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Alabama Acts 1:8 Connections offers full-circle partnershipcomment (0)

June 14, 2012

By Jennifer Davis Rash

Alabama Acts 1:8 Connections offers full-circle partnership

Are Alabama Baptists about to make history with a groundbreaking new missions strategy concept? Quite possibly, but at the very least Alabama Acts 1:8 Connections is a great step forward, said one international missionary from Alabama.

“This new strategy deals with the biblical mandate of Acts 1:8, to go into the utter parts of the world,” said Tim Akers, who serves with his wife, Donna, in Ukraine. “The biblical mandate is not only personally but also corporately — for churches to be involved in all four areas mentioned in Acts 1:8.”

The connection part comes naturally through a common tie to the state, he added.

Akers should know. He’s been connecting to churches and associations from Alabama his entire missions career.

The Akerses both grew up in the Florence area, met while in college at the University of North Alabama, served churches in the state and left to serve on the international missions field 13 years ago with strong Alabama support in tow. 

Their missions experience thus far has primarily been focused in and around the metropolitan city of Lviv, Ukraine, but their role is about to change. The Akerses will be adapting their missions efforts to reach an unengaged, unreached people group — the Hutsul — in the Carpathian Mountains in western Ukraine near Romania and Moldova. 

“We don’t know exactly what’s up there. No missionaries have been assigned to this group yet,” Tim Akers said in a phone interview from the Colbert-Lauderdale Baptist Association’s missions house in Florence where he, Donna and their three children — 19-year-old Shane, 18-year-old Kaylee and 13-year-old Levi — are staying while on stateside assignment. Tim, Donna and Levi will return to the field in October, but Shane and Kaylee will stay stateside for college.

“This is an area where … Donna and I can’t live enough lifetimes to reach this group on our own,” Akers said, noting the mountain people are difficult to reach socially and physically.

The weather is harsh, especially with the amount of snow that falls, and the lifestyle is difficult, he said. “In some cases, there is no running water and no gas heat.” Most of the people are farmers or loggers, and most use a horse and wagon for transportation, Akers noted. “It is a slow-paced, simple life, but it is a very hard life.”

And it’s a life that Alabama Baptists from Colbert-Lauderdale Association are about to become uniquely familiar with.

As the first official Alabama Acts 1:8 Connections connector group, Colbert-Lauderdale Association will partner with the Akerses and the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM) in the new missions partnership strategy. The strategy was adopted during the 2011 Alabama Baptist State Convention annual meeting.

The SBOM’s global missions office and Alabama Woman’s Missionary Union will lead the effort from the state level. Missionaries from Alabama serving through the International Mission Board (IMB) and the North American Mission Board (NAMB) will provide the missions field connection. And Alabama Baptist churches and associations will organize the volunteers.

“The great thing is you don’t have to be a large church to be a part of this new paradigm. It’s a fit for churches of all sizes,” said Reggie Quimby, director of the SBOM office of global missions. “One church or association will serve as the hub, or connector, like Colbert-Lauderdale Association is doing, and the others will be in the network working through the connector. All of them together will support the missions strategy.”

It’s a natural fit, Akers said. 

“There’s a special bond already in place, a connection between the churches and the people to the missionaries from Alabama,” he said. “It’s a way to relate to that person and the work that person is doing. That person will be coming back for stateside assignment and maintaining a consistent relationship. It’s not a one-time opportunity.”

Eddy Garner, director of missions for Colbert-Lauderdale Association, agreed. 

“I’ve known Tim and Donna for years. They are homegrown products of the Shoals area,” he said. 

Because of the relationship, a group from Colbert-Lauderdale Association traveled to Ukraine in 2010 to do missions.

“When we went two years ago, we had such a good time working with Tim and Donna,” Garner said. “It was a natural fit to go back and help again. … When the opportunity came to do the Acts 1:8 partnership and help the Akerses, it was a no-brainer.

“I really like working with missionaries who have ties to our areas,” he said. “The potential is really great.

“If we have missionaries from Alabama who have given their lives to serve the Lord in foreign locations, then we certainly can give money, but we also can encourage and bless them by going, putting feet to our prayers and saying, ‘I’m going to get involved with you.’”

Garner and about 10 others from churches in Colbert-Lauderdale Association will officially launch their Alabama Acts 1:8 Connections partnership in September when they travel with Akers, Quimby and Scotty Goldman, associate in the SBOM office of global missions, to the Carpathian Mountains. 

While Garner’s group will be looking for opportunities to serve, Akers will serve as a guide for the group as well as spend time assessing the area so that he can begin work on a specific missions strategy.

“We will be looking for (existing) churches and believers … to help start churches … and to develop leaders in churches … throughout the mountain range,” Akers said. 

Also traveling with the group will be SBOM Executive Director Rick Lance; a group from Muscle Shoals Baptist Association; Frank Gingrich, a member of Faith Baptist Church, Vinemont, in East Cullman Baptist Association; and Randy Makemson, director of missions for East Cullman Baptist Association.

“We are trying to be an Acts 1:8 association,” Makemson said, noting the association has partnered with Michigan and with a group in Nicaragua and is interested in expanding its partnership opportunities.

“I’m all for the Acts 1:8 connectivity because it makes me accountable as a leader to help me encourage … [the] pastors … to engage in Acts 1:8,” he said. “I think … the concept of connecting with IMB or NAMB missionaries who have Alabama connections strengthens the productivity.

“The spiritual side of it [for the missionaries] is they know they are not just employees,” Makemson explained. “They know ‘my people, my homefolks, my state convention, my association — they are all with us.’ 

“I think great and wonderful things are going to come out of it.”

The September trip to the Carpathian Mountains will be one of the first official vision journeys connected to the new partnership strategy. Registration for this trip is closed, but the other two in 2012 are still open — South America in August and South Asia in October. 

“The idea is to get Alabama Baptists on the field with Alabama missionaries to begin to establish personal relationships and ministry relationships,” Goldman said. “This will help Alabama Baptists see what kind of needs are there and know how they can be involved.

“This is a real partnership where the involvement goes across several levels and is not just a once-a-year missions trip,” he noted.

The partnership is built on a three-legged foundation — prayer, partnerships and people groups.

“Alabama Baptists will connect with Alabama missionaries — whether on the international field or in North America — and be on the ground beside them. They will be praying for them, partnering with them to assist them with their ministries and working with them to identify unreached, unengaged people groups,” Goldman said.

The goal is to connect Alabama Baptist churches with Alabama missionaries serving in each of the nine IMB affinity groups as well as across North America, he said, noting proper protocol is in place to deal with the high security areas.

Akers added, “As the IMB, we have always said we want to personalize missions and for people to be involved personally. … This offers a connection to the Embrace people group strategy (unveiled by IMB President Tom Elliff during the 2011 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting).”

The Embrace strategy is a way for the 3,800 identified unengaged, unreached people groups around the world to be adopted or “embraced” by Southern Baptist churches by the end of 2012.

“Alabama Baptists would be following in the footsteps of this initiative,” Akers said. “We need Alabama Baptists to come help us.”

For more information about Alabama Acts 1:8 Connections or to suggest missionaries from Alabama who might welcome this type of partnership, call Quimby (rquimby@alsbom.org) at 1-800-264-1225, Ext. 239; Goldman (sgoldman@alsbom.org) at Ext. 387, or Barbara Owen (bowen@alsbom.org) at Ext. 334.

To view a video related to this story, visit the video library.

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