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Jericho leaves legacy of innovation, cooperation in missions awareness

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–As the last session of Jericho ’98 drew to a close at Glorieta (N.M.) Conference Center the morning of Aug. 31, it also marked the end of something much bigger. After 10 years, Jericho itself — which broke new ground both in its inter-agency focus and innovative methods for making missions come alive — is being retired.
For many regular participants, there is an element of loss. But there also is an appreciation of its contribution, according to the current chairman of the Jericho steering committee — and a realization that openness to new approaches actually fits in well with the Jericho philosophy.
“It was strictly a trial thing, recognizing that this approach would probably run its course and would no longer be the hot focus that it needed to be,” said Marshall Walker, corporate events planning specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources (formerly the Sunday School Board) of the Southern Baptist Convention. “When it started it was innovative, but times have changed so much it is time to refocus and come up with something new that is innovative for this day.” Officials of the mission boards are working on plans for new missions-awareness weeks for next summer and beyond.
Jericho was developed as a replacement in some respects to Foreign Missions Week, an emphasis on international missions sponsored by the former Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board), according to Walker and Kenny Rains, who served on the original steering committee as a representative of the SBC’s former Brotherhood Commission. Rains is now manager of missions opportunities and events for the North American Mission Board (created in the SBC restructuring which merged the Home Mission Board, Brotherhood and Radio and Television Commission).
Jericho was different in that both SBC mission agencies were involved, as well as the Sunday School Board, Woman’s Missionary Union and Brotherhood. The weeklong event was offered at both the Glorieta and the Ridgecrest, N.C., conference centers each summer.
As a new event, the emphasis was on finding fresh ways of instilling a heart for missions. The name Jericho was chosen to represent the tearing down of barriers — barriers to Christlike attitudes and the spread of the gospel around the world.
A new type of missions fair was just one of the innovations.
“The word is personalization of missions,” Rains said.
“Not only were there displays, but there were ways for the participants to interact with the messages of each display,” he recounted. “It was an all-afternoon experience, and it pretty well focused on jarring the senses for missions — seeing, tasting, smelling. We’ve done everything from cultural interpretive movement to indigenous food from around the world.”
Worship services incorporated drama and other innovations, and each evening provided a strong challenge to missions commitment. Even the off-hours campus was likely to incorporate an unexpected missions experience. An apparently homeless person might wander through the crowd during the day, only to show up to report on his experiences that evening during a program theme on social ministries. Or a costumed William Carey would show up, talking to individuals about his passion for reaching the world with the gospel.
Jericho also provided each of the approximately 2,500 participants each year autograph books to be signed by guest missionaries, giving each person a defined opportunity to talk with missionaries personally and be awakened to needs around the world.
To Walker, the inter-agency focus itself was one of the biggest innovations, bringing organizations together that in the past had sponsored separate conferences.
“It took some of the best features of all the different weeks and combined it in to one,” Marshall said.
One of the most faithful Jericho participants has been Jeanette Payne, a member of Palms Baptist Church in Twenty-Nine Palms, Calif., who after experiencing the first-ever Jericho knew that she would return each year. She and fellow church member Doris Robinson, who made her eighth annual visit this year, have made a habit of registering a year in advance and requesting the same favored room.
“I liked the fact that you really get to know the missionaries and their needs, and you learn what to pray for,” said Payne, who has made Jericho her annual vacation.
Jericho has been one of the driving forces in their entire church’s involvement in missions. Their pastor, Galen Greenwalt, particularly encouraged certain people to attend. Many years they brought groups of as many as 24-25 people, with lasting impact. The year after their Woman’s Missionary Union director came, for instance, missions offerings were promoted with new enthusiasm, and giving was up sharply.
Robinson said Jericho was actually the vehicle God used to reveal his plan for her life. Her pastor first suggested she go after her husband’s death. It was during that trip that she discovered the LIFE courses offered by the Baptist Sunday School Board, which include special studies such as “Experiencing God” or “MasterLife.” Since then she has taken on the responsibility of teaching the courses in her church, using her annual visits to talk personally with the authors and receive training.
“I found my second mission in life here,” she said.

Jericho ’98 logo is posted in the Clip Art library of SBCNet.

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  • James Dotson