Today's From the States features items from:
The Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma)
The Pathway (Missouri)
The Baptist Courier (South Carolina)
Healing in the heart of South America
By Marlin Harris
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Oklahomans mentioned in this story requested their full names not be used.
ASUNCIÓN, Paraguay (The Baptist Messenger) -- As Tropical Storm Debby was brewing in the Gulf of Mexico, political displeasure and unrest in Paraguay swirled into powerful thunderheads to form that "perfect storm." However, in the midst of this threatening tempest, a beautiful rainbow of God's love burst forth for the poorest of the poor. From June 15-23, 26 volunteers from Oklahoma, Illinois, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Alabama, representing the Paraguay Baptist Medical Center Foundation (PBMCF), partnered with professionals from Centro Médico Bautista (CMB) in Asunción to extend healing and spiritual refuge for "the least of these." This brilliant rainbow radiated care and concern through medical and eye clinics, dental prophylaxis and spiritual counseling in six different communities across Central Paraguay, touching the lives of 1,839 patients and adding 328 souls to God's Kingdom.
In 2002, PBMCF board member John Bryan inspired the foundation to sponsor its first mission trip to Paraguay, coinciding with the Medical Center's 50th anniversary. Now, a decade later, participants returned for their seventh mission trip and to celebrate the hospital's 60th anniversary.
Prior to our arrival, the Medical Center had already invested countless hours of preparation to carefully select the clinic sites in collaboration with various churches and mission points, to develop logistic plans to facilitate patient low and orient church volunteers for the different tasks they would perform.
Each clinic was a total team effort between USA volunteers, CMB professionals and the local church, assuring the careful triage of every patient by nurses, an evaluation by physicians, vision measurement and fitting for eye care and free medicines and glasses as prescribed by the doctors. Before patients and accompanying family members departed the clinic site, they met with Garry, a pastor from Oklahoma or with a local pastor or chaplain to hear the Gospel; if they were not believers, they were encouraged to make a decision for Him. Every new believer received a Bible and a special tract to further explain their salvation decision and the need for future discipleship.
Most of these locations had never hosted a CMB Community Clinic. Reaching out to new areas was a deliberate strategy by the Medical Center to help strengthen the testimony of Christ in these neighborhoods. Every smile, touch, word spoken, testimony shared and healing offered declared the Love of Christ. This year, a Brazilian missionary/dentist also accompanied us, teaching children about dental care, providing fluoridation treatments and giving them toothpaste and toothbrushes donated from the U.S. Another first on this trip was the presence of ophthalmology residents from the Vision Program to assist a doctor from Tennessee.
"In my numerous mission trips to India, Africa and South America, this is the first time I have ever had residents assisting me," he shared.
The integral aspect in every clinic was "follow-up." Medical cases requiring additional care were referred to the Baptist Medical Center, where they would receive high quality care at significantly discounted prices. Vision patients were sent to the Vision Program, which ministers exclusively to poor patients. The name of every individual who made a salvation decision was left with the local pastor so he could seek them out, encourage and disciple them. Our goal was to leave each clinic site with the full coincidence that every patient had received the medical attention, medications and glasses necessary and all needed follow-up care had been arranged, whether physical or spiritual.
Remarkable cases always present themselves, illustrating God's marvelous care and plan. Of the 1,036 patients seen in the medical clinic, the most memorable occurred in the rural site of Carapeguá. Dr. Draper from Illinois attended an elderly gentleman with a severely enlarged foot suffering from a chronic fungal infection of 25 years. The patient shared that he had sought cures in Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina, but no one could help. Although we could offer little treatment on-site for such a complicated case, we arranged for him to consult with a CMB dermatologist, who would refer him to the Tropical Disease Medicine Hospital in Asunción. All our physicians agreed this would offer him the most promising chance for effective treatment. We also gave him money for transportation to Asunción and lodging and fervently prayed with him for healing.
The eye clinic treated 803 patients. Bobbie of Tennessee shares, "A patient at our last church clinic sat in my chair at the fitting table with a most downcast sad appearance and her eyes barely open. After trying several pairs, she explained she needed more distance vision than near. I decided to look in our bifocal stock, not really thinking that these glasses would match anyone's vision needs. On the third pair, she beamed at me and exclaimed that she could see both at a distance and near! As we left the church, I passed a lady sweeping and realized she was this very patient; however, now her eyes were fully open and a smile shone across her face because now she could SEE! I hugged her. She was happy, and I was happy that her new bifocals would make a big difference in her life."
Bob, our veteran Oklahoma pharmacist of several trips, consistently shares the Gospel while dispensing free medications. Our last clinic is always held for hotel employees and their families.
"A severely anemic women shared that she would be having major surgery soon and did not have the resources to buy vitamins supplemented with iron that she needed. We had vitamins, but no iron drops nor tablets. Our Father in Heaven already knew of her need. There in the box of remaining vitamins was one bottle of 300 vitamins with iron. She left the Pharmacy with a heart full of thankfulness, headed to see the clinic chaplain and learn about God's great love through His Son, Jesus."
These are but three examples of patients whose lives were touched and changed by the loving care of Christ through these clinics. Such results were multiplied many times over.
Also while there, the Foundation presented to the Centro Médico Bautista funds to assist with scholarships, hospital programs and charity care patients. All unused medications and eyeglasses were left with the Community Clinics programs to help provide care to patients in the numerous outreach programs of the Medical Center which extends to more than 20,000 patients each year.
Paraguay's political turmoil built momentum each day of our visit, laced with anticipation for violence and rioting. Around midday on our final clinic trip, we received notice to return to our hotel "as soon as possible." After making sure every patient had been seen we headed "home." Back at the hotel, we witnessed on television the dramatic sequence of events: the impeachment by Congress of the president, his humble acceptance of their decision, the swearing in of the vice president as the new president and the dissipation of opposing crowds in the plaza in front of the Government Palace. Thankfully, the anticipated violence never took place. The next day, neighboring nations deliberated the "rightness" of Paraguay's constitutional process, some reluctant to recognize the new government. Our question was, will we be able to leave the country on schedule or would our light be shut down?
God's provident watch care enclosed us, stretching "behind and before" as declared in Psalms 139:5, protecting us and the nation of Paraguay from violence, and allowing us to leave as scheduled. The only storm we experienced was Debby on our way back home, which was inconsequential.
We thank Our Lord for His manifold blessings on this spiritual venture to share His Love and to be used as His instruments to heal and lead many to know Our Lord and Savior!
This article appeared in The Baptist Messenger (baptistmessenger.com), newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Marlin Harris is president of the Paraguay Baptist Medical Center Foundation.
Missouri churches, associations
aid Iowa church start
By Richard Nations
BLOOMFIELD, Iowa (The Pathway) -- Creative efforts on the part of several Missouri churches and associations are contributing to the start-up efforts of a new congregation here this summer.
The southern Iowa town is only a few miles north of the Missouri border, but there are no other Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) churches in Bloomfield or in Davis County. Church Planter Roger Marlow and his wife, Mileta, are Bloomfield natives who are leading efforts to start Bloomfield Fellowship there.
With help from several churches in Missouri, two associations in Missouri and Iowa and a lot of energy from volunteers, the new church has gathered a core group who meet on Sunday evenings in a community center.
This summer Marlow and the ministry partners began an ambitious plan which included three nearly back-to-back events. The first was an entry in the town's 4th of July parade followed by an event at the town's rodeo pavilion where a horse-whisperer cowboy preacher, David Kenyon of Deer Creek Church in Cuba, broke a wild horse to lead while sharing the gospel with onlookers. The next week a Vacation Bible School (VBS) was held on the courthouse square. That was followed by a block party with food, entertainment, games and door prizes.
Ten people have accepted Jesus to date through these efforts including one adult at the horse whisperer event and nine at the VBS. Marlow said they have discovered 47 prospects from the three projects including 11 who indicated they want to know more about the Sunday evening Bible study.
"The neat thing about this is the variety of churches and associations that came together from across Missouri and Iowa to work on this thing," said Larry Gibson, pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church, Kirksville-the sponsor church of the new church start.
First Baptist Church, Plattsburg, sent 11 teenagers and four adults including Youth Pastor Christopher Argent to lead the VBS July 16-19. Even though the temperatures were above 100 degrees several days, they led a spirited VBS worship with 17 children from the community.
"We had the opportunity to talk to these kids about the Bible stories and they don't come from a Christian background of church," said Zach Shelton, 17, one of the First Plattsburg youth. "I led the Bible stories and I learned how to prepare for that. I'm a bit nervous about the door-to-door visiting, but it's been fun."
Brianna Mitchell, 14, said, "I wanted to interact with the kids. I am helping with the crafts. I love watching the kids as they are singing, doing the VBS motions. It makes me happy."
Argent said he learned about the mission trip opportunity when he attended the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) last fall and stopped by an Iowa booth. He met Marlow and decided their youth needed to come to Iowa to help this summer.
Two MBC summer missionaries who are serving in northeast Missouri, Jennifer Rivera and Jessica Thompson, assisted with the three projects. Their service was met with appreciation by the locals.
"As we were giving out free water bottles and soda pop to the area business employees on the town square prior to the parade they were saying, 'Free? What do you mean free?'" Rivera said.
"Their faces were incredulous. We had opportunities to pray for some people who are having surgery and they said 'Who are you people and why are you here?' We asked this one man if we could pray for him and he said 'Pray for my wife, that she is up in heaven,' and then he started crying."
Area residents were mixed in their reactions to the new church and the activities on the town square but they were generally supportive, some even offering the missionaries and youth group members refreshments as they stopped at their homes.
Marlow was delighted.
"We hit our demographics in this project," he said. "We found kids who are not going to church anywhere. Some got saved. We found some kids in families where there were difficult home situations. The VBS was a touch in their lives from a different way of life. God was reaching out and touching them with love."
He added the new church and their leaders want Missouri and Iowa Baptists to "please continue to pray for us in this process." Potential volunteers are invited to call Marlowarlow at (641) 799-8365 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About 75 Bloomfield residents joined the group for the July 20 block party on the town square. Ethan and Kwon Butler of First Baptist Church, Winigan, spent about 20 hours roasting a hog in a barbecue smoker to feed the crowd. The Jack Thompson Family, a group of local musicians, sang praise songs and Gibson spoke to the crowd with an evangelistic message. The South-Central Iowa Baptist Association loaned its block-party trailer to the effort. Roasted pork sandwiches were distributed to the townspeople along with the love of the Missouri and Iowa volunteers.
About 10 people have started attending the Sunday night Bible study.
This article appeared in The Pathway (mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Richard Nations is director of missions for the Thousand Hills Baptist Association in Kirksville, Mo.
Technology aids Nova
By Butch Blume
SPARTANBURG, S.C. (The Baptist Courier) -- If you travel by road the 1,780 miles from Spartanburg, S.C., to Cape Breton Island, located at the northeastern tip of Nova Scotia, it will take two and a half days of "pretty good driving," according to Keith Davis.
However, if you have access to a high-speed Internet connection, you can instantaneously bring together two diverse congregations -- one in Nova Scotia, the other at 2817 East Main Street in Spartanburg -- for a shared experience of worship and Bible study.
That's what happened on a recent Wednesday evening, when members of Zion Hill Baptist Church in Spartanburg worshiped via Skype (an Internet videoconferencing program) with a small group of believers and South Carolina missions volunteers in the rural Cape Breton Island community of Goose Cove.
And it wasn't just one group of people passively watching the other. The camera panned the Mt. Zion group, which had gathered in the church's fellowship hall to view the proceedings projected onto a wall, while in Goose Cove, residents viewed South Carolinians on a television screen as they introduced themselves, leaning into the laptop's built-in camera. Someone in Spartanburg led in prayer, and someone in Goose Cove read Scripture. Worshipers on both sides sang hymns.
"It really helped our church feel a part of that mission trip," said Davis, who is pastor at Zion Hill. "It put faces with the people we had been talking about."
Davis and seven church members traveled to Cape Breton Island in late July to assist and encourage a small group of Christians who gather once a week in a home for Bible study. Because there is no evangelical church in the sparsely populated Goose Cove community, a pastor from Baddeck Village drives 45 minutes every Wednesday to meet with the Goose Cove believers.
Baddeck Village Baptist Church was established two years ago with help from South Carolina Baptists through their missions partnership with Nova Scotia. First Baptist Church, Pacolet, played a "big part" in planting the Baddeck Village church, Davis said.
Cape Breton Island is home to 120,000 people, but less than 2 percent of them "even claim to be Christians," Davis said. Hugh Morrison, a Baptist pastor in Margaree Valley in Nova Scotia, has a vision for planting churches all along the Cabot Trail, a 185-mile scenic roadway that completes a loop around the northern tip of island. Morrison is well known to South Carolina Baptists who have made the trek to Nova Scotia. "He almost pleads with God over the souls of people on that island," Davis said.
This year marked Zion Hill's second trip to Goose Cove, where the volunteers led a Vacation Bible School. Davis said some of the local residents told him it had been more than 30 years since there had been any kind of Vacation Bible School there.
Davis also said he has experienced some opposition to South Carolina Baptists' witness. "We have to go in gingerly and love on them through VBS," he said. "We're seeing the walls come down, but it's a slow go."
His church sent hymnals to the church in Baddeck Village last year, and this year they are sending craft materials. "Through our partnership, we can do things like this even though we're a small church," Davis said.
He said Zion Hill will also schedule some more Skype-enabled Bible studies with the small band of believers in Goose Cove.
Although the Zion Hill volunteers took a plane to Nova Scotia this year, Davis has, in the past, made the 3,560-mile roundtrip by bus. "I told the group last year, if Paul can go on a ship, we can go on an air-conditioned bus," he said.
Still, he added, laughing, "When I got back home, my sciatic nerve was about to kill me."
This article appeared in The Baptist Courier (baptistcourier.com), newsjournal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Butch Blume is managing editor of The Baptist Courier.
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