Ten years ago the 12th Baptist Youth World Conference was held in Harare, Zimbabwe, and it had a tremendous impact on participants.
Tony Campolo from the United States and Steve Chalke from the United Kingdom challenged the delegates to become involved in mission, and many took up the challenge.
Tony suggested that many delegates had come with more clothes than they needed or were likely to wear and invited an offering of clothes. The next morning the front of the arena was piled high with excess clothing. This was then sorted, with the really fancy stuff being sold so that more practical clothing could be purchased.
With the help of Baptist World Aid, the clothes were taken as a part of the very first mission trip by Zimbabwean Baptists over the border into Mozambique. Up until then, many Zimbabweans had just seen themselves as the receivers of mission and not the practitioners.
The mission continues today, and BWAid is sending further funding. Bishop Joshua Dhube, the chair of the United Baptist Church of Zimbabwe, recently thanked BWAid.
“We consider this as a direct answer from God to keep that Mozambique door open to the ministry of the Word,” said Dhube. “This grant comes at a time when we were discussing whether to continue or discontinue that outreach in view of the enormous financial difficulties we were facing as a result of the loss of value of our Zim dollar internationally. We thank God for this is a sign for us to continue. God is faithful!”
Another person moved to action in Harare was Leena Lavanya, a young Indian woman from Andhra Pradesh. Hearing a direct call from God, Leena went home to care for the poor in her neighborhood and town.
Today she works with those suffering from AIDS and AIDS orphans. She runs sewing and computer classes. She visits those suffering from leprosy. She visits the homeless, and offers love to the despised. She is often referred to as the Baptist Mother Teresa.
You can read about Leena and other unsung heroes of our Baptist faith in a new book by my colleague Tony Cupit. Stars Lighting Up The Sky–Stories of Contemporary Christian Heroes, is published by the Baptist World Alliance and costs $12. Contact JJustus@bwanet.org for further information.
Tony Campolo says about the book that “here are stories that will inspire all of us.”
This coming summer we have the opportunity of giving another generation of young and youthful Baptists an experience of Baptist Christian work around the world. The next Baptist Youth World Congress is scheduled Aug. 4-8, 2004, in Hong Kong.
Do you have children or grandchildren whose lives would be changed by their participation in the Hong Kong conference? Do you know of youth, students and young adults in your church or college who you would like to challenge?
When I was just 17 years old I went to the sixth BYWC in Beirut, Lebanon, and my life was changed as a result of the people I met and what I learnt and experienced.
As we move toward the14th BYWC to be held in Hong Kong let’s look forward to some of the outcomes there will be in the lives of a new generation of younger Baptists. Contact Minnie@bwanet.org for further information on the Hong Kong conference.
Paul Montacute is director of Baptist World Aid.