Las Cruces (BNM) - 23 exhibit booths lined two walls of the foyer and extended down a main hallway at Mesilla Park Community Church for the Baptist Convention of New Mexico’s 2018 Annual Meeting in Las Cruces. Ministry opportunities and reports abounded - from children's camps at Sivells Baptist Camp to doctorates in theological studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. In addition, a historical display of causes funded by the Mission New Mexico State Mission Offering took messengers and guests on a journey through the offering’s impact over the years.

At Southwestern’s display, Shaune Gibson, a disabled police officer from Tatum, inquired about the mechanics of online studies with the seminary. He said, “Online classes are more convenient for me, as I am a single dad raising three children under age 14. I am now disabled from rheumatoid arthritis, and wish to pursue a degree in seminary studies. Evangelism Professor Matt Queen represented the seminary and answered Gibson’s inquiries. The seminary opened in 1908 and currently emphasizes text-driven preaching - letting the Bible text speak for itself. Their school’s motto is “Preach the Word, Reach the World.” It receives Cooperative Program funding from Southern Baptist churches. Because of CP assistance, Southern Baptist ministry students receive 50% off tuition.

Wayland Baptist University’s booth was beside Southwestern’s. Wayland’s main campus is in Plainview, Texas. It strives for each student to receive Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and to make Christian education affordable, explaining its claim to be one of the lowest tuition Christian schools in the United States. The school offers a full range of undergraduate as well as graduate degree programs through its main and six satellite campuses. Dr. Paul Sadler, Wayland’s director of Church and Denominational Relations told the Baptist New Mexican that the best part of participating in the state convention annual meetings is “seeing alumni out serving and doing good work.” One Wayland alumni who spoke with Dr. Sadler was Kyle Bueermann, pastor of First Baptist Church, Alamogordo. Bueermann said, “The Wayland Baptist University experience was wonderful.” Bueermann met his wife there.

As Benny and Edna Romero, messengers from First Indian Baptist Church, Taos, visited the Inlow and Sivells camps booth, a 1963 press release from Baptist Press attracted their attention. It announced that the BCNM had purchased 160 acres near Cloudcroft for a men and boy's camp at a cost of $29,000. It described state Brotherhood president H.C. Sivells vision for a pioneer camp where the attendees would sleep in tents. Since then, the camp has seen upgrades to modern, convenient dorm and hotel-style housing. 

The New Mexico Baptist Children's Home and Family Services’ booth featured rocking chairs and dollhouses. The home in Portales currently houses 12 children in two cottages and one in transitional housing. The home is also developing a second campus in Estancia at a donated property. It receives no Cooperative Program funding, but instead relies on the generosity of churches and individual donors.

The Baptist New Mexican spoke with Dana Philips, the home’s communications director. She explained that every fall the state's 13 Baptist associations gather food and other requested items for the Children's Home.

With excitement, Philips described her hopes for gift giving day on November 27, 2018, Giving Tuesday. The concept is not new, but is a worldwide effort to persuade people to donate electronically to a favorite charity. The children's home has set a goal of receiving $24,000 in 24 hours, with a match to that of $12,000. Those donations will strengthen the home’s general fund for operating expenses. Philips said donors can also send traditional checks toward the goal, written to the New Mexico Baptist Children's Home and received by November 28.  

Dana knows most of the home’s donors by name only, but at the BCNM Annual Meeting she met a long time donor, Dot Wilcox. Wilcox is a Mesilla Park Community Church member and hospitality volunteer. She has donated to the home for 30 years. Her parents donated; and after their deaths, she did, too.

Among the BCNM ministry team booths, the mission mobilization booth had one clear message: plant churches. Church planting catalysts Chad Spriggs and Dennis Garcia explained that any person or church can start a church plant. In fact, they said that if every New Mexico church planted a new church, the state would have over 600 Southern Baptist churches. Spriggs and Garcia are ready to help and resource any individual with a desire to start a church plant. Spriggs coordinates church planting in northern New Mexico and Garcia coordinates planting in the state’s southern half. Church planting catalysts partner with churches, developing strategies to multiply churches and help connect them with resources.

The variety of booths indicated that the convention’s ministry scope covers many facets and generations. The exhibits revealed opportunities to reach lost New Mexico’s lost people. Recalling a quote from the Sivells and Inlow camps booth, “Is God calling you?”  

Debbie Bizzell served as a volunteer StoryTeller with the convention’s Information Services Team staff, onsite, at the 2018 BCNM Annual Meeting in Las Cruces.

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