Northwesterners are the children of pioneers, immigrants who seized opportunity and hungered for new experiences. Those on the Oregon Trail said they were going to “see the elephant” as a way to express their excitement on the westward journey. Stopped only by the Pacific Ocean, our pioneering forbearers carved life from a beautiful wilderness.
Northwest Baptists trace their roots back to those early pioneers. But today we do not stop at the ocean shore. Some 110 of us have crossed the ocean to live as pioneering IMB missionaries in the darkest places of our world. Hundreds and thousands of others join these missionaries each year to spend a week or two, or much longer, serving beside them.
Recently I travelled to East Asia on a vision trip with five pastors from the NWBC. Imagine visiting a remote city of 50,000 which is dominated by a huge Buddhist monastery and temple complex, served by 3,000 monks, without one Christian numbered among the 50,000. Think also of seeing 15,000 Muslim men gathered at a mosque for Friday prayers, and this in a communistic country not known for a strong Islamic presence. Think also of talking to people who have no idea who Jesus is, have never heard the gospel, and have no Scriptures or Christian witness. These were just a few of our experiences in East Asia.
These five pastors and myself (Lance Caddel, Matthew Savage, Tim Walker, Dale Jenkins and Dustin Hall) returned from our vision trip believing that God would have the NWBC partner with our IMB workers in East Asia to reach the Unreached People Groups (UPGs) of that region. Northwest Baptists know something about sharing the gospel with those who have never heard. We understand pioneering work. We have been invited by our East Asia leadership and personnel to continue the westward journey, all the way to the East, that we might serve alongside them.
Steve E., the IMB leader for all of our work among East Asia peoples, was in the Northwest last week, meeting with several groups, including the Executive Committee of the NWBC Executive Board. Our Executive Committee voted to recommend to our Executive Board that we enter into a partnership with our IMB missionaries who are laboring among the UPGs of East Asia. Steve E. was so taken with the people that he met in the Northwest, including some of our university students, that the IMB is giving us $25,000 to scholarship students that go on a partnership trip. Imagine that! Our missionaries are going to help us send our students. In addition, we will have about 20 IMB missionaries in the Northwest this fall, from Oct. 9-19, for East Asia 1-day conferences (EA1Day) throughout our convention. These conferences will serve to help you know how you can engage lostness in East Asia. Engagement will include praying, giving, going and sending, so there is something for each NWBC member. At our annual convention in Salem this November, I anticipate a time of celebration as we covenant with our East Asia IMB partners to join them in their pioneering work.
What will a “sending partnership” mean for the NWBC and our people? First, it will provide us opportunities to engage in direct mission action with our field missionaries. You will get to know these missionaries and their children. You will bless them as you pray for them and serve with them. And by giving, you will receive abundantly more. We have outstanding personnel in East Asia.
Second, this will provide focus to our mission engagement. We will receive numerous requests from our East Asia field staff, giving your church opportunity to focus on a particular city in which lostness is great, or a particular people group that has little to no gospel witness. Over the next several years, your prayers, giving, sending and going to this one particular people will prayerfully result in some of the first believers among these peoples, and hopefully the first churches.
Third, Northwest Baptists from all parts will have the shared experience of partnering in East Asia. Church members in Klamath Falls will swap stories with believers in La Grande and Spokane, St. Maries and Ellensburg, Eugene and Bellingham. And we will discover that reaching people in East Asia will enable us to reach more in the Northwest. Your church has young people, and not-so-young people, who are eager to do more and to make a difference. Even now there are five young men praying about teaching Nomadic children in the area of the Buddhist city that I mentioned above. They will teach English and Scripture. And this invitation came from a Buddhist monk!
Fourth, you will see your Cooperative Program and other mission dollars at work, confronting darkness, and building the Kingdom. One of the roles of the NWBC is to extend the kingdom impact of our churches throughout the Northwest and to the world beyond. We do this through your Cooperative Program and mission offering giving. But we can also do this by facilitating mission partnerships.
Our fathers’ westward journey was stopped by the Pacific Ocean. Today we can travel west until we arrive in the East. We live in exciting times. Indeed, it is a good day to serve the Lord, and it’s a good day to serve Him in the Northwest!