Before Grapevine disappears in the rearview mirror for supporters of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, I want to sound two notes as we move toward next year.
First is a note of commitment. I will be in Atlanta for the 2006 CBF General Assembly, if for no other reason to thank those who signed the surprising get-well card to me.
That meeting will take place one month after I finish a year-long, pill-popping regimen for acute leukemia, which caused me to miss my first meeting of the CBF since before it was named CBF.
A host of folk signed the large blue card that arrived last week. They include Sam Bandela, with whom I ate at the McDonald's restaurant at the Seoul airport on the way to the BWA council meeting last summer. There are Chip and Amy Smith, who hosted me at Tallowood Baptist Church after one of the worst citizenship services preached there.
Others included Ann and Gene Pittman, who served as missionaries with my parents in Nigeria. Another signatory was Wilmer C. Fields, who offered valuable counsel before the founding of the Baptist Center for Ethics.
The list was a virtual Who's Who in CBF, as well as some young leaders who will be our future Who's Who.
If my sources are right, Bo Prosser, CBF's church resources coordinator, deserves credit for this thoughtful gesture.
Second is a word of commendation to Daniel Vestal, CBF's coordinator, for his statement that the number one moral issue of the day is global poverty. Vestal said that government, churches, families and individuals must make changes related to what we prioritize and how we live.
I agree with him. I also promise to irritate the CBF-Atlanta staff and Coordinating Council until they pick up on his statement and make global poverty a priority agenda.
With Baptist World Aid and the Micah Challenge, led significantly by Australian and British Baptists, we already have the means to join the larger social justice movement to make poverty history. But it will not happen if we lose our focus.
A long, long time ago, I was given a focus on world hunger through a family experience. We lived outside of Jos, Nigeria, in the abandoned tin-mining fields, in a house that only had electricity when the portable generator ran.
An impoverished man came to our home asking for help. In Hausa, he said that one of his children had died and that another was very sick. My parents asked him to bring his child and wife to our home. A missionary physician confirmed that the child was malnourished. My father purchased liquid vitamins and powdered milk. My mother taught the child's mother how to prepare the formula and to feed the child. We, the young children, watched.
We talked about what to name the child—Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and Tom Sawyer were suggested. Jesus was considered as a possible name. In the end, we nicknamed the child Sweet Pea.
After Sweet Pea gained his weight and health, he and his parents returned to their home. While they disappeared from our lives, neither that experience, nor my concern for Africa, has vanished.
I'm glad that poverty has received its rightful place on the agenda of the big Bible Baptists.
Now, what are we going to do about it?
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.
Editor's Note: While we're thinking about an answer, consider two Bible studies for this fall: a global missions curriculum that includes a lesson about hunger written by BWA's Paul Montacute; and a discipleship curriculum on walking Jesus' way that includes lessons on living justly, authentic generosity and loving neighbors.