International Ministries

American Baptist International Ministries (IM) Job Posting

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Assistant Director of Development

Join a vibrant ministry that is helping people all around the world come to Christ, grow in Christ, and change their world for Christ!

Role and Responsibility

Raise support for ministry programs and services. Follow agency protocol in the acquisition, cultivation, and solicitation of current and potential donors. Implement stewardship and generosity principles and fund raising program(s) as directed. Serve as an ambassador of the organization. As part of the Mission Advancement Team (MAT) assist in establishing short- and long-range goals/strategies for identifying funding sources. Manage an assigned list of donors, prospects, congregations and church related groups (e.g., VBS, Sunday school classes, women’s groups, etc.) from a designated geographic region for cultivation and solicitation. Visit with pastors, drop off updated materials, answer questions and conduct speaking engagements for groups as requested. Communicate and collaborate with members of Mission Advancement Team (MAT) on speaking events and display opportunities. Help acquire new donors. Compile and analyze information about potential contributors, including corporations and businesses, to develop a cultivation and solicitation strategy. Write, telephone, or visit potential contributors to inform and educate them about the agency and to persuade them to contribute funds or gifts-in-kind by explaining purpose and benefits of their gift. When necessary, confer with appropriate financial advisors to establish methods of transferring funds to benefit both donors and institution. Attend approved continuing education opportunities, i.e. relevant conferences or training programs. This position will spend a majority of their time (65%) working with individual donors and congregations and working on grant funding (35%).This position will either be based in Valley Forge, PA or it could be a deployed position.

Education, Experience and Competencies

Bachelor's degree (B. A.) from four-year college or university; Preference is given to individuals with previous fundraising/development experience, an understanding of Biblical Stewardship and Generosity, and familiarity with American Baptist Churches. Minimum of 5-7 years of development experience with successful track record of having deepened relationships with existing donors (churches or individuals) while cultivating new relationships, preferably in a faith-based environment. Must have a track record of successfully identifying, applying for and securing grants. Passion for International Ministries and an ability to translate that passion into a personal and team-wide pursuit of IM’s fundraising goals. Requires high degree of integrity and excellent analytical, communication (written and oral including the ability to develop and write detailed reports), organizational and attention-to-detail skills. Evidence of global and/or cross-cultural experience preferred. Must be proficient with Microsoft products and comparable donor relations software.

Compensation

Competitive compensation package including employer paid contributions to a 403(b) retirement plan, healthcare benefits) and paid time off (vacation, sick leave, and holidays).

International Ministries serves more than 2,000 volunteer, short-term and long-term missionaries working in 70 countries. If you are ready to be a part of this dynamic organization, send a cover letter, resume, and name/address/phone numbers of three (3) professional references to: jobs@abc-usa.org

Job Posting at International Ministries

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Administrative Assistant

Join a vibrant ministry that is helping people all around the world come to Christ, grow in their relationships with God and change their worlds with the power of the Spirit!

Role and Responsibility

Provide administrative support to ensure that the offices of the area directors (ADs) of Europe and the Middle East and of Southeast Asia and Japan are functioning effectively to serve the global needs of IM. Support the ADs in managing global personnel and activity relating to many IM partners. Oversee all the domestic and international travel arrangements. Facilitate activities of visiting partners. Handle the logistics of various events. Communicate extensively with domestic and international partners; provide up-to-date information about ADs’ work to board members, churches, clergy, lay leaders, IM staff, global personnel, overseas partners and Christian and secular agencies as requested. Keep abreast of ADs’ activities and provide reports as needed. Manage the budget and maintain accurate financial files. Fulfill tasks that will be related to the missions of both ADs. Coordinate activities related to global personnel debriefing. Be responsive to the needs of the Mission Partnership Teams.

Education, Experience and Competencies

Passion for international mission. Bachelor’s degree with four years of administrative experience. Proficiency in MS Office. Excellent interpersonal, communication and diplomacy skills. Must be detail-oriented and possess the ability to work in a team environment. Ability to prioritize and manage multiple responsibilities. Ability to work in a multicultural environment.

Compensation

Competitive compensation package including employer-paid contributions to a 403b retirement plan, healthcare benefits (medical, dental and vision) and paid time off (vacation, sick leave and holidays).

International Ministries serves more than 2,000 volunteer, short-term and long-term global personnel working in 70 countries. If you are ready to be a part of this dynamic organization, send a cover letter and resume as well as the names, addresses and phone numbers of three professional references to jobs@abc-usa.org.

This posting will close on October 16, 2015.

Ministry Opportunity – Assistant Director of Development (IM)

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Join a vibrant ministry that is helping people all around the world come to Christ, grow in Christ, and change their world for Christ!

Role and Responsibility

Raise support for ministry programs and services. Follow agency protocol in the acquisition, cultivation, and solicitation of current and potential donors. Implement stewardship and generosity principles and fund raising program(s) as directed. Serve as an ambassador of the organization. As part of the Mission Advancement Team (MAT) assist in establishing short- and long-range goals/strategies for identifying funding sources. Manage an assigned list of donors, prospects, congregations and church related groups (e.g., VBS, Sunday school classes, women’s groups, etc.) from a designated geographic region for cultivation and solicitation. Visit with pastors, drop off updated materials, answer questions and conduct speaking engagements for groups as requested. Communicate and collaborate with members of Mission Advancement Team (MAT) on speaking events and display opportunities. Help acquire new donors. Compile and analyze information about potential contributors, including corporations and businesses, to develop a cultivation and solicitation strategy. Write, telephone, or visit potential contributors to inform and educate them about the agency and to persuade them to contribute funds or gifts-in-kind by explaining purpose and benefits of their gift. When necessary, confer with appropriate financial advisors to establish methods of transferring funds to benefit both donors and institution. Attend approved continuing education opportunities, i.e. relevant conferences or training programs. This position will spend a majority of their time (65%) working with individual donors and congregations and working on grant funding (35%).This position will either be based in Valley Forge, PA or it could be a deployed position.

Education, Experience and Competencies

Bachelor's degree (B. A.) from four-year college or university; Preference is given to individuals with previous fundraising/development experience, an understanding of Biblical Stewardship and Generosity, and familiarity with American Baptist Churches. Minimum of 5-7 years of development experience with successful track record of having deepened relationships with existing donors (churches or individuals) while cultivating new relationships, preferably in a faith-based environment. Must have a track record of successfully identifying, applying for and securing grants. Passion for International Ministries and an ability to translate that passion into a personal and team-wide pursuit of IM’s fundraising goals. Requires high degree of integrity and excellent analytical, communication (written and oral including the ability to develop and write detailed reports), organizational and attention-to-detail skills. Evidence of global and/or cross-cultural experience preferred. Must be proficient with Microsoft products and comparable donor relations software.

Compensation

Competitive compensation package including employer paid contributions to a 403(b) retirement plan, healthcare benefits) and paid time off (vacation, sick leave, and holidays).

About International Ministries

International Ministries serves more than 2,000 volunteer, short-term and long-term missionaries working in 70 countries. If you are ready to be a part of this dynamic organization, send a cover letter, resume, and name/address/phone numbers of three (3) professional references to: jobs@abc-usa.org.

This posting will close on July 31, 2015.

Kathy Charland called as International Ministries Missionary

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Kathy Charland has been called to serve in partnership with the women’s ministries of the Baptist Convention of Zambia (BCZ) to assist in the establishment of a Women’s Ministries Center. The center is to serve as a training center and extension base for literacy programs and economic development initiatives, utilizing such tools as agriculture, animal husbandry, small business development and micro-enterprise loan programs to empower women and alleviate poverty within the context of Christian discipleship. Serving within one of the world's poorest countries, where women often lack access to education and opportunity for economic sustainability, the BCZ is eager for Kathy to arrive and for God to change lives both now and for eternity through the ministries of the center. You can help Kathy build the network of support needed to begin international service by inviting her to share with you, or your church or group.

Learn more about Kathy's ministry through her IM profile and follow her journey on her ministry Facebook page. She can be contacted using the form below.

Contact Kathy Charland

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The Reeds Join The GoGlobal 30 Club

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This week the GoGlobal Task Force voted unanimously to add IM missionaries David and Joyce Reed to our GoGlobal 30 Club. The Reeds join Ann and Bruce Borquist, Carlos Bonilla and Mayra Giovanetti, and Stan Slade as beneficiaries of the club's work. We are very excited to have them on board! David and Joyce have served in La Paz, Mexico where they worked with pastors and church leaders in new church development. They are currently in the United States preparing to begin a new phase of ministry in IberoAmerica and the Caribbean in the area of Spiritual Formation and Renewal.

While in the US the Reeds are available to come and speak at your church or church functions. You can contact them by using the form below.

The GoGlobal 30 Club is a monthly offering for which participating churches are asked to give at least $30 monthly towards these missionary endeavors. New contributions are most welcome! If you or your church would like information on the GoGlobal 30 Club please reach out to me through my contact page.

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ABCNJ @Live – Rev. David Reed

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For our first ABCNJ @Live studio interview Rev. David Reed stopped by our nearly completed studio for a chat about his family's past call, their current project, and their local connections to ABCNJ. Please enjoy our first foray into the world of internet television!

Video Notes

  1. Yes, the set isn't finished. We're still acquiring nicknacks and are preparing the backdrop and blackout curtains.

  2. We're still working on the best camera angles. Sorry David is a little low in his shot.

  3. We're working out how to flag the active camera, a problem you can notice to comical effect as the interview progresses.

  4. Aside from adding an intro and close, this is completely unedited. We'll be practicing editing our interviews done to under 5 minutes as we move forward.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/0pOCzgW8DhA&w=480&h=360]

What is a "Typical Missionary?"

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What do the following people have in common? Two lawyers, an interior designer, a musician, a nurse, a manager, two seminary professors, a couple of information technology consultants, a physiotherapist, and a speech therapist? All of them are cross-cultural mission workers serving with the National Baptist Convention of Brazil! (See photo taken at the closing ceremonies of the missionary training program at JAMI). Is there such a thing as a “typical missionary” in today’s world? [gallery type="slideshow" ids="10546,10545,10544"]

What a pleasure it was to be part of the instructional team that prepared these young women and men who will serve on four continents. We were moved by the pledge they recited at the closing worship service. Here is an excerpt,

God said, “I need someone willing to say no to the status quo, … to leave their families to fly to distant lands, learn a language they've never heard, to travel on crowded buses, … someone who will sleep anywhere, eat anything, tolerate the heat and fight against the cold, with a smile on their face ... just to bring the Gospel to a people that is not theirs … . I need someone who is a radical servant of all.” So God created the missionary.

Wishing you a blessed Christmas full of Jesus’ hope, love, peace, and joy.

 

International Ministries gets #unselfie

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International Ministries has called people to come together to help support the ongoing mission work of our American Baptist Missionaries through Giving Tuesday – which will be celebrated Tuesday, December 2. To signify your participation in this wonderful opportunity, people are encouraged to share an "unselfie" on the social networking site of your choice.  Here's how this works (instructions are taken from the IM website).

  1. Start with a sign. You can download and print one of the templates here or create one of your own. It should say something about a cause that you support. Somewhere on the page, include these three hashtags: #IntMin#unselfie and #GivingTuesday
  2. Take a picture of yourself (or have someone else take it for you) with a smartphone, webcam, tablet computer or digital camera.
  3. Share the image on the social networking site of your choice, and don't forget to include the hashtags in your post!

Don't forget the giving part of Giving Tuesday. Use the button below to make you donation to IM today! For more information on the amazing work International Ministries does all around the world, follow this link.

[button color="blue" link="http://www.internationalministries.org/drives/24" size="default" target="_self" block="false"]Give to International Ministries[/button]

An Historic Milestone

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International Ministries Celebrates 200 Years as First National Expression of American Baptists

In September 19, 1811 Adoniram Judson was appointed by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions as a missionary to the East. Judson was also commissioned by the Congregationalists and soon married Ann Hasseltine on February 5, 1812. He was ordained the next day at the Tabernacle Church in Salem. On February 19, 1812 he set sail aboard the brig Caravan with Luther Rice (a Baptist pastor from Massachusetts), Samuel and Harriett Newell; and his wife, Ann (known as "Nancy") Judson.

At the age of 25 - knowing already the the languages Latin, Greek, and Hebrew - Adoniram Judson became the first Protestant missionary sent from North America.

The Judsons arrived in Calcutta in June 17, 1812. While aboard ship en route to India, he did a focused study on the theology of baptism. He came to the position that believer's baptism was imminently biblical and theologically grounded and should be the most meaningful symbol of one's obedience to Jesus.

On September 6, 1812, he switched to the Baptist denomination along with his wife and they were baptized by immersion in Calcutta by an English missionary. British authorities in India did not want Americans evangelizing Hindus in the area.

The following year, on July 13, 1813, he moved to Burma.

Judson offered to Baptists in the United States to serve as their missionary. Luther Rice who had also converted, was in poor health and returned to America where he continued to work tirelessly with William Carey, an English Baptist missionary, in building the support for the missionary endeavor of the the Judsons. In 1814, their work resulted in the formation of the first unified Baptist missionary sending body in the United States named, The General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination in the United States of America for Foreign Missions (commonly called the Triennial Convention), and its offshoot the American Baptist Missionary Union. As times changed fresh vision emerged as well and the organization transformed once again, changing its name to the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society, then to the Board of International Ministries, and now to its present expression, International Ministries.

It took Judson 12 years to make 18 converts. And so on July 21-26, 2014, American Baptists, more than 140 partners from all over the world, and a historic "only-second-time-in-200-years gathering" of all missionaries of our denomination will assemble at the Green Lake Conference Center in Green Lake, Wisconsin in a World Mission Conference to celebrate 200 years of missions and witness of International Ministries, and perhaps hear God's call to a fresh vision for the future.

If you are not attending, join our entire denominational family in prayer during these days. Our senior regional pastor and executive minister, Rev. Dr. Lee B. Spitzer is already there, having been asked by IM to provide spiritual care to our missionaries who are meeting a week before the WMC. Several ABCNJ staff, pastors and church leaders are traveling this weekend to attend the WMC. Here is a link to the press release of International Ministries, that details the historic significance of the event and the daily schedule of the conference.

It is well known that Baptists were birthed by missions and freedom. American Baptists stand at the vanguard of this distinctive.

A GoGlobal Mission Trip

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Three members of the ABCNJ GoGlobal Task Force recently returned from a 10-day mission trip to Rwanda, Africa. Rev. Dr. Michael Feicht, Rev. Wayne Hopkins and Rev. Sue Royle met with the Seira Community Church, an association of  eleven Baptist churches located throughout the country. Our purpose was to:

  • teach a Systematic Theology course to the local pastors
  • visit the rural churches and engage in dialogue and prayer with the women
  • continue to develop our newly formed relationship

In addition, we baptized over 50 people in 4 locations. Over the next few weeks we will be working on a formal presentation for our churches. There will also be information at the GoGlobal table at Annual Session in September.

Exciting things are happening in Rwanda and ABCNJ is excited to be part of it.

ABCNJ Young Adults Serving in the Czech Republic

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By invitation of Pieter Kalkman, IM missionary, an ABCNJ mission team is going to Brniste, Czech Republic to run a summer camp program as part of the Brniste Baptist church's outreach in the community. They will be playing games, sharing Bible stories, teaching English, preparing food, doing arts and crafts, and sharing cultures. Paulo Monroy was on the Xtreme Team to the Czech Republic in 2007 and so he is returning to some of the places he visited then.  This mission trip will take place in late July. Members of the team are:

Rev. Suleima Rosario-Diaz, First Baptist Church of Westfield, NJ Dario Diaz, First Baptist Church of Westfield, NJ

Ignadelis Cartagena, North Baptist Church, Jersey City, NJ Katherine Lizardo, North Baptist Church, Jersey City, NJ

Paulo Monroy, Iglesia Hispanoamericana, 44th St, Union City, NJ

Danay Sierra, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Union City, NJ

Gabriela Araujo, Calvary Baptist Church, Hackensack, NJ

Jonatan Martinez, Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, Newark, NJ

Erick Zurita, Times Square Church, New York, NY

Please keep this mission in your prayers!

Box? What box??

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In the donut... outta the box!  Now there's a theme New Jersey--with what must be one of the highest per capita ratios of Dunkin' Donuts on the planet--can grab hold of!!  It also captures something of my experience in mission this week. The donut.  Due to its round shape--including, yes, a b-i-g grassy space in the middle--the structure American Baptists built 50 years ago to provide office space to the leaders of the movement and its mission agencies has long been known informally by its appearance from the air, "the donut."  More formally, we call it the, er, "Holy Donut."

I spent this last week "in the donut."  But this donut spent the whole week, "out of the box."  Our assortment of Daily Specials included:

Monday - praying and exploring possibilities with an incredible young woman who has already spent several years answering God's call to jump "out of the box" and into one form after another of missionary service.

Tuesday - reflecting, praying and looking ahead with another amazing woman, now mid-career in missionary service, jumping out of one style of service and into something very different.

Wednesday - giving thanks for a lifetime of service with yet another amazing woman who is completing her career with IM... and eagerly anticipating our future work together for the Kingdom.  "Retirement?"  Not going near that box!

Thursday - praying, laughing uproariously and dancing in jubilee as two of IM's senior accounting staff led a totally "out of the box" celebration to recognize the faithful service of various American Baptist organizations here in the donut.  Accounting staff?  Out of the box??  Wonderfully!!

Friday - praying, imagining and rejoicing with a gifted and experienced urban missionary who is bringing a career-full of creative and courageous cross-cultural service in the U.S. into an "out of the box" assignment with IM.

This morning as we talked, friend and colleague Ben Chan exclaimed, "Box?  What box?!"  We are living in a time of constant innovation, not only in the tech world, but also in the ways and means God is providing for the pursuit of Christ's mission in the world.  It seems as though the time of "boxes"--stable, recurring patterns--has been reduced to a speck in the rearview mirror.

God is on the move, and we are scrambling along after.  It can be challenging, but it also seems just about right today, as we again approach Pentecost.  Come Holy Spirit.  Breathe new life into us.  Be the wind beneath our wings.  Lift us out of the box and carry us... not where we would go, but where you are going.

Note about the above image:  What happens when donuts hit Delhi?  They go vegan.  Definitely, out of the box!

 

I’ve Been Praying for You!

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You don’t know me, but I know you. I’ve been praying for you for the last seven years. And now I have the joy of meeting you in person!” Helio declared as he gave us each a bear hug. What an incredible gift of God’s grace - to meet a brother in Christ who has lovingly walked with us on this journey without us even knowing! He continues to pray for our family and our ministry every morning. Meeting Helio was one of the highlights of our recent visit to his church in Jundiaí near São Paulo. We also learned that this young (11 years old), fast-growing (400+ members) church has developed ministries with urban skate boarders, street people, and with shoppers at the local farmer’s market. Through his prayer support we feel like we’re a part of their ministry as well! Helio is part of a huge “cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1) who faithfully “hold the rope” for us. The amazing thing is that we have never met many of these special people. As I was writing this journal, I received a message from Esther in the midwest saying that she has been encouraging her church to pray for us and nine other missionaries - and to keep in contact. Another faithful prayer partner whom we have never met!

Our family photo is in the top left hand corner of the JAMI missionary poster. Helio uses this poster to pray for missionaries around the world.

We are richly blessed by all who intercede on our behalf. As a missionary colleague says, “If you don’t give, we can’t go; if you don’t pray, we won’t stay.”

NEWS FLASH:  Speaking of giving, International Ministries just announced a new Matching Gift Campaign that runs from May 1 to June 30. Gifts will be matched from a) new givers or b) individuals who give toward our ministry above and beyond their regular amount. You can use the special matching gift link on the IM web site or send a gift directly to IM with a note that says “Matching Gift Campaign.”

Explore Your Call at Embrace the Cause

large_Embrace_the_Cause_stacked_CROPPEDWhen and Where

August 9 - 12, 2013

Green Lake Conference Center, Green Lake, Wisconsin

Is God Calling You Into Global Mission?

Wondering what's really involved in cross-cultural global mission service?  Not sure how to prepare or what steps to take?  Got questions but you don't know whom to ask?  This event is for you!

During this high-intensity, focused weekend, you'll meet with experienced missionaries and IM staff, many who are former missionaries themselves.  They will help you evaluate your call, pray with you, answer all your questions and banish misconceptions of what it really means to be a missionary in today's world.

Worship, inspirational messages, interactive sessions and personal reflection time will combine to make this a powerful discernment experience.  No matter where you are in the process, you'll leave with a clear understanding of next steps.

Registration

Registration is $80.  Meals and housing are extra (see further down for details).  Call the Green Lake Conference Center to register and choose your housing.  (920) 294-3323.

Limited scholarship help is available from International Ministries.  Write to recruitment@internationalministries.org or call 800 222-3872 ext. 2245.

Schedule

The retreat begins with supper at 5:00pm on Friday, August 9th.  You can head home on Monday morning, August 12th.    Click here to see the full schedule for the weekend.  The retreat will be held in Lone Tree Lodge just a few minutes walk from the central part of the grounds.

Travel

Please fly into the Appleton, Wisconsin airport (ATW).  Green Lake will provide shuttle transportation but only if you fill out their "Transportation Request Form" at least a week before the retreat.  You can access the form on their website at: www.glcc.org Click on "About Us" and then the "Travel and Maps" submenu.  Cost for shuttles is $30 per person one way.

Green Lake is about 50 minutes from the Appleton airport, so you'll want to select a flight that lands by 3:30pm to be at the conference center in time for supper on Friday.  We strongly suggest that you choose a return flight that does not leave earlier than 9:00am.  Please read the Helpful Travel Tips further down on Green Lake's Travel page.

Housing and Meals

The meal package price is $88 and it begins with supper on Friday (5-6pm) through breakfast on Monday (7:30-8:30am).   Green Lake's dining room offers a buffet of options at every meal but if you have dietary restrictions, there's a form on their website you can fill out a week ahead of time.  Look under "Facilities" and then click on "Dining" to access the form and see photos.

Lone Tree Lodge is $85/night and the rooms all have 2 or 3 twin beds.  Kern Lodge is $110/night and the rooms have queen size beds, and family rooms have twin beds &/or bunk beds.  All the rooms have private bathrooms.  Click on the name of either building to see photos and descriptions.

If you would like to share the cost of a room with another attendee, please call the offices of International Ministries at 800 222-3872 ext. 2313 and we will try to help you find a roommate.

Featured Leaders

Morning Speaker

Rev. Dr. Lee Spitzer    Click here to see Lee's bio and photo.

Evening Speaker

Rev. Dr. Stan Slade    Click here to see Stan's bio and photos.

Worship Leader

Mr. Jared Messer     Click here to see Jared's bio and photos.

Mission Personnel

  • Mercy Barnes-González - missionary in Mexico
  • Kristy Engel - regional missionary in the Caribbean and Iberoamerica
  • Debbie and Flint Miller - former missionaries in the Philippines
  • Ketly and Vital Pierre - missionaries in Nicaragua
  • Becky and Larry Stanton - endorsed for service as missionaries in Liberia
  • Walt White - global consultant in cross-cultural evangelism.  Joining Walt is his wife Jeanine.  Together they served as missionaries in Bangladesh.

 

 

A twin’s promotion during Holy Week…

Mission MapWhen the Spirit moves, it brings His children together… We consider ourselves fortunate and blessed to have met a fine lady and sister like Virginia Hepner. Ever since our first visit to FBC in Bridgeton, we knew that God’s mission was the motor of her life. The first mission society’s world missionary map we saw was in 2004 at Virginia’s church; Virginia had made it… That is part of the inspiration and legacy Virginia leaves us, of a pioneer woman who loved the Lord and served Him passionately till her last breath. In each of our visits (December 2004, February & June 2005, August 2007 at the hospital, September 2009 at church and home, and November 2012 at her home), we enjoyed Virginia’s humor, her joyful spirit, and her determination. Through her, we were blessed to meet many at the congregation where she was a faithful member for many years… Virginia and CarlosLast time we were in town was last November 2012, in the post-Sandy era. We visited Virginia at her home. We had been there the previous time and knew how to get there. Connie Chann, one of her caregivers, was very gracious with us and we were able to stay in touch since for updates on Virginia’s wellbeing. We knew Virginia was ready to go home, and are surely grateful the Lord has given her rest during this Holy Week. That day, Virginia said: “I knew you guys were in the States and last night I was praying you’d stop by and visit before I go home.” It was difficult; we were so connected with Virginia! She was ready; we were not. One special connection was that Virginia and Carlos shared their birthday (July 30th, though 40 years apart). Each year since we met, we would talk to each other to express our love and birthday wishes. As much as we’ll miss Virginia hereafter, we rejoice in God’s promises to His children. We know Virginia is already enjoying what we still can only imagine. She and our dear pastor friend of ABCNJ, Jim Berger, already enjoy the health, peace, and shalom Jesus came to buy on our behalf with His precious blood on a week like we just celebrated.

Virginia Hepner at FBC BridgetonVirginia’s body was laid to rest yesterday, April 1st, but don’t be fooled by the day; Virginia made sure Psalm 14:1 wasn’t describing her! Everybody around her knew God existed because of her life. She invited many others to new life in Him, away from all foolishness. As we celebrate Virginia’s life, we are praying for her siblings at the congregation and the many friends of ABCNJ she had. Virginia will be sorely missed by many, including us! We pray that her example and commitment to God’s mission (locally, nationally, and internationally), will inspire many to continue to do the same as it had been her legacy and the history of the congregation that was her home till her very end.

Our friend Jim Berger has been promoted!

Pastor Jim BergerWhen we began our missionary service in 2000 we could not imagine the twists and turns of the journey we were undertaking. Since our mission society encourages a more relational support system, as a family we fully embraced the new way of being closer to our siblings in Christ and the congregations where they serve. Through our many visits in the Garden State, we were blessed to meet Pastor Jim Berger, his family, and the congregation he pastored. We were very sad to learn of Jim’s unexpected passing earlier this month. Indeed, our friend Jim Berger has been promoted! We were so blessed in each of our visits with Jim in Cape Island Baptist Church (2007, 2009, and 2012) and his sweet spirit was always an encouragement. We would talk about EBTS and Israel, we would talk about the struggles to see the church thrive and the blessings of what was working, we would talk about health and he would shy away not wanting to draw attention to himself. Sitting at the table with Jim and Sarah, Catherine and Dorothy, was always a blessing! On our last visit, we just popped in as it was the after-Sandy era and we just wanted to make sure that our congregations were doing well. It wasn’t a planned visit, so Jim was surprised that we had driven all the way to Cape May just to make sure they were ok. He was the only one from the congregation we saw that morning. He mentioned that it had been a while since he was last ill and he was grateful for that. His constant health challenges were draining and he was grateful for a break from them.

We certainly weren’t expecting that this un-informal visit of ours in Cape Island BC would be the last time we were to see Jim Berger. We’re glad we did and we will continue to pray for his wife Sarah, for their daughters Catherine and Dorothy, and for all in the congregation at this time of grief and mourning. There is hope in Christ for the ultimate reunion, but the physical separation is always painful.

May God’s peace that surpasses all understanding comfort us all as we say farewell together to a friend who has been promoted! As the song keeps playing in the church’s website, “I can only imagine”; Jim already knows and enjoys what the Lord promised him. Jim already enjoys his heavenly mansion. Jim is already pain free. Let us continue serving together, as Jim did, in God’s spirit as we serve the Lord where each of us is (you in ABCNJ and us in Nicaragua and beyond as each of our missionary colleague serves).

Study time at BTS... / A estudiar en STB...

Study time at BTS... / A estudiar en el STB...On March 4th classes began at the Seminario Teológico Bautista de Nicaragua, a ministry of the Convención Bautista de Nicaragua. We are here to serve in their leadership training programs. This year, don Juan Guadamúz (building guard at the Seminary who died on February 17 after a car accident) would have had his 61st birthday the same day the seminary (where he served for 23 years) has its anniversary, on May 4th. His loving memory also permeates the foundation of this ministry. We knew don Juan for barely a month, but it was long enough to appreciate his sensitive spirit, heart of service, and hard working ethics. Thanks for your company and prayers during this difficult yet hopeful time for his family and the seminary body.

The Seminary which began in Masaya and later moved to Managua, serves today in 3 satellite centers: San Rafael del Sur, Ocotal, and Occidente. In 2013 there are plans to open 4 more centers in the Boaco Chontales Region (San Carlos Rio San Juan, Nueva Guinea) and the Southern Atlantic Autonomous Region (Kukra Hill y Bluefields). The Seminary offers the Theology Degree (5 years), the Pastoral Ministries Degree (3 years), the Christian Education Certificate (1 year) and the Hospital Pastoral Care Certificate (5 months).

The Seminario Teológico Bautista de Nicaragua aims for its diamond anniversary in 2016. We will accompany them and share our two cents, so that in future generations, the witness of their service to the Lord will be known in and outside of Nicaragua. Dr. Charles Baxter, who served our neighboring ABC-IN/KY churches and is now with the Lord, used to say “The Bible is our text. Christ is our message.” The STB prepares those who share the message of Christ with the Bible as the text. Therefore, study time…

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El 4 de Marzo comenzamos el año académico en el Seminario Teologico Bautista de Nicaragua, ministerio de la Convención Bautista de Nicaragua. Hemos venido a servir en sus programas de educación popular. Este año, don Juan Guadamúz (cuidador del seminario quien murió el 17 de febrero tras un accidente automovilístico) hubiera cumplido el 4 de mayo sus 61 años el mismo día del aniversario del seminario donde laboró por 23 años. Su recuerdo también permea en el fundamento de este ministerio. Conocimos a don Juan por apenas un mes, pero fue suficiente para apreciar su espíritu sensible, su corazón servicial y su ética de trabajo. Gracias por acompañarnos en oración durante este tiempo tan difícil pero esperanzador para su familia y la comunidad del Seminario.

Aquel Seminario que comenzó sirviendo en Masaya y luego se mudó a Managua, hoy sirve en 3 centros de extensión, a saber: San Rafael del Sur, Ocotal y Occidente. Además, en el 2013 se planifica la apertura de 4 centros de extensión más en la Región Boaco Chontales (San Carlos Rio San Juan, Nueva Guinea) y la Región Autónoma Atlántico Sur (Kukra Hill y Bluefields). El Seminario ofrece la Licenciatura en Teología (5 años), el Bachillerato en Ministerios Pastorales (3 años), el Certificado en Educación Cristiana (1 año) y en Pastoral Clínica Hospitalaria (5 meses).

El Seminario Teológico Bautista de Nicaragua va camino a su aniversario diamante en el 2016. Les acompañaremos y aportaremos nuestro granito de arena, para que en generaciones futuras, el testimonio del servicio al Señor sea reconocido en y fuera de Nicaragua. El Dr. Charles Baxter, quien sirvió en la vida de los vecinos en ABC-IN/KY y hoy está con el Señor, solía decir “La Biblia es nuestro texto. Cristo es nuestro mensaje.” El STB prepara a quienes comparten el mensaje de Cristo con la Biblia como texto. Así que, a estudiar…

(not quite) Home for Christmas

It's not over yet, but we have already had a wonderful time as a family this Christmas.  We did not manage to get everyone together in one place.  That was the amazing blessing of 20121122-AllFamilyThanksgiving for us this year:  the whole family together again for a few days--wow!  This week it has been our turn to share, as two of our three next-gen families were blessing the in-laws with their presence.  We were very grateful for the technology and the opportunity to talk with them on Christmas day.  And we were delighted to have the other next-gen family right here with us:  Anna, Tim, CJ (5) and Naomi (10 months).  For all of these blessings, thank you, Lord! I have been immersed in the enjoyment of this great gift this week.  But the mind is an amazing thing, able to be almost 100% present while still occasionally zipping off for a few moments in unexpected directions.  And then, even with a houseful, there are the times of solitude.  I've had more than the usual quota this year.  (Memo to self:  among the many ways to move through the time of preparation we call Advent, spending the last 2 weeks on the other side of the planet is not the most effective for clear-headedness on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  The 12 time zone adjustment obeys its own biological imperative... bestowing, along the way, sleepiness when one wishes to be alert and alertness when one wishes to be sleeping like the others.)

So it is that I have found myself often engaged in prayer for Kachin Baptist brothers and sisters over these last few days, mostly in the middle of the night, but also from time to time throughout the day.

Some 100,000 of them have had more in common with Joseph, Mary and Jesus than with me, this Christmas.

Luke's Gospel tells us that as Jesus' birth drew near, Joseph and Mary were on the road, due to the requirements of the imperial census.   It was a very curious kind of "on the road," though.  The place Joseph actually took Mary, in order to register with the census-takers, was... home.  Since his family was originally from Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary made the trip south from Nazareth, so that Joseph could do his duty.

So, that first Christmas, Joseph, Mary & Jesus were in their ancestral homeland.  But, curiously, Luke tells us they were not in the ancestral home.  They were outside the main house.  With the animals.

Luke doesn't give us the details.  We don't know if there was "no room" for them inside because the rest of the family reacted less nobly than Joseph to Mary's not-the-usual way condition.  Or maybe it was that Joseph's particular branch of the extended family had been away from Bethlehem so long that their arrival caught everyone unprepared (neglecting to text their ETA from the road was a filial failing that had not yet been invented!).  Perhaps the issue truly was just a matter of space:  perhaps the rest of the extended family had already occupied every nook and cranny of ancestral housing by the time Joseph and his precious cargo finally came straggling in.

Whatever the reason, Joseph and his little family spent that first Christmas both "at home" and very much not "at home."  (Matthew's Gospel adds that things quickly got worse for the little family:  they rapidly morphed from "internally displaced persons" to full-fledged "refugees" as they crossed the border into Egypt to protect the life of their infant son.  But that is a story for another time.)

There are something like 100,000 Kachin people, most of them Baptists, who spent Christmas of 2012 in a similar situation.  They are an ethnic minority people whose ancestral homeland includes Kachin State, a part of northern Myanmar (Burma) that borders China.  Like other ethnic minority groups in Myanmar (most famously, the Karen people), the Kachins have been struggling with the central government for decades.  Just as that government has begun to take significant steps to cultivate better relationships with the rest of the world (and especially, with the U.S.), it has cast aside a 1994 ceasefire agreement with Kachin independence forces and launched a major military operation into northern Kachin State.  The estimates are that military operations over the last 18 months have produced 100,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), living in camps along the border between China and Myanmar.

I am very far from being an expert on this conflict.  The complexities of the history and the dynamics that feed the current violence go beyond my understanding.  But it has been much on my mind and heart since the second week of Advent, when I discovered it was very much on the minds and hearts of my hosts and conversation partners in Myanmar.  The leader of the large and very dynamic Baptist movement throughout the country arose from our conversation in his Yangon office early in the week to travel to the northern border and visit the camps.  Later in the week, a long-time leader of the NGO community in Yangon urged me to look for ways that American Baptists could more effectively stand with our Kachin sisters and brothers.

Sign in Yangon Kachin Baptist Church, made of photos of IDPs in the camps

And the last thing I did before boarding the plane to leave Myanmar was worship at Yangon Kachin Baptist Church.  There, our prayers for the suffering families of Newtown, CT, were mingled with our prayers for the suffering families of Kachin State.

They are in their ancestral homeland.  But, whether living as IDPs in border camps or as traumatized survivors in contested territory, they are anything but "at home" this Christmas.

I do not yet know all of what I, or International Ministries, will be led to do on behalf of our Kachin, Karen and other sisters and brothers in Christ who are home but not "at home" this Christmas.  (And those suffering in Syria?  And those who are still picking up the pieces of their shattered lives post-Sandy?  and post-Sandy Hook?  And those who are still displaced almost three years after the Haitian earthquake?  And...?  There is truly no shortage of disrupted lives in our world!)

So far, I've been praying.  I plan to continue that.  God loves the Kachins (and the Karen, and the Syrians, and the Americans and the Haitians and...) infinitely more than I do.  God's patient work in the world--the whole world--is the only framework that keeps me from falling into overwhelmed despair in the face of the needs we can see.  Praying is what puts me in perspective.  It reminds me where I fit in the big picture.  I certainly feel called to "do something."  But unless the first (and last!) thing I do is to pray, I will quickly lose perspective on how the tiny contribution I might make could be part of the much larger, much longer, much deeper work of God in history.  Without the bigger perspective, my too-puny efforts will simply become paralyzed.

Spending part of Advent in Myanmar has both reminded me of an element of the Christmas story, and added another dimension to my prayers that God's Reign will fully come and God's good and redeeming will be fully done, on earth, as in heaven.  I am grateful for the foretastes of that redemption I am privileged to witness and to experience, while I pray for--and play a small role in--God's work to bring about infinitely more.  May you, also, have the joy both of receiving and of extending to others the grace and love of God that is surely bearing us toward that "infinitely more."