Today's From the States features items from:

The Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma)

Arkansas Baptist News

Western Recorder (Kentucky)

The Impact of Oklahoma

business leaders in East Asia

By David Hu

As East Asia has rapidly entered into a market-driven economy, it has produced a growing number of middle-class citizens; however, the ideological vacuum still exists despite material abundance. 

In the past four years, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) has hosted a pioneer project of bringing Oklahoma business leaders to East Asia to serve business owners and professionals. These business trips have been very successful since the first trip in 2011. 

In July, a group of Oklahoma Baptist business leaders traveled to East Asia for a nine-day, three-city visit. Our first stop was a major metropolitan city located at the mouth of a large river delta with a population of more than 25 million. 

Despite rapid economic growth, religious freedom is still a taboo in the entire country, and this city is no exception. Given the social and political contexts, our local partners carefully prepared this event, which was held at a downtown hotel. The purpose of this event was to create an environment of a "business meeting." 

It turned out that the seminar was a productive one, with more than 120 Asian business owners and professionals attending the forum. Six of the Oklahoma team members made presentations during the general session, and they also wisely interweaved their personal faith into their presentations. They shared how Christian faith has influenced their family life, business practices, and social roles. Bible verses were frequently cited during the presentations.

We also teamed up speakers for the breakout sessions. A face-to-face interaction with American speakers was provided to local attendees, and it was the highlight of the whole seminar. 

During a seminar in a second city, we seized the opportunity to share the Gospel with the audiences. More than 150 local East Asian elites attended the forums. As the team leader, BGCO Executive Director-Treasurer Anthony Jordan gave a wrap-up speech at the end of the seminar. A gospel message was naturally presented to the audiences and an invitation was extended to them. Seven business leaders accepted the Lord. Hallelujah! 

"We Made a Covenant with God" 

Lauren and Michael McAfee, third-generation leaders of a family business, and daughter and son-in-law of Steven Green, CEO of Hobby Lobby Inc., shared with the audiences that their grandfather made a covenant with God when the company had struggled to survive in the early 1980s. During that time, David Green dedicated his company to God, and asked Him to guide the path of Hobby Lobby. Lauren McAfee said, "God has been faithful to the Green family since my grandfather made that covenant with Him; business took off a few years after that significant moment." 

Harold Mathena, the founder of Mathena Inc., told a similar story. When he started his new business in the early 1990s, the oil and gas industry was experiencing recession; however, Mathena also made a covenant with God, and he invited God to be the head of the company. During the past 24 years, Mathena Inc. became the leading company in the oil and gas industry.

Mathena encouraged East Asian business leaders to keep business integrity, to maintain high quality, and to fulfill their God-given dreams. 

God has honored the faithfulness of both the Green and Mathena families, and He also has prospered their businesses. As a result, these two families have faithfully used God's blessings to support numerous local churches and Christian ministries. These business leaders challenged East Asian Christian leaders to use biblical wisdom to run their businesses and to give back to the community. 

"The Lord is Our Ultimate Success Factor" 

Kirk Humphreys, former mayor of Oklahoma City and real estate developer, gave a presentation titled "Three Lessons That Changed My Life." 

Being a politician and a successful businessman at the same time, he told the audience that carefully listening to others is the secret behind his success. Given his unique background, Humphreys was asked many political questions during the panel session; however, he skillfully answered, "You are the reason for us being here, not the politics. We are here to share the love of God with you." 

Gina Kinnison, COO of Miller Swim School in Tulsa, shared her successful principles: Little things can make a difference like giving back to the community, keeping integrity, and supporting each other. As a female leader, Kinnison is the combination of a wife, a mother, and a businesswoman. Her touching life stories inspired many female leaders. 

Bill Clark, owner of four Kubota dealerships, brought real cowboy stories to East Asian audiences. Being a cowboy himself, Clark understands the importance of living a creed. His presentation created a great curiosity among attendees and he decoded the mystery of being a real cowboy: Be tough, but fair; finish what you start; do whatever needs to be done. These cowboy codes were both fresh and challenging to the young professionals in attendance.

"Everyone Can Make a Difference in Kingdom Work" 

As Heavenly citizens, everyone plays a different, yet significant role in the Kingdom of God. The 2014 BGCO East Asia Team was a great illustration that the body of Christ can partner together for advancing God's Kingdom. Most East Asian believers we met are first generation Christians, and many haven't been discipled or mentored by mature Christian leaders. The team from Oklahoma helped these East Asian Christians bridge the gap between the public and the private spheres, work and home, secular and sacred. They demonstrated that Christian faith can be integrated into day-to-day life. 

An East Asian business leader told me, "These American speakers have lived out what they have believed, and I have seen God's mighty work in them. They are my examples." Since 2011, Oklahoma Baptist business leaders have directly impacted more than 900 business leaders across East Asia. Dozens of local business leaders have accepted the Lord as their Savior. By the grace of God, Oklahoma Baptists will continue to share His Good News with people in East Asia and beyond. 

This article appeared in The Baptist Messenger (baptistmessenger.com), newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO). David Hu is church planting strategist for the BGCO.

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Trip to Nebraska 'opens

eyes' to those in need

By Tim Yarbrough

BEEBE, Ark. (Arkansas Baptist News) -- It's safe to say the lives of 45 members of two Arkansas churches have been changed forever following a mission trip to a small and largely forgotten part of Nebraska.

Terrytown, Neb., is located on the western border of the state known for its expansive corn and wheat fields. It is a village located on the bank of the North Platte River between the cities of Scottsbluff and Gering. While Scottsbluff and Gering have grown together to form the seventh largest urban area in Nebraska, the small village of Terrytown is a place where many residents live in desperation and despair.

First Baptist Church of Beebe and First Baptist Church of Pangburn brought hope to many of the village's residents – and saw 54 make professions of faith in Jesus Christ. Many of the converts were adults.

Forty-five members of the churches served in the area over a span of a little more than a week in July. A team of 15 from First Baptist, Pangburn, arrived two days earlier in Nebraska to canvass the area and distribute more than 800 Bibles, said Alan Cook, pastor of First Baptist, Pangburn. 

Pangburn's mission team was followed by 30 team members from the Beebe church, July 18-25, who held block parties, a vacation Bible school (VBS) and other activities. 

"It was nothing short of an Acts experience," said Bob Hall, pastor of First Baptist, Beebe, adding that one lady who told the group that she was a pagan invited Jesus into her heart after hearing the gospel message three times. 

"It was unbelievable what happened that week," said Hall.

"We had VBS for three days and had three block parties beginning on July 20. We averaged over 200 in attendance in the block parties, (and) VBS increased every day, from 25 to 42. Fifty-four people gave their lives to Jesus as Lord and Savior, and many committed to join a Bible study that is going to be led by Dallas Powell, Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists church planter and pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Scottsbluff," said Hall.

"Terrytown has a population of 2,200 and no church of any kind. This literally broke my heart," said Hall, recounting a trip to Scottsbuff in October 2013 led by David McCord, associational missionary for Calvary Baptist Association in Searcy. It was during that trip that Hall was assigned the task, along with others, to "go door to door soul winning in Terrytown."

After returning from the trip, Hall said he and others began praying about the church's role in sharing the gospel and starting a church in the small Nebraska village.

"God began to work in the hearts of our church, and before long, we voted to start the church and to allocate funds for the first two years," said Hall.

On Aug. 3, the two churches held a joint service at First Baptist, Beebe, to recount their experiences and how God touched their lives through their efforts to touch others.

A man during the service shared about a Vietnam veteran who was saved during the week at Terrytown.

"It was hard for him to get around," the man explained. "(And) he was still fighting the Vietnam War. After he got saved, his countenance changed completely."

Another volunteer shared about a Native American man who was led to Christ by the group. The man returned later in the week to introduce the volunteer to his son, saying, "This is my son. When I got home I led him to the Lord."

A woman described the initial reception the group got from Terrytown residents.

"'Where are you from?'" she was asked by a woman who resides in the village, to which she replied, "We're from Arkansas." 

Puzzled, the woman said, "'Arkansas? What are you doing here?'"

The conversation opened the door to sharing the gospel with the woman.

"Some of the (house) trailers there look like they should already be condemned," said the volunteer in describing the poverty in Terrytown. "(I realized) we have people like that here in Beebe (we need to reach)."

Testimony after testimony confirmed God's work among the volunteers and the blessing they received in sharing their faith with others.

"They were really hungry for spiritual food," another volunteer shared. "The most joy from the trip was seeing their faces when they accepted Jesus."

"Six years ago God laid on my heart that we needed to get more mission-minded," said Cook. "It brings your church family together."

Recounting the trip to the Terrytown area, Cook remarked, "There needs to be a work done there. … I watched Bob (Hall) weep over souls."

Cook said volunteers from Pangburn "knocked on every door in Terrytown," giving away hundreds of Bibles.

He encouraged those present at the service not to listen to the world that nothing can be done to change people's lives, but rather to follow God's leading and experience the blessings.

"Don't let anyone take away your joy (in sharing Christ)," he said, adding, "Walk through that door and God will bless."

The two Arkansas churches cannot wait to return to see what God does next.

Tim Yarbrough is the editor of the Arkansas Baptist News, the official news journal of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.

This article appeared in the Arkansas Baptist News (arkansasbaptist.org), newsjournal of the Arkansas Baptist Convention. Tim Yarbrough is editor of the Arkansas Baptist News.

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Former optometrist office could be just what

doctor ordered for reaching lost in Appalachia

By Roger Alford

SANDY HOOK, Ky. (Western Recorder) -- A building that once served as a doctor's office could be just the prescription for reaching the lost in Kentucky's Appalachian foothills. Ronald Pearce, an Ashland-based optometrist, donated the building to First Baptist Church of Sandy Hook after he closed his satellite office.

"We're considering using it as a logistics center for Baptist outreach in the area," said Charles Johnson, pastor at First Baptist, Sandy Hook. "We're looking at making some upgrades that could include creating a conference room, a kitchen and a bunk room so that we can accommodate missionaries who come to help us reach the lost in this area."

The Kentucky Baptist Convention and the North American Mission Board, concerned about dwindling numbers of church-goers in the mountains, have been pushing to help start new congregations and expand existing ones throughout the mountain region.

"Most people are aware of the poverty and physical needs in the region," said KBC Missions Mobilization Coordinator Teresa Parrett. "There's also a lot of spiritual needs that we need to meet."

Bill Barker, head of the Southern Baptist Convention's Appalachian Regional Ministries, said Elliott County, where Sandy Hook is located, is of special concern because surveys have shown that more than 80 percent of the residents are unchurched. Some surveys put the number of unchurched there at more than 90 percent.

Efforts already are underway to start a new Southern Baptist church in Elliott County, which now has fewer than 10 congregations, only two of which are connected with the SBC.

A native of Carrollton, Johnson had served in central Kentucky until being called as pastor in Sandy Hook last year. He quickly became aware of the tremendous need to get the gospel into the rural expanse around the small town.

"The number of people who don't go to church has dropped so low that it's almost to the level of some Third World countries," Johnson said. "We want to do all we can to change that, and we're hopeful that this building might play a role in reaching the lost."

This article appeared in the Western Recorder (westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

Copyright (c) 2014 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net