Thank you, Kentucky Baptists

As 2010 draws to a close, I want to say a word of thanks to all Kentucky Baptists for your generous giving this past year.  During the 2009-10 fiscal year for KBC (Sept. 1 to August 31), you exceeded all previous giving levels for all of our missions offerings – Lottie Moon (International), Annie Armstrong (North America), and Eliza Broadus (Kentucky). 

In addition, you continue to give for the Cooperative Program which is the foundation of support for all of our work, both in Kentucky and around the world.  The missions offerings work in tandem with CP, making our way of supporting missions the strongest in the world among evangelicals.  Thank you.

Larry Brannin and the KBC Communications Department have produced a new CP Thank You video.  It is a great summary of what we want to say to every Kentucky Baptist.  Follow the link to see the video.  Please download it and show it in your church.  Doing so will help us say thank you to all Kentucky Baptists!

East Africa Baptist Women’s Union – Day 3

The final day of the East African Baptist Women’s Union took place today (Friday, December 17).  The patience and eagerness of these ladies is tremendous.

Today’s program began with worship through music and dancing.  Our first speaker addressed the use of resources.  She reminded us that resources include more than money.  Whether it is a skill, our time, our homes, or whatever we have, our resources are to be dedicated to the Lord.  Everything is a gift from God.  We should use them in the attitude of gratitude, and be sure to tithe all of our resources.

The women were then invited to offer testimonies of what the conference meant to them.  Many shared testimonies of how God provided for them to come.   Many had no money and saw God provide their travel and conference registration fee.  There were stories of God’s divine intervention in their lives and testimonies of new friendships between the women of Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania.

After a break, the closing ceremonies began and continued through the afternoon.  Instead of having lunch at the normal time, the ladies decided to continue on with program and their recognitions of all the people who had made the meeting possible.  Without a doubt, they were thrilled that this East African Baptist Women’s Union meeting was held in Tanzania for the first time.  They are committed to reaching out to the other countries that are included in the East Africa region and are planning another meeting for next year.

The President of the Tanzanian Baptist Convention was present for the entire day.  He brought greetings as well as a closing message.  We concluded about 4 p.m. and had lunch.  There was never a complaint and the women continued to give testimonies of how important the meeting had been to them.  An offering for the East Africa Baptist Women’s Union was received and reported in four currencies! 

Over and over, Kentucky WMU was thanked for our part in encouraging the Tanzanian women.  Our investment in our Baptist sisters in Tanzania over three years has resulted in a group that is growing.  And now that Tanzania Baptist Women’s Union has hosted the East Africa Regional meeting, they now have contacts in their area and a new vision for working together.   This is WMU at our best!

East Africa Baptist Women’s Union – Day 2

How does one explain to women who sing and dance their praise to God what we do in our state WMU meetings?  Talk about a different atmosphere! 

The theme of the East African Baptist Women’s Union meeting is “Walking with God.” The first message today was on walking with integrity.  Then Linda and I were asked to speak.  Linda explained the missions focus areas of WMU work.  I shared how Kentucky WMU works with the Kentucky Baptist Convention and discussed the importance of accountability with missions offerings.  We urged the women to promote their offerings by telling missions stories of what happens because people pray and give.  We also explained our process with setting the goal and allocations for the Eliza Broadus Offering and things we’ve learned about receiving and utilizing missions offerings.  Our presentations were very practical in nature and were well received.

After such serious presentations, the fun began.  Each national group had been encouraged to wear national dress, including WMU outfits.  There were quite a few dressed in fabrics with their Baptist Women’s Union logo. Each national group danced and sang around the room, then did a special presentation for the group.  Some presentations were musical.  Two were skits.

Though there are 11 countries in the East Africa region, only three countries are represented at this conference – Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania.   Tanzania only had a few at the last two East Africa BWU conferences, so the decision to bring the conference to Tanzania was with the prayer that hosting the meeting would help strengthen their work.  Over half of the participants at this conference are from Tanzania, so we certainly hope that when the meeting is in another country next time, that the Tanzanian women will want to attend after experiencing this gathering.

The afternoon session included a presentation on the structure of Baptist work and of the Baptist Women’s Union. I was reminded that countries where  Baptist work is not strong appreciate connections with other Baptists.  The presenter pointed out how each country has a Baptist Convention or Baptist Union.  The conventions relate to one another through regional groups (such as East Africa), and then through a continental union (such as the All Africa Baptist Union).  The importance of the Baptist World Alliance was stressed. 

The president of the East African Baptist Women’s Union shared how she came to be elected and then was told to do the work with no resources. She shared how God has provided and brought the women together for two conferences since she was elected. They hope to have another for East Africa in 2011 and then participate in the African Baptist Women’s Union meeting in 2012.   They are very excited that South Africa will host the next BWA meeting in 2015. 

Later in the afternoon, the women broke into discussion groups.  There were groups for single mothers, married women, single women, and older women.  Each group had a facilitator and questions to discuss.  The day ended with a trade show.  Many of the Baptist women’s groups make handcrafts to raise money for their work.  Linda and I did our part!

I am proud that WMU has stood with our sisters around the world.  Each November, when we observe the Baptist Women’s World Day of Prayer, we are saying to other Baptist women that they matter to us.  The trips that I’ve made this year to Korea, Indonesia, and now Tanzania are not typical missions trips.  Rather, they are for the purpose of encouraging our Baptist sisters to keep up the good work and to let them know that someone else appreciates the sacrifices that are making for the gospel. 

Are these trips worth the time and expense? Absolutely.  Our five-year relationship with Korea was a great encouragement to them. My trip to Indonesia opened doors for strengthening ties with WMU. And here in Tanzania, our visit in 2008 encouraged the women to regroup after not meeting for a number of years.  They met in the summer of 2008, again in 2009, and now are hosting this event for the East African Baptist Women’s Union.  This represents significant progress! 

Please pray for Baptist women around the world. Pray for the vision and encouragement they need to keep serving in missions.  Likewise, pray for WMU in Kentucky and beyond to completely committed to the call and mission of God.

Correction: In an earlier post, I said that ladies arrived by bus from Nigeria. This was incorrect – the ladies on the bus were from Uganda and Kenya.

East Africa Baptist Women’s Union Meeting – Day 1

The East Africa Baptist Women’s Union meeting officially opened today with a procession of the ladies singing and dancing from the gate of the Baptist High School into the auditorium where the meeting was to be held.  Most were dressed in a special shirt and skirt.  The biggest challenge for me was keeping the skirt tied.  One lady stopped me and tied mine properly and I had no more trouble during the day.  I did note that even the African ladies had to periodically re-tie their skirts from time to time.  Made me feel better about not being too good at it.
The leaders of the East African Baptist Women’s Union are excellent speakers.  They are passionate about God’s Word and had challenging messages.  We also heard from the president of the All African Baptist Fellowship.  His message on walking with God was one of the best I’ve heard on the topic.
My favorite moment of the day was when one of the ladies began explaining the logo.  The East Africa Baptist Women’s Union logo is based on the historic WMU logo.  So is the logo in Brazil, Korea, Indonesia, and other countries as well.  I prefer the historic WMU logo and have it on display in my office.  The torch, open Bible, and globe are representative of the work of WMU.  The verse on the open Bible is “Laborers Together with God.”    This describes the work of WMU in the USA and around the world.
Tomorrow Linda and I will speak on the work of WMU.  The basic principles of WMU – learn, pray, give, go – translate into any culture. 
It is a privilege to be in Tanzania for this meeting.  I was in Tanzania in 2008 when a group of us from the KBC came and met with Baptist leaders here.  At that time the Baptist Women’s Union of Tanzania had not met in some time.  We talked about the women’s work and encouraged them to meet.  With financial assistance from Kentucky WMU, they held a meeting for the ladies later that summer and elected officers once again.  It is exciting to see their work growing stronger.
Pictures from the East Africa Baptist Women’s Union meeting are posted at:

East Africa Baptist Women’s Union Meeting

Linda Cooper and I left on Sunday, Dec. 12, to travel to Dar es Salaam for the East African Baptist Women’ s Union Meeting.  We traveled safely and arrived on Monday, Dec. 13 about 11:30 p.m. 

Today (Tuesday, Dec. 14) we spent the afternoon and evening greeting women as they arrived for the meeting.  Most started arriving about 6 p.m.  Those that are coming in from out of town have traveled by bus to get here.  Most have spent an entire day on the bus. 

A group from Nigeria arrived on a charted bus and had been traveling for several days.  As the Nigerian ladies began to exit, the other ladies gathered around the bus and began singing.  What a welcome they gave to their Baptist sisters!

The meeting officially begins on Wednesday, Dec. 14.  We’ve been given special outfits to wear for the opening ceremonies.  Our outfits include a traditional African skirt and then a shirt printed with the conference title.  Everyone will be in uniform for the opening session.

We’ve already met many wonderful people including pastors who are so supportive of this meeting.  I was happy to see pastor Samuel (can’t spell his last name) from the Kidoni Baptist Church again. I spoke in his church two years ago.  His church has loaned extra chairs, a tent, and musical equipment.  We took note of chairs that were labeled KBC – then realized that the letters stood for Kidoni Baptist Church!

Linda and I were touched by the commitment of these ladies not only to get to the meeting, but also by their willingness to sleep on the floor.  Ladies are staying in classrooms that have been emptied of furniture for the meeting.  They are rolling out mats to sleep on concrete floors and not complaining!

Linda and I will be speaking in the Thursday session.  Pray that we will be an encouragement to these ladies as they seek to fulfill the Great Commission.

Are We There Yet?

“Are We There Yet?” is a challenging question being asked in this year’s international missions emphasis.  The question is being asked to call attention to our progress in taking the gospel to every people group on earth.  Are we there yet – have we reached this goal?  The  answer is no, but we are closing in on it. While over 6,000 people groups are yet to be reached, progress is being made.  This should cause us to give and pray even more.

“Are we There Yet?”  Kentucky missionaries serving around the world would say no, but we are making progress.   Their letters reveal stories of people coming to Christ and churches being started. They want us to know how much they appreciate our prayers and support through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

Next Sunday/Monday, the question of “Are we there yet?” will be asked often as Linda Cooper and I travel to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to attend the East Africa Baptist Women’s Union meeting.   We are going at the request of the Tanzania Baptist Women’s Union president, Mrs. Lugano Isack.  Kentucky Baptist Convention had a partnership with Tanzania and has continued to work with Tanzanian Baptist leaders. 

An invitation to participate  in the Eastern Africa Baptist Women’s Conference has been sent to Baptist women in  Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Djibouti and Congo.  Please pray that representatives from each of the eleven countries will be able to attend the Dec. 14-18 conference.  Pray that women will have the financial resources to attend the meeting.  Pray that the women will experience God’s love, blessings, and encouragement in a unique way through the conference.  Pray that Linda and I will be encouragers to them in their missions work.

“Are We There Yet?” has been on my mind today as I have reflected on on a missions trip to Kyrgyzstan in 1997.  We went to prayerwalk, paint an apartment to be used by other volunteers, and lead VBS for the preschool children of missionaries from several denominations who were serving in Bishkek.  I will never forget walking around a mosque, praying for the people  there, and praying for a Christian witness to grow.  At that time, there were only a small number of known believers in the country.

During our week we had an afternoon for shopping.  I told our hostess that I collect nativity sets from around the world and would like to purchase one.  She told me that she doubted we would find one in that predominately Muslim country, but much to her surprise, we did find one in a little shop.  Today the WMU staff gave me another nativity set from Kyrgyzstan that is made by Masters Handicrafts.  I was thrilled to receive it because I believe it points to progress in the spread of the gospel in that country.  “Are We There Yet?”  Getting closer!!

The final question on the IMB graphic for this year’s emphasis asks “What more can I do?” The answers include praying daily for missionaries on the prayer calendar, give more to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, go on a missions trip, or even go as a career missionary.  I heard two IMB missionaries to Mexico speak tonight.  They were ordinary folks when they felt God’s call to go. But when asked “what more can I do?”, their answer was “send me.”  What is your answer?