There are many things one could share about how God is revitalizing Mt. Freedom in Wilmore. Facility makeovers, moving staff to full-time positions, and a community perception of vitality are all evidences that God is doing a great work at the church.
However, one evidence that particularly jumps out is their willingness to sacrifice for the kingdom.
Small churches that are struggling to make budget become nervous about financial matters, but this is not the case with Mt. Freedom in Wilmore. Pastor Nathan Elliot shared a story recently about the church’s generosity:
“Lalhmangaiha (Andrew) arrived in the United States in August 2011 to study for a PhD in intercultural studies. Andrew was from Mizoram, India, a small strip of hill country sandwiched between the Muslim nation of Bangladesh and the Buddhist nation of Myanmar. Northern India is predominantly Hindu, but this narrow land is 87 percent Christian.
“Andrew is a Baptist and has served as a missionary in various parts of Northern India for many years. God put a burden on his heart to start a training program for equipping Mizo Baptist missionaries for going to the mission field. He approached the Baptist Bible school, the Academy for Integrated Christian Studies, and proposed that a master’s level program in missions be started and they agreed. Andrew had come to Asbury Seminary to earn his PhD so that he could teach in that program. Andrew has a desire to provide training, not only for those who want to start serving as missionaries, but also for the several hundred Mizo Baptist missionaries who are already serving on the field.
“Shortly after his arrival in Wilmore, Andrew began attending Mount Freedom Baptist Church. He was quiet and reserved, which is not unusual when making such a significant cultural adjustment. One Sunday in the spring of 2012, Andrew and I were talking in my office after the service. I asked him whether he had a family, and he said he had a wife and two children, a 6-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter.
“‘Is there a plan for them to come over to Wilmore while you study?’ I asked.
“‘We are trusting God to make a way,’ he replied.
“‘What do you need for them to be able to come?’ I inquired. “‘The seminary and U. S. Embassy would need confirmation that the funds to cover rent and insurance were certain for the whole time of our stay and that we would only be here temporarily and then return home,’ he explained.
“Andrew’s salary in Mizoram was $200/ mo. That would not cover their expenses for travel to and stay in the U.S. I promised Andrew that I would pray over his situation.
“In the days following my conversation with Andrew, I was struck with two thoughts. “First, here was a clear opportunity for Mount Freedom to minister to Jesus by helping “one of the least of these brothers of mine” (Matthew 25). Here was a servant in the kingdom who did not have the resources to have his family with him while he devoted his life to training workers for the harvest field. What we did for him we would be doing for Christ.
“Second, Christ’s call to us was to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. Here was a perfect opportunity for Mount Freedom to develop a close relationship with a Baptist missionary leader in the center of the unreached world of religions. Who knows what opportunities could open up for us in partnering with Andrew in reaching the Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus of that part of the world with the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
“I presented my thoughts to the members one evening and encouraged all of them to pray. A year earlier, an elderly member of Mount Freedom, Mary Lee Duncan, had passed away and left a large, old house to the church. It was in need of significant renovation, so we decided to sell it, which was one of the options given us in her will. It was at this time, when we were considering Andrew’s situation, we finally sold the house.
“Roger Woolums, the trustee who had overseen the sale of the Duncan house, was praying about the situation when it finally struck him that in the will, one of the wishes of Ms. Duncan was that her house would be used for helping missionaries. Roger encouraged the church to move forward with supporting Andrew’s family financially from the Duncan house sale because it was her express desire to help missionaries with her house.
“We held a special called business meeting. This meeting had the highest attendance of any business meeting in any of my six years at the church. The atmosphere was positive and energetic. I proposed that we designate $45,000 (about 75 percent of our annual budget that year) from the sale of the house to be used to support Andrew’s family. Most of the questions were asking whether this would be enough and what other ways the members might be able to support Andrew’s family. The final decision was unanimous in favor of $50,000 for the support of Andrew’s family with the possibility of giving more if needed. The church members were able to collect items for furnishing and equipping their apartment before arrival as well.
“That vote took place on July 8, 2012. Due to difficulties securing visas for Andrew’s family, a process that included church members writing letters and making phone calls to U.S. Representatives, it wasn’t until August of 2013 that Andrew’s family finally arrived.
“Andrew’s family has been here for more than a year now and has been actively involved in our church fellowship. What a blessing they have been to our faith!
“I am planning to travel with Andrew to Mizoram in June 2015 to speak at a twoday spiritual retreat at the start of the school year at AICS and to meet some of the leaders of the Baptists of Mizoram.
“We only have stories of God’s blessing through this step of faith. I have not heard any second guessing or criticism of the decision to support Andrew’s family. They are greatly loved and we look forward to seeing how God continues to grow and develop our relationship and ministry together in the years ahead.” (WR)