One of the mini-stories we told was about an amazing youth discipleship program called Sayang Anak Indonesia (SAIN – “Beloved Indonesian Child”). The Union of Indonesian Baptist Churches has set an ambitious goal for itself: recruit 2,000 mentors from local churches who will work with 10,000 children and youth ages 6 to 15.
The Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches (CPBC) held a series of events to commemorate the 75th anniversary of what happened at a place called Hopevale, a remote valley located in the center of Panay Island. It was there that 11 American Baptist missionaries, one of their children, and four other American citizens hid for 18 months until they were found and executed by Japanese troops on December 20, 1943 at the height of World War II.
Mariamsina Bekele is a dynamic young woman from Ethiopia. She is a missionary to university students serving with the campus ministry known as EvaSUE. Mariamsina is also a wife, a mother and a terrific Bible teacher.
Denise Gratzel (second from the left), ABCNJ's Disaster Relief Coordinator, was part of a team representing ABCNJ in the Philippines this week. The group travelled in order to take part in a ministry round-table which shared wisdom between several ABCUSA regions and ministry organizations, and the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches. ABCNJ was a significant partner in the event.
Denise, in particular, travelled across
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.
That hit song from 1966 floated through the back of my mind last night. It was popular when I was a teenager, the only song by the Mamas & Papas to make it to #1. It came to mind because I was listening to Monday, on Tuesday.
"Monday," or more exactly, "son, born on Monday," is the meaning of the Ghanaian name, Kojo. I was listening to Rev. Kojo Amo who, after providing leadership to the Ghana Baptist Convention for ten years, is now the Chairman for West Africa for the All Africa Baptist Fellowship. Kojo is in town as part of a mission trip. He is touring a Ghanaian Baptist mission field. The U.S.A.
As I listened to Brother Kojo last night, I had a complex experience. As I said, the background soundtrack was Mamas & Papas. The visuals were from a brilliant day in October of 2001, when I took these photos as Francisco Litardo and I spent a couple of hours in Accra with the leadership of the Ghana Baptist Convention. The foreground soundtrack was a highly summarized report of Ghanaian Baptist mission work in Canada (Toronto and Montreal), New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, Georgia, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona, Colorado and now, New Jersey.
This is definitely not your great-grandmother's world of mission!
The smiling face of my friend Samuel Escobar also flashed through my mind as I listened. For, Brother Kojo was describing a marvelous Ghanaian example of just the kind of thing Samuel has been speaking and writing about for years: mission in our day is truly "from everywhere to everyone" (The New Global Mission, InterVarsity Press, 2003).
From everywhere to everyone. Mission in our day moves in every conceivable direction. And, if we're honest, we have to admit that many of today's mission directions are "conceivable" to us only after we've bumped into the fact that they are "actual"! God's surprises just keep on coming!
So, Kojo Amo is visiting Ghanaian mission sites in the U.S. They are places where Ghanaians who have joined the millennia-long stream of immigrants to North America are busily reaching out to their neighbors with the faith in Jesus that has sustained them on the journey. It is an exuberant faith. Contagious. Their churches are growing. And, in excellent missionary fashion, they are eager to partner with what God is already doing in the places where they are planting churches. Are we equally eager to partner with them?
ABCNJ is! We were sitting in the living room of Judy and Paul Hart, at a regularly-scheduled meeting of the American Baptist Churches of New Jersey's Go Global Mission Taskforce, which Judy chairs. It was an exciting evening, as members of the group shared about the ways God is leading New Jersey Baptists into mission in Brazil, the Philippines, Rwanda, South Africa, Haiti, India... and... and... in partnership with Ghanaian Baptists, New Jersey! At least 150 of the world's nations are represented in New Jersey. Lee Spitzer, Senior Regional Pastor for ABCNJ says, "We can accomplish 2/3 of the Great Commission in our day, at least symbolically, without even leaving the state!" Lord willing, there will soon be a new Ghanaian congregation growing in the heart of New Jersey, aided and abetted by their American Baptist neighbors.
So, Monday was speaking on Tuesday night. He was describing mission from a former "receiving" country to a former "sending" country. And we joyously celebrated the fact that the Lord invites us all to be both "senders" and "receivers" as we participate in what is truly God's mission, "from everywhere to everyone."
In 1966, "Monday, Monday" was (and for some of us, still is!) engaging--despite the fact that it was a wistful lament for a lost love. This week, Monday/Kojo is engaging in a totally different way: he is bursting with life and contagious enthusiasm for the good news of Jesus, bearing witness to the way God is at work in our world.
Thanks be to God!
May the Lord surprise and encourage you this week with glimpses of the surprising ways God is at work in your own neck of the woods. Have a blessed Thanksgiving!
Doctors Rick and Anita Gutierrez serve as ABC missionaries in Durban, South Africa where they train and equip local people to combat lifestyle related diseases like HIV-Aids, diabetes, high blood pressure and malaria in their communities. These “health builders” also lead Bible studies and receive training in gardening and poultry skills to help promote good nutrition and provide income.
On Sunday, September 15th, Dr. Anita Gutierrez visited Living Word Baptist Church in Beachwood where Rev. Sue Royle serves as senior pastor. Dr. Anita shared about the work she and her husband Rick are doing as they try to build a "healthier kingdom" for the people of South Africa.
If you would like further information on the ministry of Doctors Rick and Anita Gutierrez please contact me using the form below.
[contact-form firstname.lastname@example.org' subject='An inquiry from ABCNJ.net'][contact-field label='Name' type='name' required='1'/][contact-field label='Email' type='email' required='1'/][contact-field label='Church' type='text'/][contact-field label='Comment' type='textarea' required='1'/][/contact-form]
Following the Haitian earthquake of 2011 ABCNJ and the Baptist convention of Haiti drafted a sister- church covenant designed to engage our churches in a relational partnership based on prayer, dialogue and mutual support.An email was sent out inviting churches to consider partnering with a sister church in Haiti. Several churches answered the call.
On May 30th a team of 21 ABCNJ pastors and church leaders traveled to Haiti to meet our sister churches.
Our itinerary included meeting with the Haitian Baptist convention where we were warmly welcomed by Pastor Gedeon, the president of the Baptist Convention of Haiti, and were also introduced to our sister churches.
We traveled by speedboat (thank you Haiti Coast Guard) to the island of La Gonave and were greeted by the 14 Baptist churches with a fantastic reception including champagne and homemade fruit sangria.
It was an awesome experience. New relationships were formed, new friendships were made, dreams were realized and new ones are being created, and hope is surging once again among the churches of Haiti.
Thank you to Rev. Edgard Nicolas ABCNJ Associate Regional Pastor for Haitian Minitries, our trip organizer, Rev. Ken Cadette, and especially Donny Merinvil who arranged our travel plans and itinerary and saw to our every need.
There are still opportunities for churches to join the partnership. If you are interested please contact me by using the form below.
[contact-form email@example.com' subject='Sister church inquiry'][contact-field label='Name' type='name' required='1'/][contact-field label='Email' type='email' required='1'/][contact-field label='Church' type='text' required='1'/][contact-field label='Comment' type='textarea' required='1'/][/contact-form]
We express our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Virginia Hepner who passed away this past Monday. We have received word her funeral services will be held on this coming Monday, April 1, 2013 at 12:00 noon at the First Baptist Church 136 East Commerce St. Bridgeton, NJ, Rev. Aleksander Saar will officiate. Below you can read the information shared with ABCNJ from the funeral home.
Virginia Hepner was well known for your support of missions and could always tell you current information about their service and prayer needs. She was active within the WNJBA serving on the Executive Committee in resent years as well as opening her home for their meetings. She also was an officer within the American Baptist Women's Ministries in the WNJBA. Some shared that she was "Ms. Missions" because she wanted to see the Gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed around the world and invited, asked, and begged if needed, to have others join in the support of those sent to serve as missionaries at home and overseas. Her spirit of missions will long be remembered and her dedicated leadership will be missed. May the Lord open wide the doorways of heaven for her home going.
Obituary for Virginia S. HepnerVirginia S. Hepner 96, of Upper Deerfield Twp. passed away early Monday morning, at her home under the care of Hospice. She had been in failing health for the past 5 months. Born in Hopewell Twp, she was the daughter of the late Edward B. and Anna E. (nee Bowen)Hepner. She had been an Upper Deerfield Twp. resident for the past 46 years. Virginia had previously worked for Protection Service Company as a secretary for 27 years and also was a LPN at the former Bridgeton Nursing Center, now South Jersey Extended Care, until her retirement in 1989. She was a long time active member of the First Baptist Church in Bridgeton, where she was a past member of the American Baptist Churches of N.J. State Council; past president of American Baptist Women’s Ministries of N.J.; moderator of West New Jersey Baptist Association; formerly active in the outreach program at the Bridgeton Nursing Center, and was active in the American Baptist Women’s Ministries of West New Jersey Baptist Association. Virginia also at one time drove school bus for the township of Hopewell Twp., and was the first female driver for the township. She loved her church and church family. She is survived by her many caregivers, and special caregiver and friend Samuel Gubbine Jr. of Elmer. Virginia was predeceased besides her parents by two cousins Frances Cossaboom, and Edna Sprauer.
On Saturday churches intertested in forming a sister church partnership with a church in Haiti met at Hamilton Square. We discussed the covenant agreement, chose sister churches and began to plan for our initial trip to Haiti scheduled for May 30-June 2, 2013. If you missed the meeting or want to be part of this initiative there is still time. Our next meeting will be Saturday February 2, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. at Hamilton Square. At that time we will finalize the churches and the travel plans. For more information, you may contact Rev. Ken Cadette and Rev. Sue Royle using the form below.
[contact-form firstname.lastname@example.org,KenCade@aol.com' subject='Haitian Sister Church Inquiry'][contact-field label='Name' type='name' required='1'/][contact-field label='Email' type='email' required='1'/][contact-field label='Website' type='url'/][contact-field label='Comment' type='textarea' required='1'/][/contact-form]
"When we went to Mexico, we saw ourselves as the missionaries. What we discovered is that we are the mission field."
That's how my friend and veteran IM missionary Chuck Shawver put it, when we were together this summer. His words have stuck with me. They capture something important about my own experience, too. It was true in El Salvador, where we lived in the 1980s. It has been true in the many places I have visited and served since then. It is true in Valley Forge.
I see it also, over and over, in Scripture. God sends messengers, people called both to carry and to embody a message for the sake of others. But God is always also at work in and on those very messengers, calling them more deeply into the message they carry. From Abraham's encounter with Abimelech (Genesis 20) to Peter's experience with Cornelius (Acts 10)--and at many points in between--the missionaries discover they are also the mission field.
This dimension of our walk with the Lord came up again last night in Dover, Delaware, during a conversation with the good folks of Dover's First Baptist Church. We touched on the global context of mission today, and the dynamics at work in the worldwide Christian movement. But we focused primarily on the practice of mission, whether our mission service takes us across an ocean or across the street: we are always both agents and objects of mission, both instruments God is using and clay that the Divine Potter is shaping and filling with the treasure of the gospel.
I have come to love the spot in his letter to the believers in Rome, where Paul catches and corrects himself on this very point: "For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you--or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine" (Romans 1:11-12).
Missionary or mission field? Paul saw himself as both.
May the Lord give us grace always to see ourselves this way, too. It is a wonderful thing to be used by God. It is a humbling, but no less wonderful thing, to be a work in progress. It is normal--but not for being "normal," any less wonderful--to be both.
Last weekend I bought some tea at the Hy-Vee supermarket on the west side of Ames, Iowa. What a mess. The parking lot is torn up. The inside of the building has temporary walls all over the place. There are many, many clear vinyl sheets hanging about, to keep the dust of construction activities away from the food they are selling. But, they are, indeed, selling food. Lots and lots of it. There's more food under that roof and surrounded by those plastic drapes than in many a small village around the world. That supermarket is clearly both "on the job" and "under construction." Just like me.
Thanks for your partnership in the gospel. Whether today finds you feeling more like an "under construction" mission field today, or more like an "on the job" missionary, may you take heart in the calling to be both.