Though we have received them every January, March, July and October, and have done so with very little exception since before I became your pastor in 1989, my suspicion is that if you were asked to name the four denominational offerings that Lakeshore participates in you might be hard pressed to do so. Because these offerings are wonderful opportunities to align ourselves with what God is doing in the world, and because they so easily become “part of the woodwork,” let me remind you of their schedule and say a word about their significance.
January – The Retired Ministers and Missionaries Offering – This offering is divided between an emergency fund for retired American Baptist ministers and missionaries and a yearly “Thank You” check to these faithful servants. Testimonies abound as to how the check came just when a medical bill was due and how the emergency fund helped address a pressing need.
March – The America For Christ Offering – This offering supports both the ministry of the American Baptist Home Mission Societies and regional bodies such as the Evergreen Baptist Association and the American Baptist Churches of Metropolitan New York. Since we are participating in the AFC this month the promotional material is on my desk. I note that one of the specific efforts it helps underwrite is the ongoing effort to help the people of New Orleans rebuild from the ravages of Hurricane Katrina. We plan to have a contingent of youth and adults join in this work this summer.
July – The One Great Hour of Sharing – When there is a natural disaster almost anywhere on the planet OGHS funds are directed to local recover and rebuild efforts. In the face of ongoing needs almost anywhere on the planet, needs like clean water delivery systems and effective agricultural strategies, there is a strong likelihood that OGHS funds will be put to good use. The OGHS is a united effort of many denominations and, as such, is a witness to what we can do when we focus on what we can accomplish together rather than on those, often long forgotten, issues that divide.
October – The World Mission Offering – Historically, Lakeshore and Oakland First have had strong relationships with American Baptist Missionaries serving internationally. Currently, we are supporting Melanie Baggao as she works with vast throngs of refugees streaming into Lebanon and Kihomi Ngwemi and Nzunga Mabudiga in northern Haiti. When, our own Jesse Lucas joins with a delegation from the Evergreen Baptist Association to help build a school in Haiti in March, he will be partnering with Kihomi and Nzunga. The WMO is a major source of support for these, and all the essential ministries, under the American Baptist International Ministries umbrella.
My friend and colleague Greg Sneller is the Associate Director of Development for International Ministries. When he lifted up the work our Baptist sisters and brothers are doing globally to our Baptists Lunching Together gathering in February he used these words of St. Augustine (and later Henri Nouwen) to emphasize the need for our commitment to support their work. I think they are also a good summary of what I am trying to say about the missions and ministries of our larger American Baptist family – “We, without God, cannot. God, without us, will not.”