Sammy & Joan Popwell
In March 1980 while attending Ko'olau Baptist Church in Kaneohe, Hawaii, I surrendered my life for full-time missions. Upon retiring from the United States Marine Corps in 1985, I attended Tennessee Temple University. It was during this time that God made it clear to my wife, Joan, and me that we were to minister to the U.S. Military. After confirmation of this, we went to Baptist International Missions, Inc. (BIMI) and found that our former pastor from Maranatha Baptist Church in Okinawa, Dr. James Kennard, was the Director over this ministry. We were accepted with BIMI in 1987 and began deputation immediately.
In January 1991 we went to Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi and pastored Fellowship Baptist Church. In this ministry we saw many saved and one called to preach. Then God moved us to Meridian Naval Air Station outside Meridian, Mississippi, where I was the pastor of Countryside Baptist Church. This was a training base, so many of the military were there for only six to eight weeks. We saw hundreds saved and directed them to churches at their next duty station. The Faith Promise grew from $10,000 to $60,000 a year. God then moved us to Puerto Rico and Maranatha Baptist Church and Academy. There we experienced many trials in the ministry, but many were saved and three called to preach. While there, we started a Spanish-speaking service using an interpreter. After a period of time, we were able to incorporate this service back into the English service using wireless headsets. We began going to the Coast Guard Station near San Juan on Sunday afternoons and held services in the home of a couple who wanted an independent Baptist church to attend in that area. Victory Baptist Church was started from this effort.
During December 2000, I had a stroke and spent 13 days in the hospital. Then in December 2001 Joan was diagnosed with breast cancer. At this time we felt it was better to turn the church over to another missionary and come back to the States for medical treatment.
While on medical furlough, I was diagnosed with Sarcoidosis and suffered a mild heart attack. In 2004 I was asked to serve as Southern States Representative for BIMI. We saw new churches get involved in Faith Promise mission giving during this time. In 2008 the doctors gave both of us clearance to go into full-time ministry overseas.
In February 2009 we arrived in Misawa, Japan, to take the ministry of Faith Baptist Church. While at Faith Baptist Church, we saw many saved and baptized and a total of 10 surrendered to missions. We handed out about 4,000 Japanese tracts and at least 3,000 English tracts each year. Through our Faith Promise missions we were able to support approximately 60 missionaries and mission projects. There were 10 graduates from the Faith Bible Institute who received their three-year Bible diplomas. Each Friday night we ministered to the singles and unaccompanied with a hot meal, Bible study, and fellowship. Up until the 2011 earthquake, we had a Christian school. Most of these families moved back to the States because of the earthquake. In 2012 we did not have any students because all the families chose to home school. In 2013 missionaries Jesse and Lynne Pilalas joined us in the work at Misawa. As we trained them in the work, it became apparent to us that we were not going to be able to continue pastoring full-time because of medical issues.
It is our desire to be used of God by working with the U.S. Military under the ARM ministry of BIMI. We plan to stay busy promoting missions through the local church, filling in for missionaries who need short-term furloughs, helping new missionaries get to the field, and being used however we are needed.