SBC Life Articles

Farm Dirt Produces Soul Harvest

The age-yellowed deed reads Section nine hundred thirty-two (932) in block forty-three (43), abstract no. 1286, certificate No. 47/6447 in Ochiltree County, State of Texas, containing 651 acres more or less. It was just a piece of land, but in 1944, it became more than farm dirt.

It became a fertile field for world missions because the title was in the farm-calloused hands of a generous and mission-minded Oklahoma Baptist deacon.

After the death of his wife, R.A. Lemen of Enid, Oklahoma, gave this property in trust to The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma as an endowment gift for missionary salaries in the Orient. When it sold for $32,312.10, Lemen added $87.90 to make it an even $32,400.

How could $32,400 be much of a force for missions? What has the gift accomplished over these fifty-three years?

In 1946, the gift was transferred to a newly formed trust agency of the Convention, The Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma. It was the very first in the Foundation's 50-year history of managing gifts for over a hundred Baptist causes.

Lemen felt comfortable with the establishment of this trust agency and its ability to manage the trust. He wrote to Foundation executive secretary Auguie Henry, "Now Auguie, I believe the Baptist Denomination in the State of Oklahoma is such an organization that will always have property as sound and substantial as any financial investment in the State of Oklahoma. If I did not think so I would be most careful of the investment."

His trust in the Foundation proved to be well-founded. The original $32,400 has earned $225,130, which the Foundation has distributed to missions through the Foreign Mission Board. During the same time, the original gift has grown to $149,456.03, preserving its historic value.

In the past five years alone, more has been distributed to missions than the total of the original gift.

The first distribution made to missions in 1944 was $810. The latest distribution in January of 1997 was approximately $6,500. And the gift will keep on giving from now until the Lord comes again.

Lemen died in 1958 at age 79, but his influence continues. Because he gave that farm dirt in Texas, he can claim a stake in the harvest of those in the Orient whom Southern Baptist missionaries led to Christ.

From Pillars, Fall 1996, p. 1.

Foundation Head Remarks

"Baptist Foundations assist individuals in making a lasting contribution to their church and other Baptist causes through effective estate planning.

"The Foundations provide staffs which are trained and ready to assist in creating the appropriate plan to carry out an individual's wishes after death, under the guiding principles of providing for family, prudently in-vesting assets to meet investment goals, and claiming the maximum tax advantages available. Through a will and/or trust, individuals can continue their contributions beyond their lifetime and give a Christian testimony until Christ returns by practicing the stewardship lessons He taught."

Hollis Johnson, President
Southern Baptist Foundation

    About the Author

  • Lyle Garlow