SAN FRANCISCO (BP) -- For the third straight year, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering (AAEO) for North American missions has hit a record high.
The 2019 offering total was announced at a Monday evening gathering with North American Mission Board (NAMB) trustees. Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Ronnie Floyd revealed the $62.2 million total in a video call.
"This record-breaking offering that our churches have given this past year through our Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions demonstrates the passionate desire our churches have to reach each person for Jesus Christ in North America," Floyd said.
The offering, all of which goes directly to the field to resource missionaries and their work, surpassed previous record highs -- $61.2 million in 2018 and $59.7 million in 2017.
"It also demonstrates the outstanding confidence our churches have in the future of what we are doing through North American missions under the gifted leadership of Dr. Kevin Ezell and his team," Floyd said. "Together our churches are able to do great things for God."
NAMB President Kevin Ezell called the offering total "historic" as he expressed his gratitude to Southern Baptists.
"First, we thank God," Ezell said. "He can fund this mission and carry it out any way He chooses, but he allows Southern Baptists to play a part, and He allows NAMB to serve Southern Baptists.
"And thank you pastors who make this offering a priority," Ezell continued. "This would not have happened without your leadership, your initiative. To every Southern Baptist who sacrificially gave to this offering -- we also say thank you."
Sandy Wisdom-Martin, executive director of national Woman's Missionary Union (WMU), attended the ceremony as an honored guest of NAMB given the key role WMU has in promoting the annual offering.
"We are incredibly grateful committed Christians see the urgent need and give sacrificially so the Gospel may be proclaimed in North America," Wisdom-Martin said.
"We have a responsibility to take the Gospel to north America, and it is our joy -- it is our privilege -- to hold the ropes for you, to pack Annie envelopes for you. Whatever we need to do, we are willing to stand with you," Wisdom-Martin said.
WMU collected the first offering for North American missions in 1895 and continues to be a key ministry partner, helping to develop and distribute promotional materials to Southern Baptist churches.
Named for ardent missions advocate and WMU leader Annie Armstrong, the AAEO funds 50 percent of NAMB's ministry budget. Resources go to pay salaries for church planting and compassion ministry missionaries across North America. The offering also funds start-up costs for new churches in under-reached areas and provides outreach events that help church plants engage their communities.
Money given to the offering is spent in the year in which it is received. NAMB reports the expenditures to its trustees and WMU. Proceeds also help fund missionary assessments, training, coaching and care. A stipend for student missionaries serving through GenSend is funded by the Annie offering as well.
"Everything we do is about spreading the Gospel throughout North America," Ezell said. "What Southern Baptists give and sacrifice to make that happen will impact countless lives for an eternity to come."
The population of North America is 363 million, and 273 million -- 75 percent -- do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ. NAMB exists to help equip churches to be on mission to reach those in need of the Gospel in their own communities and across the continent.
Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.