Spring 2024 fellowship! magazine

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Lita & Rick Samples’ long-term presence impacts California’s Bay Area

SPRING 2024 A publication of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship • www.cbf.net

Global Missions’ opportunity and challenge


is Executive Coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

These are times of incredible opportunity and challenge in CBF Global Missions. We are at a pivotal moment in Christ’s mission beside fellow Christians all over the world. Today, I am writing to ask you to celebrate the new opportunities for faithfulness while also responding generously to the challenges of this moment.

We see new doors for ministry opening all around us. For example: CBF Global Missions has just entered into a covenant relationship with Spanish Baptists at the invitation of sisters and brothers in Christ in Spain. The purpose of that covenant is to start new churches all across Spain in the next decade. Our field

Emerging Global Missions vision requires financial support

Passion and impact. As I travel the world and connect with our CBF field personnel, the passion of these gifted and called servants of

personnel already serving in Spain will be our initial connecting point to this commitment, but in the days ahead there will be new service opportunities.

After more than a year of prayerful dreaming, CBF is prepared to embark on a new strategy for bearing witness to Jesus, cultivating beloved community and seeking transformational development in Latin America. This will mean new opportunities for congregations, new partnerships in the region and eventually the possibility of new field personnel.

At the same time as we see opportunities for growth, our Fellowship also faces a significant challenge. Gifts to the Offering for Global Missions through the first four months of our fiscal year (which began October 1), are more than $300,000 behind budget. If those trends continue, we could conceivably finish this fiscal year more than $900,000 behind. Since every dollar collected for the Offering supports the long-term presence of our field personnel, it is absolutely essential that we close the gap. The Offering is the lifeline of our global missions commitment. It makes possible the presence that engages congregations, catalyzes partnerships and joins with Christ in ministries of evangelism,

discipleship and social transformation.

If your church has not yet planned a campaign for the Offering for Global Missions this year, I ask you to do so. Set a generous goal. Work with our Offering Advocate Dianne McNary to use the resources that have been produced for this year’s campaign. Don’t just engage only this year, but plan to do so every year. These campaigns not only provide funding needed to support field personnel, they also raise the awareness of believers in our congregations of the ways God is at work around the world and the ways they are connected to that work through the Fellowship.

When we gather for General Assembly in June, we will celebrate new beginnings in CBF Global Missions such as those I have described. We will hear stories of the remarkable impact of our field personnel around the world and many of them will be present for our time together. But we will not be commissioning new field personnel because we cannot responsibly do so until we see the Offering for Global Missions reach its goal.

Christ is at work around the world. We have remarkable and beautiful opportunities to join Him. Let’s do so with generosity!

A Publication Of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

Volume 34, Number 1

Spring 2024

God and the impact of their ministries alongside some of the most marginalized people in the world inspire me.

I am also filled with hope by new partnerships that seek to bring God’s transformation in churches in Spain and Latin America, among others in places that seem a world away. Within Spain’s diverse contexts, God has led 46 Baptist brothers and sisters to a goal of planting 15 Baptist churches by the year 2030. It is a blessing to join them in this effort.

But I am also keenly aware that without support from the people and churches across our Fellowship, the long-term presence of these field personnel could be at stake and the exciting new partnerships that are being dreamed and implemented will not reach their potential impact. Put simply, the emerging vision for the

Fellowship! is published 4 times a year in September (Fall), December (Winter), March (Spring), June (Summer) by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Inc., 160 Clairemont Avenue, Suite 500, Decatur, GA 30030. Periodicals postage paid at Decatur, GA, and additional offices. USPS #015-625.

future of CBF Global Missions requires greater financial support through the Offering for Global Missions.

Our Fellowship has commissioned and promised to support through prayer and financial giving our field personnel serving around the world. On average, over the past three years, people, churches and partners have given $2.7 million in support of the transformational work of our field personnel. Our goal now is to raise an additional $800,000 above and beyond that average. As we near the end of the first quarter of 2024, we have ground to make up with the need to sustain it in order to reach $3.5 million by the end of our fiscal year in September.

It is my prayer that the Spirit will lead you as you consider the level of your support for CBF’s field personnel.

Executive Coordinator

Paul Baxley

Associate Coordinatorfor Identity & Communications

Jeff Huett


Aaron Weaver

Associate Editor

Lauren Lamb

Graphic Designer

Jeff Langford

E-Mail fellowship@cbf.net


(770) 220-1600


Send address changes to:


Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

160 Clairemont Avenue, Suite 300

Decatur, GA 30030

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AYALA is CBF’s Coordinator for Global Missions.


New hires aim to help CBF expand relationships with young adults


Carson and Laura Foushee lead CBF’s response to earthquake in Japan


Long-term presence bears spiritual fruit for Samples’ ministry in California’s Bay Area


Karen refugee from Burma shares her personal and ministry journey


Across three decades, Becky Hall took care of field personnel and reveled in relationships


How one North Carolina pastor offers respite beyond borders


Cómo un pastor de Carolina del Norte ofrece esperanza que traspasa fronteras

Por Jennifer Colosimo


We are excited to share with you the Spring 2024 issue of fellowship! magazine. In these pages you will find the stories of CBF field personnel Lita and Rick Sample. Marv Knox writes about the Samples’ long-term ministry in the San Francisco Bay Area that has blessed the lives of Afghan and Karen refugees (pp. 17-19). Grayson Hester shares the story about one Karen refugee woman, Zar Blue Paw, who worked closely with the Samples after escaping a refugee camp in Myanmar (pp. 20-21).

Carson and Laura Foushee are working to help their community in Kanazawa, Japan after a 7.6 earthquake. Read their story and how you can help in the aftermath of the earthquake (pp. 12-14). We are excited to welcome new CBF staff members, Colin Kroll and Alisha Damron Seruyange, and their plans to expand the Fellowship’s ministry among Young Baptists (pp. 6-7). While we welcome new staff members, we also celebrate the retirement of another. Please check out Marv Knox’s beautiful tribute to CBF’s longest tenured employee, Becky Buice Hall (pp. 25-27).

Jennifer Colosimo shares the story of Daniel Sostaita, the impactful senior pastor at Iglesia Cristiana sin Fronteras, available in both English and Spanish (pp. 28-31).

We also want to extend an invitation to join Cooperative Baptists from around the world June 19-21, in Greensboro, N.C., for the 2024 CBF General Assembly. This summer, we will re:imagine as we grow, learn, worship and fellowship together. Join us as we consider transformation through imagination and hear from incredible speakers and engage with partners in ministry and mission.

Learn more on pp. 4-5 and register to attend at www.cbf.net/assembly.

AARON WEAVER is the Editor of fellowship! Connect with him at aweaver@cbf.net

LAUREN LAMB is the Associate Editor of fellowship! Connect with her at llamb@cbf.net

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2024 CBF General Assembly

June 19-21, 2024

Sheraton Greensboro at Four Seasons & Koury Convention Center

Greensboro, N.C.

“You’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”

Philippians 4:8-9

You’re invited to join us in Greensboro, N.C., for the 2024 CBF General Assembly as we come together at the Sheraton Greensboro at Four Seasons/Koury Convention Center for learning, worship, inspiration and fellowship!

This summer at General Assembly, we will re:imagine as we live out our faith through our unique Baptist identity and are ever being transformed through the Holy Spirit. Together, we’ll consider transformation through imagination—our own and that of the Holy Spirit moving through us as a community. With the idea of re:, we’re exploring the idea of “regarding imagination” as well as the transforming quality of re-imagining—revising, reinvigorating, reenergizing and renewing.

We hope to see you in North Carolina!

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Learn more and register today at www.cbf.net/assembly

Opportunities to Learn

Prepare to re:imagine alongside other Cooperative Baptists through the 2024 Learning Labs—three workshop-style experiences focused on 11 topical learning tracks.

Learning Lab highlights include:

Navigating The Path Ahead: Introducing the Church Sustainability Initiative

Andy Hale

The 3 Rs: Resistance, Resilience, and Restoration - Stress Management for Faith Leaders

Keneshia Bryant-Moore

Baptists and Conversion, 2024: A Re-formation?

Bill J. Leonard

Re-Imagine Global Poverty: 5,000 Children out of Poverty across Latin America

Javier Pérez

Being Baptist in an election year

Amanda Tyler

Opportunities to Listen

Hear from incredible preachers and teachers throughout the Assembly, during worship, meals and partner events, including:

Eugene Cho

Keynote Preacher

Thursday Worship


Bread for the World Washington, D.C.

Zina Jacque

Keynote Preacher

Wednesday Late Night Worship

Assistant to the Pastor for Small Groups

Alfred Street Baptist Church Alexandria, Va.

Opportunities to Connect

Meet Cooperative Baptists from around the world, make new friends, and engage with some of your favorite organizations as you explore The Gathering Place, market, and silent art auction!

Engage with CBF partners and initiatives through meal and auxiliary events, including:

• Transformers: Re-shaping How We Care for Ourselves and the Communities We Serve – Two-day pre-Assembly training experience for chaplains and pastoral counselors –

Monday-Tuesday, June 17-18

• “You Called?” – Re:imagining calling for Young Adults –

Tuesday, June 18

• Re:imagine – The Narratives of America Project –

Wednesday, June 19

• State and Regional Gatherings and Meals –

Wednesday, June 19

• La Familia Celebration Breakfast – Thursday, June 20

• IBTS 75th Anniversary Celebration Breakfast –Thursday, June 20

• Dr. Emmanuel McCall Racial Justice Trailblazer Awards Luncheon – Thursday, June 20

• Friends of Baptist News Global Dinner –

Thursday, June 20

• CBF Chaplaincy & Pastoral Counseling Dinner –

Thursday, June 20

• CBF Encourager Church & Advocacy Breakfast –Friday, June 21

• Baptist Women in Ministry Celebration Luncheon –Friday, June 21

Age-appropriate Assembly programs are also available in-person for preschoolers, children and youth throughout the event! These programs include special speakers, field trips and activities June 19-21.

Jacqueline Thompson

Keynote Speaker

Emmanuel McCall Racial Justice

Trailblazer Luncheon

Senior Pastor

The Allen Temple Baptist Church Oakland, Calif.

Kristin Adkins Whitesides

Keynote Preacher

Friday Worship

Senior Pastor

First Baptist Church Winchester, Va.

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Ecosystem’s new hires aim to help CBF expand relationships with young adults

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s Young Baptist Ecosystem has expanded its staff to strengthen and diversify its reach.

The Fellowship appointed Colin Kroll as young adult ministries manager, a new position designed to help CBF congregations and partner organizations build relationships with young adults. It also hired Alisha Damron Seruyange as the Young Baptist event specialist, also a new post, which will enable CBF and its state and regional organizations to offer customized events targeted at young people.

Kroll works full-time with CBF. Seruyange splits time with CBF and Alabama CBF, where she is associate coordinator.

The additions of Kroll and Seruyange are strategic moves that address vital needs—for CBF congregations, but even more for young adults in their communities, said Brian Foreman, the Fellowship’s coordinator of congregational ministries.

The new positions opened up after Devita Parnell, CBF’s respected longtime Young Baptist Ecosystem coordinator, departed to become pastor of First Baptist Church in Morrow, Ga.

“You can’t replace Devita Parnell,” Foreman acknowledged. “But you can step back and ask: ‘Where do the tasks she was doing fit in our organization? And what’s missing?’

“So, these new positions are not reactionary, but they recognize significant questions that need to be answered about young Baptists’ place in CBF. With the addition of Colin and Alisha, we’re making a significant investment in young Baptists and how we reach and minister to young Baptists.”

Kroll will focus on enabling CBF to answer a major question facing congregations in the 21st century, Foreman said, noting, “The church as a whole has not solved the problem of reaching young adults.”

That’s not to say young adults don’t care about matters of faith, he added. “They are gathering, collaborating, asking significant questions. They are generous with their time and money—but not in the way traditional church does it. So, we’re trying to help them look at the intersection of faith and vocation.”

That means prompting young adults to ask important questions about calling, Kroll stressed.

“Calling provides us with some orientation for the purpose, the meaning of our life. It’s what directs us,” he said, and despite what young adults might hear in church, “calling” means far more than vocational ministry.

When Kroll was growing up, if a young person expressed an interest in “calling,” they often got channeled toward vocational ministry, he said, acknowledging that the vocational “lane” isn’t right for everyone.

“Where I’ve really gotten to is finding power in thinking less in terms of finding your lane and more thinking in terms of: What’s directing you? And how does that orientation shape how you approach everything—your relationships in your daily life, the work that you’re a part of? Not only is that a whole lot more inclusive of all people, but it’s inclusive to the work that all people are doing that’s meaningful and community-changing and powerful.”

Congregations need to do better helping young adults channel their passion in light of both their work and their faith, Kroll said.

He lamented “compartmentalized conversations” that fail to help youth and young adults make connections between their faith and their weekday work. Occasionally, however, he has seen some young adults “drawing those connections and recognizing that their Monday through Friday isn’t just an extension of Sunday, but that the whole week is sacred.”

To illustrate, Kroll talked about pharmacy, his older brother’s vocation. He contrasted the impact of saying, “You were created for retail pharmacy” with “You are created and called by God to participate in what God is doing, and maybe pharmacy is part of how you are living that out.”

Being created for pharmacy may sound “vaguely inspiring in the moment” but is insufficient to sustain a person through difficulty, much less boredom, he said. But participating in what God is doing

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opens up a creative approach to “live out who I’m called to be and what it means to be a Christian here.”

To understand how their daily jobs fit into God’s design, young adults need to hear stories that illustrate how following God’s calling is broader than a call to Christian ministry, Kroll said.

“Lifting up the stories of the people in our congregations who are living into that sense of calling in their work in new and creative ways, I think is important,” he explained. “And so even as we’re hoping to support our young adults, that also helps us better understand our folks who are already in professions and have been doing this work for a long time, that maybe we’ve overlooked and have missed opportunities to come alongside them and to support them in the mission that they’re living into.”

Kroll will help CBF think about how to cultivate those conversations, walking alongside young adults as they see their daily jobs and their Christian calling as an integrated whole.

Kroll’s task is not to consult with churches that call and say, “Come help us fix our young adult ministry,” Foreman said. Rather, he will focus on engaging young adults themselves, and the information he gleans and the lessons he learns will flow out to benefit congregations and others who want to serve young adults more effectively.

In many ways, you can look at Kroll’s assignment as retail— engaging young adults directly, often one-on-one. In contrast, Seruyange’s assignment is more wholesale—helping CBF gather groups of young people.

She will collaborate with CBF staff and with CBF state and regional coordinators to produce events for young people, bringing them together under a Fellowship roof.

The scope of Seruyange’s work is evolving, just as the interests and expectations of young people are changing, Foreman said. The days of “host it, and they will come” are long gone.

“We probably can’t plan a single youth summit and expect the Fellowship most broadly defined to come to that event,” he said. “But what if we have the same event in hubs—like Huntsville, Waco and Raleigh?

“Alisha will help us produce not independent events, but interconnected events. The same branding, marketing, swag and

curriculum can all be developed by one planning committee as opposed to separate logistics for separate events. But by placing events closer to dispersed young people, we can gather more together.”

Gathering is vital for young people’s well-being, Seruyange reported, citing a National Institutes of Health survey. “We were created to be in some kind of connection together,” she said. Gathering, particularly coming out of the pandemic is important, she added, noting the impact of loneliness.

“I did a deep dive on my Facebook and said: ‘Y’all, somebody help me out. Why does gathering matter to you?’” she reported. “Another introvert confessed to being an introvert and said, ‘Even for me, if something doesn’t pull me out of isolation, it gets dark real fast.’”

But even though the post-pandemic desire to gather is compelling, “I’ve been a little disappointed in some of the church’s energy to just go right back to business as usual because it feels comforting,” Seruyange said. “It makes me wonder, ‘Did we miss asking some big questions? What is the purpose of this gathering or that gathering? Are these meaningful? What is the need for this gathering?’

“That is the real challenge in starting this position and helping coordinate events for young Baptists. What do young Baptists need, and how do we go and listen and figure that out?”

Before getting back to business as usual, CBF needs to ask “some really big questions” of young adults about where and when and how they want to meet, she said. “What are people energized about now that they’re crawling out of this pandemic? And who do we want to be as God’s people, and what does that look like for all of us?”

Kroll and Seruyange won’t be alone in reaching out to young Baptists, Foreman said. Although they will comprise CBF’s front line in that endeavor, they will work alongside CBF Global Missions Coordinator Laura Ayala, who leads CBF’s Student Serve, which enables young adults to engage in ministry; Sharon Felton, CBF’s new congregational advocacy manager, who helps congregations and individuals consider how missions and justice impact their calling; and Jay Kieve, CBF’s director of ministerial transition and abuse prevention, who also manages theological education partnerships and scholarships.

“Lifting up the stories of the people in our congregations who are living into that sense of calling in their work in new and creative ways, I think is important.”
“What do young Baptists need, and how do we go and listen and figure that out?”
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Colin Kroll is CBF’s young adult ministries manager. Alisha Damron Seruyange serves as young Baptist event specialist with CBF and associate coordinator with CBF Alabama.


Resourcing and networking Young Baptists for the Christian journey is at the heart of the Young Baptist ecosystem. Through experiences, internships, ministries, programs, connections and local church support, CBF is encouraging and creating an environment in which students and young adults can thrive, be energized and have opportunities to give life to the world around them as they use their gifts in service of God and others. Young Baptists matter to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and CBF is being shaped by their presence among us.


“I am more caring than I used to be. I have seen real people who are really hurting who really need to be cared for. That has made me more empathetic.”

“I have become better at cultivating relationships with strangers and finding a way to make those relationships deeper over time.”

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College and graduate students from Virginia gather after a sunset worship service at Selah Vie, CBF’s end-of-summer retreat that allows students to pause and reflect before busy semesters begin.











“I am more excited and proud to announce myself as a Baptist.”

“I’ve grown in faith and knowledge in the Bible.”

“I have noticed that I have become more peoplefirst in my life. I am learning how to love those around me well while setting healthy boundaries and taking care of my own needs, too.”

SPRING 2024 | 9 Check out CBF’s 2023 Impact Report at www.cbf.net/impact-report



Adam ran away from his country when he was a teenager. He didn’t speak English and he didn’t know where to begin. When he came to the Center of Hope, he was one of the hardest working students. He struggled with English but took every course he could to get ahead. He didn’t have time for things like sports. While he worked odd jobs to survive, Adam took entrepreneurship classes, soap-making classes and business classes. After five years, his English was very good, and he started his own business. Today, Adam has a motorcycle taxi business and works at our Center, leading sports and Bible studies. He is passionate about sports and God and wants young people to learn.

Jade and Shelah Acker serve as Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel in Kampala, Uganda.


The end of 2023 was busy with many projects with the Food Bank of Macedonia and our many partners. In November we collected two tons of food from our partnership with QSI International School. This was

the sixth consecutive year that we have collected food from QSI. It is a great event. The kids get excited about getting their parents to donate food. Much of the food collected this year has gone to families in some of the poorest areas of Skopje. Many families are struggling because of unemployment and high food prices.

We also completed a chicken farm construction with our partner at Poraka. Poraka is a group home for adults with developmental delays. The organization wants to provide opportunities for the beneficiaries to engage with society as well as provide resources to meet their needs.

CBF and the Food Bank of Macedonia partnered together to construct a chicken barn for 100 chickens at the group home facility. They are collecting 75-85 eggs per day for their use in the facility.

Alicia and Jeff Lee serve as Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel in Skopje, Macedonia.


I recently facilitated a townhall meeting in a pilot village for the community health program we want to start. We are using Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) methodology, which means we trust them to know what is best for their village and to come up with the best solutions. It is a very empowering method. We invited the villagers to

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Jeff Lee (left) provides opportunities for farmers to consult local governments about environmental issues in Macedonia. His other agricultural work includes the development of a cow-bank project that provides livestock to local farmers. CBF field personnel Jade and Shelah Acker (not pictured) started Refuge and Hope in 2004, an organization based in Kampala, Uganda, that serves more than 1,000 refugees with educational programs, professional development programs, spiritual development, counseling and social services as well as both women and youth ministry.

are older but do not (yet) go to school. In a playful way, children learn the basics of addition, drawing, telling stories, writing letters, etc. These games turned out to be wonderful tools!

Mary Van Rheenen serves as Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel in Europe.


Every Friday morning, we have community worship with all our staff and program participants. Ashton is one of the men’s shelter leaders in worship. Each Friday he sings and dances with a huge smile on his face. His joy in the Lord radiates.

make a list of all the health problems in their village. They then voted on the top three issues they felt were important to address right now. Then we divided them into groups and facilitated discussion on the causes and solutions for these issues. All the ideas came from the villagers themselves. We then discussed what resources within the village itself could be used to implement these solutions and which ones would require outside assistance. It was exciting to see how enthusiastic they were and how excited to come up with the solutions themselves.

Karen Alford serves as Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel in Vogan, Togo.


A chance encounter at a meeting I didn’t want to go to ended up enriching the lives of 15 Roma children this summer. I was wondering why I had come to the gathering of Dutch missionaries when I met Alice van Nimwegen from Stichting (Foundation) Aria. She was preparing a threeweek ‘summer school’ for 15 children who needed extra attention, and not just educationally. I introduced her to “Davar: Bridging to Literacy.” Alice describes Davar as games specially developed for children who

It is incredible to see the amazing transformation that has taken place in Ashton’s life since he arrived at the Amani Sasa men’s shelter two months ago. At that time, he was homeless, often going days without food. He was on the verge of giving up on life when he heard about Amani Sasa. When he arrived at the gate, he was welcomed in by Arnold, a social worker at Amani Sasa. Arnold listened to him with intention and compassion. He was given a meal and prayed for. Soon after, Ashton was invited to move into the men’s shelter.

Ashton said he couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the house. He shared “I never thought that I would be allowed to live in a place like this. This is the first mattress that I have slept on since arriving in Uganda. I finally was able to sleep for the first time in a long time. Here I know I am safe and loved.”

The Amani Sasa men’s shelter exists to provide young men like Ashton a safe place where they can experience healing, transformation and empowerment. A place where they are loved, find belonging, hope and a place where they can begin to live into their full God given potential.

Missy Ward-Angalla serves as Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel in Kampala, Uganda.

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Karen Alford (not pictured), CBF field personnel in Togo, Africa, provides primary health care consultancy and first aid trainings within the community. Mary Van Rheenen (not pictured) works in Europe with the Romany people, helping children learn the national language so they don’t get behind in school. Missy Ward-Angalla (not pictured) is the founder and director of Amani Sasa, a ministry program to provide refugees with the opportunity to experience God’s love to reach their God-given potential.

Hope Amid Devastation

Carson & Laura Foushee lead

CBF’s response to earthquake in Japan


natural disasters that have literally shifted the ground, sometimes what’s required is a faith that can move mountains. Or at least move people from comfort to community, from inaction to compassion. It’s the faith required of an entire country following the catastrophic 7.6 earthquake that rocked Ishikawa, Japan, on January 1, injecting fresh horrors into the new year.

Carson and Laura Foushee have been Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel in Kanazawa, Japan since 2013. They live there with their daughter (5) and son (1). After the earthquake, the Foushees are taking on responsibilities they did not originally expect.

“What is our role? We’re discerning,” Carson said. “We’re not first responders, not government employees; but we do care for our neighbors and how to use our giftedness for them.”

“We’re trying to remain consciously aware: There are people who still need help,” Laura said. “It’s still on the news cycle.”

The earthquake occurring more than three months ago still dominates the news nationwide, so much so that, as noted by Carson, a graphic providing constant updates on the number of deceased, homeless and so on accompanies every news broadcast.

“There’s a QR code for info and stats about what’s going on, about the people who are affected,” he said. “It lets people know where to find baths, instructions on the different things they have to do to apply for assistance, safety checks.”

The government takes care of many of these needs, a result of the scarcity of churches and the dearth of religious affiliation in Japan. The Foushees estimate the number of Christians to be around 2% of the 125 million population.

But that doesn’t mean religion doesn’t have a role to play. In the 60 days since the earthquake, more than 241 fatalities have been

reported, 11 people are missing and more than 1,200 injuries have been officially logged. But the earthquake’s most potent effect can be seen in the throngs of people who have evacuated the rural Noto Peninsula, estimated at around 30,000 and growing.

Many of them are now, and maybe will forever be, the Foushees’ neighbors.

They live in Kanazawa, the largest city in Ishikawa Prefecture (comparable to a U.S. state), which sits a few hours south of the epicenter. But distance in such migratory circumstances matters little.

“There are thousands of people in our city who have evacuated here. They’re staying in temporary evacuation locations, public facilities,” Carson said. “They’re sleeping on cardboard beds in public gyms and in hotels; they’re staying with family, and some people have been sleeping in cars. These people are here.”

The Foushees did not come to Japan for disaster relief. Like all other CBF field personnel around the world, they felt called to their location to establish long-term presence and to minister in and through relationships. For most of their time there, they have been teaching and preaching across the country’s Kanto and Hokuriku regions before being called back to serve alongside Kanazawa Baptist Church in 2022.

A small church—they agreed that 30-40 worshippers on a Sunday morning was “a good day”—it now faces an outsized responsibility. It is one of few churches in the city—let alone the prefecture—and the only Japan Baptist Convention congregation.

It is a task the size of which is matched only by the expansiveness of the Gospel itself.

“It’s an all-hands-on-deck disaster response,” Laura said. “You have to find your way; building relationships with people who do have access is really important.”

Laura and Carson think of themselves as minorities-withinminorities in their city; not only are they among the 2% of Christians, but they’re also within the 2% of internationals.

Suffice to say, they are not leaders in this response, but faithful followers. This has led them to establish relationships with an NGO tasked with disaster response. In a manner indicative of CBF’s model of ministry, this church emphasizes not their desire to help nor their

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The Foushees serve at Kanazawa Baptist Church, and in the aftermath of this disaster, have built a relationship with an NGO to serve the hurting community. Carson Foushee serves coffee and sweets made by church and preschool families from Kanazawa at a popup cafe in the aftermath of the 7.6 earthquake that left thousands in temporary housing after evacuating to remain safe in the dozens of aftershocks.

own cultural understandings, but actual helpfulness and cultural sensitivity.

It emphasizes, as the gospel does, relationships.

“We try to build relationships with that staff, knowing it’s not the same people who are there week after week,” Carson said. “We have to get to know them, and then someone else.”

The church has found a niche within the need’s overwhelming scope, providing housing, pleasant distraction, connection and food to the revolving door of NGO staffers who stop by on their way to or from Noto. “Laura and two members of our international ministry provided a meal for the staff at the end of January,” he said. “We made a taco bar—some of them had never had Mexican food before. It was a cool cultural exchange.”

Whatever KBC and the Foushees decide to do, it will need to be sustainable and as reliably present as the disaster’s many aftershocks. This requires both faith and funds.

“What we are learning—it’s the first time we’ve lived in an area that’s in disaster—disaster relief goes beyond the immediate, emergency response,” Laura said. “There’s a long-term need of presence. The relational parts of communities have become broken;

Give to support those impacted in Japan at www.cbf.net/earthquake.

if you’ve lived there and opted to stay there, you no longer have the same neighbors you used to.”

Therein lies the thrust of Jesus’ question, “Who is my neighbor?” Is it a status delineated by borders and demarcated by social standing, or is it a name conferred by the same One who calls us beloved?

Assuming it’s the latter, the Foushees choose to see the evacuees as people who are in need of stability amid a shaken earth, of community among catastrophe. And while they may not know their role, they know with certainty that they must be present in whatever way they can.

“As we’ve been building relationships with local Japanese partners, our primary goal is to raise funds to support their work. We have no immediate plans for this to become our primary ministry,” Laura said. “How do we support people who have more knowledge? We’ve already received earthquake disaster funds and built a closer relationship with this NGO; how do we appropriately, culturally, offer them that resource? We’re working through that right now.”

Carson, who has seen firsthand the destruction wrought by the earthquake, feels similarly. Even after completing the harrowing journey north a couple of times, volunteering to help with debris cleanup and the simple act of providing much-needed distractions to those in disarray, he still doesn’t know exactly what his and his church’s role is to be.

But he knows the call that brought him and Laura to Japan in 2013—to follow the light that shines in the darkness—is the same one that bids him now to help.

“We’ve continued to see people say ‘yes,’ even when they’re unsure how they can commit,” Laura said. “Say ‘yes’ to this NGO, giving an afternoon to cut vegetables—even in the small ways, people who have hearts to serve their neighbors, even if they don’t know them, know this is how to show the love of Christ.”

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The 7.6 earthquake on January 1 struck the Noto peninsula, followed by tsunami waves up to four feet and dozens of aftershocks. Two hundred forty-one people were killed, 11 missing and more than 1,200 were injured, and up to 30,000 people evacuated the peninsula.

May the God of peace… equip you with every good thing...

Hebrews 13:20-21

long-term presence
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Long-term presence bears spiritual fruit for Samples’ ministry in California’s Bay Area

After the United States military withdrew from Afghanistan in late summer of 2021, a wave of Afghan refugees began heading toward the San Francisco Bay Area, where Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel Lita and Rick Sample prepared for them.

The Samples didn’t have to ask who might need help; their local Afghan friends would tell them. And they didn’t need to ask how to get ready; they had been serving newly-arrived Afghans almost 20 years.

Such is the benefit of long-term presence for CBF field personnel. Working alongside the same people for decades enabled the Samples to build durable relationships, which fostered trust and translated into

opportunities to minister.

Lita and Rick became CBF field personnel in the Bay Area—home to the world’s largest concentration of Afghans outside of Central Asia—in 2002. Now, they’re among CBF’s longest-tenured Global Missions personnel.

“When we started, we worked with refugees who were fleeing Afghanistan after 9/11,” Lita said. “We knew God wanted us to stay right here and, almost 20 years later,

we saw the same thing—another exodus of Afghan refugees—happen again. Because we had been in the community, the Afghan people knew us and trusted us.

“So, what did they do when their friends and family started to come in 2021? They gave us a call. They said: ‘Hey, we’ve got some new families coming here. Do you think you can help them?’”

But even before the Samples’ phones started ringing, they were getting ready for Afghan refugees.

“When the crisis in Afghanistan happened, we started preparing, because we knew they would be coming,” Rick explained. “During the six months the refugees were vetted through military bases and traveling here, we put together a readiness team from the local Afghan churches and other churches and pastors.”

They set up an English-as-a-secondlanguage program for adults and a homework club for children. They gathered emergency food to fill pantries, and they stored furniture and supplies to stock Afghan families’ apartments.

“We were well-positioned to welcome them, because we were able to pull together our long-term connections,” among Afghans living in the area and partners from an ecumenical array of congregations, Rick said.

Subsequently, they welcomed refugees who launched their journeys when global media covered their dramatic departure from Afghanistan. Lita and Rick helped families who hovered on the airport tarmac in Kabul, a mother who gave birth there, children who slept on their luggage because the ground

was too hot, and others who suffered hearing damage from bomb blasts.

Actually, the Samples began preparing to serve them many years earlier.

“We felt called to missions before we met. That was a priority,” Lita noted. “I didn’t want to marry someone who was not called to missions.”

Rick sensed God guiding him to a career in missions when he served as a summer missionary in college. He was a youth pastor and Lita was a volunteer youth worker when they met.

“The Lord didn’t take us to be missionaries until 10 years after we married,” Lita said. They were members of Willow Meadows Baptist Church in Houston at the time. Rick taught elementary school and worked part-time for Continental Airlines in its baggage resolution center. Lita was a graphic artist, working with oil and gas companies.

And CBF provided a pathway to missions. “We were with CBF from the beginning,” Rick said. “My mother, Dorothy Sample, was part of CBF’s first Coordinating Council in 1991. We went to Mexico and to the Czech Republic on CBF mission trips. We’ve been to every CBF General Assembly since 1994. We knew CBF was for us all along.”

They also knew where they should serve, Lita said: “The Lord clearly revealed we were to come to the Bay Area.”

When a missions assignment opened up there, they jumped at the opportunity. But CBF asked them to slow their appointment process because Lita was pregnant. While they waited, “CBF gave our job away; we were crushed,” she recalled. “But we agreed the Lord would lead us.”

At the next General Assembly, they met the couple who had been assigned to the Bay Area and learned they had decided not to

Watch videos about the Samples’ ministry at www.cbf.net/ogm
Lita (center) and Rick Sample work with Afghan and Karen refugees who are struggling to learn English, leading to difficulty finding jobs and housing.

accept. “We felt validated that the Lord had prepared this place for us,” Lita said.

When the Samples started working as CBF field personnel on their 10th wedding anniversary, Oct. 3, 2002, they leaned into their assignment to minister to refugees, immigrants and international students. They have worked heavily with two groups— Afghans and the Karen, originally from Myanmar or Burma.

Newly-arrived refugees share much in common. Most struggle to learn a new language and adapt to a strange culture. They need jobs and housing and must learn how to negotiate the government/social/ medical infrastructure. They want their children to thrive even as they retain their historical identity.

But Afghan and Karen refugees also differ widely. Most Afghans are Muslims who fled political reprisal for being perceived as proWestern and, in some cases, collaborating with the U.S. military. Most Karen are Christians, including many Baptists, who fled religious persecution twice, first at the hands of Burmese in Myanmar and then at the hands of people in Thailand, where they lived in refugee camps.

“When we arrived, the Afghan community leaders were telling their people not to trust Christians,” Rick said. “We spent years visiting Afghans in their homes, drinking tea, helping them with things they needed, teaching English.”

“It took about five years to gain trust inside the Afghan community, even though we were helping them and bringing our thenyoung children with us,” Lita reported. “We built relationships, one family at a time.

“Early on, when we would call on a family, the community would send ‘watchers.’ The family would visit with us, and the ‘watcher’ would sit in the corner. ‘That’s our uncle,’ they would say. Actually, that person would be watching to see if we would try to take advantage of them or evangelize them.”

Eventually, the Samples became trusted friends of local Afghans. They knew they had earned trust when the Afghans asked them to teach English to women in the Muslim community center.

Early in their ministry, the Samples helped establish a small house church while partnering with an Afghan Christian. As they shared the gospel, several Afghans and some whole families came to know Christ. When that Afghan Christian left, it left a hole in the ministry to those new believers, Lita and Rick recalled.

As the Samples continued to connect, minister and share the gospel, they prayed God would provide another pastor and the church would grow. A young pastoral couple arrived in 2019, and Lita and Rick helped them connect to the network of Afghan families they already knew. Through partnerships, the new church launched and slowly began to grow.

The Samples partnered with this couple to reach the wave of refugees propelled by the 2021 crisis. Hundreds of arriving families attended their events. Connections still are being made, providing opportunities to share God’s love with people desperate for hope.

Relating with transparency and integrity has been the key to working with Muslim Afghans who are historically and religiously predisposed not to trust Christians, the Samples said.

“We don’t want to trick them or do anything that would lose their trust,” Lita said. “Plus, I don’t think God wants us to hide our faith. When we meet them, we let them know we are Christians. We tell them the quilts, food, backpacks and all the supplies we bring them are provided by Christians. We ask how we can pray for them and often pray with them. When a prayer is answered, we say, ‘Look what Jesus has done for you!’”

“Some have distanced themselves. But when one goes away, we meet two more,” Rick added. “They realize Islam is not perfect. They have seen atrocities in their homeland, all perpetrated in the name of Allah. When they come to some of our church events such as Easter picnics and back-to-school fairs, they realize Christians are nice people. This creates an openness.”

“We’re always sharing our stories, our lives,” Lita added. “When we have these events, the gospel story always is told. We know it takes a long time for others to

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consider the gospel. Our job is not to convert; our job is to tell the story.”

But they have seen people come to know Jesus—about 12 to 15 Afghan adults in the past couple of years. “Some individuals come to know Jesus, but if we reach the head of household—husband, widowed mother, grandmother—it impacts the entire family for the good.”

With the Karen, conversion is not the issue, since their culture is oriented toward Jesus.

“They are beautiful and wonderful people,” Lita noted. “I love the Karen because they have such joy about them, and they have suffered the worst persecution you can imagine.” She described how Karen were burned out of their homes. Once they settled in refugee camps, the Burmese would place mines around the camps to keep the Karen hemmed in.

When they arrived in America, they were safe, but life remained hard, Rick added. “The San Francisco Bay Area is very expensive, and Karen refugees are very, very poor. So, it’s challenging for them, and sometimes they live two or three families in one small apartment.”

The Samples coordinate with local partners from various denominations— including Bay Area Karen Baptist Church in Oakland, which they helped launch in 2009. Partners provide a warm welcome, complete with clothing and homemaking supplies, as well as ongoing support. They also

coordinate ministry from far-away partners, CBF churches that lead ministries such as Vacation Bible Schools and other outreach events.

Often, their ministry is more intimate. “We have gone to individual homes and helped them get groceries, clothes, different things they need” to start a new life in a new country, Rick said.

And even though their ministry involves meeting practical needs, it’s deeper, Lita stressed. “It’s easy to do social ministry. It makes you feel good. You want people to have what they need,” she said. “But God calls us to social ministry so that we can share the gospel. So, that’s why it’s important we make sure the gospel is shared in whatever way it looks like.”

Across the years, the Samples have earned the respect of their partners as well as immigrants.

“Rick and Lita have a great heart for people and a great love for them, and they pour a lot of energy into their ministries,” reported Joy Yee, pastor of Nineteenth Avenue Baptist Church in San Francisco, a pillar CBF congregation and an Encourager Church for the Samples.

“They’re always looking for creative avenues for reaching out to people,” Yee, a former CBF moderator, said. “They’re personable, generous, kind, graceful, and they’re open to all kinds of cultures—so really beautiful people.”

The Samples “were the first people to help us,” said Kyaw Soe, pastor of the Karen church in Oakland. “They helped us find a place to worship, and they continued supporting us over the years. They are important for the new people who are here; they help them know how to live, how to be independent in America.”

“They help our Karen people to love God and to praise the Lord and to worship,” added Zar Blue Paw, a member of the Karen church. “They also teach our Karen people how to love each other and work together in unity.”

The Samples thank God and CBF for their long tenure.

“It has been a joy to serve in this same place all these years,” Rick said. “CBF’s Offering for Global Missions has made our presence here possible. And we are so grateful for that.”

“And because presence matters, we are doing so much more than we could have imagined more than 20 years ago,” Lita added. “God has shown himself bigger and greater than we could have asked for or even dreamed of.”

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Give to the Offering for Global Missions at www.cbf.net/ogmgive
Joy Yee, former CBF moderator and pastor of Nineteenth Avenue Baptist Church in San Francisco, says the Samples are always creatively reaching out to people in need. Her congregation serves as an Encourager Church for the Samples.
“The Samples help our Karen people to love God and to praise the Lord and to worship. They also teach our Karen people to love each other and work together in unity.”
—Zar Blue Paw

Watch a video of Zar Blue Paw’s story at www.cbf.net/ogm

The Story of Zar Blue Paw

Zar Blue Paw

For many Western Christians, the hope in the gospel begins with the crucifixion and crystallizes in the resurrection. For Christians who are also refugees, however, the hope likely resonates most intimately with Jesus’ birth. It is there, on a donkey in the middle of the desert, that Emmanuel truly means something. Mary and Joseph, themselves refugees, bore unto this world its savior—a borderless baby, birthed humbly, amid dangerous surroundings.

As the world experiences its most widespread refugee crisis in history, perhaps Emmanuel is not found within the security of walls and the identity of nations, but in the wandering and wondering of those driven away—those whose itinerant existence puts them in line with Jesus’ very own footsteps. Those, like Zar Blue Paw.

Zar Blue Paw is one of thousands of Karen refugees from Burma (more widely known as Myanmar) who have sought in the United States not just shelter or safety, but the chance for life itself.

“The war between the Karen and the Burmese has devastated our lives, our home, our heart, our land, our village,” she said. “Many people have to cross the border to take shelter in a refugee camp in Thailand. People live in the refugees’ camps in Thailand a long time. Our Karen people need the peace and justice and the freedom.”

Pushed out by persecution and cast aside by conflict, the Karen people are branded with the same oppressive target Jesus’ family wore centuries ago. They need the same things that Jesus taught, fought for and for which he was eventually killed—peace, justice, shalom.

While no single religious institution can fully reverse, let alone heal, the damage wrought by warring nations, while they cannot alone inaugurate the Kingdom of God, they can plant its seeds. They can prepare its way.

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel Lita and Rick Sample, who are called to the San Francisco Bay Area, do this kind of way-preparing daily. The Samples minister with and live alongside diverse populations, including the sizable Karen community in Oakland, California, and the surrounding East Bay.

“They are fleeing the country of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma; they’re living in refugee camps over there,” Rick explained. “For many decades, the Karen people have been persecuted by the government and have endured many difficult things.”

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The good things the Karen people need are often the things U.S. citizens frequently take for granted—churches that worship in their language, food, shelter. The basics. And it is these things the Samples are called to provide.

“Pastor Rick and Lita, they brought the food for families,” said Zar in broken English. “Not only one family—we had too many families, like my friends and my pastor and my cousin there. They had to help our Karen people here. They are very helper.”

Of course, what defines the ministry of CBF field personnel is not transactionalism nor paternalistic charity but presence and reciprocity. The Samples call San Francisco home and its people their people.

While Lita and Rick help minoritized people, those people help them as well. They receive as they give; they are ministered to just as they minister. “When we first met Zar Blue Paw, she was helping in the Karen Children’s Sunday school,” Lita said. “She would help lead them and teach them scripture.”

The Karen church in Oakland is a vibrant center for the Karen community, and Zar Blue Paw is one of its most vital participants.

“God equip me as a Sunday school teacher to teach children about Jesus. And I also teach them how to read the Bible and how to grow up in Jesus,” she said.

Closeness with the God of the oppressed isn’t merely a theological concept. Nor is it an accident. It’s a lived reality, a purposeful expression of God’s activity. When all other status is stripped away—nation, community, land—God remains. From the status of “beloved,” there can be no estrangement.

Zar Blue Paw knows this better than most. “I lived in refugee camp for 12 years,” she said. “We could not go outside when we were in refugee camp: We just worked there and went to school. Then, UNHCR helps us for foods.”

Dependence on the inconsistent generosity of others, the shaky machinations of organizations, is a hallmark of refugee experience. Devoid of governmental protection and care, they are at the mercy of

others. Perhaps, then, it was mercy that came to Zar in the form of a life-changing chance.

“I got an opportunity from United Nations to go to America for getting better life and higher education,” she said. “Now, I can live in America peacefully without difficulties.”

Her faith helped sustain her in the crossfire of war and the desolation of refugee camps, the adversity of oceanic travel and the haze of culture shock. It carried her to California, to the Karen church in Oakland, and into the embrace of the Samples, unified in shared faith.

It is truly a symbiotic relationship, in which the benefits are shared equitably, and the blessings are manifold. “When we would bring something to Zar Blue Paw, she would say, ‘We met some friends, some Karen friends here, new in Oakland. Can you go and visit them? Can you bring them something?’” Lita said.

The love the Samples extend to Zar Blue Paw is then passed to others like her. The resources given them are not incidental to the Gospel; they are the very Gospel-made material. And for the Karen in Oakland, its fruits are evident and growing.

“They help our Karen people to love God and to praise the Lord and to worship,” Zar Blue Paw said. “They also teach our Karen people to love each other and work together in unity.”

When it’s all said and done, that’s all the Karen people, or any refugee people, want—love, unity, peace. They want their birthright, the same one that should be afforded to all humans simply by virtue of their birth. Seeking a better life is not an imposition; it’s an imperative.

And whether it’s in the United States or back in Burma, Zar Blue Paw intends to make that happen.

“I want my Karen people to get the unity, the truth and freedom as we live in America,” she said. “One day, we will go back to help our people by the educations that we get from here.”

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Zar Blue Paw spent 12 years in a refugee camp in Burma. “I got an opportunity from United Nations to go to America for getting better life and higher education,” she said. “Now, I can live in America peacefully without difficulties.” Zar Blue Paw teaches Sunday school in the Karen church in Oakland, California. “God equip me as a Sunday school teacher to teach children about Jesus. And I also teach them how to read the Bible and how to grow up in Jesus,” she said.
Brand-new discussion guides with compelling subjects and authors CBF Book Club www.cbf.net/books AUG SEPT OCT NOV DEC MAY APR MAR FEB JAN A new weekly curriculum that helps children explore the Good News of Jesus through stories, scripture and activities. También en Español. Free downloads for teachers and students at www.cbf.net/pathlight Learn About CBF field personnel Rick Burnette and his wife, Ellen, founded Cultivate Abundance in Immokalee, FL. Cultivate Abundance partners with Misión Peniel to provide much of the food they share with others through their food pantry. Bible Verse James 2:15-17 If you know someone who doesn’t have any clothes or food, you shouldn’t just say, “I hope all goes well for you. I hope you will be warm and have plenty to eat.” What good is it to say this, unless you do something to help? Faith that doesn’t lead us to do good deeds is all alone and dead! (CEV) Your word is a lamp that gives light wherever walk. Psalm 119:105 (CEV) STUDENT HANDOUT MARCH 3, 2024 Play “A Helping Hand” Play “A Helping Hand” to see the ways in which Rick Burnette and his team help the people of Immokalee, FL. Gather dice and pennies or small items to be game pieces. Play in groups of 2-4. www.cbf.net/pathlight FINISH Hurricane Irma destroys your trailer. Stay here until you roll Rick Burnette tells you about Misión Peniel. Roll again! Dona Ruth gave you clothes and a crib for the baby. Use the bridge to skip ahead! You can’t pay rent this month. Move back 2 spaces. You get food from Misión Peniel. Say thank you and roll again! Misión Peniel helps you pay your rent. Move ahead spaces. You volunteer at Misión Peniel and help others have enough to eat. Skip to the finish! START BRIDGE

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s Year-long Guide to Prayer



Join us in prayer

For this year’s Prayers of the People, we invited writers to share with us about someone who has made a significant impact on their lives, a spiritual guide so to speak—one who has shaped their faith, their theology or their prayer life. As you will see, the offerings are wide and varied, ranging from friends and family members to mentors and colleagues, from the characters of Scripture to authors and theologians past and present.

To view, download or order a printed copy of Prayers of the People, visit www.cbf.net/pray.

Across three decades, Becky Hall took care of field personnel and reveled in relationships

Two feelings

stand out as Becky Buice Hall looks back on her three-decade career at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship—her persistent calling to care for CBF field personnel and the abundant blessing of relationships.

Hall started working at CBF in August 1993 and continued through the end of January 2024. At 30 years and six months, hers is the longest tenure of any CBF employee.

Across the years, Hall changed jobs as need demanded and opportunity allowed, evolving and maturing alongside the Fellowship.

In 1993, Hall moved back home to Atlanta after a divorce and reached out to David Wilkinson, CBF’s communications coordinator and a former colleague at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. “I knew David well and wanted to work for him again,” Hall recalled. “So, I told him, ‘If


you have a job opening, let me know.’”

Soon, she was CBF’s first receptionist, one of the initial dozen or so employees in the Atlanta office. Not long after that, Keith Parks, CBF’s first Global Missions coordinator, asked her to join the Global Missions team, and she became the administrative assistant for Parks and associate coordinators Betty Law and Harlan Spurgeon.

That move placed Hall in the middle of Global Missions just as CBF began to appoint its own mission workers—what CBF calls field personnel—after taking on the support of some foreign missionaries cast out of the Southern Baptist Convention.

“I love CBF, and field personnel are my

true heart because I worked with them for so long,” Hall said. “My calling to CBF was a calling to support them.”

That support meant learning to do whatever needed to be done to help field personnel function wherever they lived, in whatever circumstances they faced.

“When I started at CBF, a computer network didn’t exist,” she reported. “Every email from Dr. Parks, Betty and Harlan went out from me, through my computer. I had to encrypt every email individually to keep the email secure.

“In the early years, I was the ‘IT department,’ too. So, I can still remember when we appointed missionaries. I took their new laptops home, spread them across my living room floor and installed their software, one floppy disc at a time. I am not technical by any stretch, so for me to be the IT person was funny.”

The passion that propelled Hall to learn enough about information technology to

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encrypt email and to install software pushed her to take on other responsibilities. “I always felt I needed to be learning something new and growing,” she said. “I wanted more responsibility; I wanted to do more.”

Eventually, that translated into helping manage the Global Missions budget—from tracking income and expenses, to developing the next year’s budget, to working directly with field personnel on expense reporting.

Wired as she is toward relationships and missions support, Hall focused on serving field personnel, virtually at any time. “Over the years, that meant checking my email regularly, telling field personnel: ‘I’m available when you need me. Here’s my cell phone number.’ I felt like if field personnel needed something in Asia, I needed to be available to help them get what they needed.”

“I really believe this was my calling,” she added. “When it came to field personnel, God called them to tough places and hard situations, and if I could make their lives easier by being at CBF, I wanted to do it. My calling placed me in the CBF office to help field personnel fulfill their calling around the world.”

In fact, when Hall thinks about her favorite times at CBF, her mind goes to Global Missions team meetings in various parts of the world. She loved hearing their stories, as well as seeing where many of them lived and served.

One of the best experiences occurred within the last couple of years, when she attended a combined meeting of the Europe and Africa-Middle East teams in Spain. Her husband, Tony, planned to go with her, but the timing of Covid vaccines prevented his travel.

They had planned to extend their trip by a few days, and when Tony couldn’t go, she considered cutting that part short. Instead, she

joined up with four female field personnel, who also had extended their trips. “It allowed me to get to spend extra time getting to know each of them better, and this would not have happened if the circumstances had been different,” she said.

Years ago, Hall stretched beyond Global Missions when she started managing the exhibit hall at CBF’s annual General Assembly. The exposure expanded her CBF relationships, providing an opportunity to get to know all kinds of vendors and to work with CBF’s partner organizations, most of which exhibit at the summertime event.

Hall grew and stretched even more a few years ago, when she joined the CBF finance department.

That move followed a sad season, when tight finances forced the elimination of some staff jobs in 2017. “It was a tough time,” she conceded. “There were folks let go who were near and dear to my heart. I began to question, ‘Do I need to stay?’ I questioned my call.”

But while attending the annual retreat for missionaries’ children, Hall spent a lot of time alone in prayer. “In my conversation with God, I said: ‘I don’t know what I need to do. I need you to make it perfectly clear this is where I need to be.’ When I got home, I had an opportunity to move out of Global Missions into finance—a broader role. God made it perfectly clear: ‘This is where you need to be.’”

As if to emphasize that point, in 2020, Hall became CBF’s associate coordinator for operations. She oversaw finance/ accounting, budget development, human resources, information technology, data management and office functioning.

“When Connie McNeill had this job years ago, I knew: ‘This is what I wanted to be when I grow up,’” she said. It completed her arc of CBF service—beginning as receptionist and ending as COO.

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[Top Left] Becky Hall (center) pictured alongside current and former CBF colleagues. From left to right: Earlene and Daniel Vestal, Connie McNeill, Becky Hall, Gary Skeen and Victoria Whatley. [Bottom Left] Hall (center) attending the anniversary party for former CBF field personnel T and Kathie Thomas. From left to right: Jim Strawn, Ellen Sechrest, Judy Strawn, Becky Hall, Kathie and T Thomas, Grace Powell Freeman, Ralph and Tammy Stocks. [Above] CBF staff smile for group photo in October 1994 at the retirement party for Betty Law (seated center). Back row from left to right: Linda Moore, Nancy Duncan, Gary Skeen, David Wilkinson, Pam Yarborough, Cecil Sherman, Ginny Ireland, Becky Hall, Frank Ivey, Clarissa Strickland, Wanda Hyde (Fron row from left to right) Judy Strawn, Harlan Spurgeon, Betty Law, Keith Parks, Grace Powell Freeman.

Co-workers from across the years reflected on the blessing of serving alongside Hall.

CBF Executive Coordinator Paul Baxley said Hall has “given generously and sacrificially of her gifts, her time, her energy and her deep faith toward the thriving of CBF.”

“In so many ways, she is the heart of our staff and an embodiment of what is best about us,” Baxley said. “She has seen our Fellowship from our very earliest years and has done exceptional work as associate coordinator of operations. I have counted it a privilege and honor to serve with her. We offer thanks to God and to her for her years of faithful and beautiful service.”

"I don't know of anyone who served CBF with more dignity and integrity than Becky,” insisted Daniel Vestal, who served as CBF executive coordinator for much of Hall’s tenure. “She has shown all of us what servant leadership looks like, and she has done it with humility and grace."

"Becky's work was not done in public or on a platform. Her face was not shown on videos or in news magazines. She was not a preacher or musician who received recognition. But for those of us who have lived within the inner workings of the CBF organization in implementing ministry, we know who she is and what she did. And more importantly, God know who she was and what she did."

At Hall’s retirement dinner, Clarissa Strickland, an early-CBF colleague, quoted Wilkinson as saying, “Becky eats work.”

Acknowledging “devours work” might have been more accurate, Wilkinson elaborated: “For more than three decades, Becky lived up to that description. She was extremely productive, focused and efficient, repeatedly outgrowing her defined roles. She was steadfastly loyal and trustworthy, always honoring confidentiality, whether explicitly requested or implied. She made everyone around her better.”

That’s because she cared so much about everyone around her, he added. “She believes in the people who comprise the Fellowship—its leaders, staff members and field personnel, and those congregations and individuals who have supported CBF as volunteers, advocates and financial contributors. For Becky, it’s always been about the people.”

Hall always responded to those relationships and also to God’s design for her in CBF, Strickland added. “Especially in the early years of CBF history, those of us who were privileged to be ‘flying the plane as we built it,’ as first CBF Executive Coordinator Cecil Sherman was wont to say, had a strong sense that what we were doing was much more than a job,” she explained. “It was a calling. Nobody exemplified that more than Becky Hall.

“Becky never really had a static ‘role’ at CBF. She was ever growing, maturing, acquiring new skills as she moved to different positions within CBF. I watched with admiration as she constantly ‘reinvented’ herself within her changing responsibilities.”

“Becky loves field personnel and shows it through her care and concern,” reported Dianne McNary, CBF’s Offering for Global Missions advocate and with her husband, Shane, former longtime field personnel in Slovakia and Czechia.

“Becky cared about us, our children,” she said. “She treated all field personnel like they were her extended family as we are! Becky

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In 2015, Hall attended the Asia Team meeting, spending time with 15 field personnel and their families. In 2022, following a team meeting in Spain, Hall was able to spend time with four CBF field personnel. From left to right: CBF field personnel Christine, Maha Boulos, Hall, Missy WardAngalla and Lynn Hutchinson. In 2023, Hall again attended the Asia Team meeting and worked with 22 CBF field personnel and staff. “I love CBF, and field personnel are my true heart because I worked with them for so long,” she said.

always made sure we were taken care of, even if that meant dealing with us on a weekend or holiday or vacation. Becky had a calling to make CBF great and to care for CBF field personnel. She has hung in there during some hard times.”

That was a broad and inclusive calling, explained Rob Nash, who was CBF’s Global Missions coordinator during part of Hall’s tenure.

“What struck me was her passion to support the work of field personnel around the world in ways that made their work easier and less stressful,” Nash said. “To this end, she assisted them with monthly reports in often-unheralded ways by approaching this challenge as her ministry to them.”

“Before spending too long with CBF, we realized this was not a job for Becky: It was a passion,” said Suzie, who, with her husband, Kirk, are longtime CBF field personnel in Southeast Asia. “As field personnel, we had a call to serve the ‘ends of the earth.’ Becky likewise had a clear call to serve the nations through serving field personnel. The God who calls is the God who equips, and God equipped Becky for her unique and much-valued role.”

Kirk emphasized Hall’s value to field personnel. “Becky was that unique person in the organization who knew everything,” he noted. “Over the past 27 years, we have said, ‘Better ask Becky’ more times than we can count.”

“Becky’s presence has been a model of what we ought to mean by ‘long-term,’” stressed Shane McNary, now coordinator of ministry for Great Rivers Fellowship. “Beyond being a storehouse of institutional knowledge, Becky embodied CBF Global Mission’s institutional spirit, our ethos, in a way that provided stability for all of CBF. It was always interesting to me how often my go-to person at CBF is Becky.

“Her role has been so crucial in the life of Global Missions and field personnel and, more lately, for all of CBF, that it really isn’t too far of a stretch to ask, ‘What is CBF going to do without Becky?’ She’s the leaven in the CBF loaf.”

While others figure out what CBF will do without her, Hall will be learning what to do without CBF much closer to home. She and Tony live in Flovilla, Ga., an hour and a half from the CBF office in Decatur.

At 56, she acknowledged, “I’m too young to retire” and said she will look for meaningful opportunities to invest her time without that long, long commute. And staying closer to home will allow her to spend more time with her family—her parents, both 81, and her daughter, Emily, and son-in-law, Matt, who are expecting Hall’s first grandchild this summer.

But Hall still will treasure the relationships that have sustained her across the years, she said, noting, “CBF is family and always will be family.”

SPRING 2024 | 27
Hall celebrates with former CBF colleagues at her retirement dinner in January 2024. In 2023, at her final General Assembly as a CBF staff member, Hall poses with friends and former Global Missions colleagues Tom Prevost, Jim Smith, Becky Smith and Carol Prevost. Hall (left) smiles with then past and present CBF colleagues David Wilkinson, Amy Derrick and Clarissa Strickland at the General Assembly exhibit hall (The Gathering Place), which Hall coordinated for many years.


How one North Carolina pastor offers respite beyond borders

Daniel Sostaita,

senior pastor at Iglesia Cristiana sin Fronteras (ICSF) in Winston-Salem, N.C., loves telling the story of a man named Edgar, who came by himself to Sostaita’s church a few years ago from Colombia, having left his family in South America. He was lonely, but he was focused on one purpose: to work and send money back home.

He began attending services at Iglesia Cristiana and, after a little while, he started to get to know the people within the unique congregation. He enjoyed the opportunity to worship and make acquaintances. Then, a funny thing happened. Edgar began to make real friends, people began to really know him and before he knew it, a fellow church member offered him a steady job.

Edgar pushed himself to know his new trade, and he learned it well. He began to understand himself through the Lord and was inspired to serve in different areas of the ministry at his new church—a place that was starting to feel like home, a place that was making life on this side of the border not so lonely.

“This is what we do at our church,” said Sostaita about the culture at ICSF. “I came to this country, too, a long time ago and faced

many trials; and many of the people at our church have also made that same journey. We know that we are called to create a welcoming place for others and so that’s just how we operate.”

Alongside his congregation, Sostaita does that by creating a welcoming environment for anyone who walks through their doors, but specifically men and women who’ve crossed the border for the first time. Sometimes they’re alone, like Edgar, and other times whole families are looking for a place to come. Their experience extends beyond sermons and singing as ICSF has built a place where those individuals can feel seen and cared for.

Part of that is the work they’ve put into making connections in the local community. Iglesia Cristiana sin Fronteras works with several resources to help new community

members get documentation and IDs, enroll in schools, collect the physical things they might need, like clothes, food and shelter, and connect them to healthcare and similar interest groups. They host a mobile healthcare clinic once a week through the Atrium Wake Forest Medical Center with the same doctor, offering these families a deeper sense of belonging.

“We continue to make a difference because the good news must be complete, not half,” he said. “We don’t want to offer bits and pieces of faith. We want to show love and help these families grow in their faith by taking care of them as people. That happens by creating a place where they feel like they belong and by meeting more than just their spiritual needs.”

Sostaita believes that hospitality, putting oneself in another’s shoes, feeling the pain

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and need of another is exactly what Jesus teaches us in John 13:34-35. So for him, it’s not a specific drive or passion—obviously, he is passionate about it—it’s intrinsic. It’s his nature, the nature that God gave him and that he will use to answer God’s call. And he’s leading a church filled with people who share the same drive.

A few months after Edgar had settled into his new job, he decided to bring his wife, two small children and his mother-in-law from Colombia to join him. It was not easy. They were detained for more than two months in a shelter on the border. Then, they were accidentally rerouted to Chicago. Luckily, Sostaita’s oldest daughter had contacts there and two people arrived at the airport and managed, after 12 hours, to get them back on a plane to North Carolina.

Once they were there, ICSF could really get to work.

“We got vaccines for the children, fed them, got them enrolled at school, sought out healthcare for Edgar’s mother-in-law and treated her here at the mobile clinic,” said Sostaita. “It’s a beautiful thing to watch our

congregation in action. There’s no question— it’s just what we do. These are our people, fellow brothers and sisters of God.”

Today, Edgar is a professional in remodeling and directs the video ministry and sound at the church. In a little more than a year, this family has refocused their lives to serve the Lord. Edgar is just one example in a church that’s growing every week.

Sostaita credits that ability to grow to the relationships he’s made through CBF. When he met CBF’s Linda Jones, no one else was willing to hear his vision; she was—and she fell in love with it.

“She helped me plant my church and connected me with resources and with other Latino pastors,” he said. “Many years have passed since then, and we continue to be in touch as we do the work of the Lord. CBF is a great family, where transparency, cordiality, love of neighbor, commitment to social justice and human rights help us fulfill the mandate of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Today, he works with Santiago Reales (CBF North Carolina) who directs the Latino Pastors Network, Ruben Ortiz (CBF

Latino Network) and Elket Rodriguez (CBF field personnel) to stay connected to local resources and support that make him able to create that “home away from home” for his members.

“You know, a lot of our members are here for a while, but a lot of others are only here while they’re working,” he said. “That doesn’t matter to us. When you are here, you’re a part of our family. That’s what we want them to feel like, and that’s what we’ve been able to do with the connections we’ve made. We will take care of them while they’re here; we will love them as part of our family whether it’s for a few months, a few years or longer.

“Our church has made a profound transformation, although we are not finished,” said Sostaita. “My vision was always to unite the resources available in our community among the different organizations, the government, hospitals, etc. and put them in the hands of the neediest, the forgotten and the marginalized. That work is never finished.”

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Daniel Sostaita planted his church to create a welcoming environment to anyone who attends ICSF. The church has ties to the community to help those new to the United States, including resources like documentation, enrolling in school, connecting in healthcare and basics like food and shelter. “We want to show love and help these families grow in their faith by taking care of them as people,” Sostaita said.


Cómo un pastor de Carolina del Norte ofrece esperanza que traspasa fronteras

pastor de la Iglesia Cristiana sin Fronteras (ICSF) en Winston-Salem (Carolina del Norte), le gusta contar la historia de un hombre llamado Edgar. Edgar llegó solo a la iglesia de Sostaita hace unos años, procedente de Colombia, tras haber dejado a su familia en Sudamérica. Se sentía solo, pero tenía un único propósito: trabajar y enviar dinero a casa.

Empezó a asistir a los cultos de la iglesia y, al poco tiempo, empezó a conocer a otros en esta singular congregación. Disfrutaba de la oportunidad de adorar y relacionarse. Entonces ocurrió algo especial, Edgar comenzó a hacer amigos de verdad, la gente empezó a conocerle y, antes de que se diera cuenta, un compañero de la iglesia le ofreció un trabajo fijo.

Edgar se esforzó por aprender su nuevo oficio, y lo hizo bien. Empezó a entenderse a sí mismo a través del mensaje de Jesús y se sintió inspirado para servir en diferentes áreas del ministerio en su nueva iglesia, un lugar que empezaba a ser como su casa, un lugar que lograba que la vida a este lado de la frontera no fuera tan solitaria.

“Esto es lo que hacemos en nuestra iglesia”, dijo Sostaita sobre la cultura de ICSF.

“Yo también vine a este país hace mucho tiempo y me enfrenté a muchas pruebas; y muchas de las personas de nuestra iglesia también han hecho ese mismo viaje. Sabemos que estamos llamados a crear un lugar acogedor para los demás y esto es lo que hacemos”.

Junto con su congregación, Sostaita ha creado un entorno acogedor para cualquiera que atraviese sus puertas, pero especialmente para hombres y mujeres que han cruzado la frontera por primera vez. A veces están solos, como Edgar, y otras veces son familias enteras las que buscan un lugar al que acudir. Su experiencia va más allá de los sermones y los cantos, ya que ICSF prepara espacios donde esas personas son cuidadas y no pasan desapercibidas.

Parte de ello es el trabajo que han

realizado para establecer contactos en la comunidad local. La Iglesia Cristiana sin Fronteras trabaja con recursos para ayudar a los nuevos miembros de la comunidad a conseguir documentación e identificaciones, matricularse en escuelas, recoger lo que necesiten físicamente, como ropa, comida y alojamiento, y contactarlos con grupos de salud o con intereses similares. Una vez a la semana organizan una clínica sanitaria móvil a través del Atrium Wake Forest Medical Center con el mismo médico, lo que ofrece a estas familias un mayor sentido de pertenencia.

“Seguimos marcando la diferencia porque la buena noticia debe ser completa, no a medias”, afirma. “No queremos ofrecer retazos de fe. Queremos mostrar amor y ayudar a estas familias a crecer en su fe cuidándolas como personas, integralmente. Eso se

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consigue creando un lugar al que sientan que pertenecen y satisfaciendo algo más que sus necesidades espirituales.”

Sostaita cree que la hospitalidad, ponerse en el lugar del otro, sentir el dolor y la necesidad del otro es exactamente lo que Jesús nos enseña en Juan 13:34-35. Por eso, para él, no se trata solo de mostrar amor, sino de ayudar a estas familias a crecer en la fe. Así que para él no es un impulso o una pasión específica -obviamente, le apasiona-, sino que es algo intrínseco. Es su naturaleza, la forma en cómo Dios lo hizo y que utiliza para responder al llamado divino. Y es así como está dirigiendo una iglesia llena de personas que comparten el mismo impulso.

Unos meses después de que Edgar se hubiera instalado en su nuevo trabajo, decidió traer a su esposa, a sus dos hijos pequeños y a su suegra de Colombia. No fue fácil. Estuvieron detenidos más de dos meses en un refugio de la frontera. Luego, fueron desviados accidentalmente a Chicago. Sin embargo, la hija mayor de Sostaita tenía contactos allí y dos personas llegaron al aeropuerto y consiguieron, tras 12 horas, que volvieran a tomar un avión a Carolina del Norte.

Una vez allí, la Iglesia Cristiana Sin Fronteras puso, una vez más, manos a la obra.

“Conseguimos vacunas para los niños, les dimos de comer, conseguimos que se matricularan en la escuela, buscamos asistencia sanitaria para la suegra de Edgar y la tratamos aquí, en la clínica móvil”, explica Sostaita. “Es hermoso ver a nuestra congregación en acción. No hay duda: es lo que hacemos. Esta es nuestra gente, hermanos y hermanas de Dios”.

Hoy, Edgar es un profesional en remodelación y dirige el ministerio de video y sonido en la iglesia. En poco más de un año esta familia ha reorientado sus vidas y sirve al Señor. Edgar es sólo un ejemplo en una iglesia que crece cada semana.

Sostaita atribuye esa capacidad de crecimiento a las relaciones que ha hecho a través de CBF. Cuando conoció a Linda Jones, de, Compañerismo, nadie más estaba dispuesto a escuchar su visión; ella sí, y al instante conectaron en la misión.

“Ella me ayudó a fundar la iglesia y me puso en contacto con recursos y con otros pastores latinos”, afirma. “Han pasado muchos años desde entonces, y seguimos en contacto mientras hacemos la obra del Señor. El Compañerismo Bautista Cooperativo es una gran familia, donde la transparencia, la cordialidad, el amor al prójimo, el compromiso

Daniel Sostaita dio inicio a la congregación Iglesia Cristiana Sin Fronteras a fin de crear un entorno acogedor en la comunidad. La iglesia ha estrechado lazos para ayudar a los recién llegados a Estados Unidos, en esto incluyen recursos como documentación, matriculas escolares, conexión con asistencia en salud y cosas básicas como comida y alojamiento. “Queremos mostrar amor y ayudar a estas familias a crecer en su fe cuidando de ellos como personas”, dijo Sostaita.

con la justicia social y los derechos humanos nos ayudan a cumplir el mandato de nuestro Señor y Salvador Jesucristo.”

Para mantenerse conectado con los recursos y el apoyo local y permitir crear este “hogar lejos del hogar” para sus miembros Daniel trabaja con Santiago Reales (CBFNC), que dirige la Red de Pastores Latinos, Rubén Ortiz (CBF Familia) y Elket Rodríguez (Personal de Campo de CBF).

“Muchos de nuestros miembros están aquí por un tiempo, pero muchos otros sólo están aquí mientras trabajan”, dijo. “Eso no nos importa. Cuando están aquí, forman parte de nuestra familia. Eso es lo que queremos que sientan, y eso es lo que hemos podido hacer con las conexiones que hemos establecido. Cuidaremos de ellos mientras estén aquí; los amaremos como parte de nuestra familia, ya sea durante unos meses, unos años o más.

“Nuestra iglesia ha experimentado una profunda transformación, aunque no hemos terminado”, afirma Sostaita. “Mi visión siempre fue unir los recursos disponibles en nuestra comunidad entre las distintas organizaciones, el gobierno, los hospitales, etc. y ponerlos en manos de los más necesitados, los olvidados y los marginados. Ese trabajo nunca termina”.

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SECURE 2.0 Act highlights and how it may impact you in 2024

Whether you’re a recent graduate or have been happily retired for years, you could benefit from recent changes to U.S. retirement laws. Here’s what you need to know about the SECURE 2.0 Act and how it may affect you.

• 2024 IRA contribution limits: $7,000 for individuals 50 and younger (a $500 increase from 2023); $8,000 for individuals 50+

• 2024 401(k) contribution limits: $23,000 for individuals 50 and younger (a $500 increase from 2023); $30,500 for individuals 50+

• 2024 QCD distribution limits: $105,000 (a $5,000 increase from 2023). This means that you can make a single QCD donation of up to $105,000 to one charity or split your gift between multiple charities for a collective total of $105,000 — but you can’t exceed this limit.

• Previously, QCD gifts could only be made to qualifying charities. In 2024, you can also make a onetime transfer of up to $53,000 to a charitable remainder annuity trust, a charitable remainder unitrust, or an immediate charitable gift annuity (a $3,000 increase from 2023).

• Starting on January 1, 2023, SECURE 2.0 increased the age you must start withdrawing your RMD from 72 to 73 years of age. This will change again in 2033, when the required beginning date for RMD withdrawals will increase from 73 to 75. SECURE 2.0 also lowered the penalty fee from 50% to 25% of your required withdrawal amount.

• If you have not already, you’ll be automatically enrolled in your employer’s retirement plan on December 31, 2024. This rule does not apply to government retirement plans, religious institutions, businesses less than three years old, and businesses with 10 or fewer employees.

• Beginning in 2024, you’ll be able to withdraw up to $1,000 from your retirement savings each year to cover personal or family emergencies. These funds will be penalty-free, meaning you won’t have to pay any fees or taxes on them.

• Also beginning in 2024, employers will be able to offer automatic enrollment in an emergency savings account of up to $2,500. These savings will be linked to your retirement plan, but won’t be subject to the same penalty taxes as the funds in your retirement account.

• Starting in 2024, employers are able to make matching contributions for qualified student loan payments to 401(k), 403(b), or SIMPLE IRA plans. This will allow student loan borrowers to build their retirement savings while also paying down their student debt — without having to sacrifice one or the other.

Please consult with your tax advisor for more information.

Clairemont Avenue, Suite 500 Decatur, GA 30030 www.cbf.net (800) 352-8741
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