The events of 2016 were plentiful. Some made historical impact on the country, including a major presidential election. Others made historical impact on a personal and spiritual level, and the Baptist Messenger reported many of these experiences throughout the year. Here are 10 noteworthy stories from 2016, covered by the state paper of Oklahoma Baptists.
/// Focus on Foster Care—The Baptist Messenger featured 17 articles on foster care in 2016, including three cover articles. Contributing writer Kristi Prince and Messenger staff writers provided many stories of families and their experiences in foster care, and two special VBS events in the state, hosted by the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) and Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children, provided training sessions for foster parents as children participated in VBS. Oklahoma Baptists made foster care a focused issue in 2016 and continue to do so, as foster care remains an urgent need.
/// Dedicated and Debt Free—The news came near the beginning of 2016 as the BGCO board members gathered on Feb. 2 for its first meeting of the year, while also celebrating meeting early the financial goal of the Falls Creek Centennial Campaign with pledges and gifts totaling $55 million, which pays off the recent building additions at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center as well as improvements made in the past. “I do not know how to express to our God how awesome, how amazing, how incredible He is,” said Anthony L. Jordan, BGCO executive director-treasurer. “And, I don’t know why our God chose to place His grace and mercy and faith in the old Arbuckle Mountains of Oklahoma in a little dusty place called Falls Creek. But I’m glad He did!”
/// Rose Day at 25—The Oklahoma State Capitol was the usual location for the single largest gathering of pro-life Oklahomans on Feb. 3. In 2016, though, it was more significant as Rose Day celebrated 25 years since Oklahoma Baptists have been supporting the pro-life rally. “Thank goodness we live in a state that values the culture of life,” Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said at the rally. “(Rose Day) wouldn’t have happened without you, and God continues to bless you. Thank you for the tremendous work. Thank you for Rose Day, and thank you for coming here to support the culture of life.”
/// Linking with Latvia—The official announcement was made during the 2015 BGCO Annual Meeting, but the partnership was greatly demonstrated in 2016. Oklahoma Baptists are teaming with Latvian Baptist Union (LBU) in a three-year mission partnership, and trips to the Northern European country were made throughout the year. The Singing ChurchWomen (SCW) were the first to visit May 30-June 9, singing in concert halls and churches across Latvia. SCW also helped an orphanage and provided a sound system for a student camp to use throughout the year. “Our prayer is for this new partnership and work to bring our people together for our common mission and on cause,” Peteris Sprogis, LBU bishop, wrote in a letter to Oklahoma Baptists. “We commit to seek shared ministry opportunities to serve God side by side as Americans and Latvians.”
/// Milestone moments— Many significant landmark events happened in 2016, and the Baptist Messenger covered many milestone moments. As mentioned, Rose Day celebrated 25 years of Oklahoma Baptists involvement. Anthony L. Jordan celebrated his 20th year as executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and has seen much growth and progress under his leadership for Oklahoma Baptists. Hope Pregnancy Ministries turned 30, as the pregnancy resource ministry has grown and continues to help women and their unborn children. The BGCO chaplaincy program celebrated 30 years and currently has 459 endorsed chaplains who are involved in 11 chaplaincy specialty areas.
/// Summer camps experience thousands of spiritual decisions—Summer camps at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center and CrossTimbers Children’s Mission Adventure Camp are always an annual highlight, as both encampments witnessed more than 6,000 spiritual decisions made, including more than 2,500 professions of faith last summer.
/// Bob Nigh retires—Serving 18 years with the Baptist Messenger, Bob Nigh spanned the globe. He covered numerous monumental events, including the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995, and was a part of the Disaster Relief response to Ground Zero in New York City after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. He informed Oklahoma Baptists of great ministry and mission works through the years, and last fall, Nigh concluded his time as the paper’s managing editor. Though he retired from his full-time work position, he now devotes his time with his family and with ministry, particularly with Disaster Relief.
/// Olympic moments— The Summer Olympics were a big part of 2016, and many ministry-related experiences occurred in Rio and many Oklahoma Baptists were represented in the games, including Bruce and Janet Barringer whose daughter Jenny Simpson won the bronze medal in the 1500m track event. The Barringers are active members at Stillwater, Eagle Heights, and the Baptist Messenger covered their involvement of supporting and praying for Jenny. Oklahoma Baptist University also was represented by five athletes, including AJ Barbar, Akela Jones, Ines Remersaro, Michael Rodgers and Nickeisha Wilson.
/// Former missionaries loved on at Falls Creek—More than 30 former International Mission Board (IMB) appointees who settled in Oklahoma received “royal” treatment last March during a special retreat held in their honor at Falls Creek. The retirees were among 983 IMB missionaries who accepted a Voluntary Retirement Incentive. The BGCO hosted the weekend retreat and provided the honored guests with honorariums, meals, gift bags and words of love and encouragement offered by BGCO staff, including Jordan. “In Oklahoma, we consider our missionaries heroes of the faith. I want you to know Oklahoma Baptists love what you have done, they love what you have invested in, and when you are introduced as one of our missionaries from the field, you will find immediate love from the people of Oklahoma.”
/// Election coverage—The U.S. presidential election of 2016 will go down as one of the most emotionally-invested events in American history. The Baptist Messenger provided reports during the year, not only on the national level but also election issues specifically in Oklahoma. The paper offered commentary from Oklahoma Baptist leaders and an Election Explainer presented by the BGCO’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee with writing assistance from the Family Policy Institute of Oklahoma.