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God wanted more than ‘being a routine church member’

WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. (BP)–How has Applewood Baptist Church in Wheat Ridge, Colo., maintained its steadfastness in missions over the past three decades? The answer: laypeople.

Robert and Peggy Oxford are prime examples.

“For the last 30 to 35 years, one couple has maintained the emphasis on missions -– Bob and Peggy Oxford,” said Tom Elliff, former Applewood pastor and now International Mission Board senior vice president for spiritual nurture and church relations. “To me, they so exemplify what we would hope every believer in our church would be: active, giving, going. They are about Kingdom growth.”

The Oxfords became members of Applewood in 1971, and two years later accompanied the church on its first partnership evangelism trip to Korea. Since then, the couple has never missed a year in taking a missions trip.

After their first mission trip, they went back to Korea for 13 consecutive years. Since then, they have been on more than 50 trips to at least 11 different countries to share their faith in Jesus Christ and reach the lost.

“I believed God wanted more out of me than just being a routine church member,” Robert Oxford said. “I liked other cultures. I just had a desire to see the world.”

Lyle Thomas, an Applewood member since 1980, said the Oxfords “are part of the reason this church is so missions-minded. They go on three or four trips a year. [Robert’s] really got a heart for God and he’s a tremendous leader.”

When people initially questioned the Oxfords about going overseas with so many unmet needs in America, Peggy Oxford replied, “People who go, do more here.”

The Oxfords are no exception. While participating on missions trips, Oxford was on the Southern Baptist Convention’s former Stewardship Commission for eight years. He served as an International Mission Board trustee from 1989-97, as well as serving on the SBC’s Committee on Committees. He also was on the Family Life Council, which started Kingdom Family Ministries. Peggy Oxford, meanwhile, has served on the SBC Committee on Nominations.

Oxford is Applewood’s director of missions –- an unpaid position – as well as a deacon and trustee. As missions director, he helps organize trips and train individuals as well as other churches for missions trips. The Oxfords also teach an adult Sunday School class and sing in the choir, and Peggy Oxford has been on the church’s missions committee.

In addition to those positions, the Oxfords have devoted time and energy to helping missionaries with transportation in America. In the early 1970s, they help put together a missionary transportation service which, at one point, had three airplanes and 20-30 cars available for missionaries. They also own a condominium they loan to missionaries for vacations.

Robert and Peggy met in eighth grade and went to Louisiana State University where they stayed active in the Baptist Student Union doing local missions projects. Oxford chose petroleum engineering as a profession to allow for missions opportunities.

“I took engineering to get a job overseas,” he said. “We were going to Venezuela.” After completing three years of Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, opportunities for working in Venezuela closed. They were sent to Wyoming where they worked in a small pioneer church before moving to Colorado and joining Applewood.

Although not able to live overseas themselves, the Oxfords never let their passion for missions die. They used his engineering profession as a starting point for missions.

“We feel like the Lord has provided extra money so we could go,” Oxford said. His wife added, “Anyone who wants to go can go.”

They have taken their grandchildren on several missions trips to Kenya and Belarus. While their oldest grandson was on a trip to Kenya, his calling to ministry was solidified.

“Why would you say not everyone can go?” Oxford said. “[Jesus] gave us the Great Commission, and we try to get everyone involved.”

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  • Michelle Pierce