VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 9/18/13)—Twenty-nine men and women from a variety of backgrounds gathered this summer for an interactive, worship-filled three-day retreat designed to help them discern a call to global mission service.
Questions were answered, calls were confirmed, and encouragement was offered to those wrestling with the life-changing decision to serve in cross-cultural Christian ministry outside one’s home country.
The Embrace the Cause retreat was one of many transformational events sponsored by American Baptist International Ministries (IM) to help identify, train and send new global personnel into mission service. It was held on August 9-12, 2013 in Green Lake, Wisconsin and was funded in large part by church and individual gifts to the World Mission Offering, as well as a gift from a generous IM supporter who provided scholarships to underwrite the cost of registration, lodging and meals for retreat participants. The next Call Retreat is scheduled for July 19-21, 2014.
The retreat—which bore the IM 2013 Embrace the Cause theme—“provided an opportunity for people to discern the heart and personality of IM, its values and priorities,” said IM Recruitment Director Jim Bell.
“Identifying candidates for global ministry service is not just about matching skills and abilities to a known job,” Bell added. “It is about discerning a call from God to serve and then equipping candidates with the tools they need to make the call a reality.”
Participants ranging in age from 19 to 60+—from chaplains and pastors to nurses, teachers, students, salespeople and homemakers—attended the retreat from all parts of the U.S. They were able to talk to and learn from global leaders, current missionaries and IM staff in a worshipful, relational, informative, reflective experience.
“The retreat was so life-growing, so personable,” said an attendee who is a social worker from North Carolina. “I was just awed, overwhelmed with excitement.”
“The vocational missionaries were open to my questions and to sharing real-life experiences,” she added. “They allowed me to see that missionary life is not only rewarding but it is a journey where the person never stops growing, even in the work they are doing.”
“Plus, talking to unmarried missionaries and getting their open perspective about what it means to be a single person in vocational missions made me feel like ‘Wow! I can really do this!’
“They were also very honest with me. And that allowed me to consider going into vocational missions with my eyes more wide open.
Another attendee— a nurse and soon-to-be ordained pastor—is now in the assessment phase of discerning her call to missions.
She came to the retreat looking to discern with which mission agency she should align herself. “And I am happy to tell you that I left that retreat ready to do the next steps.”
She appreciated the discussions about “the things we hold as core values…what we believe that define our mission and our work. That was really important to me. It helped me to say ‘wait a minute—these people have the same values and beliefs that I do.’ That was the ‘aha!’ That was like ‘this was the fit!’”
As a nurse as well as an associate clergy in her congregation, this participant also wondered before the retreat how the two vocations could work together on the mission field. She soon found out.
“It was so nice to talk with two missionaries who were nurses who were using their different gifts—theology and nursing. For me, it was wonderful because seeing both of them together, I was just ‘YES! I get it! I get it! Thank you, God.’ It affirmed the picture in my mind that they can blend!”
Another attendee, a church planter and pastor at a Baptist Church in Chicago said that he has a deep interest in the Telugu Baptist ministry in India, a ministry with more than one million members.
As a result of traveling in 2006 to his native India with Benjamin Chan, IM area director for East Asia, India, Hong Kong and China, he developed a desire “to bring unity and oneness and strengthen the Baptist identity in the Telugu church.”
“In my studies, I have focused on leadership transformation. I want to use all the expertise God has graciously given me here to affect life in India and do the best for the Telugu church.”
The Embrace the Cause retreat helped him to plan his next steps. “Some of the questions that I was not able to express outwardly were answered miraculously,” he said. “I could see the Spirit’s leading there.”
Who should attend next year’s retreat?
The retreat is sponsored by IM, which is responsible for sending personnel with specific skills and backgrounds to meet the needs of more than 250 global Christian partners.
Those feeling the tug of the Spirit to serve in various roles as global personnel are invited to attend the next retreat, which will be held July 19-21, 2014 at Green Lake Conference Center in Green Lake, Wisconsin. For more information, email Jim Bell at email@example.com.
“Whatever your interest—whatever your profession—there is a space in God’s world for you,” said one participant. “And this retreat helps you to see how to make it happen.”
Attendees must be committed followers of Christ who are U.S. citizens, but are not required to be American Baptist church members. A wide range of opportunities for service requiring various educational and experiential backgrounds are available, with a sampling of current opportunities listed on the IM website at http://www.internationalministries.org/get-involved. Follow “International Ministries Recruitment” on face book.
American Baptist International Ministries is a Christian mission organization connecting U.S. churches and individuals to holistic ministries around the world. Organized in 1814, IM is the first Baptist mission agency formed in North America. It serves more than 1,800 short- and long-term missionaries annually, bringing U.S. and Puerto Rico churches together with partners in over 70 countries to share the good news of Jesus Christ in word and action.
American Baptist Churches is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with over 5,200 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.