News Articles

NAMB workers among volunteers bearing witness in Chicago

CHICAGO (BP)–On a second-story deck in the rear of a ministry center in central Chicago, the North American Mission Board’s chief development officer pried up rotting floor boards with a crowbar. A missionary mobilization associate preached the gospel on a street corner in another part of town. And on sidewalks and a public park, an assistant video producer shared her faith as she passed out free bottles of water and gospel-imprinted Frisbee-style flying discs.

Those were just some of the activities of a group of 47 NAMB employees and their families who traveled to Chicago to participate in ministry efforts before and during the July 8 SearchLight evangelistic emphasis.

The event is one of the primary elements in Chicago of Strategic Focus Cities, an effort to focus Southern Baptist resources and volunteers on sharing the gospel and planting churches in two major cities each year.

Like all of the nearly 1,500 out-of-town volunteers participating in SearchLight, they were people from varying careers who gave up their time to work and proclaim their faith in ways that often stretched their normal patterns of behavior.

“I live a sheltered life, and to come here just to see just how the world really is — it was just very eye-opening to see that this is such a mission field,” said Jill Stephens, a secretary in NAMB’s missionary personnel unit. “It makes me want to be more of an on-mission Christian even in my home in Buford [Ga.],” she said.

It is that sort of engagement with evangelistic efforts nationwide that is at the source of NAMB’s policy that all of its employees participate in a five-day mission project each year. The agency organized the Chicago trip for employees — most of whom rode up on a tour bus — because of the importance of Strategic Focus Cities in the agency’s effort to help churches reach the United States and Canada with the good news of Jesus Christ.

The Chicago Grace Place, a ministry center in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago, was a primary focus for the NAMB team’s efforts. They spent several days working to rehab the buildings interior, do demolition work on a large covered deck on the rear of the building in preparation for rebuilding, and sharing Christ in the community.

The day before SearchLight, some of the NAMB employees worked with a block party at Northside Baptist Church, which with only a few remaining members was able to demonstrate to its community that it still hoped to make an impact in the neighborhood.

Others participated in street preaching and associated evangelism efforts, handed out free water and Snapple drinks to promote a new church start, and shared their faith on the beaches of Lake Michigan while passing out flying discs imprinted with the gospel.

Randy Wood, the missionary mobilization associate and street preacher, said he had the opportunity to lead several individuals to Christ, including a young man named Ben.

“It was almost as though he had never heard of any good news; it was fresh,” Wood said, adding that others also appeared to be hearing the gospel for the first time.

“There have been several individuals who have received the Word pretty gladly, but there was no real point of reference,” he said.

Cheryl Collins, the assistant video producer, said she was struck by the differences in reception to the gospel among different groups of people in different environments. While low-income residents were friendly and thrilled to hear what she had to share, residents of the upper-class Lincoln Park neighborhood would be friendly initially and then suddenly turn cold when they realized she was offering a Christian witness.

“I would say that was by far the toughest part of our whole mission trip, because these were people with huge barriers,” she said. “It was very intimidating. They would just ignore us.”

But a move from neighborhood streets to a more relaxed environment of a public park brought a completely different reaction from the same types of people, she said.

“They were coming up to us wanting [the flying discs],” she said.

    About the Author

  • James Dotson