I do not usually thank God for the Cooperative Program when I pray over my meals, but there are some people who do.
The International Mission Board (IMB) is the hallmark of the Cooperative Program. In 2012, IMB field personnel shared the message of Jesus with 1.7 million people and started 6,200 churches. Today we have almost 4,000 international missionaries deployed throughout the world. The size and strength of our missionary force is compelling and possibly even unmatched. For years, I have been thankful to be a Southern Baptist in large measure because of the Cooperative Program. Over the past two years however, something changed for me as I experienced the grand vision and strategy of the Cooperative Program in a personal way.
My recent experience with the Cooperative Program reminded me of how John described his personal experience with Jesus when he wrote, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life — the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us — that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” 1 John 1:1-4
Similar to how John heard, saw, and touched Jesus — I recently have heard, seen and touched the Cooperative Program.
About two years ago, our student pastor, *Thomas Morgan, and his family of six answered God’s call to go to the ends of the earth. As they pursued their calling, the IMB partnered with our church to send the *Morgans to go on mission. They started intensive language training as soon as they hit the ground and began to acclimate to a new culture and way of life. Last summer, I along with two others from my church visited the *Morgans. We arrived at the airport, hugged the *Morgans, jumped into their car, rode to their home, ate in their kitchen, felt the cool air from their fans, and slept in one of their beds. As I laid down that night, it dawned on me that I had just hugged CP missionaries, rode in a CP car, ate in a CP kitchen, felt the cool air from CP fans, and was sleeping in a CP bed. The Cooperative Program was coming alive to me in a very personal way. I was filled with gratitude for the tens of thousands of Southern Baptist churches that give generously to the Cooperative Program as I saw how the *Morgans were sustained through CP giving. As the week went on, I was stunned to hear *Thomas speak in the local language so well after just six months of intensive language training! He successfully led us through the city, navigated the open air markets and ordered our meals. As I listened to him, I knew that I was hearing the CP with my ears.
Seeing, hearing and touching the Cooperative Program work through the *Morgans gave me a new and deeper appreciation for the CP. I’ve always believed in the big picture genius of the CP, but now I’ve experienced the critical nature of it for the personal, daily lives of our missionaries. To every person who has made a sacrificial gift, to every church that has increased CP giving, on behalf of my friends, I say thank you!
I do not usually thank God for the Cooperative Program when I pray over my meals, but *Thomas Morgan and his family do.
*(Names of missionaries were changed.)