From Arkansas to Japan

October 30, 2015
From Arkansas to Japan

A summer intern from Hot Springs sees the seeds of the Gospel flourish thanks to fervent prayer and faithful giving to missions through the Cooperative Program


Elizabeth stood at the top of the observation tower in Nagoya, Japan, the country’s third largest city, looking out over its nine million residents. She was a long way from her home in Arkansas. As a summer intern from First Baptist, Hot Springs, working with International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries Jeff and Lori Loomis, she was burdened by areas like Nagoya with so many people and so few Christians. 

Elizabeth prayed earnestly for the millions beyond their borders and specifically asked God to send someone to her that day who wasn’t planning to be there. 

Later, the interns and missionaries gathered outside of Nagoya Station, one of the busiest train stations in the world with a high concentration of businessmen and women and college students. There they advertised “5-Minute English” for those desiring to practice the language. This technique helps missionaries make connections and establish relationships which eventually lead to sharing the Gospel.

As Elizabeth watched the crowds gather and disperse, she couldn’t believe who she saw—Yuki, a student she had met on a short-term missions trip two years earlier. The 31-year-old explained that he had the day off and didn’t intend to come this way, but for some reason decided to anyway. Elizabeth immediately recognized his presence as the answer to her prayer.

Connections such as Elizabeth’s and Yuki’s are no accident. They are the result of fervent prayer as well as faithful giving to missions by Arkansas Baptists through the Cooperative Program. The Cooperative Program or CP helps put people like Elizabeth and Southern Baptist missionaries such as the Loomises on the mission field.

When someone in an Arkansas Baptist church gives to their church, the church gives a considerable portion of that gift to missions through the CP. Those CP funds are invested in Arkansas missions, as well as national and global missions. Some of the CP funds support career IMB missionaries such as Jeff and Lori Loomis and help make it possible for summer interns like Elizabeth to get a first-hand taste of missions work.

Thanks to that kind of support—and answered prayer—Elizabeth was in the right place at the right time. She invited Yuki to attend an International friendship party, where he would hear Christian music in his own language and a testimony from a Japanese Christian. Afterwards, he was eager to talk with Elizabeth about all that he had heard. 

For an hour and a half, Elizabeth answered all of Yuki’s questions, and she left him with information about a Bible study lead by Jeff. “I was amazed to see how we planted seeds the first time we were there two years ago, and then this time we saw those seeds grow,” Elizabeth said.  The conversations they had reached beyond Yuki’s intellect and into his heart. He now meets regularly with Jeff for Bible studies, growing in the knowledge of the Word of God. 

“We went to that observation tower four or five more times,” Elizabeth says, “and each time I looked out over all those unreached people I felt God speaking to me.” A friend summed up her feelings when he said through tears, “There are nine million people here and only 0.5 percent are Christian. With all the Christians that are in America, we should be more on fire than we are.”

At that moment, the group saw an ambulance go by, and it occurred to them that the chances of that person being an unbeliever were extremely high. It was a sobering moment for the group realizing that every day another person in Nagoya was dying and going to Hell. The interns went to a local shop and bought toy ambulances to help them remember to pray. “This experience has completely changed my view point of missions,” Elizabeth says.

This story is just one example of what the power of the Gospel can do. Not only does it show how a young lady from Arkansas can make an impact in Japan, but it also shows how a missions trip is life changing.

Elizabeth’s church home, First Baptist, Hot Springs, is sold out for the work of missions both at home and abroad. Every member of the church is encouraged to go on at least one missions trip, and nearly 50 percent of their 1,100 attendees have done just that. They raised over $350,000 for local and international missions last year, and 31 percent of their international giving went to missions through the Cooperative Program.

The Cooperative Program helps fund missions in Arkansas, including Arkansas Baptists agencies, disaster relief, and church planting. The CP also helps fund U.S. and worldwide missions efforts through the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board. The CP even supports theological education through the SBC seminaries and promotes biblical values through the Ethics and Civil Liberties Commission. The CP is the most efficient and effective method for churches to make a wide global impact for the Gospel—and it all begins with Arkansas Baptist giving to their local church.

First Baptist Church of Hot Springs is a first-rate example of motivating their congregation to give from their hearts and to get involved in sharing the Gospel. Encouraged by the efforts of missions pastor Ken Wheatley and senior pastor John McCallum, their model rings true of Jesus’ words, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21).

“The Bible is full of places to encourage us to give outside of our means. Malachi says to ‘test me,’” says Pastor Ken. “The more we give, the more we receive. There is no joy in hoarding.” When Arkansas Baptists give to their church, a large portion of that money combines with the giving of other churches in the state and multiplies so that as a whole we can do more than individuals—all through the Cooperative Program.

With that kind of return on investment, it’s a guaranteed source of satisfaction. As Jesus said in Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, and will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” 

Just ask Elizabeth. She has seen the principle at work, and truly believes that together, we can do more.

Click here to view a video of this story.

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