By Claudean Boatman
Sometimes people new to Southern Baptist life, particularly those in the western United States wonder why our major offerings are named for women. The ladies, Annie Armstrong, Lottie Moon, and—for Coloradoans, at least—Nicy Murphy, were influential in mobilizing missions supporters and founding regular giving opportunities to grow mission efforts. Their efforts live on as individuals and churches give generously so the world will know Jesus.
Southern Baptists’ annual Easter offering for North American missions bears the name of Annie Armstrong for good reason. “Hers was a life dedicated to bring the world under the sovereignty of the Lord Jesus Christ. So closely did she walk with him, and so identified with his purposes were her motives, that she naturally thought Kingdom-wise and Kingdom-wide,” wrote author Elizabeth Marshall Evans.
Annie Armstrong led efforts of what we call Woman’s Missionary Union in their support of Southern Baptist missionaries and missions agencies. It was her idea, in 1918 to name the annual international Christmas offering after Lottie Moon. In 1938 Annie was honored when the offering to support what was called “home missions” became her namesake.
This year, the goal for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering (AAEO) is $70 million dollars. The theme is United, reminding all of us that each of us are part of the Gospel outreach all over North America as we pray, give, and go.
Involve your church in North American missions by introducing the AAEO to them. The Week of Prayer is formally scheduled for March 6-13, but churches are free to schedule their own focus week. The North American Mission Board has a variety of materials available at https://www.anniearmstrong.com. Free prayer guides, videos, and studies for children, youth, and adults are available. Printed materials, including envelopes, can be ordered at that site. This year, Colorado has a featured missionary in the prayer guide and the video.
There are good reasons for promoting the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering in our local churches. First, the offering extends the Gospel reach to the United States, Canada, and U.S. territories (Puerto Rico, Guam, Virgin Islands, and American Samoa). Combined, there is an estimated 275 million lost people in those places. They speak 350 different languages. About 2,200 missionaries are currently intentionally reaching out to them.
Second, people who know the mission are likely to pray for the mission. Praying people who intercede for the missionaries and the lost in North America are changing the eternity of those without Jesus. Specific prayer requests are included in the Week of Prayer materials. Having the prayer material in hand gives praying people a place to start.
Third, people who know, who pray, and who give are more likely to go. They are more likely to take Jesus to their neighbors, to refugees, and to those whose lives are very different from their own. As I write about missionaries for Woman’s Missionary Union, it has not escaped my attention that children who are taught about missions are more sensitive to being a missionary. Several children I taught in missions groups are now missionaries or have children in ministry. Missions education makes us tender to the Holy Spirit’s leading.
Please take time this Easter season to learn how God is using the missionaries featured in this year’s material to extend His Kingdom and to teach others. Unite with other Southern Baptists. Pray. Give. Go.