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CP helps small Idaho church reap global harvest

COTTONWOOD, Idaho (BP) — Emmanuel Baptist Church seeks to scatter its seeds as lavishly as does the cottonwood tree that is the namesake of the church’s hometown of about 1,000 residents.

With an average Sunday attendance of 50 people, Emmanuel reaps an international harvest by giving 11 percent of its undesignated through the Cooperative Program, the Southern Baptist Convention’s giving channel for missions and ministry.

Longtime pastor Dan Coburn said the success of the Cooperative Program is indicative of the Lord at work.

“Giving to the Cooperative Program is part of Kingdom work,” Coburn told Baptist Press. “We’re trusting in the good, God-led people [who handle CP dollars]. We pray that God would … use it for the furtherance of His Kingdom to His glory and the benefit of those who might be saved.”

Emmanuel Baptist increased its CP giving two years ago in response to the 1 percent challenge issued by SBC Executive Committee President and CEO Frank S. Page.

Emmanuel Baptist supports an International Mission Board couple in southern Mexico, a North American Mission Board Mission Service Corps “carpenter for Christ” worker, two area crisis pregnancy centers and a state Awana missionary.

The church’s outreaches include a prison ministry at the North Idaho Correctional Institution and missions conducted through the Whispering Pines Association in such Idaho communities as Stites, Grangeville and Kamiah. Missions videos and occasional speakers from local churches’ global missions work motivate interest in supporting missions, the pastor said.

“God did not save us to go to heaven, but to be His missionaries,” Coburn told BP. “He commissioned us no less than if we would be going into the military.”

Coburn said his bivocational status as an on-call heavy equipment operator frees some of Emmanuel Baptist’s financial resources for robust participation in missions. Even before Emmanuel Baptist members started visiting the North Idaho Correctional Institution five years ago, members were buying Angel Tree gifts for children of inmates at the 400-bed minimum-security prison.

Today, Emmanuel Baptist leads a mid-week Bible study for up to 30 inmates at the prison, answering questions and allotting up to two hours to each session. The church has also been able to share the Gospel with inmates’ families, Coburn added.

“It’s the most heartfelt, sobering, talk-about-Jesus time you can imagine,” Coburn said. “It’s just wonderful.”

In cooperation with Grangeville Church of the Nazarene, Emmanuel Baptist has baptized more than 200 inmates at the prison in the past two years, Coburn said.

When fellow Whispering Pines Association member Stites Baptist Church dwindled to four people, Emmanuel Baptist provided pulpit supply to help Stites Baptist regain its vigor. Eventually, Stites Baptist called as its pastor Bill Hill, one of Emmanuel’s preachers. In turn, Stites Baptist became a food bank distribution site, ministering to and feeding more than 200 families each month.

About a dozen Emmanuel Baptist members travel the third Thursday of each month to Stites, where they distribute food and foster friendships.

Once a month for the last five years, children at Emmanuel Baptist have led what is called a “noisy offering.” The youth pass pots and pans through the congregation to collect coins for pregnancy centers in Grangeville, 20 minutes south, and in Kamiah, 40 minutes northeast.

“This is a kids’ ministry, but is to the tune of about $40 a month,” Coburn said.

Emmanuel’s youth have adopted a child from a third-world country, and were instrumental in sending $2,240 to the Romania-based Yellow Shirts Association youth ministry in its outreach to Puerto Rico. Founded in 2010 in Baia Mare, Romania, the Yellow Shirts Association helps youth thrive as active members of society, according to its website.

Coburn, known for his vocal ability, is routinely asked to sing at community functions such as the county fair.

“The community is not going to take you seriously unless you show them you’re part of the community,” said Coburn, a pastor there for 14 years. “I’ve done a lot of funerals and weddings. If God calls you to a place, you pastor the community as well. They might never darken the door of the church but will call you when they have troubles.”

The church that started in 1988 not only reaches out to Cottonwood, but also the thousand or more rural residents of far-western Idaho County.

Every Sunday in October, the church visits the nearest nursing home in Grangeville. Midweek Awana for youngsters and Bible study for adults are part of the church’s ongoing programming.

“Any good done here,” Coburn said, “is at the hand of Jesus and His people.”