News reports about the most recent meeting of the Baptist World Alliance General Council focused on a 75-28 vote to accept the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship into membership. But much more went on that didn’t make headlines.
This summer’s meeting in Rio de Janeiro brought together more than 300 Baptist leaders from all parts of the world, and a great deal more happened than actions and responses to a report from our membership committee.
Mission was very much to the fore as we heard reports on and discussed new and exciting plans arising from the recent Mission Summit in England. It was good to hear reactions from around the world, especially how those of us in the so called “Christian world” of North America and Europe need the revitalization that is taking place in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
In many areas of the world where there has been strife and war, Christian involvement in relief and reconciliation has led to Christian commitment and church growth. Following the war in the Balkans, Croatian Baptists have doubled their membership and the number of churches. In the Ukraine, the number of churches has doubled since the fall of communism. In Rwanda, the churches are growing as are their programs of education and care.
We heard of the growth in Baptist churches in Myanmar (Burma) despite a military dictatorship. In South Africa, the two Indian groups are celebrating 100 years of work. From Goma, Congo, we learned that much of the infrastructure of the churches still has to be rebuilt following last year’s volcanic eruption.
The Baptist seminary in Russia has now been operating for 10 years, and graduates are starting new churches. In Hong Kong, the community is recovering from the impact of SARS, and Baptists are awaiting the arrival of thousands of young Baptists for next year’s rescheduled BWA Youth Conference.
The Bahamians are looking for help in caring for thousands of Haitians seeking refuge in their country. In Nigeria, the Baptist community is growing at a phenomenal rate. In England, preparations are well underway for the BWA’s Centenary Congress in July 2005.
Baptist World Aid has been involved in so many situations over the years that it no longer surprises us that a loving and caring holistic mission often results in growth. Our rationale, though, is to entrust, empower and enable Baptists around the world in their humanitarian work.
In Zambia and Malawi we have provided funds to assist in the purchase and distribution of food following the drought. In Rwanda we have helped to provide clean water for schools. In Nicaragua and El Salvador we have helped to rebuild homes following earthquake damage. In India, coffee has been planted and heifers purchased in Cambodia.
While other things seem to hit the headlines, Baptists around the world can love and support each other through the Baptist World Alliance. And through Baptist World Aid, we can show this in practical and supportive ways.
Paul Montacute is director of Baptist World Aid.