Letter from the New NAB Executive Director

Dear NAB family,

My 13-month-old grandson is constantly discovering new things. I have enjoyed seeing the wonder and amazement, fear and trepidation in his eyes as he experiences the new things that life gives him the chance to do. In these last few days, I have had the privilege of beginning my role as Executive Director of the North American Baptist Conference. If you were to look into my eyes as I started my new thing, you might see the very same wonder and amazement, fear and trepidation at play.

My journey of faith and leadership has been intimately connected with the NAB, and so I am excited about the opportunity to lead and represent the NAB Conference. I am humbled by the challenges that come with this role and position. I will need God’s help, wisdom, and discernment. I am reminded of Exodus 3 when Moses was called by God to a new task and role; Moses’s response was to say, “Who I am that I should go?” God responded, “I will be with you.” As the Executive Director, I will need God to go with me and before me, just as collectively we need this as the NAB Conference. I would humbly ask for your prayers to this end.

God is doing so many amazing things through the work of his Holy Spirit in and through his people. We are seeing a growing awareness of God at work. We are recognizing the greatness and love of God for us and for our world. We are recognizing who God has made us to be in Jesus. We are recognizing the mission of God for us: to love, change, and transform the people who we are placed next to. I praise God for his grace, goodness, and love.

We also live in a time of great upheaval. We are still experiencing the impact of the pandemic. Many have faced this illness and the difficult loss of loved ones. We have needed to adjust our lives, plans have been disrupted, businesses have closed. Our communities are also grappling with the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Adam Toledo, and others, and the turmoil that has come as a result. While I do not wish to minimize the many complicated issues involved in these situations, I grieve the legacy of violence that feeds the pain, heartache, and despair of many in minority communities. I am also thinking of the hostility and antagonism extended to the Asian community during the time of COVID. There have been demonstrations, some turning destructive and violent. In these last few weeks we have read of shootings and multiple deaths in various places. These individuals bear the image of God, and the loss of their lives is tragic. There is violence and brokenness found in every part of the world where God has called us as an NAB Conference to minister. I have come to realize that I need to grieve the sin, violence, prejudice, and racism that is found in myself and in our community. We need God to show us what it means to be salt and light as we face the issues of our culture and our world and follow the call in Micah 6:8 for God’s people to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.

God wants us to make a difference. As the NAB Conference of churches, we cannot do everything, but we can do some things. We can point to the hope we have in Jesus and that others can have in Jesus. We can affirm the dignity and worth of all people. We can seek to be a people of faith and righteousness as we walk together into God’s mission for us. Thank you for the opportunity and privilege to lead the NAB Conference. Let’s keep working together.

Harry Kelm

NAB Executive Director