Recently our church leadership has gone through an exercise where we looked at our church, both in it's current form and as it has been over it's history to find what the unique DNA of this Body is. Every church is unique, different, designed to serve a special purpose, and it was very interesting to delve into what our purpose is. When we came up with the five things that most accurately describe the character of our church, those of us in the meeting immediately resonated with the findings. "Yes," we all said, "that perfectly describes this church!"
One of those characteristics is a concern for mission outreach. It was something that drew my husband and I to the church, way back when we joined as 23 year old new parents. As a young couple, we had committed ourselves to tithing 10% of our income to Christian ministry, and finding a church that would help us direct that money was important to us. Since then, the church has never flagged in it's intentional approach to missions. By "missions" I mean serving beyond the walls of the church in both benevolent and evangelistic ways. This past Sunday, Pastor Randy, in his sermon, gave a list of things First Baptist has done in the past 36 months in the area of missions. Here's the list:
We have a $178,000 mission budget currently. When a special mission need arises like Katrina, this church digs deeply to respond. We passed the plate and came up with thousands of dollars that were not in the mission budget to aide the Katrina refugees. Some church members even had folks from the Gulf coast living with them for several months.
1.Bill Manning visited Ed & Mariam Noyes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to help with their agricultural mission.
2.Jim & Marge Keasling (who served as medical missionaries in the Middle East years ago)attended a conference on Christianity & Islam at Arab Baptist Seminary in Beirut, Lebanon, where they sought to build bridges between Arab Muslims and Christians.
3.We provided ongoing help for the Honduras Children's Home: medical & dental teams; High School Bible School; built a cottage; financial support for multi-purpose building. In all, a total of 47 people have gone to Honduras to minister to children at Azapalqua.
4.Veterinarian Devon Spencer made a veterinary mission trip to India. She has just left on another such trip, to help nomadic herders learn to better care for their animals.
5.Hillary Shroeder, a third year medical student, is currently leading a team of 20 people on a medical trip to Uganda.
6.Felicia Milewski, a young woman who has grown up in our church, is in her second year of ministry in East Asia.
7.Chris Swiney & family, lead a Campus Crusade trip to Malawi, Africa.
8.Two work teams made trips to the Gulf to assist Habitat for Humanity in helping people affected by Katrina.
9.We support Sat TV, Christian programming to the Arab world.
10.Helped with an apartment for the drug rehab progam at Restoration Urban Ministries in Champaign.
11.Helped Drs. Parajon with a de-worming project in Central America, to improve the health of children.
12.Helped Drs. Guiterrez with medical equipment in South Africa.
13.Helped purchase a truck for Ed & Miriam Noyes' agricultural ministry to the poor in the DRC.
14.Helped provide children's lunches through the ministry of Scott Coates in Thailand.
15.Participated with Heifer Project to provide animals for the poor. This money was raised by the children in one of our elementary school Sunday School classes.
16.Our Food Pantry made deliveries weekly to the hungry in our community.
17. The Angel Corp, a group of volunteers from the church, made small home repairs for elderly and disabled people in the congregation.
18. People made homemade soup for Times Center homeless shelter.
19.Women's Circle made cancer bandages.
20.Good Samaritan shoe boxes that provide essentials for underprivileged children at Christmas were donated.
21.Grant Thomas, a young adult in this church, leads a group on the third Saturday of every month to help rehabilitate housing for the poor in our community.
22.A number of people from our church volunteer at Empty Tomb, a ministry to the poor.
23.Numerous people have gone to Israel to work among the Jewish people and the Palestinians.
24.Several years ago this church took the lead, financially & in sweat equity, to build a Habitat for Humanity home here in town.
As Pastor Randy read this list, which seemed to go on and on, tears came to my eyes. From day to day, it isn't always apparent that we are doing much. Only when someone looks back and makes a list can it be seen that service and mission are so interwoven into the life of this church as to almost seem ordinary. And that's as it should be, don't you think? It should be second nature to us, as Christians, to serve, give sacrificially, practice reconciliation, heal the sick, lift the poor, and let our hearts be broken by the things that break God's heart.
I'm so glad I'm part of this church!