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Life is Like a Vapor That Appears

This week is a very significant time in the journey of my life.  October 12, I will have been pastor of First Baptist, Broken Arrow, for 30 years.  That is almost half of my life and more than two-thirds of the years that I have been a pastor.   I began preaching at age 19 and became the pastor of First Baptist Church, Anderson, Alabama.  The folks in that community were so very kind to me.  They were so very forgiving of the lack of experience that this (or any) 19 year old possessed.  My father was a great help in coaching me.  The men and women of that church treated me with respect as their pastor and with gentleness like I was their son.

I would likewise have the honor of being the pastor of two other great and gracious congregations.  One was FBC, DeQueen, Arkansas where I was blessed to serve for 3 ½ years and Second Baptist, Hot Springs, AR for 5 ½ years.  Again, both fellowships were patient, loving, encouraging, and gracious people of God.

In October, 1986, I was called to be the pastor of FBC, Broken Arrow.  The community was poised for growth and that excited me. And, grow she did!  Today, Broken Arrow (a suburb of Tulsa) is a community of 107,000 people and the fourth largest city in our state in its own right.  Everywhere we look, there are new homes, new businesses, and adjoining our property, there are 3 hotels and a convention center all presently under construction.

The journey with these Godly people of faith has been exciting, challenging, and spiritually enriching.  During the 30 years, the staff and members of the church have led us to become a vibrant missions and ministry focused church.  We have 9 international church planting partnerships and 7 in the US.  The people called FBCBA are responsible for numerous partnerships with mission’s endeavors in Tulsa, “Oklahoma”, and North America.  Over the years, the church has been diligent and continues to be so in providing programs and ministries for every age group and for all people from all kinds of backgrounds.

Along the way, the church fully re-located to a new campus totally debt free.  Now, we have an additional campus in Coweta since 2011 and that work, Community Baptist Church, is thriving, growing, and exploding with joy!  As I pause for just a moment to see where we have been and to cast my eyes toward God’s promises for the future, it is tremendously humbling to think that God would allow us to see so many good things from His hand in these three decades together.

My soul and heart are full of gratitude for a church family that made yesterday’s church service and recognition so very meaningful and memorable.  The work that was done to prepare all of those good things that you did was overwhelming and was and is so very much appreciated.  The love that you show and have shown to the Garland’s always has bonded our lives to yours permanently.  And, the way that you continue to seek to follow Christ keeps me praying daily for wisdom to know how to lead this great group of God’s chosen people.

From my family to all of you, “Thank you for loving the Lord and for loving us.”  We cannot possibly express the fullness of our gratitude.  The lyrics to a Christian song echo my current inability…”How can I say thanks for all the things you have done for me?”  I am not capable of doing that, but please know that we are deeply grateful and look forward to all that is ahead as we walk with our God!  May the abundant grace of our Good God continue to rest upon you all!