When Chris Parker looks at the grill his church owns, he thinks about a couple who gave their lives to Jesus over a plate of food in the Walmart parking lot.
“In 2019, NAMB (North American Mission Board) helped us purchase a grill that had been fabricated into a trailer,” said Parker, a church planter in Phoenix sent out by Northport Baptist Church.
His congregation, called Freedom Church, was planning to use the grill around town as a way to meet new people.
“On one particular Saturday, we were grilling on the outskirts of the Walmart parking lot,” he said. “People had been stopping to get food and to chat. Eventually, a couple stopped and had more than just questions about who we are and what we do. They had questions about Jesus.”
After talking for a little while, they decided to give their lives to Jesus right there in the parking lot, Parker said.
‘Investing in us’
The NAMB funds that helped purchase that grill “had a major impact — it made eternity look different,” he said. “Freedom Church is very appreciative of the support we have in NAMB. Without them, we would not be able to do many of the things we do. They have helped us by being there when we have questions, equipping us with needed resources and investing in us financially.”
That financial backing comes from funds generously given by Southern Baptists through the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering (AAEO) for North American Missions. Every dollar given through the offering “goes to train and resource thousands of missionaries involved in church planting and compassion ministries who share the life-transforming gospel of Jesus Christ across the United States, Canada and their territories,” according to NAMB.
The national goal for this year’s offering — which carries the theme “It’s All About the Gospel” — is $70 million. Alabama’s goal is $6.25 million.
This season of giving begins with the Week of Prayer for North American Missions, set this year for March 1–8. The week will highlight stories of missionaries who, like Parker, are supported by the AAEO:
- Dave and Mary Elliff say it’s like starting from scratch — they often meet people in Seattle who have never heard of Jesus. But they’re seeing God at work in their neighborhood, where a lot of people embrace mystic beliefs.
- Five years ago, only two Hispanic Canadian Baptist churches existed in the entire province of Ontario, Canada, where J.D. and Andreina Fasolino serve. They’re now seeing God reach the province’s Hispanic population through a new church plant.
- Kirk Kirkland served as an associate pastor for seven years but couldn’t shake the burden to plant an inner-city church. Now he and his wife, Karen, serve among the people of Cincinnati, Ohio, sharing hope with the broken.
- Jonathan Santiago says he wishes people could see what he sees. The media has long forgotten Puerto Rico’s 2017 hurricane, but the devastation is still real. He and his wife, Yesenia, are working every day to help the people there find help and hope.
- Pittsburgh has been experiencing a renaissance as technological and medical companies are beginning to thrive. Rob and Annabeth Wilton want to help make spiritual renewal a part of that change.
- Mojic Baldandorj immigrated to the U.S. specifically to revive Maranatha Mongolian Church in Denver and reach out to the large community of Mongolian immigrants living there. He and his wife, Munkho, have joyfully watched many come to Christ in the past two years.
- Students learn how to live life on mission and support church plants across North America through GenSend, NAMB’s missions development program that enables college-age students to serve in a NAMB Send City for six to eight weeks.
“Our Send Cities are 32 of the highest populated areas with the greatest need for the gospel,” said Jeremy Aylett, NAMB’s Send City Missionary in San Diego. “Millions of people, for example, live here in San Diego, and the reach of this city extends around the world.”
‘It changes you’
Parker is one church planter who has experienced the benefits of GenSend. Two of his former students from Alabama spent time in Phoenix last summer helping him with outreach ahead of the launch of Freedom Church, and he said it helped the church’s ministry and gave the students a deep missions experience.
“It’s those kinds of experiences when you go, it changes you — you don’t have the choice to ever be the same again,” he said. “They’re (now) really wrestling with God’s call on their life and whether or not Phoenix is a part of that.”