NAMB commissions 30 missionaries, chaplains
    February 10 2010 by Mike Ebert, North American Mission Board

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Against the backdrop of a land as rugged and wild as it is spiritually lost, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) commissioned 30 new missionaries and chaplains Sunday, January 24, many of whom will serve Alaska and it’s northern neighbor, Canada.

    The service took place at First Baptist Church (FBC) Anchorage, which was Alaska’s first Southern Baptist church, started in 1943 by a small group of GI’s stationed at nearby Fort Richardson. The church has a long history of starting churches in Alaska.

    “It’s a real privilege for us to have this group of missionaries here at this point in your sending process — to be a part of that is a wonderful blessing,” FBC Anchorage pastor Ed Gregory told those in attendance. “Thank God for this privilege and for the fact that He is indeed at work across our land and we get to be in on it.”

    “For 60 years the Alaska Baptist Convention has had a close relationship with first the Home Mission Board and now the North American Mission Board,” said David Baldwin, executive director of the Alaska Baptist Convention. “I want to say on behalf of the 105 Southern Baptist congregations scattered across Alaska — welcome. We are so happy to have this moment here tonight.”

    NAMB photo by Mike Ebert

    Michael “Bong” and Tina Abagon, center, were two of the 30 missionaries and chaplains commissioned by the North American Mission Board in a Jan. 24 service at First Baptist Church Anchorage. Michael and Tina serve in Honolulu, Hawaii.

    Baldwin told the new missionaries, “You are in a friendly crowd. Probably every person here tonight has been touched by the Home Mission Board or the North American Mission Board because of the church planting and all that has gone into our state. We do not take that for granted.”

    Larger than the size of Texas, California and Montana combined, Alaska’s land mass accounts for 16 percent of the United States’ total land area. Half of its population of nearly 700,000 is concentrated in the metro Anchorage area with 365,000 people. The next two largest cities are Fairbanks (31,000) and Juneau (30,000).

    The vastness of Alaska’s size creates great challenges for the 105 Southern Baptist churches and missions trying to reach the state’s residents. Alaskan culture and lifestyle also bring challenges.

    Many of the state’s citizens who transplanted from the “lower 48,” came seeking solitude and greatly value their independence, making evangelistic outreach difficult. On the other hand, many of the state’s native Alaskans live in remote villages that cannot even be accessed by car.

    Luke and Sarah Stewart are Mission Service Corps missionaries ministering at an SBC mission church in the remote Eskimo village of Kobuk. In 2008, Stewart, his wife Sarah and their young family moved to Kobuk. Temperatures their first winter plunged to 65 degrees below zero. The village is inaccessible by car, so supplies must be flown in when weather allows.

    Stewart said ministry in the village requires a slow approach and serving the village members while trying to share Christ as relationships develop.

    “I am trying to be an encouragement to the believers and help them grow in their Christian lives,” Stewart said. “Beyond that, we are trying to serve the other people so they will see by the way we live and the way we treat them that we love them and that God loves them.”

    Other missionaries commissioned to Alaska will serve in Kodiak and Girdwood. In addition to those commissioned who will be serving in Alaska, missionaries serving in Oregon, North Dakota, Hawaii, Washington State, Utah, Canada, California and South Carolina.

    Carlos Rodriguez and his wife, Paola, serve in Seattle as church planting strategists who are starting congregations for Hispanics, Slavic, Russian and Ukrainian populations living in the area.

    “The Northwest is the most un-churched area of the United States and Seattle is a very diverse area of the nation and very multi-cultural,” Rodriguez said. “Many of the Ukrainians and Russians come from a Christian background. Their parents and grandparents suffered for the Lord when they were a communist country. And some come from a Russian Orthodox background or communist background. Many of them have left the faith and are un-churched.”

    Carlos and Paola relocated to Seattle five months ago after serving as language church planter strategists in Portland, Ore., for five-and-a-half years. Carlos said the area needs prayer for more church planters to start churches for the 1.5 million Hispanics living in the Northwest. In addition, Carlos asked for prayer in reaching the second generation Slavs, Russians and Ukrainians living in Seattle. Rodriguez said he and other SBC church planters in the region are in a race with Mormon’s and Jehovah’s Witness missionaries who are actively working the region for recruits.

    The new missionaries arrived in Anchorage two days before the commissioning for a time of training and orientation hosted by NAMB leaders including Richard Harris, NAMB’s interim president, Frank Page, vice president for Evangelization, and Ken Weathersby, vice president of Church Planting. Tim Patterson, chairman of NAMB’s Board of Trustees, also attended the event.

    The missionaries fanned out across the greater Anchorage area on Sunday morning, visiting with and preaching in local Southern Baptist churches.

    Harris gave the newly-commissioned missionaries a charge: “Whatever else you are trying to accomplish in your ministry, as we send you out tonight, it is to proclaim the Gospel of Christ by way of life and by word of mouth.”

    Harris encouraged those commissioned to approach people with “gentleness and respect.”

    “You are going to confront all kinds of people with all kinds of backgrounds. Go to them in humility. Remember who you are. Remember whose you are.”

    But spreading the gospel is not only a missionary responsibility. Turning to those from area churches who attended the commissioning service, Harris said, “Every year, three million precious souls are added to North America’s population. You say ‘I can’t reach everybody.’ No, but you can reach somebody and if you are willing to share, God will bring a harvest field into your life.”

    In all, more than 5,300 missionaries serve with the North American Mission Board, most of them through partnerships with state Baptist conventions. In addition to the missionaries, NAMB is the endorsing entity for more than 3,300 Southern Baptist chaplains serving in military, hospital, professional, corporate, public safety and institutional settings.
    2/10/2010 5:30:00 AM by Mike Ebert, North American Mission Board | with 0 comments

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