ABILENE, Texas (BP)–Imagine a time when it was virtually unheard of for Southern Baptist volunteers to share the Gospel overseas.
That was the reality in 1950, the year that W.H. (Dub) Jackson and six other Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary classmates traveled to Japan to share their faith.
For Jackson, it his first trip back to Asia since World War II, when he was a P-38 fighter pilot zeroing in on Japanese-held targets stretching from New Guinea to China.
In 1951, after graduating from the Texas seminary, Jackson and his wife Doris returned to Japan as missionaries to help turn hearts toward Christ in a nation that had sought world domination but had met with humiliating destruction and defeat.
“In the midst of the glaring needs, those of us there were overwhelmed with the need to tell the Japanese of Christ. As bad as the physical needs were at the time, the need for men and women to bow and receive Christ as Savior and Lord was the greatest,” Jackson said. “The workers were so few and the needs so great, partnership became a way and a hope for us to share the message for so many in need.”
These days, partnership is a common word in Baptist life, typically referring to commitments by state Baptist conventions, Baptist churches and associations to partner with Baptists in another country in evangelistic initiatives, church planting and construction and long-term recovery after natural disasters.
But in the 1950s, “partnership” was a new word for Baptists, defined by Jackson’s pioneering call for U.S. pastors and laypeople to spend a week or two in Japan to witness alongside pastors, church members and the Southern Baptist missionaries there.
Over the years of partnership campaigns in Japan, Jackson began to sense a need for such partnerships on mission fields worldwide. In 1970, he launched the World Evangelism Foundation, now named Partnership Evangelism.
Today, at age 81, Jackson remains on the job.
Partnership Evangelism campaigns — open to volunteers from any church across the country — are slated this year in Spain from July 19-31 and in France from Oct. 11-23. In 2007, partnership efforts are slated in Germany, May 30-June 11, and Korea, Oct. 31-Nov. 13. In 2008: England, July 30-Aug. 11, and Japan — where it all started — Oct. 1-13.
As many as 2,000 volunteers, who will work in small teams with local pastors and church members, will be needed for the six efforts during the three-year span.
“It is unlikely that Southern Baptists would have ever embraced partnership missions had it not been for Dub Jackson,” said James T. Draper Jr., who retired in January as president of the SBC’s LifeWay Christian Resources.
“No one has had more contact with more Baptist leaders around the world in the last 50 years than Dub Jackson,” Draper noted.
Jackson’s distinctive approach to partnership missions is marked by invitations extended by a country’s Baptist leaders who, over the course of about two years, do the primary planning for the various facets of utilizing volunteers from the States.
“We never compromise our message,” Jackson said, “but we learn to work with complete confidence in God’s leading through His people overseas….
“These are not our programs and plans but theirs, [representing] the best thinking of the God-called leaders in each place,” he said, adding, “You cannot overestimate the value of that kind of invitation.”
Graham Gutting, associate pastor of First Baptist Church in Buffalo Gap, Texas, where Jackson also is a member, said he and his wife Dinah “have formed lasting bonds with other team members, but most important, we have met brothers and sisters in the Lord in each country we’ve visited [Denmark and Hong Kong] and have had a part in changing souls for an eternity. …
“I had always desired to do mission work on foreign soil. By going on Parnership Evangelism trips, I have begun to fulfill that lifelong desire,” Gutting said. “Nothing is impossible with God. … Dub’s passion for souls is contagious.”
“There are many needs in our world today, but the greatest need is for men and women to know and receive Christ as Lord NOW,” said Jackson, who voice speaks the word emphatically and who regularly writes it in capital letters. Partnership Evangelism is rooted in the conviction that people can trust Christ “NOW,” wherever they are and whenever they hear a witness to His saving grace.
“It is good to feed the hungry — we are told to do this — to cloth the naked and help those who need housing, but the most urgent need for people is our Lord.”
Amplifying the upcoming Partnership Evangelism campaigns:
— Spain, July 19-31 of this year, where up to 150 team members will work in 10 to 15 Spanish cities, was where “we experienced some of our most victorious partnerships in the 1970s,” Jackson said.
— France, Oct. 11-23 of this year, prompted Jackson to point out, “Contrary to public opinion, France has welcomed us in a joyous and blessed way for many years.” The French Baptist Union has requested 13 teams of five to 10 volunteers each, Jackson said.
Andre Souchon, pastor of the Avenue DuMain Baptist Church in Paris and associate executive director of the French Baptist Union, cited the adage, “A threefold cord is not easily broken,” in regard to the Partnership Evangelism campaigns in his country over the years: “God, our American friends, and us make a good partnership mission.”
— Germany, May 30-June 11, 2007, will involve a partnership with “one of Europe’s most faithful and conservative seminaries,” Jackson reported. Up to 150 team members will work in 15 German churches.
— Korea, Oct. 31-Nov. 13, 2007, “has been the most loving, growing and evangelically oriented country to which we have ever gone,” he said. Korean Baptists have requested 50 teams, encompassing up to 500 volunteers.
— England, July 30-Aug. 11, 2008, will involve volunteers from up to 50 U.S. churches, with Jackson hoping for a culminating victory celebration in the famed Royal Albert Hall.
— Japan, Oct. 1-13, 2008, “is the birthplace of Partnership Evangelism and the land where God called Doris and me following WWII,” Jackson said.
“God has blessed [the partnership campaigns in Japan] many times in the past,” he continued, “and we are asking and expecting the best of all in this coming partnership. Almost all of the leaders in the first partnerships have gone on to be with the Lord, but we are praying for a new generation of bold, evangelistically minded pastors to be raised up for this partnership.” About 200 team members will be needed.
Any pastor or church member interested in volunteering can contact the Partnership Evangelism office at (325) 698-8480 or Jackson at (817) 481-9888 for further information. The mailing address is Partnership Evangelism, 4400 Buffalo Gap Road, Suite 0275, Abilene, TX 79606; e-mail, [email protected]