NAIROBI, Kenya (BP)–Forty new churches and 16,561 decisions for Christ resulted from a history-making three-year partnership between black and white Baptist conventions in South Carolina and Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board missionaries and Baptists in Kenya.
“This partnership really helped our image in South Carolina,” said B. Carlisle Driggers, executive director for the South Carolina Baptist Convention. “It helped our people see we’re not just a historical, traditional group of Baptists. We’re doing something new and challenging. We’re opening ourselves to God.”
Approached at first about the possibility of working with the South Carolina Baptist Convention, members of the historically black Education and Missionary Convention of South Carolina had expressed some doubt. But there was no doubt about the partnership’s ultimate success, as the two groups produced 720 volunteers during the project’s three-year life span.
Ed F. Johnson, who was president of the Education and Missionary Convention when the partnership began, affirmed, “Now people are saying President Johnson took us in a direction we’d never gone before, and I’m encouraged by that. It introduced us to a brand new way of thinking.”
Traditionally, the black church in America has focused more toward missions at home than overseas. Johnson’s church, Morris Chapel in Greenwood, S.C., had never sent anyone on a missions project outside the local area. So the role it played in the partnership — sending seven people to Kenya — changed it forever, he said.
“The Education and Missionary Convention is more focused on kingdom purposes now,” he said. “This has been good for us in helping us get back to the basics of carrying out the Great Commission.” The Great Commission is Jesus Christ’s command to carry the gospel to the whole world.
Foreign Mission Board missionary Sam Turner said the project helped mission work in Kenya by promoting unity. “We didn’t understand all the dynamics as we started, but now we can look back and see that the hand of the Lord was on it from the very beginning. It has caused lives to be changed, churches to be revived and conventions to have a new sense of vision.”
Samson Kisia, moderator for Kenya Baptists, wanted his people to see everyone working together. “It doesn’t matter what tribe you are. It doesn’t matter what color. When black and white volunteers came and worked together, they proved it can be done.
“Seeing blacks and whites together in churches talking about the great things Jesus has done has helped Kenyans and is still helping people in South Carolina.”
Kisia said he hoped the partnership would strengthen Kenya Baptists’ zeal for evangelism and volunteerism. “We want to turn things around in Kenya,” he said. “Up until now we’ve been following the mission (Foreign Mission Board missionaries). I would like to see the nationals doing the work of evangelism for themselves, then the outsiders can come and join us.”
In Kenya, many volunteers from America shared their testimony for the first time. They went back to their churches with a new understanding of missions, and if past projects are any indication, many will return for longer volunteer assignments or even career missions.
At least one medical doctor who came from South Carolina is now an ordained minister because of his experiences in Kenya.
Volunteers provided infectious enthusiasm for pastors and missionaries in Kenya. “It’s good for us to work with volunteers because we can see our people afresh through their eyes,” said Foreign Mission Board missionary Becky Cady.
Beth Butler, Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board media missionary,
contributed to this story.