NAMB commissions 30 missionaries, chaplains
Mike Ebert, North American Mission Board
February 10, 2010

NAMB commissions 30 missionaries, chaplains

NAMB commissions 30 missionaries, chaplains
Mike Ebert, North American Mission Board
February 10, 2010

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Against

the backdrop of a land as rugged and wild as it is spiritually lost, the North

American Mission Board (NAMB) commissioned 30 new missionaries and chaplains

Sunday, January 24, many of whom will serve Alaska and it’s northern neighbor,


The service took place at

First Baptist Church (FBC) Anchorage, which was Alaska’s first Southern Baptist

church, started in 1943 by a small group of GI’s stationed at nearby Fort

Richardson. The church has a long history of starting churches in Alaska.

“It’s a real privilege for

us to have this group of missionaries here at this point in your sending

process — to be a part of that is a wonderful blessing,” FBC Anchorage pastor Ed

Gregory told those in attendance. “Thank God for this privilege and for the

fact that He is indeed at work across our land and we get to be in on it.”

“For 60 years the Alaska

Baptist Convention has had a close relationship with first the Home Mission

Board and now the North American Mission Board,” said David Baldwin, executive

director of the Alaska Baptist Convention. “I want to say on behalf of the 105

Southern Baptist congregations scattered across Alaska — welcome. We are so happy

to have this moment here tonight.”

NAMB photo by Mike Ebert

Michael “Bong” and Tina Abagon, center, were two of the 30 missionaries and chaplains commissioned by the North American Mission Board in a Jan. 24 service at First Baptist Church Anchorage. Michael and Tina serve in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Baldwin told the new

missionaries, “You are in a friendly crowd. Probably every person here tonight

has been touched by the Home Mission Board or the North American Mission Board

because of the church planting and all that has gone into our state. We do not

take that for granted.”

Larger than the size of

Texas, California and Montana combined, Alaska’s land mass accounts for 16

percent of the United States’ total land area. Half of its population of nearly

700,000 is concentrated in the metro Anchorage area with 365,000 people. The

next two largest cities are Fairbanks (31,000) and Juneau (30,000).

The vastness of Alaska’s

size creates great challenges for the 105 Southern Baptist churches and

missions trying to reach the state’s residents. Alaskan culture and lifestyle

also bring challenges.

Many of the state’s citizens who transplanted from the

“lower 48,” came seeking solitude and greatly value their independence, making

evangelistic outreach difficult. On the other hand, many of the state’s native

Alaskans live in remote villages that cannot even be accessed by car.

Luke and Sarah Stewart are

Mission Service Corps missionaries ministering at an SBC mission church in the

remote Eskimo village of Kobuk. In 2008, Stewart, his wife Sarah and their

young family moved to Kobuk. Temperatures their first winter plunged to 65

degrees below zero. The village is inaccessible by car, so supplies must be flown

in when weather allows.

Stewart said ministry in the

village requires a slow approach and serving the village members while trying

to share Christ as relationships develop.

“I am trying to be an

encouragement to the believers and help them grow in their Christian lives,”

Stewart said. “Beyond that, we are trying to serve the other people so they

will see by the way we live and the way we treat them that we love them and

that God loves them.”

Other missionaries

commissioned to Alaska will serve in Kodiak and Girdwood. In addition to those

commissioned who will be serving in Alaska, missionaries serving in Oregon,

North Dakota, Hawaii, Washington State, Utah, Canada, California and South


Carlos Rodriguez and his

wife, Paola, serve in Seattle as church planting strategists who are starting

congregations for Hispanics, Slavic, Russian and Ukrainian populations living

in the area.

“The Northwest is the most

un-churched area of the United States and Seattle is a very diverse area of the

nation and very multi-cultural,” Rodriguez said.

“Many of the Ukrainians and

Russians come from a Christian background. Their parents and grandparents

suffered for the Lord when they were a communist country. And some come from a

Russian Orthodox background or communist background. Many of them have left the

faith and are un-churched.”

Carlos and Paola relocated

to Seattle five months ago after serving as language church planter strategists

in Portland, Ore., for five-and-a-half years. Carlos said the area needs prayer

for more church planters to start churches for the 1.5 million Hispanics living

in the Northwest. In addition, Carlos asked for prayer in reaching the second

generation Slavs, Russians and Ukrainians living in Seattle. Rodriguez said he

and other SBC church planters in the region are in a race with Mormon’s and

Jehovah’s Witness missionaries who are actively working the region for


The new missionaries arrived

in Anchorage two days before the commissioning for a time of training and

orientation hosted by NAMB leaders including Richard Harris, NAMB’s interim

president, Frank Page, vice president for Evangelization, and Ken Weathersby,

vice president of Church Planting. Tim Patterson, chairman of NAMB’s Board of

Trustees, also attended the event.

The missionaries fanned out

across the greater Anchorage area on Sunday morning, visiting with and

preaching in local Southern Baptist churches.

Harris gave the

newly-commissioned missionaries a charge: “Whatever else you are trying to

accomplish in your ministry, as we send you out tonight, it is to proclaim the

Gospel of Christ by way of life and by word of mouth.”

Harris encouraged those commissioned

to approach people with “gentleness and respect.”

“You are going to confront

all kinds of people with all kinds of backgrounds. Go to them in humility.

Remember who you are. Remember whose you are.”

But spreading the gospel is

not only a missionary responsibility. Turning to those from area churches who

attended the commissioning service, Harris said, “Every year, three million

precious souls are added to North America’s population. You say ‘I can’t reach

everybody.’ No, but you can reach somebody and if you are willing to share, God

will bring a harvest field into your life.”

In all, more than 5,300

missionaries serve with the North American Mission Board, most of them through

partnerships with state Baptist conventions. In addition to the missionaries,

NAMB is the endorsing entity for more than 3,300 Southern Baptist chaplains

serving in military, hospital, professional, corporate, public safety and

institutional settings.