ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–Some 400 representatives of churches that gave most sacrificially to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions in 2009 heard directly in mid-June from missionaries about how those monies are being used.
The churches were honored at a luncheon hosted by the North American Mission Board during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando, Fla.
The yearly Annie Armstrong Easter Offering Celebration Luncheon also honored the top-giving churches and state conventions. North Carolina was the top-giving state to the Annie offering in 2009. Alabama, the No. 2 giver, was also recognized as being the top giver to the Cooperative Program — NAMB’s other primary source of financial support.
Churches invited to the luncheon included the top giver in each association by both total gifts and gifts per capita based on worship attendance.
Missionary Michael Allen and his wife Marla told of their work at Uptown Baptist Church in Chicago, a multi-cultural congregation with 20 languages represented among its members. But he said about 100 languages are spoken in public schools surrounding the church, “so that means we’ve got a lot of work to do to reach the nations God has brought to our doorstep.”
Allen noted that although he receives funding as a NAMB missionary, his church also is one of the top 10 givers to the Annie offering in Illinois. His church’s heart for missions also extends to direct involvement, with a focus on utilizing the experiences and contacts of its diverse membership to make an impact overseas.
He told of one trip to Ghana and Nigeria that included eight church participants: two Nigerians, one Ghanian, one Jamaican, one Haitian, one from Vietnam, one white and one African American.
“When the folks from Africa saw us get off the plane, they thought it was a United Nations NGO (non-governmental organization),” Allen said. “They could not believe. ‘All you are from one church in America?’ And this is from a Southern Baptist church on the north side of Chicago.”
The Allens, who were featured during this year’s Week of Prayer for North American Missions, asked for prayer for the many they reach in their own neighborhood — many of whom struggle with drug addiction and other issues.
“We’re just so thankful that churches like yours are so committed to the Gospel that you would give sacrificially so we can continue to do work as God has called us to do.”
Jim Ballard, another Week of Prayer missionary, shared how God has used the concept of cowboy churches to extend his ministry to the farms and ranches of eastern Idaho.
“It’s amazing that a western cowboy with the background of our area totally shies away from any brick-and-mortar building with a steeple on it,” Ballard said. “But when churches are started in the arena or barns where they live and work, people respond.”
Ballard told of one man who had been attending for about three months who called one day to make an appointment to pray to receive Christ. By the end of the day that man, his girlfriend and 13-year-old daughter also had received Christ.
Ballard also noted how mission trips to pioneer areas where God is moving can impact churches elsewhere. One member of a mission team from Georgia, he said, stood up at one of the services, held up a quart jar and said he wanted to take some of the water from a baptistery as an example for his own church back home.
“We have two ladies who are about to split the church over what color carpet we put in,” he said, “… but here people are excited to be on a dirt floor, shivering to sit through a church service and watch people get saved.”
Luncheon participants also got a chance to meet Woman’s Missionary Union’s new national president, Debby Akerman, who led a prayer for missionaries after being elected the day before. She was introduced by Wanda Lee, executive director/treasurer of WMU. The organization has promoted the missions offering since it was initiated by missionary advocate Annie Armstrong and other WMU leaders in 1895.
Also recognized at the June 15 luncheon was Vivian McCaughan, who died in April. McCaughan’s work as a multi-housing missionary in Missouri was featured in this year’s Week of Prayer focus.
James Dotson is a writer for the North American Mission Board.