Today's From the States features items from:
The Alabama Baptist
The Pathway (Missouri)
Biblical Recorder (North Carolina)
God as 'divine Maestro' has
'purpose' in massive migration
By Grace Thornton
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (The Alabama Baptist) -- It was one meal in Baltimore. Who could've known their conversation with a waitress would start a church planting movement in Asia?
Samuel and Young Cho didn't know that going in -- but they were open.
"When they met their server, a young girl from Nepal, they built rapport with her and shared the Gospel. And then they met her friends," J.D. Payne of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., recounted.
The couple planted a Nepali church in Baltimore, reaching people the young waitress knew.
They didn't stop there.
"They found out that she still had tight connections with people in Nepal, so they traveled to visit her friends there," said Payne, Brook Hills' pastor for church multiplication. "They took gifts from the Nepalis of Baltimore back to their families in Nepal, and they stayed in their houses while they were there."
And they planted a church in Nepal -- with 200 people. It has only spread from there, Payne said.
"That one Nepali server in Baltimore was just the first domino to fall in a huge chain of people coming to know Christ in Asia," he said.
It's a new door divinely opened to believers in the last few years -- the chance to meet immigrants in the West and reach their home countries by using their existing social networks, Payne said. "What is the potential for what God can do with the movement of unreached people groups into our neighborhood? It only takes one Ethiopian eunuch to take the gospel back to Ethiopia."
And from the looks of it, there's a lot more than one in our vicinity, he said.
Payne, who wrote the book "Strangers Next Door: Immigration, Migration and Mission," said the United States is near the top of the list for the number of unreached people groups (UPGs) inside its borders.
With 361 UPGs, the U.S. narrowly misses the No. 2 spot, taken by China with 368. India tops the list with 941.
"Very few of us know that the U.S. is in the top three for unreached people groups, and that Canada is No. 5," Payne said.
And not only that -- the numbers are huge, he said.
If the migrant population of the world were a country unto itself, it would be the fifth largest country in the world, Payne said. The U.S. easily has the biggest slice of that within its borders -- 20 percent, or 42.8 million.
"In the top spot, the U.S. has 20 percent, but to be No. 2, Russia only had to have 5.7 percent," Payne said. "Twenty percent -- that's amazing."
And it's a group that looks different than it used to, he said. "Something happened after 1945 that ushered in a new global migration era. Our primary immigrants into the U.S. are no longer European but Asian, African and Hispanic, so they bring with them a range of different backgrounds that aren't Judeo-Christian."
Also, between 2000 and 2007, the number of international students worldwide doubled to more than 2 million, and schools in the West are their main destinations, Payne said. "Many of the home countries of migrants and students are places we spend so much time trying to figure out how to get into, and here they are in our backyard."
Nearby places like Atlanta have a "global footprint" that's "enormous," said Troy Bush, minister of evangelism and missions at Cross Point Church, Duluth, Ga. "We're talking about the heart of the Bible Belt and the radical changes that have taken place right here. We literally have people from all over the world."
Payne said it's not just immigrants to the U.S. who are ripe for the harvest. People aren't just coming and starting a life in the U.S. with a blank slate -- they're keeping strong ties to their home country.
About $500 billion in earnings was sent from migrants in the West back to their home countries in 2012. India and China -- the two countries with the most UPGs -- receive by far the biggest slices of that money. And 23 percent of the gross domestic product of Nepal comes from money sent in from Nepalis living in other countries, Payne said.
"What this tells us is that people are keeping strong connections with their people back home, sending money often and into the countries with the most unreached people groups," he said.
And where the money flows along social lines, the gospel can too, he said. The "bridges of God" are in place.
"The opportunities are huge. This is where we find ourselves in the present day," Payne said. "So the question is -- how do we respond?"
The first response, he said, is to realize that God has used migration for His purposes since the creation of the world, and it's something He still does today.
"In Genesis 1:28, before the fall of man had happened, God told Adam and Eve to multiply and fill the earth. This could only involve migration," Payne said. "Later, the Tower of Babel was the people's rebellion against being dispersed, something they knew God wanted them to do."
Through Old Testament history, God continued to move His people to accomplish His will, Payne said. He moved Joseph into Egypt, the people of Israel into the Promised Land and even Naomi's family into Moab so that one of her sons could marry Ruth the Moabite.
"Ruth became part of the line of David and the line of Christ, and that happened due to a famine that moved people around. After Christ, when believers were persecuted and they migrated, it caused the Church to spread," Payne said. "There are so many examples of how God moved people across the centuries to work out His purposes."
It's evidence that God is "the divine Maestro," he said.
Payne said the apostle Paul talks about this characteristic of God when he explains God to the Areopagus: "And He (God) made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him" (Acts 17:26-27a).
It's clear from this that God is making this massive migration happen today so that people may find Him, Payne said. "And if you believe that, it makes you ask the question, 'What is our response?'"
What happens, he asked, when people get on a plane and land in Alabama? Believers should begin to intentionally build relationships with them, Payne said.
"You'll be surprised how easy it is to get into a faith conversation with someone who is not a natural-born citizen of the U.S.," he said. "Faith is an important topic to a lot of people in the rest of the world."
The church should be awake to the doors God is opening, because "we don't know how long they'll be open," Payne said.
Leaders from the International Mission Board (IMB) and North American Mission Board have partnered in the past couple of years with the intent of reaching UPGs in North America. This focus has trickled down into state conventions, associations and seminaries. "It's a new day in partnership and collaboration," said Ken Winter, IMB vice president for church and partner services.
Payne said that's exactly the kind of solidarity needed to make the most of God's work of migration. "We live in a new world. Never in the history of the Church have we had an opportunity like this. Will we be good stewards of this ripe opportunity?"
This article appeared in The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Grace Thornton is assistant editor of The Alabama Baptist.
MBC churches partner
to help new church
By Michael R. Smith
O'FALLON, Mo. (The Pathway) -- Jeremy Plymale, pastor of Crosshaven Church in O'Fallon, Mo., said the young church could have failed several times if not for the help of Missouri Baptist churches at critical times.
Establishing Crosshaven "was really a collaborative effort of a lot of churches," he said. "For the sake of the Kingdom they made an investment in us that helped make the difference in the survival of our church."
The seven-year-old church now runs over 200 each Sunday, is financially established, has about 20 baptisms a year, and is supporting a new church plant.
Plymale and his wife Amber had worked with the International Mission Board (IMB) in Southeast Asia for two years when they felt God calling them back to the United States for mission work. They learned that Twin Rivers Baptist Association needed to establish a new church in central St. Charles County in western suburban St. Louis.
The county's booming growth centered on O'Fallon in 2005.
"The growth of the population," Plymale said, "was not nearly (matched by) the pace of the growth of the churches that were in existence or with the growth in the number of churches."
Three couples started worshiping in the Plymale's living room. After growing to two dozen members Crosshaven moved into a Presbyterian church on Sunday nights. It met nights because it could find no suitable morning worship space.
Developing cohesiveness in the small group was an early challenge because half the adults were needed to care for a large nursery.
Mineola Church, where Amber grew up, stepped in. Members made a two-hour round trip drive once or twice a month to care for Crosshaven's children. Dorsett Village Church in St. Louis County then sent volunteers each month.
"For the first couple of years we didn't have to staff our nursery," Plymale said. That allowed Crosshaven's adults to bond together and offered encouragement. "That was huge for us. To see these people come and give of their time -- that made a big impression on our people."
More young families began attending. The church grew. On Easter 2007 Crosshaven began meeting mornings in a nearby school.
Initially, Crosshaven received financial support through the Cooperative Program (CP) from the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), North American Mission Board (NAMB) and the St. Louis Metro and Twin Rivers associations.
Different churches also contributed financially.
"They didn't give in the same years but at different seasons," Plymale said.
Mineola Baptist Church, New Florence Baptist Church, Southside Baptist Church in Fulton, First Baptist Church in O'Fallon, First Baptist Church in Lake St. Louis and First Baptist Church in Winfield all provided support.
He said those monthly commitments of $100-200 and one-time gifts "may have been a substantial investment for them," individually.
Nearby First Baptist in O'Fallon encouraged members to go "on mission" in the community and join Crosshaven for a period. About a dozen families did.
"That was really the tipping point," Plymale said. "It really changed the direction of the church from being stagnant and possibly on the pathway to closing our doors."
He said Crosshaven also "received lots of volunteer help. We kept letting people know our needs and folks kept helping out."
Groups arrived to distribute church flyers. Mission teams staying a week supported backyard Bible studies, Vacation Bible School and sports camps.
"The dollars and cents are great but the volunteer support is, too," Plymale said.
A rent increase motivated the church to relocate to a local YMCA this year. Plymale said that was God-inspired. The day he phoned the YMCA about space availability he heard that due to a recent decision it wanted to offer Sunday services in its facilities.
Crosshaven now regularly supports a nearby new Baptist plant, LifePoint Church, and has helped others.
"We want to be a church that continues to help other churches get started," Plymale said. "We know how much you need help from other churches."
He said that with O'Fallon's population almost doubling to 79,000 residents since 2005, there are still church planting opportunities.
Plymale sees new challenges. He doesn't want the church to lose its early missionary spirit as it pushes toward 300 worshippers. Time is another challenge. Besides leading Crosshaven, he is father to four young children. Vocationally he contributes about 20 hours a month as an MBC consultant to new mission pastors.
Veteran Pastor Dave Martin, who earlier led Concord Baptist Church, St. Louis, and First Baptist Church, Wentzville, just joined Crosshaven. In his part-time role Martin will handle some preaching, evangelism, and other duties.
Plymale is enthusiastic.
"Dave will be a brother to walk with and a mentor," he said.
The variety of support Crosshaven has received is healthy, Plymale believes.
"Every church planter should look for that," he said. "You need to bring people beside you. It's healthy to have partnerships."
Multi-church relationships, he said, "shouldn't be abnormal. The body of Christ is larger than our own church. We're one team. We can accomplish more for the kingdom working together."?
This article appeared in The Pathway (mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Michael R. Smith is a contributing writer for The Pathway.
Coats for Queens prompts
conversations, 'divine appointments'
By Melissa Lilley
QUEENS, N.Y. (Biblical Recorder) -- Their conversation moved from the street, to the front yard and out to the car; the woman did not seem to want their time together to end.
The woman told Brieanna Carlson that many people still needed help getting back on their feet after Hurricane Sandy, especially in the Rockaways area of Queens where she lives.
Carlson described the woman -- like so many others she talked to that day -- as broken and looking for something.
"I know what that feels like; to be looking for something," said Carlson, who only 10 months ago prayed to receive Jesus Christ as her personal Lord and Savior.
Carlson works with the young adults ministry at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Gastonia, N.C. She was one of about 30 volunteers from the church who participated in Coats for Queens Saturday, Dec. 1.
During Coats for Queens, volunteers spread out among seven different sites throughout Queens and Brooklyn and gave free coats to anyone in need. When they had opportunities, volunteers prayed with people and shared the gospel. Last year Coats for Queens was held in Jackson Heights, Queens, and all the donated coats (about 600) were distributed in less than three hours. This year about 7,000 coats were collected, most donated by Bethlehem church members.
This is the second year Bethlehem has partnered with House of Worship Church in Jackson Heights to host the event.
The event came together when Bethlehem began a partnership last year with House of Worship and pastor Boto Joseph.
Bethlehem pastor Dickie Spargo met Joseph during a vision tour with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina's Office of Great Commission Partnerships.
Through the Office of Great Commission Partnerships, N.C. Baptist churches across the state are forming partnerships with churches and church planters in the metro New York area. Spargo wanted to find a way to help Joseph and House of Worship reach their community for Jesus Christ.
"Boto has such a call on his life to be in this area. We wanted to partner with someone who has a godly vision," Spargo said. "Partnership is all about relationships and the brotherhood we now have. Our church has embraced pastor Boto."
Their community of Jackson Heights is situated in one of the most diverse areas of the world.
More than 130 languages are spoken in Jackson Heights and Greek Orthodox, Sikh, Roman Catholic, Hinduism and Buddhism are all represented.
Coats for Queens is one way House of Worship lives out its mission to love God and to love people.
"Being in a setting with so many other beliefs and religious pluralism, I am so convinced that the only way we will win darkness is true love," Joseph said. "We see that in the life of our Lord. We have to build bridges to cultures and other religions."
Bethlehem volunteer Jaron Moss, 24, spent the day serving in the Rockaways. Like Carlson, Moss is a new believer in Jesus Christ and is excited about sharing his faith with others.
"I led a rough life," Moss said. "God saved me from this life. He was all I needed. I never had excitement about life -- now I do."
Moss met people in the Rockaways who are depressed, anxious and even angry.
Yet, because of their brokenness, Moss said people were very willing to talk with him and to listen when volunteers shared the gospel or asked to pray with them.
Bethlehem and House of Worship volunteers also passed out coats in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, which is a predominantly Pakistani and Russian area with a high Muslim population. One Pakistani businessman in his 50s wanted to know why volunteers gave up a Saturday to help strangers.
He also expressed interest in learning more about the gospel.
Two Muslim young adults also had questions about the gospel. They asked the church members to meet with them another day so they could learn more.
"The way of relationships is very strong with conversations," Joseph said. "After Coats for Queens, we have a lot of areas and people to follow up with."
At Moore Homestead Park in Queens, in the heart of Elmhurst, it wasn't long after the team set up that Joseph was sitting on a park bench and using an Evangecube to share the gospel with a man from Nepal.
Spargo met a woman from Bangladesh who worshipped the Dalai Lama.
He also prayed with a Jewish woman who shared that she was feeling depressed.
"I'm always looking for divine appointments," Spargo said.
Joseph and members of House of Worship, along with volunteers from Fusion Church near Fayetteville, N.C., also distributed coats Saturday, Dec. 8, in Jackson Heights.
Joseph asked people to pray for Queens, especially Jackson Heights.
"Some of the most well-known temples in the United States are in Jackson Heights," he said. "It is the stronghold of Sikhs, Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus. The church of Christ must have a single vision of serving the King and His Kingdom. I so desire to see that happen."
Joseph also asked that churches pray about joining God at work in New York.
"I pray God will stir hearts to come and co-labor with us," he said. "We need laborers. We need partners. We need churches like Bethlehem. I can't tell you what a blessing that partnership has been to us."
This article originally appeared in the Biblical Recorder (brnow.org), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Melissa Lilley is the research/communications coordinator for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
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