August 2011

National Bible museum on horizon

August 26 2011 by T. Patrick Hudson, Baptist Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has teamed up with the Kansas City business community to promote a greater awareness of one of the nation’s premier biblical artifact collections.

The Green Collection encompasses more than 40,000 biblical antiquities currently featured in the worldwide traveling exhibition “Passages.” The items eventually will form the core of a permanent international, non-sectarian museum of the Bible, according to its website. The collection’s first artifact was purchased by Steve Green, president of the Hobby Lobby arts and crafts retail chain, in 2009.

More than 200 of Kansas City’s business, educational and religious leaders listened to Green as the featured speaker at a mid-July luncheon at Kansas City’s historic Union Station. Also participating were Scott Carroll, director of the Green Collection and an ancient and medieval manuscript scholar, and Cary Summers, CEO of the Nehemiah Group and designer of the Passages’ traveling exhibit.

“Our primary purpose in co-sponsoring this event with J.E. Dunn Construction and Union Station was to introduce the Kansas City community to this phenomenal collection,” said R. Philip Roberts, Midwestern’s president.

“I was amazed at the quality and richness of it when I saw the opening exhibit in Washington, D.C.,” Roberts said, “and I wanted to draw the attention of as many people as possible to it. The collection’s richness and variety, in terms of time and width of impact and resources, as well as the enormous quality historically of all that is involved, is amazing. It is also our hope to see some of it, if not all of it, here in Kansas City in the near future.”

Steve Green (right), president of Hobby Lobby, and Phil Roberts, Midwestern Seminary president, view replicas of ancient Bibles from Midwestern’s collection displayed at a luncheon in Kansas City’s Union Station to inform the community of one of the nation's largest biblical artifact compendiums, the Green Collection, and a national Bible museum on the horizon.

Green noted that the collection was started because a survey on interest in a Bible museum yielded some surprising results. More than 90 percent of the respondents affirmed two of the survey’s questions – “Do you believe the Bible still applies to today’s problems or was it only practical years ago?” and “Is America more in need of the Bible today than ever before?”

“This just goes against what we would hear in the popular culture,” Green said of the survey’s findings, “and this gave us great confidence that what we’d be doing, there’d be a market for. The acceptance and interest level for having a museum dedicated to the Bible – the most incredible book ever written and that has had the greatest impact on our society of any other book – there needs to be a museum that tells that story in a very solid academic way.”

The Hobby Lobby president said he felt a need to get the word out about the collection while it awaited a permanent home. He enlisted Summers’ help to design the traveling exhibit, a 14,000-square-foot interactive multimedia exhibition featuring rare biblical manuscripts, printed Bibles and historical items including a Dead Sea scroll text, ancient biblical papyri, portions of the Gutenberg Bible and multiple first editions of the English Bible through the King James Version.

According to the Passages website, more than 300 of the world’s rarest artifacts are presented in thematic settings that depict significant historical periods of time and are brought to life with animatronic historical figures, creative films and interactive elements.

A companion program, the Green Scholars Initiative, allows undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students hands-on access to the artifacts. The initiative has assembled a team of world-renowned scholars who direct research projects at 70 universities and seminaries throughout North America and is designed to foster collaboration between established and young scholars to pioneer new biblical discoveries.

“The Green Scholars Initiative flips the traditional paradigm, which is leading institutions controlling ancient documents and doling them out to whomever they want, or you come to them and work by their terms,” Carroll said. “We thought, ‘What if these things were entrusted in the hands of excellent scholars and mentors and democratized, distributed around the country?’ When the entire thing is up and running, then hundreds of students will be involved and impacted by this process.

“The different research initiatives are overseen by the leading scholars in the world via the Internet, and items are entrusted predominantly to traditional undergraduate institutions,” Carroll continued. “So there are sophomores and juniors working on the earliest texts in the New Testament and involved in the publication of those things. This will raise up a generation of capable young scholars who are invigorated and excited about studying these things.”

Carroll will return to the Kansas City area on Oct. 25-27 to lecture at Midwestern Seminary about the Green Collection and about the importance of historical biblical research.

Green said the intended results of the collection are threefold: to present the history of the Bible; to depict the impact of the Bible; and to tell the story of the Bible.

“We have probably the most ignorant population we’ve ever had in our society (about the Bible) because it’s been taken out of our schools,” Green said. “We want to be able to, in a simple way, explain to them, ‘Here’s what the Bible is.’ Ultimately, it’s about the fact that we are sinners; we need a Savior; and Christ was that, and He came to die for us that we might have life.”

The collection’s leadership currently is researching the best location for a permanent museum, with Washington, New York and Dallas being strongly considered, Green said. The Passages traveling exhibit is currently on display at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art until Oct. 16.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Patrick Hudson is director of communications at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.)
8/26/2011 8:12:00 AM by T. Patrick Hudson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Quake-damaged Cathedral faces millions in repairs

August 25 2011 by Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service

WASHINGTON – The iconic Washington National Cathedral, already struggling with financial problems, faces millions of dollars in repair costs from the damage inflicted by Tuesday’s (Sept. 23) East Coast earthquake.

And nothing is covered by insurance, according to a church official.

Clergy and a team of architects and engineers spent the day after the magnitude 5.8 quake assessing the cathedral, and found significant damage, including fallen carved angels on the church’s roof, cracks in flying buttresses, and missing finials from the pinnacles of the central tower.

“We run a very tight budget here at the cathedral and we have had our financial challenges that we’ve worked through very well,” the Very Rev. Samuel Lloyd, dean of the cathedral, said Wednesday.

“But there is nothing in our budget that would allow us to step up and do this,” he said.     Joe Alonso, the cathedral’s head stone mason, said it will take years to complete the repairs.

“It’s going to be millions, no doubt about it. Millions,” he said. “As large as this structure is, it’s all hand made.”    

Hit hard by the recession, the Episcopal cathedral in recent years has weathered several rounds of staff layoffs and been forced to cut programming.    

The charge now, Lloyd said, is to go back to those who contributed to the construction of the cathedral, which began in 1907 and was completed in 1990.    

“It was built by people from across the country who believe having this space for the nation in the heart of the nation’s capital is a hugely important enterprise,” said Lloyd. A new feature on the cathedral’s website encourages donations.    

The cathedral, the second largest in the nation, will be closed through Saturday as engineers continue to assess the damage. Church officials say they hope it will be open for Sunday services.     

Officially, the cathedral is the mother church of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, but bills itself as a “house of prayer for all people.”    

The earthquake and the subsequent damage “has not been a jarring thing for our faith,” Lloyd said. “What it has done is challenge us to claim our faith, to go to work to make this place be as grand as beautiful and powerful as its always been.”
8/25/2011 8:01:00 AM by Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Coffee & missions blend in Macedonia tourist town

August 25 2011 by Ava Thomas, Baptist Press

OHRID, Macedonia – It didn’t take much to sell Ginna Caldwell and Hannah Gilstrap on their current jobs.

Make coffee. Drink coffee. Talk to people.

Get up the next day and do it again.


The two were working as baristas in Alabama when they said “yes” to running a coffeehouse in Ohrid, Macedonia, for a couple of years as International Mission Board journeymen.

“A friend told me once, ‘You can’t spend your whole life in a coffeehouse, Ginna.’ I beg to differ,” Caldwell said with a grin. “I love the coffee culture – sitting, having conversations, getting to know people. Discipleship happens over a cup of coffee.”

In the summer, the little city of Ohrid is crawling with vacationers. Businesspeople in the Balkans flock there to eat fish and ajvar (a salad made of red bell peppers) next to a calm, clear lake.

IMB photo

Hannah Gilstrap (left) and Ginna Caldwell plan for the night’s shift at the coffeehouse founded by missionaries in Ohrid, Macedonia. The two spend hours each day making coffee and having conversations with the locals in hopes of sharing the gospel. Three Bible studies have been started from the coffeehouse ministry.  

“I have peace in my heart there by the lake,” one tourist said.

But Gilstrap likes it best when the summer is over and all the tourists fade back into the urban grind they came from. That’s when the real peace comes, she said.

“The people of Ohrid come into the coffeehouse and hang out for hours playing chess, having conversations and talking about spiritual things,” Gilstrap said. “I love creating community, and something like this coffeehouse does that.”

The coffeehouse, named Ima Vreme (Macedonian for “there is time”), sits tucked in a side street just off city center, perfect positioning for locals to pass by often, drop in and stay.

“We have long talks and we listen with the intent of speaking the truth of Christ into their lives,” Caldwell said.

That’s the heart of Ima Vreme, said Brian Davis, who serves as a church planter in Ohrid through the International Mission Board with his wife Mandy.

On warm nights, as Caldwell and Gilstrap make iced coffee and chat with regulars, Davis sits at a table just outside the open door of the coffeehouse, engaging a few men in deep conversations about faith and God.

“It’s not a business. We aren’t out to just make great coffee and have a lot of traffic,” Davis said. “We want to plant house churches, and the coffeehouse gives us a reason to talk. We want to do everything we do with intentionality and have a constant trickle of people that’s going somewhere.”

And it is going somewhere. Three Bible studies have started from conversations at Ima Vreme in its four years of existence, and the soon-to-be pastor of one of Davis’ house churches came to faith because he came through the coffeehouse.

“It’s just a coffeehouse – we don’t use it as a church meeting place or anything else. But people know it represents something bigger,” Davis said.

The neutral location affords a lot of creativity in how to bring people through the doors and make friends who will come back for more conversations, he said. “Twice a month we try to have something special, from PlayStation tournaments and karaoke nights to art exhibits and cooking classes.”

A band from William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Miss., even came once to do a concert series, and other teams have helped distribute school supplies from the coffeehouse.

“If we try it and it flops, it’s OK,” Davis said. “We do what we can to bring people in, meet them and build relationships, and then we put a lot of effort into follow up.”

Caldwell and Gilstrap – in addition to studying the Macedonian language – spend a lot of time preparing English lessons to teach at the coffeehouse. The intensive classes taught there are packed with people.

Caldwell also is investing time in translating a women’s Bible study on Ruth into Macedonian.

“When I was in college, I heard a lot of missionaries’ stories and began to realize that no matter what I do with my life, I needed to be doing it with the intent of building relationships and sharing the Gospel,” Caldwell said. “And right now, this couldn’t be more perfect – for both of us.”

Gilstrap agreed, though she said it’s completely different from what she once pictured missionaries doing.

“Growing up in GAs (the Girls in Action missions program), I heard about missionaries, and I never had any desire to be one or move out of Alabama,” Gilstrap said. “But in college, I started learning more about missions – that it’s not extra-holy people out there being missionaries; it’s just normal believers in Christ who are getting out there doing what we are all called to do.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ava Thomas is a writer/editor for the International Mission Board in Europe. To learn more about taking a volunteer team to help with the coffeehouse ministry in Ohrid, email Brian Davis at For information about the journeyman program and other ways to serve overseas, visit
8/25/2011 7:49:00 AM by Ava Thomas, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Navy chaplains use states in discrimination suit

August 25 2011 by Ken Walker, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – The attorney for 65 chaplains – including 16 Southern Baptists –who claim the U.S. Navy discriminates against evangelicals believes a new statistical analysis buttresses their legal efforts, which have been in court for 12 years.

Virginia attorney Arthur Schulcz says the statistical analysis shows that past promotion boards awarded favorable treatment to members from the Naval chief of chaplains’ denomination, regardless of who holds the office.

His clients are objecting to the chief of chaplains or his deputy sitting as president of Chaplain Corps promotion boards, which select candidates for lieutenant commander, commander, captain and rear admiral.

“When you have 48 people who share the (chief’s) denomination and 40 get promoted … that’s evidence,” said Schulcz, who has filed a motion for a temporary injunction to halt the next promotion board hearings.

“This is the first time we are faced with the answer to the impact of the chief of chaplains (on promotions). It is a serious and statistically significant difference in promotion rank for those denominations who had a chief and those who didn’t.”

Promotion boards don’t start meeting until next February. However, since preliminary procedures get underway with the new federal fiscal year Oct. 1, Schulcz hopes to halt their schedule in the near future.

Filed in U.S. District Court in late July, the motion asks that the court stop the Navy from:  
  • Allowing the chief or a deputy to preside over promotion boards.
  • Using chaplains as promotion board members and helping decide who gets benefits until the court rules on a pending motion in the case or until the Navy provides procedural guarantees precluding denominational favoritism.
U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina has been hearing the cases. First filed on behalf of a single evangelical endorsing entity in 1999 and expanded by various lawsuits, they have since been consolidated into a single case.

A spokesman for the Navy declined to comment to Baptist Press about the injunction filing.

“This is a simple case about Navy denominational favoritism and prejudice in the award of government benefits,” the motion said.

“It is now in its twelfth year,” the motion said, “despite the simplicity of its major theme and question: does the [First Amendment’s] Establishment Clause forbid the Navy from preferring some denominations over others when awarding government benefits?”

Because of the allegation of denominational preference, Schulz said the court is likely to require that the Navy explain why its procedures don’t violate the Establishment Clause.

His motion said that statistical analysis shows that the Naval Chaplain Corps consistently demonstrates a preference for Catholics first and liturgical Protestants second.

Each group typically receives a third of promotions, with non-liturgicals and special faith groups receiving the remaining third, the motion said.

“Detailed analysis of the Chaplain Corps’ management shows the faith group clusters (FGC) system hides the Navy’s denominational preferences and prejudice,” the motion said. “Theologically more conservative denominations have been treated prejudicially when compared with those of more liberal beliefs within the FGCs.”

As an example, it cites Romans Catholics receiving promotions more than 93 percent of the time from 1985-2000. Members of three other liturgical groups earned promotions 81 to 86 percent of the time from 1985-2000, much higher rates than Southern Baptists and other evangelicals.

The alleged bias involving the chief of chaplains covers a 20-year period from 1981 to 2001, when eight different persons served in the office.

Statistician Harald Leuba of Potomac, Md., who completed an updated analysis earlier this year, found that 40 of 48 candidates who came from the same denomination were selected for promotion to commander, or approximately 83 percent. When candidates did not match the denomination, only 210 of 287 were selected, a rate of 73 percent.

“The fact is this success rate … is statistically significantly higher (by two standard deviations using a simple binomial test) than the … success rate which was experienced by the candidates who differed from the chief of chaplains,” said Leuba, who has performed statistical analysis for a dozen businesses and agencies, including the Navy and the plaintiffs.

Leuba found a wider disparity for promotions to captain. Twenty-two of 28 candidates from the same denomination as the chief of chaplains were promoted, or nearly 79 percent. Only 224 of 444 candidates from outside the chief’s denomination made captain, or just over 50 percent.

“This rate is unexplainable except by the chief’s influence on selection, retention and promotion boards … because it is a characteristic of all chiefs, regardless of denomination,” the motion said.

Promotions are just one aspect of the career benefits some denominational representatives receive, the motion said. Among other benefits it cited are continuing on active duty after an initial tour, key assignments and higher pay rates.

“My clients are not against Catholics per se,” said Schulcz, of Vienna, Va. “We’re against favoritism which has no compelling purpose. The plaintiffs are in favor of free exercise (of religion) and want to see that met.”

While most of the plaintiffs have left the Navy, many are involved in ministry and could earn back pay and be reinstated if the lawsuit is successful, Schulcz said.

However, he said the plaintiffs’ leading goal is to reform the system, which he described as ripe for abuse because of secret votes and lack of accountability.

“The focus is changing the system,” Schulcz said. “It’s line officers who rate the chaplains and it’s line officers who ought to select them. We simply want a level playing field.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ken Walker is a freelance writer from Huntington, W.Va., who has written periodically about the evangelical chaplains’ lawsuits against the Navy since 2002.)
8/25/2011 7:43:00 AM by Ken Walker, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

National Cathedral suffers `significant damage'

August 24 2011 by David Gibson, Religion News Service

The earthquake that rumbled up the East Coast from Virginia on Tuesday (Aug. 23) “significantly damaged” the central tower of Washington National Cathedral, shaking carved stone finials from atop the iconic church.

The quake also left cracks in the flying buttresses that support the cathedral, an Episcopal church that serves as a religious focal point for the country and a “house of prayer for all people.”

Cathedral spokesman Richard Weinberg said there were about 200 people, staff and tourists in the cathedral and adjoining offices when the 5.9 magnitude quake struck at 1:51 pm, but no one was injured.

“There’s been significant damage to the central tower,” Weinberg said. “In addition, the finial stones have fallen off three of the four (corner spires) entirely.”

The ornate finials are the crowning pieces atop the central tower, which was completed in the 1960s and restored in the 1990s after repeated lightning strikes.

Weinberg said there was minor damage to other decorative elements, and said some may be in danger of falling. Engineers found cracks in the flying buttresses that support the oldest part of the building, but the supports on the central tower “seem to be sound.”

No damage was reported to the cathedral’s stained glass windows.

The cathedral will remain closed while engineers assess the damage, Weinberg said, and he encouraged supporters to donate through the church’s website. “We will be working to fix the damage and raise the funds necessary.”

Weinberg said the cathedral had only suffered minor damage from lightning in the past, and nothing on the scale of Tuesday’s quake.

Formally known as the Church of Saint Peter and Paul, the National Cathedral was erected under a charter passed by Congress in 1893, but it receives no support from the federal government.

Completed in 1990, it is the sixth largest cathedral in the world and the second largest in the United States.
8/24/2011 8:57:00 AM by David Gibson, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Roswell UFO Festival gets teens’ witness

August 24 2011 by John Loudat, Baptist Press

ROSWELL, N.M. – This year’s UFO Festival in Roswell, N.M., marked the witness of teenagers from several local churches for the third consecutive year.

On June 30, the day before the four-day UFO Festival, the youth gathered to label bottles of drinking water to distribute free of charge to share the love of Christ with visitors to Roswell and with the local community.

“Thirsty?” the label asked, quoting John 4:14, where Jesus says, “But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life” (NLT).

The label also carried a website,, explaining about the living water only Jesus can give.

But city officials asked the teens to stop the distribution after the outreach began in what may be the community’s hottest summer in recorded history.

That understandably sparked concern that the young people’s right of free speech was being curtailed, so a number of them began expressing their concerns with Roswell city officials, Vance Purkey, associate pastor at Bethel Baptist Church, told the Baptist New Mexican newsjournal.

Leaders of the youth groups, meanwhile, directed the students to share God’s love in a way that would be less objectionable by simply asking people if they could pray for them.

“Our youth did a wonderful job of this,” Purkey said. “They encountered some opposition with people telling them to get away from them, but they also had a lot of people ask them to pray, which they did, right there on the street.

“They had some great conversations with people asking about prayer, and even how to pray, and even one discussion with a (Jehovah Witness) about the Trinity,” Purkey continued.

“This may have been even more effective than passing out bottles of cold water,” he noted.

By the end of the UFO Festival’s first day, city officials granted the students permission to resume distributing the water, yet setting some restrictions that made it somewhat challenging, Purkey said.

The teens still were able to distribute nearly 3,000 bottles of water during the UFO Festival, Chip Boardman, director of Bethel’s youth department, told the Baptist New Mexican.

“The leaders of ThirstyRoswell have been able to meet with the Roswell mayor and express our concerns as well as hear his concerns,” Boardman said. “This was a very productive meeting, and we have a joint plan for next year’s event.”

The youth groups have decided to hold joint activities every month, known as Roswell Unite 4 Christ, and Roswell’s mayor and its superintendent of schools were invited to “hang out” with the youths at the first one, a back-to-school “blow-out” held Aug. 10.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – John Loudat is editor of the Baptist New Mexican, newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico.)
8/24/2011 8:51:00 AM by John Loudat, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Libya beyond Gaddafi: Prays for access to Jesus

August 23 2011 by Ava Thomas, Baptist Press

TRIPOLI, Libya – Tripoli, Libya, woke up Aug. 22 to the imminent end of 42 years of rule by Muammar Gaddafi – the longest-running Arab leader ever.

In Syria, meanwhile, violent clashes continue in the streets between President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and his opponents.

NATO-backed rebel forces in Libya seized control of much of Tripoli on Aug. 21 after months of brutal war tactics by Gaddafi. The rebels continue to fight for the rest of the capital city.

In one part of Tripoli, a local imam sang not the call to prayer but the national anthem of the pre-Gaddafi monarchy, according to BBC News.

President Barack Obama called it a “tipping point,” asserting in a statement that Tripoli is “slipping from the grasp of a tyrant.” He and other world leaders are calling for Gaddafi to end his claim to power.

Christian leaders like Nik Ripken*, meanwhile, are praying for stability of a different kind in Libya.

“Often we ask people to pray that governments provide the safety and security necessary for the Gospel to spread, such as the early church had under the Roman Empire,” said Ripken, who has served 25 years with the International Mission Board and is an expert on the persecuted church in Muslim contexts. “But when stability is the stability of governments that deny their people even access to Jesus, then that is the worst form of persecution.”

Ripken asks believers worldwide to pray for the kind of stability in Libya where access to Jesus is a basic human right.

And Christian leaders across the region join him in that request, praying for similar freedoms in other nations affected by the “Arab Spring,” the wave of political protests and change sweeping North Africa and the Middle East since December 2010.

Violent clashes still happen in countries like Syria, where al-Assad released a statement Aug. 22 saying that his government would not fall. About 2,500 have died in Syria’s crisis, according to the BBC.

Natalie Shepherd*, who formerly lived and worked alongside her husband in Syria, said she believes God will work through the unrest there to bring people to salvation in Jesus Christ.

“Years ago during Ramadan we joined a small group of Christ-followers inside Syria to pray all night. I remember we cried out to God to do whatever it takes to bring millions inside Syria to salvation in Jesus,” Shepherd said.

Today she is praying that God will use what is happening in Syria now as a catalyst for that very thing.

“I want to see thousands encounter Christ just like Saul did on his way to Damascus, so we begin to see bold, passionate disciples like Paul spreading the Good News,” Shepherd said.

Ripken said Christians in the West can help not only by praying for the spread of the Gospel in war-torn nations but also by learning not to be persecutors themselves.

“Pray today that we will not join the persecutors by denying our family, neighbors and friends access to Jesus,” Ripken said.

*Names have been changed.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ava Thomas is an International Mission Board writer/editor based in London.)
8/23/2011 9:37:00 AM by Ava Thomas, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Miss. River Ministry seeks to impact lives

August 23 2011 by Savannah Cyree

In January, Mississippi River Ministry (MRM) announced their newest regional coordinators, George and Cathy Chinn. For the past several months, the two have traveled and established relationships within the ministry’s eight state region. MRM serves to impact lostness by ministering to those in poverty and connecting them with churches.

“There is a great need out there,” said George Chinn. “We find that there is not only a large percent of lostness in poverty, but a lot of lostness in general.”

The Chinns say only God alone could qualify them for such a task. With a heart for missions and having collectively been involved in more than 30 international missions trips and countless domestic efforts, they believe their commitment to missions and sincerity comes through. The couple has spent the last several months using that sincerity while familiarizing themselves with the regions MRM serves, which spans from Iowa to Louisiana.

George and Cathy Chinn are the newest regional coordinators for Mississippi River Ministry.

“If there is one thing we’ve learned,” Cathy Chinn said, “there are a lot of really committed people out there.”

George Chinn tells of a church which planted a seven-acre garden that distributes food to local ministries. Currently, half of the garden is open to the general public to work so that those affected by poverty have a source for fresh food. The garden has provided nourishment to a community along with celebrations of marriages and salvations.

During their travels, the couple also learned of a local farmer in one region who refurbishes bicycles to give away to children so they may have one growing up. “It’s just pretty amazing how God works through some of these people,” Cathy Chinn shared.

As coordinators for MRM, the Chinns hope to get church and associations more involved. Many living within the 196 counties served by MRM suffer from inadequate health care. The area has the highest infant mortality rate in the United States and the lowest ratio of doctors and nurses per 1,000 of the population.

Founded more than 20 years ago, MRM is a Southern Baptist ministry in partnership with the region’s eight Baptist state conventions, the North American Mission Board, and national WMU. The ministry focuses on responding to the physical and spiritual needs of those impacted by poverty along the Mississippi River. MRM seeks to evangelize, strengthen existing churches and start new churches.

The Chinns will continue their travels as they encourage those in MRM’s region. They hope to see a greater number of volunteers in the region and to have opportunities to share the stories, needs, and callings of missionaries with churches and associations to help them be more missions-minded.

George and Cathy Chinn welcome invitations from any church or state convention to share about MRM.

George Chinn
(270) 256-1451

Cathy Chinn
(270) 298-7570

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Savannah Cyree, a senior at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., is working this summer as an intern at national WMU. She will graduate in the spring with a degree in English.)
8/23/2011 9:26:00 AM by Savannah Cyree | with 0 comments

Africa famine slideshow aids relief effort

August 22 2011 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE — With Southern Baptist famine relief efforts gearing up in the Horn of Africa, support for those efforts is being mobilized with the posting of a downloadable multimedia slideshow on the crisis.

Famine in the Horn of Africa has claimed tens of thousands of lives and forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes, according to the United Nations. An estimated 12.4 million people are endangered by the crisis.

“We have had a flood of inquiries from churches and individuals about how they can help people in desperate need in Africa,” said Jeff Palmer, executive director of Baptist Global Response. “We’ve been able to talk with them about the ‘red alert’ crisis in the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund, but haven’t been able to offer them much by way of information about relief efforts underway or media resources to help raise support.”

The “red alert” crisis in the World Hunger Fund has emerged as giving to the fund has sharply declined. The overseas portion of the hunger relief fund is down to $4.1 million dollars – enough to meet the needs of Southern Baptist international hunger projects for just six months, apart from response to the Africa crisis. Southern Baptists donated $4.3 million to the World Hunger Fund in 2010, only 40 percent of what they gave during a 12-month span a decade earlier and the lowest donations to the fund have been in 20 years.

BGR photo

Mobilizing support for Southern Baptist famine relief efforts in the Horn of Africa has become a bit easier with the posting of a downloadable multimedia slideshow on the crisis.

Part of the problem has been that the crisis is located in a part of the world that is difficult, even dangerous, to access, Palmer said. Getting projects underway has been a challenge for even the largest humanitarian groups in a crisis that has hit Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda and Djibouti.

“We are delighted to report that one feeding site is operating and assessments are in process in two other locations,” Palmer said. “We are going places that few other organizations can go, and we are able to do this in a large part due to the generosity of Southern Baptists and their contributions to the World Hunger Fund.”

The Horn of Africa famine will be a continuing, long-term problem, Palmer added.

“Humanitarian partners on the ground are saying the people are very responsive to the expressions of God’s love they are seeing and hearing,” Palmer said. “But the scope of this crisis is enormous and rooted in long-term environmental and social problems. Please keep praying that God would raise up a multitude of Christians to help these people in their time of need.”

The multimedia slideshow is available at

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press senior writer and assistant editor Mark Kelly. Donations designated for the Horn of Africa crisis can be made through the International Mission Board at Resources for promoting the World Hunger Fund can be found at Baptist Global Response is on the Web at
8/22/2011 8:46:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

In S.D., 539 professions & first volunteer fatality

August 22 2011 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

STURGIS, S.D. – Encounters at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally between 160 evangelistic volunteers and 4,800-plus biker enthusiasts led to 539 professions of faith in Jesus Christ over an eight-day period at the famed event.

It was the sixth year for the outreach to bikers, biker-wannabes and onlookers organized by the Dakota Baptist Convention (DBC) and supported by volunteers from across the nation drawn by word of mouth and by the ministry’s website,

Motorcycle enthusiasts comprise one of the nation’s largest affinity groups, with South Dakota rally drawing about a half-million participants each August.

“We know that what we do in Sturgis is not just dependent on people being prepared to share their testimony, or in the number of volunteers, but on the Holy Spirit being there in power,” said Garvon Golden, DBC interim executive director and coordinator of the Sturgis ministry. “Prayer is the key component to the effectiveness of our ministry in Sturgis.”

The Sturgis outreach is a multi-faceted initiative by the DBC that involves a month of focused – often onsite – prayer; evangelism training for the volunteers; a ministry tent in a prime downtown Sturgis location; the giveaway of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle; and chaplaincy ministry among the hundreds of vendors and city/county sanitation and law enforcement personnel.

This year, it also included the death of one of the Sturgis volunteers.

A motorcycle giveaway at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is the featured attraction of an annual evangelistic outreach at the famed South Dakota event by the Dakota Baptist Convention and volunteers from across the country.

Larry and Anita Gibson, members of Wilsonville (Ala.) Baptist Church and the Alabama FAITH Riders chapter, were part of the Sturgis outreach for a second year. Larry Gibson, 50, died Aug. 12 after the Harley-Davidson they were riding left the road not long after the couple crossed the state line into Wyoming.

A video posted to follows Gibson as he walks down Main Street in Sturgis, wearing his FAITH Riders “colors,” smiling and joking, passing out evangelistically themed “poker tokens” and “playing cards” and sharing his faith at every opportunity.

A subsequent video shows a cut-up Anita Gibson in a hospital bed in Newcastle, Wyo., sharing her faith and the faith of her husband. Search Google for “Sturgis seed sower extraordinaire” to see both videos.

The Wilsons had played a key role in the creation of The Children’s Voice Foundation based in Wilsonville which seeks to minister to Ukrainian orphans. The couple also had adopted two of their sons from Ukraine, according to a 2007 article in The Alabama Baptist newsjournal.

“Our prayers go with the Gibson family, the Wilsonville church family and the Alabama FAITH Riders family,” Golden said. “We’re just really saddened by the accident, but we know where Larry is today. Something like this helps us see the urgency of what we do at Sturgis.”

Despite her injuries, Anita Gibson’s passion for evangelism is evident in the second video. “The reason I’m making this video is to tell you how short life is, and how important it is to get your life right with the Lord,” she says on the video.

The same message – life is short; don’t get left behind – is the gist of the three-minute stories told by the volunteers to biker enthusiasts at the Sturgis rally in early August.

The biker enthusiasts had been drawn to the DBC tent by on-the-street “catchers” who’d told them their name would be entered in a drawing for a new Harley-Davidson on display at the front of the tent if they’d listen to someone for three minutes tell how Jesus changed their life.

Fifteen-year-old Dalton Boudreaux of Zion Hill Baptist Church in Negreet, La., was among the volunteers who repeatedly told his three-minute story at Sturgis.

“Dalton was scared to death at first to share his faith,” Golden said with a grin, “but we trained him how to do it, and I think everybody finds a way they get into sharing their faith. When he’d be given someone to talk with, he’d start by saying, ‘Hey, I need to talk to you!’“

Totals for the first six years of the evangelism ministry at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally – an outreach event conceived by Dakota Baptists’ former executive director, Jim Hamilton, and fleshed out by the entire state convention staff – consist of 28,583 recorded Gospel seeds planted and 5,472 recorded professions of faith.

“I’m grateful God has given us the opportunity to not only sow the seeds of the Gospel but to see the harvest of that many people come to Christ,” Golden said. “I don’t think we’ll ever know the total impact of this ministry until we get to heaven....

“One of the most exciting parts of the Sturgis story is to hear of people who go back home and continue to share their testimony, and to hear how their churches have been transformed as a result,” Golden said of the volunteers. “Churches across the nation are growing and multiplying because they send their members out on mission to Sturgis.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message and Dakota Baptist Connections newsjournals.)
8/22/2011 8:32:00 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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