COCHRANE, Alberta, Canada (BP)–Lana Rose, the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s annuities and church secretaries specialist, wanted to link her work with partnership missions.
“We say that whatever you do at home you can do on the mission field, so I began wondering why church secretaries couldn’t do that,” Rose said.
Leading a group of 24 to the Canadian province of Alberta to help churches with needed office tasks was the initial result of Rose’s efforts.
In what is believed to be the first international project of its kind, participants set up membership databases, organized filing systems, catalogued books and videos, created templates for church newsletters, answered telephones, worked on promotional mailings, along with handling numerous requests for help.
They worked 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.
Also, eight women participated in three days of training and passed a test to become the first certified professional ministry assistants (secretaries) in Canada.
Rose takes no credit for the idea of the project, believing it began with God. Planning began in March 2001 and Tennessee secretaries responded enthusiastically. When she presented the idea, along with a tentative date and cost, at the April 2001 state secretaries conference, about 35 expressed interest.
“I ended up with 125 names on a list,” Rose said. After an October fact-finding trip to the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists headquarters in Cochrane, Rose realized the first mission trip needed to be a smaller group. At the November 2001 secretaries luncheon held in conjunction with the state convention annual meeting, she announced the project and a Jan. 15 deadline for deposits. Twenty-four responded.
“We are plowing new ground,” said Rose, who already has plans to take 10-12 secretaries to southeastern Iowa in February 2003. She hopes to take another group to Canada next year if evaluations from participating churches affirm the value of the project.
In addition to benefiting the churches, Rose said the secretaries have seen they can use their skills outside their churches.
“This project has helped them to stretch themselves and step outside their comfort zones to explain how they do things. It allows them to feel a part of ministry from the spiritual realm as they encourage and minister,” she said.
Sandra Sartor, national contract consultant for church ministry assistants for LifeWay Christian Resources, led the certification sessions. She elected to participate in the project because “I felt it would be a good experience to see what happened on this type of mission trip.
“We’re seeing there is a need in smaller churches for someone to assist with administrative support tasks. Many of these churches don’t have the resources to have a secretary,” said Sartor, who is based in Cleveland, Ga.
“The pastors are called to minister and most don’t see office administration as their strength,” she continued. “They also don’t have the time.”
In addition, Sartor said the secretaries “have felt a sense of accomplishment in their own ministry. They have contributed when there was a need beyond their own community.”
She expressed enthusiasm about the potential for additional projects sponsored by other state conventions or associations.
“The lone Texan participating in the project, Nell Collins, music ministry assistant at First Baptist Church, Longview, agreed the Tennessee project can be a model for others. Collins, who also is vice president for publicity of the National Association of Southern Baptist Secretaries, said she plans to promote the idea of secretaries serving as missionaries.
Kim Huff, TBC volunteer missions specialist who coordinated the six volunteers who worked in four churches in Edmonton, said the participants made unique contributions in each church.
In addition to their skills, Huff emphasized the value of “the power of presence, of just being there.”
D.K. Hale, partnership and volunteer missions consultant for the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists, worked with Rose to make the project a reality.
“Neither of us knew where this was going, but we knew God was in it,” said Hale, who served as a pastor for more than 28 years before joining the Canadian convention staff.
“This is a pilot project,” he said. As a result, he believes more Canadian churches will have better-trained secretaries. Also, he hopes Tennessee secretaries and their families will have more knowledge of Southern Baptist work in Canada.
Speaking to Calgary-area project participants after their first day on the job, Hale said, “You will never be able to measure what you accomplished this side of eternity. The secretarial work you get done is a bonus. You’re here because God brought you here to touch a life. Pour yours into them. Give them the best you have.”
Hale said this year more than 3,200 volunteers will serve in Canada through short-term mission projects, World Changers, M-Fuge, Mission Service Corps, US-2 and partnerships between U.S. and Canadian churches.
“If I could communicate one thing, it would be gratitude to my larger Southern Baptist family that there is a new day in Canada,” Hale said.