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FIRST-PERSON: The world next door

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Southern Baptists have always believed that together we can accomplish much more than we ever could apart. That’s what drives the Cooperative Program and the special missions offerings by which our churches support and sustain our denomination’s response to God’s Acts 1:8 command.

As we approach a time of focus on international missions and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, we are reminded of the all-important calling God has given us to never cease taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth until the job is completed.

At the North American Mission Board, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder in close partnership with our friends at the International Mission Board. As technology, easier travel and lightning-speed communication continue making our world smaller every day, there are ever-increasing opportunities for North American missions and international missions to work cooperatively.

Each year, so many future leaders from around the world make their way to the United States to attend college. What an opportunity the church has to influence the homelands of these visitors by impacting them for Christ during their years in our land. And there are many people groups from throughout the world who are represented by populations present in the United States and Canada.

Today, one in 10 (11.2 percent) residents of the United States was born in another country. Forty percent of children in the United States under the age of 18 are non-Anglo. As of the 2000 census, the number of foreign-born residents and their children born in the United States reached 56 million, or one in five people. Three decades ago it was one in 20.

God has literally placed the world right next door.

The past year has given us unwelcome reminders about the sacrifice our international missionaries might be called to make and about the instability in which they serve. But just as our nation cannot afford to ignore and withdraw from the challenges throughout the world, the church — and specifically Southern Baptists — must never pull back from this mission.

The events of the last three years starkly illustrate there is indeed a battle between good and evil taking place in the world today, and if we do not confront evil, it will continue devouring more victims and generating more tragedy. We know that the greatest tragedy is dying without a relationship with God through Christ. Yet a wide ocean of souls still exists in that precarious position.

Our prayers, our participation and our offerings are all important keys to the ability of Southern Baptists to continue reaching the ends of the earth. But we also must impact the world beyond us by reaching out to the world citizens who make their way to this nation.

In Acts 8:26-40, we read of Phillip’s encounter with an Ethiopian eunuch. His first reaction might have been to avoid him altogether. The eunuch looked different, dressed different, spoke different and probably held beliefs very different than Phillip’s. But that didn’t stop Phillip from approaching him.

The Bible tells us he “told him the good news about Jesus” and before the conversation was finished, the Ethiopian was baptized. We can assume the eunuch returned to his homeland, sharing what had happened to him and introducing others to Christ.

Phillip was obedient, prepared and willing.

Just as Southern Baptists so generously give to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions each year, my prayer as we focus now on international missions is that all of us would generously support the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions — and be sure we are each ready to embrace the world that’s living next door.
Robert E. (Bob) Reccord is president of the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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  • Robert E. (Bob) Reccord