FROM THE STATES: Mich., Ala. & Ky. evangelism/missions news; "The rest of them are lost, so we have a lot of work to do"

Baptist Press
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Posted: May 14, 2013 5:52 PM
Today's From the States features items from:

Baptist Beacon (Michigan)

The Alabama Baptist

Western Recorder (Kentucky)

Hmong churches share passion

to eliminate lostness in Michigan

By Karen L. Willoughby

ROSEVILLE, Mich. (Baptist Beacon) -- "Bro. Pao is a humble servant who has led the church he pastors to love people," says former associational missionary Marc Bewley about Cher Pao Yang.

Yang actually pastors four churches, leads the Hmong work in Michigan and Ohio, and works a 40-hour week as a machine operator.

"It's very difficult; I don't have much time out somewhere," Yang says. "In Hmong area we have 7,000 people . Counting together we have around 1,500 to 2,000 only are Christian. The rest of them are lost, so we have a lot of work to do."

Yang pastors Hmong American Baptist Church in Roseville, First Hmong Baptist Church in Centerline, Hmong Baptist Church in Pontiac, and Akron Hmong Baptist Mission in Ohio.

"Pao's church has very gifted deacons who serve God, their pastor and the church well," Bewley said. "This is an evangelistic and missions-minded people and pastor!"

At Hmong American Baptist, about 75 participate in Sunday afternoon worship services at the Antioch Baptist Church building. The service is followed by the third year of a class of MasterLife for about a dozen different people each year. MasterLife is a 26-week discipleship training program produced by LifeWay Christian Resources of Nashville, which like the Michigan Baptist Convention is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

"MasterLife is working in my life, and I've been sharing with the lost people, and they are becoming newborn babies in Christ, so MasterLife is working really well," Yang said. "It is working with the adults and the youth. It helps them grow in Christ."

Yang makes home and hospital visits after he arrives home about 6 p.m. each evening, and does ministry on the weekends. He also attends Hmong funerals, which traditionally are well-attended.

"When we get there, we raise our hand to their house and pray, and God comes to their house and they become Christian," Yang said, referring to his wife Sarah. "That's how I get Hmong people to come to Christ.

"My wife is also help me when we are in communication with the lost," the pastor continued. "I see she have a gift that encourages. When people deny Christ and don't want to believe, she talks with them and they make decision to accept Christ."

Yang's decision to accept Christ came after he fled Laos for the relative safety of a refugee camp in Thailand, and then immigrated to Memphis, Tenn., where his sponsors took him to a Baptist church.

"One of the interpreters was in my language," Yang said. "I heard 'Jesus love you and He care about you.' I was very sick and my family was back in Laos, and I have no hope, and I come to Christ."

Yang shares his testimony on www.hmongabc.org:

Pao Cher Yang was born into a non-Christian family with eight children. He is the third oldest in his family.

Back in Laos, he and his family spent most of their days working on the farm. While working on the farm in June 1977, he recalls a memorable conversation with his father. His father asked him if wanted to go live in town with a pastor the following year. He asked, "What is a pastor?" His father replied, "They are people that teaches about the Word of God."

Although Pao had wanted to do as his father asked, the unfortunate event of the Communist takeover in Vietnam that following year prevented him from doing so. In 1979, he moved to Thailand and lived with his sister for about five months before they were sponsored to the United States.

Editor's note: It was 20 years before Yang was able to find and contact his parents and other siblings. A great joy in his life is that he led his father to the Lord before his father died in 2009.

In America, his sponsors introduced him to Christianity and provided transportation to and from church every Sunday. When he first heard of the Gospel, it really caught his attention. He had never heard of anything like that before and after a month, he came to accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

Unfortunately, two months after receiving Christ, he moved to another state to be with His relocation changed his life style from being in a Christian environment to a non-Christian. He did not return to God for another three years.

A turning point in his walk came when he became very ill. One of his uncles was very concerned about his health and had suggested that he get his fortune told by a very well-known shaman. He got his palm read and was told that he was in a life-threatening situation, because his soul was missing. He was terrified by the fortune and did not know what to do. He wanted to write his parents back in Laos, but wasn't sure he could find them. So he turned back to God for guidance.

He took a Bible and asked God to help. As he opened the Bible, it landed on John 5:24. In it, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." After reading this, he knelt down and prayed. He prayed, "Father in heaven, I praise you. I believe that you can deliver me from death and into life. I trust in you. If I die today please take me with you. But if I live, I will be one of your servants. I pray in Jesus's name, Amen." Soon after the prayer, his health and life gradually got better.

He started to live a Christian life again and studied the Bible. In 1990 he moved from Dallas, Texas, to Detroit, Michigan. He attended the First Hmong Baptist Church and started his training in seminary extension, taught by Pastor Nia Leng Vang.

Soon after he finished training, he was ordained as deacon. He served the Lord as a deacon to First Hmong from 1994 to November 2005.

Although he felt he was not worthy nor ready, God was calling him to pursue a new passion in his walk. Not once or twice, even three times, but on his fourth calling, Pao pursued on to a new congregation with a new purpose. On December 1 of 2006, Pao along with his wife, Kia (Sarah) and daughter Angela, joined the Hmong American Baptist Church in Roseville, Mich.

He was called upon there to help serve as acting Pastor. On March 31, 2007, Pao Cher Yang was ordained by the Blue Waters Baptist Association of the Southern Baptist Convention in Michigan as Pastor of the Hmong American Baptist Church. End of website testimony.

Hmongs - like many other people - moved to Michigan because of the availability of good jobs, Yang explained.

"Michigan is a state a lot of Hmong people find job easy," the pastor said. "Now is not easy; it's hard. But God is good. God hold me, so I praise the Lord."

This article appeared in the Baptist Beacon (baptistbeacon.net), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Baptist Beacon.

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Alabama associations

work together

By Grace Thornton

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (The Alabama Baptist) -- The 2 million unchurched people in Alabama can look pretty different.

In Marshall County alone, they could be Haitians, Ethiopians or Hispanics.

"And we also have a lot of cowboys — yee-haw," said Randall Stoner, director of missions for Marshall Baptist Association. "The Lord has brought the missions field here, and we are an association of churches working together to get it done."

Christians in Marshall County want to glorify God by fulfilling the Great Commission, Stoner said, and the association's 103 Baptist churches "can do a lot more with one another to reach the 2 million lost in Alabama."

Six cowboy churches are meeting now in Marshall County, and a Haitian church has gotten started recently too.

"An Ethiopian group is meeting at Victory Baptist in Guntersville, and we saw two of them saved two weeks ago," Stoner said. "We couldn't speak their language, but they understood enough English to know they wanted the Jesus we had."

The association also has ministries running that provide housing for the homeless, as well as job-skill training and medical treatment for those who need it. Recovery churches, aimed at helping people who struggle with addictions, have now grown from 19 people to more than 1,000 meeting each week in cell groups.

"We couldn't do it by ourselves," Stoner said. "One church could not handle all these ministries."

This is exactly what associational missions is all about, said Rick Barnhart, director of the office of associational missions and church planting for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.

"The association is truly to be a uniting of likeminded churches established for the welfare of spreading the gospel in a particular area of the state," he said. Churches that might not be able to handle a load of varied ministries themselves can team up to do ministry evangelism — food pantries, homeless shelters, counseling centers and a whole host of other things, Barnhart said.

And the association is to be "missionally strategic" in its approach to reaching its area, he said.

"Directors of missions must think like a missionary as they look at the needs … and as they look specifically at the churches that they are charged and privileged to serve with," Barnhart said. "Thinking missionally means developing strategies that are specific to the communities and people groups we are honored to reach."

For Birmingham Baptist Association (BBA), that strategy looks like partnerships aimed at reaching "Jerusalem" first, said Mike McLemore, BBA executive director of missions.

"We here in the Birmingham Baptist Association see our mission as one of assisting and resourcing our churches to fulfill the Great Commission," he said, noting the association serves as a channel to help churches reach the metropolitan area.

It does that through a range of inner-city ministries that do things like feed the hungry, help underprivileged children and take the gospel into elementary schools, provide medical equipment to people who need it and mobilize teams of students to help with home repair. The Church's mission is "a global mission, but it begins here at home and spreads throughout the world," McLemore said.

Thomas Wright, executive director of missions for Mobile Baptist Association, agreed. Through the International Ministries Center — aimed at seafarers, refugees and other immigrants — Mobile Baptists hope to get the gospel to the world.

"Missions can be defined as the redemptive activity of God's people," he said, noting that the association provides opportunities for churches and their members "to use their gifts locally, nationally and internationally."

This article appeared in The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Grace Thornton is assistant editor of The Alabama Baptist. Julie Payne is a news writer for The Alabama Baptist.

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Kentucky churches seek to

'expand' urban partnerships

By Ken Walker

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W. Va. (Western Recorder) -- Though Kentucky native Chris Dalton is a long way from home, the pastor of Exalt Community Church senses support from familiar faces.

With Exalt's first preview service scheduled for September, Burkesville Baptist Church recently agreed to offer prayer and financial support and make a future visit.

In addition, in June a team from the Lincoln County Baptist Association will help Exalt the Southern Baptist church with prayerwalking and other tasks.

"It makes me feel like even though we're 240 miles from where we grew up, people still see the importance of ministry continuing on, and not just where they're located," Dalton said. "It's been a huge support for me."

These partnerships are among many continuing through Go Metro. The Kentucky Baptist Convention launched this emphasis in the fall of 2010 to encourage churches and associations to help plant churches in urban areas.

Though the official who spearheaded the launch has departed, KBC missions mobilization leader Eric Allen said Go Metro is still operational.

"The KBC's role was to cast vision, assist in networking associations and provide some initial resources," Allen said. "The level of involvement was, and still is, up to the local associations."

"We want to expand our vision," said Kyle Page, pastor of Pleasant View Baptist Church. The Waynesburg congregation helped stage a Vacation Bible School last summer at West Virginia's North Charleston Baptist Church and will return June 23.

"What we've done in the past is great, but it's just a small beginning for what God wants us to do," Page said. "Over the long term we can make an impact, not only locally but globally."

Pleasant View is one of several in the Lincoln County Baptist Association helping church planters in the Huntington-

Charleston corridor, the state's primary urban area.

The partnership also includes Kentuckians from the Pulaski, Freedom and Wayne associations.

"It's helped our churches cooperate a little with the work of the association," said Gary King, director of missions for the Lincoln association. "That's what pastors have said they wanted."

While he said getting churches involved is a gradual process, Robert Spradlin—director of missions for Freedom and Wayne associations—is encouraged that two churches have already volunteered.

In addition to the Burkesville partnership, last summer Oak Grove Baptist Church of Monticello took a team to Huntington.

Working near Marshall University, they helped put on a backyard Bible club, cleaned yards, did small construction jobs, and spent a day knocking on doors. The latter effort led to four professions of faith in Christ.

"Our goals are to connect with church planters and existing churches," Spradlin said. "We want to be an encouragement to them to share the gospel … and lead our association to pray more for our partnership."

Meanwhile, a multi-faceted partnership focused on metropolitan Pittsburgh is helping stir excitement, according to Cliff Jenkins, an urban church planting catalyst there.

Jenkins said five new works are underway through the Kentucky partnership, which has a goal of starting 30 over a three-year period.

"It's been a pretty good help," Jenkins said. "We're coming up on the end of the first year. There have been a lot of starts, but it will take a little time to reach the goal."

Partnering with Pittsburgh are the Nelson, Lynn, Severns Valley and Oldham-Trimble Baptist Associations.

The groups stay in touch through a Facebook page on which they share prayer requests, travel plans and personal updates.

This is a two-way partnership, with several Pittsburgh church planters speaking at various churches and meetings in Kentucky last year and again this spring.

"That's one thing I didn't expect to happen," said Stan Lowery, director of missions for the Nelson association.

"One of the most exciting things is the partnerships that are developing. It's church-driven—churches are connecting with church planters. Seeing the local churches getting strengthened by partnering has been a real plus."

Members of Rineyville Baptist Church and Upton Baptist Church are planning a trip to Pittsburgh the week of July 7 to put on a Vacation Bible School and help with renovations at an associational ministry center.

Not only is Rineyville pastor Mitch Ash excited about his congregation's first trip to Pittsburgh, he hopes to establish a long-term relationship with a new church called The Forge.

"We're excited about the opportunity," Ash said. "That's a different world up there than down here in the Elizabethtown area."

The pastor's challenge last fall to make 2013 a year of missions projects has paid dividends, with Rineyville Baptist raising a record $9,300-plus in its December international missions offering.

In addition to its upcoming trip, members have collected clothing and other supplies for two Kentucky Baptist outreaches, are preparing comfort kits and quilts for Sunrise Children's Home, and have members directly involved in international missions.

"We've seen all our missions activity increase," Ash said. "I'm seeing people being blessed by this."

This article appeared in the Western Recorder (westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Ken Walker is a freelance writer for the Western Recorder.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: From the States, published each Tuesday by Baptist Press, relays news and feature stories from state Baptist papers and other publications on initiatives by Baptist churches, associations and state conventions in evangelism, church planting and Great Commission outreach, including partnership missions. Reports about churches, associations and state conventions responding to the International Mission Board's call to embrace the world's 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups also are included in From the States, along with reports about church, associational and state convention initiatives in conjunction with the North American Mission Board's call to Southern Baptist churches to broaden their efforts in starting new churches and satellite campuses. The items appear in Baptist Press as originally published.

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