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FIRST-PERSON: A strong home front is essential

DULUTH, Ga. (BP)–Earlier this year U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates addressed the Senate Armed Services Committee to emphasize that “the National Guard’s domestic responsibilities must not suffer.”

There are tense, if not volatile, situations all over the globe. We are still in a war in the Middle East. There are currently 146,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and 57,000 in Afghanistan. The American military commanders with the NATO mission in Afghanistan have related to President Obama they do not have enough troops to do their job and want 40,000 additional military personnel.

In Iran there has been serious political unrest since the recent re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. There has also has been little progress in getting Tehran to halt its nuclear program or stop supporting militant groups in the region.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il continues to taunt the free world with his reclusive regime and has announced a third nuclear test, this time using enriched uranium. Kim’s unstable and unpredictable style creates an atmosphere of unrest throughout the Orient and beyond.

In the book “The Threat Closer to Home: Hugo Chavez and the War Against America,” Michael Rowan and Douglas Schoen state that Chavez is more heavily armed than anyone outside the Pentagon on this hemisphere. The Venezuelan president has monopolized the country’s oil, money, and power for 10 years in an attempt to affect America’s economy and undermine our free enterprise system.

Other foreign governments pose threats of varying degrees to our way of life in the United States, but the only way we can meet the challenges of hostile foreign regimes is to remain strong at home.

David Dolan, a Jerusalem-based author and journalist, proclaimed, “Muslim fundamentalist states and groups have viewed the United States as the main world obstacle standing in the way of the spread of their faith for decades. They began to perceive a way to bring down the great empire during the Viet Nam war. They were greatly encouraged that a relatively weak Asian army could essentially defeat the awesome American military machine.”

Since Vietnam the Muslim militants have seen America as vulnerable and their encroachment upon American life has increased over the years. Muslims around the globe celebrated the successful attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The terrorists’ attacks on that day of infamy have emboldened Islamic militants around the world to the extent that we live under an “Orange Alert” most of time in this country.

I believe that we need to keep the United States strong militarily, economically and especially spiritually. If America, which I believe is still the hope of the world as a defender of freedom and the proponent of democracy, gets weaker and more vulnerable the hopes of many other nations will be diminished.

In 1940, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was pressured by the Japanese government — a government completely controlled by the military — to devise an attack on America. During a private conversation with Prime Minister Prince Konoye, Yamamoto said, “I can guarantee to put up a tough fight for the first six months, but I have absolutely no confidence about what would happen if it went on for two or three years. I hope you will make every effort to avoid war with America.”

After bombing Pearl Harbor, Yamamoto said, “I am afraid we have awakened a sleeping giant.” Yamamoto was educated in America (Harvard) and was well aware of America’s strength and military power.

And, of course, World War II was waged on the battlefield by brave men, many of whom made the ultimate sacrifice, but the citizens who remained at home contributed greatly through their hard work (manufacturing munitions and weapons, etc.) and sacrifice (rationing, being separated from those fighting in the war, etc).

By the same token, I believe we need to pray, work and sacrifice so that we can have a stronger nation spiritually. If America falters spiritually then we will be less able to field a sufficient number of missionaries around the world. We will never have sufficient firepower to beat back the darkness of sin and unbelief worldwide. There are mainline denominations that have had to reduce their missions force internationally because they neglected their missions’ efforts domestically.

Therefore, it appears to me the North American Mission Board and state conventions are more important in Baptist life than ever.

Granted, as we have emphasized before, we need to streamline our costs and be frugal with our resources, but if we are going to maintain and grow our international mission force we must plant new churches here at home, revitalize declining churches, and resurrect dead churches. This work is facilitated and accomplished by the work of our state conventions and NAMB.

William Carey, who served the Lord in India for 40 years, is known as the “father of modern missions.” When he proposed to go to the other side of the earth as a missionary he was admonished, “Young man, sit down. When God pleases to convert the heathen world, He will do it without your help or mine.”

Some time later when Carey was contemplating the great mine of heathenism in the world the question was asked, “Who will go down?”

Carey replied, “I will, but remember that you must hold the ropes.”

If no one “holds the ropes” our missionaries are set adrift without the spiritual and financial support necessary for them to be effective. That is why we need to keep Southern Baptists strong at home.

As the North American Mission Board fulfills its assignment by planting churches and evangelizing our continent and as state conventions help equip local churches in a myriad of ways, we are better able to carry forth the Great Commission to the “uttermost parts of the earth.”

The church in America is for the most part “a sleeping giant.” This giant must be aroused and ignited into action; and if it is, it will become an increasingly brighter beacon to the world. But to be specific, if Southern Baptist work in North America diminishes the extent of our outreach to the world will be increasingly limited.

To marginalize, minimize or restrict missions at home on the national level or on the state level is to sever the lifeline of missions around the world.
Gerald Harris is editor of the Christian Index, the newspaper of the Georgia Baptist Convention.

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  • Gerald Harris