VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 10/30/13)—In response to a unanimous vote by the board of directors of American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS), Bill and Fran Atchison of China, Maine, have been commissioned as home missionaries. A joint effort of ABHMS and American Baptist Churches of Maine (ABCOM), the commissioning took place during ABCOM’s annual meeting on Friday.
The Atchisons are beginning their fourth year of mission at Alfond Youth Center (AYC), Waterville, Maine, where they minister to the staff as well as 5,500 members. Many individuals at the center have no church home, according to Bill, and he and Fran are sensitive to meeting them where they are.
“If people at the center are having problems, most of the time they come to Bill. That gives us an opportunity to pray for them,” says Fran, a registered nurse. “We’ve had a lot of prayers answered since we’ve been there.”
Acknowledging Maine’s long history of home mission work, the Rev. Dr. Alfred Fletcher, ABCOM executive minister, recalls native son Rev. Thomas Merrill of Sedgwick, Maine, who was the first missionary commissioned after The American Baptist Home Mission Society was founded in 1832. Merrill traveled to Michigan, where he started an educational institute in Ann Arbor.
“Merrill’s work was acknowledged by ABHMS as worthy of the Gospel,” says Fletcher. “Today, we celebrate the commissioning of two missionaries that have been called of God from our churches to pioneer a new work in another frontier. We join in hope and celebration that this humble beginning that God has laid upon the hearts of Bill and Fran Atchison may further the cause of our Divine Redeemer in Waterville, Maine, and throughout the world.”
A special focus of the Atchisons is the 150-200 children and youth, aged 3 to teen, who are bused to the center after school each weekday. “We provide a full meal after school at AYC,” says Bill. “Many children are sent home with sandwiches because that might be the only thing they get to eat until they get to school the next morning.”
With a $1,500 Children in Poverty grant awarded by ABHMS, the Atchisons are starting a “Healthy Teeth Mission,” in which a dental hygienist will provide screenings and cleanings at the center for children and youth whose professional dental care is inconsistent.
“The Atchisons are an incarnational presence of Jesus Christ in the great state of Maine. They have a deep commitment and demonstrated record of serving as the hands, feet and voice of Jesus Christ throughout that region,” says Dr. Aidsand F. Wright-Riggins III, ABHMS executive director. “American Baptist Home Mission Societies is pleased to partner with American Baptist Churches of Maine in supporting the missional service of this truly compassionate couple.”
The Atchisons were commissioned at a service led by the Rev. Dr. Marilyn P. Turner, ABHMS associate executive director of Missional Life and Leadership.
For information about becoming a commissioned American Baptist home missionary, contact Laura Miraz, Ph.D., associate executive director of Board and Mission Services, at LMiraz@abhms.org or 1-800-222-3872, x2051.
American Baptist Home Mission Societies—the domestic mission arm of American Baptist Churches USA—ministers as the caring heart and serving hands of Jesus Christ across the United States and Puerto Rico through a multitude of initiatives that focus on discipleship, community and justice.
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.