Monday, May 28, 2012

Remembering Mamaw Bowling On Decoration Day

In the hills and coal fields of southern West Virginia (where I spent many of my younger years) "Decoration Day" was more than just a day for remembering our war dead. We certainly did take time to honor those who had fought and died for the cause of freedom. Small flags were placed at the gravestones of our honored dead, and we paused to remember the terrible cost of freedom.

However, in our culture it was also a time set aside to honor the memory of all of our loved ones who had passed on. I have written before about how our Memorial Days were spent, driving the 69 crooked miles down State Rt. 10 to Logan, WV. There, joining up with other relatives from the Adkins and Stidham clans, the day was spent visiting cemeteries ranging from the overgrown hillside at Foley (near Ethel), to the better preserved family plot on the hillside at Chauncey (on Island Creek) to the neatly manicured grounds of Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens (at Peck's Mill). The old graveyards at Foley and Chauncey would need their annual brush cutting. After the hard work was done, there was always a picnic presided over by Papaw Stidham. Those Memorial Days spent with my parents, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents are some of the most precious memories I have in all my 61 years.

Visiting the graves of my father's grandparents and other relatives would come a little later. On the second Sunday in June, the Adkins clan would gather in force at the "old home place" near the Sulphur Spring on 14 Mile Creek in Lincoln County. There, a huge meal would be prepared for everyone, then most of the men and kids (and some of the ladies) would make the difficult trek up the hill to decorate the graves on the hill top Adkins/Lucas graveyard. We drank cold water from a well on the front porch of the house, and we had a great time chasing the geese around the barnyard, and catching crawdads in the creek with paper cups.

Then on the second Sunday in August we would travel to Wayne County and make the exciting drive up the old dirt road to the scenic ridge top Press Friley Cemetery, were my Mamaw Adkins' Pack clan were all laid to rest. Again, there would be a huge spread of food, and the Old Regular Baptist preachers, took turns preaching in the makeshift amphitheater overlooking an old, rough wooden platform that had been built on the side of the hill in the distant past.

This year, as he has done for several years now, my brother, Bruce, took Mom and Dad to Logan for "Decoration". In their 80's now, they only visit Forest Lawn. That is where both sets of their parents are now interred, as well as a couple of their brothers. I would love to have made the trip with them again, but busy schedules just wouldn't allow it. I miss those "Decoration Days" so many years ago.

Linda and I made the alternate trip down to Pike County Kentucky to take flowers to the graves of her mother, Orpha Bowling, and her older brother, Burgess Ray. He was known to the family as "Buddy Ray", but to most of his friends as "Sarge". He had done 14 years in the United States Marine Corps, but opted to forego a full career in the Corps to come back to the mountains to go back to school, work in the coal mines, and raise his family where he had grown up. Tragically he was killed in a mining accident in 1991. He was a great brother in law to me, and after all these years I still miss him.

Mamaw Bowling, on the other hand, was with us until we lost her to a stroke early in the morning of Christmas Eve, 2003. It's hard to believe she has been gone nearly nine years. Time has shown she was the glue that helped hold her family together. Was she perfect? Of course not. No one is. But Mamaw was a mother who loved and cared for her children, grandchildren, and the few great grandchildren she had the privilege of knowing. As a son in law, I can testify that she loved and treated each of us "in laws" as her own children. She was a good neighbor, one that was respected by all who knew her. She followed the "golden rule" treating others as she would want to have been treated, and modeled that type of behavior to her children. She was a good cook, and there was never a visitor to her home that was not offered a meal - whatever time of day or night it may have been. She and my father in law had 61 years together. He worked hard to earn the paycheck, and Mamaw took care of all the details. Naturally, he has felt lost since that sad Christmas Eve nearly nine years ago.

She had a temper, but it was almost always under control. The one way I know she could be riled up was if someone had done something to take advantage of a member of her family. I can only imagine how heartbroken and angry she would be if she knew what has been done to Burgess in the past year. We can take comfort in knowing that God knows, and He will make all things right in his time.

Mamaw, we love you and we miss you. This "Decoration Day" we take comfort in knowing that you are not in that grave in that beautiful setting at Ransom, but that you are with our Heavenly Father, who loved you, and adopted you to be His own. In your lifetime here you traveled many dusty rough country roads. It won't be long till we see you again - on streets of gold!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Anonymous Letter

I received an anonymous letter in the mail at church last week. It came in a plain white envelope with no return address. It was addressed, simply, to the Pastor. Inside was a neatly typed, well written unsigned half page communication. From what had been written, I could only gather that it was from a church member, presumably a lady.
Over the last four decades, I have received several unsigned letters. Having served on my local Board of Education, the city Board of Zoning Adjustment, a Seminary Board of Trustees, a Little League Board of Directors, a State Baptist Convention officer, and with four decades of pastoral ministry, sometimes anonymous letters just go with the territory. Generally these letters have been angry in tone, accusatory, and down right mean. Some were unsigned because the writers "feared for their jobs" (perhaps a valid concern in some cases). Others were unsigned, simply because the poison pen authors were simply too cowardly to sign their names. A former School Board colleague once told me, "If they won't do me the courtesy of identifying themselves, I won't waste my time reading their letter. It goes straight into the trash."
I've read every anonymous letter I have ever received. Some raised valid concerns, but most were quite deserving of the "round file" that sits in the floor beside my desk.
This letter was different.
It made me sad.
The person who wrote it, was either a member of our church or someone who at least has attended for a while. From the content of the letter, one could assume the author was a woman, based on what seems to be her perspective in the writing. However, a reading of the letter also indicated that she may have been more peripheral in her church relationship, and not very familiar with church polity, or past practice.
This dear lady apparently had an idea that she had shared with someone else before the service last Sunday morning. She thought her suggestion might be benefit the work of the church. As she shared her idea, with another person she was told, "The men will never allow it!" As she explained what she saw as the merit of her idea, she got the same response, "The men will never allow it."
Now, I don't know the identity of either party in the conversation, but I can tell you this. The one who kept repeating "The men will never allow it" either spoke out of ignorance of the facts, or with the intent to upset the lady who had made the suggestion. If their intention was the latter, they certainly succeeded. This lady was hurt, and it came through in her writing. It caused her to wonder "why her opinion meant nothing, and her voice could not be heard". She further wondered if she "had been attending the wrong church for all these years".
This letter was heartbreaking. Here was a person who is at least attached to our congregation, and may even be a member. Yet she seems to be unaware of how the church operates. We operate under the model of congregational church polity. There is no select group (Elders, Deacons, etc) that makes policy or sets direction for the church. As a congregation of believers and followers of Christ, we have adopted a church constitution that sets out who we are, why we are here, and how we are organized for ministry and mission. Furthermore, we have a policy and procedure manual that has been compiled and revised over the years, by action of the church body. These policies and procedures are to provide clarity as to how we operate as an "organization". A copy of the manual is kept in the church office and is available to any person who would like to peruse it.
Our congregation holds regular quarterly business meetings, to hear reports, ask questions, set policies, and consider all important business that is necessary for our church to handle. Every member of the church (age sixteen and above) has a vote on every issue considered in each meeting. Every one's opinion means something, and every voice has the right to be heard.
Sadly, this dear lady does not seem to understand this. But even more sad is the fact that she was given bad information by someone else - and just took it for the truth. I don't know the identity nor the motives of the person who dispensed the bad information to this lady, but whether it be due to ignorance of the facts, or out of some type of malice, it was harmful. Harmful to the feelings of the letter writer, and in a larger sense, harmful to the unity and harmony of our church.
The letter writer seems to have access to a computer, since it appears to have been typed in some type of word program. I pray that she may read this blog post. If she is reading this, I urge her to contact me. Give me a call, drop me an email, or preferably, come by the office and let's talk about your suggestion. Your voice is important, and open communication can answer many questions, and head off many potential problems.
You close your letter by saying, "I am not signing this letter because I do not want to be identified as a trouble maker...". Believe me when I tell you that I have read a number of anonymous letters over the years - and your letter was not that of a trouble maker. Every member is important to this body, and it breaks my heart to think that someone may think that they are not! I hope to hear from you, and I will keep your identity in confidence.
Today's prayer: Lord help us to be understanding of others. May your Spirit bear the fruit in our lives of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. May our communications and actions reflect those qualities. May you rebuke the Enemy, who would use his wiles to cause us to focus on the things that take our eyes off the mission! Thank you for loving us. Thank you for your Church and for the people who make up your body. Amen

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Cool Shepherd?

I hear it from fellow pastors all the time.
"Why do we lose so many of our young people, once they 'graduate' from the youth group?"
It seems to be a widespread problem among evangelical churches. Most of us put a good bit of time and effort into our children's and student ministries in the church. Yet we often lose many of our youth once they "age out". Why is that?
Do they no longer need discipleship training?
Are they no longer interested in connecting with friends?
Are spiritual matters no longer an issue with them?
Is it because the church is no longer relevant?
The answer to all of the above is, "Of course not!"
So, why do they seem to disappear in droves?
Perhaps the answers can be found by studying those who DO NOT leave the church, after their youth group years are over.
I read a very interesting article by Jon Nielson on my BlackBerry recently, while sitting in a hospital waiting room. The post is entitled, "Three Common Traits Of Youth Who Do Not Leave The Church". The entire article can be found here...
Nielson writes that there are three common traits that can be found in the young people who stay involved in the church. Interestingly, his findings have nothing to do with music, worship styles, dress standards, or the "cool factor" of the pastor or the congregation. According to Nielson, the three common traits of youth who do not leave the church are these:
  1. They are Converted
  2. They have been Equipped - not Entertained
  3. Their parents have "Preached the Gospel to them"

Does that make sense? If these factors are valid, and I believe they are, It should be a wake up call to all of us, and a reason to re-evaluate our respective youth ministries.

The first and foremost things our kids need is Jesus! Not just a head knowledge about who Jesus was, where He went, what He did, or even what He said. Students, like adults, need to KNOW Jesus. To know Him as their Savior and Lord. They need a personal relationship with Him. The message of John 3:16 and John 14:6 is just as important to young people as it is to 30, 40, and 50 something folks. Our youth activities need to be built around Evangelism!

Secondly, as young disciples, students need to be equipped - not entertained. Many churches and youth workers seem to feel that we "have to keep them entertained or we'll lose them". Now, I understand that there does need to be activities that add fun and fellowship to our student ministry activities. But entertainment is not what its all about. It is very possible to plan enough entertainment and activities to keep kids coming out, but without conversion and a focus on building up and discipling these young folks, they will be gone as soon as the fun is over.

Just as important is the need for parents to model their faith before their kids. No youth pastor, no matter how talented, gifted, or imaginative they may be, can take the place of the parent in laying the foundation of the Gospel in the lives of their children. Parents must take on their God given responsibilities. Don't just send the kids to youth group. Don't just expect the "youth guy" to accomplish in a few hours a month, what you can and must do in the home.

At Westmoreland Baptist Church, these are the things we are going to focus on in our "Beneath the Surface" student ministry. Will Youth Pastor, Bub Amis, and his helpers have some fun activities planned for the kids? Sure. But we make a commitment to you as parents that in all of our activities, our goal will be to win these kids to Christ. It won't be all about activities and fun and games. We will seek to build them up as strong disciplined followers of Christ - to be young people who will not only have a rock solid faith in Christ, but will be growing in Him, and will be a witness to their friend as fellow students as well.

We ask the parents to back us in this, and above all to do your part. Teach them in your home. Model your faith in your life, so your kids will realize that their greatest role models are genuine in their beliefs and practices.

Kids need a shepherd the same as adults do.

We are going to commit that our efforts will be to model the Good Shepherd, rather than focus on being the Cool Shepherd. I'm convinced it will be of eternal value to the kids!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

This N That

I've been blogging for several years now. Info about me and my reason for blogging is located on the panel to the right side of the screen - so there is no need for me to go into my motivation or an explanation of the blog in this post.
When it comes to the blogosphere, "For What It's Worth" is basically small potatoes. Next week I should pass the 45,000 mark in page views. In the vast scheme of things, that doesn't compare to the huge numbers of which some popular blogs can boast. But on the other hand it's rather amazing to me that there have been than many visits to this site.
The stats that Blogger keeps reveal some interesting data regarding "For What It's Worth". It has recorded somewhat regular readership from the following countries, listed in order of readership volume:

United States
United Kingdom
United Arab Emirates
It is somewhat interesting to me, to realize that the ruminations of a rather obscure 61 year old Baptist pastor from West Virginia has had regular readership among folks on several continents. (although I seem to be coming up way short in the Southern Hemisphere!)
The stats page also reveals how the readers have come to find this blog: is far and away the highest number of referrals to this blog. is next, followed by and The stats list numerous other referring sites and URL's but those listed above are the most common.
Even the percentage of the various browsers used, as well as the operating systems are listed.

Pageviews by Browsers

Internet Explorer (42%)
Firefox (19%)
Chrome (14%)
Safari (13%)
Mobile Safari (9%)
Instapaper (1%)
Opera (1%)
Mobile (1%)
chromeframe (1%)

Pageviews by Operating Systems:

Windows (68%)
Macintosh (10%)
Android (9%)
iPhone (5%)
Linux (2%)
iPad (1%)
BlackBerry (1%)
It's been fun blogging. I hope to continue for as long as possible. There have been times when it lay dormant for a while, but that happens due to several circumstances - ranging from heavy schedule, ministry responsibilities, travel, family issues with our aged parents, or just plain old writer's block. I've had opportunity to vent when angry, brag on grandchildren, comment on the passing scene, talk some politics, discuss some scripture, share some poetry, spin some yarns, pass along a funny story of photo, and comment on doctrinal issues in the Southern Baptist Convention - all "For What It's Worth".
However you may have happened to find this blog, I'm glad you stopped by. I hope you save it on your "favorites" and visit often. Some of you are regular readers. Many have left comments, both positive and negative. Hopefully it hasn't offended many, but I know it has some... Either way, I appreciate your readership, and welcome your input. Some times you may agree with me, sometimes you may not. Perhaps it will provoke thought, and hopefully it will point folks to my Lord and Savior.
Stop by and visit when you can.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

It's Up To Us - And We Have A Helper!

This story from an unknown author comes to me most recentlyin an email forwarded by Linda. I have seen it before, and perhaps some of you have as well, but the message isimportant enough that it merits repeating.

Law of the Garbage Truck

“One day I hopped in a taxi and we took off for the
airport. We were driving in the right
lane when suddenly a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of
us. My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded, and missed the other car byjust inches! The driver of the other car whipped his head around and started yelling at us. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. And I mean, he was really friendly. So I asked, 'Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital!'

This is when my taxi driver taught me what I now call, 'The Law of the Garbage Truck.'
He explained that many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it and sometimes they'll dump it on you. Don'ttake it personally.

Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Don't take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home, or on the streets. The bottom line is that successful people do not let garbage trucks take over their day. Life's too short to wake up in the morning with regrets, so
Love the people who treat you right. Pray for the ones who don't.”

How do we, as Christians react when we are treated poorly or unfairly? How do we respond? The Bible gives us plain direction. Here are but three passages to consider:

Pro 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

In Matt 5:39 Jesus said, “But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

Paul writes in Rom 12:14-21 “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends
on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the
wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Sound Biblical advice, don't you think? Is it ever easy to do this? Of course not! Yet throught the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, we should all put into practice! As Paul tells us in Romans 12, it's up to us in how we react to "getting dumped on... Aren't you thankful we have a helper?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

E Pluribus Unum (Christ's Church)

This morning, untold numbers of Evangelical pastors will step into the pulpit to proclaim God's Word.
Many will have extensive theological education - some even with terminal degrees. Others have will have less formal education, yet have felt the call of God on their lives. They have sought to do their very best to study the Bible, and employ the best tools available to help them "rightly divide the word of truth". All of them face the dual challenge of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ to the lost, as well as feeding the flock of God, so they may become better disciples.
They will be affiliated with various evangelical denominations and conventions, and some will even be "independent". Some will be in full time ministry while others are Bi-vocational, laboring in a secular job to support their families.
Some will preach in great sanctuaries of imposing buildings. Some will work in little white churches by the side of the road. Some in storefront missions. Some in house churches. Some in rented theater buildings, hotel meeting rooms, or school gymnasiums, or even in an outdoor setting.
Some will dress in sharp business suits, others in less expensive outfits, yet the best they can afford. Some will dress casual - and some will wear torn jeans and black T shirts.
Some will stand behind a huge pulpit, or some type of lectern. Others will sit on a stool, behind a microphone, or pace the platform like a caged tiger. Some will have great oratorical skills. Some, not so much. Some will raise their voices, as well as a sweat. Some will speak in more conversational tones. Some will actually read their message from a manuscript. Others will preach with the aid of notes. Still others may be note free - and a few may even speak extemporaneously.
Robed choirs singing powerful anthems will back some of the pastors. Praise teams may lead worship in some services. In some churches there will be orchestras or smaller ensembles, providing sacred music. Powerful old hymns will emanate from great organs in some auditoriums. Other congregations will simply be happy to have someone in the crowd who can play the old upright piano. In some churches praise bands will provide electronically amplified music to a beat from a talented drummer. In other churches a single acoustic guitar may be the only instrumental music available. In some congregations, there will be solos and trios and quartets, singing Southern Gospel music. In others there will be only congregational singing - some perhaps, without accompaniment at all.
Some of the congregations will be of only one ethnicity. Others will have people present from differing races. Some congregations will be strikingly older in their makeup. Others may be made up primarily of college students and young adults. Still others will have a healthy mixture of all ages. In some churches many children will be present. In others, not so many.
Some pastors will differ from others in their view of church polity. There will be secondary and tertiary doctrinal differences between them. There will be Calvinists, Arminians, and Molinists - Premillenialists and Amillenialists. Some pastors, even within the same denominations or conventions, may differ sharply on internal denominational issues.
We could go on and on chronicling the difference one may find in worship styles today in evangelical churches of all sizes, around the country and around the world.
One thing, however, unites us, in spite of all our differences, preferences, and idiosyncrasies. It is the Great Commission. The marching orders that Christ has left us are clear. We may take slightly different directions as to how we seek to accomplish it, but we are one in the Spirit - one in the Lord.
Today's prayer: "Lord, use us today for Your glory, and for Your Kingdom. Use us in spite of our differences, and our shortcomings. Make us an instrument of Your grace and peace, and may we be a channel of blessing to the believer, as well as those who have not yet come to You."

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Devil Anse Hatfield

As a young boy, I remember my parents taking me to the grave site of Captain Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield, patriarch of the Hatfield half of the legendary Hatfield-McCoy Feud. To reach the grave, located near Barnabus and Sarah Ann on Main Island Creek in Logan County, WV, I remember us leaving the car on the shoulder of the two lane road, and making a tough climb up the side of the hill. There on the overgrown hillside stood the life sized Italian marble statue of the Confederate Army officer, turned feud patriarch, turned preacher.
There he stood, the stern bearded figure, gazing out across the hills of West Virginia, that had been his home and refuge for years, and which he loved dearly. I didn't know much about the feud at that time, but I was fascinated that such a beautiful monument could be found in such a remote place. However, that was exactly the type of rugged terrain that had been his family's home territory for generations.
Hatfield was born in 1839 and died in 1921. When he was baptized late in life by Uncle Dyke Garrett in Logan, the crowd that showed up to witness the event numbered in the hundreds. And why not? This was Old Devil Anse, himself! Patriarch of the Mingo County West Virginia clan that went to war for nearly 20 years with the McCoy clan, who resided across the Tug River in neighboring Pike County, Kentucky.
Although there are numerous stories as to how the feud started (ie. a Romeo and Juliet like romance between a Hatfield boy and a McCoy girl, or a dispute over a pig) the roots of the feud included a combination of property disputes, romantic entanglements, electioneering, and family conflicts going all the way back to the Civil War. The dispute between the families of Hatfield and Randolph McCoy, eventually grew to the point that the Governors of West Virginia and Kentucky got involved.
A number of factors led up to the feud, but violence actually broke out after an election day fight in the border town of Matewan, WV in 1882. Tolbert McCoy (son of Randolph McCoy) and Ellison Hatfield. After a day of drinking and electioneering, three of the McCoy brothers (Pharmer, Tolbert, and Randolph, Jr) stabbed Ellison Hatfield to death. In retaliation, the Hatfield clan, soon captured the three McCoy brothers, tied them to a Paw Paw bush along the banks of Blackberry Creek, and proceeded to dispatch them into eternity via gunshots. A historical marker stands today to mark the spot, just down the road from my wife's old home place.
Although I am not related to either clan, our family (like many others from the coalfield counties of Mingo and Logan in West Virginia, and Pike in Kentucky) have connections to them. I remember meeting Willis Hatfield back in the 1960's. Willis was one of the youngest sons of Devil Anse, and in the 40's and 50's he was a foreman at the Dehue Coal Mine where my Dad worked for him. Mr. Hatfield died in 1978, but his daughter still resides in the Huntington, WV area. On the other side, my mother in law was related to the McCoy family. One of her cousins, Jimmy Woolford, became a noted historian of the feud, and has written books, articles, and produced recordings which disseminated much information about the hostilities.
I have seen that the History Channel will be presenting "The Hatfields and McCoys", a three part series starring Kevin Costner as Devil Anse, beginning May 28th. I look forward to viewing it. It is a fascinating episode here in the mountains. Hopefully the series will be historically accurate, and will acquaint many viewers with the details of a most interesting (and violent) segment of nearly forgotten American history.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Milestone In Ministry

This week marks a milestone in my ministry here at Westmoreland Baptist Church. This week of my tenure here puts me past Rev. Ralph Webb, as the longest serving pastor in WBC's 97 year history. It hardly seems possible!

I have never stopped thanking my Heavenly Father, for bringing me and this special congregation together nearly 10 years ago. I answered the call of the church with an unprecedented 99% of the vote on that Sunday morning in November 2002. I have no idea what the vote would be if taken again today, but I would like to think that I still enjoy a good measure of support from the congregation.

We've had good times together, and we've had some challenges. The first two years were a period when I focused on ministry to people who were bearing hurts from years past. The next two years, the church rallied around me and Linda as they ministered to us during my battle with Stage 4 "Incurable" Cancer. God used my illness for blessings in many ways. One of those results was a spirit of unity and love at about the time a new pastor's "honeymoon" would normally be over.

One of the buzzwords today in SBC circles is the term "Missional". Westmoreland Baptist has been a missional church since its birth in 1915. It was, itself, the product of a church planting vision. The work on the corner of Hughes and Court Streets in the most westerly neighborhood of Huntington was planted by the Washington Avenue Baptist Church. Washington Avenue Baptist later became Jefferson Avenue Baptist, and just a few years ago that congregation merged with Eastwood Baptist Church on East Pea Ridge between Barboursville and Huntington.

Over the years this congregation has begun missions all around the state of West Virginia. Some of the church plant attempts only survived for a few years. Our most recent church planting effort was in our county seat of Wayne. Not all of our church plant attempts might be called "successful" but only eternity will reveal what God accomplished through those efforts. However, there are several thriving healthy churches today in Huntington (Altizer neighborhood), Elkins, Logan, and Point Pleasant that were all church plants by WBC. At least one of those churches has also planted a successful church in Lincoln County.

Many of our members have served as missionaries - both vocational as well as volunteer. Cynthia Perdue Mikhail (who recently passed away in Ramallah) spent most of her adult life as a missionary to Palestinians and Jews in the West Bank territory of Israel. Steve Howerton spent time as an IMB Journeyman in the Caribbean, and it was there where he met his future wife, Cathy, who was there doing mission work herself. Jim Fugate and Kevin Howerton also served as BSU Campus Ministers. Randy Spurgeon gave up his position here as Associate Pastor of Music and Youth several years ago to serve as one of our State Convention Missionaries as well.

Many of our members have taken part in short term missions both at home and abroad, and we continue to do so. Recent trips have included ongoing work in the Philippines with native Southern Baptist Church planters there, as well as trips to Russia, Europe, India, and Haiti. Our youth do mission work around the country each summer, and a number of our people have served in SBC Disaster Relief work for years. I am proud that many of our people have the desire to Go personally. I am also thankful that they back up their missionary spirit through giving.

Beside numerous non budgeted gifts we give to various mission causes (ranging from the Huntington City Mission to several independent missionaries, and Gideons International) the church body has committed to return 13% of all undesignated receipts to Southern Baptist Mission causes. The breakdown of our mission giving includes:
  • The SBC Cooperative Program (since 1925, one of the most successful mission sending vehicles ever created. Cooperative Program giving helps fund International and Home Missionaries, including our own West Virginia Convention work, as well as the six SBC Seminaries, and the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission)
  • SBC International Mission Board direct giving to help bring the Gospel to the Kekchi People Group of Belize in Central America. This people group has been identified by the IMB as one of 3,800 unreached and unengaged people groups on the planet.
  • Direct support for Filipino Church Planters of the Negros Southern Baptist Association of Churches (Visayan Baptist Convention SBC) in the Philippines. We have helped fund, construct, and furnish three new church buildings, and financially support one of the pastors and his family
  • The Greater Huntington Baptist Association. We have reorganized and simplified the structure and ministry scope of our local association during this last year of transition, and we look forward to the coming year making a greater missions impact our our area than ever before.

It is also an area of pride to know that this church has produced many other individuals who have, and are currently serving as pastors and staff members in churches in West Virginia, and around the nation.

These last nine and a half years has been a real time of transition for Westmoreland Baptist. I have officiated 108 Funeral services since I have been here (not counting those done by other staff members during the same period). God is bringing new families in to replace the old, and the challenge before us is to make strong mature disciples, who can replicate themselves in other people through evangelism and discipleship.

Are we a "dead church" as someone once charged? Absolutely not! Are we dying? I think not. Are we as healthy and vibrant as we could be? Sadly the answer is no. We are not reaching our area for Christ as effectively as we could and should. We want to see more people saved and following our Lord in believer's Baptism. That will come as we focus on our three fold mission in this community and in the world. "Magnify God... Make Disciples... Minister to People".

A Sovereign God brought me to this place nearly 10 years ago. He matched us up as shepherd and flock, and I have no doubt it was of His doing. My prayer is today the same as it was then. "Lord, help me love them and lead them. And Lord, please do not let me do any thing to mess up your work here!

The best years are still ahead for Westmoreland Baptist Church. I pray that I can be a part of it as the His "undershepherd" here, until my ministry is concluded, or God calls me home.