25 Years of Behind the Scenes Devotion
I first met Connie Kopischke when I was the Pastor for Students at Bethlehem. The name of our college ministry was Toshavim—the Hebrew word for “sojourners.” Connie was visiting time to time from another church. She and a group from her church joined up with a group from Bethlehem to attend the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement Course being offered in July of 1984.
Twenty-four of us got into our beat-up old cars and drove 2,000 miles to Pasadena, California. We all stayed together for five weeks on the campus of the U.S. Center for World Missions. A missions renewal had begun at Bethlehem in the Fall of 1983 (it’s still going strong over 28 years later!). These five weeks in Pasadena cemented this newly awakened passion for global outreach as we studied the biblical, historical, cultural, and strategic perspectives on missions from some of the foremost mission leaders alive at the time (including Donald McGavran and Ralph Winter).
In the Fall of 1984, Connie helped me and a team from Bethlehem to host the first Twin Cities offering of the Perspectives course. About 140 people, mostly from Bethlehem but also from other churches in the area, took this 15-week course. The World Christian mindset that had gripped our hearts was now spreading to many others at Bethlehem and beyond. Connie’s amazing administrative gifts and her Christ-loving missions heart were (and still are!) such a ministry to me and so many others. We coordinated many Perspectives courses over the next two decades—Connie carrying more than her share of the logistics load. This pioneering work bore the fruit of Perspectives being taught every year in the Twin Cities since 1984.
With the ministry at Bethlehem growing, the administrative needs of the church escalated. The church hired Connie in 1987 to help this visionary (and administratively-challenged!) pastoral staff to care for the flock and spread the vision. She worked with me from the beginning, but in the early years she also helped virtually everyone on the pastoral staff at that time. I remember the time David Michael showed his appreciation by putting a not-so-alive crab in her desk drawer. I can’t remember if Connie instigated this prank with one of her own, or if she was returning prank for prank. Either way, Connie helped make life interesting in the office.
But over these 25 years I have been the chief beneficiary of her assistance. She worked side by side with me when I was Pastor for Missions and Leadership Development (1987–2002) Her fingerprints are all over just about everything at Bethlehem: the Nurture Program for missionary candidates, the apprenticeship program for ministry candidates, The Bethlehem Institute and Training Center—all begun in the 80’s; my short stint as Executive Pastor prior to Pastor Sam’s coming; 90 by 90 and 2000 by 2000; and the birth and development of TBI (1998–2009—admissions, registrar, webmaster, librarian, academic advisor, bursar, secretary, teacher’s assistant—and that’s only half of it). Most of this was while she was also working on behalf of our missionaries, assisting me in the Missions Pastor side of my duties. We literally had to remove her tightly gripped hands from missions, finger by finger, to devote all her energies to TBI, which has now grown into Bethlehem College & Seminary. Her official title is Registrar and Director of Enrollment Services, but again, that only covers part of what she does.
Connie is one of the best-kept secrets of Bethlehem. Only one time that I can remember has she been in the spotlight—when someone gently encouraged her (threatening her life if she didn’t!) to speak at my 10th anniversary celebration. She said such nice things about me that I decided she was a very gifted speaker. Right after this celebration my family and I took off for seven months to teach in Cameroon, leaving Connie as the virtual missions pastor for all that time.
Connie, in her own quiet, behind-the-scenes way, is not wasting her life, but investing everything she has in glorifying God through facilitating ministry at Bethlehem and beyond. She is a faithful daughter, moving into live with her dad after her mom went to be with Jesus. They are quite a pair, showing mutual care for each other and quietly rejoicing in the life that God has given to them.
The entire BCS staff, our most seasoned pastors and church support staff, our most veteran missionaries, and our never-ending river of college and seminary students can testify with one voice that Connie is an evidence of the goodness and provision of God expressed to and through Bethlehem Baptist Church and Bethlehem College & Seminary. We love you, Connie, and are cheering you on to surpass Elsie Viren’s 60-plus years of service to this church. Twenty-five down, only 35 to go! Hang in there, clinging to the grace of God, lavished on you through the Savior you love and reflect.
On behalf of all and overflowing with gratitude and praise to God,