Interlaken, a beautiful city nestled between two lakes in the Alpine region of Switzerland, was the setting for the International Baptist Convention's annual summer assembly July 5-11. It was a special occasion as the IBC celebrated its 50th anniversary and as a 34-member children's ministry team launched the first project of the newly formed partnership between Virginia Baptists and the IBC.
Sixty-seven English-speaking churches and missions located in 26 nations of Europe, Africa and the Middle East comprise the membership of the International Baptist Convention. The yearly summer assemblies provide IBC leaders an opportunity to be renewed and refreshed for their ministries. Many are ministering to congregations of people who are in the minority where they live.
With many immigrants, refugees, business people and military, the churches are often transient, fast-changing communities. Part of the Virginia team's mission was to help make this conference a valuable experience.
Leaders from 36 IBC churches representing 14 nations registered. These families brought with them 115 children who were the focus of ministry for the Virginia team. For while parents were participating in worship and opportunities for training, their children were loved and learned Bible truths participating in “OutTrigger Island” Vacation Bible School. “This project was not simply ‘child care,' but a high-quality children's discipleship program led by a motivated team,” says Craig Waddell, missions partnership coordinator for the VBMB.
Kim Phillips, a member of Lake Ridge Baptist Church in Woodbridge, was team leader. She attended the 2007 conference to observe the ministry provided by the Kentucky Baptist Convention. The Kentucky team had served the families of the IBC for seven years and strong relationships had been formed.
So Kim's prayer was that God would prepare a team from Virginia for 2008 and the transition would be smooth.
“I really had a spectacular view in seeing God answer prayer and seeing him at work,” she says, as each team member answered God's call and prepared for their mission in Switzerland.
Team members gathered at Dulles on July 2 to fly to Zurich. Arriving on July 3 they traveled by bus to Interlaken. The International Baptist Convention treated their partners from Virginia with a bus trip to the Matterhorn on July 4. Everyone donned jackets and were surrounded by snow-covered mountains while back at home fireworks and July 4th celebrations were taking place.
Early the next day the team, dragging luggage packed with Bible school decorations and supplies, headed to Interlaken Secondary School, the location of the assembly and children's ministry. They located classrooms and moved school furniture into the hallways.
By the time rooms were cleared and swept, a van from the IBC arrived. The Virginia team helped unload sound and projection equipment, hymnals, flags and flag stands, banners, Bibles and boxes of program materials. There were also two 30-pound bags of sand–a request from the Virginia team and a necessity for a beach-themed Bible school.
The van was then loaded with supplies that had been stored in the school's basement from last year. Baby cribs, rocking chairs, sleeping mats, CD players, toys, puzzles, craft supplies and recreation equipment were taken into the school.
After several hours of shuffling boxes and furniture, there was a flurry of activity as teachers set up their rooms. Sea shells and sand, hula hoops and surf boards, flip flops and sunglasses–all in place to provide an inviting setting for children to “learn God's unshakeable truth” (Psalm 86:11).
The assembly began Saturday evening and continued through Thursday. Morning and evening children filled the hallways as they were checked in to classes by parents. Each class from babies to 5th graders experienced Bible study, music, stories of missionaries, crafts, recreation and lots of love provided by the Virginia team. At the end of the week two children made professions of faith.
Lisa Dockery, minister to children at Marion Baptist Church in Marion, worked with the preschool team at Interlaken. Reflecting on the trip, Lisa says, “Being asked to serve as preschool coordinator on the Virginia team was an honor; and to do it with 34 other gifted and talented people who love and care for children was a blessing beyond explanation. Serving families who have given of themselves to serve others has changed my life and the way I will minister to others forever.”
Cindy Millard, a member of Potomac Crest Baptist Church in Woodbridge, was on the Virginia team; but this was not her first trip to Interlaken. In 1999 her husband was in the military stationed in Germany and they were members of Faith Baptist Church in Kaiserslautem. She was so appreciative of the conference and the ministry provided her family while in Interlaken that she welcomed coming back to work with the children of other leaders.
“The opportunity to come together with children from similar situations, as well as with Virginia Baptists who are investing in them, helps the children understand that they and their parents are ‘part of something bigger' that God is doing. This helps strengthen the family's sense of calling,” says Craig Waddell.
“As Virginia becomes more international, we will need to learn how to share influence with people from other backgrounds. We hope many projects and cooperative ministries will come out of our contact with the International Baptist Convention in Interlaken each year,” he says.
“The children and their families' relationship with the Kentucky group will always be near and dear to their hearts,” Kim says, “but I think they have made room for their new Virginia friends. Several wanted confirmation that we would be back next year!”