It was supposed to be another Zoom meeting, a virtual orientation for people serving through the Baptist World Alliance. About 100 people signed up for this hour and a half session. The meeting started at 7 a.m. Central time but it was 10:00 p.m. for participants in Australia.
For part of the time, it was another meeting in front of a computer screen. But when we broke into small prayer groups all of that changed. The session was transformed into a time of thanksgiving and a vivid reminder that Baptists belong to one another.
Martin Accad joined from an internet café in Beirut. Martin is dean of the Arab Baptist Seminary there. Several years ago The Alabama Baptist and Samford University co-sponsored a seminar held at Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., where Martin helped participants understand what it is like to live and minister in a majority Muslim nation. Now his nation seems to be falling apart and not for the first time. But Martin still helps prepare God-called men and women to share the gospel in Muslim lands.
Otniel Bunacie, a Baptist leader from Romania, was part of the prayer group. I first met Otniel in 2005 when he led a Bible study group during the centennial celebration of BWA in Birmingham, England. He is a professor at the Baptist Seminary in Bucharest and also holds appointment at the University of Bucharest. Otniel is part of a historic Baptist family acquainted with communist persecution. He has been president of Romanian Baptists and for more than 40 years served as pastor of a church founded and led by his father for decades before him.
Melanie Maxwell was in the prayer group, too. I knew Melanie when she worked for national Woman’s Missionary Union in Birmingham, Ala. Now she teaches in a Canadian Baptist seminary associated with Arcadia University located in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Ravi Algama is a lawyer in Sri Lanka. He also leads the Baptist convention in that country. Sri Lanka has been plagued by ethnic and religious violence and Baptists have not escaped that trouble.
The General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain was a part of the prayer group. So was a theology professor from a Baptist seminary in Mexico whom I had not previously known.
There was an African-American pastor friend from the Bronx in New York City and a denominational leader of American Baptists who works in Washington, D.C. There was a leader of a missions organization which defends religious freedom around the world and other Baptist leaders.
We prayed for those suffering from the COVID-19 epidemic, those who are physically ill, those suffering economically, those thrown back into hunger and those who are lonely and confused. We prayed for those without Christ and for the Body of Christ — that Christian believers would seize this opportunity to share God’s love in word and deed.
It was an important time of prayer. But the overriding impression for me was one of privilege. For a few moments I was able to pray for people around the world and I was privileged to pray with Baptists from around the world.
Beirut, Bucharest, the Bronx, Birmingham. Different nationalities. Different cultures. Different languages. Different races. Yet all one family because of the blood of Jesus shed on Calvary’s cross. After praying together, you can’t forget that truth.