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‘Million More in 54’ campaign has ongoing impact on family

CAMERON, Mo. (BP)–On Jan. 6, 1954, Bill Davis was a lost 28-year-old oil field welder, living in California with his wife and three young daughters, when a pastor by the name of LeRoy Hux came knocking on his door as part of the Southern Baptist Convention’s “Million More in ’54” campaign.

“This little Baptist preacher came and knocked on my door and wanted to talk to me about Christ,” Davis recounted in a telephone interview. “I wasn’t really interested. But he was persistent and [later] my wife and I gave our life to the Lord and immediately God called me to preach.”

Davis said he came under conviction that day, admitted he was a sinner and asked God to forgive him of his sins — an answer to his godly mother’s prayers.

Hux knocked on the Davis’ door while participating in the SBC-wide campaign that sought to see a million more people enrolled in Sunday School in one year’s time.

That simple effort, that simple knock, those simple questions asking about Davis’ spiritual condition changed the lives and direction of an entire family, Davis’ grandson Jay Raines, pastor of First Baptist Church in Cameron, Mo., recounted.

“I didn’t know a lot about it until a few years ago,” said Raines, a third-generation Southern Baptist pastor. “My parents had talked about it and how it changed the history in our family. It was a turning moment for all of us.”

Davis, now 80, went on to pastor for 37 years before retiring and then founded Church Starts International. He said his family now numbers 33 people — including three grandchildren and one son-in-law who have since graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas.

Because it made such an important impact in his family’s lives, Raines is attempting to collect stories of others who were saved as a result of the Million More campaign.

He’s created a website to coordinate e-mails and enable others to post their stories at www.millionmorein54.com.

Raines said he hopes as others share their stories, it will inspire more people to get involved in campaigns like this year’s “Everyone Can” baptism emphasis led by SBC President Bobby Welch toward 1 million baptisms by SBC churches in a year.

“I am hoping that hearing the stories of what happened last time might drive us forward to realize we should do this again and we should get behind it,” Raines said. “It helps me to realize that these kinds of emphases have a tremendous effect we don’t even realize at the time.”

Even though the Million More campaign did not reach its goal of 1 million — the net increase was 597,361 — Raines said one person’s life change is worth it all.

“One baptism is a success,” he said. “To have that energy and unity and push helps take you that further step to knock on that one more door.”

Just like LeRoy Hux did on Raines’ grandfather’s door in 1954.

Davis realizes the importance the Million More campaign played in his salvation, call to ministry and family life.

“We credit the Million More in ’54 campaign as playing a great role in our lives,” he said. “I see a world of Bill Davis-type families, as we were 50 years ago, without God and without hope of eternal security, no direction for the children.”

That simple act of obedience by Hux, spurred on by the convention campaign, has resulted in a multiplication effect, Davis continued, noting: “When we came to know God, we just wanted to spend the rest of our lives telling others what God has done in our lives.”

Writing on his Million More website, Raines demonstrates the impact of what transpired that day in January in his grandfather’s house and life: “One of the daughters that watched this happen and saw the changes in her parents is my mother. I can’t imagine what would have happened in my life if the dream had died before it reached my grandparents’ doorstep.”

Raines, who has researched how the campaign was created and even found songs that were produced for it, encourages others to use campaigns like Million More and Everyone Can to be obedient in sharing the Gospel with a lost world.

“It’s really not about the numbers. It’s about the people,” Raines wrote. “I will forever be grateful to that church and that pastor for his courage to see if he could reach ‘one more door in ’54.’”

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  • Cory Miller