Jeanne Cross summarizes her approach to ministry. (Photo by Student.Go)
Jeanne Cross summarizes her approach to ministry. (Photo by Student.Go)

New lives for CBF missionaries

Six new CBF field personnel include two couples on domestic and Asian assignments.

By Jeff Brumley

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in October announced its six newest field personnel. In June, they’ll be commissioned and most will leave for their assignments in the fall.

But all of them are already intensely working to raise the money needed to finance those assignments in locations from Asia to Illinois.

“It takes a big commitment – they have to see raising support as a ministry, not only an obligation,” said Jim Smith, interim coordinator of global missions for the Atlanta-based CBF.

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That means building fundraising web sites and Facebook pages, preaching at churches and anything else to convince individuals and congregations to support their mission work, Smith said.

CBF once fully supported all its roughly 130 field personnel worldwide, he said. But that changed about seven years ago due to declines in giving. Nowadays, new missionaries arrive expecting to raise their own money – before and after they leave for their mission field.

“Technology helps,” he said. “Through social media they can keep a constant stream of communication and interaction about what’s being done and the struggles being encountered.”

Most of the six new field personnel have plans to leave for their assignments in the fall. ABPnews interviewed most of them about their assignments and the callings that led them there.

Jeanne Cross. Assignment: Panang, Malaysia

Jeanne Cross is a native of Moulton, Ala., who doesn’t deny having some apprehensions about her upcoming assignment. That’s not only because she’ll be working in the realm of human trafficking, but because she’ll miss the church fellowship she’s enjoyed all her life.

“I have been fortunate to have a strong Christian community up to this point, and I am going be very mindful of the spiritual and emotional support I have here,” she said.

Cross, 25, studied psychology and sociology at Samford University, and is nearing completion of a dual master’s program in divinity and social work at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She felt that first tug toward missions when a junior in high school.

“But I was really conflicted by that calling because I really desired to stay local, close to friends and family,” she said. “Then my sophomore year (in college) I visited India…and I fell in love with the people and the culture. That’s when I felt God had aligned my calling with my interests.”

The CBF field personnel model felt right because of her affinity for the Fellowship’s theology and interest in ministering to those most unreached, Cross said.

In Panang, she’ll oversee anti human trafficking efforts and coordinate the development of a shelter for trafficking victims. Cross will also lead advocacy and prevention efforts. She acknowledged that will make her unpopular in some quarters there.

“The danger level will likely be fairly high with the work I’ll be doing, but I feel far safer than the people I will be working among.”

Carson and Laura Foushee. Assignment: Kanazawa, Japan

The Foushees are North Carolina natives who met as students at McAfee School of Theology and married in June 2011. They describe their relationship as a merger of dual – though not identical – callings as CBF field personnel.

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Laura said she discerned her call early in college and decided to pursue theological education with the idea of serving a local church. “I have always been passionate about working with ways to make congregations healthier,” she said.

For Carson, the call came during his senior year at Elon Univesrity, where he was majoring in leisure and sports management. The call also came just as he was pursuing an internship with the Carolina Panthers football team. “I felt God reminding me of the experiences I had during high school and college through local and international mission opportunities,” he said.

He then spent September 2007 through early February 2008 doing missions work in China. When the Panthers later turned him down, that was all Carson Foushee needed to send him down the path to theological education.

The couple chose CBF and an assignment in Japan because it gives them both what they’re seeking in missions work.

In 2009, the Japan Baptist Convention signed a partnership with CBF to bring missionaries to Japan. Local churches cooperated to create a position for the partnership, and the Foushees will be the first full-time, long-term personnel there. “It fits our two callings,” Laura said. “We will be working in local congregations, and for Carson that will be in a global context.”

Bill and Noy Peeler. Assignment: Cambodia

The Peelers have already spent years sharing the gospel and serving others in Cambodia as missionaries with the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. When that arrangement ended, they connected with CBF to continue the work they feel God calls them to, Bill Peeler said.

"Noy and I love Cambodia and its people, especially those who struggle as farmers and laborers to make it one day at a time," he said via e-mail. "Since I first started working in a refugee camp in 1979, I have had unbroken contact with the Khmer people. It's a no-brainer that God planned it that way."

Bill Peeler heard that call while serving in the Army in Vietnam during the war. For his wife, the discernment came while living in a refugee camp.

"I knew right away that my people needed to hear this good news, too," she said. "Cambodia has suffered so much."

The couple will work in that nation as church planters, while also training others to plant churches.

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Noy Peeler was Baptized by a Baptist missionary in 1980. It became clear to her then she must do the same for others. “Jesus didn’t have me to keep quiet but to tell my people that Jesus can save them, too,” she said.

Drew Phillips. Assignment: East St. Louis, Ill.

Drew Phillips won’t have far to go when he officially becomes one of CBF’s field personnel this summer. Currently the chaplain at the Christian Activity Center in East St. Louis, Mo., Phillips new venture will have him working in the same location doing many of the same duties.

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Phillips, 33, said it’s work he loves: Running the spiritual programs at the center, which also provides recreation and other activities. His job will continue to survey parents and legal guardians, supervise visiting youth and mission groups and work one-on-one with children.

“I’m the guy that’s the presence at the basketball game and funerals and wherever there is an emergency,” he said.

Phillips grew up in Missouri, the son of a pastor, and majored in psychology at Missouri Western State University. Participating in urban missions caused a light to come on after his junior year.

“I said, ‘I think that’s what I want to do with my life,’” he recalled. “I realized my life has been full of conversion experiences all pointing to being with and loving on people who tend to be forgotten.”

CBF’s field personnel program was the right fit for him because of the fellowship’s mutual desire to serve where the need is greatest, Phillips said.

“What keeps me going, what I look forward to most, is the children,” he added. “Every day is new and exciting and brings challenges and wonderful things to celebrate.

But there can also be heartbreak in a city known for its poverty and crime.

“To love is to risk,” Phillips said. “And working with a transient population in a violent community, there is great tragedy.”