ALBUQUERQUE (BNM) – With the coronavirus pandemic’s onset, the Baptist Convention of New Mexico developed the Hope Fund to help churches.
As the pandemic and public policies related to it unfolded, the need to cancel or postpone most BCNM summer events became apparent. But, convention events were not the only activities impacted. Local churches suffered, too. As public health orders forced them to cancel in-person services and activities, BCNM staff discussed budget money that could assist churches and explored ways the convention could help them survive the pandemic.
According to BCNM Executive Director Joseph Bunce, the convention had initially allocated the money for three 2020 ministries: Collegiate Missions (New Mexico Teams), Collegiate Missions (International Teams) and the Ministers and Family Retreat. But, it canceled those ministries because of the pandemic. Each one received funding from the 2019 Mission New Mexico State Missions Offering.
Bunce worked with State Mission Board members and proposed a Hope Fund to help churches. It would consist of funds initially allocated for the canceled ministries. Bunce told board members, “We do not want to lose a single New Mexico church during this COVID crisis.” On April 20, the State Mission Board approved an $84,417 “Hope Fund” to assist churches affected by COVID-19.
The BCNM posted a video message on its website after the board approved the funds. In it, Bunce explained that churches could apply for Hope Fund grants through the website to aid with insurance, utilities and other needs to keep the churches functional. The grants were not loans. Churches were not required to repay them. As of this article’s publication, Gerald Farley, the BCNM’s business administrator, said that churches could still apply for the Hope Fund. “There are still funds available,” he said.
The convention sent letters to every BCNM church, informing them of the newly formed fund. Quickly, churches began to apply for aid. To date, grants have ranged in size from $400 to $2,500. So far, twenty-one churches have received help. Most of them were small or ethnic churches. They varied in location from Farmington to Las Cruces.
Andrew Begaye, the pastor of Tinian Indian Baptist Church, San Juan Baptist Association, applied for the funds for his church. The church received a very high water bill after discovering an underground leak. The church used money from the Hope Fund to repair the leak, pay the water bill, and pay other utility bills.
In Bloomfield, Gospel Victory Church applied for the funds, which helped them pay utility bills. “Cold weather is already upon us, and the money helped pay the heating bill,” James Eaton said. “If there are any struggling churches that need help, I will encourage them to step up with courage and faith to get this funding,” Eaton said. Eaton pastors the church.
Tan Thai, the pastor of the Vietnamese Baptist Church, Albuquerque, agreed to tell his church’s story by video in promotion material for the Mission New Mexico State Mission Offering. In the video, he said that Vietnamese people are predominantly Buddhist. There are 6,000-8,000 Vietnamese people in Albuquerque. He was able to hold services via Zoom during the shutdown period. He said the church had a small amount of cash on hand, but not enough to last too long.
Thai said that he immediately went online and applied once he received the letter from the BCNM explaining the Hope Fund. He received a call from Dr. Bunce the next day, saying the BCNM would help their church. The convention’s aim was to respond to every request within 48 hours.
In the video, Thai said, “I don’t know how to express appreciation. It is not just the dollar amount we cared about, but the heart to heart. When we have needs, God’s people express that they will help you. Our church really appreciated it.”
Churches may still apply for the Hope Fund at www.bcnm.com/hopefund. On the website, you will find instructions to complete the Hope Fund Request Form. Individuals without Internet access can call Cricket Pairett at (505) 924-2315 to receive the form.