Today's From the States features items from:
Florida Baptist Convention
Biblical Recorder (North Carolina)
The Alabama Baptist
Orlando home to Florida Baptists'
first Japanese church plant
By Barbara Denman
ORLANDO, Fla. (Florida Baptist Convention) -- A Korean co-worker trained in Evangelism Explosion often asked Masaya Ginter if she died today would she go to heaven. At first, the Japanese woman responded yes, because "I am a good person."
But the co-worker kept asking until one day Ginter fully understood the implications of the query and accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, "knowing that I was saved by faith," she said, and was baptized "in obedience."
Although early in their conversation, Ginter told her co-worker that she was Buddhist, she now believes "I was Buddhist by tradition and ancestry."
With her newfound Christian faith, the former military wife developed a desire to study the Bible in her own language and began a home Bible study for other Japanese people in 1997. As the Bible study group grew, it moved to a local church before finding a permanent home at Orlando's Dover Shores Baptist Church.
From that initial Evangelism Explosion question, a passionate new believer thirsting for God's Word and God's infinite plan has evolved into the first Japanese-language church in the Florida Baptist Convention.
Orlando Japanese Baptist Church, a church planted for the Central Florida's Japanese community, was started with Ginter's Bible study participants as the core group and now draws 60 persons in attendance each week.
The church is a testimony to the cooperation of God's people in planting churches to reach every culture. Playing integral roles were the Japanese Church Planting Network (JCPN), which is affiliated with the North American Mission Board; Florida Baptist Convention; Greater Orlando Baptist Association; and Dover Shores Baptist Church, which hosts and sponsors the congregation.
The JCPN, based in Oregon, has as its goal to plant 120 Japanese churches in North America by 2020. With 14 churches from Oregon to Maryland, the network began targeting Florida as a potential new church site, thinking Miami because of its diversity would be a likely location, said Mike Yokoy, JCPN director.
According to the U.S. Census, Florida has 11,000 Japanese residents not including those from "mixed marriages," such as military wives like Ginter or employees of international corporations working in the state, Yokoy said.
When he learned of this band of Christian believers in Orlando who faithfully met together to study the Bible and pray, Yokoy decided God had placed them there for a purpose. With that nucleus, the church was planted.
"Thinking back, I can say that this was all God's plan and He was leading us all the way," said Ginter, who continues to be a leader within the congregation.
When the church first started meeting, a Japanese pastor from St. Louis traveled to Orlando each month for two years to preach for the congregation.
Then more than a year ago, the congregation called Hiro Takaoka as the first full-time pastor.
But before Takaoka, who was in the States studying for the ministry, could assume responsibilities as pastor, he was required to return to his homeland and change his student visa to a religious work visa, a year-long process.
Critical to his immigration was the promise of a guaranteed salary, which is being equally underwritten by the sponsoring church, association and state convention. Pine Castle Baptist Church provided the pastor their mission house for a year while First Spanish Baptist Church donated a car for the pastor's use.
Takaoka and his wife, Megumi, a concert pianist and opera singer, arrived in July and are expecting their first child in January. Both are gifted musicians who lead the church in worship and praise. Since their arrival, four new Christians have been baptized.
Pat Pasley, a layperson who coordinates the ministry for Dover Shores, said Takaoka brings "a humble spirit and real sense of direction, and is open to ideas for growth."
Toshie Metts was among the four new converts and in a testimony shared with the congregation, told how she knew nothing about the Bible before attending the study. Then "little by little and bit by bit, I learned about the Bible" until "I believed that Jesus died for my sins and forgave me."
Seiko Moody, who like many in the church came to America as a military wife, became a "born again Christian" through the study of the Bible in Japanese.
Hearing the Word of God in one's language is critical to reaching any culture with the Gospel, said Pastor Takaoka. "The Word of God goes into the heart as well as the brain. To fully understand, God's Word should be incarnate and learned in one's original language."
The Japanese congregation is one of two language churches that meet in the Orlando church's facility. A Filipino congregation also worships there.
Pastor Bill Tummons said the Dover Shores congregation believes it is "our responsibility to reach every culture, every language group in our community in Central Florida. That is why we are partnering with the Japanese church plant to reach its diverse culture."
James Fortinberry, who served as Dover Shores' interim pastor and helped coordinate the new congregation said now that the Bible study has evolved into a church, it will better reach people.
"This is just the first one." he said of the Japanese church. "Once they begin to make disciples, it will lead to new churches planted across Florida, targeting the Japanese people in Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville. This can be the beginning of a church planting movement among Florida's Japanese people."
This article appeared in the Florida Baptist Witness (gofbw.com), newsjournal of the Florida Baptist Convention. Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention.
Vision tour leads to
new Boston partnership
By Melissa Lilley
ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. (Biblical Recorder) -- When pastor Robin Fisher visited Boston and met church planter Stephen McDonald he learned that his church back home in rural northeast North Carolina may have more in common with the big city than he thought.
Fisher, who pastors Sunset Avenue Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, met McDonald in the Boston suburb of Lowell during a vision tour sponsored by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) Office of Great Commission Partnerships, in partnership with the North American Mission Board.
Lowell is located about 25 miles northwest of Boston along the Merrimack River and is a former mill town and major textile-manufacturing center that grew rapidly during the Industrial Revolution. When the textile plants eventually closed Lowell was forced to reinvest and revitalize.
Fisher said when he was in Lowell he was reminded of Rocky Mount, which also has a suburban feel and was once a popular industrial area.
McDonald shared with Fisher about how he and his wife moved to Lowell about a year and half ago to plant Mill City Church. The church is primarily reaching native New Englanders, as Lowell is not a transient area. Lowell, like the rest of New England, has very few believers.
Among 14.3 million New Englanders, less than three percent will attend an evangelical church on any given weekend. About 97 out of every 100 New Englanders do not know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.
The BSCNC partnership with the Baptist Convention of New England includes a specific focus on Boston and the interior of the I-495 loop around Boston. This area is home to 4.5 million people, about 100 Southern Baptist churches and cities as large as 100,000 that have no gospel-preaching church.
"We don't usually think there is a church planting need in the United States that would be comparable to international missions, but there is a great need here," Fisher said.
After the vision tour Fisher knew he wanted Sunset Avenue to be involved in Boston, specifically through beginning a partnership with McDonald and Mill City Church. "He has a vision," Fisher said. "He has a strategy and a process, and it is obvious God is blessing it."
Fisher is working to develop a missions strategy for Sunset Avenue that will help them partner internationally as well as nationally and locally.
"We want our strategy to be about evangelism and church plants that will plant other churches," he said. "Instead of hit and miss, we'd like to be more intentional in focusing on planters and church planting."
Fisher said some church members may be hesitant about serving in a more urban context, since they are coming from a rural setting - but those concerns won't last long. "When you get there and meet the people doing the work, those concerns will be taken care of. It's much more about people and relationships than it is about place," he said.
Although the partnership is still in its earliest stages, and the concept of long-term partnership is new for Sunset Avenue, Fisher is excited about working with Mill City Church and learning from McDonald along the way.
"We want this to be a two-way partnership. We realize how much need there is in Rocky Mount, in our own region," Fisher said. "Stephen can help us cast the vision for how we can reach our area."
Fisher also expects to soon bring McDonald to North Carolina. "We want our people to meet him and hear his heart and vision. He will personalize the partnership for us and it will be easier to call people to pray specific prayers," Fisher said.
Fisher recommends a vision tour to any North Carolina Baptist pastor. "This was the best investment of a day and a half I can remember in a long, long time," he said. "It truly did give us a flavor of the city. I would be surprised if anyone came away from a vision tour without some kind of burden to pursue partnership."
To learn more about Mill City Church visit www.millcitychurch.net.
To get involved in Boston or participate in an upcoming vision tour visit www.ncbaptist.org/gcp.
Boston is just one area in North America in great need of the gospel. Come to the North American Mission Board commissioning service Tuesday, Nov. 13, during the BSCNC annual meeting in Greensboro to learn more about church planters and missionaries serving in some of the nation's most unreached areas. Visit www.ncannualmeeting.org.
Sulphur Springs Baptist helps
Ugandan nurse meet needs
By Grace Thornton
TRUSSVILLE, Ala. (The Alabama Baptist) -- A few years back, Betty Ogwang quit her job at the hospital in Uganda, drove her motorcycle into the bush and stayed there.
She opened a little clinic and takes chickens, corn and beans as payment when the people can afford it. And when they can't, she treats them anyway.
Thanks to Sulphur Springs Baptist Church in Trussville, Ala.
"We were able to help pay for her to get training as a nurse aid, and now we help fund her work," said Don Minyard, a member of Sulphur Springs Baptist. "Once when we were there on a trip, we found her outside saving a man's life who was dying of malaria. She had him hooked up to an IV that she'd bought with her own money."
So Minyard asked her — if we bought you a motorcycle and gave you $400 a month, what could you do? How many times could you go into the bush?
She decided to go and stay.
"And thanks to people giving generously, we support her," Minyard said.
The church supports a lot in Uganda.
It started before Minyard and Sulphur Springs Baptist even knew each other.
"Back before I joined the church in 2007, I was part of a group supporting seminary work in India," he said.
Then he found out that the seminary had gotten so self-sufficient it was sending the money on to help war-torn Uganda.
"We thought, 'Whoa, where's our money going?' So we decided to do due diligence and find out," Minyard said.
And what they found was Anthony Ogwang — Betty's father — who was helping hundreds of fellow Ugandans, winning them to the Lord and grouping them into churches.
"People were coming in and living around the city where he was, and he was using the money to feed them," Minyard said. "We were excited about how the funds had been used to do the Lord's work."
So he decided to keep on helping. And then he joined Sulphur Springs Baptist, led by Pastor Bobby Shipp. "It's a little church — only about a hundred people — but it's a little church that does a lot," Minyard said. "We rival some of the bigger churches with shoeboxes (Operation Christmas Child) and have strong gifts to Lottie Moon (Christmas Offering)."
So when Minyard introduced the church to the work in Uganda, they immediately got on board and fell in love, said church secretary Cindy Roper.
"You can give money all the time, but when you have a hands-on way to help, it sparks the congregation's interest in a big way," Roper said.
Since 2007, Sulphur Springs has helped to collect thousands of dollars, shoes, eyeglasses and toys for the people of Uganda.
Minyard takes a team every year with a dentist, a doctor and others who can help out in a place where war victims have had their teeth broken off by the enemy, where children have never worn shoes and people die from simple infections.
He and his teammates also have set up a way for people in the United States to sponsor orphans there, as well as the families who take them in.
"Seventy orphans and families are being fed and clothed and are going to school thanks to these sponsorships. It's a privilege that we get to be a part," he said. "It's really Third World there, and we can see our money go a long way to help. But most of all, we want to see people come to the Lord."
And it seems they are, Minyard said.
Anthony Ogwang — who is supported in part by Sulphur Springs Baptist and came to Trussville to meet the church recently — has seen 38 churches come from the first one he planted. Some meet under trees, seven meet in adobe buildings and one — named after Sulphur Springs Baptist — meets in a brick building.
More than 150 people meet at the Ugandan Sulphur Springs church — a larger congregation than its namesake.
"A small church can do a lot, can give a lot and see a lot happen," Minyard said. "You just have to know where your blessings come from."
This article appeared in The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Grace Thornton is assistant editor of The Alabama Baptist.
Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net