August 19, 2014


NEW ORLEANS (BP) -- Jill Welton quickly discovered that the Bedouin tent inside the convention center wasn't a marketing gimmick. It was a place for prayer and reflection.

Welton, a pastor's wife from Berryville, Va., had come to New Orleans for the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting and visited IMB's booth in the exhibit hall.

"Some of the nicest people I've ever met are Muslims.... They're actually more open to talk about religious things than many Christians in the United States."
--Luke Bray
The prayer tent, which dominated IMB's display, was modeled after the desert dwellings of the nomadic Bedouin tribes of North Africa and the Middle East. It was created to inspire SBC messengers to deepen their commitment to be Jesus' heart, hands and voice, following Him in obedience to the Great Commission no matter the cost.

It featured five stations that focused prayer on Jesus' commands in Matthew 16:24-25 for believers to deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow Him.

Welton was overwhelmed by the words of Karen Watson, a Southern Baptist worker martyred in 2004 in Iraq. Before Watson went overseas, she penned a letter to be read by her pastor in the event of her death.

Excerpts of the letter were displayed at one of the prayer stations: "When God calls there are no regrets.... To obey was my objective, to suffer was expected, His glory is my reward."

"I wrote down every word," Welton said. "I'm going to print it up and post it in my cubicle at work because it is incredibly inspirational."

Two years ago, Welton helped her husband Van start Apple Valley Baptist Church in Berryville. The congregation averages about 40 people on Sundays. She said the prayer tent was a good reminder that success isn't measured in numbers but in obedience.

"It's so easy to get caught up in the world's idea of success, and when you don't think that you fit that mold, you may see yourself as a failure," Welton said. "And I think that's a good way for me to encourage my husband as pastor of a small, growing church." Read More

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