First Diamond welcomes missionary family
Greets them with remodeled house
DIAMOND – When Keith and Wendy Wofford left First Baptist Church, Diamond, to head to the mission field, they had no idea they would be right back here some 10 years later.
At age 16, Keith Wofford received Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior. By 17, he began to occasionally preach and started to feel God’s call into the ministry. It was at that time he read a pamphlet by Keith Green entitled, “Why you should go into the mission field?” This stirred his heart and he decided, “Jesus, You died for me, so I’ll live for You.” From that point on, he began to read everything he could about missions.
He went to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas, where he met Wendy his junior year. They got married in 1988, right after graduation. They accepted their first ministry position at First Diamond as youth minister while keeping in close contact with the International Mission Board (IMB), where the doors were wide open to opportunities in Ukraine. As they prayed about how God would lead them, they had the opportunity to hear the president of the IMB speak and they learned about serving in Eastern Ukraine. They felt that this particular opportunity fit their different gifts perfectly, with Keith in church planting and Wendy in adult daycare, so they started the process to go.
Around then they started working with Mission Arlington in Arlington, Texas, where they studied a special curriculum which let them get the three years of experience required to plant churches in Ukraine. Now they are strategy coordinators for Kharkov, Ukraine, coordinating evangelistic and church planting efforts there. They do this in partnership with Ukrainian pastors and churches, plus some volunteer Christians and other Great Commission Christians with like faith and practices.
After seven years in Ukraine, they have found that life is much simpler there, with less entertainment or recreation to distract you. Things seem to move at a much slower pace, and the cost of living is lower, which makes it easier to do ministry.
On the other hand, because of the communist influence, it can be harder, because you have to go through a lot more channels to get things planned. Plus, anything that is outside the Orthodox faith there is seen as a cult, so building trust in relationships is very important in evangelism.
The Woffords along with their daughter, Shelby, 14, and son, Ryan, 6, were looking to come to Missouri on furlough and found a mission house in Bolivar. Their goal was to be closer to family, so Wendy’s sister, Melissa, and her husband, David Shumaker, pastor, Duenweg Baptist Church, began looking for a house for them. Shumaker contacted Ron Crow, pastor, First Baptist Church, Diamond, who met with the deacon body and trustees and made the church’s empty parsonage available. The church was excited about converting this parsonage into a missionary house, and even more excited to know that the Woffords would be the first missionary family to live there, Crow said.
The house needed cleaning, and Barbara Badley, whose girls, Ronda and Jennifer, had been in youth group with the Woffords, volunteered to do it. The house also needed painting, a new floor in the bathroom, and new ceiling fixtures and fans. Trustees gave Barbara permission to buy the things she needed, and the first work night was scheduled in March with Barbara Wallace, the pastor and his wife, Lisa, Carolyn Lawson, Bob and Jean Kyger, Ron Brown and Ron and Barbara Badley starting in on the cleaning. They took down wallpaper, cleaned cabinets and woodwork, took down old light fixtures, cleaned the utility room and worked on the bathroom floor, among other things.
Brown painted all the ceilings and rooms with some help from Wallace and Ron Badley. Someone followed up by installing new vinyl flooring in the two bathrooms and the kitchen. Larry Bramlett installed new patio curtains in the dining room and Brown did various jobs like putting up ceiling fans, setting toilets, cleaning bathtubs and cleaning sinks.
Michelle and Courtney Wall, David and Linda Fisher, and the Badleys washed windows on one of the hottest days in May. Other jobs such as power washing the house, mowing the yard, painting the front porch post and planting flowers were completed.
Keith and Wendy’s family donated almost everything needed to set the kitchen up. First Diamond provided anything else that was needed. Keith and Wendy used their own bedroom furniture and the church family donated furniture for the other rooms.
Several women helped hang curtains and arranged furniture. Several donated pictures and accessories were hung, and First Baptist Church, Joplin, helped stock the cabinets. David and Linda Fisher donated a refrigerator that was stocked and ready for the Woffords when they arrived. This was done with monetary gifts given by church members; any extra went on a gift card for Keith and Wendy to use for additional items.
Keith Wofford said what he missed most about America was family and friends. He also missed walking in the mall or going to the movie theater. He said that everyone in Ukraine lives in apartments, called “flats,” and they don’t have lawns. So just to have grass is nice.
The Woffords hope to see God heal their family physically while they are in Diamond, especially Wendy, who is facing some medical procedures.
“Our family’s greatest blessing has been to see church members get so excited about blessing not only them but also the future missionaries who will come through the home,” Keith Wofford said.
“The Lord blesses churches that support missionaries,” he said.