March 30-April 2, 2017 we had the immense privilege of attending the Tennessee WMU annual conference. The National WMU theme for the year is “By All Means”. What I personally encountered at this conference was hundreds of women, of all ages, who were ready to propel the gospel forward by all means. These women wanted to learn more and they want to serve more. That in itself should be an encouragement to a body of believers! We had the opportunity to represent Ohio missions through their missions fair, but also by presenting three breakout sessions on how “You Can Make a Difference” in Ohio.
Our goal for the breakout session was to identify for Tennessee Baptist women (and a few men that attended) the need for their partnership in Ohio. On the mission field, anywhere, there is a constant need for partners. In Ohio, we have the huge, but awesome challenge, of reaching others with the gospel. (Ohio and California are the only states with more than one SEND city, so that highlights the great need!) There is a need for partners in prayer, partners in serving, and partners in giving. There is a strong need for the exchange of wisdom and support that an established church can provide to a newly planted church. In our young church plant, we have experienced such partners through the Tennessee Baptists. As we begin, God has gathered a core group for us and together we are building the DNA of a church with a focus of love and serving that will join the mission of many other SBC churches in Ohio. Tennessee Baptists have assisted us by accomplishing tasks for us in just a few days’ time that would have taken our new plant weeks or months to complete. We have been greatly blessed by Tennessee Baptists, as well as Ohio and Kentucky Baptists, who are willing to join with us as we work together to reach Ohio. We are very excited about the prospect of others joining us and supporting us on this journey and in turn, us joining them on their journey.
A question that was asked in our breakout was, “What motivated us to our area?” (for us, Carlisle, OH) The answer is quite simple. It was home. We had been serving on staff at an amazing church outside of our village of Carlisle, Ohio. Over time and through life circumstances, we realized that we were missing opportunities to present the gospel in our own village, while serving in another. God opened our eyes to the brokenness in our community, the need for gospel community in our village, and so we accepted the challenge He presented to love our village. (We are thankful that through NAMB, Send Cincinnati, and the Cooperative Program that we are able to!) Rachel Lovingood said at the conference “Our lives are not about where we are leading Jesus, it is about where Jesus is leading us.” For us, He led us to our own community where we have learned that over 60% in our small village do not associate with a faith-based anything (according to the census data of 2010). He led us home where the need is greater than we ever imagined.
Someone asked me when I returned from the conference, “Was it a success?” I’ve never spoke in a breakout session like this and must wonder, how do you measure success? Is success partnerships? Is it trips planned? Is it prayer partners gained? Maybe, and we would gladly welcome any of those. I felt it was successful because eyes were opened to not only the needs of Ohio, but to those in Tennessee as well. One woman approached me afterwards and said that she found it amazing that in a small village in Ohio, 60% do not associate with a faith. She said she began to wonder about her own town (which was much larger) in Tennessee and what was occurring there. She committed to praying for Ohio, as I committed to praying for Tennessee and her town. To me, there is success in those thoughts and conversations. Those thoughts will prayerfully turn into action either in her town or maybe in a town in Ohio soon. One does not have to go very far to realize there are people around us searching for healing and community and the gospel can provide them with both.
by Nicole Clarkson, Church Planter