This is the second year that the conference has been held at Pipestem. Before that, Canaan Valley had been the setting for several years. The beauty of this place is breathtaking and it is a perfect setting to get away and commune with our Creator. I did not get to attend the conference for the past two years due to other ministry opportunities, and I truly had missed the time of ministry and the opportunity to fellowship with my colleagues from around the Mountain State.
Our speakers this year are Steve Freeman who is Staff Evangelist of Colonial Heights Baptist Church in Virginia, and Dr. John Sullivan, Executive Director of the Florida Baptist Convention. Both of them have already ministered to me in a wonderful way through their messages in the opening session last evening. Freeman and Sullivan are pictured below.
Freeman is a tiny man in stature, but a giant in faith and ministry. Born prematurely in the 5th month of his mother's pregnancy, his twin brother died at birth. He, himself, stopped breathing several times in the first couple of hours of his life, and doctors prepared his parents for the fact that he, too, might not survive. But he did survive - only to be later diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. Again his parents were prepared by the doctors prognosis that if he even lived to adulthood, Steve would not be able to contribute to society in any positive way.
His message last night, from Romans 8:28-29, was one of hope for those who are hurting and facing difficult circumstances. He drew on his life story and his recent diagnosis with cancer to illustrate the joy that one can have in Christ, even while facing the darkest moments in life. I can certainly attest to that truth through my own journey with cancer over the past 4 1/2 years. Steve also ministered to us in song. His testimony, his talent, and his very presence at this conference are unspeakable blessings.
Dr. John Sullivan wound up the meeting last night with a rousing message from 1 John chapter 3, challenging us to rekindle our passion for Christ. Sullivan, is a West Virginia native, hailing from Ansted, WV. Under his leadership, the Florida Baptist Convention has become one of the leading state Southern Baptist Conventions in existence. Sullivan is an eloquent speaker, whose knowledge of the Word and more than 50 years of rich experience as a pastor and denominational worker bring a wealth of benefit to all who know him. The last time I heard Dr. Sullivan preach in person was in a chapel service a couple of years ago at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. What a blessing he is! He is "old school" and stands as one of the tallest "pulpiteers" in the SBC today.
Worship music is being led by Westmoreland Baptist's own Randy Spurgeon, who although still a member of SBC, now works full time in the state office as the WVCSB Director of Church Music and Family Ministry. I was blessed to work with Randy for six years at Westmoreland and love he and his family dearly.
Well, it's time for breakfast (and I really don't want to miss that) and then on to a full day of blessing. I am already looking forward to getting back to work in evangelism and pastoral ministry in the place where God has graciously planted me.
Perhaps I'll be able to post again from the conference. Until then ...