Biblical Recorder (North Carolina)
Southern Baptist TEXAN
The Christian Index (Georgia)
Pastor from South Asia
reaches out to North Carolina
By Melissa Lilley
HIGH POINT, N.C. (Biblical Recorder) -- Matek* ministered and shared the gospel in Pakistan for many years before the country he loved so dearly forced him out.
Raised in a Christian home in a country that is about 96 percent Muslim, Matek came to faith in Jesus Christ as a teenager and followed in his father's footsteps of full-time ministry. From open-air crusades to festivals and seminars, they shared the gospel and saw people come to faith in Christ.
"In our country it is really dangerous," Matek said. "That was very risky ministry."
A few years ago members of his family had to leave the country because of their ministry. In one village alone, nearly 150 Christians were killed.
Not long after, Matek was forced to flee the country and sent into hiding. Yet, despite risk of persecution and even death, he experienced much joy ministering in his home country.
"If we don't reach the Muslim people, who will? I loved living in Pakistan," he said. "We were satisfied with our ministry and work."
About nine months ago he and his wife, Miriam*, came to live in High Point, N.C., which is home to about 1,300 Muslims from Pakistan. Matek is working to start the first Pakistani Baptist church in North Carolina.
Journey of faith
After fleeing Pakistan in 2010, Matek served in other countries, determined to still spread the gospel.
Once he received his visa everything fell into place for him to move to New York City to be with Miriam, who had been traveling back and forth between New York and Pakistan since they were married in 2009.
Miriam, who was living and working in New York, met Matek while in Pakistan visiting her family.
They had an arranged marriage, and they were married about one month after meeting.
Miriam said she really came to know God while living in New York.
"When you are alone, you feel empty. But God told me who He is. He is my Father; He is my everything."
After Matek joined Miriam in New York they prayed for God to show them where to go next.
While in California speaking at a conference they met Ralph Garay, a church planting consultant with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC). Garay previously pastored a Filipino-American church in San Diego.
Garay shared with Matek and Miriam the great need for a Pakistani church in North Carolina.
"Life was easy in New York," Matek said. "Miriam had a good job. We had no contacts in North Carolina."
Before even leaving New York they realized God was paving their way to North Carolina.
Answer to prayer
A few days before leaving New York Matek earned his driver's license, but did not have a car. When Mark Gray, BSC church planting team leader, learned that Matek and Miriam were coming to North Carolina he shared their need with his church, Epoch Church, and the group provided a van for them to use.
When Larry Doyle, director of missions for Piedmont Baptist Association, heard about Matek and Miriam he connected them with Darryl Love, pastor of Crossover Community Church in High Point. A friend of Love's provided a home for Matek and Miriam and the church furnished it.
"God was attaching us to people and we had never even met them," Matek said. For two years Love and Crossover Community prayed for God to help them reach the Pakistani people in their community. "You can't get to our church in any direction without passing the home of a Pakistani. At one time, everyone looked like us. Now, we're a minority," Love said.
Love and Crossover Community are partnering with Matek as they see an answer to prayer unfold - someone to help them reach Pakistanis with the gospel.
"They have been accepted as family," Love said. "They have become part of our lives. We are helping them build relationships with the community."
Gray said Matek's journey helps remind him of God's sovereignty.
"To think that God would bring him here on that incredible journey, to get him here, is phenomenal. The need was great to have a missionary who could come here to reach the Pakistanis in their culture and context," he said.
Sharing in love
"We came here with just our luggage," Matek said. "We came here to start a church; we came here to work."
Matek is not afraid of working hard, nor is he afraid of challenges and even persecution.
"Persecution is the sign of revival," he said. "It's the Spirit of God who encourages us to face that. They are more blessed who face persecution than those who don't face persecution."
Matek and Miriam are focusing on meeting Pakistanis and Muslims in their community, building relationships and sharing the gospel.
"The first thing we need to do is love Muslims," Matek said. "Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself. The second key thing is to pray for them. In our minds we often think that all Muslims are bad. We need to change our mindset. Never think it cannot be possible to reach a soul."
Matek encouraged believers who want to reach people from other religious backgrounds and cultures to be intentional in meeting them. Every visit to a restaurant, store or gas station is an opportunity to meet someone.
"We can't win souls if we don't use the small opportunities. If we want to do something big, we can't miss the small opportunities," he said. "We can't develop our church like other churches; it takes time to build relationships. One salvation response may take years. But we trust in God and He will make a way. He will do it."
Matek cautioned against moving too quickly with Muslims and encouraged believers to be patient and faithful.
"Don't go very fast," he said. "But go every day. Go again and again and again."
The North Carolina Missions Offering helps support church plants such as the Pakistani church. To learn more, please visit www.ncmissionsoffering.org.
*Name changed. This article appeared in the Biblical Recorder (brnow.org), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Melissa Lilley is research/communications coordinator for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (www.ncbaptists.org).
Former Texans plant church in Mass., laying
foundation through Bible study and outreach
By Stephanie Heading
STONEHAM, Mass. (Southern Baptist TEXAN) -- "Over the past year I have observed that many people here have never met someone that genuinely follows Jesus. People need to see what it looks like to love Jesus while at work, raising children and navigating life's challenges," said Steve Brown, a church planter in Stoneham, Mass.
Since July 2012, Steve Brown and his wife Merri have been quietly laboring to plant Wellspring Church and share the gospel in the town 10 miles north of downtown Boston.
The work is challenging as the Browns face the prevailing culture of New England. "It is standing for the truth among the very religious and the very liberal and sharing the truth in a loving way and not getting discouraged when people disagree."
The culture shifted slightly following the Boston Marathon bombing in April, opening new opportunities to engage people.
"When a tragedy like this occurs it causes everyone to ask those hard questions about good and evil in our world," Brown said. "This has resulted in many people being open to talk and discuss their viewpoints. It has provided us a great opportunity to share a Christian worldview and what it looks like to have hope in Jesus."
But even though the bombings have opened some doors to witness, it has also stirred up an intense focus on human strength, unity and perseverance instead of a reliance on God. "You have likely heard the phrase, 'Boston Strong.' Our prayer is for people to realize that true healing and strength can only be found in Jesus."
Sharing the hope of Jesus motivated the Browns to uproot their lives, leaving Grand Prairie to plant Wellspring Church. Through NAMB and the Baptist Convention of New England, Brown serves as a bi-vocational church planter in the traditionally Catholic area. He works a 30-hour job each week and then spends the remainder of his time making connections in the community and developing evangelistic outreach efforts as he works to build a foundation for the church with the hope of beginning services in the spring of 2014.
The foundation is being laid with two Bible studies. One Bible study meets in Brown's home.
"These are the people immediately around us," Brown said. "One couple lives on the third floor of our building; another my wife met at the library's kids' craft day and another was a contact from one of our first community outreach events."
A second Bible study includes Brown's co-workers and meets at a coffee shop down the street from his place of employment.
"As I got to know people at work, I asked God to help me guide our conversations into spiritual matters. After four to five months, I began asking if anyone was interested in meeting for Bible study," Brown recalled. "The first time we made arrangements to meet, nobody came. In praying about it, I felt the burden to persevere and the second time, two guys showed up."
In addition to Bible studies, the Browns are busy looking for outreach opportunities in the community. "God blessed us with an opportunity through a relationship with a local pizza shop owner. I met him on one of my trips to Stoneham about four months before we moved. Our family became regulars at his shop and got to know him fairly well."
The Browns shared their calling with the shop owner and he offered his business for anything related to the ministry. Out of this, a periodic "Family Night" outreach was born. "All of the families in our home Bible study have participated in at least one of our Family Night events."
As the foundation building for Wellspring church continues, the Browns welcome help from churches and individuals to further their ministry. As part of the NAMB Send North America initiative, the Browns benefit from giving through the Cooperative Program.
"The CP funds a portion of our family budget, covered ministry expenses for our first Family Night, provides evangelism resources and sponsors family support fellowships within the church planting network," Brown explained.
Another way to be involved in Brown's ministry is to sign up to follow his blog at john414journey.com. "The blog is a great tool to make our ministry a part of your Sunday School, small group or family prayer time."
Volunteers can also move to Stoneham and join the work, Brown said. "I'm not talking about leading a church plant but moving to live, work and worship in a community as part of a church plant.
Consider this, if you have attended a Bible-teaching church and have been committed to a Sunday School class or small group for several years, you have been exposed to more discipleship than most people in areas where church planting is taking place," Brown said.
Although the work is hard, Brown seems focused and confident.
"It is having the faith to know that out of this culture that is so far removed from God, he will raise up his church. He alone has the power to take people from it, transform their lives and equip them to carry out the work of his kingdom."
This article appeared in the Southern Baptist TEXAN (texanonline.net) newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Stephanie Heading is a correspondent for the Texan.
Churches looking to minister
within their communities
By Joe Westbury
DULUTH, Ga. (Christian Index) -- With summer comes vacation days and a much-reduced schedule at many Georgia Baptist churches. But that doesn't mean missions is put on hold; for many, it means a turbo-charged effort involving members across the age spectrum.
Two churches in particular -- First Thomson in McDuffie County and Mountain Park First Baptist in Gwinnett County -- are prime examples of laity moving outside the church walls and into their communities armed with paintbrushes, shovels, and the gospel.
Both congregations have been involved in international mission trips, with a group from First Thomson just returning from a medical missions/construction trip to Honduras. Mountain Park has had trips to an orphanage in Honduras and others to Mali, West Africa, among other locales.
Yet neither has lost sight of the unchurched within a stone's throw of their buildings or elsewhere in the state.
During the first week of June, First Thomson joined with 15 other churches to participate in Mission: McDuffie. The outreach provided a variety of assistance to residents who couldn't afford or had no family to help with yard work, light construction repairs, painting houses, or building handicapped ramps.
"We had 93 youth and 27 adults working long days to bring the gospel to others through servant ministry," explained church staff member Marcus Ricketson.
The week began with a rally on Sunday evening followed by workdays beginning at 7:30 a.m. Each night, worship rallies were held at First United Methodist Church. The teams worked at 36 houses, 32 of which they completed work orders in the first three days.
Ricketson, who serves as interim minister of students and Christian Activities, said the purpose was "to go out and share God's love by being the hands and feet of Christ as we shared the gospel story. Participants donated a total of $36,555 in volunteer labor and $3,973.11 in purchased materials for a total of $40,528 donated to our community."
Mayor Kenneth Usry was very supportive and the City of Thomson picked up trash and debris for no charge; Kilpatrick Baptist Association provided financial support, and the Thomson Junior Woman's Club provided snacks for the teams.
The church, located two hours east of Atlanta just off Interstate 20, launched Mission: McDuffie 12 years ago. Its motto, "Hearts to God and Hands to Man", sums up the ministry's focus.
In Gwinnett County, an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution led to a mission team from Mountain Park First Baptist Church giving their Memorial Day weekend - and the entire following week - to serve in one of Georgia's poorest counties.
Discipleship Pastor Richard King read about the funding problems that Calhoun County's schools were having making ends meet for their teachers and students. Schools needed painting. Rooms and hallways needed bright new lighting. And 40-year-old bathrooms needed thorough modernizing.
The original story appeared in the newspaper's June 12, 2012 issue; barely a year later on June 1, 2013, the newspaper reported on page 1 that nearly 80 adults from the church joined King in the road trip nearly four hours south of Stone Mountain - where the church is located - to Edison, a small town in extreme southwest Georgia 45 miles west of Albany.
All three of the district's schools, whose student population is 90 percent African American, were the focus of the trip. The county population of 6,000 is reduced by one-third when the 2,000 inmates in the state prison are not counted.
To show how poor the county is, the newspaper compared tax rates between Gwinnett County, in metropolitan Atlanta, and Calhoun County, in the "other Georgia" in the distant south.
One mill in Calhoun County - $1 per $1,000 of assessed value - generates $115,000 worth of property taxes while the same rate produces $23 million for Gwinnett. And that's why the church adopted the school district.
School Superintendent Danny Ellis had never heard of King or the church when his phone rang one morning, with King asking how the congregation could be of service.
After a few months of networking and developing a relationship, the project began to develop.
-- At the launch of the new school year the church shipped a load of school supplies for students to get their year off on the right foot.
-- During Christmas, members collected 71 pairs of shoes for every needy child in the system.
-- And later, Mountain Park chartered a bus to bring all the teachers to Gwinnett County for in-service training in the new Common Core curriculum - a gift which Ellis said is immeasurable to his staff.
"Common Core is a very important national strategy which will bring all schools to the same academic level. Mountain Park's gift will help us compete on the same playing field when students transfer to us from other states or when our children move to California or Montana," Ellis said.
Mountain Park volunteers spent the week following Memorial Day working from dawn to dark, sleeping on floors in classrooms and having meals in the cafeteria. Plumber Birney Fewell was among those swapping out decades-old toilets during the week.
"I was honored to be able to use my skill set in service to the Lord and the children. We rebuilt about 10 toilets and repaired water fountains, sinks, and urinals. The shower drains were so clogged they began filling up around our ankles the first night so we cleaned those as well," he explained.
"I don't know exactly how much money we saved the county, but we probably did the repairs for a tenth of what it would have cost on the open market."
Looking over the church's weeklong contributions, the soft-spoken official could not believe the spit-and-polish look of the buildings and classrooms.
"We had no funds to complete these projects anytime soon. They brought all the supplies and what they didn't have they purchased locally, further stimulating our economy.
"I don't know how to put a dollar value on the labor costs alone, but our children are going to have clean, well-lit classrooms when they return in the fall. Mountain Park has said it doesn't want this to be a one-time project and they want to have a long-term relationship with our teachers and students.
"That's going to mean the world to us."
This article appeared in The Christian Index (christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Joe Westbury is managing editor of the Christian Index.
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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