FROM THE STATES: Miss., Ky., Ala. evangelism/missions news; '... [A]nyone with a testimony could be a part of it'
Today's From the States features items from:
The Baptist Record (Mississippi)
Western Recorder (Kentucky)
The Alabama Baptist
Miss. rodeo exhibit spot
offers witnessing, blessings
By William H. Perkins Jr.
JACKSON, Miss. (The Baptist Record) -- With cowboy clothes to the right, grooming reproductions from the past to the left, and jewelry made from silverware across the aisle, members of local Mississippi Baptist churches earlier this year shared the Gospel with people strolling through the Equine Expo in the Trade Mart at the Dixie National Livestock Show and Rodeo on the Jackson Fairgrounds.
The witnessing effort was sponsored by the Evangelism Department of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board (MBCB) and made possible by gifts to the Mississippi Cooperative Program. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes was a partner.
The smell of leather and barbeque filled the building, said Don Lum, MBCB director of evangelism. "Folks from all over Mississippi stopped by. They would listen to us and often would share their own testimony. We just encouraged folks and prayed with them. We were the only religious group in the exhibit area of the Expo."
David Hamilton, pastor of West Heights Church in Pontotoc and former two-term president of the Mississippi Baptist Convention, said three men from West Heights conducted a similar evangelism effort last year at the National Finals High School Rodeo while on a mission trip in Wyoming.
"All three came back saying, 'We need to do this in Mississippi.' There were more than 125 volunteers from our Mississippi Baptist churches, and the Gospel was shared 1,115 times in five days. This was a 'mission trip' close to home, and anyone with a testimony could be a part of it," Hamilton said.
One man who stopped at the booth asked if the volunteers were selling time shares, Hamilton recalled. "Craig Farley from our church said, 'Man, no. I just want to share with you how Jesus changed my life.' Afterward, the man said, 'Well you are selling time shares -- they're just eternal.' The good news is that someone else bought it for us."
Jeff Walker, pastor of Grace Church in Brandon, led a number of church members to volunteer to share their testimony at the exhibit. "I was amazed at how quickly the conversation changed to spiritual matters when I shared my story of how Christ changed by life.
"I was blessed by the number of people of all ages and different churches who were excited about sharing the Gospel with anyone who would listen. I was blessed by the willingness of strangers to work together as brothers and sisters in Christ to share the Gospel.
"My greatest blessing came by seeing God work in the hearts of people from many different states to expand His Kingdom."
For more information on the ministries of the MBCB Evangelism Department, contact Lum at P.O. Box 530, Jackson, MS 39205-0530. Telephone: (601) 292-3278, or toll-free outside Jackson (800) 748-1651, ext. 278. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Web site: mbcb.org.
For more information on the Cooperative Program, contact MBCB Stewardship Director Rick Blythe at P.O. Box 530, Jackson, MS 39205-0530. Telephone: (601) 292-3347, or toll-free outside Jackson (800) 748-1651, ext. 347. E-mail: email@example.com. Web site: mbcb.org.
This story appeared in The Baptist Record, newsjournal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board (mbcb.org). William Perkins is editor of The Baptist Record.
Ky. volunteers help women,
children heal in Nepal
By Lily Jameson
WADDY, Ky. (Western Recorder) -- On a sunny day in December, a Nepali child colored a picture of Jesus. Through the young artist's creative license, the Messiah grew blue hair and donned crimson robes. The young boy drawn beside Christ was holding a bowl of loaves and fishes and had been colored red from head to toe.
That simple coloring book picture of a Bible story was supposed to help Nepali children heal from the shock of last year's earthquake and to allow them rest from daily chores.
"The children's lives there are so hard, you know, from what I was able to observe," Susan Bryant, member of Graefenburg Baptist Church in Waddy, said.
"When I got up at 7 o'clock in the morning to have breakfast, the children were already taking the goats up the mountains. They work very, very hard. They don't have a lot of time to play or to be children, really," she said.
Bryant, president of the Kentucky Woman's Missionary Union, traveled to the Sindhupalchok District in Nepal at the end of 2015. She joined Joel Catron, member of First Baptist Church of Monticello, and Wanda Lovely, from Urbancrest Baptist Church in Lebanon, Ohio.
Operating in partnership with Baptist Global Response, Lovely and Bryant worked with trained national partners to help women and children process their emotions after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit the area in April 2015. The disaster destroyed a large percentage of homes in two districts and killed thousands. While Bryant and Lovely counseled, Catron spoke to the local men about spiritual matters.
The trip's therapeutic focus, Bryant said, fit well with WMU's four-year emphasis on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. According to the organization's website, the WMU committed to helping Baptist churches address PTSD through its Project HELP initiative.
In Nepal, Bryant worked with children who had suffered similar trauma during the quake. She said the therapy sessions, held in schools and churches, looked a lot like general playtime. In addition to distributing coloring sheets, Bryant and a national volunteer also played games with the children that involved balls or bubbles.
During the program, kids had opportunities to write about the disaster, as well, and they delved into questions about where they were when it hit and how it made them feel.
"This would be an opportunity for them to have playtime and for them to talk to other children and to discuss what happened -- give them an opportunity to really decompress, I guess, after the earthquake," she said.
While Bryant played with children, Lovely assisted women's therapy sessions and said she also spent her time playing games and encouraging women to participate in simple group activities. In the midst of all that rubble and reconstruction, Lovely and other volunteers told Nepali women to blow up balloons until they popped.
"The thought behind all of it is: this is the same thing that goes on in our hearts," Lovely said. "You know, we carry these burdens and these pains and these worries and it just gets bigger and bigger and bigger, and finally, it just explodes. ... You have to be able to share your thoughts before you explode."
She said games and questions provided a framework, allowing women to talk about heartfelt matters within a light and fun context. She believed the jobs she and Bryant performed filled a particular need for women and children -- groups of people who didn't always have emotional outlets. And, although both the women and children seemed to love the games and conversations, Lovely believed the team also impacted Nepali villagers by simply showing up.
"When you go halfway around the world, you've already done a great deal to lift someone's burden because just by default, your presence in their life says, 'I care,' because you didn't show up by accident," she said.
Lovely said she clearly remembered how Bible stories affected villagers, as well. She acted out the story of the sick woman, told in the fifth chapter of Mark, who received healing from Christ merely by touching his robe. An old woman in the crowd cried. That biblical story of healing had given her hope.
Anyone who wants to follow in the footsteps of this team and help other disaster survivors recover can volunteer through BGR. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Or, visit www.gobgr.org/volunteer/requests to read about other ways to volunteer. (WR)
This article appeared in the Western Recorder (westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Lily Jameson* is a staff writer for Baptist Global Response.
One Athens, Ala., church
brings new life to another
By Anna Keller
ATHENS, Ala. (The Alabama Baptist) -- Clements Baptist Church, Athens, had been familiar with the city's Poplar Creek Baptist Church for quite some time. After all, the churches are located just five miles apart from each other. But it wasn't until the Poplar Creek Baptist congregation started to wane significantly that the churches decided it was time to partner.
"The Poplar Creek congregation has been declining for several years and they were down to just seven people last fall -- all senior adults," said Tim Anderson, who has served as Clements Baptist's pastor since it was planted 21 years ago. "I knew of their struggles and approached them about the possibility of us taking the church over and they were more than ready to do so" since they'd been without a pastor for eight months.
Not only did Anderson feel the church needed support from Clements Baptist's congregation (which has an average of 750 each Sunday), he and his church also felt the Poplar Creek building needed to be renovated. Clements Baptist purchased the church building and financed its renovation work and Anderson became pastor in August 2015.
They also renamed the church Clements Baptist Church at Poplar Creek to maintain the church's history (Poplar Creek dates back to the 1800s) but also create a distinct link between the two congregations.
In need of renovations
"The church was in need of major repairs and now they have been made," Anderson said, noting that renovations began in October 2015. "The entire church now has a more modern look and has been brought up to speed as far as its facilities and interior look and design."
Clements Baptist then turned their attention to other ways to support the growth of the new campus.
The church identified 60 members who would be missionaries at the Poplar Creek campus for one year. While the missionary program was officially kicked off on Easter, a "trial run" took place March 13. The trial run gave members a chance to "celebrate the opportunity to be a part of keeping a church open," Anderson said.
"The 60 Clements Baptist missionaries are all people that felt the leadership of the Lord to move over to the Poplar Creek campus when I first cast vision of this project," Anderson said. "Those 60 people consist of pre-school teachers, children's teachers, adult life group leaders, praise team, greeting team and more."
Brian Murphy, education and campus minister at Clements Baptist, said one thing that's been especially interesting throughout the process has been uncovering the strong ties that already existed between the two congregations.
"We were shocked at the number of people who are members of Clements who at one point were members of Poplar Creek," Murphy said. "They were baptized there, married there, their parents were members there. We're hearing things like, 'I left my home church but now my home church has come back to me.'"
For now, Anderson will lead both church campuses as pastor, since the buildings are so close to one another. He will preach first at Clements and then deliver a sermon at the Poplar Creek service. The future plan is to place a pastor at Clements Baptist Church at Poplar Creek to be dedicated to that campus.
"The entire process has been a real joy and a sweet process over the last six months," Anderson said. "Our people have been absolutely wonderful and the community was buzzing to see the church reopen March 27. Poplar Creek's seven members have been very involved during the project, and they are simply thrilled to see the church remain open and once again become a vital church in the community."
On April 10, Clements Baptist Church at Poplar Creek will host a service of dedication.
Murphy said, "During that service we'll dedicate the building, reflect back on its long history and look forward to a new day. It's been great to see how our community has really stepped up to the plate to help with this project. Everyone was so excited to see life at this church again."
Anderson emphasized his excitement in getting to be involved in this true community effort to help revitalize a church that has been such an important part of their community for so long.
"I have such respect for Poplar Creek and see this as an incredible opportunity for us to partner with the community," he said. "I feel privileged and honored to be a part of this revitalization process."
This article appeared in The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Anna Keller is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist.
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 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.