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FROM THE STATES: Ill., La., N.M. 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:

Illinois Baptist

Baptist Message (Louisiana)

Baptist New Mexican (New Mexico)

1 day + 570 volunteers = multiplied results

By Lisa Sergent

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Illinois Baptist) -- What difference does one day make? For some it's the difference between spending their eternity in hell or in heaven. The hundreds who heard about Christ through Missions Spectacular activities and events had the seeds planted for coming to Him.

IBSA's one-day missions blitz Missions Spectacular sent 570 volunteers from 60 churches to six locations -- East St. Louis, Champaign, Fairfield, Litchfield, Metropolis, Springfield and their surrounding communities -- to share Christ's love in the neighborhoods through block parties, clean-up projects, food pantry assistance and more.

Two Champaign churches, Cornerstone Baptist, and new church plant, Redeemer Church, teamed up to host a block party in Hessler Park. Mission Spectacular volunteers from Louisville FBC and Greenup FSBC helped provide support for the event by canvassing neighborhoods and passing out flyers earlier in the day, and helping with the block party events later that afternoon.

Steve Diehl, Cornerstone's pastor, and Jim Smith, an IBSA church planting strategist and a pastor at Redeemer Church, were pleased with the event's results.

"The Missions Spectacular teams were invaluable for us," shared Smith. "We were really surprised and pleased with the difference their neighborhood canvassing made. We held a similar event last fall with 80 families registered, but with their help we reached 145 families through this block party.


"It really made the difference for us to have that much extra help, it really improved the quality of our event."

The families who came to the block party didn't go away hungry. "We gave away 400 hotdogs, chips, cookies and drinks -- all free," said Diehl. "Our guests said it was really great that a church would host an event for the whole family. They were amazed that everything was free." In addition to the free food, block party guests enjoyed playing inflatable and lawn games and getting their faces painted.

John Odle, minister of music at Immanuel Baptist, Benton, joined nine other church members at the Christian Activity Center (CAC) in East St. Louis, where they boarded buses with volunteers from other Illinois Baptist churches to escort CAC children on a trip to the St. Louis Zoo.

"The kids were wonderful to work with," said Odle. "They quickly found people they gravitated to, that they had never met, and paired up with them for the trip. We were there to help them have a good experience at the zoo and to love them. One little girl held our hands (Odle and his wife) like we were her grandma and grandpa."

After spending the day at the zoo and returning to the center, Immanuel's volunteers boarded their van to leave. "It had been a hot day, but everyone was excited about their experiences with the kids. Our volunteer's discomfort was not at the forefront of their minds. It was great to see our people so excited. They are very missions-minded."

IBSA's Mark Emerson coordinates the event. "Missions Spectacular continues to be an effective event that connects Illinois Baptists with projects in different parts of the state," he shared. "When Illinois Baptists see firsthand what God is doing through the efforts of a church planter or through a local community ministry, they can sense an invitation by the Holy Spirit to partner with these workers or begin looking for other ways they can make a difference throughout Illinois."


Lisa Sergent is associate editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.


Embrace churches make

first contact in Europe

By Marc Ira Hooks

EUROPE (Baptist Message) -- When Nick Hodges decided to watch the Southern Baptist Convention meeting online last summer, he never dreamed he as a result would be navigating the "tubes," trains and taxis of a major European city this spring.

During the meeting, Hodges heard about Embrace, "and it was like a light went on inside of me," he said. Embrace is an initiative to encourage churches to choose an unengaged, unreached people group (UUPG) and establish an active church-planting strategy among them.

"We're supposed to just go and carry out the Great Commission," he said.

Hodges serves as pastor of the 80-member Emmanuel Baptist Church in Oakdale, La. He and members of 1,100-member First Baptist Church of Mansfield, Texas, spent the last week of April in Europe with International Mission Board trainers to begin their journey to Embrace one of the world's 3,800 UUPGs, 500 of which can be found in Europe.

They are the first Embrace churches to make connections with their people group on the ground in Europe.

Johnny Dickerson, senior pastor of First Mansfield, said, "The thing that appealed to me about Embrace was that we were stepping in to places and situations where there was not already an IMB missionary on the ground. When we decided we were going to do this, I told our church, 'We are not sending a missionary -- we are sending you.'"

Hodges said he and his wife, Dawn, had never been on a mission trip or out of the country before going to Europe for training.


"All of this is very new to us. Not to mention the fact that we are both introverts," Hodges said. "I think we represent the typical Southern Baptist church, and I'm hoping that people will see us and say, 'If they can do it, then we can too.'"

Before the team came to Europe, the churches spent time investigating the world's UUPGs and praying about which to Embrace. After meeting with IMB personnel, each European Embrace church is assigned a "coach" who acts as a consultant for the church as it fulfills its commitment of eight weeks per year for eight years.

Then, on the ground in Europe, the coach helps them learn about the culture and locations of their people group, as well as how to begin planting churches among them. They also go out into the city and make initial contacts with the people group.

Paul Combs, a volunteer from First Mansfield, said he "saw the Holy Spirit do stuff that only the Spirit could do.

"We went out there today not knowing where we were going, who we were going to talk to or if we were even going to find anybody to talk to," Combs said. "But now, when we send teams back here, one of the hardest things about all of this has already been taken care of. We have somebody who has invited us back. They want to know when we are coming and want us to contact them when we get here."

Doors are now open that weren't open before, he said.

Dickerson said the project embodies what he endeavors to preach every Sunday: "You have got to put your faith into action," he said.

Hodges echoed the need for faith in this project.

"There is no way that a church of 80 to 100 people in Louisiana can reach a European people group of 200,000," the Emmanuel Oakdale pastor said. "Yeah, this is a huge task. But if we are faithful, then God will provide the resources and the people along the way. We are not responsible for the results — God is. Our job is just to be faithful to the task."


The Great Commission is not for professional missionaries only; it's for him and his church, and all churches, Dickerson said. "We all have a responsibility to go."

The results are eternal, the pastor added.

"Some day in Glory there is going to be someone from my people group," Dickerson said. "And they are going to say, 'Thanks for going.' And when that happens ... well, I know there are no tears in heaven, so when that happens I am going to just have to jump and shout or something."

If you would like more information about how to Embrace an unengaged, unreached people group in Europe, email

Reprinted from the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.


Spring Break Mission

Trip to Albuquerque

By Tim Singleton

ARTESIA, N.M. (Baptist New Mexican) -- This past spring break the student ministry of First Baptist Church, Artesia, took a team of 15 to Albuquerque for the purpose of serving with a church plant known as CenterPoint Fellowship. Our team participated in the gospel-centered missional ambition of the church, which is led by Pastor Scott Wilson.

We engaged the Nob Hill community by hosting a block party at an area park. We also spent a large amount of time cleaning up the playground and refinishing tables for an area elementary school. We were shocked to receive an outpouring of gratitude from the school's administrative office.

Wednesday was filled with service to the University of New Mexico students. We handed out over 900 energy drinks with church invites that were donated by one of our church members. We fed and joined college students and athletes on the ball fields that night. This again led to conversations for Pastor Scott and greater receptivity to the church plant.


We were invited to join a school club of Albuquerque High School, and our high school boys shared about the Life Book Project. That same teacher then invited me to share the gospel with the students who were testing in his room during lunch. God was so faithful to lead us in the right direction and open up doors for His gospel.

The prayers that we were led in as we "prayer drove" Sunday afternoon are the same ones that I would encourage you to engage in. We ask that the Lord would plant more gospel-centered churches in the downtown area of Albuquerque. We ask for the hearts of those in that area to be softened by the Holy Spirit to encounter Jesus. We also beg for more doors to be opened to minister to the families and faculty at Monte Vista Elementary School.

Thank you for allowing your children and your student ministries to be able to minister and experience trips like this. The impact is deep, whether from serving or from listening and sharing with people who have completely different beliefs. Your prayers, love, cookies, encouragement and financial support for students to engage this lost world are tremendously appreciated.

Tim Singleton is student pastor at First Baptist Church in Artesia, N.M.

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press


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