NEW ORLEANS (BP)–New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s summer mission team to Wales discovered that just because a country has a rich Christian heritage does not mean the nation is a Christian one (or that the people even know who Christ is).
“So much of what I saw in Wales was completely dead to Christ,” said Rebecca Pounds, daughter of team leaders Jerry and Bayne Pounds, both professors at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Pounds and her teammates found that many Welsh people had never heard about God or his love for them. Those who had heard about God didn’t think they needed him in their lives.
Pounds, a sophomore at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., was part of a mission team that partnered with Bethel Chapel, a Baptist Church in the Welsh city of Pembroke Dock. The team ministered to the church and to the community through school assemblies, an after-school program, new mothers’ classes, marriage enrichment seminars, youth rallies and worship services. The 10-member team was made up of six seminary students, the Poundses and their two children.
When people think of Wales and the United Kingdom, they recall a rich Christian heritage. Team member Tom Tyer, a May graduate of NOBTS with a bachelor of general studies degree, said he will always remember seeing a few of the chapels where John Wesley preached. “Many of the places we visited have had such a big impact on our faith today,” he reflected.
But, said team member Michael Whitlow, a bachelor of arts in Christian education student, Wales is certainly not a Christian nation. “For the first time in my life I met someone completely secular,” he recounted. “Many of the children who attended the after-school program and school assemblies had never heard of God and had no concept of who God is.”
Because the Church in Wales is a state church, religious education is part of the school curriculum. However, that means all religions are taught, not just Christianity. The children may get religious education at school, but none of what they learn is reinforced at home.
According to Tom McManus, pastor of Bethel Chapel, there hasn’t been much discipleship in Wales especially following the great Welsh revivals. “Because of that, two generations have been lost,” the Baptist church’s pastor said, “and a third generation may be lost if there isn’t anyone to pick up the baton and continue the race.”
And that’s exactly what Bethel Chapel and the local Baptist association have set out to do. The partnership team from NOBTS helped Bethel Chapel reach out to the community and offer ministries to meet real needs.
“Some of the mothers who came to the new mothers’ classes seemed so appreciative,” said team member Melissa Peden. “They so much wanted the best for their children. As for the children, I believe that we touched many of the children’s lives who came to the after-school program. It was amazing to see their smiling faces by the end of the week when at the beginning they were very hesitant.” In fact, she said, the children enjoyed the after-school program so much that they arrived 30 minutes early.
Not only did the team minister to the community during the nine-day June-July trip, but they ministered to the church as well. While in Pembroke Dock, the NOBTS mission team stayed in homes of Bethel Chapel members. Team member Penny Glaesman had the opportunity to minister to a woman who spent many years ministering in Africa. “This lovely godly woman was war-weary,” Glaesman said. “She was needing another woman to share her heart and sorrows with. I pray that many lives were touched, but I know of two women whose lives were changed — mine and hers because of our times together shared over a ‘cuppa’ tea.”
McManus and Jerry Pounds both shared that the partnership is the best they have experienced. “This was a strong affirmation of our time together,” Pounds said, adding that there is more work to be done and voicing his hope that there will be additional partnerships with Bethel Chapel. “We are praying that many more teams from NOBTS will be making this trip in the future,” he said.
Langley is a New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary master of arts in Christian education student.