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Looking back ... and looking forward

Royal Ambassadors celebrates 100 years

 

Joe Westbury/Index

Ashby Schwendinger hopes to land a fish from the stocked lake at Camp Kaleo last year.

At 100 years old, Royal Ambassadors (RAs), Southern Baptists’ missions education organization for boys, isn’t content simply to look back nostalgically at the past; it is also looking forward expectantly to the future.

“RAs have been going strong for 100 years … if the Lord tarries, we will go another 100,” said William Beaver, minister of education and family ministry at Haddock Baptist Church. Beaver traces his commitment to Christ and his subsequent call into the ministry to his youthful days as an RA at Shurlington Baptist Church (now Greenwood Baptist Church) in Macon.

“I not only thank God for the men who led me and mentored me, and put up with my antics, but I now use their inspiration as part of my motivation to lead boys today,” he explained. “The mantle has been passed to my generation by RA leaders of the ‘70s and ‘80s, and I will join those who gladly accept this responsibility and will say until the day I see Jesus, ‘I am an ambassador for Christ!’”

Beaver’s experience is an oft-repeated testimony for men who grew up participating in the RA program.

“As an RA I learned to appreciate the concept of serving Jesus as a King leading us into all the world with the gospel; I am an ambassador for Christ! That truth excited me and birthed a missionary vision in my heart,” said Mike Minnix, who currently serves as editor of www.pastorlife.com for the Georgia Baptist Convention.

Not surprisingly, another Georgia Baptist leader who can trace a part of his missions’ heritage to RAs is Glen McCall, Men’s Ministries specialist for Georgia Baptists. He is committed to nurturing the environment so that such testimonies will continue into the future.

“Men’s Ministries of the Georgia Baptist Convention is fully committed to strengthening the work of men, young men, and boys. Royal Ambassadors is a centerpiece for how that is done. We teach that we must have an uncompromising commitment to the Great Commission as churches and disciples of Christ. That must be instilled into the lives of our boys that we may bridge the gap to the next generation of Great Commission Christians and churches around the world,” he said.

“We want to create an environment where men, young men, and boys will be sensitive and responsive to the call of Christ for salvation and service through missions and ministry. The influence of men in the lives of boys is without question, and Royal Ambassadors continues to set the foundation influencing boys to know about and ultimately hear the call to missions either as laymen or possibly even career missionaries,” according to McCall.

 

Joe Westbury/Index

Events held at the camp for Royal Ambassadors, add to the legacy of building up young boys into men who follow Christ. Royal Ambassadors is currently celebrating a 100-year legacy.

Legacy

Approximately 8,000 boys are currently involved in RAs in Georgia Baptist churches, with interest in state-convention-sponsored RA events continuing to be strong, McCall affirmed. Through RA Congress in November, Racer Derby in March, Camporee in April, and RA Summer Camp more than 2,500 boys per year are involved in such events, he reported.

Nationally, the boy’s missions education program was launched by Woman’s Missionary Union in 1908. Then some 50 years later, responsibility for the RA organization was transferred to the Brotherhood Commission, where the organization enjoyed its most explosive growth in enrollment as well as expansion of materials.

In 1997 the Home Mission Board, Brotherhood Commission, and Radio and Television Commission merged and sponsorship for RAs was transferred to the newly-formed North American Mission Board (NAMB). During its 100-year history, millions of boys have learned about the work of missionaries and about personal involvement in missions; tens of thousands of boys have accepted Christ during chapter meetings, state and associational camps, and other RA events; and thousands of missionaries first sensed a call to missionary service as an RA. Today the biblically based, hands-on missions organization encompasses RA chapters in 8,000 churches and 14 countries.

During its chapel service on May 8, NAMB leaders celebrated the 100-year anniversary with several testimonies, the unveiling of a new theme song for the organization, historic displays, and a giant cake. Attending the NAMB celebration was Bob Banks, who became an RA more than 60 years ago at Teamon Baptist Church in Griffin. With an alcoholic father at home, Banks recalled that the consistent godly leadership of RA leaders encouraged him in his Christian journey.

“Missions was at the heart of these men. They lived, breathed, and had a great conviction about missions,” he said. Banks’ spiritual journey began with his salvation decision at age 13 and continued as he embraced a call into the Christian ministry and went on to serve in executive leadership roles with the Brotherhood Commission and NAMB. Now retired and in his seventh decade of life, Banks continues to be a passionate advocate for mission education among boys.

The RA centennial celebration was a part of the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in June, with the first national RA race-car race at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, a walk for world hunger, missions booths, and participation in the Crossover evangelistic outreach.

For RAs, celebrating such a significant past is not enough, according to McCall. RAs must keep their focus on the present and future. “Time is of the essence,” he said. “I realize that some people are looking to reduce the programs and processes of their churches in order to simplify. I recommend that we do what is effective in helping us fulfill the Great Commission within the context and scope of each church, following the Acts 1:8 model as our strategy. Nothing can accomplish that task like Royal Ambassadors.”

Margaret Dempsey

Bob Banks, who has served in executive leadership positions with the Brotherhood Commission and North American Mission Board, made his profession of faith and later sensed his call to the ministry while participating in RA camps.