Today's From the States features items from:
The Baptist Courier (South Carolina)
The Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma)
Western Recorder (Kentucky)
Embracing Every Tribe and Tongue:
Spartanburg church aims for ethnic 'accommodation'
SPARTANBURG, S.C. (The Baptist Courier) -- In 2005, Jim Goodroe was on a quest. In his position as director of missions for Spartanburg County Baptist Network, he needed to find a replacement pastor for a Cambodian ministry.
He went to Dallas to attend an ethnic ministries summit in hopes he would find what he needed. "I did not find a single Cambodian at the summit," said Goodroe, "but what I did learn about was multiethnic ministry, and the Lord gave me the vision for Kaleidoscope Multiethnic Fellowship."
With more than a few bumps and detours along the road, the church finally launched in 2009. The church could not take its first baby steps until it had at least three ethnicities represented in its leadership team.
Among the Caucasian members of Kaleidoscope, there is more than a tolerance for different cultures — there is a deep love and respect as well as a commitment to unity.
Kaleidoscope's pastor is Derrick Smith, who is also a full-time teacher and small business owner who was raised in Spartanburg in a "typical church-life environment."
"What most people don't understand is that white American males don't ever wake up thinking about their ethnicity or their race or their gender. They don't ever wake up thinking, 'Oh, no, I'm white,' or 'Oh, no, I'm male.' They don't think of it at all.
"When I was in France, that was my first experience — oh, I'm an outsider. People looked at me differently, and it changed something in my brain. I've since traveled to India, Papua New Guinea, and places where white skin is strange. You're stared at, and you start to get a feel for how people of color feel in the United States. There is something about that that makes you learn to feel for people."
One of the factors that proved to be an obstacle to Kaleidoscope's founding was the time frame. Most churches meet on Sunday morning, and Kaleidoscope originally intended to do the same. The dilemma was that internationals who were already believers were already involved in a church on Sunday morning.
"And we had the added factor that the large numbers of internationals who are college students tend to be out of town or in bed on Sunday morning," said Goodroe. "Those factors led us to make Kaleidoscope a Sunday-night congregation. Once we did that, it allowed us to pick up several ethnicities on our leadership team.
"We may average about 30 in our congregation, but among them we will have eight ethnicities. Some activities will attract more than 100 people from 16 nations. Though our worship services are in English, we often have Scripture reading in many languages. Our songs will be interspersed with other languages as well.
"Matthew 13 is a chapter where Jesus gives parables about the kingdom of heaven. In one of those, he says, 'The kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet which, when cast into the sea, brings forth all kinds of fish.' Much of evangelism or mission work is like casting a rod and reel where you are targeting one type of fish. We are to be fishers of men. Multiethnic work is more like a dragnet. You throw it out there and you don't know who you are going to get. So it has been an interesting and broadening experience for me."
Pastor Smith has a burden to see change in U.S. churches. "The American church has to change or die," he said. "You've seen the demographics and statistics that show white people will cease to be the majority by the year 2038. They will still be the biggest plurality, but the church has to prepare for that. The multiethnic church is the way to do it.
"It is obedient to the Great Commission. If you are making disciples of all nations, all nations will be among you. In a nutshell, it is the difference between an assimilating church and an accommodating church.
"There are many churches in South Carolina that would love to assimilate people who are different into themselves. They would say, 'You are welcome here. Come, and you do things this way. This is how we do them and you can stick around.'
"But in an accommodating church, the attitude is different. It says we're all different. 'If you are different, then come in, and we will all learn to change together.' That's what we are trying to do. It is slow and it's hard, but it's our call and we have to do it."
That accommodating spirit is part of the reason Casey Burnett and his wife, Judith, were drawn to the congregation. In his travels with his ministry, Cup of Hope, Burnett met his wife in the Philippines. They are now ministry partners.
"My wife and I got used to small-group worship while we were in the Philippines," Burnett said. "When I came back to Spartanburg, it was hard to adjust to a large and monoethnic church. Since we are a multiethnic couple, we fit in really well in a small church with nine ethnicities. Half of them have immigration problems just like us. We have community."
When God gave John a glimpse of the future, he described it in part in Revelation 7:9-10: "After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, were standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb' " (NASB).
One day, believers everywhere will worship God with a unity that disregards any ethnic differences.
Multiethnic churches like Kaleidoscope are leading the way.
This article originally appeared in The Baptist Courier (baptistcourier.com), newsjournal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
Captives set free: Oklahoma Baptists
and others rescue girls in Africa
By Dana Williamson
TULSA, Okla.(The Baptist Messenger) -- Traveling T-shirts have raised enough money to free 20 girls from human trafficking in Ghana, West Africa.
A combination of events occurred to make it possible for these girls to receive a life of independence after being involved in slavery, some since the age of 5.
It started with a T-shirt company that incorrectly printed an order for I.D. Ministries, headed by Courtney Bullard. To correct the mistake, the company gave the Tulsa-based ministry 125 free shirts.
"We were praying about what to do with the free shirts," said Courtney. "I was reading in the Bible the parable of the talents, and tried to come up with a way to multiply the shirts."
Bullard's church, Tulsa, Southern Hills, where her husband, Steve, is youth minister, has taken mission trips to Ghana on an ongoing basis since 2008. While in the country, they were made aware of a practice that goes on there called trokosi.
"It is a small practice in the tribal life with a few thousand girls caught up in it," said Steve. "Ghana has outlawed the practice, but the law isn't enforced."
As Steve explained, back in the deep bush, if someone in a family commits a crime, no matter how insignificant, to pay for the crime, one of the daughters must be given to a trokosi priest, who takes control of her. She becomes a slave to the priest, although he does not take care of her. The family still has to support her.
Steve said the girl may work in the fields, or she may be a sex slave, but if she bears a child, she must take responsibility to care for the child. The priest doesn't take any parental ownership of the child.
Steve noted that different ministries have tried to strike a deal with the priests and shrine owners to buy the girls.
"Sometimes, they will pay the priests in assets such as cattle to replace income these girls provided," Steve disclosed. "A lot of the priests want to get out of it. It's just tradition, they know it's illegal and they are afraid of getting caught."
So, Courtney, with the idea of raising money to buy these girls out of slavery, had the free T-shirts printed with "Buy this shirt to help stop slavery." The shirts, sold last year at Super Summer at Oklahoma Baptist University, cost $15 each. The premise is that you wear the T-shirt with another shirt underneath, and people literally buy the shirt off your back.
"There's a QR code, which you can run your phone over, and it tells you where the proceeds from the shirt go," explained Courtney. "We tracked the sales on Facebook, and found the shirts traveled lots of places—Florida, North Carolina, California. It was interesting to see how much each shirt would bring in."
Through that effort, enough money was raised—about $2,000—to free 20 girls.
Kamie Sager, a member of Ardmore, First, said buying the shirt (actually she bought several) was exciting for her because she felt she was contributing to something that had purpose. She said she took one of the shirts to a retreat, hoping to sell it to one of the students.
"But when no one wanted to buy it, I was crushed," admitted Sager. "As I was feeling defeated, I discovered one of the sponsors wanted to buy the shirt. When I sold it, I knew we were united as one mind with one purpose, and it was as if I was physically a part of the Body."
Another shirt Sager bought was purchased by State Rep. Pat Ownbey from House District 48.
"I believe the shirt is an effective way to raise money as well as awareness," Ownbey said. "These shirts have been a great way of calling attention to a problem that most people aren't even aware of."
Ownbey, also a member of Ardmore, First, said a bill was signed into law during the last legislative session that closed loop holes traffickers often slip through.
"I'm proud to be a part of a legislature that realizes the importance of attacking this issue head on through effective legislation," he added. "I believe these shirts are a tool in God's hands to bring about freedom in places that have only known slavery."
This year at Super Summer, Courtney gave a report every Tuesday night on how much money was raised and told the students that they played a major role in helping to rescue the girls in Africa.
"The place erupted when I told them how they had helped," said Courtney.
On one of the trips to Africa, the Bullards visited Frankadua Baptist Vocational Training Center, which takes the girls after they are rescued from the priests and gives them a life of independence through a three-year program. The girls are taught about Jesus and educated academically and vocationally.
"The girls can choose a trade, such as sewing, catering or making fabric, and at the end of three years, they are given seed money to help them get started in a career," said Courtney. "If they become a seamstress, they may be given a sewing machine so they can live independently and don't go back to the former lifestyle."
Courtney emphasized that when the girls are taken from the priests, the priests sign a treaty that they aren't going to get another girl to replace her.
"It's not like you are feeding the system," Courtney said. "They are very superstitious about appeasing the gods, so they believe if a transaction is made for the girl, the debt has been paid, and the priests are happy."
Steve said negotiating the girls away from the priests is a fluid and ongoing situation.
"So far, we have eight girls who have been rescued and we are working on 12 more," he said.
In all of this, the Bullards said the Lord has given them a vision of building a home modeled after the home in Frankadua.
"We already have the land and plans for the building drawn up," said Courtney. "We are now in the fund-raising process."
The new ministry—called Pearl House—is from the parable of the merchant who sold all he had to purchase the pearl, Courtney said.
She said when she was in Winneba, Ghana, where the home will be built, last March, she realized they were going to have to have an American living in the house.
"I didn't know anyone who would go to live in Africa," she said. "But God did."
Steve took some of his youth on a mission trip to Memphis, Tenn., and met a youth minister, who is 33 years old and single.
She told Steve that God told her she was to move to Africa and work with teenage girls, and there would be some sort of home she would be living in. She didn't know what that meant until she met Steve.
Courtney said Steve is currently looking for a house to rent so they can begin taking in girls while they are in the process of raising funds to build Pearl House. She said they are looking for churches and individuals to partner with them or sponsor a girl.
"We also need people willing to donate items to furnish the home once it's built," she said.
Courtney said proceeds from bracelets sold at Super Summer this year will go to help build Pearl House.
"We have collaborated with Kairos10 (www.kairos10.com)," said Courtney. "With each bracelet sold, a mosquito net is purchased and profits go the Pearl House."
Also a percentage of the sale of The Same Page Book (www.thesamepagebook.com) that Courtney coauthored with Shauna Pilgreen, will go to the Pearl House.
She added that the "Buy This Shirt" campaign will be kicked off again in 2013.
For more information on rescuing the girls or on Pearl House, contact the Bullards at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared in The Baptist Messenger (baptistmessenger.com), newsjournal of the Oklahoma Baptist Convention. Dana Williamson is associate editor of The Baptist Messenger.
By trailer, by Bus, Simmonses
take Gospel on the road
By Shirley Cox
EKRON, Ky. (Western Recorder) -- Jack and Wilma Simmons first heard God's call to missions more than 20 years ago when they met an associational missionary who told them about the needs in Indiana.
"After looking over the area for a time and trying to get something started, it seemed we just couldn't get it done," Jack said. Eventually, they realized God was calling them back to Wilma's Kentucky hometown, West Point.
"In West Point, we felt a need to start mission work with the people who lived in the trailer parks because the churches weren't reaching them," Jack said. "We began meeting with the kids in one of the trailer parks each week even though we had to meet outside."
With help from the Kentucky Baptist Convention, Jack and Wilma purchased a mobile home to use as a meeting place. After floods destroyed the first two trailers, a third one was donated by Ron Morgan, a member of Immanuel Baptist Church in Frankfort.
The Simmonses also converted a school bus into a "mobile chapel" so they could minister to residents of two other mobile home communities in the area.
The children's program includes Bible stories, crafts, play time and refreshments. Services that include adults are held in the evenings and on Sunday morning.
Wilma prepares and shares Bible presentations with the children who attend the bus ministry, and she prepares a craft project for all three mission points each week.
"Each week, I pray and ask God to give me the scripture verse or Bible truth He wants to send into the homes of these children and then to give me an idea for a craft to go with it," she said. "He has never let me down yet.
"I use flannel graph stories, magic and science-related items to present a Bible lesson. The children who attend our bus ministry range in age from preschoolers to teenagers. They do not relate well to just listening to a Bible story since most of them have never heard one."
Wilma said a volunteer helps with the children's program at the West Point Mission.
"When the children first attend, sometimes they won't share or they hit each other or throw things all over the floor without picking them up," Wilma said. "After a while, they begin to share with each other and even start to help me clean up."
Even without a traditional church facility, the Simmonses have become pastoral leaders of their flocks.
"We also minister by providing food, performing weddings and funerals and making hospital visits," Jack said. "Each Christmas, we distribute over 400 shoebox gifts."
The couple says that as they serve, they watch God use their efforts to transform lives.
"When Dallas began coming to the chapel at West Point, he was failing school and was always in trouble," Jack said. "After a while, he began listening and reading the Bible. Finally, he committed his life to Christ. Before long, Dallas was on the honor roll and was one of the best behaved kids in our meetings."
Jack also watched God change the life of a man who had a reputation of being the meanest, toughest person in town.
"It was said people walked on the other side of the street when they saw Danny coming because they were afraid of him," Jack said. "Somehow, we made friends with him and he asked me to perform his wedding. His children came to the chapel, but we could never get him to attend anything."
After Jack visited Danny for months to talk about the Bible, Danny accepted Christ. "He did a complete turnaround," Jack said. "He became the most gentle, loving person. His brother later became a Christian because of his testimony."
In addition to their work at the three mission points, Jack farms and pastors a small rural church. "I continue to serve the Lord through ministry because I don't believe God expects us to quit just because we get older," he explained. "Don't forget, Moses was 80 years old when God called him."
The Simmonses are among dozens of Mission Service Corps missionaries serving in Kentucky. MSC missionaries are self-funded servants who assist churches, local Baptist associations and individual ministries. For information about Mission Service Corps, visit www.kybaptist.org/msc.
The Kentucky Baptist Convention is a cooperative missions and ministry organization made up of nearly 2.400 autonomous Baptist churches in Kentucky. A variety of state and worldwide ministries are coordinated through its administrative offices in Louisville, including: missions work, disaster relief, ministry training and support, church development, evangelism and more. For more, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.
This article originally appeared in the Western Recorder (westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Shirley Cox is a missionary.
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