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FROM THE STATES: Md., Mo., Wash. evangelism/missions news

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

BaptistLIFE (Maryland/Delaware)

The Pathway (Missouri) -- two items

Northwest Baptist Witness

Harold Phillips: Adopting a

people group will change your church

By Shannon Baker

PORT DEPOSIT, Md. (BaptistLIFE)--If you think your church is dead or dying, adopt a couple people groups, and it will bring a new mindset and a new fire in your church's heart, says Harold Phillips.

That's exactly what has happened to Pleasant View Church in Port Deposit, Md., Where he has served as senior pastor for over 21 years. Presently, his church has adopted two people groups: one in the Philippines and one in Ecuador.

He traveled this past summer to the Philippines to visit Southern Baptist missionaries in action, to teach at the Filipino Southern Baptist Seminary and to see other missionaries previously supported by his church.

Phillips believes it is important to go to where Southern Baptist missionaries are working rather than just supporting them from afar.

"We could see the work they are doing and pray with those they are discipling," he said, explaining how it brings him joy to see that there are people who sacrificially leave their families behind to live in a foreign country doing hard, sometimes thankless and depressing, work.

"It made me proud to be a Southern Baptist!" he said, explaining the often difficult long uphill, grinding days missionaries face in doing work in largely unevangelized nations.

On this trip, Phillips was gratified to see godly, discipled Filipinos who now serve as Christian leaders at a Southern Baptist college and seminary. "It was great to see how previous years of missionary service have resulted into such great work," he said.

While there, Phillips also had the opportunity to visit with a cooperating missionary from another denomination. *George (named changed for security reasons) is a missionary pastor serving in the dangerous mountains of Mindanao. He walked two hours and then rode a bus for six hours to visit Phillips at the Southern Baptist Seminary, Where Phillips conducted leadership seminars.

On many occasions, George had traveled for eight hours by foot to mountain villages to distribute food and medicine to starving children. On one particular visit, a child approached him, telling him that his father, the General and Commander of a rebel Communist group, wanted to see him.

Knowing that his life was at risk, George visited the commander, who asked him, "Why are you bringing us food?" To which, he replied, "Because Jesus sent me here."

The man, curious, commanded him, "Tell me about Jesus." George acquiesced and shared the Gospel with the man, who got saved and then asked, "What's your name?"

George told the commander his name, only to learn that he was on the commander's hit list. "I have been assigned to kill you," the commander, who had already killed 12 people, told him, "but I can't kill you now because you are my brother!"


Ultimately, the commander quit raiding other villages and brought in a pastor and wife to his village. He built them a hut and brought his family to learn about Jesus.

It wasn't long before other raiders came into the village demanding food. They tied the 300 villagers to nearby trees, threatening to kill them if they didn't provide food. Finally, the commander promised them, "If you turn them lose, a missionary will bring you food."

The commander contacted George, who then called Phillips to ask for fervent prayer -- for protection from being killed and for food to provide for the village. Phillips promptly organized three days of fasting and prayer, inviting members of his church to pray for this man's life and for the success of his mission. Phillips also sent money from the church to secure food.

All the while, George prepared a crusade, intending to share the Gospel on his return visit to the village. In addition to providing food, George showed the Jesus film and preached for four days to over 1,000 people, including the rebels, who came from nearby villages. Around 300 people got saved.

Among them was a village chief, who fell on his knees before the missionary asking how to become a Christian. Soon afterwards, the chief gave a piece of his property to the missionary to build a "prayer house" (rather than a "church" that could be burnt down).

Unbeknownst to George, oceans away, a member at Pleasant View Church approached Phillips with $3,000. "I want to donate this money to the Philippines mission," the man told his pastor.

A week later, George called Phillips to tell them the exciting news about the village's new "church." But where would he get the money to buy the supplies to build it? To which, Phillips responded, "I already have your money!"

Over time, the church was built, and the village changed so much, that the building became readily known as the village church. It was named the Pleasant View Central Baptist Church, after its host church in Maryland.

To commemorate the partnership, the village chief gave Phillips a Filipino sword, which now resides in Phillips's office with a photo of its namesake church.

That was three years ago, and since that time, the church already has four children churches.

In his trip to the Philippines this summer, Phillips purchased three water purification systems to help the village, through the church, have sanitary water. For extra measure, he bought another system for the neighboring village -- the same village that had tied the villagers to the trees three years before.

These days, Pleasant View Church is very alive. Members presently are also focusing their sights on an orphanage in Ecuador, assisting a retired Army officer in rescuing children thrown away in the jungles and left to die. To date, the orphanage has 62 orphans. Pleasant View members traveled to the orphanage to help build a Christian school for the kids.


The ultimate goal is to train the children in Christian education and teach them to be missionaries to the same villages that discarded them.

"Now, that's exciting stuff!" shared Phillips. "And it's all true! That's what brings a church to life!"

This article originally appeared in BaptistLIFE, (, newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. Shannon Baker is a national correspondent for the convention.


First church

takes shape in Africa

By Allen Palmeri

BOLIVAR, Mo. (The Pathway)--A church has been planted in the Western Gateway Cluster of the Sub-Saharan Affinity Group of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) partnership by a team led by a graduate of Southwest Baptist University.

James Shuler was recently ordained and is en route to a January ministry position as a pastor of discipleship under lead pastor Scott Watson at River Bluff Fellowship in Ozark. Shuler led the team in November that planted the church for the "S" people. The team that enjoyed success in Africa was built around the missionary heart of Freshwater Church here, which has now planted the first church on African soil to come out of the MBC initiative entered into in 2009.

"We had been praying in line with the strategy of that area, that God would lead us to a person of peace well thought of and connected with leaders of the community that could quickly open doors to outsiders like ourselves," Shuler said.

The specific location is not listed for safety reasons, but the church is located somewhere on the mainland of West Africa, in one of the following countries: Senegal; The Gambia; Mali; Guinea-Bissau; Guinea; Sierra Leone; or Liberia. The MBC is also seeking to plant churches in the island nation of Cape Verde.

Shuler has been going to Africa since November 2010. He was first invited into the imam's compound in a Muslim village. The church came a year later when he and two other people went in to share a story called "Creation to the Church." That story was shared in a couple of villages.

A Southern Baptist church in this part of Africa is not like a Southern Baptist church in the United States of America. The order of service is different. For example, a church in this part of Africa may gather to hear stories. That may be what they would call church.

Part of what the Shuler-led church plant team is doing is helping the people in practical ways. For example, they are helping with instruction at a school. They also are helping to provide clean drinking water.

Shuler's strength in the Freshwater effort to plant the first church rests in his expertise with small groups. Recognizing his leadership ability, MBC Partnership Missions Specialist Rick Hedger ordained him into the ministry. Joshua Hedger, Rick's son and the pastor of Freshwater, also had complete trust in Shuler to execute the task in Africa.


The S people are 30,000 strong.

"We are praying that God would add local churches to partner with us to continue walking through open doors that God gives us in the entire area near the S people," Shuler said. "How exciting it would be if, upon our return in April, there is a regional church growing, in spite of the needed teaching and discipleship amongst the local leadership we left behind."??

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


Mo. church rejoices

over K people fruit

By Staff

WEST AFRICA (The Pathway)--When taking the gospel to the ends of the earth, there is no "end of the road." That is what one Missouri Baptist team member said while driving cross country for more than 90 minutes from any improved road to a new village.

First Baptist Church, Arnold, is the missionary to the K people of West Africa. The K people are oral learners who are Muslim synchronistic with traditional African religions (witchcraft). They have no written language, and consequently there is no Bible in their language. That means First Arnold must take the Word of God to them in story form.

"We are 'writing the Word of God' on the hearts of the K people with an 'Oral Bible,'" said Jim Nicolls, missions coordinator, First Arnold. "Our first vision trip was just two years ago. Six short-term missions journeys later, after much removing of rocks, tilling of soil, planting, planting, planting, the harvest has begun."

Before First Arnold came, God was already working in three separate villages. For security purposes they are MD, SDH and MS. There were sufficient missionaries to break into three teams. Tab Schmidt led the team in MD, David Hague led the team at SDH, and Nicolls led the team in MS. Here is what the teams are reporting.

MD: The Creation to Cross story was taught along with Philip and the Ethiopian. Personal testimonies were shared along with John 3:16 and the Lord's prayer. Along the way questions were answered.

Bacere is the most promising disciple, learning and growing at a good pace in three days. He received a megavoice, which is a solar-powered audio player with Bible stories, and a French Bible with a few of these stories highlighted for him to read. He was especially excited as he learned the gospel. Four others may also be believers now.

SDH: The team shared the Creation to Cross story with the village. Creation to Cross was split into three segments presented over three evenings. No. 1 was "creation to the fall," presented on Dec. 3. By the end two men were able to repeat the story back. No. 2 was "the fall to the birth of Christ," presented Dec. 4. No. 3 was "the birth of Christ through His death, burial and resurrection." It was presented Dec. 5. An invitation was presented and 10 people prayed to receive Jesus Christ, adding to the two Christ followers from a previous trip.


MS: This team ministered to the MS and SG villages. In June God brought 11 new believers to Himself. When a team returned in July, the number had grown to 16, with five committing to be discipled. These five are already repeating Bible stories, making up songs about the stories, and praying for themselves and others.

One day the disciples in the MS village invited friends from the SG village to hear about Jesus. At least four adults prayed to receive Christ. The village was then visited again and almost all of its people were present at the meeting to hear one Bible story. They were overwhelmed and invited the missionaries to return. They did the next day and took the disciples from MS with them. They helped tell stories and demonstrate prayer to the new believers from the previous visit.

The Creation to Cross story was told to those who had not previously chosen to be Christ followers. Nearly every adult prayed to receive Christ. There are now at least 15 new Muslim-background believers (MBBs) in SG. Three are ready to be discipled. Discipling responsibilities are now in the hands of the MS disciples.??

This article originally appeared in The Pathway (, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.


Prayer, preparation helps launch church

in affluent Puget Sound community

By Sheila Allen

AUBURN, Wash. (Northwest Baptist Witness)--The purchase of a home is a major financial decision for most, but for Dennis and Debbie Stebly, the cost can be counted in spiritual terms as well. Their recent purchase of a home in a large, upscale housing development in Auburn, Wash., called Lakeland Hills has opened new doors for ministry.

While he has been a pastor for most of his adult life, Dennis Stebly did not grow up in a Christian home in Black Diamond, Wash. After his adult decision to follow Christ, he became involved with Village Missions, an organization that seeks to enhance spiritual vitality among churches in rural North America He was a pastor in Idaho, Oregon and Colorado. He returned to the Puget Sound area to pastor the church he was first saved in. He then went into business for a time before pursuing more education and attended Sequoia Baptist Church in Kent, Wash.

"I received my master of divinity degree from the Northwest campus of Golden Gate Seminary in 2009," Stebly said. "It was during that time that I was first exposed to church planting. I was able to attend two classes at the Northern California campus taught by Allan Karr and his heart is in church planting. It was providential that I was exposed to things in that area."

Stebly was able to perform the practicum portion of his studies at Veritas Church in Kent, Wash., an invaluable experience for him. He then applied to the North American Mission Board as a Nehemiah church planter, a partnership between NAMB and all six Southern Baptist seminaries and the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary. Since 1998, Nehemiah professors have worked to train and mobilize church planters resulting in approximately 1,000 church planters, including 34 new planters in 2010 and approximately 1,324 church planter interns, including 24 new interns in 2010.


After his approval and working in conjunction with the Northwest Baptist Convention through the Region 1 team, Stebly needed to decide on a field where he could effectively serve.?

"My wife and I would get in the car and just drive around and pray for a place to start a church," Stebly said. "We eventually felt if we could buy a home in Lakeland Hills and get into the homeowners association it would provide some opportunities for ministry, which we were able to do in March. We still own a home in Kent that we are currently renting out."

Even prior to their arrival at their new home, the Steblys began ministering in the target area by hosting a sports camp and involvement in other community events, along with help from a few others from Veritas Church and a team from Youth Missions International.

"In the Auburn School District, if you request permission to rent a facility and are approved, the school district will distribute promotional material for you to selected schools which we have done for some of our events," Stebly noted. "Right now we are meeting for services in the Lakeland Hills community center, which we are only able to do because we live in that community."

Meanwhile, Stebly is meeting local residents and meeting needs in the marketplace as he visits a local coffee shop, goes to the gym and makes grocery store purchases. He has found it easy to connect with those who are hurting, such as a family whose father was dying of cancer. The Steblys stepped up with meals for the family during those difficult days. Since the days of the launch of the church in October, Stebly has already performed a funeral service, a wedding ceremony and a baptism service for three people. He laid the groundwork for that during the past year.

"It is amazing how open people are," Stebly said. "A person in my homeowners group said only 4 percent of residents here go to any church. Now I am starting a Neighborhood Watch program and because of that I was given names and addresses of all the neighbors in my zone, so I can already begin to pray for them. I will be a known person to them that can extend to relationships in other ways."?

Not only has Stebly been able to minister to others, but has also been ministered to in recent days. At the first October service of his fledgling Reliance Church, Stebly's 27-year-old son, Jared, was present to assist with music, but suffered a grand mal seizure during the first song and was rushed to the hospital, where they discovered a brain tumor. Now people who were provided for with meals by the Steblys are returning the favor as they travel difficult days with their son.

"We still had a wonderful launch," Stebly said. "We advertised in the newspaper and with sandwich boards and there were over 70 people there, over half of them from Lakeland. Someone donated a sound system, the furnishings and projector system are provided by the community center and we have space available for childcare. Even with the issues my son is going through, this has given me a great opportunity to preach about God's providence and provision because of his faith in Christ. People are rallying around us."


Stebly continues with a supplemental job as a chaplain where Debbie Stebly is the funeral home director. He has his eye on an elementary school across the street from his current location for the day the facility becomes overcrowded, which will be an answer to prayer for Lakeland Hills.

This article originally appeared in the Northwest Baptist Witness (, newsjournal of the Northwest Baptist Convention. Sheila Allen is managing editor of the paper.

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press

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