MOBILE, Ala. (BP)–The International Ministries Center in Mobile, Ala., is a place where seafarers and internationals feel at home.
So Mick and Adelaide fit right in.
Australian by birth, a happy black dog named Mick with dingo-like ears and Adelaide, who “looks Australian,” if a dog can, made the trek from the other side of the world to call the Mobile center home.
Bringing the two dogs from Australia “wasn’t the cheapest thing to do,” Jarrod Watts acknowledges, “but they are part of the family.”
‘AN OPENING TOOL’
Watts, himself an Aussie, met his American wife Jessica when she was doing summer missions in his home country. The couple have been married for five years and in June 2008 they embarked on another missions adventure. This time, however, Watts was the one living on foreign soil — in Mobile.
Working at the IMC, the Wattses serve as US/C2 missionaries, appointed to a two-year ministry assignment through the North American Mission Board that helps fill needs in local associations and prepare future ministers for service.
Mick and Adelaide help with the ministry too, serving as an avenue for outreach at the International Ministries Center.
“They are an opening tool to talk to people,” Watts said. “People want to come up and pet them and that helps start conversations.”
Thomas Wright, executive director of missions for the Mobile Baptist Association, appreciates such out-of-the-box evangelism techniques.
“US/C2 missionaries bring the enthusiasm and creative thinking of young, committed missionaries,” Wright said.
At the IMC, Watts serves as chaplain, reaching out to seafarers who arrive in Mobile’s port. He leads chapel services and works in one-on-one evangelism. It’s a constantly changing ministry as people come and go every few days, but he finds it rewarding. In 2008, more than 200 decisions were made through the work at the IMC. “The most exciting part is what we’re here for — seeing people come to know Jesus,” Watts said.
Jessica Watts, meanwhile, coordinates the IMC’s International Language School, which hosts English as a Second Language classes in five churches in the Mobile area. Before she and her husband arrived, one woman was directing and teaching at all of the locations by herself.
Because her work as a US/C2 missionary is temporary, Jessica has focused on restructuring the language programs so they are based in their respective churches and can continue functioning without direct supervision from the IMC once her term of service has ended.
“Mostly what I’m doing is encouraging the churches and the volunteers,” she said.
Another US/C2 missionary in Mobile is Emily Toles, who is based at the association’s Camp Whispering Pines in Citronelle.
Since September 2008, Toles, a native of north Alabama, has been helping with ongoing retreats and events and preparing for the camp’s busy summer season. In addition, she is working in community outreach, developing a coffeehouse ministry and assisting with ongoing repairs as the camp continues to recover from the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“We’re working on getting the buildings up and building up the programs,” Toles said.
Toles said she has had to adjust to full-time camp life, especially after spending her college years in Chicago, but she is enthusiastic about the US/C2 program. “NAMB is really great. They’re really supportive and good about checking in,” she said.
The work of the three US/C2 missionaries is beneficial for both them and the association, Wright said.
“The nature of [the] position includes flexibility and proactive response to overwhelming and changing community needs,” he said. “Associational missions provide a crucible for placing young missionaries in high-need areas where they can make an eternal difference.”
Megan Norris Jones is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist (www.thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention. This year’s Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, with a goal of $65 million, helps support Southern Baptists’ 5,600 North American missionaries. For more information, visit www.anniearmstrong.com.