Today's From the States features items from:
Kentucky Baptist Convention
Baptist New Mexican
3 languages, 1 Lord
By Shannon Baker
SILVER SPRING, Md. (BaptistLIFE) -- It just makes sense. As the neighborhood demographics changed, so did Viers Mill Baptist Church.
Rather than facing a declining church membership, Viers Mill smartly opened its doors to non- Caucasian ethnic groups and in so doing, created a multi-ethnic worship environment that has created an exciting buzz throughout its campus.
Every Sunday morning at Viers Mill, four churches share space on the multi-building complex. In the basement of the church's chapel, Chinese Christians worship in Cantonese and Mandarin. In the large combined classroom space linking the older chapel with the newer sanctuary, Hispanic Christians worship in Spanish.
In the chapel's sanctuary, African American Christians worship; and in the main sanctuary, a multi-ethnic congregation worships in a traditional worship service. All at the same time.
To make it work, the four congregations, with a total of 350 worshippers, schedule their services and Sunday school classes at opposite times in order to share the space.
"We are four congregations meeting in one large facility all worshipping in slightly different ways, all reaching slightly different people. It's an exciting way to do church," shared Robert Wilson, senior pastor of Viers Mill's multi-ethnic congregation.
He explained, in the early 80s, as immigrants began moving into the area, Viers Mill had a heart to reach those who didn't speak English. So they started a Korean congregation, a Vietnamese congregation, as well as a Chinese congregation (now Montgomery Chinese Baptist Church), a Spanish congregation (Viers Mill Spanish Mission), and an African American congregation (Fellowship Baptist Church), the last three of which are still going strong.
Four times a year, the four congregations meet in the church's main sanctuary for a combined worship service, where they do the Lord's Supper and baptisms together. The four pastors share the preaching responsibility, each pastor taking one Sunday, providing the sermon and the special music.
"The Chinese and Hispanic congregations bring their hymnbooks so everybody can sing the hymns in their native language," said Wilson. "You may be singing Amazing Grace in English while the people around you are singing in Spanish and Cantonese. Just a lot of fun; it's like what you think heaven is going to be like. It's a great way of doing ministry."
Wilson explained all the churches work together to care for the space, contribute funds and share rooms and resources. Throughout the week, the fellowship hall and the larger sanctuary are available to all four congregations for weddings, funerals, revival services, concerts, and other special events on a first come, first served basis. In addition, the four pastors meet regularly for prayer, encouragement, calendaring and coordination of the facilities.
"One of the things very exciting about Viers Mill is the four congregations do not see each other as the renter or the rentees. They don't rent space from us. They are us. They are family. We're the mother church. They are the children. We're also brothers and sisters in Christ working together, reaching other people that the congregations can't," he said.
"That's really very exciting, particularly here in the Viers Mill community, where the schools have as many as 80 different languages spoken by children. This is an international community. And any way we can reach people for Christ, we want to try and do that, no matter what language they speak."
Wilson's congregation has people from Ethiopia, China, India, and from around the world. The Spanish congregation has people from all across Central and South America. The Chinese congregation is mostly Cantonese speakers from across China but there are also some Southeast Asians and Vietnamese and even Thai participants.
"This really points out the fact that to us, language is the key and in our area, English is the minority language," Wilson said. "We are a language congregation the way the Cantonese and Spanish language churches are. We are trying to reach the minority population by speaking the minority language."
The Spanish and the Cantonese congregations have the largest membership, but the focus on the multiethnic worship has been meaningful to each church.
"We work together, laugh together, pray together and enjoy life together. Once, the Cuban Spanish pastor baptized an African American boy in front of the group of Cantonese and European Christians," Wilson said. "I love that story. It sort of sums up who we are: four congregations, three languages, but just one Lord, working together to try and reach the very big, very diverse neighborhood."
To learn more, visit online at www.viersmillbaptist.org and www.montgomeryba.com.
This article appeared in BaptistLIFE (baptistlifeonline.org), newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. Shannon Baker is a national correspondent for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.
St. Louis Baptists thankful
for Kentucky partnership
By Ken Walker
ST. LOUIS (Kentucky Baptist Convention) -- Florissant Valley Baptist Church Located in northern St. Louis County, Mo., is an aging congregation whose members have found new hope thanks to the Kentucky St. Louis Partnership.
Launched at last year's annual meeting of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, the partnership has mobilized approximately 15 teams of Kentucky Baptists to serve in St. Louis this year. A greater number is expected in 2013.
Southern Baptist pastors in the Gateway City say they are grateful for the partnership—whose goals are to revitalize churches like Florissant Valley and plant new ones.
"We have a lot of struggles because we're small, but I love the Kingdom mindset that exists in this area," said Florissant's pastor, Ronn Brooks. "The Kentucky partnership is an awesome extension of that."
Among teams traveling west this year were the Muhlenberg Baptist Association, which helped stage Florissant Valley's vacation Bible school in late July. Ten children accepted Christ as Savior that week.
In late October, the church will welcome a team from Three Forks Baptist Association, based in Hazard. The group will help stage a "Trunk or Treat" Oct. 31, an event that usually draws 200 youngsters.
"We're enormously grateful for that," said Brooks, whose congregation averages 75 in Sunday attendance. "It would have been very hard to pull off without their help."
Tom Firasek of the St. Louis Metro Baptist Association said many of its 140 churches have fewer than 125 members or regular attendees, so extra manpower is needed for special projects.
"We're very pleased," said Firasek, who will visit Lexington to help staff an information booth at this year's KBC Annual Meeting, Nov. 13 at Immanuel Baptist Church. "We've had several churches looking at long-term partnerships. One did survey work for a new start that launched Sept. 1."
This activity symbolizes the closeness developing between Baptists in Kentucky and St. Louis.
Scott Pittman, KBC Mission Strategies & Partnerships consultant, attended the St. Louis association's annual meeting in mid-September. KBC also helped fund a late-August church planting conference in St. Louis.
"I've gotten a very positive response from people I talked to there," Pittman said. "I had a booth at the association meeting and one woman came up and said, 'We love Kentucky Baptists!'"
The partnership isn't a one-way street. Ken Lovelace, pastor of Amazing Love Community Church in St. Louis, recently was guest preacher at First Baptist Church of Richmond.
Ron Boyd, missions committee member at First Baptist Church of Richmond, extended the invitation to the pastor after the Kentucky congregation helped host a VBS and a block party at Amazing Love.
"We'll be back," Boyd said. "I wouldn't be surprised if we return in the next few months. There are so many needs there—physically, financially and others."
The partnership has inspired some Kentucky Baptists to venture beyond the border. After hearing about it at last year's annual meeting, Lexington pastor Jeremy Couture sensed God answering his prayer about a missions opportunity.
The six members of Parkway Baptist Church who traveled to St. Louis in late July marked the first time the 125-person congregation had sent a mission team outside the state.
Parkway Baptist helped a new church, Confluence Baptist, by distributing literature door-to-door, prayer walking, and passing out free water and snow cones in several area parks.
"For those who went, I think it's made them more aware of church planting and outreach opportunities right here in Lexington," Couture said. "I hope it also serves as a platform to take more outbound mission trips in the future."
One of the most active KBC churches this year has been Lone Oak First Baptist Church of Paducah, which sent five groups to tackle various projects.
They included a pair of youth teams led by Minister of Students Brian Isbell. The teens completed a spring break construction project at one church and community improvement work at another.
Jeff Wallace, First Baptist's minister of global outreach, said he recently received inquiries from a Sunday school class and a men's Bible study group about getting involved.
"St. Louis is just three hours away from us and very do-able," Wallace said. "One of the cool things about the partnership is all the guys in leadership are from St. Louis. They grew up there and have a passion to reach that city for the Lord."
That passion, coupled with Kentucky Baptists' willingness to help wherever needed, are proving to be a dynamic combination.
"They didn't come to be stars, they came to be servants," Brooks said. "That's what Kentucky should celebrate. You're getting known for that servant mindset."
In addition to assisting existing congregations, Kentucky Baptists are helping start new churches in metro St. Louis through the North American Mission Board's "Send North America" emphasis. For details, visit www.namb.net.
Learn more about the Kentucky St. Louis Partnership at www.kybaptist.org/stlouis or call (502) 489-3420 or 1-866-489-3420 (toll-free in Kentucky).
For more information, visit the KBC website at www.kybaptist.org or find "Kentucky Baptist Convention" on Facebook or follow "kentuckybaptist" on Twitter.
This story by freelance writer Ken Walker originated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention's communications office.
ministry turns 10
By John Loudat
SOCORRO, N.M. (Baptist New Mexican) -- Grace Chinese Fellowship, a ministry of First Baptist Church, Socorro, celebrated its first 10 years and welcomed a group of new college students on Saturday evening, Aug. 25, at the church.
The celebration took place in the Mandarin language, since the ministry is an outreach to Chinese students and professors at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (also called New Mexico Tech). There was translation for those in attendance who speak only English.
Fellowship Hall was close to full for the meal that made the Chinese feel right at home. During the supper, which kicked off the evening, close to a dozen new students introduced themselves to their fellow students and professors and the guests who had come for the celebration.
"The Grace of God" was the title of the 10-minute PowerPoint presentation that was part of the service that was held in the auditorium following the meal. Shown were pictures that chronicled significant events from the past decade, including Bible studies, baptisms, meals, retreats, celebrations and visiting mission teams.
Five men traveled all the way from San Antonio, Texas, for the festivities, representing First Chinese Baptist Church in San Antonio, which has been supporting the ministry and its leader, Anna Tai.
One of the men, Hongjie Xie, had moved to Socorro from El Paso, Texas, 10 years ago when, he testified during the service, God called him to start a Bible study for the Chinese students at the university where he had been employed as a professor.
Sharing about the ministry's beginning on Sept. 21, 2002, Xie, who now is an associate professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio, expressed his gratitude for First Baptist Church and its pastor at the time, Carl Russell, for making the church available for the new work.
Tai arrived a few weeks later, in November, and began what has turned into an impressive ministry of "harvesting" and "serving" the "students and scholars," Xie recalled.
"Thanks to Anna for 10 years service to God," Xie said.
Also bringing words of congratulation and support were Deacon Dai from a church in El Paso that also supports the ministry, and this writer, representing the Baptist Convention of New Mexico.
Tai, a Mission Service Corps missionary of the North American Mission Board, is also supported by NAMB and the BCNM. She shared during the service that when she moved to Socorro from California she expected to stay only three weeks. Since that time, she reported, 150 Chinese have become Christians through the ministry and moved back to China and other places, sharing their newfound faith in Christ.
Also expressing his gratitude for the ministry was First Baptist's current pastor, Bob Farmer, who thanked Tai for her "working and planting and harvesting," and the church he has led for the past eight years, and its pastor at the time, for their willingness to be involved in starting the new work.
Speaking through an interpreter, Farmer challenged everyone during his message that evening to pursue the righteousness that comes only through Jesus Christ.
"There is nothing greater than the excellency of knowing Jesus," Farmer declared, emphasizing that was true even for those who would enjoy impressive careers after they graduate.
Tai, a native of Taiwan, is a U.S. citizen. A graduate of Harvest Seminary in San Jose, Calif., she has extensive experience in mission work in Cambodia, China and the U.S.
While Grace Chinese Fellowship is a ministry of First Baptist, it functions as its own congregation, Farmer told the Baptist New Mexican. The group meets for Bible study at the church on Thursday evenings, and Tai opens her home for lunch and Bible study on Saturdays. She also stays busy visiting and praying with Chinese in the community throughout the week, and she is known to many of the students as, understandably, "Mom."
This article appeared in the Baptist New Mexican, newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico (bcnm.com). John Loudat is editor of the Baptist New Mexican.
Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net