Lorna Bius, left, talks with Beth Ann Williams at the Missions and Ministry Center in Duluth. Bius serves as Mission Georgia mobilizer through and under Georgia Baptist Women, of which Williams is lead strategist. SCOTT BARKLEY/Index
A love for the local church has led to here
DULUTH — On Monday morning Lorna Bius paused in writing a response to an Atlanta-area school.
They had students who were homeless. Some were pregnant. Others were part of the 15,000 children in the state’s foster system. A school representative had heard Georgia Baptists could help.
“The social worker assigned to them is overwhelmed,” says Bius, who serves as Mission Georgia mobilizer. “It’s a place where churches can get involved.”
This has been Bius’ sweet spot for nearly 15 years – helping churches identify the needs in their community and get off the sideline to address the issue. It started long ago as a participant with Girls in Action and learning about the 10/40 window, the area of the world with little to no access to the Gospel. That desire continued to grow as a youth ministry leader in her native Valdosta at Northside Baptist Church as well as First Baptist Cuthbert and Pleasant Grove in Americus.
In 2005, Bius took a one-way ticket to Reno, Nevada for a missions leadership position with the Nevada Baptist Convention. Her assignment? Help churches begin local ministries in an area where less than 4% of the population identified as evangelicals.
“God has for quite awhile been weaving in my heart a love for the local church,” she told The Index.
During her time in youth ministry in Americus, Bius witnessed the power of collaboration between several churches and the Baptist Collegiate Ministries at Georgia Southwestern State University, then under the direction of campus minister Marshall Kerlin, to reach students.
“I learned cooperation is a powerful tool of community importance,” she says. “In my career I’ve seen how several smaller churches working together can make a bigger impact than a large one working alone.”
Flip the script
A flag screaming “Zags!” on her door welcomes visitors to Bius’ office at the Missions and Ministry Center in Duluth.
Bius became a fan of the Gonzaga University basketball team in the 2000s when living in Nevada. Though somewhat of a recognized power now, Gonzaga at the time was a bunch of scrappy upstarts who made a habit of beating larger, more recognized schools. In time, they changed the expectation that this private university of around 5,000 students in Spokane, Washington couldn’t do big things.
It mirrors the script Bius wants to help write. No church is too small nor congregation too remote to be a part of Mission Georgia.
At the annual meeting in Fayetteville last week, guests joined Executive Director W. Thomas Hammond Jr., on the stage at New Hope Baptist Church to tell their story. Each had been personally impacted by Georgia Baptist involvement toward fighting human trafficking, foster and adoption care, pre- and post-natal care, ministering to refugees, and promoting literacy – the five areas of focus for Mission Georgia.
Helping churches connect with their neighbors in ministry, and then seeing that open into Gospel opportunities, strengthens Bius’ resolve of the power in the local church.
“So many times out West I saw communities built up from a Christian foundation,” she says. “It’s happening [in Georgia]. When you care for people’s needs it opens doors to share and invest in their greatest need, spiritual.”
Bius served from 2005-2012 with the Nevada Baptist Convention before being named a NAMB national missionary. That change effectively placed her over 13 states in the West. Three years ago she moved to Georgia and joined Clarkston International Bible Church, remaining a NAMB missionary working with refugees. While no longer a part of NAMB since joining the Georgia Baptist Mission Board staff, she remains an active part of her church’s ministry.
So many times out West I saw communities built up from a Christian foundation. It’s happening [in Georgia].
Establishing a relational beachhead through service opens up opportunities to share the Gospel, she asserts.
“This lines up with biblical justice,” Bius claims. “God wants His kingdom peace to be evident through every conversation. We know we live in a broken world and biblical justice pursues the restoration of His goodness.”
Most impressive trait
Beth Ann Williams, lead strategist for Georgia Baptist Women, immediately thought of one person when approached by Hammond on suggestions for who could effectively mobilize Georgia Baptists for Mission Georgia.
“The name that came to my mind was Lorna Bius,” Williams told those gathered for the GBC Executive Committee meeting preceding the annual gathering last week. “I thought, ‘Gosh, if we can get Lorna to come and be a part of the Mission Board staff that would be a huge win.'”
Williams’ time as executive director for WMU in Utah overlapped Bius’ time in Reno. As such, Williams was familiar with Bius’ work. And while her skills in mobilizing churches is assured, it’s not what impresses Williams the most.
“It’s her love for the Lord and calling for ministry,” she testifies. “In Nevada she saw how a few churches working together could make a great impact. She spent ten years doing that.”
Mission Georgia, admits Bius, is still in somewhat of a conceptual phase. Next year will involve a lot of “laying out the runway” through training events and helping churches assess ministry opportunities near them.
One false narrative Bius hopes to eliminate is that churches can’t partner with other groups to address a need. The Atlanta school from earlier is a perfect example. The situations faced there are real, and staff at that institution are looking for a partner.
They need help in flipping the script for their students.
“There is an opportunity to engage with community partners in a more intentional way … and Gospel transformation in a community will not happen without the local church,” Bius says. “The guest speakers for the Mission Georgia report at the annual meeting showed the potential for it.
“This isn’t just a concept. It’s happening. God is at work in the darkest places.”
For more information, email Bius or call (770) 936-5326.
Scott Barkley serves as editor of The Christian Index.