It was a week of looking back and giving thanks and a week of looking forward and believing. Debbie, Ben, and I — along with some other New York American Baptists—attended the International Ministries/ABC-USA World Mission Conference at Green Lake Conference Center last week. It was the 200th anniversary of American Baptist Mission efforts around the world. Over a thousand people from across the country and around the world joined to celebrate the past, present and future, seeking the Lord's leading for our third century of mission together.
Although the conference was a 200th anniversary celebration, the theme for the week was “Rise to the Challenge.” Our 200-year heritage of faithful ministry challenges us to do our part in our day to continue this tradition in new and creative ways, adapting to a changing world. When Debbie and I were in missionary orientation, we heard stories of missionaries traveling months to their field of service, arriving in a land that they knew little about, and going decades without seeing their family in the States, connected only with irregular letters. We flew to our field of service in less than a day, had been in close contact with the national partner with whom we would be working, and had seen (via email) pictures of the house where we would be living. In so many ways, missionary service has changed in the last 200 years. Yet the values that shape ministry have remained much the same.
One core value that is still honored by International Ministries is respect for the national partners with whom our missionaries work. This was evidenced by the many leaders from other countries present at the mission conference. It was a great joy to me to be able to spend time with several of the Vietnamese pastors with whom I had worked in Vietnam and to hear how they are advancing the work of Christ in their country. As I served on the mission field, I was surprised by the number of North American missionaries who served for years in a country without any connection to or even a conversation with those faithful indigenous Christians who had been living and serving their whole life in that place. Building competencies and sustainability among local leaders and congregations is a key piece of what American Baptist missionaries do. That is why they are the most sought-after North American missionaries.
If you or your congregation are not currently supporting an American Baptist missionary, I encourage you to go to http://www.internationalministries.org/give and find a particular missionary whose ministry or place of service is of interest to you and begin to pray for them, write to them, and support them financially. If you want a taste of mission service yourself and to make a good connection with two of our finest ABC/USA missionaries, check out our ABC/NYS mission trip to Nicaragua in April 2015 at http://www.abc-nys.org/programs/missions/nicaragua. If you cannot go in 2015, you can still support the trip by making a contribution to the cost of materials by going to the above link and following the instructions at: “To support the Water Purification Project:”
The strength of our international mission effort is tied to the vitality of our ABC New York congregations. The Region works to strengthen the lives of these congregations. All of us in partnership with one another bring greater glory to God’s kingdom. Thank you for your participation in this important work.
Jim KelseyExecutive Minister