, at (888) 420-2426 ext. 705 or at jimhill@thechurchnet.org.

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