Follow the Leader
The Seed Was Planted
By Ida Lewis
As you read this article, I will be in my
last few weeks at North American Ministries.
Retirement always seemed so far in the future, and it has come as a surprise—even a shock—that the time has arrived so quickly. My work has made such a difference in my life over the years, and it all started with a seed planted when I was a young girl.
My family made sure I was raised in church, and I was there every time the door opened…whether I was supposed to be there or not. From intense training in Bible memorization to lessons from God’s Word and missions, both home and foreign, the things of the Lord, church, and salvation were in my path at all times. I accepted the Lord into my heart at the tender age of five. My pastor commented at the time that I probably had learned more about the Lord than many adults. I don’t know about that, but I will forever be grateful for this pattern in my life during this time of learning and understanding.
At age 12, I had the opportunity to work in a local church plant. Our church was “mothering” a new church and asked for volunteers. Because I was interested in missions, I was happy to participate in the work. We washed cabinets, scrubbed floors, decorated rooms, set up chairs, displayed materials, painted, passed out flyers by the hundreds, and so on. I was right in the middle of these efforts and loved every minute.
That single experience in my life set the tone for what would come later. The seed had been planted. I saw what it took to plant a church back then. (And believe me when I say planting churches in today’s society can be much more difficult.) The help received from the “mother church” volunteers blessed the pastor of this church plant tremendously. For my part in the work, he rewarded me with accordion lessons.
Few things are more exciting than to watch the proverbial “light bulb” switch on as a young person realizes that God may want him or her involved in missions for the rest of his life! Our kids are important. Encourage them to participate in missions activities. It may change their lives.
I have heard it said that mission trips for young people are a waste of money because they do not speak foreign languages. What could they possibly do to be of help or communicate? Going on a mission trip to help church planters, both in the U.S. and around the world can be one of the most inspiring activities our students can experience. Like me, they learn firsthand all the work that goes into planting a church as they work with other young people to make a difference. Few things are more exciting than to watch the proverbial “light bulb” switch on as a young person realizes that God may want him or her involved in missions for the rest of his life! Our kids are important. Encourage them to participate in missions activities. It may change their lives.
Eventually, I married Ray, my high school sweetheart, and we started a family, later adding our children Chris and Kelly. Ray announced the call to preach, and off we went to Welch College, followed by a wonderful time in the pastorate. We eventually returned to Nashville and I went to work for Home Missions (North American Ministries).
Under the direction of Roy Thomas, I worked directly with the missionaries—processing faith promises and planning mission conferences, among other tasks. I remained in that capacity for five years, left the department for a time, and returned in 1995. Under the leadership of Trymon Messer, I found myself working with church planters.
For 20 years, I poured myself into the role of publications editor. My life centered around deadlines; maps; directories; prayer cards; books like God Did It by Trymon Messer; and articles for Aim, Contact, and ONE Magazine; along with newsletters and special projects like Roll Call Sunday, Benjamin Randall Day or Mission: North America Offerings—anything to help church planters and chaplains.
My heart has always been with the church planter. Many start their ministry with little or no help and carve out a work, often in an area isolated from other Free Will Baptists. Imagine going to a place where the nearest Free Will Baptist might be hundreds of miles away and starting from scratch: finding a place to worship, getting the word out about the new church, making a place for your family, and raising enough money to meet the financial needs of your family and church. To say the least, this is a daunting task.
The employees at North American Ministries feel that anything we can do to help church planters is our ministry. We are proud to be a small part of every soul reached for Christ. We want to do anything and everything we can to help church planters and to carry out the other ministries that fall under the North American Ministries umbrella.
Ray and I already have begun to brainstorm ways we can continue to help church planters during our retirement. I wouldn’t trade anything for my experiences during 25 years with North American Ministries. What began as a seed for missions planted in the heart of a young girl has blossomed into my life’s work. While retirement will change some things, I will always remain focused on helping the work of North American Ministries.
It has been my distinct pleasure to work under General Directors Roy Thomas, Trymon Messer, Larry A. Powell, and currently David Crowe. My work with Brother Crowe has spanned almost 20 years. During that time, I made wonderful friendships and saw many tremendous things happen for the Lord’s work—both in general and specifically in North American Ministries.
Thank you, fellow Free Will Baptists, for allowing me to work with you these 25 precious years. You have meant more to me than you will ever know. I am proud to be a part of the Free Will Baptist family and the fellowship of believers in Christ.
About the Writer: Ida Lewis is one bodacious, awesome publications editor, and ONE Magazine is really going to miss her!