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  • Diana Chandler

‘Value of belonging’ at CP-fueled retreat for Black pastors

ASHEVILLE, NC (BP) – For Charles Owusu, founding pastor of the Ghanaian majority Word of Life Baptist Church in Lithia Springs, Ga., the inaugural Refresh Retreat for Black Southern Baptists was a valuable resource in his work as a pastor to pastors.

It was an object lesson in “the value of belonging” to the Southern Baptist family, especially for young church planter Emmanuel Kyereko, whom Osuwu is mentoring.

“Sometimes it takes people much longer to appreciate the value of belonging to a body like the SBC (Southern Baptist Convention), but that was something that he experienced,” Osuwu said of Kyereko. “It’s not just SBC wanting us to support the Cooperative Program, but also, the SBC provides that nourishment and the strength that we need, especially when things are difficult for us.

“It helped (Kyereko) to know that we actually belong to a bigger family, and that the family is concerned about us, and helps us to fulfill our calling.”

The Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ grassroots funding mechanism to support ministry nationally and internationally, allowed pastors and their wives to attend the Oct. 13-15 retreat for a nominal fee. It was the first Refresh Retreat designed specifically for Black Southern Baptists, drawing a capacity crowd of more than 200 to the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove.

J.J. Washington, national director of personal evangelism at the North American Mission Board (NAMB), helped recruit pastors to attend the event sponsored by NAMB and the National African American Fellowship of the SBC (NAAF).

He pointed to the Cooperative Program as a key factor in making the event a reality.

“It’s the fuel,” Washington said of the Cooperative Program, “and I’m grateful for it. I truly believe in the reality that we can do more together than we can by ourselves.

“We get a budget for evangelism, and then we do these Refreshes,” he said. “We wanted to keep the cost so, so low, so that they would not have any excuse not to [attend].”

The event was designed to minister specifically to pastors and their wives who minister among the diverse Black cultures in the SBC, including various African nationalities, African Americans, Haitians and others.

“We do these Refreshes all the time, but this was the first one that was geared towards the Black Church experience,” Washington said of the event which incorporated music, issues and preaching important to the culture. “In Southern Baptist life, if you’re a minority, you learn how to exist in both worlds. But I think for a lot of the guys, it felt good to be in a context that they were familiar with.”

Owusu was refreshed by the preaching, which included messages from H.B. Charles Jr., senior pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla.; Mark Croston, national director of Black church ministries with Lifeway Christian Resources; and William Branch, assistant professor of preaching and Bible at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“That was so phenomenal. It is the Word of God that brings life, and I could feel the power of the Word that was preached,” Owusu said. “It was life-giving, life-transforming. That’s my biggest takeaway. I don’t think I have encountered that much intense ministry of God’s Word, and that was great for me.”

The preaching brought rest.

“I had people pour into me as I pour into others,” he said. “That also brought relaxation. I know what to do when I’m in a problem, or when things are tough. It helped me to relax.”

Speakers addressed spiritual, physical, emotional and financial health, as well as leadership, prayer and evangelism. Concurrent events were held for pastors’ wives, featuring writer and teacher Brenda Croston; author, personal coach and speaker Kim Hardy; retired school teacher Pam Mitchell, and Kathy Litton, NAMB’s director of planter spouse development.

Wives appreciated the event as both instructional and motivational, said Hardy, a key leader in NAAF’s new network for wives of senior pastors.

The retreat “provided a contextualized experience and environment for African-American pastors and wives to have a time of renewal. We were encouraged by God-centered, inspirational, soul-stirring messages and music,” Hardy said. “The consensus among the wives was, ‘I pray this event continues through the years and never stops.’”



Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ senior writer.


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