Today's From the States features items from:
Baptist New Mexican
Baptist Message (Louisiana)
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (Baptist New Mexican)--Ninety-three New Mexico Baptists traveled to Belize the first week in August to train school teachers in the Central American country to share the HIStory story cloth of chronological Bible stories with their students. Here are testimonies from members of the team from Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Albuquerque. Having prepared to teach many more teachers than were available, the mission teams were able to expand their ministries in more ways than anticipated, including training sessions that were offered to members of churches and church schools across Belize.
Vince Baty -- District of Corazal
The presentation of the story cloth in Corazal was outstanding. The team was divided into three different classrooms and presented the story cloth to approximately 60 teachers. The teachers were very receptive to the presentation and were enthusiastic about presenting it themselves that afternoon. They also enjoyed learning the music that went with the story cloth. The entire day was very exciting and the Spirit moved in each group as we shared with each other. We were housed by the sea and the Holy Spirit could be felt moving all around us. It was great!
Monica Boyd and Minister Brian Harvey -- District of Orange Walk
The team consisting of 14 members presented the story cloth twice. The first time they presented it at a church to a group of older teens and young adults, who teach younger children. The second presentation was to the school teachers. After each presentation, different team members would offer instructions on how the story cloth could be incorporated into math, science, reading and their music curriculum. The people of Orange Walk were very receptive. The team enjoyed one down day, during which we were able to enjoy the beautiful nature, which included the sighting of crocodiles, bats, monkeys and Mayan ruins. It was very rewarding to think how many children will hear, through the story cloth, and accept the history of the Bible, God's love for mankind and His plan for salvation. It makes all the hard work and sacrifice, extremely worth it!
Zach Hightower -- District of Belmopan
The effect of working with new people and personalities was a broadening of my perspective of mission work. We visited an orphanage, where we were able to spend time with beautiful, happy children and share the story cloth with the staff. I learned just how hard Belizeans work for an education. A staff member shared with me how hard she was working to send her children to school because there is no free public school in Belize. During a visit to the prison, inmates shared testimonies of coming to know Christ and His love while incarcerated. On our final day, we taught the story cloth to fewer teachers than expected; nevertheless, it was an awesome experience. After we shared HIStory, the imagination of the teachers were opened, and they shared the exciting ways they would use the story cloth to teach their students in the fundamentals of education. Overall, I left Belize with an enduring appreciation for the people, a love for the children and new American friends I would probably not have encountered otherwise. God is truly good!
James Williams and Deacon Newt Robinson -- District of Stann Creek
Stann Creek District is located in southern Belize and is one of the most poverty-ridden districts in Belize. We were blessed to meet and spend time with very proud and humble people. Our first night was spent at a place called Banana Bank Lodge, which is located in the jungles of Belmopan, the nation's capital. During the first and second days of our trip, we spent several hours helping with Vacation Bible Study at a church, where we assisted the teachers with Bible stories and games for 30-40 children. We visited several sites where homes were under construction or recently completed by staff members of the Word at Work. Many of the homes were built strictly by volunteers with funding from wherever they could get it. During a visit with a local family, the team had the opportunity to minister to a family of three, a grandmother, a mother and a 16-year-old daughter. The grandmother and the girl were both suffering with serious diseases, with the mother being the only caretaker and means of support. On Thursday we went to Dangriga, Belize, and shared the story cloth with approximately 24 teachers. Following the presentation, we had the teachers share the cloth back to us. We were very surprised at how quickly they absorbed the information and were able to share different techniques they would use when teaching their students. They enjoyed the songs. We had the opportunity to share the story cloth with our district leader sister who could not attend the formal training. Our van stopped on the side of the road, taped the story cloth to the van and several of the mission team members shared with approximately 15 people who were standing around listening. Our team took a 20-minute hike to a park to visit a popular waterfall. It was a wonderful and fun experience hiking through the jungle. We were able to eat fresh fruit, coconuts, limes, grapefruits, sugar cane and other fresh fruit from a local farm. Overall it was a very humbling experience that I will treasure forever—a mission trip worth taking.
Debra Taylor, Deanna Byfuglien and Pastor Dunn -- District of Belize City
The three of us were dispatched on our first day to the Belize Hospice Palliative Care Foundation, where we met with Dr. Beatrice. After explaining her program, Deanna went with her into the homes of several patients. Pastor Dunn and I went with Pastor Ruth into the war zone. That afternoon the team came back together at the House of Refuge and heard presentations from different ministries in need. The team was able to give an orientation in lesson preparation and classroom management to Sunday school teachers as well as share the story cloth. The team visited the El Salvador Refuge Camp as well as the Kings Orphanage. All of the places visited were started by a single person or a family that had the love of Jesus in their hearts and a true love for the people of their country. While the majority of the team presented the story cloth to the teachers, a seven-member team took it into the nation's only prison and presented the chronological stories of Jesus to 128 inmates. After the presentation, the floor was opened for questions. If it was a biblical question, it was turned over to Pastor Dunn. As a result, God led him to share six sermonettes that day. Over 70 inmates received Christ as their Savior, and Bible study leaders in the prison were equipped to teach more effectively.
The mission team from our church spent eight months fasting, praying and preparing for this mission trip. God heard our prayers and honored our request. We went through all the stages of becoming a team. We formed, stormed, normed and performed in the name of Jesus. The team from Fellowship was renamed the Levites by the Word of Work members.
This article originally appeared in the Baptist New Mexican (bcnm.com), newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico.
Bill Glass Champions for Life,
Weekend of Champions
By Marilyn Stewart
NEW ORLEANS (Louisiana Baptist Message)--She's in prison and she's a believer. The Bible verses written in toothpaste that cover her cell wall help her stay focused on Jesus.
For one prisoner in an Orleans Parish jail, the recent Bill Glass Weekend of Champions made her know she wasn't alone.
"She cried when she hugged me goodbye," said Angela Wolf, member of Woodland Baptist Church, Hammond and a first-time platform singer with the Bill Glass ministry team. "It was the most emotional moment of the weekend for me."
Louisiana Baptists participated in the recent three-day event that saw 1,380 decisions for Christ, including 771 first-time commitments. One hundred-twenty participants -- called "teammates" -- ministered in prisons and jails in Orleans, Jefferson, St. Charles and Iberville Parishes.
Wolf, a wife, mother and lead singer for Soul Salvage Project, performed eleven times during the event.
Bill Glass, 76, was a member of the 1964 NFL Champion Cleveland Browns, one year before the first Super Bowl. After his work with the Billy Graham Crusade, Glass formed the Bill Glass Evangelistic Association, now known as Bill Glass Champions for Life. Glass spoke in the prisons during the event.
High-profile athletes and entertainers such as Dave Washington, All-Pro linebacker with the Denver Broncos, female basketball superstar Tanya Crevier, saxophonist and former Miss Black America Varetta Heidelberg, and others, shared their faith to large crowds. Inmates were drawn into the prison yard by the sounds of motorcycles. Riders came from across the nation and included Dan Rockel, a pastor from Georgia, and former dirt bike champion Tim Startz.
Tino Wallenda, of the famed circus family The Flying Wallendas, walked a thirty-foot high tightrope during the event. As he performed, he told of the collapse of the Seven Man Pyramid fifty years ago that killed two and left one man paralyzed.
"He told the crowd, 'If I fall, I will go straight into the arms of Jesus. I want you to be sure that you'll go straight into the arms of Jesus,'" said Carolyn Chesnutt of First New Orleans. "It was the most effective, most dramatic presentation of the gospel I've ever seen."
Jack "Murf the Surf" Murphy, a former jewel thief, surfing champion, concert violinist and now international director for the ministry, helped with scheduling. Murphy performed on the violin for the crowd.
After the program, teammates shared the gospel using a tract designed and produced by Bill Glass Champions for Life.
"The tract is absolutely magnificent," said Chuck Staub, event prayer chairman and teammate. "In some presentations, the Christian does all the talking. This tract gets the prisoner talking."
The interactive tract begins with, "Do you have a spiritual belief?" A biblical response is given to other probing questions as it leads a person to faith in Christ.
"It was a great experience," Staub said.
Logistical concerns forced a last-minute change in activities planned at the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center. Flights for platform guests were re-routed and a rushed call sent out for volunteers when the event was moved up one day.
"This was the first time a prison revival has ever been allowed here," said Kathy Radke, head chaplain for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office and wife of Robert Storey, a life group community pastor for Celebration Church's site on the Westbank, in New Orleans.
Radke said one inmate, incarcerated on his third DUI, told teammates of his guilt and pain because his children had turned their backs on him.
"The yard deputies told me they saw grown men cry," Radke said. "Prisoners felt valued and not forgotten. Our administration was extremely pleased."
Radke leads a team of thirty-two volunteer prison chaplains that ministers to one thousand men and one hundred thirty-five women. Added recently is a chaplaincy program to minister to law enforcement officers.
Above the cells in lock-down are signs that read "Must Be Restrained." Herb Stein, from First New Orleans, said one man told him he'd not had a visitor in ten years. The man's appearance was unnerving, but the conversation was normal and centered on football and family, Stein said.
"I know we're not going to impact everybody, but we're going to impact somebody," Stein said. "That's the reason I do this."
Stein and Chesnutt are part of the ministry team that serves at Rivarde Juvenile Detention Center weekly as part of the multi-faceted ministry program Care Effect at First New Orleans.
"Jesus is in the prison. He's working there and I go out of obedience to him," said Chesnutt.
Alice Bair, wife of Rick Bair, the chairman of the event, said teammates often share their faith for the first time at the Champions for Life events.
"This is an outreach that goes far beyond the prison walls," Alice Bair said. "It carries over to the families of prisoners and it carries over as teammates go home excited about sharing their faith with others."
This article originally appeared in the Baptist Message (baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Marilyn Stewart is a staff writer for the Baptist Message.
Cancer diagnosis brings
By Dennis Conner
FLORENCE, Ariz. (Portraits)--It's not a Roman jail, but the word "cancer" coming from a doctor can feel like a prison sentence. Add the phrase "stage four," and the sentence seems harsh.
Those were the words Mike Bishop, church planter and pastor of Harvest Church at Anthem in Coolidge, heard from an oncologist last January. Mike learned that he had squamous cell hypo-laryngeal cancer that was pressuring his voice box. The cancer and the treatment for it posed a threat to his voice — and maybe his life.
But Mike was confident about the situation. "I am very confident that this will end well and God has given me a real peace about it," he wrote on Facebook. "Thank God for putting the right people in place to take care of me."
Even more, Mike viewed his cancer as an open door for ministry.
"We're considering this cancer to be an opportunity for great joy as we witness God unfolding His plan!" Mike wrote. "I'm sure somebody in chemo or waiting in the doctor's office needs Jesus and I will get a chance to share His love!"
During early 2011, Mike and his wife, Debbie, lived the truth spoken through Paul in Philippians 1. They had long known "to live is Christ, and to die is gain," but they got to see how God vividly demonstrated the truth that Mike's "circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel" (Phil. 1:21, 12 NASB).
Mike readily admits he would not have chosen cancer. Yet, he and Debbie quickly realized that his illness gave them opportunities to meet people they would not have met otherwise.
Mike remarked on his Facebook page, "Had many opportunities today to witness to others, nurses, doctors, and people in the waiting room. ... What a joy it is to share the hope I have in Christ! God is so good!" Before treatment one day he wrote, "I'm in chair 9 ... so please pray for chair 8 and 10 that they might come to know Jesus if they don't already."
Through weeks of daily 85-mile round trips, appointments, chemotherapy and radiation , Mike confounded many. Nurses in the treatment center called him a "shiny penny," because his cheerful disposition never dimmed.
Mike's illness and his response to it have given him the opportunity to build relationships with medical staff and other cancer patients. "The time in the chair to receive the chemo is 6+ hours, so I will get to know the other patients and nurses very well." said Mike. "Hopefully I will be able to share Jesus with my fellow patients — maybe start a Bible study."
Mike and Debbie have had lunch with other families. They have prayed with and for other cancer patients. All the while, they have shared the gospel with so many.
God's grace has been on display through the Harvest Church at Anthem family, the Gila Valley Baptist Association and the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention.
Mike called the church's response to his cancer "a New Testament church in action," pulling together to love and support him, as well as do the necessary tasks common to church plants.
Tim Pruit, Gila Valley Association director of evangelism/missions, was very supportive and helped Mike arrange for people to preach for Mike during several weeks that his voice was weakened to a whisper from treatments.
Mike's voice grew steadily stronger with each day that passed from his last treatments. Other side-effects are subsiding, as well.
In July, Mike and Debbie learned that the cancer is gone. In its wake, however, God has left many opportunities for the gospel. Mike and Debbie continue relationships with two of the families they met during treatment.
Yet, like Paul's imprisonment in Rome, we won't know until eternity all the fruit that God will bring from the spread of His gospel through Mike's sentence.
This article originally appeared in Portraits magazine, newsjournal of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention (azsobaptist.org). Dennis Conner is a freelance writer for Portraits and a North American Mission Board church planter strategist in the Estrella Baptist Association in Arizona.
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