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News

NFL/Ray Rice stir domestic violence blogs

September 12 2014 by David Roach, Baptist Press

After professional football star Ray Rice was suspended by the National Football League (NFL) indefinitely for knocking his then-fiancée unconscious in Atlantic City, Southern Baptists took to the Internet to give a biblical perspective on domestic violence.

“Often, men who abuse their wives or girlfriends will seek to hide under the cover of therapeutic language, as they seek to ‘deal’ with their ‘issues,’” Southern Baptists’ lead ethicist Russell D. Moore wrote in a blog post for CNN Sept. 10.

“There is no question that a man who would abuse a woman is socially and psychologically twisted,” Moore wrote, “but we should not allow this to in any way ameliorate the moral and public evil involved in these cases. The state should work, at every level, to prosecute the abusers of women and children in a way that will both deter others and make clear society’s repugnance at such abuse.”

Rice, a two-time All-Pro running back for the Baltimore Ravens, was suspended for two games initially, after a video showed him dragging the unconscious body of Janay Palmer, who is now his wife, out of a casino elevator following the assault in February. When an elevator surveillance video showing the actual assault surfaced Monday (Sept. 8), the Ravens released Rice and the NFL handed down his indefinite suspension.

Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said both the government and the church have a responsibility to confront violence against women. Part of the government’s responsibility, he said, is to make justice “clear and decisive enough” that women will report abuse and not fear repercussions from the men who harm them.


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Churches must “address the spiritual and moral realities behind” domestic violence by disciplining men who abuse women and teaching about biblical gender roles, Moore said.

Christians “are the people who believe that every idle word and every hateful act, no matter how covered up in this life, will be brought into the open at the Judgment Seat,” Moore wrote. “We ought to warn men that their cowardly and predatory acts toward women do not escape the scrutiny of God.”

Among other Southern Baptists to comment on the Rice situation:

Owen Strachan, president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, wrote that public outrage over Rice’s actions demonstrates widespread acknowledgment that women possess unique dignity which must be protected.

“The justly-outraged response of America to Rice’s abusive act has shown us that though we might ideologically deny that women deserve courtly treatment from men, we still practically believe they do,” Strachan, assistant professor of Christian theology and church history at Boyce College, wrote in a blog post at patheos.com. “There is something particularly awful, in other words, about Rice knocking out the woman he ostensibly loves. This act of violence is different than a fight between him and a hulking teammate. As many commentators have recognized, a man brutalizing a woman is terrible in a unique way.”

The physical strength of men has been granted to them by God and should be used to protect others rather than harm them, Strachan wrote.

“What would godly men do if they saw a situation like the one Ray Rice created?” Strachan wrote. “They would know, most likely, that if they stood between him and her, they would get dropped, flat out. They would be knocked out. But they would step in all the same. What’s more, they would do so gladly. They would sacrifice their safety and their body and their very life for others. Men stand in the middle. Men get between.”

Emily Ellis, a publishing team leader at LifeWay Christian Resources, lamented that 42 percent of pastors say they rarely or never speak about domestic violence in their churches, according to a survey by LifeWay Research.

Ellis said the biblical pictures of Boaz covering Ruth with his garment and God covering His people contrast with the video of Palmer lying “exposed and humiliated on an elevator floor.”

“Instead of Rice ‘covering’ her, as God has commanded men to do, he exposed her. He abused her. He misused his God-given strength to harm her,” Ellis wrote in a guest post on LifeWay Research President Ed Stetzer’s blog.

Evan Lenow, assistant professor of ethics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, identified 1 Peter 3 and Ephesians 5 as key Bible passages to guide husbands in proper treatment of their wives. Though often controversial, adopting biblical gender roles in the home leads to harmonious families, he wrote in a blog post.

“While our society cringes to see the video of a man striking his fiancée, the solution to the problem is often equally despised. This is because the teachings of Scripture are counter-cultural,” Lenow wrote.

“It is unpopular to tell a man that he should treat his wife as a weaker vessel. It is out of favor to say that a wife should submit to the loving leadership of her husband as to Christ. But I think counter-cultural is the way we should go here. While culture walks swiftly down the path of violence, the words of Scripture call us men to honor, love, and cherish women,” he wrote.

Alex Duke, editorial manager for 9Marks, a ministry associated with Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., used the Rice incident as an opportunity for evangelism. In an article posted at The Gospel Coalition website, Duke addressed non-Christian sports fans who might stumble across his writing.

“I’m struck by my propensity to, like Rice, hide the truth about myself despite convincing evidence to the contrary,” Duke wrote. “... But there is someone who has all the evidence, all the footage, someone who knows and has seen and can recall every minute detail, frame by frame by frame. I don’t know your feelings about the Bible, but I trust its every word. So I believe the author of Hebrews when he writes, ‘And no creature is hidden from [God’s] sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.’

“If today’s technology can watch us from the tucked-away corners of casino elevators, how much more can we be sure the creator of the eye and the giver of sight sees all things? Only repentance and faith in the enfleshed, risen Son saves us totally from our sins, private and public, broadcasted and hidden (Rom. 5-8),” he wrote.

Joe Carter, ERLC communications director, noted “9 Things You Should Know About Intimate Partner Violence.”

“In 48 population-based surveys from around the world, 10-69 percent of women reported being physically assaulted by an intimate male partner at some point in their lives,” Carter wrote at The Gospel Coalition website. “In large national studies, the range is between 10-34 percent.”

Carter added, “According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 4 women (22.3 percent) have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner, while 1 in 7 men (14.0 percent) have experienced the same. Female victims frequently experienced multiple forms of IPV (i.e. rape, physical violence, stalking); male victims most often experienced physical violence.”

Jeremy Pierre, assistant professor of biblical counseling at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told Baptist Press that an article he published last year may help churches and pastors considering the topic of domestic violence in light of Rice. In the article Pierre urged churches to “promote a culture of safety for oppressed people in the congregation” and discipline abusive men.

“Wives should be reminded that by remaining quiet about abusive husbands they insulate them from the loving correction they need to save their souls from destruction,” Pierre wrote in the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. “It is not loving to hide domestic abuse; it will only bring destruction. To the victim as well as the perpetrator. No matter how many times an abuser feels guilty and promises not to continue, without help from others, the pattern will continue.”

Pastors should always alert government authorities in cases of violence and sexual abuse, Pierre wrote.

“Many well-meaning pastors may, in attempt to show grace, treat violence as ‘church family business.’ This is both illegal and foolish. Part of godly authority is exacting the consequences of a man’s actions on him. An abuser must be accountable to the law, regardless of the state of his repentance,” Pierre wrote.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press.)

9/12/2014 9:29:09 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Bivocational, small church council named

September 12 2014 by Baptist Press/SBC LIFE

Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) President Frank S. Page has named a 21-member Bivocational and Small Church Advisory Council to serve through 2017, SBC LIFE reported in its fall issue.

Calling the local church the "headquarters of the Southern Baptist Convention," Page named the council to help the Executive Committee and other SBC entity leaders gain greater understanding of and appreciation for the perspectives of churches served by bivocational pastors and churches with Sunday school attendance of 125 or less.

The council will provide information, insight and counsel to EC staff relative to the special needs and concerns of Southern Baptist bivocational and small church leaders, and it will serve as a bridge to pastors who often lack the flexibility or resources to participate in SBC meetings, SBC LIFE reported.

The council will neither launch nor execute ministries; its purpose is consultation, communication and cooperation. Members represent a cross-section of the country and reflect the SBC's cultural diversity.

During Page's four years at the helm of the Executive Committee, he has maintained a proactive agenda to "encourage the cooperation and confidence of the churches, associations, and state conventions and facilitate maximum support for worldwide missions and ministries," as noted in the EC Mission Statement in its official organization manual.

Page has visited each SBC entity leader and state convention executive, seeking to build and strengthen relationships and gain insight in addressing questions of cooperation among the different SBC entities and the cooperating state convention ministry partners.

The Bivocational and Small Church Advisory Council joins a list of such councils Page has named during his tenure, including groups addressing the Hispanic, African American, Asian American and multi-ethnic communities among Southern Baptists.

As early as 2013, Page began meeting directly with pastors to build and strengthen relationships, listening to their perspectives on cooperation and SBC work as well as updating them on SBC ministries. Since January, Page has met with more than 400 pastors in 14 states where he has had other SBC-related duties. The Bivocational and Small Church Advisory Council will work with Page to expand the reach of these listening sessions among their friendship networks.

Council members are Ira Antoine Jr., Minnehulla Baptist Church, Goliad, Texas; Vernon E. Beachum Jr., First Baptist Church; Fort Ashby, W.Va.; Paul Biswas, Cambridgeport Baptist Church, Cambridge, Mass.; Fredrick Brabson Sr., New Covenant Baptist Church, Knoxville, Tenn.; Bobby Clark, Abbott Baptist Church, Mansfield, Ark.; Gordon Donahoe, Neely's Bend Baptist Church, Madison, Tenn.; Ray Gilder, Gath Baptist Church, McMinnville, Tenn.; Kenny Heath, Grace Baptist Church, Cumberland, Md.; Hal Hopkins, Lighthouse Baptist Church, Breinigsville, Pa.; Stephen R. Jones, Central Baptist Church, Alameda, Calif.; Pusey Losch, Mountain View Community Church, Richfield, Pa.; Henry Luckel, Ethne Church, Larkspur, Colo.; Gary Mitchell, First Baptist Church, Chataignier, La.; Joel Perez, Iglesia Bautista La Cosecha, Okeechobee, Fla.; Michael Pigg, Philadelphia Baptist Church, Lithonia, Ga.; Shannon Smith, Westside Baptist Church, Fremont Campus, Omaha, Neb.; A. Scott Tafoya, Indian Nations Baptist Church, Albuquerque, N.M.; Mark Tolbert, Bedico Baptist Church, Ponchatoula, La.; Elizondo Marcos Villarreal, Iglesia Cristiana Bautista, Lufkin, Texas; Cliff Woodman, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Carlinville, Ill., and Joe Young, Calvary Chapel, Parchman, Miss.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – SBC LIFE is the journal of the SBC Executive Committee.)

9/12/2014 9:24:33 AM by Baptist Press/SBC LIFE | with 0 comments



Mental health & the church: ‘People are looking for mercy’

September 11 2014 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Pastors must learn how to help troubled souls and remove the stigma associated with mental illness, Rick Warren and Tony Rose said in a video discussion with Russell D. Moore, president of Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
 
“The phrase ‘mental health’ or ‘mental illness’ does not equal crazy,” Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., said in the video posted at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) entity’s erlc.com website. “A lot of people think that mental illness means people out of touch with reality. Ninety-nine percent of us – and I include all of us – struggle with mental health issues, and we’re not out of touch with reality. Depression is a mental health issue. Worry is a mental health issue. Compulsion is a mental health issue.... Fear is a mental health issue.”

Warren spoke of a brain disorder he has that causes him to get dizzy and experience partial blindness when he has an adrenaline rush. The disorder once made him faint as he stood up to preach, leading to a years-long struggle with fear and depression that included trips to Christian counselors, he said.

“When I start sharing stuff like that, then that causes my church to be able to open up about” their own mental health issues, Warren said.


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Screen capture
“The phrase ‘mental health’ or ‘mental illness’ does not equal crazy,” Rick Warren (right), pastor of Saddleback Church, says in a video panel with Russell D. Moore (left) of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and Kentucky pastor Tony Rose, chairman of a Mental Health Advisory Group formed by SBC Executive Committee president Frank S. Page.

Rose, chairman of the Mental Health Advisory Group formed by SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page, said pastors should learn to evaluate the causes of people’s troubled souls so they can provide spiritual help as needed and refer individuals for medical help when appropriate. He referenced as a good model the pastoral procedure followed by Puritans, Christians who sought to reform the Church of England’s doctrine and worship in the 1500s and 1600s.

First, Puritan pastors evaluated whether a person trusted Christ as their Lord and Savior, Rose, pastor of LaGrange (Ky.) Baptist Church, said. Then they evaluated whether the troubled individual suffered from “melancholy” – a broad label the Puritans used to describe conditions akin to what today’s mental health professionals refer to as depression.

Puritan Richard Baxter represents a “classic” example of pastoral wisdom regarding mental illness, Rose said. Baxter once said according to Rose, “Preaching a man a sermon with a broken head and telling him to be right with God is equal to telling a man with a broken leg to get up and run a race.”

Pastors also must evaluate whether a troubled person is experiencing the consequences of sin, an attack of Satan or a sense of the Holy Spirit’s desertion, Rose said in the video, released in mid-July.

Pastors aren’t the only ones who should be concerned with mental illness, Warren said. All relationships, minds and bodies are affected adversely by the Fall of man, and believers should try to alleviate that brokenness wherever they can, he said.

Warren, whose son Matthew committed suicide last year following a battle with mental illness since childhood, noted that one in five children struggle with mental illness. The average age for the onset of depression used to be in the 30s, Rose said, but now is 14.

Given the pervasiveness of mental illness, dealing with it compassionately is a challenge that churches must embrace, the pastors said.

“If the church could be a church of mercy, we would have no evangelism problem,” Warren said, “because people are looking for mercy.”

To view the 16-minute video, click here.

Rose, in a Q&A with Kentucky’s Western Recorder newsjournal, elaborated on the need for applying the gospel to the arena of mental health. He noted that some Christians don’t understand the varied causes and remedies for mental disturbances.

“From my 26 years of pastoral ministry, I have learned that Christians are not immune to mental illness. I have seen almost the entire spectrum of mental and emotional issues among the precious people of God whom I have been privileged to serve. Depression, eating disorders, suicidal tendencies and actual suicides, cutting – and the list could go on,” Rose said.

“Sometimes Christians become mentally and emotionally disturbed because of personal sin. This kind of case is the easiest to deal with. Help the person confront the sin, confess the sin and repent. Forward movement can be made from there. But if we make all mental and emotional maladies the product of personal sin, repentance is our only remedy. Telling someone who is mentally disturbed due to a biological, genetic or physiological cause to repent will not help him or her heal; it will only cause hurt,” he said.

Rose urged believers to approach the subject of mental health with humility, acknowledging its intricacy.

“There are times when we in the church can get a bit dogmatic about what the Bible teaches concerning mental health,” Rose said. “For myself and others, the greatest ingredient we need in addressing these difficult issues is humility. There are many things we just don’t know, and there are times it is fully appropriate and helpful to work with professionals to help us with situations that are immensely complex.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press.)

9/11/2014 9:35:22 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Elliff’s IMB tenure one of energy and prayer

September 11 2014 by Tess Rivers, IMB/Baptist Press

There are three qualities that many would say characterize former International Mission Board (IMB) president Tom Elliff: boundless energy, a passion for prayer and a heart broken over lostness.
 
When IMB trustees unanimously elected Elliff to lead the missions agency in March 2011, the then 67-year-old former missionary, pastor, two-time Southern Baptist Convention president and IMB vice president made it clear that he had big plans.

“I’m coming with a vision,” Elliff said at the time, “and I will serve as long as God gives me grace and energy.”

On Aug. 27, IMB trustees elected David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., to succeed Elliff as IMB president.

In February 2014, when Elliff asked IMB trustees to begin the search for his successor, he promised to “run through the finish line, until such a successor is found.”


Heart for ministry

Born in Texas, Elliff is a fourth-generation Oklahoman and third-generation pastor. He served with his wife Jeannie as an IMB missionary to Zimbabwe in the early 1980s. They resigned in 1983 after their daughter Beth was seriously injured in a car accident there.

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IMB Photo
Tom Elliff, who served as IMB’s 11th president, often described himself and other Christians as “chasers of darkness” who are “looking for the black holes of sin in our world and thrusting into that darkness the Light of the glorious gospel of Christ

He was twice elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention, in 1996 and 1997. He shepherded several key churches in the denomination, including First Southern Baptist Church of Del City, Okla., where he was pastor from 1985-2005.

Elliff then served as IMB senior vice president for spiritual nurture and church relations from 2005-09. In that role, he taught and counseled missionaries and helped mobilize churches throughout the convention for missions involvement. From 2009-11, he led Living in The Word Publications, a writing and speaking ministry he founded in 2005. He is the author of numerous books about prayer, spiritual awakening and family life.

In his years as International Mission Board president, Elliff never seemed to slow down. He introduced a number of initiatives at the missions agency, including Embrace, in which churches commit to make disciples among previously unengaged, unreached people groups; Ready Reserve, which allows former field personnel to volunteer for overseas missions; Marketplace Advance, where business leaders and other professionals leverage their skills for the sake of the Great Commission; Global Connect, in which IMB partners with churches who are fully funding and sending out their church members as a part of their ongoing work among a people group, and the School of Prayer for All Nations, which equips churches in prayer for the nations.


Chasers of darkness

“We are chasers of darkness,” Elliff often said, “looking for the black holes of sin in our world and thrusting into that darkness the Light of the glorious gospel of Christ.”

Elliff’s urgency and passion for the lost grew from an experience he had as a young pastor and swim coach. After a particularly grueling practice with his swimmers, Elliff jumped into the pool to relax. Floating on his back, he heard a voice: “I hear you’re a preacher.” Elliff opened his eyes and saw one of his swimmers standing on the edge of the pool. The boy had questions about God, Elliff recalled, and asked if they could talk.

“I didn’t take the time to talk with him then,” Elliff said. “Instead, I told him that we would set up a time.”

That meeting never happened, and later Elliff learned the boy took his own life. That experience instilled in the young Elliff a deep sense of urgency to make Christ known at every opportunity. It also drove him to his knees in prayer.


Passionate in prayer

In remarks at a farewell luncheon for the Elliffs on Aug. 27, IMB executive vice president Clyde Meador noted Elliff’s passion for prayer.

Shortly after arriving at IMB as president, Elliff asked that a portion of his office suite be converted into a prayer room. Outfitted with a kneeling bench and a map of the nations on the wall, he spent time on his knees every day interceding for a lost world and those working to share the gospel of Jesus with them.

“You prayed for 10 IMB staff members every day and devoted so much of our meeting times to prayer,” Meador told Elliff during the luncheon. “Thank you for praying.”

David Uth, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla., and former IMB trustee board chair who led the search for Elliff’s successor, also noted Elliff’s passion.

“I’ll never forget the day we sat together … and I watched as you wept for the nations,” Uth said. “Your passion for the lost is greater than any I’ve ever seen in anyone.”


Humble cheerleader

At his final SBC annual meeting as IMB president, in Baltimore, Md., in June, Elliff thanked Southern Baptists for the opportunity to serve but acknowledged that God was leading him to step aside.

“We believe people support what they help create,” Elliff said. “And it seems we have an entire generation of Southern Baptists who’ve yet to have an opportunity to help us create who we are. There comes a time when leaders need to be cheerleaders.”

During the Aug. 27 IMB trustee meeting, amid cheers and applause, Elliff, 70, handed the reins of Southern Baptists’ international missions organization to Platt who, at 36, is the youngest president in the history of the 169-year-old institution.

Fighting back tears, Elliff called Platt’s election one of the most exciting moments of his life, adding that he and his wife Jeannie have been praying for Platt and his wife Heather since before Elliff became IMB’s president in 2011.

The next day, Elliff sent a parting email to IMB personnel.

“I’ve never been a fan of long goodbyes,” Elliff wrote, as he welcomed Platt to his role. “There is a world of darkness awaiting the arrival of folks like us who chase darkness away with THE Light ... Let’s all join him in his fervent determination to take the Light to the ends of the earth.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tess Rivers is an IMB writer. Erich Bridges contributed to this article.)

9/11/2014 9:09:27 AM by Tess Rivers, IMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



South Asia flooding stirs call for prayer & relief

September 11 2014 by Susie Rain, IMB/Baptist Press

Floodwaters sweeping across northern India and Pakistan have killed more than 450 people. Hundreds of thousands more have fled their homes as helicopters and boats raced to save marooned victims in one of the worst floods to hit this area in 60 years.

Authorities used Wednesday’s daylight hours with no rain to pick up their rescue efforts and get more people to safety. Thousands waded through waist-deep water with possessions bundled on their heads, creating makeshift camps when they reached dry ground. Hundreds of others remain stranded on rooftops, waving for help to passing helicopters.

Forecasts called for rain to start again Wednesday evening (Sept. 10) and fall through Sunday. Pakistani officials warned the situation might only get worse.


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Darren Cantwell,* International Mission Board’s (IMB) South Asia affinity leader, asked Southern Baptists to pray as IMB makes plans to offer help to those displaced. More than 1.5 million have been affected by the flooding that crosses two countries in the northern Himalayas. More than 700,000 people have been told to leave their homes, with even more expected to evacuate during the next three days.

“We are actively checking on new opportunities for relief efforts,” Cantwell said. “Through our partners, we will be able to minister to those displaced and be the hands and feet of Christ’s love to those hurting. When the waters recede, we’ll help people with immediate needs such as housing, clean water and food.”

The flash floods, which began Sept. 3, triggered landslides and washed away houses, bridges, communication equipment and crops. Getting basic relief supplies to those in need has proven to be a monumental task.

Bridges have been destroyed, and piles of debris mark where roads once stood. No supplies are reaching the markets and communities in the mountains unless they are flown or hiked into the area.

With the relief efforts still in the early stages, the International Mission Board hopes to find a way to be of long-term service to the affected area. Local officials estimate it could take years to recover from this flood. Royce Allard,* an IMB worker based in South Asia, said efforts will concentrate on finding a “niche of service and assistance” that isn’t being met by other organizations.

“As believers, we wish to share Christ’s compassion with those we meet in both word and deed,” Allard said. “Pray for God’s mercy on those impacted.”

Join Cantwell and Allard in praying for those affected by the northern India and Pakistani flood:

  1. Pray for men and women to turn to the Lord during this time of suffering and sorrow. Ask for hearts to be tender to His love and kindness.

  2. Pray for those who are going to do initial assessments to be wise, compassionate and courageous.

  3. Pray for protection against disease and illness. Pray food, water and housing will be found for those in need.

*Name changed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Susie Rain is an IMB writer/editor living in Asia.)

9/11/2014 9:00:55 AM by Susie Rain, IMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



FEMA council adds Baptist DR leader

September 10 2014 by Joni B. Hannigan, Baptist Press

Fritz Wilson, executive director of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, is one of 12 new appointees to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Advisory Council.

Wilson was selected for a three-year term from among 200 leaders recommended from across the U.S., including elected officials, first responders, scientists, emergency management specialists and cyber security professionals.

The 35-member advisory council, established following Hurricane Katrina, studies service gaps and recommends possible solutions to the FEMA administrator in the areas of disaster preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation.

“It’s a high honor to represent Southern Baptists and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief,” Wilson said. “I am humbled to serve. Southern Baptists are willing to do whatever it takes to bring help, healing and hope to communities in need.”


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Fritz Wilson

Wilson, a staff member of the North American Mission Board, said he believes Southern Baptist Disaster Relief’s reputation caught the attention of senior FEMA officials who chose him to bring experience and expertise in the areas of “standards setting and accrediting” for response groups. He follows Mickey Caison, NAMB’s previous disaster relief team leader, who served on the advisory council in a dual role with another organization.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) reported more than 65,000 credentialed volunteers at the end of 2013, making it one of the largest mobilizers of trained disaster relief workers in the U.S., not counting people in thousands of Southern Baptist churches who each day respond to crisis events in their communities.

SBDR equipment, primarily supported and staffed by state Baptist conventions, encompasses well over 100 feeding units (some of which can prepare 30,000 hot meals per day), 75 shower and laundry units and 600-plus recovery and cleanup units. In addition, communication centers, generators, tractor-trailers and bucket trucks are dispatched around the nation to provide response support.

Most recently, Wilson said SBDR units have served at the U.S. border with Mexico where illegal immigrant children are being processed. They currently are providing “practical” help via mud-out assistance and food to homeowners after floods in the Detroit area and have stayed the course rebuilding in New York and New Jersey following Hurricane Sandy.

“Our continued commitment to people who experience any kind of disaster, whether it is a large one like Katrina or a small one, is what we are recognized for,” Wilson said. “We have volunteers who are willing to give of themselves and serve, and Southern Baptists who are willing to support this. Southern Baptists are a group that brings a lot to the table.”

An Alabama native, Wilson has led SBDR at NAMB since 2012. He had been with the Florida Baptist Convention since 1996 leading disaster relief and serving in other roles. He holds a master of divinity degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and an undergraduate degree from the University of Mobile.

Wilson and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate met in the midst of the 2004-05 historic hurricane seasons when Fugate directed the Florida Division of Emergency Management. In 2007, Florida’s then-Gov. Jeb Bush honored Wilson with the Governor’s Distinguished Service Award.

In 2010 Wilson served in Haiti for 10 months directing Southern Baptists’ earthquake response. He played a key role during the 9/11 response in New York City, helping establish a partnership between the SBC and The Salvation Army. He has led in more than 150 disaster responses, including the 2011 massive tornado outbreak in Alabama.

The Alabama tornadoes took him close to home in Jasper, Ala., where as a teenager in 1974 Wilson and his father assisted friends and neighbors with what was then considered the worst tornado outbreak in U.S. history. Back then, Wilson said he didn’t yet understand what people meant when they said, “God has a plan for your life.”

“When I look back at the tapestry of what God was doing in my life and the people who influenced it, I can now understand how each event was part of God’s plan that brought me to this point right now. It’s pretty amazing and pretty humbling,” Wilson said. “You have to be obedient and walk through the door and appreciate that He’s shaping you for something. I get it now.”

NAMB President Kevin Ezell noted Wilson’s appointment.

“Fritz will be a great resource to the FEMA council,” Ezell said. “He will also be a voice for faith groups who have so much to offer in times of need. His appointment demonstrates the level of credibility Southern Baptist volunteers have earned over the years by serving so tirelessly and so effectively.”

9/10/2014 10:53:39 AM by Joni B. Hannigan, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Children’s Homes brings back Unite youth event

September 10 2014 by BCH Communications

Residents of Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH) and youth from surrounding churches came together last year for Unite, a first-year event focused on evangelism, music and fellowship. Excitement is now building for Unite 2014, which takes place on Sat., Oct. 18 at BCH’s Mills Home in Thomasville.
 
Much of the enthusiasm for the free event centers on this year’s featured speaker Jonathan Evans, chaplain of the Dallas Cowboys and former NFL player.
 
“Our children are our future, and it’s important for God’s people to step in with His power to help guide them and families towards Christ,” Evans said. “We need to encourage them to move from where they are to where God desires them to be.”

 
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BCH photo
Awestruck from Gibsonville leads a time of music and worship at last year’s event. They return to Unite this year.

Evans is the son of Tony Evans, renowned evangelical leader from Dallas, Texas. In addition to his duties as chaplain, the former fullback speaks at numerous events and is passionate about mentoring youth in his home church. Evans will have the opportunity to bring that passion to middle and high school-aged youth attending Unite. “Hope is critical for young people. If you lose hope you’ve lost a lot,” Evans explains. “Providing them hope through God’s Word and through Jesus Christ is the most important thing they could experience at Unite.”
 
Unite’s mission is to bring youth, churches and the community together for the cause of Christ. “It’s not about sameness of person, but sameness of purpose,” Evans said. “God makes Himself evident through unity. The Bible talks about the oneness of the body of Christ and the importance of every piece of the body.”
 
Evans is not the only new participant at this year’s event. Joining him is Flame of God, a North Carolina-based Christian rap artist, singer; author Roberta Brunck, a former BCH resident; and Liberty University’s S.O.A.R. Dunk, an acrobatic basketball team. Awestruck, the contemporary worship band from Awestruck Church in Gibsonville, is returning to this year’s Unite. The group became involved with BCH when singer/songwriter Tyler Ricketts, who serves as Worship Pastor for Awestruck Church, reached out to the Children’s Homes in 2013.
 
“Awestruck’s desire to use their talents to impact the lives of BCH’s boys and girls made Unite possible,” says BCH’s Tabitha Ward who coordinates the event. “They’ve been a sparkplug that has allowed us to bring so many others together to share God’s love with our residents and youth in the community.”
 
Unite begins at 12:30 p.m. with free food, inflatable games and other activities. A dodgeball tourney for groups that have pre-registered also begins at 12:30. S.O.A.R. Dunk performs at 2:45. The food area and all other activities end at 3:00 p.m. for the start of the main program.
 
Despite rainy conditions, 900 youth and adults attended Unite last year.
 
At the end of the event, 51 middle school and high school students, including a number of BCH’s boys and girls, made decisions for Christ. Ward is hopeful for even greater results this year. The planning team, which has been meeting since early 2014, is encouraging churches and their youth to pray and invite others to the event.
 
“We want to challenge youth who will be attending to boldly pray every day for at least one unchurched friend and invite them to Unite,” Ward says. “There’s nothing more incredible than seeing God work in the hearts of children to forever change their lives.”
 
Unite is a free event. To register for the event, the dodgeball tournament (space is limited to 16 teams), or to volunteer, visit www.standupunite.com. For more information, contact Ward at tward@bchfamily.org or (336) 313-9512.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Christian rap artist HumbleTip will not be performing at this year’s Unite.) 

9/10/2014 10:41:28 AM by BCH Communications | with 0 comments



Pastor calls Hispanics to 'go now,' reach world

September 10 2014 by Ava Thomas, IMB/Baptist Press

Jesús Guillén says he should’ve died a dozen times over, twice at the hands of his wife.

“For 10 years, I was a very bad husband. I did everything wrong. It was a hell for her,” Guillén, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Redención, a Hispanic church in Houston, Texas, says of his past. “I made her life so bad that she tried to kill herself three times and kill me twice.”

He’s got the knife scars to prove it.

It’s hard for people who meet Guillén to believe that’s the way his story started, that the gentle pastor with the big smile was planting marijuana and drinking himself silly at age 9 in Mexico.

Or that at 15, because of Guillén’s skill with a pistol, a wealthy man hired him as his bodyguard.

“He said, ‘If anyone tries to hurt me, kill them and I will get you out of jail,’” Guillén recounted. “Fortunately, I never had to kill anyone.”

After three years of dangerous work as a bodyguard, Guillén married and moved to Texas looking for freedom.

But he found he’d brought his troubles with him – drug addiction, alcoholism, abuse and trouble with the law. During that time, Guillén’s wife tried to take her own life and his too.


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IMB photo by Byron Stacey
Jesús Guillén, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Redención, a Hispanic church in Houston, encourages Latin American missionaries living and serving in West Africa during a visit there.  

That’s also the phase where he wandered into a Baptist church in Houston.

“As I was standing there in the church, I said to God, ‘Take away these addictions, and I will follow you.’ And God did,” he said. “Nobody believed I could get away from alcohol, but God did it. And I’m so grateful to God that I want to be part of the work of His Kingdom.”

That’s why pastor Guillén spent the next few decades planting 23 churches, training pastors and recruiting missionaries to take the model to other countries.

He also watched his sons go to college and law school, got his GED and became a grandfather.

“When God wants to use you, He can do anything,” said Guillén, who is helping lead his church and church plants in an overseas mission effort to reach street kids in Senegal for Christ.

“Many people in our churches in the past have said, ‘Why would you go all the way to Senegal to do this (meet needs and share the gospel) when there are needs right here in our own state?’” Guillén said. “But we have to do it at home and in the whole world. God prepared us for this, and He told us to.”

Guillén said he was looking for a place for Iglesia Bautista church – and the churches he helped plant – to get involved overseas. And after meeting with Jason Carlisle, director of Hispanic mobilization for the International Mission Board, he thought the West African country of Guinea-Bissau might be the place.

“That was in 2007, and they were having a strike, so we couldn’t go,” Guillén said. “Jason asked me if I would consider Senegal instead, and I said that was fine with me.... I didn’t know anything about either of them.”

It was God’s will that Guillén went to Senegal instead, he says. There he met a family of Costa Ricans committed to taking in boys and girls, providing them with food and an education and teaching them about Jesus.

Over time, other Spanish-speaking missionaries joined them, thanks to Guillén’s recruiting – people like Jorge Reina, a bread maker and former drug smuggler; people from Guatemala, Chile, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Panama and the United States.

A group of Hispanic pastors in the Houston area started to meet regularly to pray for the Senegal ministry and to talk about ways to encourage their churches to get involved.

And Guillén kept dreaming.

“In Senegal, as they expanded the ministry and built more homes for the kids, I knew they needed ways to sustain themselves financially,” Guillén said. “Gilbert, who led the ministry, suggested that they start a farm to raise chickens for money....”

He shared his dream with his church, and three weeks later they took up an offering of $18,000 to start a chicken farm.

That farm now boasts thousands of chickens and provides about $1,700 a month in income for the ministry.

“We as a church realized it was God’s will to help them,” and so they did, Guillén said.

They also support the ministry monthly and have sent shipping containers filled with things like welding machines, commercial bread makers, even a car. At the homes, the children learn to bake bread, weld and retread tires.

And the children learn how to share their faith.

“We are expecting ... God to send [some of them] to other countries. We want to make sure they are ready to go,” Guillén said. “Gilbert, Jorge and the others teach them the Bible day and night.”

Every weekend some of the older children and teens go out with the Hispanic missionaries to remote villages previously unexposed to the gospel. These villages are wide open to hear the story, thanks to gifts of medicine and food the missionaries have been able to offer.

“In several villages, they are planting churches,” Guillén said. “There are at least four villages with 40, 50, 150 meeting.”

It’s going so well it’s nearly time to move on, he said. “They are nearly ready to sustain themselves here, so we will be thinking about what country to go to next.”

Guillén spoke this summer at the Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas annual meeting, hoping to drum up interest from other Hispanic churches that might like to play a part in reaching the world.

“I’m trying to involve as many churches as I can,” he said. “When people work as a team, God blesses.”

And God is calling people out, he said.

“Every time I go to a meeting (in Latin America) there are people who feel God is telling them to go but are waiting for someone to send them,” he said. “I meet dozens who want to go to different places, and they are serious about it. I hope I find some churches in the States to help send them. We can show them how.”

Guillén’s church isn’t a big church – it runs about 90 on a Sunday, he said. “But God can do anything through anyone if they are willing to give what they have. Whether it be having a lawn-mowing business and using that money to give to missions or going yourself, God can use anyone.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ava Thomas is a writer/editor based in Europe.)

9/10/2014 10:27:00 AM by Ava Thomas, IMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Coats for the City deadline is Oct. 31

September 10 2014 by BSC Communications

The third annual “Coats for the City” is scheduled for Dec. 11-13 in New York City. Coats for the City is an event hosted in partnership between the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) Office of Great Commission Partnerships and the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association (MNYBA).
 
Coats for the City provides warm coats to people in New York and opportunities for local churches and church planters to meet local residents and share the gospel in a city where it is estimated that less than three percent of the population know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
 
During last year’s event, North Carolina Baptists collected and helped distribute more than 5,000 coats, Bibles and Jesus films at 14 distribution sites across all five boroughs of New York City. The goal for 2014 is to distribute 30,000 coats, hats and gloves and to give either a Bible or Jesus film in the language of the person receiving the coat.
 
“When you give to Coats for the City, you are partnering with churches and church plants in New York City that are making a difference in one of the world’s most influential cities,” said Chuck Register, BSC executive leader for church planting and missions partnerships. “This is a strategic opportunity for North Carolina Baptists to impact lostness in a city that desperately needs the gospel.”
 
N.C. Baptists can participate in Coats for the City in a number of ways, beginning by collecting coats.
 
Churches are asked to collect new or gently used coats, sorted into heavy-duty lawn bags for men, women and children and deliver them to a number of statewide collection centers by Oct. 31. BSC staffers will then pick up the coats and deliver them by truck to New York. N.C. Baptists are also encouraged to help distribute the coats in New York. Volunteers who want to help distribute the coats are asked to commit to: arrive in New York by the evening of Dec. 11; attend a Dec. 12 training session in New York; be prepared to pray and share the gospel with those they engage as they distribute coats Dec. 13. Housing for 40 volunteers will be available in the MNYBA office in Manhattan; other housing can be arranged as needed. Volunteers will need to pay for transportation, lodging and meals.
 
For more information about Coats for the City, visit ncbaptist.org/coats or contact Abby Edwards at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5536, or email at aedwards@ncbaptist.org.

9/10/2014 10:15:24 AM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments



N.C. students serve among T people in Southeast Asia

September 9 2014 by Paige Turner, International Mission Board

When she arrived with the group a little before 10 p.m. the village wasn’t dark and somber like she expected. Lights inside the house were on, and when it came time for worship songs the group of about 30 was anything but quiet.
 
“I had in my mind we needed to be quiet, to turn the lights off,” said Autumn James.* “But they sing the loudest of anyone I’ve ever met.”
 
Those gathered for house church that night live every day in the face of an oppressive government and military, all because they are from minority people groups. 
 
“They still praised God,” James said. “I was impressed by the T people living their lives so boldly. It changed my perspective on worship.”
 
James met many T people this summer in the two weeks she spent helping lead a five-member team of college students from North Carolina to research the people group. The T people are an unreached, unengaged people group in Southeast Asia with less than 1 percent of the population believing in Jesus.
James met a young girl during house church whose smile and joyful countenance immediately captured her attention. But that joy turned to despair as soon as people began sharing prayer requests for friends who recently took jobs on fishing boats.
 
Fishing boat jobs require working seven days a week with only four hours off each day, if the boat owner allows time off at all. Some workers are treated as slaves and sold from one boat to the next without ever being allowed off the boats.
 
James and the team saw how even through these trials, the T people remain steadfast in their faith.

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IMB photos by Hugh Johnson
After one year of praying, God led Old Town Baptist Church in Winston-Salem to these coastal waters and the T people in Southeast Asia. The church began intense prayer efforts four years ago asking God to show them where to engage an unreached, unengaged people group.

The students focused their research on the T people in an effort to work alongside Old Town Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
 
Old Town embraced the people group about four years ago and have focused their time in one Southeast Asian country. Students traveled to cities in a neighboring country, working to find other areas where the T people live.
 
The trip to Southeast Asia marked the culmination of a three-year training for the students sponsored by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Through the training, known as the Next Generation Missional Journey, the students engaged in hands-on missions locally, nationally and internationally.
 
Their research will help Old Town, and other churches, continue to advance the gospel among the T people.
 
But the students discovered they gained a lot more than just research data. See what the students had to say about their experiences:

 

Autumn James: More than a face 
Church planting intern, New York City

Although she helped with the students’ trip last year to research unreached people groups in New York City, graduated from a North Carolina seminary and now serves with a church plant in New York City, Autumn James’ time in Southeast Asia taught her something different.
 
“You don’t naturally think to find unreached people, or to do anything about it,” James said. “They’re just faces. But behind their faces are people groups who have never heard the gospel.”
 
James left Southeast Asia resolved to return to New York and notice the people and faces around her who are different – especially T people who may be living in her city.
 
Those faces represent lives of struggle, yet great joy.
 
“The fears I have are null and void in the power of the gospel,” James said. “The T people truly live in the hope of the gospel.”

 

Sara Martin*: Obeying the call
College junior, North Carolina State University

Sara Martin thought she had it all figured out. She came into the three-year missions journey ready to serve God as a teacher.
 
One night during the first year, during a retreat for the students, a speaker shared about unreached people groups. The Holy Spirit’s presence so overwhelmed Martin that she left the meeting room and went to pray. She knew God was calling her to international missions.
 
“I know the Lord will take me where I need to go as long as I’m working for His purpose,” she said.
 
For Martin, the next few years in the missions journey, and especially time in Southeast Asia, showed her the importance of basic spiritual disciplines when it comes to reaching people with the gospel.
“You have to build trust,” she said. “I now see the value in a conversation and understanding where people are coming from.”
 
Martin also saw the need to equip new believers to share their faith among their people group.
 
“I didn’t really understand discipleship; it was a foreign concept,” she said. “Now, I see the value in investing in others and how they can then be molded. It’s not ‘go and leave.’ It’s so much more.”

 

Claire Campbell*: A different kind of missionary
College freshman, Gaston Community College

At age 15 Claire Campbell was the youngest of the bunch to start the missions journey. By then she had already participated in several international mission trips—but none like Southeast Asia.
 
On this trip she met people who had never heard the gospel, and she realized that while the gospel message doesn’t change, the approach must.
 
“If I hadn’t done the missions journey and come to Southeast Asia I’m not sure what kind of missionary I would have become,” Campbell said. “You can’t approach everyone the same. You can’t effectively approach a Hispanic community the same way you would a T people Buddhist community.”
 
Campbell also learned from believers in Southeast Asia – who often pay a price for their faith – what it means to truly treasure Jesus.
 
“Back home we get so caught up in routine. For the people we met, their faith means so much to them,” she said.
 
Although Campbell has wanted to be a missionary since she was a child, sharing her testimony before a group of people has always made her anxious.
 
“Too many times in the States I would worry about ‘getting it right;’ doing everything in the right order,” she said. “In Southeast Asia I saw that sharing my testimony is about sharing my heart. I learned to be genuine. I had to put my faith in Him and not myself.”

 

Kevin Williams*: Lasting impact
College junior, Gardner-Webb University, Youth pastor

One afternoon in Southeast Asia, as he helped her practice during the English as a Second Language class, a young girl quite adamantly told Kevin Williams she wanted to be a missionary. The girl moved from a neighboring country just a few years ago and wants to someday return home and share the gospel.
 
The bold confession of a child challenged Williams to do more to equip the students in his youth ministry back home.
 
“Before, I was trying to better the youth ministry for the ministry itself,” Williams said. “Now, I am learning to really invest in the students.”
 
Williams also learned that while action is important, a verbal gospel witness is a must – especially for unreached people groups.
 
“Missions is no longer, ‘Let’s go and do something nice and hope it lasts.’ Missions is connecting God and people,” he said. “If we really believe He is the only way, we have to take Jesus to those who have never heard.”
 
*Name changed 
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – There will be more stories about Old Town Baptist Church in a future issue.) 

9/9/2014 11:06:46 AM by Paige Turner, International Mission Board | with 0 comments



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