Today's From the States features items from:

Southern Baptist TEXAN

Florida Baptist Witness

The Pathway (Missouri)

Prayer emphasis yields supernatural

fruit in northeast Houston church

By Bonnie Pritchett 

HOUSTON (Southern Baptist TEXAN) -- When Northeast Houston Baptist Church launched a prayer emphasis last year in conjunction with its church planting vision, members expected God to move mightily. But they had no idea how extensive his work would be in them quite apart from church planting.

Planting 10 churches in 20 years was the vision that launched the prayer movement. As a first step, Northeast Houston hoped to begin sending out its members within three years to seed new congregations. But they knew a God-sized vision like that would require dependence on the Lord. So last January they began a one-year prayer emphasis.

From the beginning, pastoral leadership pressed to make prayer more than an item on the worship bulletin. On Sunday mornings worshipers were invited to assume a biblical posture of prayer -- seated, standing with arms raised, prostrate or kneeling at the altar. And they were encouraged to gather in small groups in the auditorium.

"It was hard for our congregation at first. Some weren't comfortable praying in groups," Scott Harper, the music ministry lay leader, said.

During the yearlong emphasis, families were urged to carve out time at home each day for prayer together. And prayer time was extended during worship services. Sunday afternoons became a time devoted to prayer as well.

Harper and his wife Cheryl said family prayer time with their 15-year-old daughter Mackenzie became a nightly priority. Using the recommended Operation World prayer book, the Harpers prayed for every nation in the world during 2013. Not only was the missions prayer emphasis a lesson in geography but one in empathy and humility.

"When you grow up in this country, you might start thinking God is American," Harper said. "It was good for our daughter to get a global view."

Praying for countries that are considered America's adversaries brought home Christ's admonition that believers should pray for their enemies.

"The world really is a small place and they all need Jesus," Harper said.

Each evening one of the Harpers would remind the family they needed to pray. Harper said there was no more wonderful sound than to hear his daughter say, "Hey! We need to pray."

Prayer began to infuse their lives. It became second nature within their family and among their fellow church members, they said. At the church, small group prayer time on Wednesday nights incrementally expanded from five minutes to 10 minutes to 20 minutes. Eventually, groups began to exceed the allotted time with their petitions. A practice that felt awkward to many at first became a cherished time within the church family.

Sunday afternoon prayer gatherings generated similar enthusiasm. At the start of the prayer emphasis, Lino announced that he would be praying at the church Sunday afternoons from 4:50 to 5:50. Anyone was welcome to join him.

He just left it at that, Cheryl Harper said. And people came. The time flies, Scott Harper said, and the hour is over all too soon.

Increased time before God generated a growing recognition of his provision and intimacy among the church family, members remarked. Dependence on God and one another became ingrained, especially in times of crisis.

Last October, for example, Cheryl Harper's doctors discovered a mass in her stomach. Tests concluded it was not cancerous but surgery was scheduled for February. Of course, she and fellow Northeast Houston members made it a matter of prayer.

"We just put it in God's hands. We know his will will be done," she said.

Through the year the prayer emphasis drew the pastoral staff closer to one another, associate pastor Greg Kingry noted. Their sense of accountability became more acute to live holy as pastors, husbands and fathers.

"How can we expect to shepherd others if our house is not in order?" Kingry asked.

He, like Cheryl Harper, said the impact on his family was timely and profound. The birth of his first grandchild, Noah, last March evoked a mix of joy and angst. Born with hydrocephalus, doctors told the family Noah would have ongoing medical problems.

Kingry immediately contacted those he knew he could depend on to pray -- his church family and friends at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he worked before coming to Northeast Houston.

Prayers for Noah intensified in September when the infant's condition deteriorated. The diagnosis was infantile spasms, a rare form of epilepsy that can impair long-term development. Kingry said God provided money to pay for the very expensive medicine that reduced Noah's symptoms.

Still family, church and friends prayed.

In January, following exams by doctors treating the two disorders, Noah was released from their care. There was no longer evidence of either medical condition.

"We wholly believe it is the power of prayer. We saw it throughout the entire time. Then the doctors told us, 'It's not there,'" Kingry said.

Members of Northeast Houston still expect God to use them in great ways for church planting, but they have also learned a profound lesson about God's ability to use prayer in every facet of life.

Upon getting the report about his grandson, Kingry sent an email to the "prayer warriors" announcing the good news. One warrior, an intermediate school teacher, read the email while in class and began to cry in front of his students. Concerned, they asked what was wrong. The teacher shared the whole story with the students who, in turn, were moved to tears.

Kingry concluded, "It gave him the opportunity to speak about the power of prayer."

This article appeared in the Southern Baptist TEXAN (www.texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Bonnie Pritchett is a correspondent for the TEXAN.

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Evangelistic mission trip to Haiti

results in 3,200 new believers

By Barbara Denman

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Florida Baptist Convention) -- The armed pickup truck pulled up alongside a congested Port-au-Prince corner and immediately three enormous men descended from its doors, toting baseball bats, steel bars, horse shoes and red rubber water bottles.    

The crowd, a little sheepish at first, begins to build, intrigued by the size of the muscular Americans and the booming voices from the portable sound system. 

When the first phonebook was torn in half, the energy level drastically increased as onlookers begin to clap and cheer for the physically ripped men standing atop the truck bed sharing feats of strength. 

After the steel bars were twisted by hand, bats broken and water bottles exploded, the men, members of the Strength Team, speak about why they are camped along the impoverished Haitian neighborhood, sharing how God transformed their lives and gave hope when they were hopeless. 

"There was never a time when many did not respond and give their lives to Jesus," said David Burton, lead strategist for the Florida Baptist Convention's Evangelism Group.

"Sometimes shouts of joy erupted—sometime tears of joy." 

The Strength Team, "by their mere size captures attention and draws the crowds," said Burton who took the group to Haiti Jan 11-17 to lead evangelistic crusades and events in the capitol city. 

"The Haitians are awed by these men of strength. Their eyes grow huge as they watch the feats of strengths. They listen intently as the team shared their testimonies and how Jesus can change and save a life forever," Burton explained. 

The weeklong trip encompassed five nightly crusades, visits to four schools where nearly 700 boys and girls heard the Gospel and a stop at the city's Swat Team facilities for anther presentation. At the end of the effort, 3,258 professions of faith were recorded, with many names collected and assigned to local churches for follow up. 

The mission trip is the third annual event for Burton and the Strength Team, a group of evangelistic body builders and former athletes, as they partner with the churches and leaders of the Confraternite Missionaire 

Baptiste d'Haiti, Florida Baptists' mission partners in that country, who provide translators for the Americans. The group plans to return to Haiti next January.  

The nightly outdoor crusades were held in the Clairsine and Delmas areas of Port-au- Prince. Each night before the services, a few hundred Haitians from the churches and the community gathered at the arenas in anticipation of the meeting, many quietly praying. 

As the sun began to set, hundreds more appeared, some carrying chairs and stools while others stood, sometimes for several hours at a time, listening to the music, the presentation of the Strength Team and Burton proclaim the Gospel.

At the time of the invitation "we knew God was about to touch hundreds of lives -- and He did."

Several times, the crowd pressed up to the platform, leaving little room for people to come forward, Burton recalled. 

"Hands were raised everywhere. People by the hundreds prayed aloud, trusting Jesus as Savior and Lord each night. It was an amazing site to behold. God had gone before us preparing the way."

Strength team member Mark Rodriguez said he felt God's presence throughout the trip. 

"It seemed like in the midst of chaos and poverty and darkness, that God was moving everywhere. Seeing doors open to multitudes of people thirsting for righteousness is only by the hand of God."

For Rodriguez, visiting the four public schools was the most memorable aspect of the trip. 

Demonstrating their feats of strength and inviting the school children on stage to participate allowed the evangelistic team to open the door to spiritual truths, he said.    

"We were able to show God's love to them, contrary to what we can do in the United States," he explained. "Many of the kids were in awe of the Strength Team and the best part is most of the students responded to the message of salvation.

"I felt as if the future of Haiti was right in front of us and we were able to share with them the best message ever told."

In addition to the crusades and mass evangelism events, Burton and John Holloway, team strategist for the Convention's Partnership Missions Team, led classes for the CMBH pastors and church leaders. 

Burton taught 42 church leaders in personal evangelism classes at one of the host churches; and Holloway taught four seminary classes for 35 pastors. 

Because it is the third year for the evangelistic mission trip, Burton gave high marks to the CMBH pastors who participated in pre-crusade preparation and were taught how to conduct counseling at the time of invitation and follow up. Decision cards were prepared ahead and plans were developed for distributing these cards to churches.

Those who came forward during the events were taken aside into a nearby church and instructed about the basic needs and principles of prayer, Bible reading, baptism and involvement in church and witnessing to others, said Burton. The CMBH pastors intend to follow up with each new convert.

Coming forward during the altar call is a challenge in the Haitian culture, said Burton, "Many will raise their hands, but not come to the front as we suggest. It's a cultural thing."

The evangelistic trip was rewarding and beneficial for the CMBH association of churches, said Holloway, who constantly travels in and out of Haiti. "The Strength Team's unique ministry opens door for sharing Jesus that are unopened in conventional ways. Their global call combined with David's passion for evangelism made for a winning ministry event. God blessed these efforts with many of all ages coming to faith in Jesus."

As he reflected on the week, Burton said he was overwhelmed by the dedication and commitment of the Haitian pastors to learn. 

"I have ministered in 11 countries around the world, and have not seen such hunger and desire to be obedient and learn the teaching of God's work as I see in the CMBH pastors. These are the most responsive leaders with a desire to grow and understand more of the Word and faith that I have ever taught. 

"Florida Baptists can be proud of their ministry in Haiti," Burton said. 

This article appeared in the Florida Baptist Witness (gofbw.com), newsjournal of the Florida Baptist Convention. Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention. 

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Glenstone (Mo.) Baptist

plants Filipino church

By Kayla Rinker 

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (The Pathway) -- When God reveals a need, the church is called to action. At least, that's what the people at Glenstone Baptist Church believe.

In 2005 a study was done showing that a significant population of Filipino-Americans had moved into the Springfield area. Immediately, Glenstone Baptist went to work. They started with an at-home Bible study and the ministry took off from there.

In 2006, the church called Ednor Sebag from the Philippines as missions pastor and, with additional support the Missouri Baptist Convention's Cooperative Program, Filipino-American Christian Fellowship was born.

"They meet on Sunday afternoons in our fellowship hall," said Doug Irvin, Jr., pastor at Glenstone Baptist since 2010. "They are running about 70 people and offer special ministries for both youth and children."

Irvin, who spent seven years doing mission work in North Africa through the International Mission Board (IMB) before coming to Springfield, said it's a great partnership.

"Our staff and their staff make a point to meet together and pray together," he said. "We want to make sure the needs of both churches are met."

He said the next goal is to help the Filipino-American church become self-sufficient.

"We are training them how to operate on a budget so that when the time comes, they can take over the responsibility of taking care of their church and their pastor," Irvin said. "For the most part their working mentality is to earn money and use as little as possible to live on while sending any excess funds to their families in the Philippines. That's fine, but we are also trying to teach them about giving to the Lord's work and the importance of tithing. It's a learning process for them, but they are responding well."

Not that Glenstone Baptist desires for Filipino-American Christian Fellowship to leave. In fact, Irvin said the opposite is true.

"A vision Ednor and I have is to build a building on our church property," he said. "It would be a sort of international fellowship center for the gospel. We are fairly close to the university here in Springfield and there is a lot of potential to reach other nationalities that come and make their home here. I would love to see both our congregations working together to reach out to other nations of people with the gospel of Christ."

To watch a discussion about ethnic church planting in Missouri, click here.

This article appeared in The Pathway (mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist convention. Kayla Rinker is a contributing writer for The Pathway.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: From the States, published each Tuesday by Baptist Press, relays news and feature stories from state Baptist papers and other publications on initiatives by Baptist churches, associations and state conventions in evangelism, church planting and Great Commission outreach, including partnership missions. Reports about churches, associations and state conventions responding to the International Mission Board's call to embrace the world's 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups also are included in From the States, along with reports about church, associational and state convention initiatives in conjunction with the North American Mission Board's call to Southern Baptist churches to broaden their efforts in starting new churches and satellite campuses. The items appear in Baptist Press as originally published.

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