By Bill Webb
When the going gets tough, Christians get busy. It is in the nature of believers to reach out and be useful whenever and wherever they see a need. And Baptists have certainly discovered that human need — and heartfelt response — have no boundaries. Compassion has a way of stretching its arms across the street — or around the world.
Baptist compassion and Baptist response are illustrated in virtually every issue of Word&Way. These are the stories we take delight in bringing to our readers. Baptists aren’t perfect for sure, but they are at their best when they respond to hurting people.
A year after Hurricane Katrina, Baptists are still ministering. That is significant because for many people the dust long ago settled on this catastrophe that especially affected residents of Louisiana and Mississippi. Disasters have a way of disappearing from the public’s consciousness as soon as the media moves on to other stories. The needs remain, but financial support and volunteer hours often diminish quickly.
Baptists are at the forefront of reaching out in yet another outbreak of hostilities in the Middle East. Baptists are not all on the same page as far as their understanding of the conflict involving Israel and Hezbollah fighters, but they overwhelmingly pray for peace. They also reach out to victims — on both sides of the border.
Baptists have significant investments in the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary and Beirut Baptist School, both in Lebanon. For many years, Southern Baptist representatives and other Baptists helped staff these institutions. Baptist dollars helped fund them.
Today these institutions are reaching out to displaced Lebanese people, a large majority of them Muslims who need help and are trusting Christians to administer assistance. Baptists have a similar regard for attack victims in Israel, where Baptist representatives have long reached out to both Israelis and Arabs.
Baptists in Missouri continue to stress ongoing ministries and partnerships that include human needs ministries and evangelism.
Disaster relief specialists scatter on a moment’s notice to hurricane, tornado and windstorm victims near and far.
Churches and individuals regularly link with churches in places like Romania, Belarus, Puerto Rico, Guatemala and Mexico — there is hardly a place where Baptists won’t go to share the love of Jesus.
This summer, youth and adult mission teams from Missouri Baptist churches and associations have scattered across the state and to most of the lower 48 states to engage in Vacation Bible Schools, Backyard Bible Clubs, construction projects and other endeavors.
In offering others the key to eternal life, these Baptists — children, youth and adults — have discovered that they have reaped blessings. They have discovered that the richest gains are those that come when a believer gives himself or herself in Christ-inspired service to others.
In Missouri, we engage the world under varying mini-banners. Some are Missouri Baptist Convention. Some Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Missouri. Some Baptist General Convention of Missouri. Some call themselves conservative; others prefer to be called moderate.
When Baptists engage in missions, the people to whom we minister will likely not be impressed with our labels but with our attitude and with our service. Certainly, we all seek to be Christ-like and missions-minded.
That’s a heritage in which we all can share.