August 2008

Union to open 14 student housing buildings

August 26 2008 by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press

JACKSON, Tenn. — Union University students will move into 14 new student housing buildings when they return to the campus for the fall semester, less than seven months after a tornado destroyed much of the university's existing student housing.

Incoming freshmen and transfer students will move onto campus Sept. 4, with upperclassmen returning Sept. 6. Classes for the fall semester will begin Sept. 8.

“We are delighted to announce that all of the 14 buildings will be ready by September," Union University President David S. Dockery said. "Our 10-year plan for replacing our student housing has become a six-month plan. Construction has proceeded ahead of schedule and we are grateful to God for providing for us in this way. It is truly overwhelming to think about where we were on Feb. 6 and where we are now."

The two-story residence buildings will replace the old Watters and Hurt complexes, which housed about 700 students and sustained heavy damage in the Feb. 5 tornado that caused an estimated $40 million in damage to the Union campus in Jackson, Tenn. None of the buildings in those two complexes was salvageable and both were demolished the week of Feb. 11.

On Feb. 22, Union broke ground on the new student housing complex. Original plans called for half of the 14 buildings to be ready by the start of the fall semester, with the other half to be completed by the spring semester in 2009.

But the two contractors working on the project — Worsham Brothers Construction Co. of Corinth, Miss., and Brasfield Construction Co. of Jackson, Tenn. — managed to finish the task earlier than expected.

"This is highly unusual to complete a project of this magnitude as quickly as we have," said Ken Brasfield, president of Brasfield Construction. "As I sit back and analyze what's happened, I think Union's need is what motivated the response. Everybody has had a total commitment and a passion to make sure that the job was completed by Sept. 1."

The 14 new student housing buildings encompass about 158,000 square feet and will house 699 students.

The complex ultimately will consist of four "quads," each with four buildings. The quads have been named Watters, Hurt, Ayers and Grace. Initial plans called for the completion of two quads, plus three buildings in each of the two remaining quads.

Stephen Lynch, president of Union's Student Government Association, said excitement is high among Union students who are ready to return to campus.

"I think that people have a lot greater appreciation for each other, and even for the material things," Lynch said. "I think there will be an attitude of thankfulness and rejoicing."

Union will hold a dedication ceremony for the new student housing complex on Sept. 12.

8/26/2008 10:43:00 AM by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Baptists aid first responders in Denver

August 26 2008 by Mike Ebert, Baptist Press

DENVER — Southern Baptist volunteers are donning aprons this week in Denver as they prepare meals for city, state and national personnel providing protection and aid to those attending the Democratic National Convention.

Just as the convention is an enormous undertaking for the city — 4,440 delegates, 15,000 members of the media, 21,000 volunteers and numerous dignitaries from dozens of countries — the Southern Baptist first responder ministry, called "Love Denver," has taken considerable effort as well.

Each day volunteers prepare and serve 9,600 meals, distributing the meals to 11 different sites throughout the downtown area. More than 600 volunteers serve eight-hour shifts, staffing feeding stations 24 hours a day. More than $250,000 worth of food and drink — paid for by law enforcement agencies — is being prepared and delivered.

Local Southern Baptist churches and the Mile High Baptist Association have partnered to make the effort a reality, saving law enforcement thousands of dollars that would have been spent on catering staff. For the churches, meanwhile, it's an opportunity to minister and meet needs in Jesus' name.

"We wanted to find a way to be a part of this event in a non-political way," said Jim Shaddix, pastor of Riverside Baptist Church in downtown Denver. "This grew to something far beyond what we ever envisioned it would be."

Riverside reached out to the Mile High Association and other Denver Southern Baptist churches. The North American Mission Board gave $60,000 to get the effort underway. Law enforcement eventually drew the group closer and closer into its planning. By the time plans reached their final stages this summer, Baptist volunteers were gaining security clearances to some of the most security-sensitive venues at the DNC.

"When we started serving this past Saturday, some of the officers were still a little hesitant about us. They thought we were hired caterers," said Bob Ryan, leader of the Mile High Association team. "But when they learned we were church volunteers, their whole tenor changed."

At a feeding site in the Denver Convention Center on Monday, volunteers served a steady stream of police officers and other emergency response personnel.

"Who are you and why are you doing this?" one officer asked as he was served a hot meal of lasagna, bread sticks and salad. "We're Southern Baptists and we're doing it because we love Jesus and you," a volunteer answered without hesitation.

8/26/2008 10:36:00 AM by Mike Ebert, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Garner church takes Crosby music to Vermont

August 26 2008 by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications

BSC photo by Mike Creswell

Amanda Watson, Miss North Carolina 2008, sings at Lyndon Center Baptist Church in Vermont.

LYNDON CENTER, Vt. — A 26-member drama team from Aversboro Road Baptist Church in Garner brought the music of famed hymn writer Fanny Crosby to Vermont in late July, performing before capacity crowds in four locations.

Scores of people filled every seat of Lyndon Center Baptist Church July 28 to hear some of Christendom’s best-loved hymns sung and talked about through dramatic readings in “Fanny Crosby Live.” Amanda Watson, Miss North Carolina 2008, added star power as she sang a solo and then sang with the choir.

Aversboro Road member Dana Christopher, singer and musician who has released her own music CD, used makeup and period costume to portray the blind Fanny Crosby and sing some of her hymns. The drama recreated Fanny Crosby Day, actually celebrated in 1905 to honor the writer. President Grover Cleveland sent a letter of congratulations for that day.

“If people understand the stories behind the songs and some of the miracles that took place, I think they will appreciate the words of the play more,” said Aversboro Road member Tim Stevens, who wrote and directed the play. “It’s another way to proclaim Jesus’ love for everybody,” he said. Stevens, a sports writer for the News and Observer newspaper in Raleigh, has written several other plays.

The production included a small orchestra and sound and light systems to produce a richer performance.

Period costumes fit well alongside the old Lyndon Center Baptist Church’s wood-paneled sanctuary, equipped with a full pipe organ. John Snow, interim pastor of Lyndon Center Baptist Church, was most happy to see just about every seat in the building filled for the performance.

Attendance has declined to around 40 people in recent years, he said, and his mission has been to rebuild it during the year he has served here. Snow is a native New Yorker who pastored a church in the Lancaster, Pa., area for many years.

Local people have told Snow they thought the church was dead. “This event will let people know we’re still alive,” he said. Other teams from North Carolina have worked on the church’s building, another sign of life. A recent Vacation Bible School was attended by 42 children, “a real answer to prayer,” he said.

Aversboro Road member Faye Gardner played keyboard for the performance, but enjoyed talking to local church members and visitors before and after the presentations.

“It’s important to get to know the people,” she said. Gardner learned that many people have had experiences in life similar to those of Crosby and can find comfort in her hymns. “In those hymns they can find encouragement and everybody’s looking for that today,” she said.
8/26/2008 3:30:00 AM by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Volunteers say Olympic impact echoes in eternity

August 26 2008 by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press

Photo by Tim Ellsworth

Sid Hopkins, director of missions for the Gwinnett
Metro Baptist Association in Georgia, struck up
conversations in Beijing by wearing a vest filled
with Olympics trading pins.

BEIJING (BP)--Images from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing remain indelibly etched in the minds of millions of people, who either attended the games or followed them closely on television.

There's the grandeur of the opening ceremony and the quirkiness of the Bird's Nest architecture. Michael Phelps winning an Olympic record eight gold medals. Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt zooming to three gold medals and three world records. The U.S. volleyball team rebounding from the tragic death of Todd Bachman, father-in-law of coach Hugh McCutcheon, to win gold.

As China extinguished the Olympic flame in the closing ceremony on Sunday and handed off responsibility for the 2012 Olympics to the city of London, the 2008 Olympics were relegated to history. And history will most likely be kind to China for the way in which it hosted the Olympics.

Some Southern Baptists who shared their faith in Christ during the Olympics, however, expect their efforts to echo not just throughout history, but throughout eternity.

"We began to remember how Lottie Moon left a legacy behind her in the areas she served, and that we now see that those areas are still the most heavily evangelized areas of China even today," said Rhonda Boggs, director of global outreach at Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland, Calif. Boggs led a team of seven people from her church that spent a week in Beijing during the Olympics.

"So, then we thought, there are so many people here sharing Christ, that day may come that we will hear about Beijing turning to Christ and a revival sweeping the nation that they will pin to the fact of so many Christians sharing Christ during the Olympics," she said.

Sid Hopkins, director of missions for the Gwinnett Metro Baptist Association in Georgia, agreed.

"We'll never know the impact of what can happen out of this kind of thing," he said.

Hopkins was part of a team in Beijing working with the More than Gold ministry. One of the ministry's leaders in Beijing, unnamed for security purposes, estimated more than 2,000 volunteers were on hand to share the Gospel in China -- many of them Southern Baptists.

One of the ways they did that was through pin trading, a popular activity during the Olympics. Hopkins, for example, walked around wearing a vest that displayed dozens of Olympic pins. The Chinese people he encountered were not bashful about stopping him and grabbing his vest to examine the pins.

"The first day when we were down at the plaza area, I'll bet I had my picture taken 500 times," he said. "They just swarmed me."

When handing out the More than Gold pins, volunteers used the colors on the pins to tell about Jesus.

Hopkins recalled one encounter he had with a young woman who served as an Olympic volunteer. The volunteers wore hats that Hopkins said were extremely difficult to acquire, because the volunteers to whom they were issued did not give them up easily.

"I shared with her, and she had tears in her eyes, and she was so thankful," Hopkins said. "She took off her volunteer hat and gave it to me. I said, 'No, I cannot take your hat. It's too precious.' She said, 'But you have shared such good things with me. You must have my hat.' And she gave me her hat. Then I had tears in my eyes."

Debbie Wohler, a missionary with the North American Mission Board who works with Tahoe Resort Ministries in California, is an Olympics pin-trading veteran.

"It's just the easiest way in the world to meet people," she said. "All I have to do is lay them out on the table, and people come."

Boggs and her group also used the More than Gold pins, but discovered quickly that they weren't always necessary.

"That was supposed to be the attraction," Boggs said about the pins. "It ended up that our Western faces were the attraction."

Though most of the people they encountered didn't speak English, Boggs said she and her team members had multiple opportunities to tell people about Jesus Christ.

"The ones who were university students, they would actively seek us out," Boggs said. "We could have in-depth conversations. Most of them didn't have a concept of God and Jesus."

David Guinn, of Lafayette Heights Baptist Church in Lafayette, Ala., has been ministering at the Olympics since 1988, when he served as a chaplain in Calgary.

Guinn is now the head of the evangelistic Action Ministries International, which supplies sports chaplains to major sporting events -- including the Olympics. This year in Beijing, Guinn and about 60 volunteers shared the Gospel with thousands of visitors from all over the world.

"We try to keep a low profile and stay behind the scenes -- do our work, do the follow-up," Guinn said. "Our goal is personal evangelism with the highest integrity. We present the Gospel and let the Holy Spirit do the work."

Though not affiliated with More than Gold, Guinn and his volunteers also used pins as a witnessing tool.

"At Lillehammer, they lovingly named our pin 'the Jesus pin,'" Guinn said. "So everybody was talking about the Jesus pin. Everybody wanted one. But to have the pin, you have to hear the story. Nobody gets a pin without hearing the story about Jesus."

Like others, John Forrester expects his ministry in Beijing to have eternal significance. A church starter strategist from Kotzebue, Ala., Forrester also worked at Olympics in Sydney and Salt Lake City.

"I think we've been able to plant seeds, and we may not see the seeds flourish, but somebody else will," Forrester said. "And that's God's business."
8/26/2008 3:09:00 AM by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Woman finds 'Survivor' spot pales next to faith

August 26 2008 by Shannon Baker, Baptist Press

CBS Broadcasting Inc. photo

Leslie Nease refused to bow before a Buddhist idol in "Survivor China."

TEGA CAY, S.C. — Just five minutes into “Survivor China,” Leslie Nease discovered there was one thing that meant more to her than realizing her dream of being on the popular television show.

Nease, a member of Tega Cay Baptist Church, learned cast members were expected to bow before a statue of Buddha in a traditional welcoming ceremony. Convinced that bowing before the idol would have constituted worship, Nease decided she would put her face on the ground only before God. Feeling the discomfort, she walked away quietly in tears. She knew an alternate player was waiting in the wings. Would she be put out of the game because of this decision?

Nease, a Christian talk show host from 91.9 FM in Charlotte, had auditioned 11 times for “Survivor,” before finally being selected for the 15th season which aired in the fall of 2007. The show places 16 people in a remote location to see who can “outwit, outplay and outlast” the others for 39 days and win $1 million. Contestants are divided into tribes and are sent into the wild to struggle for food and shelter. Along the way they make alliances with other players, devise ways to win the game and face off in physical or mental challenges to win rewards and immunity from being voted off by other members at the tribal council at the end of each three-day episode.

When Nease was faced with having to bow before the idol, she discovered that her Lord meant more to her than even the dream of being on “Survivor.” She realized the Buddha ceremony was meant for her. “God showed me He is first in my life,” she said.

Nease wasn’t replaced by the alternate. Instead, her decision not to bow gave her an identity for the show — “Sister Christian.” All the other players knew where she stood, as did the entire worldwide television audience.

“I’m not religious,” Nease said to the TV cameras, “but I have a relationship with Jesus Christ, and I’m only going to put my face on the floor for Him.”

Now, after her once-in-a-lifetime experience, Nease has compiled a list of the top 10 things she learned from being on one of TV’s most celebrated reality shows.

10. Never give up on a God-given dream and trust His timing.

For Nease, coming onto “Survivor” was a dream come true. She had filled out 11 applications for the show and made 11 audition tapes, with ranging content from “How to survive being a mom” to bungee jumping and skydiving videos to a Survivor-inspired rap song.

“I really wanted to be on ‘Survivor’,” Nease said, acknowledging that she did, however, also want the dream to be from God. For her, that meant her husband, Rod, had to be in complete agreement with the idea.

“And my husband did agree,” she exclaimed. “So much so, that he pretty much kicked me onto the plane ... and I am so glad he did!”
9. Holy huddles are great but you can’t stay there.

“Trust me. If we don’t break up our holy huddle, (God) will do it for us,” Nease said.

She pointed to Acts 1:8 where Jesus tells the early church that they must go out and be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. But Acts 8:1 tells about the great persecution that broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and everyone except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.

For Nease, “Survivor” was a chance to break away from her own holy huddle of a Christian job and Christian friends and family and be surrounded by non-Christians.

8. First impressions aren’t always accurate.

Before the game started, Nease and the contestants were not allowed to speak to each other. Still, New York City waitress Courtney Yates’ rolling eyes made her attitude very clear. Nease’s first impression of her wasn’t very favorable.

But when Nease was voted off, Yates was the one crying for her. She was the only one who voted for Nease to stay.

“Survivor” brings out the real you,” Nease said. “Courtney started out cranky, but she would get up in the middle of the night to walk with me when I was sick. I saw her like God saw her, and I am very thankful for her.”

7. We are “crazy blessed” to be able to own and read God’s word in our country.

Nease had requested her Bible as her “luxury item” (one personal item that she could bring along), but program executives denied the request. As the days passed, she longed for her Bible. When she got sick, she longed for the reassurance it gave her.

“I had memorized scripture, but I was surrounded by deception and needed truth,” she said. She hadn’t always felt that way about the Bible. For 20 years, her “Sunday” Bible sat on a shelf, she said.

6. Know what it means to “dig deep for Jesus.”

Nease admits she was a mess on “Survivor.” She had caught a parasite and lost 17 pounds in nine days.

“It had to be God that carried me through. He showed me that He is enough,” she said. “I didn’t have my reputation, my family or even shampoo and a toothbrush!”

The situation was complicated by the fact that her tribe was very cynical. She was “kidnapped” by the other tribe, which proved to have “a strong heart.” When Nease shared her findings with her tribe, they became distrustful of her, ultimately deciding her fate as the third contestant to be voted off the show.

5. A good reputation means more than a million bucks.

Before the vote, Nease realized her dilemma, but knew she had to be true to her values. She had to admit she had told the other tribe things about her own tribe.

“I knew my kids were watching. I knew God was watching,” she shared. “My goal was to be obedient to God, not to win the million dollars. Had I not been honest, I would not have been in God’s will.”

4. Forming relationships with people opens doors to share one’s faith.

“My body may have not been strong, but my faith was strong. And the other contestants were starting to get it,” Nease shared. “I listened to the Holy Spirit’s promptings. Questions were asked, but I didn’t preach.”

When voted off, several of the contestants dubbed her “Mom,” indicating their affection for her.

3. Others’ opinions do not define you.

Nease has made attempts to gain human approval. She won the Mrs. North Carolina pageant in 2001. She also partied with her friends, living a double life between church and her world.

“When I said I believed Jesus is the Son of God, I finally realized I didn’t understand what ‘belief’ meant,” she said. “It is a firm conviction, a full surrender and a lifestyle that reflects that surrender.”

When she finally understood what faith in Christ really meant, Nease’s life changed radically and she focused wholeheartedly on the Lord. She affirmed she only wanted to please God and that stance allowed her to be herself on the show.

2. Man’s rejection is God’s protection.

Though Nease wanted to stay longer in the game, she was at peace with being voted off.

“God will not allow you to be rejected by anyone unless it is a part of His plan,” she said, pointing to the Old Testament story of Jacob. “It is the darkest when you are struggling, but don’t let go and give up before the blessing comes.”

1. Nothing is more important than a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Nease had promised God: “If you allow this dream to come true, not only will I tell them my story, but I’ll tell them Yours.”

“Jesus is not just your Savior, but also your Lord,” she said. “He doesn’t want just part of your life. He wants all of your life.”

She said that Christians should have “symptoms of Christianity” (life change, sensitivity to sin and evangelism, a love for God’s word). “If you don’t have the symptoms, then you don’t have it,” she said, admitting that for years she was a “Sunday Christian” only. But her life dramatically changed when she relaxed and let God do the work in her.

“Many people told me they were sorry when I didn’t win ‘Survivor,’ but I did win,” she said. “Jesus just doesn’t work the way we do.”

For more information on Nease’s ministry, visit online at

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Baker is the national correspondent for BaptistLIFE, news journal of the Maryland/Delaware Baptist Convention.)

8/26/2008 3:01:00 AM by Shannon Baker, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Retreat offers MKs advice for adjusting to college

August 25 2008 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

MK Luke Summey, left, a student at Appalachian State University in Boone, served as a facilitator for this year's annual retreat.

For most freshmen, that first year on a college campus is an exciting time. Learning a new place and making new friends are part of that experience.

But for missionary kids (popularly called MKs), who have lived most of their lives outside the United States, the transition is much harder.

"To have people from my culture, it was a time of peace before a time of storm," said Luke Summey about the 2007 MK Re-Entry Retreat in Arkansas.

This year, Summey came to the retreat, held Aug. 7-10 at Camp Mundo Vista near Asheboro, as a facilitator to help MKs before they head off to the same storm he faced last year.

Summey's parents serve in the North Africa/Middle East region and have their stateside base in Charlotte. He is the men's ministry leader for the Baptist Campus Ministries at Appalachian State University in Boone.

"I can relate to any of these people because I was an MK," Summey said. "I think the big thing is for MKs to find a body of believers they're comfortable with to be Christian mentors."

Summey said the retreat offers "amazing opportunities to worship with people in the same position" — headed to college and transitioning from another culture.

Many MKs feel like foreigners in the United States because they were raised among different people groups.

Every year the International Mission Board (IMB) plans a retreat for high school graduates who are coming to the United States to attend colleges or experience a gap year to ready themselves for college.

This year the Woman's Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMU-NC) hosted more than 75 MKs, along with facilitators, IMB and WMU-NC staff and volunteers at Camp Mundo Vista.

Christy*, whose stateside base is in Alabama, plans to spend nine months in California learning about the Bible and discipleship. Many MKs find a gap year working or training in a Bible-based atmosphere helps them adjust to the United States. Christy's parents serve in South Asia.

"I've met some new people," said Christy, but the biggest thing for her at the retreat is "not having to explain myself," which allows her to be more free and comfortable.

She said she could definitely tell a difference between her worship at the retreat than at the church in Alabama. She said MKs better understand different cultures, different beliefs and different forms of worship.

A panel discussion helped answer some of the questions these students had before starting their first year.

The older MKs shared embarrassments, food tips, relationship advice, etc., from their experiences on their college campuses, Christian or secular.

Some advice:
  • Find a church home
  • Do not fill your schedule
  • Share memories of home/family with others
  • Do not replace Christian organizations for church
  • Do not isolate yourself
  • Look at America as a new culture, a new people group with which you can share the gospel
"In our small groups, I learned it is OK to act 18," said Melanie,* whose family serves in South Asia. Sometimes because missionary children are in the U.S. they find themselves having to take on responsibilities for their parents.

For Giles Fort, an MK from Zimbabwe/Botswana and facilitator for this year's retreat, a hard adjustment was his "lack of knowledge of American history." He's been in the States three years and people still are shocked at how much he doesn't know about America's history.

Because of his time overseas, Fort said his heart is burdened for his people group.

"Zimbabwe is in really bad shape," he said. "People are dying. People (in the States) didn't seem to understand this burden."

Fort said that because he goes to a Christian university, he has plenty of options to fill his calendar. He encouraged students to shy away from joining too many groups.

"I was sliding through on Christian programs," he said. "I felt God say 'Really? Is that what you want?'"

He encouraged students to nail down an hour a day to spend with God.

"Never, ever give that hour away," he said. "I promise you the Lord will be faithful."

Kelly Davis, an IMB candidate consultant, said it is ultimately up to the MK.

"This faith journey is yours, not your parents," Davis said. "You will have as much of God as you want."

He said the reverse is also true: "You will have as little of God as you want."

Linda Whitworth, who does stateside assignment training for IMB, said it is an anxious time for these MKs. The retreat offers them a safe environment. They have time to reconnect with the IMB, friends from the field, and WMU ladies express love to them through hosting the retreats and spending time with them.

"It's just a sweet time to be able to see some old friends," she said.

They commune with like-minded people, develop a support base and face a new life.

Ruby Fulbright, WMU-NC executive director/treasurer, led prayer time in Friday night worship. She read a recent prayer entry from Missions Mosaic about MKs.

In North Carolina, 400 women had been praying for the MKs for two months leading up to the retreat.

"I have MKs," said Fulbright, a former missionary. "My oldest daughter went to (the retreat). It was kind of a passion for the MKs before I talked to the (WMU) board."

At her first state executive director fellowship, Fulbright asked how to host the camp. For North Carolina, it has been on the calendar for five years. Fulbright believes it is the first time this event has ever been held in North Carolina.

States volunteer to host the yearly retreat. Over the next two years, the retreat will be held in South Carolina and Ohio.

Financial support

The WMU-NC hosted the event, which costs about $22,500. That money provided lodging and food for MKs as well as school supplies for each of the participants.

To contribute, send donations to WMU-NC, P.O. Box 18309, Raleigh, NC 27619-8309. Designate your check for "MK Re-Entry Retreat."

Prayer points
  • Pray that MKs will find a church home
  • Pray for focus on schoolwork as well as on making quiet time a priority.
  • Pray for mentors for the MKs on campus who will show them where things are and support them during their transition to American life.
  • Pray for discernment on the best use of time and money.
Adopt an MK
Individuals or groups are encouraged to adopt an MK. They can send care packages, use e-mail or social networking sites to send messages or even visit with them on campus or invite them to homes for meals at holidays and other times. Contact Julie Keith at or call WMU-NC at (919) 882-2344.

Forms will be sent out giving some information about the adopted MK (likes, dislikes, contact information, clothing sizes, etc.).

*  Last name withheld because of security reasons

(EDITOR'S NOTE — See related Spok'n column by Norman Jameson, BR editor.)

Letter from an MK

Luke Summey, a missionary kid (MK), whose parents serve in North Africa/Middle East for the International Mission Board, shared a testimony about the 2007 retreat in the summer issue of Tarheel Talk:

“MKs are a people group of their own. Seriously, we’re actually considered one of the people groups of the world. In fact, it was recently recognized that we MKs are some of the least reached people in the world. And by that I don’t mean spiritually. I mean in terms of our needs.

It’s hard to be an MK. You don’t fully fit in in the country you were raised, and you really don’t fit in in the country your parents are from. It is a slow and painful adjustment. The MK Re-Entry Retreat speeds that process along.

I will admit, for me, adjusting to America is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, and I’ve had to do it multiple times. This retreat fulfilled so many needs for me. For a few days, before I started the long and difficult transition to college life in America, I got to hang out with people that understood me, mentors who had already been through what I was about to experience and WMU ladies who poured out love like there was no end to it. It was amazing.

If I had not had that opportunity, I don’t know what would have happened to me. I would not have gotten the advice I so desperately needed for my upcoming college experience. I would not have been able to meet other awesome MKs who would soon become my lifelong friends. I would not have gotten to learn anything about the WMU (which by the way is a pretty awesome organization).”

8/25/2008 10:29:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Olympian chose baby over medal, now has both

August 22 2008 by Baptist Press staff

Photo via Newscom/Xinhua/Liao Yujie.

Tasha Danvers shows her bronze medal for the
400 meter hurdles at the Beijing Olympics. Four
years ago, she chose motherhood over aborting
a pregnancy that kept her from competing in

BEIJING (BP)--Tasha Danvers chose her unborn child four years ago over her hopes for an Olympic medal. Now she has both.

Running for Great Britain, Danvers won the bronze medal Aug. 20 in the women's 400 meter hurdles, with a personal best time of 53.84 seconds. Jamaican Melaine Walker won the gold medal with a time of 52.64; American Sheena Tosta claimed the silver at 53.70.

In early 2004, Danvers appeared to be a good prospect for a medal at the Olympics in Athens. She was the sixth-ranked hurdler in the world. Then, she learned she was pregnant.

Danvers reportedly was pressured by some in the track and field world to have an abortion. She admitted later that she and her American husband-coach Darrell Smith briefly considered that choice.

"[T]he thought did cross our minds as an option," Danvers told the Telegraph, a London newspaper, in May 2004 before citing Mark 8:36. "But this line from the Scriptures kept coming into my head: 'For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?'

"For me, the whole world was the Olympics. At the same time, I felt I would be losing my soul."

She gave birth to a son, Jaden, in December 2004 and started on the road back to the Olympics. Her surprising bronze medal in Beijing came after a series of health setbacks, including an injured Achilles tendon and torn hamstring muscle, had produced a disappointing pre-Olympics season.

"Don't ever give up," Danvers said after winning the bronze medal, according to The Times of London. "That's what I want the next generation to understand. Everything doesn't come up all roses all the time. That is the nature of this athletics game."
8/22/2008 4:00:00 PM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

Annual session to feature IMB Commissioning

August 21 2008 by Doug Baker, BSC Communications

CARY – Southern Baptists’ International Mission Board will hold a commissioning service for missionaries Nov. 11, during the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s 178th annual session in Greensboro.

The IMB commissioning service is a time when missionaries and the churches from which they are sent gather for worship, prayer, Bible reading and preaching in preparation for deployment to their fields of service.  Rarely are these services convened outside of local churches, but at the request of North Carolina Baptist leadership, the IMB approved the commissioning service to coincide with the state convention’s annual meeting.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for North Carolina Baptists,” said Milton A. Hollifield, Jr., BSCNC Executive Director-treasurer.  “This convention of churches resides in a strategic partnership with the mission boards of the Southern Baptist Convention, and this service of worship will dynamically reveal just how magnificent the work of the International Mission Board truly is because of the faithful sacrifice and investment of local Southern Baptist churches.”

“We are living in crucial times for the proclamation of the gospel,” said Jerry Rankin, IMB president, “and it is during moments like these when we come together as a family of Southern Baptist churches where we thank God for His mighty power in calling out men and women for missionary service. It’s a time to recommit our lives and our churches to investing in the missionary imperative given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ.”

“We stand on the shoulders of giants who have left us a legacy of faithfulness and zeal for the gospel that we dare not abandon,” Hollifield said. “I am prayerfully anticipating that this service of worship will be a time when all North Carolina Baptists come together expecting a mighty move of God in our midst. I hope every church throughout the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina will send a large delegation to Greensboro to participate and display before a watching world the vital connection between local churches, state conventions, and the national entities of the Southern Baptist Convention. It is here we find our purpose as a denomination – to go into all the world and preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The IMB Commissioning Service will coincide with an entire evening focused on missions and mission partnerships through the various outreaches of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and the Southern Baptist Convention. A parade of flags representing the SBC missionary presence in the world will highlight the vast engagement of local churches and their impact through their gifts to the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, and the North Carolina Missions Offering.

The service will begin at 6:30 p.m.  at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex in Greensboro, N.C.

To highlight the importance of both the ongoing partnership between the BSCNC, the IMB and the Commissioning Service, the BSCNC also released its latest podcast detailing the work of the IMB and the role the Commissioning Service serves for missionaries, their families, and their local churches.


8/21/2008 12:31:00 PM by Doug Baker, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Baptist diver set for final Olympic event

August 21 2008 by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press

Photo by Peter Bick/AfterImage Photos

"Jumping off the platform is a lot like taking a step
of faith," U.S. Olympic diver Laura Wilkinson
says. "It's really trusting God, even during
something scary."

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Laura Wilkinson may have to fight back tears when she steps onto the diving platform for the final time during the Beijing Olympics.

"It's kind of bittersweet," Wilkinson said. "It's my third Olympics, but it's also going to be my last Olympics. It's kind of a farewell at the same time. I get really excited but really emotional about it a lot."

Wilkinson, who won a gold medal in Sydney in 2000 and finished fifth in Athens in 2004, will begin her competition in the women's 10-meter platform event on Wednesday.

It won't be the first time that Wilkinson has gotten emotional on the platform. Ten years ago, during the 1998 Goodwill Games, she had an experience during her competition that changed her life. But first, some stage-setting is necessary.

Wilkinson became a Christian when she was 8 and "really got into church and God's Word and was really excited about it," she said.

That lasted until her freshman year of high school. That's when she began noticing some people from her church youth group acting one way at church and a different way outside of church. Such hypocrisy made her uncomfortable, and Wilkinson slowly stopped going to church altogether. She became just like those people, she admits.

In her sophomore year in college, she hit the bottom. Her grades started falling. She was mired in sinful attitudes and behaviors. She was miserable, but her diving was going well.

"Diving was the only stable thing I had in my life," Wilkinson said. "As long as I have diving," she thought. "I'm going to be fine."

But then her grip on the sport began to weaken. During her dives, she started to get disoriented in the air. Rather than fulfilling her, diving began to frighten her.

That's where the 1998 Goodwill Games come in.

"I didn't think I was going to survive the meet," Wilkinson said. "I was so disoriented, and I was terrified. I realized in the middle of that meet that I'd taken control of things and everything was slipping through my fingers. I had just made a mess of stuff."

Wilkinson knew that she needed to recommit her life to the Lord.

"He's got plans for me," she thought. "He knows better than me."

So while standing on the platform before one of her dives, Wilkinson surrendered her life once again to God. Strangely enough, she ended up winning that meet.

"I realized it really wasn't me," she said. "It was all God. It wasn't God saying, 'I'm going to have you win every meet.' It was God saying, 'Look what happens when you put your life in my hands. I have a plan for you. I have a future for you.'"

Her life hasn't been the same since. Now she knows why she's diving, and her life has purpose.

"I'm focusing on God," Wilkinson said. "He gave me this talent, and I want to worship Him with it and glorify Him with it. I know I don't have to win to do that. Whatever place I come in, He's going to be glorified through that if I honor Him. I want to be a graceful winner and I want to be a graceful loser."

Wilkinson and her husband Eriek Hulseman live in The Woodlands, Texas, and are active members of Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston. David Upchurch, minister to young married adults at the church, said Wilkinson is practically a celebrity there.

"People know who she is," Upchurch said. "I would say she's larger than life, but that's not the first thing that comes across when you meet her. She's a real person, very humble about all of that stuff."

Whatever the outcome of the Beijing Olympics, Wilkinson, 30, knows that her days as a competitive diver are nearing an end. After the Olympics she intends to be more involved in the Laura Wilkinson Foundation, raising money to build a new facility for her diving team. She and her husband also want to have children.

But even though diving may not play such a prominent role in her life in the future, Wilkinson is thankful for the way in which the sport has taught her about God.

"Jumping off the platform is a lot like taking a step of faith," she said. "It's really trusting God, even during something scary. Diving itself has been a great learning tool for me to help me understand God's Word."

8/21/2008 10:38:00 AM by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Writing on the walls of Wyoming church

August 21 2008 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

Contributed photo

Ryan Rhodes, left, and Lewis East work on the church.

Mission teams often give Bibles to those they help. A church in Wyoming got a copy of the New Testament written on the material of its new building.
Wayne Smith is the head of Experiencing God through Missions (EGTM), which organized the trip over the last two weeks of July. Volunteers from 15 churches in western North Carolina and one in Georgia participated.
Norma Melton, the director of church and community ministries for the Buncombe Baptist Association, said the project was a partnership between EGTM and the association.
The church was built in 8-foot sections in a barn in North Carolina, and then transported to Wyoming where it was put together in July. Volunteers wrote Bible verses on the wall studs and vinyl sidings.
“That church has the entire New Testament written on it,” Melton said.
Smith said writing verses on project materials has become a “trademark” of EGTM.
“We do that because … the Bible says, ‘My word will not return void,’” he said.
The idea originated about eight years ago when members at Biltmore Baptist Church in Asheville, where Smith is a member, wrote Bible verses on materials used in the church building program.
“It started from there,” Smith said.
Volunteers wearing gloves because it was cold wrote verses on the Wyoming church material during the winter, he said. Some took boards home to write verses on them.
“The church is the central point for evangelism that we do,” Smith said. “They see writing as a part of that.”
This year was the second straight year members of Buncombe Baptist Association churches went to Wyoming. Smith said the idea to go first arose during an associational meeting in 2006 when Craig Bailey, the director of missions, mentioned that only 10 percent of people in Wyoming were Christians.
“I said, ‘What can we do out there?’” Smith said.
In 2007, volunteers put a new roof on a church. This year, about 130 people put together the 2,000-square-foot building for Opal Baptist Church, which had been meeting in the pastor’s home.
The church is in the town of Opal, which has a population of a little more than 100 and is located in southwestern Wyoming. The closest Baptist church is about 30 miles away and the nearest church with more than 100 members is 70 miles away, Smith said.
Smith said God worked wonderfully throughout the project. The material and even the transportation of the church were donated.
But the mission trip wasn’t just about building the church, he said. Volunteers also prayer-walked thousands of miles, held Vacation Bible School and led faith-sharing seminars. Some helped chaplains minister at “man-camps,” buildings with mostly beds and bathrooms that have popped up to handle the influx of workers in oil and natural gas fields.
“It’s spiritually dark, but people are very open to hear the gospel,” Smith said.
During the trip, Ken Whittington updated a web site with photos, stories and videos about the events, according to Smith.
“People back home said, ‘We could stay connected with y’all,’” Smith said.
In all, more than 400 people participated in this year’s projects, including those who helped raise money.
“It’s touched a lot of people here in western North Carolina,” Smith said. “This was a God-thing from day one.”
In 2009, the group plans to build two more churches, including one for a Hispanic congregation.
“Next year, the Lord’s called us to do even more,” Smith said.
Volunteers will also give a four-pack of light bulbs to 50,000 people. The packages will include information about the Wyoming Baptist state convention.
Other volunteers plan to prayer-walk the entire state.
“We’re going to do everything we can with evangelism,” Smith said.

8/21/2008 5:11:00 AM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

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