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Mission-Focused Church Sends Its First Global Missionary
August 22, 2016
Friendship Missionary Baptist Church (FMBC) has been a “missionary church” since its founding in 1890. But today, 126 years later, the church is rejoicing that one of its members, Rovaughna Richardson, has been commissioned as its first full-time global missionary with International Ministries (IM).
“She has shown the way for others to follow.”
When Rovaughna Richardson recognized her call to global ministry, she pursued it, says FMBC Lott Carey Women’s Ministry President Debra Garner. Rovaughna was encouraged by FMBC pastors and church leaders and by missionaries at a Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention. Her call was confirmed in 2013 while attending an IM-sponsored “Hear the Call” Retreat.
Richardson's June 5, 2016, commissioning service was held during Sunday morning worship at FMBC, rather than as a separate service. FMBC Senior Pastor the Rev. Dr. Clifford Jones explains: “It demonstrates that commissioning a missionary is not set apart from but is fully a part of who we are as a church. It is participatory. It is worship. And it affirms God’s call on the church.”
“Rovaughna’s commissioning was a ‘wow’ moment, an inspiration and a historic event for FMBC,” says Debra Prioleau, chair of the church’s Women’s New Perspective Ministry. “It may be a catalyst to open doors for more people to consider serving in missions, whether it be in another country, within the U.S. or even in the local community.”
“Our church doesn’t see a lot of African Americans respond to the call to serve as full-time missionaries,” adds Garner. “The door to serving in global mission has always been there, but Rovaughna is the first to open that door and walk through it. She has shown the way for others to follow her.”
And as God opens the door for some to global ministry, he kindles the hearts of others to support that ministry.
“God often puts people in your life to help you see that you do have something to contribute,” says MPT member Edwarde Moise. “Sometimes that is just being willing and available to help in any capacity. This is my opportunity to serve others by joining Rovaughna on her journey. And it’s my journey as well.”
The church has long been actively involved in outreach ministries to the greater Charlotte, North Carolina, area. Members volunteer at men’s and women’s shelters, provide love and encouragement to homeless children, collect and distribute food to the hungry, create quilts to encourage individuals in need and much more—for over 70 ministries in total.
FMBC members have always been taught that, as disciples of Jesus Christ, they are to do mission to help others and to spread the gospel, says FMBC Lott Carey Women’s Ministry President Debra Garner. “All we hear is missions. It’s what individuals are called to do. It’s what the church is called to do. Our call to mission—to show kindness and the love of Christ to others—is 24/7.”
Expanding a Church’s Mission Vision
So it was only natural that, in recent years, FMBC’s vision moved beyond its own community—from helping a church in South Carolina with flood relief to sending several global mission teams to provide medical, evangelistic and Vacation Bible School assistance in Haiti, Jamaica, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The vision of global ministry was extended to FMBC members by its senior pastor, the Rev. Dr. Clifford Jones, whose strong interest in global mission was initially fueled by mission trips to Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Liberia. Seeing Richardson commissioned to serve in Ghana, West Africa, was a mountaintop moment in his 34-year ministry at FMBC.
“It has been my aspiration and dream from the beginning of this ministry to be the pastor of a global missionary,” said Jones. “I am ecstatic to see Rovaughna make the personal and professional sacrifices for the work of God’s kingdom. Her commitment and sacrifice affirms Friendship Missionary Baptist Church’s identity as a ‘missionary church.’”
Equipped with a background in counseling and social work, Richardson will serve a five-year term working with girls and young women who have been rescued or released or have escaped from trokosi slavery at a village shrine. The practice, which involves forced labor, sexual and physical abuse and social isolation, was banned in Ghana in 1998, though government enforcement has been limited.
Richardson’s call touches hearts
Richardson and members of her Mission Partnership Team.
While she serves far from home, Richardson—like all IM global servants—is never alone. She receives ongoing financial and physical support and prayers from her church and specifically from her Mission Partnership Team (MPT).
“It is humbling to be the first global missionary sent out from my church in 126 years,” says Richardson. “The congregation has embraced me in the newness of this experience and has not wavered in its support of my ministry. We are all learning together.”
Julie Williamson, an FMBC member and the co-convener of Richardson’s MPT, says that the work on the MPT is more than a volunteer position—it has become her personal mission. “This work is bigger than any of us. God has called all of us to be a part of it,” she says.
While Richardson is in Ghana, her MPT plans to keep FMBC members informed about the Ghana mission and to stay in touch with her on a regular basis to encourage her, lift her spirits and pray for and with her.
“Missions is more than going to church every Sunday ... it’s about helping to make a difference in the world,” says Williamson, who is joined in Richardson’s MPT by FMBC Associate Minister the Rev. Cassandra Aline Jones PhD and church member Edwarde Moise.
International Ministries is celebrating more than 200 years of ministry. American Baptist International Ministries was organized in 1814 as the first Baptist international mission agency in America. It began its pioneer mission work in Burma, (now called Myanmar) and today serves God through more than 1,800 short- and long-term global servants in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas. Its central mission is to help people Come to faith in Jesus, Grow in their relationships with God and Change their worlds through the power of the Spirit. It works with respected partners in over 70 countries in ministries that meet human need.
1.800.222.3872 www.internationalministries.org 1-800-222-3872 P.O. Box 851 Valley Forge, PA 19482