I had a very enjoyable time this past Friday and Saturday at Churchnet's annual meeting, hosted by the First Baptist Church of Farmington, MO. As you used to say in south Texas, Farmington is a "fer piece" from Lee's Summit where I live. For those who don't speak "Texanese," that translates as a long distance. It's right at 300 miles one way and there's no direct route from northwest to southeast Missouri. I took I-70 across, skirting St. Louis to the southwest and then heading down to my final destination.
We kicked off the meeting as we have in recent years with our annual missions banquet. The food was delicious and the program featured a verbal report and pictures from Andrij Pismenyuk, a Ukrainian church planter whom we help to financially support. Next we heard from Ned Walsh about an upcoming opportunity in October to visit Cuba for a gathering of the four Baptist conventions on the island and to visit places where Missouri Baptists labored when Cuba was still under the work of the Home Mission Board prior to the revolution. David and Susan Holman, both pharmacists and members of FBC Farmington, shared about their participation last summer with a medical missions team from our church to Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. Finally, I shared an update about our ongoing partnership with Guatemalan Baptists and the leadership training events that we host there twice each year in January and July. A major component of the banquet each year is a missions offering that helps underwrite the expenses of the training events in Guatemala as well as facilitating other missions endeavors like the support for the Ukrainian church planter. Almost $7000 was pledged or given at the meeting and we'll be contacting others on our mailing list to give them an opportunity to participate in this offering.
The worship experiences on Friday evening and Saturday morning were a wonderful mixture of musical styles with everything from a traditional robed choir to a contemporary praise band, an African American quartet from a St. Louis church, a Hispanic praise band composed of members from churches in California and Jeff City, and a trio of Filipino young ladies. Jerry Cain did an outstanding job as always with his Bible study focus and a highlight was being able to hear Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, author of Strangers at My Door: A True Story of Finding Jesus in Unexpected Guests. Jonathan ministers at the Rutba House in North Carolina, a community of believers sharing life together. He told the story of the origin of the name Rutba--the name for a village in Iraq where he and team members received shelter and medical assistance from a local Iraqi after a team member had suffered injuries when the car in which he was riding overturned after hitting a crater in the road which had been caused by a bomb blast.
We had the opportunity as well to attend some outstanding breakout sessions dealing with a wide diversity of topics. We also heard from leaders of the many Baptist agencies that Churchnet partners with in Missouri including The Baptist Home, The Baptist Foundation, Word & Way, The Children's Home, Windermere, and the various Baptist universities. It was great to see many friends from across the state and to make some new ones as well.