In May, Alabama Baptists entered into a five-year partnership with Alaska Baptists, and the fruits of that partnership are already growing, leaders say.
The ministry partnership was highlighted during the Alaska Baptist Resource Network’s annual meeting held Sept. 27-29 at First Baptist Church North Pole.
During the Sept. 27 Impact Alaska missions celebration, Alabama Baptist Jamie Baldwin joined Cody Schwegel, pastor of Liberty Church in Craig, Alaska, for a conversation about Liberty’s relaunch.
Baldwin, who retired from the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions after working in Sunday School and discipleship ministries, has been serving in Craig since April 8 on a six-month assignment to help Schwegel and his church. The work has included construction work, as well as outreach.
During the summer, Baldwin and volunteers from Alabama finished the interior of the church’s fellowship area, installed new flooring and put in a new HVAC system.
And as work has progressed, the congregation has grown, from six members at the beginning of the year to nearly 50 now attending each Sunday. The church’s Sunday School now has 16–18 children and teenagers, Schwegel said — mostly teenagers.
“They’re unchurched, and they want to come. They want to be there,” he said.
‘God met needs’
Throughout the summer, God met needs in unusual and surprising ways, Schwegel said. One Sunday, there were 56 people at church — and the church had only 60 chairs.
Schwegel thought, “Praise the Lord, we need more chairs.”
The next day, a city employee drove up and asked if the church could use some pew chairs because he had some he needed to get rid of. In a moment, the church doubled its seating capacity with the gift of more than 60 chairs.
“The fact of the matter is we have seen amazing things,” Schwegel said, noting that the crowd gathered for the missions celebration was the largest he had ever spoken to. “One point I could drill home to small churches is that God provides. … We’ve read about God providing in the Bible, but when He teaches you He provides, it is a completely different thing.”
Baldwin said God had provided abundantly in Craig and will provide when believers seek and follow Him.
“I don’t know your situation. I don’t know your church, your environment, your struggles,” Baldwin said. “But I saw God work in a miraculous way. I believe the reason God did what He did was because of what He says in His Word, you have not because you ask not.
“Whatever God has laid on your heart as pastor and leaders of your church, go back to your church, talk about it, pray about it. Seek God . … Act on what God is saying. Let’s not limit God.
“God has the resources. He’s got everything that’s needed. He’s just waiting on you to act.”
How Alabama Baptists can help
On Sept. 28, SBOM Executive Director Rick Lance joined ABRN Executive Director Randy Covington to talk more about the Alabama-Alaska partnership and how Alabama Baptists hope to help in Alaska.
He mentioned specific areas, including collegiate ministries, church revitalization and church planting. Prayer support and encouragement will also be important, Lance said.
“In all my years, I have never seen a time when pastors and laypersons are more discouraged than they are now. We can encourage each other,” he said.
Lance presented a check for $25,000 from Alabama Baptists to be used by Alaska Baptists however the gift was most needed.
“Alabama Baptist are not the richest people in the world, and we don’t have the largest churches,” Lance said. “But we are among the most generous and sacrificial people in Southern Baptist Convention life. And we want to share with you what God has shared with us.”
Covington, along with Alabama native Jae McKee, who serves Alaska Baptists as director of missions and church planting, will travel to Huntsville in November for the Alabama Baptist State Convention.
Covington said he looks forward to joining Alabama Baptists to “dream about ways God can bless this partnership in the future.”
Hear more from Rick Lance’s discussion of the Alabama-Alaska partnership in this video.