>>by Dana Williamson Messenger Correspondent
SHAWNEE—The life of a ministry wife is often a lonely existence. But the women’s ministry office of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) is striving to create a network of caring and sharing that will bring a camaraderie to that once solitary life.
The women’s ministry has been officially ministering to wives of church staff and other ministry spouses for more than 15 years, but, now, with a full-time consultant, that ministry is expanding even to include ministry wives in the partnership state of Colorado and the partnership country of Mexico.
Becky Badry, BGCO ministry wives consultant, said her goal is to establish a ministry wives peer support network who meet for the purpose of sharing their journey, encouragement to fulfill God’s purpose for their lives, support, fellowship and fun.
This year’s Ministry Wives Weekend, March 1-2 at Shawnee, Immanuel, was designed to help achieve these goals.
With the theme of “The Battle Belongs to the Lord,” 112 ministry wives heard Kathy Litton, wife of Ed Litton, pastor of North Mobile, Ala., First and North American Mission Board pastors’ wives consultant from Mobile, Ala., tell them that the best thing that can happen is that “we get so desperate for the Gospel, it affects every area of our lives.”
Litton, whose first husband, Rick Ferguson, then pastor of Riverside Church in Denver, Colo., was killed in an automobile accident some 10 years ago, said most of a pastor’s wife’s training is done on the job.
“Somewhere along my Christian journey, I had forgotten how powerful the Gospel is,” Litton admitted. “Somehow, my understanding of the Gospel got stuck after I was saved at age 8. Rom. 1:16, where Paul says he is not ashamed of the Gospel, began to open my eyes. Paul didn’t have just a movie-style conversion; he had a transformed life. I couldn’t say that.”
She explained that in the text Paul is saying we’re rescued from the wrath of God.
“That is not all our salvation is,” she observed. “We are also rescued to the relationship we have longed for. We are hot-wired to have a relationship with the God Who created us.”
She said she is still being rescued into a deeper relationship with God.
“The Gospel is a life-long pursuit,” she explained. “Along the way, you can unconsciously become unaware of your lack of righteousness. We will never get to the depths of the Gospel until we realize what we deserved. God has given us grace—the power to do something we don’t have the strength to do on our own. The Christian journey is by grace.”
Litton said it is easy to think God got a good deal when He “got us.”
“But that is self-righteousness,” she pointed out. “Self-righteousness dulls our awareness and understanding that we’re in desperate need of a Savior.”
She said spiritual leaders have to be visible evidence that everyone needs a Savior.
“Get down on your knees and ask God to let you see His power in your lives,” she urged. “It will reenergize you as a spiritual leader.”
In keeping with the military theme, the women participated in squadron meetings dealing with “Well-intended Dragons,” “If Momma Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy,” “Perfect Pastors’ Kids?” “ Reviving a Ho-hum Marriage” and “The Battle Belongs to the Lord”—a prayer squadron.
Sheryl Porter, ministry wives partnership team leader, encouraged the wives to get involved in a partnership with ministry wives in Colorado. Porter, wife of BGCO partnership & volunteer missions specialist Sam Porter, said she hopes to connect Oklahoma ministry wives one-on-one with those in Colorado.
“Ministry in Colorado, where there are God-sized mountains, is challenging,” Porter said. “It would be a blessing for Colorado ministry wives to have a mature ministry wife from Oklahoma to commit to pray for them and connect to their world of ministry.”
Marsha Cook, wife of Russell Cook, director of missions in Pottawatomie-Lincoln Association, said the association’s partnership with Pikes Peak Association in Colorado Springs, followed partnerships in Indiana, Illinois, Arizona and Utah.
“I’ve loved every opportunity I’ve had to be involved in those,” said Cook, who was born in Denver, “but this one holds a special fascination for me—to return to do missions in the state of my birth.”
She noted that Colorado is a spectacularly beautiful state, but it is not a part of the Bible Belt, where she grew up after leaving Colorado shortly after her first birthday.
“Although I have met some wonderful people in Colorado, there is an obvious spiritual vacuum (here),” she observed. “It is a lonely, difficult place to serve. The work is hard, the response is a long time coming, the financial strain is great and the work suffers from constant re-starts or vacuums left with no Gospel being shared.”
Cook said the culture of Colorado is so multi-faceted, it is hard to describe.
“There are ‘tree-huggers’ (environmentalists), pet lovers galore, legalized marijuana smokers and their shops, tourists and skiers from around the world, as well as the businesses that serve them, clusters of teenage runaways on the streets, Satan worshippers, witches, New Agers, Mormons, artsy-craftsy communities, Native Americans who have long called it home, coffee-shop musicians, ministries focused on world-wide needs, government and big business workers, museum employees, the U.S. Air Force Academy, descendants of pioneers and tattooed citizens everywhere you turn,” she said. “The rich and famous to the mountaineers live there.”
Cook emphasized that the greatest tragedy is that these people don’t even know their need.
“The aimlessness and hopelessness I’ve seen there is so real, it is heartbreaking,” she said.
Badry said the regional care groups designed to meet on a regular basis will help develop friendships, encourage mentoring, establish prayer support, crisis care, encouragement and accountability and produce a sense of belonging and promote confidentiality among ministry wives, both in Oklahoma and Colorado.
“These groups will allow us to establish a place where we can get real,” Badry explained. “They will provide a safe place to share where we will be accountable and challenged to grow together. We were not created to do life alone. We need a place to belong.”
This year’s ministry project contributed about 50 diaper bags to be donated to Family Services at Tinker Air Force Base, which will be distributed to military families.
“With cutbacks to military families expected, this is definitely God’s timing,” said Badry.