Today's From the States features items from:
Baptist & Reflector (Tennessee)
Florida Baptist Witness -- two items
Southern Baptist Texan
Missionary leaders in West
Africa ready to train, facilitate
By Connie Davis Bushey
Baptist and Reflector
BRENTWOOD, Tenn.--Scott and Julie Bradford are so excited about the Tennessee/West Africa Baptist Partnership that they are spending their six-month furlough or stateside assignment as missionaries in Middle Tennessee rather than with family in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
And Scott Bradford, who serves through the International Mission Board, in consultation with Kim Margrave, volunteer missions specialist, Tennessee Baptist Convention, has re-introduced the project approach for Tennessee Baptists who want to serve in West Africa.
Of course, Bradford said, Tennessee Baptists can still "adopt" an unreached people group and after some initial work with a missionary, conduct missions and ministry basically on their own. But Bradford also will provide teams the other approach as they support the Tennessee/ West Africa Partnership.
In other words, said Bradford, who supervises about 100 missionaries in his job as cluster strategy leader, Central Sahel Cluster, based in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, teams can choose from various projects ranging from construction, health clinics, leading a leadership class, leading a discipleship class, teaching in a university, etc.
"Tennessee Baptist churches like projects," said Margrave. A project, added Bradford, allows a church group to have a more distinct goal and to better use the skills of people in the church. He explained that in the adoption process between a church and an unreached people group, some people in the church have to wait for a year or so before they can use their skills.
"No matter what your talents or what your gifts we have a place where we can use you in the Central Sahel Cluster," said Bradford. "We will be with you every step of the way. We're never going to say you're on your own," he added.
The Bradfords also emphasized that they or the missionaries Scott supervises will train volunteers. For instance, construction workers will be trained after they arrive in a very simple way to witness of their faith to Africans.
Another benefit of the project approach of missions work is that volunteers are more protected from legal problems and accidents if they work closely with Baptist missionaries, agreed Margrave and Bradford. For instance, Margrave and Bradford will make sure that every volunteer is adequately covered by insurance.
The Bradfords also invited Tennessee Baptists to consider a missions trip to Nigeria which is in West Africa in 2013 to observe the 100th anniversary of the Nigerian Baptist Convention which is where Southern Baptist overseas missions work began 163 years ago.
While in the United States the next six months Scott is available to train Tennessee Baptists. That training is beneficial for local and international missions work, he added.
For instance, his training can help Christians in their basic walk and in cross-cultural witness in their communities, said Scott.
They also are willing to report in churches on West Africa missions work.
The Bradfords have served for nine years in Africa, living in Guinea Bissau, Senegal and now Burkina Faso. He assumed his leadership role in 2009. They have had several experiences as missionaries to prepare them for their current role, they noted. At one point, they and their children lived in a hut in a village.
Scott joked that during that experience they learned the real meaning of having "an open door policy," he said, referring to the fact that the hut didn't have a door but just an opening for entering and exiting.
They have learned that "missions occurs out with the people … not where you are," said Scott, referring to the ex-patriots in a country doing missions work.
The Bradfords also learned a lot spiritually from a motorcycle accident that Scott had in 2010 which left him with a badly broken leg.
He thanked people who give to the IMB through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. Their gifts provided for him to be evacuated from Ouagadougou to Nairobi, Kenya, to have the surgery and physical therapy he needed.
He suffers some physical repercussions from the wreck, caused when the driver of a car pulled out unexpectedly in front of him, but neither he nor Julie ever thought of leaving their missions work, they said. For instance, he can no longer sit very long on the floor as is the custom in Africa, he added.
The Bradfords, who have three children, are preparing to leave their oldest, Andrew, here in the U.S. when they go back to Africa in January 2012. He will be a student at North Greenville Baptist College, Greenville, S.C. They also have two daughters, Miranda and Corrine, who are teenagers.
To invite the Bradfords to your church, contact Margrave at firstname.lastname@example.org, 1-800-558-2090 ext. 2021 or (615) 371-2021.
This article first appeared in the Baptist & Reflector (tnbaptist.org), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
Orphan's Heart reaches
Nicaraguan street children
LAKELAND, Fla. (Florida Baptist Witness)--Children begging in the streets of Managua, Nicaragua to get food and other necessities received just that and more when Orphan's Heart, the international childcare ministry of the Florida Baptist Children's Homes sent mission teams there this summer to share the love of Jesus with them.
Orphan's Heart forged a unique partnership with Bethel Baptist Church, a local congregation in Managua, to minister to the physical and spiritual needs of some of these children. Bethel Baptist started the ministry a few years ago, which currently reaches 190 children every week.
The Bethel Baptist ministry team loads children on buses from across the city each week and transports them to the church where they receive a hot meal and then participate in a Vacation Bible School type of program that includes Bible stories, crafts, music, and games.
"This is a great opportunity to bring some children out of their street environment into the church environment where they can safely enjoy a hot meal and learn about the love of Jesus," said Howard Hooper, regional director for Orphan's Heart.
"Of course, at first, many of the children come in order to get the free food and the clothing that we provide," Hooper continued.
"However, it is clear that many hearts are being softened by the message they are hearing about the love of Jesus. In fact, more than 75 of these children recently yielded their lives to Christ in an evangelistic crusade recently held at the church."
Hooper says that their goal is to help expand the reach of the ministry over the next year from 190 children served to more than 300. He said that the Bethel team works to maintain regular contact with the children after the mission teams leave.
"Our partnership with Bethel started as a result of a connection one of their staff made with us last year. As we learned more, we knew that we had to get involved with this critically important ministry," Hooper said.
Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the Americas and approximately one-third of all children there never enrolls in school or drops out by the sixth grade. This situation is contributing greatly to the growing problem of children working and sometimes living on the streets.
It is estimated that just in the capital city of Managua alone there could be upwards of 15,000 school-aged children on the streets. Many of these children live in and around the sprawling public markets where it is easier to scavenge for food.
Some work shining shoes or cleaning windshields, but many simply beg or steal in order to get food and other necessities.
Hooper calls these children some of the neediest in the world as they lack education, financial means, and adequate family support. He also says that illness, disease, and teen pregnancy are much higher than average among these children.
Orphan's Heart currently has openings for some of its weeklong mission trips to Nicaragua. Anyone ten years of age or older can go, but must be accompanied by a parent or guardian if under the age of 18. For more information, go to the website OrphansHeart.org or call 305-271-4121.
This article first appeared in the Florida Baptist Witness (gofbw.com), newsjournal of the Florida Baptist State Convention.
Florida mission volunteers take
the Gospel to the ends of the Earth
By Carolyn Nichols
Florida Baptist Witness
JACKSONVILLE, Fla.--Every summer hundreds of Florida Baptists travel with church groups to mission points around the world. The volunteers journey far from their homes with a mandate to share the Good News because "we cannot neglect people who have never heard the Gospel just because it is inconvenient, expensive or intimidating," one pastor wrote.
A few of their stories are included below:
John Drummond, a member of St. Andrew Baptist Church in Panama City, traveled with 17 fellow mission volunteers to the western African nation of Ghana May 12-21. The church has worked in a church planting ministry there five years and this year they planted 12 new churches in the villages of six unreached people groups in northeast Ghana and baptized dozens of new believers.
"None of these villages had an evangelical church or witness of any kind, and many people that we witnessed to were hearing the name of Jesus Christ for the first time. For some of them, our visit was the first time they had seen a Caucasian," Drummond told Florida Baptist Witness.
The Floridians were surprised with an invitation from a Christian village chief from neighboring Togo to plant evangelical churches in his area. They drove several hours on dirt roads and cow paths and forded a river to plant five churches in Togo. They got stuck twice and lost the back window of the bus on bumpy roads during their return trip to Yendi, Ghana. Drummond said the difficult journey was "worth every penny and every minute."
A real estate developer in Panama City, Drummond is a veteran of 31 mission trips in 10 years, with other trips taking him to Europe, the Caribbean, South and Central America. He will lead a group from St. Andrew Baptist to Guadalajara, Mexico, in October. For himself and his church, he values evangelistic mission opportunities as "the greatest single discipleship tool available to the American church today."
"Once I served for the first time in 2001, my heart found what it was longing for… When I am serving God on mission, I feel a connection to God that I have just never experienced in any other occasion," Drummond said. "I never ask God whether or not He wants me to go—He has already told me to go in His Word."
Matt Price, pastor of Covenant Fellowship Baptist Church in Stuart, led a group of 17 to the Eleuthera Bible Training Center in the Bahamas July 2-9. Returning to a site where Covenant Fellowship mission volunteers have served several years, the group worked in construction and led Vacation Bible School in the communities of James Cistern and Governor's Harbour.
The Stuart mission volunteers ranged in age from 17-76, and "was a rather unlikely team with several middle school girls and their moms and just a few men," Price said. Economic issues forced some volunteers to stay in Stuart so they would not miss work.
"As it turned out, the Lord knew exactly who needed to be there, and we had a great experience," Price said.
Whether installing new windows in a health clinic or leading VBS on mission trips, the group works "alongside ministries that are equipping nationals—through training, encouraging and resourcing—to reach out to their own people," Price said. To finance their hands-on mission efforts, the church dedicates one percent of its budget receipts to underwrite members' opportunities in international missions.
"Years ago missions seemed impersonal to most of our people. ... Of all the things we've done, I think that's done more to change the church than anything else," Price said. "Every year, new people take that plunge to go on their first mission trip, and it changes them."
On this trip, those working in construction made a connection with a man named Ross, a "public employee of sorts" who spent many hours at the clinic visiting with and helping the Floridians. On the group's last night on the island, Ross, his wife and their children joined them for dinner.
"We really valued the opportunity to get that kind of time with a local who wasn't associated with the Bible Training Center. It's great for our people and for their ministry when the Bahamians feel like we care for them personally, and not just that we are there to do a job for them," Price said.
Greg Gillis, an insurance representative, and Elaine Gillis, preschool/ children's director at First Baptist Church in Milton, worked in Krasne Selo, a village near St. Petersburg, Russia June 30-July 12. They traveled there with a group from First Baptist Church in Pensacola, a church that has ministered in Russia nine years and with Red Village Baptist Church in Krasne Selo for five years. Although Greg Gillis has worked with the group four years, it was his wife's first international mission trip.
The Floridians' main outreach was to the children of the village. They taught baseball, music and crafts to children aged 3-16. For the English speakers, the Russian language proved a challenge.
"A big hurdle was that our interpreter did not understand baseball, and we used baseball terms that meant different things to them. For example, 'choke up on the bat' and 'play second base' were hard to translate," Greg Gillis said.
Their baseball diamond was on a large field, covered with gravel and weeds, used mainly for soccer.
Whatever their grasp of baseball, neither language nor steamy mid-day temperatures deterred the children's understanding of Bible stories told on the field, Gillis said.
Elaine Gillis made an "instant friend" with one of the local interpreters, Olga, who helped Gillis teach music to the children. Both accomplished pianists, the ladies taught the children to play boomwhackers, pitched rhythm instruments.
"Together we were able to communicate music to these children in a way that I had never experienced. Seeing the smiles on these children's faces was affirmation that God had placed Olga and me together," she said.
Elaine Gillis said God "opened all the doors and windows" for her to join her husband on mission in Russia. She said her trip allowed her to see personally the "great challenges our missionaries face every day."
"I want to share the importance of the Cooperative Program with our children and our whole congregation," she said.
Pastor Randy Huckabee led 16 members of First Baptist Church in Okeechobee to locations along the Amazon River June 20-29. Teams of college students and adults visited residents by boat and on foot along the river sharing the Gospel and distributing discipleship materials. In the evening they led children's activities and worship services in the villages.
The Okeechobee group worked with Amazon Vision Ministries, founded by Westside Baptist Church in Gainesville and based at Baptist College of Florida in Graceville. The ministry is funded in part by Florida Baptists through the Maguire State Missions Offering.
While the Floridians slept in air-conditioned comfort on the ship Amazon Nemo, they found their days overflowing with ministry opportunities along the river.
"Finding enough hours in the day and night to do all we wanted to do was our biggest challenge. We had to have down times during the day due to the heat and humidity, and it was a balance between going and not becoming exhausted," Huckabee said.
However demanding the conditions, doing missions in an international setting reaps rewards at the destination and at home, Huckabee said.
"The trips keep our focus on the importance of the Cooperative Program and supporting missionaries who are full-time. Our people are always responsive in going, in giving and in celebrating the results," Huckabee said.
Huckabee, who first ministered along the Amazon River in 2005, admired the work of Pastor Eli, whom he described as "the heart and soul of Amazon Vision Ministries." Eli, who grew up among the indigenous Brazilian tribes as a missionary kid, assists with the trips and moves easily between cultures.
"His love and commitment to the people were simply amazing, and he renewed our passion for reaching our own people back home," he said.
The team's five translators became "like family" to the Okeechobee volunteers, Huckabee said.
"They were a breath of fresh air. They were in their twenties, and were eager to learn and be discipled by our leaders," Huckabee said of the translators. "They were full of questions, and it was obvious that they were grounded in their faith and understanding of God's Word."
Pastor Cliff Lea and his family from First Baptist Church in Leesburg led a group of 12 from central Florida to Kenya in east Africa. The mission team focused on the Digo, an unreached people group of about 500,000 that practices animism and Islam.
The Floridians distributed much-needed water filters in villages around the city of Kwale, prayerwalked, played soccer with the children and showed the Jesus Film. As they gave away water filters, the team had a saying, "just like this water filter will purify the water, so will trusting Christ for salvation purify our hearts before God."
The group also led a conference for believers among the Digo. Of 100 known believers among the Digo, around half attended the meeting. Some brought unsaved friends with them, and eight made professions of faith. Lea requested prayer from Florida Baptists for the new believers as they return to their families where "there is little fellowship and no organized churches for the Digo."
Lea preached to the group through a translator, Pastor Stanley, a member of another tribe who works among the Digo.
"I was humbled to preach to them," Lea said.
The Leesburg volunteers worked with Southern Baptist missionaries in the area whom Lea met when they were college students. As their college minister, he helped perform their wedding several years ago. He said he hopes to develop an ongoing partnership with the Digo, and to keep sending teams to Kenya.
"Going reminds us that millions around the world have never heard the Gospel even once. Even though we are heavy into local missions, we still need to carry Christ's message to the ends of the Earth. We cannot neglect people who have never heard the Gospel just because it is inconvenient, expensive or intimidating," he said
This article first appeared in the Florida Baptist Witness (gofbw.com), newsjournal of the Florida Baptist Convention. Carolyn Nichols is a news writer for the Florida Baptist Witness.
Texans help in Japan
By Bonnie Pritchett
Southern Baptist Texan
ISHINOMAKI, Japan--Tears flowed as members of a Southern Baptists of Texas Convention disaster relief team and their Japanese Baptist co-laborers finished four days of mud-out work with a worship service in a home once submerged by the March 11 tsunami. They cried for God to pour out his spirit on Japan as the nation struggled with the enormous loss of life and property.
The service, held June 27 as the second of two SBTC teams prepared to go home, was part of the ongoing ministries by Tokyo Baptist Church and Baptist Global Response in the Tohoku region of Japan.
Christians make up only 1-2 percent of the Japanese population of 126.5 million people. Reaching Japan with the gospel has proven difficult since the once-isolated nation opened its ports and culture to the influence of foreigners in the mid-1850s.
But since the spring earthquake and subsequent tsunami, the population of new believers has grown, even if only by numbers counted on one hand. Those numbers are encouraging to the members of the Tokyo Baptist Church and its Northeast Japan Team who have worked in the Tohoku Region since the area was opened to volunteer service crews two weeks after the devastation hit.
The inclusion of two SBTC DR teams in June was an experiment of sorts by Tokyo Baptist in using international teams in the ministry work in the cities of Ishinomaki and Kamaishi. Joel Cuellar, the church's pastor of evangelism and missions, said its first such deployment was a success.
It was the destruction and loss of life that brought the nine-member SBTC team to this island nation the third week of June, as they replaced a team from First Baptist Church of Brownsville. To date, just over 15,000 people are confirmed dead and another 8,000 still unaccounted for. Meanwhile, natural disasters closer to home—tornadoes in Alabama, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Missouri and flooding along the Mississippi River and in Iowa—have taken their toll in life and property and pushed Japan from the headlines.
Everyone on the second DR team was familiar with natural disasters. All combined, they had served 65 disaster locations, many times deploying to the same site but with different units. All came to Japan having been to Tuscaloosa, Ala., following the tornadoes that left 238 people dead.
The nine-member team include team leader Julian Moreno and Jean Ducharme of Del Rio-Uvalde Association; Dewey and Glenda Watson from First Baptist Church, Leonard; R.L. and Elaine Barnard of FBC Duncanville; Charles Grasty of Concord Baptist Church in Palestine; Sharon Grintz of Bois D'Arc Creek Cowboy Church; Nathan Pike of FBC Keller; and this reporter from Nassau Bay Baptist Church in the Houston area.
Upon arrival in Tokyo on June 20, the team received their deployment instructions. The Watsons and Barnards traveled to the Iwate Prefecture and served near the town of Kamaishi. Moreno, Ducharme, Pike, Grasty, and Grintz went just south of there, staying in Sendai and traveling each day to Ishinomaki, 20 miles east. The teams traveled with members of Tokyo Baptist Church's Northeast Japan team.
Early response teams from Tokyo Baptist distributed necessary supplies, cooked meals, and contacted residents in order to facilitate future ministry efforts.
Aside from Moreno, this was the first international disaster relief deployment for each of the team members. There was slight apprehension about cultural differences and the language barrier but they all were eager to begin work.
Each team drove daily about an hour and a half, one way, in order to reach their ministry locations.
Upon their arrival the Tono City team, though exhausted by jet lag and the 10-hour drive from Tokyo, prayed as their Japanese-speaking teammates shared the gospel with a young woman who had been contacted during a prior visit. Ferdie Cadabay, a church member and team leader, said they met Sachie Nakazato in Kamaishi following a concert sponsored by the church. She was weeping for the loss of her sister and home. Tokyo Baptist member Hiromi Kakehashi prayed with her and got her e-mail address, beginning a long-distance relationship.
Prior to their latest deployment the church's Northeast Japan Team gathered to pray for the trip and Kakehashi asked that they pray for the salvation of Nakazato. The Texans and Tokyo Baptist members had dinner with Nakazato upon their arrival. The SBTC team could only listen and pray as they fought back sleep. Finally, after 10 p.m., Cadaby said the group broke up and the Texans went to the van to leave for the community center where they would sleep. But the Japanese Baptists continued to speak with Nakazato, telling her it was no accident that they had met. Soon she prayed to accept Christ. Cadabay said the woman finally understood she was not alone in her struggles.
R.L. Barnard, of First Baptist Duncanville, said God taught him patience that night. Though they were all physically spent, he said he saw an endurance and perseverance in the Japanese brothers and sisters.
Cadabay added, "It's amazing how God can put together different people from around the world to do this."
"I haven't met people who go through a tragedy who don't want compassion," said Pike, of First Baptist Keller.
Even in a region heavily influenced by Buddhist tradition, the Japanese questioned the benevolence of God. The emotional and spiritual impact of sudden and tragic loss knows no nationality, said Grasty, an evangelist and member of Concord Baptist in Palestine.
"Tragedy," he repeatedly said, "is a great teacher."
The destruction in Japan—physical and emotional—was no different then any they had seen in previous disaster zones. But the scope of its impact was staggering. The Ishinomaki team compared the destruction to that of tornadoes in Tuscaloosa, Ala., but on a broader scale. Glenda Watson said what they saw looked like a combination of Hurricane Ike and the Haiti earthquake.
Though the SBTC team could not verbally communicate with the Japanese, they were told a smile would go a long way and that the Holy Spirit speaks volumes. Where words were needed, Tokyo Baptist members translated.
But Barnard said a translator was not needed as he communicated with Hiroyasu Haga-san during two visits to the Kirikiri Refuge Center. At one point Barnard said Hagan took him to the top of a hill to show him where his house once stood.
A second, unscheduled, trip to the refuge center brought Barnard and Hagan together again for an impromptu exercise session. Following the session Hagan, who seemed influential among the evacuees, invited all those willing to listen to hear a message from the DR team.
Cadabay was caught off guard by the spontaneous invitation but shared the gospel with the small group that gathered, most of whom the team had met and encouraged the day before.
He recounted the event in an e-mail posting to church members: "They were attentive and we believe the gospel seed has been planted in their hearts. At the very end we asked them to close their eyes for prayers and when the invitation was given…the amazing thing happened - Hiroyasu Haga-san raised his hand. We do not know if there were others who wanted to believe in Jesus but we went ahead and led him (and possibly others) to pray to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior. Hallelujah!"
The work in Ishinomaki did not lend itself to as many one-on-one conversations but the work, in the long run, will aid evacuees living in crowded refugee centers.
The main practical task was refurbishing eight small family homes—a straightforward but dirty and laborious job for this team that cut its DR teeth on mud-out jobs in the wake of hurricanes Charlie, Katrina, and Rita. But the task was made more difficult because the previous crew had already removed the floors.
The houses in the neighborhood had been under 10-12 feet of water and silt dredged up from the sea bottom. Three months later the stench of rotting debris hung in the air.
The mud-out work on the row houses was made possible by the outreach of Tokyo Baptist. Cuellar, the Tokyo Baptist missions pastor, and Yoko Dorsey, the field coordinator, have established relationships with Ishinomaki residents. The owner of the row houses and other rental properties, a Mr. Nakazato (no relation to Sachie Nakazato), lost his wife, mother and grandson in the tsunami. He had planned to raze the homes but was convinced by the church to rehabilitate them and rent them to families with small children living in evacuation shelters. The SBTC team got five of the eight homes gutted so contractors could reconstruct the inside.
"This is light work and clean," the SBTC's Moreno said. Most of the heavier work was already done.
Many Japanese, whether residents of the neighborhood where mud-out work was ongoing or casual acquaintances in the hotel lobby, seemed impressed people would come from Texas to help.
Being able to do meaningful work and potentially share the gospel is the primary motivating factor, team members said. Providing a desperately needed service, with no pay expected, is rewarding in and of itself, said Ducharme of Del-Rio/Uvalde Association.
They also admit to a selfish motivation for being involved in DR work.
"I enjoy it too much. I just do," Ducharme said. "I get a real thrill out of doing it."
Moreno said he grew up working hard all his life, so physical work "is like therapy for me" despite the back pain he felt at the end of each day. And knowing he is helping someone in need is a blessing, he said.
"We're not doing it to just rebuild homes or work a disaster," said Grasty. The lives of those they seek to help are already a disaster without Christ, he added.
Grintz's primary work stateside has been with the mobile kitchens, a behind-the-scenes job. She doesn't usually get to meet the people she serves. But she is convinced they know there is a nameless, faceless person who cared enough to prepare a meal for them.
In Japan there was no simple way for the SBTC team to verbally share the gospel. Their new friends from Tokyo Baptist Church were not only co-laborers but interpreters, allowing the team members to get to know some of the people in the communities where they were serving. They learned of the loss of husbands and wives, children and neighbors. They prayed with them and offered smiles. They made balloon hats in restaurants and made children laugh.
About disaster relief work, Pike added, "Not everyone we meet wants to hear about Jesus, but we can plant the seed."
This article first appeared in the Southern Baptist Texan (www.texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Bonnie Pritchett is a Texan correspondent.
Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net