April 2011

Volunteer families mix hunting, fishing, missions

April 4 2011 by Tristan Taylor, BP

ESQUINA, Argentina – Miche Patricia was more accustomed to hunting parties of upper-class, middle-aged men treating her like an employee at best and a servant at worst. But the laid-back, laughing Americans and their children treated her differently.

God had a plan for reaching Miche, even though her heart had remained closed to Him for years.

Tears come to David Holt’s eyes when he thinks about it. He and his wife Alisha, International Mission Board missionaries to Argentina from Mount Zion Baptist Church in Snellville, Ga., had been praying for their friend Miche for months.

Photo by Wilson Hunter

Miche Patricia, a server and kitchen hand at a hunting lodge in Esquina, Argentina, was touched by the love of the volunteer families from the United States. She gave her heart to Jesus after hearing a Gospel presentation from one of the volunteers.

“It’s kind of the reverse view of what we normally find here in this culture,” David Holt said. “In Miche’s case, she was the one in the marriage who was not attending church. Her husband had gotten back in the church and given his life to Christ, and she’s been resistant.”

Miche works as a server and kitchen hand in a hunting lodge in Esquina, Argentina. The town is in the heart of river country and has been built around the hunting and fishing industry. Like most of the hunting guides and lodge employees, Miche is from the Criollo people group.

The Criollo people are not the privileged descendents of European immigrants, nor are they the indigenous people of Argentina. They are a mix of the two and claimed by neither. Shunned by the discriminating immigrant class and ineligible for government welfare programs available to the indigenous, the Criollo have learned to maintain a wary distance from outsiders.

“The Criollo are very downtrodden people,” Alisha Holt said. “They’ve been told for generations that they’re not worth anything.”

But the Holts never gave up on Miche. They have worked with the Criollo long enough to know that gaining their trust and earning the right to speak into their lives is a long process. So for months they prayed for her by name and did their best to develop a friendship with her. T

hen the volunteers came.

Four families including six kids from the United States came to experience the hunting and fishing opportunities in northern Argentina. But they came also with the intention of sharing God’s love with the Criollo people who work in the hunting and fishing industry – people like Miche. Their plan was to share the Gospel with the people they meet casually while enjoying the outdoors.

The volunteer trip resulted from a collaboration of hunting ministries involving the Holts and Chuck McAlister, a former IMB trustee who hosts an evangelistic TV program for hunters.

“We are families helping people encounter Jesus,” said McAlister, from the Church at Crossgate Center in Hot Springs, Ark.

At first Miche was shy and reserved around the volunteer families. They did what they could to make her job easier and expressed their appreciation for her service. And even when neither knew what the other was saying, smiles were always exchanged. It became clear that, unlike most of the tourists who come through the lodge, these people valued the lodge employees.

They valued Miche. And her reservations were fading.

“It all boils down to just building relationships,” said George Dubose, a volunteer from Trinity Baptist Church in Apopka, Fla., who came to Argentina with his wife and three children. “And the Lord’s used our interaction to quicken hearts and minds to a decision [for Christ].”
When the volunteers traveled to the rural town of Malvinas to visit an agricultural boarding school, Miche went along to prepare their lunch. There she had the opportunity to listen as McAlister shared the Gospel with the students.

“It might have been the first time she ever heard the Gospel in a way she could understand in her heart,” David Holt said. “When Chuck asked if anyone there had prayed to receive Christ for the first time in their life, Miche was one of the ones who raised her hand.”
Miche wasn’t shy with the group after that. She hugged the kids and joked with the parents.

“This morning she came up to me and gave me a big kiss on the cheek and said good morning,” said 14-year-old Chelsea Fitzgerald from Trinity Baptist. “She’s just very loving and caring, and I’m glad she’s going to be coming home [to heaven] with us.”

When it was time for the volunteers to leave, Miche saw them off in tears. They were her spiritual family even though they were from another culture.

“And so we see – through a volunteer team of entire families coming down to enjoy the great outdoors in Argentina and just share the love of Christ with those they come in contact with – how it works,” David Holt said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Taylor is an International Mission Board writer living in the Americas. To view a multi-media package related to this story, go to www.commissionstories.com/stories/1313.)

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 

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4/4/2011 7:48:00 AM by Tristan Taylor, BP | with 0 comments

N.C. pastor named to SBC Resolutions Committee

April 1 2011 by Baptist Press

PHOENIX — Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Bryant Wright has named the members of the Resolutions Committee who will serve during the June 14-15 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Phoenix.

Allan Blume, pastor of Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Boone, was named to the committee as well as: Paul Jimenez, committee chair and pastor of Taylors First Baptist Church, S.C.; Linda Clark, member, Graceland Baptist Church, New Albany, Ind.; Stephen Farish, senior pastor, Crossroads Church, Grayslake, Ill.; Mark Howell, senior pastor, Houston Northwest Church, Houston, Texas; Tim McCoy, senior pastor, Ingleside Baptist Church, Macon, Ga.; Russell Moore, dean of the School of Theology and senior vice president for academic administration at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and teaching pastor for Highview Baptist Church, Louisville, Ky.; Michael Pigg, senior pastor, Philadelphia Baptist Church, Lithonia, Ga.; Jimmy Scroggins, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, West Palm Beach, Fla.; and Carol Yarber, member, First Baptist Church, Malakoff, Texas.

Wright, pastor of the Atlanta-area Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, appointed the committee in keeping with the provision in SBC Bylaw 20 that its members be named 75 days prior to the start of the annual meeting.

The committee’s composition, according to Bylaw 20, must include at least two members who served the previous year, with Jimenez and Moore meeting this requirement. Bylaw 20 also stipulates that the committee include at least three SBC Executive Committee members. This year they are Blume, Howell and Yarber.

The procedure for submitting resolutions is as follows according to Bylaw 20:
  • Proposed resolutions may be submitted as early as April 15 but no later than 15 days prior to the SBC annual meeting, giving the Resolutions Committee a two-week period in which to consider submissions. Resolutions may no longer be submitted during the annual meeting.
  • Proposed resolutions must be accompanied by a letter from a church qualified to send a messenger to the SBC annual meeting certifying that the individual submitting the resolution is a member in good standing.
  • Proposed resolutions preferably should be submitted by e-mail or mailed to the Resolutions Committee in care of the SBC Executive Committee, 901 Commerce St., Nashville, TN 37203. The drafts must be typewritten, titled, dated and include complete contact information for the person and his or her church.
  • No person will be allowed to submit more than three resolutions per year.
  • If a properly submitted resolution is not forwarded by the Resolutions Committee to the SBC annual meeting, a two-thirds vote of messengers would be required to bring the proposed resolution to the convention floor.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compiled by Baptist Press staff. All resolutions adopted by the SBC can be searched and read on the Web at www.sbc.net/resolutions/AMResSearch.asp.)

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 
4/1/2011 9:36:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Japan teams enter disaster zone, find no radiation

April 1 2011 by Susie Rain, Baptist Press

TOKYO — It took six days for Southern Baptist disaster relief specialists from Alabama and South Carolina to gain access to Japan’s tsunami- and earthquake-stricken Tohoku prefecture.

It only took a few minutes, however, for them to understand the intense fears surrounding the nuclear crisis and how it affects disaster response.

Hardly anyone was at the Tokyo airport when John Hayes of Birmingham, Ala., and Eddie Pettit of Sunset, S.C., arrived March 19. With no traffic, the bus trip into town took only an hour that Saturday, a ride that normally takes two or more. Even the busiest crosswalk in the country only mustered 15 to 20 people. Normally this corner is a sea of hundreds dressed in black business suits, jockeying for space to cross the street.

Despite living more than 200 miles from the failing Fukushima nuclear plant, Tokyo residents stayed home, creating a “ghost town” atmosphere. In a city of nearly 13 million people, most venture out only to purchase bottled water and toilet paper.

“The fear of radiation is really the biggest obstacle in responding to Japan’s disaster,” Pettit admits. “It’s not only affected the Japanese but it’s dominated the media and created fear throughout the world.

“We have to convince the people in the States that it’s safe to work here,” he adds. “I want Southern Baptists to know that the radiation scare is a lot worse in the States than it is here now.”

Tokyo and surrounding areas are slowly coming back to life three weeks after the nightmare began. People are venturing back to work and restaurants reopening. The fear, though, is still hidden just below the surface. It comes out in simple things like wondering if the fruit or vegetables you buy came from Fukushima or if the tap water has radiation contamination.

The possibility of radiation is always at the back of people’s minds, especially when members of Tokyo Baptist Church sit around a table to talk with Hayes and Pettit on ways to launch a disaster relief ministry amid Japan’s triple disaster.

Every idea put on the table immediately gets thrown into the “do later” pile as team members grapple with how to handle the nuclear crisis. It seems like the radiation concern is a roadblock to every ministry possibility, until Hayes quietly pulls out something that looks like a credit card. He peels back the red plastic and points to the blue dot on the radiation detection card, called a dosimeter.

Pat Melancon, left, of Baptist Global Response opens food and supplies brought into a neighborhood in Ishinomaki, Japan, March 28 by a Southern Baptist relief team. Melancon led the disaster response team, which included Eddie Pettit, center, of South Carolina and Kevin Qualls, an International Mission Board church planter based in Sendai, Japan.

“Look! I’ve been wearing this ever since I arrived in Japan and it hasn’t registered any radiation exposure levels yet,” Hayes says, noting that all Southern Baptist workers and their children were issued a card to measure their exposure to radiation, allowing them to return to their ministries and homes. “Volunteers will wear one of these cards at all times, too. We want everyone safe while they are ministering in this disaster.”

Having a way to measure radiation exposure changes the climate of the meeting. It goes from “What will we do in the future?” to “Let’s do something now.” The timing could not have been better. The very next day, the Japanese government lifts restrictions to most areas of the disaster zone. Tokyo Baptist Church immediately sends the newly trained disaster relief team in one direction and Hayes and Pettit go another. All leave with a dosimeter hanging around their necks, offering a sense of safety but not invincibility. Pettit says the long wait to actually visit some of the disaster area for assessment is not normal for their teams. In other natural disasters, the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Network responds immediately and hits the ground running. In Japan, however, they are just now making their first assessment trip into the heart of the region struck by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The radiation fears have a little to do with this delay, but the main reason is government restrictions and the lack of gasoline.

A two-man team from North Carolina Baptist Men united with another two men from Hungarian Baptist Aid March 11 to work with Rescue 24 to help with search and rescue if needed. Because the government had many areas blocked off the team could not assess hard-hit areas early on in the crisis but they did meet with other Baptist leaders there to provide some initial assessment. They also helped get food to an evacuation center.

“Developing countries do not have a disaster plan or the infrastructure Japan has,” Pettit says, explaining how important it is to work within the Japanese system and not just respond unilaterally, like many did after Haiti’s earthquake a year ago. “Each disaster is different and this one is three disasters in one: earthquake, tsunami and radiation fears. It doesn’t matter how long it takes us to get established, there is going to be plenty of disaster work for a long time.”

Any fears of radiation are quickly forgotten as Hayes and Pettit survey an area safely outside of the 50-kilometer radiation zone suggested by the United States. The magnitude of this disaster and the need for future relief work sinks in as the pair walk down the streets of Ishinomaki. Despite Japanese government forces working around the clock since the quake, the destruction is still overwhelming, a stark contrast to the normally pristine and orderly Japanese lifestyle.

Hundreds of cars pile up at odd angles. Some stack on top of each other three or four high. Broken boats sit stranded on side streets and open lots. Ships lean to one side on empty roads. Seven-foot-high walls of trash line streets outside homes filled with a foot of mud. Entire neighborhoods are still without electricity or kerosene. Nearly 377,000 people are in shelters and thousands more shiver in damaged and waterlogged homes. People sit in the cold all day and night. A snowstorm and cold front hit northeastern Japan just hours after the tsunami.

Hayes and Pettit see many ways specialized Southern Baptist disaster relief teams could work and minister, filling in behind government forces: shoveling mud, providing hot meals and distributing supplies — if they were invited by the government. They stop to talk to a family who owns a kimono store destroyed by floodwaters. “We need to help get the mud and debris out of the houses. That’s pretty labor intensive,” Hayes says. “It might seem small to us, but it will plant a seed. We can show the love of Jesus Christ and make a difference.”

Pettit and Hayes quickly teach some Southern Baptist missionaries how to properly muck out the kimono shop. As Hayes bends over to help, his dosimeter swings out from under his jacket. The Alabaman nonchalantly glances at the exposure reading, then quickly tucks it away. Nothing registers. He wonders about the church team just 15 miles down the road. That group is working diligently, remembering everything Pettit and Hays taught them. They prepare 3,000 hot meals a day in a neighborhood without electricity and no access to relief supplies. Every two hours, the team leader diligently checks her dosimeter. Nothing registers, giving them confidence to continue ministering and lead two people to Christ.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Rain is an International Mission Board writer/editor living in Southeast Asia. The International Mission Board has established a relief fund for the Japan earthquake. Donations may be sent to: Office of Finance, International Mission Board, 3806 Monument Ave., Richmond, VA 23230. In the memo line write “Japan Response Fund.” Or you can give online by going to www.imb.org and clicking on the “Japan response” button. For further information, call the IMB toll-free at 1-800-999-3113. North Carolina Baptist Men is also collecting funds to help with recovery efforts. Make check payable to N.C. Baptist Men, P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512. Designate your check Japan Earthquake/Tsunami Fund.)

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 
4/1/2011 9:10:00 AM by Susie Rain, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

U.S. campus ministries sign unity agreement

April 1 2011 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Leaders from 17 college campus ministries have signed an agreement aimed at keeping their work cooperative rather than competitive as they seek to point students to Christ.

The Chicago Agreement, which was drafted last fall during a meeting at the InterVarsity Press offices in Illinois, includes eight basic points of unity in mission that were unanimously approved earlier this year.

Organizations represented include Baptist Collegiate Ministry at LifeWay Christian Resources and the North American Mission Board as well as InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Campus Crusade for Christ and Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

“I think the document is helpful because it expresses the intention to work with other likeminded groups to help reach our campuses with the Good News of the gospel message of Jesus Christ,” John Moore, national collegiate ministry leader for church and network partnerships at LifeWay and a signer of the agreement, told Baptist Press.

The ministries agreed to teach their staff, volunteers and faculty and student leadership the following principles about relationships with other Christian groups in accordance with John 13:34-35:  
  • We are all part of Christ's body.
  • We do not regard any campus as our exclusive field. We recognize that many students and faculty may be helped through the various appeals and styles of the different organizations.
  • We will seek to establish relationships and build bridges with our counterparts in other Christian groups on campus. When establishing ministries on new campuses, we will take the initiative to communicate with the leadership of existing groups.
  • We will speak well of and refrain from criticism of each other's ministries and members.
  • We commit to addressing problems on a local, regional or national level by humbly communicating with our counterparts, seeking the Lord together to resolve the issues.
  • We affirm the leadership commitments students and faculty have made to each other's ministries and will not actively recruit them away from those groups. When starting a new campus work, each organization will endeavor to select new leaders, not leaders from other ministries.
  • We recognize students and faculty have the freedom to choose their involvement with any campus ministry. In general, we will encourage them to select and be involved with one primary organization.
  • We will encourage collaborative efforts on a voluntary basis between our organizations. We are open to share experiences and resources to assist each other with the unique challenges of campus ministry.  
The agreement is an update of an earlier document approved by leaders of Campus Crusade for Christ, Navigators, Young Life and InterVarsity in 1971. Those organizations wanted to modify the language of their partnership, and they identified other ministries that might want to join them.  

Jim Lundgren, senior vice president and director of collegiate ministries for InterVarsity, said their hope was that 10 or 12 ministries would be represented in the new agreement.  

“To our surprise, 16 of the 17 came for the 24-hour meeting. The one campus director who could not come made a pledge to sign whatever we developed,” Lundgren said in a news release.  

The group wanted to write a clear and simple agreement that “did not read like a theological treatise or a legal document.”  

“I believe that the spirit of partnership and respect that we experienced together is as important as what we produced in the actual agreement,” Lundgren said. “I see the Chicago Agreement as a sign of the work of the Holy Spirit in our movement and in leadership of these other movements.”

Lundgren said the leadership group plans to meet every three years in order to modify the agreement as necessary and to learn from each other in the task of reaching college students for Christ.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Roach is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.)

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 

4/1/2011 8:41:00 AM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Ivory Coast volatile; 1 million flee homes

April 1 2011 by Charles Braddix, Baptist Press

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — As violence escalates between opposing political factions in Ivory Coast, this once-thriving nation is being pushed to the brink not only of a civil war but a humanitarian disaster.

The United Nations reports that civilians are being attacked and killed by armed forces, while up to 1 million people have fled their homes to safer areas, including neighboring countries Liberia, Ghana, Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mauritania. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports that at least 400,000 of Ivory Coast’s 1 million displaced civilians are now refugees in neighboring countries.

Baptist Global Response (BGR) is attempting to assess prospects for a humanitarian response, a process made more difficult by the lack of Southern Baptist personnel in the country, a BGR spokesman said. International Mission Board (IMB) personnel are key partners for the BGR international relief and development organization in crisis situations, and IMB missionaries and their families assigned to Ivory Coast have been relocated outside of the country as a result of violence stemming from last November’s disputed presidential election.

BP file photo by Charles Braddix

Once-thriving markets in Ivory Coast’s capital city, Abidjan, are now facing severe shortages. The escalating political situation there has created a humanitarian and economic crisis.

“All of our IMB personnel that are based in Ivory Coast have been ... relocated to neighboring countries until the current crisis ends,” said Stephen Haber, IMB director of personnel support for Sub-Saharan Africa. “From those areas they continue to engage people with the gospel with the hopes of returning to Ivory Coast soon.”

Scott Bradford, an IMB strategy leader for part of western Africa, including Ivory Coast, said IMB personnel “desperately want to be back there to encourage and minister to folks face-to-face and not from a distance. Unfortunately the situation is becoming more volatile each day.”

Some Christians in Ivory Coast wonder “what God is doing,” Bradford said. “One of the believers said they cannot sleep at night because of the fighting going on outside. I am sure each is suffering and am certain there are those who feel abandoned and are wondering why is this happening..., what God is doing and how He is working through this.”

IMB missionary Jerry Robertson, who recently left Ivory Coast and is now in Ghana, said, “The people in Abidjan are going to start starving soon. People outside the city who farm will be OK, but pretty soon the people in the city are going to be starving.”

Dominique Dah, pastor of Treichville Baptist Church in Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s capital, said people are arriving off the street seeking assistance. Food is scarce, he said, and people are having problems accessing their money from local banks. The church is located six miles from the troubled areas of the city.

Members of Baptist churches throughout Ivory Coast continue to “meet, fast and pray,” Robertson said. “The Baptist churches I know have a big emphasis on prayer. They don’t have vast numbers, and they’ve seen mass demonstrations just get people killed. They believe the resolution has got to come through prayer.”

The situation creates a crisis for international relief agencies, since funding to assist the refugees is alarmingly low, relief officials say. “The situation in Ivory Coast is one of the forgotten crises going on in the world, with the U.N. begging for funding,” said Mark Hatfield, Baptist Global Response director for Sub-Saharan Africa. “I think they have received somewhere in the ballpark of 25 percent of their requests for funds. They are seeing the number of people fleeing troubled areas grow daily.”

Hatfield described the situation as “one of those manmade disasters that many people write off as just another African political crisis.” He indicated that a BGR assessment team would be needed to decide what kind of response might be called for from Southern Baptists.

If BGR were to help provide relief, there would need to be Southern Baptist personnel on the ground to coordinate the efforts, Hatfield said.

Among the humanitarian crises unfolding in Ivory Coast, 30,000 people are trapped in a Catholic church compound in the southwestern town of Duekoue after fleeing clashes between opposing armies, according to the BBC. Many arrived at the compound with gunshot wounds, and a majority of those seeking refuge are migrants from nearby countries who have been working in Ivory Coast, the BBC reported.

Ivory Coast’s president-elect, Alassane Ouattara, asked the U.N. in late March to provide “legitimate force” to protect civilians, saying his opponent, Laurent Gbagbo, has unleashed his army on the country’s population. This followed a mortar attack conducted by Gbagbo forces that killed 25 people in Abidjan.

Gbagbo refuses to cede the presidency after losing to Ouattara in last November’s presidential election.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) also appealed for U.N. intervention, while the African Union is making attempts to negotiate a settlement. The international community, including the U.N. and the United States, recognizes Ouattara as Ivory Coast’s legitimate president.

In an address to the people of Ivory Coast in late March, U.S. President Barack Obama said, “Last year’s election was free and fair, and President Alassane Ouattara is the democratically elected leader of the nation.” Obama called for Gbagbo to step down, saying a refusal to do so will lead to “more violence, more innocent civilians being wounded and killed, and more diplomatic and economic isolation.”

The U.N. Security Council currently is considering new sanctions against Ivory Coast introduced by France and Nigeria. These would be in addition to sanctions already in place since 2004. The new measures would ban heavy weapons in Abidjan, where Gbagbo is accused of using mortars to fire on civilians. They would also call for an investigation into human rights violations.

Bradford urged Christians around the world to pray for the situation. “Pray that amidst all the suffering, those who follow Christ and are still on the ground can be a witness and encouragement to both believers and unbelievers,” he said. “Pray for an end to come quickly.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Braddix is a writer and photographer for the International Mission Board stationed at the Baptist Press Africa Bureau in Johannesburg. Baptist Global Response is on the Web at www.gobgr.org.)

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 
4/1/2011 8:36:00 AM by Charles Braddix, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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