Today's BP Ledger includes items from:
Baptist Global Response
Mississippi Baptist Convention Board
East Texas Baptist University
Compass Direct News
Partnership helps malnourished Pakistani children
SHIKARPUR, Pakistan (Baptist Global Response)--In the Shikarpur district of Pakistan's Sindh province, thousands of homes were destroyed and more than half a million people were forced out of their villages in August 2010 by the country's worst flooding in 80 years.
Southern Baptists, through their World Hunger Fund, responded to the need through a partnership with Shikarpur Christian Hospital that focused on helping malnourished children displaced by floodwaters.
"Shikarpur Christian Hospital has provided incredible medical care to many women in upper Sindh province since the early 1960s," said Francis Horton of the Baptist Global Response relief organization. "And they have done it in the love of Christ and in His name."
Priscilla Carpenter, a doctor at the hospital in Shikarpur, has participated in the flood relief work since September. "We have had an overwhelmingly positive response from these people wanting to know what compels us to do what we are doing, as they have not seen the same kind of care from the majority community," Carpenter said.
After the flood, which affected 20 million people throughout the country, the hospital staff realized they couldn't help everyone. They decided to focus on one specific need -- malnourished children of the flood-affected families.
These children's families depended on the land for their survival and had no way to make a living after the floods washed away their crops. As field laborers, they were already very poor and had limited access to health care.
"TB is a very common illness and very often the underlying reason for the severe malnutrition in these villagers. These children were ill before the flooding, but their families did not have the resources to come into town and get treatment," Carpenter said. "Many of those that we have been providing care for health are still not in a position to feed themselves as they have lost their year's income."
Most of the children showed up with a cough or serious diarrhea. One 14-month-old girl was too weak to even cry when she arrived. She was malnourished and severely anemic. When she returned for a follow-up visit after being discharged, she crawled all over the clinic.
"We thank God that all but one child was able to be discharged in a much healthier, happier state, even though some were critically ill," Carpenter said.
Doctors and nurses also used mobile medical camps to reach out to flood victims. Carpenter's team spent time talking to patients and made return, follow-up visits.
Many people want to know why Carpenter and her team want to help them. To that, Carpenter responded, "It is the love of Jesus that causes us to do it, and we are happy to share that love with them."
Slater Murphy tapped as Miss. church music director
JACKSON, Miss. (Mississippi Baptist Convention Board)--Slater Murphy, long-time associate pastor/music at Fairview Church, Columbus, was elected June 28 by the executive committee of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board (MBCB) to serve as the board's new Church Music Director. He replaces L. Graham Smith, who retired in December 2009.
"He is a man of character who displays the traits of our Lord through his service. Slater has a strong work ethic and places the Lord as the priority of his life," said Steve Stone, MBCB associate executive director for church growth, in recommending Murphy for the post. "He is a leader among leaders."
A native of New Orleans, Murphy holds a bachelor of music degree ('79) from Baptist-affiliated William Carey University in Hattiesburg and a master of church music degree ('82) from Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
Prior to being called to Fairview Church in 1985, he served as volunteer minister of music at Lake Forest Church in New Orleans; music assistant at Main Street Church, Hattiesburg; summer minister of music/youth at St. Rose Church in St. Rose, La; minister of music/youth at Goodwater Church, Magee; organist and junior high youth choir director at Temple Church, Hattiesburg; minister of music/youth at First Church, Sellersburg, In; and minister of music at Temple Church, Memphis (now located in Olive Branch).
He has also served the Mississippi Singing Churchmen as accompanist for 26 years, and as president in 2007-08. He was also chairman of the MBCB order of business committee in 1999.
Slater and his wife Marsha have been married for 28 years. They have two adult children: Brian, who is married to LeAnn, and Laura.
ETBU Tigers return after making impact in Poland, Croatia
By David Weaver, ETBU Sports Information Director
MARSHALL, Texas (East Texas Baptist University)--Two teams of East Texas Baptist University football players and coaches are back in Texas following separate trips to Poland and Croatia in which the Tigers participated in various activities including football camps, construction projects, and, to a certain degree, remembering the past.
Head coach Mark Sartain, along with two different groups of current players and coaches, spent a week in Krakow, Poland, earlier this month to work with a semi-pro team, the Krakow Tigers, and to conduct American football clinics in the area. Just last week, another group spent a few days in Croatia, helping a local church in Beli Manastir tear down an ancient structure in order to rebuild a new worship building as part of an effort spearheaded by Advancing Native Missions.
It's the fourth summer in which the ETBU football program has taken part in overseas trips. Since 2008, Tiger football players and coaches have spent time in five different countries and Alaska.
"It's a part of what I want in our program," Sartain said of the overseas summer trips. "We're a part of East Texas Baptist University and I think our whole focus as an institution is to send people out with a message, so I think it's very appropriate that we do that with the football program. It's about more than just the game. This is just a part of the experience, learning how to serve, learning how to use the opportunities and influence that we have as football players and coaches. It always gives a different perspective on life, and faith, that I think is healthy for our young men."
The first leg of this summer's activities was in Krakow, Poland, where the ETBU Tigers were guests of the Krakow Tigers. The Krakow Tigers are part of a 32-team semi-pro league in Poland, and the ETBU players and coaches spent two days conducting practice and helping the team with its grasp of American football. The ETBU group also visited three middle schools and spent time with kids talking about football, and Sartain himself was invited to speak at a local university about football and sports marketing.
"We were there with the Krakow Tigers to have kind of an 'American football experience,' sort of like the NFL Experience," Sartain said. "We saw over 2,000 Polish kids that came through our area, and they got to put on a helmet and shoulder pads, learn how to kick and throw and catch an American football, knock down blocking dummies, that kind of thing. It was a really neat deal."
As part of the trip the ETBU group also did some sight-seeing, including trips to former Nazi concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau, located about an hour outside of Krakow. The Tigers also visited other historical sites such as Oscar Schindler's factory museum as well as the ruins of what was Hitler's Jewish ghetto in Krakow itself.
The trip to Auschwitz, one of the most notorious Nazi death camps of World War II, was a humbling experience for both players and coaches alike. The ETBU team was given a guided tour of the facility, which was the largest concentration camp in Poland. From 1941-1942, the gas chamber at Auschwitz was used to kill an estimated 60,000 Jews and Polish prisoners, as well as Russian prisoners of war.
"It was just a chilling, indescribable experience that I personally will never forget, walking on that ground and knowing history and what took place there," Sartain said of the visit to the former death camp. "It really, really puts everything else into perspective, and I think it affected our young men very deeply."
The focus of the second trip, to Croatia, was different than the visit to Poland. ETBU's first summer trip to Croatia in 2008 saw the Tigers come to the aid of a local church congregation with the construction of a new church building. This year the group returned to aid another church with the tearing down of an old facility to allow a new one to be constructed.
As part of the trip, the team was able to return to the former building it helped create and actually worship in the new facility, now three years later.
"It was just neat to see all those people again and see what our work there accomplished," said Sartain. "We sent them a signed football from our team and they had it proudly on display. It was a nice worship time and we really enjoyed seeing some friends again."
The Tigers conducted worship in three different churches in the area, with the main work of tearing down the old building - a total of 16 tons of debris in just three days of work - took place in Beli Manastir.
Sartain said he wants to continue making the trips available to his players in the coming years, and would also like to see ETBU groups make trips to areas in the United States, such as being able to help out in relief areas such as Joplin, Mo., and Alabama due to the destruction caused by tornado outbreaks, in the future.
"Doing these types of things is always very inspiring and humbling," the coach said. "We always come back feeling like we've gotten more than we've given. It's always worth it."
River of Extremes Explored by HSU Environmental Management Students
ABILENE, Texas (Hardin-Simmons University)--"I want them to see for themselves the good and the bad issues related to the Pecos River," says Hardin-Simmons University professor Dr. Mark Ouimette. Students in Ouimette's River Assessment 1 class and his Water Resources Management class have recently returned from their in-field study of over 200 miles of the Pecos River.
The river winds over 900 miles through the semi-arid and arid landscapes of eastern New Mexico and West Texas. Today the river still plays a critical role to communities along its path for irrigation and contributes heavily to the economy of the region, but the water resource has fallen on hard times.
Ouimette, head of the HSU Geology Department and director of Environmental Management, is passionate about instilling in his students a sense of responsibility to the environment. During classes this summer, Ouimette has taken students on field trips to Colorado to study the Taylor and Gunnison Rivers, as well as New Mexico to study the struggling Pecos.
In Texas, the river's flow has dwindled to a trickle in some areas and salinity is so high that its use for irrigation and livestock watering is limited in many instances. The reduced quality and quantity has also harmed the river basin's biodiversity according to a report by the Pecos River Water Protection Plan Implementation Program.
"The Pecos River is especially interesting for students to study because it is a classic stream that has limited recharge and abundant demand for the use of that water," says Ouimette. "It also has two competing states, New Mexico and Texas, that claim rights to the water.
"The headwaters area near Pecos, NM, is fresh, high quality water, coming out of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. After 200-300 miles of travel to Texas, the water is used for agriculture and other human needs. The quality of the water is very poor (stressed) by the time it reaches Texas south of Carlsbad, NM. The water, as it enters Texas, is saline to hyper-saline (salty) and not very useful," says Ouimette.
The students explored about 225 miles of actual Pecos River bank, all in New Mexico, mostly by van, but also traveled several miles on foot. The group camped near the headwaters of the Pecos in Villanueva State Park south of Pecos, NM, where the river contributes to the park's cool, green beauty.
Ouimette says one of the most important and useful lessons students learn from the field trip is that the water is a limited and precious resource. "We discuss conservation methods that agriculture and industry can take to improve on this difficult situation. They also learn many principles that water managers are utilizing every year in managing this resource. My goal is to teach these lessons but also instill in these students a sense of responsibility for their world," says Ouimette.
One of the most important aspects of the trip he says is getting out of the classroom and working in groups. "Usually the fellowship is paramount with these trips. The mix of environmental management graduate students with the environmental science students works out very well. They help me, and they help each other, and they are very attentive to the guests we encounter along the way," Ouimette says proudly of his students.
Among the impromptu guests who took an interest in talking to the class was Scott Bernard, assistant manager of the Lisboa Springs Fish Hatchery outside of Pecos, NM. Bernard gave the students a tour of the facility and related many issues about the Pecos River and the difficulty it is having due to severe drought and wildfire in New Mexico.
Bernard also discussed the impact of Whirling Disease on trout in New Mexico caused by a parasite that is causing the fish to swim rapidly in circles and die. The parasite is apparently harmless to humans but devastates the fish population.
Ouimette says two irrigation district employees of the Sumner Dam north of Fort Sumner, NM, also held an impromptu discussion with the students about features of a water release operation occurring at the time of their visit.
Ouimette has taken three summer classes to New Mexico previously to see and experience the Pecos River. "I hope my students take from the experience firsthand knowledge that the two states have legitimate claims to the water of the Pecos, but the water must be shared also."
Churches in Nigeria Shuttered, Reduced with Uptick in Terrorism
Christians flee northern city as Boko Haram is said to be planning massive assault.
By Obed Minchakpu
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria, July 13 (Compass Direct News)--Christians in northern Nigeria's Borno state, already forced to abandon worship services due to attacks by Islamic sect Boko Haram, are bracing for a massive assault to commemorate the death of the extremists group's leader at the end of the month.
Christians are streaming out of Maiduguri, about 540 miles northeast of the Nigerian capital of Abuja, where some of the worst-hit churches are located. Churches are shutting down as many of their members have lost their lives in attacks that have not ceased even after security agencies were enlisted to confront the assailants.
Compass witnessed most church buildings were shuttered and guarded by soldiers and police in the Maiduguri areas of Wulari-Jerusalem, Railway Station, Bulunkutu, Damboa Road, and Bayan NNPC. Some churches bold enough to open were compelled to reschedule their worship services in order to outmaneuver militants who knew that most services start at 10 a.m.
"As you can see, the town is unsafe, and it is just appropriate for any church leader to be reasonable and safe," a pastor with The Apostolic Church who declined to give his name for fear of attack told Compass. "We took the decision to hold a one-and-a-half-hour service earlier than our usual time so that our people can return home in time because of the threat."
Church leaders said The Living Faith Church (Winners Chapel) in Maiduguri's Bulunkuttu area and the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) in the Gomari area have seen attendance at worship drastically reduced - from 2,250 to 759 for the Living Faith Church, and from 500 to 240 for the COCIN body.
In early June the Islamic sect attacked St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Maiduguri twice, killing a total of 10 people in bombings on June 1 and June 7.
"The Islamic bombers, driving in a Honda car, stormed the church in the afternoon of that fateful day and threw the bombs into the church premises," said police spokesman Abdulahi Lawal of the June 7 incident.
A Catholic priest at the St. Patrick's Catholic Church who requested anonymity told Compass that the attack of June 7 took place in mid-afternoon, with about 50 members gathered inside.
The Rev. Yuguda Mdurvwa, chairman of the Borno state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, told Compass that besides St. Patrick's and the COCIN church, churches attacked in Maiduguri include a Church of the Brethren (EYN) and several others. He said CAN leadership has directed churches to either suspend or reschedule their church services due to the dangers.
On the afternoon of June 16, Boko Haram militants attacked a Church of the Brethren congregation in Damboa, about 87 kilometers (54 miles) from Maiduguri, killing four persons.
Members of the Jama'atu ahlus Sunnah lid da'awati wal Jihad, popularly known as Boko Haram, have claimed responsibility for these church bombings and other attacks. Moreover, the Islamist sect that has declared jihad on the Nigerian government is reportedly expected to launch a terrorist offensive at the end of this month, the two-year anniversary of the death of Boko Haram founder Mohammed Yusuf.
Nigerian security forces captured Yusuf on July 30, 2009, and the next day he was dead under mysterious circumstances.
Religious freedom analyst Elizabeth Kendal writes in her Religious Liberty Monitoring blog that in June 2010, Boko Haram formalized its links with Al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Kendal notes that terrorism analyst Yossef Bodansky predicts this development could lead to the emergence of large-scale terrorism, including suicide bombings, unknown in Nigeria.
Nigeria's Saturday Tribune reported on July 9, Kendal notes, that the government is expecting more than 100 jihadists trained in Sudan and Somalia to lead the terrorist assault planned for the end of the month. The jihadists, who reportedly received training from AQIM, would lead attacks planned for Borno as well as the northern states of Katsina, Kaduna and Yobe.
Boko Haram has issued statements to media organizations asserting the desire to impose its extremist version of sharia (Islamic law) on all of Nigeria. Sharia is already in force in 12 northern states, where Christians are supposed to be exempt but are often compelled to comply by various sectors of society. Borno state, where Boko Haram has its base, is one of the states implementing Islamic law.
After the death of Yusuf, the extremist Islamic sect has been led by Abu Zaid, who last October claimed responsibility for bombing churches in Borno state. Zaid told the Hausa-language service of the BBC and Voice of America at that time that the group attacks as a means of pressuring the government to allow Islamic law in Nigeria.
Dr. Abdulateef Adegbite, secretary-general of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, said Muslim leaders did not support the activities of Boko Haram, and that they were finding it difficult to reach out to the militant sect. He pleaded with members of Boko Haram to put an end to the senseless killings.
"Our plea is that you cease fire and embrace peace," he said. "We can't continue to go on like this."
Nigeria's population of more than 158.2 million is divided between Christians, who make up 51.3 percent of the population and live mainly in the south, and Muslims, who account for 45 percent of the population and live mainly in the north. The percentages may be less, however, as those practicing indigenous religions may be as high as 10 percent of the total population, according to Operation World.
Northern Nigeria climbed to 23rd place in 2010 from 27th in 2009 on Christian support organization Open Doors' World Watch List of nations with the worst persecution.
Ayo Oritsejafor, president of CAN, said he wondered how the militant sect could continue to carry out deadly attacks on churches in spite of the presence of security agencies. He said Christian leaders believe the sect has compromised or infiltrated security forces.
"The way and manner this is happening shows that some of our intelligence security operatives have either been compromised, or their rank-and-file are already infiltrated by members of this Islamic sect," he said.
The Rev. Paul Emeka, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God Church, Nigeria, lamented that the violence of Boko Haram has gone unchecked.
"They have burned churches and forced many Christians to run away from their homes," he said.
He warned that the Muslim militants' violence could divide the country along religious lines. Peter Okoduwa, a Pentecostal pastor, concurred, saying the Islamic sect has infiltrated the ranks of security agencies and warning that if the government does not take decisive action, the country's Christian/Muslim divide will deepen.
Dr. David Oyedepo, bishop of Living Faith Church, said the government needs to step up its prosecution of the sect.
"This Boko Haram has to be frontally dealt with before they plunge the entire nation into a very serious crisis," Oyedepo said. "The federal government should deal with the issue tactfully before the sect sets the entire nation ablaze. Those behind the crisis should be fished out and dealt with and there should be no sympathy for them."
The Rev. Ladi Thompson, coordinator of the Macedonian Initiative, a ministry to Christians facing persecution, said Boko Haram has plans to attack more churches in the months ahead, putting Christians under more pressure, unless the government takes immediate steps to strengthen security.
Church leaders said they are aware that the Islamic sect could be an offshoot of Al Qaeda and are urging Nigerian security agencies to rise to the challenge.
President Goodluck Jonathan has admitted that the attacks were carried out by the Islamic terrorist group that has declared war on the nation.
"Everybody is a target when it comes to terrorist attacks," Jonathan told media. "Terrorists will aim at the top. If they can bomb the president, they will do it."
Nigeria has created a military task force headed by Maj.-Gen. Jack Okechukwu Nwaogbo to hunt down members of the Islamic sect. Nwaogbo told journalists in Maiduguri on June 27 that authorities had arrested two members of the sect carrying explosives to bomb a church in the city. He explained that these members of Boko Haram pretended they wanted to convert from Islam in order to gain access to the church building and bomb it.
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