By Philip Timothy, Message Staff Writer
STATEWIDE – Numbers don’t lie, but they don’t always tell the whole story.
The Louisiana Baptist Convention’s Missions and Ministry Division’s goal of $1.8 million for the 2011 Georgia Barnette State Missions Offering fell $79,000 short. While most would consider this to be disheartening, such, though, isn’t the case. Instead, the leaders in the division are excited – extremely excited.
So, what gives?
“It is a huge victory … a great year … because we scored the highest total ever for the GBO, and to God be the glory,” Mission and Ministry Director John Hebert said. “This kind of blessing [the $1.721 million] is testimony from our churches they are strongly supporting missions in Louisiana.
“It is an affirmation from churches across the state they want to see our work – education, training, special mission projects, churches planted and built and people being brought to Christ throughout this state – continue,” Hebert said. “This is not just a success for the mission and ministry team but for our Louisiana Baptist churches.”
Hebert heaps credit for the success of this year’s Georgia Barnette Offering on teamwork from a number of sources, but he is quick to single out several people for an extra pat on the back, not the least being Women’s Missions and Ministry Strategist Janie Wise.
“While this was definitely a team effort, congratulations are in order to several special people,” Hebert said. “Janie [Wise] spearheaded the effort and she worked closely with the communication team to promote and show the importance of the offering to Louisiana missions. She simply did a wonderful job and that is evidenced by the amount of the offering.”
Like Hebert, Wise credited the teamwork for the great response.
“WMU has one overall purpose: to pray for and support missions,” Wise said. “This compels us to be involved in the Week of Prayer for State Missions and the Georgia Barnette State Missions Offering, working with our pastors and other church leaders to include the whole church in becoming aware of missions needs in our church, praying for state missions and giving so that God’s gift of eternal life will be known in every corner of our state. It’s a ‘together’ effort, and, thank God, together we are making a difference.”
Hebert agreed. “WMU’s all over the state did play a vital role in helping to spread the word while also promoting Lottie [Lottie Moon] and Annie [Armstrong]. Then, of course, I must also credit our Association Directors of Missions statewide for ensuring the material promoting the GBO got into the churches in their respective associations. A lot of people, including our Missions and Ministry staff, played key roles. This was definitely a team effort that led to this type of success.”
Hebert saves his biggest ‘thank you’ for the ones who did the giving.
“Our work would go nowhere without the support from the churches. Thank you Louisiana Baptists for believing in mission and ministry and in our Missions and Ministry team,” Hebert said.
In such a tumultuous economic year, the $1.721 million offering was $218,792 more than the year before, which leaves Hebert counting his blessings for the 14 percent increase.
“I ask myself, ‘How could this happen?’ Especially this year. We are suffering through one of the worst economies in memory and yet people still responded. I work nationally with people who do not have these type of resources, and it is a somber reminder just how blessed we are to have this type of support from our churches,” Hebert said.
The Georgia Barnette offering partially funds – 46 percent – the Missions and Ministry team budget, as well as provide funding for the LBC’s Mission Church Builders, Disaster Relief, Resort Ministries, training conferences and leadership training/missions education events – RA/GA, and scholarships (the WMU Christian Education Scholarships and Christian Vocational Service Scholarships at Louisiana College.)
“The GBO is the whole package for missions in Louisiana,” Hebert said. “With this offering we can be aggressive in missions. Without it we would lose our aggressive edge. We can only do the stuff we can do without it; instead of stretching our vision.”
One of those visions, or strategies, is an aggressive 10-year plan, launched during the 2010 LBC Annual Meeting in Alexandria, to plant 92 churches in the New Orleans, Northshore, Eastern and Northwest Baptist Associations. Another new initiative, launched this year, is called 10-3-1.
“The 10-3-1 initiative will help us create a strategy development plan that focuses on developing a local strategy in every association across the state,” Hebert said. “Georgia Barnett funding goes a long way to make this happen.
“Initiatives such as the ones I mentioned are just some of the vital work made possible by GBO,” Hebert continued. “Mission Builders have 20 to 40 projects ongoing at any given time. Mission churches get 100 percent free services because the 100 percent is provided by the GBO.
“Disaster Relief is another beneficiary of the GBO,” Hebert said. “While this was a non-hurricane year, it was the worst tornado season in history and our Louisiana Baptist DR volunteers were spread out across our own state as well as in Joplin, Mo., Tuscaloosa, Ala., and New England.
“We even sent a team overseas to Japan to help following March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that hit there,” Hebert said. “Without the GBO, it would be impossible to fund all these ministries. That is why this year’s offering is such a huge blessing.”