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FROM THE STATES: Fla., Ga., Tenn. 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:

Florida Baptist Witness

The Christian Index (Georgia)

Baptist & Reflector (Tennessee)

Water flows to Haiti village after

Fla. church builds aquifer

By Carolyn Nichols

HAITI (Florida Baptist Witness) -- Because of the efforts of First Baptist Church in Stuart, Fla., water flows freely in a south Haitian village. Pastor Darrell Orman said it is the first time in history the residents of Ravine Normande do not have to kneel before tiny springs to collect fresh water.

In the village of 36,000 south of Jacmel on Haiti's southern coast, residents spent hours each day collecting water from three springs, each of which goes dry at times during the year. They had to dip water into shallow pans through small openings, and empty the pans into five gallon buckets that they carried back to the village. More than 100,000 Haitians depend on the springs for potable water, he said.

Orman told the Florida Baptist Witness he heard at the 2011 Southern Baptist Convention that most families on earth spend an average of seven hours daily getting water for their households. He saw this process first hand when he went to the village last November.

An advance team returned to the area in May to assess current water systems and foundations for improvement to the systems. A team of 11 members of First Baptist traveled south to Haiti July 6-14 to insert galvanized pipes into the three springs that feed into an aquifer then overflow freely through a pipe to the residents. Since the completion of the project, residents simply place their buckets under the free-flowing water, Orman said.

The team of Floridians also laid the foundation for a 300-seat building to be used as a church and Christian school. The construction site is on a steep hill, requiring the team to erect 12-foot pillars to prepare support for a level floor. Future teams going to Ravine Normande from Stuart will extend pipes from the aquifer to the church and install a generator and pump.

"It will be the first running water in the history of the village," Orman said.

Since a generator might be a target for thieves, the Floridians will install solar panels to also provide electricity, he said First Baptist members will travel there during Spring Break 2013 to install a floor on the pillars. Future teams—like their predecessors—will pack two suitcases with a plan to leave one and its contents behind for Haitian villagers.

"It makes traveling back a lot lighter, and we are able to bless the people there," Orman said.

The group from Stuart was invited to Ravine Normande by Therese

Laguerre, a nurse and pastor's daughter who grew up in the village and has returned there to operate a medical clinic. The clinic is located across the road from the site of the church construction site. Presently, a group of Christians meet to worship at the clinic on Sundays. Other churches are located either a two-hour walk up, or a two- hour walk down, the mountain, Orman said.


Bob Myers was a member of two teams from First Baptist that worked in Ravine Normande. A retired researcher and veteran mission volunteer, Myers, 74, said he was the oldest member of the teams. The youngest was 19. Myers worked on the aquifer and on the church foundation since he "was raised to build things," he said. He also spent hours every day "visiting along the paths," telling residents about Jesus.

"My passion is mission trips. It is a way to reach out and love on people," he said.

Myers discovers boldness in witnessing on mission that he says is not normal for him.

"For some reason, I really step out on mission trips. No one is more excited about it than I am," he said.

First Baptist is committed to ministering in Ravine Normande, Orman said, and the congregation spent upwards of $23,000 in materials and shipping for the water system and church foundation.

The funds came from the church's designated account for missions that is in addition to 9 percent of budget funds that goes to the Cooperative Program and associational missions.

The designated fund is supplied by donations made through golf tournaments and spaghetti suppers.

A missions fish fry July 25 featured testimonies by Myers and other volunteers who have worked in Haiti. Their enthusiasm was contagious, he said.

"We want to build a hunger and an appetite for these missions," Orman said.

This article originally appeared in the Florida Baptist Witness, ( Carolyn Nichols is a newswriter for the Florida Baptist Witness.


Ga. church

partners with Malawi

By J. Gerald Harris

CALHOUN, Ga. (Christian Index) -- Georgia pastor Steven Pearson emphatically states, "Our vision is to reach out to our community and our world with the ministry and the message of Christ."

The first mission of Meadowdale Baptist Church in Calhoun, Ga., is to the people in the area, with Pearson noting, "Meadowdale is one of God's hospital churches. The hurting and wounded are drawn here and they find love and acceptance from the people in our fellowship."

The Meadowdale pastor's commitment and compassion do not end in Gordon County. He has a vision that extends far beyond his own "Jerusalem and Judea." He exclaimed, "Missions is just a part of who we are. We know from experience that a church never loses a dime by giving to missions; and the benefits of doing missions far outweigh any hardship or difficulty."

Pearson, who became the pastor of Meadowdale in 1979, has always had a heart for international missions and has preached in 35 evangelistic campaigns overseas including meetings in Tanzania, Philippines, Guyana, Honduras, Nigeria, Nepal, Estonia, Romania, and Jamaica.

Furthermore, Pearson has now led Meadowdale in a vigorous volunteer missions ministry for more than three decades. The most recent mission effort was in Malawi, one of sub-Saharan Africa's most topographically beautiful and densely populated countries with almost 16 million?people.


Pearson, along with Associate Pastor Gary Tate and Minister of Administration and Youth Tim Erwin has worked in Malawi for several years. The pastor and staff have developed a working relationship with IMB missionary Ross Collier, who is located in the nation's capitol city of Lilongwe. Pearson and the Meadowdale church responded in 2011 to Collier's request for them to consider a three-year partnership commitment.

"Ross and his wife, Sherry, have served as Southern Baptist missionaries for 30 years," attests Pearson. "Ross is a church planter and Sherry teaches in the seminary in Lilongwe. They also manage the Baptist Guest House in the capitol city."

Meadowdale recently sent nine members to Malawi to serve alongside the Colliers. Those who joined the pastor in this year's mission trip were: Rodney and Chloe Babb, Robert and Lynn Kinsey, Kevin and Pat Phipps, Tim Erwin, and Shelly Long. Seven of the members were veteran volunteer missionaries, but two were on an international mission trip for the first time.

The goal of the Calhoun church is to drill deep water wells in five villages, do evangelism in each village, and plant a church in each location.

Pearson commented, "Malawi is a very poor country, but the people are friendly and kind to strangers. Most of the people grow corn and other crops to sustain their families. Extended families live in compounds. The family structure and hospitality are very important aspects of life in Malawi.

"We have been told that the average mortality age is about 50. Malaria and AIDS are major health problems in the country and there is very poor access to any kind of medical care.

"But the people are extremely open to the Gospel," Pearson continued. "In fact, we have had people literally chase us down and ask us to come to their village and tell them the story of Jesus.

"Many Malawians practice traditional African religion, ancestor worship, and animism, but they are remarkably drawn to the hope that is in Christ and the light that comes with the Christian faith. The people are like sponges - just extremely eager to soak up the Good News of Jesus. Many people in Malawi respond to the Gospel the first time they hear it. Every day that we are working in Malawi seems like Pentecost.

"Each person on our team had an interpreter who was a Malawian pastor, church planter, or evangelist. Lilongwe Baptist Association had targeted several areas for us to work. We spoke in churches, compounds, villages, towns, and many schools.

"We gave testimonies and Gospel presentations. Each person spoke on average of 8-10 times a day, and the Jesus film was shown at night in the areas targeted for new churches. The African Team recorded decisions and mapped out our work. We also taught Bible studies to mass gatherings of new believers."


Pearson related his most memorable experience by explaining, "When my interpreter and I entered a certain compound we found approximately 30 members of one family. I introduced myself to the matriarch of the group, who was supposedly 94 years old. I asked her permission to speak to her family and she granted it.

"I gave a Gospel presentation and almost everyone in the compound gladly received Christ as Savior and Lord, including the matriarch. In the midst of the rejoicing that followed that high and holy moment the matriarch walked toward me on her knees. She took my hand and pressed it against her forehead. And then she kissed my hand over and over as she said something in her language.

"I asked my interpreter what she had said. She had said that she had lived a long time and she never dreamed that someone would come from the other side of the world, sit in her compound, and tell her how to get to heaven. She was glad she lived long enough to see that day. I was humbled that God allowed me to see her glorious response that day."

This article appeared in The Christian Index (, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention. J. Gerald Harris is editor of The Christian Index.


Church is Planting Other Churches: FBC, Collierville

used church planter residency to prepare one planter

By Connie Bushey

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. (Baptist & Reflector) -- Matt Hess has just been in Toronto for a month but he is ready to live there despite its "post-modern culture" -- a place where most people don't know what the church or Christ is all about.

He also is encouraged after his short time there to start a church.

He was well-prepared for his ministry, he noted, by First Baptist Church in Collierville, Tenn., where he was on the staff as a church planter resident for 11 months.

Of course, Hess explained, ultimately his preparation is from the Lord.

"Canada is where God led us … and He will never call us to a task that He will not equip us for," Hess said on a video about his journey produced by the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board.

He said from Toronto, "God never calls us to a place that He has not gone to before us, preparing the way." He referred to Deuteronomy 31:8 where that is promised.

First Baptist Collierville is the main sponsor of Hess and his family which includes Arrica and their three young children.

Hess is already meeting with a NAMB missionary who has started a Baptist church in another suburb of Toronto and is coordinating the starting of seven other churches in metro Toronto.

Hess' strategy is to start a Bible fellowship in his home, to build relationships in his neighborhood which is ideally set up for that because he lives in a complex of zero-lot townhomes, and become involved in the community so that he and Arrica will attract curiosity about the Christian faith.


"Here Christianity is just one of the ways that lead to heaven," he explained. "It is the most lost region in all of North America."

At least at this point, he and his family have had a very easy transition, Hess said. They have met several neighbors who have been "extremely welcoming to us" and even receptive to some witness of the Christian faith, he said, despite "the wall" he has been warned about that many Canadians erect between themselves and others.

The preparation was key, he repeated, adding that he is so thankful for FBC Collierville.

From Collierville to Canada

First Baptist Collierville called Hess back to its church staff as church planter resident about a year ago.

Hess was young people's pastor from 2006-08 at the church while attending Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Cordova, Tenn. He is a native of Oklahoma.

He had gone on to be pastor of Cary Chapel Baptist Church in Mount Pleasant, Miss., when he began considering God's call to serve in international missions as he continued his studies at Mid-America. When he and Arrica decided that wasn't God's call to them partly because he enjoyed ministering to "a flock" so much, they considered church planting in an unreached area of North America.

He told Chuck Herring, pastor of First Baptist Collierville, who was his mentor, and they both committed to pray about it.

Hess said he had never thought of Canada until he heard Richard Harris, then interim president of NAMB, speak at a seminary chapel service. Interestingly, Herring and Sam Nichols, associate pastor of missions and administration, also heard Harris speak on the needs of Canada at a different time.

Over a six month period, Hess and Herring both came to realize separately that God was calling Hess to Canada.

Then they spoke about it.

"It was one of those things that God does," said Hess, noting that God prepared their hearts separately.

As Herring and Nichols thought about Hess' call to church planting in Canada, they knew they wanted to lead FBC to be his sponsoring church but as they had learned from other church planting efforts, this kind of effort needed a lot of preparation or it might easily fail.

Hess said he was ready about a year ago to "step out in faith" but now is glad he didn't.

First Baptist Collierville

FBC, which draws about 1,400 to Sunday morning worship, has been a part of starting 11 new churches (started four and sponsored seven others) in the past nine years, Nichols said. It also has been involved in the revitalization of an existing church in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Three of the four churches FBC has started were begun in the last three years in Memphis, partly because of what Herring, as part of the NAMB board, learned about church planting and its effectiveness in reaching people for Christ, said Nichols. During this period FBC also joined several sponsors of a church start in Rhode Island.


As they learned more about church planting, Herring and Nichols learned of a church preparing a church planter as a church planter resident on a church staff.

The church planter residency has worked out well, they reported.

"What excites me is that we're deliberately developing resources and giving time before we put somebody out there," Nichols said.

FBC supports Hess in addition to its other church planting efforts. FBC is partnering in these starts with the Tennessee Baptist Convention; Mid-South Baptist Association, based in Bartlett; and other churches to start the Memphis churches and with NAMB and other churches on the Rhode Island and Toronto starts.

The average three-year commitment to a church plant has not been completed by FBC yet on the efforts in Memphis. On two of the church starts they are committed to another 18 months of support and on the other another nine months, said Nichols.

Of course, the church also may extend those commitments, he added. He explained that although a church may be growing, it may face challenges just as difficult as it faced in infancy.

In Toronto, he and Herring realize that "this is not your typical three-year commitment," said Nichols. Because Toronto is so unreached, "we will be plowing in this field for a while."

While Hess was on the staff of FBC as church planter resident, he had time to prepare by developing other sponsors to provide financial support, to study and continue to hone his ministerial skills while helping First too, said Nichols.

As Nichols, Herring and Hess were assisted by NAMB personnel, they learned that they must prepare for a higher cost of living in Toronto and they needed to hire an attorney in Toronto, said Nichols.

Hess entered the country under immigrant status with a clergy exemption that allows him to only work as a minister. To obtain immigrant-landed status, which might take several years, he needed an attorney. This status will allow Hess to be "a tent-maker," a bivocational minister who can work there for pay, said Nichols.

He thinks bivocational ministry will help a lot of church planters. Sponsors, including church sponsors, "will not work in a church plant forever," said Nichols.

FBC also assists its church planters and their new congregations by providing accounting assistance. FBC pays all of the bills and manages all of the finances for the three churches it is sponsoring in Memphis. The Canada situation is unique but FBC also provides some accounting assistance for Hess.

Church satellites/church planting

Some churches start church satellites to reach people for Christianity in their area rather than start churches. Of course, that would not work in Toronto or New Hampshire.

Herring said, "We believe the Lord Jesus is the head of the church. In following His leadership, He has opened the door for us to plow our resources into church planting.


"In this, we are not saying that the satellite approach is not biblical or valid. In fact, we have property that may be used for a satellite in the future. And we are open to revitalizing existing churches through the satellite approach."

On the Toronto effort, Herring said, "Our people got excited about ministry in Canada because of Matt and Arrica. The opportunity to be a sending church, it just skyrocketed the interest in missions locally, nationally and globally for our entire church family."

This article originally appeared in the Baptist & Reflector (, newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Connie Bushey is news editor of the Baptist & Reflector.

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press

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