Today's From the States features items from:
The Baptist Courier (South Carolina)
The Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma)
The Alabama Baptist
S.C. team visits 'most
unreached' part of world
COLUMBIA, S.C. (The Baptist Courier) -- You can throw a dart at a map of northern India, and you're guaranteed to hit a place where unreached people groups live.
Or you can go to Delhi for nine days and be guaranteed to have multiple opportunities to share and pray with people, as a team of six South Carolina Baptists recently discovered.
"One day in our morning training, someone asked, 'Where is the most unreached part of the world?,'" said Tim Rice, director of missions mobilization for the state convention. "The answer was, 'You're sitting in it.' "
The Delhi metropolis has a population of 17 million, and that mass of people observes a plethora of religions: Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Baha'i, Christianity, Buddhism and Jainism.
"It's just overwhelming how religion pervades absolutely everything about Delhi," said Robert*, of New Hope Baptist Church in Pelzer. "There are all these gods, all these options, very religious."
The ubiquitous nature of so many gods — idols of all forms and sizes that adorn every home, business, street corner, and public space — is in fact what International Mission Board personnel encourage volunteers to use as their launching pad for evangelistic conversations.
Skip Owens, from Charleston, recalled the irony of such an approach at a coffee shop he and his partner visited. "Here I was wanting to share with this young man sitting there, and I'm looking all around for a 'god' to get the conversation started, and I can't find one anywhere!"
Owens and his partner ended up getting into a lengthy philosophical discussion about religion with the knowledgeable young man, and Owens shared the gospel with him.
Said Naveen Balakrishnan, a native of southern India, "Indians want to hear a good story. They will give you countless hours for a story, and people will gather to hear what you're sharing."
That was the consistent experience of the team: a conversation with one or two people morphing organically into a gathering of 10 to 100 people.
A clinic doctor in one village invited two team members to his home. There they prayed for his feverish daughter, told Bible stories and shared their testimonies, and returned the next day to find the daughter well, and 100-plus people gathered to hear more Bible stories.
"This doctor told us they'd been discussing us after we left, whether we were good or bad," said Robert. "Before we left, he asked us for material to leave with him so he could teach it to the rest of the village. He wanted to share our Bible stories — and he wasn't even a believer."
Furthermore, as it turned out, one of the national pastors had just moved into an apartment complex next to the same village.
"Only the Lord could arrange such things," concludes Larry*, of Hillcrest Baptist Church, Williamston.
It was one of many examples of the team finding the "person of peace" that Jesus taught about in Luke 10. Team members were instructed to spend their afternoons prayerwalking, sharing specific Bible stories and their testimonies, and seeking out such "persons of peace" who would invite them into their homes and introduce them — and their accompanying national pastor or church planter — to others in the village or neighborhood.
As Owens and Balakrishnan walked along a boardwalk over a stream of raw
sewage in the middle of an outlying village, they saw an older man leaning against a tree that was growing up in the stream. They approached him and asked if they could pray for him and tell him a story. He agreed and motioned some passersby to fetch chairs for the small crowd that began to gather.
From that encounter — and the subsequent invitations — grew a two-day adventure that included multiple decisions and another healing of a girl with a fever. The girl's mother said to Owens and Balakrishnan, "Now that your Jesus has healed my daughter, does this mean I must get rid of all my gods and follow only Jesus?"
"She had not received Christ," said Balakrishnan, "and no one had explained to her that the call of Jesus is to forsake all other gods, but she got it anyway; she understood what this healing and her daughter's decision to accept Christ meant."
While the South Carolina Baptist Convention mission partnership with South Asia was formally completed in 2009, Rice said state Baptists wanted to stay active and engaged in the area. The September visit was the second such "discovery trip" of the year. The six-member team completed Embrace 201 training offered by IMB personnel and developed to help churches interested in working among unreached people groups. Three such trainings are scheduled for next year in India.
"The purpose was to get our pastors to meet national pastors and church planters, to work with them to start new churches, disciple people, encourage and pray for believers, and prayerwalk," he said.
One of the Indian pastors with whom the team served had come to the city penniless but passionate for evangelism and church planting, and has now started 38 churches in Delhi and 85 churches outside of it. In all but five churches, he has turned over the leadership to disciples he's trained. He draws no salary from any of those churches, relying month-to-month on believers to support him.
"Their philosophy is, 'People shouldn't have to come far to go to church. Let's start something there,' " Robert said. "And they say that even when there's a church within five miles of a village." — SCBC
(*Some missions volunteers described in this story may return to India in the future. Their last names are being withheld for security purposes.)
This article appeared in The Baptist Courier (baptistcourier.com), newsjournal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
Partnership missions: Oklahoma City,
Southern Hills delves into partnership
By Dana Williamson
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (The Baptist Messenger) -- About an hour outside Colorado Springs, they began to see a heavy smoke. They called ahead to the restaurant where they were supposed to eat and were told if they could get there in 30 minutes and eat in an hour, the restaurant would stay open. While they were eating, the road in front of the restaurant was closed.
And thus began a "flexible" mission trip for Southern Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City in the midst of what was to become a devastating disaster in Colorado Springs, with wildfires destroying hundreds of homes and businesses.
Southern Hills' connection with the Oklahoma/Colorado Partnership began when pastor Doug Melton, who is president of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, made the vision trip to Colorado to see if the two states were a good partnership match.
After the partnership became official, Southern Hills sent a team of men to remodel a building at Ponderosa, the Colorado convention's camp.
Then in June this year, a senior adult Sunday School class was scheduled to work with two church plants in the Colorado Springs area.
"We knew there were some fires in the area before we left on June 26, so we debated on whether or not to start on the trip," said David Gibson, a member of the Sunday School class and the church's senior adult minister. "But one of our men said he believed God had given us an assignment, and we should go and do what we could."
The group was slated to work with the two churches, doing a block party and engaging the arts community in Manitou Springs, a tourist community just west of Colorado Springs.
"By the time we got there, the area had been evacuated," said Gibson. "One of our main goals became to support the businesses, as there were no tourists in town."
So, the 20 members of the Sunday School class shopped, engaging people in conversation as they went, and giving them a brochure about the block party.
"It worked out well, because we were able to make contact with the locals since there were no tourists there," Gibson said.
The block party went off as scheduled, on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. They cooked pancakes, and later hot dogs and hamburgers; gave away nine donated bicycles; had two massage chairs, and the Paul Mitchell Hair Design School gave 150 haircuts.
The Oklahomans manned the games, so Pastor Clay Ross from GrassRoots Church and his members could mingle with the crowd.
"Some really neat things happened," said Gibson. "One was a couple who had lost their jobs came to use the block party to celebrate their son's birthday. And he won one of the bicycles."
The other church the group worked with was Souls Church, whose pastor is Chris Nation. The church has a Bible study every Thursday night at Marika's Coffee House in Manitou Springs. The Oklahomans couldn't get into Manitou for two days, but were finally able to meet at the coffee house for a Redemptive Art Show, where art can be discussed from a Christian perspective. "This led to a discussion of great hymns of the faith, and I was able to share about 'It Is Well,'" said Alethea Gibson, David's wife.
Alethea noted that in one shop in Manitou, she was handing out business cards, and was asked by a shop owner what the group was doing.
"I told her we were helping a pastor in the area and mentioned the Bible study at the coffee shop," Alethea said. "She said she might go home and dust off her Bible that had 30 years of notes in it. Manitou has a lot of spiritual facets."
Nation told the Southern Hills group that what they did in less than three hours would take him months to create that kind of contact and visibility.
The next mission for Southern Hills in Colorado Springs happened a little unexpectedly.
Gibson, who directs the church's senior adult choir, had planned to take the choir to Ridgecrest, N.C. in October, but in planning the trip, he discovered it was going to be too long for senior adults and too expensive.
Doors began to open in Colorado, and when he discovered the Colorado Baptist General Convention was meeting the week set aside for the trip, Gibson began to make contacts there.
As it turns out, the choir was the featured musical group at the convention and the Pastors' Conference, and was able to sing in two area churches and at the Air Force Academy during the four days in Colorado Springs.
Among the singers was 89-year-old Peter Durso, who was a fighter pilot with the Air Force during World War II. This was his first trip to visit the Air Force Academy.
The singers performed during the Sunday morning traditional service in the Air Force's architecturally famous chapel located at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in north Colorado Springs. They also did concerts at Circle Drive Church and Cornerstone Church in Lone Tree, as well as an impromptu performance at Focus on the Family, where employees, hearing the singers, left their offices to listen.
At each performance, Gibson told the congregations that Oklahoma is partnering with Colorado, "not because we are higher or better, but because we can learn from each other.
"We are not on a performance tour," he said. "We are here to help you in any way we can. Oklahoma does not have all the answers. We aren't going to come in on a white horse and save the day, but we are available."
This article appeared in The Baptist Messenger (baptistmessenger.com), newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Dana Williamson associate editor of The Baptist Messenger.
helps Sudanese village
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (The Alabama Baptist) -- Dawson Memorial Baptist Church, Birmingham, has taken a costly new step in its nine-year commitment to the South Sudanese village of Akot.
On Oct. 7 the church voted to enter a five-year partnership with Living Water Community Transformation (LWCT), a 501(c)(3) organization founded to minister to the approximately 12,000-member community in Sudan. Dawson will provide $500,000 over the coming years to help build and operate two primary schools, train pastors and provide work for women in the area. In addition the church will continue to send specialized missions teams into Akot.
Those specialized short-term missions trips actually were the seed of Dawson's commitment to the village. In 2003, Southern Baptist representatives in the region near Akot invited American teams to do missions work there. The need then was massive: extreme poverty, damage from the Second Sudanese Civil War and an almost complete lack of children's education, employment opportunities and health care. The first missions teams into Akot set up medical clinics in the bush and conducted evangelism. Ongoing trips led to the creation of the Akot Medical Mission, a medical facility still in operation today.
After the Southern Baptist representatives left the region, Dawson -- in partnership with several other churches -- formed LWCT to keep working in the area.
LWCT has founded two primary schools that meet under trees and grass-roof shelters. About 650 students -- 90 of whom are orphans -- are taught between the two schools. LWCT also has created a training center to raise pastors for the 14 Baptist churches in the area, facilitated the drilling of several water wells and employed Sudanese women in a vocational sewing center.
Grants from organizations like Baptist Global Response have provided vaccinations for the schoolchildren and a daily nutritious meal Several young adults also are receiving scholarships for secondary or college-level classes.
Ben Hale, minister of missions and evangelism at Dawson, spoke of the responsibility the church is taking for the Akot region. "God called us to Akot originally and seems to be leading us to a deeper level of commitment," he said. "We now know the names and circumstances of many of our Christian brothers and sisters in South Sudan."
Because LWCT is not an independently funded group, it is in serious need of financial assistance from Dawson and from others.
"If we do not build and fund the schools in Akot, the children will not be educated. If we do not give and go to Akot, the women will very likely be left to fend for themselves. If we do not give and go to Akot, the pastors' training will very likely cease," Hale said.
Hale and Dawson leadership hope this partnership "will provide ... a renewed sense of responsibility to fulfill the Great Commission," he said.
Dawson Pastor Gary Fenton said members and leadership are excited about being part of "such a strategic ministry at such a crucial time."
"This appears to truly be a divine appointment as needs and by faith we are believing God will provide the resources to meet the needs," he said.
For more information on how to get involved, contact Ann Rao at firstname.lastname@example.org or Ben Hale at email@example.com. For more information about LWCT, visit livingwaterct.org.
This article appeared in The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention.
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