A recent conversation I had with someone got me thinking: when your Oklahoma Baptist church gives through the Cooperative Program (CP), even money that is invested in ministry within the state is money that impacts global missions.
Everyone knows that Oklahoma Baptists are strong supporters of international missions. We are known for “holding the ropes” back home though faithful prayer and giving. It might sound counterintuitive to state that though 42 percent of our CP giving is invested in ministries in our state, these monies fund ministries that the Lord also uses for international missions.
Important CP-funded state ministries like Falls Creek Student Weeks programming, Youth Evangelism Conference (YEC), Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM) and Oklahoma Baptist University, all play a part in the total international mission picture.
These are not dollars that are “taking away from missions.” They are dollars that help feed the international missions pipeline. These ministries are used by the Holy Spirit to help missionaries discern their calling, get training and ministry experience to go to the uttermost parts of the earth (Click here to learn more about Oklahoma Baptists CP allocations).
The conversation I had was with Oklahoma Baptists Dan and Ellen Sullen (names changed for security purposes) who are serving overseas with the International Mission Board’s (IMB) European Affinity, and I asked them how these Oklahoma-focused ministries also help hold the ropes for IMB missions.
Here’s a Q&A from our conversation:
I understand you are from Oklahoma. Can you share with us a little about your Oklahoma connection?
My wife and I are from Sentinel. We both repented as teenagers and were baptized at Sentinel, First. We met in the third grade and have pretty much been friends ever since. We got married when were 19 while going to college at Southwestern Oklahoma State University (SWOSU), and we were active in the SWOSU BCM. Ellen got a second degree at OU and worked as a nurse at Baptist Hospital. I started seminary at the seminary extension that was located on the OBU campus.
We grew up going to Falls Creek, YEC, and many other Oklahoma Baptists events. Before moving to the country where we now serve, I was a youth pastor for around seven years. Our sending church membership is at a church in Weatherford.
When churches give through the Cooperative Program, they tend to think of resources being sent to international missions. But as you look at the experiences of missionaries, even investment in ministries “back home” have repercussions in missions internationally because leaders like you come through our ministries and later head to the mission field. Do you have any thoughts along these lines?
There are four ways that Oklahoma Baptists encouraged our ministry. First, Falls Creek was an influence on my call to ministry. It was there that I felt called to preach the Word. I guess I could never overstate how big of an impact Falls Creek has on the mission field. I’ve personally met a number of missionaries who surrendered to ministry or came to faith at Falls Creek.
Second, I’m especially thankful for my co-pastors such as Clay Hicks and Terry Rials who encouraged me to grow as an evangelist and think about serving overseas.
Third, the generous giving of Sentinel, First to Lottie Moon probably was our first exposure to the IMB and the idea of missions.
Finally, I’ll never forget when I enrolled into seminary and was shocked at how much it would cost. Yet, I knew that I needed and wanted a seminary education. I was pretty naive of all the ways the Cooperative Program served us. So, you can imagine my delight when I got my first bill and it was half of what I expected with the words—“Cooperative Program scholarship” next to the total.
This is significant for me because it was through a seminary mission trip that I felt called overseas and on that same trip I met a man that would later become my co-laborer in planting a church among an unreached people group in Europe. (Also, I’m still reaping this benefit as I’m trying to wrap up my Ph.D. at a Southern Baptist Seminary this year. Without CP, I can’t imagine how I would have ever been able to dream about getting a Ph.D.)
Another way that you might not realize how Cooperative Program giving helps the global church is providing scholarship for pastors abroad. Currently, my co-elder at our church in the country where we serve is about to start a Ph.D. at a Southern Baptist seminary. This wouldn’t be financially possible for him if he didn’t get a scholarship from the seminary.
How have Oklahoma Baptists been helpful to you in “holding the ropes” back home?
We have three churches that have been especially faithful in praying for us regularly. They give financially to projects and even sent volunteer teams.
What’s amazing about this is that their contact and support of us has not ceased with changing pastors or staff. These churches look at sending biblically. They don’t just support us during the exciting early days when our “going” was new and exciting. They have continued to love and care us during our fruitful and our fruitless times, during our ups and our downs.
One particular moment sticks out to us is that when Ellen’s mom passed away a few years ago. These churches comforted us and cared for us. Also, I’ll never forget sitting on my father-in-law’s front porch back home and getting a call from Hance Dilbeck (executive director-treasurer for Oklahoma Baptists) asking if there is anything Oklahoma Baptists could do for us.
You guys will never understand how much this means to us. I’ll never get over how the Gospel and missions unites us and moves brothers and sisters to take care of those in need, even when we don’t know each other well.
How can Oklahoma Baptists be praying for you?
May 14-16: Pray for a church planting team meeting this weekend to discuss strategy and action steps towards a new church plant in our host country.
May 23: Pray for the preaching of the Word today and for the Gospel to be proclaimed at the church we are working with in our host country. Pray that God would keep us faithful to worship together, love one another, and provide for one another’s needs. Let our fellowship be genuine, and help us to spur one another on in the faith.
May 29-June 5: Pray for a children’s camp hosted in our host country. Pray for health and safety of all the workers and children. Ask that this camp would be an avenue to share the Gospel with whole families of unbelievers.
Continue to pray for those workers who have been in temporary assignments in the U.S. due to closed borders in our host country and a prolonged halt in visa processing. Ask for good church connections during this time and for their encouragement as they wait.
Please be in prayer for those workers who have been in our host country throughout the pandemic but are now have having to plan to leave the country in June in order to comply with immigration laws. With borders still closed, their ability to re-enter is at this time unknown. Pray for trust in God’s providence as they face these uncertainties, and pray for their quick return.