Today's From the States features reports from:
Florida Baptist Witness
Biblical Recorder (North Carolina)
The Baptist Courier (South Carolina)
Southern Baptist Texan
Lafayette County pastors take lead
in revivals & community ministry
By Carolyn Nichols
DAY, Fla. (Florida Baptist Witness)--For three years, 15 churches, five groups of three, have shared pastors, musicians and facilities for three days in January, and then gathered for a Wednesday night finale at one church. On Jan. 25 this year, more than 450—including 90 youth—met at Airline Baptist Church where Orvis Amerson, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Mayo, preached.
On Tuesday evening Airline Baptist was partnered with Mt. Paran Baptist and Walker Creek Bethel Baptist.
Airline Pastor Parker preached at 54-member Walker Creek, the host church.
"One of the advantages for us pastors is that we get to preach in churches of different sizes," Parker said.
Pastors of the participating churches added a Saturday afternoon block party and picnic at Mayo Town Park to the 2012 schedule. Children played on inflatables borrowed from Harmony Baptist Association and 12 county churches managed game booths. A chili cook-off provided food for the estimated crowd of 500 that included dozens of unchurched families, Parker said.
"It was a good way to cooperate and open our eyes to the needs here, and, for some of our smaller churches, it was the first time to be involved in a community block party like this," Parker said.
Pastors' meetings to plan and evaluate the revival efforts have provided the genesis for two community mission projects. The first product of the cooperative effort was Camp Connection, a children's summer event that in 2011 attracted 100 children to the camp facility owned by the Middle Florida Baptist Association.
"It was a real joy to have that many come. That's 10 percent of our school population," Swain said.
The newest joint ministry is the Seven Gables Food Pantry located in a gabled Mayo home remodeled for use by the ministry. The 14 county churches contribute funds along with the Middle Florida Baptist Association and the North American Mission Board. Swain said around $1,600 per month purchases enough food at Gainesville's Second Harvest to feed 600-700 in Lafayette County. Open one day each month, the food pantry is manned by volunteers from several churches.
An offering during the Wednesday evening revival meeting helps support both the camp and food pantry, Parker said.
The county pastors have their sights set on a new joint venture. A community in southern Lafayette County, Cooks Hammock, has no church within a 15-mile radius. Parker said Lafayette Baptist Association is already at work planning a church plant in the area.
Swain said Cooks Hammock, located "out in the woods" may need a cowboy-type church for its 100 or so residents.
"These are good, hard working people who need a church. We're waiting on God to see what will happen there," he said.
DAY (FBW)—For five years Baptist churches in Lafayette County have organized simultaneous revivals during January. Along with promoting inter-church fellowship and evangelism, the churches have cooperated to establish new ministries in their county that is divided by Middle Florida Baptist Association to the north and Lafayette association to the south.
The tradition began in 2008 when three Lafayette County pastors planned simultaneous revivals in their churches. Each church hosted one night's meeting with each pastor preaching once and musicians from each church providing music one night. The original participants were Pastor Matt Swain and Brewer Lake Baptist in Day; Pastor Chip Parker and Airline Baptist; and Pastor Charlie Walker and New Hope Baptist, both in Mayo, the county seat.
"We had a great time doing it, but we decided to skip the next year," Matt Swain told Florida Baptist Witness. "But then six more churches contacted us and wanted to join in. After that year, every church in the county wanted to do it with us."
An organizational problem arose when all 14 churches in Lafayette County wanted to participate. The Sunday-Tuesday evening revivals, three meetings, were organized for groups of three churches, "and you can't divide 14 by three," Swain said. To solve the dilemma the pastors invited nearby Luraville Baptist Church in Suwannee County to join in.
"Amazingly, there has been no overlap in five years. We don't do it in a very spiritual way either—we just draw church names out of a hat," Swain said.
This article originally appeared in the Florida Baptist Witness (gofbw.com). Carolyn Nichols is a newswriter for the Florida Baptist Witness.
N.C. couple shares
'miracle medicine' in Haiti
By Shawn Hendricks
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Biblical Recorder)--A growing crowd of Haitians gathers behind Bob and Wanda Temple as they carefully count medication on a makeshift table of boxes somewhere outside of Port-au-Prince.
This scene is captured in a photograph from one of the Temple's trips to Haiti last year. It shows the couple, both on-site coordinators for North Carolina Baptist Men, helping medical volunteers at a clinic. Medication and equipment are sprawled out on a couple of folding tables that rest on blue tarps.
Most of the Haitians lined up behind them are women. Some are holding small children - many of whom are anemic and malnourished. Those in line are suffering from various illnesses - some as simple as a common headache or diarrhea. Though many of their troubles can be treated with over-the-counter medication, finding such supplies in Haiti can be a difficult challenge.
"Even providing eye drops for dry eyes is a welcomed thing in Haiti, where most don't have access to simple things," said Wanda Temple, a 61-year-old grandmother with silver hair and a smile that can put about any troubled Haitian at ease.
"Here we are out in the dirty dusty roads and up against a tree putting IVs in ," Wanda said during a phone interview while on break back home in North Carolina.
"For the three to five hours we're there that child is revived and … we know that child has been given another day."
During most of last year the Temples, members of Fellowship Baptist Church in Creedmoor, helped coordinate volunteer efforts in Haiti - rebuilding homes and setting up medical clinics. The retired couple will rotate in for a month or so and then head back home for a short break before returning again.
The Temples shared some of the stories of hope they had encountered during their time in Haiti. Since the devastating earthquake in 2010, N.C. Baptist Men have helped build 46 homes, 800 temporary shelters and provided medical care for 130,000 patients.
But there is more to the story than those numbers, the Temples contend.
While reports of change and progress continue to trickle out of Haiti, the Temples believe most people are not seeing the faces and the changed lives behind the numbers and news reports.
"That's the sad part to us is that we see the change because we're there," said Wanda, who noted most volunteers are only there for a week at a time.
"I feel bad for the volunteers who have worked in Haiti over the last few years. So few of them truly get to see the fruit of their work."
"You can see results," added her 65-year-old husband, Bobby. "People being healed, so many salvations … we have salvations every week."
Since N.C. Baptist Men began rebuilding efforts in Haiti, there have been more than 1,300 salvations. The clinics that the Temples work with continue to see an average of 1,000 people a week. Though many of the rebuilding efforts since the earthquake are winding down, N.C. Baptists plan to open a new medical facility by the end of the year.
The couple also shared stories about how more businesses are starting to come back to Haiti. People are beginning to find more job opportunities.
Flour mills are expanding to produce noodles and other products. Cement factories are making a better quality product in the hopes that newly built structures can better withstand future earthquakes. Some of the tent cities in Haiti are gone - though others still remain.
"People have found housing in other places," Bobby said. "The goal is to get everybody out of a tent but it's going to take a while. They're making progress on it."
It's smaller day-to-day victories, however, that encourage the Temples the most.
They recalled one woman who was nearly too weak to stand in line for treatment at one of the clinics.
"We gave her vitamins and iron," Wanda said. "We see her the next week with a bright smile and much more energy. She came back saying we had given her 'miracle medicine.'"
One woman - a mother of six children - visited the clinic and discovered she was pregnant.
She asked for the clinic to help her have an abortion.
Instead, volunteers prayed with her and led her to Christ. The woman left the clinic saying she would depend on the Lord to provide for her children - including the one she was carrying.
One man - a former voodoo doctor - also accepted Christ.
Since making his decision to follow Jesus, he's been kicked out of his home. No longer working in voodoo, he struggles to make a living. He continues to visit a clinic for support from other believers.
"He comes to the clinic quite often," Wanda said. "And the doctors help him with getting food and things like that.
"To accept Christ is a sacrifice," she added. "We think, 'Oh accept Christ and your life will be changed.' It will be changed … but in many places in the world it will be changed detrimentally. Here in America we have no idea how blessed we are."
While preparing to return, Wanda shared what she looks forward to when she and Bobby return to Haiti - helping Haitians see better both physically and spiritually.
"We get our charts out for them to read, but most of the time they'll pull their Bible out because that's what they want to read," she said.
A Haitian patient usually won't leave the clinic without being prayed for or asked about their relationship with Jesus.
"They know right off the bat that we are there because God has sent us there," she said.
Some Haitians will ask volunteers in Creole, "Do you know my Jesus?" Wanda added, explaining that the Haitians are also asking the question of others around them.
This article originally appeared in the Biblical Recorder (brnow.org), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Shawn Hendricks is managing editor of the Biblical Recorder
Evangelism conference opens to overflow
audience at Hoffmeyer Road Church
By Don Kirkland
FLORENCE, S.C. (The Baptist Courier)--The 2012 edition of the South Carolina Baptist Conference on Evangelism opened to an overflow audience last Wednesday evening at Hoffmeyer Road Baptist Church in Florence, which hosted the event for the second straight year.
The theme of the conference — for decades an annual staple of denominational life in South Carolina during February — was a question, "Where are the Workers," drawn from Matthew 5:37-38 in which Jesus says to his disciples, "The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest."
In welcoming the conference participants on opening night, Laneir Singleton, senior pastor at the host Hoffmeyer Baptist Church, said, "What I want to see is nothing less than the touch of God on this meeting." He prayed that God would "revive us again that thy people may rejoice in thee."
Randall Jones, a retired Conway pastor who now is a full-time evangelist and contract worker for the South Carolina Baptist Convention, presided. He was praised by executive director-treasurer Jim Austin for "being in the forefront" of planning the conference.
The Conway evangelist evoked applause from the large congregation as he reported on the upturn in baptisms last year, and said that when the statistics for the current year come in, "I hope that we'll stand back in amazement at what God has done."
Jones even raised the possibility of launching a second evangelism conference if the interest and support are there.
Austin expressed gratitude that "God is doing a wonderful work in our churches," adding, "God is at work around the world. Christianity is growing at a fast rate." His prayer, he said, is that "America will experience revival as well."
Lee Clamp, director of evangelism for the convention, called on the large gathering to "become advocates for the lost."
He echoed words first written for the SCBC's Focus magazine that most church people simply are not "actively serving others or telling the greatest story known to mankind."
Clamp pointed out that perhaps as many as 90 percent of the people in the gathered church have "never had a conversation about the gospel with anyone else."
"The church must," he said, "build relationships with those who do not know Jesus and will be held accountable for telling the story."
For the evangelism leader, a movement in that direction starts with a conversation about Jesus and the salvation he freely offers. "Conversions will increase in this state," he declared, "when conversations increase."
Asking "who is one person you need to tell about Jesus," Clamp said, "Stop waiting. Start the conversation."
The conference sessions that ran from Wednesday through Friday evening were filled with music and preaching. It was a beloved evangelist from Alabama, Junior Hill, who delivered the opening message followed by a second one on Thursday morning.
Hill, always popular with South Carolina Baptists, centered his sermon on Luke 5, which finds Peter frustrated over a nighttime of fishing without catching anything. When Jesus tells Peter to "put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch," Simon complains, "Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing."
The Alabama evangelist at that point paraphrased the future disciple. "What Peter really was saying was, 'Jesus, with all due respect, we're professional fishermen and you're a carpenter. Don't you think we know more about fishing than you do?' "
Hill said the passage is all about evangelism, with the net representing the "word of God, the Bible" and the fish representing the souls of people.
"The fallacy in our thinking," Hill noted, "is that believing in the Bible, being doctrinally and theologically correct means you'll catch fish."
Most of the "men of God," Hill said, singling out pastors faithful in their preaching, "are being persistent, they have their hands to the plow, they're throwing out the net and sowing the seeds, but many aren't catching any fish — any souls."
"The catch," he declared, "must never determine the commitment. We must do what Jesus says to do, whether we catch any fish at all. We're not responsible for the catch; we're just responsible to fish.
"God will take care of the catch," he said, "and we must take care of the command. So throw the net, throw the net, throw the net, and maybe in God's sovereignty somebody will get in it."
Turning to Peter's initial reluctance to do what Jesus said, Hill said simply, "We need to learn to obey God. Peter's reply to Jesus indicated that Jesus didn't know as much about fishing as they — professional fishermen — did. They were sure that after a night of catching nothing, there must be no fish in that lake. But it's not our job to evaluate the situation. It's our job to proclaim."
"Just scatter the seed," he concluded, "and leave it to God to provide the harvest."
This article originally appeared in The Baptist Courier (baptistcourier.com), newsjournal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Don Kirkland is editor of The Baptist Courier.
Helping churches go
where they are led
By Jerry Pierce
GRAPEVINE, Texas (Southern Baptist Texan)--When the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention talks about partnership missions, it's not with a one-size-fits-all approach in mind.
What the convention does have in mind, says Tiffany Smith, SBTC missions mobilization associate, is helping congregations connect where they believe God is leading them.
The SBTC has several high-priority mission partnerships to which they direct churches that come to the convention staff with open-ended requests for help.
But roughly half of the churches that come to the SBTC mission team seeking help in mobilizing their people already have a people group or region in mind, Smith said.
So if Church A has a plan of action and a people or place in mind already, they might need help connecting with "boots on the ground" in that place.
But Church B might be new to hands-on missions altogether. Where they abound in willing hearts and contagious enthusiasm, they might lack in direction or knowledge about engaging a lost people group.
Group A might need some help with the finishing touches, but Group B will need help discerning who and where it should engage, and everything that follows, Smith said.
"When I came into this job, I realized that not every church could be pigeonholed into one area. And so I took the approach that we would try to serve the churches according to their needs. So we do have a broader network than what has been traditionally done in the past," she said.
"The point is to mobilize more churches to be on mission," Smith added, "because if they are not called to East Asia, for example, we don't want to send them to East Asia. We want to help them to get to wherever God is leading them."
A one-year-old partnership with an East Asian region is one of the SBTC's established partnerships, along with other regions in North America and abroad.
"We strive to work alongside the IMB in their strategy, and with NAMB in their strategy for the SEND focus cities of North America. We do emphasize that, because that's where God is working. They have people on the ground to partner with long term for maximum effectiveness."
An example of that would be Montreal, where relationships are established and footwork is already being done for Texas church groups to go right to work when they travel there.
But the options for churches are diverse. Opportunities for engagement exist in places as widely varied as interior Mexico, China, and West Africa, to name just three.
Internationally, the IMB has affinity group connectors that help church groups find vital links in engaging the lost abroad.
"I work with these affinity group connectors," Smith said, "to make sure these churches are tied to an established ministry once they hit the ground."
Among the SBTC mission partnerships, opportunities exist for all age groups as well—from elementary-aged students to senior adults and families, Smith added.
In cities where block parties or Vacation Bible schools are vehicles for ministry, children are especially effective at outreach and even evangelism.
The size of groups needed to orchestrate what would be considered a bona fide mission trip has changed some from what it was in years past, Smith said.
In fact, she noted church planters and missionaries increasingly are requesting smaller teams domestically and abroad.
"Three, five, seven people. It makes it easier logistically and it's actually safer when you are talking about overseas missions. Certainly, there is a place for larger teams if you are doing larger block parties, for example.
"What needs to be emphasized is that you can take three people on a mission trip. It doesn't have to be a large group, which would be a benefit to some of these smaller churches that think, 'Oh, we don't have the money to send a large group.'"
The profit of mission trips to the life of a congregation goes beyond just seeing the change in perspective that many people experience upon visiting an impoverished or restricted culture, Smith said.
"And it does build your faith and it helps you have a broader worldview in understanding that God is the God of the nations. He has blessed us to bless the nations. It's very strategic. It's very purposeful. It's not random."
For more about SBTC missions opportunities, visit sbtexas.com/mobilization.
This article originally appeared in the Southern Baptist Texan (texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Jerry Pierce is managing editor of the Southern Baptist Texan.
Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net