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OPINION

Pastor jailed in Haiti honored at SBC

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PHOENIX (BP)--Two Southern Baptists who exemplify dedication and sacrifice were honored during the afternoon session of the SBC annual meeting June 14.

Paul Thompson, pastor of Eastside Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho, was among 10 Baptists arrested in Haiti on Jan. 30, 2010, for allegedly not having proper documentation to take orphans to the neighboring Dominican Republic, a charge later dropped by Haitian authorities.

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SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page praised Thompson as "a Cooperative Program supporting pastor" who "believes in doing missions, giving to missions, and praying for missions."

Page called Thompson, a bivocational pastor who drives a school bus to support his family, to the platform and the audience gave him a sustained round of applause. He thanked the crowd and stated: "I have never been so proud to be a Southern Baptist as I was in the 19 days in a lonely but yet God-filled prison cell in Haiti. I bless the Lord for Southern Baptists and for ... our cooperative work together. May the name of our Lord be greatly glorified on all the earth."

Page also called Ken Hemphill, the former national strategist for Southern Baptists' Empowering Kingdom Growth initiative, and read a resolution of appreciation adopted the previous day by the Executive Committee. The resolution praised Hemphill for his "outstanding and exemplary leadership" of EKG and "unflagging devotion to, and exemplary sacrifice in, advancing God's Kingdom for His glory."

Hamphill served Southern Baptists at the national level for 19 years, first as leader of the Center for Church Growth at the Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board), then as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas before taking on the EKG role with the Executive Committee. After a warm ovation from the audience, Hemphill said, in an emotion-filled voice, it had been "a singular privilege ... to serve our Southern Baptist Convention."

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Page also introduced a brief video in which Jon Akin, pastor of Fairview Church in Lebanon, Tenn., explained why he is passionate about Southern Baptist cooperative missions.

"Everything has issues. There are things that need to be dealt with and improved," said Akin, who also is a leader in the Baptist21 mission initiative. "The reason I love the Cooperative Program is that it allows us to do church planting, theological education and international missions better than anyone else on the planet.... It allows us to do so many things -- and to do them well and to do them together -- better than anybody else."

Messengers also approved three Executive Committee recommendations about future meetings dates and locations for the annual meeting: St. Louis, June 14-15, 2016; Phoenix, June 13-14, 2017; and Dallas, June 12-13, 2018.

Mark Kelly is senior writer and assistant editor for Baptist Press.

Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net

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