Pastor James Graham of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church and his wife Gloria were heading home one May Sunday when they heard on the radio the latest news of more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls.
Pulling into the driveway of the couple’s home in Herndon, Va., Graham received a call from longtime friend James Dixon Jr., pastor of El-Bethel Baptist Church in Ft. Washington, Md.
“He said, ‘Man I think we need to go to Nigeria.’ So he said it first. And I said, ‘Man, flesh and blood did not reveal that to you.’ And so that’s how we got to Nigeria,” Graham told Baptist Press. “While the Southern Baptist Convention was taking place in Baltimore, he and I were in northern Nigeria.”
The two African American pastors have taken joint mission trips for nearly 20 years, teaching their congregations the importance of simultaneously ministering locally and internationally. Joined in Nigeria by Lincoln Brownell Jr., former president of Liberia Baptist Theological Seminary and current leader of Go Ye Ministries in Liberia, they met with 300 Nigerian Christian pastors and prayerwalked Abuja, Chibok and other northern communities.
“It was very encouraging to them,” Dixon said. “They galvanized those people just that fast. We didn’t have time to make any plans. When the Lord put it on our hearts we left; we got on a plane and left and went there.”
Islamic extremists Boko Haram kidnapped the schoolgirls in April and has led subsequent attacks on Christians and moderate Muslims, according to news reports.
“We knew it was risky going over there, but we just felt that we needed to go,” Dixon said. “Believe me, their lives in that northern area are in jeopardy, especially Christians over there. But they’re determined to stand together and protect themselves, and protect their faith.”
Graham, called to pastor Mount Pleasant in 1995, shared about his personal desire to help fulfill the Great Commission.
“I believe that God would have us to reach the uttermost,” said Graham, who took a church team to Haiti just two months after he began his pastorate. “And the people here have just embraced that, ever since I’ve been here.”
Throughout the years, Mount Pleasant Baptist has formed many partnerships in missions around the globe. Two of those partners have included the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board. In addition to ministry partners in the United States, Nigeria and Haiti, the church has partnerships in Kenya, Benin, Ghana, South Africa and Liberia.
Within Mount Pleasant Baptist’s diverse membership of 2,800 are African Americans, Anglo Americans and first-, second- and third-generation immigrants from about 25 countries, including Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Panama, Antigua, Kyrgyzstan, Guyana, Haiti, France, Chad, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Barbados, Italy, India, Kenya, Montserrat, Trinidad, Congo, Jamaica, the Ivory Coast and Eritrea, according to the church’s website.
“I think our church is what it is primarily because of two things; we serve a great God and we got great people,” Graham said. “That’s it.”
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SOURCE: Baptist Press