VALLEY FORGE, PA (6/5/17)—Emilie Ballard and Newton Old Crow, Sr., have been named the 2017 co-recipients of the Cora and John Sparrowk President’s Award. The award will be presented at the Biennial Mission Summit, June 30-July 2, 2017, on behalf of the Board of General Ministries. The recipient must be an American Baptist, who has over a period of years made an exceptional and outstanding contribution to the life of Christ’s Church and who in life and service manifests richly the fruits and gifts of the Spirit. In 2015, David G. Gnirk was presented with the Sparrowk Award at the American Baptist Biennial Mission Summit in Overland Park, Kansas.
Rev. Judy Fackenthal, president of American Baptist Churches USA said, “Sometimes two are better than one. Two shoes make a pair, salt frequently needs the balance of pepper, night and day give us the cycle of life. This year as we discerned the recipients of the Cora and John Sparrowk President’s Award, it became clear that “two are better than one”. Former International Ministries missionary, Emilie Ballard and retired Crow Tribe pastor and peacemaker, Newton Old Crow will both receive the award. Two people, from two very different walks of life, have each lived for Christ with a faithfulness that stands as an example to all. Both Emilie and Newton have left their imprint on American Baptist life. We look forward to recognizing them at the Portland Biennial Mission Summit.”
Emilie Margaret Ballard was born on July 21, 1919, and from a young age she felt God’s call to be a missionary. She majored in nursing at the University of Maryland where she earned a BS. World War II needed nurses, and she served in the Army Nurse Corp. Returning home, she attended Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary and earned a MRE, majoring in missions.
She served with the American Baptist Foreign Mission Societies (International Ministries) for more than 40 years, working with Karen tribal people, first in Burma, and then in Thailand. During a furlough she also studied for a term at Fuller Theological Seminary.
After retiring and a year of deputation, she returned to Thailand for 3 years at the request of the Mission, preparing language lessons for missionaries needing to learn the Karen language. In 2003, the first year that Ko Tha Byu Theological Seminary in Pathein, Myanmar (Bassein, Burma) was given authority to bestow the DD degree on qualified persons, they chose Ballard and two other persons to honor.
She moved to the Pilgrim Place Retirement Community in Claremont, California, and has been actively serving there as well as in her local church and in community activities. Her book, God’s Hand upon Me, was published in 2014 and is currently Author House’s Book of the Year. She is completing a second book to be titled, Learning to be a Missionary in the Land of the Golden Pagodas.
Newton Old Crow, Sr., served as a pastor with his wife, Amelia. He was born in 1932 into a cultural world that was one of forced transition as his people struggled with a new way of living. Crow married his wife, Amelia, in 1980; in the years after, he and Amelia each received a Pastoral Certificate from the Cook College and Theological School in Arizona, and in June of 1989, Newton was Licensed for Ministry by the Crow Christian Association. He and his wife moved to Oklahoma to pastor together to three churches in the communities of Seiling, Canton, and Watonga, OK. Their ministry was primarily with the Southern Arapaho, Southern Cheyenne, and Kiowa people.
In April 1990, Newton was ordained with the oversight of Rev. Herschell Daney, Director of Indian Ministries, ABHMS, and Dr. Floyd Bartel of the General Conference Mennonites. He and Amelia trained several people, equipping them as alcohol addiction counselors. He started a Rodeo Cowboy Ministry at Indian Rodeos, and sustained an effective Prison Ministry at minimum security facilities, and at Federal prisons for Indian inmates. He also ministered as a leader of traditional sweat lodge and pipe ceremonies. He was asked to participate as a minister in the traditional arrow ceremony, the Sundance, and the Gourd dance.
Few people have been able to be a bridge between the worlds of the Native Americans who are Christians, and those who are Traditionalists. Newton was very effective in reaching members and non-members of the churches, and his leadership was respected by Christians and Traditional leaders.
In September 1997 Newton and Amelia were called to pastor at the First Crow Indian Baptist Church and the Little Brown Church in Lodge Grass, MT. This brought him back to Crow Country to work with his people in the community where he grew up. He founded the Christian Cowboy Fellowship, a ministry that continues today. He also started a Rodeo Camp for Youth. During Newton’s pastoral ministry, he baptized many new Christians, both young people and adults.
Newton and Amelia had seven children, and many other children who were also dedicated to them who “held a special place in their hearts and prayers.” He continues to be asked to participate in special events today, and is respected as a minister of Christ as he prays and ministers to the needs of people.
American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with approximately 5,000 congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.