By Ryan Clark
The slides Mayor Ted Terry used look like any mission trip slide show you have ever seen: smiling white guy with internationals, people in native dress dancing, exotic food on the table, white guy being schooled at basketball. The only difference is that Mayor Ted isn’t off in some other country serving the Lord, he’s the mayor of the city that sits adjacent to my neighborhood. And the photos are from his city, Clarkston, Ga., where Baptists, Vietnamese Buddhists and Multi-ethnic Muslims live, serve and worship along the same street.
After a recommendation from colleagues, Mayor Ted and I began corresponding about the possibility of him speaking at our annual Encourager Church Breakfast of church leaders at an event that was kicking off a year’s theme where refugees and immigrants are prominent. This is the title he sent: “Compassionate Leadership in America’s Most Diverse Mile.”
His presentation lived up to the title and it created important space to hear about compassion and leadership from a perspective a room full of missionaries and mission supporters don’t usually get to hear.
We are fortunate that CBF has a high number of these mission supporters. Nearly 500 churches partner directly with our field personnel in one way or another. We are in the midst of an active campaign to help field personnel and congregations become resources for each other and develop Encourager Church covenants. We celebrate the Encourager Church covenant as the highest form of commitment to the work of field personnel.
This covenant between field personnel, local churches and CBF encourages mutual roles of support which foster important ministries and transformative relationships. Encourager Church covenants focus on four major areas — prayer support, administrative support, short-term engagement and financial support of the Offering for Global Missions. Each area unites churches with the ongoing ministry work of field personnel around the world.
One major point Mayor Terry made was the importance of offering compassion to people we disagree with, even those we may think are “crazy.” A mayor serving in the current political climate, he receives phone calls of support and calls he calls, “nasty-grams.” One such nasty-gram came from an angry man who believed he was helping Muslims institute Sharia Law. After understanding where the man was coming from, he calmly and kindly offered a list of reasons why that couldn’t possibly be true.
“We are to treat others as we would want to be treated,” he said.
He ended by giving credit to those who began settling refugees 35 years ago, absorbing the after affects of the Vietnam War. He then gave an important word of encouragement to these missionaries and mission supporters: A city government in reality can do very little. If it weren’t for the work of NGO’s and mission organizations like CBF empowering people to give back to their community, his job wouldn’t be possible.
In the meantime, be inspired by CBF’s work with refugee and immigrant ministries around the world and start designing your next mission engagement by going to www.cbf.net/engage.