Cindy Townsend said when Lori Spikes—“one of their own” at First Baptist Church, Jackson, Mississippi—was named executive director of national Baptist Nursing Fellowship (BNF) in 2018, “we celebrated that together.”
And when Lori died of COVID-19 just two years later, they wept together too.
Lori was an integral part of FBC Jackson’s ministry, said Cindy, who serves as the church’s minister of WMU and women’s enrichment ministry.
But even more than that—she was a friend.
“Lori’s death has been beyond anything I could put in words, and our WMU women have been grieving,” Cindy said. “It was a great loss to our church family because we loved her so, and she served in so many areas so effectively.”
As the women at FBC tried to process that loss, one thing became clear—they wanted to honor Lori’s memory in a fitting way. Merrie Wiley, the church’s WMU leader, suggested they name something significant after Lori. After some discussion, they decided to start the church’s first BNF chapter and name it after her.
Who Lori Was
Lori made an impact on many people over the course of her life. She was a registered nurse and a missionary, doing both for decades.
“Everybody wanted to be like Lori in some way because of her servant heart,” Cindy said.
Lori served as an IMB journeyman in Honduras from 1980 to 1982, then she and her husband, Jim, served 20 years in Chile, where she worked as a parish nursing volunteer, coordinator of volunteer medical teams, and administrative assistant. The couple also served with the American Peoples Diaspora in Europe and Canada for five years before returning to the US in 2015.
In Jackson, she served as a volunteer triage nurse at Mission First, a primary care clinic for low-income uninsured individuals and families.
When Lori was announced as the choice for BNF executive director at the group’s annual meeting in 2018, Kaye Miller—who at the time was BNF president—said the search committee had made a “dream list” of everything it wanted in a leader.
“On that dream list, there was one item, and it was missionary,” Kaye said.
Lori fit the bill perfectly.
In the meeting, Lori said it was “rather daunting to see what the task is ahead, but also knowing it is a God thing, God is going to provide what is necessary in all areas.”
She called her new role “a way I can continue my missionary desire and experience to reach out to those in need and to encourage and help this group go forward.”
Starting a New Chapter
That’s a legacy Cindy and others want to keep going.
“Many nurses participated in her farewell service after she passed away. It was a beautiful thing,” she said. “We began to think about how in our church we had so many nurses, so many professional nurses and medical care people, that we really need to pull together for kingdom purposes.”
Cindy put her head together with others, including Estelle Watts, a close friend of Lori’s who had served alongside her in BNF at the national level. They talked with the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, then with Deborah Bolian, now president of national BNF.
“I asked her, ‘What’s the best way to do this?’ And she said, ‘If you’re going to form a BNF that’s going to be really active here at First Baptist, would you be willing to join hands with nurses from around the state and open things up to them when we have events?’ And I said of course, absolutely,” Cindy said.
The idea was born. Then they pitched it to Lori’s husband.
“He teared up and wept and said that would make her legacy live on and really be the fruition of Lori’s dream,” Cindy said, explaining that because Lori had served in a big way on the national level, she’d never had time to start a local chapter at her church despite wanting one.
“Her legacy lives on through this group of women,” Cindy said.
Gathering Nurses Together
On the day the group was launched—back in May 2021 during National Nurses Week—around 40 nurses attended. Many spoke that day and gave beautiful testimonies of Lori’s impact on them and on the world. They described her as an encourager, a wholehearted servant of the Lord, and as someone who desired to see nurses grow in their skills to serve the Lord.
“The emphasis of the day was twofold—to introduce them to BNF so they would have an opportunity to join and to honor Lori’s legacy,” Cindy said. “Many, many responded.”
The aim of BNF, a ministry of WMU, is to equip members spiritually, encourage them to be involved in planned nursing and health-care programs, and empower them to use their skills to help people around the world on mission trips. Though it focuses on nurses, anyone who has a background in health care can be a part.
Cindy said one reason Chip Stevens, FBC’s pastor, was excited about the BNF chapter forming was because of how it might be able to help respond to medical emergencies in the church in a more organized way.
Empowering Nurses for Missions
And the opportunities outside the walls of the church are boundless too, Cindy said. One could be serving in emergency hospitals like the Samaritan’s Purse hospital set up in Jackson last fall during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Another could be serving overseas on mission trips, like Lori loved to do.
“We want to encourage and educate and empower nurses to be the hands and feet of Christ in their workplace and on the mission field as well,” Cindy said. “It’s been something that’s been a dream of women in our church for over a decade but never put hands and feet to it, and I really believe it was all in God’s timing. He orchestrated it. When He orchestrates something, it’s so much bigger and better than we could ever imagine.”
She said Lori had a passion to serve and help those who were hurting or needed encouragement.
“What we’re doing here is just an extension of the gifts that we saw in Lori,” Cindy said.
For more information about national Baptist Nursing Fellowship, visit baptistnursingfellowship.com.
Grace Thornton is the editor of Missions Mosaic.
This article originally appeared in the May 2022 issue of Missions Mosaic. To read inspiring missions stories like this one, subscribe to Missions Mosaic today!