Today's From the States features items from:
The Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma)
Western Recorder (Kentucky)
Biblical Recorder (North Carolina)
Crossover: Is it
By Kay Harms
SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. (Portraits)--"We were surprised...." Those are the words echoed over and over when volunteers are asked about their experiences with Crossover 2011. And isn't that just like our God to surprise us by doing things we never imagined when we finally say "yes" to Him?
Crossover, an evangelism emphasis held each year right before the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in the host city, would not have been possible without the hundreds of Arizona Southern Baptists who participated in the 133 outreach events held throughout the urban corridor from west of Phoenix to east of Tucson. And those volunteers, from approximately 113 Arizona churches, are still talking about the surprising things God did in their midst during the days, weeks and even months leading up to the annual meeting in early June.
Willa Domgaard, a layperson from Morningside Baptist Church in Tucson, says she was surprised at the change in people's reactions to her church's outreach efforts over the course of the week. The area of town in which members of Morningside were knocking on doors with information about a block party and park events was a neighborhood known for recent crime activity. At first, according to Domgaard, people were hesitant to open their doors, reluctant to engage in conversation, and skeptical of the church members' intentions.
"But as the week went on and people began to get to know us through the Crossover events, their attitudes changed," Domgaard says. "They began to see we were interested in them and they opened up more. We were just really surprised in the transformation caused by our reaching out to people."
Not only was Domgaard intrigued by the reaction of the people in the community, but she was also pleasantly surprised by the participation of fellow church members. She says many church members who had never shared their faith with anyone participated in the door-to-door evangelism efforts.
"One lady (in our church) recently told me she is so grateful for the CE (Community Evangelism) teams who trained us in door-to-door evangelism because they showed her how to talk about her faith and gave her confidence," Domgaard says. "Now she talks about Jesus to everyone, everywhere she goes!"
Jo Ann Sharpe, a member of Royal Palms Baptist Church in Phoenix, also went door to door passing out flyers about the Rock the Block Splash event her church sponsored, sharing the gospel as opportunity arose.
"We've had people visit our church and attend our Vacation Bible School as a result of coming to the block party," says Sharpe. "I've gotten to visit recently with some of the people we ministered to that day, and they told us their lives were completely changed because of that one event. That's amazing and it's so exciting to be a part of something like that."
Sharpe says her experience with Crossover confirmed for her that God is very much at work around Royal Palms and she wants to be available to people who are looking for Jesus.
According to Ottley Holmes, pastor of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Mesa, people in his congregation also have recommitted themselves to being available for God's work in their neighborhoods as a result of participating in Crossover.
"I had one young lady who works with our youth tell me that as she went out on the door-to-door visits, her life was changed," Holmes says. "She said as she listened to her team leader share the gospel and the person prayed to receive Jesus, she couldn't believe what was happening in front of her. Tears just flowed as she witnessed the event. Ever since that day she's been excited about sharing the gospel with others."
Holmes says it is evident God is at work, because 25 people prayed to receive Christ as his church members witnessed throughout the neighborhood.
Domgaard also attests to God's obvious work in the neighborhoods around Morningside in Tucson.
"Our church began prayerwalking in preparation for Crossover back in November," Domgaard says. "And people in those neighborhoods began coming to our church even before we made contact with them. Only God can get credit for that!"
Indeed, God never ceases to surprise us.
This article originally appeared in Portraits, the newsmagazine of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention. Kay Harms, a freelance writer living in Sierra Vista, is a member of First Baptist Church, Sierra Vista.
West Indies island church catches
vision for missions from Oklahomans
WEST INDIES (The Baptist Messenger)--Sometimes the ends of the Earth begin in Oklahoma.
At least that is where the Great Commission began for nine members of Glen Baptist Church (GBC) (www.glenbaptistchurch.com) from St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the West Indies. The Vincentian congregation is partnering with Oklahoma Baptist churches after years of being the recipients of mission teams. Church members are moving out into the world with the vision of sharing the Gospel throughout the globe. Its just that the members' journey began in Oklahoma, sharing with churches here how God has used Oklahomans to strengthen the church and inspire its members how to do ministry and missions.
This is not the first contact members of GBC have had with Oklahomans, for the past few years teams from Oklahoma City, Quail Springs (QSBC) have taken trips down to the islands, bringing Vacation Bible School, outreach teams and other ministry collaborations. This year, GBC pastor Sylvester King said it was time to return the visit and the service.
The team arrived in Oklahoma City on July 19 with several suitcases, some breadfruit and tri-tri fish to cook a traditional Vincentian meal for their QSBC friends. They returned to the island Aug. 8 with more than memories and a few souvenirs, they are taking back a fresh vision for missions.
"What we have been able to do . . . while here in Oklahoma has really clarified a lot of what God is already doing in our own lives," said King. The island mission team was busy with ministry work in Oklahoma, while also making preparation for future outreach in the islands and beyond.
The team took part in mission work by helping with a VBS at the Baptist Mission Center in Oklahoma City. King led an adult Bible study during the VBS. Several children and adults made commitments to Christ. Later, team members were participant observers in a sports camp hosted at Quail Springs. King and his wife, Cleopatra, led Bible studies during the camp, and several young campers and one of their parents made a profession of faith.
After the camps, the mission team traveled to Davis, to experience the ministry of Falls Creek summer camp.
"I was particularly moved, inspired and challenged having visited Falls Creek," King said. "I think the program at Falls Creek is an excellent one for young people and for all people. I look forward to having a group of young people come across (from GBC) next year to be part of this experience because it would definitely revolutionize their lives."
Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma Executive Director-Treasurer Anthony L. Jordan met with King, and the BGCO agreed to partner with GBC to provide scholarships for several young people from the island nation to attend Super Summer leadership training and Falls Creek in summer 2012.
The group took part in a social media and ministry training with Oklahoma communication strategist, Chris Forbes (http://chrisforbes.org/).
"They have already made some changes in the church's website as a result of training and seem very motivated to make a bigger impact for the Gospel in the world," Forbes said.
As part of the media strategy, the QSBC media team shot and edited two video presentations by King. One for use in a Facebook advertising outreach, and another that can be used as an Internet evangelism tool. The church now is planning to expand their use of digital media outreach.
"Together, we even came up with a new tag line for the church based on a local island expression: 'Come Across and Discover the Cross,'" Forbes said.
Scan this code with your smartphone to watch the video with Pastor Sylvester King of GBC, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, or log on to http://baptistmessenger.com to view it there.
Part of the mission team's visit and travel in the U.S. was sponsored through Erin's Hope Foundation (http://erinshope.org) a foundation started last year by Oklahoma Baptists Keith and Dixie Swezey of Edmond in memory of their daughter, Erin, as a way to carry on the mission and Christian education activities she was involved in during her short life.
"The people of GBC have become dear to our hearts over the years as Dixie and I have been blessed to serve along side them on the islands," said Keith Swezey. "But to see this new global vision being born in their hearts as we served together here in Oklahoma with them has us all excited about what God may be planning for this church."
During his visit, King met with QSBC pastor Hance Dilbeck twice about the possibilities of forming a partnership between GBC and QSBC. The churches are exploring various continuing mission and ministry exchange projects beginning early next year. One project will be QSBC sending a construction team to work on an addition to GBC.
"Partnering with QSBC provides tremendous opportunities in the future with regard to leadership development and missional work which is very dear to my own heart," King explained. "We have had the opportunity to meet and interact with a number of important stakeholders and our hope is that God over the weeks ahead will bring (the plans) discussed to fruition."
In between ministry exchange visits and projects, the church members were able to see a bit of the Sooner State. The team visited the State Capitol and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage museum in Oklahoma City. After touring the museum, team members were given a demonstration of cowboy skills, including roping and steer riding, by students at Boys Ranch Town in Edmond. This tour was just one of many examples the team saw of Oklahoma Baptists working cooperatively to meet needs in the state.
"It was really refreshing to see how ministry is done here. To have a broader perspective on discipleship programs and Christian education programs has clarified in our own minds what needs to be done in regard to church growth and development," King said.
The team also experienced a few ways Oklahoma differs from their homeland. For example, team members were astonished at the distances in Oklahoma—that Oklahoma City and Tulsa were further apart than the islands in their entire nation; that Oklahoma City to Dallas is as far as to the mainland of South America from St. Vincent; and that Oklahomans consider a drive of seven or eight miles to church or to the shopping center "nearby."
While the distance traveled in Oklahoma may be great for the members of Glen Baptist Church, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, God has used Oklahomans to help take them further down the road to missions, clarify their vision for something even greater, the Great Commission. But their missions journey only began here.
This article first appeared in The Baptist Messenger, newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
New Orleans group: 'We're ready'
to help flooded Kentuckians
By Drew Nichter
MIDDLESBORO, Ky.--The group from New Orleans' Franklin Avenue Baptist Church already was signed up for MissionsFest in Kentucky when group leader June Pittman got a phone call.
It was MissionsFest coordinator Kristy Carr asking if Pittman's group would be willing to do flood relief work at homes in Middlesboro.
Pittman's response: "We're ready."
Having seen firsthand the devastation of flooding from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Pittman said Carr thought the idea of doing flood relief work would be overwhelming for the New Orleans group.
"She just thought about our history," Pittman said, adding however, "we're ready to do whatever we need to do."
Pittman said the news media still portrays New Orleans as a city in turmoil with pictures of people in tears. That is not the whole story, she noted, explaining that those individuals likely are not connected to a church or have a relationship with Jesus Christ.
While there are Franklin Avenue members who have not been able to get back into their homes yet, it is not what dominates their thoughts, she said. "Our minds are focused on Jesus and hope."
Before Hurricane Katrina, Franklin Avenue Baptist Church was not as focused on missions. Since that time, though, the church, having experienced the love and support of thousands of short- and long-term missions volunteers, is becoming more missions-minded.
"I think our emotions are on wanting to give back," Pittman said. "So many people came (to New Orleans) and helped, so we want to give back."
At Barbara Sampson's home, the Franklin Avenue group tore out walls and carpeting, gutting the inside for another group to come in and complete the rebuilding process.
Sampson called the group a "godsend" and said she plans to stay in touch with them after they return to New Orleans.
"It just means everything to me that they would take their time to come here and help me," she said. "They know what I'm going through and they're so loving."
In preparing for MissionsFest in southeastern Kentucky, Pittman said she read up on the perceived differences in culture. "We don't really see that big difference," she noted.
"People are just people. We have the same needs, the same problems, the same emotions; we just talk a little differently," Pittman pointed out. "People need Jesus all over, and it's our duty to go out and spread the word." (WR)
This article first appeared in the Western Recorder, newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Drew Nichter is news director of the Western Recorder.
Forest Hills ministers
to internationals' needs
By Dianna L. Cagle
RALEIGH, N.C.--Forest Hills Baptist Church's ministry to internationals stretches back to the late 1970s.
"God has placed these people on our doorsteps," said Glenda Reece, coordinator of the church's international ministries. "We are within blocks of (North Carolina State University), and they have a huge international student population."
In 1977 with W.O. "Bill" and Nancy Hern had returned to the United States after serving in the Middle East. They spoke Arabic and had found that helping children with schoolwork tremendously helped their ministry.
The church began working with refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Members sponsored three refugee families.
Reece, already a volunteer of the Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board), joined the program in 1978, and it became a Conversational English program.
Reece said the church serves internationals attending North Carolina State University as well as visiting scholars, refugee families and those who live in the surrounding community.
The church offers activities, counseling, English as a Second Language (ESL) classes and help with survival needs in America.
Forest Hills sponsors three ethnic churches: Chinese Baptist Church, United African Baptist Church and the Farsi Fellowship.
"The number of ethnic groups varies in any given year," Reece said. "We have had as many as 13-20 ethnic groups at any one time."
In a recent week of ministry, there were people from Japan, China, Congo, Hungary, Brazil, Iran, Moldova, Mexico, Korea, and Columbia.
Barbara Martin, one of Forest Hill's many volunteers, uses Skype to stay in touch with a former student of the church's English ministry. The student was baptized while in Raleigh, and she and Martin use the material from Sunday's English from the Bible classes via Skype.
"I am excited about the opportunity God has given me to continue to share His Word with my dear student who is now in the interior of China," Martin said.
At an international retreat at Fort Caswell in May, the pastor of the Farsi Fellowship baptized the daughter of one of the members of the African Baptist Church.
"We have learned that all people need love and a place to belong," Reece said.
"We know that people come to us along a great spectrum from enemy to colleague to friend to seeker to believer. One group from Egypt came close to being enemies, but left as friends. Using English to help their real need, we can let them see Americans as good people."
Reece has found one way to build trust is to keep their word. If the church promises to teach English, the church needs to teach English. The church's Sunday lessons are built off verses in the Bible, but members teach students of varying levels of English skills pronunciation and vocabulary they can use.
"We know God's Word never returns empty," Reece said.
"Also, the fellowship and love given by our teachers and our church really shows results."
The church has also found success in using its facilities to host language schools. On Saturdays and Sundays at different times there is a Farsi school as well as two Chinese schools: mainland Chinese and Taiwanese Chinese.
"This has been an on-going witness to the ethnic communities," Reece said.
"Forest Hills has learned to share and to be flexible as we deal with people from all over the world." One of the things that hasn't worked for Forest Hills is a bus ministry. For various reasons, Reece said they have to let internationals find the church and its ministries.
She is thankful for the support the ministry receives from the congregation.
As with any ministry, Reece said there is some turnover. They are always looking for volunteers to train.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: This item is part of a package highlighting increasing work with the international community. The Biblical Recorder is focusing on the Seven Pillars for Christian Ministry adopted by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. For more stories on reaching internationals or to find out about the entire package, please visit http://www.biblicalrecorder.org/resources/SevenPillars.aspx.)
This article first appeared in the Biblical Recorder, newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Dianna L. Cagle is assistant managing editor of the Biblical Recorder.
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