American Baptist Home Mission Societies announces ministry award recipients

VALLEY FORGE, PA (5/22/19)—American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) is pleased to announce the names of American Baptist individuals who will receive its 2019 national-recognition ministry awards for significant faith-based endeavors. They were selected by ABHMS’ board of directors from nominations submitted by clergy and laypersons across the United States and Puerto Rico. Presentation times and dates will be announced as they become available.

“We are excited about consolidating the ministry awards that ABHMS has given over many years to lift up the contributions of American Baptists across the country and Puerto Rico. We believe this consolidation showcases the exceptional quality of the recipients’ ministries with more power and makes their inspiring, transformational work speak even more loudly,” says ABHMS Executive Director Dr. Jeffrey Haggray. “American Baptists will recognize the names and the work of these dedicated persons right away.”

The Rev. LeDayne McLeese Polaski will receive the Edwin T. Dahlberg Peace and Justice Award for outstanding work for peace and justice, courageous leadership and compassionate Christian witness for and with individuals marginalized in the United States and around the globe. Since 2015, Polaski has been executive director of BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz, the largest network of Baptist peacemakers in the world and the first Baptist organization to formally incorporate Spanish into its identity. Under her leadership, the organization has emerged more fully as a multicultural, multilingual, four-nation fellowship that actively works to transcend borders and create eye-to-eye coalitions for peace, inclusion and justice.

The Rev. Dr. Richard P. Olson will receive the Suzan Johnson Cook Religious Freedom Award for leadership in defending God-given religious liberty for all. Recently retired distinguished professor of Pastoral Theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Shawnee, Kan., Olson is author of “Side by Side: Being Christian in a Multifaith World” (Judson Press, 2018). He chaired the planning committee for the American Baptist Churches USA-sponsored Midwest Baptist-Muslim Dialogue. He is currently conversing with leaders at a local Islamic Center, bringing seminary classes to Shabbat services at a nearby synagogue and helping with a summer interfaith study-action program for elementary school children at his church.

Lt. Col. Ruth Segres will receive the ABHMS Cultivating Leaders Award for sharing comfort, support and God’s love with individuals during the most difficult and challenging situations and crises. An endorsed American Baptist chaplain, she has attained the rank of Wing Staff Chaplain, the highest chaplain rank in the U.S. Air Force. She provides pastoral care for numerous units, serving 14,000 airmen and their families. She has advised 32 commanders on moral ethics and has mentored 25 ministers. While on tour in Afghanistan, she aided in 850 traumas with a 98 percent success rate. She is known for empowering other airmen, for her preaching excellence and for increasing attendance at worship services on various bases.

The Rev. Donald Ng will receive the ABHMS Equipping Disciples Award for faithful, effective and innovative leadership in Christian education that spans from faith commitment to spiritual maturity. He is a mentor for American Baptist Churches USA’s Young Adult Caucus and serves on the Steering Committee for the Office of the General Secretary’s Creation Justice Network, doing his part to educate the American Baptist family on issues pertaining to good stewardship of God’s creation. After 20 years as director of Education for Discipleship and Youth Ministry at American Baptist Educational Ministries, he pastored First Chinese Baptist Church, San Francisco, for 17 years. He also served as president of American Baptist Churches USA.

Anna Young will receive the ABHMS Jitsuo Morikawa Healing and Transforming Communities Award for outstanding leadership and exceptional effectiveness in holistic ministry in an urban, small town or rural setting. At age 88, she is the longest-serving ABHMS volunteer. She has been visiting Lackawanna County Prison, Scranton, Pa., at least once weekly since 1982, and her Project Re-Entry group seeks to help every inmate find purpose through faith. She not only leads worship and Bible study but also gathers donations from area churches and community groups to fill bags with goodies and necessities for inmates. She provides returning citizens with attire for job interviews, and she has temporarily housed more than 100 former inmates in her home.

Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr. will receive the Judson Press Ministry Award for commitment to the publishing ministry’s excellence. In addition to advancing the American Baptist heritage and faith perspective, he has encouraged other Judson Press authors, while giving voice and value to writers and audiences often marginalized by mainstream media. His partnership with Judson Press began in 1976 with the publication of “Outstanding Black Sermons, Volume 1” and has continued for more than four decades. Smith is pastor emeritus of the historic Allen Temple Baptist Church, Oakland, Calif., and a distinguished professor at American Baptist Seminary of the West and Graduate Theological Seminary, both Berkeley, Calif.

 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.

Founded in 1824, Judson Press is a publishing ministry of American Baptist Home Mission Societies, American Baptist Churches USA. It is committed to producing Christ-centered leadership resources for the transformation of individuals, congregations, communities and cultures.

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.