|From the General Secretary |
By Neville Callam
Preparations are already under way for the commemoration in 2017 of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. No doubt, much time will be spent in reflection on Martin Luther's life and teaching and also the significant achievement by Catholics and Lutherans who first signed the Joint Declaration on Justification by Faith.
In 1546 when he suffered a stroke, Martin Luther, who had done much to call the people of God back to the apostolic faith, was to breathe his last. An official notice announcing Luther's passing and imminent funeral was issued by the University of Wittenberg. It described Luther as one who was "divinely raised up" and who "restored the light of the Gospel." To whom did the authors of the notice give credit for Luther's ministry? This is what the notice said: "This is to be acknowledged as God's blessing; but while we must give thanks to God, we must at the same time love such ambassadors of heaven."
As we remember great women and men who have contributed much to help us better understand what it means to be disciples of Jesus, should we not consider how far the path they trod was marked by painful experiences?
In the case of Baptist leader, John Smyth, did he not have to leave his homeland to enjoy liberty to worship the God he knew? And when, in 1611, while suffering ill health, was he not excommunicated by the church God had enabled him to form?
For his part, Thomas Helwys also fled to Amsterdam leaving his wife and children behind. Despite the obvious risks involved, Helwys and twelve Baptist émigrés returned to England where he spoke out against religious persecution only to suffer imprisonment and death in the Newgate Prison.
Of course, all our acts of sacrifice cannot compare with what God in Christ Jesus has done for us. The one who "left the splendor of heaven," endured the trials of this world, and took the way of the Cross for the sake of our salvation. We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:9) and we are prepared to take up our Cross daily and follow him (Luke 9:23) on the basis of Christ's own example.
Because we know what God in Christ has done for us, we are empowered to serve the Lord with joy. As we do, we embrace the vocation to be heaven's ambassadors.
|What BWA Member Bodies are Doing|
Baptist Convention of Ecuador
Baptist witness began in Ecuador in 1950 and the Baptist Convention of Ecuador was organized in October 1972. There are now approximately 15,000 members in more than 250 Baptist churches in the South American country.
The convention has undertaken a number of mission initiatives. Ecuadorian Baptists have conducted nutrition and health care workshops in numerous locations and have a special mission outreach to the country's indigenous populations.
Working with other partners, Baptists in Ecuador have helped to establish preschool education programs, conduct mission outreach amongst the urban poor, and are training mission leaders.
Baptists have also been involved in relief efforts. During devastating floods that affected the country in 2008, Baptists were among those that responded, providing assistance to approximately 200 families.
One great need is for trained pastors and church leaders as only approximately 20 percent of pastors have received theological and ministerial training. The Baptist Theological Seminary seeks to meet this need by offering diploma, bachelors and masters level courses and programs in order to equip pastors and church leaders for ministry. The institution is affiliated with RIBET, the Network of Baptist Theological Education in Latin America, as well as with universities in Ecuador.
The convention's chief mission is the development of the local church, helping to "strengthen key areas of the local church and... to achieve holistic growth and fulfill the functions and mission of the body of Christ."
Skein Baptist Church
Skien Baptist Church (SBC) was the first Baptist congregation formed in Norway in April 1860 under the leadership of Danish evangelist Frederick Ludvig Rymker, who founded many Baptist congregations in the Scandinavian countries.
This historic church has reshaped itself to address the spiritual and social needs of current generations.
SBC has a focus on ministry to children and young people from one to 25 years of age. The majority of the church's members are young families, many of which are first generation Baptists "due to very successful youth work during the last 30 years," according to the church's office manager, Hans Otto Donnestad. Many of SBC's activities, such as Sunday school classes, a baby choir, and choirs for children and youth, reflect its focus on young people.
A second primary emphasis of the church is on small group Bible studies. More than 100 of its 254 members are involved in small groups.
The church has worked to renew the Sunday morning services, which it calls "Open Door" services. SBC also recently introduced a new structure, and is focused on ensuring that all members "find a way to use their God-given gifts and talents in the areas of mission, evangelism and practical work."
SBC ministries demonstrate the church's mission "to convey God's love and the good news about Jesus Christ in our own community and in a wider, global perspective." SBC has reached out to almost 80 refugees from Myanmar living in the Skien community, and more than 30 have become members of the church. "It is impossible to describe all the blessings we have experienced in the work of helping them and involving them in our social and spiritual fellowship," said Donnestad.
Church members have been involved in addressing issues of freedom and justice worldwide by writing letters to state leaders where Christians are being detained or are imprisoned. They have also provided aid for victims of natural or other disasters in Myanmar, Chad, the Congo and Eastern Europe.
SBC's global perspective is also evident in the direct partnership the church has with a Baptist church in Freetown, Sierra Leone. SBC has established partnerships with other churches through the Baptist Union of Norway and the BWA. For the past 30 years, the youth choir, Con Amore, has visited more than 100 different Baptist churches around the world.
|In Memoriam: Helen Long Fling|
Helen Long Fling, former head of the North American Baptist Women's Union (NABWU) and a founding member of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) Women's Committee, precursor to the BWA Women's Department, died on March 1 in Wimberley, Texas, in the United States. She was 97 years old.
Fling grew up in Texas and graduated from East Texas State University, with studies also at Baylor University.
After her marriage at age 19 to Baptist pastor, evangelist and missionary Robert Cobb Fling in June 1934, they traveled to the BWA's Baptist World Congress in Berlin, Germany, for their honeymoon.
She became actively involved in the Woman's Missionary Union (WMU) of the Southern Baptist Convention, volunteering in a number of capacities. She was elected recording secretary of the organization in 1957 and was chosen as president in 1963, serving until 1969. During her tenure as president she led a reorganization of the WMU and helped the women's group to focus on Christian social ministries and racial justice.
Fling and her husband led churches in several states, including Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma and New York. While in New York, they helped to plant the Westchester Baptist Church in Pleasantville. During this time she was elected to lead the NABWU, a continental union of the BWA Women's Department, and became a board member of the American Bible Society for many years.
In 1967, she was the first woman to be elected to an office in the Baptist General Convention of Texas, as second vice president.
In 1976, Helen and Robert Fling extended their mission efforts to Germany where Robert served as pastor of the English-language Baptist congregation in Munich. Both were involved in the European Baptist Convention, a fellowship of English-language churches and missions in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Central and South America.
After returning to the US, she renewed her involvement in the WMU and NABWU, including as NABWU treasurer from 1977-1982. Until her retirement in 1984, she nurtured formation of WMU area organizations across the US, particularly in the states of Nevada, Wyoming, New England, and Minnesota-Wisconsin.
In the 1960s, she authored two books, Enlistment for Missions and Changes and Choices. She was awarded the Golden Medallion from the Southern Baptist Ministers' Wives Conference for distinguished denominational service in 1966.
Funeral services were held March 6 at Mountain Brook Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.
Fling is survived by son, Michael, and daughter, Sheila.
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|Movements and Changes|
|Aaron Ramirez Sabag, elected general secretary of the National Baptist Convention of Mexico, succeeding Raul FernandezBack to top
A generous bequest from the estate of Valentine Veit, Carle Delaune executor.
Baptist World Aid
|BWAid grants for the month of February 2012|
Grants recorded in United States dollars unless otherwise noted
Project monitoring 5,613.00
Tropical Storm Relief 10,000.00
Community Development & Disaster Risk Reduction 27,825.00
Earthquake Rehabilitation 48,480.00
Silo Project Phase Two 8,120.00
Conference Scholarship 1,000.00 Euros
Children's Home $810.40
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Monthly Prayer Guide
Each week, the staff of the Baptist World Alliance prays for conventions and unions throughout the world.
We invite all other Baptist conventions and unions, and individual Baptists everywhere, to join us in these prayers.
For the month of April we will remember the following:
April 1-7Malaysia Baptist Convention
Singapore Baptist Convention
Baptist Conference of the Philippines, Inc.
Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches, Inc.
Convention of Visayas & Mindanao of Southern Baptist Churches
General Baptists Churches of the Philippines, Inc.
Luzon Convention of Baptist Churches
Convention of Indonesian Baptist Churches
The Fellowship of Baptist Churches of Papua
Union of Indonesian Baptist Churches
Baptists scattered over East Timor
Japan Baptist Conference
Japan Baptist Convention
Japan Baptist Union
Okinawa Baptist Convention
Korea Baptist Convention
Chinese Baptist Convention (Taiwan)
Baptists scattered throughout Djibouti & Somalia
Union of Baptists in Latin America
Congress and Assembly, Asuncion, Paraguay, April 18-21