Sitting in a Baptist World Alliance meeting last week, I heard a fragmentary, inspiring story about a young Baptist woman in India.
Leena Lavanya met a prostitute on a bus. She urged the woman to leave prostitution. The prostitute asked how she would make a living if she left her trade.
Leena had no ready answer. After discussing the encounter with her family, they decided to take action. They gave up eating breakfast, saving the money that they would have spent on food.
After a number of months, Leena’s family had saved enough money to buy a sewing machine for the woman. They taught her to sew and gave her a new way to earn a living.
Leena and her family did not stop with the rescue of one prostitute, however. They started a school for the children in the colony of prostitutes where the woman lived, offering basic education and a daily meal.
Do we moderate Baptists in the United States have such compelling stories? Do we demonstrate such courage of engagement, creativity in solution and commitment to sacrifice for others?
On the global scale, we are the ones of wealth, privilege and freedom. Our Baptist family abroad is often impoverished, out of cultural and political power, and under religious pressure.
Indeed, I wonder if the moral universe operates with an inverse proportion—the Baptists who are more economically and politically impoverished are more spiritually and morally wealthy than those of us with economic and political power.
Moderate Southern Baptists have the wealth, power and freedom. We need the courage, creativity and commitment from Baptists abroad to change the world—even the world of a colony of prostitutes—even the economic reality of one prostitute.
If we want to have a constructive and positive global future, then we need to find ways to engage the Baptist world with our enormous wealth and political power, especially through the BWA and the 211 Baptist unions, conventions and fellowships.
One step for churches is to join the BWA as an associate member, which will require an annual membership contribution. Put the BWA in your church’s annual budget this year to support its general operating budget.
Put Baptist World Aid in your church budget—or collect a hunger offering in October to support the relief and development work of Baptists providing both a handout and a hand up.
Paul Montacute, the director of BWAid, is a regular EthicsDaily.com columnist. Read his articles which are archived on our site. Share those articles with deacons, Sunday school classes and mission committee members.
A second step is to support the Micah Challenge. The BWA General Council adopted a resolution endorsing this initiative designed to cut the global poverty in half by 2015.
The Micah Challenge, named after the biblical prophet Micah, has the involvement of 270 evangelical Christian relief, development and social justice ministries around the world.
Church mission committees need to study this initiative, about which EthicsDaily.com will have more information in the weeks ahead. Then, clergy and laity need to meet with their Representative and Senators to obtain their support for the United Nation’s millennium development goals which the Micah Challenge advances.
If Leena and her family can sacrifice to purchase a sewing machine, imagine what most American Baptists families could do.
But what will we do?
Robert Parham is the executive director of the BaptistCenter for Ethics.
Editor’s Note: Leena’s remarkable story is retold more fully in Stars, Lighting Up the Sky: Stories of Contemporary Christian Heroes, written by Tony Cupit, BWA’s director of evangelism and education. Click here for information on how to order.
Robert M. Parham (1953 – 2017) was the founder and executive director of Baptist Center for Ethics from 1991 to 2017. He served as executive editor of EthicsDaily.com, BCE’s website, from its launch in 2002 until 2017.