By Rick Lance
Special to The Alabama Baptist
“I thank God for Alabama Baptists.” Amid turbulent times in our world and even the Southern Baptist Convention, that phrase spoken to me by a pastor recently has provided encouragement and clarity.
I too am thankful for Alabama Baptists, a people who are focused on the Great Commission. I’m thankful for the generous gifts of faithful Alabama Baptists through the Cooperative Program and to the Myers-Mallory State Missions Offering to support missions and ministry in our state and beyond. And I’m thankful for stories of salvation experiences in Alabama Baptist churches and through the ministries of your State Board of Missions. Let me share just a few of those stories.
In fall 2019, State Missionary Zach Beasley began his ministry as Baptist campus minister at Alabama State University.
His plans included extending the ministry to his alma mater, Tuskegee University, but COVID restrictions stalled those efforts.
As pandemic restrictions eased on both campuses, Zach and ASU students began actively meeting and reaching out to students on the Tuskegee campus.
Decisions for Christ
Through on-campus evangelism and discipleship ministry, two students recently accepted Christ. In addition, other students have made decisions for Christ during a local mission project with ASU and Tuskegee students.
In August, Morgan Bailey, pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church in Ranburne, led a session on “Evangelism in a Post Pandemic World” at Pinnacle, an annual training event provided through the Office of Sunday School & Discipleship.
Morgan shared with me, “During the session, a precious lifetime Baptist and Sunday School teacher begin to ask questions. She was not sure that she had a transformational born-again experience. So I went off script and just shared the presentation with her,” Morgan said. “With the class prayerfully looking on she was gloriously saved!”
During the course of the pandemic, First Baptist Church Thorsby decided to begin online discipleship efforts with its students. This included partnering with YMLink, the SBOM’s youth ministry network, and taking part in a weeklong missions project in Birmingham with other Alabama churches.
That experience served as an impetus for an increase in adult discipleship efforts to support the growing student ministry.
Student pastor Justin Caton reports, “The most extraordinary part is that 16 students have accepted Christ since January of 2021, and numerous families have joined our church because their students invited them. In the midst of a global pandemic and other potential distractions, God moved, and it led to missions, service, reconciliation and impact on our community that must be experienced to be believed.”
For the past eight years, Ramón Vielza has been a pastor and church planter in North Carolina. This year he followed God’s call to South Alabama, where there is a great need for a gospel presence in the Hispanic community. Already Ramón has helped launch the I-10 Church and two other church plants in Mobile and Baldwin associations to reach the Hispanic population in that part of our state with the gospel.
“There are thousands of Hispanics here who need the Lord. We want to see many churches up and down I-10 worshipping and glorifying the Lord in Spanish,” he said.
Ramón is one of a growing army of church planters across our state, and Alabama Baptists can be proud that we have the largest coaching network for church planters in the country.
And speaking of armies, our “yellow shirt army” of Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers has been extremely busy again this year, including a multi-week response in Louisiana following Hurricane Ida. In addition to providing clean-up and recovery ministries, scores of volunteers, including chaplains, have prayed for and shared the gospel with storm survivors, leading to several professions of faith.
Then there’s the story of Jamie Baldwin who, right after retiring as a state missionary earlier this year, spent six months of volunteer missions service in Craig, Alaska, to assist with the relaunch of Liberty Baptist Church.
Over the summer, as part of Alabama’s partnership with Alaska Baptists, Jamie coordinated eight missions teams with more than 70 volunteers, providing construction, VBS, community canvassing and more. As a result, church attendance shot up from six to more than 40, and the church recently had its first baptism in years.
“This has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life, but one of the most rewarding,” Jamie said.
These stories are just the tip of the iceberg. Fruitfulness follows faithfulness. As God’s people are faithful, He consistently uses them to bear fruit for His kingdom.
I want you to know your State Board of Missions remains singularly focused on our one mission, the Great Commission. Only when Christ has first place in everything will we be effective servants for His Kingdom.
I thank God for you, Alabama Baptists, and your faithfulness in praying, giving and going in order to reach people for Christ.
This article originally appeared in Fruitful, a special publication produced by TAB Media in partnership with the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. View a digital copy of Fruitful here. For more information about the recent Alabama Baptist State Convention annual meeting, visit alsbom.org/convention.
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