By Junior Davis
Special to The Baptist Record
The Ukraine relief missions trip to Poland was unlike any I have experienced in some 65 years on this earth.
Seeing and listening to so many stories of hurt was a bit overwhelming. There were times I had to ask myself, “Is this really happening?”
Story after story involved refugee wives and children leaving their husbands behind in Ukraine to fight for their country. These fleeing families just wanted their story heard.
The stories of separation from husbands and parents who could not make the journey to Poland with their families always involved tears from both the Ukrainians and, yes, from me.
Before the conversations finished, members of the Mississippi Baptist missions team almost always had an opportunity to share the gospel during the March 27–April 4 trip.
I don’t know if it was to my surprise or simply my ignorance that so many Ukrainian refugees knew Jesus, had a strong faith and possessed a solid understanding of the Bible.
I realized they took comfort in knowing another person from the other side of the world empathized and cared enough to listen and pray for them.
There were pockets of joy in the middle of war.
One example occurred when we had the unexpected privilege to care for children from Ukraine as their mothers filled out paperwork with the Polish government and searched for jobs. We saw one mom smiling while she watched her daughter laugh for the first time in weeks.
That one moment was worth all our travel and preparation.
Many men, myself included, have the idea we can fix any situation or problem. But the situation that caused these women and children to travel for days in extreme cold while bombs fell all around them was completely out of our control. To see some laughter in an unfixable situation was a moment of joy.
Then there was Sunday worship. We attended a Polish service with more than 200 in attendance and a Russian/Ukrainian service with more than 300 in attendance. Both services included baptisms and the Lord’s Supper. Wow, what an experience! Refugees from the war-torn country of Ukraine continue to come together to worship and encourage each other.
As I looked across these congregations worshipping in a language I could not understand, my thoughts went to Mike and Linda Ray and their daughters, Rebekah and Hannah. This family served as missionaries in Dnipro, Ukraine, with the International Mission Board from 1995 to 2014.
Currently, Mike is Mississippi Baptist Convention Board’s missions mobilization director in Jackson. Linda serves in children’s ministry and seeks to develop missions awareness with women in their local churches. Rebekah is the ministry assistant for the Mississippi Baptist Christian Action Commission in Jackson. Hannah is a physician in the Mississippi Delta.
During these trying days for the Ukrainian people, God is undoubtedly still using the Ray’s ministry in Ukraine. Thank you to the Ray family for their investment in Ukraine.
The ending of this story is uncertain. Most of the Ukrainians with whom we spoke long for their homeland and believe they will return soon. The reality is that the war’s devastation hasn’t left much to go back to for the foreseeable future.
If you have the opportunity to minister to the hurting people of Ukraine who face such uncertain futures, you will probably be like us: unable to speak Polish, Russian or Ukrainian, but enabled to speak the language of love through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Mississippi teams will participate in a rotation every four weeks with Louisiana, Ohio and Kentucky state Baptist conventions in support of the Gdansk refugee site.
The Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief ministry is supported by gifts to the Mississippi Cooperative Program and the Margaret Lackey State Missions Offering.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 601-292-3335.
Letter to the editor
Thank you for your work with The Baptist Paper.
One thing that stands out to me about TBP is the clear, intentional desire to avoid the extremes, labels and catchphrases.
It may just be me, but we need to lose words such as liberal, conservative, etc., from the Baptist lexicon.
Let’s be Christian first, Baptist secondly. There is enough division in Baptist life (most because of our own doing). It’s refreshing to see a publication that isn’t fodder for anyone’s arsenal. Keep up the great work. It is important and needed.
2023 SBC meeting update
The 2021 SBC Annual Meeting was the largest crowd we have hosted at an SBC annual meeting in a generation. This June’s meeting in Anaheim is shaping up to draw close to 10,000.
This started in 2018 when more than 9,600 messengers came to Dallas. After adding in guests, exhibitors, credentialed press and others, the official attendance was 16,032.
In 2019, 8,183 messengers and 13,502 total attendees made their way to Birmingham. And 2021 blew past those totals with 15,726 messengers and 21,474 total attendees making Nashville their home for the week.
That leaves us with a major problem for 2023.
When Charlotte, North Carolina, was selected in 2016 as the host city for the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting, the plans allowed for a maximum of 8,000 messengers and guests in the Charlotte Convention Center.
Simply put, Charlotte does not have adequate space to host the SBC Annual Meeting in 2023. Our meeting has grown beyond the city’s capability and usable space.
We began researching options and earnestly praying for an alternative to Charlotte.
In the end, only one city was able to meet our four major needs for 2023: geographic proximity to Southern Baptists, hotel availability, available dates and available space.
That city is New Orleans, Louisiana.
SBC Executive Committee Chairman Rolland Slade has called a special April 28 meeting of the EC in order for members to vote to relocate the 2023 Annual Meeting. This is in accordance with SBC Constitution Article 11.3.
Vice president for communications SBC Executive Committee
“The separation we have because of our skin color is an attack of the enemy.”
Pastor Fred Luter Jr.
“There are millions of people who have never heard” the gospel of Christ, said longtime missions supporter Lois Lin. “They need someone to go and tell them. How are they going to go if we do not support them by our offerings?”
“These are people who are excited about what God is doing in their lives and sharing their testimonies,” said Ronnie Tabor, pastor of Crossroads Church in Centralia, Illinois. “Because people were seeing the changed lives of their moms, their brothers and others, they were asking questions. And it was easy to invite people to church.”
“I would go into writing sessions with people. And if they were like, ‘Oh, man, that would be good for radio,’ … I wouldn’t want to write with them again. Because I know that you can have a song that does well on radio, but it doesn’t connect with the heart. … I’m looking to write a song that connects in people’s hearts. And if it does well on radio [then] that’s because it’s connected that way,” Christian singer, songwriter Jeremy Camp said.
“Hosting an exchange student is like taking an international missions trip without ever leaving your home,” said Lana Flynn, who along with her husband, Charles, have hosted international exchange students in their home. “It’s a 24/7 missions trip where you live out your faith every day. They are watching every move you make. You’re either real or you’re not, and they know it.”
“People don’t necessarily want us to be in their home for an hour, but two or three minutes on the front porch can be meaningful,” noted Ken Braddy, director of Sunday School & Network Partnerships for Lifeway Christian Resources, who conducted a webinar titled, “Following up with first-time guests.” “We’ve found millennials especially are reluctant to give us their physical addresses, but they will share their Twitter handle. It’s a new day.”
“The Raleigh Baptist Association has hundreds of people and groups that are involved with Afghan refugees. … It is a beautiful portrait of grace to see God using His people to show His love to those who feel such hurt and abandonment from their previous lives,” said Patrick Fuller, executive director of Raleigh Baptist Association.
“Churches take care of single moms and addicts, and they share the gospel,” said Andy Addis, lead teaching and vision pastor of the CrossPoint network of churches in Kansas. “Nobody does what local churches do.”
From the Twitterverse
“Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” —Corrie Ten Boom
“Once you have seen Jesus you can never be the same.” Thanks for this reminder, Bro. Oswald.
Don’t despise the mundane, sweet friend. Embrace it. Unwrap it like a gift. And be one of the rare few who looks deeper than just the surface. See something more in the everyday. It’s there.
Pastor, your identity is not in what your deacons think of you, in what your biggest fans think of you, in your attendance or baptism numbers, in what’s in your bank account, in what your critics think of you, in anything else good, bad or ugly. Your identity is in Christ.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a man who stood for Christ and against not just Hitler but also the Christendom of his day, penned this benediction from prison: “May God in His mercy lead us through these times; but above all, may He lead us to Himself.”
“To take up your cross means to associate yourself with Christ and to share His rejection. It means you take a stand for Christ even though people make fun of you.”
“Unguarded strength is actually a double weakness.” @OswaldChambers
Stay in the lane God has for you. Don’t look left, right or behind. Just look ahead and keep moving forward in God’s good will for you.
So let’s “love one another” today by …
- Assuming the best in one another.
- Giving one another the benefit of the doubt.
- When wronged or differ, extend grace the same way Jesus showed us on Calvary’s cross.