FIRST-PERSON: We are family
VANCOUVER, Wash. (BP) -- If you're over 50 the phrase "we are family" might bring the Sister Sledge pop song from 1979 to mind. But recent events have reminded me that Baptists indeed are family.
For example, when Jimmy Stewart of the Alaska Baptist Convention received devastating third-degree burns in July, he was flown to a Seattle hospital. Upon arrival, Northwest Baptist Convention pastors and church members assisted the family with transportation and housing needs. A similar request came when a mission team member from Alabama was flown to a Seattle hospital in September. Staff at the Puget Sound Baptist Association responded to a request from his Alabama pastor who knew that his Baptist family in Washington would minister to his church member.
Requests like these are not unusual. Recently a Baptist family member in the South requested that we find an Oregon church to help a friend in crisis, and we did. Another shared that when their child moved from Oregon to Massachusetts they contacted our Baptist family in Boston who helped the young couple move into their apartment.
In August our Northwest Baptist family sent 163 people from 32 of our churches to minister to 1,100 family members (missionaries) serving in Asia. Our missionaries depend on us to support them through the Cooperative Program but they also need their Baptist family to pray for them and join them on their mission field. They invited us to help in their training retreat because we are their family. Twenty-two of these same missionaries will spend nine days with us in early October, helping us know better how to reach Asian peoples living in the Northwest, among other things (details on our website at http://www.nwbaptist.org).
This summer we received an application from a church that wants to affiliate with our convention. The church has a large ministry, with several members serving in international missions and 13 members attending seminary. Their small group ministry includes learning Old Testament Hebrew and others for studying biblical theology at a very high level.
So why do they want to affiliate with the NWBC? They are looking for family. They are a church without the extended family that Baptists have. They don't have associations, conventions, seminaries, mission boards and a support system beyond their own town. As Baptists, we even have an insurance and retirement system for our pastors (GuideStone Financial Resources).
Like all families, we have our disagreements, crazy uncles, loudmouthed cousins and dysfunctional branches on the family tree. Sometimes these things frustrate us. But where would we be without our extended family?
In November the NWBC family will gather in Spokane for our annual meeting. We will celebrate what God is doing in our Northwest family with abundant testimonies and worship. It will be a sweet time of fellowship. It is a good day to serve the Lord in the Northwest!