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Alaska Baptists greet Welch as nationwide tour continues

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (BP)–After three hours and 15 minutes in a jet from Seattle, Wash., Bobby Welch led the “Everyone Can Kingdom Challenge for Evangelism” tour to visit Southern Baptists in Anchorage, Alaska, Oct. 6.

The city of Anchorage is awash in gold leaves and fall colors. The light sprinkling of snow on the tops of the mountains is what the locals call “termination dust” because when they see it they realize that summer is “terminated.” The sun shines brightly and the air is crisp and cool. Winter is imminent.

Lulu Kelly is a convention messenger from Fairbanks, Alaska, who welcomed the president of the Southern Baptist Convention in her native Eskimo language as she and messengers from around the state prayed together at the annual meeting of the Alaska Baptist Convention gathered at Muldoon Road Baptist Church in Anchorage.

Muldoon Road was the second to last stop on Welch’s nationwide tour meant to motivate Southern Baptists to “Witness, Win and Baptize … ONE MILLION!”

Welch received yet another warm and appreciative reception by Baptists who have never before been visited by a sitting SBC president during their state convention. Alaska Baptists sometimes refer to themselves as the “Frozen Chosen,” but they love good preaching. Welch did not disappoint them as he delivered the challenge to reach and baptize 1 million people in one year.

Despite delivering nearly the same message in 48 other states, Welch was as fresh and energetic in the 49th state as he was when the bus tour kicked off in Florida more than a month ago.

“Christians in America need to build bridges, not forts,” Welch said. The messengers responded with one of several rounds of applause, amens and knowing laughter. Welch spoke to them in simple words with his characteristic honest, straightforward delivery.

“We are suffering from good people doing good things but not doing the main thing,” he said to more applause.

Later, Welch was driven to Grandview Baptist Church, where he met with Pastor Randy Graham, music minister Dan Schilling and youth minister Blu Berner.

“I just wanted to stop by and find out what we can pray about,” Welch said to Graham.

“We can pray for our [English as a Second Language] ministry,” Graham said. “This church has been doing ESL for 30 years. We have a lot of internationals in Anchorage, and we need to reach them.”

Kneeling with Graham at the front of the sanctuary, Welch prayed for the work, outreach and ministries of the Anchorage congregation.

Welch was scheduled to preach the closing convention sermon at 8 p.m. Finishing his visit with Graham, Welch had some time to present the Gospel message to someone before dinner. With a few Gospel leaflets in hand, Welch set off down the sidewalk that runs along Muldoon Road in front of the church.

“I believe God always brings someone to you if you are looking for them,” Welch said as he spotted a young man leaving a business and heading for his pick-up truck.

“And here is who I am looking for,” Welch said loud enough to be heard by the young man.

The young man took the leaflet. Less than a minute later Welch and he were talking about several things they had in common related to military service. About two minutes after that, Welch had moved the conversation seamlessly into a FAITH testimony. The young man did not accept Jesus Christ then. He and Welch parted with smiles and a handshake. Welch slapped the young man on the back as he climbed into the cab of his pick-up.

“I believe all I have to do is just tell people; that’s all, just tell them,” Welch said afterwards. “After that it’s out of my hands. The Holy Spirit does the rest.”

During the closing sermon, Welch encouraged Alaskan Baptists to make plans to attend the 2005 Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tenn. He told them things there would be different from anything they had ever experienced.

“Southern Baptists, don’t ever forget how important it is when we put our resources together,” Welch said. “We must practice unity of giving as well as unity of going.”

Even though a trip to Nashville would be a major excursion for an Alaskan, several state convention messengers committed to make every effort to be there.

Welch got very little sleep in Alaska. He caught the 2:47 a.m. red-eye flight to Seattle, Wash., arriving at 6:30 a.m. and making his connection to Hawaii at 8:40 a.m. for his final church visit. He is tired but full of enthusiasm. There are more Baptists to motivate to win 1 million in one year.

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  • Brent Thompson