VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 8/8/14)—In two historic weeks, Christian leaders from around the world, along with all global servants and home staff, gathered to celebrate 200 years of American Baptist International Ministries (IM) mission service.
Three major conferences and a Call Retreat were held at the Green Lake Conference Center in Green Lake, Wisconsin, on July 12–26, 2014. The time together was acclaimed by participants as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the most diverse group of IM’s mission partners in history to worship together, share stories and learn from and fellowship with each other.
“We heard stories of faith – of real faith! It was remarkable!” remarked General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance Dr. Nelville Callam, who was the keynote speaker for the opening night of the World Mission Conference. “But that is what you get when you meet the people of God from around the world and hear their stories. It’s unspeakable!”
This momentous occasion positioned IM to move boldly into its third century of global mission.
Celebrating God’s faithfulness in the past and responding to God’s call to the future, participants from across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, church members, pastors, mission partnership team members, regional and national leadership, the IM Board of Directors, home office personnel, special assistants, supporters and friends came together to celebrate and look into God’s future. They met with leaders of international conventions, unions and ministries, as well as the missionaries, development workers and global consultants who serve them.
“This historic event series was remarkable both in scope and purpose,” noted IM Executive Director Reid Trulson. “The events provided a unique time and place to offer praise for God’s work in the world through IM and its partners, and they created an incredible opportunity for this expression of the body of Christ to seek guidance in setting priorities for future mission. I am so grateful for what the Holy Spirit has begun in our midst.”
All Staff Gathering
For only the second time in its 200-year history, IM brought together IM’s global mission personnel, home staff and special assistants for a time of worship, mutual encouragement, training and listening to God’s call to the future. The event ran from July 12 to 18.
International Partner Consultation
More than 100 IM mission partners from all around the world gathered for the International Partner Consultation, July 19–21. Leaders of conventions, unions and a host of specialized ministries came together to help shape the future of IM’s work and to learn from and encourage one another’s ministries. This is the first time in its history that IM has been able to gather such a wide array of global partners in a single location.
“What an inspiration!” commented Stan Slade, IM’s associate executive director for Program and global consultant. “IM was very blessed to hear great stories of God at work through partners around the world, to hear partners express their sense of God’s call upon their ministries and to receive their wise counsel as IM seeks to hear the voice of the Lord calling us into a third century of service to Christ’s mission.”
World Mission Conference
The two weeks culminated with the biggest World Mission Conference in IM’s 200-year history from July 21 to 26. More than 1,200 Christians enthusiastically attended, as a vast and diverse international contingent (over 140 leaders of global mission partner organizations, as well as all of IM’s global personnel and their families) joined an even larger group of mission supporters and leaders from across the U.S. and Puerto Rico (regional and national leaders, pastors, church members, mission partnership team members, mission volunteers, supporters, special assistants, home office staff and IM’s Board of Directors) for four days of worship, celebration, learning and discernment.
Held in a 13,000 square-foot tent, a structure erected specifically to accommodate the vast crowd, the nightly worship services reverberated with the praise music of internationally-acclaimed Dr. Tedd and Joanna Szeto and their worship team.
Each evening program and worship service highlighted IM global staff and international guests from one of the four regions in which IM serves: Africa and the Middle East, Asia, Europe and IberoAmerica and the Caribbean.
Responding to the Call
Celebrating God’s faithfulness in the past and present flowed into seeking God’s guidance for the future as participants in the World Mission Conference added their voices to IM’s spiritual discernment process, Responding to the Call.
As part of IM’s intentional movement to deepen its embrace of the mission call, in 2013 IM’s Board of Directors launched Responding to the Call: Discerning God’s Direction for a Third Century of Mission. This highly participatory process involves consultation with the entire range of mission partners with which God has blessed IM. Together, IM and the members of this global network are answering the following questions:
How should IM respond to God’s call to be a “light to the nations”
so that his salvation may reach to the ends of the earth?
What does IM look like when it’s at its best?
What should IM continue doing, and what new things is God calling IM to do in the future?
“The Responding to the Call sessions in each one of the Green Lake events were truly mountain-top experiences for all of us,” commented Karen Smith, director of Mission Design and IM missionary. “We came away inspired by deep discussions, energized by powerful stories about great moments in mission and renewed by the sense of belonging to each other and serving a common task as we weave our hopes and dreams about the future into a collective tapestry.”
At the core of the Responding to the Call process is a very diverse Discernment Team that will receive the fruit of the Green Lake sessions, together with the fruits of many additional conversations around the world and across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Supported by a global prayer effort, the Discernment Team will present a fresh articulation of vision, priorities and goals to the IM Board of Directors in 2015. The outcome will be a renewed and deepened understanding of how IM will serve the mission of Jesus Christ in 2015–2020.
The Call Retreat
At the same time as the International Partner Consultation, there was a special event of personal discernment and spiritual growth designed for those who are exploring a call to ministry, whether internationally or within the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
Nearly 80 people participated in the three tracks of the Call Retreat on July 19 to 21, with hundreds more joining for the morning teaching and evening worship gatherings. The American Baptist Home Mission Societies, The Ministers Council and Women in Ministry joined IM as co-sponsors of the Call Retreat. Worship, prayer, inspirational messages, Bible studies, dedicated tracks and personal reflection time combined to make this a powerful discernment experience.
“The Call Retreat has again proven to be a powerful experience enabling persons considering a call to ministry not only to receive important information in the context of biblical teaching and worship, but also to interact personally with ministers and missionaries who can speak into their lives with the voice of experience,” said Jim Bell, IM’s director of Vocational Development.
“For those considering a call to cross-cultural work through IM, this Call Retreat provided an unprecedented opportunity to learn about the work and life of an IM missionary from the missionaries themselves, as well as to capture a sense of the ‘big picture’ of IM’s role in God’s global mission,” Bell continued.
U.S. citizens interested in learning more about the process of becoming an IM global servant may contact Jim Bell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Go to the IM webpage on the IM website for photos and videos. Keep the conversation alive on Facebook: International Ministries – American Baptist and on Twitter using #IMWMC.
American Baptist International Ministries is celebrating 200 years of ministry in 2014. 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 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.