Today's From the States features items from:
Arkansas Baptist News
Southern Baptist Texan
Florida Baptist Witness
Church embraces special mission
'Hope Rising' for orphan children of Haiti
By Tim Yarbrough
LAVACA, Ark. (Arkansas Baptist News)--First Baptist Church, Lavaca's work in Haiti started innocently enough -- with regular trips every few months -- but then God stepped in and gave the church a special assignment.
"We sent this team, and I don't know what happened," said Tony Buchanan, pastor. "I mean something happened in the spirits of those folks who went, and God broke their hearts for these orphans."
During a reporting time for one of the mission teams returning from Haiti, it was evident to Buchanan and the church as a whole that God was just "asking them to be obedient."
"All they talked about were the kids. Our executive pastor, Kenny (Bailey), who is one of my dearest friends, ... said he was sharing the gospel with a lady (in Haiti), and basically the lady asked him, 'Why are you doing this?' She said, 'I'm hungry.'"
"Buchanan said church leaders knew then the church couldn't effectively tell people in Haiti about Jesus until they met peoples' physical needs first.
Buchanan recounted, "Kenny said, 'Look, we (have) got to take care of these people. They're hungry. We can't tell them about Jesus until we feed them.'"
It was during the time of year that Lavaca, which was finishing up a "Family Matters" series, was set to take its annual Harvest Day offering.
"In the last few years, we have taken a Harvest Day offering up around Thanksgiving, and we've just used it for different things. I think, basically, we've paid off debt with it," Buchanan explained. "Well, we didn't have any debt this year, and so we pray(ed) and (told) the church we just felt God is leading us to feed the kids. I mean, those kids, they were not getting what they needed, ... and a team down there a month wasn't doing it."
Bailey said church members agreed "overwhelmingly" to use $50,000 of the Harvest Day offering to feed children in Haiti.
Buchanan believes God is doing something really special through the church. "God assigned us to take care of those kids, and if we didn't do it, we were going to have to answer for that."
In addition to the offering, the church has voted to purchase land in the Leogane area of Haiti, where it plans to build an orphanage -- aptly named "Hope Rising Children's Home" -- to house about 100 abandoned children, said Bailey. Negotiations for the property are currently underway, and Buchanan is set to travel to the country soon to finalize details.
What's more, Lavaca members Matt and Cara Smithson feel a special call on their lives to staff and lead the orphanage once it is built.
"We see the orphanage as a doorway to take the gospel to the entire nation," said Buchanan.
In recent months, mission teams from the church have been traveling to Haiti. Efforts have resulted in construction of a food storage area and outdoor cooking area, said Bailey. Construction of an orphanage and long-term presence in the country seemed the next logical step.
Buchanan said he was grateful to leaders at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) for opening the door to ministry in the earthquake-ravaged nation.
"I know teams from Arkansas are going down there regularly and really ministering to those kids," said Buchanan. "I am just very proud of our convention and the opportunity it provided us."
Bob Fielding, a member of the ABSC missions ministries team and Haiti project coordinator, said the participation of churches like Lavaca to assist with ongoing relief and rebuilding efforts in Haiti is essential.
"It has been a blessing for us to provide the church a week per month at the Arkansas compound at Leogane, which includes transportation, translators, food, lodging and the expertise of our local partner," said Fielding. "First Baptist Church, Lavaca, has a great vision to impact children in Haiti, and our role is to help ABSC churches fulfill God's calling."
Buchanan said the church believes its efforts are to answer Christ's call to take care of widows and orphans.
"We don't deserve any pats on the back. This is just an assignment that God has given us," said Buchanan. "I hope this will become much, much bigger than just our church."
This article originally appeared in the Arkansas Baptist News (arkansasbaptist.org), newsjournal of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. Tim Yarbrough is the paper's editor.
Congregation of 120 going
for God here and abroad
By Stephanie Heading
ACADEMY, Texas (Southern Baptist Texan)--At First Baptist Church of Academy, it might be easy to believe that a small church in a small town in rural Texas can't be involved in missions or have an impact on the world. But Pastor Brent Boatwright and his congregation of 120 isn't letting its size or location interfere with the mission of spreading the gospel at home and abroad.
Growing up in a traditional Southern Baptist church, Boatwright recalled the lack of personal involvement in missions in his local church.
"We had missionaries come in every year. In all my 19 years growing up there, I never saw anyone leave, go do missions and then come back. It always seemed like you had to go to Africa and stay."
As a result, Boatwright developed the belief that short-term missions could and should be done by every church -- big or small.
"I always read articles about big churches doing missions," Boatwright said. "Even though you don't have a million dollar budget, you can still do missions. We can't depend on missionaries to do it all."
To help fill the gap, FBC Academy is doing ongoing mission projects with an unreached people group in Mali, West Africa, as well as ministering to Navajo Indians in New Mexico.
"Since 2004, we've sent at least one team each year to Mali, West Africa," Boatwright said. In Mali, the church works with an IMB missionary from FBC Academy to evangelize the Samogho, an unreached people group.
The Samogho people have no written language, so Boatwright and his team use storytelling to share the gospel. They've seen a few come to Christ and recently were able to extend their ministry into a neighboring Samogho village.
"He (the chief) is a new believer and he wants to see his village come to know Christ," Boatwright said. The FBC Academy group was the first group of believers to ever spend a few days and nights in the village.
The work in Mali is challenging, Boatwright noted. The people practice animism and also have a Muslim influence. "It is hard for them to give up their sacrifices." In addition, the villages are located in the bush and transporting teams there limits the mission teams to a maximum of six members.
However, they continue to go. "We've got several who've been multiple times," Boatwright said. "I've tried to encourage people to go multiple times to build relationships."
Boatwright is excited about developing relationships with the Samogho men. The missionary is a woman so outreach to the men of the village is more challenging for her. "January is a good time to relate to the men," Boatwright explained.
In January, the villages are recovering from the rainy season and men are rebuilding their mud brick homes. Taking a group of men to the village in January opened doors to relate to the men as they worked together making bricks and rebuilding homes.
"Reaching the men is doable for our missionary, but it's important for us as a team to go to encourage the men," Boatwright said.
In addition to its work in Mali, FBC Academy is also involved with ministry to the Navajo people in New Mexico. Working with North American Mission Board missionary Jim Turnbo, they have taken two mission trips to Nahodishgish Baptist Church, a new church start in the poorest community on the Navajo Reservation.
In 2010, Boatwright took a group of 10 men and boys to work with Turnbo and his church. They built wood sheds and a wheelchair ramp and while they were there, the Lord gave them the desire to do more. "God burdened our hearts further to look toward other needs."
That burden turned into a recent trip to the reservation to hold a diabetes foot care clinic and do roof repairs in the community.
"God did some awesome things."
Boatwright said the church saw God's provision in amazing ways as they prepared to work with the Navajo. Nurses from FBC Academy contacted pharmaceutical companies and these businesses donated medical supplies. When a local building supply company learned why the church wanted to buy tar paper for roofing, the company donated a pallet of roll roofing and a pallet of tar paper, enough to supply FBC Academy's project and the next group coming to help at the reservation. "God really opened doors up."
In addition to local businesses helping the church prepare for their Navajo ministry, the people of the church also stepped up. Boatwright divided the items needed by Sunday school class and each class collected their assigned items. For example, the third- and fourth-graders collected cotton balls and other classes collected bleach, alcohol, swabs, and other needed materials. "Every Sunday school class gave something," Boatwright said.
Making missions a church-wide project has impacted FBC Academy in multiple ways.
From gathering missions supplies to sponsoring missions nights at the church in which scenes from the mission trips are recreated to help church members better understand life on the mission field, everyone has a stake in missions trips.
"I think to some extent it shows people that missions are doable," said Boatwright, who added that these events help people who are contemplating a trip to Mali or New Mexico by showing them what it might be like.
In addition to raising awareness of the needs around the world, FBC Academy's mission involvement has led to new ministries in the church as well.
"For sure, more people see the reality that they can do ministry," Boatwright said. "We've seen new ministry opportunities come out of our mission trips. One lady came back from a mission trip and said, 'I believe God is burdening my heart to do a jail ministry.'"
While she didn't see herself as a teacher, within a few months she began working in a jail ministry. Now every Tuesday, six women from FBC Academy work at the Bell County jail, ministering to female inmates.
Another woman in the church discovered a new point of view on ministry after going on a mission trip. She came to Boatwright with a question, asking, "Why don't we just adopt the youth of the community like we do the Samogho. Why not look at the youth as a mission field?
"People have discovered that God can use them in ministry," Boatwright stated. "God wants them hands-on in ministry. It doesn't have to be Africa. It can be New Mexico or in the local community."
As FBC Academy continues to reach out in Africa, in New Mexico and in their community, Boatwright challenges churches, especially small ones, to get involved in missions. "Time and time again, God has provided," he said. "It's a lie from the enemy to say a small church can't go."
This article originally appeared in the Southern Baptist Texan (texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Stephanie Heading is a correspondent for the Texan.
Florida Baptists develop 'hearts for
the people' of the Peruvian Andes
By Carolyn Nichols
PERUVIAN ANDES (Florida Baptist Witness)--Several Florida Baptist churches and one association are becoming regular visitors to the Peruvian Andes after having adopted previously unreached people groups through the REAPSouth program of the International Mission Board.
According to the REAPSouth website, the following churches and association have adopted people groups: Carter's Baptist Church, Lakeland; Bell Shoals Baptist, Brandon; Parkridge Baptist, Coral Springs; McGregor Baptist, Ft. Myers; Westside Baptist, Gainesville; First Baptist, Ocala; and Holmes Baptist Association.
First Baptist Church in Ocala is working to extend its commitment to missions to another generation, according to Pastor Darren Gaddis. A team of four fathers and sons made up the church's latest mission trip to visit its adopted people in the Peruvian Andes.
Team members were Pastor Gaddis and his son, Ethan, 8; Minister of Missions Kevin Kite and Jacob, 10; Walter Johnson and Zachary, 9; and Adam Suydam and Aaron, 9.
The early October visit by the First Baptist team with the Lucanas segment of the AyacuchoQuechuas was the eighth since 2008, when the church joined the International Mission Board's REAPSouth program. Gaddis said he hoped to recharge the partnership by going personally and by relating his experiences in live video feeds from Cabana, Peru, during Sunday worship services in Ocala.
Strengthening relationships with the AyacuchoQuechuas was made easier by the presence of his and other team members' young sons, he said.
"The adults there love children and they would light up when they saw the boys. They talked to them like they understood them. Our boys played with other children their age even without a common language," he said.
When the fathers proposed the idea to their sons, Gaddis said the boys were full of questions: "Is it safe?" Where will we sleep?" The boys, however, accepted the challenge and made the arduous journey with "no complaining and no arguments."
"It is amazing how well the boys did," he said.
Cabana, Peru, is "an old community just beginning to be touched by the 21st century," he said. The adobe buildings have some functioning utilities, but the water is "undrinkable." Old automobiles labor over the dirt streets often followed by carts and teams of oxen. The team stayed in a hostel where other Ocala teams have also stayed.
Gaddis said the trip was "the most difficult thing I have done in a ministry context." The two-day trip to Cabana included a seven-hour flight to Lima, then 14 hours of driving, sometimes on unpaved, single lane roads that ascended to an altitude of 15,000 feet in northern Peru. For Floridians accustomed to sea-level, the altitude takes a toll, because "everything is uphill," he said.
Building a ministry among the AyacuchoQuechuas, whom Gaddis described as "warm, but slow to reach," may also be an uphill—and long—process.
"This is a reason it was good to take the boys. This will take longer than my lifetime, and we will need the next generation to continue it," he said.
Gaddis said he and the other fathers also wanted their sons, all Christians and "just as called as we men are," to become stronger disciples by experiencing international missions. He said he and Kite witnessed to an AyacuchoQuechuan man, Aldo, more than four hours. While they talked with him, the boys prayed for him, and even back home, remind adults to "pray for Aldo," he said.
"They now have a heart for this people," he said.
Gaddis hopes taking the children will be an inspiration for other members to plan to go on one of several trips to the area in 2012, and he foresees a time when some sent out from the Ocala congregation will stay in the area over longer stretches of time, perhaps staying the entire Andean summer.
"It is a tough trip, but if 8-10-year-olds can go to Peru, so can most of the people in our church," he said.
Teams from churches in rural Holmes Baptist Association have made 20 mission trips to the Peruvian mountains since 2008. Director of Missions Todd Unzicker told Florida Baptist Witness the association's adoption of the AyacuchoQuechua in southern Peru is a testimony to the effectiveness of cooperation among the churches.
"We are an association of small, rural churches that would find it difficult to adopt a people group, but on Sunday we have about 1,000 people worshipping—and that makes us as big as a First Baptist Church," he said. "It creates fellowship. We are partners on purpose."
When the IMB gave Holmes association a choice of people groups, association leaders chose the Chavina area because it is similar in population to their Florida home. The area in south Peru has 20,000 residents, the same as Holmes County, and city of Chavina has 3,000—the same population as Bonifay, where the Baptist association is based.
"There is one big difference, though," Unzicker said. "We have 29 Baptist churches, and they do not have even one evangelical church."
After three years of contact with the AyacuchoQuechua, the Holmes association has located 12 "seekers," for whom they pray. They also have had two professions of faith: a woman who is a "baby Christian, but very committed," and a man who has since left the area to find work, and with whom they have lost contact.
"We do not take a shotgun approach to evangelism, but more a rifle approach. We look for a few people whom God has already softened their hearts," he said.
Earlier this year, Unzicker led a group of two pastors, a deacon and a pastor's daughter to Chavina, Peru, a community 11,000 feet up in the Andes, a 15-hour drive south from Lima. The group was welcomed into the area schools where they taught English—along with the Gospel. Other teams have offered medical care, sports instruction and agriculture labor, offering free help in picking crops and milking cows. Some teams prayerwalk the area.
Unzicker said upon arrival he immediately seeks out 6-10 people with whom he has developed relationships "to see what God is doing in their lives," he said.
He and others are cultivating relationships with the family who serves as the teams' host. The family has an adobe building behind their house that is the Floridians' home in the south Peruvian Andes. The two-bedroom/ one bath building is the nicest place in town to stay, according to Unzicker, and is "like sleeping in a dark, concrete basement." The host family is thrilled to see the Florida visitors because the room rent helps to finance their son's college education. Members of the family often meet with the mission teams for Bible study, Unzicker said.
"We pray for them daily," he said.
For more information on the REAPSouth program of the International Mission Board, go to www.reapsouth.org.
This article originally appeared in the Florida Baptist Witness (gofbw.com), newsjournal of the Florida Baptist Convention. Carolyn Nichols is a newswriter for the Witness.
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