By Ashleigh Bugg
“The West is the future of CBF,” said Arizona pastor and CBF West Coordinator Glen Foster. “It encompasses half the landmass of the United States and a third of the population.”
With an area comprising 13 diverse states, Foster maintains that the work of CBF West is vital. “What I have told folks for two decades…for CBF to grow, it must give greater emphasis to the West,” Foster explained.
A native Texan, Foster has been with CBF since its birth in 1991. After moving to Tucson in 1996, he soon began attending meetings of CBF West, and since 2001, he has served as coordinator of the regional organization. Much of his time is spent traveling, meeting with local partners and laying groundwork for future projects.
“I enjoy the people and churches in the West, meeting folks and building relationships.” Foster said. “I’m a people person, so I enjoy working with a variety of people from different cultures and ethnicities. I enjoy learning from them.”
One of the main challenges Foster faces is finding time to travel as well as the large distances between partner sites.
“It’s a long way from Tucson to Hawaii or Boise or Washington or Alaska,” he said. “I pastor a church full-time in Tucson. For the past years as a coordinator, I have done a tremendous amount of travel in my spare time.”
Last year, thanks to a partnership with Fellowship Southwest, Foster became a paid employee, allowing him to spread his time between being a pastor at Pantano Baptist Church, working with CBF West and collaborating with Fellowship Southwest.
He relies on churches and individuals to minister in nine of the 13 states in the West region: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
One of the goals of CBF West is to establish churches and ministries in each of the 13 states of the region. “Our people are good where they are. They do a wonderful job,” he said. “I’m the one who travels and relates to different partners.”
Church starting is a major priority for CBF West. During the past year, three new CBF churches in Arizona were started—in Phoenix and Tucson—as well as in Laramie, Wyoming.
Mission opportunities abound. For example, CBF West is entering into a mission partnership with Matt and Tammy Jones in Ouzinkie, Alaska, a village of 150 native people located on Spruce Island, accessible only by boat or small plane.
“Over the next two years, individuals are needed to help construct a house,” Foster said. “Music camps, art camps, science camps and sports camps are wanted for the village children.”
“The CBF West annual meeting next year will be August 2-4, 2019, in Leupp, Ariz., located within the Navajo Nation. On the second day, the community will be invited to a huge block party with games, music, food. School supplies will be given to school children. On the final day, our group will split up and attend the various churches in the area, encouraging and supporting the local Christians. Fellowship Southwest and CBF of Texas are partnering with us.
Your church is invited to come and set up a booth. Your family is invited to help us with the weekend. Northern Arizona boasts the Grand Canyon, Sedona, the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest and many other sights that make for a wonderful trip.”
The work of CBF West is varied. Each summer, West Yellowstone Baptist Church in Montana gives four Student.Go interns the opportunity to minister at the entrance to Yellowstone National Park. CBF field personnel Lita and Rick Sample in the San Francisco Bay area minister to Afghani refugees and help other refugee neighbors adjust to life in the United States. Major food ministries by churches in Boise and Salt Lake City help feed their communities. Nineteenth Ave Baptist Church in San Francisco is home to several ethnic congregations. A CBF/Mennonite congregation in Colorado ministers to the homeless. CBF West chaplains have formed a network for communication, training and fellowship. Greg and Sheila Long are currently translating the Bible from the original languages into the Navajo language.
“A good way to help these ministries grow and thrive is to support these movements financially or send groups to help with various projects.” Foster said.
CBF West also relies on Fellowship Southwest and partners in Texas and Oklahoma. CBF West Moderator, Diann Berry, even lives in Texas where she serves as a CBF field personnel in the Rio Grande Valley.
“My role with Fellowship Southwest is to work with Marv Knox and others, attempting to establish ministries and partnerships in the Southwest portions of the United States, which, in our case, include New Mexico, Arizona and Southern California,” Foster said. “I think I’ve spent more time in Texas this year than I have in the West.”
“Because of a grant from Fellowship Southwest, I can be in more churches than in years past,” he said. “It’s affording me the ability to be gone more Sundays.”
Foster is especially eager to work with Fellowship Southwest to secure and promote theological training for Hispanic leaders. Jorge Zapata, associate coordinator for CBF Texas, provides crucial leadership and ministry in this area. With partners like Rick McClatchy of CBF Texas and Steve Graham of CBF Oklahoma, CBF West and Fellowship Southwest are able to maintain strong bonds.
“We’re still learning what can be done through Fellowship Southwest,” Foster said. “My mantra for years has been: If we [CBF] don’t get out of the South, we’re not going to grow. The main conglomeration of CBF churches is in the South.”
Although the South is a consistent place to work, Foster emphasizes that plentiful opportunities exist outside the area.
“The people and churches of the West are as diverse as the landscape. Ministry is both challenging and rewarding. Opportunities are limitless. The time to go West is now.”
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is a Christian network that helps people put their faith to practice through ministry efforts, global missions and a broad community of support. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission. Learn more at www.cbf.net.