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Wyoming celebrates milestones in annual meeting

CASPER, Wyo. (BP)–Celebrations punctuated the recent 18th annual meeting of the Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention, which took place at First Southern Baptist Church here with up to 200 participants.

Among the celebrations were the:

— 50th anniversary of the start of Southern Baptist work in the state;

— Symbolic burning of the mortgage note of the Wyoming Baptist Center;

— Twenty years’ service of founding executive director/treasurer John Thomason, who officially retires at the end of the year; and

— Publication of Visions and Dreams; Stories of Wyoming Southern Baptists, the official 50-year history of Southern Baptist work in Wyoming, written by longtime Wyoming missionary and author Lottie Crim and available through the state convention.

About 150 people participated in the mid-November annual meeting and related events; about 200 attended the Thomasons’ retirement banquet. Morris Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee, was a keynote speaker. Phil Roberts, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, brought four Bible studies that previewed the denominational Winter Bible Study on Genesis 1-11.

Roy Black, pastor of Monroe Avenue Baptist Church in Green River, brought the annual sermon. David Schroeder, pastor of North Cheyenne Baptist Church in Cheyenne, brought the president’s address.

Messengers passed a $1,260,648 budget, up $43,019 from the previous year’s budget. Cooperative Program giving was increased by one-half percent, to 32 percent of undesignated gifts. Wyoming Southern Baptists have increased CP Missions giving every year by at least one-half percent — some years it’s been one percent — from its base of 20 percent in 1984.

David Wells, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Riverton and standing first vice president, was elected by acclamation as president of the Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention.

Lester Fatheree, pastor of First Baptist Church in Kemmerer, was elected by acclamation as first vice president. Gerald Crites, pastor of Grand Avenue Baptist Church in Laramie, was elected by acclamation as second vice president.

Mary Anne Hart, member at Antelope Valley Baptist Church in Gillette, was elected by acclamation as recording secretary. Pam Creason, pastor’s wife of First Southern Baptist Church in Moorcroft, was elected by acclamation as assistant recording secretary.

Wyoming Southern Baptists passed the one resolution presented to them: a resolution of appreciation to John Thomason on his retirement.

“I never dreamed of being a state convention executive director,” Thomason said in his final report. “My heart is filled with joy when I remember all the people and the churches with whom God has given me the opportunity to serve.”

The annual meeting of the Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention took place at First Southern Baptist Church in Casper. First Southern in 1951 was the first SBC congregation in Wyoming, Montana or the Dakotas. A family tree painted in the front foyer of the church shows more than 300 daughter, grand- and great-grand-daughter churches, 100 of which are in Wyoming.

The 50th anniversary celebration replete with memorabilia such as mugs and bookmarks included recognition of pastors and others who returned for the event, and a memorial remembrance of those who served in Wyoming and now live in Glory.

The symbolic note on the Wyoming Baptist Center was burned by the two men who chaired fund-raising campaign: David Schroeder, pastor of North Cheyenne Baptist Church in Cheyenne, and Jim Starr, lay member at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Rock Springs.

About 110 people surrounded the Wyoming Baptist Center during a noontime event Nov. 16. They encircled the 7,000 square-foot, two-story building and with clasped hands prayed. They thanked God for the building, for its debt-free status, and dedicated themselves anew to serving the Lord in reaching Wyoming for His honor and glory.

John and Eleanor Thomason were honored at a Nov. 16 evening banquet for their nearly 20 year’s service to Wyoming Southern Baptists — one of the longest tenures of any state executive in the SBC. He was called in July 1982 as founding executive director of the then-unformed state convention, which constituted in October 1983 and was launched in January 1984.

A video presentation of the Thomasons’ life and ministry, set to the music of Ray Boltz’ Thank You for Giving to the Lord brought the 200 guests to tears that alternated between sadness and joy.

The Thomasons endured the loss of a three-day-old daughter in 1961 and a 27 year-old son in 1989. In 1991 John Thomason was mauled by two pit bull dogs. A 20-minute life-threatening struggle ended when a passer-by intervened;
Thomason spent 11 days in the hospital.

John and Eleanor Thomason were sent out from their home church in Texas to start a new congregation. It grew in 13 months to 45 members, including 21 by baptism. They were sent out from their seminary church to start a new congregation. It grew to 300 and two buildings during their eight years there.

One week after graduating from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with two masters degrees — divinity and theology — the Thomasons were called to rebuild Trinity Baptist Church in Billings, Mont. It grew from 20 to 200 over the next eight years before they were called to the Northern Plains Baptist Convention in Rapid City, S.D. He served there for six years as director of the teaching and training division before being tapped by Wyoming Baptists.

A shotgun for John and shopping spree for Eleanor were among many gifts presented to them at their retirement banquet. Other gifts included an eagle sculpted by a Wyoming pastor, cross made of horse shoes, book of western art and poetry, 100-feather headdress and the Shoshoni name ‘Beeah Gweeah’ — High Eagle. There were also a world clock from the Wyoming WMU, king-size quilt made by a Riverton missions quilting group, book of letters from around the nation, and plaques of appreciation from the state convention, Annuity Board, and International Mission Board. SBC Executive Committee President Morris Chapman presented Thomason with a resolution of appreciation from the Southern Baptist Convention.

Thomason agreed to remain on a half-time basis as interim executive director/treasurer until his successor is named, and to help provide a smooth transition of leadership.

The 18th annual meeting of the Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention marked the conclusion of a seven-year partnership with the Missouri Baptist Convention that benefited both state conventions, leaders agreed in shared comments.

In its report to the messengers at the annual meeting, the WSBC Executive Board announced that Mike McKinney of Montana had been called in June as director of evangelism and missions. The Board also reported on the progress of a task force looking into the possibility of restructuring the state convention.

“We are excited about what God is doing in Wyoming,” said Chris Cooper, board chairman who was re-elected unanimously to a second term. He also serves as pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Big Piney. “The theme verse for this year’s state missions offering, Jeremiah 29:11, is certainly appropriate to close this report. ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.'”

Lynn Nikkel, director of religious education, reported that as of Sept. 30, 42 churches had reported a total attendance of 3,302 in vacation Bible school, with 163 professions of faith in Christ, 653 new prospects, and 159 people enrolled in Sunday School as a direct effect of VBS.

Centrifuge teen summer camp statistics: 178 registered, four professions of faith, four rededications, and five calls to career Christian ministry. About 250 people participated in the Glorieta Wyoming training event for Wyoming, Nikkel added.

Mike McKinney, new in June as evangelism and missions director, reported that 14 summer missionaries served in Wyoming in 2001. He also reported that Mountain Top Baptist Assembly near Casper registered 759 guests during the summer season; 45 made professions of faith in Christ.
“Old Faithful Baptist Association has led out in purchasing 32.8 additional acres for Mountain Top,” McKinney reported. “Plans are being made to expand the camp through a new chapel and other buildings. This has become a statewide effort … and the WSBC has strongly supported and partnered in the projected plans for our camp.”

In related meetings, the Wyoming Brotherhood met for a Nov. 20 Mexican breakfast and annual meeting at New Life Baptist Church in Casper. Allen Shelton, pastor of Jackson Hole Baptist Church in Jackson, unanimously was elected president.

The men’s mission group made plans for a statewide campout in August, and adopted Gordon and Shirley Lack of Wyoming as the group’s special international missionaries. The Lack couple, members at First Southern Baptist Church in Casper, are going to Paraguay as volunteers to support SBC missions work. Church construction needs and opportunities for service in the state also were discussed by the men.

Wyoming’s WMU annual meeting took place Nov. 15 at College Heights Baptist Church in Casper. Roena Stone of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Riverton unanimously was re-elected president.

Missionary speakers included an unnamed woman serving with the IMB in Africa who was subject this last year to terrorist attacks, Linda Pegram, IMB missionary who serves in the Philippines, and Andrea Mullins of WMU headquarters in Birmingham, Ala. New this year in Wyoming’s WMU: a ministers’ wives choir.

The 2002 annual meeting of the Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention is set for Nov. 14-15 at Aspen Grove Baptist Church in Evanston.