For six years people from all over the country and Canada have been calling Anna Snyder, asking her to pray with them or seeking some other spiritual support.
Snyder, who lives in Leland and is a member of Calvary Baptist Church in Wilmington, has been taking phone calls as a “telephone encourager” with the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) Evangelism Response Center (ERC). The program allows people to answer calls that come in through a national number.
The calls are routed through NAMB’s headquarters in Alpharetta, Ga., to volunteers logged in to the network. Snyder usually takes calls for two to three hours on Saturday afternoons.
“I think it’s a wonderful program,” she said. “There’s nothing more exciting than sharing the gospel with someone.”
Snyder is one of about 3,900 people who answer calls for the ERC. The volunteers fielded about 94,000 calls from 2006-08, including about 5,000 from callers who made first-time decisions for Christ, NAMB officials said.
About 35 of those came to know Christ while they were on the phone with Snyder.
“It’s very exciting,” she said.
The callers phone in after seeing toll-free numbers in places such as television ads and programs, radio ads and programs, print ads and articles, and billboards.
The ERC also handles some calls for the Billy Graham Association.
Miranda, who asked that her last name not be used in this article, took the NAMB training about a year ago and has been volunteering two or three times a week for the past few months. She usually logs in to take calls from about 10-11:30 p.m., after her children have gone to bed.
“I thought it’d be a great chance to share with people and grow in evangelism,” she said.
“It’s been a great fit for me.”
Miranda recalls how God used her background to help a lady, who called seeking encouragement. She had not been able to find a church to attend after recently moving to Las Vegas, where Miranda grew up.
“I was able to give her some solid churches in the area,” Miranda said. “Just being able to pray with her was great.”
Many callers have a spiritual need, such as a prayer request, Snyder said. Some are calling because they want literature offered in the ad they saw.
Snyder talked to one teenage boy who was contemplating suicide. When she gets such calls she seeks the Lord’s guidance on what to say.
“I have to bathe it in prayer before I even call in because you never know what you’re going to get,” she said.
Snyder said she sometimes encourages callers to seek professional help. She uses information she’s learned from a Graham book to encourage people.
“We always have prayer with them regardless of what the need is,” she said. “Most all of the calls you feel like hopefully you’ve been a help to somebody.”
Callers are referred to a Southern Baptist church in their community for follow-up. NAMB is seeking “covenant” churches as it plans to launch its “God’s Plan for Sharing” (GPS) evangelism emphasis next year. The churches contact the callers and encourage them to be baptized and discipled, and join a local Southern Baptist church.
NAMB recently held pilot GPS projects in Philadelphia, Stone Mountain, Ga., Lubbock, Texas, and Riverside, Calif. About 240 people called the ERC as a result with 12 making salvation decisions. Thirty-nine were referred to a local church, association or state convention office with the rest seeking other spiritual support.
NAMB’s toll free help line number is (888) JESUS2009. People or churches interested in helping can contact the ERC at [email protected] or (770) 410-6383.