Contact Info Subscribe Links

Cover 28


Oct-Nov 2009:
In Every Direction


Online Edition

Download a PDF




About ONE Magazine




Free Will Baptist
History Links



Ridiculous Vision


Many people have a vision but never take steps to make it a reality.


ridiculous vision

by James Forlines


The year was 1935. The city: New York. The S.S. Potter rested at Pier 58 in the North River while longshoremen worked to load freight for her next voyage across the Atlantic. Since June 17, her crew had roamed the city, uncertain how long they would wait in port. Once the ship was loaded, they would hit the seas. Independence Day wasn’t far off; certainly, many of the crew hoped to celebrate the 4th in the Big Apple.
Ridiculous VisionA little over three miles away, on West 75th Street, one of the Potter’s passengers waited patiently at the Hephzibah House [pictured, left] to board the ship. She was alone. The extravagant fireworks display planned for the 4th were mere sparklers in comparison to her questions about the journey that lay ahead. What would the voyage bring? What difficulties waited? What challenges would she face? What obstacles might come her way? She had no way of knowing. But, with $85 in her pocket, she was filled with an eternal treasure, hope for the people of India.
Many people have a vision, but never take steps to make it a reality. Trusting in the promise of the God who would be with her to the ends of the earth, Laura Belle Barnard put courageous action behind her ridiculous vision. In the middle of the Great Depression, at 27 years old, having never traveled outside the United States, the single woman from rural, southern Georgia left everything and headed to India.
Next year, 2010, is the 75th anniversary of Miss Barnard’s departure for India, and the launch of Free Will Baptist International Missions. Numerous events have been planned to commemorate her step of faith. Some may ask, “Why spend so much energy and effort looking backward. It is just history.” However, examples of audacious faith like hers give us courage to look forward to the challenges that lie ahead. May God use such examples to sound the call again, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us.”


North Africa

Yes, God continues to call. And, yes, Free Will Baptist people continue to say, “Here am I, send me.” Satan has held a grip on the peoples of North Africa for centuries. For some countries in the region, the number of Christians does not even register as a percentage. Those who profess Islam number as high as 99.85%.
What would cause a young, Free Will Baptist couple with children to move to such a country? In 2009, that is exactly what happened. In March, the International Missions Board opened *this country with a long-term commitment to reach a targeted people group there. What difficulties wait? What challenges will be faced? This family has no way of knowing. As jars of clay, though, they take hope and healing to the people of North Africa.

Ridiculous VisionSoutheast Asia

Approximately 60% of the world’s population lives in Asia (over 4 billion people). Hundreds of unreached people groups are scattered across this needy area of the world. Buddhism and Animism have blinded billions to the truth that could set them free. Entering these countries with a religious worker’s visa is impossible. Creative means must be developed to be allowed in the country before you can even think of developing relationships and sharing your faith.
How will Free Will Baptists answer this need? We are now in the investigative process. In August, a young couple moved to Southeast Asia to look for a divine opening and opportunities. The needs are great, both spiritual and physical. Per capita average yearly income in *this country is only $765.
Some might say this is a bad time to begin such endeavors. Yet, in the middle of the greatest economic downturn in generations, at 28 and 25 years old, having never been to Asia, this couple is leaving everything and heading into the darkness with His Light!

Serving as Senders

One of the most exciting developments within our denomination is what is happening among our Free Will Baptist people outside of North America. For most of our 74-year history, missionaries were sent almost exclusively from the United States. In 2009, that is no longer the case. Where once we had mission fields, we now have sending countries. Passion for world evangelism is growing throughout our Free Will Baptist family. I urge you to visit our website, and watch the video titled, Tale of Two Countries. You will be challenged and encouraged to see Brazilian Free Will Baptists respond to the need in the country of Uruguay.
Things have come a long way since July 5, 1935. Much has changed. Only the pilings of Pier 58 remain. Looking out over the North River as it flows by emphasizes the things of this earth always dissolve and decay. But you may also gain the keen awareness that what is done for the Kingdom is eternal. Though Pier 58 is gone, Free Will Baptists rejoice in almost 300 churches in India. They remain!
By the way, Laura Belle and the crew were able to celebrate Independence Day in New York City. Ship records tell us the S.S. Potter set sail on July 5, 1935. What began that day will be cause for a greater, broader independence celebration in Heaven. Eternal independence has been gained for thousands upon thousands through the efforts of Laura Belle Barnard and other Free Will Baptist missionaries who followed her with their own ridiculous vision.

About the Writer: James Forlines has served the denomination as general director of Free Will Baptist International Missions for almost 11 years. Learn more about Free Will Baptist International Missions at


©2009 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists