Participating in God’s Mission More Than an Individual Experience

March 9, 2015

Since February, we have been talking about participation in God’s mission.  President Greg Henson recently had the privilege of visiting Cameroon, Africa, with a few members of the NAB family.  Together, they share what they learned about the wider NAB community and how we can partner to serve God in powerful ways in our own neighborhoods and around the world.

Greetings from Taylor Seminary, Sioux Falls Seminary, and the International Office of the North American Baptist Conference!  As three members of the NAB family, these organizations sent a team of leaders to Cameroon.  Dan Hamil, Interim Executive Director of the NAB, Norm Poehlke, Vice President of Ministry Outreach at the NAB, David Williams, President of Taylor Seminary, and Greg Henson, President of Sioux Falls Seminary had the privilege of spending time in Africa with members of the Cameroon Baptist Convention.  We spent time with pastors, denominational leaders, school and health administrators, students, missionaries, and other ministry partners.  It was an amazing experience.  Rather than each of us sharing our own story regarding the visit, we felt sharing one story would be more indicative of our experience.

The Experience
Undeniably, the experience was a great reminder of the fact that participating in the mission of God is not simply an individual experience.  We are called to community, and that community extends to our neighborhoods, across cultural boundaries, and indeed across oceans.  It is in this spirit of community that we are excited to share our collective relationship with our partners in Cameroon.

God is at work in Cameroon in powerful ways.  Our team started in Bamenda, where we visited with our NAB Field Director, Cal Hohn.  The next day, Nancy Palmer, an NAB missionary, joined us.  Together we visited Cameroon Baptist Theological Seminary in Ndu where we met with faculty and executive leadership and toured the campus.  During chapel the next morning each member of our team brought greetings to the student body and Dr. Nseimboh Johnson, President of CBTS, received his official Doctor of Ministry diploma from Sioux Falls Seminary.  On our way back to Bamenda, we stopped at Banso Baptist Hospital.  After a tour of the facility, we heard a presentation from the Principal of the CBC Private Training School for Health Personnel and had lunch with the hospital’s administrative team, which included Julie Stone, an NAB missionary on the staff at Banso.

After spending the night in Bamenda, we traveled to Mbingo Hospital where Dennis Palmer, an NAB missionary, gave us a tour of the hospital, told us about how the hospital has grown and now serves as a referral and teaching hospital for the region. On our final day in Bamenda, we met with the executive leadership of the CBC for three hours and then toured CBC schools near Bamenda.

Our time with the executive leadership of Cameroon Baptist Theological Seminary revealed a shared passion to support the broader work of theological education within the CBC, which includes the seminary in Kumba and other avenues of theological education throughout Cameroon.  When visiting hospitals in Banso and Mbingo we were encouraged by the number of medical professionals being developed by the programs in place.  In conversation with the executive leadership of the CBC, we noted a shared passion for integrated ministry, pastoral development, long-term planning, and innovative approaches to the opportunities that are ahead.

Next Steps
Our primary goals on this trip to Cameroon were to listen, to encourage our missionaries, and to keep our hearts and eyes open.  We feel that participation in the mission of God starts by listening to those that are doing ministry in a given context in order to see how God is already working.  As expected, we returned with the belief that we have much to learn from our Cameroonian friends!

In cooperation with CBC leadership, we identified several possibilities for partnership.  All of them are centered on the idea of walking alongside pastors and leaders in Cameroon rather than simply sending money or a faculty member every once in a while.  Providing tangible resources and people who can teach can be helpful.  If they are detached, however, from a broader picture of partnership, one that helps to build capacity on both sides of the partnership, such resources are short lived.

Obviously, we have much more listening to do and many more relationships to develop.  Over the course of time, we will provide more detailed explanations of how we will journey with our friends in Cameroon.  We have considered ways to 1) develop Cameroonian faculty for theological education and education in general, 2) create two-way coaching and accountability relationships for seminary leadership, 3) encourage a new missionary to teach in Cameroon, and 4) strengthen the already vibrant health services.  Each concept is based on the idea that every member of the partnership has much to learn from the others.

Above all, we want to emphasize that the International Office, Sioux Falls Seminary, and Taylor Seminary will be committed to continuing our partnership with the CBC.

As we continue to develop relationships with our ministry partners in Cameroon, we are doing so with the recognition that we are developing a strong community that is working together to participate in the mission of God.

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