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Scottsboro church’s staff serves together in Ukrainecomment (0)

December 10, 2009

By Carrie B. McWhorter

The last Sunday in October was a little different at Agape Baptist Church, Scottsboro.

All six members of the ministerial staff — Pastor Roger Mardis, Associate Pastor of Ministries Max Croft, Minister of Music Randy Sharpe, Minister of Students Bruce Crockett, Children’s Director Dianne Thomas and Preschool Director Louise Henderson — were absent that day.

They were halfway around the world in Lviv, Ukraine, ministering to International Mission Board (IMB) representatives serving in western Ukraine.

Their trip to Ukraine was part of a partnership that spans the globe and highlights how Baptists are working together to share the love of Christ with the world.

“We had a blessed time, and the trip made me proud to be a Southern Baptist,” Mardis said.

The IMB representatives “are people with a real sense of urgency and call to share Jesus with the people of Ukraine. They are right where God wants them to be, and it was awesome to see that firsthand,” he said.

When the staff members of the Tennessee River Baptist Association church first saw the request for a missions team to host a retreat for IMB representatives posted on the Web site of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM), they were immediately struck by how well they fit the needs listed.

“Our staff matched one for one for what they said they needed — preaching, Bible teaching, music and worship time, and someone to work with students, children and preschoolers,” Croft said.

So Oct. 24–31, that is exactly what they did. Mardis preached, Croft taught, Sharpe led music and worship, and Crockett, Thomas and Henderson led activities for the children and students.

The IMB representatives led devotions for the group, and all participated in times of prayer and fellowship.

“I likened it to a puzzle and every piece was there,” Mardis said. “God put the whole trip together and had the right people at the right time in the right place.”

The Agape Baptist team worked with a group of 20 or so adults and six children, all of whom met at a hotel in the mountains outside the city for the retreat. Croft said it was a beautiful setting for the worship, study and fellowship they all enjoyed.

The IMB representatives “talked about how much they looked forward to having a retreat like that occasionally, how much it was needed for them and for their families,” he said.

Tim Akers, team leader for western Ukraine for the IMB, said such retreats provide a rare opportunity for IMB representatives to be ministered to while on the missions field.

“We minister quite a bit in a second or third language, but our heart language is English. So when we hear good preaching and teaching and have good fellowship in English, we are encouraged and refreshed to minister to the people God sent us to serve,” Akers said.

He said the IMB representatives are still talking about how much they enjoyed the retreat and the time spent with the missions team.

Just as they are grateful for those who came, Akers is grateful for those who sent them — Alabama Baptists, who through the SBOM’s partnership with Ukraine helped pay the expenses of the IMB representatives who attended the retreat.

“I personally want to thank Alabama Baptists for making this retreat possible. We may never know how many [IMB representatives] will stay on the field and continue God’s work by having retreats like this one,” he said.

Contributions from members of Agape helped with the expenses of the team as well. Croft said the church was very supportive of the staff and excited to be part of an opportunity to help IMB representatives on the field.

“The church was very much involved, praying for us and taking care of services while we were gone,” he said.

Though the trip was perhaps not what people might think of as typical missions work, Mardis said he was reminded that it is “never a waste of time when you sharpen the ax.”

“I feel God sent us to Ukraine to ‘sharpen the axes’ of the [IMB representatives] serving there. They are going to be more effective because of the rest and personal revival they enjoyed during that time,” Mardis said. “Eternity will reveal the difference that even a missions trip of this type allowed us to [make].”

For more information about Alabama Baptists’ partnership with Ukraine, visit www.alsbom.org/partnerships.

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