While the Southern Baptist Convention deliberated the great moral and theological issues of the day at the annual meeting in Indianapolis, folks at the grassroots continued their everyday work of giving expression to the Kingdom of God.
The WMU of this Baptist association gathered up personal hygiene items for the 54 members of the National Guard unit in Aliceville, Ala., who have been activated for deployment to Iraq. In addition they purchased 30 walkie-talkies for the unit, a transportation company which will certainly be in harm’s way.
Also helping out, the Baptist church in nearby Carrollton bought phone cards for all of the men and women in the unit. The associational WMU plans to follow-up with continuing ministry to the families which have been left behind.
The WMU at Pleasant Hill mailed off five quilts, which will be sent with 45 others to an orphanage in Russia. The women meet one day a month at the church to quilt, do Bible study, and share a luncheon.
Six of the churches of the Pickens Baptist Association have already completed their vacation Bible schools, two are currently in session, and 14 more will hold schools before the end of the summer. At the weekly pastor’s prayer breakfast there was considerable rejoicing as reports of children committing their lives to trust and follow Jesus at the Bible schools were shared.
Mineral Springs is but one VBS in the association that will be hearing from a daughter of the Pickens Baptist Association, Mary Swedenberg, who was terminated in May of 2003 after 33 years as a missionary to Japan by the International Mission Board. The churches have ministered to her during this difficult year of re-entry into American culture.
Carrollton will hold its VBS on the grounds of the association’s office building next week. It will be teaming with the Salem Missionary Baptist Church for an inter-racial school. One feature will be classes for the parents led by Bro. David Johnson, the pastor at Salem.
Arbor Springs Church is in revival this week. The preacher is a son of the church. The worship leader is his uncle. Kingdom victories were reported, also at the breakfast this week.
Flatwoods Church refurbished a van and added a wheelchair lift for a family in the church whose wife and mother suffers from MS. The father has just been called to pastor another church in the association. Reform Church voted last week to let Friendship Church use a house which it owns as a parsonage for that church at no cost.
When the associational executive board met on Monday night, the crowd of 44 were fed Mexican food by its newest church, an Hispanic church in Aliceville. The news that Calvary has become the “mother church” for a new congregation being formed in a neighboring county was joyfully received.
During the business session a board member from Fellowship church shared a need of an elderly widow woman to have her house repaired. It was agreed that the association would fund the materials for a new roof and that men from Fellowship, Emmanuel and First Gordo would put it on in the next few days. In addition, plans were made to have a work day to clean up her yard and make interior repairs in the near future.
The building team from the association was absent from the board meeting. They were working on a construction project at the Midway Baptist Church near Evergreen. The youth from Highland had left the day before on a mission trip to Georgia. The board members rejoiced at the news that Amy Williams, a young woman from Aliceville First Baptist, was arriving home later that evening after two years teaching English in China. She will be much in demand as a speaker for mission groups across the association in the months to come.
Ten or more additional mission teams will be going out from the association and its churches this summer. The largest of these, 25 strong, will be going to Plainfield, Vt., to help the Macedonia Baptist Church there in its outreach work.
Another item of business for the executive board, was the adoption of a plan to raise $10,000 to help a small indigenous Baptist Bible College in Puerto Ayacucho, Amazon State, Venezuela, to buy property from the New Tribes mission there to expand its facilities for training ministers to plant and pastor churches in the Amazon headwaters. This will be added to $15,000 already raised by Aliceville First. Ulman Moss, a son of Mt. Pleasant Church of the association, pioneered Baptist work in Venezuela. The offering is in honor of him.
Earlier in the evening the Missions Development Council discussed plans to sponsor its fifth annual School Prayer Walk at both the public and the private schools of the area served by the association. The teachers and administrators of these schools are active in the churches of the area. They appreciate the support of the churches. In addition a plan to partner with a Missionary Baptist Church in Aliceville for a health fair, day camp, building project, picnic and worship service was shared.
Yes, over the past couple of weeks Baptists have been active in Indianapolis and in other places like Pickens County, Alabama. The one group will receive a lot of media attention. The other just kept on doing the good, basic, Kingdom work that it has been doing for decades. The one will do a lot of talking and a little action. The other will do a lot of loving work and not much boasting. The one has “lost market share” over the past 25 years. The other has “gained market share.” While the one is seeing (or like the emperor in the tale of the Emperor’s Clothing, not seeing) its portion of the Kingdom shrink, the other is growing.
Surely, there is a lesson here. Let’s not forget that most of the work gets done with little notice by dedicated grassroots folk, common folk doing common things motivated by deep Christian love.
Gary Farley is partner in the Center for Rural Church leadership, Carrollton, Ala.