August 2016

Proposed bill limits referrals to Baptist Children’s Homes

August 22 2016 by BR staff

“Friends, please take a few minutes to read and act,” Blake Ragsdale recently wrote on his Facebook page. “This [Family First Act] piece of legislation troubles me because of the impact it could have on children who have no choice but to be placed in a caring living environment apart from their families.”
Ragsdale, director of communications for Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH), provided a link to the BCH website ( to educate people about this pending legislation.
Under the proposed Family First Act, funding for placing boys and girls in residential care organizations like BCH would essentially be eliminated.
“Every child’s situation is unique and each child needs every option available so they can be referred to the place best equipped to care for him or her,” Ragsdale explained. “Senators will likely vote in September. Ask your friends to help and please pray for the hurting children in North Carolina and around the nation. They come first!”
What is the Family First Act?
A proposed federal bill known as the Family Prevention Services Act (H.R. 5456) would end the funding that statewide Departments of Social Services (DSS) utilize for placing boys and girls in BCH’s care.
Also known as the Family First Act, the bill in its current form would essentially eliminate BCH and other residential child care organizations as options for long-term placements of children. The bill would redirect federal funding to make foster care as the overwhelming long-term solution for children needing placement. While foster care is the right solution for some boys and girls, it is not the answer for all children.
“There are no positives and many negatives to the proposed Family First Act,” said BCH president/CEO Michael C. Blackwell in a Charity & Children story. “Any legislation seeking to inhibit children from accessing the exceptional care Baptist Children’s Homes and other residential organizations provide is extremely troubling.”
BCH regularly serves large sibling groups providing them with a caring home that allows them to be together. From July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016, BCH has served 80 sibling groups. Often times, foster homes are not equipped to care for large groups of children meaning brothers and sisters are split among different foster families.
Boys and girls are referred to BCH through multiple means. Some are placed privately by family members or guardians. Others are referred by DSS who often take custody of children from extreme situations, such as abuse and neglect, and bring them into BCH’s care immediately.
“It’s imperative to remove a child from such heartbreaking circumstances as quickly as possible,” Blackwell said. “Whenever DSS contacts us, day or night, we are able to work together to bring the child in almost instantly. The well-being of children is dependent on a strong partnership between DSS and BCH.”
BCH chief operating officer Keith Henry, who oversees the day-to-day operations of the nonprofit’s programs and services, sees more cons than pros with the bill’s direction.
“Anything reasonable that can be done to prevent a negative impact on a child is a good thing, and we need to seek those solutions,” Henry explained. “What we cannot do is introduce measures that prevent a child from receiving the type of care that best suits his or her particular needs.”
If the bill passes, DSS choices for children become limited. DSS could still refer boys and girls to BCH, but only for a maximum of two weeks. Long-term placements would no longer be an option. The average length of stay for a child at BCH is nine months. Many stay until they graduate high school and some beyond.
“Every situation is unique, and the specific care one child needs is different than the needs of another,” Henry said in a Charity & Children story. “DSS must have every option available to them. Legislation that forces them to make decisions based on money instead of a child’s best interest is wrong.”
DSS placements comprise 88 percent of BCH’s current population. From 2013 to 2015, DSS referrals for BCH’s residential services have increased by 48 percent.
“With the rise in DSS referrals, it’s not logical to remove group home care as a solution,” Henry said. “In fact, the numbers state the opposite.”
Under the Family First Act, the overwhelming option for DSS would be foster home placements.
“There are situations where a foster family is the right solution, and there are times when it’s not,” Henry said. “We have seen many situations where a child has been forced to move from home to home because the foster family was not equipped to meet the extreme need of that child.”
BCH uses the CARE model (Children and Residential Experiences) in its group homes. Henry said the model gives house parents and social work staff members the knowledge and structure needed to help children overcome the trauma they have endured.
“Because of the training our house parents and social works receive, BCH has been able to provide children from failed foster care placements with successful, long-term care,” Henry said.
One of the other advantages to BCH is that it can accept siblings. There are currently 33 sibling groups at BCH across the state. In foster care, many times foster families are unable to accept multiple children resulting in the brothers and sisters being split apart.
“To me, this is one of the most important options BCH provides,” Henry explained.
The passage of the Family First Act could happen quickly as the Senate will reconvene in early September after its summer recess. Henry and Blackwell are urging everyone to immediately send letters and emails to North Carolina Senators expressing their concerns.
“Urge our Senators to revisit this legislation and delay action until it is amended to provide every option necessary for all children to receive the best possible care,” Blackwell said.
BCH leaders encouraged Biblical Recorder readers to:

  • Pray the bill in its current form is stopped and amended.

  • Contact your N.C. senators. See box above.

  • Share with your friends and encourage them to pray and make contact with our senators.

Contact your senator:
The Honorable Richard Burr
217 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-3154
The Honorable Thom Tillis
185 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-6342
(EDITOR’S NOTE – A supporter letter to send to your senator is available for download at For more information, contact BCH’s Keith Henry at 336-474-1215 or at

8/22/2016 3:53:38 PM by BR staff | with 0 comments

New study on pastors and same-sex weddings

August 19 2016 by Bob Smietana, LifeWay Research

More than 100,000 same-sex couples have tied the knot since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages nationwide last year.

But for preachers, being asked to do a same-sex wedding remains rare.

A new survey by Nashville-based LifeWay Research found 11 percent of Protestant senior pastors have been asked to perform a same-sex wedding.
Baptist pastors (1 percent) are the least likely to say they were asked to perform a same-sex wedding. Presbyterian/Reformed pastors (26 percent) are most likely.
Overall, pastors who identify as mainline were three times as likely to have been asked than evangelical pastors (18 percent vs. 6 percent). Pastors 55 and older (14 percent) are twice as likely to have been asked than those 54 and younger (7 percent).
“Most couples, if they want a church wedding, will ask a pastor they know or who they think will support them,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “For same-sex couples, this appears to be an older Presbyterian pastor.”

Churches split over role of LGBT people

The survey of 1,000 Protestant senior pastors also asked about the role of LGBT people in the church, which remains a contentious issue for many denominations. Fewer than half of Protestant senior pastors say their church allows LGBT people to serve, even in limited roles, LifeWay Research found.

When asked where LGBT people can serve, 34 percent of senior pastors say “nowhere.” Thirty percent say “anywhere.” Fifteen percent say LGBT people can serve in at least one role. Twenty-one percent aren’t sure or haven’t discussed the issue.

About half (51 percent) of mainline pastors say LGBT people can serve anywhere. By contrast, only 18 percent of evangelical pastors say the same.
Among denominational traditions, Presbyterian/Reformed pastors (66 percent) are most likely to say LGBT people can serve anywhere, followed by Methodists (49 percent) and Lutherans (42 percent). Baptists (8 percent) and Pentecostals (13 percent) are least likely.
Pentecostal (58 percent) and Baptist pastors (54 percent) are most likely to say LGBT people are not allowed to serve. Methodist (5 percent) and Presbyterian/Reformed pastors (14 percent) are least likely. Overall, 42 percent of evangelical pastors say there is nowhere for LGBT people to serve in church. Only 22 percent of mainline pastors agree.

Serving often allowed in the background

The research shows pastors don’t always fit the stereotypes when it comes to the roles of LGBT people in church, McConnell said.
Evangelical pastors are often seen as less friendly to LGBT people, yet fewer than half of their churches completely bar LGBT people from serving, he noted. Mainline pastors, on the other hand, are seen as affirming to LGBT people, yet they are split down the middle over whether LGBT people can serve anywhere. And a surprising number of churches haven’t talked about the issue, McConnell said.
Pastors seem most comfortable allowing LGBT people to serve in the background.
Forty-four percent of all pastors in the survey say LGBT people can serve in “helping or serving roles.” Fewer say they can lead public worship (32 percent), teach publicly (32 percent) or hold public leadership roles (33 percent).
Many mainline pastors (64 percent) say LGBT people can fill helping or serving roles.  They are more divided over whether LGBT people can lead worship (54 percent), teach (54 percent) or hold leadership roles (55 percent).
Fewer evangelical pastors say LGBT people can lead worship (19 percent), teach (20 percent) or hold leadership roles (21 percent). A third (35 percent) say LGBT people can fill helping or serving roles.
A previous LifeWay Research study found most Protestant pastors believe same-sex marriage is morally wrong. So it’s no surprise few are asked to perform such ceremonies, McConnell said.
There’s less consensus about the roles LGBT people can play in church.

“More pastors are open to LGBT people serving in their church than being married there,” he said.
Methodology: The phone survey of Protestant pastors was conducted March 9-24, 2016. The calling list was a stratified random sample, drawn from a list of all Protestant churches. Quotas were used for church size and Black Protestant denominations. Each interview was conducted with the senior pastor, minister or priest of the church called. Responses were weighted by region to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.2 percent. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups.
LifeWay Research is a Nashville-based, evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect churches.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bob Smietana is senior writer for Facts & Trends magazine.)


8/19/2016 2:42:17 PM by Bob Smietana, LifeWay Research | with 0 comments

Wholeness, healing for women goal of drama ministry

August 19 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

A ministry leader receives a troubling medical diagnosis. A preteen is sexually abused by a grown man her mother had introduced as an uncle. A married mother considers adopting until she learns she’s already pregnant with her second child.

Morgan McCoy

These female characters expressing pain are among more than 20 personalities presented in original monologues of Morgan Avery McCoy, a 29-year-old Christian speaker, author and actress in Richmond, Va. McCoy offers the love of Christ as the answer to challenges many women face in contemporary life.
“It’s one thing to hear somebody talk, but it’s another thing to see it played out on stage,” said McCoy, who performs at various venues including colleges and churches, many of them Southern Baptist. “It pulls on your heart a little bit more, hopefully.”
As McCoy is an only child, a single virgin and engaged to be married, she is not able to rely on personal experience to create the majority of her characters, who might have been orphaned, sold into slavery, trafficked for sex, domestically abused, sexually immoral, or might be an elderly widow and sole caretaker of children whose parents are not available. Instead, McCoy relies on godly inspiration, research, her education and the advice of experts in crafting the engaging characters who at times draw empathy and commiseration born of shared or similar experiences.
“I hope that the women will walk in wholeness, to experience healing, deliverance and encouragement. That’s my prayer,” McCoy said, “that every woman that I meet, every woman that I get a chance to speak to ... will be encouraged to walk in wholeness and recognize that they’re God’s daughter.”

Photo by Diana Chandler
A woman who desperately wants to marry is among the personalities women’s minister Morgan McCoy portrays in her “She’s Got Issues” series of monologues.

McCoy is scheduled to perform her show “She’s Got Issues” during the Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) Women’s Conference Aug. 26–28 at New Covenant Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., and at the WMU Women’s Weekend Get-Away Nov. 7–9 in Lynchburg, Va. Previous dates have included the 2015 and 2016 Black Church Leadership and Family Conference at Ridgecrest, N.C.; the July 31 youth service of The Light Community Church in Richmond, Va.; a dinner theater at Lewis Missionary Baptist Church [National Baptist Convention USA] in Fayetteville, N.C.; and the Aug. 21 freshmen orientation at Hampton University, where McCoy in 2008 earned a bachelor’s degree in theater performance.
She was valedictorian at Hampton Christian High School, a kindergarten-through 12th grade school in Hampton, Va., and holds a master’s in communications from Regent University.
She developed monologues on Coretta Scott King, Madam C.J. Walker and Michelle Obama, the beginning of her 12-character compilation “Evolution of a Black Girl: From the Slave House to the White House.” Academy Award winner Louis Gossett Jr.’s Eracism Foundation co-sponsored her 2015 30-college tour of the historical monologue compilation, which earned her the Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities’ 2015 Cultural Act of the Year prize.
She starred in the 2014 and 2016 dramatic television series “The Heart” from Siri Austin Entertainment, broadcast on FOX’s MyTV, streamed internationally and available on DVD. She has written the monologue and poetry devotional Something to Talk About, the drama ministry guide Drama in the Church: Tips for Effective Drama Ministry, and the discipleship book Got Issues? Walking in Wholeness Despite Life’s Issues, all available at, and McCoy’s website

Photo by Diana Chandler
A woman who has been told she is a success story for having survived a forced life of sex trafficking is among characters Morgan McCoy portrays in her “She’s Got Issues” series of monologues.

Saved at age 6 and originally hesitant to accept God’s call to Christian ministry at age 16, McCoy now sees her youth as an asset in reaching younger audiences perhaps resistant to instruction from older adults.
“What’s so amazing to me is God made Himself real to a 6-year-old girl, and I’m really grateful that God doesn’t care about our age,” she said. “He doesn’t look at us as insignificant because of our gender, or because of our age, or because of our background. He loves us and it [salvation] was real for me.”
She has learned much since accepting her call to ministry at age 18, she said, and now serves on the staff of Kingdom Pursuers Ministries (nondenominational) in Chesterfield, Va., as a women’s and children’s minister.
“The best life you can have is with Christ, so it doesn’t make sense to wait until you’ve gotten older to then try God. The best thing to do is to walk with Him now,” she said. “My main desire then and now, when I accepted my call to ministry, is for people to know how much God loves them and understand His desire to be an aspect of every part of our lives.
“I love seeing people walk in wholeness, being set free and knowing that no matter what happens, you know that God is there. Everything that I do is all about showing God being bigger and better and greater than anything.”
McCoy is available for bookings through her ministry M.A.M. Inc. at
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

8/19/2016 2:41:30 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Olympics: Triple jumper ready for big leap

August 19 2016 by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press

Will Claye’s journey to the Rio Olympics began with heartbreak. He thought he had qualified in the long jump during the Olympic team trials in July. He even took a victory lap.
But he was wrong.

Photo courtesy of Image of Sport
“It’s good to excel in sports,” says Olympic triple jumper Will Claye, “but at the end of the day, it’s about pleasing God, and making sure that you are doing right by Him.”

“It took a lot of prayers and a lot of my family, my agent, old coaches just uplifting me and letting me know that this is in God’s plan,” Claye told Baptist Press. “It was something that I couldn’t control and was something that I just had to let go because you can’t ever really look back and say that God’s plan is wrong.”
Claye medaled in both the long jump and the triple jump in the 2012 Olympics in London, the first athlete to do that in 80 years. This year, though, he was only able to add to his Olympic medal collection through the triple jump.
He placed third in the long jump in the U.S. Olympic team trials in July, with two jumps that surpassed the minimum Olympic qualifying distance. That’s normally good enough to make the team.
But the two jumps meeting the Olympic qualifying distance were deemed to be wind-aided. His best effort without that was not quite good enough – one centimeter short of the necessary standard.
After dealing with the disappointment, Claye had to regroup and prepare for the triple jump trials (his better event), which he won and which sent him to Rio.
“I went into the triple jump with a clear mind just because I believed that there was something bigger that God had going on for me,” he said. “I think it was meant to happen like that, for me to just focus on one event this year.”

Photo courtesy of USOC/Long Photography Inc.
Will Claye

Claye grew up in a Christian home, with a mother he calls “the prayer warrior,” but it wasn’t until he was about ready to leave for college when he became a believer. He credits his older brother with sitting him down and explaining the gospel to him.
“Are you ready to give your life to the Lord? Seriously do that?” his brother asked.
Claye said yes, and the two spent the night in prayer.
At the University of Oklahoma, where Claye began college (he later transferred to Florida), one of his teammates, D’Andre Fisher, was a committed Christian, and he had a strong influence on Claye’s life.
“He was one of the older guys on the team, so he began to take me to church and to Bible study,” Claye said. “Just hanging out with him, he always kept me accountable for my actions and things that I was doing. He made sure that I was on point. That was something that really, really put me in the right space with the Lord.”
His Christian journey has been one of steady growth since then. He says his mom helps with that, sending him Bible verses and words of encouragement daily and reminding him of what his purpose in life is. As an elite athlete, Claye said that purpose is to use the gifts God has given him to their fullest potential.
“Some people, I feel like, don’t even use their gifts in the right way,” he said. “I think I have a choice. God gave me this gift and I can use it the right way or the wrong way. The right way is to go out there and to glorify His name in all that I do.”
He also tries to keep in mind that life as an athlete is fleeting, and one day he’ll move on to something else. The most important thing he will have done in his career on the track is to make a difference for the Lord.
“It’s good to excel in sports, but at the end of the day, it’s about pleasing God, and making sure that you are doing right by Him, not just for earthly possessions or things like that, but to go to heaven,” Claye said. “Track and field and all the blessings that I’ve gotten on earth can be gone tomorrow.”
Claye won a silver medal in the triple jump on Aug. 16.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.)

Related articles:
Olympians, volunteers to face Rio’s challenges
Olympics: U.S. swimmer Simone Manuel gives ‘all glory to God’
Team USA flag bearer Phelps’ rehab ‘Purpose-Driven’
Olympics: Nightly prayers keep skeet shooter’s focus on God
Olympics: U.S. volleyball player seeks God amid trials
Olympics: Diving duo wins silver, gives credit to Christ
Olympics: Wrestler Helen Maroulis content with God’s plan

8/19/2016 2:40:43 PM by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

NYC & Arizona church plants get boost from Kentucky

August 19 2016 by Alison Pulliam, Kentucky Today

A Kentucky congregation gave an eye-popping $118,000 in a single day to support church plants in Arizona and New York.

Submitted photo
Senior pastor Wes Fowler addresses the Aug. 7 Founder’s Day service when members of First Baptist Church in Mayfield, Ky., gave $118,000 to aid church plants for Native Americans in Arizona and urbanites in New York City.

First Baptist Church in Mayfield collected the offering during its Founder’s Day service Aug. 7 to share the gospel with Native Americans on reservations in the desert Southwest and with urbanites in the nation’s largest city.
Senior pastor Wes Fowler, who has visited many of the areas where the churches are being planted, noted their desperate need the gospel.
“We also know these church planters have been called and equipped by God for the work that lies ahead,” Fowler said. “We count it a joy and an honor to help support their efforts.”
Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, noted, “Such generosity reflects the commitment of the people of First Baptist Mayfield to reach the world for Christ. I believe God will honor their commitment and bless these church plants to reach many, many lost souls with the gospel.”
Church planter Rick Downing, who previously served as an associate pastor at First Baptist Mayfield, is working to start churches in several Native American villages in Arizona with North American Mission Board missionary Eric Gibbs. Meanwhile, church planter Chris Turpin, a Kentucky native, is working to start a congregation on New York’s Staten Island.
Fowler said the Founder’s Day offerings traditionally have been for renovations of the Mayfield church, not church planting.
Todd Gray, western Kentucky regional consultant for the Kentucky convention, said he was impressed by the amount of the single-day offering.
“This is a congregation that chose to put the needs of church planters and lost people ahead of their own,” Gray said. “Their pastor, prior to collecting the offering, said to the congregation, ‘This is a sacrificial offering. If your offering does not require you to live differently, then it is probably not a sacrifice.’ This is a pastor who deeply loves his church and who is loved by his church. He is not pushing them into sacrificial giving, but leading by his own example.”
Fowler said First Baptist became interested in ministering to Native Americans in Arizona after hearing about the needs from Gibbs.
“For the past several years, we have taken short-term mission trips to Arizona to conduct Backyard Bible Clubs and complete small construction projects,” Fowler said. “Through this experience, we quickly realized the tremendous need for churches among the Native American population.
“On one occasion, Eric took me to a small village where there were zero followers of Christ; there was no church and no evangelical witness,” Fowler said. “For me, this was both devastating and unacceptable. So, as we began to pray about using our Founder’s Day offering to plant churches, Arizona was a top priority.”
Fowler said First Baptist became interested in Staten Island through Turpin.
“I met Chris through a regional KBC workshop, and he explained to me the strategic location and population of Staten Island,” Fowler recounted. “He also expressed his strong desire to see 50 churches planted on Staten Island within the next 25 years.”
Fowler noted First Baptist’s responsiveness to the work in Arizona and New York. “We normally receive anywhere from $90,000 to $100,000, so to receive over $118,000 was a bit overwhelming as well as exciting,” the pastor said. Seven baptisms also were part of the Aug. 7 Founder’s Day service.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Alison Pulliam writes for Kentucky Today,, a news resource of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)

8/19/2016 2:39:56 PM by Alison Pulliam, Kentucky Today | with 0 comments

Olympics: Taekwondo athlete determined, trusting God

August 19 2016 by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press

At a lot of her taekwondo competitions, Paige McPherson gathers with some fellow competitors and close friends from around the world to pray together.

Photo by Meredith Miller
U.S. Olympian Paige McPherson is competing for her second medal in taekwondo in Rio this year after winning bronze in 2012.

“I'm praying in English, my friend's praying in French, the other person's in Spanish,” she told Baptist Press (BP). “It's very encouraging, and I'm just truly grateful to God for bringing these people into my life.”
McPherson is aiming for her second medal in taekwondo in Rio this year after winning bronze in 2012. Over the past four years, she's traveled a lot more and competed in a lot more tournaments than she ever has. That can be difficult, because it takes McPherson away from her church in Miami. That's why she's grateful for the friends she has made who share her faith.
McPherson credits her family with giving her a solid Christian foundation. Dubbed the “rainbow family,” her parents adopted five children from around the world. McPherson is half Filipino and half African American. She has a brother from Korea, a sister from St. Lucia and two other siblings who are part Native American.
That diversity, she said, is a beautiful picture of the gospel and how the church consists of those Christ has adopted from all over the world.
While the traveling creates certain challenges in her life, McPherson also said it helps her grow in her faith.
“I think it actually makes me want to pray to God more, needing Him more,” she said. “He wants you to make sure you pray to Him, talk to Him throughout all your troubles or good and bad situations and just having Him being included into your journey.”
With some Olympic success to her credit, McPherson said she sometimes has to wrestle with giving up control of her life to someone else. She wears the reference Proverbs 3:5-6 on her belt when she competes: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about him in all your ways, and he will guide you on the right paths.
It's a reminder to McPherson of how the Lord controls her steps.
“I'm an athlete. We're taught to be a little bit more self-absorbed,” McPherson said. “We want to be more in control of ourselves, and the more control we have, the better the outcome. I understand how a lot of athletes become very confident and cocky, and it's all about them because we're taught to be like that.”
But McPherson says it's just the opposite for a Christian.
“Although we might give it our all, it might not be the best,” she said. “That's when we know at our weakest point, that's when we look to God. That's when we ask for His strength, and anything is possible through Him.”
She hopes the “anything” includes a gold medal in Rio.
“I truly believe that with God behind all my efforts, I can win this. I know I can,” McPherson said. “I have the God-given talent, the determination. But the biggest factor is that I can trust in God, and I want to do what I can to give glory to Him.”
And if she doesn't win?
“I know that it wasn't meant to be, and I just have to trust in what He has planned for me,” she said. “I'm truly just excited. I want this very, very badly, and I'm ready to do whatever it takes to put me in a position to win it.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.)

Related articles:
Olympians, volunteers to face Rio’s challenges
Olympics: U.S. swimmer Simone Manuel gives ‘all glory to God’
Team USA flag bearer Phelps’ rehab ‘Purpose-Driven’
Olympics: Nightly prayers keep skeet shooter’s focus on God
Olympics: U.S. volleyball player seeks God amid trials
Olympics: Diving duo wins silver, gives credit to Christ
Olympics: Wrestler Helen Maroulis content with God’s plan

8/19/2016 2:39:24 PM by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

3,202 decisions for Christ reported in Brazil

August 18 2016 by Will Hall, Baptist Message

Southern Baptists returning from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, are sharing testimonies of widespread revival in churches, communities, prisons and schools, following an 8-day schedule of crusades, medical ministries and other outreach efforts in this South American country.
Wayne Jenkins, director of evangelism and church growth for the Louisiana Baptist Convention, said there were a recorded 3,202 salvation decisions resulting from events conducted July 10-17.

Submitted photo
A church helper and a volunteer interpreter react with tears of joy upon learning an elderly woman could now see with the help of donated prescription eyeglasses fitted by Sue Johns, a member of First Baptist Church in Graceville, Florida, and mother of Brent Johns, administrative and discipleship pastor at First Baptist Church in Houma.

“God did exceedingly above all that we could think or ask,” Jenkins said.
“Even working for the first time with this Brazilian association, the way was smooth in constructing three church buildings in five business days and reaching the number of people who came to know Christ, especially in some difficult areas.
“Moreover, the gospel was received by every age group and social class,” he added.
“On top of that,” Jenkins noted, “it is remarkable to think that Burl Cain was given favor, in such a short amount of time, in lining up the three entities in the country needed to get permission to replicate in a Brazilian federal prison the same spiritual and moral rehabilitation program we have in Angola.”
Cain served as warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola for 21 years before retiring in 2016.
In 1995, he initiated a four-year college degree program at the prison – with New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary – which is now being reproduced around the United States because of its success in the moral rehabilitation of its graduates.
Jenkins coordinated the mission trip, his 25th to Brazil with the Louisiana Baptist Convention but the first time to work in Belo Horizonte. He was joined by 60 Louisiana Baptists representing 10 congregations, and another 37 Southern Baptists from Utah, Texas, North Carolina, Florida and California.


Mission team members shared a number of compelling reports about individuals who responded positively to the presentation of the gospel in Brazil.
Stones will cry out

Submitted photo
Carlos Meza, pastor of Calvary Spanish Mission Church in Shreveport, used a store mannequin in a town near Belo Horizonte, Brazil, to catch the attention of a passer-by in order to share the gospel – and the young man gave his heart to Christ.

Carlos Meza, pastor of Calvary Spanish Mission Church in Shreveport, and his wife Lupe told the Baptist Message the mission trip was “exciting and memorable” even though it was his 16th outreach in Brazil and her ninth.
He said one of the highlights of the trip “was using a mannequin” to lead a young man to the Lord while conducting street evangelism in a small village.
“I started ‘witnessing’ to the mannequin using an evangelism tract,” in order to attract the attention of passers-by, Meza said.
“A young man stopped and said, ‘Mister that mannequin can’t talk or read,’ and I asked him if he could,” Meza explained. “When he said, ‘Of course I can,’ I handed him the tract, he read it and after a brief explanation of the gospel he said, ‘I believe every word the tract says’ and he surrendered his life to Christ!”
“Yes, God can use a mannequin to lead someone to His kingdom. To God be the Glory!” Meza exclaimed.
Every tongue confess

Submitted photo
Lupe Meza, a member of Calvary Spanish Mission Church in Shreveport, made use of her knowledge of Spanish in Portuguese-speaking Brazil to share about Jesus with a young Bolivian girl who was under the influence of Jehovah Witnesses.

His wife Lupe was a member of the medical services team which included a pediatrician, ophthalmology staff and a physician and nurse, as well as other volunteers.
She said a particularly special blessing was sharing the gospel with an “18-year-old girl from Bolivia.”
“It was so unusual to witness to someone in Spanish while in Brazil,” where Portuguese is the official language, Lupe Meza said.
“She was so young, and it was apparent she had been influenced by the Jehovah’s Witnesses,” Meza observed. “I felt I had to be gentle, so as not to frighten her or make her feel like I was being pushy.”
The girl had a blank look early on, Meza shared. But after carefully explaining about Jesus as the Son of God, “she accepted Christ, and she was at church service Sunday night!”
Blind shall see
In all, the medical outreach effort responded to the health needs of nearly 700 community members, Monday through Friday, including free prescription eyeglasses for about 350 individuals with vision problems.
But team members also inquired about the spiritual condition of everyone who came to the clinic and 106 were recorded as professing Christ as Lord.
Sue Johns, a member of First Baptist Church in Graceville, Fla., who came with her son, Brent Johns, administrative and discipleship pastor at First Baptist Church in Houma, La., was one of several volunteers with the ophthalmology team who helped fit individuals with eyeglasses – matching right and left eye measurements for near and far vision, astigmatism, as well as reading clarity.
Johns said two older patients stood out in her mind.
A 72-year-old man had heard the gospel several times during his visit to the eye clinic, and while waiting for Johns to find a pair of glasses which matched his vision needs, “he came under the conviction of the Holy Spirit” and began singing a hymn, Johns said. “He had fallen away from church for some time and I prayed with him to get right with God and get back into church.”
During the Sunday night service he found me before the service to say “I am here,” she added, and after the message, he went forward and “prayed to ask Christ to forgive his sins.”
Johns also told of a frail woman well past 80 years of age, who was almost blind and lived alone with her dog.
“She was frequently falling because of her lack of vision and church members were worried about her,” she said.
“We were able to find her some very strong prescription glasses,” Johns recalled, “allowing her to see the top 3 lines on the eye chart and do close up reading. She came in unable to read at all and unable to see the chart. We were all very emotional when we saw that smile come on her face when she realized she could see.”
Captives set free
Tamarah Wales, who was raised at First Baptist Church in Lafayette and is a member at Family Life Church, Lafayette, served as a member of the street evangelism team which had a unique prison visit.
Wales said they typically encounter “some difficulty” when they try to minister to inmates.
“The warden and his assistant came out to talk to the team and just like at other facilities there was some reluctance to let us in,” she explained. “But during the course of the conversation, we had the opportunity to share the gospel with them and both trusted Christ.
“After that they allowed us to go to every area of the prison to talk with the prisoners,” Wales said, adding, “and the warden and his assistant led the way. We witnessed almost 300 salvation decisions that day!”
Bread of Life (& Gumbo)
June Charrier and Lisa Breaux conducted a unique cooking ministry while in Brazil.
Charrier, wife of church planter Louis Charrier, both members of Washington Baptist Church in Opelousas, and Breaux, a member of First Baptist Church in Lafayette, provided a gumbo meal as an enticement for influential individuals – who were unsaved and resistant to home visits or invitations to attend worship services – to hear the gospel.
Charrier mentioned in particular the meal at First Baptist Church in Veneza where 30 people had gathered for what was billed as “a Louisiana specialty prepared by Americans.”
“We cooked dinner and a dessert and shared a little bit about the history of gumbo and its origins with African slaves,” she said.
“After the meal the people listened to a message on ‘Who needs Jesus’,” she continued, “and they were given a chance to repent of their sins and submit their hearts and lives to Jesus as Lord.”
When the prayer ended, Charrier said she looked up and four men had been saved – a vice mayor, city attorney, well-known businessman and church “member” who had been the subject of many prayers by the congregation, according to the pastor.
Breaux summed up for both of them the joy they take away from their cooking ministry.
“It reminds us a little gumbo goes a long way, even to eternity,” she said.

Unfinished business

Jenkins said the group intends to return to Belo Horizonte next year to build on the work accomplished in 2016.
“One of the Brazilian convention officials told us this region has more cities with fewer believers than cities in Saudi Arabia,” Jenkins said, and he challenged Louisiana Baptists to consider joining the 2017 team that will be going there.
“There is a place for everyone,” Jenkins said. “VBS teams, drama teams, construction teams, sports camp teams – every member of a family can find a place to plug in and I want Louisiana Baptists to seriously pray about being part of this family mission trip.
“Moreover, this is a great place to go for a first-time church mission trip,” he said. “We have lodging in a safe place, and everyone is well-fed. But most importantly, this is the place where you can faithfully do the work of an evangelist and see growth and experience growth.
Gary and Darlene Maroney agreed.
Gary is president of the Louisiana Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists, a multi-state organization, and both are members of Eastside Baptist Church in New Braunfels, Texas.
In a note to the Baptist Message, they jointly expressed strong sentiments about their experiences.
“There are so many people in bondage all over the world, and we were blessed to be a part of this team who diligently fulfilled their specific assignments and saw God work miracles in the lives of 3,202 people,” they said. “We are confident that there were many more individuals who made decisions for Christ, but this ‘Pentecost number’ represents those whose names are recorded and will be followed up by the national pastors.
“Belo Horizonte means beautiful horizon,” the Maroney’s explained in closing. “We were so blessed to see the spiritual horizon that stretched across that city last week and know that we were used of God to witness such beauty!!”
For more coverage on this mission work in Brazil visit
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Will Hall is editor of the Baptist Message,, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)

8/18/2016 8:03:02 AM by Will Hall, Baptist Message | with 0 comments

Olympics: Dietzen’s love for teammates anchored by faith

August 18 2016 by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press

Christa Dietzen comes by the “Mom” nickname her teammates have given her naturally. She’s the oldest in her extended family, and she’s one of the oldest players on the U.S. women’s Olympic volleyball team.

Photo courtesy of FIVB
U.S. team captain Christa Harmotto Dietzen spikes volleyball during game with Turkey.

For Dietzen, the captain of the U.S. team in Rio, her interest in caring for those around her comes not just from any mothering instincts she might have, but from what she believes is required of her as a Christian.
“What does it look like to be a Christian athlete?” Dietzen asked. “I think the first piece for me is, how do you love your teammates?”
A native of Pennsylvania, Dietzen says the answer to that question is in getting to know them. She and her husband regularly have teammates over to dinner – especially younger and newer players on the U.S. national team.
Dietzen wants to know her teammates, their families and their backgrounds – what excites them and what scares them. Doing that helps her minister to them and love them well.
Another component that comes with being a Christian athlete, Dietzen says, is having a humble heart. That means being willing to listen to teammates and coaches, being willing to take feedback – whether praise or criticism – and being willing to learn from others.
A third element in her role as a Christian athlete is in how she conducts herself.
“Always knowing that you have eyes watching you,” Dietzen told Baptist Press, “from what you’re saying to people, how you carry yourself on and off the court, what you’re posting on social media and how you treat others.”

Photo courtesy of USAV/Matt Brown
Christa Harmotto Dietzen

Her outlook on her sport and how she interacts with her teammates has changed considerably in recent years, since Dietzen became a Christian. Though she grew up in a home where she went to church on Sundays and had a family built upon Christian values, Dietzen said she didn’t have a relationship with God.
“I actually taught Sunday school in college, but all the same, I didn’t know what a relationship with God looked like,” she said.
After finishing her first professional season in China, she began attending some Fellowship of Christian Athletes events in southern California. She was volunteering at one such event where various athletes were sharing their testimonies when a pastor gave an invitation, asking anyone who wanted to give his or her life to Christ to stand up.
“I was in the back row, and what I now know as the Holy Spirit tried to throw me off my chair to stand up,” Dietzen recalled.
She resisted, thinking that since she was a volunteer, she already should have made that decision, even though she didn’t know what it meant.
While she did not become a Christian that night, the Lord kept working in her heart. A few weeks later, in June 2010, Dietzen said, she committed her life to Christ.
She and her husband are part of Rock Harbor Orange church in Orange, Calif. Though Dietzen travels a lot and doesn’t get to attend there regularly, she said she’s looking forward to being more plugged in there when her volleyball career is over.
Dietzen expected in Rio to spend her time in the Olympic village interacting with athletes from all over the world.
“I really enjoyed that in 2012, having those Bible studies, and having those spiritual connections off the court, too,” she said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE –Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.)

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8/18/2016 8:02:35 AM by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Mt. Zion tackles community’s lack of potable water

August 18 2016 by Jane Rodgers, Southern Baptist TEXAN

The 100 residents of the unincorporated Sandbranch community have lacked potable water due to contaminated wells for a startling three decades.

Photo provided by Mt. Zion Baptist Church
A member of the Sandbranch community fills jugs with clean water from a portable water unit.

The 138-year-old community, however, now has a source of quenching for its physical and spiritual thirst: Mt. Zion Baptist Church.
When Eugene Keahey became Mt. Zion’s pastor four years ago, he saw an immediate need to serve the Sandbranch community by expanding the services of Project Dreamhaus, a 501c3 organization he and his wife Deanna founded in 2001. Once focused on scholarships and educational opportunities for youth, Project Dreamhaus now also helps bring basic services to the community.
The organization operates out of Mt. Zion, providing 100,000 gallons of drinking water last year to the community and distributing 1.7 million pounds of food, fruit and vegetables by Keahey’s tally.
“It all takes place at the church. People come to go shopping each Saturday. They sign their names and give their zip codes and take what they need,” Keahey said, adding that the food bank outreach of Mt. Zion and Project Dreamhaus extends beyond Sandbranch to all of southeast Dallas County.
Much of the food distributed is provided by the North Texas Food Bank, said Keahey, a former middle school math teacher and youth pastor.

Photo by Eugene Keahey
Sandbranch community members receive food bank services at Mt. Zion Baptist Church. The church provided 100,000 gallons of drinking water and distributed 1.7 million pounds of food to the community last year.

Mt. Zion and Project Dreamhaus also have sponsored back-to-school events, free haircuts, a clothes closet and Christmas giveaways, sometimes with corporate sponsors like Ozarka spring water and Baylor Medical Center.
“We have to bring a real Jesus to a real need. It’s not enough for me to talk Jesus on Sunday from the pulpit. I have to walk Jesus in the neighborhood,” said Keahey, who often spends afternoons playing board games with Sandbranch children or rocking on the porch with an elderly resident.
In Sandbranch, serving up living water also means providing bottled water.
“For you and me, bottled water is dispensable. If we drink half of it, fine,” Keahey said. “But not in this community. It is life or death, a human necessity. They use it for drinking, cooking, washing, bathing.”
Like the community, Mt. Zion Baptist Church also lacks potable water.
“[Church] water comes from a sandpit,” Keahey said. “One of our members goes to the sandpit and drains water out so we can flush the latrines on Sunday.”
Keahey said he sets an alarm on his watch to remind him to wrap up Wednesday night services within one hour because of the absence of working restrooms on weekdays.

Photo by Barry Calhoun
Pastor Eugene Keahey of Mt. Zion Baptist Church baptizes a man in the portable baptistry provided by the SBTC. Several people have waited two years or more to be baptized.

Mt. Zion has grown from 35 to 100 since Keahey’s arrival. In addition to the church’s initiatives, hope for the community is on the horizon from other sources. “Agencies have come forward to help,” the pastor said.
The Dallas Morning News reported in April that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had approved infrastructure improvements in Sandbranch, lifting a ban that had been in place for years because the community has a 1 percent chance of annual flooding from the Trinity River.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, meanwhile, has approved an engineering survey as a preliminary step to bringing water to Sandbranch, working with the Texas engineering firm of Jacob & Martin LLC, Keahey said, noting that the firm presented its findings in a community meeting at the church on July 2.
In the meantime, Mt. Zion’s “Clean Sandbranch Day” June 1 was a notable success, Keahey said. “We wanted 300 to show up. But as God does, it was over 500 people. We cleaned the entire community, fellowshipped, ate, had a really good time. People from all walks of life came to see the community and help it. Some came from as far away as Tyler to help clean up.”
One of Mt. Zion’s key needs has been met by the donation of a portable baptistery, with assistance from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC), Keahey said, praising the efforts of SBTC mobilization director Barry Calhoun in facilitating the convention’s involvement and pastor Dwight McKissic of Arlington’s Cornerstone Baptist Church in initially making the needs known to the SBTC.
A baptismal service July 3 “was the first time since I’ve been there that we have actually baptized at the church,” Keahey said. “Some have waited over two years to be baptized,” Keahey said of the four believers who were baptized, with 11 more in waiting.
“We were going to hold the baptisms in a horse trough. Then the SBTC showed up to support us. We are so appreciative,” the pastor said. “The baptistery is beautiful. And it heats up. We can now baptize in summer and winter. You can’t do that in a horse trough!”
For more information and links to the community of Sandbranch, visit or email Keahey at
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jane Rodgers is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN,, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)

8/18/2016 8:01:31 AM by Jane Rodgers, Southern Baptist TEXAN | with 0 comments

SBDR deploying 4 kitchens to south Louisiana

August 18 2016 by Joe Conway, Baptist Press

The death toll in south Louisiana’s unprecedented flooding has risen to 11, and at least 40,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed. In response, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) is deploying volunteers, equipment and resources to the affected area, including four kitchens in Baton Rouge, Hammond, Lafayette and Walker.

Photo by John Swain, NAMB
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer Ron Monson loads supplies that will aid flood survivors in Louisiana onto a truck at the North American Mission Board warehouse. Some south Louisiana residents have compared the magnitude and scope of the flood devastation to Hurricane Katrina. Rebuild is expected to take years. Monson is a member of First Baptist Church, Cumming Ga.

The American Red Cross has requested four kitchens which each have capacity of 10,000 meals per day. All four SBDR teams deploying have twice that capacity. Additional support is expected given the scope of the disaster and the long-term nature of the relief work to be accomplished.
“The spring floods in Louisiana this year affected 10,000 homes, and the response duration was 80-90 days,” said David Melber, vice president for Send Relief at the North American Mission Board (NAMB). “Currently we are estimating as many 50,000 affected homes and a much longer response.”
The four kitchens will be staffed by SBDR volunteers from Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Alabama SBDR, like many states, is preparing for the response and will be sending volunteers and at least one shower unit.
“We have multiple states getting mobilized at this point,” Melber said. “The four key meal preparation areas will be located at Baptist churches, including Istrouma Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, Woodlawn Park Baptist Church in Hammond, [The] Bayou Church in Lafayette and Walker Baptist Church in Walker. Additionally, we have 16 other Baptist churches set up as defined worksites.”
First Baptist Church in Livingston will host the Incident Command Center. Louisiana Baptist Convention state SBDR director Gibbie McMillan is directing the state’s response. Arkansas SBDR is providing an Incident Command team to help coordinate relief efforts.

Photo by John Swain, NAMB
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer Matthew Kinnard helps prepare a shipment of supplies headed from the warehouse of the North American Mission Board to field operations in Louisiana in response to massive flooding in the southern part of the state. Southern Baptists will have four kitchens operational in the state this week.

“Eddie Blackmon from NAMB’s SBDR team is already at the American Red Cross headquarters in Baton Rouge,” said Mickey Caison, executive director for SBDR at NAMB. “There were reports of 280 road closures and some rescues still occurring yesterday. This is going to be a long-term response, and the water has yet to recede.”
Caison said some south Louisiana residents have compared the magnitude and scope of the devastation to Hurricane Katrina. He said he expects the long-term nature of the rebuild to take years.
“We are, of course, still serving in West Virginia, and there are 5,000 homes to restore there,” Caison said. “This is a marathon, not a sprint. The amount and type of responses we have already experienced this year have been taxing on disaster relief funds. People have been generous, but we will need a tremendous amount of support to address the recovery in south Louisiana.”
“Almost immediately starting tomorrow, we will be bringing our Emergency Response Vehicles (ERV), our ERVs, will start going into neighborhoods and distributing food and will continue that for a long time,” Craig Cooper told Lake Charles’ KPLC TV on Aug. 17. Cooper is coordinating the American Red Cross response in Baton Rouge.
“One of our partners is the Southern Baptists,” Cooper said. “If you remember, after Katrina, Ike and other disasters, the Southern Baptists are contracted to set up these massive mobile kitchens. They are four or five semi-trucks, and they pop up like a kid’s Transformer toy and produce the food that will feed a very large crowd.”
Melber and Caison will be in Louisiana late this week for a site visit as SBDR volunteers begin the task of assessment. The four kitchens are expected to be operational by Aug. 18.
Those wishing to donate to SBDR relief can contact the Baptist convention in their state or visit For phone donations, call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”
NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships with 42 state Baptist conventions, most of which have their own state Disaster Relief ministries.
Southern Baptists have 65,000 trained volunteers – including chaplains – and 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, child care, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained disaster relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.)

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Amid Louisiana flooding, social media conveys hope
Baptist relief ramping up flood response in South Louisiana

8/18/2016 8:01:01 AM by Joe Conway, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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