Wis. church's Hmong, Hispanic, deaf outreach parallel its Cooperative Program commitment
APPLETON, Wis. (BP) -- Valley Baptist Church reaches out to local Hmong, Hispanic and deaf people groups, but the mostly Anglo congregation isn't satisfied to stop there.
They've also increased their Cooperative Program by nearly 50 percent since Larry Creamer became pastor in 2000 -- raising their giving to 14.5 percent of undesignated receipts over the previous 10 percent mark.
"It goes back to our mission of preparing people to meet Jesus," Creamer said. "We need to be good stewards and good witnesses in our finances. We also need to take seriously supporting the work of taking the Gospel to all places in the world."
Valley Baptist, in Appleton, Wis., sees value in participating in the Southern Baptist Convention's system of funding national and international missions and ministry, even while addressing the $500,000 mortgage on its church building.
"The Cooperative Program is a great investment in ministry," Creamer said. "It gives us an awareness of joining together and doing more than we can individually.
"In all the work being done out there, there's no way one individual church could make that impact," the pastor said. "But put them all together and wow -- look what happens!"
Valley Baptist, which this year broke the 200-mark in Sunday attendance, participates in a range of outreach initiatives through the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention and the Bay Lakes Baptist Association. The church's carpentry missions team recruits volunteers for a major annual project and smaller weekend efforts, and church members participate in disaster relief.
Valley Baptist regularly leads the two-state convention in CP giving and seasonal offerings. Creamer has been president of the state convention and has served on its executive board. He helped develop an international missions focus to Brazil a dozen years ago, which since has spread to several other nations as individual churches in the state convention follow God's leading.
Leo Endel, executive director of the Minnesota/Wisconsin Baptist Convention, said Creamer has led Valley Baptist "to be a generous church that loves people and wants them to meet Jesus. They are committed to serving the Fox Valley and following the Lord to the ends of the earth through missions giving and missions going. It is hard to imagine a church more fully engaged in Acts 1:8 missions."
Creamer said ministry is "the strongest bond of fellowship you can have. The people I do ministry with are the ones I'm closest to.
"I think that's the whole point of being Southern Baptist," he said. "We recognize when we work together we can really get some major things done."
More than half the congregation has gone through the "Experiencing God" discipleship study by Henry Blackaby, said Creamer, who has taught the 13-week study each year of his pastorate there.
"The purpose of our church is preparing people to meet Jesus, helping them come to faith in Christ and then helping them become disciples," Creamer said. "That's the commission Christ gave us. The inspiration comes from where Jesus sent out the 70.
"I teach 'every member is a minister,' and the people in the church really grasp that," Creamer said. "People without Christ need to be prayed for. They need to have people around them living a solid Christian life before them.
"I teach people to pray, watch and connect," Creamer said, "connect what we see to what we've been praying about and join God in what He's doing."
After a Hmong Christian convert approached Creamer 10 years ago, Valley Baptist began sponsoring the Sunday afternoon church that pastor Hue Lee now leads. Creamer mentors Lee as well as Jorge Aguilar, leader of the Hispanic congregation that has met at the church for about 10 years -- on Friday nights for prayer and Saturday nights for worship.
The genesis of Valley Baptist's deaf ministry was a phone call in March 2012 from a non-hearing pastor in Florida who was reconnecting with a college friend in the Appleton area. God used the connection to focus the minister's attention toward a potential deaf ministry by the church. He arrived in August but three days later was killed in an auto accident.
In God's provision, Annette and Guy Woloszyna had joined Valley Appleton the previous year. Proficient in sign language, Annette now interprets the Sunday morning worship for the non-hearing.
In 2007, Valley Baptist hosted a seminar for the Biblical Counseling Institute. Within two years, a dozen members were certified in biblical counseling, leading to the development of the ValleyConneX Biblical Counseling Center. From 6-9 p.m. on Thursdays and as requested at other times, one-on-one counseling is offered at no charge to the community, with men counseling men and women counseling women.
About 80 percent of Valley Baptist's members have gone through the church's financial planning community outreach, Dave Ramsey's "Financial Peace University." Valley Appleton also sponsors Vacation Bible School and a community fall festival.
"I teach every person, every day, you go out on a mission field," Creamer said. "You have access to other people I don't have. The bread and butter of our evangelism is lifestyle.
"I think that's the way Jesus told us to do that."
Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Baptist Message, newsjournal for the 1,600 Southern Baptist churches in Louisiana. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).