By Erich Bridges
RICHMOND, Va.—Here’s a creed worth adopting — if you dare.
As a follower of Christ: I am called not to comfort or success but to obedience. Consequently, my life is to be defined not by what I do but by who I am.
Henceforth: I will proclaim His name without fear, follow Him without regret and serve Him without compromise.
Thus: To obey is my objective, to suffer is expected, His glory is my reward.
Therefore: To Christ alone be all power, all honor and all glory, that the world may know. Amen!
Those 83 words challenge a number of things we hold dear as modern Americans: personal independence, success, comfort, unlimited options. They comprise the creed, which is first memorized, then lived out, by students accepted into Fusion, a challenging year of mission training and action for college-age Southern Baptists.
Fusion, now in its 10th year, is a partnership between IMB and Midwestern Baptist College, the undergraduate program at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri. It puts students through far more than an academic overview of missions. They spend the fall semester living and studying in a close discipleship community, participating in specialized training programs, doing ministry and evangelism in the Kansas City area — and holding each other accountable to their commitment. For the spring semester, they head overseas to join IMB missionaries in various locations. Fusion teams are trained to go to the least-reached people groups, so they often travel to physically challenging or high-security areas around the world.
Wishy-washy believers need not apply. Well, they can apply, but they won’t stay wishy-washy for long.
Gwen Noonan* found that out for herself when she signed up. Noonan, now 20, entered the Fusion program in the fall of 2012. She was as an enthusiastic 18-year-old from California searching for exciting ways to serve the Lord. In Fusion training, she soon learned that God seeks more than our service; He seeks our whole being.
“During our contingency training, we were put into scenarios that felt so real — even though they weren’t — that I really had to ask myself whether or not the gospel is worth my life,” she said. “Is Jesus, really knowing Him, worth all that I have to go and glorify Him in the nations?”
She also learned about Karen Watson, whose words and life helped inspire the Fusion Creed. Watson, another Californian, was one of four Southern Baptist relief workers killed by unknown gunmen in Iraq in 2004. A former law enforcement officer known both for her toughness and her passion for God, Watson knew the risks of working in Iraq. She had willingly returned there shortly before her death after several previous close calls with death.
“When God calls there are no regrets,” Watson wrote in a now-famous letter found in a sealed envelope marked “Open in case of death.” She left it with her pastor when she departed for the Middle East in 2003. “I tried to share my heart with you as much as possible, my heart for the nations,” Watson said in the letter. “I wasn’t called to a place; I was called to Him. To obey was my objective, to suffer was expected, His glory my reward, His glory my reward.”
Fusion training confronted Noonan with spiritual reality. “Learning more about Karen’s story helped me realize His Glory really is my reward and really is worth it,” she said. “Knowing the sweetness of Jesus even in the midst of these hard things, knowing Jesus even in His sufferings, was something I would be willing to lay my life down for.”
Noonan’s commitment deepened when she went to her mission assignment overseas, which involved developing friendships with Muslims in order to share the gospel. It wasn’t easy, but she found Christ already was there.
“I went through a time of loneliness,” she remembered. “Jesus was just so faithful during that time, and He used the creed to encourage my heart. [He said] ‘I am so worth it. I have suffered for you and to obey My Father. Abide in Me and know the sweetness of laying your life down.’”
During that time Noonan, a musician, also completed a song based on the Fusion Creed that she had begun writing during training. When she returned to the United States, she recorded “The Creed” and participated in the making of a video featuring the song.
This year, Noonan has become a Fusion “advocate,” one of the alumni who return to help prepare the next generation of Fusion trainees — not only for their overseas assignments, but for a lifetime as disciples who make disciples. In January, 59 people now in Fusion training anticipate going in teams to North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia to glorify God. Noonan will lead a team of three young women back to the area where she served last year.
Her reward? His glory.
Erich Bridges is IMB global correspondent.