Today's From the States features items from:
Biblical Recorder (North Carolina)
California Southern Baptist
Trip to Moldova
By Shawn Hendricks
CHISINAU, Moldova (Biblical Recorder) -- Terry and Andrea Davis smile nervously as they're about to sing in front of hundreds of Moldovans at Jesus the Savior Church in Chisinau, Moldova. Looking around for a translator, Terry realizes he will have to use the basic Romanian he learned during the week to introduce himself and Andrea. Before even a few awkward moments of silence pass, Terry gives a flawless introduction with the few words he knows. One quick glance around the church, and it's easy to tell everyone is impressed.
The Davis' are among more than 20 North Carolina Baptist pastors, church leaders and wives who traveled to Moldova Oct. 22-29 to see how they and their congregations can partner with Moldovan believers to reach their country - and beyond - for Christ. The trip is part of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina's effort to lead churches to partner with the 33 districts of Moldova.
"We've been praying for Moldova for so long, and then the opportunity came to go," said Terry, who helps lead youth and children's ministries with Andrea at First Baptist Church Leland. Terry said Moldova has meant missions to him since he first heard about the fall of Communism there in the 80s.
"It's only natural to say ... 'We're there,'" he said. "We're definitely planning to be back."
Moldova is that sliver of a country situated between Ukraine and Romania. Most of its people are known for being the poorest in Europe. But while many of its people struggle economically, there also is a growing spiritual darkness.
Though elaborate Orthodox churches and decorative crosses with pictures and statues of Jesus can be spotted along most roads in the country, there are few evangelical congregations. About 90 percent identify themselves as "Orthodox Christians," but few claim to have put their trust in Jesus as their Savior.
During the week in Moldova, the North Carolina group divides into two teams to travel up and down the country to meet many Moldovan pastors and church leaders working with the Moldovan Baptist Union. Among those churches represented on the trip are Grace Community Church, Sylva; First Missionary Baptist Church, Concord; First Baptist Church Leland; Dublin First Baptist Church; Gorman Baptist Church, Durham; River of Leland; Mount Vernon Baptist Church, Fayetteville; Hephzibah Baptist Church, Wendell; New Piney Grove Baptist Church, Kannapolis; Southside Baptist Church, Wilmington; and Abiezer Baptist Church, Rock Hill, S.C.
N.C. pastors on the trip are greeted warmly by Moldovan Baptists. Local pastors share about efforts to send out missionaries and minister to their villages, region and other countries.
While most share about how God is changing lives, they also endure the challenges and hardships of life in Moldova.
"The ministry has become more difficult in the recent years, and the growth is not as fast as in the 90s," said Peter, who pastors Kalarashovka Baptist Church near the far northern corner of Moldova.
In recent years the area has become a "spiritual desert," Peter said.
"There is only one evangelical church or group per 5 villages," he said.
Many Moldovan Baptist leaders work with local pastors who are desperate for mentorship and support from churches in the United States.
Behind all of the presentations and excitement with starting new work, there are many who struggle to provide for their families and lead a church. Unlike many pastors in the States, most in Moldova are bivocational.
Economic challenges in the country have forced many Moldovans - pastors included - to move out of the country to find a better way of life.
"It seemed like the last four or five years we started to lose the leaders more than used to, and … the main factor is economics," said John Miron, executive director of the Baptist Union of Moldova. Miron will speak at the Baptist State Convention's annual meeting in Greensboro to challenge N.C. pastors to partner with Moldova.
"When looking back we much freedom as we have now, but … the big challenge now is everybody thinks 'How can I feed my family, take care of my children?'"
John McIntyre, pastor of the River at Leland Church, said he feels a "kindred spirit" to many of the pastors he met in Moldova and their struggle to lead a small church.
"I definitely know how it feels," said McIntyre, a bivocational pastor who walked away from a full-time ministry position to plant the church he is now serving.
"When we first planted, I went for six months with no income," said McIntyre, who has had to take on a variety of odd jobs to provide for his family.
"I know that have faith in their call, and they're greatly committed to do what they're called to do, and they know that God's going to provide," he said. "They're definitely an encouragement to me."
"It's been a hard summer, but … I hear them say it's been … a hard few years."
Regardless of his own challenges, McIntyre plans to find a way for River of Leland to partner with a Moldovan church planter.
"We'll definitely be partnering in some way," said McIntyre, noting his church may team up with another N.C. church to help. "Whether that's coming once a year, maybe helping rent a facility for a new church plant to meet," he said. "A hundred dollars a month will rent a house for a new church plant. That's doable."
Moldovan pastors also are encountering and struggling with other growing issues -- such as divorce -- among their members. Human trafficking is another growing problem in the country.
Pastors are desperate for mentorship from experienced pastors in the States, said Vitalie Fedula, pastor of Jesus the Savior Church in Chisinau.
"I think pastors need to be encouraged ... and taught what it means to be a pastor," he said. "My desire is for the church to be the kind of church that would make Jesus smile."
Though oceans apart, Cameron McGill, pastor of First Baptist Church, Dublin, explains his connection with many of the Moldovan pastors and his desire to help.
"The issues we face are similar," said McGill, who traveled overseas for the first time with his wife, Tiffany.
She went to Moldova earlier this year with another mission team. "We're in a small town," McGill added.
"We're a fairly small congregation, and if we're not careful, we'll begin to say, 'We can't do anything.' What we need to do is that which God has called us to do, and we can do these partnerships."
With a congregation of about 70 people, Ronald Hester, pastor of Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Fayetteville, said his church may partner with its association.
"Reality is reality," said Hester, noting few at his church would be able to travel. "It would not be possible for our church to send a complete team, so we'll work through the association to do a partnership."
The key is for pastors to be passionate about the need, said Mike Sowers, senior consultant with Great Commission Partnerships for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).
Hoping to spark more interest, the BSC led this latest trip by footing the bill for much of the expense. Each person on the team paid $600 to help with flight, meals and hotel expense. The convention covered the rest.
"Very rarely have we taken people on a vision trip or to a spot, and they haven't caught at least some vision to get involved," he said.
"All we're doing is putting seed out there because we want to equip the local church. If it's going to be successful, it's got to be a ministry of the local church."
Aaron Wallace, pastor of Hephzibah Baptist Church in Wendell, explains that if the BSC needs the church's help then that's good enough for him.
"We want to follow our Cooperative Program dollars," Wallace said. "We want to partner with the convention. … I don't want to work outside them."
"We could help with the medical missions. Our church is strong with camps. ... We're equipped and ready to do it."
Wallace challenged other pastors considering the partnership "to start small" when challenging their congregations to get involved.
"Let that passion go from you to a few others," he said. "That's the nature of discipleship. Kingdom growth is multiplication. It's just going to continue to grow."
This article appeared in the Biblical Recorder (brnow.org), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Shawn Hendricks is managing editor of the Biblical Recorder.
Literal fruit of labor growing
at Telegraph Center in Oakland
By Amanda Phifer
OAKLAND, Calif. (California Southern Baptist) -- There's metaphorical fruit from the labor of believers - and sometimes there's literal fruit, too.
Such is what's growing now in the formerly eyesore space of land that abuts Telegraph Ministry Center in Oakland: fruit trees, cabbage, lettuce, carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, beans and all manner of herbs. This cornucopia of produce is the result of the most literal kind of food ministry, which the center embarked upon early this year: a community garden.
"Our main ministry is emergency food and clothing to needy families and individuals, to about 1,200 individuals a month, and we only occasionally get fresh produce to give," explained Chris Watson, director of the center -- owned by California Southern Baptist Convention -- since 2010.
"Fresh produce and meat are what our clients request the most, and of course we want our clients to be healthy, so a garden seemed like a good idea.
"We had some land that was just dead grass and weeds, and we wanted to do something with it that was not just pretty, but productive," Watson explained.
So in February, he and center staff and volunteers began the process of converting their weed- and grass-filled plot of land into a community garden. To his amazement, partners began appearing seemingly out of nowhere.
"One man, whose mission is to help local gardeners produce extra to offer food banks, contacted us about working with us," Watson said. "And from the connection with him, we gained other partners: FoodPool, the Victory Garden Foundation, Hillside Gardeners of Montclair, and just people from the community. God just sent us resources."
Indeed: Waste Management donated topsoil and mulch - two "huge" truckloads full; nurseries donated plants and seeds; local hardware stores donated gardening equipment. The only major expense - besides the serious sweat equity involved in a garden - was updating the sprinkler system to drip lines -- and a volunteer from the community shared expertise on that.
"Not only is this a great opportunity to get fresh food to our clients, it also has been an outreach for us," Watson said. "This got people from the community, who don't have food or clothing needs, to come to our center, and has been a great way to connect with them and build relationships with them."
But even a well-planted garden suffers without tending. To that end, five to 12 volunteers come in weekly (mostly on Saturdays) to tackle a daily to-do list of garden maintenance. A special community involvement day saw about 45 volunteers do special projects such as a memorial garden. Volunteers, naturally, get first dibs on harvest.
The garden has three separate areas, all according to a master plan drawn up in February: one area of fruit trees and bushes; a kitchen garden with primarily spices and lettuces; and a third area (not yet fully developed) that includes everything from tomatoes to beans.
Watson -- who freely admitted to being a gardening novice - said while at times it was challenging getting all the disparate groups on the same page, it helped that everyone had the same goal.
"I've been surprised at how quickly everything came together," he said. "We sat down to talk in January and by April were already seeing things come up. It's really rewarding to see it make fruit so fast."
So is a "crop" of chickens on the future menu? Watson laughs and says, "Well ... probably not, but you never know for sure!"
That would be a different kind of fruit, but with the same goal as all of Telegraph Center's activities: ministry to those in need, in the name of Jesus.
This article appeared in the California Southern Baptist (csbc.com/csb), newsjournal of the California Southern Baptist Convention. Amanda Phifer is a writer for the California Southern Baptist.
Unto the least: Serving
in Christ's name
By Jeremiah Bradford
CASA GRANDE, Ariz. (Portraits) -- "I was sick and you took care of Me," (Matthew 25:36b, HCSB).
These are among the words that our Lord Jesus will speak to His people when He returns. They are words that two of Christ's servants here in Arizona look forward to hearing.
Dr. Douglas Parkin and his wife, Alice, are ministering to the poor and sick in Arizona and around the world. The couple, members of Trinity Southern Baptist Church in Casa Grande, lead the work of the Stanfield Medical Clinic, part of Seeds of Hope Ministry.
Housed by First Baptist Church of Stanfield, the clinic has four examination rooms, a check-in and waiting area, and an office. The clinic, open 20 days a year, provides medical care to those who are unable to afford it.
"Some drive as much as an hour and a half," Alice says.
"We see cases both large and small," says Dr. Parkin, "from kids with sore throats to adults with diabetes and severe hypertension. "A prescription medication program also exists for their clients.
On Wednesday nights, the clinic sees a steady stream of patients. About 80-90 percent of the patients are from the Hispanic community. These days, more and more people are in need of free medical care. In 2009, the clinic saw 439 patients. That was up to 538 clients in 2010 and 714 in 2011.
"When you run like this, it's exhausting! If you don't have a wife like Alice, it's really exhausting," says Dr. Parkin of his wife. "Alice takes on the brunt of the day-to-day stuff."
But the caring couple is quick to point out that they are not alone.
"It truly is a team effort," Dr. Parkin says.
They also serve alongside a number of caring physicians, nurses and staff. The Lions' Club is also on site, offering visual screenings and assistance with the purchase of eyeglasses. Many others donate time, money and other resources to make this ministry a reality.
"When you see such great needs, you just have to do something about it, "Dr. Parkin says.
Meeting needs has sent this couple around the world. Over the years, they have been part of medical missions in many countries, including Ghana, Nigeria and Mexico. They continue to see needs and to minister in the name of Jesus.
Why do they do all of this? Dr. Parkin answers, "It's really about Matthew 25. Being a Christian involves serving others. It's the Christian life."
"And the King will answer them, 'I assure you: Whatever you
did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for
Me,'" (Matthew 25:40, HCSB).
This article appeared in Portraits (azsobaptist.org/portraits_main.shtml), news magazine of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention. Jeremiah Bradford, a freelance writer living in Casa Grande, is pastor of Grace Church in Casa Grande.
Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net
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