August 2013

Filipino women, in Malaysia, prayerwalk for the gospel

August 9 2013 by Evelyn Adamson, Baptist Press

MALAYSIA – As they wind their way through several cities in Malaysia, five leaders from the Philippine Woman’s Missionary Union (PWMU) let prayers slip from their lips, asking God to spark a revival.

These women have been developing a heart for missions for the past 10 years. But this journey marks their inaugural step in sharing the gospel among the nations.
Augusta Knox*, an International Mission Board (IMB) worker ministering in the Philippines for more than 40 years, has been instrumental in the journey that led to this prayerwalk. Knox believes in the importance of the women’s vision, saying that “God brought Christianity to the Philippines 500 years ago. Now it’s our turn to take the gospel to the nations.”

Accompanying her from the Philippine Woman’s Missionary Union (PWMU) are Maria Cruz*, Carla Montes*, Mirasol Galit*, Riza Pecore* and Reina Salazar*. Montes, a dentist, says she fasted for two weeks while pursuing God’s will for her role in the venture. Emerging from her fast, Montes remained confident of God’s call to the Filipino women to stand and pray boldly for Christ to be proclaimed throughout the world, specifically in Malaysia. The Malay people are largely unreached; in fact, the Bible is not even available in their heart language, Bahasa Melayu.

Destination Malaysia

At a Malaysian mall, women sporting the traditional Islamic hijab or headscarf dot the escalators, dart from store to store, and laugh and talk among friends. The PMWU women pause at the top level of the mall to pray over the multitudes of people from different religious traditions as they scurry about. Their ability to see and connect with some of the 26 million people living in Malaysia was an important factor in choosing to physically visit and walk among the Malay people.

“You walk among the people, see the culture, their customs and attitudes,” Galit says. “It’s important. You see smiling faces and you can pray specifically for people when you walk among them.”

IMB photo by Kelvin Joseph
Augusta Knox*, an International Mission Board missionary in the Philippines, and Carla Montes*, a representative of the Philippine Woman’s Missionary Union, pray over the sprawling city of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. *Name changed. 

The Filipino women and Knox sit down outside to drink cups of local tea, or teh tarik, and eat folded Indian bread called roti at an open-air restaurant wedged between two towering concrete buildings. They discuss what God has taught them thus far in the trip. They also talk about their overall impressions, from the luxury brands they saw in the mall to the number of times they have heard the Achaan, or call to prayer, from local mosques.

Salazar, who works for the PWMU in Manila, captures the heart of the trip this way: “It is not an accident we are here. It is a privilege. The Lord has orchestrated our steps and will move in the hearts of the Malaysians in His time.”

Following the meal, the women ask Knox for more information on what it means to be a Christian in Malaysia. Knox shares that it is illegal for a Malay to convert from Islam, and the individual may end up in one of the country’s Islamic immersion camps. Often, those wishing to leave Islam are sent to an undisclosed facility where they are “re-educated” and encouraged to return to Islam.

While churches are present throughout Malaysia, it is difficult to leave Islam, and almost impossible if the person is of Malay heritage. Traditionally, the Malay are said to be 100 percent Islamic, and any Malay claiming a different religion is not recognized by the government.

Hearing this, Salazar leans forward, holds Galit’s hand, and says, “Prayers are really needed. Prayer warriors need to rise up.”

A call to prayer

Sandals slosh and tennis shoes squeak as the women walk on rain-soaked roads the next morning. It is the beginning of rainy season, so heavy downpours are sudden, frequent and soaking. The women are thankful that they will soon be seated inside a local church, listening to the morning service and praying for believers throughout Malaysia. Until recently, there has been a heavy hand of repression from the government on sharing the gospel among Malays.

Even though there has been some progress in Malaysia, churches still must weigh the need to share the gospel against losing everything they own. So far, the government has succeeded in silencing evangelization because churches claim the consequences are too great if the government catches them trying to tell Muslims about the Good News. In fact, many Christian materials are branded “For Non-Muslims Only.” Even today, the Bible in the official language of Malaysia must be smuggled into the country because the government has not granted anyone permission to import Bibles in the official language.

Knox and the PWMU women listen intently as believers and missionaries living in Malaysia share advice and explain the risks involved with sharing the gospel with Malay people. In spite of all the obstacles, God is stirring the hearts of Malaysian people, speaking through dreams and visions.

The women listen as a Malay believer shares her testimony and confirms that God is working in her country.

She encourages the Filipino women to press on, even in the face of persecution. “When someone persecutes you, love them. Love them beyond their ability to comprehend it.”

What was once just a vision is now a reality as the women accept the challenges of reaching Malaysia, a closed country, for Christ.

“We will certainly pray and continue praying for the people in Malaysia,” Salazar says.

Montes jumps in, saying, “God put the burden on my heart [for Malaysia]. I have learned to love the Malay people. I have learned to love on this trip.”

Though the women live in the Philippines, they have committed to return to pray and inspire more women to share the message of Christ’s love throughout the cities and towns.

With the first trip completed, Knox is confident more Filipinos will commit to coming and praying as the PWMU works alongside the IMB in the task of sharing the gospel internationally.

*Names changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Evelyn Adamson is a writer living in Southeast Asia. To see the PWMU prayerwalk, view video.)
8/9/2013 12:50:55 PM by Evelyn Adamson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Rise up in leadership,’ Page tells Hispanics

August 8 2013 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – As the fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States, Hispanics are perhaps the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) greatest partner in winning the world for Christ, Frank Page said at the National Fellowship of Hispanic Southern Baptist Churches’ Sixth Annual Congress in Nashville.

Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, told Hispanics he looks forward to the SBC having its first of many Hispanic presidents.

“This past year our convention elected our first African American president, Pastor Fred Luter, and he has done a wonderful job because his heart is pure,” Page told the group on the opening evening of its Aug. 1-3 meeting at Haywood Hills Baptist Church.

“I want you to know that I look forward to the day when we have a Hispanic president as well. And I do not want it just to be one time, just as Pastor Fred Luter I hope is the first of many African American presidents,” Page said. “I look forward to the day when Hispanic leaders rise to the point of being president many, many times.”

The approximately 250 Hispanic leaders and worshippers met Page’s comments with applause.

“You have my promise that you’ll have my support and I will help you in any way I can,” Page told the group, “because if we’re going to reach this nation for Christ, we must reach all people groups.”

Page encouraged Hispanics to see the convention as their own, in equal partnership with other members.

“I want our convention to be the kind of body to where no one works over someone else, but where all of us work side by side,” Page said. “And so I want to encourage our Hispanic brothers and sisters, to not only be a part of our convention, which you are, but to rise up in leadership.”

Page’s words were encouraging, Elias Bracamonte, outgoing fellowship president and its newly elected executive director, told Baptist Press.

“We appreciate Dr. Frank Page’s greetings [on] behalf of the SBC, and his kind words of encouragement and uplifting,” said Bracamonte, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida in Topeka, Kan. “The SBC National Hispanic Baptist Fellowship is committed and thankful to be part of the Great Commission in doing Kingdom work.

BP photo by Diana Chandler
Frank Page, right, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, addresses the National Fellowship of Hispanic Southern Baptist Churches’ Sixth Annual Congress in Nashville. At left is Elias Bracamonte, outgoing fellowship president and its newly elected executive director.  

“We’re here to be a blessing to the SBC, because we do have the same concerns about the Cooperative Program and baptisms, and we just want to be an arm ... to assist wherever we can to reach people,” Bracamonte said. “Because the bottom line of the fellowship, it’s always been about missions, because we are part of the SBC and it’s about missions and it’s about reaching the lost, the world, for Christ.”

Hispanics, who form the second largest ethnic group in the SBC next to Anglos, focused on modeling Christian values in the contemporary family during the conference, with educational sessions to encourage youth and parents to lead godly lives and preserve the family unit. Samuel Otero, a family counselor and Texas evangelist, was the keynote speaker.

The fellowship elected as officers, in addition to Bracamonte, Cesar Haidar, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Dios te Ama in Fort Worth, Texas, president; Walter Montalvo, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Peniel in New York, first vice president; Francisco Nunez, an evangelist from Orchard Hills Baptist Church in Dallas, second vice president; Eduardo Cutino, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Hispana de Parkland in Louisville, Ky., secretary; and Robert Lopez, pastor of Centro Cristiana Vida in Ocala, Fla., treasurer.

Bracamonte expressed appreciation for Ken Weathersby, the Executive Committee’s vice president for convention advancement, who met with fellowship leaders to offer guidance.

“He’s a very helpful person and very supportive,” Bracamonte said.

The fellowship scheduled its next congress for Aug. 7-9, 2014 at Primera Iglesia Bautista Hispana de Passaic in Passaic, N.J.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ staff writer.)
8/8/2013 12:39:22 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Sri Lankan churches violently attacked, closed

August 8 2013 by Susie Rain, Baptist Press

SRI LANKA – It was just a normal Sunday. Around 75 people gathered in the house rented as their church building for worship. Praise music wafted out the door. Prayers lifted to heaven. Pastor Saman Perera* stood behind the pulpit and asked the congregation to open their Bibles.

That’s when “normal” came to a crashing end.

Local Sri Lankan authorities stormed in from every exit, demanding the church service stop. Church members sat in shock until a bald man in saffron robes appeared. With the entrance of the village’s head monk, people hid in back rooms, jumped out open windows or knocked chairs over to get out the door only to meet up with an angry mob of nearly 1,000 yielding sticks and stones.

“Leave or be killed,” the mob chanted.

That was nearly four months ago, yet Perera recounts the story as if it happened yesterday. In a way, it did – he relives it with each visit to the courtroom where he must face those who violently closed his church.

Lawsuits, filed by groups of pastors against the attackers, claim that Sri Lanka’s constitution calls for freedom of religion and that their churches should be allowed to meet. The high court agreed, ruling in their favor Aug. 2.

Despite the favorable ruling, everyone is holding their breath to see whether the violent attacks on churches by Buddhist extremists will stop. The targeted attacks are becoming more and more commonplace and extremists have vowed in local newspaper reports to shut down every church in the South.

Open Doors USA, which closely monitors the persecuted church, reports that more than 30 churches have been attacked since Perera’s.

Closing churches

The pastor explains that when his church was attacked, local authorities ordered them not to operate any longer because they had not been authorized by the state. While registration of religious organizations is not mandatory in this island nation, the government has been contemplating bringing all religious groups under regulation for over a year.

According to the 2011 census, more than 70 percent of Sri Lanka’s population of 20.8 million is Buddhist. Christians number around 7 percent – Catholic 6 percent and Protestant 1 percent – while Muslims make up a little less than 10 percent.

Sri Lankan Pastor Saman Perera* shares one of his favorite Bible verses as he explains how God has used the persecution of the local church to bring new life and energy to Christian believers. *Name changed.

Sri Lanka is the world’s oldest continually Buddhist nation, and extremists told a TIME reporter last month that they want it to stay that way. As a result, persecution is on the rise. Attacks on Muslims have hit the headlines, but the increasing incidence of Christian persecution has received very little attention.

“People are afraid to step foot in a church or any religious place,” Perera says. “We cannot start new churches. Churches cannot rent or buy houses anymore.”

The judge’s ruling gave the churches in the court case permission to begin worship services again and registered their buildings as official churches. Perera adds that the judge warned local authorities not to disturb their prayers again.

“Our constitution gives us freedom of religion, but in practice it is Buddhist and there will not be any other religion welcome,” the pastor warns. “This [persecution] is going to spread quickly from one district to another.”

The veteran pastor is no stranger to persecution. The country suffered through two decades of civil war. Pastors had to walk the perimeter of their church building to check for landmines every Sunday morning. Before the 2004 tsunami hit the island, churches were burned, bombed and shut down. Things settled down and Sri Lanka disappeared off the World Watch List’s top 50 persecuted countries.

But now, it has started up again. Almost every week, a church or Muslim business is attacked in some way or another. Despite this persecution, Perera assures that the church closings and attacks have not hampered spreading the gospel.

“God has been preparing us for this persecution all along. He knew!” Perera says, suppressing a chuckle of amazement. “He opened our minds to a new way of doing ‘church’ last year. Before this even started happening, we were training lay leaders to lead house churches in their homes.”

God prepares a church

Pastor Thilak Jayawickrama* nods his head and excitedly jumps in to explain that the traditional way of doing “house church” in Sri Lanka was for organized churches to just rent a house and convert it into a church building.

These are the types of churches local authorities and extremists are shutting down. But, with the discipleship and church planting method called Training for Trainers (T4T) they began using last year, church is really in someone’s house, a business or even outside under a shade tree.

“The thing about persecution is that even if it doesn’t happen to you, you are still afraid. In your mind, you know that it could happen,” Jayawickrama, who is transitioning his congregation to house church, says. “With this new method, we don’t have buildings. There is nothing to ‘shut down.’”

Perera’s church now meets in 16 different homes and is growing for the first time in years. Jayawickrama’s divided into eight. The groups are reproducing and starting new churches. Those who were once afraid to go to a religious place for fear of a mob or the monks asking questions are not concerned about going to a friend’s home.

“When you ask people to go to your house, they come. It’s your home. They are used to going there. It’s comfortable and friendly. There’s nothing threatening about a house,” Perera says. “And the result is that every week, people are coming and accepting Jesus.”

So far, widespread persecution has not come from sharing the gospel one-on-one. Christian worker Archer Hullett* explains that the T4T model is based on sharing within your own relationship network ... your own sphere of influence.

The worker admits that there might be some persecution from a new believer’s family but nothing on the scale seen now against churches. Pastor Ruwan Ranatunga* says since he switched to training lay leaders in evangelism and discipleship, the incidence of even this kind of familial persecution went down among those he mentors.

He credits it to the fact that as everyone becomes more active and involved in a house church, their faith grows and they become “doers of the Word” – applying biblical truths to their actions. Ranatunga says the entire community sees the genuine changes as Christians live out the gospel. Their friends and family become curious enough to not just ask questions but to listen instead of angrily objecting to Christianity.

Church growth

Hullett and the pastors say they have seen more come to Christ in the last two years than ever before. More than 60 new house churches have started with many more small groups on their way to functioning as a church from the Book of Acts. This number doesn’t even include traditional churches that broke up into the smaller T4T house church groupings because of persecution.

“The truth is that people here are hungry for the Lord,” Hullett says. “It’s a crucial time right now in Sri Lanka. The gospel and churches could rapidly multiply or it could shut down completely. There are a lot of barriers right now.”

All three pastors say there’s no telling if the persecution of Sri Lanka’s minority religions will subside or increase. The situation seems to change almost daily. Because of this uncertainty, Ranatunga asks for Christians around the world to pray for wisdom among the Sri Lankan Christian leaders.

“It is a time in our country when we need to adjust our traditional thinking of church and spread the gospel in ways that do not draw widespread public attention,” Ranatunga says. “We need to adjust without endangering the work of spreading the gospel. Pray that we are able to follow the example set forth by churches in the Book of Acts.”

*Name changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Susie Rain is a writer in Southeast Asia.)

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Q&A: Sri Lankan believers discuss persecution
8/8/2013 12:25:32 PM by Susie Rain, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Q&A: Sri Lankan believers discuss persecution

August 8 2013 by Susie Rain, Baptist Press

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Writer Susie Rain asked some questions posed by Americans to persecuted believers in Sri Lanka. Their answers give a clearer look into the hardships they face.)

SRI LANKA – We sat there drinking tea; just a small group of people gathered for house church in Sri Lanka. I casually mentioned that some friends in America sent questions for me to ask persecuted Christians and wondered if they’d mind answering.

Everyone in the room went dead silent.

Finally, Thilini Liyanage* said, “Sister, we are not persecuted. Oh, to be worthy of such an honor for our Lord and Savior! The most that ever happens here is that we are kicked out of our homes; people stop buying from our businesses or selling food or other items to us; we might get beaten; our families might never speak to us again; and there’s always a visit from the head monk (Buddhist) to try to convince us to return to the religion of our families.

“This is just the normal way of life for those who choose to leave Buddhism and follow Jesus,” she concluded.

I nodded my head, thinking this sounded exactly like persecution to me. The ugly truth is that persecution of Christians is on the rise in Sri Lanka, barely receiving any outside attention. With this in mind, I dove in with the questions submitted by hundreds of readers via Facebook and Twitter.

As believer after believer responded, I realized that we were uncovering a side of persecution that’s rarely talked about because it doesn’t always end in jail time, bloody beatings or death. It doesn’t register on the World Watch List’s top 50 persecuted countries or stories for the year. What you will find here are Sri Lankan Christians explaining to other Christians (not journalists) about a subtle persecution of isolation and family pressure that is common throughout the Buddhist world. You will also discover a passion and urgency to share the Gospel in the midst of persecution.

Q: What kinds of persecution have you been subjected to?

In the past, there have been beatings and churches burned down but we are modern now. What is happening is that churches are being shut down through local laws and orders. We are in high court now, asking for the right to have church in rented houses. Currently, we are not allowed to start a new church or rent a building for a church. It is thought that by taking away our meeting places that our growth will stop. They have closed down eight churches now in this way. But the truth is that we are growing without buildings. Our groups are multiplying. – Saman Perera,* pastor

A: After someone shared their testimony with me and a Bible, I decided to believe in Jesus. I was so excited that I shared with my parents. They were angry and chased me from their home with sticks and throwing stones at me. I had to live on the street until a Christian family took me in and discipled me. I have not seen my family in 13 years. They refuse me because I am following Jesus. – Harsha Fernando,* 29-year-old man who was next in line to be a Buddhist dignitary

Q: Do you see persecution coming or is it unexpected?

Sometimes you cannot know persecution is coming to you. Earlier this year, we were singing and praising the Lord at church. Then, the head Buddhist monk charged in. He had around 1,000 people with him. They screamed and shouted for us to stop the service. It was very intimidating. The police were very angry. They made us stop the service. The police told everyone to go home then they searched the house to clear every last person out. They had a court order to stop the church from meeting and told the people that they could only come to visit me but there was to be no church or learning. Before this day, we did not have this type of problem. – Saman Perera,* pastor

Q: Are you able to submit to the Holy Spirit immediately or is it a struggle?

You do not think about it. You just obey the prompting of the Spirit. Like one time I was presiding over a funeral. It was a man who committed suicide. The family could not have the funeral in the normal way because of the circumstance. We did not want this man to be buried like a dog, so we offered to help. When I got up to preach about hope at the funeral, big arguments broke out. The priests, monks and their followers tried to hit me and silence me but I preached on. ... At the end, the whole family came to accept Christ and we started a ministry in that village. – Thilak Jayawickrama,* pastor

Q: What emotions do you experience in times of persecution?

Love! I experience Jesus’ love, and I don’t want to leave that feeling. Once you experience this, you don’t want to go back to Buddhism. The hardships do not matter when compared to this love. – Chandana Dias,* 20-something man

Q: What Bible passages are most encouraging during times of persecution?

“I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? My help comes from the Lord.... He will not allow your foot to slip; your protector will not slumber,” Psalm 121.

My family still holds fast to Buddhism. Our entire village is Buddhist. In the beginning, no one was happy that we converted to Christianity. Our family shunned us, and the village tried to get us to turn back. We became third-class citizens in our community when we decided to follow Christ. This verse reminds me that no matter what happens, God will protect us and we are first-class in His eyes. – Thilini Liyanage,* 36-year-old woman

Q: What makes you willing to put up with persecution?

Jesus gave us the greatest gift in grace and salvation. We have something to share. Jesus instructs us to share this gift. He doesn’t want us to hide it and be selfish. – Gayani Ranatunga,* businesswoman

A: I have tasted the fruits of God and the peace that brings. I want others to taste it as well. My God leaves a better taste in your mouth than worshipping idols. My God is better tasting than drugs or alcohol. By seeing my life, people should get a small taste of God and want more, and I will introduce them to this wonderful taste of eternal life. – Harsha Fernando,* 29-year-old man

A: I have the answer to the questions of life ... JESUS! Why should I be quiet? – Nathasha Fernando,* young wife

Q: How can we best pray for you and others in your situation?

Pray for the court case. Our church was closed down by police. A monk and a thousand people came to close it down. Many churches like us petitioned the courts to allow meetings. Pray that this right to meet as an organized church will not be taken away. – Saman Perera,* pastor

A: Pray for the wisdom of Christian leaders. It is a time in our country when we need to adjust our traditional thinking of church and spread the gospel in ways that do not draw widespread public attention. We need to adjust without endangering the work of spreading the gospel. Pray that we are able to follow the example set forth in the Book of Acts. – Ruwan Ranatunga,* pastor

A: Pray for our families. It’s a slow process of re-establishing relationships. We tell stories of Christ’s power and scripture. They see miraculous healings and know that God is Supreme.... Yet, it is hard for them to leave their history and follow Jesus publically. Just by talking to us, they will receive a visit from the head monk. Pray our families will come to a point where they not only hear the gospel but will openly accept it. – Nathasha Fernando,* young wife

*Name changed.

Related story

Sri Lankan churches violently attacked, closed
8/8/2013 12:19:54 PM by Susie Rain, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Ethnic ministry tracks popular at Send gathering

August 8 2013 by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press

PLANO, Texas – More than 35 percent of the registrants at the 2013 Send North America Conference signed up for one of five ethnic ministry tracks. 

The final tally of registrants included 1,526 participants for the ethnic tracks, which included Hispanic Leadership and Mission, Black Church Discipleship and Development, Reaching People from a Muslim Background, Korean Leadership and Development and Leadership Development for Kingdom Development in Chinese Churches. Registrants from other ethnic groups in North America also were included in the total. 

The 2013 Send North America Conference drew more than 4,200 church planters, pastors and church leaders to the Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano July 29-30.

“We are thankful for what God is doing in the multiethnic community in North America and their willingness to participate in the Send North America strategy as evidenced in the participation of more than 1,500 multiethnic leaders,” said Mark Hobafcovich, North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) team leader for multiethnic church mobilization. 

“This is a great indicator that the participation of the multiethnic community is beginning to match the reality of the mission field in North America, which is increasingly more multiethnic,” Hobafcovich said.

Just hours after the last conference session ended, stories of how God used the ethnic tracks to mobilize churches and church leaders to penetrate lostness in North America began to come in. 

One story came from Eunice Park, a Korean woman who attended Reaching People from a Muslim Background. Park has been serving in children’s ministry at her church but now senses a growing call to serve in a new ministry endeavor. 

“I feel even more now after being convicted through this conference that God does want the church to be built,” she wrote in an email to the track leader, Aslam Masih. “I am so convicted in my spirit and I praise God for that work in me.... I thank you so much for the help and thank you so much for putting all the meetings and workshops together.... They have been a blessing to me and from tonight on, I dream about churches being built.”

The overall conference focused on the areas of gospel, mission and ministry. All attendees participated in main sessions centered on the gospel, which united everyone regardless of their ministry context. Breakout sessions focused on applying the gospel through the church leader’s ministry role and context. Workshops were designed to strengthen ministry skills.

NAMB photo by Susan Whitley
Multiple ethnic tracks were offered at the North American Mission Board’s 2013 Send North America Conference at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. More than 1,500 participants took part in language tracks in Chinese, Korean and Spanish, as well as a track for African American church planters and leaders.

“The conference was done in a way that black leaders were an integral part of the whole, yet there were unique cultural pieces that we were able to speak to,” said James Jenkins, a church planting catalyst with the Louisiana Baptist Convention and one of the presenters for the Black Church Discipleship and Development track. 

“There is nothing cultural about the gospel. The same gospel that saves a white person and a Hispanic person saves a black person. But there are important cultural considerations to when and how the gospel is communicated,” Jenkins said.

Each of the ethnic tracks centered, in one manner or another, on helping churches discover, develop and deploy leaders into the North American mission field. Hispanic church leaders represented the largest number of ethnic track participants with 819 in attendance. 

“We had a great experience the last couple of days because we saw a big picture of Southern Baptist work in the United States [and Canada],” said Victor Pulido, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Del Sur El Calvario in Turlock, Calif. “We were encouraged. We have in our heart more support. We know we are not alone.”

David Gill, pastor of Concord Korean Baptist Church in San Francisco, said the breakout sessions reminded him that often Koreans and other non-Anglo ethnic groups have unique opportunities to reach new immigrants. He also was challenged by Jason Kim, NAMB’s Korean church mobilizer, to get his church more involved in church planting.

“Jason Kim challenged us to really become a missional church,” said Gill, who previously served as president of the Southern Baptist Korean Fellowship. “Any church, large or small, can become a missional church. He told us we should really plant churches – not far away but nearby churches. That’s challenging for local church pastors.” 

Gill expressed appreciation to NAMB for including Korean language translation for the main sessions and a track designed for their ministry needs. 

“I was so amazed at the large group of participants,” Gill said. “I was impressed that there were so many Southern Baptists interested in church planting and missions. As a local church pastor, we always look at and minister to our people. We think about missions, but when we get together like this we know we’re not alone. We’re a part of a bigger body. I’m also glad we had a big group of Koreans here and have the separate sessions in Korean and other languages.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board. Visit for more coverage and photos from the 2013 Send North America Conference. Visit highlight video.)

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8/8/2013 12:05:24 PM by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Ron Dunn’s peaks, valleys detailed in biography

August 8 2013 by Aaron Earls, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – Suffering and crises of faith were no strangers to the life and ministry of itinerant Bible teacher and author Ron Dunn.
Despite Dunn’s life being marked with personal pain and loss, including his life being cut short by pulmonary fibrosis at the age of 64, his influence continues to echo through countless pastors and church leaders.

Tom Elliff, president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, called Ron Dunn “the prophet.” The late pastor Adrian Rogers said Dunn was “in a class by himself.” 

Ron Dunn: His Life and Mission, a new biography by Ron Owens from B&H Publishing, captures the story of a man who became an inspiration and mentor to many of today’s Christian leaders.

Owens’ biography details Dunn’s significant successes early in his ministry and maintains those times were vital to what was to come. 

“What God did in his heart in those days, unknown to him at the moment, was preparation for testings and opportunities ahead that many of us would not choose,” Owens said. 

In 1975, he resigned a successful pastorate at MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church in Irving, Texas, to devote time to teaching and writing. He spoke at conferences around the globe, including becoming the only American to speak repeatedly at the Keswick Conference in England.

Ron Dunn: His Life and Mission,” a new biography by Ron Owens from B&H Publishing, captures the story of a man who became an inspiration and mentor to many of today’s Christian leaders. View video.

Less than three months after beginning his new ministry, he and his wife, Kaye, lost their oldest son, Ron Jr., to suicide, which plunged Dunn into a 10-year bout with clinical depression. Later, Kaye endured chemotherapy for lymphoma, and their daughter, Kim, developed complications from an automobile accident that ultimately led to the partial amputation of her leg.

Through peaks and valleys, Dunn continued to speak and write until just before his death, encouraging pastors, church leaders and Christians around the world through in-depth, biblical sermons and honest portrayals of his own life.

“Ron was a man of keen intellect, and he loved the study of the scriptures,” Owens said. “He was never content with a superficial grasp of a passage, but took the time to think, research and pray much over it.”

His first book, Any Christian Can, was published in 1976. He went on to write six books including Will God Heal Me? and Faith Crisis, both of which are being rereleased by B&H to coincide with the new biography. 

Dunn’s trials demonstrated that his faith was foundational for him and educational for others. 

“He preached out of his pain,” said former LifeWay president Jimmy Draper, “and that was an incredible ministry.”

Elliff said the faith of Dunn and his wife “had been hammered out on the anvil of their own experience.”

“Simply knowing Ron and Kaye had also faced some of life’s extremities gave his message an authenticity that can be gained in no other fashion,” Elliff said.

Having Dunn as a mentor and friend, Michael Catt, pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., saw him as “a man who lived many days in the valley. Yet regardless of the trial or test, he would ascend to the pulpit to preach of the victory we have in Christ.”

As a preacher and author, Dunn said his purpose was to accurately explain scripture, which makes it entirely appropriate that, according to those who knew him, his life was a clear demonstration of Philippians 3:10.

Like the Apostle Paul, through many personal trials and tragedies, Dunn strove toward a goal of knowing Christ “and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings.”

For Kaye, that goal comes across in the biography, stating she believes Owens “beautifully and prayerfully captured the essence of Ron’s life and ministry on paper. You will get to know the real Ron Dunn through reading this book.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Earls writes for LifeWay Christian Resources.) 


8/8/2013 11:54:28 AM by Aaron Earls, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Campbell provost named president of Georgetown College

August 7 2013 by Campbell Communications

GEORGETOWN, Ky. – Georgetown College named Campbell University vice president for academic affairs and provost Dwaine Greene its 24th president after approval from its board of trustees Aug. 5.
The Watauga County native and Campbell alumnus will assume his role as head of the small, private Baptist college on Oct. 21. Chartered in 1829, Georgetown College has a total undergraduate enrollment of 1,273 and post-graduate enrollment of 545 students.
“I hold deep respect for what Georgetown has accomplished during its many decades,” said Greene. “Quality academics in concert with faith commitments is what resonates with me both personally and professionally. Joining such a worthy endeavor with fine colleagues at Georgetown will be a high honor. I am humbled by the opportunity.”
Greene was a 1979 magna cum laude graduate of Campbell University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in religion. He received his master’s in New Testament from Wake Forest University and completed his doctorate in New Testament and early Christianity from the University of Virginia. He returned to his alma mater in June 2001 to join the administration after a serving as a religion professor, department chair, provost, dean of faculty and for a brief period, acting president, at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, N.C.
Campbell University President Jerry Wallace said he will miss his colleague who’s helped oversee dramatic change at Campbell over the past decade.
“I applaud the selection of Dwaine Greene as the president of Georgetown College,” Wallace said in a statement Aug. 6. “In every respect, Dwaine has achieved the attributes necessary to be an effective president – education, experience, common sense and spiritual maturity. I will miss him. His void will be felt in my heart and throughout our campus.
“Georgetown will be in good hands.”
News of Greene’s appointment was met with positive words from faculty and administration at Georgetown College. Harold Tallant, a Georgetown professor of history who served on the presidential search team, voiced the committee’s unequivocal support for the new president.
“Dr. Greene has a strong record of success as an academic leader, not just in the nuts-and-bolts details of running a college but also in the larger world of higher education at the national and international level,” said Tallant. “He is the leader we need now, and I am delighted he has agreed to serve at Georgetown College. Dwaine is an ideal person to be the public face of Georgetown.”
Greene is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature and the National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion. Of particular significance is his involvement with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. He lists among his hobbies and interests assorted sports, outdoor activities, reading, and piano. During his undergraduate years at Campbell, he played baseball and has been a vocal advocate of the baseball program, especially during its recent back-to-back 40-plus-win seasons.
He is married to the former Carolyn Michael, a Campbell alumna whom he met while a student. The couple has two daughters, Patricia and Meredith, both of whom received undergraduate degrees from Campbell. Patricia is a graduate of Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Va., and is pursuing a career in ministry. Meredith is pursuing a doctorate in molecular medicine at Wake Forest University.
Georgetown College, the first Baptist College west of the Allegheny Mountains, was chartered in 1829.
8/7/2013 3:09:23 PM by Campbell Communications | with 0 comments

Eritrean students tortured for following Christ

August 7 2013 by Baptist Press, Morning Star News

ASMARA, Eritrea – Eritrean authorities are punishing 39 high school students for their Christian faith, excluding them from a graduation ceremony and subjecting them to beatings and hard labor, according to Christian support organization Open Doors.

After completing a four-month military training required in Eritrea, the students, including 11 girls, have been arrested for their “Christian beliefs and for their commitment to Christ,” sources told Open Doors.

“The youths are now enduring beating, forced hard labor and insufficient food and water” at the SAWA military training center, the organization reported in a press statement. “Sources said authorities are also threatening the students with long imprisonment and exclusion from university should they ‘fail to renounce Christ.’”

After completing school, all Eritreans are required to participate in national service. The 39 students were selected from 17,000 students of the 26th national service intake who graduated July 13, according to Open Doors. Graduating students then continue to Senior Secondary School to complete grade 12.

Since 2002, worship outside the government-sanctioned Sunni Muslim, Eritrean Orthodox Church (EOC), Roman Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eritrea has been forbidden, with Protestant worship a criminal offense. In 2005, authorities also began persecuting the EOC, particularly those in the church’s renewal movement.

The government began a widespread crackdown on Christians outside the state-approved churches early this year, according to Open Doors, detaining them in harsh conditions. Christians make up 47 percent of Eritrea’s population of 5.2 million, and Muslims 50 percent, according to Operation World.

The Marxist-leaning architect of repression of religion and free speech in Eritrea, President Isaias Afewerki, has been in power since Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1991; the National Assembly elected him as president in 1993.

“In 2001, in the wake of a two-year border war with Ethiopia (1998-2000), Afewerki began cracking down hard on anything that could be viewed as a threat to national unity,” Elizabeth Kendal wrote in the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin last fall. 

“He cancelled elections and closed all independent media. Opposition figures – politicians, activists and journalists – were removed, mostly to underground ‘secret prisons’ for the ‘disappeared,’“ Kendal wrote.

An estimated 3,000 mostly Protestant Christians were incarcerated for their faith by the end of 2010; that number fell to about 1,500 as of November, according to Kendal, and Open Doors estimates the figure is now about 1,200. The prisoners are held in shipping containers in desert camps, with some kept in underground cells, Kendal said.

“The conditions are inhumane: Children and the elderly are amongst the prisoners sharing skin diseases, dysentery and other horrors in confined, unventilated spaces,” Kendal reported. “Torture is routine.... Several Christians have died in custody, and others have perished in the desert trying to escape.”

The Eritrean military has reportedly made a business of Christian refugees, kidnapping them out of refugee camps in Sudan and selling them to traffickers in Egypt’s Sinai. There they are sold to Bedouin gangs who ransom them for tens of thousands of dollars, electrocuting, raping, starving and murdering the Christians as they threaten their relatives.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – This story first appeared at Morning Star News, an independent news service focusing on the persecution of Christians worldwide.)
8/7/2013 3:06:47 PM by Baptist Press, Morning Star News | with 0 comments

ECFA recognizes IMB’s financial integrity

August 7 2013 by Baptist Press

RICHMOND, Va. – The International Mission Board (IMB) has received accreditation from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA). This recognition acknowledges IMB’s demonstrated compliance with established standards for financial accountability, fundraising and board governance.

Since 1979, ECFA has provided donors and potential donors with the assurance that their member organizations adhere to the highest standards of financial integrity and Christian ethics. In addition, ECFA keeps its members informed of accounting, financial, fundraising and legislative matters of common concern and promotes such on Capitol Hill.

Members include more than 1,700 Christian ministries, denominations, churches, educational institutions and other tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations such as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Campus Crusade for Christ and Wycliffe Bible Translators.

“IMB has always been conscious of its financial responsibility to Southern Baptists who sacrifice in order to help take the saving message of Jesus Christ to those who haven’t heard,” IMB President Tom Elliff said. “We are pleased to add ECFA accreditation as continued assurance to our constituents that we consistently conform to the highest standards of accountability.”

David Steverson, IMB’s treasurer and vice president for finance, said, “We have always respected the great work that ECFA and its members do to help advance the work of the gospel across the U.S. and around the world. We’ve always endeavored to demonstrate the highest standards of financial ethics, and now we are pleased to be a part of this growing family that shares a common commitment to Kingdom advance.”

IMB passed all of ECFA’s evaluation criteria, including financial accountability, transparency, sound board governance and ethical fundraising, according to ECFA’s president, Dan Busby.

“As IMB recognizes that over 6,000 people groups still live with little or no access to the gospel, donors to its ministries may give with confidence of the highest financial integrity,” Busby said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by the IMB communications staff.)
8/7/2013 3:04:48 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Planned Parenthood investigation launched

August 7 2013 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – A congressional watchdog agency has agreed to investigate how Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights organizations spend federal funds, drawing praise from pro-life advocates inside and outside the legislative branch.
Members of Congress announced Aug. 5 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) had accepted their request for such an investigation. A GAO spokesman confirmed with Baptist Press Aug. 6 the nonpartisan agency had agreed to conduct the review.

Disclosure of the investigation comes at a time when Planned Parenthood’s use of government funds is drawing closer scrutiny. Only a week before, one of the affiliates of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) agreed to an out-of-court settlement of $4.3 million for alleged Medicaid fraud. Other Medicaid fraud suits are pending against Planned Parenthood, the country’s leading abortion provider.

Upon learning of the GAO’s decision to investigate, Southern Baptist ethicist Russell D. Moore commended government officials “for asking how public funds are spent by the abortion lobby.”

“For years, the abortion-rights movement has told us they are about ‘choice’ and ‘getting the government out of their lives,’” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “And yet, taxpayers have no choice in their hard-earned dollars subsidizing industries many of us consider to be horrific violators of human rights.

“A thorough investigation would be a good first step to examining our national conscience about what we’re paying for, and why,” he said in a written statement for Baptist Press. “The abortion industry is big business of the most sordid sort. They certainly don’t need a taxpayer bailout.”

The GAO’s agreement came in response to a February request for such a study by Rep. Diane Black, R.-Tenn., and more than 70 other congressional members. They asked for an update on a 2010 report regarding the federal agencies and programs that were the sources of the government funds, how the money was distributed and what services were provided by the abortion organizations.

The congressional members requested that information not only on PPFA but also on the International Planned Parenthood Federation, the Population Council, the Guttmacher Institute, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, and Advocates for Youth.

A January report by PPFA showed it established records for both the most abortions performed and most government funds received in the latest year for which statistics are available. PPFA said its affiliates performed 333,964 of the lethal procedures during 2010-11. It received $542.4 million in federal, state and local government grants and reimbursements during the latest fiscal year. 

Black described federal funding of abortion providers as “a serious problem in our nation.” The GAO study is needed for Congress “to ensure accountability and oversight” of organizations that perform abortions, she said.

Planned Parenthood and other abortion organizations “clearly benefit from Uncle Sam, but there’s no accounting to prove how they actually use that money,” Sen. David Vitter, R.-La., said. “This GAO report would shine a light on how our tax dollars are being spent.”

Black and Vitter have introduced legislation that would bar federal family planning funds from going to Planned Parenthood and other organizations that perform abortions. The Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act is H.R. 217 in the House and S. 135 in the Senate. Black’s bill has 176 cosponsors, but Vitter’s has only nine.

The GAO has just started to decide on the “scope and methodology” of the investigation and will set an expected date to complete it after those determinations have been made, the agency spokesman said. The GAO is a nonpartisan agency that investigates how the federal government spends money.

Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast (PPGC), which has clinics in southeast Texas and southern Louisiana, agreed to the out-of-court settlement of $4.3 million, the Houston Chronicle reported July 30. An investigation by the Texas attorney general’s office alleged the affiliate fraudulently overbilled the Medicaid program.

The settlement brought to at least $12.5 million the amount of “waste, abuse and ‘fraudulent overbilling’ of taxpayers” by Planned Parenthood affiliates in publicly revealed audits, according to the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). ADF has charged Planned Parenthood with misusing millions of dollars in government funds in a report to Congress.

Other ADF lawsuits contend Planned Parenthood affiliates have filed fraudulent claims for far more in government money. Its suit against Planned Parenthood of the Heartland – based in Des Moines, Iowa – alleges the organization filed nearly 500,000 false Medicaid claims and received nearly $28 million. Its legal action against Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, headquartered in Seattle, Wash., says damages could be more than $370 million from fraudulent claims.

ADF Senior Counsel Michael Norton called the settlement in the PPGC case “merely the tip of the iceberg.”

Planned Parenthood “uses taxpayer dollars to pad its bottom line with little regard for the health of women,” he said. “[It] has been improperly reimbursed by millions of taxpayer dollars over the years.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.) 
8/7/2013 3:02:24 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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