Team Profile – Spencer S.

Spencer S. – Vice-President of Strategy Formulation and Implementation

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Spencer was born in Flowood, MS in 1978. By the grace of God, he was raised by parents that knew, loved, and served the Lord Jesus. Their witness and sharing of the Gospel led him to know Jesus at age 7.

After graduating high school, Spencer went to Belhaven University to study and play baseball. While at Belhaven, the Lord began to call him to ministry and also open his eyes to the lostness of so much of the world. After graduating in 2001, Spencer married his high school sweetheart, Melanie, and they moved to Memphis, TN to study at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. While at Mid-America, Spencer served as the Youth Pastor and Minister of Music at Highland Baptist Church in Senatobia, MS. During these years, the Lord continued to burden Spencer and Melanie about the lostness and lack of access to the Gospel among unreached people groups around the world.

In 2003 and 2004, friends led them on vision trips to unreached areas that confirmed God’s call on their lives to serve among the unreached. In 2006, Spencer, Melanie, and their two young children (Caleb and Eden) moved overseas to serve among the unreached. They served overseas for 12 years in 3 countries before returning to the US in 2018.

They now reside in Madison, MS with their four children: Caleb, Eden, Jeremiah, and Asa (the younger two being born overseas.) While their resident location has changed, God’s call on their lives has not. Spencer is excited to join Pope Initiatives in a role that will enable his continued pursuit of God’s call on his life.

Making Molehills Out of Mountains

Pharaoh will not listen to you, but I will put My hand on Egypt and bring out the ranks of My people the Israelites, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. – Exodus 7:4

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Have you ever faced an obstacle or barrier in your life that appeared to be insurmountable? Can you imagine how Moses must have felt when God told him to lead millions of Israelites out of Egyptian slavery? Now add to that duty the additional anxiety imposed when God told him that Pharaoh would never listen!

While we may be guilty of making “mountains out of molehills” (overstating the difficulty of an issue), one of God’s greatest attributes is His ability to do the opposite. He told Moses that He would “put His hand on Egypt,” implying that His hand was a symbol of His ultimate authority. He wanted Moses to understand that no obstacle was too big for Him to overcome.

God is also over all of your difficulties and more powerful than any obstacle you may be currently facing. Whatever it is, He can take you over it, through it, or entirely remove it. Perhaps you are thinking, “Yeah, well, I’m no ‘Moses.'” Remember this … The strength of Moses was never in HIS hand, but rather it was in the fact that he remained in the hand of God.

Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman, before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air. – John Quincy Adams

Our Rock for the Ages

Those among Pharaoh’s officials who feared the word of the LORD made their servants and livestock flee to shelters…. – Exodus 9:20

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One of the interesting (at least for me) side-stories from the whole Israelite exodus from Egypt concerns the particular Egyptians who (due to their proximity to Pharaoh) heard the word of God through Moses, believed what he said, and avoided some of the devastation caused by the plagues. You can almost imagine a lower-level government leader back-stepping out of the room as Moses delivered the news of impending doom in order to “text” the wife and kids … OK, maybe they didn’t have smart phones, but you get the picture.

Either through expanded reporting or an increase in actual events, we seem to be aware of a rising number of natural disasters around the world. Maybe, like an ancient Egyptian, you see what is going on and wonder if God is up to something. You might have even read some of the Bible … or heard about the prophecy of the wars, famine, earthquakes, etc. predicted there and wondered (privately) if you should be concerned. Should you be seeking shelter? Can God protect you?

Here is some sound advice. Fear the Word of the Lord. Run to the shelter that is found in the Almighty. Take as many with you as possible. The end may not be near for all, but can you honestly predict when yours WILL come?

If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get neither comfort nor truth, only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin and in the end, despair. – C. S. Lewis

Team Profile – Mrs. Shanna Turbyfill

Mrs. Shanna Turbyfill – Vice-President of Operations

Turbyfill_Head ShotMrs. Shanna Turbyfill was born in San Bernardino, California, and came to faith in Christ at 12 years old in Tucson, Arizona. In her early years, she lived in a broken and unstable home. In 1985, Shanna met Michael (who would later become her husband) in church. In 1991, Shanna, though reserved and somewhat shy, felt the call to go to China to smuggle Bibles to people who were in desperate need of the Word of God. God showed himself so faithful during that time and Shanna grew in her faith and began to surrender fully to whatever God wanted for her life, letting go of her plan for a better plan.

Upon Shanna’s return to the United States, Michael began to see the change that God had made in her life and realized his need to surrender his plan for a better plan as well.  By the grace of God, they were married in 1993. Michael and Shanna moved 3,000 miles away from home to Rome, New York, where they joined Floyd Baptist Church, pastored by Dr. David Pope. Shanna finished her degree in Business with a focus in Accounting and began working as David’s Administrative Assistant from 1994-1996. During their time in New York, God blessed their family with their first son, Joshua. The pregnancy was very difficult providing the opportunity to lean on God and their church family for comfort and wisdom. At a time when worldly wisdom said to terminate the pregnancy, God said, “Trust me.”  Joshua was born early due to complications, suffering respiratory distress syndrome and mild cerebral palsy. Shanna also learned that she had a degenerative kidney disease and that one kidney had failed. This has become a constant reminder of the continued faithfulness of God.

As Michael was in the Air Force, the family moved back and forth across the country and went on to have two more sons, David (named after the Pope himself) in 1998 and Andrew in 2002. All along the way, Michael and Shanna actively served in their church, and Shanna was following the call on her life to raise their boys to know the Lord. In 2006, Michael, Shanna and the boys settled in Fredericksburg, Virginia and Shanna home-schooled through Michael’s deployments and his eventual retirement in 2013.  Shanna did bookkeeping and accounting before she began working at a secular job in the insurance industry.

Throughout the previous 25 years, Cindy (David’s wife) played a mentor role in Shanna’s life, and the Pope’s and the Turbyfill’s became close family. With the launch of POPE Initiatives, it took no time to realize that it was in perfect alignment with the imprint on her heart that the Lord had made back in 1991. God has given Shanna a strong sense of purpose, determination and an urgency to be about His work, she is excited to be hands and feet for the greatest kingdom impact.

Why Not Now?

One person could not see another, and for three days they did not move from where they were. Yet all the Israelites had light where they lived. – Exodus 10:23

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What would it be like to live in complete darkness?

I once was involved in taking an inventory of underground mining equipment in Kentucky. To capture the full effect, the supervisor had me turn out my headlamp for a minute or two. The result was that, as you might expect, I could not see a thing … anywhere … NOTHING … and if he had not known the way out … if we had not had the light, we would have been lost forever. It was VERY unsettling.

I wonder if that is how the Egyptians felt when God turned out the lights. Totally lost … no light … for three whole days. The Bible says that they couldn’t even move. They were powerless to change their condition and stuck in the darkness.

There are billions of people in the world that live in total darkness with no access to the “light” of truth in Jesus Christ? Did you also know that many have never had any contact with God’s truth, nor will they unless we become intentional about taking the light to them? Shouldn’t we who understand the need and have the resources do something about it, come alongside “near culture” believers to dispel the darkness among those who are unreached? All they need is someone like you with the light of Christ to show the way.

How much longer must they wait? Why not now?

Confusion heard His voice, and wild uproar stood ruled, stood vast infinitude confined; till at His second bidding darkness fled, light shone, and order from disorder sprung. – John Milton

Team Profile – Dr. David Pope

Dr. David Pope – President

David Pope was born in Atlanta, Georgia and re-born (came to faith in Christ) as a young boy in rural Hickory Flat, Georgia about seven years later. Upon graduation from Cherokee High School (Canton, Georgia), David received a congressional appointment to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. By his own admission, David was a “young” 17-year-old when he entered and lacked the maturity needed to excel at such a rigorous institution. At the end of his first year, he had achieved “all-pro” status … both academic and conduct probation at the same time! In the middle of his second year, both David and the Academy came to the mutual conclusion that he should move on. This is when he moved to Starkville, Mississippi and began to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Accounting at Mississippi State. By the grace of God, he met Cindy Smith in the fall of 1977 and, with a year left until graduation, they were married in July of 1978. Soon after graduation from MSU, David began a career in public utilities in Beaumont, Texas. The Pope’s first child was born in 1979 and a second followed in 1982 as they moved back to Georgia due to the tragic death of David’s father in an auto accident. By the time 1986 rolled around, he had broad experience in a number of financial roles with three different utility companies, had passed the Certified Public Accountant’s exam, and was at 28 excelling in his career. At the same time, David had grown increasingly uncomfortable spiritually.

In 1985, while away from home on a company outing, David received an unmistakable call from God and he told the Lord that from that point, he would go anywhere and do anything God told him to do. It would be another year before David would realize that this meant full-time vocational Christian service and, realizing he had little to no biblical education, made the decision with Cindy to move the family back to Mississippi where he would enter the Master of Divinity program at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis, Tennessee.

From the moment Dr. Pope entered seminary (he would return to earn a Doctor of Ministry degree in 1999), he and Cindy had a desire to reach the nations for Christ. For nearly 20 years, he served as a pastor in a local church (New York, Indiana, and Pennsylvania). For two years, David coordinated the collaborative efforts of 17 churches in Central New York. For a little more than two years, the Pope’s served as full-time missionaries in West Africa. Over the last seven years, David has helped lead two missions organizations: Reach the Rest and the Issachar Initiative.

Dr. Pope brings a strong sense of purpose, organization, and proven effectiveness to any effort and now with the launch of POPE Initiatives in August 2018, he plans to apply these characteristics and broad experience to advance multi-sector, multi-agency global mission initiatives that reach the unreached.

But WHYYYYY?

In the future, when your son asks you, “What does this mean?” say to him, “By the strength of [His] hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. – Exodus 13:14

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As a parent, have you ever experienced (or, as a grandparent now, did you ever experience) a Sunday morning when your children responded to your command to get ready to leave, in this way, “But … WHYYYY (add appropriate, irritating whine here)?” Maybe they just didn’t want to get up or get ready, but then again perhaps they really wanted to understand why it was worth the trouble.

God knew that one day, well into the future, the children of Israel would wonder why the leaders continued to insist that they celebrate the Passover. In order to prepare the leaders for these future inquiries, God told them EXACTLY what to say. It went like this, “We celebrate the Passover because the Lord, thanks to His power, freed us from slavery!” To the point.

The next time your children (or, frankly, any honest inquirer) ask why you feel it is necessary to be so involved with your church, maybe you should tell them this, “We are involved because thanks to Jesus’ great power we have been freed from our sin. We serve to say ‘Thank You.'” While it may be true that we profit greatly from our involvement in a local church, it really isn’t about us. It is about Him … or at least, it should be.

Anyone who is to find Christ must first find the church. How could anyone know where Christ is and what faith is in Him unless he knew where His believers are? – Martin Luther