VERNAL, Utah (BP)–Members of First Baptist Church in Vernal, Utah, know the joy of giving.
First Vernal has increased its Cooperative Program giving by a half-percent of its budget each of the last six years, which put them at fourth in support of CP Missions for the Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention during the 2000 calendar year.
They give 5 percent of undesignated receipts to their local Baptist association, according to reports kept by their director of missions, John McClung.
But giving is only part of what they do.
“It is true that this church has a gift for giving in a financial way,” said Ron Sathe, First Baptist’s pastor the past six years. “This giving is not out of a sense of legalism — giving God the tithe due him — but I experience it as coming out of a heart of love for the Lord.
“Beyond the financial aspect,” Sathe noted, “we have a jail ministry, clothing giveaway, mothers day out, food closet for the needy, missions groups for children, world walk for world hunger, deliver meals to those who are sick, and our senior ladies help the homebound, plus other kinds of helps that are normally done within the church community.
“Could we do more? Certainly,” the pastor reflected. “We must not get to thinking we are doing all that is needed. Most of our members have fulltime jobs so their time is also limited.”
People in the association and in the regional convention have noted the church’s generous spirit.
“They’ve been an exceptional church and I don’t think any of us can explain the why of it,” McClung said. “[Sathe] doesn’t take any credit for it. They’ve just always been a good giving church.”
First Baptist Church, Vernal, was started in 1948 by Texas and Oklahoma oilfield workers who came to work in Utah’s high desert area near Colorado. And as they worked, they planted churches.
“It’s not like I’ve had to twist arms,” Sathe said. “It’s just the nature of the people here. They’re very good at giving.”
He does, however, admit — with the church’s stewardship committee — to being the driving force behind the half-percent increase of budget each year for the Cooperative Program, though the church had given 10 percent of its undesignated receipts since it was organized. With the increases, First Baptist has become one of the strongest CP givers in the regional convention — $19,964 in 2000 — that is notable because Vernal is a small town in an area of about 12,000 people. About 130 people attend Sunday services.
“I was saved in a little mission church in Yankton, S.D., when I was 37, and it really made an impact on me that Southern Baptists would care enough to go into small areas like that and establish churches,” said Sathe, a native of Virginia. “I think without mission money Yankton Baptist would have ceased to exist.
“Getting saved when I did showed me the importance of mission work,” the pastor continued. “I realize what the Cooperative Program really does for areas that aren’t self-sufficient.”
Not long after he was saved, Sathe felt called to fulltime ministry. His first pastorate after graduating from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina was a small native congregation in Saskatchewan. His three years there solidified Sathe’s commitment to the Cooperative Program.
“Really, the Cooperative Program is churches working together not only financially but spiritually, with helping hands in the areas of prayer and hands-on assistance,” Sathe said.
In addition to its CP Missions support, the church gives an additional $350 a month to support an evangelistic outreach in southern Utah led by Don and Minnie Giddens in Gideon Baptist Association along the Arizona border. This year they increased it from the $200 a month they gave for the two previous years. And First Vernal gives more than money. Two dozen people from the church went on a Vacation Bible School/revival mission trip last summer to assist in the work Giddens is doing as pastor at First Baptist Church, Blanding, Utah, and as associational catalytic missionary at four other locations. The Giddenses in a grueling six-day, thousand-mile week lead about 100 people in Bible study and worship.
“We’re aware they’re doing a lot of good work down there, reaching out to areas that don’t have a witness, and we felt it important for us to assist them further,” Sathe said. “The mission trip helped our people see firsthand the larger picture of God’s work and a better appreciation of God’s blessings in their own personal life. All in all it has enlarged their vision of God at work.”
Members Les and Zeny Inabnit, who own a used car business in Vernal, reflect the giving spirit at First Baptist, Vernal.
“I love the Lord, and in order for me to spread the Word of God you have to give,” said Zeny, a native of the Philippines. “When you give, not only are you able to help spiritually other people who are in need of the Lord, but also the Lord will bless you. You do it from your own heart and the blessings just come naturally.”
Another First Baptist member, Dennis Higginson, agreed.
“God makes us a promise in Malachi 3:10 that if we put him to the test, he will open the windows of heaven. My wife and I know from personal experience that’s a fact,” said Higginson, who has lived with multiple sclerosis since he was 20, which was 24 years ago. “Jesus wants to be the Lord of our life and in order for him to be the Lord of our lives, he needs to be the Lord of everything that has anything to do with us. If Jesus isn’t the Lord of your money, he isn’t Lord of your life.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: YOUTH ON MISSION; MISSIONS, NATURALLY and CRAFTING HEARTS FOR GOD.