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Annie Armstrong sets another record but falls 7% short of goal

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–Southern Baptists set another record in giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions in 2003. Robert E. (Bob) Reccord, president of the North American Mission Board, announced Jan. 10 during the annual meeting of Woman’s Missionary Union’s executive board that Southern Baptists gave $49,650,279 last year.

“The 2003 Annie Offering was 1 percent over the previous year. Considering the economic downturn we’ve experienced, that’s quite remarkable,” Reccord said. “The influence of WMU across North America is what helps Southern Baptists focus on the mission, the missionaries and the offering that supports them. On their behalf, thank you.”

The year-end total was nearly 7 percent short of the $53 million national goal, however, and continues a trend of stagnant and — in some cases, declining — mission offerings among Southern Baptists.

“We are so thankful for the faithfulness of Southern Baptists to give at an increased level last year,” Reccord said, “but we simply are unable to keep up with skyrocketing costs such as health insurance which is going up 14 percent per year. Although mission offerings have generally increased annually, when adjusted for inflation they have been flat for 20 years.”

Inflation for 2003 was nearly 2 percent — twice the rate of the AAEO increase. Over the past three years the offering increased only 2.5 percent while the inflation rate was about 6 percent. Reccord said NAMB is unable to fill hundreds of missionary positions as a result.

“Right now, NAMB and our state convention partners have 181 vacant missionary positions in the U.S. and Canada. We are also unable to fund nearly 100 semester missionaries and more than 100 summer missionary positions because of the lack of gifts,” he said. “We have nearly stopped enlisting missionaries, because we have 48 missionaries approved and ready to serve but no funds to send them.”

“With an estimated 228 million lost people in the United States and Canada — seven out of 10 people — there is a growing spiritual hunger around us. Our charge is to help Southern Baptists share the Gospel with every person in North America,” Reccord said.

WMU initiated the national mission offering in 1895 to support SBC missionaries in the United States. In 1903, the offering was named in honor of WMU’s founder, Annie Armstrong, a tireless missions champion. Nearly $1 billion has been given since that time.

The 2004 Offering will be promoted in most Southern Baptist churches this spring between the March 7-14 Week of Prayer for North American Missions and Easter on April 11. The 2004 goal is $54 million, although the offering has met the national goal only twice in the past 20 years.

The Annie Armstrong Easter Offering (AAEO) supplies more than 44 percent of NAMB’s budget, and 100 percent of the offering supports 5,176 missionaries and their ministries. Thirty-six percent of NAMB’s income comes from churches’ gifts through the SBC Cooperative Program.
For more information about the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and the Week of Prayer, go to www.AnnieArmstrong.com., and for information about NAMB go to www.namb.net.

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