It began in 1941, with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. A young farmer in West Texas was drafted for the war effort in early 1942. He trained for two years, went to war, deployed to Alaska and was wounded. He was treated in Alaska, then California, and finally had extensive treatment and rehab in Temple, Texas.
In nearby Belton stood the all-girl’s school Mary Hardin-Baylor College, now the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. One of the college ministries was visiting wounded soldiers at the hospital. A young woman at the school, a native of Oklahoma City, was one those visitors. The young farmer met the young woman and soon they fell in love, married and relocated back to West Texas. I am a product of the family that began long ago, facilitated by a Texas Baptists institution.
The story continued as I went away to Baylor University, another Texas Baptists institution. There I met my wife, Donna. The Christian professors there helped shape my mind and heart for ministry. We sent three children to Baylor. My dad had bypass surgery at a Texas Baptists hospital. My grandkids were born in what is now a Texas Baptists hospital. My life and the lives of my family have been shaped by the institutions of Texas Baptists.
I thought of those memories on Monday night of the Annual Meeting this year, as I read the names of 27 Texas Baptists institutions. Represented on the stage were some of the finest Christian men and women in our state. Their commitment to the Kingdom of God through their institutions tells the story of Texas Baptists. Each of these institutions can tell thousands of stories like mine. In any given year, the institutions of Texas Baptists touch millions of lives.
How can our institutions touch so many? Educational institutions teach and shape thousands of students each year. Our seminaries prepare hundreds to minister in the name of Christ in churches, Christian organizations and Baptist Student Ministries. Our medical centers and hospitals care for the physical and spiritual needs of thousands upon thousands each year. Human care institutions care for children in Texas and across the world, meet the needs of those affected by disasters, support children and families who are struggling and care for the aged and mentally and physically-challenged.
Texas Baptists institutions manage endowments to support the needs of other institutions and ministries that touch lives. Institutions provide communication that tells the story of our important work. They provide for refugees and provide housing for those who would minister in unreached areas. In the process, millions of lives are touched with the Gospel.
Several years ago, I was visiting with a friend who was comparing what happened in Texas to the Baptist work in the northwest United States. Baptist work started in both areas at around the same time. A veteran pastor who had spent his career ministering in the Northwest made an observation. The reason Baptists are so strong in Texas and not as strong in the Northwest is that the work of the convention was accompanied with the creation of institutions.
As I think of our Texas Baptists forebears, I give thanks for dedicated Baptists who made a difference through institutions. People like Baylor, Buckner, Wayland, Robnett, Byars, Simmons, Hardin, Guajardo, Rivera, Groner and others had a vision to minister to the needs of Texas through the institutions to which they gave their lives.
You are a part of that as you give to Texas Baptists through the Cooperative Program. As a product of that legacy, I give thanks.