Throughout Advent, CCN partner Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, is sharing daily meditations contributed by both Pullen and by their own key overseas partners. We share below the first of them, on the mutual support and opportunity that partnership brings; and we think of and pray for two very recent and very soon to join UK CCN partners as they support the wider public in the aftermath of more tragedy on London Bridge just these past few days: Guys’ and St Thomas’ NHS Trust Chaplaincy Team, and Southwark Cathedral.
You can sign up to receive Pullen’s meditations here:
Sit Down With Abraham
Jesus once said, “Many will come from east and west and sit down at table with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” Though our international partnerships we share in that truth. Sometimes we do so literally, as they visit us and as we visit them. Sometimes we do so by contributing to their work as the need arises. They are our friends, our fellow guests at Abraham’s table.
Our oldest international partnership is with the Community of the Cross of Nails, a post-World War II group of churches, peace and educational organisations based in Coventry, and committed to working for reconciliation. Visiting Coventry in 1972, a Pullen couple heard the story of the war-time destruction of the ancient Cathedral by enemy bombs, and of the formation of the Community with the theme, “Father, Forgive.” Upon returning home the couple proposed that Pullen send a group of young people to Coventry for a program on reconciliation. Twenty young people and five adults spent a month there in 1974, and two years later another group made a similar pilgrimage. After that second group left, the leaders in Coventry invited Pullen to apply for membership in the CCN. We did so, and in 1977 the Provost of the Cathedral came to Pullen to present the Cross of Nails that now hangs in our sanctuary. The foyers in which many of us participate are facilitated by the CCN group, and many of our members have visited Coventry. Occasionally a clergy person from Coventry has come to Pullen.
In the 1988 a couple from Pullen’s Peace and Justice Group attended the International Baptist Peace Conference in Sjoviks, Sweden. There they met two Cubans, Noel Fernandes, a layman from Ciego de Avila, and Paco Rodes, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Matanzas. Both wanted to visit the United States to study English, though, they said, “We know that is impossible.” They were thinking both of the Cuban embargo imposed by the United States and the cost of travel. The Pullenites said, “We think it can be done,” and upon returning home proceeded to make it happen. In the summer of 1989 the Cubans spent two months in the home of their American friends and studied English at Wake Tech. During their stay, Paco proposed a partnership between Pullen and First Baptist in Matanzas, and our deacons endorsed it. Since then, in spite of the embargo, scores of Pullen members have visited the church in Matanzas. And, again in spite the extreme difficulty for Cubans to get visas to enter the United States, we have brought a significant number of Cubans to visit Pullen.
In 1989, through Bridges for Peace, Pullen’s Peace and Justice Group assisted a Pullen couple go to the Republic of Georgia in the Soviet Union. Prior to that trip the couple read an article about Malkhaz Songalishvili, a young Baptist graduate student and instructor at the University of Tbilisi who had been appointed by the Archbishop of the Georgian Orthodox Church to a committee to translate the Bible into modern Georgian. In Georgia the couple skipped a scheduled excursion and instead asked their host couple to help them find Malkhaz. With some difficulty, they found his home in a nearby village. There they were entertained at tea by his parents until he came home from work. In time, Malkhaz took the Americans to his room, where he used a microfisch reader as he worked on the Bible translation reader. The visit ended with an invitation to the Americans to attend the Wednesday night church service. Prior to that service the Pullen couple met with the four pastors of the Church, and learned that their social concerns and activities were quite similar to those of Pullen. On the spur of the moment, they suggested that the Tbilisi church and Pullen become partners, and the pastors agreed immediately. Because of both the great distance between the countries and the high cost of travel, visits have not been frequent, but communication has kept us close, and Pullen has played a significant role in projects of the Tbilisi church, now called “The Peace Cathedral.”
The Zimbabwe partnership had its genesis in 1992 when a young woman, a student at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond, had a course taught by Henry Mugabe, president of the Baptist Seminary of Zimbabwe. She followed up that contact with three mission trips to Zimbabwe, and was instrumental in leading the Alliance of Baptists to create an alliance with Zimbabwe Baptists. Mugabe was a frequent visiting professor at the Richmond Seminary, and when he was in this country he usually visited Pullen. Our first significant contribution to Zimbabwe was made in 2006 to help construct a cistern for the Seminary. Since that time the church has included in its yearly budgets a contribution to the work in Zimbabwe.
Our latest partnership began in 2002, when the Board of International Ministries of the American Baptist Churches asked us to become a sponsor for Drs. David and Laura Parajon, medical missionaries in Nicaragua. We agreed not only to support them financially but also through our prayers and by our correspondence. Our Nicaragua Mission Group was formed in 2007, and from time to time the Parajons came to visit the church. The leaders of the group then made an “exploratory trip” to Nicaragua, and took a group there in 2008 help establish a health clinic in El Bejuco. Their work there was eminently helpful in beginning construction, and a year later the clinic was ready to open a year later. That trip was the first of a series of such journeys.
Visiting Pullen recently, Dr. David Parajon said in the Sunday worship service, “Because of you we know that we are not alone.” And our pastor said, “How changed we are because of our partnerships.”
Roger Crook, Pullen Memorial Baptist Church
Daily Advent Meditations – An Advent reader for 2019 : A Collaboration between AMOS, Community of the Cross of Nails, FBC Matanzas, Peace Cathedral in Tbilisi, Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, and The Zimbabwe Theological Seminary