FROM THE STATES: Dakotas, N.M. & Texas evangelism/missions news; America's heartland ripe for spiritual harvest

Baptist Press
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Posted: May 21, 2013 5:22 PM
Today's From the States features items from:

Dakota Baptist Connections

Baptist New Mexican

Southern Baptist Texan

I-29 group targets

Sioux Falls, S.D.

By Karen L. Willoughby

OMAHA, Neb. (Dakota Baptist Connections) -- With little fanfare, a new eight-state group in the nation's heartland has formed over the last several months, and they're not letting any grain grow under their feet.

They met for the second time May 17 in Omaha, and chose Sioux Falls, S.D., as their first objective. They plan to meet in Sioux Falls next month for a look-see at the city and its greatest church planting/church strengthening needs and opportunities.

"There were 11 of us, from the Dakotas, Minnesota/Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas/Nebraska and Missouri," said Morgan Medford, a church planting strategist who lives in the Fargo, N.D. area. "We basically were giving an update as to what's going on in our conventions along the I-29 Corridor as it relates to church planting.

"As a group we were talking more and more, and then the group decided Sioux Falls was to be the primary place -- the first place -- we could work together in church planting," Medford continued. "It's easier to get mission teams to Kansas City or Omaha, but the further north you go, the harder it is to get mission teams from the South to come and help, because of the travel time involved."

The idea behind the I-29 group is that church plants won't be as dependent as in the past on churches from the South for missions support, and at the same time, members of church plants in the Heartland will get involved from their earliest days in missions projects.

"It's us helping one another," Medford said. "Rather than just being receivers, it gives us an opportunity to give.... We want to put into our church plants' DNA that they are missionaries and missions-sending organizations. That expands our vision."

He's part of an 18-month-old church plant in Moorhead, Minn., that could probably cobble together six to ten people for a mission trip, Medford said. "Maybe there's something happening in Iowa," the church planting strategist said. "We could go to Iowa to help a brand-new church. We could do a block party, prayerwalk, talk to people at Starbucks or a grocery store, or whatever. We could help!"

The I-29 Corridor stretches in a seamless four-lane path south from Winnipeg, Manitoba -- though technically the interstate system doesn't start until the Canada/United States border - to Kansas City, Mo., coursing along the banks of the Red River of the North, which separates the Dakotas from Minnesota. It meets up in Sioux City, Iowa, an hour south of Sioux Falls, S.D., with the Missouri River, which it follows through Omaha, Neb., St. Joseph, Mo., and Kansas City, Mo.

Sioux Falls was selected as the I-29 group's first priority, because the city has a population of about 240,000, no church plants at the present time, and just four small churches that affiliate with the Dakota Baptist Convention.

"Quite a few of the guys have never been to Sioux Falls," Medford said. "It will be just a one-day meeting on June 17, including a short mini-vision tour to see what's out there."

The first meeting of the I-29 group was last November at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.

"We were really on the front end of the discussion at that time," Medford said. "Each state convention was looking at church planting from their perspective. But if we looked at it commonly, could we perhaps pool resources to make a more significant impact than any one state convention could do on its own? That was the question we were asking."

That first meeting was the icebreaker; by the May meeting, the partnership path already had grown wide enough for the group as a whole to latch onto Sioux Falls as its first joint thrust.

"I'm excited to see this," Medford said. "There are many places around Sioux Falls where we need more churches."

Grand Forks, N.D., is second on the I-29 group's list of priority church planting needs along the I-29 Corridor. Counting the air base located 12 miles outside of town, Grand Forks has a population of about 60,000, two small churches and no work specifically targeting Air Force personnel.

"We established prioritization of seven hub cities, and parallel to that will be a specific strategy to work with smaller towns and rural situations," said Mark Elliott, chairman of the group in addition to being director of missions for the Eastern Nebraska Baptist Association, headquartered in Omaha.

The five state/regional conventions in the eight-state area have each designated a person or persons to serve on the informal I-29 group.

The seven hub cities -- in order of being prioritized -- are Sioux Falls, S.D., Grand Forks, N.D., Fargo, N.D./Moorhead, Minn., Winnepeg, Manitoba, Sioux City, Iowa, Omaha/Council Bluffs, Iowa, and St. Joseph, Mo.

"The broader piece of this is to cast a vision for reaching the people," Elliott said. "For example, in conjunction with our meeting in June in Sioux Falls, Steve Patterson, the Joplin guy, might bring a couple of pastors with him."

The I-29 group opened its informal "membership" to state conventions along the emerging I-49 Corridor that is to stretch north from New Orleans to Kansas City, Mo. Together the I-29 and I-49 corridors span the nation's heartland from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

Adding the I-49 southern states -- Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana -- as a support system to the I-29 states will add to the impact that can be made for God's kingdom work, Elliott said.

America's "heartland," with its acres and acres of corn, soybeans and grains, is ripe for a spiritual harvest, Elliott said. The ethnic groups -- Scandinavians, Dutch, Germans and others -- who settled in the Great Plains states in 1870s-80s - brought their conservative church denominations with them. But while the denominations may not be as conservative as once they were, the Bible-loving people still are, making them more open to the conservative theology of Southern Baptists.

But even more important than responding to an opportune moment is the need people have for the gospel of Jesus Christ, Elliott said.

"As I understand the Word of God, apart from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, a person is condemned to eternal isolation and separation from the One True and Loving God," Elliott said. "There are not multiple ways to get there."

This article appeared in the Dakota Baptist Connections, newsjournal of the Dakota Baptist Convention. Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Dakota Baptist Connections.

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Deaf Baptists strengthen

work across N.M.

By John Loudat

SANTA FE, N.M. (Baptist New Mexican) -- "Prayer, Training, Preparation, Sending and Reaching the Deaf" was the theme of this year's New Mexico Baptist Deaf Revival, as 31 members of New Mexico Baptist Hands-on-Mission teams shared the Good News of Jesus Christ in 13 communities across the state in early April.

In previous years, several deaf believers from across the country have come to New Mexico to help deaf New Mexico Baptists in the annual evangelistic effort. This year all but two of the evangelists were from New Mexico.

During the outreach, the teams shared the gospel with 61 deaf individuals and taught Bible "storying," using the gospel "story cloth" and Bible storybook, to 34 people who agreed to teach Bible storying in their homes, churches and communities.

"The deaf are 'visual' learners and the gospel story cloth was a big success among the deaf across New Mexico," reported Joyce and Olen Smith, the Baptist Convention of New Mexico's consultants/church planters/strategists with the deaf.

"Two deaf persons showed interest in becoming a Christian and asked if they could have all the visuals shared with them to look and think about it," Joyce Smith said following the effort. Each of them were left with a salvation flip chart, a Bible and gospel tracts.

Assisting the New Mexicans were Kevin Clark, leader of deaf missions for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, and Rose Harley, who leads that state's deaf WMU.

The week before the revival began, Clark taught 41 deaf Christians and workers with the deaf at five churches across the state, teaching them "to use pictures and symbols on the hands to teach Bible stories to the deaf," Joyce Smith said.

They were taught the "5+5+5 plan," which Joyce Smith called "storying in a way that catches the attention of the deaf in their heart language." The purpose of the training was to enable deaf Christians to teach it to other believers who live in deaf homes, with the ultimate goal of starting home Bible studies.

The 31 deaf believers who would participate in the statewide revival following the training gathered at the Baptist Building in Albuquerque on Saturday, April 6, for the final group training and an orientation, at which time Clark and Joyce Smith taught storying and everyone practiced the approach on each other. Serving meals that day were New Mexico Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers.

"Mike Napier (the BCNM's evangelism/discipleship director) and BCNM State Church Planting Catalyst Scott Wilson came to the Saturday meeting to give us brief greetings and encouragement," said Joyce Smith. "Also, Cricket (Pairett, ministry assistant for the BCNM's missions mobilization team) went above and beyond expectations to assist the teams in many ways."

The following morning, the group participated in a special commissioning service during the worship service at First Baptist Church in Santa Fe; and after lunch at the church, they broke into eight teams that would go into 13 communities across the state: Albuquerque, Belen, Clovis, Española, Farmington, Hobbs, Las Cruces, Melrose, Pecos, Roswell, Santa Fe, Socorro and Shiprock.

Each of those Joyce Smith called "willing servants" wore either red or green T-shirts with "WE ARE NEW MEXICO" on them to the commissioning service and throughout the week.

During the service, First Baptist Pastor Lee Herring assured the evangelists of the prayers of the church during the upcoming week, and this writer assured them of the prayers of many of their Baptist brothers and sisters across the state.

Herring said during his message that while some of the people they would try to share with might, like a coyote, run from them or turn on them, some might be eager to receive their message.

"You're going to people just like you," Herring said, noting that they were better qualified than anyone else to share with those who communicate the same way they do.

"Thank you for going," Herring concluded, thanking them for the way they would encourage, inspire and teach other believers by their faithfulness.

Before leading the commissioning prayer, this writer reminded the evangelists that all the strength and courage they would need could come from reminding themselves of God's promise to be with them wherever they would go.

Five days later, everyone returned to Albuquerque to participate in Hoffmantown Church's annual Missions Conference that evening. They gathered a final time at the Baptist Building the following day for "debriefing, fellowship and worship," and to plan how over the coming year to follow up on those they had connected with during the previous week.

The following week, the Clown Ministry Team of Woodhaven Baptist Deaf Church in Houston shared the gospel through drama and sign language at First Baptist Church in Rio Rancho, and at the community center in Roswell.

During the ambitious effort that spanned three weeks, the teams traveled more than 4,000 miles and, no doubt, impacted the lives of many members of the people group that numbers 5,000 in New Mexico alone.

Making up the team that led this year's outreach were Red Flett, pastor of First Baptist, Belen's deaf ministry, and his wife, Barbara, who helps lead the ministry; Bobby Graff, pastor, Albuquerque Deaf Baptist Church; Dora Kaskaller, deaf ministry leader in Farmington and Shiprock; Aaron Martinez, president, New Mexico Baptist Conference for the Deaf, teacher, First Baptist, Santa Fe; Priscilla Martinez, deaf ministry leader, First Baptist, Taos; and the Smiths.

Upcoming events for deaf New Mexico Baptists include:

-- The Southern Baptist Conference of the Deaf, which a large group of New Mexico Baptists are expected to attend in Bolivar, Mo., July 20-26;

-- The Association of Southern Baptist Interpreters for the Deaf's Interpreter Training Program, offered by the North American Mission Board, July 20-21; and

-- The New Mexico Baptist Conference for the Deaf, Inlow Baptist Camp and Conference Center, Aug. 30-Sept. 1. Clark will serve as camp pastor and the Interpreter Training Program will be offered for interpreters.

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.

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SENT Conference aims at

reaching people groups

By Michelle Tyer

EULESS, Texas (Southern Baptist TEXAN) -- For some Christians, reaching Muslim believers with the Gospel is a ministry only for those specifically called to the mission field in the Middle East or other predominately Muslim countries.

But this religion, which is the fastest-growing in the world and already has over 2 billion followers, is rapidly gaining followers in the United States as well.

In a similar way, some may believe that Hindu and Buddhist believers can only be found in Asian countries, but between refugees and Americans converting to these religions their numbers continue to grow in the U.S.

At the 2013 SENT Conference at First Baptist Church, Euless, Texas on April 26, missionaries gave church leaders and members tips on how to share the gospel with members of these religions.

One missionary, who cannot be named for security reasons, said Hindu people are just like any other people, just without the blessing of knowing Jesus Christ.

Another missionary, known as A.D., said he does not like referring to people of these religions as lost but as future believers.

Brent Sorrels -- who is involved in a ministry that reaches out to the Buddhists around Port Arthur, many of whom are Vietnamese -- said Christians need to keep in mind that Buddhists are not any more lost than anyone else who has not accepted the gospel.

Sorrels, A.D. and SENT's Muslim session leader, B.C., each said one of the main things to remember when trying to share the Gospel with anyone from these religions is to befriend them and also be willing to ask questions and listen to their answers.

"If you go as a learner, that opens a door," A.D. said.

With about 2 million Muslims, Texas is home to more than any other state.

Muslims especially center their lives on their religion and B.C. said they are almost always willing to talk about what they believe. In fact, B.C. said it is usually easier to speak with Muslims about their religion than with the average American.

But B.C. said that many Muslims he has met in Texas do not have any Christian friends because they are afraid of them. He said often the reverse is true as well—that Christians fear Muslims or even dislike them.

B.C. said if Christians hope to make friends with Muslims in order to reach them, they may have to give up some things—from what they eat to what they wear. No compromises should be made, but Christians should try to make Muslims feel at ease, B.C. said.

"We have to meet our Muslim friends where they are at," B.C. said.

Each leader of the Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim workshops at the conference said that Christians learn about the other religions so they have knowledge of how to interact with them.

This article appeared in the Southern Baptist TEXAN (texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Michelle Tyer is a correspondent for the TEXAN.

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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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