Featured NAMB Annie missionaries share stories of encouragement

By Karen L. Willoughby

ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Hand-drawn hearts painstakingly colored and mailed with messages that say, “We love you pastor, and we love your family,” or “Thank you for sharing the gospel in many ways,” or “I hope you are safe and have food and shelter,” have been received this spring by missionaries featured in this year’s Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® Week of Prayer emphasis.

Shahid Kamal, pastor of South Asian Community Church in Surrey, British Columbia, read each of the above statements to Baptist Press in a telephone interview. He had affixed the cards and letters he’d received to the wall of the space he calls his “office,” he said.

Each year, the North American Mission Board features a small group of missionaries to promote the annual Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American missions. The featured missionaries, such as Shahid Kamal who planted South Asian Community Church near Vancouver, BC, receive an outpouring of encouragement and prayer from Southern Baptists. Photo submitted by Shahid Kamal.

“It’s overwhelming for us that people are taking time to write,” Kamal said, including not only his family but his entire church. He took a picture of the wall of notes and now his congregation—still separated because of the Covid pandemic—say they can’t wait to read and touch each of them in person, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) missionary said.

Each year, NAMB features a small group of missionaries to promote the annual offering. The stories demonstrate how offering funds are used to spread the gospel. Without exception, the featured missionaries also receive an outpouring of love, encouragement and prayers from Southern Baptists as well.

“Many people (among our congregation) have been blessed and have shared stories, that they were struggling in their life until this Week of Prayer. It was a good experience to see many people praying for us and encouraging us.”

The response he received—about 100 letters, 50 emails, invitations to speak and even Zoom calls with churches that then shared the calls with their congregations—reminded him, Kamal said, “We are not alone. Many are praying for us. We are very much happy.”

Bobby Williams, who planted Next Level Church in Slidell, La., read over encouragement they received from Southern Baptists after they served as an Annie Armstrong Easter Offering Week of Prayer missionary for 2021. Photo submitted by Bobby Williams.

The other six recipients of a focus on their ministry during the Week of Prayer echoed Kamal’s words as they spoke of the encouragement they received from the cards, letters, calls and other contacts they received.

Jacob Zailian ministers among the homeless, addicted and unreached through Set Free Sanger, in Sanger, Calif. “It’s been crazy,” he told Baptist Press in early May.  “I’m still getting stuff. Just Saturday I received another. To see the little innocent prayers from the kids has been awesome.

“What’s funny is that they’re from all over,” Zailian continued. “It’s amazing to see how people see that short little video and then feel compelled to write us about it. It all goes back to the type of ministry we do. They write stuff like, ‘It’s awesome to see what you’re doing because we don’t know what to do. It’s good to see someone is addressing the problem.’”

Ryan McCammack, pastor of the multi-ethnic Gospel Hope Church on the east side of Atlanta, said the most meaningful thing to him about the nearly 100 responses he received was the recurring phrase, “We’re praying for you.”

“What stood out too, was that some of these churches are out in rural communities and not really connected to the big cities, yet they were praying for us as well,” McCammack said. “That was just very encouraging to me.

“The week we were featured, we moved into a new facility,” the NAMB missionary continued. “It was a huge blessing to have people praying for us at that time.”

Each year, the North American Mission Board features a small group of missionaries to promote the annual Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American missions. The featured missionaries, such as Anders Snyder who planted Calvary Church in Nampa, Idaho, receive an outpouring of encouragement and prayer from Southern Baptists. Photo submitted by Anders Snyder.

Josh Valdez, pastor of Higher Ground Church in Farmington, N.M., said the one letter out of the nearly 100 letters and emails he received that stands out in his mind was a child’s very attractive drawing of the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

“I love theology and theology is so important in our church,” Valdez said. “That’s one that stood out for sure. They all stood out, though. Knowing all these Southern Baptist churches across the country, from various sizes, are praying for us, that’s really encouraging.”

The NAMB missionary has had “a few” Zoom calls with churches—”They’ve been fun,” Valdez said—and donations. Some came in just when the church’s sound system went out. “That was providential,” he added. “We were given money to buy a van. That was huge!”

The van is being used to bring unchurched young people from across the high desert community that borders the Navajo reservation to Higher Ground Church.

“It’s definitely encouraging to go to the mailbox pretty much on a daily basis the last two months and have a letter in it that encourages us ‘to keep up the good work,’” said Bobby Williams, church planting pastor of Next Level Church in Slidell, La. near New Orleans.

“Twenty minutes ago, I got a call from a church in Mississippi,” Williams told Baptist Press in early May. “They saw the video and said they want to see how they can serve us. We’ve had a lot of calls from churches wanting to partner with us.”

One of the letters he received was from a girl whose penmanship indicated she was about 5 or 6, the NAMB missionary said. “She wrote, ‘I’m grateful for you and your family, and the work that you do. I will be praying for you.’ That really touched me,” Williams said.

Victor Moura, a church planting missionary in Boston, said he and his family received more than 100 letters that encouraged them in their ministry.

“We received a few letters from kids with some drawings,” Moura said. “These letters were really special because we have a toddler.”

The fact that churches were teaching even the youngest in their churches about the importance of planting new churches in hard-to-reach areas was an inspiration.

Twice, church planting missionary Anders Snyder of Calvary Church in Nampa, Idaho, has been asked to participate in a Zoom video.

“We’ve had the joy of getting to interact with some people. One was a WMU group and the other, a localized podcast,” Snyder said. “They asked, ‘Would you Zoom, brag on Jesus and celebrate what He’s doing?’ That was fun.

“At the end of the day, with all this Week of Prayer attention, I say, ‘Hey, we’re not alone!’ It’s about the fact people are praying for this ministry to be successful in God’s kingdom work.

“The people of God and the family of God care about people,” Snyder continued. “It was pretty fun to share that with our body and say we’re not alone in the body of Christ.”

Published June 3, 2021

Karen L. Willoughby

Karen L. Willoughby is a veteran Southern Baptist journalist and a freelance writer.