WAR, W.Va. — Pastor Travis Hyde didn’t exactly get the
reaction he’d hoped for. He saw dropped jaws and looks of disbelief; one woman
appeared to almost fall out of her pew.
In 2006, when Hyde became pastor of Calvary Baptist Church
in War, W.Va., about 15 people were in the pews on Sundays. As the Christmas
season approached, Hyde challenged the congregation to set a goal of $500 for
the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions.
“It was obvious from the look on some folks’ faces that they
thought that was an impossible kind of task,” Hyde said. “The most they had
given in the past wasn’t much more than $150.”
In this small coal-mining town of about 700 people, giving
money can be a sensitive topic.
There are few stores in War. Many buildings are abandoned or
closed for business. The local post office does not deliver mail, and cell
phone coverage is unreliable unless the town’s only cell phone provider is
used. In the 1950s, when more coal mining jobs were available, the town’s
population neared 3,000.
Today, many of those jobs and the people who lived there are
“I tell people that War is one of the closest places you’ll
come to in the United States to a third-world country,” Hyde said.
“The economic struggles here in War are tough,” Hyde’s wife
Cathy said. “There are a lot of people who are unemployed. There are a lot of
people who are on disability. We see people who struggle to pay heating bills,
power bills, to buy groceries.”
When Hyde announced the $500 Lottie Moon goal in 2006,
Juanita Stress, a retiree who has attended Calvary since the eighth grade, was
shocked and a little aggravated.
“On the way home from church, I told my husband if this
character thinks he’s going to see that kind of money from us, he’ll be
whistling Dixie,” she said.
Hyde pressed forward with the goal.
He preached on the needs of those who do not have access to
the gospel. He also shared how the offering supports Southern Baptist
missionaries serving around the world.
That year, the congregation gave $1,350.
The next year, they gave $1,500.
The year after that, the offering reached $4,400.
In 2009, Calvary Baptist collected more than $7,000 for
Hyde and Stress still joke about her “whistling Dixie”
“I was wrong,” Stress said. “I admitted it.”
For this year’s offering, Hyde decided not to set a goal. He
simply asked the congregation, now about 45 people, to pray about what they
“Our people have come to realize over these last few years
that God knows no limits,” Hyde said. “He has no restrictions other than those
we put on Him.”
“I’ve told our people for several years that our task is not
defined by the size of our congregation,” he added. “It is defined by the size
of our God.”
The members of Calvary Baptist take that seriously.
One member uses the money she’d spend on Christmas gifts for
her grandchildren to give to the Lottie Moon offering. Others won’t spend more
money on Christmas gifts than they plan to give to the offering.
The Hydes contend that the congregation connects — at least
in a small way — with the struggles of those who live in other countries.
“Most of the people in our church have had hard times,”
Cathy said. “They know what it’s like to do without a meal, to not have heat in
the wintertime, to not have warm clothing. I think because of their past
experiences, they can relate to people in other countries who are suffering.”
Right now, there are 6,426 unreached people groups in the
world. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering theme — “Are we there yet?” —
considers the sacrifice it will take to reach those remaining people groups.
“Most of the time we think of evangelism in terms of trying
to meet some kind of physical need,” Hyde said. “But no matter how many meals
we feed the people, we’ve got to get the gospel to them. To me that’s the
essence of what the Lottie Moon offering is about.”
There are plenty of struggles in War, but Hyde remains
confident about the future. Though nearly all of the adults in the congregation
are either retired or over the age of 50, a third of the congregation consists
of teens or children. The church provides rides for many of them each Sunday.
“Most of the parents won’t come to church for anything,”
Hyde said. “We’re basically missing the parent generation. Probably between 80
and 90 percent of the people in War are unchurched. The best success we’ve had
is in reaching the kids and young people.”
The Kaylan factor
One of those successes is 10-year-old Kaylan Lockhart.
Kaylan travels 45 minutes from her home in a nearby town to
her grandmother’s house in War so she can attend Calvary Baptist on Sundays.
On Dec. 5, Kaylan drew a crowd as she carried a cardboard
box into church. She was all smiles as she opened the box. Inside was $202 in
bills and change — and every bit of it went to the Lottie Moon Christmas
Offering. For the past three years, Kaylan has collected about $200 a year. One
year she reached $240.
Even at 10, Kaylan seems to understand sacrifice.
“If my mom gives me snack money, and I don’t use it all, I
bring it over to my grandma’s house and I put it in our little jar,” she said.
“Sometimes I do not buy the stuff that I usually want … purses, coloring
For Kaylan, giving to international missions is more
“It’s not fair that we only get to learn about God. Other
people should be able to,” she said. “If you really want other people to learn
about God, you should put at least a few dollars into the Lottie Moon offering
so we’re not the only one’s learning about Him.”
“If everybody was as committed as Kaylan is, we would be
there,” said Cathy, referring to the “Are we there yet?” Lottie Moon theme.
Travis Hyde does not believe God is finished working in the
town or that Calvary Baptist has reached its potential.
“We only have 45 members, but the same God that works in a
church of 5,000 works in our church,” the pastor said. “I think they are
convinced of that now.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — James is a writer for the International Mission Board.
The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering supplements Cooperative Program giving to
support more than 5,000 Southern Baptist missionaries as they share the gospel
overseas. The 2010 offering goal was $175 million. The focus is on celebrating
what God has done in recent years, praising Him for allowing Southern Baptists
to be a part of His work, while emphasizing that reaching those who remain
untouched by the gospel is a doable task, but these will be the hardest people
groups to reach — requiring that believers pray, go, partner and give as never
before. To find resources about the offering, go to imb.org/offering.)
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