By Vicki Brown
Word&Way Associate Editor
Ironton — Trustees for The Baptist Home took two historic steps on Sept. 12 - to assist Belarusian Baptists to open a home for the aged in that country and to broaden the scope of individuals to be admitted to the Missouri facilities.
Meeting at the Arcadia Valley campus, board members agreed to a five-year commitment to The Baptist House of Mercy at Kobrin Camp. "I believe this is God's invitation...for a global presence," consultant Roger Hatfield told trustees.
Hatfield was among the first group to minister in Belarus when a 10-year partnership between the Baptist Union of Belarus and the Missouri Baptist Convention began in 1993. He facilitated the connection between Stepan Trubchik, who has dreamed of providing a home for the elderly, and The Baptist Home.
Director of development and communications Jim Nelson and trustee Margaret Woolley made an exploratory and fact-finding trip to Belarus in July. They viewed the building on the Kobrin campus that will house the new ministry.
Baptist leaders determined the Kobrin site as the most appropriate place for the ministry in spite of extensive renovations the building will require. Although it has tightened some religious freedoms, the government already recognizes the camp's use for religious and humanitarian purposes.
In addition, Missouri Baptists helped outfit a medical clinic on campus. Several Missouri churches and individuals continue to support the camp and its ministry to children.
Baptist Home trustees authorized a $500,000 capital campaign to raise funds to renovate the building. Up to $250,000 will be used for renovation, with the remainder to become an endowment fund.
Emeritus trustee Bill Sheehy said that, while he supports the Belarus venture, he feared that a capital campaign could be seen as "off target" and that The Home could be perceived as shifting its focus from its primary ministry in Missouri.
"I am concerned that the capital campaign be directed so that others will know we are not leaving our purpose," he said.
Emeritus trustees — board members who have served four three-year terms — are invited to attend and participate in board meetings but have no vote.
Chief executive officer Steven Jones noted he recognized the concern. "We don't want to lose sight of our ministry.... This is a step of faith...and we won't have all the answers," he said.
But he pointed out that The Home would not own or control the ministry in Belarus. "We are just assisting in getting it started," he said.
Jones also noted that Belarusians are committed to the project and that an individual in Belarus already has donated $20,000 to buy materials for the building.
During the Sept. 12 session, trustees approved changes to The Home's admissions policy and guidelines to include all Baptists in Missouri and to allow out-of-state Baptists and individuals of other evangelical groups an opportunity to reside at one of the three Missouri campuses.
Applicants who are members of "churches historically related to Missouri Baptists" — including MBC, Baptist General Convention of Missouri and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship churches — will be considered first.
As space is available, The Home will consider out-of-state individuals who are members of "historically related" Southern Baptist churches.
Next in line would be people who now belong to an evangelical church but who have a Baptist connection, either as former members or through a "significant caregiver" who is a member of an "historically related" Southern Baptist church.
Then members of Baptist churches of "like faith and practice" and members of other evangelical churches would be considered.
In other action, board members elected four new trustees, including Jesse Parrott of First Baptist Church, Rolla; Kenneth McIntosh of McComb; Joella MaGuffee of First Baptist Church, Ironton; and Kenneth Chatlos of Second Baptist Church, Liberty.
Re-elected to three-year terms were David Johnson, Richard Lionberger, Ross Thompson and Joan Boone.
The full board's next scheduled meeting is Dec. 5 at Windermere Baptist Conference Center.