Baptists from Missouri came away from the Baptist World Congress meeting in Honolulu with a fresh appreciation for the way in which Baptists can be united in worship and purpose.
Alton Lacey, president of Missouri Baptist University, and his wife, Pat, attended the Baptist World Alliance's once-every-five-years event from July 28 to Aug. 1. The meeting brought Baptists from across the world together for worship, greater understanding and discussion.
"Participating in worship with Baptists from 105 countries and diverse cultures, yet speaking the same language of an unchanging gospel, was invigorating and enlightening," Lacey noted.
"The enthusiastic expression of unity for carrying the message of Christ to every part of the world was exciting."
Scott Stearman, senior pastor of Kirkwood Baptist Church, called the experience "great." The minister has been a committed BWA supporter since working with the European Baptist Convention as a pastor of English-language churches in Athens, Greece, and Paris, France, from 1993-2003.
Stearman has served as a member of the BWAid committee. BWAid is the BWA's humanitarian and disaster relief arm. He also just completed a term on the ethics commission.
"I have great appreciation for the work of [former BWA General Secretary] Denton Lotz and for BWA in general," said Stearman, who also attended the 2000 and 2005 congresses.
"I was impressed with the diversity of attendees.... There's always an impressive crowd and I always enjoy it," he added. The "only real downer," he said, was learning that the U.S. government had denied visas to as many as 1,000 individuals who had registered to attend the congress.
"I'm very glad that I went...and am hoping to make the South African meeting in 2015."
A group of students from First Baptist Church, Cape Girardeau, attended part of the congress through a Passport Adventure camp. For 17 years, Birmingham, Ala.-based Passport Inc., has offered students camp with a hands-on missions experience. The ministry provided the youth program for Baptist World Congress, meeting jointly with adult attendees primarily for worship.
As a mission project, participants packed rice and dried vegetables for use as prepackaged meals.
"Our youth go to Passport each summer, usually in places like Florida or somewhere in the south," pastor Mike Shupert explained. "Upon finding out about Passport doing a camp in conjunction with the Baptist World Congress, we jumped at the opportunity....
"Our young people have a bigger worldview than I remember having as a teen. They were anxious to meet and get to know youth from other countries," he said.