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Trustees experience needs of Seattle through prayer, evangelistic ministry

SEATTLE (BP)–Trustees of the North American Mission Board got a first-hand look at the challenges of reaching the Northwest May 4-8 by prayer walks, door-to-door surveying, and sharing food and conversation with the homeless on city streets.

The missions experience preceded the board’s regular May 7-8 meeting in Seattle, which saw former first vice chairman Terry Fox of Wichita, Kan., elected chairman for the coming year by acclamation. Fox is pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Wichita, Kan. Elected first and second vice chairman, respectively, were Barry Holcomb, pastor of Bluff Springs Baptist Church in Ashford, Ala., and David Crump, pastor of Aspen Park Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, Okla.

Trustees also approved 27 missionaries and 28 first-time chaplaincy endorsements had been approved by the board’s Chaplains Commission.

While the meeting included numerous reports of the entity’s work across the country, trustees said their best education came a few days earlier as they both participated in direct evangelistic ministry and heard missionaries share the needs directly.

“I have learned more about the work of the North American Mission Board through this experience than all of our board meetings put together,” said Bob Rogers, a trustee from Rincon, Ga., who participated in a door-to-door survey May 4 in neighborhoods surrounding Highland Hill Baptist Church in Tacoma, Wash.

Jesse Farias, pastor of the congregation, said the efforts were effective in leading one man to the Lord — and several unchurched individuals visited the congregation the next day. A total of 368 contacts were made, the gospel was shared 26 times and 32 names of prospects were gathered for follow-up during an upcoming lay-led revival.

“Ultimately it was a wonderful experience,” said Farias, who also coordinates volunteers for the Embracing Seattle/Strategic Focus Cities evangelism and church planting effort. He is expecting to see more than 2,200 volunteers come through the area this summer doing similar ministries. The revival will be led by a team from North Carolina.

“We have a momentum in our church that is moving towards being an on-mission church, and that is such a refreshing feeling – to know that we are actually making contact with the community.”

Other trustees walked through downtown Seattle and on the waterfront praying for the city and its people — while also learning about them through similar surveys. Later the team visited with leaders of Sanctuary — a ministry to homeless youth in the city’s Capitol Hill area — and helped with distribution of food and blankets.

On May 6, trustees toured a number of sites where churches are being started, were briefed on a comprehensive collegiate evangelism strategy in the area and prayer-walked on the University of Washington campus.

“I thought the experience was great,” said Treva Thompson of Nashville, Tenn., who participated in the downtown Seattle prayer walk with her husband, trustee David Thompson. “I think most of the people we encountered who are actually residents here are not necessarily against religion, but they are certainly not for it. … So many people just have no perceived need for it in their life.”

“I think the wall to get through to people is thicker here,” added her husband, “but once you get through they are very open to the truth.”

Sabrina Patterson of Glen St. Mary, Fla., wife of trustee Tim Patterson, said although she has always been an advocate for international missions the experience in Seattle awakened her to the vast needs at home.

“This trip has just opened my eyes so much to what we’re doing. … This made it really personal,” she said.

Tim Patterson said the first-hand experience is helpful for trustees as they oversee efforts to reach the cities.

“If we’re going to reach Seattle we’re going to have to have a lot of young church planters who understand the postmodern culture,” he said. “It was really obvious to me on Capitol Hill, with the young kids that are homeless.”

In his report to trustees during the meeting, NAMB President Robert E. Reccord also addressed the nation’s changing spiritual climate.

“We’re no longer fighting a conventional war in the area of the spiritual realm,” he said. “We have moved into a 21st Century war, and the roles have radically changed.”

He noted that since the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, Islam has actually grown faster in the United States than it did before. He cited “spiritual suicide bombers” attacking the nation that include increased infidelity in marriage, immorality among teens and the rise of personalized religion that accepts anything but the absolute truth of Scripture.

But he also reminded trustees why they and the entity exist, noting the challenge of NAMB’s vision statement: “We see a day every person in every community in the United States and Canada will have the opportunity to hear the gospel, respond with faith in Christ, and participate in a New Testament fellowship of believers.”

In other business during the meeting, trustees:

— Approved a recommendation to create a committee to explore moving FamilyNet from a nonprofit to a for-profit corporation. If taken, the action will allow FamilyNet to participate in partnerships or joint venture opportunities with compatible for-profit companies.

— Approved a procedure for trustees to review salaries of individual NAMB staff. The procedure is consistent with NAMB’s policy providing for disclosure of specific salaries to trustees and salary ranges to any Southern Baptist.

— Approved a motion to establish a committee to study the number of new church starts that leave the Southern Baptist Convention after receiving support from NAMB, state conventions and other Southern Baptist entities. The committee will include three trustees, three NAMB staff members, and three state executive directors. The action came on a motion from trustee Ron Wilson, pastor of First Baptist Church of Thousand Oaks, Calif.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: PRAYING FOR STUDENTS, FANNIN LEADS, PRAYERWALK, ON THE WATERFRONT, NAMB OFFICERS.

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  • James Dotson