American Baptist Churches of Wisconsin, October 2014 Annual Meeting
Report from Rev. Marie Onwubuariri, Executive Minister, and Region Staff
Opening Reflections
It has been a fast-paced two months since taking office as Executive Minister on August 1, 2014, and
what a blessed time it has been. I want to thank you for the warm welcome my family and I have
received. Though it has only been two months, I feel confident that I can say a word about the “State of
the Region;” however, some of my comments will be with a perspective of an outsider looking in. My
remaining comments are from the perspective of a newcomer with fresh skin, eyes, and ears hopefully
heedful to the Spirit’s movement through and the heartbeat of ABC-Wisconsin.
About a year ago, the news of the retirement of my predecessor, the Rev. Dr. Arlo Reichter, spread
quickly through our denominational family. In my circle of colleagues, I only heard praises of Arlo and
compliments of how he led ABC/WI during his tenure. When I visited Green Lake in November, 2013 to
participate in the ABCUSA Mission Table, I saw first-hand his graceful leadership and was blessed by the
worship leading of ABC/WI President, Jamie Washam. When I later was led by God to engage with the
search process, I was impressed by the professionalism and clarity of the search committee and board
members, and curious about the readiness of the region for a new executive minister without a long
interim period. All of this spoke to me, as an outsider, of the health and stability of and talent within this
regional body.
After receiving the call to be the next Executive Minister and during the months of transition, many in
the ABC family outside of Wisconsin told me stories – good stories – of their experiences here; of the
prophetic stands you have taken to affirm Baptist principals and the value of all people of God; of the
missional commitment within the churches; and of the dedication to raise intelligent ministers and
foster intelligible witness. I was the recipient of excitement from many directions about our new
ministerial match. I also began to receive emails and calls of welcome from people who were soon to be
my ABC/WI family. All of this spoke to me, as one traversing through liminality, of affirmation and peace.
That affirmation and peace has continued even as I landed in these northern grounds. In the past ten
weeks I have interacted with over thirty entities (churches, region committees, individual ministers, and
affiliated organizations.) I have noticed there exists a variety of movements and heartbeats:
 churches are transitioning in leadership, physical location, and life stages;
 ministries are impacting communities and individuals outside the walls of the church;
 ministers are discerning call and placement and others reaching milestones in their vocations.
There is…
 a pushing up against the mental models of what church is and is supposed to be;
 anguish over the societal injustices prevalent in urban centers coupled with a burning desire to affect
a breakthrough in the name of Jesus;
 a bending toward the intersection of global awareness and Christ-like presence;
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celebration after celebration of rich church history with exhortations toward a continued yet
changing future;
I say I experience affirmation and peace because I knew in my heart that God wanted me in a place
where there would be movement and live heartbeats—a place ready to press in and press on anew.
The State of the Region? As I am coming in I would say that ABC/WI is a region that is experiencing
overall relational health among our churches, stable in its administrative functions, and filled with
talented, active, and committed ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It has rich history and is writing
new history each day, which tells of the Spirit’s movement and heartbeat of God’s people in the context
of today’s realities. ABC/WI ALSO is ripe for new expressions of associational interdependence, for a
burst of SYNERGY in Mission. I am so blessed and humbled to receive this call to join you in this journey.
I will pray for you, and I ask you to please pray for my family and me as we all continue to settle into the
rhythms of the other and of the new, and share our visions for our work together.
General Reports
My focus areas in the next year: I plan to continue to familiarize myself with the ministries and people
that make up the ABC/WI family through visits, phone calls, emails, board and committee meetings, etc.
I will balance the time being “out and about” with dedicated office time reviewing (and revising, as able)
administrative functions and procedures for our office, camp, and seminary extension and working with
our regional staff. I hope to revise our online presence. I also will return to my Doctor of Ministry
studies, which I hope to complete by 2016. And with God’s grace, our staff will continue to provide the
quality ministry support and programming for our churches and constituency.
Congregations and Pastors: Russ Antos – Ixonia, First (Transitional); Mark Brandel – Wyocena,
Community; Scott Jorgensen – Hudson, First; Dick Kendall – Antigo, First (Interim); Brandle Morrow –
Milwaukee, Metropolitan (Interim); Francisco Najera – Racine, Iglesia Bautista Renacer; Case Shell –
Tomah, Open Door (Interim)
Organizations and Directors: J. Manny Santiago, Executive Director – The Crossing (University of
Wisconsin, Madison ABC-affiliated campus ministry); Marie Onwubuariri, Executive Minister – ABC/
Milestone Celebrations: Church Anniversaries: Delevan, First: 175th. Waukesha, First: 175th. Janesville,
First: 170th. Ordination Anniversaries: Karen Gygax Rodriguez: 25th. Retirements: Arlo Reichter, Former
Executive Minister – ABC/WI. Other: Smryna (Karen) Baptist Church purchased its first building in West
Allis; Phun Tling (Jode Hice), Pastor of West Allis, Milwaukee Chin, licensed for Lay Pastoral Ministry
In Memoriam: Eli Mendez
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I am grateful to have joined such a committed and talented staff team in Sam Brink, Betsy Kelnhofer,
Carolyn Dugan, Mark and Deb Lembke, and our associated staff members related to CBTS-WI, Timm and
Maxine Ashley. Following are highlights from their ministries:
From Sam Brink, Minister of Church Resources and Mission Support, Elm Grove Office
In a time of transition it is encouraging to see the support that our churches continue to provide for the
wider ministry of God’s church here in Wisconsin, in the U.S., and to the ends of the earth. Many of you
support the wider mission work of the church with your dollars and are actively engaged in making a
difference in your communities through God’s love. Thank you for your support and for your witness!
This past year I have been busy working with my colleague, Ron Carlson from ABHMS, in producing a
written resource for use in congregations to help strengthen or develop mission teams. This is a
resource that reflects the experience we had in the region through the Missional Learning Journey. The
resource is built around an encounter with your community and from that experience, entering into
dialogue with the four gospels. It is a missional bible study. This fall Ron and I will begin test marketing
this resource with churches in the regions of Upper New York and the ABC of the Central Pacific Coast. It
is my hope to also be able to work with a couple of congregations here in this region. If your
congregations would be interested please let me know. Warning, it is not a study for the weak of heart!
Another offshoot of the Missional Learning Journey is the Missional Networking website that can be
found at www.missionalnetworking.org. This is a site that has been developed with the purpose of
“connecting missional faith communities with volunteers, resources and one another in service that
transforms the lives of individuals and communities making visible the Kingdom of God.” Two of our
local church pastors are facilitating this web site – Brian Hastings from Fond du Lac Memorial and Marty
Carney from Falls Community Church in Sheboygan Falls. Be sure to check this resource out.
Transition in the regional leadership is not the only transition that took place this year. The Milwaukee
Christian Center has sold its old property on Greenfield Ave. and moved into their new location at 14 th
and National Ave. The move enabled MCC to put most of its programming under one roof. It has also
opened up some new doors in a new neighborhood.
It is my hope that next year we will be able to put together a couple of mission work trips. Plans are
being made to participate in ABHMS “Home Mission–‘Til the work is Done” work project in New Orleans,
August 2-8, 2015. I hope that we can also provide an “international” trip by heading south of the border
to work at Deborah’s House. Another exciting possibility is to become involved in an exchange ministry
where our congregations would send a team to experience life in the city of Milwaukee and then would
in turn, host a group of young people from the city in their host community. This immersion experience
is being coordinated with the help of Max Ramsey from Immanuel Church in Brookfield.
Finally, remember that we are in the period of the World Mission Offering. Your generosity supports the
work of our missionaries and partners overseas. We end the year with the RMMO offering that provides
a thank you check for those who have served us over the years and helps to meet the special needs of
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our retired ministers and missionaries. And of course your continued generosity to United Missions
helps the region ministry as well as all of the work of ABC/USA. If you would like to hear more about
the mission work of ABC/WI and ABC/USA please contact me.
From Betsy Kelnhofer, Administrative Assistant, Elm Grove Office
I appreciate the kindness I receive from all the region members that I interact with on the phone,
through email, and in the regional office. It is a joy to work with my fellow staff members. I wish Arlo
continued happiness in retirement, yet I am also excited to have Marie join our team. We are learning
each other’s styles and already have ideas on how we can enhance our service to the region members.
From Carolyn Dugan, Director of Camping Ministries, Camp Tamarack
2014 was an illuminating season as John 8:12 was our key verse for the summer. Jesus is the light of the
world, but we learned there are many ways we can share the light: doing mission projects (even at
camp), reading our Bibles, inviting a friend to camp and just being ourselves. Thank you to all the
volunteers, campers and staff that made it a wonderful summer! We are looking forward to 2015 with
the Winter Youth Retreat the end of January with a tentative theme of “Perfect” and the summer with a
theme of “Taste and See” based on Psalm 34. Here are the dates for 2015: Winter Youth Retreat - Jan
23-25, 2015; Primary - June 21-24; Middler - June 21-27; Junior - July 12-18; Jr. High - July 5-11; Sr. High June 14-20; Family/Grandparents and All Inclusive - June 28-July 4.
From Mark and Deb Lembke, Site Manager and Receptionist Camp Tamarack
In 2014, with the help of volunteers, we saw the completion of the Cornelius Leadership Cabin interior
renovation project, the building of a recreation storage shed, and the completion of the labyrinth/gospel
pole memorial area. We had a successful work weekend that included 31 volunteers who cleaned cabins
and racked the grounds in preparation for summer programming. Other activities included the widening
and clearing of the fire lane trails and the repair of the tractor—wagon rides can be offered once again!
2015 “Sprucing Up” Camp Weekend is from May 15-17th. Clear your calendars; we need your help!
Everyone has talents that can edify Camp Tamarack’s Mission. Let’s not forget...this is YOUR CAMP!!
From Timothy and Maxine Ashley, Site Director and Coordinator for Student Services, CBTS-Wisconsin
The seminary is grateful for the good work Arlo did over the past years and looks forward with great joy
to the contribution Marie will make. Our greatest need is for students, especially at the M.Div. level. In
our tenth anniversary year, we are looking to admit ten new students to CBTS-Wisconsin. We are also
looking for churches and individuals who will support us in both prayer and with financial gifts. The
financial gifts may be made ABC/WI, and designated for CBTS-WI. This is a real way for churches to
support theologically trained ministers trained here in Wisconsin. In the past ten years we have seen
CBTS/WI students and graduates contribute greatly to local church and community-related ministries, as
well as to the life of the region as a whole. With your support, we will continue to raise competent
leaders that will edify our joint mission in years to come. Please SAVE THE DATE and spread the word:
CBTS/WI prospective event: Saturday, March 28, 2015.
Though your name may not be listed your imprint is on our lives.
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