The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. So ask the Lord of the
harvest to send us more... More of what? We could ask for more resources, we
could ask for more money, we could even ask for more vision and focus. But
Jesus said to ask for more workers.
"The greatest resource we have as Southern Baptists-besides the Holy
Spirit-to accomplish the work of reaching North America for Christ is our
people," says Mike Riggins, director of Missionary Deployment at the North
American Mission Board. "It's the people who are volunteering to get involved
in short-term mission projects all across North America. It's the people who
are answering God's call to serve long term as missionaries. That is our
greatest resource and what we have so much to be thankful for. That is why we
are about sending missionaries and volunteers-to raise up laborers for the
harvest to accomplish the work of meeting the needs in North America."
Today, more than 5,000 NAMB missionaries currently serve throughout the
United States, Canada and their territories. Their task is to change the
world-one person at a time. These men and women who are obediently living a
life of service as North American missionaries are supported by the Annie
Armstrong Easter Offering®.
"The Annie Armstrong offering lets me do what God has called me to do and
without hindrance," says Jeff Ford, a resort missionary in Gulf Shores,
Alabama. "I don't have to worry about the money or the food on the table or the
clothes on my back. I think God allowed the Annie Armstrong Easter
Offering-through Southern Baptists working together-to accomplish mighty
Jeff is just one of eight Southern Baptist missionaries to be highlighted as
part of the annual Week of Prayer, March 4-11, 2007. The 2007 Annie Armstrong
Easter Offering's goal is $57 million, 100 percent of which is used for
missionaries like Jeff.
As you give to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® for North American
Missions and pray for our missionaries, remember they are an extension of you
and your church. Through your gifts to the Cooperative Program and the AAEO®,
you provide the necessary resources that enable them to effectively share
Christ. Together, we can reach more people for Christ than alone. Join our
missionaries in being someone's connection to Jesus-visit www.anniearmstrong.com.
Week of Prayer profiles by Jami Becher, editorial
assistant, On Mission.
National Missionary Bill Barker lives in the rugged coal mining country of
Boone County, West Virginia, with its retired work villages, poverty stricken
communities and the static non-conformity characteristic of valley life
insulated by foothills from the rest of the world.
His ministry, Appalachian Regional Ministry (ARM), covers an area that
starts north of Atlanta and extends to Pennsylvania, covering most of that
state except metro Philadelphia. It also includes South Carolina, North
Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Maryland, Virginia and all of West
Virginia. ARM is a partnership ministry of the North American Mission Board,
the Woman's Missionary Union and 11 state conventions.
The north Georgia mountains-where the Appalachian Mountains begin-include
people who are transplants from Florida, south Georgia and Alabama. But as you
move into the coal field areas of central and northern Appalachia, you come
across people whose families have lived there for generations. They're isolated
by the geography, mountainous terrain and profound poverty.
"More than 13 million unchurched men, women, boys and girls live within the
10-state region I cover ," says Bill.
Bill's job is to connect on mission
Southern Baptists with the needs of the people. About 50,000 volunteers come to
the region every year. The result? A church from South Carolina built a
wheelchair ramp for a woman who hadn't left her house without assistance in 10
years. A church from North Carolina cleaned up a lady's front yard, hauling
away hundreds of pounds of trash.
One lady, who'd been called "shackrat" by a local pastor because she was
living with her boyfriend, was led to Christ by a mission team. "God don't want
no shackrat," she'd told them. They told her about Christ's love without
labels. In a matter of months the boyfriend was gone, and she and her
15-year-old son started attending church.
ARM helps churches find a niche where they can help rebuild homes, churches
and lives and also facilitate new church plants in areas where the
population-to-church ratio is as bleak as one SBC church for every 61,000
Through ARM more than 300 locations and close to 1,000 opportunities exist
for churches to plug in time, people and resources by helping start new
churches and shedding some light on the often-dark Appalachian valleys.
"I told myself I'd never come back here," says Bill, who grew up in West
Virginia. As many young people did, Bill left when he came of age. But the
mountains slowly drew him back in. Barker believes God used that time to
prepare him for his current ministry. He's become the ultimate matchmaker for
mission teams and the needs of his own folk.
Mission: To coordinate mission teams that respond to the
physical and spiritual needs of the people of Appalachia. To get your church
involved in a mountain ministry, visit www.arministry.org.
Prayer Request: Pray with Bill and his wife Arlene that in
2007 God will call out the short-term volunteers needed for ministry needs in
Appalachia and that they will come willingly to share the gospel and help reach
the 13 million unchurched people.
From the Field:
I was thrilled to learn a few months ago that Bill Barker of Appalachian
Regional Ministries would be featured as a NAMB Week of Prayer Missionary. At
the time, I was freelancing as a writer/editor, and we did a little story about
him and ARM in Altitude magazine (you can read it at www.arministry.org/ARMBillBarker.pdf
A short time ago, I became pastor of Morganton Baptist Church, a
congregation with about 100 in attendance in the mountains of extreme north
Georgia. Immediately I realized we would need help to reach our community. We
wanted to do an all-day Vacation Bible School/Day Camp combination, but didn't
have the people resources to staff it.
Enter Bill Barker and Appalachian Regional Ministries. I sent him a message
saying we could use a mission team or two this summer to help with VBS and also
to help with some minor repairs and painting around the church. He put our
church's need on his website. Within a week, we had received contacts from two
different churches. One plans to bring about 30 youth and adults to help with
VBS/Daycamp, and the other will bring a smaller group to do painting and other
repairs to our church house.
As someone who grew up in Appalachia, and has now returned there to
minister, it's thrilling to me to see how effective Bill and other NAMB
missionaries are in stretching our Cooperative Program and Annie Armstrong
Easter Offering dollars.
Pastor, Morganton Baptist Church
Born in Bangkok, Thailand, the son of non-Christian, Chinese parents, Thira
Siengsukon grew up learning about the Buddhist religion of his ancestors.
"When I joined an American missionary's youth program I heard about Jesus for
the first time," he says. "I compared Christian beliefs to the Buddhist
beliefs. After three years, I surrendered to Christ."
After graduating from Trinity College and Thailand Baptist Theological
Seminary the Siengsukons came to the United States so Thira could continue his
studies at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri.
He and his wife, Montira, soon developed
a passion for planting churches and winning Lao immigrants to Christ. He served
five years as the church planter and pastor of New Life Baptist Church, a Lao
congregation in Olathe, Kansas-one of only 80 Lao churches in the entire
Southern Baptist Convention.
Thira intended to return to Thailand but God had other ideas. "I couldn't
return to Thailand, because I couldn't find a Lao pastor to replace me. In the
meantime, the Lord helped me see the desperate need for biblical training for
Lao pastors," he explains.
In partnership with the North American Mission Board, the Kansas-Nebraska
Convention of Southern Baptists and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary,
Thira founded the Lao School of Ministry in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1988.
It's difficult for most Laotian pastors to leave their congregations, so
instead of making the pastors travel to the seminary Thira takes the training
to them. He's established 11 satellite-training centers around the country.
Currently, some 100 students are participating in the 30-credit hour
curriculum. While Thira makes the rounds to each center on several weekends
during the year, much of the coursework is done online and by correspondence.
Students who complete the curriculum earn a diploma in Christian ministry.
Thira and Montira, who both learned English when they were young, write all
of the school's textbooks and course materials in Lao because English is a
difficult second language to master for Laotians.
His greatest joy is "seeing the Lao pastors and leaders succeed in their
ministries and produce healthy, fruitful churches that, in turn, plant other
healthy, fruitful Lao churches so that many Lao-American souls can come to
faith in Christ and live for Him."
He believes the impact of his Lao School of Ministry is felt all the way
back to Laos itself.
"Every year, Lao-Americans go back to visit their parents," he says. "They
tell their relatives they now believe in Christ, and He is changing their lives
back in America and 'Christ can change your life over here, too.'"
In Laos, a communist country, preaching and teaching the Bible is not
allowed. "But they can't keep us from answering questions," Thira says.
Prayer Request: Pray that God would prepare the hearts of
Laotians in North America to receive the gospel. Also pray that those who are
already Christians would grow in their faith and take the gospel back to their
Church planting is part of Gary Irby's DNA. His grandfather was a
bi-vocational church planter, and his dad helped start eight churches before
Gary was eight years old.
However, Gary didn't plan on going into the family business. "I studied
different things in college," he says. "But, God led me into
As a young pastor in Washington State, Gary served a church that was growing
but very slowly. He became frustrated with himself and with God. He says he
prayed and "then God said to me very clearly-the clearest I've ever heard
him-'Gary, you've been adding. It's time to start multiplying.' In other words,
He meant ?that it was my turn to start planting churches.
Gary has been starting churches for 20 years now. The last nine have been in
Seattle. He has a real heart for the diverse people of the greater Puget Sound
area as well as the church planters who come to shine the light of Christ in
this spiritually dark region of North America.
"Of the 4 to 5 million people who live in
this area only four percent are evangelical Christians," he says. "Over 80
percent of them believe in something beyond the physical realm. The problem is
a great number of world religions are represented here, so many people just
compile their own beliefs from these different faiths."
Many challenges face church planters who come to Seattle. "It can be a very
lonely enterprise to move from where you have strong Christian relationships to
a place where it's so unchurched," Gary says. Because the Christian population
is so low churches are started in much the same way they are on the
international mission field. Gary looks for indigenous people to come alongside
the church planters to help them adapt to the culture and reach out to the
unique people groups of Greater Seattle.
Gary's role as a church planting missionary is to help recruit and train
church planters, to assess them, help them find partners and help them discern
where God is leading them to plant.
"Seven years ago, we had about 100 churches in the area," he says. "We've
seen that number grow to about 170 in 20 different languages."
In addition to planting churches that target nationalities, Gary and his
church planters have targeted groups based on age. Some churches focus on the
"Millennials" (teens and 20's), the "Busters" (30's) and, of course, the "Baby
Boomers" (late 40's to early 60's). They also have planted new churches in
apartment complexes, theaters and schools.
The goal of all Gary's hard work is seeing people come to know the Savior.
"I love to be part of their baptism services," he says. "They're just huge
celebrations of peoples' lives that have been radically changed."
Mission: To provide an opportunity for every people group
in the Greater Seattle area to hear and respond to the gospel and to connect
with a church that is reaching out to meet relevant needs within the
Prayer Request: Pray that God would lead Gary to the right
church planter for the area and provide the right partners to pray for and
support the new churches. Also pray that the Holy Spirit will be at work in the
hearts of the people, so when the gospel is shared they're ready to
"We have fun playing in the prayer garden. We like playing freeze-tag or
running laps. Sometimes we just like to look at the clouds," Wnoka says. The
prayer garden of Dixonville Baptist Church is a very special place for her
because just a year ago during Vacation Bible School in this very garden she
asked Jesus to be her savior. "I come to VBS whenever they have it," she says.
"Because I want to learn how to share with other people about God and
Wnoka is one of many children living in the poverty-stricken mission field
of church and community missionary Diana Lewis. "In Arkansas there are some
counties where over half the children live in poverty," she says. "Statewide
one in four children lives in poverty."
The enormity of the problem was brought to light by a government study done
in 1992. The study's findings led Arkansas Baptists to launch a project called
the Mississippi River Ministry. "We began this project to call attention to the
great mission field right in the midst of where we live," Diana says. "We need
Baptists in Arkansas to realize there's a great mission field right outside the
doors of their sanctuaries."
Dixonville is a little town that you
won't even find on an Arkansas map, but God laid the needs of this tiny
community on Diana's heart 16 years ago and she's been ministering there ever
"The people in Dixonville have become part of my family," she says. "I love
getting to go to camp with the children and spend day and night telling them
more about Jesus. I love singing songs with them in VBS and spending time in
Bible study with their mothers."
Diana also ministers in the very economically depressed town of Helena in
Phillips County, the poorest county in Arkansas. Diana has been working there
with Mandy Chaney to begin Mercy Ministries to reach out to women who are
pregnant but don't have the resources or the skills to care for their babies.
Future plans for the ministry include expanding to meet other needs in the
community as well.
Mandy and Diana were the answer to each other's prayers. "When this ministry
first came to my heart, I didn't know what to do about it," Mandy says. "The
North American Mission Board and the state convention told us to talk to Diana.
She told us that she'd been praying three years for God to raise someone up in
the Arkansas Delta for a ministry just like this."
The most important thing Diana wants churches across the nation to know is,
"the people that I've come to know, living in poverty, have many, many
strengths," she says. "Strength of family, strength of endurance, strength of
character, things that our churches could benefit from knowing about."
Proverbs 22:2 (NAS), Diana's favorite verse says, The rich and the poor have
a common bond, the Lord is the maker of them all.
Mission: To open the eyes of Arkansas Baptists to the
physical and spiritual needs of those living in poverty that can be met if
someone will go and share the love of Christ with them.
Prayer Requests: Pray that the people who live in and
around these poverty-stricken areas will realize that reaching out can make a
difference. Also pray for Diana's husband, John, as he ministers as a chaplain
at the VA hospital in Little Rock and her son Caleb who is a seminary student
and feels called to missions.
"I don't think God could have called me to a better place," says Ken Wilson,
Director of Missions for the Northwest Baptist Association in northern
Michigan. It's an outdoorsman's paradise.
"We'll have dozens of fish fries throughout the summer and fall, with
several hundred people attending. We take these and make them
"We have wild game dinners with speakers sharing the gospel. We even do
evangelistic deer hunts."
But even a hunting and fishing paradise has its dark side, according to Ken.
Many northern Michigan towns have a staggering lost population of 70-80
Within the Northwest Baptist Association
there are only 15 churches and missions, and these congregations have an
average attendance of only 30 people each Sunday.
Yet there's great potential for growth. Most of the area is growing by 15
percent annually. However, Leelanau County and Leelanau Peninsula are growing
at a rate of 35 percent each year.
"We have many church-planting needs," Ken says. "We need some partner
churches to come up here and help us."
One area in desperate need of a church plant is Mackinac City. In the summer
when tourism is at its peak Mackinac grows to 10,000 people or more, but during
the winter, it reverts to a ghost town.
"It's a beautiful area, and there are several things we could do because of
the tourism," Ken says. "But first, we need to reach the indigenous people who
live there year-round."
Ken believes it's important to recruit locals as pastors and church workers,
because they know the local culture better than anyone else, and know how to
relate to the people in the area.
"It gets lonely up here when the snow's 36 inches deep, and there's no place
to go," he says. "It's a calling to be here."
With so few Southern Baptists, Wilson relies on Baptist volunteer mission
teams who come from locations around the U.S.
"They help us in so many ways," he says. "And they're a real shot in the arm
to our pastors."
In fact, it was on a short-term mission trip to the area that Ken first felt
God's call to leave the church he had pastored for eight years in southern
Illinois to plant churches and share the gospel in northern Michigan.
A church planter at heart, Ken loves to talk about The Orchard, a new church
start in Traverse City-the largest city in northwest Michigan.
"When I came here in 2003, I prayed for someone to start a new church in
Traverse City. God answered that prayer by sending Rich Ratts, who is The
Orchard's pastor," Ken says. "They constituted in April 2006 with 120 members.
Working alongside them through the whole church plant has been an exciting
Prayer Request: Pray that God would help impact some areas
where there is no gospel witness. Also, pray that He would provide laborers to
assist in church planting and sharing the gospel. Most important, pray for the
pastors that God would use them and add a fresh touch to their ministries.
Leroy Fountain, church planter associate for the North American Mission
Board and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, is passionate about his
calling. He's ready to follow wherever God leads.
Leroy and his wife, Carolyn, are a ministry team. In fact, God revealed His
plan to move the family to Texas to Carolyn before he revealed it to Leroy.
They're passionate about seeing churches started that will reach new population
segments for Christ.
"If there's anything being done in the world today, to change the world, it
is planting churches," says Leroy.
His mission field is as big and vast as the state of Texas. It includes
African-American, coffeehouse, language, suburban, storefront and college
churches and western heritage cowboy churches from east to west Texas, over 770
How do he and Carolyn serve and support such a variety of Texas churches,
with different memberships, dynamics, histories and cultures?
"Well, they're all different but there
are, at the heart of every church, things that are the same," he says. "We want
them to be churches that concentrate on ?the basics of developing a group ?of
people who know that Jesus Christ is Lord, and are following Him as
"By planting new churches, we want to develop an evangelism program that
will cause people to be transformation agents in the neighborhoods where they
live," Leroy says. "Then they can begin to lead people to Christ and help the
church become a beacon of light in neighborhoods where there is often
"We often think that all the darkness is in the urban inner-cities," he
says. "But there's so much darkness in our suburbs, in our young people and in
our senior citizens. Even though the world is more crowded than ever, people
are lonelier than ever. The church can be a refuge, an oasis, in the middle of
this dark and desolate world."
But Leroy is quick to say he's not for planting the same old traditional
churches-the kind of church his parents attended.
"We don't need churches like we have built in the past. We need new churches
that stretch us-churches that look like the new generation. Many new-style
churches are actually more demanding, more discipleship-oriented and have
stricter accountability than traditional churches."
Young people, he says, are looking for a church that presents the gospel in
a package they can readily understand.
"We want to instill a missionary mindset in the hearts and minds of young
people in Texas that if and when they move to another city or state, they don't
have to look for a church, they can start a new one," Leroy says.
He believes "this is what I was shaped and gifted to do. Church planting has
brought a joy to my life. It's something I still get a thrill in doing."
Editor's note: Following the writing of this article Leroy joined the
staff of the North American Mission Board, where he continues to assist church
Prayer Request: Pray for Leroy as he identifies, trains and
helps locate sponsoring churches for new church planters. Pray that God would
prepare the communities where the planters will be going. And that He would
bless them as they make sacrifices to follow His call.
Anatoliy Odnoralov was the son of a shoemaker who along with his Jewish
wife, were faithful believers in Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, they were
believers living in the atheistic Soviet Union. The KGB and the Soviet Union's
Committee on Religious Affairs constantly harassed the family. "Since early
childhood, I knew the price for my convictions," he says.
When the iron curtain finally was lifted, Anatoliy was thrilled to be able
to share Christ openly. "I never thought I would go to America, because I was a
missionary, back in Russia," he says. But God created extraordinary
circumstances, and I had to go to the states."
Eight months into his new life in Colorado, Anatoliy was still wondering why
God placed him there. "One day while I was handing out literature an old Jewish
man came up to me and asked, 'Why do you come here? You bring a strange God to
us by your literature.' He looked deep into my eyes and said, 'I'm an old man,
but my people will live until Messiah comes.' At that moment as I looked into
his empty, hopeless eyes the Holy Spirit spoke to me. He said, 'I want you to
tell these people about me. Tell them without stopping.'" That was the day
Anatoliy realized his calling, to be a missionary to Russian-speaking Jews in
Denver is home to 60,000 people from the former
Soviet Union, 80 percent of them are Jewish and only 3 or 4 percent are
Christians. Communist atheism made them very closed to the gospel.
"It's difficult for Russian-speaking people, especially Jewish people, to
accept the good news. We have to work for a long time to create faith in them,"
he says. "So what we're doing is showing love."
One of the ways Anatoliy is sharing the love of Christ in Denver is through
the International Center of Hope. Launched just a year ago the chief project of
the center is teaching English as a second language to as many as 100 Russian
immigrants at a time. The center also offers computer, music, art, Russian
history and Hebrew language classes. All of the classes are free. In addition,
the center sponsors home Bible studies. Anatoliy says Russian-speakers prefer
studying the Bible in private homes rather than in local churches.
"These people are very hard-working and are just trying to survive," he
says. "Unfortunately, we see many families on the edge of divorce and lots of
people are depressed." Anatoliy's goal is to develop deep relationships and
establish a sense of trust and community.
"We are open to them," he says. "They can see our households. We are not
afraid to show them how we live. So, we have mutual understanding, and then
they open up to the gospel. That's a huge reward for us when we see families
that were almost ruined restored."
Larisa is a great example of the the Odnoralovs impact. She began taking ESL
classes with them five years ago. Anatoliy's wife, Natasha, befriended her and
through their relationship she eventually accepted Christ. "I don't have family
here," she says. "Just my kids-Anatoliy and Natasha. They're my family, I feel
like they're more than family. We're so close and it has helped me a lot. Now I
know it's all from God."
Mission: To change the hearts and lives of Russian-speaking
immigrants in Colorado through the love of the Savior.
Prayer Request: Pray for the people with whom the
Odnoralovs will be sharing the gospel. Ask God to help them to be patient and
understanding of how difficult it is for Russian speakers, especially those who
are Jewish, to accept the good news. Also pray for the volunteers who minister
alongside the Ordnoralovs.
As Jeff and Thea Ford planned for their life together they knew God's
calling would play an important role. "We felt like we needed to do something
before we did the house and the white picket fence kind of thing," says
"We felt God opening doors for us to be a part of US/C2." After serving two
years on the Gulf Coast of Alabama Jeff and Thea felt that God had been
orchestrating events throughout their lives-from the summer in college when
they both served as summer missionaries to a last minute change during their
US/C2 application process that lead them to Alabama-to prepare them for
full-time missions service on the Gulf Coast, so they stayed on. Today Jeff and
Thea are resort missionaries and head up Gulf Area Resort Ministries in the
twin resort cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.
"Someone once told me that lost people are most open to the gospel two times
in their lives," Jeff says. "The number one time is during a crisis. And the
second time is during times of recreation, leisure or vacation."
The warm weather and beautiful beaches of
Alabama's Gulf Coast draw over 6 million visitors year-round, and 70 percent of
them don't know Christ. The Fords' use creative strategies to open up dialogue
and create connections with vacationers that will lead to opportunities to
Fall and winter on the Alabama Gulf Coast attracts senior
citizens-"snowbirds" as Jeff affectionately calls them-from the Northeast and
Midwest, who come south to the Gulf for up to six months to escape winter.
"During our snowbird ministry in the winter, we hold worship services at
local campgrounds and have a bicycle club where Thea and I ride bikes with the
snowbirds, just trying to build relationships. " Jeff says.
But without a doubt, the Fords' busiest time of year is spring break
and summer, when college and high school students-and kids with their
families-swarm the Alabama Gulf Coast beaches.
Starting with a website called www.barefootbelievers.com and a
NAMB-developed group called "Innovators," the Fords use a myriad of methods to
creatively spread the gospel on the beaches. "Barefoot Believers" comes from
Romans 10:15, where Paul refers to a verse in Isaiah that says, "How beautiful
are the feet of those who bring the good news."
"We spend a lot of time barefoot on the beach handing out bottles of water,
Frisbees with the gospel message imprinted on them, setting up face-painting
and hair-wrap booths or serving people cold watermelon," Jeff says. "We just
want to have a presence."
Jeff's spring/summer ministry also uses worship services, Christian music
concerts, backyard Bible clubs and other forms of beach evangelism.
Jeff also uses teams of Innovators, college students for whom he finds
summer jobs in the Gulf Shores or Orange Beach areas. They work most of the day
in a local hotel, resort or tourist attraction, and then spend the rest of
their day doing ministry.
"People talk about Gulf Shores and Orange Beach as being party places," Jeff
says, "but I believe the true party is the abundant life, and that party only
happens through a relationship with Jesus Christ."
Mission: To mobilze volunteers and share Christ with people
vacationing on the Gulf Coast of Alabama.
Prayer Request: Ask God to provide more volunteers and help
the Fords develop new relationships with hotels, condominiums and businesses.
Also pray for a strong support network and better time management as Jeff and
Thea try to balance family time and ministry time.
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC