Posted: 12/3/18 at 1:30pm. Article by Will Cumbia.
A Romanian, an Austrian, a Scotswoman, and a Virginian walk into a room. No, it’s not the beginning of a joke, it was the reality of the BGAV Annual meeting a few weeks ago.
I am so thankful to have been present at this year’s annual meeting helping to represent the missions development team. It was particularly special to be present there with some of our missions partners from around the world.
Walter Klimt, who was present with his wife Andrea at last year’s meeting, joined us, along with Kirsty Parratt, a woman from Scotland now working in Austria. Both are on the pastoral team at projekt:gemeinde, the Baptist church that I have the privilege to serve with in Vienna.
Also, joining us was Oti Bunaciu, dean of the Romanian Baptist theological seminary and pastor in Bucharest, Romania. He has been one of our main partners over the past five years in our missions partnership with Romanian Baptists and Project Ruth.
It was meaningful in my own missions journey to be with Oti, whose church I visited on my first-ever mission trip in Romania with the Kairos Missions Initiative in 2015, and with Kirsty and Walter, whom I currently serve with now as a missionary with the BGAV Venturer program.
For the BGAV it was meaningful to have them present to celebrate the end of our official partnership with Romania and the beginning of a new partnership with the Austrians as a part of our focus:refugees initiative over the next five years.
It was a little bit strange for me to see this collision of worlds–seeing people I’m used to eating schnitzel with eating a big BBQ sandwich or a Chipotle burrito bowl–and seeing them mixing and mingling with my Virginia Baptist family.
Looking more broadly around the room at the annual meeting, I was puzzled and amazed. How can such a theologically and otherwise diverse group of people all gather together in one room and work together in unison?
Andrea Klimt preached at church the first Sunday I was home again in Austria, only a few days after the annual meeting ended. I enjoyed giving her a hug on behalf of so many friends in Virginia. Her sermon was from Romans 14: Paul wrapping up his letter by addressing the issue of how to coexist with other Christians who practice differently from each other. She pointed out that when Christ is at the center of our practice, whether or not you eat meat sacrificed to idols is less important. When Christ is the center, everything else falls out of focus.
It was the perfect sermon to end a week of time spent with an array of Christians. It is encouraging to see Romans 14 lived out through the lives of my Virginia Baptist family. Certainly it is not easy nor without tension to join together with a group or people who think and worship differently from you, but it is immensely beautiful. When our collective focus is on Christ and building his Kingdom in the world, so much of what divides us fades to the background.
It’s this mindset that allows such beautiful missions partnerships to flourish with the BGAV. We have the flexibility to work alongside God’s people in a vast array of contexts. From Haiti to Austria and from Romania to Ghana, Virginia Baptists have and continue to focus on Christ and partner with our sisters and brothers to build God’s Kingdom far and near.
I am so incredibly thankful for my diverse Virginia Baptist family and for the opportunity to work alongside our partners around the world. I certainly don’t deserve all these abundant blessings, but I am thankful for the path that God has me on and the critical role Virginia Baptists have played in my journey.
May we continue to strive for peace amongst our differences and focus on Christ in all that we do.
Grace and Peace,