On June 5, 1882, Rebecca Mitchell stepped off the train in Eagle Rock. After a few months of training at a denominational women’s school in Chicago, she came to the West under the umbrella of the American Baptist Home Missionary Society, today known as National Ministries. As a determined, self-supporting Baptist missionary, she entered town with the motto: “All things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23). She commented about seeing no other Baptist pioneers around her, and then she declared her mission:
I found no church or church organization on this line of road from Ogden, Utah to Butte, Mont., a distance of four hundred miles. Neither tree, nor grass, nor bird was to be seen on the streets but sand, sand, everywhere, but when the sandstorms came, it was beyond description. My first work was a day and Sunday school, which I named Providence Mission, because by unexpected and unplanned journeys the Lord had transplanted me into this needy field.”
And so Baptist missions began. Through the help of the Reverend Dwight Spencer of New York, the Superintendent of Baptist Missions in the West, a little chapel [First Baptist Church] was dedicated in 1884. With a joyful heart, Rebecca wrote, “It was the beginning of a new era in Snake River Valley when the bell rang out the hour of prayer.”
First Baptist Church happily ministered for 70 years in Idaho Falls before the birth of the Calvary Baptist congregation in Idaho Falls. And the chain of Baptist churches and some of their missions outreach congregations in town followed something like this: First Baptist Church (1884), Calvary Baptist Church (1954), Gethsemane Baptist Church (1958), Eagle Rock Baptist Church (1982), Liberty Missionary Baptist Church (1985), First Bible Baptist Church (1985), Mission Baptista Del Sur (1993), New Hope Community Fellowship (1994), Berean Baptist Church (1995), Falls Southern Baptist Church (1995), the Korean Church (1996), New Hope Anchor Fellowship (2002), and the Hispanic Baptist Church meeting at Gethsemane (2012).
How many of you have been marked by one of these local churches? What stories could you tell me? I would like to hear them. Share with me any observations. I am all ears. Feel free to comment below. Even your questions. Or please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would like to learn all the ins and outs of this Baptist stream in town.
Some Baptist churches have disassembled, like First Baptist Church. But we are thankful that the American Baptists are leasing the old building of First Baptist Church to Calvary Chapel Christian School for the Christian training of 6th-10th grade students (in the fall, including 11th grade). So in a sense, the burden of the early Baptist missionary, Rebecca Mitchell, in teaching young people the ways of God long ago, lingers on today. This upcoming Tuesday, June 5, 2012, marks 130 years of Baptist ministry to the King. Sola de gloria.