ABHMS awards close to $2 million in mission dollars in 2019

American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) distributed $1,932,000 to 328 partners throughout the United States and Puerto Rico in 2019 to promote Christian faith, cultivate Christ-centered leaders and disciples, and bring healing and transformation to communities.

Grants were awarded to ministries that reflect the historic mission of ABHMS since its beginning in 1832: educational scholarships; after-school enrichment programs; Christian camping programs; vacation Bible schools; chaplaincy programs; leader development; financial literacy programs; job-skills training; care for children of incarcerated parents; addiction recovery programs; and natural disaster relief and recovery.

“ABHMS is attentive and responsive to the rapidly changing landscape of mission in America,” says ABHMS Executive Director Dr. Jeffrey Haggray. “We want everyone to see that ABHMS is intentional in awarding grants to partners who have demonstrated an eagerness to partner with ABHMS. It is the sacrificial investment of previous and present generations that makes transformative ministry possible for coast-to-coast impact.”

Education matters

ABHMS is committed to supporting education, whether in academic programs or continuing education opportunities. As one grant recipient wrote to ABHMS, “Thank you so much for your dedication to providing enriching experiences for clergy and students. It’s so encouraging that our denomination cares enough about us to invest in our overall well-being and our futures.” For the 2018–2019 school year, 234 college and seminary students received scholarships totaling $246,875, and 191 continuing education grants totaled $57,800.

Children matter

At Murrow Indian Children’s Home, Muskogee, Okla., one 16-year-old has been preparing for independent living through a transition-to-independent living program. She excelled in classes, which included budgeting and meal preparation, however, her instructor said, “You never really know how much the students have absorbed.” One day, after saying she wanted to get a job, program leaders discovered she had taken the initiative to identify available jobs, contact employers and schedule interviews—evidence of confidence gained through the program by someone who had been tentative and insecure. Her instructor expressed confidence, too: “We’ll continue to help her and believe she will be successful when she ages out of Murrow.”

A collaboration among ABHMS’ Rizpah’s Children, the Children’s Defense Fund (CDC) and Somerset Academy Early Learning Center, Philadelphia, Pa., provided a Freedom School summer experience for 70 children. Freedom School—a proven literacy and cultural enrichment program designed by CDC that encourages children to read and learn—provides nutritious food and connects families to community resources. Student servant intern Thomas Singleton, Palmer Seminary, Wynnewood, Pa., hopes the program will instill “a greater love for reading, and the students seeing themselves within the characters in the books.” Another intern, Krystal Maldonado, Pennsylvania State University, Abington, Pa., elaborates: “The students lose a lot of progress over the summer. Our hope is to try to keep the reading and writing going.” ABHMS is developing plans for three Freedom Schools in 2020.

Bob Burdette Center, Charleston, W.Va.—another ABHMS Rizpah’s Children partner— provided behavioral and coping-skills development in collaboration with an elementary school, a move that increased outreach from 130 to 170 students. According to a school administrator, “The work Bob Burdette Center does with children allows teachers to focus more on the academics with students, instead of spending time addressing the behavioral challenges.”

ABHMS provides stipends to long-term volunteers serving with various ABHMS mission partners. For five years, Robin Walker has been a full-time residential volunteer at Kodiak (Alaska) Baptist Mission. “The stipend I receive from ABHMS helps me with living expenses and food,” Walker says.

Discipleship matters

Through the Louise Burchard Pierce Memorial Fund, ABHMS provided a grant to help churches award scholarships to school-aged summer campers at Vick Pathfinder Camp and Conferences in New York State. Lakeville Baptist Church in Cossayuna, N.Y., initially offered scholarships to two boys in their community, a move that made a difference, not only in the lives of the campers, but also in campers’ families and in the church. According to Pastor Sandra Spaulding, “I received thank you notes for the church from both boys . . . a great encouragement for our small church. One mom was brought to tears by this opportunity and the boys’ response to their time at Pathfinder. As a result of the story of these two boys, Lakeville Baptist then stepped out and paid part of the expenses for two girls to go to Pathfinder, too!”

Leadership matters

ABHMS invested in the God-inspired vision of six leaders from California to Massachusetts who applied to participate in ABHMS’ inaugural Co-Creators Incubator. While fostering collegiality, the incubator provided Co-Creators, who focus on changing models of ministry, with resources to develop their ideas or enhance their ministries, matching them with creative partners who may provide long-term financial and other support. A new cohort of Co-Creators will form in 2021.

Compassion matters

Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico is an ongoing recovery effort in response to 2017’s hurricanes Maria and Irma. In 2017 and 2018, $575,000 was disbursed. Through November 2019, $315,700 was disbursed for care of communities, residential and church repairs, and training for post-trauma mental health care.

ABHMS disbursed $305,000 from One Great Hour of Sharing funds in response to numerous disasters in 2019: historic flooding in Nebraska, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas and Oklahoma; damaging tornadoes in Joplin, Mo., and Dayton, Ohio; and wildfires in Napa, Calif. In each community, ABHMS staff worked with regional staff to provide emergency aid. Additionally, funds were sent to partners in Panama City, Fla., Houston, Texas, and New Jersey committed to rebuilding from hurricanes Michael, Harvey and Sandy.

In October 2019, the Rev. Kadia Edwards, ABHMS national coordinator of Volunteer-mobilization and Disaster-response Ministries, traveled to Panama City to work with an ABHMS mission partner. “I was rendered speechless by the evidence of devastation that I saw from Hurricane Michael of 2018,” she says. “Gone are many of the homes, churches, schools and businesses that once existed in this close-knit community. There are many homes without functioning roofs to provide shelter, businesses that are no longer operational, schools without the impressionable minds of students ready to learn and churches without people. Now, a year later, the community is still trying to rebuild.”

ABHMS purchased two shower/laundry trailers maintained by ABMEN. One trailer was placed in King Lake, Neb., where flooding caused extensive damage to almost all homes, rendering them inhabitable. Most residents were living in campers or tents in the yards of their homes while conducting clean up and repair. Having the shower trailer there allowed residents access to shower and laundry facilities at a time when these services were not available from any other resource.

More than 70,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in 2019. ABHMS provided United Church of Pittsford, N.Y., a grant from the Louise Burchard Pierce Memorial Fund for Transforming Lives of People Affected by Addiction, a program that focuses on those whose lives are affected by addiction. Twenty people from the church and another five families from the community learned how love and grace combined can bring freedom from addictive behavior.

Additional recipients of ABHMS support include: ABCUSA regions; ecumenical partners such as the National Council of Churches, Baptist Peace Fellowship and New Baptist Covenant; American Baptist colleges and seminaries; and In Support of Excellence, supported by a grant to ABHMS from the Lilly Endowment.

ABHMS announced redevelopment of its grant-making process in 2017 to better align with “on-the-ground” realities in the United States and Puerto Rico as well as ABHMS’ mission and strategic priorities to cultivate leaders, equip disciples and heal and transform communities. The vision of that redevelopment is being realized. Your gifts to the America for Christ Offering, One Great Hour of Sharing and the ABHMS Passionary Fund contribute to fulfilling God’s vision of sharing the Good News and loving our neighbors.

American Baptist Home Mission Societies partners with American Baptists to promote Christian faith, cultivate Christ-centered leaders and disciples, and bring healing and transformation to communities across the United States and Puerto Rico.

American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with approximately 5,000 congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.