When Jim Burchette retired from managing an office equipment company in 2000, he had already been involved with North Carolina Baptist Men efforts for more than 30 years.
So it felt natural for him to ask Executive Director Richard Brunson and his staff if they needed any help.
“You don’t ever ask church people that,” Burchette said with a laugh. “They’ll give you something to do.”
That “something” turned Burchette into a full-time volunteer.
He’s in the Baptist Men offices at least three days a week coordinating international volunteer projects in Armenia, Ukraine, Latvia, Israel, Gaza and other places.
Burchette’s journey among Baptist Men started in the late 1960s. Shortly after he and his family joined Samaria Baptist Church in Raleigh, the pastor asked him to attend what was then called a Brotherhood workshop, which included a segment about Royal Ambassadors (RAs).
Burchette’s pastor asked him to organize an RA group at the church, which he did.
“I very much felt like that was what God was calling me to do,” he said. “That’s what I needed to do.”
As Burchette continued to work on the effort, he often had questions.
Since the Baptist Building was a few blocks from his office, he’d go to talk to leaders in what was then called the Brotherhood Department.
Soon Burchette was involved in Brotherhood activities on the associational and state levels.
Burchette served as RA director and Brotherhood director for Raleigh Baptist Association. He was president of N.C. Baptist Men from 2004-2006 and before that was vice president, Region 4 director, RA program director and state coordinator for Men’s Ministry and Resort/Leisure Ministry.
In addition, Burchette has been involved in Lay Renewal Ministry and was recognized as the layman of the year for N.C. Baptist Men in 1991. In April 2009 Baptist Men recognized him as their Baptist Heritage Award winner.
World as his field
Before his retirement, Burchette was mostly involved in local missions efforts. Since he started coordinating international volunteer projects, he’s been overseas a number of times, mostly with other Baptist Men leaders to investigate potential ministry sites. But on two occasions, he helped hungry people get food.
Burchette helped deliver United Nations food boxes to people in Gaza.
On a separate trip to the West Bank, Burchette and others went into homes to hand out coupons for food at nearby grocery stores.
They found one mother feeding her baby the last bottle of milk in the house. While thankful for the food coupons, the people always told Burchette and the others that they appreciated the time and prayers.
“That happened over and over,” he said.
Much of Burchette’s work involves helping others have similar experiences. He excitedly gives details of work in Armenia, where teams of N.C. Baptists have been working since 2002. A lot of the work involves renovating old buildings that can house churches.
One of their first such buildings sits on the border with Iran. Only a stream marking the border separates this church bearing a cross from a mosque on the Iranian side.
Burchette said that in Munkacs, Ukraine, N.C. Baptists are helping New Life Gypsy Church, which purchased a building that was an unused telephone center in the Soviet era. N.C. teams are working with Hungarian Baptist Aid, which is also helping the church.
Burchette tells how the church is helping gypsies who live in a camp built on top of an old garbage dump.
“When it rains, the dirt goes down and the trash comes up,” he said. “You look around and say, ‘Why don’t they clean up the place?’ They can’t. It’s a garbage dump.”
About 10 N.C. Baptist teams are going to help the church this year. One that recently returned has already asked about potential dates for next year.
“The teams that go want to go back,” he said.
All the teams run a Vacation Bible School for gypsy kids. About 50 children might attend the first day, but about 200 are coming by the end of the week. The teams provide lunch for the kids.
“That’s one of the best meals they’ll get, if they even get any other meals,” Burchette said.
The church is already using the building in a variety of ways and has plans for others.
“They started ministering to the gypsies as soon as they got that building,” he said.
Trips change lives
Burchette said the lives of N.C. Baptist volunteers are changed by the trips.
He tells of a young man who took one of his most valued possessions, a guitar, on a trip. When he came back, he left the guitar with the gypsies.
The young man said that God told him that the guitar was God’s, not his.
A man who read about the young man’s action called Burchette and asked how to get in touch with him so he could give him another guitar.
“That is a real blessing to me,” Burchette said.
“As I read and hear about this stuff, I’m sure there’s so much that goes on that I don’t hear about.”
People often call the N.C. Baptist Men office and ask how they can help.
“People really amaze me — the heart they have for missions and helping other people,” he said. “There’s a lot of good people still in the world.”
Burchette said God has blessed him with a wonderful family, including his wife, Joyce, who for many years was administrative assistant for former BSC Executive Director-treasurer Roy Smith. He said it’s fulfilling for him to serve as a “facilitator” for other people to go on mission trips.
“I know they’re going to do great work,” he said. “That’s the wonderful part.”
To find out more about N.C. Baptist Men and its projects in North Carolina, the United States and around the world, visit www.baptistsonmission.org or call (800) 395-5102, ext. 5599.