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Connect: A season of prayer for the SBC Page 3

People in focus: Garry McNeill

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GoStudents Go with the Gospel

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SEPTEMBER 2023 • VOL. 112 | NO. 9


>> Brian Hobbs | Editor bhobbs@oklahomabaptists.org

>> Chris Doyle | Managing Editor cdoyle@oklahomabaptists.org

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>> Bob Nigh | Contributing Writer bnigh@oklahomabaptists.org

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3 | Connect: A season of prayer for the SBC by Todd Fisher Imitate their faith by Brian Hobbs 5 | Upcoming Events 6 | Rite of Passage: The journey begins by Walker Moore 8 | A Living Testimony: Abortion survivor Josiah Presley shares compelling story to focus on being ‘Satisfied’ by Brad Graves 11 | Just Joe: Humorous traffic signs by Joe Ligon 12 | Crossword & Wordsearch 13 | Church News 14 | People in Focus: Garry McNeill by Chris Doyle 15 | GOSTUDENTS ‘Go’ with the Gospel Sharing the Gospel impact GOSTUDENTS has made in the past 21 years. SEPTEMBER 2023 • VOL. 112 | NO. 9 INSIDE THIS ISSUE
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Connect: A season of prayer for the SBC

I am grateful that I get to have frequent conversations with pastors and that I get to hear from them the joys and struggles of ministry. I love hearing about the great things God is doing in their churches and families and attempt to encourage and provide counsel when things are discouraging.

One thing that is becoming a bit more frequent in these conversations with pastors is listening to their frustrations with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) at the national level. Over the last few years, there has been a string of news and developments related to national entities and leaders in the SBC which have torn at the fabric of trust some of our pastors and churches have with the convention. Many are concerned that the SBC is too “top heavy,” forgetting the importance of the local church. In light of this, I want to encourage each of us to enter a season of prayer for the SBC and those who serve at every level, calling on the Lord’s help and direction.

I also pray that Oklahoma Baptists churches and pastors will be encouraged with these two thoughts. First, the most important organization in the SBC is the local church. Not the state or national convention, not the entities, not the universities or seminaries. The local church. Period. The pastor of the local church is a far more important role than a president of an entity or executive director of a state convention. As a friend

of mine recently noted, it’s unfortunate when people turn their attention to what national or “celebrity” leaders have to say about an issue rather than their own pastor. The SBC is a grassroots, bottom-up organization that should be all about the local church, not what happens at state/national levels. We must not forget this. It is unfortunate that the spotlight often rests on negative things at “the top” of the SBC, rather than the wonderful things God is doing in our churches.

Secondly, we have national/state conventions in order for our churches to cooperatively give and partner together for missions and the advance of the Gospel. Our churches are autonomous, but we believe we can do more and reach more with the gospel together than we can apart. The churches should be able to trust the convention to faithfully carry out this mission. Though far from perfect and learning all the time how better to serve our churches and pastors and carry out our ministries, I never want Oklahoma Baptists to be embarrassed by or have reason not to trust in their state convention.

Our team will work tirelessly to continue to keep your trust by doing our best to operate with integrity, availability, and transparency, being faithful to the Word of God, focused on the Great Commission, valuing the importance of every church of every size in every location, and be trustworthy, efficient stewards of Cooperative Program funds. The state convention was created by churches, to see the work of the kingdom done through churches, and to be a resource for churches. The world is in such desperate need of Jesus and His Gospel. May we all work and be on mission together!

Serving Jesus With You,

September 2023 | The Baptist Messenger | wwwbaptistmessenger.com 3

Sword & Trowel Imitate their faith

Who are the most influential mentors in your life? For me, three of the most influential men in my life are Walker Moore, my father-in-law John Bond and my father Terry Hobbs.

Each of these godly men have made an indelible mark on my life, propelling me to be a better man and a better follower of Jesus. I am saddened to share that each of these men recently passed away.

As Baptist Messenger readers know, Walker unexpectedly passed away in June. My father-in-law John unexpectedly passed in July. Finally, my beloved father Terry passed away in August, after a courageous battle with cancer.

I could write pages about each of these great men, paying the highest tribute to them and to the Lord they served. I could share extensively about all they taught me, and about God’s work through their lives.

Yet each of these men would tell you, they are only sinners saved by God’s grace and that anything good we saw in them was Jesus. At the same time, I am thankful that these three—Walker, John and my dad—fought the good fight, kept the faith and finished the race well (2 Tim. 4:7-8).

With each of their passings came an increasing sadness and challenge in my life; and, of course, in the lives of all of those who individually knew and loved them.

But the Bible says, while we grieve, we do so with hope. Perhaps you also are in a season of loss or grief. I know many who are in a time of suffering, disappointment or loss. Amid such times of challenge, it is easy to grow weary.

As my father battled his illness, someone asked him, “Terry, how are you today?” He simply replied, “Weary but worshipping.”

What a powerful statement about the Lord’s work in our lives. When sickness, sadness and challenge come, we can (and should) still worship the Lord.

My father also told me that as his hands and whole body grew weaker, Jesus’ strong, but gentle hands were holding his. Dad’s message to anyone he met amid his cancer journey was this: “Jesus loves you.”

This powerful image of Jesus’ hands holding us reminds me of another person in the Bible who encountered Jesus. After he went to the cross and died, Jesus gloriously rose from the dead and appeared to His disciples. Yet one disciple, Thomas, was not there during the appearance of Jesus, and Thomas refused to believe Christ was risen.

“Suddenly, Jesus appeared to Thomas and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ Then He said to him, ‘Put your finger here; see My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Stop doubting and believe’” (John 20:26-27).

Today, Jesus is holding out His hands to each one of us. He’s there for you, to give you faith to trust Him and strength to worship Him.

So today, if you are tired, saddened or worn—or wherever life finds you—I encourage you to call on Jesus and ask Him to help you worship God, even when you are weary. Just like Terry Hobbs, John Bond and Walker Moore did.

“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:7-8).

Walker Moore John Bond Terry Hobbs

Upcoming Events

SEPT. 19, 26; OCT. 3, 24

Women’s Ministry Training Baptist Building oklahomabaptists.org/ women

OCT. 2 & 3

Renewing the Church Summit Tulsa, Church Inside Out (Oct. 2)

OKC, Trinity (Oct. 3) oklahomabaptists.org/ sendnetwork

NOV. 13-14

Oklahoma Baptists 2023 Annual Meeting

Del City, First Southern oklahomabaptists.org/ annual-meeting

SEPT. 29-30

Ministry Wives Weekend at Moore, First

OCT. 5

Singing ChurchWomen-West at Enid, First

OCT. 11-13

Chaplain Manual – Operational Stress First Aid Training at Baptist Building

OCT. 12

Singing Churchmen at Bartlesville, First

OCT. 19

Singing ChurchWomen-East at Lexington, First



32: Todd Fisher’s testimony



33: Addressing LGTBQ issues with grace— special guest Ryan Smith oklahomabaptists.com/podcast

September 2023 | The Baptist Messenger | www.baptistmessenger.com 5
FOR MORE INFO ON OKLAHOMA BAPTISTS’ EVENTS VISIT OKLAHOMABAPTISTS.ORG/EVENTS 31: Pastors Building an Evangelistic Culture with Tarvoris Uzoigwe, Oklahoma Baptists evangelism & apologetics ministry partner Listen at www.oklahomabaptists.com/podcast or on...

Rite of Passage The journey begins

EDITOR’S NOTE: Longtime Baptist Messenger columnist Walker Moore passed away on June 26. The Messenger continues to honor Walker with publishing his columns from the archives. Ten years ago, Walker made an extraordinary achievement, carrying a large wooden cross to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. The following is Walker’s column from July 2013, a month before his trek.

Lots of people think I’m crazy for attempting this feat. You don’t know how many times along the way I’ve thought they were right. What would possess a man only months from his 62nd birthday to walk 42 miles in a 19,341-foot climb to the top of the highest mountain in Africa with a full-size cross on his shoulder?

The answer is simple. I’m trying to thank Jesus for allowing me 40 years of serving Him in ministry. How do you thank Jesus for such a fantastic journey? Simple. You carry a cross to the top of a mountain.

I haven’t taken this climb lightly. Many of you have written, called and even visited to tell me you’re concerned and planning to pray as I attempt this journey. I’m grateful and will need those prayers. But I’ve trained long and hard. In fact, preparation, prayers and thought have gone into every aspect of the trip, including the wood that makes up the cross.

That in itself is a story. Where should the wood come from? How should we turn it into a cross? I decided to cut the wood from the jungles of Panama where the Wounaan people live. Twelve feet high and six feet wide, the cross has been signed in many languages by village chiefs.

I’ve trained for this journey physically, mentally and spiritually. I’ve lost weight, reducing my waist size by six inches. I’ve tripled the strength in my legs. The week before I left on the trip, I got up early every morning and climbed the highest point of Panama City, Ancon Hill, a 5.2-mile journey. I don’t think there is anything more I can do to get ready. It is time, as a friend of mine says, to quit petting the mule and load the wagon.

To be honest, I’m anxious. This climb is way out of my comfort zone. It seems like God is always calling me to do things I’m not comfortable with. He called me to preach when I was scared to speak in front of others. He called me to write when it’s the thing I least enjoy. And He has called me to climb a huge mountain when I know nothing about mountain climbing.

God knows if I ministered out of my strength, I’d get a big head and take all the credit. He’s a jealous God Who doesn’t want to share His glory. To protect me from that, He’s always called me to follow Him out of my weakness.

Isn’t that just like God? I want you to know ahead of time that if I make it, He gets all the glory and credit. And if I don’t? Nothing changes. He still gets all the glory.

Now, where’s that mule? Onward and upward!

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Admit you’re a sinner.

Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Sin has a consequence.


Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Christ paid our penalty.


Romans 5:8 “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!”

Confess, Believe, and Pray.


Romans 10:9,10 “If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.”

Call out to God through Prayer.


Romans 10:13 “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Today, if you have called out to God for salvation through Jesus Christ, know that there are Oklahoma Baptists churches in almost every community that will be glad to hear of your commitment to follow Christ and will help you follow Him on this new journey of life.

If you would like to speak with someone about following Jesus Christ and/or to request prayer, call the prayer line:

(888) 388-2683

Photo by Cristina Gottaardi

Josiah Presley was born in South Korea. The circumstances surrounding his birth are surprising and compelling.

Josiah was adopted by his parents—Randy and Kathy Presley, who are members of Norman, Trinity, where Randy serves on staff. Josiah grew up with 11 siblings—many of whom also were adopted—in a solid Christian home.

Yet when his adoptive parents sat him down as he turned 13, Josiah learned the shocking news that he was an abortion survivor.

He learned that his birth mother in South Korea was scheduled to have a surgical abortion at two months gestation, yet he miraculously survived a gruesome procedure. The curettage abortion, which was designed to take the life of the child by cutting him and removing the baby parts from the woman’s uterus, thankfully did not take his life.

“This information was difficult for me to take in,” he said. “But I was glad they told me. If I’m honest with you, I was not personally in a good place in my life.”

After it was discovered months later that Josiah was still alive in her womb, the mother then developed an adoption plan with an agency. Fast forward some time, and Josiah was adopted into a great Christian home in Oklahoma.

Josiah has a deformed arm as a result from the attempted abortion, as well as significant emotional damage. These are issues he had to work through during his time growing up.

8 www.baptistmessenger.com | The Baptist Messenger | September 2023
Abortion survivor Josiah Presley shares compelling story Hobbs Josiah holds up a photo from his childhood.

“As a teen, I had a lot of image issues and self-value issues,” he said. “I struggled with feeling of worthlessness. I struggled feeling I had no purpose. I struggled with anger.”

God ultimately replaced any bitterness and unforgiveness in his heart when Josiah gave his life to Jesus Christ while he was a high school student camper at Falls Creek.

“I had made a (spiritual decision) at a young age, but I did not really understand what it meant to follow Jesus,” he said. “I did not have the power of God in my life, and I was also arrogant. That Thursday night at (Falls Creek), I surrendered my life to Jesus and so much in my life changed.”

After finding Jesus, Josiah had a newfound purpose, and he let go of any anger he held toward his birth parents. Today, Josiah now serves as student minister at Edmond, Northpointe, and he has served as a minister at other churches in Texas. He has a compassionate heart for the unborn and vulnerable people.

“My family was always pro-life and cared for the unborn and adoption,” he added. “But it wasn’t until I became a Christian and found out my story that I had a passion for myself, as well.”

As Josiah actively ministers to students with the Gospel, he himself now leads groups to Falls Creek where the Lord

changed his life and called him to ministry service. He is hopeful the students will develop a biblical conviction to love their neighbors—both born and unborn.

While abortion nearly snuffed out his life, God had other plans. Josiah is now happily married to his wife Bethany. The couple recently gave birth to a beautiful baby girl as a testament to how God is bringing forth life from the life that was spared.

Josiah has been bold to share his amazing life story at various events and in online settings. He is scheduled to speak at the Rose Day Pro-Life Indoor Rally in Oklahoma, the largest annual pro-life event in the state, which is sponsored by Oklahoma Baptists.

Josiah grew up attending Rose Day as a young child and now looks forward to sharing his testimony and message at the event, which is set for Feb. 7, 2024 (for more information visit roseday.life). His life is now marked with joy and gratitude to the Lord and to his family.

“I’m reminded through my parents’ faithfulness in adopting these kids who had no future, I’m reminded of the Gospel of Jesus,” he said.

Thanks to the Lord’s divine mercy, Josiah is a living testament to the Lord’s sparing mercy and the hope only Jesus can bring to all people—born and unborn.

Josiah will speak at Rose Day on Feb. 7, 2024 Scan this QR code for more information! Josiah and his wife Bethany have been blessed with a baby girl. Josiah shares his story at a pro-life event. Josiah pictured with his wife Bethany and his parents. Keith Perry Photography

2023 Pastors Conference to focus on being ‘Satisfied’

Oklahoma Baptists’ Pastors Conference is one of the great times for Oklahoma Baptist pastors to renew and restore their relationship with Jesus. The theme is “Satisfied,” drawn from the beautiful words of Ps. 103:5. It’s my prayer that pastors would be reminded that “He satisfies your desire with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagles.”

This year, we are adding some new elements and building on the past through moments of preaching, prayer, testimonies and worship. Last year, focused moments of prayer with other pastors were a great blessing to me, and we are continuing that this year. We hope to grow pastors not only closer to God but closer to each other. Oklahoma Baptists share a unique sense of unity and purpose; these dedicated prayer times will build on that.

The unity will also be on display through the times of worship. The worship team of Ada, First and five other Oklahoma Baptist church worship leaders will lead in several heartfelt worship sessions.

We will have a mix of nationally known pastors and several Oklahoma Baptist pastors to lead us to reflect on the theme verse of Ps. 103:5. This verse beautifully encapsulates the conference’s premise: finding satisfaction in Jesus and the gifts God bestows upon us. Along



Edmond First Baptist Church

LIFE CONCERNS: Child/Family, Marriage, Stress, Depression, Anxiety, Anger, Grief/Loss, Aging, Relationships


Dr. Ron Cruse, Ph.D. Psychology

Dr. Craig Robison, EdD LMFT/LPC

Laura Piatt, MA Counselor LPC

Aimee Walker, MS Counselor LPC

with several shorter testimonies, I hope pastors are drawn back to Christ and leave with hearts full to return to their communities with the power of the Gospel.

We will announce some of those speakers closer to the event date. One of my saddest moments was when one of our main speakers was Michael Catt. He pastored Ada, First, where I serve, in the 1980s. We had become close friends throughout the years. The Lord called Michael home in June this year. Michael would have spoken effectively on our theme. He understood what it meant to be satisfied in the Lord.

Amid all this, there will be times for fellowship and fun with other pastors. There will be free box lunches and other giveaways like Bibles, books, and a drawing for a pastor/wife weekend away to add excitement! We are also providing a special ministers’ wives luncheon, allowing the unsung ministry heroes to come together, share their journeys and draw strength from one another. And we are looking at hosting a young pastors luncheon as well.

I can’t wait for the 2023 Oklahoma Baptists’ Pastors Conference! Through God’s blessing, it will be an excellent time for pastors to remember to be “Satisfied” in Jesus and rest in His work and redemption for us. Please reach out and invite a friend to come with you this year. If you know a pastor who needs refreshing and renewal, ask them to come with you. Great preaching, free books and a free lunch! What more do you need?

Consider this my personal invitation to you and your wife to join us at Del City, First Southern on Nov. 13, for a refreshing time and renewal through Jesus Christ. I can’t wait to see you there!

10 www.baptistmessenger.com | The Baptist Messenger | September 2023
Brad Graves Pastor, Ada, First President, 2023 Oklahoma Baptists’ Pastors Conference
Insurance Accepted: BCBS, Medicare, Tricare, Aetna, United, HealthChoice, Humana, Military 1300 East 33rd, B-I, Edmond, Ok 73013 Call 405-942-8888

Just Joe Humorous traffic signs

There are many things that I like about my job. One of the perks is I get to travel around the state to visit with some of the greatest pastors in the world and to talk with some of the greatest church members in the world.

As I drive throughout the state, I also get to enjoy the different landscapes of Oklahoma: from the flat lands of the panhandle to the mountains and pine trees of southeastern Oklahoma and from the lakes of northeastern Oklahoma to the cotton fields of southwest Oklahoma.

In the midst of all of that variety, however, there are some remarkable similarities. One of those is the traffic signs around the state. This may sound weird, but I often find a lot of humor in those signs and wonder who it is who chose the wording in the first place.

For example, many of our speed limit signs now have the notorious “No Tolerance” tag on the bottom of the sign. I have often thought that sounds a bit harsh and even merciless. But that has often made me wonder if the speed limit signs without that “No Tolerance” tag means the local law enforcement will tolerate some speeding. Although I haven’t been pulled over, I have been thinking that if I should be, I am going to use this as my defense. In fact, I’ve been rehearsing the speech that I would I give to law enforcement: “Officer, based upon the signage I just saw, I think you are bound to tolerate my speeding. So, if you will just put your taser back in its holster, I will be on my way.”

Another example of common traffic signs is the “Guardrail Damaged” sign. I have spent way too much time thinking about this one. But I have yet to come to any logical conclusion about why they feel compelled to warn you that an upcoming guard rail has been damaged. I’m not sure what you are supposed to do with that information. For example, I can’t imagine someone driving down the road who suddenly decides to crash into the next guard rail he comes to only to find out someone has already run into. What a disappointment that must be.

My favorite traffic sign is not as common as the first two. It is only found in certain parts of the state—like parts of the state where there are penitentiaries. I’m

sure you have seen these. They say, “Hitchhikers may be escaping prisoners.”

I understand the importance of this sign. We all need to be warned of such possible situations. But there are a couple of things that we should talk about. First, how many of us pick up hitchhikers these days? I know that used to be a thing. I know it used to be a very appreciated thing. But I don’t think a lot of folks are into picking up strangers who are walking down the road with their thumbs stuck out. And the second thing is what about the guy who just picked up a hitchhiker.

I am positive that “Hitchhikers may be escaping prisoners” sign would be of no comfort but instead would be a great consternation. Can you imagine making eye contact with your passenger after passing one of those signs? Slowly turning your head to the right only to find him looking right at you? That has to be one of the most awkward moments of all moments.

Some of you are still trying to get your head around somebody picking up a total stranger alongside of the road in the middle of nowhere. After all, most prisoners wear bright orange jump suits. That should be a telltale sign. But therein lies the problem.

If you are a rabid Oklahoma State fan driving down the road, and you come upon someone wearing all orange, your first thought would probably be he is one of the brethren and you should give him a ride to the game. The possibility of him being a criminal would never enter your mind unless he broke into a rousing chorus of “Boomer Sooner.” Maybe they should put a “No Tolerance” tag on the bottom of “Hitchhikers may be escaping prisoners.”

Traffic signs are put in place for our safety. They help us know what to watch out for, where to go and how fast to go there. If you think about it, that’s kind of like the Bible. We would all live better lives if we paid more attention to both.

September 2023 | The Baptist Messenger | www.baptistmessenger.com 11


46 Fat

48 Dull

50 “He will discover thy ___” (Lam. 4:22)

51 Direction from Israel to Egypt

54 Garden tool

55 Barked in pain

57 Cell body

58 Halo

60 Hair product

61 Earlier form of a word

63 “I ___ up your pure minds” (2 Pet. 3:1)

64 America

65 After Peter walked out of prison, “all the ___ of the children of Israel” were called together (Acts 5:21)

66 “The Lord is good unto ___ that wait for him” (Lam. 3:25)

67 Clock time

68 Pimpled

1 Dormer

2 The South and Midwest

3 Browned bread

4 Flightless birds

5 “By the rivers of Babylon, there we ___ down” (Ps. 137:1)

6 “The joy of our ___ is ceased” (Lam. 5:15)

7 John wrote the book of Revelation on one

8 Cut with shears

9 ___ carte

10 Hole maker


1 All of Jerusalem’s are desolate (Lam. 1:4)

6 “The Lord hath cast off ___ altar” (Lam. 2:7)

9 Familiar name for God

13 Odors

15 Exit (abbr.)

16 “The ___ was as an enemy” (Lam. 2:5)

17 “From the daughter of Zion all her ___ is departed” (Lam. 1:6)

18 Boxer Muhammad

19 Palestine, e.g.

20 Young girl

21 Most uncommon

24 “Hide not thine ___ at my breathing” (Lam. 3:56)

25 Time zone

26 Am not

27 Splinter of glass

29 “He hath violently taken ___ his tabernacle” (Lam. 2:6)

30 Minor prophet

31 “His bow ___ in strength” (Gen. 49:24)

34 Probable author of book

38 What the blind man first saw when Jesus touched him (Mark 8:22–24)

39 “The ___ is no more” (Lam. 2:9)

40 “He that is perverse in his ways shall fall at ___” (Prov. 28:18)

41 More rigid

44 “By his Spirit in the ___ man” (Eph.


45 “He burned against Jacob like a flaming ___” (Lam. 2:3)

11 “All her people sigh, they seek ___” (Lam. 1:11)

12 6th month (Jewish calendar)

14 Jesus was famous throughout this region (Matt. 4:24)

22 “No man hath seen God at ___ time” (1 John 4:12)

23 “Turn thou us unto ___, O Lord” (Lam. 5:21)

26 “My heart standeth in ___ of thy word” (Ps. 119:161)

28 “The ___ tree shall flourish” (Eccl. 12:5)

29 Directionless

30 “No difference between the ___ and the Greek” (Rom. 10:12)

31 Muscles (abbr.)

32 Sandwich

33 “Let us search and try ___ ways, and turn again to the Lord” (Lam. 3:40)

34 Held perfume poured on Jesus’ feet

35 No room for Jesus here

36 Whiz

37 “___ children are gone into captivity” (Lam. 1:5)

39 Downwind

42 “How doth the ___ sit solitary” (Lam. 1:1)

43 Sap (2 wds.)

44 Tax agency

46 “The young and the old ___ on the ground” (Lam. 2:21)

47 Type of mint

48 “Enemies have opened their ___ against thee” (Lam. 2:16)

49 Eagle’s nest

50 What a dropped melon would do

51 “Jerusalem is as a menstruous ___ among them” (Lam. 1:17)

52 “Then Pashur ___ Jeremiah the prophet” (Jer. 20:2)

53 Got smaller, like a moon

54 “Thou ___ utterly rejected us” (Lam. 5:22)

56 “The ___ I be loved” (2 Cor. 12:15)

57 In ___

59 “He shall gather the lambs with his ___” (Is. 40:11)

62 British drink

Note: The word clues for the Word Search are chosen by the Messenger staff, while the puzzles and letters surrounding the clues are computer-generated at random.

C K T F A I T H F U L N E S S H J N T K J S S P S O C W I N Z U R T G R V U W U D Z A M L N A N L H N T W A N W Y T J B L I L N L U E I A B Y Z U Y C V M F H Q T L Q D C Q F K S L J L T O B J U B E K I R R A J N I T A W Q V T F B O W S P E B M Q L U C N E G E Y M X R D M S X N I S I I T O N I X S I T V O P S W A E Q N I I Q C R I P R E X D F Z E A I F A K U Z F H S T L K N V T A W H N O Q A I R S O R I Q S D B A P S X P N I H H X C K K K M Z P T N D M M R D D A E K A T H Y S K W L D L V P E W N N A M R O N B N O R S G T J U T E M S A G U T X E Z D R M F J J U O S O I E X Q P E H Q H N R U T R N J B E T H A N Y M N K N P S B K R S O I P N R A E L M U C G H E L I D L W O U N S E U M V O B K P V O W O S S L D R T T E G G H R L O F A I S O R W R U Z T F D V T V S A G E P A S S I O N L E R E B K U B A W Y N O M I T S E T S P A R E D O E N B J Adopted Baptists Bethany Birth Christian Conviction Edmond Faithfulness Family Gospel Jesus Josiah Korea Living Message Minister Norman Oklahoma Parents Passion Presley Purpose Spared Testimony Trinity Unborn
Adopted Baptists Bethany Birth Chirstian Conviction Edmond Faithfulness Family Gospel Jesus
Korea Living Message Minister Norman Oklahoma Parents Passion Presley Purpose Spared Testimony Trinity Unborn 12 www.baptistmessenger.com | The Baptist Messenger | September 2023

Hollis, First celebrates 125 years

Hollis, First celebrated its 125th anniversary on July 16 with a morning service theme, “Remembering our past, Reaching forward to our future.” Pastor Tim Tutten, right, gave certificates to Mildred Kellison, left, for longest attending member, 87 years, and to Mary Beth Williams, center, for eldest active member, 96 years. Scrapbooks, pictures, hymnals and t-shirts from the past were displayed, and “all enjoyed a good time of fellowship.”

Burbank, First sees great results from VBS

On July 5-9, Burbank, First hosted a Vacation Bible School with a daily average attendance of 38 students and workers. Pastor Dennis Wildman said the church’s regular Sunday School attendance has been 15-20 children. “We challenged attendees to bring an offering to purchase Bibles for a ministry,” Wildman said. “A total of $522 was received to purchase 46 Bibles for distribution.”

Buddy Hunt East Regional Ministry Partner Oklahoma Baptists

Church News


Jerry Fielder

Jerry Fielder, 87, died Aug. 17. Funeral service was Aug. 22 at Okmulgee, First. He pastored churches in Heavener; Madill; Stonewall; Enid; Hominy; and Springfield, Ill. He served four years as pastor of Okmulgee, First and more than 20 years as pastor of Oklahoma City, Southern Hills, retiring from full-time ministry in 1999. He received Distinguished Alumni Award for Outstanding Alumnus of Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU), was past chairman of the Board of Trustees at OBU and was a member of the International Mission Board.

James Ussery

James Ussery, 96, died July 26. Funeral service was Aug. 12 at Muskogee, Ash Street. He and his wife Betty faithfully served 22 years as houseparents for Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children.

Sulphur, Calvary celebrates 115 years

On Aug. 13, Sulphur, Calvary celebrated its 115th anniversary with cake and refreshments and with taking a group photo.

Around the State

There are nearly 450 Oklahoma Baptist churches in the eastern region of Oklahoma. As I travel throughout this area, I’m discovering that God is at work in the churches that are open to Him and preaching Jesus Christ. In fact, God is doing amazing things. Here are a few examples.

Muskogee, Mountain View has seen an increase in average worship attendance from 40 people in 2020 to 65 in 2022. They currently average 73 in worship. They baptized 10 new believers in 2020, 33 in 2022 and have baptized 22 so far this year. Pastor Jeff Ward said the church has a strong emphasis on prayer.

Sallisaw, First has increased worship attendance from 175 people in 2021 to 205 in 2022. Their Sunday School attendance increased from 105 people in 2021 to 150 people in 2022. On one Sunday this summer they had 192 in Sunday School. Pastor Joe Taylor said they are constantly looking to start new Sunday School classes and emphasize evangelism through Sunday School. They are putting a strong focus on children, youth and young adults.

Caney, First took 50 students to Falls Creek which was their largest group ever. Pastor Jeremy Parham said eight students made professions of faith in Christ. They are seeing growth in worship services this summer, averaging 75 people each week.

McAlester, First had a tremendous summer at Falls Creek. Youth Minister Bret Lolli reported they had 17 professions of faith, 14 recommitments, 23 baptisms and nine students surrendered to the ministry. The church is without a pastor, and since February, they have been going through the “Moving Forward” process. During this time, they have baptized 50 people.

Westville, First has seen God move in their youth ministry. Joshua Henderson, associate pastor, said students were asked to lead worship at an associational youth event. God did a reviving work in the students and associational churches. This resulted in several churches in Stilwell and Westville to band together to reach their county for Christ. Westville, First youth have been instrumental in leading more than 60 people to the Lord.

Near the beginning of 2023, Jay, First averaged 40 people in worship. Currently they average close to 160 people in worship. Six months ago, they averaged 30 people in Sunday School, and now the church averages 80 to 90 people in Sunday School. Pastor Dan Wooten said they recently baptized 18 people in a creek.

And more churches are seeing God work in their congregations. I praise Him for the mighty movement of the Holy Spirit in Eastern Oklahoma.

September 2023 | The Baptist Messenger | www.baptistmessenger.com 13

In Focus:

Garry McNeill

Garry McNeill has served as the pastor of Durant, First since 2019. Along with leading this great congregation in southeast Oklahoma, McNeill has been instrumental in helping raise funds to build a place for the Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) at Southeastern Oklahoma State.

For McNeill, helping Southeastern’s BCM with this project was “an absolute no-brainer.”

“When I was asked to be on the steering committee for the BCM building project, I was glad to be part of this. We were hopeful to raise the funds quickly,” McNeill said. “But with COVID and its effects on the construction market, (it made it difficult) to raise the funds we needed.”

McNeill said the BCM building project raised $2.7 million over a three-year span, but they were needing to almost equal that amount in less than five months to receive a grant from a private foundation.

“What we witnessed was a miracle from God!” McNeill said. “We saw the funds come in to unlock that grant.”

McNeill commended BCM director Trey Hedrick and associate director Ryan Schuessler for their leadership at Southeastern, especially since this BCM has not had a building for more than six years.

Construction will begin soon, as fundraising has neared completion. McNeil has long seen the importance of BCM ministry.

“When I arrived at Northwestern (Oklahoma State) in Alva, I immediately met my roommate who invited me to the Baptist Student Union (BSU, which would soon change names to BCM),” he said. “I went on my first mission trip, learned to lead worship and many more key experiences as a part of the BCM! I would not be a minister of the Gospel today without the ministry of that (BCM). And that fueled my passion to see a building constructed here at Southeastern.”

Oklahoma Baptists support 39 BCMs on state college campuses through the Cooperative Program, including Southeastern.

14 www.baptistmessenger.com | The Baptist Messenger | September 2023
Brandon & Jennifer Allen They serve as BCM directors at Western Oklahoma State and Southwestern Oklahoma State-Sayre. Jimmy Glock He is a collegiate missionary working with the BCM at University of Oklahoma. The Americas Central and South America have 1,047 people groups with 338 having little-to-no evangelical influence. Bailey Robinson She serves as women’s ministry coordinator for the BCM at Oklahoma State University. Pray for Oklahoma Missionaries: Garry McNeill participates in the groundbreaking ceremony for the BCM building at Southeastern Oklahoma State

The following statistics and information re ect the gospel impact of GoStudents since its start more than 21 years ago.


To nd out more about this Oklahoma Baptists ministry, about new sending opportunities, go to www.oklahomabaptists.org/gostudents.

ezileB , notnomdE(adanaCC,la)yragC,lo o r da o ( A u r o r a, Denver), EastAsia, England(London),Florida(Miami), France(Paris) ,Germany(Cologne),Italy(Rome) , J a p a ,n K a ,sasn ,aivataL ,ocixeM,)notsoB(sttesuhcassaM ytiCkroYweNlkO,haamo ( O K C, T u lsa, Lawton,
Peru, Portugal , Spain(Madrid&Sevill e ) ,U tah , W a l e s ( aC r d i ,) gnihsaW &)elttaeS(notgnihsaW,cDnot na enilnO voC(noissiM)91. 123 Total all-time GoStudents Mission Trips 2002
3802 Total of GoStudents Mission Trip Student Participants
GoStudents was founded in
Total Mission Trips
James Lankford Norman Flower Nick Atyia Brian Baldwin Previous GoStudents Directors Current GoStudents Director NATIONAL COWBOY & WESTERN HERITAGE MUSEUM Doors open at 6:00 PM and program starts at 7:00 PM Scan this QR code or contact David Quirk at dquirk@dpaok.org for more info THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 2ND $150 PER TICKET 2023 DPA GALA FOR THE LOVE OF ADOPTION Adoptee panel with Amanda Taylor Adoption stories Mystery Pull Bags for $100 Live auction MOBILE LASER FORCES.COM WE COME TO YOU. 405-259-9300 AWESOME LASER TAG!! ANYWHERE - ANYTIME! Birthday Parties • Sports Teams Church Groups Any and all events INDOORS OR OUTDOORS Ages 6 to 80 Very A ordable LASER TAG GAMES FOR ALL AGES!
for 2023 39
countries/ locations served
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