Southern Baptists are known for their generosity to missions, and 2016 was no exception. I am happy to report that giving to this year's Annie Armstrong Easter Offering totaled $58,860,553—the second-largest Annie offering ever given!
This is extraordinary in a year when so many of our churches gave above and beyond in response to the special call from our International Mission Board. We are humbled by how God has moved once again through Southern Baptists and excited about what this means for our missionaries who serve throughout the United States and Canada.
The need in North America is great. We have done a great job reaching the South. In Mississippi there is one Southern Baptist church for every 1,395 people. In Alabama it's one for every 1,451. We are grateful for so many Southern Baptists in the South—they give 87 percent of all Cooperative Program giving.
While these churches help reach their neighbors for Christ, NAMB is rushing resources to non-South areas. States like New York that only have one Southern Baptist church for every 57,900 people. Or New Jersey where it's one church for every 75,124. And Canada where there is only one Baptist church in the province of Quebec for every 185,349 people.
These numbers are staggering when you consider how much more Gospel access some people have than others.
The Annie offering gives NAMB half of its annual income. Everything given to Annie goes directly to the field—to missionaries, church plants, evangelism resources and to train and equip the next generation of missionaries.
A special thanks goes to North Carolina and Alabama Baptists. Once again they are the top giving state conventions to Annie. North Carolina is No. 1 with $6,058,574 and Alabama was a very strong second at $5,878,970. We are so grateful for the pastors, state leaders and all Southern Baptists who gave so generously in these states.
I am also greatly encouraged by the increase in Annie giving that we saw from so many state convention partners. Those marking increases this year included Arizona, Arkansas, California, the Dakotas, Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota-Wisconsin, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, the Northwest Convention, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, the Southern Baptists of Texas, the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.
The state convention with the largest increase to Annie was Tennessee with $376,878 more than last year. Its total was $4,561,392.
Thank you pastors for leading your churches to prioritize missions and to give sacrificially to this offering. Thank you Woman's Missionary Union for everything you do to promote the Annie offering and to champion missions in our churches.
Your giving means the world to our missionaries, many of whom have made great sacrifices and left loved ones far behind to serve in some very difficult places. And it is making an eternal difference to the thousands of people who are being introduced to Jesus each year by our missionaries. That is ultimately why we give, and we are humbled to see God work so powerfully through Southern Baptists.
Kevin Ezell is president of the North American Mission Board.