This is the assembly/convention season, when Baptist leaders chase around the United States and indeed the world to discuss and deliberate with each other.
July 8–13, over 500 Baptist leaders from around the world will gather in Seville, Spain, for the annual general council meeting of the Baptist World Alliance. I always look forward to these gatherings, not so much for the meetings themselves, but for the opportunity to meet friends and colleagues from around the world.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
There is so much that we can learn from each other.
If Bekim Beka from Prishtina, Kosova, gets his visa, we will be able to talk about the June 23 dedication of the New Hope Center, the first Baptist building in Kosova since the war. We’ll talk about the seven people baptized the week before and the young Christian couple who got married. None of them dare tell their Islamic families of their change of faith.
Emile Sam-Peal will be there from Monrovia, Liberia, where he serves as the general secretary of the convention. Emile will update me on the civil war in his country, of the thousands of displaced people living on Baptist property, and of their hope and prayer for peace. Emile also chairs my international Baptist World Aid committee, a significant responsibility for this young African leader.
Mauke Mathe Bulalo from Goma, Congo, will update me on the devastation caused by the January volcanic eruption. He lost his home and most of the main properties owned and operated by his Baptist community. I’ll try to explain why the worldwide Baptist family has not responded to the BWA’s special appeal to help in re-building the community’s infrastructure, and why his evangelistic, educational and medical ministries have not attracted funds. It won’t be easy.
Sandor Szenczy and Bela Szilagyi from Hungarian Baptist Aid will tell me of their recent visit to Pyongyang, North Korea, with American and British Baptist colleagues. They will update me on the hospital, children’s hospital and orphanage that we support. We will look at new proposals to start a cookie/biscuit factory. Where will the money come from for this innovative venture?
Zac Patnaik is a BWA vice president from India, and he will tell me of his recent travels in northeast India, where he seems always to find a large or small Baptist church which few others have ever heard about. He’ll tell me about the Sagang Baptist Church in Manipur, and of the great family of believers. We’ll talk of the $600 we have just given to allow the church to buy four buffaloes, and Zac will explain how whole families manage to live on less than $10 a month!
I hope that delegates take the opportunity to listen to their fellow leaders from around the world, and then go home and share these stories with their own constituencies. I always feel that it is a privilege and responsibility to do so.
Will you pass these stories on to your friends, colleagues and congregation?
Paul Montacute is director of Baptist World Aid, the relief and development arm of the Baptist World Alliance.
Read more at the Baptist World Alliance Web site.