FIRST PERSON: A CP-funded journey of faith
If you're Southern Baptist and have ever doubted the worth of your investment in the Cooperative Program, please read Ripken's book, a dramatic and powerful illustration of how God has used the generosity of Southern Baptists to shape a man, his family and his life's work, and to literally impact the world.
Ripken was raised on a Kentucky farm, received a divine call to ministry and attended a Cooperative Program-supported college. God began directing Ripken toward mission work through an encounter with "a real live missionary" who was, in all likelihood, supported by the CP.
Ripken continued his ministry preparation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he completed two degrees funded by, you guessed it, the Cooperative Program. The Ripkens went to Africa to share Christ among the nations, their work made possible by Southern Baptists who invested in the CP.
I have known the Ripkens for nearly 20 years, having served as pastor to members of the family. I also assisted with the memorial service when their teenage son died from an asthma attack while they were serving as missionaries in Africa.
Because of the Cooperative Program, Ripken was able to help oversee the early 1990s humanitarian relief efforts in Somalia, one of the most massive relief projects in history. His experiences were instrumental in God directing him to begin researching how the Christian faith manages to survive and often thrive in persecution.
Ripken's discoveries are fascinating, inspiring, heartbreaking and life-changing. As an example, consider this excerpt from an interview he conducted with a man whose family had suffered torture, starvation and captivity because they were Christians.
"I cannot forget the words of my friend, Stoyan ... 'I took great joy that I was suffering in my country so that you could be free to witness in your country,'" Ripken wrote in The Insanity of God. "'Don't you ever give up in freedom what we would never give up in persecution! That is our witness to the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ!'"
Ripken continues his work today, as do tens of thousands of Southern Baptist students, professors, church planters and missionaries, because Southern Baptist churches continue to give through the Cooperative Program, through which we bear witness to the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ ... together!
Paul Chitwood is executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).