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From the front door to ends of the earth

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (BP)—Southern Hills Baptist Church believes missions begins at its front door.

Members are involved in local missions, including a Bible study for men and women who are either going into prison, coming out of prison or awaiting sentencing; an outdoor ministry for disabled children, teaching them such things as archery and fishing and exposing them to the Gospel; and prison ministry.

“We want our people to understand that missions begins at our front door and goes around the world,” said Oklahoma native and pastor Doug Melton.

Presently, the Oklahoma City church has a team of five college students in Cambodia helping with an orphanage project.

“We’re partnering with a Vietnamese couple in Broken Arrow, helping them establish an orphanage, which has become the hub of church planting in that area,” said James Biesiadecki, Southern Hills’ missions and evangelism minister and a former Southern Baptist missionary. A second team, this time working in medical missions, will travel to Cambodia in July.

Also this summer, the church has a group of 12 men going to Salt Lake City in partnership with the Utah-Idaho convention to help tear out and install windows in a church’s worship center.

Members also will be working in Matamoros, Mexico, in October, constructing a church building in an area just south of the border where little villages are popping up, Biesiadecki said. They also will be helping with Vacation Bible School in that area.

Regardless of the cost of the mission trip, Southern Hills has a policy that members pay only $500 of the price, and the remainder is provided by the church.

Melton said Southern Hills has retired missionaries in its membership and a regional leader for the International Mission Board also is a member.

“Even before I came, we had a married couple with the IMB,” Melton said. “We have two other couples and three single individuals with the IMB, as well as a family of four with NAMB [North American Mission Board].

“Our people understand the importance of the Cooperative Program, the special offerings for missions and going or sending others to the mission field, whether it be local, North American or international. That’s why the Cooperative Program will always be at the forefront of what we do,” he said.

In fact, Melton and Southern Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City are a perfect fit. Both “grew up” with the CP at the forefront.

Melton recalled, even as a small child, sitting in business meetings with his parents at First Baptist Church in Seminole, Okla., when the Cooperative Program was discussed and the importance of it was emphasized.

“I remember hearing things like, ‘How long has it been since we’ve raised CP?’ or ‘We’re not going to cut CP,'” he said. “I was taught to make sure the Cooperative Program was protected, that cuts, if necessary, were made somewhere else.”

That conviction was reinforced by the missionaries who came through the church and his understanding that the way they were funded was through the Cooperative Program.

“I also remember being taught that our missionaries never have to ask for money, because the funds we give through our church goes to support them,” Melton said. “I’ve always been a big fan of the Cooperative Program. God was the one who laid it on the hearts of folks a long time ago. It is a plan devised by Him.”

In 2000, Melton became Southern Hills’ fifth pastor, moving from Oklahoma Baptist University where he served as dean of students.

Melton said he recently preached about the Cooperative Program and noted that when the church was constituted in 1964, one of the first items of business was how much to give to the Cooperative Program.

“That has always been at the heart of our church,” Melton observed. “It was expressed through the first offering taken at the new church.”

The pastors preceding him were champions of the Cooperative Program, Melton said.

During Jerry Fielder’s pastorate (1979-99), Southern Hills paid $1.2 million for an adjacent shopping center to use as educational space and constructed a new $3.75 million auditorium — all without cutting the percentage going to the Cooperative Program.

“None of our building or expansion projects ever interfered with our missions giving or the portion of our budget designated for missions,” Fielder said. “I’ve always had a strong personal commitment to missions and missions giving. Consequently, at Southern Hills, we did not reduce our mission expenditures to accommodate our local needs.”

CP giving during Fielder’s tenure increased every year, except 1991, when it fell slightly.

Southern Hills currently gives 12 percent through the Cooperative Program, up from 11.5 percent in 2006, and led the state three consecutive years (2004-06) in total giving. In 2008, the church gave $456,224.41 to the Cooperative Program, topped only by Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, which is the first church in Oklahoma to give a half million dollars through CP in a year.

On top of that, Southern Hills missions giving included $194,133.58 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, $113,191.47 to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions and $18,841.15 to the Edna McMillan Offering for Oklahoma state missions.
Dana Williamson is assistant editor of the Baptist Messenger, newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

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