FROM THE STATES: La., Fla., Ala. evangelism/missions news; Brazil mission team sees 4,400 professions of faith

Baptist Press
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Posted: Sep 17, 2013 5:22 PM
Today's From the States features items from:

Baptist Message (Louisiana)

Florida Baptist Convention

The Alabama Baptist

Louisiana mission trip to Brazil

makes a tremendous impact

By Karen L. Willoughby

MONTES CLAROS, Minas Gerias, Brazil (Baptist Message) -- Serving the Lord sometimes involves walking up and down nine flights of stairs for three days because the hotel's elevator is broken, as is the hot water heater, which means no hot showers to comfort aching bones.

Serving the Lord sometimes means a delayed flight from Alexandria, La., which means missed connections in Dallas, Miami and Sao Paulo, in turn, only to find at journey's end a resilient people eager to hear the truth of God's love for them.

Serving the Lord in Brazil this July meant being part of a team of 130 children, teens, adults and seniors who as a group led 4,400 people to faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

"It was a blessed experience because of the spiritual receptivity of the people," said John Galey, pastor of Poydras Baptist Church in metro New Orleans. Galey was a first-time participant in the Brazil mission trip led for 29 years now by Wayne Jenkins, LBC's director of evangelism.

"They want to hear what you have to say," Galey continued. "We were, all 130 of us, functioning as a team with one purpose: to partner together to serve the people of Brazil, to equip the pastors, encourage the believers, and lead people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. We were all there for one purpose; that built unity among the team."

Participants in this year's Brazil mission trip - from Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, Utah, Arkansas, Alabama, Florida and Oregon , with the majority from Louisiana - served in a variety of ways. There were VBS, medical, sports, drama, street witnessing, in-home visiting and construction teams.

Carlos Mesa, missionary pastor of three Hispanic congregations in Shreveport, Bossier City and Haughton, participated for the 14th year in the Brazil mission trip for two reasons, he said: because it's his calling, and to serve as an example to the people he leads in northern Louisiana.

"I do not know if we would have had more than 4,400 professions of faith if it weren't for the assistance of these young people who volunteer to translate for us," said Mesa, who speaks Spanish and English but not Portuguese, the language of Brazil. "This particular group of people is the future of Brazil.

"There will be some pastors come out of this," Mesa continued. "They heard so much of God's word this week; they showed so much dedication. I know how difficult translation is. This is the kind of spirit I encountered over there."

About 15 of the 50 or so volunteer translators were from Igreja Batista de Redencao , where Christian Gillis is pastor. Most of the translators were in high school or college. About 20 came from the city of Belo Horizonte, six hours east. All were volunteers and many paid their own expenses, Jenkins said.

"The mission trip is a partnership between our SBC missionaries, David and Laurie Bleadsoe, Brazilian Baptists and the team he brings," the LBC evangelism director said. "All come away with a greater appreciation of the work and a shared learning experience."

The sharing was two-way.

"There was one lady from the church; she was always the first one there and the last one to leave," said Casey Sidwell, from Oregon, who volunteered on the medical team. "She was the sweetest lady ever; I learned from her to be more patient and giving, to put others before yourself."

In addition to the volunteers who went to Brazil, others contributed with

finances or, in the case of First Baptist Church in Pleasant Grove, Utah, about 1,100 handmade salvation bracelets.

"I passed them out to the VBS teams, street witnessing teams and everyone," said Steve Sidwell, a block mason from Utah, who went to Brazil for the seventh time this year to build one of the three churches that were constructed, painted, and readied for worship within a week's time.

"A man came up to one street witnessing team, showing his bracelet," Sidwell continued. "They thought he just wanted another one, but when the translator came up, they learned the man was saying, 'I've had this bracelet for a year. What does it mean?' He accepted Christ that day."

Galey said he went to Brazil, his first international missions trip, because he was convicted by the words of Acts 1:8 to be a witness locally, regionally and to the uttermost parts of the earth, and then in the mail came a plea from Wayne Jenkins, reporting the need for 21 pastors for the Brazil trip.

"No one in this church had ever taken an international missions trip," Galey said. "God gave the opportunity and supplied the resources. …

"I made a lot of friends - in Brazil and from the U.S.," Galey continued. "The Lord willing, I want to go back next year and want to take more people from Poydras with me."

Lisa Breaux of First Lafayette and the cooking team provided a typical Cajun meal for the mayor, who invited dignitaries to his home to eat. "He is extremely influential," Jenkins said. "That Cajun meal opened a number of doors."

The next Brazil mission trip is set for mid-July 2014; the cost is to expected to be less than $3,000, including a couple of days at the end of R and R. For more information contact Jenkins or his assistant Syd Smith at 318.448.3402.

This article appeared in the Louisiana Baptist Message (baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Karen Willoughby is the retired managing editor of the Baptist Message.

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Musical instruments & Bibles

shipped to Cuba to fuel revival

By Margaret Dempsey-Colson

HAVANA, Cuba (Florida Baptist Convention) -- What once might have been a long-forgotten musical instrument gathering dust in a corner is now an instrument of hope and evangelistic outreach in Cuba, thanks to the efforts of a partnership of Baptists.

As revival has been sweeping throughout Cuba and new congregations are being planted, one ongoing need has been for musical instruments to enhance worship experiences for Cuban Baptists. The Western Cuba Baptist Convention (WCBC), which has had a nearly 20-year partnership with the Florida Baptist Convention, has started at least 100 music schools across the nation to train worship leaders.

But time and again, the most daunting challenge has been the lack of musical instruments, according to Ana Esther Rodriguez, music director for WCBC.

"Music is critical in planting and sustaining churches," said Dirce Cooper, who serves with the International Mission Board (IMB) in its missionary outreach in Cuba.

"The aim of Cuban Baptists is to share the message of Christ through music, while also encouraging musicians to use their gifts and talents for Christ," she said.

The project, spearheaded by Mark Tetley, English-speaking pastor at First Brazilian Baptist Church of South Florida, was a cooperative effort of the Florida Baptist Convention, several churches in the state, the Western Cuba Baptist Convention and the International Mission Board.

After hearing of the need, Tetley led his church to coordinate the collection and shipment of not only musical instruments but also Bibles, another pressing need in Cuba.

"There is a dearth of Bibles in Cuba. There are house churches meeting in rural areas of Cuba that may have one copy of God's Word for the entire group," according to Kurt Urbanek, who serves with the IMB as a strategy leader for Cuba.

The project "took a long time to become a reality," said Tetley, but "the dream became a reality as numerous entities cooperated together to make it happen."

In mid-June, a shipment of 170 instruments, 43 pieces of sound equipment, 10 boxes of sheet music, 5,000 Bibles (purchased by the IMB) and a pump for a new well at the Baptist camp left Florida enroute to Cuba. The Florida Convention provided half of the cost of sending the container by sea.

Instruments ran the gamut from numerous wind and stringed instruments to drums and even a harpsichord.

"This project turned into much more than what was first envisioned," said Tetley.

On June 26, "the container with the Bibles and musical instruments, after two years of prayer, came to our country. We watched at all times God's hand at work. Only our Lord can make things so perfect," said Rodriguez.

"The grace of God has worked a miracle again," he said.

So far, the instruments and Bibles have been distributed in more than 20 Cuban Baptist churches as well as missionary centers in each province. A few musical instruments needing repairs will be distributed as repairs are completed.

"We want to thank every brother and sister who helped, everyone who prayed and especially those who invested their resources to bring this blessing to our hands," said Rodriguez.

As thankful as Cuban Baptists are for the gifts, pastor Tetley is grateful for the opportunity to be a partner in the project.

"This is one way for our church to let churches in Cuba know we haven't forgotten about them."

This article appeared in the Florida Baptist Witness (gofbw.com), newsjournal of the Florida Baptist Convention. Margaret Dempsey-Colson is a writer for the Florida Baptist Convention.

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Hillcrest Baptist reaches community

Through weeklong missions outreach

By Anna Keller

ENTERPRISE, Ala. (The Alabama Baptist) -- Hillcrest Baptist Church has always been missions oriented, but when it came time to decide what missions outreach to invest in this past summer, they opted to keep things close to home.

"The intent behind this was to bring a missions trip to our city," said Travis Dunham, missions pastor of the church in Enterprise, Ala. "We wanted people here in our hometown to be able to experience the things we do on international missions trips."

For pastor Michael Mynatt, the idea for a hometown missions week was more than a decade in the making. He was living in a different city at the time but recalls a time about 12 years ago when a church group came to his city for a missions trip. And, Mynatt said, it hit him that "maybe that's how it feels" to be on the receiving end of missions work.

Hillcrest already supports several local organizations on an ongoing basis, so for this weeklong "Love Enterprise" event, they started by amplifying those partnerships. For example, the church is right across the street from Hillcrest Elementary School, so they collected school supplies for each of the school's teachers and aides, knowing that many supplies are funded out of pocket for those folks. They created packets for other school employees as well, so every staff member — from janitorial to administrative — was given a gift.

But that was just scratching the surface.

The church also distributed 200 backpacks to area schools. They hosted a clothes closet in their fellowship hall. They offered free health screenings for things like blood pressure and obesity. They had local stylists cut hair for those in need for six hours one day. They coordinated an effort to feed every active firefighter in the area over a three-day period.

"What it's done is raised awareness of the needs around us more than anything else," Dunham said. "It's also opened up people's minds to just how easy it is to do things right where we are."

"Love Enterprise" was a rousing success among church and community members alike, and now Dunham and others are looking for ways to make it more of an ongoing outreach for the church.

"The stories are still coming in, the gratitude and appreciation," Dunham said. "We got to help some people who aren't part of our church, and we're getting phone calls and letters sharing their appreciation. So many people stepped up to help with this."

According to Hillcrest member Ross Williams, who was behind much of the coordination of "Love Enterprise," the church staff's true devotion to helping others was a critical factor in this project's success.

"They (the church staff) don't just love the idea of people — they actually love people," Williams said.

"Hopefully that's what we can be known for — ministering to the people. We're going to wait to see what opportunities arise next."

Mynatt is excited to see where this will lead for his Hillcrest family. He believes it's a turning point in their collective awareness of needs within their community.

"We hope other churches will get excited about this, too, and make it a countywide thing," he said. "It's a big goal, and I think we can, but only through the unity of Christ."

This article originally appeared in The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Anna Keller is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist.

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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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