[SLIDESHOW=51439]BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) — It was an hour of laughter and tears as the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) Send Luncheon celebrated the complex and rewarding journey of life in ministry.
“We just want to say thank you for all that you do and how you lead your churches,” said Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, to a sold-out crowd of more than 3,700 pastors and their families. The event was held June 10 at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex in conjunction with this week’s Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala.
During the event, Ezell welcomed the newest class of SBC entity heads. The group included Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee; Paul Chitwood, president of the International Mission Board; Jamie Dew, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; and Adam Greenway, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. All of them came to the stage wearing sweater vests — a humorous nod to Ezell’s own signature accessory. Ezell quizzed the leaders on personal trivia, and the group of five catered to the home-town crowd in Birmingham, Ala., with a karaoke rendition of “Sweet Home Alabama,” complete with hats, wigs and electric guitars.
New starts and relief efforts
The program featured Frank Pomeroy, pastor of First Baptist Church Sutherland Springs, Texas, and Scott Gurosky of Birmingham. Ezell shared an update from Pomeroy’s church where a gunman killed 26 worshipers on Nov. 5, 2017. NAMB partnered with Gurosky’s design and construction company, Myrick, Gurosky and Associates, to build the congregation a new worship and education facility that opened in May. See related report.
Ezell also introduced Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama State Board of Missions and Rusty Sowell, a pastor from Beauregard, Ala. Sowell’s church, Providence Baptist Church, responded heroically to a March 3 tornado in their area that took 23 lives in the small community. Sowell led his congregation to step up in ways that each volunteer was uniquely qualified to serve — a caterer leading food distribution, a retired principal organizing volunteers, retail workers organizing clothing donations and many more.
“It was a tremendous effort on everyone’s part to get to the epicenter and come together to serve the families and churches,” Sowell said. “What a tremendous witness it was to see all the people from the faith community come together to provide relief.”
Out of gratitude for Sowell’s leadership, Ezell gifted him and his wife with a scholarship to a Timonthy+Barnabas retreat in Palm Springs, Calif. Timothy+Barnabas retreats are hosted by Johnny Hunt, NAMB’s vice president of evangelism and leadership, as a time of equipping, refreshment and encouragement for pastors and their wives. Ezell also announced that private donors were donating $20,000 toward the church’s efforts to build a memorial to those who died as a result of the devastating tornado.
Ezell then introduced the story of pastor Mike Perrigin, a bivocational pastor serving in rural Alabama. The majority of pastors in Alabama (55 percent) are bivocational. Perrigin came to faith in Christ at a fishing tournament sponsored by a local church. Later, he became not just a fisherman but also a fisher of men when he answered the call to ministry. He and his wife Kim are parents to two special-needs children, and while that assignment is challenging, the couple is quick to assert that parenting their children is one of the greatest joys of their life.
“Your normal and our normal are different,” Kim said. “We are truly blessed to have our babies that we have, and they bless others with their smiles. If that is the only reason why they’re here, we are blessed and up to the challenge to help them fill that need.”
After the couple shared the joys and struggles of their story, Ezell told them that the last payment they made on their mortgage was indeed their last mortgage payment, as generous donors had stepped up to pay off the remaining balance. The luncheon closed as the Perrigins received a standing ovation from the attendees — several thousand ministry families recognizing and sharing their appreciation for one of their own.