In early February, Alabama Baptist Somer Nowak made history as the first person employed by a Southern Baptist entity to oversee and manage prevention and response efforts for child abuse and domestic violence. The International Mission Board (IMB) announced the hiring of Nowak, fulfilling IMB President Paul Chitwood’s commitment to lead the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in abuse prevention and response.
Nowak recently sat down with The Alabama Baptist/TAB Media to introduce herself and discuss her priorities as she assumes this role.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself personally.
A: I am a small-town girl from Alabama. I am blissfully married and have two kids, ages 11 and 8. I accepted Christ as a little girl — age 6 — and was baptized. However, when I was 22 years old, I rededicated my life to Christ after realizing I had never truly given Him complete control. I grew up with a lot of head knowledge of God, but that day He captured my heart, and I gave Him the driver’s seat. I spent about 23 years of my life in Pine Grove Baptist Church, Centre, and then moved to First Baptist Church, Centre, with my husband and children years later. Both churches played, and still play, a huge part in my walk with the Lord.
Q: When and how did you (1) first develop an interest in and (2) become involved professionally in preventing and reporting child abuse?
A: I earned my bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology, always having in mind the goal to help children and families. I was blessed to get a job at the Cherokee County Children’s Advocacy Center while I was working on my master’s degree in counseling. During that time, my passion for this type of work grew. I loved being a part of the healing process for children and their families, and I also enjoyed being part of a process that brought justice to those who were harmed. It was during my time at the Advocacy Center, and then my time in the Cherokee County school system as a guidance counselor, that my knowledge and experience grew in the area of child safety and reporting. This knowledge came from years of learning from others and walking alongside those who were willing to teach me processes.
Q: Why are you passionate about this topic?
A: That’s easy: I’m passionate about advocacy because of the children. When you look at a child, all you see is innocence. God gave me a passion and a burden to help children keep that innocence, if at all possible. I am passionate about educating children and families on subjects that are hard to talk about. In this new era of digital media, we must educate ourselves so that we can protect those whom God instructed us to protect.
Q: Why do you think your role at the IMB is such a vital position in our denomination at this time?
A: Sadly, we live in a fallen world where Satan is looking to tempt, confuse and destroy anything and everything he can. With Satan’s new tactics in an ever-changing environment and society, this type of position is vital in making sure children and families are educated and protected as well as people who harm others are held responsible for their actions. We, as Southern Baptists, want to work hard at this fight against child harm and sexual harassment. The IMB is taking this challenge seriously and moving forward each day to ensure we are doing all we can in those efforts. This position is one piece of evidence that we take this subject matter very seriously and are committed to keeping people safe.
Q: Why is it vital for Christians to be leaders in prevention and response efforts for child abuse and domestic violence?
A: I believe God commands us to be leaders in prevention and response efforts. There are several places we find in God’s word where He calls us to speak for those who are weak and uphold justice for the oppressed. Satan knows no boundaries, and he is just fine with harming the small, weak and innocent — and he will use whatever means necessary. We must be diligent and pray God’s protection and also be diligent in educating and responding. This is not a one-person job, but the job of the Church to join together and fight this battle.
Q: How can Alabama Baptists pray for you as you begin this new ministry role?
A: Alabama Baptists can pray that I would, each day, have God’s wisdom on how I should serve His people. I know that if I place my eyes on Him, listen and wait for His guidance, I will find the way to best serve those He has placed in my path. I only want to be found faithful at the end of the day, and I know I need His wisdom to do just that. I thank you all for your prayers.
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