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$58 million offering a ‘miracle,’ Hammond says


BP photo by Mickey Noah

GRATEFUL North American Mission Board President Geoff Hammond, presents a sign from NAMB staff, trustees and missionaries thanking WMU for their help with the Annie Armstrong offering.

For related coverage, click image.

TALLADEGA, Ala. (BP)—Despite last year’s economic downturn, Southern Baptists still contributed more than $58 million to the annual Annie Armstrong Easter Offering in 2008—98 percent of the amount raised in the previous year’s campaign.

North American Mission Board President Geoff Hammond announced the unaudited results of the offering Jan. 12 at a meeting of some 100 national and state leaders of Woman’s Missionary Union at Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center in Talladega, Ala.

“It’s been a tough year,” Hammond told the WMU leaders. “We knew we were in a recession and the economists didn’t confirm it until September. But it was going on all year. We were raising Annie Armstrong funds in the middle of $4-a-gallon gasoline prices.

“To raise $58 million in a recession was a miracle and we praise God for that,” Hammond said. “While Annie was down about 2.2 percent over last year, the fundraising of many charitable organizations was down 10 percent or more.

“We praise God for the faithfulness of His people in giving to cooperative missions and to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering in 2008,” Hammond said. “We rejoice at the sustained giving of Southern Baptists.”

Presenting a large thank you board signed by NAMB staff, trustees and missionaries, Hammond expressed a special thank you to WMU. “We don’t do it on our own and we can’t do it without you,” Hammond said. “Thank you for what you have done.”

Hammond added that in times of recession Southern Baptists have to focus on the most important things. “We’re determined that although there is an economic recession, we cannot allow an evangelistic recession,” he said.

Wanda Lee, executive director of WMU based in Birmingham, Ala., called the Annie Armstrong results “significant because they show what the partnership between WMU and NAMB can do in a difficult year.

“I pray in 2009 all of our cooperative efforts will continue to bring in the resources that our missionaries need to reach the United States and Canada for Christ,” Lee said. “We pledge to do our part, although we’re having significant changes in our own budgets.”

In December, WMU announced it was enacting measures to reduce its 2009 budget by $1.4 million. Some of those steps included reducing team expense budgets in areas such as travel, projects and activities; implementing four weeks unpaid furlough for each staff member between January and August 2009; a hiring freeze on vacant positions; reducing employer contributions to retirement plans; freezing merit pay increases; and eliminating incentive bonuses in 2009. The organization’s revised budget for 2009 is $9.6 million.

Just the previous week, Hammond instructed NAMB’s 250 staff members to operate at 90 percent of their approved budgets during 2009 and said NAMB hiring would be monitored closely this year.

During the WMU conference, Hammond showed a video montage of NAMB’s 2009 “Week of Prayer” missionaries: Gary and Sue Smith in Canada; Al and Noemi Fernandez in Florida; Daniel and Kimberly Goombi in Kansas; Brenda Crim in Alaska; Song Sik and Fanny Kim in California; Lamar and Dolly Duke, formerly of Pennsylvania, now in New York; Paul and Elizabeth Biswas in Massachusetts; and Willie and Jacobs, national NAMB missionaries based in Memphis, Tenn.

The 2009 goal for the Annie Armstrong offering is $65 million. This year’s Week of Prayer is March 1-8. Its theme will be “Live with Urgency: Sowing Together for Harvest.”

The Annie Armstrong Easter Offering accounts for 46 percent of NAMB’s budget. The other key channel of funding is Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program by which churches’ gifts support state, national and international missions and ministries.

The national missions offering was established in 1895 by Woman’s Missionary Union to support Southern Baptist Convention missionaries in the United States. In 1934, the offering was named in honor of Annie Armstrong, WMU’s founder and tireless champion of missions.