Editor’s note: October is Cooperative Program Emphasis Month in the Southern Baptist Convention.
I tried to think about the very first time I benefitted from gifts to the Cooperative Program. The best I can calculate, it’s been 16,514 days. I attended my first WMU missions camp sponsored by my Baptist state convention more than 45 years ago. A year later, I applied to be a counselor in training on the WMU missions camp staff.
I would spend my summers at WMU camps for the next decade as I finished high school as well as college and seminary. The experiences changed the trajectory of my life. While national WMU does not receive a CP allocation, many state WMUs benefit from money given through the Cooperative Program. CP money given through Illinois Baptist State Association helped provide funds for the camp itself as well as programming.
So, what are some things I learned through WMU camp and missions discipleship?
- Stewardship: I learned to acknowledge everything comes from God, and I have a responsibility to steward well that which is entrusted to my care.
- Gospel Proclamation: I learned how to share my faith.
- Christian Worldview: I became aware of God’s work around the globe.
- Compassion: I was introduced to Scripture to help me understand the compassion of God. We did hands-on ministry to nurture the spiritual discipline of compassion in our lives.
- Prayer: I was taught what prayer is and how to pray according to God’s will. I learned how to pray for missionaries.
- Heart for the Nations: I discovered I was part of something larger than my tiny church in Southern Illinois.
- Leadership: As a student and young adult, WMU leaders gave me responsibility. When I failed, they encouraged me to try again.
- Ready Response: I was able to hear and respond to God’s call on my life. I was taught to set my heart toward (as one WMU leader called it) “predetermined obedience.”
- Passion for Missions: I developed a lifelong passion to develop spiritually toward a missions lifestyle.
That was just the beginning of my journey with the Cooperative Program. Youth evangelism events inspired and equipped me. I was blessed with opportunities to rub shoulders with IMB and NAMB missionaries. Baptist Collegiate Ministry immersed me in biblical discipleship, evangelism and ministry. The generosity of Southern Baptist gifts helped me attend and graduate seminary. This only represents life through my 20s. You see why I have 16,514 reasons to be grateful?