VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 8/4/16)—Rovaughna E. Richardson was recently commissioned for missionary service in the West African nation of the Republic of Ghana through American Baptist International Ministries (IM). During that day of rejoicing, a memorable rhyme was shared to sum up the reason everyone was celebrating:
God has called Rovaughna
To serve in the country of Ghana
During the first of two Sunday worship services on June 5, 2016, the Rev. Dr. Clifford A. Jones Sr., senior minister of the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church of Charlotte, North Carolina, proudly proclaimed, “I present to you our global missionary!” The significance of this event was emphasized at the beginning of the commissioning service by Dr. Lacey Alford, president of the American Baptist Churches of the South, who said, “I have been a part of the region of the South for over 40 years now, and this is the first time I can remember that this region has had a missionary who has been called to serve God globally.”
Drawing on her background in social work, Richardson will minister in partnership with the Ghana Baptist Convention, working at the Baptist Vocational Training Center (BVTC) in a ministry of rescuing, rehabilitating and educating women who have been victims of ritual servitude. This practice, known as trokosi, requires those who have been accused of misdeeds to give up young girls in their families (8–12 years of age) to devote a lifetime of service to priests at traditional religious shrines, enduring forced labor, sexual and physical abuse and social isolation in atonement for the alleged sins of their family members.
The Rev. Dr. Eleazar Ziherambere, who experienced the results of conflict in his native African country of Rwanda before becoming IM’s area director for Africa and director for African American Mission, spoke directly to Richardson during part of his commissioning message. Referencing God’s call to laborers for the harvest (Matthew 9:36-38), Ziherambere said, “The people of Ghana need to be reminded that Jesus Christ is the ransom par excellence. He has been given for us; there is no need for any other atonement. This is an opportunity for harvest.”
Ziherambere also shared two personal reasons for his excitement about Richardson’s new ministry. The first was that, as an American Baptist missionary, she will follow in a tradition of partnership with local peoples. The European and American missionaries who first served in Africa “accomplished much, but when they returned to their homelands, their efforts often didn’t continue,” he explained. “However, when American Baptist global servants have worked in Africa and returned for their home assignments, their ministries have not disappeared because they have worked alongside Africans.”
Ziherambere’s second reason was that Richardson is an African American: “For many generations, most missionaries have had light skin, and Africans began to think that they were not equal to them. But Rovaughna’s presence will clearly proclaim that God uses people of their skin color to bring about his kingdom.”
Representatives from The American Baptist Churches of Massachusetts (TABCOM) who were present at the commissioning service included TABCOM President Dr. Howard McLendon. TABCOM was instrumental in building the dormitory in which the BVTC students reside and it has been extremely supportive of Richardson’s ministry.
Commenting on Richardson’s preparation for missionary service, the Rev. Sandra Dorsainvil, TABCOM’s associate executive minister for Mission and Stewardship, said: “I have witnessed God’s loving potter’s hands molding Rovaughna—she learned to be patient when questions would take a long time to be answered; she learned to remain steadfast when situations would be derailed; she learned to be obedient and accept God’s timetable when it was not hers. She knew and understood in her head Jeremiah 29:11, but her heart had to fully receive it: ‘”For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord.’”
The Rev. Barry Moultrie, a member of IM’s Board of Directors and the youth pastor at the Mount Calvary Baptist Church of Rockville, Maryland, led the laying on of hands, based on the commissioning of Barnabas and Paul (Acts 13:1-3). The unison commissioning prayer concluded: “Guide and sustain her in the days ahead, we pray, in the name of him who came not to be ministered unto but to minister.”
Other IM representatives included Angela Sudermann, coordinator of Volunteers in Global Mission; the Rev. Dr. Charles Jones, area director for Europe and Liberia, who gave Richardson a Bible in the Ewe language; the Rev. Ray Schooler, director of Development, who presented her with an IM Envoy for Christ pin; and Ruthann Stevenson, Mission Partnership coordinator, who led in the installation of Richardson’s Mission Partnership Team, composed of church leaders who will help provide her with prayer and financial support and encourage others to do the same.
At the close of the commissioning service, Richardson was given an opportunity to comment. She said: “I appreciate the attendance of my oldest brother, Eric, and want also to thank you, church family, for your patience, your nurture and your support and for being part of this event that is so much bigger than I am. I’m so excited that I’m not going by myself—Jesus has gone there before me, and I’ll have a church family, a supporting pastor, American Baptist International Ministries and my friends that I have, as well as those that I’ve not yet met. Although I’ve not yet gone to Ghana, my heart is already there!”
At Richardson’s profile page, you can see that she is presently above 90% in her support; she hopes to reach 100% before leaving for Ghana in time to begin her ministry to the young girls, whose school resumes on September 5.
To send words of encouragement or support, contact Richardson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
American Baptist International Ministries celebrated 200 years of ministry in 2014. 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, (now called Myanmar) and today serves God through more than 1,800 short- and long-term global servants in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas. Its central mission is to help people come to faith in Jesus, grow in their relationships 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 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.