The ripple effect of a mission trip to Thailand could reach across the Southern Baptist Convention for years if a Greensboro pastor's idea becomes part of the annual Crossover activities in the SBC host city each year.
Pat Cronin, pastor of Friendly Avenue Baptist Church in Greensboro, North Carolina, helped with a building project at an orphanage in Chiangmai last August during a short-term mission trip, and upon his return, participated in the "clergy build" construction of a Habitat for Humanity house.
"Last year's Southern Baptist volunteer construction project in Thailand combined in my mind with the Habitat project and the SBC's upcoming annual meeting in Greensboro," Cronin said. "I thought it would be a wonderful vision for our denomination to partner together to build a house or two or three wherever the SBC meets each year.
"Southern Baptists have been building things for years," continued the pastor, who talked with SBC LIFE via cell phone while on a construction mission trip to the Gulf Coast. "Wouldn't it be wonderful if, in whatever city the Southern Baptist Convention is held, we would leave something that was permanent, a contribution to the community? Why not a build house?"
Cronin first pitched his idea at a March meeting of Piedmont Baptist Association, which was discussing options for pre-SBC Crossover events; his idea became one of twenty-four evangelistic projects that took place in an area of three towns known as the Triad.
Roughed in and roofed by SBC volunteers during the week of Crossover, the four-bedroom, two-bath Habitat house is expected to be ready for occupancy by August — home for a forklift-driving dad, mom, three sons, and a daughter, refugees from the Sudan
"The Southern Baptists are very cooperative and easy to work with," said Bob Kelly, executive director of the Greensboro Habitat chapter. "We got great support all across the country from local churches for this build."
Just as the Cooperative Program provides tangible expression of the unified strength of SBC churches, an annual construction partnership would provide tangible expression of that same unity and of Southern Baptists' emphasis on Kingdom growth, Cronin said.
"This thing could snowball," said the pastor. "What if this continues to be a part of Crossover each year? Do you think these acts of love would be blessed of God? Do you think this will help our communities around us to see that we genuinely love them? Can you imagine the doors for evangelism this would open?"
Cronin, in promoting the project at his church the Sunday before the annual meeting in Greensboro, emphasized that such a project ideally blends ministry and evangelism in the community.
"It's not enough just to support the Cooperative Program and mission projects like a Habitat house financially and prayerfully," Cronin said by phone. "Once you incarnate missions and the Gospel, it keeps the fires of missions glowing; it puts flesh and blood to your missions giving.
"You can't spend all the money on yourself," continued the pastor, now in his twelfth year at Friendly Avenue Baptist. "We have to be Kingdom-minded; Scripture teaches it and the Cooperative Program makes it possible."
Known in its association and across North Carolina as a missions-minded church, Friendly Avenue is involved in several local and regional missions endeavors, averages two short-term mission trips each year in conjunction with the IMB and NAMB, and gives 15 percent of undesignated offerings through the Cooperative Program, the SBC's way of funding global missions. The church also gives 2 percent through Piedmont Baptist Association.
"We decided years ago to give those percentages," said Doris Henderson, a member for thirty years and in retirement as an elementary school principal, and outreach director for the church. "We believe in the Cooperative Program and the programs it finances. Our people feel very strongly about that."
With about 520 people in Sunday morning worship, Friendly Avenue gave more than a quarter of a million dollars to missions in 2005, including nearly $166,000 through the Cooperative Program.
Among many local outreaches, a "Cooler Ministry" focuses on the need of people waiting for news of their loved ones at a local hospital. Friendly Avenue members take a cooler two or three times a week filled with soft drinks and snacks, offering the items at no cost to people in the hospital's waiting room.
"We'll ask them if we can add their loved ones to our prayer list and pray for them at church," Henderson said. "We have a very active prayer ministry. In our prayer room, they'll contact the people [the Cooler Ministry group met at the hospital] to see how they're getting on, and we also have a prayer line. We have had so many prayers answered and get so many letters from people thanking us for praying for them."
A jail ministry team reaches out every Saturday with the support of a related group that provides financing for materials and Bibles to be given to prisoners. So far this year alone, twenty-seven inmates have made professions of faith. Their discipling follow-up continues as long as they choose to stay in contact with a member of the jail ministry team.
The church's disaster relief trailer is equipped with tools for most any type of assistance: construction, mud-out, chain saw; members have ministered in eastern and western North Carolina, West Virginia, South Carolina, and the Gulf Coast.
Ministry to Friendly Avenue Baptist members also is important, Henderson said. Among a variety of ways this is done, one group visits shut-ins at least once a month; a related group sends cards and letters.
"Our theme is 'Bringing all people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ,' the outreach director said. "We can do so much more if we join with other people; that's where the Cooperative Program comes in and the Habitat project too. I think it's important we be united as a Baptist organization and that we contribute jointly to do missions.
"As Christians, it's important we be united," Henderson continued. "We're the role models for the rest of the world. If we're not united, we don't set a good example."