A college student lives in a small fishing village on the shores of West Africa. Thanks to connections made by an American anthropologist living in a nearby city, the student has been adopted by the family of the village chief. He is the only Christian in this Muslim village. Through daily fishing trips in hand-carved canoes, numerous meals eaten by hand from a common bowl and countless rounds of sweet, hot tea, this young man is able to develop friendships leading to gospel presentations.
A man in his early 20s teaches English to a group of bankers in a large Central Asian city. His mind drifts between the lesson at-hand, a conversation about Jesus' divinity he had with a barber friend that afternoon and the basketball game with university students later that night. His heart is heavy because of the recent murders of some Christian brothers in a nearby city. The national believer with whom this young man shares an apartment was close to the men killed. The young man will lead worship through a flood of tears this weekend.
Sitting alone in his bedroom, a man in his mid-20s cries quietly to himself. Only a few short months before, he packed everything he owned into his little car and drove half way across the country to attend seminary, unsure of how he would pay for it. Today, he paid his tuition for the semester, a mere $67 for 12-hours of graduate level courses.
Each scene is from my life. Each was possible because of the generosity of Southern Baptists giving through the Cooperative Program.
I don't come from a Christian home, but by God's grace, I was saved as a senior in high school. In college, I sensed God's call to go to the nations. As a summer missionary in West Africa and, a few years later, a Journeyman with the International Mission Baord for two years in Central Asia, I was able to share Christ with men and women who had never heard the Good News. Coming back to the States, I arrived at Southern Seminary with little money, but big dreams of returning overseas.
Through the combined efforts of Southern Baptists across the country faithfully giving to the Cooperative Program (CP) I have been able to live out God's call on my life and to afford a full load of classes at seminary, allowing me to receive training and, hopefully, return to the Muslim world more quickly.
My experiences illustrate the CP's effectiveness for training and mobilizing men and women for missions. My heart's desire is to see more people receive the best training possible and then go to the far reaches of the world with the Gospel.
In a recent interview with SBC Life, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary student Aaron Earls was asked how strongly he supported the Cooperative Program of Southern Baptists. He replied,
"A better question for me is how strongly has the Cooperative Program supported me. I graduated from and worked at a South Carolina Baptist university. I was sent out as a North American Mission Board summer missionary twice. I worked for almost a decade at that same SCBC university. I currently attend, at a significant discount, a Southern Baptist Convention seminary. I have served with and am friends with several International Mission Board missionaries. I have seen the value in the Cooperative Program and believe it to be one of the most ingenious ideas developed by Southern Baptists."