Today's From the States features reports from:
Western Recorder (Kentucky)
Baptist New Mexican
More than 700 people
accept Christ in Uganda
By Meredith Flynn
UGANDA -- Last month, 12 Illinois Baptists spent two weeks ministering in Uganda. Pastors Sammy Simmons of Immanuel Baptist Church, Benton, and Derek Downs of First Baptist Church, Woodlawn, led missions volunteers from the two churches to distribute much-needed food and share the Gospel in the largely unreached nation.
The conditions were extreme: The team served in prisons and in some of the country's poorest slums.
The work was extreme: Volunteers distributed 100-pound bags of food, and engaged in Gospel conversations with people who were deeply religious but didn't know Christ.
Most of all, though, the results were extreme: Simmons estimated the groups saw more than 700 professions of faith, including 350-400 in the prisons. As they shared, volunteers stuck to a simple Gospel message, Simmons said, adding that God is using Uganda's poverty to draw people to Himself.
"Poverty is not a barrier, but a good thing for the Gospel. In their poverty, they see their need for God. In our wealth, we think we don't need God."
On several occasions, volunteers had the opportunity to share the Gospel with large groups in public places. Simmons remembers preaching to a crowd of 60 which included many Muslims. "When we got to the invitation time, there was a 15-yearold girl who raised her hand. Something about the way she stood up in front of one of the tougher crowds - that was sincere faith. that step of obedience and courage."
The Illinois volunteers worked in partnership with a ministry co-founded by an International Mission Board missionary and Southern Baptist pastor from Georgia. Leaders from that ministry will continue to follow up with those who accepted Christ, and Simmons is planning two more trips for volunteers from Immanuel in 2013.
For more information about locating ministry partners around the world, contact IBSA's Missions Team at (217) 391-3138 or MarkEmerson@IBSA.org.
Pray through the news
-- Give thanks that the Gospel is for every people, everywhere (Matthew 28:16-20).
-- Ask the Lord to use the work of Immanuel Baptist Church, Benton, and First Baptist Church, Woodlawn, to advance his Kingdom in Uganda (1 Chronicles 4:10).
-- Pray for hundreds of IBSA congregations that will take the Good News of Christ to the nations (Acts 1:8d).
This article originally appeared in the Illinois Baptist (ibsa.org/illinoisbaptist), newsjournal of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Meredith Flynn is associate editor of the Illinois Baptist.
Pastor's widow starts
ministry to internationals
By Shirley Cox
GEORGETOWN, Ky. (Western Recorder)--While some Kentuckians perhaps were viewing the influx of Hispanics with a wary eye in the 1990s, Garnett Jones placed a large sign beside the front door of her white frame house in Georgetown that read, "bienvenidos, amigos."
That welcoming spirit continues today.
In 2010, the Hispanic ministry that originally began in her home involved 18 different nationalities, including immigrants from Ethiopia, India, Jordan, Ghana and refugees from the Congo.
"Congolese refugees who come to the U.S. may have a university degree from South Africa, but they have never used an ATM or had a bank account," Jones said. "I take them shopping, teach them to drive and loan my car for driver's tests."
Jones said she first heard God's call to missions at age 16. She and her husband, Clarence, a pastor, worked in ministries ranging from inner city to Appalachia. "I loved being a pastor's wife," she said.
After 36 years of marriage, Clarence died suddenly, leaving Garnett alone.
"Lord, you know me better than I know myself," she prayed. "Please help me find something to do."
She was not prepared for the answer. "God moved me to study Spanish at age 67."
The following summer, Jones went on a mission trip to Ecuador. After she came home, she began working with a Hispanic ministry. The next summer, she returned to Ecuador to study Spanish with a private tutor and at a language institute. Later, she worked as a teaching assistant to Hispanics in Dry Ridge, and taught English to Hondurans in Cincinnati.
The third summer Garnett went to Ecuador to work in a medical clinic, she was injured when she fell down a mountain.
"They used two tree trunks and horse blankets to make a stretcher to carry me up the mountain," she said. Following surgery, however, she developed complications. "A doctor said my leg was so badly injured that amputation might be the only solution."
When the Hispanic community back in Williamstown heard about her accident, they prayed aloud over and over, "Let Garnett's antibiotics start working."
And her leg began to heal.
After Jones was well enough to return to Kentucky, she became a Mission Service Corps missionary. Gradually, her home in Georgetown developed into a school and social center for Hispanics.
"The Hispanic women brought their children and we studied English in the kitchen" she said. In the evening, she taught classes for the men and women who worked outside the home.
Her home also became a place where her Hispanic friends could invite loved ones for birthday parties and other special occasions.
Eager to serve, Jones approached internationals in grocery stores or Walmart, asking whether they spoke English and inviting them to her classes.
"In 14 years, I never had an international that was not receptive," she said.
She has found students in other unusual places. Once, while Jones was posting a notice for English classes for Hispanics, a motel owner asked her, "What agency do you work for? Who pays you?"
"I work for the Lord," she answered. The man asked Jones to teach English to his 60-year-old wife, a Pakistani, who could not converse with anyone.
"It was so neat to see how the Hispanic women welcomed her," Jones recalled.
She also enrolled several Chinese students the day she went to a local Chinese restaurant to post a bulletin for Hispanics.
A certified instructor for English as a Second Language, Jones teaches three evenings a week for the local school district and every Wednesday at Georgetown Baptist Church.
The Woman's Missionary Union of Georgetown Baptist purchases materials and provides other support for the Wednesday classes.
Jones has become an advocate for internationals. She contacts lawyers, helps with legal papers, provides information about immigration laws, attends court hearings and helps obtain visas.
"I recorded 100 questions and answers on CDs to study for citizenship," she said. "The internationals know enough to converse but these words are unfamiliar." She also interprets at doctor and dentist offices and provides comfort and reassurance.
On Sunday evening, Jones teaches 14 children at Iglesia Bautista Ebenezer, a Hispanic church she helped plant that meets in the basement of Gano Baptist. "We began the church with two people and now we have 40 to 50," she said.
With the help of a businessman, she founded the Georgetown/Scott County Hispanic Initiative, an organization of local citizens and community leaders that addresses issues related to the Hispanic community. Currently, she serves as president.
Jones doesn't seem to be thinking of slowing down anytime soon.
"I don't see anything in the Bible that we are supposed to retire," she said. "Jesus was compassionate about people's needs. There are people all around us who are hurting."
Mission Service Corps is a North American network of self-funded servants who assist state/regional Baptist conventions, local Baptist associations, and individual congregations and ministries.
Learn more about Mission Service Corps at www.kybaptist.org/msc or contact Teresa Parrett, missions mobilization coordinator for the Kentucky Baptist Convention, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone (606) 875-3079 or (866) 489-3530 (toll-free in Kentucky).
This article originally appeared in the Western Recorder (westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Shirley Cox is a freelance writer for the Western Recorder.
God answers prayers
By John Loudat
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (Baptist New Mexican)--The weather for this year's evangelism conferences sponsored by the Baptist Convention of New Mexico was much better than it was the same week last year, and it made a huge difference in how many people took advantage of the opportunity to be reminded of "God's Plan for Sharing."
The Baptist New Mexican estimated that more than 800 people gathered in the auditorium of Hoffmantown Church in Albuquerque for the State Evangelism Conference's opening session on Monday evening, Jan. 30, significantly more than last year, when a bitter blast of cold and snow arrived that day and terrorized much of the state the rest of the week.
This year's weather was delightful in comparison, and chances are that the weather for next year's conference will be better than it was for four of the past eight years too, since the conference will be moved closer to the onset of spring, March 4-6, partly to avoid colder weather.
Bathed in Prayer
Mike Napier, who directs evangelism and discipleship for the state convention, had been calling on New Mexico Baptists for weeks to pray fervently that God would visit the conferences with his presence and power, and Baptists across the state had been enlisted to pray for each speaker during each of the sessions.
Enlisting the pray-ers was Connie Dixon, the BCNM's missions strategist who serves as state WMU director, missions education consultant and prayer strategist. She also made sure a prayer room with prayer material was available at Hoffmantown, so those who came to the conference would have a quiet place to go to meet with God.
Sharing Christ Stressed
They were praying that God would move and empower New Mexico Baptists to share Christ, which was encouraged throughout each of the conferences.
The Hispanic Evangelism Conference was held Sunday evening and Monday morning at Del Norte Conference Center; the State Evangelism Conference was held at Hoffmantown Church on Monday evening and Tuesday morning, afternoon and evening; and the Senior Adult Evangelism Conference was held on Wednesday morning at Hoffmantown.
The State Conference included a special luncheon with renowned apologist Lee Strobel on Tuesday, and the Senior Adult Conference again concluded with the annual Senior Adult Luncheon.
Speaking at the State Conference were Strobel, Don Wilton, Thomas Hammond, Dan Morgan, James Walker, Mary Jo Sharp and Michael Keahbone.
Strobel has been described in the Washington Post as "one of the evangelical community's most popular apologists"; Wilton is senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Spartanburg, S.C., where famed evangelist Billy Graham is a member; Hammond is team leader of the North American Mission Board's God's Plan for Sharing Initiative; Morgan is professor of church planting and the Nehemiah Project director at the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary in Cochrane, Alberta, Canada; Walker, who grew up as a Mormon, is a leader in Christian counter-cult evangelism, apologetics and discernment; Sharp is a certified apologetics instructor with NAMB; and Keahbone is a Native American who is a regular speaker for the University of Oklahoma football team and has preached across the country.
During the conference's opening session on Monday evening, Napier took a few minutes to introduce and interview his son's wrestling coach, Corey Anderson, who shared about how the evangelism director had led him to faith in Christ and the difference the Lord has since made in his life and the life of his family.
On Tuesday afternoon, participants had two opportunities to attend breakout conferences that were led by Hammond, "How to Make Your Church More Visitor Friendly"; Manny Montaño of Cedar Crest, Evangelism Response Center training; Morgan, "The Continuously Fruitful Church"; John Bailey of NAMB's church planter mobilization team, "The Multiplying Church"; Walker, "Witnessing With the Book of Mormon"; Sharp, "Islam: A Christian Response"; and Chris Cooper of the Mapping Center for Evangelism, on the center's ministry.
Leading worship during all three conferences was Kari Jobe of Southlake, Texas, and her band.
Many of those who came Monday evening moved after the session to Hoffmantown's Big City Studio for a pie and coffee fellowship, and for the second straight year, dozens of volunteers stuck around after the Tuesday evening session to set up 71 tables and put 500 chairs around them in Hoffmantown's worship center for the conference and meal for seniors the following day.
Roy Martin, minister of music and church administration at Parkland Baptist Church in Clovis, told the Baptist New Mexican that he appreciated this year's emphasis and that he was especially blessed by the breakout conference that dealt with making churches more "visitor friendly."
"Very refreshing" was the evaluation by Bill Friese, pastor of Mimbres Baptist Church in Rio Mimbres.
Challenges at home had almost caused Friese and his wife, Sharon, to cancel their plans to attend the conference, but they made the effort needed to come anyway, they said, and they were glad they did.
The conference, Friese said, caused him to reflect on and recommit himself to God's call on his life.
It did the same for a couple who drove to Albuquerque all the way from their home in Granbury, Texas, just to attend the New Mexico conference.
Sherman and Tammy Aten are former New Mexico Baptists who are just celebrated their 20th anniversary of ministering as full-time music evangelists. God used this year's conference to "stir up" their passion for the ministry they heard God call them to during the conference in 1991, when Aten was serving as music minister at First Baptist Church in Artesia.
While the Atens sang at some of the conferences after they moved to West Texas to enter their new ministry, it has been 15 years or so since they had attended one. They both said it was well worth the more than 600 mile trip.
Hispanic and Senior Conferences
More than 100 predominantly Spanish speakers met at Del Norte Conference Center earlier that week, on Sunday evening and Monday morning, for the annual Hispanic Evangelism Conference (Conferencia de Evangelismo).
Most of them had walked across the parking lot from nearby Del Norte Baptist Church, where they had enjoyed supper before the evening session and breakfast before the morning session.
The conference, which is usually held at the church, was instead held at its conference center this year because, Pastor Bob Myers told everyone, completion of the church's renovation project on the auditorium was still a couple of weeks away.
Jobe and her band led worship for that conference as well, much of it in Spanish, and Joshua Del Risco, national coordinator of church mobilization for NAMB's mobilization group, preached a message in each session.
The president of the Spanish Baptist Convention of New Mexico, Raúl Arreola, who is pastor of Buenas Nuevas Mission in Las Cruces, also spoke on Sunday evening.
Close to five dozen churches in the state are affiliated with both of the state's Baptist conventions, the BCNM, which celebrates its 100th birthday this year, and the Spanish Baptist Convention of New Mexico, which was formed in 1923.
Sharing his testimony the following morning was Carlos Pino, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Emanuel in Santa Teresa.
When asked during the conference where they were from, those in attendance indicated that they had come to New Mexico from a number of Latin American countries—including Venezuela, Guatemala, Colombia and Mexico—and Puerto Rico.
The Senior Adult Evangelism Conference took place on Wednesday morning at Hoffmantown.
Speaking were Wilton; evangelist and retired director of missions Ernie Perkins of Edmond, Okla.; and Keahbone.
Leading worship were singer and songwriter Brad Porton of Broken Bow, Okla.; with songwriter, arranger, accompanist, worship leader and evangelist John Roe of Rio Rancho; and Jobe and her band.
Presiding during the session and the luncheon that followed was W.A. Bradshaw, retired director of music, student, recreation and family ministries for the BCNM and currently associate pastor, music and senior adults, at First Baptist Church, Rio Rancho.
The luncheon featured more musical entertainment by Porton and Roe and Perkins' humorous account of the early days of his ministry and marriage.
The conferences were provided by Cooperative Program gifts from churches affiliated with the BCNM and from NAMB. Next year's lineup for the March 4-6 conferences will include Mark Mittelberg, Greg Frizzell, Charles Billingsley and Rudy Gonzalez.
This article originally appeared in the Baptist New Mexican (bcnm.com), newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico. John Loudat is editor of the Baptist New Mexican.
Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net