Historic church makes history in record-breaking missions giving

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JACKSONVILLE—What started as a multigenerational mission-themed breakfast has transformed into record-breaking missions giving for one rural North Florida Baptist church.

For more than 150 years, the people of Long Branch Baptist Church, located about 15 miles outside of Middleburg, have been steadfast in loving and serving their community.

“A genuine love for each other and reliance on God” are the distinguishing marks of the church, said Pastor Harry Conaway.

Recently that steadfast spirit of love and service has stirred a generosity in church members’ hearts for giving to missions and supporting missionaries.

 In 2022 an enthusiastic 81-year-old woman, Helen Fife, began attending Long Branch Baptist Church. Shortly after arriving at the Florida Baptist church, Fife said the Lord began to cultivate her heart for missions. Wanting to act on what the Lord had stirred in her heart, Fife volunteered to carry the baton of missions and missions’ education by reinvigorating the church’s Woman’s Missionary Union involvement.

“The more she read about missions and missionaries around the world, it became a bigger fire within her heart,” Conaway said.

“Missionaries don’t make it without us,” Fife said.

‘God can do big things’

Over the past two years, the church has raised awareness for the annual North American Mission Board’s Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and the International Mission Board’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. By using prayer prompts, videos and other missions and WMU resources and materials, the faithful church of about 75 members has exceeded its goals for the missions’ offerings.

Convinced that “God can do big things,” and wanting to carry out the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20, Fife encouraged those in the church to set a goal for the 2023 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering at $3,000. After giving several hundred dollars in previous years, this goal for Long Branch Baptist Church would be a stretch, setting a record. After the Christmas season ended, the church gave $300 more than its goal. The church set another goal of $3,000 for this year’s Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and recently exceeded that goal as well.

Between these two seasonal offerings, the church has championed mission-giving by sending more than $6,000 over the past four months.

The church has also increased its mission involvement and giving to include donating Bibles for The Gideons International, taking part in the Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child shoebox ministry, financially supporting missionaries serving in Haiti and Romania, and donating items to its community Angel Tree drive.

“Where we were donating 82 shoeboxes to Operation Christmas Child, we’re now donating 262,” said Conaway. “This type of giving just proves that when you have a heart to serve, God will allow you to make an impact.”

Despite this all, there is one thing Conaway and Fife wanted to make clear—for the spotlight to shine upon the One who is deserving.

We don’t want the spotlight. We’re not bragging about our church or our people. We’re bragging about God and what He has done.

Harry Conaway pastor, Long Branch Baptist Church, Jacksonville

“We don’t want the spotlight,” he said. “We’re not bragging about our church or our people. We’re bragging about God and what He has done.”

The missions-minded emphasis and giving has not only served mission organizations and missionaries but also strengthened the local church, Conaway believes.

“This has greatly enriched our church,” he said. “We love being with each other, laughing together, growing spiritually, and desiring to care and reach lost souls for Jesus Christ.”

As you leave Long Branch Baptist Church on a given Sunday, a sign outside the door reminds members that they “are now entering their mission field.” And that’s exactly what these church members are doing due to their love for the Lord and the urging of Fife—reaching their neighbor and the nations.

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