ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–During the 20th anniversary Woodstock (N.Y.) Arts Festival last summer, one of the North American Mission Board’s vice presidents became known, at least to a few young music fans, as “the bead man” — handing out sets of colored beads and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In North Kenai, Alaska, a NAMB loan officer helped build a church and strengthen a local congregation.
And in Fort Worth, Texas, a sales and traffic manager spent a week with his two older daughters and two other NAMB employees, leading a mission Vacation Bible School in an apartment complex with a large international population.
Each year thousands of Southern Baptist volunteers participate in mission projects — including employees of the North American Mission Board, for whom hands-on experiences such as these have become one more part of their calling. Since the board’s founding in 1997 each employee has had the privilege and responsibility of taking time from their regular duties at their own expense to participate in a five-day mission project.
NAMB President Robert E. Reccord said he believed it was essential that employees participate in the direct missions their daily efforts support.
“It seems to me to be a no-brainer that mission participation should apply for everyone from the mailroom to the boardroom,” Reccord said. “That is why I instituted the guideline that all employees would give a week of their year to a mission project. We have also changed our Trustee Mission Awareness Tour to a Trustee Mission Participation Trip.
“Now that we are two years in the project, the positive ramifications of mission involvement with all of our staff could not even begin to be told,” Reccord added. “It has revolutionized the personalization and prioritization of missions with NAMB staff. Now when we talk about missions in North America, you see that gleam of understanding and commitment in everyone’s eyes.”
Employees are personally experiencing being “on mission” with God, helping a lost world come to faith in Christ.
“NAMB’s development of the on-mission concept and the encouragement to be on mission has provided both inspiration and the opportunity to put my heart’s desire into practice,” said David Dena, who works with NAMB’s broadcast communications group in Fort Worth, Texas, as sales and traffic manager.
“This has affected both my family and me. My wife and I were talking last week about the impact that all this would have on our children — ages 10, 8, 4 and 1 — if they grew up in a home where being on mission was the norm. Being ‘on mission’ is more than just a catchy phrase for my children, and that’s exciting to me as a Christian daddy!”
The employee mission service transcends organizational hierarchy, as evidenced by the “bead man” – who most of the year is Mike Day, vice president of strategy development and organizational services for NAMB. The Woodstock Arts Festival — which resulted in more than 40 decisions for Christ — was co-sponsored by NAMB. But Day’s involvement was simply as a volunteer willing to explain the gospel to individual young people among the thousands of music fans.
In addition to using the beads to share Christ, volunteers also passed out hundreds of maps of the city and the concert grounds that included a gospel presentation.
“Through this simple tool God allowed the 50 of us [participating volunteers] to lead young men and women to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Day said, adding that the experience was also a great opportunity to participate in his daughter’s spiritual growth. “There’s nothing more exciting for a parent than seeing a child move to the next level, growing to a point where they are being what God wants them to be,” Day said.
Connie Blanchette, a secretary with NAMB’s interfaith evangelism team, spent her week of mission service designing and preparing a computer presentation for the chaplain at a county jail, a tool to help him raise funds for the ministry and recruit other volunteers. Blanchette and her husband, Bob, already had been leading worship services at the jail one Sunday of every month.
For the chaplain, it was the realization of a seven-year dream.
“I see so many people coming to know Jesus Christ and growing in Jesus Christ because I was able to do this,” Blanchette said. “It touched me so much.” Additionally, she said she also was able to talk with three inmate trusties, including one named Kevin who “is going to Bible college because of the talk that we had.”
Andrea McGriff, a secretary in NAMB’s administrative group, was able to see her cousin come to faith in Christ during her week as a volunteer at a convalescent home in Cumming, Ga. She was working with several other NAMB employees in leading a devotion and worship time with residents and helping with other personal care needs. Her cousin was at the home for rehabilitation after an accident.
“Before Michael fell, he had a drinking problem and never darkened the door of church,” she said of her cousin. “If this hadn’t happened, I don’t know what he would have done.”
NAMB’s own Evangelism Response Center provided another ministry avenue for several employees, who were able to work from their own homes answering telephone calls from people around the country who wanted to learn more about Christ.
Mary Branson, NAMB’s director of marketing, said she was able to lead three people to Christ during her week manning the phones. Many people, she found, just wanted people to listen to them.
One call came from a woman who said, “There’s not a soul in the world who cares about me,” Branson recounted. The woman said she would sometimes go shopping and see people “with an actual glow on their faces. I know it’s because they were Christians.”
“What an opportunity to tell her about the source of that glow,” Branson said. “It was so easy to lead her to the Lord. And I have been conscious ever since of my attitude in crowded lines or difficult situations. The people who had radiated their faith to this lady had made it easy for me to lead her to the Lord.”
Other NAMB staffers were excited about working with ministry centers providing food, clothing and other services along with the good news of Jesus Christ.
Leslie Davis, an associate producer in the Fort Worth broadcast communications group, found herself working in the clothing room of Mission Arlington, a Southern Baptist ministry in Arlington, Texas. But she soon realized that her best opportunities for witness were not as much with the clients as the other workers — many of whom were completing court-ordered community service requirements.
One college student in particular seemed open to learning about Christ.
“I ended up encouraging her to still seek the truth as found in the Bible and to attend an on-campus Bible study, and I resolved personally to pray for her as long as God impressed it upon my heart,” she said.
Mission Vacation Bible Schools, as always, were strong areas of ministry, with numerous reports coming in from across the country of lives changed by the gospel. Dena, the traffic and programming manager, said he and fellow NAMB employee Debbie Wall worked with a Vacation Bible School in an apartment complex that included refugee families from such countries and regions as Bosnia, Kosovo, Cuba, Sudan and Vietnam.
Dena also was able to make it a family experience.
“This year was especially rewarding as my children had their first experience of watching someone making the commitment to give their life to Christ,” he said.
Vacation Bible School also was combined with other ministry projects in situations where NAMB staffers participated with groups from their own churches.
Kerry Jackson, an artist who designs and builds many of NAMB’s exhibit displays, led the youth from his church on a mission trip working with Dauphin Island Resort Ministries off the Alabama coast. They conducted a VBS, volunteered at a Salvation Army kitchen, helped produce 1,600 Russian Bibles at a bindery and led in worship at three drug and alcohol ministries.
“It was great to see God work in everyone’s life that week,” said Jackson. “God gave me the strength to lead in an area in which I had never led before. … We had kids sharing their faith who had never done that before.”
Christian Parrish, a NAMB training assistant, said her church group averaged 30-40 kids each day at a Bible club for kids in Asheville, N.C. In the evenings they did door-to-door evangelism, and the week culminated in a block party at West Asheville Baptist Church.
Parrish said it was the first mission trip she has made within the United States, and it brought a realization of the vast needs in her own country — even for reaching internationals.
“I have a much more focused commitment, to know that what I am doing [at NAMB] is impacting people,” she said.