It’s hard to believe we’re already coming to the end of the year. I’ve been so busy, I hardly noticed the months flying by. Now, we’re all getting ready for holiday mode. And it’s a wonderful mode. Soon we’ll be celebrating God’s bountiful provision for us over a sumptuous Thanksgiving meal and then before we have time to stop and take a breath, we’ll be celebrating God’s greatest provision for us, the birth of our Savior.
While we’re doing all this celebrating, I hope we’ll all also remember those around us who don’t know the God whose loving provision is at the center of all we celebrate at this time of year. Our state is blessed with great beauty and abundance, but there is also heart-breaking despair and pain. For example, Montana has the highest suicide rate in the nation. On average, five people take their lives every week in our state, and another 30 people attempt to every week. Nearly half of all suicides in our state are committed by youth between the ages of 11 and 17.
Poverty is another serious problem in our state. More than 13% of Montana residents live in poverty. That’s over 100,000 people. Then there’s substance abuse. More than 10% of Montanans are dependent on or are abusing alcohol or drugs. And, they aren’t all adults. Sixty-five percent of Montana high school students who drink alcohol engage in binge drinking.
Clearly, the needs in our state are great, but they aren’t insurmountable. Montana Southern Baptists can make a difference. We can reach people with no hope and bring them the gospel and God’s healing presence in their lives. We can feed the hungry, clothe the poor, point to hope for the desperate. That is our calling. The message of the story of the Good Samaritan is that we are to look out for everyone around us the very best that we can. The parable of the Lost Sheep reminds us that we must go after the lost and bring them into God’s fold.
I’m glad for all that Montana Baptists are doing to share the gospel and help their neighbors individually and through their churches. The statistics I just shared tell us that we need to do more. Indeed, we can do more. Montana Baptists have created a way to work together to increase their effectiveness. The Montana State Missions Offering helps us put resources where they are needed. This year our offering will be used to help our pastors with personal and family emergencies. It will meet human needs in the state, like hunger and literacy needs. It will help fund ministry to students on our college campuses. And it will provide some much-needed resources for our ministries among Native Americans.
Every dollar given to the Montana Missions Offering will be used for ministry in Montana. As you celebrate the goodness of God to you and your family this year, I urge you to remember those around you who are struggling and give generously to the Montana Missions Offering. As God has been generous to you, be generous toward others. Let’s all do our part to touch every person in our state with the love that God has poured out into our hearts.