DULUTH — On Sunday David Potheir received prayer support from people he’d never met or with whom he had no discernible personal connection.
Those people heard of Potheir’s service as a Southern Baptist missionary in Montreal, Canada. They learned how a vibrant life in Christ is an anomaly in this city of four million people. To push back against that Potheir planted a church, La Chappelle. Begun four years ago with a half-dozen people in a living room, it’s grown to some 1,300 members.
And, they learned how they were part of it through the Cooperative Program.
“When I was an interim pastor at First Baptist Ellijay last year, every Sunday before the offering we had a different staff member read a ‘missionary highlight,’” said Buck Burch, Georgia Baptist Mission Board state missionary in Cooperative Program – Giving and Stewardship.
Each week, a different missionary around the world became part of First Ellijay’s service. The church accomplished this through downloadable resource that included a PowerPoint slide and background. The stories provided details for how Georgia Baptists could provide support.
“Since each missionary need represented some aspect of the Cooperative Program, there was always attention drawn to the fact that the offering that day would have some part in meeting the missions need for which we were praying,” Burch explained.
Georgia and Russia
Burch and his wife Leslie served in St. Petersburg and Moscow for 13 years as International Mission Board missionaries. After commissioned by the IMB in 1998, the couple moved to Russia with their daughters Ashlyn, 4, and Amielle, 2. Their son, Luke joined the family later after Leslie returned to Dublin so he could be born in Georgia.
“Leslie’s hometown is McRae, so Dublin was the nearest hospital to her OBGYN,” said Burch. “The doctors in Russia had already determined there would only be a 10 percent chance Luke would be able to be delivered full-term. And, where we lived there was a limitation as to pre-term deliveries.
“Leslie had to be placed on full-time bed rest for his delivery so she returned to stay with her parents in McRae. The Cooperative Program paid for our son’s delivery.”
A move to the Russian city of Bryansk followed a year of language school in Moscow for the couple. In Bryansk, they started a church planting team of IMB and Russian Baptist colleagues. While there Buck developed a new Bible study format for church planting in key pioneering areas.
In 2002 they moved to St. Petersburg when Buck became the strategy coordinator for IMB work in the area. At the same time Leslie taught English at St. Petersburg State University. Not long after moving back to the United States, Burch joined the Georgia Baptist Mission Board as a Cooperative Program advocate in 2011.
Russia holds very little in common with Eastman, GA, Burch’s hometown. He said the prayers of his family, friends, and supporters carried him and his family through some challenging days.
“There were times in Russia when just knowing a church was praying for us was crucial for our emotional survival,” he testified. “This resource puts a missionary family in front of a congregation to be prayed for immediately. Some women’s groups use the resource to pray weekly for the needs suggested.”
Burch stressed the connection among the missionary, the church, and the pastor.
“Tying the missionary need to the offering at hand helps a pastor teach his congregation about both the worship aspect of our giving and effectiveness of our cooperation,” he maintained.
“There was a time when churches would go for months or years to hear from missionaries. And, I’ve read historical archives from the 1800s when many times missionaries had to be paid on credit or waited for months to receive their missionary support from Georgia Baptist churches.
“I’m so glad we can pray for and give to missions and both are applied in a timely way.”