Today's From the States features items from:
The Pathway (Missouri)
Baptist Message (Louisiana)
The Christian Index (Georgia)
Trips to Africa
amaze Rock Church
By Susan Mires
ST. LOUIS (The Pathway) -- Preaching in a remote area of northwest Kenya, where warring tribes convened and even broke into fights in the middle of the service, Pastor Timothy Cowin urged the people to follow the Prince of Peace.
"At that sermon, I proclaimed that Jesus came with open hands and kept his hands open to the end," Cowin recalled. "I asked them to join the tribe of the open hand and follow Jesus."
The message was translated into the Swahili, Turkana and Pecot languages and at the invitation, hundreds of people came forward to make decisions for Christ. Cowin laid hands on and prayed for each person in line.
From a St. Louis suburb, members of The Rock Church had journeyed to Kenya. The church had prayed for years to partner with a specific location for missions. When Karen Smith joined the church and began describing their personal ministry "Getting The Word Out" in Kenya, they knew they had found their calling.
"We felt like in today's age, the church in America, because of how we've been blessed, can go on mission anywhere in the world," Pastor Cowin said.
Cowin went on the first trip to Kenya in 2009. In addition to peace rallies, they got to know Andrew and Sarah Kendagor, who cared for orphans in their tiny home.
Karen Smith prayed for an opportunity and was able to take 5-year-old Esther back to St. Louis. Doctors at Children's Hospital at Barnes removed a large tumor from her neck. The Rock Church then built Esther House, where the Kendagors are now able to care for orphans in better conditions.
The Kendagors' son, Peter, came to St. Louis with a family member who was receiving treatment for leukemia. While in St. Louis, he joined The Rock, was ordained in ministry and now serves as a church planting catalyst in Kenya.
About 15 members of The Rock have visited Kenya on numerous mission trips. They've prayed and provided money for Esther House and other projects. Cowin went on the latest trip in January.
"When I went back, I had heard about some people in remote areas of Uganda who had turned to the Lord and requested we go over there," he said.
Peter Kendagor introduced him to a man named Clement. The man described how he used to be known as Michael, a violent, drunken man that many believed to be demon possessed. He walked from Uganda to Kenya and attended the peace rally to get free food. He stood in line to receive a Bible and when Cowin laid hands on him, he felt a power fall over him and he has never been the same. Michael changed his name to Clement and has started five churches in Uganda.
"I didn't even know until three years later what God was doing," Cowin said with amazement.
Another man saved at the rally walked away and started singing. Today, his songs are heard all over Kenya Christian radio.
The Rock Church is amazed at how their prayers for a mission partner have been answered.
"We felt privileged that God wanted to do something among these people and blessed. He's chosen us to be part of it," Cowin said.
Another mission trip is planned for this fall. The Rock is raising money for motorcycles for church planters to use to visit churches.
In addition to the Kenyan partnership, the church, which used to be Rock Hill Baptist Church, has a Japanese congregation meeting at its facility and is working with an Indonesian pastor. They also partnered with a church that was closing and have a campus in Soulard. Cowin said missions is a mindset.
"God has raised up people in our church for particular ministries and people rally around them to do what God has called them do," he said.
This article originally appeared in The Pathway (mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Susan Mires is a contributing writer for The Pathway.
Brazil mission trip:
4,500 decisions for Jesus Christ
By Karen L. Willoughby
MONTES CLAROS, Minas Gerias, Brazil (Baptist Message) -- Two women pawing through the garbage late one night found more than something to eat, said Gene Jenkins of Greenwell Springs Baptist Church in Baton Rouge.
Jenkins, brother of LBC Evangelism/Church Growth Director Wayne Jenkins, was one of 145 people to participate in this year's Brazil mission trip. Gene Jenkins was standing outside the hotel the mission team was staying at about 11 p.m. when he saw the women searching for food.
"I asked them about God, and they said they were searching for Him, too, but they hadn't found Him," Jenkins said. "They both found Him that night, and they came back the next day to say thank you."
An apparently homeless man hovered each night around the hotel, but skittered away when anyone tried to talk with him, until the night Jenkins got his attention. (Jenkins has a variety of hand tricks and small toys he uses to draw a crowd.)
Jenkins led the disheveled man to the Lord too.
"He came back the next day, too, all cleaned up," Jenkins said. "From death to life."
Similar stories could be told by members of each of 22 church evangelism and visitation teams, plus two drama teams, one puppet team, one street team and one team that did both sports and prison ministries, in addition to three VBS teams, three construction teams, and one each medical, dental and eye care teams.
In all, more than 4,500 spiritual decisions were made by Brazilians during the 28th annual mission trip that started when Wayne Jenkins and Dwight Lowrie of Texas in 1984 wanted the churches they pastored to go on a mission trip and joined forces in order to have enough people to make an impact. Today, the International Mission Board said this Brazil thrust is perhaps the largest group of Southern Baptists to go mission.
Most mission teams self-limit to fewer than 20 participants. but Wayne Jenkins works in cooperation with IMB missionaries who put them in touch directly with the local pastors, to find out their needs and to work through them to reach people in the community who then are plugged into the local church.
"David and Laurie Bledsoe, our missionaries in Minas Gerias, are our only missionaries in a state the size of Texas," Wayne Jenkins said. "They work alongside our national pastors to help develop an effective strategy for volunteers. A large team like ours is able to work with a whole association of churches, making a large impact on a city in a short amount of time."
After several years in Belo Horizonte, the team this year went to Montes Claros, located about seven hours north of "Belo." It's a smaller town - about 350,000 people in the area as compared with the 2 million-plus in urban Belo.
"It had a gentle, slower pace, and very good help from the city," Gene Jenkins said. "The mayor opened the town to us with no permits."
The three churches built this year were in use immediately and overflowing the first night, and - if past experience is any indication - they will be thriving when the Brazil team returns next mid-July.
This year's team included one 10-year-old who helped her dad lay bricks to build a church, and an 80-year-old who was part of one of the in-home witnessing teams.
What are easy to call "miracles" when they happen around you continued even as a bus drove the weary mission team on a seven-hour ride to the airport. Halfway down the highway, the bus began inexplicably slowing, and not until it came to a full stop would it pick up steam again. After this happened several times, the driver said he would have another bus come to take them to the airport.
"No no no," team members implored. "We can't miss our flight."
One of the mission team members is a diesel mechanic by profession. That was the first indication to the team that a miracle was in process.
"Let me have a look," he said. He saw that a clip that regulated the flow of gasoline had broken. What was needed was a stick to serve as a makeshift regulator. But a knife was needed to cut a stick of the needed size, and none of the soon-to-be-air-travelers was carrying a knife or similar cutting object.
However, on the side of the road, one of the team members found a knife! Several sticks of the right size were found (to have backup for when the stick in use broke) and cut, and affixed with duck tape (inexplicably found in a construction team member's carry-on luggage) and the bus made it to the airport on time.
"Every time I come back, I say it doesn't get any better than this," Gene Jenkins said. "Every year it gets better than the previous year."
This article originally appeared in the Baptist Message (baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Baptist Message.
Church planting conference is
'tipping point' for NAMB's new direction
Mission board plans for 800 but 2,200 show up
By Joe Westbury
WOODSTOCK, Ga. (Christian Index) -- The North American Mission Board's new approach to church planting is making believers out of non-believers. At least that's the experience from new convert William Thornton, who had lost much of his faith in the mission board for the first 15 years of its existence.
Thornton is representative of Georgia Baptist pastors who have changed their way of thinking about the Alpharetta-based Southern Baptist entity board and its radical approach to North America missions.
"To be honest, NAMB just about lost my confidence in its early years due to poor leadership and a lack of focus. It was a big disappointment and I didn't think making another change in administration would be of much help," he says in reference to the hiring of current president Kevin Ezell.
"But Kevin has won me over with his sense of openness and transparency and that means a lot to me. I like the way he has restructured and reduced overhead and freed up money for church planting. Decentralizing has made it more efficient and I think we're beginning to see the fruits of those hard decisions," he says.
Thornton, who retired in November after 14 years as pastor of Statham First Baptist Church, echoed the sentiments of numerous pastors attending NAMB's first SEND: North America Conference held at First Baptist Church of Woodstock on July 30-31.
"I think people assumed that church planting is what NAMB has always done but it was just too diversified to do it with any real effectiveness. It now has a focus I can agree with," he added.
Thornton may be newly retired but that doesn't mean he is no longer interested in pastoring on a fulltime or interim basis. He's keeping his options open as he takes a break in his active ministry. But that doesn't mean he's not interested in finding new ways of reaching the lost - and sees church planting as a vital piece of that puzzle.
Thornton was one of 317 pastors who attended the groundbreaking conference at their own expense, driving or flying in from all around the nation.
"It's a new day at NAMB," entity president Ezell told the packed chapel auditorium as he stepped on the platform at the opening session. That new day was clearly evident - from the makeup of the individuals attending the two-day get-together, to the cutting edge food trucks dishing out a variety of cuisine, to the workshops that were held.
For years the mission board held Summer State Leadership meetings in Atlanta where it communicated its strategy to key state leaders such as directors of missions and evangelism. But those meetings were expensive to host in convention center hotels like the Atlanta Airport Marriott and expensive to fly in participants from around the nation.
Ezell decided to take the meeting to a local church - in this case First Woodstock - where overhead would be a fraction of the cost. To further reduce overhead he nearly eliminated travel subsidies.
The huge savings were directed toward bringing in better speakers, shifting the format to equipping church planters and educating pastors interested in church planting, and providing a forum where the two could network and build relationships that could lead to financial or other support.
The bottom line was for NAMB to create an incubator, a petri dish where planters and pastors could come together, brainstorm new approaches, and take those ideas and newfound relationships back to the field.
The response was overwhelming, says Vice President of Communications Mike Ebert.
"We usually hosted about 400 at the summer meeting and felt like we could have as many as double that at the Woodstock meeting. But we were very surprised when 2,200 registered from all around North America," he said.
What Ezell hoped for appears to have worked. From observing human nature, he noticed that sometimes individuals whose expenses were covered by the board would not attend many of the workshops and would not receive the instruction they needed. But when individuals paid their own way they were more driven to get as much out of the meeting as possible to justify their cash outlay.
The result, he said, is that the conference attracted nearly 1,500 more individuals who wanted to be there - at their own expense - and who showed a much higher degree of excitement and interest.
In an interview with The Index, Ezell described the conference as "the tipping point" of where NAMB is going with its new focus. "We are moving on and want to plow with those who show up."
With an unofficial count of about 800 church planters/church planting catalysts in attendance, Ezell could not contain his excitement about the future.
"You need to realize that those 800 individuals represent four potential church plants a year for Southern Baptists; that's 3,200 new churches. Some of them came on their own dime, others were sent by their sending churches, and a few had partial scholarships provided by others who offered to pay more to cover the expenses of those who could not afford the travel or other costs."
First Lyons pastor Dannie Williams was among those who strongly endorsed the new approach.
"This is the best thing to ever happen to NAMB," he said during a break between networking. Williams used the conference to meet church planters from around North America and share ideas of what was working and what wasn't.
"The average pastor has no clue that church planting is the way to reach the world, but Kevin gets it. There was an excitement and energy to this conference that was fresh and invigorating that I have not experienced in years.
"My church has done a wonderful job of embracing the church planting vision and we are involved in several church plants in North America and are in the early stages of sending teams to Antioch, Turkey, where the church planting movement began, with the idea of starting a church there.
"For too long we've been using a shotgun approach to reach North America but now we've been given a rifle. Our goal is much more focused and now we're hitting the target."
THE NEW FACE OF CHURCH PLANTERS FOR ATLANTA
Some of the new generation of church planters who are moving into downtown Atlanta visit against a backdrop of the city in an area NAMB set aside for regional networking opportunities.
The new Baptist faces moving into downtown, in many ways, resemble those who already live inside the Perimeter but do not have a personal relationship with Christ. The planters are young, casually dressed without suits and ties. Their unofficial uniforms include blue jeans or long cargo shorts with shirts worn on the outside ther than tucked into their pants.
It's a decidedly more casual approach to life and church planting … and is what is needed to reach those without Christ, says Jim Haskell of the Urban Atlanta Church Planting network. The group is supported by NAMB, the Georgia Baptist Convention, and three associations - Atlanta Association of Southern Baptist Churches, Atlanta Metro Baptist Association, and the newly-formed Southwest Atlanta Baptist Association.
Tez just returned home to Georgia after serving nearly seven years in Texas. His church plant, Connect Church in Decatur in south DeKalb County, is meeting in a movie theater and celebrated its first anniversary at Easter.
He and his wife, Gala, are parents of four sons ranging in age from two years to 13 years. Their ministry is supported through a patchwork quilt of funds from the GBC, NAMB, and Stone Mountain and Atlanta Metro associations. He is bivocational, serving as a NAMB consultant and on the staff of Carver Bible College.
Stuart will be founding pastor of a church in the West Highland neighborhood of Midtown Atlanta.
He is bivocational and serves as an Internet developer. Stuart and his wife, Jennie, are parents of two sons and two daughters. He has been in Atlanta for barely a month and will move his family in the near future.
Gabriel is founding pastor of 10-month-old New Life Christian Church in Forest Park. He and his wife, Courtney, are parents of 14-month-old Micah.
He is bivocational, working as a sports writer and reporter for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald in Jonesboro. He receives limited support from the GBC and Pendleton Street Baptist Church in Easley, SC.
Matt Dye and Matthew David
Matthew and Matt just arrived in Atlanta the last week of July from Wheatley, KY, and are still searching out the lay of the land. They will be co-founding elders of a church in West Midtown who name is yet to be determined.
Matthew is bivocational and teaching chemistry at Whitfield Academy near Mableton. He and his wife, Sarah, are parents of two daughters and a son.
Matt is also bivocational and is currently seeking employment. He is applying for church planting assistance from the GBC and NAMB. He and his wife, Teresa, are parents of a daughter and two sons.
This article originally appeared in The Christian Index (christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Joe Westbury is managing editor of The Christian Index.
Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net