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Canadian Baptists report record number of volunteers

COCHRANE, Alberta, Canada (BP)–A record number of volunteers assisted Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists churches last year, with the number of volunteers serving in Canada doubling from 2001 to 2002.

“The windows of heaven just opened up for us,” D.K. Hale, CCSB national partnership/volunteer ministries consultant, said. “God has been good to us. We’re just excited about it.”

According to statistics from the Canadian convention, more than 3,200 Southern Baptists from the United States served as volunteers in Canada last year and more than 1,600 Canadian Southern Baptists took part in CCSB-related projects in their own country. In 2001, nearly 1,600 Americans volunteered in Canada and almost 700 Canadians served as volunteers for projects within Canada.

Included in the 2002 totals were more than 900 young people who took part in four World Changers projects last summer in Canada — two in Cornwall, Ontario, and one each in Montreal and Toronto. In addition, Hale said the number of Mission Service Corps volunteers and American churches, associations and state conventions partnering with Canada continues to grow.

“Ever since we started keeping statistics, we’ve continued to increase our volunteer and partnership levels,” he said. “In every area we can measure, we keep on growing.”

Hale could not fully explain the sharp increase in volunteer commitments to Canada last year. He said some people were cautious of traveling immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but he said many of those concerns have faded and people are beginning to travel as much as before.

“God is just doing some amazing things here,” he said. “Usually, most of our volunteer teams are gone by September, but this year we kept getting them into October and November.”

The CCSB doesn’t intend to rest on its laurels in developing its volunteer program, however.

Planning is underway to construct a two-story, 50-by-80-foot building near the convention headquarters in Cochrane, Alberta, to house from 35 to 50 volunteers at a much reduced cost. In time, similar structures could be built in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

“There is no question that we could use more volunteer housing,” Hale said. “But the key is money.”

In addition, Jim Messner, a retired RCMP officer and member of Bow Valley Baptist Church in Cochrane, has begun preliminary work on launching a volunteer disaster relief program to help in case of fires, floods or other emergencies. Hale said the program would begin in the Calgary, Alberta, area but then could spread to other parts of Canada.

“This is something we think could be a model program for the rest of the country,” Hale said.

The CCSB also is instituting a prayer ministry to supplement its volunteer and partnership efforts. Directed by retired Mission Service Corps volunteers Bud and Norma Taylor, the prayer ministry has an initial goal of recruiting 1,000 people to pray regularly for CCSB volunteers.

Under the plan, regional prayer coordinators would be enlisted throughout North America who would then recruit 10 persons to pray. In turn, each of those 10 persons would find 10 more prayer partners.

“Nothing is more important to this ministry than prayer,” Hale said.

Those interested in more information on the prayer ministry can contact Hale at (403) 932-5688 or toll-free in Canada at 1-888-442-CCSB or by email at [email protected].

Other major volunteer efforts planned for 2003 include World Changers projects in Vancouver and Grande Prairie, Alberta, the first-ever World Changers projects in western Canada; continued development of a tool trailer ministry which provides a supply of tools for construction projects; and a number of support and development workshops.

Hale also said he is excited by the number of Canadian Southern Baptists who are taking part in volunteer projects in other parts of the world. Over the past several years, Canadians have traveled to at least 10 countries in mission efforts, while Hale said one team is preparing to go to Bangladesh for an agricultural mission.

“We are all either a missionary or we are someone’s mission field,” he said.

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  • Harold Campbell