Rio de Janiero has its iconic 120-foot-tall Jesus looking over the city; Santiago has his mother.

Atop Cerro San Cristobal, a healthy 45-minute uphill hike behind the hotel where the Baptist World Alliance is meeting, a 66-foot-tall statue of the Virgin Mary looks out over Santiago. At one time she stood alone, arms outstretched, symbolically reaching out to the millions who live below. 

Now she’s overshadowed by a large telecommunications tower — there has to be a metaphor in there somewhere.

Down below, participants in the BWA meeting worked through another day of meetings, including regional gatherings for each of the six global areas represented in the world-wide Baptist fellowship.

At the North American Baptist Fellowship meeting, participants heard greetings from BWA president John Upton, who’s also executive director of the Baptist General Association of Virginia. Upton shared a devotional thought about the importance of being teachable, especially as we interact with fellow Baptists from other countries and cultures.

John UptonRandal Everett, chair of the planning committee, previewed the 2015 Baptist World Congress, to be held in Durban, South Africa, urging North Americans to make plans to attend.

Rothang ChhangteGary Nelson of Canada, who was chair of the search committee for a new director of Baptist World Aid, introduced Rothang Chhagnte, who was tapped for the post. Rothang grew up in India and now lives in Pennsylvania, where she is pastor of a church and liaison for Burmese refugees with the American Baptist Home Mission Societies.

Executive director George Bullard reviewed plans for the March 7-8, 2013 meeting of NABF, and announced that the organization’s 50th anniversary celebration will be held in Philadelphia, PA March 6-7, 2014. The meeting will also mark the 200th anniversary of the Triennial Convention, from which the Southern Baptist Convention split in 1845, leaving mostly northern Baptists, now known as the American Baptist Churches in the USA.

George BullardFormer president Jimmy Carter and other leaders of the New Baptist Covenant meetings in 2008 and 2011 have endorsed the gathering and will encourage participation in it, Bullard said. No separate New Baptist Covenant meeting has been planned for 2014.

If you like traveling to fun places and hanging out (at least part of the time) with other Baptists, then make your plans now for the NABF 50th anniversary in Philadelphia in 2014 and the BWA World Alliance World Congress in Durban, July 22-26, 2015. If they can get Ladysmith Black Mombazo on the program, it would be worth the trip just for that …

Santa Maria’s view on a cloudy day

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