At wedding, missions inspires creative gift
BLUEFIELD, Va. (BP) -- As Eric Mason and Amber Fowler put the final touches on their March 10 wedding, the couple turned their attention to what kind of favors they wanted to give guests who attended the reception. Maybe they'd hand out candies, candles or bubbles. But they didn't figure any of the traditional wedding-reception favors would last long. They'd be eaten, used or stuck on a shelf and likely forgotten.
Then, one Sunday, as they sat in worship services of Parkview Baptist Church in Bluefield, Va., the couple noticed promotional material for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering (AAEO) for North American missions. Because both of them had been involved in missions, they decided giving to AAEO would be the ideal place to invest their wedding favor money.
"Years from now, when we're 80 years old, when our guests think back about what we gave as wedding favors, they can know they were able to impact the ministries of the North American Mission Board," Mason said. "It won't just be something that will last for a moment."
The offering is sponsored by the Woman's Missionary Union, and provides support for Southern Baptist missionaries in the United States, Canada and the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa.
The couple's commitment to AAEO has been the most recent example of their growing involvement in missions causes. Mason and Fowler met while they were both participating in the Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) at Longwood University in Farmville, Va. Fowler notes her love for missions began and was nurtured through her participation in the BCM.
"I didn't start going to BCM until later in college, but when I did, I recognized that when they served others, they loved getting to see the smile it put on people's faces," Fowler said. "They'd serve on campus. They'd serve firefighters. They'd serve at hospitals and a variety of other places. I was always volunteering and serving before that, doing a lot with children. But as I did it with my BCM, I was doing it with Christ's love and spreading the Gospel with service."
Mason has also been heavily involved in missions, even participating in international work. When the couple headed to Bluefield and together scouted out churches, they specifically looked for a missions-minded church where they could build on their outreach commitment. Their search eventually led them to Parkview.
The decision the couple made to invest in AAEO on behalf of their wedding-reception guests is just one example of how Southern Baptists are creatively supporting the offering. See other examples below of how churches are supporting North American missions.
Tennessee church auctions off donated items to support missions
The members of Pleasant Hill Baptist Mission in Crossville, Tenn., used another tactic to raise funds for AAEO. On March 7, they held an auction with the intention of donating all the funds to the North American missions offering.
"We believe we're mandated to support the Great Commission," said Gary Robbins, the church's pastor. "Our church is actually a mission of another church. It was a church that had closed down. Another church in our association took it over. We are a mission church. We definitely believe in missions."
The church hosted a special dinner on March 7 and held an auction afterward. Church members donated a variety of items for the auction including baked goods and crafts. A total of 40 people participated in the evening's activities.
Annual pie auction fuels Texas church's Annie Armstrong Offering giving
Central Baptist Church in Pampa, Texas, tried something similar to raise funds for AAEO. On March 11, the church hosted its annual pie auction to benefit the offering. Norman Rushing, the church's pastor, has been using a pie auction to raise money for AAEO since the early 2000s, when he served at a different church. Central Baptist has been holding the pie auctions since 2007.
On Sunday, the church raised more than $6,300 for North American missions by auctioning off about 30 pies. One chicken pot pie sold for $500. A coconut pie went for $300.
"I'm called to pastor a church," Rushing said. "My people and I are called to be here, but we recognize that some people are called to go. They can't stay on the mission field and reach people for Jesus if we don't give."