Where in the World

A) In the main town on a small, rugged Alaskan Island in the North Pacific, an American Baptist related mission center has been a beacon of light since 1893. The Kodiak Baptist Mission serves more than 150 children each week – native Alaskans and others from many different backgrounds – through the Sonshine Christian preschool, after school programs and summer day camps. Their comprehensive goal is to ”improve the quality of life of children and their families by ministering to their unmet physical, social, emotional, and intellectual needs, following the example set forth in the life of Jesus Christ. Over the years the Kodiak Baptist Mission has benefited from a rich stream of volunteers from the lower 48, bringing many different skills. Much of the work continues to be done by mission volunteers. But the current executive director, Trevor Jones, was raised and educated in Alaska. Among his many prototypical Alaskan experiences has been his mastery of seamanship, which he shares with the young people. He has earned his U.S. Coast Guard “100 ton masters license for steam or motor vehicles.” Where in the world?  CLUE:  The island where the Baptist Mission is located is famed for its large brown bears.

B) Rev. Susie Carswell is a Captain in the U.S. Army serving as an active duty chaplain. In 1995 she was a 39 year old single mother working as a hospital administrator. She was active in her local church and supportive of missions beyond the local church. But the Spirit kept speaking to her in ways she could not avoid. Though some said that she was “too old” for such a dramatic step, she enrolled in Fuller Theological Seminary with the goal of becoming a chaplain, to meet the pain and fear she had seen in the hospital with the presence of Christ and his Church. Endorsed by the American Baptist Churches USA, she was accepted into the chaplaincy of the US Army, and deployed to Iraq in 2003 at the beginning of ”Operation Iraqi Freedom.” She was so moved by what she saw and experienced there that she volunteered for a second tour of duty in Iraq in 2005. She believes that the Church must provide a ministry of presence in the hard places, differences in politics and ideology notwithstanding. Now she serves stateside at a large east coast military post as a chaplain recruiter. Where in the world?

C) For over 100 years this Christian Center in the urban core of a major American city has welcomed successive waves of immigrants, and helped them adjust to the demands of life in a new land. In the early twentieth century, there were the Mexicans who came to work in the slaughter houses and meat packing plants in the “West Bottoms.” Then there were African Americans who immigrated from the rural south to work in the war plants. Then came waves of Eastern Europeans, fleeing the oppression they encountered behind the post-World War II “Iron Curtain,” and Central Americans fleeing civil war and grinding poverty. Most recently, the immigrants have been Asians: Bhutanese, Burmese, Karin, Kachin… The current executive director, Rev. Mang Sonna, is himself Burmese. Staff and volunteers at Bethel Neighborhood Center help new arrivals find jobs and housing, enroll their children in school and learn English. During the week there are lunches and educational events for senior adults, after school programs for children and youth, a neighborhood food pantry, and “healthy lifestyles” classes led by the Center’s resident RN. Oh, yes, and there’s church on Friday nights; Bethel Neighborhood Center is also Bethel Baptist Church, a local American Baptist Congregation. Where in the world? CLUE:  Carol Wheeler was once board chair of Bethel Center.

D) What do all of these ministries have in common?

ANSWERS:  A)  Kodiak Baptist Mission, Kodiak Island Alaska;  B) Fort Meade, VA;  C) Kansas City, KS;  D)  Christian Centers and American Baptist endorsed chaplains are all related to the American Baptist Home Missions Societies, and therefore these programs are beneficiaries of the America for Christ Offering.

— Dr. David L. Wheeler