GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP)–Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention gave a standing ovation to the North American Mission Board’s choice of Roy Fish as interim president.
Fish was presented to messengers during NAMB’s June 13 report during the SBC annual meeting by Bill Curtis, chairman of NAMB’s trustees, who praised Fish’s service to Southern Baptists.
“Dr. Fish’s relational skills will be of great benefit to the staff at NAMB and our state partners, as we walk through this time of transition,” said Curtis, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Florence, S.C.
Curtis reported that NAMB’s presidential search committee -– chaired by former board chairman Terry Fox of Kansas -– has begun the search process and will receive resumes at the NAMB website (www.namb.net) through Sept. 1.
“But the committee will then take as much time as necessary to find the man God has for us,” Curtis said, acknowledging the entity has recently experienced difficulties. But, he said, “… I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that this past year has been one where our missionaries and mission partners have made a tremendous Kingdom impact on the lives of countless millions of people.”
Fish told messengers he was humbled to serve in the interim role and would help focus the entity on church planting and evangelism. He introduced the missions presentation by saying NAMB wanted to give the convention “a glimpse of what the agency is all about -– missionaries sharing Christ and starting churches.”
Church planting missionary Aaron Coe, a Georgia native, described the challenges of starting a new SBC church in one of New York City’s most difficult areas, the Soho District, home to thousands of artists, college students and young professionals.
“God is alive and well in New York City,” Coe told the crowd. Gallery Church was launched four months ago, he reported, despite the fact it costs five times more to start a church in New York than in other locales.
“Our mission is to display the greatness of God in New York City. If you touch New York, you will touch the world,” Coe said, adding that 191 nations are represented in the area, with a metro population of some 22 million people.
“Because of your support, that is possible,” Coe said. “Fifteen years went by before a single church was planted in New York City. Now there are six new SBC churches in Manhattan.”
Following Coe, Kay Bennett, a NAMB missionary and director of the Baptist Friendship House — a center in New Orleans for homeless women with children — described what it has been like to minister in the Crescent City since last year’s hurricanes.
“Thank you for the love you and other Baptists poured out in New Orleans to help rebuild the city and lives,” Bennett said.
Bennett said that after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, she and the residents at Baptist Friendship House were evacuated to Tylertown, Miss. But as the devastation spread to Tylertown, they had to be moved further north to Hattiesburg, Miss.
“Hurricane Katrina humbled me and made me a better missionary,” Bennett said, “because we had no food, no water, no ice, no anything.”
Fortunately, back in New Orleans, neither Friendship House nor any of the other three Baptist centers were flooded, making them available for use by Baptist disaster relief teams who soon poured into the area.
Fish also introduced Carlos Ferrer, longtime chief financial officer for NAMB, who has served for the past two months as the entity’s interim chief operating officer. Bob Reccord, NAMB’s former president, resigned April 17.
Ferrer, born in Cuba, told how his family fled Cuba in 1961, when a young Carlos, his parents and sister escaped the communist regime of Fidel Castro.
After fleeing Cuba in the middle of the night via a ship en route for Mexico, Ferrer and his family ultimately made it to Miami and later to California, where an SBC church sponsored his family.
“The church moved us to California, gave us a house and food, took us shopping for clothes and, most importantly, placed the seeds of Christ’s love in our hearts,” he recounted. “They invited us to church, gave us our first Bibles and introduced us to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which eventually led to my father, mother, sister and myself all accepting Christ.”
Ferrer said God called him in 1992 as controller of the mission board that had ministered to his family 31 years earlier.
“[T]onight, I stand before you as a humble servant with the awesome responsibility of being interim chief operating officer of that same agency,” Ferrer said. “Thank you, Southern Baptists, for all you have done for me and my family and for the literally millions whose lives have been touched and souls rescued because of your faithful support and witness.”
During his report to the messengers, Curtis said Southern Baptists added 1,725 new churches in 2005, averaging 33 new SBC congregations every week. Half of those church starts were ethnic and African American.
Citing statistics in the wake of last fall’s devastating hurricanes on the Gulf Coast, Curtis said the disaster prompted an unprecedented relief effort.
“The nation witnessed Southern Baptists’ heart for ministry, as disaster relief volunteers from 41 state conventions prepared over 17 million meals, repaired 7,245 buildings and cleared nearly 14,000 cubic yards of storm debris. An additional 25,000 new disaster relief volunteers also were trained during 2005.”
While, overall, the SBC’s baptism rate did not increase as anticipated, Curtis reported that NAMB continued to reach people with the Gospel:
— 2,523 SBC chaplains led more than 12,000 people to Christ.
— 2,000 SBC hunger ministries provided more than 5 million meals, resulting in 32,000 professions of faith.
— 26,000 Southern Baptist young people, serving as part of WorldChangers, led 1,270 people to faith in Christ.
— 1,700 summer and semester missionaries recorded 1,016 professions of faith.
“God is at work through your North American Mission Board,” Curtis said. “And we say, ‘Glory!’”
Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist Convention, closed NAMB’s presentation in prayer for its missionaries, staff and trustees. Lance is president of the state executive directors’ fellowship.