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Relief ministry advances gospel, new IMB human needs leader says

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–When disaster strikes — flooding in Bangladesh, an earthquake in Colombia, war in Yugoslavia — Southern Baptist missionaries look for creative ways to respond to the needs of hurting people.
Such “ministry evangelism” creates strategic opportunities to share the good news of God’s love when hearts have been made unusually receptive by crisis, said the International Mission Board’s new consultant for human needs ministries.
For Jim Brown, a former Southern Baptist representative in North Africa and, more recently, director of Baptist Men for the Florida Baptist Convention, his experiences in North Africa and Rwanda taught him that sensitive ministry in crisis gives missionaries a chance to share the gospel with people who might not listen otherwise.
And Southern Baptists’ generous gifts to hunger and relief funds this past year made it possible for missionaries to minister in such situations, he added.
“The increases in offerings we saw this past year provided missionaries with huge opportunities to walk through open doors that may not always be there,” said Brown, a professional geologist who spent 14 years in the petroleum industry before a mission trip to Mexico helped him understand God’s heart for a lost world.
“As we meet physical needs, we gain credibility and then people are more willing to listen when you try to help them understand their spiritual condition.”
Brown and his wife, the former Suzan McClure of Tyler, Texas, were appointed by the IMB in 1988. He worked as a geologist in North Africa until 1993, when he returned to the United States to complete a doctor of ministry degree at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif. Prior to missionary appointment, he worked with companies in New Orleans, Fort Worth, Texas, and Shreveport, La.
In addition to Golden Gate, Brown is a graduate of Baylor University in Waco, Texas; Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge; and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
He became Baptist Men’s director for the Florida Baptist Convention in 1993. In Florida, he was responsible for disaster relief operations and both domestic and international partnership missions projects, as well as men’s and boys’ ministries.
He also worked in a massive camp for Rwandan refugees for three months in 1994 during his tenure with the Florida convention. The experience taught him a lot about trusting God for even the most basic things and having the courage to reach out with the gospel even when others were telling him to be careful.
“We camped right in the middle of the refugee camp. It was a dangerous place,” he said. “We had to trust God for a lot of things: communicating across language barriers, the logistics of getting things accomplished, even getting sufficient rest at night. We got to step out in faith and share the gospel by meeting people’s needs in creative ways.”
Such “ministry evangelism” — a term Brown prefers over the more traditional “human needs” label — presents the hope of the gospel as it ministers to the physical needs of people in crisis.
“Ministry evangelism integrates physical ministry with the message of the gospel,” he said. “The two go hand in hand — sharing the gospel, planting seeds, starting churches.
“And we are well received because people know the motive behind what we are doing — good hearts made good by Jesus Christ, and that’s something we want to share.”

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  • Mark Kelly