ATLANTA (BP)–Participants attending the Home Mission Board’s Heritage Day March 10 were given an overview of the agency’s contributions for the past century and a half.
— The Board of Domestic Missions had six missionaries in 1846, its second year of existence. There was one each in Virginia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and two in Texas. Today there are nearly 5,000 missionaries serving in all 50 states, the Caribbean, American Samoa, Guam and Canada.
— The Woman’s Missionary Union, a strong supporter of home missions since its founding, called Southern Baptists to a “Week of Self-denial” in 1895 to raise $5,000 for home missions. As a result of that emphasis, WMU channeled $33,542.64 to the board during that year — and WMU members sent 358 “frontier boxes” containing clothing and supplies to home missionaries. Last year, they led Southern Baptists to give more than $39 million through the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for home missions.
— Volunteers have always been an important part of home missions. In 1977, the Mission Service Corps was created at the urging of then-President Jimmy Carter. Today, more than 2,300 MSC volunteers spread the good news of Jesus Christ.
— Beginning with the 1991 Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Atlanta, messengers have been invited to arrive early to participate in a soul-winning emphasis called “Crossover.” Since that first event, more than 8,800 persons have professed faith in Christ in cities where the annual meeting has been held.
— The board’s church buildings department, established in 1884, originally provided funds for construction of church buildings in mission areas. Congregations could receive up to $400 in the early years. Today, the HMB’s church loans division has outstanding loans totaling more than $139 million.
— Planting churches has been a crucial task of the HMB throughout its history. There were 2,168 Southern Baptist churches in 1900. Today there are more than 45,000 churches and church-type missions.
— Evangelism has always been the heartbeat of home missions. From the circuit riders of yesteryear to the World Wide Web pages of today, the HMB continues to find new ways to carry the gospel to every corner of the nation. Plans are now under way to involve Southern Baptists in “Celebrate Jesus 2000” and “YouthLink 2000,” two major evangelistic events that tell millions of God’s love for them.
— Prayer has kept Southern Baptists focused on knowing and doing God’s will — even in difficult times. Prayer support for home missionaries is strengthened through the HMB Intercessory Prayerline, which received 99,600 calls in 1996, and the HMB PrayerGram, which has a circulation of 12,500.
— Baptist centers, first known as good will centers, meet the spiritual, social and physical needs of people. One of the first centers was named in honor of Rachel Sims, who ministered to families along the New Orleans waterfront. Today, there are 112 Baptist centers directed by home missions personnel.
— The board launched a program of Army missions in January 1862 to meet the spiritual needs of Civil War soldiers. The work involved talking with the men, distributing tracts, testaments, religious newspapers, and holding meetings for prayer and exhortation. Today, Southern Baptist chaplains number more than 2,400 and serve in a variety of business, military, and hospital settings.