The Royal Ambassador missions organization would have been 58 years old when I joined it.  I actually promoted into it from Sunbeams.  In spite of its size, the small Southern Baptist church in the small Arizona town where I grew up had the age-graded missions programs, along with most of the other programs that were part of the church culture which distinguished us from the ABC-USA congregation in town.  In those early years, there were four of us in our R.A. chapter, including the pastor’s son from one of the other churches in town too small to have children’s or youth activities.  We were also the Primary Boy’s Sunday School class, taught by Mr. Spann, the same man who led the R.A. group on Wednesday night.  His helper was Mr. Cornett, who taught our co-ed training union class on Sunday evenings. 

R.A.’s had a strong influence on me.  One of its objectives was to support and undergird the work of the church and denomination.  Like so many people who were immersed in Southern Baptist church culture, our R.A. leaders did their duty in following the carefully written missions educations activities in leading us through all of the various steps.  Later on, when Gerry Clinger’s family moved to our town from Oklahoma, and he took over the R.A.’s, we went every year to the state camp in Prescott.  But God used those step activities, and those camps, to get me interested in Southern Baptist mission work, and to speak to me about vocational Christian service. 

My involvement in R.A.’s exposed me to many things about missions, and the workings of the denomination.  One of the results of it was my eventual decision to attend Grand Canyon University, the school supported by our state Baptist convention.  Through R.A.’s, I was aware of the student missions programs available through what was then the Home Mission Board, and I served two summers as a student missionary in St. Louis.  My wife is a permanent reminder of those days, since that is where I met her.  She was in G.A.’s and Acteens and served a term as a Sojourner in Oklahoma City prior to our meeting. 

Though we did not realize it at the time, we grew up in what was, for Southern Baptists at least, a home mission field.  Southern Baptists are few and far between in Arizona, and the majority of the community in which I grew up was unchurched.  Most of the “churched” population was Mormon.  My own conversion experience, as well as that of my family, was the direct result of Southern Baptist mission work in the west.  The church in which I grew up was planted by the cooperative efforts of the HMB and the state Baptist convention and the construction of its first building, and salary of its first pastor, financed by Cooperative Program dollars.  God used my involvement in R.A.’s as a way of calling me to vocational ministry service.  R.A.’s and the Cooperative Program paid a portion of my college tuition and fees through scholarships, and eventually a large portion of my seminary education was paid for through the Cooperative Program. 

I’m grateful for the opportunity to give back through service.  Happy 100th Anniversary, Royal Ambassadors!  May your next 100 years be even more fruitful.

Advertisements

About LS

I'm 56, happily married for 25 years, B.A., M.A., career educator with experience in education as a teacher and administrator, native Arizonan living in Pennsylvania, working on a PhD and a big fan of the Arizona Wildcats, mainly in football and basketball.

5 responses

  1. Micah Fries says:

    Lee-

    Glad to see you highlight the RA’s. My life has been significantly impacted due to my years in RA’s. My time overseas with the IMB in many ways can be traced back to my time as an RA.

  2. John says:

    Lee, I wasn’t an R.A., but reading about people’s journeys as R.A.s always make me wish I was.

    What do you think the future of missions education looks like?

  3. Lee says:

    I think it looks pretty good. Our formal missions education programs, R.A.’s, G.A’s, Pioneers, Acteens, Challengers, will be continued in some churches, though not nearly as many as in the past. They face competition for time from sports leagues and AWANA, which isn’t a substitute for missions education, but often takes the place of it in many churches. So we need to take advantage of the opportunities we do have for missions education. For example, short term missions events like World Changers, which is the most successful program in NAMB’s student missions mobilization division, do an excellent job of preparing and educating students about missions, and part of the program is a built in promotion of other missions and missions education programs offered by NAMB and the IMB. World Changers even has a staff member on each summer staff team whose job is missions education and missions information. Short term missions education modules and programs, centered around specific missions activities, can also add to the missions education curriculum.

    There are a few World Changers projects in Texas, and a number of Texas churches participate in World Changers, but for the size of the state, and even the size of the state convention, it would be great to see the BGCT get involved and help partner with NAMB to have twice that many. Houston and Galveston had the original projects in the state, and Dallas has had an ongoing on in recent years, along with the Harmony Association, Lubbock and this year Longview. But there are lots of places that could benefit from this ministry, and lots of churches that could use the extra missions education.

  4. JoAnn says:

    Lee,
    I wish I were as hopeful as you are on mission education for today’s children/youth. I just don’t see it happening much in our churches which makes me wonder, where will tomorrow’s missionaries/ministers/PW’s come from? Ok,ok, I get it! Teens don’t like to be separate and each have their own mission organization, school and community activities take the front burners and basically I just think they don’t see the need. Teachers are burnt out teaching Sunday School and churches see the need for programs like AWANA (not a bad program at all–just not mission education).Sorry, if this is negative. I think they like the ski trips better and the beach retreats more. We don’t live in a society that teaches kids about service to others.
    All I know is, I would not be who I am today had it not been for Sunbeams, GA’s and Acteens. That made me think that I could be a Sojourner and commit my life to ministry. What a blessing that was to my life! Too bad it isn’t for more kids today.

  5. Tim Burson says:

    Lee:

    Wow! What an inspirational account. Your experience is exactly what Royal Ambassadors is all about–growing tomorrow’s “On Mission” man out of today’s boys. Thank you very much for sharing. My experience in a small Georgia town (especially the part about being promoted from Sunbeams as a 3rd grader to RAs in the 4th grade in 1970) was in many ways like yours–except almost everyone I knew was Baptist (LOL). I was saved at an Associational RA camp in 1971 and have been fortunate to have been able to be an RA leader at my Church.

    We need leaders to step up and make the program visible and kids today will reap Kingdom rewards through this unparralelled Mission Education Program.

    Thank you for your post.
    Tim Burson
    .