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Canadian ministries get boost from Tenn. church secretaries

CALGARY, Alberta, Canada (BP)–Trinity Baptist Church in Canada has three male staff members and no secretarial help.

When they heard Tennessee Baptists were sending a team of secretaries to assist churches in the province of Alberta, they signed up.

Dawn Frazier and Rose Marie Snoblen of Friendship Baptist Church in Culleoka, Tenn., were assigned to Trinity.

In what is believed to be the first international project of its kind, 24 volunteers traveled to Canada to work in 11 churches, the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary and the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists from Sept. 7-15 as part of a 10-year partnership between Tennessee and Canadian Baptists.

Robert Blackaby, Trinity’s senior pastor, said Frazier and Snoblen “walked into a mess. They’ve helped give some form and structure. This help has been enormous.”

In four days, Frazier and Snoblen set up a computerized membership database, designed a template for the church newsletter, printed out a church directory, answered the phone and readily tackled other project requests.

“Until recently we had to hand write envelopes,” said Peter Blackaby, Trinity’s associate pastor. With the database, “our communication level can go way up,” he said.

Robert Blackaby added, “We would have them back for any amount of time. We recognize it’s a sacrifice for two people to come to our church for a week. They’ll never know all they’ve left behind.”

Frazier and Snoblen, meanwhile, hope their relationship with Trinity can continue via e-mail.

“I told Peter and Rob if I could do any corresponding help over the Internet, I would be glad to do so. We feel so blessed that we got chosen to come to Trinity,” Frazier said.

Added Snoblen, “Everything we’ve done in our church the last two years is what they have needed here.”

Bobbi Wyatt, volunteer secretary and media director for Cedar Springs Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., redesigned materials for Dovercourt Baptist Church in Edmonton, while her husband, Chris, worked with pastor Ralph Griggs on painting projects around the church.

Bobbi designed a new church logo for Dovercourt and came up with a slogan, “A place of new beginnings.” Both will be used on all printed materials. In addition, she designed letterhead, a new format for the newsletter, business cards and a website. She also created a church calendar and set up an online account with LifeWay Christian Resources.

While Canada was her third mission trip, “this has meant more to me because I’ve been able to use the talent God has given me,” Bobbi said.

Griggs expressed appreciation for computer tips he learned. “These may be simple for some folks, but they will save me a lot of time,” he said.

He also emphasized the value of the fellowship with the Wyatts in “growing our hearts together.”

Wayne Snider, pastor of Alpine Christian Ministries in Canmore acknowledged he felt vulnerable inviting a secretary to organize his files. Phyllis Seal, ministry assistant at Grace Baptist Church in Morristown, Tenn., spent a day working with Snider. In addition to the files, she created a spreadsheet for a membership database.

Snider began Alpine Christian Ministries three years ago. The church meets on Sundays in rented facilities and holds a Thursday night Bible study in his home.

Administrative work “is not my gift or my interest,” Snider acknowledged. “My heart is to be out with people. That’s where I spend my time.”

Seal expressed satisfaction in being able to provide organizational help to free up Snider for ministry.

Mike Overcash, minister of music at Valley View Baptist Church in Nashville, was assigned to Calgary’s Vietnamese Good News Church because of his computer skills. He and his wife, Jean, categorized, labeled and filed more than 300 videos that will become part of a library for community outreach. The library is located in a room above pastor Ha Nguyen’s garage.

But more important than Overcash’s ability with a computer was the instant rapport with Nguyen. Overcash served two tours of Army duty in Vietnam in the 1960s. His last tour took place when Nguyen, son of a North Vietnamese army officer, was 12 years old.

“Here we are, brothers in the Lord,” said Nguyen, who emigrated to Canada in 1984 after becoming a Christian in an Austrian refugee camp.

In addition to the library, Nguyen hopes in the future to establish a computer lab in the same room “as a hangout for youth.”

Linda Smith and Derrell Cowden worked with the Arabic and Sudanese Baptist Fellowships of Edmonton on a project in which the “Jesus” video, a book by Josh McDowell translated into Arabic, and an Arabic New Testament will be mailed to 10,000 Muslim homes in the city.

Smith is secretary for the New Duck River Baptist Association in Shelbyville, Tenn., and Cowden, who lives in Petersburg and attends Hannahs Gap Baptist Church, is the secretary of East Commerce Baptist Church in Lewisburg. They duo with Wagdi Iskandar, pastor of the two fellowships.

Smith said she and Cowden heard about the Canadian project from Lana Rose, church secretaries specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Convention. It was about the time Smith’s pastor began talking about the prayer of Jabez and the importance of Christians enlarging their territory.

Never having participated in a mission trip, Cowden said, “As a child I always thought I would love to be a missionary. This was a fulfillment of my dreams.”

Cowden and Smith spent part of their time contacting churches who had been invited to participate in the Muslim project, “God’s 9-1-1 Call,” and received only positive responses.

Iskander said he is praying that 300 Muslims “will come to know the Lord through the project. If it’s more I’ll praise him more.”

Nell Collins, music ministry assistant at First Baptist Church in Longview, Texas, traveled to Canada to be assigned to work with a fellow Texan, Mike McElroy, pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Edmonton.

She spent four days cataloguing McElroy’s library of 816 books. Because Grace Fellowship has no secretarial help, she also left a list of duties that could be undertaken by a volunteer or paid secretary.

Collins, who also is vice president for publicity of the National Association of Southern Baptist Secretaries, said involvement in the project has shown “I can be versatile. I came thinking I would be working with secretaries. Instead I have worked as a secretary.”

She said she was glad she could free McElroy to do other things and expressed admiration for his dedication to Canada.

McElroy called Collins’ work a “blessing. She’s doing for me in a week what it would have taken me all of next year to do.”

Susie DuBois, secretary, clerk and treasurer of the Nolachucky Baptist Association in Morristown, Tenn., worked with the Filipino Canadian Baptist Fellowship of Calgary. She prepared mailing labels to church families, prepared a letter to be copied and mailed, set up a spreadsheet to compile findings from an August survey and tended to other needed tasks.

Pastor Jesse Morales expressed appreciation for the help and indicated he would want his church involved in any similar project in the future.

DuBois’ husband, Ron, also participated and spent three days helping a Texas volunteer complete an irrigation system on the campus of the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary. The DuBoises are members of Enterprise Baptist Church in Morristown.

Carol Milroy, assistant to the vice president for institutional advancement at the Canadian seminary, utilized the services of Seal and Pam Hazlegrove, secretary at First Baptist Church in Bolivar, Tenn., to get out a 1,500-piece mailing seeking funds for student housing.

“The timing was just perfect,” Milroy said. “The fact that they’re here today to help fold and stuff the mailing is a godsend.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: SPECIAL VOLUNTEER.

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  • Linda Lawson