My limited ability to communicate the overwhelming and magnificent things accomplished through cooperation is a frequent cause of frustration. Because we choose to give through the Cooperative Program, Oklahoma Baptists serve one another and the world in thousands of ways. The vastness of ministry performed and lives touched is mind boggling.

A few days ago, I received an e-mail update about a little known but extremely important provision through the Cooperative Program. Few people are aware of this ministry to others unless they are acquainted with a recipient.

For many years, state conventions paid premiums to the Annuity Board of the Southern Baptist Convention (now GuideStone Financial Services) for disability protection and survivor protection for ministers, qualified office staff and other non-minister church employees who were active participants in the Church Retirement Plan. During the 1980s and 1990s, earnings on these premiums soared. In addition, demand for the funds was not as high as expected. As a result, a large positive balance was built to provide this protection for these servants of the Lord.

In fact, the experience and investment earnings on the premiums were so good that for several years, state conventions did not have to invest additional dollars in the fund. With the economic downturn, Cooperative Program dollars are once again being added to provide the protection benefit for God’s servants in the churches.

What difference does this make? Why would I want you to know that Cooperative Program dollars are used to care for church ministers and staff across our state? It is because you had a part in blessing many people in 2008.

Through the disability protection benefit, distributions totaling $235,125 assisted 42 participants. These benefits provided added income and helped those in need weather difficult circumstances in the face of adversity.

Perhaps even more significant is the survivor protection benefit. In 2008, 16 surviving spouses received benefits totaling $326,070. In many instances, this benefit is a welcomed surprise to a surviving spouse who was not aware of its existence. It can, and does, make a huge difference to spouses left with children to raise and educate. “Survive” is an appropriate word—many of these spouses are trying to simply survive financially.

Because of your gifts through the Cooperative Program, 58 families in crisis were given significant help. These ministers and their families who serve our churches so faithfully and unselfishly were blessed because of your generosity and willingness to cooperate.

On behalf of all these and others who will be blessed in the future, thank you.