April 2013

N.C. businessman takes risks for the gospel

April 23 2013 by Tess Rivers, Baptist Press

“No foreigners beyond this point,” reads the sign in a remote area of a Central Asian country.
Paul Hart* notices it just as the motorcycle he is riding blows past.
“They knew I was a foreigner,” the 48-year-old entrepreneur recalls. “Foreigners are the only ones who wear helmets.”
Fortunately for Hart, the police were not working the checkpoint that day, and he and his friend – the one driving the motorcycle – passed safely in and out of the restricted area.

IMB photo by Paul W. Lee
Paul Hart,* a business owner, learned about the spiritual needs of an unreached people group thousands of miles away through his church in Hendersonville. *Name changed

The two men risked entering to check the status of a well Paul’s team recently installed and to visit new friends in a nearby village.
Hart’s wife, Amanda,* is glad she didn’t know about this little adventure. “He doesn’t tell me the scary stuff,” she says.
But how did this marathon runner and seller of high-end Amish furniture from the Appalachian Mountains wind up in a war-torn, flood-ravaged region of the world?
It all began with a challenge in a typical Wednesday night prayer service at First Baptist Church, Hendersonville, N.C.

The challenge

“The pastor wanted to talk about [the church’s] adopted unreached people group,” Hart recalls.
As soon as he heard the name and location of the people group, which numbers roughly 50 million, the Holy Spirit gave Hart “a very clear word.”
Since that Wednesday night, Hart is doing whatever it takes to reach this people group, including praying, researching and eventually visiting them. Since 2007, he has visited the region four times and twice worked among those from this ethnic group living in other areas of the world.
“I never doubted a calling to them – not that I knew what that calling looked like,” Hart says. “I didn’t know what it meant, but there was a definite calling to that people group.”
Amanda doesn’t share that same calling. Sitting beside her husband of 27 years in that Wednesday night service, she doesn’t doubt that God’s calling “grabbed hold of his heart.”
But Amanda, a published writer and artist, is not yet ready to sell their small, mountaintop farm, leave her chickens and goats behind and move across the world to live among this people. In fact, she admits, she really doesn’t even want to visit – in spite of her husband’s urging.
“He wants me to go so bad,” Amanda says. “I’m not comfortable yet going to Central Asia. As soon as I get a word from God, then I [will] go, but that hasn’t happened yet.”
But that doesn’t mean Amanda is any less supportive of Paul’s ministry to the people, whom she has grown to love. As she listens to her husband’s stories from his visits, she’s come to see them as “real people” and to embrace his new friends as her friends, even though she’s never met them.
Along with Hart, she studies the religious texts and customs of the people so she can pray intelligently on their behalf – she becomes almost fiery discussing media stereotypes of the people. Even the briefest conversation reveals that she is as fervent an advocate for the people group as her husband.
“It’s made me more aware,” Amanda says. “It’s not that they have rejected [the gospel]. They don’t have access to [the gospel] … They’ve never even heard about Jesus.”

The danger

No, it isn’t the people that scare her, Amanda says. She is more than willing to work personally with this ethnic group in other – safer – places anywhere in the world. Quite simply, she explains, she fears the dangers of traveling to that particular region of the world.
Her fears are well-founded. Known for assaults, kidnappings and assassinations – particularly targeting Westerners – the region is among the “Top 10” in kidnap for ransom, according to the U.S. State Department and commercial security companies.

IMB photo by Paul W. Lee
Paul Hart* studies the Quran and other Islamic texts in an effort to understand and pray intelligently for the Central Asian people group with whom he works. *Name changed

This level of violence combined with political instability and natural disasters offers a trifecta of legitimate reasons to stay away.
As a result, Hart’s decision to go in spite of the risks initially weighed heavily on his wife.
“When he first went over there, I was pretty much a basket case,” Amanda admits. “But he kept assuring me that’s where the Lord want[ed] him.”
Over time, the Harts have come to understand that for now their callings are different.
Both recognize that neither is more nor less obedient or “spiritual” than the other. Their callings may be different, but their passions are the same – for an unreached people to come to faith in Jesus.
So, while Hart goes, Amanda prays. She prays for the people. She prays for her husband. She prays for herself. She also enlists others to pray. As the overseas visits continue, she has come to see prayer as her primary responsibility, no less than the calling to go that God has impressed upon her husband.
“When he’s over there, I’m praying, and I’ve got everybody I know praying, too,” Amanda says. “I think prayer is the most powerful tool we as Christians have. We are linked to the power of God Himself through prayer.”
While Amanda recognizes the dangers inherent to her husband’s security, Hart brushes those concerns aside.
“Danger is relative to me,” Hart says. “I’ve never felt threatened. I’ve never feared for my safety.”
He recognizes, though, that dangers to local believers are very real. Very few, if any, are followers of Jesus.
“Any association with a Westerner can put [local believers] at risk,” Hart explains. “So a lot of times we let the local believers seek us out because we really can’t pursue them. We can’t put them at that kind of risk.”

The commitment

Hart focuses, instead, on coming alongside villagers, building relationships and meeting human needs. Sometimes that means digging a well or teaching children.
Other times it includes talking about how to build a successful business. Regardless of the specific project, Hart recounts story after story of the hospitality offered him in local villages and of shared conversations over cups and cups of tea. The picture he paints isn’t of violence and mistrust but friendship and loyalty.
“Our people group [could] be described with one of their own proverbs: ‘They make the best friends and the worst enemies,’” Hart says. “They are passionate and loyal. They love roses and poetry.
“They live in a land that is very harsh. It’s very hot,” he says. “Electricity is sporadic, “but it’s a beautiful country, a beautiful place, a beautiful people.”
Of course, in a region as volatile as this one, the Harts realize that access may be restricted at any time.
Visas may be denied and letters of invitation withdrawn. Amanda knows, though, that her husband will continue to support and work among this people group regardless of his personal level of access to Central Asia.
“He’s going to continue to want to work with this people group wherever he can get to them,” Amanda says. “If they shut him out [so that] he can’t go (to the region) anymore, then he’ll go where he can.”
Until that time comes, Paul will keep going, and Amanda will keep praying.
For information on how you can become a marketplace messenger, visit imbgsm.org or email imbgsm@imb.org.


  • For church leaders to train marketplace professionals to pursue the Great Commission within the global workplace.
  • For business professionals to understand their workplace as a mission field — a place where God has placed them to be intentional in proclaiming His Good News.
  • For students who are prepared spiritually and educationally to enter the global marketplace in health care, business and engineering, ready to fulfill the Great Commission.
  • For effective partnerships between IMB personnel and like-minded marketplace professionals around the world.
  • For Southern Baptists to recognize the movement of God’s Spirit within the global marketplace and to place themselves under His leadership wherever He has placed them.
View video at http://vimeo.com/63577563.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tess Rivers is an IMB writer.)
4/23/2013 2:53:01 PM by Tess Rivers, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

U.S. Christians rally around home–schooling family facing deportation

April 23 2013 by Krista Kapralos, Religion News Service

When Uwe and Hannelore Romeike’s asylum case is argued April 23 before a panel of federal judges, their lawyers won’t talk about poverty, war, or any of the reasons most immigrants cite in their bid to stay in the U.S.
Instead, they’ll focus on a parent’s right to teach their children at home, which isn’t allowed in the Romeikes’ native Germany. There, home-schooling families face fines, jail time and even loss of custody if their children are not enrolled in a traditional school.
The Romeikes’ lawyers will also talk about their right to teach the Bible during the school day – an angle that has spurred more than 100,000 U.S. conservatives to sign a petition to let the family stay in Tennessee, where they’ve made their home since 2008.

Photo courtesy Homeschool Legal Defense Association
The Romeike family studies around a table at home.

“In Germany there is basically religious freedom, but it ends at least with teaching the children,” Uwe Romeike says in a video produced by the Home School Legal Defense Association, the Christian organization providing the family’s legal support.
Home-schooling families in Europe have become a cause celebre for some U.S. conservatives. The Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom is working with two Swedish home-schooling families, including Christer and Annie Johansson, who lost custody of 11-year-old Domenic when they refused to enroll him in public school.
The Romeike case is unusual in a system backlogged with people trying to escape violence and persecution. The Romeikes are comparatively well off, and come from a country that hosts more than twice as many refugees as the U.S.
But because they home-schooled their five children (a sixth was born in Tennessee), they faced high fines and tension with local authorities. At one point, police forcibly corralled the oldest children into a van and delivered them to school.
“That is persecution,” said Mike Donnelly, a lawyer with the Home School Legal Defense Association.
In a Board of Immigration Appeals decision last year, lawyers arguing for the U.S. Department of Justice said the family wasn’t targeted because of their faith – any parent who doesn’t enroll a child in school faces the same consequences.
“By mandatory schooling we try to ensure extremely high standards of learning for all of our children,” said Stefan Messerer, a spokesman at the German embassy in Washington.
Uwe Romeike said in 2010 that his family only started using the religious freedom argument when they applied for asylum. The primary reason his family home–schools, he said, is to avoid bullying.
Talk show host Glenn Beck pledged $50,000 to support the family, and warned last month that the case is a bellwether for religious liberty.
“When America says you don’t have the fundamental right to raise your children up to the Lord as the way you see fit ... we are no longer Americans,” he said.
Most Germans who home-school, many of whom are Christians, do so in secret. It’s estimated that hundreds or thousands of German children are home-schooled, according to interviews with advocates and lawyers.
“There are new cases cropping up all the time,” said Jurgen Dudek, a Christian home–schooling father of eight. His family, one of just a few that is open about home schooling, faces a near-constant cycle of fines and court appearances.
Dudek spoke last week at a homeschooling conference in Minnesota, and plans to attend the Romeikes’ hearing. Even if the Romeikes win, he said, his family will remain in Germany.
“We wouldn’t want (the German government) to be triumphant in ousting the Dudek family,” he said.
4/23/2013 2:35:51 PM by Krista Kapralos, Religion News Service | with 2 comments

‘Home Run’ is a hit on opening weekend

April 23 2013 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Another faith-based film marketed by Provident Films has enjoyed a solid opening weekend.

Home Run,” which tells the story of a Big League baseball player who falls from the spotlight due to his alcoholism and a DUI, finished No. 3 on a per-theater average, pulling in an estimated $4,260 per theater. Because it opened in only 381 theaters – as compared to the 3,000 or so theaters reserved for big Hollywood movies – the per-theater average is closely watched. Its total gross of $1.6 million placed it at No. 12, although every movie above it was playing in at least 1,400 theaters. 

Promotional photo
Baseball all-star Cory Brand, played by Scott Elrod, visits with his brother’s youth baseball team at one of his games in “Home Run,” which was released April 19.

Provident was the marketer behind “Fireproof” ($8,148 per-theater on opening weekend) and “Courageous” ($7,849), two films that were box office hits. Provident also marketed “October Baby” ($4,352) and Grace Card ($2,870). Home Run’s opening weekend numbers are similar to those of October Baby, which Provident considered an opening weekend success. 

Kris Fuhr, vice president of theatrical marketing for Provident, told Baptist Press last year that their goal is for a film to make $3,000 per screen. She said at the time that Provident is becoming a “brand” for moviegoers.

“People trust our films and they know that what we’re going to bring them is something that not only is going to be personally inspiring but is going to be a wonderful outreach tool,” Fuhr said.

Provident’s social media has helped its success. Its Fireproof Facebook page is followed by 1.5 million people while its Courageous page is followed by nearly 1 million. Provident has used both pages to promote its additional movies.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press.)
4/23/2013 2:18:29 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Texas church, after the blast, worships

April 23 2013 by John Hall/Texas Baptists Communications

WEST, Texas (BP) – As pastor John Crowder stepped onto the makeshift altar in a field, the sun peeked through the overcast morning in West, Texas.

Words of hope pierced through the cool morning air as members of First Baptist Church gathered for their first worship service since an April 17 explosion at a local fertilizer plant. 

As Crowder preached, the crowd remained largely quiet. Couples held hands. Mothers and fathers put their arms around their children. Before and after the service, hugs were plentiful and tears were scattered.

Preaching from Psalm 46, Crowder emphasized that God is the refuge for West’s citizens. In the midst of losing friends and homes, the townspeople will continue to suffer, the pastor confessed as he struggled at times to hold back his emotions.

Photo by John Hall/Texas Baptists Communications
Members of First Baptist Church in West, Texas, hold their first worship service since an April 17 explosion at a local fertilizer plant.

“We have more questions than answers,” Crowder said.

“We have lost so many of our friends and neighbors.... As scary as this has been, we don’t have to be afraid,” he said, encouraging people to lean on God during such trying times. At an individual’s lowest point, he said God often most clearly shows His power. “When you reach the point where you are on your knees crying for help,” he said, “you have just reached the point of your greatest strength.”

God already is bringing a variety of support for the community, Crowder noted. Texas Baptists’ Disaster Recovery, of the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT), already has been providing assistance for Crowder, his family and the congregation and has committed to help for the long-term.

Church architecture staff from the BGCT have examined First Baptist’s facilities. The convention currently has a list online (www.texasbaptists.org/disaster) of drop-off locations for supplies for West, especially for schoolchildren.

Numerous Texas Baptist Men volunteers were present during the worship service. The organization has a laundry and a shower unit in the area, and a childcare unit is in operation. More than 1,500 boxes have been distributed to residents for salvaging their belongings as they return to see their damaged homes for the first time. Chaplains also are on location.

Dallas Baptist University was set to send students to First Baptist to lead a Disciple Now youth retreat next weekend. After the explosion, the church was prepared to cancel the event. DBU President Gary Cook called Crowder and offered to charter a bus that would bring the youth to DBU for the weekend.

Chris Liebrum, who leads Texas Baptists’ Disaster Recovery and participated in the worship service, said he believes God will use the members of First Baptist in a mighty way. 

“First Baptist Church in West will be a major force in the rebuilding of that community,” Liebrum said. “Texas Baptists will stand with them and provide the resources needed so that in Christ’s name they can bring hope to so many who have lost family, friends and possessions.”

The pain West residents are feeling is deep and difficult, Crowder said. Nothing can change what happened. Only God can carry the community through this situation. “What happened here on Wednesday is awful. But God is bigger than this.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – John Hall is news director for the Baptist General Convention of Texas www.texasbaptists.org.)
4/23/2013 2:01:57 PM by John Hall/Texas Baptists Communications | with 0 comments

Southeastern Seminary enrollment reaches 2,999

April 22 2013 by K. ALLAN BLUME, BR Editor & SEBTS Communications staff

The Board of Visitors and Board of Trustees met at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary for their biannual meeting April 15-16. Board members heard reports, talked with students, prayed for the seminary and made important decisions to shape the school’s future.
Daniel Akin, Southeastern’s president, announced, “As of right now, enrollment is at 2,999. Once we get that one student, it will be thfe first time we have ever passed the 3,000 mark at Southeastern. Our on-campus enrollment is stronger than it has ever been.”
Akin reported on Southeastern’s Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). The online program began earlier this year and has become a popular way for students to view lectures from top-ranked professors at no charge. Enrollees include lay leaders who learn Bible truths without earning a degree. No credit is given for MOOC courses.

SEBTS photo
Students, faculty, visitors and board members fill the aisles April 16 at Binkley Chapel at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. The group was participating in a commissioning service.

The MOOC student receives the same information, resources and content as the student who physically attends the Southeastern campus. Akin said, “Our first class we offer is biblical interpretation or what we call here at Southeastern, ‘hermeneutics.’ We expected maybe 500 individuals to sign up. The official count today is 2,634 students and our plan is to continue adding more classes in the future.”
The board was asked to pray for Akin, who will be preaching the convention sermon at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Houston on Wednesday, June 12.
At a “Great Commission Banquet,” a panel discussion addressed the seminary’s intense focus on the Great Commission.
The panel included Bruce Ashford, seminary Provost; Chuck Lawless, dean of Graduate Studies; Scott Hildreth, Director of the Center for Great Commission Studies; Nik Ripken, a full-time international missionary, and Daniel Akin who moderated the event.
Summarizing the discussion, Ashford said, “There exists three truths for Christians. First, salvation is through Christ alone. Man cannot be saved by any other name under heaven. Second, across the globe people do not know the name of Christ. A lost person could leave his or her home, walk for weeks and never meet a Christian or see a church. Third, we as Christians in America, have plenty of money and resources but will we do what is necessary to preach Christ with our lips and proclaim him with our lives?”
The Board of Trustees approved a completely online Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree. Previously, distance-learning students could take a maximum of 42 hours of online credits toward their M.Div. requirements. The remaining credit hours had to be met with on-campus visits. With the new online degree, no campus presence is required. 
Using Skype to connect with an overseas worker, George Robinson, Assistant Professor of Missions and Evangelism, led a discussion with Howard Carpenter* from an unidentified country.
Carpenter said, “We’ve been able to see the first group of local Muslims from our city baptized ... four brothers. As far as we know they are the first Muslim believers in our city in all of history.” There are very few believers in that region – less than 1 percent are Christians.
“We are praying that the Lord would raise up a generation of workers, missionaries and local brothers and sisters who would go out and be willing to risk it all for the sake of the gospel. … We want to see the book of Acts happen in our state.”
His team believes churches should not only be planted but multiplied by giving birth to more new churches.
“When local churches produce other churches, that’s the sign of health,” he said. “By 2020 we want to see third generation churches in each one of the districts of our state. We want to see 3,000 church planters trained by 2015.”
Robinson compared the model of SEBTS students in international ministry with Paul’s missionary model. He said, “Paul was strategic, he knew how to prioritize, and he was an equipper. He equipped and trained people to engage in radical gospel ministry everywhere he went.”
In the April 16 chapel, 19 missionary units from Southeastern were commissioned.

A “unit” can consist of an individual or an entire family.
Sharing both the triumphant stories and the hardships of being a missionary, chapel speaker Nik Ripken said, “Whether you are crossing the street or the ocean, the content of the Bible must meet the context of the world.
“Our lives must match up to the Great Commission of Jesus to teach and make disciples of all nations.”
At the close of the service Akin invited faculty, staff and students to lay hands on the 19 missionaries and to pray over them.
He said “Like these future missionaries, may we all be willing to die in taking up our cross in love so that the gospel light may go forth to the ends of the earth.”
*Name changed.
4/22/2013 4:26:15 PM by K. ALLAN BLUME, BR Editor & SEBTS Communications staff | with 0 comments

Samaritan’s Purse: 100 million reasons to celebrate

April 22 2013 by Sherrie Norris, Special to the Recorder

One hundred million down and 100 million more to go.
That was the international message of hope as thousands of people from around the world converged in Orlando, Fla., April 6 to help Boone-based Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Christmas Child (OCC) celebrate a milestone.

Nearly 10,000 dignitaries, musicians, children, administrators and volunteers gathered at the Orange County Convention Center and celebrated the ministry’s 100 millionth shoe box, which was filled and distributed during Operation Christmas Child’s 2012 gift-giving season. 
“It’s something God has done and we want to give him the glory,” said Franklin Graham, president and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse.

Samaritan’s Purse photo
The African Children’s Choir performs April 6 during the special celebration celebrating Operation Christmas Child’s 100 millionth box being sent in Orlando, Fla.

Graham began the world’s largest Christmas-gift project in 1993 as a way to help children with basic needs and to offer a message about Jesus Christ. Volunteers fill shoe boxes and Operation Christmas Child delivers them annually throughout the world.
About 500 OCC volunteers from 102 countries and about 1,500 from across the United States also attended the celebration in Orlando.
In that group was Mary Damron, one of the first volunteers for OCC in the United States. 
Damron helped launch the shoe-box project when she collected boxes in West Virginia and drove them to Boone. She later accompanied OCC to Bosnia where she helped distribute shoe-box gifts. 
Helping with the celebration in Orlando were well-known entertainers, including three-time Grammy Award winner Michael W. Smith, Grammy nominee Matthew West, country and bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs, along with Dennis Agajanian, the Tommy Coomes Band and the African Children’s Choir, composed of children from Uganda who attend an English school and perform internationally. 
Actress Shari Rigby served as master of ceremonies for the celebration.
In addition to celebrating a job well done, the message throughout the event was that OCC is also a job well begun.
Those involved with the event, including OCC vice president Jim Harrelson, gave credit to the Lord’s faithfulness through the years for the project’s success.
During the week before Saturday’s celebration, Harrelson said, OCC leaders and key volunteers from around the world met in conference “to fellowship, plan, pray, celebrate and look at the challenge that lays ahead as we contemplate the next 100 million shoe boxes.”
“Hundreds of millions of children have yet to hear the word and to respond,” but to reach those children, he said, more shoe-box gifts than ever before will be needed “and more people will need to be praying.”  
“The opportunity to bring together people from all over the world to celebrate the milestone – and to truly praise God for what he has done to allow Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child to touch and impact children around the world – was a great privilege,” he said. “It was like being a part of heaven – of what it’s going to look like when all tongues and tribes of every nation are gathered together, as referred to in the Bible. It was amazing.” 
Also amazing is the High Country’s connection to the international effort, Harrelson said.
“Right here from Boone, N.C., the world is being impacted, one shoe box at a time,” he said.
Also at the celebration were Livia Satterfield and Ted Foreman, who grew up in Romania and Russia, respectively, and were each given  “a spark of hope in their orphaned hearts,” when they received a shoe-box gift. 
Livia said her “biggest priority” – hair clips – was included in her box. Ted’s favorite item was a washcloth, his own towel that he did not have to share with other children in his orphanage.
Livia and Ted both ultimately came to faith in Jesus Christ after a journey that started when they heard the gospel alongside their shoe box. They are now filling shoe boxes for other children around the world. 
As it has been for two decades, the impact of those shoe boxes in 2012 was significant. Shoe boxes were sent to 105 countries last year, and Harrelson said OCC has had the privilege of sending boxes to more than 154 countries and territories during the past 20 years.
Ross Rhoads, whose Calvary Chapel in Charlotte was one of the first churches in the United States to be so-privileged by packing shoe-box gifts during the mission’s start-up, offered a prayer, celebrating the Lord’s “hand of blessing upon Operation Christmas Child in collecting 100 million shoe boxes.” 
Skaggs reflected on his travels with OCC, including his 1995 trip to war-torn Bosnia during which he distributed shoe-box gifts. 
The singer shared memories of seeing Russian-made cargo planes being loaded with the boxes and thinking how wonderful it was that they were being used to bring blessings instead of bombs. 
“Knowing that those planes were made to deliver missiles against the U.S and meant for destruction, and knowing how the hand of God was being used to take gifts and the love of Jesus Christ around the world – that’s a God I can serve, right there,” Skaggs said.
“One hundred million shoe boxes have been collected, but it comes down to the one – the one child receiving one gift, receiving one opportunity to come to know Jesus,” said Randy Riddle, OCC director.

“We’ve got to have faith like a child if we’re willing to believe and trust in God,” Graham said. “God wants to heal your heart.”
“Every shoe box is an opportunity for the Lord Jesus Christ to wrap his arms around a child,” he said. 

For more information, visit samaritanspurse.org.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This article originally appeared in The Watauga Democrat.)
4/22/2013 4:12:03 PM by Sherrie Norris, Special to the Recorder | with 0 comments

Watertown: church planter caught in crossfire

April 22 2013 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

WATERTOWN, Mass. – A Southern Baptist church planting resident at a Boston-area church found himself, along with his wife, in the crossfire of a police shootout early Friday morning (April 19) with the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings.

Stephen McAlpin, who is nearing the end of a one-year North American Mission Board (NAMB) church planting internship with Hope Fellowship Church in Cambridge, Mass., had just gone to bed around 12:40 a.m. when he and his wife heard something that sounded like fireworks.

By then officials had identified two brothers believed to be responsible for the double bombings that killed three and injured more than 170 people April 15, and on April 18 the suspects hijacked a car in Cambridge and drove to Watertown, where McAlpin lives, while being pursued by police.

A dramatic shootout commenced outside McAlpin’s home, resulting in the death of one of the suspects. The other remained on the loose April 19, causing the entire city of Boston and surrounding communities to be placed on lockdown as police searched for him door to door.

A bullet lodged in church planter Stephen McAlpin’s TV, likely preventing it from entering the bedroom on the other side of the wall. McAlpin and his wife Emily huddled in the bathroom of their Watertown, Mass., home while, outside, police engaged in a shoot-out with one of the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing April 15.

“The gunshots were continuing. We heard glass break. We started crawling into the kitchen of our home – me, Emily and our dog,” McAlpin recounted to NBC’s Brian Williams the afternoon of April 19. “As we were crawling, we saw a large flash like an explosion. We got underneath our kitchen table and continued to hear gunshots. They were much louder and felt closer.”

The couple could hear yelling and what sounded like another explosion.

“I’m a grown man, but at that point I was terrified and I was holding my wife there under the table and holding my dog, and it got real for us,” McAlpin said. “We realized that we could die.”

McAlpin told Williams via telephone that he and his wife are Christians and they prayed in those most dangerous moments that God would keep them safe.

“We prayed for God’s grace to protect us and protect our neighbors and just sat there,” he said.

They moved into their bathroom and huddled in the bathtub with their dog, and after about 30 minutes, police knocked on their door and showed them what had happened. Bullets had entered their living room. One was lodged in their television, which kept it from entering their bedroom on the other side of the wall. Another had hit a picture frame. Outside their SUV had sustained damage from a bullet.

Police were marking the evidence in and around their home, which included “many bullets and shells around the side of our house and also in the front,” McAlpin said.

“Since then we’ve just been staying in our kitchen, trying to stay safe. It’s overwhelming to us that all of this happened, but we just feel blessed to be safe,” the church planter said.

“We know how easily things could have gone poorly for us and we’re just thankful for God’s grace in protecting us. I don’t really know. It doesn’t feel real. You never think in your home when you’re safe and trying to sleep that bullets are going to come through and that explosions are going to happen.”

McAlpin also told Williams, “We’re in shock. I haven’t been able to go to sleep. We’re exhausted. But we’ve just been trying to share about what happened and even just tell people about the kind of hope that we’ve found in God during this really dark time.”

The couple has plans to move to Los Angeles to plant a church when the internship in Boston is over. McAlpin said they’re trying to process what happened overnight and react as they should as Christians.

“[We’re trying to] love our own neighbors here and look at this as an opportunity to speak out of our experience to them,” he said, adding that as they sit in lockdown at home, he and his wife are praying for law enforcement officials and for Boston.

“We just want this to end. We want life to return to peace as best as it can, but I think a lot of people are going to be struggling with, ‘How do we go from this back to what we call normal life?’” McAlpin told Williams.

Stephen and Emily are from St. Louis, and he said on NBC that he moved to Boston to study at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he recently graduated with an M.Div.

“[I] have been working at a local church here called Hope Fellowship and they’re training me to learn how to start a church and to share God’s love with people,” McAlpin said.

“So that’s what we’re doing in the area for the year, and we’re just trying to – we love the city here and we love to be a part of the area,” he said. “Boston is normally such a strong and vibrant place to live and I think moving forward we hope that we can just keep loving people here and challenging people to share in our hope.”

As he closed the interview, Williams told McAlpin, “My hat’s off to you for the generosity of spirit that I’m hearing in your reaction after what you’ve been through last night.”

At one point April 19, McAlpin tweeted, “Thank you Jesus for giving us hope greater than the measly things of this world that we lost today.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press.)
4/22/2013 3:58:34 PM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Scouts propose allowing gay-identifying youth

April 22 2013 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

IRVING, Texas – Members at the Boy Scouts national convention in May will consider a proposal that would leave in place the prohibition on homosexual Scout leaders but would allow youth who identify as gay to join, it was announced April 19.
The proposed policy, unanimously approved by the Boy Scouts executive committee, differs significantly from a proposal that was discussed in February that would have allowed openly gay leaders and youth to join. That policy would have made it a “local option,” whereby each sponsoring organization would decide the policy. Under the new proposal, there is a national standard and no local option.

“No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone,” the proposed resolution states in part.

The resolution criticizes sexual activity by youth, saying Scouting “is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether homosexual or heterosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting.” Two paragraphs later it further says that “youth are still developing, learning about themselves and who they are, developing their sense of right and wrong, and understanding their duty to God to live a moral life.”

The Boy Scouts leadership appeared poised in early February to lift its prohibition on gay Scout leaders and youth but – facing pressure from its base – decided to put the matter before its 1,400 voting members at the national convention, which will be in May.

Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, was outspoken earlier this year in urging the Boy Scouts to keep their current policy.

“We said in January we wished the Scouts would listen to the whole scouting family, not just a few,” Page said April 19. “The leadership listened. Chief among the concerns they heard is the influence of adult leaders on impressionable youth. Though this resolution is more acceptable to those who hold a biblical form of morality than what was being considered before, we would still prefer no change in the policy. A No vote keeps the current policy in place, an outcome we would overwhelmingly support.”

Also on April 19, the Boy Scouts released the results of a series of surveys it conducted.

Among the findings:
  • 61 percent of adult Scout members favor the current policy, while 34 percent oppose it.
  • 61 percent of Boy Scout parents support the current policy, while 50 percent of Cub Scout parents back it (45 percent of Cub Scout parents oppose it).
  • 51 percent of major donors support the current policy while 33 percent oppose it. But a majority of Fortune 500 companies want to see the policy changed.
  • A majority of teens ages 16-18 in the Boy Scouts program oppose the current policy. A percentage was not given.
The Boy Scouts also said that parents, teens and the Scouting community “do not favor” a local option as proposed in February.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)
4/22/2013 3:52:37 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Evangelicals give more to charity, Barna finds

April 22 2013 by Baptist Press

Evangelical Christians tend to give more to charity than their peers, according to a new study by the Barna Group.

The study finds that 79 percent of evangelical Christians gave money to a church or charity last year, while 65 percent have donated items and 60 percent volunteered their time. Only 1 percent of evangelicals say they donated nothing at all, which beats the national rate (13 percent) and the rate among those who claim no faith at all (25 percent).

“A person’s religious identification has a lot to do with whether or not they donate to causes they believe in,” the study said.

The study concluded that Americans support churches and non-profits about equally. Of those who gave in the last 12 months, 43 percent say most of their contributions went to a church, while 45 percent indicated a non-profit.

Evangelicals are least likely to give to a non-profit (28 percent), while about two-thirds of evangelicals (66 percent) who made charitable contributions gave to a church. Conversely, the study reported, 82 percent of atheist and agnostic donors gave to a non-profit, while only 4 percent gave to a church.

Evangelicals are also most likely to give relatively large amounts, while atheists and agnostics are more likely to give relatively small amounts.

The study found that the more financially secure donors felt, the more they were likely to give.

“For most Americans, giving is a luxury or a nice thing to do, but not typically viewed as a necessity,” the study said. “While the economy and donor outlook continue to show signs of improvement, it would be a tragedy if donors did not reevaluate the overall basis of their giving – that it’s not just an extra thing to do or for the tax benefits, but rediscovering the truest meaning of generosity.”
4/22/2013 3:41:25 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Lin finds rhythm entering playoffs

April 22 2013 by by Zachary Abate, Baptist Press

HOUSTON – As the NBA’s Houston Rockets enter the playoffs, Jeremy Lin’s game is getting better. After an inconsistent winter, Lin has found his rhythm, averaging 17.3 points and 6.8 assists a game in the Rockets’ last nine games.

Lin became a superstar virtually overnight after earning a starting role with the New York Knicks last season. Getting playing time because of injuries to key players, Lin averaged 24.6 points and 9.2 assists in his first 10 games with the Knicks. The Asian-American player’s sudden rise captured the attention of New York and the basketball world, spawning what became known as “Linsanity.”

Now part of the NBA’s best offensive team, Lin has taken a backseat to offensive stars James Harden and Chandler Parsons. The eighth-seeded Rockets open the playoffs against top-seeded Oklahoma City Sunday.

NBA photo
Jeremy Lin

“I think I’ve proven I’m a young player who has talent and yet has a long way to go,” Lin told ESPNNewYork.com in February. “That’s the way I see myself. I’ve shown I can do some stuff. I’ve shown flashes of being a great player. But I’ve also shown the reverse as well, so it just takes some time.”

Lin played for Palo Alto (Calif.) High School, winning a state championship in 2006 while averaging 15.1 points, 7.1 assists, 6.2 rebounds, and five steals per game. He was named Northern California Division II Player of the Year, but many local colleges passed on the 6-foot-3-inch athlete. He ended up playing for Harvard University without a sports scholarship.

Lin went undrafted out of college, but signed with the Golden State Warriors in 2010. NBA Commissioner David Stern acknowledged that Lin might have gone undrafted because he was Asian, according to ESPN.

Lin told WORLD in 2011 that the frustration from being undrafted gave him perspective.

“Every time a tough situation comes around, I don’t need to question if God is with me, but I do need to see how I can best glorify Him and if there’s anything I need to grow in,” he said. “Everything happens through His perfect plan – so much of my life has confirmed it.”

While the initial craze of Linsanity has quieted, Lin still enjoys a global fan base and a platform he puts to use. He launched the Jeremy Lin Foundation for underprivileged children in February, which will raise funds for Workshop Houston, the Yellowstone Academy, and the Houston’s Partnership for the Advancement and Immersion of Refugees.

“I’ve learned to understand what it means to have a platform and how to use that the right way,” Lin told The Associated Press. “I’m still learning what that means every day. I feel like this is a step forward in being able to use the attention that we [NBA players] are given from society to be able to bring it upon other people in need. I figure, if you’ve got a lot of cameras around, you might as well say something worthwhile.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Zachary Abate writes for WorldMag.com, where this story first appeared.)
4/22/2013 3:25:53 PM by by Zachary Abate, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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