Keller reviews missionsRev.: Hard workers sharpened perspective

MIDLAND Mission work is a stringent challenge that tests young ministers, says the Rev. Wayne Keller, who was a missionary in Brazil and led missions in East Texas and the Permian Basin.
Having also been a mud engineer in the Brazilian and South Louisiana oilfields who served as a deputy sheriff at Lake Charles, La., Keller said getting to know hardworking people sharpened his perspective. “I’ve had my back sore and my hands dirty,” he said.
“When people have needs and you try to meet those needs, they respond. They might seem hard to get along with at first, but it just takes more time. Some of the poorest people I have ever known have been the finest.”
The 74-year-old New Iberia, La., native graduated from Louisiana College at Pineville and took a master’s degree in religious education at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. He was executive secretary of the Salvador da Bahia Baptist Association in northeastern Brazil and director of missions for the East Texas Baptist Association at Mount Enterprise.
Keller ran the Odessa-based Basin Baptist Network from 2000-07 and was interim pastor of the First Baptist Churches of Sterling City and Crane, Alamo Heights Baptist Church in Midland and the Second Baptist Church in Odessa. He and his wife Linda have two children and three grandchildren.
Born prematurely and weighing two pounds, Keller needed an incubator and when one couldn’t be found, his father Charles, a welder, made one from metal plates. “One of my favorite songs is ‘Great Is Thy Faithfulness,’” he said.
“Grace is free to us, but it cost Christ everything. He expects us to model what He did by showing grace to others. Salvation comes by grace through faith, accepting what He did for us on the Cross.”
Keller said being a Calcasieu Parish deputy was harrowing at times. “I learned to duck,” he said, chuckling.
“I said I’d never take a person’s life for material things. If my life or somebody else’s life had been in danger, it would have been different. I drew (a pistol) a few times, but the threat worked.”
Keller said Southern Baptist churches may call on the Baptist General Convention of Texas’s Mary Hill Davis Offering program for help with building repairs and supplies, and he said the yellow-clad Texas Baptist Men build pastors’ houses and deal with tornadoes and floods.
The Rev. Donny Cortimilia, who succeeded Keller as coordinator of the Basin Baptist Network, said he “is a
down-to-earth, humble person.
“I have used Wayne where churches were struggling, being the interim pastor to give them stability,” Cortimilia said. “People listen to him until they’re ready to call a pastor to come in and follow up on his work.”