VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 6/4/12)—On May 25, American Baptist International Ministries (IM) concluded a very successful 7-day World Mission Conference. The conference theme, Hear the Call, drew a crowd of more than 500 from the U.S. and around the world, including 30 IM missionaries, development workers and global consultants and 15 global Christian leaders. For the first time in six years, the conference was held at the beautiful Green Lake Conference Center in Green Lake, Wisconsin.
“This was far above anything I expected,” commented one participant. Another cited this conference as “the most spiritual experience I’ve had in my life.”
The 2012 conference kicked off IM’s three-year celebration of its 200th anniversary in 2014. Reid Trulson, IM’s executive director, elaborated, “Hear the Call mission events provided us with a great time to celebrate the past while moving forward into the future. Although the ‘modern missionary movement’ began 200 years ago, the need for sending missionaries is far from over. The churches in the majority world are asking us to appoint new personnel to serve in partnership with them. In response, IM is working actively to call forth the next generation of missionaries.”
The World Mission Conference was organized as three mission events in one.
Part one, The Call Retreat on May 18-20, was sponsored jointly by IM, American Baptist Home Mission Societies and the American Baptist Ministers Council. The second part, The Call Globally on May 20-24, celebrated what God has done through American Baptist global ministry as it launches into its third century of mission. Finally, The Call Celebration on May 24 featured Dr. Tony Campolo, professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern University and founder/president of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, and an evening concert by Jars of Clay, a popular Christian rock band from Nashville, Tennessee.
At The Call Retreat eager students, second-career seekers and active retirees pondered God’s call on their lives in three areas of service: 1) Mission Involvement Locally, 2) Cross-Cultural Global Mission Service, 3) Pastoral Ministry. The opening plenary session featured an address, “Shaped by Creation,” by the Rev. Kim Kushner Dominguez, IM missionary serving in regional and local ministry projects in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Dr. Alistair Brown, president of Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in the Greater Chicago area, spoke on “Shaped by Commitment.” The Rev. Dr. A. K. Lama, general secretary of the Council of Baptist Churches of North East India, led participants to ponder the depths of biblical passages as they sought to discern God’s call to Christian service. Dr. Leslie Braxton, senior pastor of New Beginnings Christian Fellowship in Renton, Washington delivered a stirring sermon, “Shaped by Community.”
Commenting on the three-day Call Retreat, the Rev. Jim Bell, IM’s Director of Recruitment, observed: “The retreat enabled people to grapple with vital, call-related biblical texts. They also learned about IM through in-depth discussions with me and quality time with our missionaries. They gained first-hand knowledge about the meaning of serving in Christ’s name cross-culturally through IM as we minister alongside partner organizations around the world. Participants also captured a sense of what it can mean to become part of a unique Christian community. They were reminded that IM is not like a company ready to hire new employees but is part of the missionary movement of God’s spirit.”
From American Baptist Home Mission Societies, the Rev. Marilyn P. Turner, associate executive director and the Rev. Glynis LaBarre, tranformational strategist, were among those who shared their personal stories about their own calls to ministry. Reflecting on The Call Retreat, Turner said: “It was a blessing to share the joy of being in mission here in the United States and Puerto Rico alongside co-laborers in Christ who live out their calls to mission internationally and through service to the men and women of the Ministers Council. Historic and beautiful Green Lake provided the perfect background for listening to and praying with those who are discerning their calls to ministry.”
During The Call Globally participants experienced dynamic Bible study by the Rev. Dr. Ken Fong, senior pastor of Evergreen Baptist Church in Los Angeles, California. Workshop topics included, “Called to Share the Gospel with 75,000 Akha Hill Tribe People,” “How to Answer a Call to Africa When You’re Headed to Mexico,” “Flexibility: The Name of the Game” and “Haiti: Relief to Recovery—How Are the Churches Doing?” Evening sessions featured IM missionaries and staff using wit and poignant, first-person stories to address three aspects of The Call Globally: “The Call to Conversion,” The Call to Service” and “The Call to Vision.”
The Call Celebration, an all-day event on Thursday, featured Dr. Tony Campolo who challenged the audience to identify and support people within churches who have been blessed by God with the heart and skills for mission service. Jars of Clay, a Christian rock band, reinforced that message with songs like “Eyes Wide Open.”
Two partnering organizations, the Christian Community Credit Union and Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries, sponsored refreshment breaks and shared information about their ministries.
American Baptist International Ministries (IM) was organized in 1814 as the first Baptist international mission agency in America. It began its pioneer mission work in Burma and today works in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas serving more than 1,800 long-term and short-term missionaries. Its central mission is to help people come to faith in Jesus, grow in their relationship with God, and change their worlds through the power of the Spirit. It works with respected partners in over 70 countries in ministries that meet human need.
American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with 5,500 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.