Today's From the States features items from:
Southern Baptist Texan (Texas)
Religious Herald (Virginia)
California Southern Baptist
Gospel message hung
on 108k doors
By Jerry Pierce
MCALLEN, Texas (Southern Baptist Texan) -- Volunteers hung plastic bags with Gospel tracts and invitations to Easter services and an evangelistic rally on 108,000 doors in the McAllen area of the Rio Grande Valley March 12-16 during spring break for most Texas schools.
"It was very exciting is all I can say," said Jack Harris, SBTC associate for personal and event evangelism. "That's the gospel in English and Spanish going to all those homes."
Harris said the outreach far exceeded initial expectations. It was preceded by seven informational luncheons over six months. Initially, the SBTC provided 50,000 door hangers to churches. But when churches began asking for more, the total ended up being 108,000—with all distributed by 18 church groups taking to the streets in McAllen and surrounding towns.
Through encounters on the streets and nightly outreach events, dozens of salvation decisions were recorded, Harris said. (No tallies were available at press time.)
The door hangers included tickets to an evangelistic rally that was scheduled for April 1 featuring the strength and power demonstrations of Team Impact.
Harris said this year's mission was able to reach more homes with the gospel message than last year's in Laredo, where over several weeks about 50,000 homes received gospel tracts, information on a local Southern Baptist church and tickets to a Team Impact event where more than 700 people registered salvation decisions.
This year, Cornerstone Baptist Church and Baptist Temple in McAllen, and Primera Iglesia Poder De Dios helped lead the outreach among the 12 local churches and teams from six other congregations around the state that traveled to McAllen.
David Galvan, pastor of New Life Baptist Church in Dallas, said he took about 50 people from his church to McAllen, about 40 of whom traveled on a coach bus. The group included several families with children.
The group distributed door hangers and witnessed when possible from about 9 a.m.-1 p.m. daily, broke for lunch, then went back out for about 90 minutes in the afternoon, Galvan said.
They were able to lead several people to Christ, he added.
The joy to me is that I had a number of people who did their first mission trip. Also, we encourage people to take their children. So I had several families that included a father, mother and the children. Of course the children were on the street as well passing out materials."
One family brought four children, he said.
As the group shared testimonies on the way home, Galvan said several people mentioned the blessing of getting to know other church members more deeply. Others cited the life-altering experience of a first mission trip.
Galvan said Pastor Armando Vera and the members at Primera Iglesia Poder De Dios, which hosted the Dallas group, couldn't have been more gracious, and disaster relief shower units were a morale boost for the group each evening.
Poder De Dios held block parties on Thursday and Friday nights, giving away half a dozen bicycles and about a dozen soccer balls to draw a crowd to see clowns and other entertainment. Each night the gospel was presented, with several people making salvation decisions nightly.
One of those was a 7-year-old boy, Andres Diaz, who came with his mother from Galvan's church.
Galvan said Diaz was at first frightened by the clowns, but after some coaxing from his mother, he warmed up to them. By the end of the night, he was taking pictures with them. Diaz is the adopted son of one of the church members, Galvan said.
One of those clowns used a multi-colored prop to share the gospel, noting that, "'If you will open your heart to Jesus, you will never be rejected again.' Our little missionary got saved," Galvan added.
Galvan said as the clown shared his story of redemption, it was obvious the message resonated with Diaz.
To top it off, a teenager who won one of the bikes decided to give it to Diaz.
Loui Canchola, pastor at Cornerstone Baptist Church in McAllen and SBTC vice president, said the week was "an amazing time." His church distributed about one-tenth, or just over 10,000, of the door hangers.
"We are so grateful for mission teams that came down to the Valley from throughout Texas as well as our local churches that teamed together to get the word out," Canchola said. "It was wonderful to see kingdom teamwork in action and we are looking forward to what God is going to do through Team Impact to reach the Valley for Christ on April 1."
Jerry Pierce is managing editor of the Southern Baptist Texan (www.texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
Churches cross racial
barriers to empower Haitians
By Erin Miles Spickard
RICHMOND, Va. (Religious Herald) -- When Laura Ritter, a member of Chamberlayne Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., arrived in Grand Goave, Haiti, for the first time in January 2011, she was struck by the extreme disparity.
"You bring more in your suitcase for the eight-day trip than a lot of them have at all."
Ritter and her pastor, Mark White, have traveled twice to Haiti on mission trips as part of a rotating group of 12 people from three Richmond-area churches. The journeys represent two years of work which encouraged and empowered Haitians after the earthquake that struck in 2010.
White described it this way: "You're going from one of the wealthiest nations in the world to one of the poorest."
On that first trip, White said, the team didn't have running water in the house where they were staying in until the last day they were there.
Lois Williams of Anointed New Life Baptist Church, a three-year-old congregation in Richmond with whom Chamberlayne shares facilities each week, jumped at the chance to go both years. She found the Haitians inspiring.
"They have nothing and still they can talk about the goodness of God," she said.
Williams described Haitian worship experiences as an opportunity to unite with fellow Christians. "'At the Cross' is 'At the Cross' in any language."
The church members may have been inspired by what they found in Haiti, but the level of cooperation by the three churches across denominational and racial lines is also notable.
Five Richmond churches have a decades-long history of holding joint services once or twice every year, rotating hosting duties. Soon after the 2010 earthquake which left thousands of Haitians homeless, White brought the idea of helping the Caribbean nation to Chamberlayne's deacons and then the congregation itself.
Realizing a large group would be most effective, Chamberlayne's leaders shared their plans with Anointed New Life and First Mennonite Church. Together the churches came up with volunteers and raised money to pay for the trip.
Cooperation came naturally to the three congregations because they were already working together. Anointed New Life, a predominately African American church, and Chamberlayne, primarily white, share Chamberlayne's facilities. Along with First Mennonite, also predominantly white, they co-host community events and share mission opportunities.
By serving together closer contact becomes inevitable. Williams recalled the first spring festival the churches co-hosted.
"We had the hot dogs. They had the petting zoo. Everybody had to mingle, and we had a lot of fun."
It's simply this type of fellowship which has fostered relationships, White says.
White describes the goal of the churches as first and foremost is to serve the community. But out of their partnership they are seeing other benefits.
"We have started friendships that are growing, and we have a greater appreciation for what's happening at neighboring churches," he said. "Some barriers have been lowered. We're more comfortable with each other, and the question is no longer will we do things together, but what will we do and when will we do it."
Back from Haiti and inspired to do more, the team began collecting books for the school it had just helped build. And soon it was planning a return trip, which occurred last January, this time to build rubble houses. Rubble houses are homes built by packing remnant materials from destroyed structures into steel cages and pouring mortar into them to harden into new, more earthquake-resistant homes.
White says that through partnerships with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Compassion International, a Christian child-advocacy organization, they were able to work with the same missionaries, and worship in the same church, which he feels is critical to a mission's success.
"It is important that mission work is connected with people already on the ground in that area who know the best way to serve in that context," he said.
Returning to the same area also enabled them to catch up with some old friends. One of those was Maxi, a 12-year-old boy whom team members met while working on the school in 2011. He talked to them during his recess, then after school he went home, changed clothes and returned to help.
"He was interested in making American friends, and working on his English," said White. "This year he heard we were in the area, and showed up at some of our worksites."
White says that these relationships are where he sees growth happening.
"We're called to make disciples, not to make converts," he pointed out. "We're trying to help others grow, and grow ourselves, in Christ's likeness."
The churches are not sure yet where they will serve in the future, but they continue to work together. In the coming weeks the three churches will pack food boxes for Stop Hunger Now, an international hunger relief agency. The event will give all age groups an opportunity to do missions together.
White says it is important to them to be sure that whether their future role in Haiti is as encourager or as financial supporter, they are empowering Haitians. He worries that too much involvement by non-governmental organizations after a disaster can create a handout mentality at times, and the churches want to be careful that whatever type of aid they provide is not harmful. He is encouraged to hear that missionary friends in Haiti are providing financial education and small business workshops, and that people are starting their own businesses and getting back on their feet.
"When the average person is taking ownership, it is then that society will change," White says
Erin Miles Spickard is a contributing writer for the Religious Herald (www.religiousherald.org), newsjournal of the Baptist General Association of Virginia.
Colfax Baptist women ride
wave of mentoring ministry
By Marci Seither
COLFAX, Calif. (California Southern Baptist) -- Robynn Wren and Debra Fulenwider have lived in Colfax for over a decade and attend Colfax Baptist Church. Over the last 10 years they have served on the worship team and various committees together, but for the past several months they have been meeting for a different reason. They are part of a mentorship program Debra is hoping will not only impact their church body, but their small community as well.
"Our oldest daughter and her family were moving to Australia," said Fulenwider, who has four grown children. "One of her friends approached me about the possibility of mentoring her. I had never really considered doing anything like that, but it really started me thinking about the power of mentorship, especially since I had just been challenged to look for areas to serve."
Fulenwider had spent two summers on evangelism teams that traveled from church to church during the 70's and 80's. The teams were organized by Harry Williams, then-director of evangelism for California Southern Baptist Convention, who had a vision of helping churches and equipping the younger generation for ministry.
Last year Debra, along with her husband Karl, a '75 team member, went to a reunion also organized by Williams.
"Harry had a vision to reach out to others," Fulenwider said. "The volunteer evangelism teams were active for 20 years. Realizing that the trend had passed, Harry wanted to encourage us to continue reaching out. We really were just lumps of clay but he saw our potential and pushed us to use our skills in reaching others for Christ."
The week before the reunion, team members were saddened to hear of Williams' death. Instead of canceling the event, it turned into a memorial of continuing his dream. The well known pastor of Saddleback Church, Rick Warren, was on the first evangelism team.
"It's like surfing," Warren said at the reunion. "When you are on a surfboard you can't keep riding the same wave. If you try to stay on it you will lose your effectiveness and run aground. You always have to keep your eyes open for the next powerful wave and be ready to hop onto it."
According to Fulenwider, the challenge to keep moving forward became a personal quest.
"Your lives aren't done," Warren continued. "You need to take the lessons you learned in the 70's and 80's and be an influence wherever you are, in your families, your communities and in your churches. Look for the next wave God has for you and be ready to catch it."
When Fulenwider came home she continued thinking, "What is my next wave?"
"I had benefitted from being with my mom, aunts and a grandmother, all godly influences in my life. I know that not everyone has that heritage," Fulenwider said. When I was approached about being a mentor, I really felt like that was what I needed to look into, not just for me, but for others as well."
She talked to her pastor about starting a program and after getting the go-ahead, approached the women in the church. "I asked if they would be interested. Robynn was the first to shoot her hand into the air."
For Wren, it wasn't just a great idea, it was an answer to prayer.
"I had been asking the Lord to bring a mentoring woman into my life," Wren said. "I had someone who took me under her wing when I was just a baby Christian years ago. She helped me read and study the Bible, and was there to keep me accountable and pray with me.
"When she moved away," Wren continued, "I really felt the loss of that influence in my life. I had grown spiritually, but I still want to talk to a woman who has been married longer than I have and who has already raised children."
Wren, whose daughters are 14, 12 and 8, candidly talks about not being raised in a Christian home, and the value of having positive role models. While discipleship usually involves Bible study and scripture memorization, mentoring focuses more on relationships and building trust on a personal level.
"We have attended the same church for years," Wren said. "Now I know Debra is more than a sister in Christ, she is my friend. I know I can trust her and that she loves and prays for me. I needed that in my life.
"Mentoring takes the biblical concepts of being a mom and wife and makes it real and practical. It also gives us the opportunity to be part of someone else's life."
Both women hope to see the mentor program grow and include a male program as well.
"It seems like such a small thing," Wren said. "But it does impact others, and the baton of godly living needs to be passed to the next generation. It not only is a gentle way to hold each other accountable, but is a support system to walk together in areas where one of us is weak."
Fulenwider has some encouragement for those who assume they may not have anything to offer.
"We aren't looking for someone to be perfect," Fulenwider laughed. "We just need someone to be there! Some women in our congregation have been married for over 50 years and raised families. They have so much insight that only comes from living through a lifetime of experiences. We have so much to learn from each other. The benefit of being in a mentoring program is that the relationship really goes both ways."
Fulenwider currently is fine-tuning the program, which has been dubbed "M and M's." She was surprised at how many resources were available on the subject.
"With all the media influence," Fulenwider noted, "we have become an isolated and disconnected society. If we really want to reach out to our communities, we have to start by strengthening the fabric of our churches. I think being a part of building authentic relationships may just be the wave I was waiting for."
This article first appeared in for the California Southern Baptist (www.csbc.com/csb), newsjournal of the California Southern Baptist Convention.
Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net