Editor’s Note: The partnership Tennessee Baptists have had with Iowa Baptists for the past 10 years will conclude at the end of this year. The Baptist and Reflector will publish some stories about the partnership in the weeks ahead, with a major wrap-up article planned for our convention issue in November. Any Tennessee Baptist who has volunteered in Iowa is invited to write a brief (100 words or less) description of how you or your church has been blessed by the Iowa partnership. Please e-mail these testimonies to the editor at email@example.com by Oct. 15.
WATERLOO, Iowa — In 2008 Steve Littleton was serving as the minister of youth and children at First Baptist Church in Dyer.
He joined a group of volunteers from Gibson Baptist Association who took a vision trip to northeast Iowa that year to see if they could partner with Northeast Baptist Association there.
Four years later, Littleton is back in Iowa, but in a much different role than volunteer. He began serving last July as pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in Waterloo.
“I never expected to be a pastor in Iowa,” observed Littleton, who also served on staffs of Gath Baptist Church, McMinnville, and Bethpage Baptist Church, Kenton.
Shortly after that vision trip in 2008, Littleton resigned his position in Dyer to go to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He returned to West Tennessee, feeling led to become a full-time pastor.
That’s what the Lord had in mind as well, but it turned out to be in Iowa and not West Tennessee.
In 2010 Mike Roberts, director of missions for Northeast Association in Iowa came for a visit in Gibson County. While he was in town, Littleton told him he had been praying about becoming a pastor and he gave Roberts his resume to take back to Iowa.
“I didn’t think I would hear anything,” he admitted, “but the next thing I know I received a call. God opened a door,” Littleton recalled.
It is taking a while to adjust to life in the Midwest, but “we are getting there. We love it here, other than the deep snows,” he laughed.
He is serving at Shiloh with his wife Susan and children Molly and Thomas. A third child, Andy, is grown and remained in Tennessee.
Littleton observed the culture in Iowa is so much different than he was accustomed to in Tennessee although both are rural settings.
It’s a necessity to build relationships in Iowa, Littleton said.
In the South, it’s much more likely to see more immediate responses (spiritual decisions) than in Iowa. “You can’t come here (Iowa) expecting a lot of responses right off the bat. You have to build relationships,” he stressed.
After a year on the field, Littleton is optimistic about his ministry in Waterloo. The church averages 25-30 people on any given Sunday. While the numbers may not sound impressive, that’s an average crowd for a Baptist church in Iowa, he noted.
Observing that the congregation has been without a pastor for awhile before he arrived on the field, Littleton said that he has tried to “reintroduce” Shiloh Baptist Church to the community. “People here are starting to take notice,” he said. Though the Tennessee partnership is nearing an end, Littleton is hopeful Tennessee Baptists will continue to travel to Iowa.
“Tennessee Baptists can still be a part of the work to be done here,” he said, noting that Tennessee teams have assisted Shiloh Baptist over the years, including this summer.
Southern Baptist churches in Iowa are few and far between, Littleton continued.
“We need all the support we can get. It helps to know that you have people willing to come and help.”
Though he misses Tennessee, Littleton believes without a doubt that God has called him to serve in Waterloo.
“We have always tried to go where God wanted us to go,” Littleton said.
“He has given us confirmation that this is where we need to be,” he affirmed.