The Royal Ambassador missions organization would have been 58 years old when I joined it. I actually promoted into it from Sunbeams. In spite of its size, the small Southern Baptist church in the small Arizona town where I grew up had the age-graded missions programs, along with most of the other programs that were part of the church culture which distinguished us from the ABC-USA congregation in town. In those early years, there were four of us in our R.A. chapter, including the pastor’s son from one of the other churches in town too small to have children’s or youth activities. We were also the Primary Boy’s Sunday School class, taught by Mr. Spann, the same man who led the R.A. group on Wednesday night. His helper was Mr. Cornett, who taught our co-ed training union class on Sunday evenings.
R.A.’s had a strong influence on me. One of its objectives was to support and undergird the work of the church and denomination. Like so many people who were immersed in Southern Baptist church culture, our R.A. leaders did their duty in following the carefully written missions educations activities in leading us through all of the various steps. Later on, when Gerry Clinger’s family moved to our town from Oklahoma, and he took over the R.A.’s, we went every year to the state camp in Prescott. But God used those step activities, and those camps, to get me interested in Southern Baptist mission work, and to speak to me about vocational Christian service.
My involvement in R.A.’s exposed me to many things about missions, and the workings of the denomination. One of the results of it was my eventual decision to attend Grand Canyon University, the school supported by our state Baptist convention. Through R.A.’s, I was aware of the student missions programs available through what was then the Home Mission Board, and I served two summers as a student missionary in St. Louis. My wife is a permanent reminder of those days, since that is where I met her. She was in G.A.’s and Acteens and served a term as a Sojourner in Oklahoma City prior to our meeting.
Though we did not realize it at the time, we grew up in what was, for Southern Baptists at least, a home mission field. Southern Baptists are few and far between in Arizona, and the majority of the community in which I grew up was unchurched. Most of the “churched” population was Mormon. My own conversion experience, as well as that of my family, was the direct result of Southern Baptist mission work in the west. The church in which I grew up was planted by the cooperative efforts of the HMB and the state Baptist convention and the construction of its first building, and salary of its first pastor, financed by Cooperative Program dollars. God used my involvement in R.A.’s as a way of calling me to vocational ministry service. R.A.’s and the Cooperative Program paid a portion of my college tuition and fees through scholarships, and eventually a large portion of my seminary education was paid for through the Cooperative Program.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to give back through service. Happy 100th Anniversary, Royal Ambassadors! May your next 100 years be even more fruitful.