The reflection below was written by Rev. Elizabeth B. Congdon, Senior Pastor of The First Baptist Church of Trenton, NJ. This is part of a new featured series, “Proud to be an American Baptist.” Check the ABCUSA website and other publications in the near future to see more stories! View the archive and learn why others are proud to be American Baptist by clicking here.
Comprehensive U.S. immigration reform endorsement is one way to extend hospitality to strangers (Romans 12:3b). A public witness statement on gun violence prevention provides needed insight into our current broken world. A letter to President Obama prior to his visit to Myanmar succinctly summarized the status and needs of the people there. Many refugees from Burma worship with us as a result of the diaspora from Burma/Myanmar. American Baptists are there addressing social justice issues and serving in areas of need. We are a Matthew 25 people. This excites me about being an American Baptist. We are the hands and feet of Jesus. We are Christ’s heart. Our ears are tuned to the voices that are seldom heard. Our eyes focused on those who have become invisible.
What excites me about being American Baptist are the cutting edge ministries of our missionaries nationally and internationally. I know, and my church knows the impact of our giving. We join in ecumenical and interfaith efforts to combat poverty providing safe water, food, health care, disease prevention, education and micro-economic opportunities. We are part of efforts to stem human trafficking around the world.
What excites me about being American Baptist? Being part of short term mission teams. On mission teams to the Philippines, Haiti, Rwanda, Egypt, Malaysia, Thailand, Lebanon, the Republic of Georgia and the American Southwest I have been privileged to see the impact of our efforts. What a thrill to see what we do in Christian Centers in the U.S. How powerful it was to see our international missionaries in action. I carry the stories of those serving Native Americans in Arizona, girls and women saved from brothels in Thailand, the poor who are able to leave lives of poverty by growing coffee, families no longer living on garbage dumps in Manila, Rwandan Hutu and Tutsi Christians serving together teaching us lessons in forgiveness. And, most recently, in Beirut Lebanon and Tbilisi in the Republic of Georgia I was part of the American Baptists dialogue with Muslims. I was reminded of the commandment we have, saying: “…those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.” (I John 4:21) This commandment is not limited only to our American Baptist brothers and sisters.
Acting against injustice. Serving in areas of need. American Baptists do it every day. And that is what excites me about being American Baptist.