ELSBERRY – Long before Star Hope Baptist called a career missionary as their pastor, missions was an important part of their ministry.
Roger Briggs and wife Jeanette served as missionaries in Belgium for nine years, and then seven years after the Western and Eastern parts of Europe were divided by the International Mission Board, he was Associate Director of Europe and Eastern Europe under Dr. John Floyd. Seven years ago, he was called as Star Hope pastor.
“Sixty is a big attendance for us, and 40 is a big attendance for Sunday School for us. Still, last year our Lottie Moon Christmas offering was $10,018.40. This isn’t something unusual. The year before it was $11,541.85,” Briggs said.
“The Annie Armstrong offering this year was $3,380,” he said.
Star Hope gives 20 percent of their undesignated gifts to the Cooperative Program. One might think this was caused by the good leadership of Briggs, but he admits he can’t take all the credit.
“We’ve increased in a couple of areas, but they were doing 20 percent before I came.”
Furthermore, Star Hope has supported independent missionaries; however one retired in January. There is one Costa Rican missionary the church still supports monthly and one independent Southern Baptist missionary.
“Before I came, the church was also supporting a new church plant. We have not gotten into another church plant yet since then, but the church is open to that.”
Missions is also taught in the church.
“We are among the few churches that still have RA and GA programs (Royal ambassadors for boys and Girls in Action for girls). We have Acteens and Mission Friends.”
Missionaries for Costa Rica, Papua New Guinea, and Poland have also spoken at Star Hope.
“We’re basically a working-class people. with retired farmers, but there are still some farmers in the congregation. We have some who drive in from St. Louis,” he said.
“Star Hope isn’t your typical rural church, I don’t think. On any given Sunday, 40 percent of those present are under age 18. We still have discipleship training before Sunday evening worship.”
Before his own call to the missions, Briggs pastored at FBC, Bethany, and Calvary Baptist in Hannibal. He is a former trustee of Hannibal LaGrange University, and was chairman of the HLGU trustees board one year.
“I was 21 when I answered the call to preach. I was 37 when I answered the call to missions. There was a song ‘My house is full, but the fields are empty,’ and it began to eat at me. My wife was chair of the Marion County WMU then, and she felt the same way. I talked to a Fiji Islands missionary. Then we talked to the IMB.”
While serving as missionaries, the Briggses enjoyed working with French-speaking people in Belgium. French is one of three native Belgian languages, with the others being German and Flemish, which Briggs called a “dialect of the Dutch.”
As an associate mission director, Briggs enjoyed working with other European missionaries and spent six weeks a year visiting them on the field.