CP 5.28% above year-to-date projection

August 3 2016 by Baptist Press Staff

Year-to-date contributions to Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) national and international missions and ministries received by the SBC Executive Committee are 5.28 percent above the year-to-date SBC Cooperative Program (CP) Allocation Budget projection, and are 2.99 percent above contributions received during the same time frame last year, according to a news release from SBC Executive Committee President and CEO Frank S. Page.

The year-to-date total represents money received by the Executive Committee by the close of the last business day of July and includes receipts from state conventions, churches and individuals for distribution according to the 2015-16 SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.
As of July 31, gifts received by the Executive Committee for distribution through the SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget through the first nine months of the Convention’s fiscal year (October to September) totaled $163,617,265.19. This total is $8,200,598.52 above the $155,416,666.67 year-to-date budgeted projection to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America, and is $4,757,746.81 more than the $158,859,518.38 received through the end of July 2015.
Designated giving of $195,055,242.88 for the same year-to-date period is 5.09 percent, or $9,444,428.40, above the $185,610,814.48 received at this point last year. This total includes only those gifts received and distributed by the Executive Committee and does not reflect designated gifts contributed directly to SBC entities. Designated contributions include the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, Southern Baptist Global Hunger Relief and other special gifts.
July’s CP allocation receipts for SBC work totaled $16,439,378.30. Designated gifts received last month amounted to $7,132,157.77.
The Convention-adopted CP Allocation Budget is distributed 50.41 percent to international missions through International Mission Board (IMB), 22.79 percent to North American missions through North American Mission Board, 22.16 percent to theological education through the Convention’s six seminaries, 2.99 percent to the SBC operating budget, and 1.65 percent to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. GuideStone Financial Resources and LifeWay Christian Resources are self-sustaining and do not receive CP funding.
According to the 2015-2016 budget adopted by the SBC, if the convention exceeds its annual budget goal of $186.5 million dollars, IMB’s share will go to 51 percent of any overage in Cooperative Program allocation budget receipts. Other ministry entities of the SBC will receive their adopted percentage amounts of any overage and the SBC operating budget’s portion will be reduced to 2.4 percent of any overage.
The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists’ channel of giving through which a local church is able to contribute to the ministries of its state convention and to the missions and ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention with a single contribution to its state convention. State and regional Baptist conventions retain a portion of church contributions to the Cooperative Program to support work in their respective states and forward a percentage to Southern Baptist national and international causes. The percentage of distribution from the states is at the discretion of the messengers of each state convention through the adoption of the state convention’s annual budget. The totals in this report reflect only the SBC portion of Cooperative Program receipts.
Month-to-month swings reflect a number of factors, including the number of Sundays in a given month, the day of the month churches forward their CP contributions to their state conventions, the percentage of CP contributions forwarded to the SBC by the state conventions after shared ministry expenses are deducted and the timing of when the state conventions forward the national portion of Cooperative Program contributions to the Executive Committee.
CP allocation budget receipts received by the Executive Committee are reported monthly to the executives of the entities of the convention, to the state convention offices, to the state Baptist papers and are posted online at

8/3/2016 9:02:45 AM by Baptist Press Staff | with 0 comments

Strengthening churches from an RV

August 2 2016 by Shannon Baker, MABN

In recent days, Randy and Adele Millwood have been on a permanent road trip – one designed to better understand the needs of churches throughout Maryland and Delaware.
About five years ago, the couple strategically started to make changes in order to live a more simplified lifestyle, based on Ecclesiastes 7:29. Using the Good News Bible, the couple states the verse this way, “This is all I’ve learned. God made us plain and simple, and we have made ourselves complicated.”
Randy, the team strategist for church strengthening at the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network (also called the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware), noted, “After we moved our offices to our home and became field-based, we weren’t going into Columbia on a daily basis. We were going out to where the churches are.”

Submitted photo
Randy and Adele Millwood stand outside their RV. During the warmer months of the year, the couple travels throughout Maryland and Delaware to better understand the needs of churches in those states.

At first, they found themselves staying in a hotel for three or four nights, for instance, in western Maryland, so that they could meet with a variety of pastors and groups while there.
But over time, he and Adele, his ministry assistant/partner, “sort of had an ‘aha!’ moment.”
“We were gone. We came home. We packed a suitcase. We came home to mow the yard. Those kinds of things, but we didn’t really work at home,” Randy said.
“We worked on the field, and we started thinking, ‘What would it be like if we lived on the field as well?’”
Even deeper, the Millwoods knew they “sort of understood the lifestyles of people that lived in the suburbs of Baltimore and Washington” because they had done that. But they didn’t know life in southern Maryland, the Eastern Shore and Delaware, or out West.
“We knew the churches and the pastors, and that was very nice, but we didn’t know what the people face on a regular basis,” he noted. “It was very difficult for us to discern counsel or advice or coaching techniques for churches because we didn’t know what they were facing.”
That changed when the Millwoods bought a recreational vehicle, their version of a tiny house on wheels.
Since that purchase three years ago, the ministry couple (and their pet, Ellie May) has now lived in western Maryland, along the Capital Beltway, on the Eastern Shore, in Delaware, and northeast of Baltimore city, among other places.
“We’ve lived all over the region now. We know the ebbs and flows of the folks and some of the questions they ask,” Randy said.
He noted the types of things they typically learn about each community: where to get a haircut, a good place to eat, where to get prescriptions and groceries and gas.
“It generates an ordinary conversation for us to have with pastors and key leaders, and then more deeply understand some of the challenges that they face in representing Christ and His kingdom in their culture and in their world,” Randy said. “That’s pretty cool for us.”
It is quite the journey for someone who previously thought “a bad Holiday Inn was his idea of camping,” Adele said with a laugh.
They admit they often are asked: “How in the world do you live in a tiny house? How do you live in a small house with wheels on it? Do you guys ever run into each other?”
“Well, obviously we run into each other, but we’ve never really seen it that way,” Randy said. “I mean, if we have a miff with one another, we can step outside, and we’ve got a hundred-acre campground. We’ve got plenty of space we can get away from each other. That’s not really a problem for us at all.”
And besides, their availability to local pastors outweighs all of that.
Adele said, “One of the neat things is, I typically will send out an email to each region when we’re scheduled to be there, and pastors respond.” Now, even before she sends out the schedule, pastors ask when the Millwoods will be in their particular area so they can schedule training and coaching appointments.
“It seems that it makes it a little easier to ask for assistance, because they know we’re coming there,” she said. “We had one pastor, early on, say, ‘Well, I’ve been needing to talk with you for quite a while now, but I hated to ask you to drive all the way over here.’
“Even though we gladly will do that – we’re available anywhere anytime – the fact that we come and live there has made all the difference. It just puts us closer,” she said.
They are now so much closer that the Millwoods have gotten to know Network pastors and staff and their spouses a little more intimately because they’re there with them.
“We get invited into their homes. That just kind of deepens the relationships as well,” Adele said.
Randy noted, “We have folks on our staff that can and do an outstanding job of making quick calls and finding out what’s going in somebody’s life for quick response. But we’re just wired in such a way that we really prefer to hang out with the folks for a little bit, and get to know their rhythms and their patterns, and get to know how they live.
“It’s very helpful for us to sit down with folks over dinner, and spend time with them, and hear their story, and meet their kids, and see their strengths and weaknesses, and strengths and weaknesses of their kids through their parents’ eyes, and hear the challenges of the church from that kind of a conversation,” he said. “It helps us to make recommendations for other members of our staff to be able to engage some specific need, or where we can help, too.”
After some hard wintry weather experiences in the RV, including 68.5 inches of snow, ice storms and the like, the Millwoods now schedule their travel season from April until October.
The Millwoods will communicate by email their availability to pastors and directors of mission in each area, offering to help them any way they would like.
“We’re coming to a neighborhood near you sometime this summer, between now and fall, we will be pretty close,” Randy said. “We’ll be looking for you.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shannon Baker is director of communications for the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network in Columbia, Md. This article first appeared Baptist Life, newsjournal of the Mid-Atlantic Network.)

8/2/2016 1:45:45 PM by Shannon Baker, MABN | with 0 comments

Bobby & Mickey: A life-changing friendship

August 2 2016 by Rudy Gray, Baptist Courier

One of Bobby Richardson’s good friends during his playing days with the New York Yankees was the legendary Mickey Mantle.

The tract “His Final Inning” tells of Mickey Mantle’s profession of faith in Christ.

Mantle was an extremely popular player and regarded by many baseball observers as the best switch-hitter ever to play the game. He accumulated numerous awards during his 18-year career, highlighted by his greatest year as a professional in 1956. That year he won the Triple Crown, Male Athlete of the Year, American League Most Valuable Player, and Player of the Year. He played in 12 World Series and won the American League Most Valuable Player award in 1957 and 1962. The runner-up for the 1962 MVP was Richardson. Mantle said Richardson should have received the award.
During the years when Mantle and Richardson played, the Yankees were loaded with talent. It was the golden age of baseball, and the Yankees dominated. Larry King once said, “Mickey Mantle is baseball.”
But Mantle struggled throughout his career with a condition called osteomyelitis (bone infection) as the result of an injury in high school. He also injured his right knee in the 1951 World Series. After that, he wrapped his leg for every game and played with chronic pain. He was recognized and respected as a power hitter (hitting a home run reportedly measured at 565 feet), but also became known for his speed and drag bunts. He was a Gold Glove award recipient for his play in centerfield. However, following his knee injury, his speed was diminished.
Mantle had a reputation for being a hard-drinking party man. Along the way, he became an alcoholic. Richardson, on the other hand, was seen as a clean-living homebody and a dedicated Christian. It was an unusual friendship, but one that allowed Richardson to plant the seeds of the gospel many times over the years in Mantle’s life. “I believe God had a purpose for our relationship,” he said.
After both players retired, they stayed in contact, with Mantle doing public appearances and batting clinics for Richardson’s college teams. Richardson said Mantle retired “as one of the greatest players to ever play the game.”
Mantle owned a restaurant in New York, and Richardson would speak there on occasion. Once, his son Robby spoke there in the 1980s. Mantle commented to him, “You sound just like your dad – always talking about that decision I need to make.” During his career, he talked often about trusting Christ as Savior, referring to it as “the decision.”
Mantle’s alcoholism worsened following his retirement, and he entered the Betty Ford Center for treatment in 1994. Sportscaster Bob Costas interviewed him that year, just two weeks after his son Billy passed away at 36. Mantle told Costas that he had not been a good role model and that there was something missing in his life.
One year later, Mantle was diagnosed with liver cancer. After receiving a liver transplant, he was hopeful, but the cancer returned. His life began to deteriorate rapidly. While in the hospital at Baylor Medical Center in Dallas, he endured a great deal of pain. Bobby Richardson was in Dallas for a speaking engagement at that time. During that week, Richardson received a phone call at 6:00 a.m. from Mantle, asking him to pray for him. Richardson prayed with him over the phone and shared with him Philippians 4:4-7 in the Phillips translation. Later in the morning, he visited his friend at the hospital. As Richardson left the room to return to South Carolina, Mantle said to him, “Now don’t forget, you have my funeral.”
Richardson said, “I believe what drew Mickey to me was that I had the relationship with Christ that he was searching for, even if he didn’t realize it. He often attended our baseball chapel services.”
A few weeks later, Mantle’s wife Merlyn called the Richardsons. Mickey’s life was fading quickly. They flew to Dallas. When Bobby and Betsy walked into the room, Mantle said, “I can’t wait to tell you this. I have accepted Christ as my Savior.” Bobby was elated, but wanted to be sure, so he went through the plan of salvation with Mantle again. Betsy later asked him, “Mickey, if you were to stand before a holy God today and He asked you, ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’ what would you say?” Mantle replied, “We are talking about God, right?” Betsy acknowledged they were. He then quoted John 3:16.
Mantle, the Yankee great, passed away Aug. 13, 1995, on a Sunday morning at age 63. Bobby was in charge of the service and preached the funeral message. Bob Costas spoke also, but it was Richardson who presented the gospel. The service was televised worldwide.
Richardson has been distributing a special tract to hundreds of people over the years. It is titled “Mickey Mantle: His Final Inning” and tells the story of his friend’s profession of faith in Christ and how others can also believe and be saved.
Both Mantle and Richardson thought about quitting baseball when they were playing in the minor leagues. Neither did, and in the providence of God, they became friends – one living and sharing the life-changing message of the gospel, the other finally embracing that message.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rudy Gray is editor of the Baptist Courier,, newsjournal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.)

8/2/2016 9:26:18 AM by Rudy Gray, Baptist Courier | with 0 comments

Christian faith marks Yankee great’s career, home life

August 2 2016 by Rudy Gray, Baptist Courier

Bobby Richardson played baseball for the New York Yankees during the golden years of the dynasty. He retired from baseball at age 31 and shortly thereafter became the first full-time baseball coach at the University of South Carolina, establishing a winning tradition that continues to the present. But the key to his outstanding career, his marriage of 60 years and his witness for Christ has been his Christian faith.

Photo by Baptist Courier
Bobby and Betty Richardson

Bobby met his wife Betsy at Grace Baptist Church in Sumter, S.C. She sat on one side of the church with her mother, and he sat on the opposite side with the youth group. They noticed each other, and each thought the other was attractive.
On the day Bobby graduated from high school, he signed a professional baseball contract with the Yankees, even though he was offered contracts from 12 major league teams and scholarships from two large universities. As a boy, he dreamed of playing for the Yankees after he saw “The Pride of the Yankees,” a movie that told the inspiring story of Lou Gehrig. Years later, in 1962, Bobby won the Lou Gehrig Award, which honors the player who best exemplifies Gehrig’s character both on and off the field.
After a brief trip to New York, Bobby was playing minor league ball in Denver, Colo. He and Betsy continued to write to each other and, in their words, “got to know each other better.” They wanted to get married, so he asked manager Ralph Houk for permission to come to South Carolina and marry Betsy. Houk agreed, and Mr. and Mrs. Richardson returned to Denver a week later. Betsy was almost 16, and he was 20. They celebrated their 60th anniversary in June, but their journey has not been without struggles.
After returning to Denver and moving Betsy into their apartment, Bobby left the next day for a 17-day road trip with the team. The new bride was left alone in an unfamiliar city. She said, “It just about killed me when he left. I loved him so much. While he was gone, I felt real fear for the first time, and I did not sleep that first night.” Break-ins had been reported in the area where they lived, and she noticed a large man walking up and down the street in front of their apartment. She says she overcame her fear by “reading the Bible and trusting the Lord.”
“I was so naive,” she said. “I didn’t know how to cook many things, but I had a recipe for apple crunch that I thought he liked.” After serving it six days in a row, Bobby invited her to sit on his lap. She added, “He had a hard time getting out what he wanted to say, but he finally said, ‘I hate that apple desert.’”  He admitted he liked it for a while, but after six consecutive days, he had “had enough.”
Adjusting to being the wife of a professional baseball player was difficult for Betsy, and she struggled with depression. She knew she would have to share her husband with the public because of his life in baseball, but she had not anticipated the feelings she would encounter. “We had lots of struggles related to his profession. We are opposite temperaments, so it is a miracle we have stayed together,” she laughed.

Photo submitted
Bobby Richardson baseball card

While she battled depression, he had some anger issues that were expressed as sarcasm. Bobby acknowledged it, and Betsy added, “Sometimes he would be sarcastic and I would get mad at him, but I could not stay mad at him very long.”
Bobby retired from baseball in the prime of his career at age 31. By this time, the couple had four children, and their schedule was challenging. During the year, the family lived in Florida (for spring training), New Jersey and Sumter.
Bobby wasn’t able to spend as much time with his children as he wanted, and Betsy often filled the role of both parents. “People saw our children play sports and assumed they benefitted from having a major leaguer to work with them at home,” Bobby said. “They would be stunned to know how many times it was actually their mother throwing a ball with them in the yard or shooting baskets with them because their father was not at home.”
Why did he retire at 31? “I wanted to take the kids to school, help them with homework and watch or help coach their teams,” he noted.
He and shortstop Tony Kubek both decided they would retire at the end of the 1965 season. Richardson was asked to play one more year and accept a special position for four more years at $15,000 a year. Houk, who was then the manager of the Yankees, told him he would not have to do anything.

Photo submitted
Bobby Richardson baseball card

On Sept. 17, 1966, he became the 10th Yankee to be given a special day at Yankee Stadium. The team did not do well that year, and toward the end of the season attendance had fallen to around 10,000 people a game. On “Bobby Richardson Day,” 20,000 fans showed up, George Beverly Shea sang “How Great Thou Art,” and Richardson addressed the stadium crowd. He said, “How lucky it has been for me to have been a Yankee. To God be the glory.” Later, his mother-in-law good-naturedly reminded him that “we are not lucky, we are blessed.”
In 1970, Richardson became the first full-time baseball coach for the University of South Carolina. The Yankees have been identified by their pinstripe uniforms for years. Richardson said, “One of the first things I did was put pinstripes on the uniforms.” In 1974, the team made its first appearance in the NCAA tournament. In 1975, the Gamecocks went to the College World Series, losing to Texas in the championship game.
Richardson says his assignment was to “put Gamecock baseball on the map.” He brought a mediocre program into national prominence and established a winning tradition that continues to the present, including 30 regional and 11 College World Series appearances, four national runners-up and two national championships. He is warmly regarded as the Father of Gamecock Baseball.
When he left the Yankees and became the coach at Carolina, general manager Lee MacPhail told him, “When you get settled, give us a call, and we will bring the Yankees to play your ball club.” In 1974, Richardson called in the favor. There was one problem: The Yankees and Mets were traveling north together from spring training. Both agreed to come. The Gamecocks played the Yankees for three innings and the Mets for three innings, and the Mets and Yankees played a full nine-inning game. Yogi Berra was the manager of the Mets. Richardson said, “We had somewhere between 12,000 and 15,000 people in attendance. That helped boost our program more than anything.”

Photo by Baptist Courier
Bobby Richardson with a plaque honoring him for winning the 1962 Lou Gehrig Award. Framed above him are Yankee greats Gehrig and Babe Ruth.

Richardson left USC following the 1976 season and coached for two years at Coastal Carolina and five seasons at Liberty University. He has spoken at five Billy Graham crusades and continues to share God’s Word in churches and other venues throughout this country. He is a member of the South Carolina Hall of Fame.
Betsy and Bobby have five children, all of them in some type of ministry, including two sons who are pastors. They have 15 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, with two more due by the end of the year.
Richardson will turn 81 in August and offered this insight: “Betsy and I want to finish strong.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rudy Gray is editor of the Baptist Courier,, newsjournal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.)

8/2/2016 8:04:57 AM by Rudy Gray, Baptist Courier | with 0 comments

Wisdom-Martin elected executive director of WMU

August 1 2016 by Julie Walters, WMU

Sandra Wisdom-Martin, executive director of Woman’s Missionary Union of Texas, was unanimously elected executive director/treasurer of the national WMU by the organization’s executive board during a special called meeting, July 29-30, in Birmingham, Ala.
Wisdom-Martin succeeds Wanda Lee, who has served as executive director of the 128-year-old missions organization for the past 16 years. Wisdom-Martin, who will begin her new role on Oct. 15, was presented to the board by a search committee appointed in February following Lee’s announcement of her intentions to retire.
Prior to leading WMU of Texas since 2010, Wisdom-Martin served as women’s missions and ministries director for the Illinois Baptist State Association, 2001-2010; and as Cooperative Program Missionary with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, 1991-2001.
“Having served in three different Baptist state conventions, Sandy brings great experience as a leader to this role along with tremendous creativity,” said Joy Bolton, executive director of Kentucky and chair of the search committee. “The affirmations of her leadership received from people in each state where she has served speak volumes. She has earned love and respect through partnerships, missions trips, speaking engagements, and other missions involvement.”

WMU photo

Bolton describes Wisdom-Martin as “a thoughtful leader who listens well and brings clarity to complex situations when she speaks.”
Lee agrees. “I’ve had the privilege of observing and working alongside Sandy for many years,” she said. “Sandy listens well, considers every possible action before she speaks, and then delivers on what she promises. Her quiet presence puts people at ease while building confidence in the actions to be taken. She will lead WMU well from a place of complete surrender to the Lord.”

Complete Surrender

“My commitment has always been to walk where God leads,” Wisdom-Martin reflected, “yet this has been a difficult process because I am in a very good place. I love the assignment God has given us (in Texas). This certainly caught my family by surprise and was not a part of our plan, but we believe God is sovereign and all the details of our lives are in His hands. I trust Him completely for the future.”
She said what excites her most about this opportunity is to put total trust in the Father, serve Him with reckless abandon and see where the adventure leads.
“I don’t do what I do because of my employment,” Wisdom-Martin continued “I do what I do because I believe in the restoration of brokenness through hope in Christ. Through WMU, the only reason we do what we do is because He is risen and we must tell the good news.”
Linda Cooper, president of national WMU, said Wisdom-Martin clearly serves with humility and compassion and desires to honor God with her life. “Sandy is passionate about the work of WMU and what it represents, but most of all she loves the Lord and desires to share His love with everyone He puts in her path.”
With regard to transition of leadership, Lee said, “I am excited about handing over this important place of service to Sandy and pledge all of my support and prayers as she comes to lead WMU into the future. Her love for missions, missionaries, and WMU provides a strong backdrop for developing the vision we need for the future of WMU.”
In addition to more than 25 years of experience in state WMU and church and community ministry, including children’s missions education camps, Wisdom-Martin has served with more than 50 missions groups in nine different countries; served as national coordinator for Mississippi River Ministry; and writes extensively for WMU publications and others. In WMU, she has served as an associational GA director, associational Acteens director, Campus Baptist Young Women (BYU) president, Mission Friends leader, GA leader, and Acteens co-leader.
Born and raised in southern Illinois, Wisdom-Martin holds a bachelor’s degree in social work from Southern Illinois University and a master’s in social work from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. She and her husband, Frank, have one daughter, Hannah.

8/1/2016 11:09:09 AM by Julie Walters, WMU | with 0 comments

Atheist responds to Baptists’ service & love

August 1 2016 by Sabrina McDonald, Arkansas Baptist News

Kim Menon was an avowed atheist. As a child, her parents took her to church but no one could satisfy her with the answers she sought.

Submitted photo
Seattle kindergarten teacher Kim Menon is baptized by church planter Andy Brown, stirred toward a profession of faith by the acts of service and unconditional love of The Landing Church and volunteer teams from sponsoring churches like Central Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Ark.

“I thought believers just weren’t intelligent enough,” Menon said.
Now a kindergarten teacher in Seattle, education is a central part of Menon’s life. Striving to get involved in her students’ lives and to know their parents, she believes that’s how students best learn and grow. But Menon had no idea this path would lead her into a Christian commitment.
Three years ago, Andy Brown moved from Camden, Ark., to Seattle to plant churches, aided by Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program missions and ministry outreach funded through their tithes and offerings.
Larry Bailey, missions pastor at Central Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Ark., a sponsor church for Brown’s mission, noted, “Together we are able to [impact] places like Seattle because it’s so expensive to live there.”
Brown, after arriving in Seattle, registered his son for kindergarten at the local school, where he was placed in Menon’s class. The school building seemed to be in good shape but Brown noticed that the grounds needed landscaping and care.
“A lot of the ministry we do is community service,” Brown said. “A constant presence in the community is the best way to reach people, so we kind of adopted the school.”
When Brown talked to the principal about his desire to help the school, she was hesitant. Brown agreed to work with no mention of his religious beliefs. Everyone knew he was the pastor of The Landing Church but there would be no pressure from Brown while he was on campus. He was there only to serve. Many teachers were curious why he would do all that work with nothing in return, so it piqued their interest.
“He could answer my questions when asked,” Menon said, “but that was it.”
Brown noted that in a small church like The Landing in Seattle’s secular environment, “most of the new believers are still not comfortable being bold with their faith.”
“So we have to have a lot of outside help to have a constant presence in the community” since The Landing does almost all the landscaping at the school along with some painting and catering several times a year for the teachers and other special events.
That’s why mission trips from sponsor churches like Central Baptist are important. Also essential is the support of local churches giving to missions through the Cooperative Program (CP). CP gifts do more than just keep the utility bills paid; the investment touches lives like Menon’s.
Bailey was involved in one of those mission trips as a volunteer in Menon’s class, making copies, grading papers, helping with projects – anything to be of service.
“She was very suspicious,” Bailey said.
“She said, ‘I don’t get it. You fly all the way from Arkansas to Seattle to make copies for me. Why?’”
He simply explained, “Because we want to love you and show you that God loves you too.”
As they worked, Menon sat in the back of the classroom and watched with tears streaming down her face.
“I had never met anyone who did things like that without wanting something in return,” Menon said. “I thought Christians were predators who didn’t really care about who I was. They just wanted me to say a prayer and then not give a care about me.”

Persistent love

For more than two years, the Brown family continued to minister to the school and to Menon, among others. They invited her to birthday parties, neighborhood get-togethers and holiday events. They never hid their faith; quite the contrary – they continually invited her to church. It even became a joke, with Menon saying it would never happen. But as time went on, they all became friends, and she fell in love with this family.
At the same time, Menon’s marriage was falling apart, and she wanted to save it. She knew the Browns were pro-marriage and came to them for help. Menon felt hurt, unloved and rejected by her husband, but the Browns showed her that they would love her no matter what.
It made Menon wonder if there was something to all the talk about Jesus. “I loved them at this point,” she said, yet “I didn’t want to come to church and get their hopes up and then disappoint them.”
So she began to learn about God on her own. If she heard them mention a Christian book, she would secretly buy the book and read it.
Then Menon’s mother became very ill after a series of heart attacks. In spite of her fragile health, she was scheduled for heart surgery. Menon needed a miracle, so she did the only thing left to do: She called Brown and asked him to pray for her mother.
“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” Brown said.
What surprised him even more was what he heard come out of his own mouth: “God will heal your mother.”
Brown panicked. What if God didn’t heal her mother? What if this pushed her even farther from God? Yet he did what he knew he should do – he started praying. He called everyone in the church, emailed and posted on Facebook so that every believer he knew praying for Menon’s mother.
“Prayer and fasting are first and foremost on Brown’s mind,” Bailey said. “Like the saints of old – he’s patterned his life after them.”
Everyone waited with expectation as Menon’s mother underwent surgery. But when the doctors opened her up, they could find nothing wrong with her.
Menon was relieved, but also frustrated and angry. She wanted an explanation, but none of the doctors could tell her how her mother had been healed. She called a friend, an atheistic cardiac nurse, and her only response was, “Sometimes we don’t have the knowledge yet.”
She called Brown, and when she questioned him, he simply said, “What do you think about it?”
Menon searched her heart, and she knew who healed her mother: God.

Ready to believe

It wasn’t long until Menon was ready for the “God talk.” She was alone, listening to Christian music, and a song came on the radio that spoke to her.
“I am not alone,” she said. “Even though my husband leaves me, God will never leave me.”
She called the church, and Brown wasn’t available, so she spoke with a woman there.
“I feel something different inside me,” Menon began to explain. During the conversation, the woman led her in a salvation prayer over the phone.
Menon brought 19 of her unsaved friends to her baptism, and she is now the part-time children’s minister at The Landing Church.
“My life has changed immeasurably,” she said. “I used to omit the words ‘under God’ from the Pledge of Allegiance. I was for gay rights, and now I have a different definition of marriage – God’s definition. I didn’t even know what a gospel tract was three years ago, and now I’m handing them out.”
The Browns continue to help Menon grow in her faith and help her reach others.
“Tell the people in Arkansas, ‘Thank you,’ and that they are changing lives,” she said.
“There’s a teacher next door to me, and she’s been burned by believers. They need to come volunteer in her class. They can give their time and prayers.”
And they can also give financially. “We need a lot more support,” Brown said. What the ministry is currently receiving in support isn’t enough to cover the expenses.
“We have to raise a lot of money on our own because the cost of living is 45 to 50 percent higher than in other parts of the country,” Brown said.
And with a growing ministry, the costs are also growing. The Pacific Northwest is 96 percent unchurched, and many of the traditional churches that do exist make little or no effort to reach people in their communities.
In addition to Brown’s church plant and his efforts to reach people through the school, he has started a homeless ministry called SALT, which supplies food, clothing, personal health supplies and biblical teaching.
Through Brown’s efforts, 48 people have come to Christ since March 2014.
“Without the CP, Southern Baptist missionaries wouldn’t have the base to operate,” Brown said. “Together we can target strategic areas and accomplish a lot,” seeing Southern Baptists’ gifts help people like Kim Menon find eternal life.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sabrina McDonald is a freelance writer in Cabot, Ark. This article first appeared in the Arkansas Baptist News,, newsjournal of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.)

8/1/2016 9:47:35 AM by Sabrina McDonald, Arkansas Baptist News | with 0 comments

Affton replant reclaims its community

August 1 2016 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

An interim pastor told the dwindling, aging congregation he was to help “transition,” that First Baptist Church of Affton was on its death journey.

Photo courtesy of the Church at Affton
More than two hundred people Easter Sunday attended the official launch of Church at Affton, in a building that previously housed First Baptist Church of Affton.

He showed them the statistics, demographics, and physically less-able status of members mostly in their 70s and beyond, and, “We told him we weren’t just going to roll over and play dead,” said Bill Wright, 72 and chairman of the deacons.
But the church did die – intentionally – and on Easter, a new church was born.
Affton is an unincorporated urban community eight miles southwest of the Gateway Arch memorial in St. Louis, Mo., and within the I-270/255 beltway that defines the metro area. St. Louis is known for the multiplicity of cultures within its beltway, including – since the late 1990s – about 70,000 Bosniaks, a Muslim people group that worldwide is less than .01 percent evangelized. The heavily-traveled intersection the church sits on is the center of the Bosnian community in St. Louis.
“Their presence is reflective of the diversity in St. Louis,” said Jason Helmbacher, called as pastor of First Baptist Church of Affton, and now planter of Church at Affton. “First Baptist Affton had become an isolated island in a sea of incredible change. What became clear was that First Affton could not continue as it was.”
He told the congregation he had a different perspective than that of the interim who had heard the church’s death rattle.
“Jesus said He would build His church, and the gates of hell could never prevail against it,” the planter/pastor explained. “The church can’t die. The church is a people, not a place; a body, not a building. But what can – and sometimes must – die are institutions, organizations, forms and structures.”
The First Affton congregation had a choice to make. Did they want to continue their steadily-shrinking status quo in the face of a continually changing community, or did they want to be Jesus’ hands, feet, arms and heart to whoever lived in Affton?
“We aren’t the same thing with new packaging,” Helmbacher said. “This was by no means simply a rebranding. Starting Easter, I transitioned from pastor to church planter and our members from consumers of our religious goods and services to church planting team.”
The replant utilized the same debt-free building, now cleaned and moving toward a complete remodel, with internal change the most obvious difference.
“That was one of the hardest things in the world for us to take,” Deacon Wright said. “Pastor Jason told us for this church to go forward, you’re going to have to accept some things you don’t agree with, and that one little thing said a lot to me.... If we’re going to save this ministry on this corner, then we’re going to have to change.
“I have a good friend at church who is 80,” Wright continued. “When he heard this he said, ‘I’m in. I’m all in. Whatever it takes.’ That’s the attitude that was the ripple effect that went through our congregation.”
About 50,000 people live within a two-mile radius of the campus that has a building complex dating to the 1940s, and that as recently as the 1980s saw some 400 people in Sunday morning worship.
“We are longing to see something exciting here,” said Helmbacher, who became pastor in August 2015. “Whatever the Lord does, it will grow from the soil of that desire to see the gospel pressed out at whatever the cost. The real miracle here is the willingness of this remnant to ‘die’ in order to bear fruit.”

Photo courtesy of the Church at Affton
An enthusiastic group of students greets Jason Helmbacher when he teaches English in Sarajevo, Bosnia, each summer, building on relationships that have continually grown since Helmbacher and his family lived there in 2008–2010.

That desire grew as church members individually changed. “The first six months – September to March – was about us,” Wright said. “As we got our hearts in the right place, we had a free garage sale and hauled off dumpsters of stuff.
“We couldn’t have done it without the Lord, and without generous partnering churches,” Wright noted. “You could see His hand in everything we were doing.”
Jeanette Grider, among the youngest members of Church at Affton at 62, explained her understanding of the decline at First Affton.
“I think so many times we – churches as a whole – become all about us,” Grider said. “We did a lot of good work in the community but didn’t open our heart to the people. When he [the interim] said, ‘I’m here to help you shut things down,’ that sparked something in us.
“A whole lot of people said, ‘No! We’re not dead! We can make a difference in this community,’“ Grider continued. “People are going to know about us in the best possible way, and Jesus is going to shine through.”
Helmbacher led the congregation through six aspects of rebirth: gospel reading, praying, inviting, engaging, changing and giving. “It wasn’t about changing the name and the wrapping,” the pastor said. “It was about us changing. Unless our heart changes, nothing changes. We’ll keep doing the same thing.
“My heart was to see this people revived in their souls,” Helmbacher said. “I committed to leading them to become a church planting team.”
When told a huge dumpster would be dropped off for everything that needed to be thrown away, consternation arose among people reared in a “save everything” era. So Helmbacher took the congregation – even those with walkers and canes – on a tour of the church one Wednesday evening.
“This is a huge facility that had been neglected many years,” Helmbacher said. “I took them through every room and junk-filled nook. We even walked down through the baptistery filled with dirt and grime because it hadn’t been used in so long.”
By New Year’s, First Affton had died. By Easter, Church at Affton was born. More than 200 people participated in the resurrection celebration.
“The team is encouraged,” Helmbacher said. “There were a lot of questions but Easter was a big encouragement. Now to maintaining that enthusiasm, maintaining that continued desire to be changed, to be used by God, being engaged with the Gospel, that’s what’s next.
“Our people are the front door of the church,” the pastor continued. “We’re going to have to live intentionally for the King of Kings.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press and SBC LIFE, where this article first appeared.)

8/1/2016 9:37:55 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

The state Supreme Court ruled the law violated minors’ privacy

August 1 2016 by Ciera Horton, WORLD News Service

The Alaska Supreme Court on July 22 struck down a state law requiring abortionists to give two days’ notice to parents before providing abortions to minors.

Wikipedia photo

In a 2010 ballot initiative, 56 percent of voters approved what became the law requiring parental notification, but not consent, for a minor’s abortion. Now the court says the law is unconstitutional and violates Alaska’s equal-protection guarantee.
The decision “elevated the demands of abortionists over the rights of parents,” said Steven H. Aden, a lawyer for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) who is seeking to uphold the law.
Writing on behalf of the court, Justice Daniel Winfree said the law discriminated by having the state involved only in the reproductive choices of minors who wished to terminate their pregnancies, not those who wished to keep their children.
“It is clear that the notification law treats the two classes of pregnant minors differently,” Winfree wrote, “burdening the fundamental privacy rights of those seeking termination but not the fundamental privacy rights of those seeking to carry to term.”
The one dissenting vote came from Justice Craig Stowers, who argued the law gave parents the chance to discuss with their children the impact of abortions and alternatives to termination.
Alaska’s law allowed for some flexibility with the notification requirements. It did not apply to girls ages 16 or 17 who were married or “emancipated” from their parents. Girls also had the option to bypass the notification process with permission from a judge or by providing a statement in cases of abuse. The law also contained an exemption for medical emergencies.
In 2007, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled in State v. Planned Parenthood of Alaska that the state’s Parental Consent Act violated minors’ right to privacy. But the court noted that a parental notification law not requiring permission was constitutionally permissible and “may actually better serve the state’s compelling interests.”
In response, conservative leaders created the parental notification ballot initiative. Republican state Sen. Mia Costello, one of the initiative’s original sponsors, wrote back in 2010: “Ultimately, you must ask yourself–whom do you trust more to make medical decisions for your child: yourself, or an abortion doctor who happens to make money by performing abortions?”
Former Republican Lt. Gov. Loren Leman, another sponsor of the notification initiative, criticized the court’s decision to invalidate the law, saying, “Alaskans understand that it makes sense for parents to be involved in the lives of their children.”
Costello has also railed against the ruling, saying the court was “making judgments that are denigrating of families and parents. … It’s the wrong direction that our country is going in, really, where families are being kept in the dark about things.”

8/1/2016 9:31:34 AM by Ciera Horton, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

Clinton’s DNC speech short on social issues

August 1 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s 5,000-word address to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia July 28 devoted a total of one phrase to abortion and even less to so-called homosexual rights.

Screen capture from YouTube
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton devoted just 10 words of an hour-long speech July 28 to abortion and so-called homosexual rights.

The sparse mention of social issues led Walter Bradley, a former Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission trustee who served as New Mexico’s Republican lieutenant governor from 1995-2002, to express concern Clinton seemed to “avoid these very important issues.”
On July 27, vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine’s speech to the DNC was peppered with references to faith and social justice, but it also included two favorable references to homosexuality, including an apparent reference to the late Harvey Milk that classified the gay rights activist as an American hero alongside Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy and Eleanor Roosevelt among others.
Clinton’s lone mention of abortion came when she stated, “If you believe we should expand Social Security and protect a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions, join us.” Her speech centered on the theme of unity and alternated between explaining her own plans and critiquing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Homosexuality was referenced only when Clinton included “LGBT rights” in a list of rights she would defend as president.
Clinton discussed the appointment of Supreme Court justices but said only that nominees should “get money out of politics and expand voting rights, not restrict them.”
Addressing America’s racial tensions, Clinton asked police and members of the black and Latino communities, who face “systemic racism,” to “walk in each other’s shoes.”
Regarding faith, Clinton said her mother “made sure” she learned “the words of our Methodist faith: ‘Do all the good you can, for all the people you can, in all the ways you can, as long as ever you can.’” That traditional Methodist saying, which was quoted in part by Kaine the previous night, commonly is attributed to Methodism founder John Wesley though its origin is unknown.
Clinton discussed terrorism and the Islamic State group at some length but never used any form of the words “Islam” or “Muslim.”
Bradley, who completed his term as an ERLC trustee this year, told Baptist Press (BP) Clinton’s treatment of radical Islam is “troubling.”
America must recognize “Muslim radicals” as a threat, Bradley said. “Recognize the enemy, identify the enemy and defeat the enemy. I don’t see that happening with the history of this particular candidate.” Clinton has failed to acknowledge, he said, “that [radical Islamic terrorism] is a serious, serious issue in this country today and in the world.”
More broadly, Bradley expressed concern that Clinton seemed to “avoid” discussing social issues in her speech even though they are “very important issues that are the moral fiber of our country.”
“The relative lack of comment on social issues, including religious freedom, is troubling given the fact that she’s going to be picking Supreme Court justices that will have a major impact on our future,” Bradley said.

Tim Kaine

Kaine told DNC delegates his Roman Catholic faith “became vital, a North Star for orienting ... life” while he attended a Jesuit boys school growing up. He also recounted taking a year off law school to work with Jesuit missionaries in Honduras, demonstrating his fluency in Spanish in the process.
The then-dictatorship in Honduras helped Kaine realize a nation should “advance opportunity for everyone” regardless of race, religion, economic status or “who they love,” he said, an apparent reference to homosexual relationships.
At the close of his speech, Kaine listed Milk – a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in the 1970s who is known as the first openly gay person elected to office in the U.S. – as among the important characters in America’s “proud story.” Other important characters, he said, have included John and Abigail Adams, Woodrow Wilson, Eleanor Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King Jr.
Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia, told BP Kaine’s “warm personality” and “stated devotion to the Catholic Church” should not lead voters to conclude he adopts more “moderate” positions on social issues than Clinton.
Kaine is Virginia’s junior senator as well as its former governor.
“In faith-based circles,” Cobb said in written comments, Kaine “would emphasize his personal opposition to abortion, not the contrasting actions he would take to defeat pro-life legislation. He flip-flopped on the definition of marriage [from a traditional stance to favoring same-sex marriage].
“Sadly, while his faith is no doubt heart-felt,” she said, “he has done nothing to protect religious liberty and has sided with liberal secularists who wish to force those who hold a biblical view of sexuality to violate their consciences. His ever-waffling position regarding forcing taxpayers to pay for abortion is illustrative of the control the abortion industry has over the Democratic Party and the increasing difficulty Catholics have within that group.
“Lest anyone was misled by his rhetoric,” Cobb said, “his time in Washington has clarified any confusion one might have about whether his loyalties lie with the doctrines of his church or his political party. He has a zero percent rating from the faith-based Family Research Council Action and 2 percent from the conservative [group] Heritage Action. In contrast, he holds a 100 percent rating with abortion industry special interest group NARAL.”
In contrast to Clinton’s sparse mention of social issues, the four-day DNC included among its other speakers Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America; Chad Griffin, president of the pro-homosexual lobbying group the Human Rights Campaign; Sarah McBride, an activist who identifies as transgender; and NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue, who elicited cheers when she told of having an abortion.

8/1/2016 9:26:12 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Lawsuit targets city’s grant to National Baptists

August 1 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Atheists have sued a National Baptist pastor and Kansas City government leaders over a $65,000 grant approved for use during the Baptist group’s upcoming national convention in the city.

The grant to John Modest Miles Ministries, a community nonprofit arm of Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church in Kansas City, violates Missouri law that prohibits public aid for religious purposes, American Atheists Inc. and two of its Kansas City members claim in a lawsuit posted on the American Atheists’ website.
The atheists object to the Kansas City Council’s approval of the Neighborhood Tourist Development Fund grant to the ministry, which plans to use the money to support tourism during the Sept. 5-9 National Baptist Convention USA (NBC-USA) national meeting in Kansas City. The July 22 suit and preliminary injunction filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri seek to block the grant allocation and have it declared unconstitutional.
NBC-USA President Jerry Young, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss., spoke during the Southern Baptist Convention’s 2016 annual meeting in St. Louis in connection with his joint promotion of racial reconciliation with immediate past SBC President Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas.
The Neighborhood Tourist Development Fund was established in 1989, according to the Kansas City government website, to support “non-profit organizations through contracts for services ... to help promote Kansas City’s distinct and diverse neighborhoods through cultural, social, ethnic, historic, educational and recreational activities in conjunction with promoting the city as a premier convention, visitor and tourist center.”
Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church pastor John Miles had told the Kansas City Star newspaper the suit “was a shock” to him. Miles said the money would be used for transporting convention delegates and other visitors, the Kansas City Star reported.
City tourism funds were also allocated to Miles’ ministry when he served as chairman of the host committee for NBC USA national conventions in 1998, 2003 and 2010, Miles told the Kansas City Star, but the paper said in a July 26 report that it was unable to verify the allocations because the city’s database records only go back five years. American Atheists Inc., in a July 22 press release on its website, said the grants amounted to $100,000 in 1998, $142,000 in 2003 and $77,585 in 2010.
The Kansas City metropolitan area economy receives $4.6 billion in tourism and convention industry dollars annually from about 22.3 million U.S. visitors, the city said on its website, with top activities listed as shopping, fine dining, gaming, sightseeing, cultural attractions, sports events, exhibits and festivals.
Programming ineligible for funding includes those not marketed broadly to local residents, tourists and visitors; political activities; routine, ongoing activities of neighborhood organizations and home associations; the maintenance of capital projects including tourist attractions; previously completed activities and projects, and programs and/or services of organizations that benefit other cities or regions.

8/1/2016 9:15:23 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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