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Prayer urged for Iraq’s Yazidi Kurds as militants attack

August 6 2014 by Don Graham, IMB/Baptist Press

As tens of thousands of Yazidi Kurds flee Islamic militants in northern Iraq, International Mission Board (IMB) workers in the region are joining Yazidi immigrants in the United States in a desperate plea for international aid and prayer amid the developing humanitarian crisis.

On Aug. 3, Sunni extremists known as the Islamic State or ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) seized the city of Sinjar in Iraqi Kurdistan, near the country’s border with Syria. Sinjar is the home of Iraq’s Yazidi people, a “minority among minorities,” IMB’s David Edwards,* who has spent the past 14 years working among Kurds, said.

Though ethnically Kurdish, Yazidis are not Muslim like the majority of their Kurdish brethren, Edwards said. Instead, Yazidis follow an ancient religion rooted in Zoroastrianism that ISIS equates with “devil worship,” making the Yazidis a prime target along with Christians, Shia Muslims and any other belief system outside the militants’ ultra-conservative brand of Islam. ISIS’s ultimatum is simple: convert or die.

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IMB photo by Paul Wicklow
This Kurdish woman is dressed in traditional clothing; facial tattoos are also common among older Yazidi Kurds.

Terrified by the brutal violence directed at Christians when ISIS captured Mosul in June, Sinjar’s Yazidis quickly emptied the city early Sunday morning as Kurdish security forces, reportedly low on ammunition, retreated. Many residents left everything behind. Thousands of Yazidis without transportation escaped into nearby mountains, including as many as 25,000 children according to UNICEF.

It’s a situation John Harper* said he shudders to think about.

“They are going to be encountering hell,” said Harper, the former IMB worker, who has extensive experience in Kurdistan. Sinjar’s desert-like mountains have little vegetation and no water. Daytime temperatures can top 120 degrees.

“Even if you’re sitting in the shade with some wind, it would be like sitting in front of an oven with a fan,” he said.

Harper’s Kurdish contacts say at least 50 Yazidis already have died from exposure, including children. He fears many more stranded in the mountains may perish within the next few days without immediate humanitarian aid. Meanwhile, Yazidis who could not leave Sinjar remain locked in their homes, at the mercy of ISIS.

The situation is so dire that more than 300 Yazidi Kurds in Lincoln, Neb., rallied at the state’s capitol building Aug. 3-4 to raise awareness about the crisis. Lincoln is the home to one of the world’s largest Yazidi populations outside Kurdistan, and residents such as Gulie (pronounced Julie) Khalaff remain desperate for something – anything – to be done.

Khalaff, 28, was born in Syria, but her parents are from Sinjar. Much of her extended family still resides there. Khalaff said nearly everyone in Lincoln’s Yezidi community has family or friends in Sinjar or nearby villages, but few know what’s happened to them. She held back tears as she spoke. She said she’s scared and hasn’t slept much since ISIS overran the city. Yezidis in Lincoln closely monitor Facebook, cell phones and the news, waiting for word from Sinjar, she added. Some information has trickled in: They’ve heard reports that ISIS is ordering women to be circumcised and wear burkas. Others have been raped or forced to marry ISIS soldiers.

Though the capitol rallies made the local news in Lincoln, Khalaff isn’t sure what difference they’ve made. She said she hopes Americans will write their congressman and/or congresswoman to ask the U.S. government to take action.

“Why should anyone pay attention to our story?” Khalaff asked, considering all the other trouble in the world. “But I can’t just sit at home.... I have to try.”

Jenn Worley, a member of Community Harvest Baptist Church in Lincoln, has shared Christ’s love with the city’s Yazidi community for more than a decade. The 27-year-old teacher leads a Bible study at her home for high school-aged Yazidi girls. She was invited, along with Community Harvest’s pastor, Mark Jones, to help support the Yazidis at Sunday’s statehouse rally. Afterward, Worley and Jones visited several Yazidi homes to offer comfort, encouragement and prayer. Some of families’ hopelessness was heartbreaking, she said. Worley recalled talking with one Yazidi man convinced he would never see his family again.

“They’re dead,” he told her. “Even if they’re alive it’s only because they are still breathing. It’s only a matter of time.... They’re stuck in the mountains without food.”

“We told him the government can only do so much, but God has no limits,” Worley said. “God can change the heart of ISIS, God can perform a miracle and give your family food on the mountain, He can strengthen them so even if they don’t have food they’ll live. God can do anything.”

Pray for the Yazidi Kurds:
  • Ask the Lord to awaken the world to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Iraq and provide pathways for Christians and others to respond.
  • Ask God to miraculously protect the Yazidis and other Kurds who fled into the mountains; ask Him to provide a means of rescue and temporary homes for the refugees.
  • Pray that ISIS leaders and soldiers would experience the love of Jesus Christ and that their lives would be transformed.
  • Ask the Lord to preserve and embolden the small remnant of believers in Kurdistan, so that one day through their witness, every Iraqi might have the opportunity to hear the Gospel.

*Name changed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Don Graham is an IMB senior writer.)
 
8/6/2014 8:56:51 AM by Don Graham, IMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Disaster relief training taught in China

August 6 2014 by Mark Kelly, BGR/Baptist Press

Rescuers pulled a 5-year-old boy alive from the rubble yesterday in southwest China where an Aug. 3 earthquake killed 400 people and ruined 42,000 homes.

Many local volunteers are arriving at the scene to help with rescue efforts, but they are largely untrained. The government in Yunnan asked Baptist Global Response (BGR) partners to train the new arrivals, said Pat Melancon, BGR’s managing director of disaster response.

The BGR team has set up a coordination site and is working with 10 other teams in the area. Yesterday (Aug. 4), the team trained 150 people.

The government asked the BGR team to lead training because they are skilled in the Sphere approach to disaster relief. The Sphere Project (www.sphereproject.org) is an internationally recognized set of principles and minimum standards for conducting life-saving operations in a humanitarian response.

“The efforts in Yunnan are focused on water, food, waterproof plastic sheeting, and daily hygiene items such as soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and a few medicines,” Melancon said.

Several areas are still inaccessible, and road conditions are complicating effective delivery of supplies. The government has raised the emergency response to the highest level, which means the damage in some areas is more severe than originally thought, Melancon added.

BGR executive director Jeff Palmer said, “Our hearts go out to the many families struggling to survive in the aftermath of this disaster, as well as those who have come to help them.

“God has given us the great privilege of sharing knowledge and skills that will make rescue efforts more effective and no doubt will save lives,” Palmer said. “In the process, quake survivors will have an opportunity to experience the life-changing love of God.”

Yunnan province is one of China’s poorest areas and is prone to earthquakes. The 2008 quake in nearby Sichuan province killed nearly 90,000 people. This earthquake was the strongest to hit the mountainous area in at least 14 years. BGR partners responded to two other earthquakes in the vicinity in September 2012 and April 2014.

More landslides are expected in Yunnan because previous earthquakes have loosened mountainsides and heavy rain has soaked the soil. Most houses in the area are made of mud bricks and do not usually survive earthquakes.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Kelly writes for Baptist Global Response, which will be posting updates on this crisis at www.twitter.com/GoBGR.)
8/6/2014 8:35:15 AM by Mark Kelly, BGR/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



2nd American Ebola patient arrives in US

August 5 2014 by Doug Stanglin and Kim Hjelmgaard, USA Today

A small plane carrying Nancy Writebol, the second American Ebola patient from Liberia, arrived in the United States on Tuesday (Aug. 5), making a brief refueling stop in Bangor, Maine, en route to Atlanta and Emory University Hospital.
 
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Samaritan's Purse photo
Kent Brantly of Samaritan’s Purse, right, gives orders for medication to administer to the Ebola patients through the doorway of the isolation unit in Liberia. Dr. Brantly spent almost four hours in a Tyvek suit in order to care for the three patients in the unit.

The same plane, a Gulfstream jet specially outfitted with an isolation pod, brought the first American patient, 33-year-old physician Kent Brantly, to the medical center from Liberia on Saturday, WLBZ-TV reports. The plane was on the ground in Bangor for less than an hour.
 
Brantly, with Samaritan’s Purse, and Writebol, with Service in Mission, are medical missionaries who were infected with Ebola while working with patients in Liberia.
 
SIM USA said on Monday that the 59-year-old Writebol was in serious condition.
 
“Her husband told me Sunday her appetite has improved, and she requested one of her favorite dishes – Liberian potato soup – and coffee,” Bruce Johnson, president of SIM USA, said in a statement. Writebol’s son, Jeremy, said his mother “is still struggling” but that “there seems to be improvement.”
 
Brantly’s wife said in a statement late Sunday that she had seen her husband and that he was in good spirits.
 
“He thanked everyone for their prayers and asked for continued prayer for Nancy Writebol’s safe return and full recovery,” Amber Brantly said.
 
The World Health Organization said in its most recent update on the disease that the number of reported cases from the latest outbreak has risen to 1,603, with 887 deaths. The week ending Aug. 1 saw 163 new cases and 61 deaths, the health agency said.
 
As concern mounts over the spread of the virus in West Africa, the World Bank has pledged as much as $200 million in emergency funding to help Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
 
“The international community needs to act fast to contain and stop this Ebola outbreak,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, who is a medical doctor with experience of treating infectious diseases.
 
“I believe this new World Bank emergency funding will provide critically needed support for the response to stop the further transmission.”
 
Late Monday, officials at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York admitted a man who had recently been to West Africa and was showing symptoms – high fever and gastrointestinal problems – consistent with Ebola.
 
However, the New York City Health Department later said “the patient is unlikely to have Ebola. Specimens are being tested for common causes of illness and to definitively exclude Ebola.”
 
In Washington, a summit hosted by the White House with African leaders has been overshadowed by the growing health crisis posed by the Ebola virus.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Doug Stanglin and Kim Hjelmgaard write for USA Today. Contributing: Kim Painter and Donna Leinwand; The Associated Press.)
8/5/2014 11:27:49 AM by Doug Stanglin and Kim Hjelmgaard, USA Today | with 0 comments



Church gives back after Front Street Baptist bus crash

August 5 2014 by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist & Reflector/Baptist Press

For many of the members at Front Street Baptist Church in Statesville, N.C., the events of Oct. 2, 2013 will be etched in their memories for the rest of their lives.

On that day nearly a year ago, six senior adults were killed and 12 others severely injured in a bus accident near Dandridge, Tenn., that also claimed the lives of two other people.

The group was returning from a senior adult conference in Gatlinburg. A blown out front tire caused the bus to cross the median into the other lane and collide with a sport utility vehicle and an 18-wheeler before overturning.
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Pastor Bob Brown (left) of First Baptist Church, Dandridge, visits with Sandy and Marvin Boyer of Front Street Baptist Church in Statesville, N.C. The Boyers are survivors of a horrific bus accident that occurred last year near First Baptist. Eight people were killed, including six from Front Street Baptist. The Boyers were among nine of the 12 survivors who returned to Tennessee in July to express their gratitude to Tennessee Baptists for their acts of kindness and to share the gospel locally.


While church members have not forgotten the horrific tragedy, they also remember the countless acts of kindness shown to them by Tennessee Baptists in the aftermath of the accident.

Fifty members of Front Street Baptist, including nine of the 12 survivors, returned to the Dandridge area in July to say thank you and to minister locally.

Members from Front Street Baptist worked in connection with First Baptist Church, Dandridge, which is located just a few miles from the scene of the accident. Several of the first responders to the scene are members of First Baptist Church.

“We wanted to come here to the community that ministered to our church members,” Heath Stone, missions director for Front Street Baptist, said.

“We wanted to come back and say thank you and tell others in the community about Christ.”

In addition to missions activities, Front Street Baptist hosted two luncheons for the Sheriff’s Department and EMT workers in addition to an ice cream social for medical personnel at the University of Tennessee Medical Center where the survivors were taken.

“It’s a blessing that they want to come back and do something for us,” Sheriff Bud McCoig, also a member of First Baptist, said. “We are grateful that they are coming back to help our community. God is great. He is the one we live for.”

The accident scene was coordinated “long distance” by McCoig, who was in Nashville at a meeting when the wreck occurred.

McCoig recalled that he stayed on the phone with people at the scene until his battery died. He then put the phone on his charger and continued directing the scene.

“On that day God put the right people in the right place at the right time to respond,” McCoig said.

Bob Brown, pastor of First Baptist, remembers seeing black smoke from the wreck from his office window. McCoig asked Brown to go to the accident scene to see if he could be of assistance. Brown remembered the site looking like a war zone.

When he arrived, most of the survivors had been taken to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville.

Brown was able to minister to the family of one of the victims in the accident.

Front Street Baptist’s trip back to Tennessee is a testimony to the Dandridge community, Brown said.

“Dandridge is a small town. People here still refer to what happened as ‘the bus wreck,’” Brown noted.

“It’s a great gesture that in the midst of their pain and heartbreak they are displaying the grace of God by wanting to come here and give back,” he said.

“It’s been exciting to watch. We’re happy that we can play a small part in this.”

Stone, missions director for Front Street Baptist, noted the church especially wanted to say “thank you” to the first responders.

“It was traumatic for them for them but they worked in a very professional way and treated our people very nicely,” Stone said.

For the same reason, church members wanted to do something at UT Medical Center for those who treated the survivors. “We wanted to say thank you to them and give them an opportunity to see some of their former patients,” Stone said.

 

First responder remembers

First Baptist Church member and paramedic John David Holland was one of the first responders to the accident. He said when they first arrived on the scene he feared there would be no survivors.

“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Holland said, “It was the worst thing I’ve dealt with in 23 years of working with an ambulance service.”

The first two people he approached had died, but the third person was a woman with shoulder and arm injuries.

As he checked on her, she told him that she was all right and urged him to go help someone else. “She had a peace that God was with her,” Holland recalled.

Holland admitted that during the initial shock of the accident scene he questioned his faith just briefly wanting to ask, “Why is this happening?”

Then, he continued, “your faith and learning take over and there is no question that God is in control and that He is using you as a tool.”

Holland is convinced that it was “God’s will for me to be working that day. ... I was where I was supposed to be.”

He acknowledged he was anxious to meet some of the survivors.

“Most of the time we rarely see victims again,” he said.

Brown said the meeting with the survivors and first responders was “carthartic” for all involved, but especially the first responders. “They were torn up over what happened.”

 

Survivors recall tragedy

Marvin and Sandy Boyer were two of the survivors from the senior adult group who joined the missions opportunity. Marvin Boyer is the church’s senior adult minister and was in the hospital or rehab center for about eight months, spending much of that time in a coma. He incurred multiple injuries as a result of the accident, including brain injuries, collapsed lung, broken ribs, and numerous others.

Boyer has no memory of what happened leading up to the accident or his time in the hospital other than what he has been told. He is convinced, however, that he is “a walking miracle.”

His wife agreed, noting that doctors told her that he had “little chance” of survival and that if he did he would be on dialysis the rest of his life.

Instead, his kidneys “turned around” and are functioning and dialysis is not needed.

“I can’t get over how good God has been,” he said.

Sandy Boyer said the accident has made her faith and determination to share Christ stronger than ever.

“We are on a mission. We feel that God spared us for a reason and that is to tell the story,” she said.

The couple also is thankful for Wallace Memorial Baptist Church in Knoxville. Many Wallace Memorial members helped them during that time and one couple provided a house for Sandy Boyer to stay.

“... We can never repay the kindness shown but we can personally say thank you.”

 

Joint service

The missions team from Front Street Baptist worshipped on July 20 at First Baptist Church, Dandridge. The service was live streamed at Front Street Baptist as well.

Tim Stutts, pastor of Front Street Baptist, was able to attend First Baptist even though his father had died earlier in the week and he was not able to be there the entire time.

Stutts thanked First Baptist and others for the love shown to them.

“We knew from the moment of the accident that God would use this in a way in which we could not even begin to fathom to bring honor and glory to Himself,” Stutts shared.

Reading from II Corinthians 4, Stutts noted the goal of his church is to bring honor and glory to God in everything. “And, sometimes that happens through suffering,” he said.

“And how we view suffering and how we walk through those trials reveals much about our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and it shows if we truly believe what we say we believe about Him.

“October 2 (2013) was a defining moment in our church family. We began to see people who knew how to suffer well,” he said.

Stutts said he has seen in those who survived the accident a stronger resolve to serve God and to honor Him.

“Those involved in the accident see it as a platform to make much of Jesus. The gospel of Jesus Christ continues to be proclaimed. We won’t know until we get there (heaven) how many lives have been touched and how many people heard the gospel because of that tragedy.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist & Reflector www.tnbaptist.org, newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.)
8/5/2014 8:58:00 AM by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist & Reflector/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Memorial service held for Caner's son

August 5 2014 by Joni B. Hannigan, Baptist Press

Just before the family of 15-year-old Braxton Caner was seated at the front of New River Fellowship Church, the entire Aledo High School Bearcats football team trudged up the center aisle in silence, some holding cowboy hats to their sides.
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Family and friends gathered Aug. 2 for the memorial service of Braxton Caner at New River Fellowship Church in Hudson Oaks, Texas. The 15-year-old son of Brewton-Parker College President Ergun Caner, Braxton died July 29.


Braxton was the son of Ergun and Jill Caner, and brother of 9-year-old Drake. A member of the Aledo Bearcats, Braxton's life ended suddenly and tragically July 29.

Members of the team, Southern Baptist leaders, and friends of the family, joined the Caners and other family members for an emotional 2-hour memorial service for the teen Aug. 2 at New River Fellowship in Hudson Oaks, Texas. The family's home church is nearby Willow Park Baptist Church in Aledo.

Ergun Caner is the president of Brewton-Parker College, a Baptist-affiliated college in Mount Vernon, Ga. Elected president in 2013, Caner previously served as provost and vice president of academic affairs at Arlington (Texas) Baptist College.

Emir Caner, president of Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Ga., and Ergun Caner's brother and Braxton's uncle, delivered the eulogy.

Scott Crenshaw, pastor of New River, also spoke to the hundreds gathered in front of a podium flooded with a bright display of flowers.

"Today can be a confusing day," he said. "There is a time for everything," he said, referencing the hurt and pain that death brings, but also the hope and joy of being present with the Lord. "If today the tears come, that's okay. It can be confusing."

Remembering Braxton, Crenshaw said he celebrates that the teen knew God and was a "worshiper."

Listing some of Braxton's accomplishments, Crenshaw marveled at how Braxton, who was born March 8, 1999, was baptized by his father when he was six and was able to do so much because of the ministry of his parents.

And although the young man met many dignitaries and celebrities, including the president of Kenya and Oliver North, and attended chapel with the New England Patriots, Braxton was most impressed by his Latin teacher Prof. Timothy Griffiths. The professor, whom Braxton nicknamed "Griff" or "Griff the Great," was the teen's "academic hero," Crenshaw noted.

Braxton had no desire to be in the limelight and was instead a "quiet, gentle" young man who preferred being behind the scenes, the pastor said.

Only on the football field might he get a little "smile on his face" when he heard his name called after making a tackle, Crenshaw said.

Directing comments at Ergun and Jill Caner, Crenshaw said, "You love your family, you love your son."

"Only your boys call you Papa," he told Ergun Caner, reflecting on times he would receive multiple texts all hours of the day of pictures of the popular speaker from faraway places like Greece, Rome and Israel to share pray requests.

Of Jill Caner, Crenshaw admired her dedication to Braxton, and how she trained with him for athletics, even going so far as to help him lift the bar when he was working out with the bench press. The teen just reached a personal weightlifting goal in the days before his death, he said.

Addressing Braxton's younger brother Drake last, Crenshaw read a passage of scripture from the New Testament: "But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep" (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, ESV).

Walking his young son to the podium, Ergun Caner stood silently as Drake read a tribute to his big brother. He began by describing Braxton as the "best brother anyone could have."

"I miss you Braxton, and I know you are having a great time right now," he said, after sharing memories of their favorite times together.

Clark Bosher, the family's pastor from Willow Park Baptist Church, traced Braxton's arrival to the area as a shy middleschooler who eventually bonded well with those in his age group.

Bosher gestured toward the football team and a group of 14 honorary pall bearers and other friends who he said they shared life with the teen. "A whole bunch of you took him in. He had a friend," Bosher said.

Preaching from Proverbs 17:17, Bosher said Christians stand by each other, even through "adversity."

When hard times come and you run into a room full of people, you will know who your friends are by who runs out and who stays, Bosher said.

"Make a mistake in life, and see who's still in that room," he said.
"There's power in friendship."

Braxton had a godly heritage in his parents; and had grandparents who loved him, Bosher said.

Of Ergun Caner, Bosher said, "As great a preacher, as great a man as he is, probably the greater role I've ever seen him in is his role as a dad."

Of Jill Caner, she "poured faith into her children" and made "what they needed more important than her needs."

"They were the best of friends," Bosher said of Jill and Braxton. "In good days and in bad days, no matter what the circumstances, mama's love ain't never gonna die."

Bosher explained Braxton had understood and confessed his sin; he understood he couldn't save himself, but that Jesus was the way to salvation; he understood Jesus was born the son of God to a virgin and died sinless; and as a young boy Braxton had asked Jesus to come into his heart and forgive him and give him eternal life.

"Braxton Caner had a faith he could share around the world and in Aledo, Texas," Bosher said.

Following a prayer of commitment, while heads were still bowed, Bosher asked those who responded to raise their hand indicating they had prayed for the first time.

Braxton leaves behind his parents and younger brother; his maternal grandparents, Braxton and Frances Morris from Raleigh, N.C.; and paternal grandparents Jim and Monica Hunt from Truth or Consequences, New Mexico; along with three uncles, 20 cousins and a host of friends.
 
All expressions of sympathy may be addressed to The Caner Family in care of Brewton-Parker College P.O. Box 197 Mount Vernon, GA 30445. A fund has been established at the college to train counselors in suicide prevention in Braxton's name.

The Caner family, at the memorial, expressed thanks to those attending by writing an "Expression of Gratitude" in a printed program. "We will never be able to thank you enough for your love, generosity and kind words about Braxton," they said in the statement. "As you can imagine, this has been a shock and heartache worse than anything we have ever experienced. However, knowing that Braxton accepted Christ as his Savior ten years ago, we are comforted that he is now in the arms of God in heaven."

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joni B. Hannigan is a journalist, editor, freelance writer in Houston, Texas.)
8/5/2014 8:54:32 AM by Joni B. Hannigan, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



19,000 crosses and CP extend church’s ministry reach

August 5 2014 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

An exhibit of 19,000 white 12-inch crosses rotates among various locations in Bayfield, Colo. The crosses are an outreach of First Baptist Church.

The Crosses Project, seen only in the town of about 2,500 people, vividly illustrates the 19,000 children worldwide who die each day from hunger and poverty. The Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention helps the church respond to the global need.

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First Baptist Bayfield photo
First Baptist Church of Bayfield, Colo. offers prayer at various public locations in Bayfield, erecting a sign inviting people to come to a covered canopy for prayer. 

Randy Ash has served as pastor of First Baptist in Bayfield the past eight years. The church attracts 120 to Sunday worship. Ash said 10 percent of the church’s undesignated offerings go to the Cooperative Program. He added that it illustrates a commitment to fulfill the Great Commission.

“God’s hand has been on this church because this church has always seen beyond itself,” Ash said. “It’s the opposite of a fortress mentality. The Cooperative Program helps us be external in its view of ministry.”

“We are a small church, and we understand the concept that we can do more together than we can alone,” Ash said. “Our bottom line is a passion for Christ.”

For Ash, the Cooperative Program is even more about discipleship than evangelism. Ash disciples four to six men at a time, grooming them to disciple others in turn, and thus fulfill the Great Commission.

“It’s a passion for Christ; that’s the bottom line,” he said. “It’s being Christ in the community. It’s an external view to be the hands and feet of Christ in our community and the world. It’s about pursuing, promoting and protecting the passion for Christ, because all ministry action stems from a passion for Christ.

“We’re looking beyond ourselves. We give God all the glory and praise for what He accomplishes through His obedient and humble servants.”

First Baptist Bayfield ministers locally in a variety of ways, but never loses sight of global needs. The Crosses Project is the brainchild of First Baptist member Gordon Herrick, who teaches math at Fort Lewis College in nearby Durango. Herrick recommended planting the crosses for a month at a time in various locations around southwestern Colorado for maximum impact and visibility.

The visual display is intended to help people understand the reality of poverty and encourage their financial support of such program as the Southern Baptists’ Global Hunger Relief.

“It only takes $1 to feed a child for a day,” Herrick wrote on Facebook.com/CrossesProject. “It is estimated that if the contributions to combat world poverty were to increase by just 10 percent of their present levels, the problem could be eradicated in 10 years.”

First Baptist Bayfield has a long-held reputation in its community for being a help in time of need. An offering for local benevolence is collected the first Sunday of each month for various needs, Ash said.

“Electric bills, rent, food, tires, car repairs … You can almost name it and we’ve helped with it,” Ash said. “A foreign exchange student came to us for help with a $3,000 dental bill. We built a ramp for a lady with a disabled child.”

A noon meal is a new church outreach, offered to the public weekdays in the church’s fellowship hall. About 350 people participate each week; the church allocated $12,000 for the 2014 summer-long program.

“It was Amy Peterson’s heart to do this,” Ash said. “With the economy like it is, there’s a lot of need. It’s a full meal; we pray with people, give out Bibles and tracts. And several points of benevolence have opened up as people coming to the lunch have talked with us.”

The church also conducts a prayer ministry in the public square. Several times a year in various locations, the church erects a beach-type canopy with the sign “Need prayer? We will faithfully pray for you.” The church last utilized the prayer station at July 4th activities.

“There’s nobody standing in line [to be prayed for] but you get a lot of looks,” Ash said. “The only grocery store in Bayfield is very open to us putting it up on their parking lot. I’ll sit there three, four hours, playing my guitar while waiting for people to stop.

“The ones who do stop are desperate, hurting, and when no one is there, it’s a good time for me to spend quality time with God.”

Other local efforts include prison and jail ministries, seasonal recreational ministries and, during the school year for the last 20 years, the Bible memorization program AWANA, which has drawn as many as 95 students at a time.

“Our church turns out in a big way to do AWANAs,” the pastor said. “We have a lot of adults who turn out because it’s such a great blessing.”

The church has planned an August disaster relief outreach in northern Colorado to remove mud from peoples’ homes that accumulated after spring flooding.

A former First Baptist Bayfield youth pastor is serving at orphanages in Ukraine. The church helps him financially and sends missions teams to support his work, though a trip there this summer was cancelled because of political unrest with Russia.

The legalization of marijuana has created new ministry concerns, Ash said.

“Colorado has become the number one tourist destination in the United Sates because of legalized marijuana,” he said. “This summer is different from any previous year because of it. I’m just asking God, ‘What do we do?’ People are moving here for the same reason.”

Ash continues to ask the question, “How does this church minister to this new culture?”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press.)
8/5/2014 8:50:09 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



National CP behind budget projection

August 5 2014 by Baptist Press

Year-to-date contributions to Southern Baptist national and international missions and ministries received by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee have exceeded $153 million dollars according to a news release from SBC Executive Committee President and Chief Executive Officer Frank S. Page.

The $153,914,489.52 received by the Executive Committee for ten months of the fiscal year, October 1 through July 31, for distribution through the SBC's Cooperative Program (CP) Allocation Budget represents 96.45 percent of the $159,583,333.33 year-to-date budgeted CP projections to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America.

The year-to-date total includes money received by the Executive Committee by the close of the last business day of July. July's total includes gifts from 39 of the SBC's 42 cooperating state Baptist conventions as well as contributions from churches and individuals for distribution according to the 2013-14 SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.

Month-to-month swings reflect a number of factors, including the timing of when the state conventions forward the national portion of Cooperative Program contributions to the Executive Committee, the day of the month churches forward their CP contributions to their state conventions, the number of Sundays in a given month, and the percentage of CP contributions forwarded to the SBC by the state conventions after shared ministry expenses are deducted.

The total is $2,350,374.53, or 1.50 percent, less than the $156,264,864.05 received through the end of July 2013, and is 3.55 percent less than the SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget projection for the current year.

Designated giving of $184,465,103.22 for the same year-to-date period is 0.22 percent, or $397,480.46, above the $184,067,622.76 received at this point last year. This total includes only those gifts received and distributed by the Executive Committee through close of business on July 31 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 $12,616,043.92. Designated gifts received last month amounted to $11,091,581.85.

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 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 adopted SBC allocation budget projection for 2013-2014 is $191,500,000, an increase of 1.86 percent over the $188,000,000 budgeted goal for the previous year, and is distributed as follows: 50.41 percent to support more than 4,800 overseas personnel with the International Mission Board, 22.79 percent to help fuel North American evangelism and church planting through North America Mission Board, 22.16 percent to help underwrite low-cost ministerial preparation and theological education through six SBC seminaries, 2.99 percent to the SBC operating budget and 1.65 percent to promote biblical morality and religious freedom through the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

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 www.cpmissions.net/CPReports.
8/5/2014 8:46:07 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Christian worker shares report on ‘invisible war’ with Ebola

August 4 2014 by Charles Braddix, IMB/Baptist Press

While the International Mission Board (IMB) has issued a statement indicating all its personnel in Ebola-stricken West Africa are safe, a Christian worker on the ground released a first-person account of her thoughts on “the invisible war” with the deadly Ebola virus.

IMB’s statement said, “IMB personnel continue to monitor the Ebola epidemic. Our medical coordinators in West Africa have been in touch with Southern Baptist missionaries in the region to keep them informed of the changing situation. Currently in the affected areas, IMB has personnel in Guinea and Liberia, but not in Sierra Leone.”

IMB indicated there are no plans at this time to ask personnel to leave their homes in these countries.


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Photo by EC/ECHO, used with permission
The European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) works to contain the epidemic that has killed nearly 730 people in West Africa.

The number of Ebola-related deaths in West Africa approaches 730, with more than 1,300 cases now reported in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, according to the World Health Organization.

Two American aid workers – one with Samaritan’s Purse and the other with SIM (Serving in Mission) – who became infected remain in serious condition, and are being transported to the United States for treatment, according to news reports.

Rebecca Waters,* a Christian worker living and serving in Liberia, shared a firsthand account of what it’s like to face an “invisible enemy” like Ebola on a daily basis.

Following is a portion of Waters’ account of the situation in Liberia:

“A war is raging in West Africa, but this war is different from others. This time the enemy is invisible, sneaking up on its victims unaware. By the time the victim realizes he has been attacked, it is usually only a matter of days before he dies. That is, after he has infected dozens of others, and then they too die. This enemy is called Ebola.

“Ebola first reared his ugly head back in March, in the forest region of Guinea. Because of the porous borders, the disease quickly spread into Sierra Leone and Liberia’s northern county.

“In May, it appeared as if the disease was coming under control, but I believe that was due largely to fear and irrational behavior. People have become afraid to expose themselves, so when they become sick, instead of going to the doctor they run and hide. They just do not understand. [Physicians have] been chased out with machetes from the forest region of Guinea ...

“Saturday I heard two women discussing their views of Ebola. They said many small clinics have shut down for fear of someone with the disease coming in. They said that parents, who take their kids in for headaches or malaria symptoms, simple diarrhea, etc., are rushed off to the Ebola clinic and sometimes even police are called in to escort them. For this reason, people are just not going to the doctor, but trying to treat themselves, thus putting others at danger. Many people believe Ebola is a scam, and even these two women indicated that they really don’t think Ebola exists.

“This week, the news of two prominent national health workers contracting and dying of Ebola, followed by the news that an American doctor [with Samaritan’s Purse] and another American female aid worker [with SIM] contracted the disease, has only elevated the paranoia.

“Samaritan’s Purse has ... been on the front lines in Liberia and spearheading a national awareness campaign and providing education programming about Ebola. Samaritan’s Purse also provides medical examinations and clinical care to those infected. They man the quarantine and decontamination units and assist in sanitary burial procedures.

“Tonight we happened upon a Samaritan’s Purse worker who was picking up supplies. He told us that three new patients arrived today ... and there was no place to put them. He said everyone is so discouraged, some to the point of just giving up. They are here trying to help, yet they are met with resistance.

“This invisible enemy is taking its toll on Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. In Sierra Leone, Ebola seems to be even more out of control....

“Over 1,300 cases have been reported with over 700 confirmed deaths. And the numbers continue to grow.

“This nation that thrives on relationships is now being reprimanded for giving a handshake or a hug. Taxi drivers are wearing gloves and masks. Grocery store workers and others are wearing gloves. Tonight we went to the grocery store and before entering, we had to wash our hands with bleach water. A few restaurants and other businesses have shut down until Ebola comes under control. Borders to Liberia have been closed except for the three major borders and two airports. And tonight, I read that one of our major West Africa airlines has cancelled all flights between Liberia and Sierra Leone.

“This invisible enemy must be stopped and there is only One who is able to stop it – the Prince of Peace, Jehovah Rapha. Please speak to Him on behalf of the West African peoples, on behalf of those working on the front lines, on behalf of those who are sick and trying to overcome, on behalf of all of us who are wondering what to do, how to help and how best to be His light in this dark world.”

*Name changed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Charles Braddix is an IMB writer based in London.)

8/4/2014 11:55:11 AM by Charles Braddix, IMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Official Tally: SBC registration 5,298

August 4 2014 by Baptist Press

Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) registration secretary Jim Wells has released official registration figures for the 2014 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Baltimore.

A total of 5,298 messengers were sent by 2,257 churches from 49 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Only North Dakota sent no messengers.

Attendance was 195 higher than at Houston’s 2013 annual meeting, but the numbers show no remarkable trend, Wells said.

“The messenger count was up from Houston. Baltimore was a destination that our messengers really enjoyed and I heard lots of positive comments about the city, waterfront etc.,” Wells said. “I am praying that the emphasis on Prayer, Revival and Spiritual Awakening by Dr. Ronnie Floyd will bode well for the convention in Columbus, Ohio, next year.”
 

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Of the 1,298 messengers who responded to the registration survey, 731 of them, or 58 percent, were age 50 and older. Only 94 of them, or 7 percent, were under age 30, registration figures show.

Messengers were nearly evenly distributed among the remaining age groups. Messengers 30-34 years old accounted for 8.5 percent; messengers in the 35-39 and 40-44 age groups accounted for 8.7 each, with the remaining age group, 45–49, drawing 8.9 percent of those registered.

Virginia had the largest number of messengers, 506, at the June 10-11 meeting in the Baltimore Convention Center, accounting for 9.55 percent of the registration total. A total of 183 Virginia Baptist congregations sent messengers.

The next four leading states in messenger count were Maryland, 428 (8.08 percent of the total) from 153 churches; North Carolina, 420 (7.93 percent of the total) from 205 churches; Tennessee, 419 (7.91 percent of the total) from 173 churches; and Georgia, 371 (7 percent of the total) from 173 churches.

Official registration numbers follow: Alaska, 15; Alabama, 250; Arkansas, 179; Arizona, 20; California, 99; Colorado, 29; Connecticut, 10; District of Columbia, 20; Delaware, 23; Florida, 301; Georgia, 371; Hawaii, 12; Iowa, 4; Idaho, 4; Illinois, 94; Indiana, 76; Kansas, 29; Kentucky, 251; Louisiana, 175; Massachusetts, 17; Maryland, 428; Maine, 1; Michigan, 29; Minnesota, 3; Missouri, 153; Mississippi, 200; Montana, 6; North Carolina, 420; Nebraska, 2; New Hampshire, 5; New Jersey, 39; New Mexico, 32; Nevada, 26; New York, 67; Ohio, 89; Oklahoma, 134; Oregon, 2; Pennsylvania, 111; Puerto Rico, 4; Rhode Island, 4; South Carolina, 242; South Dakota, 4; Tennessee, 419; Texas, 317; Utah, 8; Virginia, 506; Vermont, 6; Washington, 5; Wisconsin, 10; West Virginia, 41, and Wyoming, 6.

The official number of churches from each state registering messengers: Alaska, 10; Alabama, 125; Arkansas, 69; Arizona, 11; California, 54; Colorado, 13; Connecticut, 6; District of Columbia, 6; Delaware, 9; Florida, 127; Georgia, 173; Hawaii, 8; Iowa, 2; Idaho, 2; Illinois, 40; Indiana, 30; Kansas, 12; Kentucky, 121; Louisiana, 70; Massachusetts, 6; Maryland, 153; Maine, 1; Michigan, 16; Minnesota, 2; Missouri, 72; Mississippi, 99; Montana, 3; North Carolina, 205; Nebraska, 1; New Hampshire, 4; New Jersey, 11; New Mexico, 16; Nevada, 12; New York, 27; Ohio, 43; Oklahoma, 5; Oregon, 1; Pennsylvania, 35; Puerto Rico, 3; Rhode Island, 1; South Carolina, 125; South Dakota, 1; Tennessee, 173; Texas, 135; Utah, 4; Virginia, 183; Vermont, 4; Washington, 4; Wisconsin, 3; West Virginia, 17, and Wyoming, 4.

By gender, 62.9 percent of the messengers were male, 37.1 percent female.

By vocation, according to the data supplied by the messengers responding to the survey, 41 percent were senior pastors; 11.5 percent were homemakers; 13.6 percent were other church staff; 3.7 percent worked in associational missions; 6.5 percent were state convention, entity or institution staff members; 1.8 percent were seminary students; 1.7 percent were involved in North American or international missions; 2.7 percent were other denominational employees; 1.2 percent worked in evangelism; and 15.9 percent listed “other.”

For 297 of the responding messengers, or 23 percent of the total, the convention in Baltimore was their first SBC annual meeting; 397 had attended an SBC meeting five times or less (31 percent); 273 had attended six to 10 times (21 percent); and 301 had attended 11 or more times (23 percent).

In traveling to Baltimore, 45.2 percent of the messengers came by plane, 52.4 percent by car, and 2.4 percent by another form of transportation. In terms of expenditures to attend the annual meeting, 54 estimated they would be spending under $100 (3.12 percent); 73 estimated $100-299 (5.75 percent); 167 estimated $300-599 (13.2 percent); 241 estimated $600-999 (19 percent); 306 estimated $1,000-1,499 (24.13 percent); 290 estimated $1,500-1,999 (22.8 percent); and 137 estimated $2,000 or more (10.8 percent).

Of the 1,298 messengers who provided the additional information at registration, 402 said no other family members were with them in Baltimore (31.7 percent); 621 brought one family member (48.9 percent); 201 brought two to four family members (15.8 percent); and 44 brought five or more family members (3.5 percent).

8/4/2014 11:28:56 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



'Third way' church may face expulsion

August 4 2014 by David Roach, Baptist Press

A California Baptist association's executive board has recommended that the body not seat messengers at its fall meeting from a church whose pastor has said he does not believe all homosexual acts are sinful.

"We adhere to the Baptist Faith and Message and the amendment of 2000," Los Angeles Southern Baptist Association director of missions Mark Hammond told Baptist Press. New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, Calif., a member of the association, "has stated verbally and in text that they do not adhere to that. When you come in our association ... you agree to the Baptist Faith and Message. Therefore they are out of fellowship with the rest of the churches of the Los Angeles Southern Baptist Association."

Article XV of the BF&M states, "Christians should oppose ... all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography."

If the association votes at its Oct. 11 annual meeting not to seat New Heart's messengers, it will not receive any more of the church's contributions, Hammond said. The association has not cashed New Heart's checks since news broke of pastor Danny Cortez's February announcement that he approves of some homosexual acts and the church's subsequent division over the issue of homosexuality, he added. The portion of the church that remained with Cortez retained the name "New Heart Community Church" and planned to adopt a "third way" position on homosexuality, allowing members to disagree on whether it is sinful.

The executive board's voice vote to recommend not seating the congregation's messengers was without opposition.
 

If the association votes not to seat New Heart's messengers, all of its uncashed checks will be returned, Hammond said.

At the executive board meeting, pastor P.J. Tibayan of Crossview Church Los Angeles moved that the association "remove the right hand of fellowship from New Heart Community Church ... in accord with Article 9, paragraph 2 of our Los Angeles Southern Baptist Association bylaws."

Article 9, paragraph 2 states, "While this association does not assume any authority over the churches and their members, it does reserve to itself the right to withdraw the hand of fellowship from any church which shall become corrupt in faith or practice, or shall demonstrate a continued disinterest in the cooperative endeavors of the association."

Following discussion, the executive board adopted a substitute motion recommending that the association not seat messengers from congregations that disagree with the Baptist Faith and Message.

Tibayan told BP if the recommendation is adopted by the full association, he plans to ask for clarification regarding whether it definitively withdraws fellowship from New Heart. Though Hammond told BP the motion does apply to New Heart, Tibayan expressed some confusion regarding the procedural and parliamentary particulars of the action.

In a meeting between Tibayan and Cortez the day before the executive board meeting, Cortez said a motion to withdraw fellowship from New Heart was "premature" because there should be dialogue preceding such an action, Tibayan reported. In response, Tibayan told Cortez that there is room for continued discussion, but not within the association, where churches have agreed to a confessional statement condemning homosexual acts as sinful.

The Gospel involves "calling sinners to repentance," Tibayan told BP. "Repentance is from all sin in principle, but even the particular sins and temptations each person faces, whether it's greed or adultery or murder or hatred or gossip or homosexuality. With any of those sins, we're calling for specific repentance as well as general repentance."

New Heart cannot share the gospel accurately with homosexuals because people involved in same-sex relationships cannot find "the forgiveness and grace of God" without repenting of their behavior, Tibayan said.

Hammond has also engaged in conversation with Cortez, including offers to study scripture with him and bring in Greek experts to explain nuances of the New Testament text, Hammond said. Other pastors in the association have made similar offers, but Cortez has declined all such invitations to discussion, Hammond said.

Cortez did not respond to BP's request for comments.

Any action taken by the Los Angeles Southern Baptist Association does not bind the California Southern Baptist Convention or the Southern Baptist Convention, of which New Heart is a member. Both conventions are autonomous and must take independent action regarding the church.

The SBC Executive Committee could consider action related to New Heart at its September meeting. The CSBC told BP in June that it was gathering information and deciding what, if any, action to take.

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

8/4/2014 11:15:57 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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