Editor’s Note — National Nurses Week is May 6–12.
Cindy Townsend says when Lori Spikes — “one of their own” at First Baptist Church Jackson, Mississippi — was named executive director of national Baptist Nursing Fellowship in 2018, “we celebrated that together.”
And when Spikes died of COVID-19 just two years later, the church wept together, too.
Spikes was an integral part of the church’s ministry, said Townsend, minister of Woman’s Missionary Union and women’s enrichment ministry at FBC.
But even more than that she was a friend.
“Lori’s death has been beyond anything I could put in words, and our WMU women have been grieving,” Townsend said. “It was a great loss to our church family because we loved her so, and she served in so many areas so effectively.”
Honoring her memory
As the women at FBC tried to process the loss, one thing became clear, they wanted to honor Spikes’ memory in a fitting way. WMU leader Merrie Wiley suggested they name something significant after Spikes. After discussion they decided to start the church’s first BNF chapter and name it after her.
Spikes made an impact on many people over the course of her life. She was an International Mission Board journeyman in Honduras (1980–1982). Then she and her husband, Jim, served 20 years in Chile where she worked as a parish nursing volunteer, coordinator of volunteer medical teams and administrative assistant. The couple also served with the American Peoples diaspora in Europe and Canada for five years before returning to the United States in 2015. Three years later she became BNF’s leader.
After Spikes’ funeral service Townsend said she and others realized “we had so many nurses, so many professional nurses and medical care people [in our church] that we really need to pull together for Kingdom purposes.”
She and others, including Estelle Watts, a close friend of Spikes who had served alongside her in BNF at the national level, put their heads together. They talked with the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, then with Deborah Bolian, now president of national BNF.
“I asked her, ‘What’s the best way to do this?’ And she said, ‘If you’re going to form a BNF that’s going to be really active here at First Baptist, would you be willing to join hands with nurses from around the state and open things up to them when we have events?’ And I said, ‘Of course, absolutely,’ ” Townsend recalled.
So the idea was born. Then they pitched it to Spikes’ husband, Jim.
“He teared up and wept and said that would make her legacy live on and really be the fruition of Lori’s dream,” Townsend remembered, explaining that because Spikes served on the national level she’d never had the time to start a local chapter at her church.
“So her legacy lives on through this group of women,” Townsend said.
On the day the group was launched — in May 2021 during National Nurses Week — some 40 nurses participated.
“The emphasis of the day was twofold — to introduce them to BNF so they would have an opportunity to join and to honor Lori’s legacy,” Townsend said. “Many, many responded.”
The aim of BNF, a national WMU compassion ministry, is to equip and empower members spiritually, lead them to be involved in planned nursing and health care programs and encourage them to use their skills to help people around the world through missions trips. Though it focuses on nurses, anyone who has a background in health care can join.
Townsend said one reason Chip Stevens, FBC’s pastor, was excited about the BNF chapter was because they might be able to respond to medical emergencies in the church in a more organized way.
And opportunities outside the walls of the church are boundless, Townsend said. One opportunity could be serving in emergency hospitals like the Samaritan’s Purse unit set up in Jackson last fall during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Another could be serving overseas on missions trips like Spikes loved to do.
“We want to encourage and educate and empower nurses to be the hands and feet of Christ in their workplace and on the missions field as well,” Townsend said. “It’s been something that’s been a dream of women in our church for over a decade [that we were never able to do] put hands and feet to, and I really believe it was all in God’s timing. He orchestrated it. When He orchestrates something, it’s so much bigger and better than we could ever imagine.”
Spikes’ legacy was large, Townsend said, noting everybody wanted to be like her in some way because of her servant heart.
“She had a passion to serve and had a passion to help those who were hurting or needed encouragement or were suffering,” Townsend continued. “What we’re doing here is just an extension of the gifts that we saw in Lori.”
For more information about national Baptist Nursing Fellowship, visit baptistnursingfellowship.com.