Ezell says ‘stay focused,’ ‘faithful’
Mickey Noah, Baptist Press
October 22, 2010

Ezell says ‘stay focused,’ ‘faithful’

Ezell says ‘stay focused,’ ‘faithful’
Mickey Noah, Baptist Press
October 22, 2010

LOS ANGELES — In his first missionary

commissioning sermon as the new president of the North American Mission Board

(NAMB), Kevin Ezell told 62 missionaries and chaplains to “stay focused and

stay faithful” as they begin their new ministries throughout the United States

and Canada.

About 700 people packed New Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, an African

American congregation in south-central Los Angeles, for the Oct. 17

commissioning service.

The church was founded 48 years ago by Lonnie Dawson, the only pastor the

church has ever known, who currently is ill and was unable to attend the


“As a missionary-minded church, we are delighted to share in NAMB’s missionary

efforts for Kingdom-building,” Dawson said in an advance statement. During his

tenure, New Mount Calvary has grown from six members to more than 3,000.

In welcoming the standing-room only audience to the commissioning service,

Sonja Dawson, the pastor’s daughter, said, “When Dr. Dawson planted this church

over 48 years ago, this day was only a dream. We could not have dreamed that

our humble congregation would ever host such an auspicious occasion.”

Ezell told the crowd, “There is no better church from which to talk about

staying focused and faithful than New Mount Calvary, where Lonnie Dawson has

done it for 48 years.” Ezell, at 48, was an infant when Dawson planted the

church on east El Segundo Boulevard.

Using Colossians 3 as his text, Ezell told the new missionaries and chaplains

that “it’s so easy in the world we live in to get distracted by the things that

are not important. It’s easy to fill your life with the good things while you

push out the best things.

“The Apostle Paul told us to be on guard within and without. Missionaries,

protect your time with the Lord, your families and your ministries — in that

order. Remember who you’re doing this for as you begin your ministry. You’re

doing it for the Lord Jesus Christ. Start well and finish well. He (Jesus) did,

up until the time He said, ‘It is finished.’”

Ezell was named NAMB’s new president Sept. 14 by the Southern Baptist entity’s

56-member board of trustees who attended the commissioning service at New Mount

Calvary prior to their quarterly board meeting, also held in Los Angeles.

The 62 new NAMB missionaries and chaplains — chaplains serving the military,

corporations, the health care industry and law enforcement — will be deployed

in 15 U.S. states and three Canadian provinces. They join the ranks of 5,300

NAMB missionaries and chaplains already in service throughout North America.

Wendy Tsai, a native of Taiwan, was commissioned to serve in Canada’s

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, along the southern gulf of the St.

Lawrence River in southeastern Canada.

“I’ll be ministering to the growing population of Chinese immigrants there,”

Tsai said. “We want to establish a Mandarin-speaking church for those Chinese

immigrants who have never heard the gospel. These people are lonely and need to

learn English. If we can establish the church, they will love to come and we’ll

have the opportunity to reach them for Christ.”

With 1,800-plus Chinese immigrant families — averaging three members each — in

the Charlottetown area, Tsai said they come because it’s cheaper to immigrate

there than to Vancouver or Ontario.

The daughter of non-Christian parents, Tsai said her commissioning was a high

point of her life because becoming a missionary has been her “vision and call”

since she was 11 years old.

“God has made my vision come true through NAMB. I’ll stay as long as God wants

me to stay. I’ll follow what He says.”

Photo by John Swain

Capt. Mike Jernigan of Fayetteville, a new North American Mission Board chaplain assigned at Fort Bragg, carries the American flag during NAMB missionary/chaplain commissioning ceremonies at New Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles Oct. 17. Jernigan, a veteran of the Afghanistan war, ministers to some 300 soldiers in the 196th Ordinance Battalion DOD, some of whom will be deployed to Afghanistan.

Mike Jernigan, 40, a captain in the U.S. Army, was commissioned as a chaplain

to continue serving in the 196th Ordnance Battalion DOD at Fort Bragg.

With one 34-month tour to Afghanistan already behind him, Jernigan ministers to

some 300 soldiers in his battalion at Fort Bragg, some of whom will be deployed

to Afghanistan in the months ahead.

“I feel pretty strongly that soldiers need to have meaning in their lives,”

said the closely cropped red-headed Jernigan, a native of Fayetteville. “I try

to make them see that there’s something beyond their years on this earth, that

they need to know there’s hope in Jesus Christ.

“Encouraging is a big part of what I do. I stress how they need strong

relationships with fellow soldiers and with their families back home,” said

Jernigan, who is the father of three children with his wife Jennifer.

Newly commissioned missionary Ray Willis’ mission field is draped by the

mountains and blue skies of Billings, Mont., where he and wife Arlene serve.

Willis is minister of evangelism and discipleship at Fellowship Baptist Church

in Billings. His goal is to raise up a core team of people to evangelize and

disciple new believers.

“As Baptists, we do a great job of putting church planters in the field and

starting churches,” Willis said. “But once the church is organized, the work is

only beginning. We need to grow leadership in evangelism, music and in other

key areas such as Sunday School.

“Pastors can get so busy administrating that the discipling is never completed,”

Willis said. “My heart and passion is to do something about that. It’s why I

get up every morning.” A pastor for 42 years, Willis first came to Montana in

1977 after leading churches in Illinois and Arkansas.

Also attending and speaking at the commissioning service at New Mount Calvary

were Fermin Whittaker, executive director of the California Southern Baptist

Convention, and Debby Akerman, national president of the Woman’s Missionary


Ezell also met with trustees while in California. See story.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board.)