April 2012

N.C. couple shares calling at IMB appointment service

April 11 2012 by Laura Fielding & BR staff

(EDITOR’S NOTE – The Biblical Recorder ran the original story March 27 at BRnow.org. This gives a glimpse into a N.C. couple answering the call.)
 
At least one North Carolina couple thought they had it all figured out. In recent years their family had traveled on multiple mission trips to South America. They became familiar with the language and the culture. Their desire to become missionaries in that part of the world seemed natural, easy and to be a good fit.
 
But God had other plans for Walter and Joy Kingman* and their two boys, – ages 12 and 6 – who are all from the western part of the state.
 
The couple was among 61 newly appointed IMB (International Mission Board) missionaries honored March 21, during a service at Trinity Baptist Church in Lake Charles, La.
 
That evening the couple shared how God called them to serve in South Asia, far from where Spanish is the dominant language.
 
Though South America seemed more “comfortable” to them, the Kingmans believe God has something more challenging in mind.
 
ncimb.jpg

BP photo

IMB President Tom Elliff spoke about the necessity of Jesus’ death on the cross and the responsibility of all believers to share the Good News during the invitation at a missionary appointment service in Lake Charles, La.


“It’s the greatest concentration of lostness,” Walter says of South Asia. “It has more unreached people groups than anywhere else. God really turned our hearts.”
 
In 2006, Walter went on a volunteer trip with N.C. Baptist Men’s disaster relief ministry to Sri Lanka, where a tsunami claimed the lives of more than 36,000 people. “It’s there that I really got my calling,” he said, acknowledging it won’t be easy.
 
“We’re going to have to learn a language that is very hard,” he added.
 
“It’s going to be hot, and it’s going to be a different culture. It’s one of those things where God is saying, ‘I’m calling you somewhere you’re going to need me.’”
 
The Kingmans will not be the only North Carolinians heading to South Asia.
 
Five of six “units” – individual families or single adults – appointed during the service to this region have ties to the state. The new missionaries will begin training April 23 at the International Learning Center in Virginia.
 
They will leave families, friends, good careers and a familiar way of life behind them as they follow God’s lead overseas.
 
That evening each shared how God led them to that point.
 
*Names changed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Laura Fielding is a writer for IMB. BR staff contributed to this story.)
4/11/2012 1:30:47 PM by Laura Fielding & BR staff | with 0 comments



N.C. Baptists rally to fight for marriage amendment

April 10 2012 by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor

(EDITOR’S NOTE – This article has been updated since being posted online March 29.)

North Carolina Baptists continue to rally together across the state to learn more about how they can help support a proposed amendment to the state’s constitution that, if passed, would define marriage as being only between a man and a woman. 
 
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest hosted a Marriage Amendment Forum March 28 in Binkley Chapel.
 
A few days later First Baptist Church of Charlotte hosted the Concerned Women for America’s “Stand Strong Together” conference. Other similar events continue to be held around the state.
 
The events focus on educating the public about the amendment and encouraging them to show up at the polls May 8 and vote. Speakers at these events contend that the eyes of the nation will be on North Carolina – the first state among others to vote on the marriage issue this year. It’s the North Carolina vote that some contend will set the tone in deciding the fate of this issue in the United States – especially when it eventually goes before the Supreme Court.
 
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BR photo by Shawn Hendricks

Mark Harris, president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, is interviewed March 28 by a television news crew after the Marriage Amendment Forum at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest.


“If the people speak in North Carolina, and in the other states, and affirm marriage being between a man and a woman, I believe that it will tip the balance of the Supreme Court to reject trying to foist by judicial imperialism same-sex marriage on a populace that is clearly opposed to it,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. “If we lose, they will exercise their judicial imperialism. That’s what’s at stake.”
 
Mark Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte and president of the state’s Baptist convention, spoke during the Stand Strong Together Conference at his church and moderated during the Marriage Amendment Forum. The state, he said, has an opportunity this spring that they may never get back.
 
“This time it is a little different,” said Harris, noting that unlike Roe v. Wade – where the issue was decided by the Supreme Court – North Carolina still has an opportunity to vote on the issue.
 
“Thank God that He raised up in our state legislature a majority that would put it on the ballot … for the citizens of this state to go to the polls and determine the answer to how marriage will be defined.”
 
Gay marriage impact
The issue is about religious freedom, said Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, an organization that focuses on promoting faith, family and freedom.
 
“What people don’t realize is that gay marriage means the beginning of the end of religious freedom,” she said. “When marriage is redefined in a state to become generalist, there are legal consequences for anyone who disagrees with it.
 
“What happens is there is a sea change of law … everything from property rights, to inheritance laws have to be changed because the assumption that there underlies them is that marriage is between one man and one woman.”
 
Many Christian ministries in some states – where gay marriage is legal – are already feeling the impact.
 
In New Jersey, a Methodist church camp had to close after a lesbian couple sued the camp because they were not allowed to marry on the grounds. The couple won their case, which forced the camp to choose their religious convictions over continuing to operate and allow same-sex marriage ceremonies.
 
“The court said the constitution allows some intrusion into religious freedom to balance other important societal goals,” Fitzgerald said.
 
Some Catholic charities have also chosen to close their doors because they refused to allow gay couples to adopt children from their organization.
 
Many opponents of the marriage amendment claim it will deny homosexuals equal rights. Tim Wilkins, executive director of Cross Ministry in Wake Forest, argued during the forum that homosexual relationships are already “unequal.”
 
“Homosexuality is commonly a cry of diversity, yet a same-sex marriage or relationship is characterized by sameness, not diversity,” said Wilkins, who lived a gay lifestyle for more than 10 years before beginning a ministry that helps people escape homosexuality.
 
“Regarding the question of homosexuality and race, same-sex attraction, biblically defined, is not an orientation matter but a temptation matter,” he said.
 
“Of the millions of temptations we face everyday, where does scripture elevate this particular temptation to a high status? Our orientation as humanity is toward sin.”
 
Unless marriage is redefined “radically,” said Southeastern Seminary professor Daniel Heimbach, “gay relationships are not in the same relational categories as the sort of relationships with which marriage laws are concerned. That is why this amendment has nothing to do with equality.” 
 
“Legalizing same-sex marriage will radically change marriage in a way that denies all fixed structures and deinstitutionalizing marriage as a social institution, thus harming everyone by threatening social stability and intergenerational survival.”
 
Many who oppose the amendment argue the amendment will take health care away from children, prevent private companies from offering domestic partner benefits or weaken domestic violence laws. Many of these claims, the panel at the Southeastern forum said, are blatantly false. To read more about these arguments check out a guest column written by N.C. House Majority Leader Paul “Skip” Stam, one of the panelists at the forum. The column was published in the March 17 issue of the Recorder. Or, read the story online through keyword search at brnow.org. The column is entitled “What will the marriage amendment do?”
 
Fitzgerald later referenced a political ad that features Clay Aiken, a former American Idol contestant, who opposes the amendment.
 
“He’s in front of a playground, and he says if Amendment One passes, … some of these children behind [him] will lose their healthcare benefits,” Fitzgerald said.
 
“He never once mentions the word ‘marriage’ … ‘heterosexual’ or ‘homosexual family.’ They are deliberately calling it ‘Amendment One’ to divorce it from marriage so that the average person out in the public won’t know this amendment is about marriage. The amendment is about protecting marriage.”
 
Until Christians take a stand, the issue will never go away, said Kenyn Cureton, vice president for church ministries at the Family Research Council.
 
“What you need to know is that proponents of same-sex marriage are well organized, well funded, and they are relentless,” he said. “They will not stop until we rise up, speak the truth in love, and stop them – and do it together.”
 
He challenged pastors and church leaders who are for the amendment to work together, to stay focused through prayer, and to preach on what the Bible has to say about this issue. “Don’t ever think that your influence is insignificant,” he said. “You as pastors, as ministers of the gospel, can make a positive difference … being the salt and the light here in North Carolina.”
 
For more information on this issue, related guest columns and stories, go to brnow.org or access the Recorder’s Marriage Amendment page under the “Resources” tab at brnow.org/marriage.
4/10/2012 2:26:56 PM by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments



Three Forks DOM recovering after motorcycle accident

April 10 2012 by BR Staff

Barry Nealy, director of missions for Three Forks Baptist Association in Boone who was involved in a motorcycle accident March 22, was moved from a hospital in Tennessee to a facility in Greensboro.
 
Nealy, was riding his motorcycle March 22 when he was involved in an accident, suffered broken vertebrae in his neck, a collapsed lung and broken pelvis. He was taken to Johnson City Medical Center in Tennessee where doctors performed emergency surgery and he was placed in the Intensive Care Unit.
 
“I really feel the strength of your prayers, so please do not stop,” said Nealy’s wife, Donna, in an update March 26.
 
Nealy recently had a tracheostomy and was moved to Moses Cone Hospital.
 
An update on the association’s website indicated that his breathing had improved and that Nealy was able to talk with a cap on his trach. He was also able to stand April 9 for the first time since the accident.
 
 “As you can imagine after 15 days on his back he is weak, and they will begin getting him up, and go from there,” Donna said in an update.
 
Media reports indicate that Nealy’s motorcycle crashed into a Ford sedan in Watauga County.
 
The Watauga Democrat reported that Trooper David Searcy of the N.C. Highway Patrol said Nealy’s motorcycle crossed the center line into the path of the car while it was traveling at about 50 mph.
 
The report said the driver of the car suffered pain to his wrist and neck but was not transported to the hospital.
 
Check for updates on the association’s website: 3forksassoc.org.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – An earlier story ran March 28 on the website and an updated version ran in the April 14 edition of the Biblical Recorder. This story has been updated since being printed for that issue.)
4/10/2012 2:21:00 PM by BR Staff | with 0 comments



Ga. Baptists to explore property sale

April 10 2012 by Joe Westbury/The Christian Index

DULUTH, Ga. (BP) – The Georgia Baptist Convention’s (GBC) Executive Committee has voted to entertain any valid offers for a potential sale of its six-year-old Baptist Missions and Ministry Center and 43 acres of property.

GBC Executive Director J. Robert White, citing interest from realtors and private entities in recent years, made the recommendation to the Executive Committee during its mid-March meeting. The committee’s consensus vote permits White to schedule exploratory site visits with potential buyers.

At-large board member Larry Wynn of Dacula made the motion to accept White’s suggestion.

White later told The Christian Index, the convention’s newsjournal, that the building is not being listed for sale.
 
“The building and its location speaks for itself so we have no reason to list it,” White said. “The property is highly desirable and grows with interest on a regular basis.”

The 43 acres of prime real estate across from the massive Gwinnett Arena sports and entertainment complex and the Chamber of Commerce on Sugarloaf Parkway has been a key factor in the site’s popularity.
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The Georgia Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee has voted to entertain any valid offers for its Baptist Missions and Ministry Center and 43 acres of property. The building is shown in this 2006 file photo shortly after construction.


The arena, which includes the Gwinnett Convention Center, draws upwards of a million visitors a year to sports events, concerts and other events.

“We are not bankrupt and we are up to date on all our financial obligations,” White emphasized to head off any speculation regarding the recommendation. Since the 2008 recession, the state convention has trimmed its budget by $11.8 million, or 22.56 percent. Staffing levels in the building, which peaked at 133 just three years ago, have been cut to 103. The latest round of cutbacks occurred in late January when 18 positions were eliminated statewide.

But the latest financial figures released at the GBC Executive Committee meeting March 13 show that, so far this year, income is up sharply for the period ending Feb. 29. The convention is showing an increase of $802,853 or 16.52 percent from the same period in 2011, which posted a decrease of $756,292 or 13.46 percent.

White said criticism of the building also led him to consider making the request of the Executive Committee, though it was not the driving factor. He said he knew the building had become a hindrance to some and did not want that to be a roadblock toward cooperation.

Wynn agreed, telling The Index that “it is not where you do ministry but how you do ministry. Our mission is always more important than a building.

“In Hebrews we read that we should ‘lay down every weight’ that holds us down, that becomes a hindrance to our running the race,” Wynn said. “I feel that Dr. White’s heart is in the right place in keeping missions central to what Georgia Baptists are all about.”

In discussing what would happen if the property is sold, White said “a significant amount of office space [is available] in our immediate area at a reasonable price that we could purchase or rent, or we could even move into a renovated big box store like an old Walmart.

“We can do our work anywhere, even in a field with a tent. But I can’t help but be impressed by the number of people who continue to express an interest in our property.

“It may be God’s will for us to just be here for a season, or it could be longer if He doesn’t send a valid offer,” White said. “Until then, we can only assume this is where He wants us to be.”

If Georgia Baptists decided to sell the property, White said it would not be at “fire sale prices. God has given us a treasure here and we will fully protect the convention’s interest in the property. We will wait for the best possible offer.”

White said Georgia Baptists constructed the building for $43.5 million and owe $26 million on the property.

“We are not interested in taking $43,499,000 as a purchase price,” White said.

Any acceptable offer, he said, would have to include a generous premium to recoup any relocation costs that a move would incur.

“It is very difficult to find 43 acres like this in the heart of Gwinnett in such a desirable location, and that is what is driving much of the interest in this property,” White said.

White told Executive Committee members that every phase of the process to relocate from its former Flowers Road location was approved by the convention in annual session. The relocation committee looked at nearly 200 different pieces of property before settling on the Sugarloaf Parkway site, which had to be cobbled together from several different tracts.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Westbury is managing editor of The Christian Index, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.)
4/10/2012 2:09:10 PM by Joe Westbury/The Christian Index | with 0 comments



Committee on Resolutions named for 2012 SBC

April 10 2012 by Baptist Press

NEW ORLEANS (BP) – SBC President Bryant Wright has named the members of the Committee on Resolutions who will serve during the June 19-20 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in New Orleans.

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.
 
Wright named Jimmy Scroggins of Florida as committee chairman. Scroggins is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in West Palm Beach.

The other committee members, in alphabetical order, are:

– Stephen Farish, senior pastor, Crossroads Church, Grayslake, Ill.

– Cheri Jiminez, member, Taylors First Baptist Church, Greer, S.C.

– Manpoong Dennis Kim, pastor, Global Mission Church, Silver Spring, Md.

– Gary Lowe, member, Alta Canyon Baptist Church, Sandy, Utah.

– Tim Ohls, senior pastor, Believers Southern Baptist Church, Wichita, Kan.

– Kevin Smith, pastor, Watson Memorial Baptist Church, Louisville, Ky., and assistant professor of Christian preaching, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

– Kevin Ueckert, senior pastor, South Side Baptist Church, Abilene, Texas.

– Stephen Douglas Wilson, dean emeritus and chair of the social studies/history department, Mid-Continent University, Mayfield, Ky., and member, First Baptist Church, Lone Oak, Ky.

– Joe Wright, director of missions, Dyer Baptist Association, Dyersburg, Tenn.

The committee’s composition, according to Bylaw 20, must include at least two members who served the previous year, with Scroggins and Farish meeting this requirement. Bylaw 20 also stipulates that the committee include at least three SBC Executive Committee members. This year they are Ohls, Wilson and Wright.

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 Committee on Resolutions 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 Committee on Resolutions 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 at www.sbc.net/resolutions/AMResSearch.asp.)
4/10/2012 2:04:16 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Masters winner Watson not ashamed of his Christian faith

April 9 2012 by Trevor Freeze/BillyGraham.org

CHARLOTTE – There’s something different about Bubba Watson.

And he doesn’t care if you know it.

The winner of the 2012 Masters golf tournament realizes he’s not like most famous athletes.

In fact, he welcomes it.
 
“People always ask ‘Why is Bubba different?’” said Watson during a phone interview from Scottsdale, Ariz. “They’re just trying to figure it out.”

Watson’s identity is not wrapped up in his freakishly long drives from his lanky 6-foot-3, 180-pound left-handed swing – he leads the Tour with a 315-yard average.

Rather, take one look at his Twitter profile and you may figure out what’s different about Watson:

@bubbawatson: Christian. Husband. Daddy. Pro Golfer. Owner of General Lee 1.”

And pay close attention to the order.

Watson is an outspoken Christian golfer and he uses his Twitter account – along with his platform as one of the PGA Tour’s magnetic personalities – to share about his faith in Christ.
04-09-12bubba.jpg

Photo by Hunter Martin/Augusta National

Masters winner Bubba Watson credits his Christian faith for turning him from an angry golfer to a calmer golfer. He’s also outspoken about his faith, crediting “my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” after his win. He regularly uses his Twitter account to discuss Christianity.


“For me, it’s just showing the Light,” the 33-year-old said. “There’s people who want to put down Christians. I try to tell them Jesus loves you. It’s just a way to be strong in my faith.”

Speaking to the Augusta, Ga., crowd and a TV audience after he won the Masters, he thanked “my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” His first Tweet after he won the Masters read simply: “To God Be the Glory!!!”

Twitter outreach
In April 2011, just before teeing off on the final round of the Masters, Watson took advantage of his social media platform to Tweet out two Bible verses on Sunday morning.

He followed that up talking about his faith, his relationship with God, Tweeting out more verses and the impact of Christian artists on his iPod.

Some started complaining about his 140-character witnessing tactics, but Watson’s response was simple: Feel free to unfollow, but the talk about God wasn’t going away.

Some 100 people quit following him and in true Bubba style, he reached out and wished them well with goodbye notes.

The past month more Christian haters have tried to derail Watson’s testimony – or as he mildly puts it, “write bad stuff.”

But Watson doesn’t take offense, even when it’s the sole intent.

When someone tells him “Your God Tweets are lame,” Watson responds with, “I will pray for u and ur family.”

Among the 39,000-plus messages he’s sent into the Twittersphere, he’s sure to spread the Gospel message: “God made everything & saved us from our sins & gives us hope and gives us eternal life! #Godisgood”

Sometimes he’ll Tweet out some of his favorite verses: “Hebrews 13:6 So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?”

Or he’ll use his PGA platform – like the day after taking the lead with a headline-grabbing 10-under-par 62 at the Cadillac Championship in March – to bring God into the mainstream conversation.

Watson’s Tweet before his third round: “The most important thing in my life? Answer after I golf 18 holes with @JustinRose99. #Godisgood” Later that day: “Most important things in my life - 1. God 2. Wife 3. Family 4. Helping others 5. Golf.”

“Lecrae said it the best,” Watson said of the Christian rapper he listens to on his iPod. “He doesn’t want to be a celebrity. He doesn’t want to be a superstar. He just wants to be the middle man for you to see God through him.”

‘Bubba golf’
As golf’s official major season bloomed during the week of the Masters, and Watson winning a major for the first time – only his fourth PGA Tour career victory – Watson seemed like a long shot. His best finish at Augusta National had been a tie for 20th in 2008.

But winning is no longer everything for Watson. There was a time in his life where drives slicing into the thick, five-inch rough or birdie putts rimming out would get the best of him and his blood pressure.

Watson will tell you, Angry Bubba was not a good look. Unbecoming, for sure.

“I was so wrapped up in ‘Why am I not winning?’” Watson said. “It created frustrations in my head and in my life.”

Things got so heated on the golf course that Ted Scott, his caddie since 2006, finally gave him an ultimatum.

“My caddie finally stepped up and said, ‘You’re going to have to change, or I’m going to quit,’” Watson said.

Watson’s temper-laced decorum was replaced with what some call “Bubba Golf,” which stresses golf mechanics less and puts a heavy focus on just playing golf and having fun on the course.

And it’s working.

Watson won the Travelers Championship in June of 2010, the Farmer’s Insurance Open in January of 2011 and the Zurich Classic a few months later.

In March, Watson led the Cadillac Championship after 54 holes before fading in the final round, missing a nine-foot putt by inches on the final hole that would have forced a playoff.

Old Bubba may have let that one fester for weeks. New Bubba brushed it off with a satisfied smile and slight head-tilt.

Watson credits three strong believers – Scott, along with his trainer Adam Fisher (“Fish”) and Watson’s wife Angie – as the difference in his attitude.

“I’ve really got a good team around me trying to help me succeed,” said Watson, who has long supported many charities, including the upcoming Bubba’s Bash and the infamous “Golf Boys” video project. “Not just in golf, but off the golf course, [I want] to be a light for Jesus.”

PGA Bible study
Perhaps the most powerful Christian impact Watson has experienced has been the PGA Tour’s weekly Bible study, held every Wednesday night during tournament weeks.

Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, Jonathan Byrd and Webb Simpson, along with Watson, are some of the regulars, with attendance ranging from 16 to 50 on a given week.

“For me it’s a way to get back connected with the Bible and with God and Jesus,” Watson said. “Now you know other people you can talk to, ask questions to, tell them what you’re thinking, tell them what’s going on in your life.”

The one-hour study is something Watson looks forward to regularly: “Getting more in the Word and realizing that golf is just an avenue for Jesus to use me to reach as many people as I can.”

Newly-adopted son
Watson’s journey to Christ isn’t uncommon.

He grew up in Bagdad, Fla., as one of the good guys: “Didn’t cuss, didn’t cheat, didn’t steal, didn’t lie, didn’t drink, didn’t do drugs,” he said. “I was doing the right things but I didn’t know what that meant.”

It wasn’t until his senior year in high school when two twin neighbor girls, from the house directly behind his, invited Watson to their youth group. He went and found a place where he belonged.

“The girls asked me to go to church,” he said. “And after a few times going I realized this is what I wanted to do. This is truth here. And I gave myself to the Lord.”

But it wasn’t until 2004 that Watson became serious about his commitment to Christ at the University of Georgia. He began dating Angie Ball (former WNBA player) and the two began living for God as a couple.

“We wanted to be Christ followers,” Watson said. “We wanted to do the right thing. We started turning to the Lord for our decisions.”

The couple married in September 2004 and were each baptized later that year, the day after Christmas: “I would say 2004 was my true time of becoming a Christian,” Watson said, “and shaping me into the man I am today.”

And in March, Bubba the Man has become Bubba the Father. The Watsons began another chapter of their life, adopting a one-month-old boy (Caleb), a journey that began several years ago.

Fittingly, Watson broke the news on Twitter: “Everyone @angieb1433 & I are proud new parents of a 1 month old baby boy name Caleb. Been a parent for 2 days. #amazing”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Trevor Freeze writes for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, online at BillyGraham.org, where this story first appeared.)
4/9/2012 4:01:36 PM by Trevor Freeze/BillyGraham.org | with 0 comments



Feeding a hunger for truth: Convention staff leads way in Moldova

April 9 2012 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

UNGHENI, MOLDOVA – As two team members from the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) left a family’s home in the district of Ungheni, they weren’t sure what to think. They shared the gospel. The husband and wife listened, but they did not really have much to say.
 
The Moldovan couple did ask for two tracts so they could each have their own copy to read. Maybe they were interested, the team wondered. Maybe the couple did want to know more.
 
A few days later, the BSC team spotted the family at an evangelistic worship service that was presented by Moldovan Baptists and Convention staff.
 
More than 900 people packed the auditorium that had once been used to teach Communist propaganda.
 
“You came, you came,” the couple said to the team.
 
At the end of the service, the couple – along with Moldovans all across the auditorium – made their way to the front to publically profess their faith in Jesus Christ.
 
The weekend evangelistic services became the culmination of a week of ministry – March 9-19 – by BSC staff among the Moldovan people.
 
“I cannot remember a time in my ministry when I pleaded as I did with people to come to Christ,” said Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer, who preached during the service.
 
“As I walked to the podium that night, I had my Bible and a few notes I had made in the Bible,” Hollifield said. “I was depending on God that night. The Lord was giving me the thoughts and the words to say even as I was preaching. I was dependent on Him for every word. Even after years of ministry, God taught me new truths about being dependent on Him and allowing Him to do His work.”
 
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BSC photo by Mike Creswell

Mike Sowers, left, shares jump rope duties with Ashley Allen in Moldova. Sowers and Allen, along with Kenny Lamm (seen playing to the left of Allen) took some time to spend with and minister to children in Moldova. BSC staff were in Moldova to work with a partnership that has been developed through the Office of Great Commission Partnerships, which Sowers leads.


Hollifield shared the story of Nicodemus with the crowd. “God impressed upon my heart that the Moldovan people were depending on the church and good works – the same things Nicodemus was depending on for salvation. But Jesus says that we must be born again.”
 
Orthodox beliefs are so ingrained into the Moldovan culture, Hollifield said, that the concepts of having a personal relationship with God and assurance of salvation are completely new ideas to many of them. Moldova is less than two percent evangelical.
 
Partnership and purpose
That week the BSC team from the Convention went in groups to homes throughout villages in the Moldovan district of Ungheni. Moldova, which is divided into 33 districts and is the poorest country in Eastern Europe, is bordered on the north, east and south by Ukraine, and on the west by Romania.
 
Through a partnership with the Baptist Union of Moldova, the BSC – which sent a total of 11 staff on the trip – hopes to lead North Carolina Baptists to engage in evangelistic efforts throughout the 32 remaining districts. The trip was coordinated by the BSC’s Office of Great Commission Partnerships, which is led by Michael Sowers. The team shared the gospel and invited families to two evangelistic services held during the week. They also went door-to-door distributing food to people in need and sharing the gospel, and leading children’s camps throughout Ungheni.
 
“In the midst of an atheistic culture, God promised He would prevail. He promised that nothing would prevail against His Kingdom,” Sowers said.
 
“We are seeing what fervent prayer and God’s faithfulness will accomplish. God can overcome what seems like the most impossible circumstances to get His gospel to the nations.”
 
Hollifield and Chuck Register, BSC executive leader for church planting and missions development, led pastor’s conferences in three different cities: in the capital of Chisinau, in the northern city of Balti, and in the southern city of Cahul. Ashley Allen, director of Embrace Women’s Missions and Ministries, spoke at two women’s conferences.
 
A need for churches
BSC staff also evaluated future opportunities and ways to involve North Carolina churches in reaching Moldova for Christ. More than 1,000 villages in Moldova are still without an evangelical presence.
 
“[The] vision for this mission trip was for our staff to set an example for North Carolina Baptist churches,” Register said. 
 
“As churches consider adopting or embracing one of these districts, we wanted our staff to model that focus and emphasis. I never want to challenge North Carolina Baptists to do something we will not do.”
 
Two North Carolina Baptist congregations have already committed to evangelize two of the districts. An additional 30 churches are needed to commit to serving in the remaining districts.
 
Since returning from Moldova the staff has begun putting together resources, based on their experiences and what they learned. They hope to help churches as they prepare physically and spiritually for mission work in Moldova.
 
Hollifield shared how he hopes other North Carolina Baptists will be able to experience some of the same victories – and beyond – what the BSC’s team experienced in Moldova.
 
“I pray that many churches across our state will step up and respond to the plea for help in Moldova,” he said. “I believe if we can get enough North Carolina Baptists to serve in Moldova, we stand a great chance of shaping the future of that country as we see people who are open to the gospel come to faith in Christ and in turn, be discipled and reach others.”
 
For photos and videos, visit flickr.com/ncbaptist. To learn more about how to get involved in Moldova, call (800) 395-5102, ext. 5654, or visit ncbaptist.org/moldova. Or, contact Sowers at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5654, or msowers@ncbaptist.org.

Related story
Jesus is enough: Convention staff encouraged by great faith
Moldova mission team encounters lostness, spiritual darkness
4/9/2012 3:40:54 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Moldova mission team encounters lostness, spiritual darkness

April 9 2012 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

UNGHENI, MOLDOVA – Wrinkles lined her face and wisps of gray hair poked out from underneath the blue and yellow scarf wrapped around her head. She stood in the doorway bundled up in a long gray coat. A smile never left her face.
 
The woman was glad to meet the team from the United States. She thought their religion was better than hers and said they were better people. The team shared the gospel with her. They explained that they were not better than her, and that only the grace of Jesus Christ can save sinners.
 
She listened and then spoke with such kindness. She said she just couldn’t do it. All her life she was taught to go through a priest to reach God. No one could ever have assurance of eternal life, she said.
 
The team prayed with her and with the young woman with her, perhaps a granddaughter. During the prayer the younger woman began to weep. After the prayer, she continued wiping tears from her eyes.
She appeared to be so close to responding in faith to Jesus Christ.
 
04-09-12moldova2.jpg

BSC photo by Kenny Lamm

Ashley Allen, left, prays with a Moldovan woman. Some of the BSC team went door-to-door to share Christ.


“We met one person after another who was so ingrained in orthodoxy that there’s this blindness over their eyes that they can’t see Jesus – because they think they already know Jesus,” said Kenny Lamm, worship and music consultant for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC). “It will take God’s power to lift that fog from their eyes.”
 
Lamm was one of 11 staff from the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina who participated in a mission trip to Moldova March 9-19 coordinated by the Convention’s Office of Great Commission Partnerships.
 
Lamm saw hope represented in the young woman.
 
“The younger generation could be so pivotal in Moldova because they are not as steeped in the religious traditions,” he said.
 
Throughout Moldova are icons, or constant reminders that teachings from the Moldovan Orthodox Church are firmly rooted in minds and hearts of its people.
 
An icon is known as a blue, cross-shaped box mounted to a wooden pole that holds images of saints, Mary, or Jesus on the cross.
 
Icons are everywhere, from a roadside to a hilltop overlooking a village. Driving into the city of Ungheni, an icon sits just off the left side of the road, near the railroad tracks before arriving at the house of culture. During the former Soviet Union days, buildings called the “house of culture” were used to teach Communist ideals.
 
Evangelicals would label the icons as graven images. Moldovans who follow the Orthodox tradition believe they are a sign of blessing and one way to point people to God.
 
John Miron, president of the Baptist Union of Moldova, knows the challenges that come with trying to penetrate spiritual darkness. Miron and other pastors were chased out of a village when they tried to start a church there. Tires on their cars were slashed and the priests told them they were not to assemble in the village boundaries.
 
In the village of Parlita, where the mission team served the first day, they met a woman with young children who had never heard the name of Jesus.
 
“When I asked her if she knew of Jesus, she said no,” said Iana Fincher, BSC church planting ministry assistant.  “I asked a couple other times to make sure she understood me – but she had no concept of Jesus.”
 
Fincher was born and raised in Chisinau, Moldova’s capital city, and moved to the United States with her family as a teenager. Her ability to speak English, Russian and Romanian allowed her to serve the team well as a translator. 
 
Fincher’s family learned about the gospel when a Gideon from the United States was in Moldova handing out Bibles on the street. Fincher’s mom received one of the Bibles. She soon began attending a Bible study so she could understand more of what she was reading.
 
Fincher’s mom prayed to receive Jesus Christ and so did her dad. Her dad did not learn about Jesus until he was about 40 years old. Her grandmother and uncle prayed to receive Christ shortly before they died, but the rest of her family in Moldova does not believe in Jesus.
 
The village where Fincher’s parents grew up is still without a church.
 
“The people we visited in the villages were completely hopeless. They had been lied to about God and about Jesus. And these people are the rule; not the exception,” Fincher said. “I saw how raw lostness is and how sad it is.”
 
Merrie Johnson, BSC senior consultant for student evangelism and ministry, met a woman in the villages who had never owned a Bible.
 
“She told us that the priest reads the Bible to them. They don’t read the Bible for themselves,” Johnson said. “We gave her a Bible and she couldn’t believe it. She was beside herself with joy.”
 
Johnson also met an 82-year-old man who was not saved. His wife, a believer, wanted her husband to hear what Johnson and the team had to say about the gospel.
 
“He stood there the entire gospel presentation and listened. But he said, ‘I can’t do it.’ He kept saying, ‘This doesn’t equal what I’ve heard in my church.’”
 
The spiritual darkness is overwhelming, but the Convention’s mission team saw the power of God at work while in Moldova. 
 
The woman in Parlita, who had never heard of Jesus, prayed to receive Christ as her personal Lord and Savior. Several team members had opportunity to share their faith and then watch as God worked and people responded to the gospel. On the Sunday before the team left Moldova some team members preached in churches throughout Chisinau.
 
One of the churches, Gethsemane Baptist, meets in a Russian public elementary school that was once used as a meeting location for Communist leaders.
 
One of the church members is a woman who before she was saved used to teach, as she described, atheist propaganda in the school. The Sunday the team was at the church, a teenager someone who described himself as an atheist – prayed to receive Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior.
 
The team saw up close the hopelessness that comes without Jesus Christ and the need for God to work in hearts. Before the trip, Fincher prayed for God to show her lostness and to break her heart for the Moldovan people.
 
“I am so glad to know that through faith I have assurance of salvation,” she said. 
 
“I have never been so thankful for that. I remember thinking during the trip how I never wanted to take that assurance for granted.”
 
For photos and videos, visit flickr.com/photos/ncbaptist.

Related story
Feeding a hunger for truth: Convention staff leads way in Moldova
Jesus is enough: Convention staff encouraged by great faith
4/9/2012 3:28:36 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Iran pastor, still alive, passes 900th day in jail

April 9 2012 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – As Christians around the world prepare to celebrate Easter, Iranian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani remains in jail – alive, yes – but having already passed his 900th day behind bars for being a Christian and still facing a possible execution.
 
Nadarkhani, whose first name also can be spelled “Youcef,” was able to visit with a son on on the son’s birthday April 2, according to the American Center for Law and Justice, which is closely monitoring the case. His 900th day in jail occurred in late March.

For weeks now, rumors have floated on Facebook and Twitter that he has been executed, with a picture of a body often accompanying the post. But that picture was taken well over a year ago of another person, and it’s highly unlikely Iran would take a picture of Nadarkhani if he was executed, says Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice.

“We’re able to confirm that he’s alive pretty regularly, at least weekly,” Sekulow told Baptist Press.

Often, Sekulow said, rumors of Nadarkhani’s execution are easily dismissed, particularly if a rumor starts on the weekend. That’s because the Iranian government shut down around mid-Thursday and reopened again Sunday in recognition of the Muslim calendar.

“They won’t send out pictures [of Nadarkhani],” Sekulow said. “He is not someone who is on trial for being a spy – those are the pictures of people we usually see. He is not one of those public executions.”

Nadarkhani was sentenced to death in 2010 for converting from Islam to Christianity in a case that began in 2009.

The United States and the United Kingdom have spoken out publicly for Nadarkhani, pressuring Iran, and other countries are doing so too. Among those is Brazil, which unlike the U.S. and the U.K., has close ties to Iran. That gives Brazil leverage, said Sekulow, who visited Brazil earlier this year to discuss the case with Brazilian officials.

“Brazil has a working relationship with Iran on a daily basis,” Sekulow said. “The Brazilian government has really taken this case – senators, the executive branch, the people of Brazil. And it’s such a key diplomatic partner for Iran.”
04-09-12iran.jpg

Yousef Nadarkhani


In March, Iran acknowledged to the U.N. Human Rights Council – meeting in Switzerland – that Nadarkhani was charged with faith-based crimes. Specifically, Iran’s human rights representative, Mohammad-Javad Larijani, said Nadarkhani was charged with: telling youth about Christ without their parents’ permission, leading an illegal house church in his home, and offending Islam.

“He offended Islam by saying that Jesus was the only way to heaven,” Sekulow said.

Sekulow urged the rest of the world to continue praying for Nadarkhani while also recognizing that the American view of courts and jails is meaningless in Iran.

“He has the death sentence hanging over his head, and the question now is: Does Iran try to push this to another trial – try a new judicial process to stall the issue because of the international pressure? That’s where we’re focused now. We have gotten so much of the world’s attention,” Sekulow said. “I think we have to get past the goal of just keeping him alive, and figure out how to get him to be released.”

Sekulow’s group raised the alarm about Nadarkhani’s case in February, fearing that an execution was imminent. That did not occur, but that does not mean that one was not scheduled, Sekulow said. Iran has a history, he said, of scheduling an execution to see if the information leaks.

“If it doesn’t [leak], they may carry it out, and that’s what happened the last time they did this.”

Iran last carried out an execution for apostasy in 1990.

“He’s not doing this to be some worldwide martyr that everyone knows about,” Sekulow said. “He really is representing hundreds if not thousands of people who are in the same situation.”

In September, Nadarkhani was given four chances to recant his faith in court and refused each time. His case then was referred to the ayatollah. The American Center for Law and Justice reported one of his court exchanges.

“Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?” Nadarkhani asked.

“To the religion of your ancestors, Islam,” the judge reportedly replied.

“I cannot,” the pastor responded.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)
4/9/2012 3:17:22 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Guest Column: Easter and overseas missions

April 5 2012 by Allen Williams, Baptist Press

WHITAKERS – Have you ever wondered what Easter and international missions have in common? To find out, we need to start at the beginning.
 
Astronaut James Lovell first coined the phrase, “Houston, we have a problem,” when Apollo 13 began to experience trouble. Mankind also has a problem in that our first parents, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God’s command not to eat fruit from the tree of life. When Adam took that first bite, he immediately saw sin enter this world. Both he and Eve were instantly separated from God.
 
Since that day, every person has been born with a sinful nature, separated from God until he or she receives the only means of reconciliation — Jesus Christ.
 
Without Christ we all are sentenced to a second (spiritual) death, which is eternal separation from God in a literal, burning hell. But the good news is that God provided His Son as a substitute to take our punishment and our place.
 
That is why John the Baptist, upon seeing Jesus for the first time, said “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, NKJV).
 
God has always provided a way of forgiveness whether it was the Old Testament sacrifice of animals or the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. In both cases, innocent blood had to be shed. Christ, who was 100 percent God and 100 percent man, was the only solution to mankind’s sin problem. So 2,000 years ago, Christ came to this earth, shed His blood and died so we can have forgiveness. After His crucifixion He was buried in a borrowed tomb — but He did not stay there.
 
Three days later Christ rose from the dead. Three of His followers came to the tomb that morning to mourn only to discover He was no longer there. This conquering of death is the result of God’s power over all things physical. This resurrection, along with the story of His virgin birth and His crucifixion, is known as the gospel.
 
It is no coincidence that in Matthew 28 the resurrection story is followed by Christ’s command for believers to go into all the world and share the Good News.
 
So, how do we tie Easter and missions together?
 
Pray
We need to pray for the power and control of the Holy Spirit in our personal lives. We also need to pray for the salvation of souls. Jesus tells us in John 4:35: “… look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” (NKJV).
 
Prayer also is needed for laborers to go into the harvest. Southern Baptists have 4,857 missionaries on foreign fields who covet our prayers, as well as hundreds more going through the missionary appointment process. Praying for the lost and praying for people to go and win the lost are two of the greatest responsibilities Christians have.
 
Promote missions
IMB has tremendous resources available to help Southern Baptists promote missions. For example, our church uses prayer cards focusing on different people groups, and in our children’s Sunday School classes, Kids On Mission materials help our youngsters connect with missionary kids. At Christmas we hold a WMU auction to raise money for our Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, 100 percent of which is used to support Southern Baptists’ overseas missionaries and their ministries.
 
The best way to promote missions is to be creative — so use your imagination.
 
Plan for missions
Don’t miss an opportunity to go on a short-term mission trip, whether in the United States or in a foreign country. It will not only change your perspective on missions, it also will change your life.
 
In the summer of 2010, my wife and I, along with two of our daughters, visited China for 18 days to teach English as a Second Language. Although we had to be careful how we shared the gospel with our students, we were able to use the Bible as our textbook.
 
At first we saw no results, but we knew the seed had been planted and would be watered by a local pastor. Several months later, we had the chance to see this pastor and some of our students from China. The pastor shared that within two weeks of our trip, nearly 20 kids placed their faith in Christ and about 30 families joined the church. Other great news was that one of the teenage boys who had been disruptive during our camp accepted Christ three weeks later and underwent a complete transformation.
 
This trip made a tremendous impact not only on my family but also on me as a pastor. I know how to better pray for unreached people groups as well as missionaries.
 
As we celebrate this Easter, remembering Christ’s victory over a cruel death on a cross in our place — the ultimate sacrifice — let’s not forget the sacrifice He expects of His followers to “go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. …” (Matthew 28:19-20, HCSB).
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Allen W. Williams is pastor of Salem Community Baptist Church in Whitakers, N.C. He can be reached at da3rs@yahoo.com.)
4/5/2012 3:34:33 PM by Allen Williams, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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