Retired Georgia missionary couple express gratitude for 4.1 percent Lottie Moon Christmas Offering increase
CUMMING — When Rick and Eleanor “Cooky” Kuter cried that first night on the mission field in Zambia, thousands of miles from friends and family, they took comfort that God – and Lottie Moon – was by their side in the African night. They struggled with wondering if they had made the right decision in following their calling.
Years later in Thailand when “Cooky” lay writhing in pain in the back of an ambulance with a broken hip, Rick took comfort that, once again, Lottie and the power of Southern Baptist prayers were by their side.
And last week from their retirement home in Cumming, when they heard that the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering was 4.1 percent above its same period last year this time, Rick’s first thought was “It’s absolutely amazing.” Then on second thought his reaction was that he was really not surprised at all.
Southern Baptists were once again coming through for friends the couple left behind on the field, missionaries who were still serving through sickness and health, far from friends and family but just as close to God.
The couple, who grew up in Cobb County, had no fears of having to return stateside to raise funds from churches whose financial allegiances had shifted during their absence. No fears of having to return home for treatment because they lacked adequate healthcare. No concern if they were building an adequate retirement foundation so they would not become the wards of the government … penniless, virtually homeless, and infirmed.
Kuter was ultimately not as surprised as he initially thought he would be because he serves on the Acts 1:8 missions committee at First Baptist Church. He has witnessed the annual growth of First Cumming’s Acts 1:8 offering with a record $100,000 going to the IMB this year.
“Our church has one missions offering which is promoted throughout the year, much like other churches are embracing these days. I have to admit I was rather concerned about this generic approach and was not convinced the vision could be maintained for all of Southern Baptist missions causes,” he states.
He was pleasantly surprised.
The offering, which includes missions outreach through the Cumming church as well as Southern Baptist ministries, has grown each year. He attributes that to lay involvement on missions trips and seeing their enthusiasm for both supporting the offering and becoming involved with local outreach.
Stateside visits before their 2014 retirement gave them concern as they saw the unified offering gaining acceptance.
“We had concerns that our churches were going the independent route and backing away from the Cooperative Program and the special missions offering. We thought they would begin to keep more money in their church to fund their own outreach.”
But just the opposite occurred.
Churches embraced the new vision with vim and vigor and offerings have increased with record receipts being reported by both the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board.
On Oct. 19, three months before last week’s IMB report, NAMB President Kevin Ezell announced that the 2017 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering totaled an all-time high: $59,648,377. The offering for North American missions beat the previous 2007 high by $185,096.
And although he and Cooky are now retired – but not from local ministry – he continues to be a strong advocate of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
“First Cumming is an incredibly strong missions sending and support church, both here and around the world. Cooky and I are involved in a children’s tutoring program here at the church which is having a powerful witness to some of the 200,000 Asian Indians, many of whom are Hindu, who have moved to North Fulton and Forsyth counties,” he explains.
While the couple have found a new mission field in their backyard, their heart still lies with the friends they left behind and they are encouraged by the boost in Lottie Moon receipts.
It doesn’t take long for Kuter to itemize the ways the offering blessed and strengthened his and Cooky’s and young son Jeremy’s ministry of nearly a quarter-century.
- “Lottie Moon offerings provided the transportation for us to go first to the African country of Zambia where we served for four years, and then to the Asian country of Thailand where we served for 20 years. The offerings provided for the life resources our entire family required, recognizing that if missionaries are sent abroad to live on a permanent basis, it requires providing support for their entire family.
- “Lottie Moon offerings provided for our residence, food, transportation required to do the extensive travel to impact the many villages where we preached the Gospel and plant new groups of Jesus followers who then would go themselves to plant new groups around their village.”
- “Lottie Moon offerings equipped us with the Bibles, evangelism, and training materials that we used. Tens of thousands of pieces of Gospel literature were distributed in the mother language of those peoples we were engaging.
- “Lottie Moon offerings provided the resources that allowed us to often originate materials in print, audio, and in video format in the mother language of the people we were sent to reach.
- “Lottie Moon provided the health care that was essential to keep our family in continued residence in those countries where we served. This was critical and essential in times of bouts of malaria, broken bones, all sorts of bacterial infections, ear infections, suspicious skin lesions. Our family was able to get the health care needed in the local region. This was very important because Lottie Moon maintained our basic health so to avoid our having to return for more serious treatments back in the U.S.
- And finally, Lottie Moon offerings provided for the transport to the U.S. on periods of stateside assignment and for our family’s livelihood while in the U.S. visiting Southern Baptist churches one after another, participating in many mission conferences and meetings to report back to their sending churches as prescribed and modeled in the early New Testament methodology.”
There is one final word of gratitude the couple want to let Georgia Baptists know about their support of the Offering.
“Every IMB missionary recognizes that the funds that are given to Lottie Moon are sacrificial gifts which come with a high degree of accountability. Our service on the field does not just result in a paycheck for a job performed; every expenditure is scrutinized because we know where their resources are coming from.
“We remain grateful for the sacrifices that are made which make our work possible as co-laborers in the harvest.”