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FROM THE STATES: Ala., Mo., Fla. evangelism/missions news

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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.

Today's From the States features items from:

The Alabama Baptist

The Pathway (Missouri)

Florida Baptist Witness

FBC Montgomery international

ministry reaches refugees near Atlanta

By Chris Mills

ATLANTA, Ga. (The Alabama Baptist)--The nations are here." That's been a common thought among missions-minded evangelicals for the past several years. And it's a reality for Bill Johnson, a North American Mission Board missionary who serves as church planter with Reach the Nations near Atlanta.

"There are 52 languages spoken in a five-mile radius and 112 within a 10-mile radius -- many of them refugees," Johnson said.

His ministry to these people depends a great deal on partnerships with churches throughout the Southeast that send groups to do things like prayer walking, visiting homes and hosting backyard Bible clubs. Several groups from First Baptist Church, Montgomery, have worked with him the past two years. And recently a group who can relate to the refugees perhaps more than anyone else went to assist Johnson — the international ministry of First, Montgomery.

"Before coming to America, I was a Buddhist monk in Laos. I also lived in a refugee camp in Thailand for three months," said Victor Phakonekham, a member of the Montgomery Baptist Association church who has lived in Montgomery for more than 20 years.

"They looked a lot like me when I first came to the United States," he said of the refugees with whom the international group worked. "I understand how they felt, because I have felt like them. They need to know about Jesus."

So telling them about Jesus was what the group set out to do.

"I to tell them that Jesus Christ loves everybody. He died for us. He's a God for everybody, for all nations," church member Rattana Vongphachanh said.

But communicating that to the refugees wasn't necessarily easy.


"I spoke with some of them in Thai," Vongphachanh said.

Phakonekham's wife, Vanna, wanted the refugees to have peace.

"Before I came to know God, I didn't have any peace," she said. "Now that I know Him, I have peace. I want them to have that peace."

Johnson praised the group.

"Their love for the refugee community is evident," he said.

Of course, Vongphachanh said the group members were simply obeying God's command.

"We went to share with them because God says to love Him first and to love your neighbor."

For more information, visit www.rtnatlanta.com.

This article originally appeared in The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Chris Mills is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist.


Richland church

shines light into India

By Allen Palmeri

RICHLAND, Mo. (The Pathway)--Chuck Baker is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church here, a congregation of about 100 people in a rural Missouri town with a population of around 2,000.

"I'm amazed, and I rejoice at the fact that we could have a global impact with a minimal amount of financial support," Baker said. "It's definitely a sacrifice, in some ways, to go to another country and eat different food and all that sort of thing, but I sometimes ask, 'How much do we really sacrifice in America?'"

The country that Cornerstone Baptist and Baker have chosen for a Gospel relationship is India.

"It's basically been a dark nation, full of idols," Baker said.

Enter Ron Herrod and www.rhemainstitutes.org. The Southern Baptist evangelist leads a ministry called the Ron Herrod Evangelism Ministry Association (RHEMA), which is training pastors like Baker to make a difference.

"We're able to bring the light of the Gospel there and actually partner with him to see His Kingdom expanded, and it matters for eternity," Baker said.


Baker just returned in September from his third trip to India. A former basketball coach, he first got a heart for India through sports evangelism in the south. On his second trip he headed north to the base of the Himalaya mountain range. This time he and some members from Cornerstone were able to see fruit from the second trip. Baker got to hand a diploma to a national pastor who had been discipled through a RHEMA institute.

"That was really exciting," he said.

Baker served with a team of fellow pastors and evangelists in the institute as they taught national pastors through RHEMA at Goa, India. This year for the first time another school of learning was opened in Mumbai (Bombay). Baker flew out of Mumbai to Goa and was struck by how immense the municipality was.

"The lights are so vast because of the huge, huge population of Mumbai," he said. "I believe it's the third-largest city in the world. As I was looking, I kind of began to get a little teary-eyed. Most all of those people there, we know they are lost. That's why it's so important what we were doing on this trip -- getting these local, national pastors trained to where they can equip others.

"If you take the entire state populations of Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Georgia, and you put all those people in (the city limits of) Knoxville, Tennessee, you have Mumbai, India. So it's mind-boggling. That's how densely populated it is. When you talk slums there, you're talking real slums."

Cornerstone Baptist has adopted the "hill people" as its unengaged, unreached people group in the greater Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)-driven contextualization of missional focus that is being unleashed. Baker noted that more than 200 of the 3,800 SBC-targeted unengaged/unreached are in India.

"India has the second-largest Muslim population, second only to Pakistan," he said. "It has the 10th-largest Buddhist population, and it has the largest Hindu population in the world. There has been great darkness for years.


"William Carey, the great missionary, I think was there seven years without a single convert. He would be so excited and probably is so excited with what's happening in India now because there is a hunger."

If a Missouri Baptist church wants to go to India, Baker recommends going online and researching groups like RHEMA and Global Focus.

"Examine your body, look at the folks in your church, pray about it, and follow God's leading," he said. "He may not be leading you to India, but if He is, there are ample opportunities -- probably more than there's ever been."?

This article originally appeared in The Pathway (mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Allen Palmeri is associate editor of The Pathway.


Missions partnerships extend Florida Baptists' reach

Nov 10, 2011

By Margaret Dempsey-Colson

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Florida Baptist Witness)--From Haiti, Cuba and Brazil to West Virginia, Indiana and Nevada, the commitment of Florida Baptists to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ extends far beyond the borders of the Sunshine State.

In 2011 Florida Baptists saw God's hand at work through missions partnerships with three international partners as well as three domestic partners. Each of these partnerships offers opportunities for Florida Baptists to help in evangelistic, church starting and leadership development efforts.


Florida Baptists, through the missions partnership begun with Haiti in 1995, are witnessing spiritual awakening rise from the ruins of the January 2010 earthquake.

Thirty-nine teams of Florida Baptist volunteers served in Haiti in 2011, resulting in 146 church starts, 33,568 conversions and 17,631 baptisms. Among the thousands who are being reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ, many are voodoo priest and priestesses who have used their influence to lead many others to salvation decisions.


With such immense growth come challenges, according to one Haitian pastor.

"All the good things that God is doing are causing good problems," he said, referring to "problems" such as not enough room in existing churches, necessitating the construction of new church facilities.

Also, through Rebuild Haiti, Florida Baptists are helping rebuild homes for those still homeless following the earthquake. To date, 825 homes have been completed, with another 75 being completed each month.

"Every time a home is built, the Haitians see hope. They see that change is coming," said Eddie Blackmon, Florida Baptists'Haiti Rebuild program coordinator. Haitian pastors often visit in the homes that have been completed, with salvation decisions common.


Florida Baptists' partnership with Cuba, begun in 1996, affirmed a commitment made more than 112 years earlier when in 1885, the state convention sent the first Southern Baptist missionaries to the Caribbean nation. Today, a revival is beginning to occur in the island nation that lies only 90 miles away from the southern shores of Florida.

Twelve teams of Florida Baptist volunteers served in Cuba in 2011, resulting in 17 church starts and 1,250 baptisms.


In a missions partnership with South America's largest country, Brazil, Florida Baptists are seeing the gospel taken to people and places it has never been—into the more than 30,000 previously unreached villages along the Amazon River, a region long overlooked simply because of the logistical challenges in getting there.

In 2011 a pastor vision trip, with 12 Florida Baptists from 9 different churches, visited an indigenous village, sharing the Gospel message with one of the unengaged people groups in the Amazon basin. Many, perhaps all, of the adults who heard the message made professions of faith.


The Florida Baptists also conducted a follow-up visit to a village that was evangelized in 2010 by another Florida Baptist mission team. While there, group members were able to take the Gospel into a school, where many people, including the school administrator, professed faith in Jesus Christ.

Additionally, through its missions partnership, Florida Baptists conducted Brazil Leadership Training in the massive city of Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas, Brazil. More than 350 pastors and leaders were trained; these leaders then take their new-found knowledge to others.

"The materials we shared were taken and taught again in the interior in villages we could never reach," according to Craig Culbreth, who spearheads Florida Baptists' partnership missions efforts.

"We saw another 150 leaders trained in six different villages. Seeing this happen is why leadership training is so important. We must train leaders who will train other leaders. This is the biblical model."

West Virginia

Since 2002, Florida Baptists have been in a partnership with West Virginia Baptists. Thirty-three Florida Baptist mission teams, totaling 324 volunteers, helped sow the seeds of the Gospel in the Mountain State in 2011. Additionally 10 leadership projects led by Florida Baptist Convention staff helped train and equip 345 leaders there.

"The people in Florida will be rewarded one day for being part of our ministry, and we thank God for them," said one West Virginia pastor, grateful for Florida Baptists' involvement.


In a partnership with Indiana Baptists, Florida Baptists have focused on church planting in the state's capital of Indianapolis, having seen seven church plants. As these churches are planted, Florida Baptists are continuing the partnership with leadership training and pastoral coaching.



The primary current focus for Florida Baptists' partnership with Nevada Baptists is leadership development. In 2011 five Florida Baptist Convention staffers led in training more than 315 Nevada Baptist leaders.

This article originally appeared in the Florida Baptist Witness (gofbw.com), newsjournal of the Florida Baptist Convention. Margaret Dempsey-Colson is a writer for the Florida Baptist Convention.

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Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net

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