Oklahoma Baptists have a long legacy of sending and supporting missionaries serving overseas. For the local church, it is a joyous occasion when missionaries return home for a stateside visit.
Dozens of churches across Oklahoma provide housing to missionaries while they are on stateside. With travel suspended to many countries due to COVID-19, missionary housing among Oklahoma Baptists has reached full capacity. Thankfully, churches from all over the state have stepped up to provide housing for missionaries who are on stateside in Oklahoma.
Oklahoma City, Southern Hills has faithfully supported Oklahoma missionaries for decades. “Over the years the Lord has blessed,” said Southern Hills Pastor Doug Melton. “We have had one missionary house for more than 20 years.”
Over time, the church continued to expand housing for missionaries. Now the congregation owns eight houses near the church property. These houses have been used for various purposes, but when the coronavirus hit Oklahoma in March and missionaries’ stateside time was extended, members of Southern Hills worked to make the properties a home.
In order to make the properties livable, the church family worked on renovations and decorating. Their efforts have blessed many families. Randy Whittall, minister of missions and evangelism, served with the International Mission Board (IMB) and was the first stateside missionary to stay in Southern Hills missionary home. A couple of decades later, Randy has come full circle as he now has the opportunity to provide housing.
More than half of IMB’s affinity groups is represented in Southern Hills’ missionary homes. Families who are staying in the homes have served in North Africa and the Middle East, Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Americas, and East Asia. Melton has urged other congregations to utilize their properties to help provide housing to missionaries during this unprecedented time.
As the need arose for housing, many associations and congregations have offered help. When hearing about the need for missionary housing, Matt Spann, director of missions in Cherokee Strip Association, saw an opportunity for Medford, First to help.
“Even though they are currently without a full-time pastor, Medford, First was excited about the possibility of serving one of our missionary families by providing lodging,” Spann said. “They worked hard to get their parsonage remodeled and furnished, so that it could be used by a missionary family needing a temporary place to stay.”
Derek Dennis is serving as transitional pastor at Medford, First and reported the church was ready to welcome their guests.
“The Church was excited to serve in a mission capacity to one of our IMB Missionary Families,” Dennis said. “They eagerly completed the renovations to the church parsonage and generously furnished it with furniture and are happy to stock the pantry with food if necessary.”
Please continue to pray for Oklahoma Baptist missionaries. Ask the Lord to open the hearts of those in the countries where they have been ministering. One Oklahoma missionary currently on stateside recently sent an update of encouragement about their country in South Asia.
“We greatly appreciate your prayer support for so many friends that we love but don’t know the truth,” the missionary said. “Our friend who has heard the truth so many times but hasn’t believed has started to read the Word during this lockdown. Pray for his heart to be softened and that he will believe.”
Through the Cooperative Program, Oklahoma Baptists partner with churches providing housing for missionaries on stateside by supplying a stipend for basic essentials items to stock pantries or other household essentials.