News Articles

Acts 1:8 becomes more than Minn.-Wis. Baptists’ theme

ROCHESTER, Minn. (BP)–Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptists, under the banner of “You Are My Witnesses” from Acts 1:8, carried out the theme during their annual meeting as God brought strangers into their path needing His touch.

While 67 messengers from 33 churches conducted business, approved resolutions, elected officers, heard reports and worshiped together during the Oct. 28-30 sessions in Rochester, what made this year’s convention memorable were two strangers whose lives were changed because Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptists were there.

One was a Somalian parking attendant at the hotel. Rich Williamson, a MWBC chaplain at the nearby Mayo Clinic, recounted during his Friday morning report that as he left the hotel parking lot Thursday evening, he met the man working at the payment booth.

Like other MWBC messengers, Williamson identified himself as part of the Baptist group so he would not be charged for parking. “I know about you Baptists,” the man said. “You don’t want to pay.”

The remark opened the door for a conversation about what Baptists believe and why. Williamson turned off his vehicle and began answering questions. After about 10 minutes, the attendant noticed a car behind Williamson and raised the gate. He asked for Williamson’s business card, telling him he wanted to be taught from the Bible.

After Williamson’s report to messengers, Paul Melton, minister of music at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Rochester, stood to lead the assembly in singing. “I was in the van right behind Rich,” Melton said. “The attendant apologized and said he was having a conversation with the man in front of me.” When Melton said that Williamson was a friend, the attendant began talking with Melton about Baptist beliefs and the Bible.

Betty Lynn Cadle, MWBC Woman’s Missionary Union/missions ministries director, said that when she reached the booth, the man told her he wanted to “learn Christian.”

The other stranger was Leslie, a Mayo Clinic patient staying in the hotel with her husband, Bob, from Dayton, Ohio. Leslie had been diagnosed with stage-four thyroid cancer that had spread to her lymph nodes. Mayo Clinic doctors confirmed the diagnosis and scheduled her surgery for Friday.

On Thursday evening, Leslie and Bob walked by the MWBC meeting room and two things caught their attention: a sign that included the word “missions” and a favorite song being sung by the congregation. Bob and Leslie are both Christians and Leslie had been on medical mission trips to Honduras.

“She came up to me and asked if the meeting was open to the public,” said Glen Land, MWBC state missions director. Learning of their situation, Land invited them in and introduced them to messengers, explaining the critical medical need in Leslie’s life. He asked three women to gather around the couple as Larry Faus, MWBC president, led in prayer.

After the prayer, Tony Burns, pastor of Jericho Missionary Church in Milwaukee, preached, as scheduled, a sermon on “Overcoming the Impossible,” giving this recipe for overcomers: Acknowledge God’s existence, understand God’s character and accept God’s offer to help.

During the Friday evening session, Williamson reported that when surgeons removed Leslie’s thyroid, they determined that it was only a stage-one cancer and was completely contained. It had not spread as originally thought. There was no reason for her to stay for further treatment, so the couple headed home on Saturday.

“It’s alright with me if this turns into an evangelism conference,” Williamson said.

In business sessions, messengers:

— approved a $2,251,112 budget, a 1.6 percent increase over the 2004 budget of $2,214,743. As in the 2004 budget, 13 percent of Cooperative Program receipts passed on for Southern Baptist national and international missions and ministries, while 87 percent remains for work in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

— re-elected by acclamation current officers to second terms: President Larry Faus, retired pastor of Gospel Baptist Church in Sparta, Wis.; First Vice President Daryl Stagg, pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Kenosha, Wis.; and Second Vice President Les Stevens, a member of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Rochester.

— approved the nominating committee’s report of executive board members, Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Foundation board of directors, committees and officers, including the re-election of Clint Calvert, a member of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Rochester, as recording secretary.

— reduced executive board meetings from three to two a year.

— approved a resolution remembering international missionaries who have lost their lives and those going out this year from MWBC. Other resolutions included a call for people to vote in the U.S. presidential election and a call for each Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist to share the Gospel at every opportunity. Another resolution voiced appreciation for Norman Wallace, who has served 20 years as MWBC church growth/health director, and Wayne Bandy, who has served 10 years as director of missions for Twin Cities Metro Baptist Association.

George Ray, retired pastor of Emmanuel Baptist in Rochester, led Bible studies at each session on “Loving the Lord.” Larry Faus brought the president’s message; Leo Endel delivered the executive director’s message; and Phil Faig, pastor of Northwood Community Church in Plymouth, Minn., preached the annual sermon.

The 2005 annual meeting will be Nov. 3-5 at Country Springs Hotel and Conference Center in Waukesha, Wis. Roy Hopgood, pastor of Mount Horeb Church in Milwaukee, is scheduled to preach the annual sermon.

There are 16,739 members of the 149 churches and missions in the MWBC.

    About the Author

  • David Williams