By Allen Palmeri
CHESTERFIELD— A filled-to-capacity Pillar in the Valley held 240 people, with more turned away who wanted to be seated, for a Nov. 5 fundraising dinner commemorating the 25th anniversary of Kerry Messer and Missouri Family Network.
Patrons heard former U.S. Sen. Jim Talent tell an inspiring World War I story about the Battle of Belleau Wood, where the 4th Marine Brigade in 1918 took severe casualties in halting and pushing back a German offensive that nearly reached Paris. Talent commended Messer for his courage.
“This man and (his wife) Lynn and Missouri Family Network have occupied five miles of front for 25 years with faithfulness and confidence and charity and with grace,” Talent said.
The Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) contracts with Messer through the Christian Life Commission for legislative liaison services at the Missouri State Capitol. Speakers emphasized that Messer, who is chairman of the deacons at First Baptist Church of Festus-Crystal City, is defined by ministry, not politics.
“The MBC is proud to support Missouri Family Network in the invaluable work they do to help protect traditional family values in our state,” said Vince Blubaugh, MBC director of communications and development.
Messer made it a point to publicly recognize MBC Executive Director David Tolliver, MBC President Bruce McCoy and Pathway Editor Don Hinkle. He later released a statement that indicates he will persevere.
“The good side of being hard-headed is in how much I hate to give up or to be distracted from the primary call of God on my life,” Messer said. “For 25 years I’ve brushed off a lot of disappointments, but I refuse to be discouraged.
“The financial state of Missouri Family Network has always suffered because I treat fundraising as a distraction to the many battles before us. I simply don’t have the energy left at the end of each month to do financial promotions.
“This was only the second time we ever held a specific event to raise support. Both times friends of the ministry insisted on putting a dinner together. Personally, I am very uncomfortable with all the fanfare even though the program was successful. On top of everything else, I was thrilled to hear early on that so many Missouri Baptist leaders were the first ones to respond with their reservations.
“However, I’m glad it’s over so I can get back to the real work of keeping this ministry moving forward. We need more churches and Christians accepting and acting on our responsibility to be the salt and light we are called to be as Ambassadors of Christ while we live in this culture without being conformed to it.”
A 12-minute video tribute to Messer’s body of work as a gentleman lobbyist and farmer drew a standing ovation. Videographer Peter Drochelman went behind the scenes to interview Missouri luminaries who spoke of Messer’s honor, courage and commitment. A portrait of a man who is as comfortable riding a tractor as he is working a bill soon emerged.
“We need people like Kerry Messer in the Missouri State Capitol who are willing in an effective and Christ-like manner to advocate for our views and positions and values on the issues,” said former Gov. Matt Blunt.
Those who attended expressed strong solidarity with Messer’s cause.
“This is long overdue,” said Roger Moran, member, First Baptist Church, Troy.
Moran’s friendship with Messer goes back to 1987 when they were fighting against the spread of pornography in Lincoln County. The two men eventually launched the Missouri Baptist Laymen’s Association in 1991.
“He’s never wavered, never waffled,” Moran said. “He has stood firm. He’s walked the walk, He’s talked the talk. He hasn’t backed down from anything. He’s a Godly man. He loves the Lord, and he’s not afraid to stand. He’s got more backbone than most anybody I know. That’s what I think of Kerry.”
Before launching Missouri Family Network in 1984, Messer went through a six-month period when he thought the Lord was calling him to evangelism and another six-month period of seeking the Lord before realizing that his ministry was to be one of indirect evangelism. He jumped right into it and was ultimately instrumental in getting the adult bookstore industry closed in St. Louis. In so doing he lost his job and his home.
Upon arriving at the State Capitol, he was greeted with the pronouncement that “you won’t last, because your kind never do.”
A quarter of a century later, here Messer stands. He can do no other work.
“We must project the love of Christ in whatever we do,” he said.