RICHMOND, Va. (BP)—Hardly anyone on staff at Primera Iglesia Bautista in Woodbridge, Va., thought the congregation would come close to its $15,000 goal for the 2008 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.
With a tough economy and a congregation of about 150 members, many of whom were either out of work or struggling to support their families, most of the Hispanic church’s staff felt an unmet goal would only bring discouragement.
“No one thought we should set it that high,” said Luiggi Reggiardo, who has pastored the church for seven years, “… [but] I told them that God is in control of our church and economy. We need to trust Him.”
The church exceeded its goal by totaling $16,000 in 2008 Lottie Moon offering receipts. In 2005, the congregation had begun collecting a Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, which totaled $1,500. For the next couple of years, the church more than doubled its giving to the annual offering. In 2006, the church gave $5,000; in 2007, the total was $12,000.
This past year, “The Million Challenge” was initiated to encourage Hispanic churches to give to the Lottie Moon offering, which supports more than 5,600 International Mission Board missionaries. The Million Challenge also raised awareness of overseas missions among these congregations and helped them connect with Hispanic missionaries, about 100 of whom are part of the IMB’s missionary force.
The Million Challenge resulted in a collection of $504,372. Though short of the $1 million goal, it was a 24 percent increase over the previous year’s contribution of $406,524 from churches that identified themselves as Hispanic Baptist.
“I think in this economy, a 24 percent increase is pretty significant,” said Jason Carlisle, a Hispanic missional church strategist for the IMB.
“We have a lot of churches that are catching the vision,” he said. “Most of these churches are less than half the size of most Baptist churches.”
The 24 percent increase in giving among Hispanic churches helped the 2008 Lottie Moon offering reach an overall total of $140.3 million, but the offering fell nearly $30 million short of its $170 million goal and more than $9 million short of the previous year’s total. As a result, the IMB will be unable to send many of those who are ready to serve as missionaries in 2009. New missionary appointments for 2009 will continue on a more selective basis, involving the most strategic assignments.
Counting salary, housing, medical care and children’s education, the IMB spends approximately $43,000 annually per missionary.
Spanish speakers can visit hispanos.imb.org to find out about Hispanic ministries and how churches can get involved.
Shawn Hendricks is a writer for the International Mission Board. For more information about the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, visit imb.org/offering.