Perspective - March 2014
I have vivid memories of my boyhood church experiences. I remember the Panamanian church building where I attended. My mother served as the organist, and we were at church almost every time the doors opened. These humble beginnings of Christian education and commitment on my part were the result of Southern Baptist mission endeavors in Central America.
It was Cooperative Program gifts that provided the resources to build the church in Panama. It was Cooperative Program gifts that supplied support for missionaries to preach God's message of salvation. It was Cooperative Program gifts that proved to be the catalyst for a missionary pastor and Sunday school teacher to lead me to Jesus.
I am the result of Southern Baptists who cooperatively pray, give and go to tell the Good News. I am thankful to God for what He has done through Southern Baptists to bring men and women and boys and girls to a saving knowledge of Jesus.
It was that missionary in Panama who helped crystalize my calling to ministry and gave me, a stutterer, the opportunity to preach my first sermon. I'll never forget that "Youth Sunday" morning when my sermon lasted all of seven minutes. Afterward that missionary pointed out that God had taken my speech impediment away - I did not stutter once during the sermon and have not stuttered since.
After surrendering to preach, I moved to Canada to further my education. I attended Toronto Baptist Seminary and received bachelor of theology and master of divinity degrees. Working through the Southern Baptist liaison in Canada, I was selected to serve as a summer missionary in New York, working among migrants. That experience taught me the link between missions and giving. As I walked the streets of New York City and worked in migrant missions in the state, I realized the resources for ministry came from Southern Baptist church members through their giving to the Cooperative Program.
I also served as a summer missionary in California, again in migrant ministries, with Philip Aaron. While in the Golden State, I enrolled at California Baptist College (now University), also supported by Cooperative Program gifts of California Southern Baptists. In 1969 I received my bachelor of arts degree.
During my college years, I became pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista del Sur in Pico Rivera. Once again, the Cooperative Program impacted my life and ministry. Cooperative Program gifts through the Home (now North American) Mission Board helped secure the church property and provided a pastoral salary supplement for a portion of my tenure there.
After serving as pastor in Pico Rivera, I moved to Fresno to minister through California Southern Baptist Convention, which gave me a state perspective of Cooperative Program ministries. In 1977, I went to the Home Mission Board, which gave me a national perspective on missions, and the Cooperative Program's impact on evangelism and ministry throughout the United States.
At the HMB, while working in language missions and later in planning and coordination, I marveled at how Cooperative Program gifts helped new churches, innovative ministries, evangelistic outreach and much more.
It was during my tenure at the SBC agency in Atlanta that I enrolled in the graduate program of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, yet another Southern Baptist institution supported by generous gifts to the Cooperative Program. In 1992 I received a doctor of ministry degree from Golden Gate.
Today, serving California Southern Baptists, I have opportunity to see and hear the marvelous things being accomplished in a state that is 90 percent unchurched, where 33 million people are headed for a hopeless eternity. Because of Cooperative Program support by faithful congregations, our state convention and strategic partners are able to minister and evangelize. Many congregations give sacrificially so missionaries can share the Good News of the gospel in California, throughout North America and globally.
There are many avenues of supporting missions, but I believe none is more effective than the "rope of sand" we call the Cooperative Program. I don't believe there is another denomination like the SBC supporting missionaries involved in varied ministries and mission opportunities.
Imagine what God can do in and through your congregation. Look at what He was able to do with a young Royal Ambassador on the mission field in Panama. To God be the glory, great things He has done!
Last Published: March 4, 2014 12:23 AM