This is the final email in our month-long series focusing on international mission opportunities without leaving your hometown. It serves as a recap of the previous messages. Thanks for walking along this journey with us. There is so much more for us to do, together!
With the change in how we see international missions, we have discovered new ways we can all be part of God’s mission in the world. While for years international missions has meant us sending representatives “over there”, increasingly the world has come right here. Churches that seek to advance God’s kingdom around the world can start in their own back yard. A chance conversation overheard in a Walmart led to a French-Swahili worship service at Melrose Baptist Church in Roanoke – a ministry to Ugandan refugees in the community who can worship in their own language and regularly share joint worship and communion with the rest of Melrose Baptist Church. As believers all over the world flee political unrest and war, more are finding their way to Virginia, and churches are increasingly finding ways to minister to them. Organizations like Re-Establish Richmond, while not faith-based themselves, partner with churches to help them welcome the stranger in their community by connecting them to life-building tools and resources.
As we learn more about how to minister to people from around the world that come to our communities, we’re also learning how to go into their communities in a more respectful and more effective way. Just as we know our own communities better than any outsider can, our partners around the world know their communities better than we ever could. When we minister in another culture, we do so with a trusted partner, and they take the lead on how that ministry will go. Our partnership with Food for the Hungry through Focus Poverty has led to churches in Virginia connecting directly with communities in Nicaragua, supporting the work they are already doing in their own community. The work is partner-directed, and we focus on the relationship with those communities rather than whatever project we want to accomplish. Through the EBF indigenous church planters initiative, the BGAV and participating churches like Eastville Baptist are able to support missionaries who plant churches in their own communities – without the language and culture barriers that make sending American missionaries more expensive and less effective.
Along with our investments in enhancing the work of local missionaries in other countries, we’re also learning from those missionaries ways of doing and funding church that can revolutionize what we do here. We’ve shared about West African Church Planting Movement that is seeing churches embrace “business as mission” – starting businesses that not only facilitate their ministry but also fund it. Their funders, including the BGAV, are providing resources to start businesses that are providing transportation, clean water, food, and printing services, with profits from the businesses funding the ongoing work of the church. The initial investment of $400,000 comes in part from support churches and individuals in Virginia have given to international missions through the BGAV.
As our understanding of international missions and the work God does through the international church evolves, so does our way of being part of it. Baptist churches in the US have long invested financially in international missions by supporting missionaries that go to other countries to share the Gospel. Anywhere we go now, we find God already at work, and we want to invest the funds individuals and churches entrust to us in the way that honors their desire to share the gospel and local partners’ understanding of their own context and culture. The BGAV International Mission Offering this year will help us all share the Gospel and make disciples. The gifts you give help us join what God is already doing all over the world, instead of going all over the world to see what we can do. As you celebrate Advent, at a time when international missions may be at the front of your mind, we invite you to join us in supporting the work God is doing.