August 2017

Asian-Americans called to be ‘All In’

August 8 2017 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Twenty-two Asian languages and dialects are spoken in worship and Bible study in North Carolina every day. More than 130 Asian churches, missions and ministries cooperate with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), according to Sammy Joo. A native of South Korea, Joo serves as BSC’s Senior Consultant for Asian Ministries.

Contributed photo
Paul Kim, Asian-American Relations consultant for the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor emeritus of Antioch Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass., addresses the conference.

More than 80 Asian-American church leaders across the state gathered for the third annual WORD Conference for Asian-American church leaders July 7-8 at Caraway Conference Center near Asheboro. Organizers said attendees came from 16 churches and identified at least nine specific people groups in attendance: Hmong, Montagnard, Korean, Japanese, Burmese, Lahu, Laotian, Vietnamese and Filipino.
 
Using the theme “All In,” the focus of the conference was “to equip and network Asian-American leaders for Christ,” Joo said. He wants them to understand their importance in proclaiming the gospel and developing a disciple-making culture in their communities.

“You are the future of the U.S. immigrant,” Joo said to conference participants.
 
The 17 million Asian-Americans now living in the United States make up 5.6 percent of the nation’s population. North Carolina is the third fastest growing state for these people groups where 300,000 now reside.
 
The non-Anglo population of the country is expected to grow to 57 percent in the next 40 years, and Asians will be a significant segment of that majority, Joo explained.
 
Asian-Americans are the bridge between cultures. “You can move back and forth between American and Asian cultures easily,” he said to the audience.
 
Much like Peter and Paul proclaimed the gospel in different cultural contexts, God can use second generation Asians to spread the gospel in America and in other nations.
 
Although Asians are a minority in the U.S., they are a majority in the world, representing 60 percent of the world’s population.
 
“You are the new missions force to unreached people groups. ... God is doing something great among Asian-Americans here.”
 
The percentage of Christians among Asian-American people groups is much higher than their homelands, Joo said.
 
“For example, in the U.S. 30 percent of Japanese-Americans are Christians, yet less than one percent of Japanese in Japan are Christians. ... God is leading a lot of Asian people to Christ right here [in the U.S.].”
 
Religious conversion is more common among second generation Asian-Americans. Within the second generation, 40 percent have a religion different from one in which they were raised.

Contributed photo
Circles were formed during the WORD Conference July 7-8 at Caraway Conference Center to discuss church vision and strategy. More than 80 Asian-American church leaders attended the event from 16 churches, representing nine specific people groups: Hmong, Montagnard, Korean, Japanese, Burmese, Lahu, Laotian, Vietnamese and Filipino.

“Second generations are open, they are seeking, they are hungry to know what is inside you,” Joo told conference attendees.
 
“We need leaders among Asians,” he said. “With different cultural expectations, we often have disunity among churches for non-biblical reasons. This is a hindrance to raising up leaders in churches.”
 
Christians from all backgrounds have disagreements and divisions, but Joo called Asian-Americans to follow Paul’s plea in the letter to the church at Corinth: “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10).
 
“There are language barriers between generations; there are different cultural expectations,” Joo said.
 
“First generation pastors often promote cultural traditions – there are many reasons why we divide. ...”
 
Highlighting the conference theme, “All In,” Joo said, “We want to grow personally, but we want to grow together also. ... If we are All In personally, we will be All In together.”
 
Leaders were challenged to embrace Jesus’ instructions in Luke 9:23, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”
 
“Taking up your cross, you actually risk your whole life. ... Follow Christ alone – nothing else, not money or fame.”
 
Joo cited a Pew Research report that shows the median household income of second generation Asian-Americans is higher than the salary of their first generation parents and higher than the typical American household income for all age categories except those above 65.
 

Sammy Joo, BSC Senior Consultant for Asian Ministries
“Congratulations, you are making more money than your parents and you are making more money than the average American worker.” Joo said they are fulfilling their parents’ dreams, many of whom came to the country as refugees, but they must be careful.
 
Reading from 1 Timothy 6:9-11, he cautioned them to avoid an unhealthy dependence on money, “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. ... But flee from these things ... and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.”
 
“Second generation, your job is not to make more money than your parents,” he said. “Your job is to pursue godliness.”
 
He challenged Asian-American leaders to live sacrificially for Christ and, “give all you have to Christ.”
 
For more information visit the BSC site ncbaptist.org/Asian or the SBC site asianbaptists.org. Connect with others on the N.C. Asian American Ministries Facebook page, and tune in to the “NC Asian American Ministries” podcast.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sammy Joo is a graduate of Handong Global University in Pohang, South Korea, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He served churches in South Korea and multi-ethnic congregations in the United States as a worship leader, youth pastor and college pastor. Since joining the convention staff in 2007, Joo has served in international student ministry. He began his new role as the Asian ministries consultant this year. Contact him at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5562, or sjoo@ncbaptist.org.)
 
8/8/2017 8:10:33 AM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments



Thousands attend church-sponsored festival in Rocky Mount

August 8 2017 by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications

Evangelism was a central focus of the ninth annual Community For Unity Festival in Rocky Mount on July 29, attended by an estimated 3,000 people.

BSC photo by Mike Creswell
Each year the Community For Unity event draws together churches and businesses in Rocky Mount to help their community.


Started by Shelton Daniel, senior pastor of Greater Joy Baptist Church in the city, the festival has become a popular event each year.
 
“Every parking space is taken! You’ll have to go find a place on one of the side streets,” a parking attendant told visitors arriving at Boone Street Park to attend the festival.
 
This year, more than a dozen local churches took part, several of them affiliated with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), as is Greater Joy.
 
Many local businesses and government agencies took part and provided free food, games, music, job counseling, crime prevention information and health checks on blood pressure, diabetes and other conditions – all offered in scores of tents, stands and tables.
 
North Carolina Baptists on Mission volunteers (also known as Baptist Men) provided free dental care to 20 patients through their mobile, bus-mounted clinic parked at the edge of the park.
 
Local church members could be seen praying with people at several tables. Michael Cloer, pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in the city, prayed with a man after talking with him in front of the church’s tables where about 100 members helped serve free food, cotton candy and popcorn. Members also handed out packets of evangelistic materials.
 
“We’re just trying to show the love of Jesus in a tangible way,” said Cloer, sporting a red promotional T-shirt publicizing the festival. “It was the first year we’ve been invited, and we were so eager to take part,” he added.
 
“This year we tried to get all area churches to take part so we can better evangelize this vast number of people who come to the festival,” said festival coordinator Shelton Daniel. “We’re also trying to take an approach of doing some good evangelizing this year and really trying to collaborate with the churches,” he added.
 
“We have invited more local businesses to take part and this is our largest year by far,” said Daniel, who organized a similar festival event for 11 years in Halifax County before he moved to Rocky Mount to start Greater Joy Baptist Church with support from North Carolina Baptists through the Cooperative Program and the North Carolina Missions Offering.

BSC photo by Mike Creswell
Michael Cloer, from left, senior pastor of Englewood Baptist Church; Shelton Daniel, senior pastor of Greater Joy Baptist Church; James Gailliard, senior pastor of Word Tabernacle Church; and Richard Gurganus, senior pastor, Church on the Rise, with three campuses in Rocky Mount and Nashville, were part of the recent Community for Unity event in Rocky Mount.


Greater Joy has since had to move to a larger building, now holding two Sunday morning services. Daniel has also started several other local churches, including a rapidly growing one in Roanoke Rapids. He estimates he preaches to more than 1,200 people every Sunday now.
 
Greater Joy took over the building vacated by Word Tabernacle Church, who moved into a much larger facility at the edge of the city to better accommodate its 2,000-plus members. Word Tabernacle has helped sponsor the annual festival for several years.
 
“We believe in the collaboration of churches,” said James Gailliard, senior pastor of Word Tabernacle, also affiliated with the BSC. “We believe there are so many people in Rocky Mount who don’t know the Lord, unless our churches come together and collectively work on getting to them, I don’t think we can effectively reach them,” he said.
 
“No one church can get to them all. We need different preaching styles, different worship styles,” Gailliard added.
 
As Word Tabernacle began cooperating with other Rocky Mount churches, Gailliard said they focused on “foundational doctrines we care about the most: the only way to God is through Jesus, salvation by grace alone and the inerrancy of scripture. All that secondary stuff we don’t get involved with, because we feel that people need Jesus.”
 
He acknowledged that he has been criticized for saying it, but said, “I still feel that in Rocky Mount, Satan still has the largest church, and we have to do something about. It’s clear in scripture that when the world sees you together, there will be confidence that God sent Jesus, so this unity is necessary.”
 
For several years, Greater Joy and Word Tabernacle churches have helped sponsor Bible-focused classes, led by the BSC’s Fruitland Baptist Bible College in Rocky Mount. This year, a Fruitland class on biblical counseling was held in Word Tabernacle Church in cooperation with the state convention and North Roanoke Baptist Association.
 

8/8/2017 8:10:00 AM by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



New village offers hope to abandoned children

August 8 2017 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

When we have eyes to see, we realize every child deserves a chance.

BSC photo
“Without the Door of Hope Village, there’s no place for the children who aren’t adopted to go,” said Paul Langston, missions mobilization consultant for North Carolina Baptists on Mission.


In the South African city of Johannesburg, up to 50 babies are abandoned each month on the streets, in garbage cans, rivers, fields and landfills.
 
Through a partnership with a ministry called the Door of Hope, Baptists on Mission (also known as North Carolina Baptist Men; NCBM) has helped rescue as many of these children as possible. Since 1999, the Door of Hope has rescued more than 1,500 infants.
 
Now the partnership is expanding to include a village where children who are not adopted through the Door of Hope can grow up in a safe and loving Christian environment.
 
On a farm just outside of Johannesburg, the Door of Hope Village is taking shape.
 
Over the next several years, volunteers, including many North Carolina Baptists, will be constructing cottages that will house up to six rescued children and house parents at the village.
 
The Door of Hope Village will be a place where children can live free from the chaos and pain they would normally experience. The village will be a place where love is on display and encounters with Jesus are a reality.
 
“The No. 1 priority is for a child to be adopted into a forever family,” says Paul Langston, NCBM missions mobilization consultant.
 
“The village is for the children who aren’t chosen for adoption. Without the Door of Hope Village, there’s no place for the children who aren’t adopted to go.”
 
Langston oversees the ministry partnership between NCBM and the Door of Hope. Part of his role includes coordinating and facilitating the logistics for missions teams from North Carolina to serve at the Door of Hope Village and other places around the world.
 
In February of this year, a team from North Carolina was one of the first to begin work at the site where the Door of Hope Village is taking shape. Since then, four other teams from North Carolina have traveled to Johannesburg to work at the village.
 
In May, a team began making the concrete blocks that will form the walls and structure of the first cottage for house parents and orphans.
 
Making the bricks is a time-intensive process, Langston said. The concrete is poured into a mold where it must sit for about a day or two. Then it must be left to cure for about a month.
 
Langston plans to lead a team to the village in November that should see the completion of the first cottage at the village.
 
The long-term vision is for the village to include about 70 cottages, as well as a school and a child development center. Children living at the village will be able to receive an education and learn various life skills and occupational trades. Plus, they’ll be brought up in a nurturing Christian environment by their house parents.
 
Ministry partnerships like the one between NCBM and Door of Hope are possible thanks to the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO). This offering is typically received in September, and it supports a variety of ministries including disaster relief, church planting and missions mobilization projects with various ministry partners in North America and around the world.
 
The theme for this year’s offering is “Eyes to See,” based upon John 4:35.
 
“NCMO gifts are making an eternal impact on lives that were literally discarded,” Langston said.
 
As a former pastor and director of missions, Langston said he has seen firsthand how God has used missions to revitalize churches and their members.
 
“I’ve seen God use missions involvement to bring new life and renewal to local churches,” Langston said. “Having an external focus is critical for a local church to be the church that God intends it to be.”
 
N.C. Baptists can support the NCMO by praying, giving and going. Langston encourages those who feel called to go on a short-term missions trip to trust that God will use them, even if they don’t know how.
“Trust that God will use you and your gifts, whatever they are,” Langston says. “You may not even know how God will use you until you are there, but you can rest assured that He will.”
 
Langston said there will be plenty of opportunities to serve in Johannesburg with the Door of Hope Village in the future, and many diverse skills will be needed. And the work and ministry being done there is a picture of what Christ has done for us, Langston says.
 
“You’re taking a child who had no hope because they had literally been discarded, and you’re giving them hope and a brand new life,” Langston said. “That’s a metaphor for what Jesus Christ does for us.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Watch a video about the Door of Hope Village by visiting vimeo.com/channels/ncmo. To learn more about the North Carolina Missions Offering, visit ncmissionsoffering.org.)
 

8/8/2017 6:44:08 AM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Oklahoma DR chainsaw units deploy after Tulsa tornadoes

August 8 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Driving to Tulsa, Okla., a day after three rare August tornadoes destroyed property and injured dozens there Aug. 6, Southern Baptist disaster relief leader Sam Porter was on the phone with a member of First Baptist Church of Jenks, Okla., a Tulsa suburb.

Screen capture from CBS News
Three rare August tornadoes tore through Tulsa, Okla., in the wee hours Sunday morning. By 11 a.m., Oklahoma Disaster Relief volunteers were working to clear debris and remove fallen trees.


“There’s a large tree, a very extremely large tree down in their backyard, and she just said, ‘We cannot afford to have the tree removed, and we’re not able to do it ourselves,’” Porter, Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief (DR) state director, told Baptist Press (BP). “But a large tree ... can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $4,000 to be removed by a tree service.”
 
The Jenks church member is among several area residents benefitting from Southern Baptist disaster relief efforts after the storm.
 
Three chainsaw teams of eight people each were mobilized as early as 11 a.m. Sunday after the tornadoes touched down around 1 a.m. in and around Tulsa, Porter said. Eight Southern Baptist DR assessors joined the chainsaw teams to survey damage Aug. 7 and interview affected residents.
 
No one died in the storms, but the tornadoes injured 30 people, destroyed and damaged businesses and homes, unearthed trees and destroyed electrical lines, the National Weather Service (NWS) said in a public information statement. About 1,500 were without electricity at the height of the power outages, and a few hundred remained without power today, Tulsa ABC affiliated KTUL reported.
 
The first storm, an EF-2 with peak winds of 120-130 mph, struck around 1:19 a.m. in a southeastern Tulsa business district and cut a trail seven miles long and 550 yards wide in the six minutes it was on the ground, the NWS said.
 
Minutes later at 1:37 a.m., an EF-1 with winds of 90 to 100 mph struck the Tulsa County community of Broken Arrow, causing damage along a three-mile stretch of land about 400 yards wide, the NWS said.
 
The final storm, also an EF-1, followed at 1:32 a.m. in adjacent Rogers County, mostly destroying trees along a path 200 yards wide and five miles long.
 
The storms were rare for August in the state included in a swath of the U.S. known as “tornado alley,” marking only the third time in 50 years a tornado has touched down in Tulsa in August, KTUL reported.
 
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) chainsaw teams will likely be active in the area for a week helping homeowners, said Porter, who expects volunteers within the state to be able to meet the demand for help. Other SBDR teams will be deployed as needed, based on damage assessments, Porter said.
 
“We become the hands and feet of Jesus Christ when everyone else’s worlds fall apart,” said Porter, who was named national director for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief in July. He will begin his new role at the end of this month. “We never charge for the services, and it doesn’t matter whether they’re Christian, or Baptist. If they’re from another faith ... or if they have no faith at all, we will help them.”
 
SBDR chainsaw volunteers typically save families $1,500 to $2,000 each, and can save cities millions of dollars in major disasters, Porter said.
 
“Most people, they are truly blown away ... that Southern Baptists have a ministry that helps in such a way,” Porter said. “Usually, the great thing is, they ask, ‘Well why would you do this?’ We say, ‘We do this because of the love of Christ in our hearts.’
 
“I tell people we do the disaster relief in order to earn the right to share the gospel,” Porter said. “We don’t force it on anyone, but they always ask.”
 
For more information about Oklahoma Disaster Relief, go to okdisasterhelp.org.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

8/8/2017 6:35:09 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Baptists serve Bangkok’s ‘Little Lahore’

August 7 2017 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

“I don’t want to go back,” Naomi* said, her voice thick with emotion. The middle-aged woman wiped away tears with the tail of her headscarf as she recounted how a Muslim group beat her husband near death over an alleged blasphemy charge.


Contributed photo
Corinth Baptist Church volunteers share a meal with Pakistani asylum seekers in Bangkok. Pictured: (right) Lee Johnson, (middle) Jasmyn Crank, (left of middle) Carrie Chappell. Names of refugees withheld.


Naomi’s youngest two sons, ages 17 and 12, sat quietly on the concrete floor. They chimed in occasionally to help their mother when certain English phrases eluded her. Floor fans churned the steamy air in a small apartment near Bangkok’s city center as Naomi told Biblical Recorder staff about the events that forced her family to flee Pakistan.
 
The sum of their belongings lined the walls of the cash-only, one-room residence. The family lives in hiding from the Thai government, so conventional housing options are off limits.
 
Naomi’s circumstances are typical among Pakistani Christian asylum seekers in Thailand. Forced out of their homes by violent persecution and pressed into hiding by harsh penalties for undocumented immigrants in Thailand, asylum seekers wait in the shadows, hoping to find solace in the United Nations’ refugee resettlement program.
 
Naomi narrated a recent telephone conversation with her oldest son, 21, who was arrested and deported to Pakistan earlier this year with his father, Naomi’s husband.
 
“Mama, how long will we hurt?” he asked. “Trust in Jesus,” she said between sobs. “Just pray.”
 

Hearing the unheard

Six years ago, Calvary Baptist Church in Bangkok became aware of the growing refugee crisis in their city, and with the help of volunteer teams from the United States, they are providing critical aid and compassionate care.
 
Calvary’s senior pastor, Martin Chappell, and his wife, Carrie, are former career missionaries with the International Mission Board (IMB). They accepted a voluntary retirement incentive offered by the IMB last year as part of a staff reduction to counteract budget deficits but decided to remain on staff at Calvary.
 
“The refugee ministry started because God brought refugees to our church and we heard their story,” said Carrie. “It began with Sri Lankan refugees, but it built up steam very quickly.”

BR photo by Seth Brown
Immigration enforcement officials conduct raids periodically of suspected asylum seeker residences, arresting and detaining men, women and children who do not hold a valid visa. Thailand is not a party to the United Nation’s 1951 Refugee Convention and does not acknowledge UNHCR refugee status.


News reports say more than 11,000 Pakistani asylum seekers have fled to Thailand. Many of these people arrive from Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city. The region is home to some of the country’s largest Christian populations.
 
One of the church’s early initiatives was a clothing drive. The Chappells said they were overwhelmed when, after only advertising the outreach by word-of-mouth, hundreds of asylum seekers arrived. The large crowd even drew the attention of local police and immigration enforcement. So, they began to regroup and talk about new ministry and outreach strategies, which led to their current visitation schedule for asylum seekers scattered across the city and in detention.
 
With financial help from Global Hunger Relief and Baptist Global Response, this international Baptist church has been able to purchase, organize and distribute monthly food bags and hygiene items. Calvary invites partner congregations, like Corinth Baptist Church in Elizabeth City, N.C., to join them in the outreach effort. In recent years, Corinth has sent a total of six volunteer teams to Thailand to help distribute critical resources and spend time with asylum seekers, listening to their stories about flights from affliction and the search for hope.
 
Those humanity-filled moments are important, asylum seekers said, because many of them rarely go out in public for fear of being reported or noticed by immigration police. The social interaction is especially enjoyable to children and teenagers. There are very few educational options available to asylum seekers, and in most cases, the peer interaction provided by classroom settings is out of reach.
 

Forced out

Pakistani asylum seekers typically identify as either Christian or Ahmadiyya, a sect of Islam not recognized by majority Muslim groups. Both Christians and Ahmadis often become the victims of Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws, which carry a potential death sentence.
 
Multiple asylum seekers from Pakistan told the Recorder that even the thinnest allegations of insult against Islam can lead to mob violence. Blasphemy charges are also used to settle unrelated disputes. Reporting these injustices to police has little effect, they continued.
 
Law enforcement and government officials can be apathetic to such cases, and even if a dispute reaches a trial court, witnesses offering public testimony are often intimidated by threats of further violence. So, these victims choose their only apparent option: leave the country. Thailand is a common destination for Pakistani asylum seekers because it is easy to obtain a 30-day tourist visa. Upon entry, they apply for refugee status with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and begin to pray for resettlement.
 
UNHCR’s refugee status determination process is intended to take a few months, asylum seekers said, but many report wait times of up to six years. In nearly every case, they overstay Thailand’s tourist visa and risk detainment by immigration enforcement officials.
 
Despite being UN-registered asylum seekers, they face up to five years in prison for visa overstays of less than one year, and up to 10 years in prison for overstays of more than one year.
 

Thrown in

Bangkok’s Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) was the focus of an undercover news report last year for its notoriously poor conditions and child imprisonment. Calvary’s refugee ministry team is familiar with the plight of these detainees. Volunteers go through the arduous visitation process weekly. In order to gain access to the IDC, visitors must wait in line to file paperwork with immigration officials prior to the hour-long visitation period, including copies of a valid passport and the detainee’s name, nationality and government-issued identification number.
 
Guards search visitors as they enter the facility to ensure no restricted items, such as cameras or recording devices, are brought into the building. The 60-foot square visitation room is divided in half by two 7-foot-tall security fences. Guards pace the empty space between the fences as visitors and detainees strain their voices over the commotion in an attempt to communicate.
 
In a recent visit to the IDC, Recorder staff noted more than a dozen women being detained for visa overstays, along with a half-dozen imprisoned children, ranging in age from infants to teenagers. Amid a small group of women carrying toddlers, a detainee held up her eight-month old daughter, saying in broken English that she was born behind bars.
 
One mother expressed resigned gratitude that her teenage son was detained with her, because many families are torn apart during immigration raids and unable to reestablish contact with one another. One of the most common questions refugee ministry volunteers hear from detainees, is “will you visit my family and come back next week to tell me if they are OK?”
 
Detainees report overcrowding, poor nutrition and insufficient access to health care. Imprisoned men said they rotate sleeping schedules, because the group cell is too compact for each person to lie down at once. News reports about a Pakistani Christian man who died in immigration detention in late May 2017 were confirmed by sources inside the IDC. The refugee ministry team brought bags of carefully selected, nutrient-rich foods for the detainees they visited. Each volunteer spent time listening to stories told by asylum seekers, learning about their families, discovering what kind of aid they needed and praying for them.
 

Torn

Naomi’s husband and oldest son were held in immigration detention before they were deported. She’s thankful they are alive, but she knows they are now in danger. The anxiety caused by the separation of her family exaggerates Naomi’s health problems. Without access to proper medical care, high blood pressure and diabetes are a constant concern. Multiple asylum seekers told the Recorder that some hospitals deny service to migrants unless they hold a valid visa.
 
Naomi’s husband and oldest son cannot go back to their hometown, she said, so they currently live in another region of Pakistan. Her husband changed his appearance to avoid detection.
 
Naomi longs to see her family reunited and resettled, but she has refused to willingly take her youngest sons back to Pakistan due to violence. The family was granted interviews with the French and Spanish embassies but denied entry to either nation. A fresh wave of emotion washed over her as she continued, “I sent two applications to [Donald] Trump – to American Embassy – but I got no answer.”
 
According to Naomi, her family’s UNHCR refugee status determination case has been closed, and if their current appeal is unsuccessful, she and the two boys will be deported later this year.
 
Donate to help fund Calvary’s refugee food ministry at gobgr.org/projects/refugees.
 
*Name changed
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This article is the first in a three-part series covering the plight of Pakistani refugees in Thailand and the Baptists ministering to them.)

Other articles in the series:
Refugee ministry: Finding God in grief
Pakistani refugees lost everything but Jesus

Related stories:
Distant churches keep close partnership

 

8/7/2017 3:35:10 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



Betsy Bolick: small enough for a big God

August 7 2017 by Liz Tablazon, BR Staff Writer

As a young girl growing up in Boone, N.C., Betsy Bolick often wrote in her journal about not being “normal enough, pretty enough, tall enough or funny enough.”

Contributed photo
Betsy Bolick’s Small Enough Ministries allows her to travel and speak to various groups about her story and how God has worked in her.


Today she leads a nonprofit organization named Small Enough Ministries (besmallenough.org). Now an adult, Bolick seeks to tell others what she has learned: “The Lord told me, ‘I have made you small enough for the purpose that I have for you – so that I can be big.’”
 
Bolick was born with sacral agenesis, which causes abnormal fetal spine development. She is missing calf muscles and three parts of her lower sacrum, has no feeling in her feet and, growing up, had no control of her bladder. She wore diapers until she was 13. Pain and fatigue continue to be part of her daily life.
 
Bolick realized she was different when she was six years old, she told the Biblical Recorder in an interview. She recalled walking around in a K-mart, wearing shorts, when another little girl approached her and asked, “What’s wrong with you?”
 
“I remember thinking, ‘Well nothing’s wrong with me. I’m my dad’s little princess. I’m perfect,’” she said. “I remember going home and looking at my twin’s legs and thinking, ‘Those don’t look like mine.’”
 
So she began to hide. She stopped wearing shorts. Bolick started to believe she was unworthy of affection, a burden she carried in secret. Bolick grew up in a Christian home and was raised by parents devoted to the Lord. She knew the Bible but said she “couldn’t reconcile the God of the Bible with the God of my life.”
 
“I was always the one in the hospital, and I was always the one having surgeries,” she said. “I couldn’t get past Genesis 1. If we’re created in His image and it’s very good, then why isn’t there anything good about me? I really started to believe this lie that God hated me.
 
“The words of the world became what I believed about myself: that I was ugly, that I was deformed, that I was broken.”
 
Bitterness took root and grew in her heart, and Bolick’s perception of herself turned into her reality.  After being teased for wearing diapers one day in middle school, she went home and cried, “Lord, do You even see me?”
 
“It says in Genesis 16 that when Hagar’s in the wilderness, the Lord comes and He rescues her, and she says, ‘Show You are the God who sees me.’ In Psalm 18, it says that He comes down from on high to rescue us, the cries of His people reach His ears. I was just crying out to the Lord, ‘rescue me from this,’” she said. One morning that same year, for the first time in 13 years, Bolick woke up with a dry diaper.

“I never regularly wore diapers again after that,” she said. “I knew that God saw me and that He loved me. My bladder’s not perfect, not anywhere close, but that wasn’t my prayer. My prayer was that He would see me.”
 

A platform for God’s glory

Bolick’s journey to publicly sharing her testimony took a few detours. When she started college at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., she chose nursing as her major with hopes of helping people like herself.
 
She knew, however, that God was calling her to ministry.
 
“No, I don’t want to do it,” Bolick remembered thinking. However, she couldn’t pass a single test in nursing, so she switched to psychology. Still, it wasn’t the place for her.
 
At the end of a speech she gave for a class, her professor approached her and said, “That was a good speech, but you don’t belong here. You belong in ministry, and I think you know that.”
 
She left the psychology program that very day and transferred to religion with a specialization in women’s ministry. Once she answered the call to share her story, doors started opening, and more people asked to hear it.
 
“For somebody that was so angry to be different, I thank the Lord every day that He’s given me this platform to say to people, ‘Let God use your pain for a purpose.’ Jesus learned obedience from what He suffered. Why would we be any different?” Bolick said. “I wouldn’t trade my story for anything.”
 
Bolick later earned a master’s degree in church leadership and ethics from John Brown University and is currently enrolled at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) to pursue a degree in professional counseling. Prior to studying at SEBTS, she served as the women’s ministry director at Charleston Southern University.
 
Denise O’Donoghue, director of biblical womanhood at Academy 31 in Raleigh, taught Bolick at SEBTS. She said Bolick’s enthusiasm for ministering to women made her stand out among students. In an email to the Recorder, O’Donoghue said, “She has a heart and a passion to encourage women in their walk with the Lord. I also think that one of the first things that struck me about Betsy was her total commitment to follow God to seminary, even though it meant relocating and giving up a great job to come. That can be a very scary thing for a single individual, but Betsy knew what the Lord desired of her and was obedient.”
 
Bolick also serves part-time at Perkinsville Baptist Church in Boone, leading the women’s ministry and special events.
 
Seth Norris, pastor of Perkinsville Baptist, said she brings “an authentic joy” to the staff and church family, as well as a renewed sense of urgency for the Great Commission.
 
“She is a compassionate soul who would give every hour of her day away to others if she could,” he said in an email to the Recorder. “Betsy has a heart for the least of these because there have been many seasons in her life when she felt like the least, but fortunately, she chose to follow a Savior who is so much stronger and bigger than any of us. ... There isn’t one square inch of her ministry that isn’t influenced by her testimony.” 
 
When she’s not working at Perkinsville, Bolick runs Small Enough Ministries, which seeks to “teach and train women of all ages about the power of God’s restoration and redemption.” She partners with Perkinsville to disciple women, mentoring and challenging them to use their stories for the glory of God and to reach people with the gospel.
 
“Betsy lives a life that is oriented toward the Great Commission and always challenges others to do the same,” Norris said. She and her sister host a weekly Bible study with female students at Appalachian State University. She disciples a couple of the students one-on-one, meeting together regularly and journeying through scripture.
 
Small Enough also creates opportunities for Bolick to travel and speak to churches, women’s events and students. It serves as a platform for her to share her story and profess God’s work in her life, which she roots in two passages: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 and Acts 20:24.
 
“When sacral agenesis gets me down, and I feel discouraged by it and the enemy is getting victory in it, I think, ‘wait a minute. This carries an eternal weight of glory that outweighs all the pain and all the brokenness that I feel,’” she said. “And when we die to self, that means that even the things that hurt us die too. … I don’t count my life of value, and I fight that in my flesh because He gets that. It’s a ransomed life.”
 
Bolick’s upcoming speaking engagements include women’s ministry events in South Carolina this September.
 

8/7/2017 3:24:29 PM by Liz Tablazon, BR Staff Writer | with 2 comments



Faith & Fandom: N.C. pastor helps geek culture find God

August 7 2017 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

With the blockbusters “Wonder Woman,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” topping box offices this summer, there’s no question of the popularity of mythic stories of good versus evil.

Definition: Fandom refers to a subculture of like-minded individuals that spend a significant amount of time on one particular subject, such as Batman or Dr. Who. It could refer to an individual, a show or a genre. A fandom could also include a hobby, like certain crafts or cars.


Hector Miray, a Lumberton, N.C., pastor, uses his love of Batman and Dr. Who (his personal fandom) to reach the geek culture at conventions geared toward fans of superheroes, comic books, anime, video games and more. “I feel like our entertainment – what we connect with – says a lot about who we are,” Miray told participants of a session at Raleigh Supercon in July. “What you’re entertained by kind of reflects your heart, to some extent.”

Miray, who serves as the Lumberton campus pastor of Vertical Church, is the co-author of four books of devotionals using video games, comics, TV shows and other forms of entertainment to relay biblical truths. His first book, Faith & Fandom: Finding God in Sci-Fi, Superheroes & Video Games, was written after he attended Heroes Convention in Charlotte for three years and saw little Christian presence. The book was released in 2014 and has been followed by three more books in the series. That first book resulted in a job writing scripts for an online network called ClevverMovies. A producer at Clevver read Miray’s first book and hired him to write for “Fanboy Faceoff,” a show pitting characters against one another (ex. Batman vs. Captain America or Quicksilver vs. The Flash). “I was the nerd behind the curtain,” Miray joked.
 
Writing scripts provided the means to support Miray’s presence in exhibit halls at various conventions for the second and third year of touring the shows. No one had to buy anything at his booth, but being in the exhibit hall opened conversations he would not have been able to have.
 

Love of comics

Miray found Christ at age 12 and discovered comic books as a youth.


BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
Hector Miray, a pastor in Lumberton, N.C., leads a session to help find God in the geek culture at the recent Raleigh Supercon.


“There’s usually something within our entertainment that connects with us … characters [or] stories,” he said. “There are things in [it] that you connect with, that speak to you. That’s why you watch them. That’s why you read them. I believe personally that what we involve ourselves in can kind of help shape us, or it can be something that helps guide us in where we are going in life.”
 
Miray’s youth pastor introduced him to Children’s Bible Ministries (CBM), a national ministry working with children and youth. In N.C., CBM (childrensbibleministries.net) runs Camp Grace in Fairmont and New Life Camp in Raleigh. He attended Carolina Bible College in Fayetteville before finishing his bachelor’s degree online at Master’s International in Indiana. He started working full time at Camp Grace his sophomore year and was there nine years directing teen outreach and discipleship programs. He even taught Bible classes in public schools. He also worked with the University of North Carolina – Pembroke for more than 11 years reaching college students. He started a campus church with Vertical Church and the No Campus Left movement with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina before moving to the main church campus in Lumberton. This summer, the church went through five weeks of a blockbuster sermon series, which Miray helped develop.
 
They started Father’s Day with “The Fast and the Furious” and included Wonder Woman, “Captain America,” “The Princess Bride” and “Back to the Future.”
 
Miray serves on CBM’s board.
 
His wife, Danielle, works as a respiratory therapist and director of clinical education for Robeson Community College. The couple has three girls, ages four to seven.
 

Searching for truth

Looking at Deuteronomy 4:29 and Proverbs 8:17, Miray said people who are searching for truth will find it.


Contributed photo
Hector Miray meets favorite Dr. Who Character River Song, A.K.A. Alex Kingston.


“I don’t ever think [there] should [be] a point where you feel like you have to keep a part of what you’re passionate about separate or hidden from the spiritual,” Miray said. “For me, I think there are a lot of lessons, a lot of truths, that we can learn in the entertainment that we see.”
 
He encourages fans to be part of a church too because he believes being part of a healthy body of believers “is essential to growth” and extends their family.
 
At conventions, he either does a full chapel service with a geek theme or just hosts a discussion, like at the Raleigh Supercon. He usually has a booth that has art, T-shirts and books. Having the booth allows him to talk to people about their fandoms and hopefully steer them closer to God.
 
In his books, he writes about some controversial things. He has devotionals that use “Deadpool,” “Breaking Bad” and “Grand Theft Auto.”
 
“There’s never going to be anything that’s going to fit completely to standards of holiness or standards of righteousness that is in this world on its own,” he said. Even in the Bible, there are many stories of violence.
 
“I’d rather look for the good in the broken to help draw back to that,” Miray said.
 
Miray encourages fans to find things in their entertainment that are encouraging. Look for truth, beauty, etc., but also be cautious that our entertainment might also lead to division. He references Romans 14 about being a stumbling block.
 
“We live in a world where if we’re going to ignore everything that disagrees with where we stand and believe, we’re going to ignore the whole world,” he said. “If it causes you to stumble, you need to step back and be cautious. I don’t ever want to feel like I need to hide anything I’m doing.”
 
Instead, Miray would rather discuss why he watches something. “Sometimes I’m wrong,” he admits. “In all reality, we are all struggling. We’re all trying to connect with each other.”
 
Miray’s plan includes attending 28 conventions this year to spread seeds of the gospel among as many fans as possible.
 
It was common for Jesus to share stories to relay His messages. The Bible is full of stories and proverbs to illustrate points of a message.
 
“I think that if you go into the stories and the fandoms that you are involved in looking for spiritual connection, I think you’ll find it,” said Miray, but people shouldn’t force those ideas on a story.
 
In the “Matrix” stories, Miray said the authors wrote the movies to be a biblical allegory. With Superman, Miray said there are many similarities between the Man of Steel and the Messiah.
 
In a Batman comic, The Chalice, when Batman finds the holy grail, another character deciphers a message from God in the binary code of the cup. Miray used clips at the Raleigh Supercon from Dr. Who, Guardians of the Galaxy, Firefly and Star Wars to relate story after story that had spiritual elements in them.
 
Before Raleigh’s Supercon, Miray had spent the week teaching at a science-fiction inspired Bible camp.

As part of one of the lessons, he shared a clip from Guardians of the Galaxy to 9- and 10-year olds and related it to when John said that there was no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends. The children knew who the character Groot was, but the idea of Jesus and His sacrifice was not as well known.
 
“If you seek God, you will find Him,” Miray repeated. “Don’t be afraid or ashamed to let your fandoms be a gateway to that.”
 
Even Joss Whedon, a devout atheist known for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and most recently “The Avengers” and “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” recognizes people of faith need a connection. It was actually Whedon’s short-lived “Firefly” TV show that was canceled during its first season that inspired Miray’s foray into writing his first devotions, which led to his first book.
 
“The entertainment that is made is a reflection of people’s hearts,” Miray said. “There are recurring themes of truth and faith that occur through almost every fandom.
 
“I really feel like whatever’s good in me has come from pursuing God. When I’m left on my own, I make terrible life choices. I don’t want to be that.”
 

8/7/2017 3:13:38 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments



Eclipse ‘buzz’ spurs gospel witness by churches

August 7 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

When the sun goes dark Aug. 21 during a total solar eclipse, churches from Oregon to South Carolina will use the event as an opportunity to illumine their communities with the gospel.

NASA photo
The 70-mile-wide “path of totality,” in which a total eclipse will be visible, will pass through 14 states.


The first total eclipse visible from the U.S. since 1979, this month’s cosmic event will occur when the moon passes between the sun and the earth and blocks the sun, according to NASA’s total eclipse website. Everyone in the contiguous U.S. will be able to see at least a partial eclipse. But the 70-mile-wide “path of totality,” in which a total eclipse will be visible, will pass through 14 states.
 
Millions are expected to gather in those states to view the eclipse, and churches in the path of totality are planning an array of outreach events.
 
In Casper, Wyo., Mountain View Baptist Church and College Heights Baptist Church have partnered with Child Evangelism Fellowship of Central Wyoming to purchase copies of a DVD titled “God of Wonders,” which explains how creation reveals God and how salvation is available through Jesus Christ. Church members will distribute the DVDs during the eclipse along with 3,000 evangelistic bookmarks.
 
“Additionally,” Mountain View pastor Buddy Hanson said, “if our parking lot is utilized for eclipse watchers, we will take that opportunity to try and share the gospel.”
 
In Lincoln, Neb., the launch of Hope City, a North American Mission Board church plant, is set to correspond with the eclipse. The congregation’s first service is slated for Aug. 20. That day and during the eclipse, the church will distribute 2,000 “college survival kits” at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
 
“These kits will be filled with ramen noodles and Pop Tarts,” Hope City pastor Logan Merrick said, “as well as the book of John and some other gospel-oriented things.”
 
Missouri Baptists’ newsjournal The Pathway reported on three churches in the Show-Me State that are planning eclipse outreaches – Santa Fe Trail Baptist Church in Boonville, First Baptist Church in De Soto, and Concord Baptist Church in Jefferson City.
 
Grand Oaks Baptist Assembly in Chillicothe, Mo., will host a “Wonders of Creation Solar Eclipse Family Retreat” Aug. 20-21, including mini-golf, hiking, swimming and an opportunity to learn about the eclipse from a Christian worldview perspective.
 
“Since we’re in the range of the eclipse, we thought we were in a position to do teaching and ministry for families,” Grand Oaks manager Don Boyer told The Pathway, adding that he hopes the event inaugurates an annual back-to-school retreat for families at the campground.
 
First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., is hearing “quite a buzz” in the community about the eclipse and is planning multiple outreach events, executive pastor Bruce Raley said.
 
“With projections of 250,000 or more people coming into our county, many from foreign countries, we wanted to be on the forefront of welcoming the guests,” Raley said. “We will begin on Sunday evening, Aug. 20, with a concert featuring several [Gospel Music Association] artists as well as our own musicians. On Aug. 21, people are welcome to view the eclipse from our parking lots. Hot dogs and ice cream are available to the first several hundred to arrive.
 
“We have already handed out over 4,000 eclipse viewing glasses and have several hundred more for those needing them,” Raley said.
 
Beginning just after 10 a.m. local time in Lincoln Beach, Ore., the total eclipse will take approximately an hour and a half to pass over Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

8/7/2017 3:13:22 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



‘The Lord blessed’ Vietnamese fellowship’s meeting

August 7 2017 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

More than 1,100 people registered onsite for the annual meeting of the Vietnamese Baptist Fellowship of North America, a Southern Baptist fellowship of 160 churches. More than 1,400 attended the fellowship’s praise and worship service.

Contributed photo
The Vietnamese Baptist Fellowship of North America included daytime sessions for women as well as activities for teens and children during its 33rd annual meeting in Charlotte, N.C.


The fellowship met in Charlotte, N.C., at the Renaissance Charlotte Suites Hotel, June 29-July 2, for worship, fellowship, encouragement and to build unity, said Paul Cao, in his second year as vice president of the fellowship.
 
“The Lord blessed us in a special way,” Cao, pastor of Vietnamese Baptist Church in High Point, N.C., told Baptist Press (BP). “This year was a unique experience.”
 
Among the highlights were tours of the Billy Graham Library, where an autobiography of Billy Graham was presented to pastors, gift bags to other adults and backpacks to teens and younger children.
 
The tour included a visit to Graham’s childhood home, now relocated to the library on the grounds of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. The museum aims to be an “ongoing crusade” that looks at the effect of Graham’s life on others, according to its website, BillyGrahamLibrary.com. The 90-minute tour ends with an invitation to receive Christ as Lord and Savior.
 
The tour was “a major blessing for this conference,” Cao said. “We ended up with [at both the tour and the annual meeting sessions] 140 people making professions of faith.
 
“We haven’t seen that number in the last 33 years of our conference,” he continued. “I think we experienced revival at this conference.”
 
The professions of faith were made by about 40 teens and children attending the conference with their pastor and leader parents, Cao said, while nearly 100 came from the altar call at the Billy Graham Library.
 

Business, missions, praise & worship

In addition to business items, elections and departmental reports, the 33rd annual meeting of the Vietnamese Baptist Fellowship of North America celebrated a “Seeking God” evangelism and missions night on Friday and a night of praise and worship Saturday. Children, teens and women had daytime sessions specifically for them.
 
The fellowship voted to increase funding for outreach and ministry to the 2.0 generation, those born in the United States to immigrant parents who want to continue to be involved as laypeople in the fellowship, Cao said, explaining that a plan needs to be developed with their input to keep them feeling connected.
 
“These are young parents with children,” Cao said. “We want to find a niche for them among the fellowship.”
 
Young professionals already have made their own mark within the Vietnamese Baptist Fellowship of North America. Twice a year for at least the last five years, groups of 20 or 30 have traveled at their own expense – upon request by a local church – to a city for a weekend evangelism campaign called “Project Send Me.”
 
The engineers, lawyers and other 20-somethings train local church members in evangelism on Friday evening; engage in witnessing conversations in the residential and commercial areas where Vietnamese congregate on Saturday; and gather for worship with the congregation, new converts and the curious on Sunday.
 
Their goal is to reach as many Vietnamese as possible, to help the church grow, said Peter Le, president of the Vietnamese Mission Board, an entity within the fellowship. Le is pastor of Vietnamese Faith Baptist Church in Dallas.
 
The budget remains at $100,000 for the second year, up from $56,000 in 2015. That year, member churches were asked to increase their giving from $100 per year to $200. As a result, in 2016, the fellowship’s income was $85,000.
 
“We want to provide ways for members to serve” in the U.S. and in Vietnam, Cao said.
 
The Vietnamese Mission Board has an additional $35,000 annual budget. “We want to help the churches in Vietnam in three areas,” Le said: to provide $100 a month to new church planters for three years; to provide $25 a month for members of churches in Vietnam who attend the Vietnamese Baptist Bible Institute in Saigon; and to build, for $5,000 each, new chapels that can seat 100 people.
 
Additionally, the fellowship organizes at least two mission trips a year, Le said. “And if any local church would like to have [evangelism] tracts in Vietnamese, contact me” at peterleusa@aol.com.
 
The Vietnamese Mission Board has sponsored 5K walk/runs for the last six years in Dallas and in Houston to help meet its $35,000 budget and would like to add additional cities, Le said. Last year the two walkathons raised $16,000.
 
Updating the constitution and bylaws was discussed during the fellowship’s business sessions, but the measure was tabled for another year. One significant point was the Vietnamese name of the fellowship. Though essentially the same in English, the proposed Vietnamese name would be Lien Hoi Tin Lanh Bap-tit Viet Nam Bac My reflecting the idea that “we stand together and work together,” Cao said.
 
Once the name, job descriptions, constitution and bylaws are all in order, the fellowship will look at hiring a part-time executive director, Cao said.
 
Officers in the Vietnamese Baptist Fellowship of North America are elected every other year. Christian Phan, pastor of the Seattle-area Agape Baptist Church in Renton, continues in the second year of his second two-year term. Cao was re-elected vice president to a second two-year term. Pastor Hue Kieu of Vietnamese Tacoma (Wash.) Baptist Church is in his second year as secretary. Hung Nguyen, pastor of Vietnamese Baptist Church in Damascus, Md., was elected treasurer for a two-year term.
 
Du Dinh, a youth pastor at Agape Baptist Church in Renton, Wash., was appointed as the fellowship’s English ministry leader with no term limit by Phan and approved by messengers.
 
Four times of worship were interspersed with business sessions, fellowship times, breakout sessions and community outreach, as well as free time to tour the Billy Graham Library.
 
Longtime Southern Baptist missionary Sam James spoke during fellowship’s missions-focused night of worship.
 
“I preached in Vietnamese; that’s my language,” James told BP. “I used Isaiah 6 as my text, the first few verses. It was the whole idea of going as missionaries, the missions calling we have.
 
“At the end we had 50 come forward,” James continued. “That was the final point: Who will go for us, calling people into the Lord’s service and to the mission field wherever that may be.”
 
Vietnam is among world’s most underserved countries from a missions standpoint, said James, who was sent to the southeastern Asia nation in 1959 within the first six months of Southern Baptist work starting there. Before he and other missionaries were removed in April 1975, “we had maybe 2,000 members,” said James, who returned to Vietnam for a short visit in 1989, though now he is there regularly.
 
Today, Vietnam has 95 million people, the 15th largest nation in the world, with evangelicals comprising fewer than one-half of one percent of the population and Roman Catholics another nine percent, James said. Ninety percent are Buddhist.
 
“So the need is great,” James said. “We have an increasing number of young Vietnamese going to our seminaries. ... I told them, ‘You already have the language and know the culture somewhat. It would be very easy to bring the gospel to your own people in Vietnam.’”
 
North and South Vietnam are now one nation under communist rule. “It’s very difficult to become a church, so there are a lot of house churches,” James said, with Cao estimating the number at 1,000.
 
The Vietnam Baptist Bible Institute, which opened about eight years and is largely self-sustaining, has graduated 70 students in the last five years, James said.
 
With the North Carolina men’s disaster relief ministry cooking breakfast and lunch for the fellowship on Saturday morning, many attendees asked questions and watched the process, and “now the Vietnamese want to be involved [in disaster relief] at the local and state level,” Cao said.
 
Saturday evening was focused on praise and worship with no preaching, just performances by vocalists, vocal groups and musicians known among the Vietnamese in the U.S. and Vietnam. They told the story in song of God’s work among and through Vietnamese people, and the audience was moved in some places to tears and in others to exultation, Cao said.
 
James, whose second book on missions in Vietnam is to be published this fall by Thomas Nelson, summed up this year’s Vietnamese Baptist Fellowship of North America’s annual meeting with these words:
 
“It was the most united and cooperative spirit I’ve experienced in the many years I’ve been attending. It was a spiritual atmosphere, an atmosphere of appreciation and love that really prevailed throughout the whole conference, a deep spiritual commitment.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press.)
 

8/7/2017 3:12:40 PM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



DNA editing, ethics & biblical truth

August 4 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Scientists have successfully edited the DNA of human embryos for the first time ever. But a Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary bioethicist says the research in question was unethical for its destruction of embryos and raises moral questions about genetic engineering.
 
The research – published Aug. 2 in the journal Nature – used a gene-editing tool known as CRISPR-Cas9 to correct in dozens of embryos a genetic mutation that causes a potentially fatal heart condition. The embryos were purposefully created with the mutation and destroyed following the experiment.
 
“Addressing life-threatening medical conditions, such as myocardial disease, is certainly a laudable goal,” said Charles Patrick, a Southwestern Seminary vice president who holds a Ph.D. in chemical and biochemical engineering. “However, the ends do not justify the means. Biblical truth takes precedence over scientific advances.
 
The experiments conducted “consisted of creating 131 human embryos strictly for the purposes of experimentation. The embryos were genetically altered, tested and then disposed of. This type of experimentation is morally wrong based on biblical truth,” Patrick, a former research scientist at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, said in written comments.
 
He added, “God’s Word clearly and consistently upholds the sanctity of human life. Moreover, life begins at fertilization, the moment when a single sperm unites with an egg, forming a genetically distinct human being. At this moment a baby’s genes and sex are set, regardless of whether fertilization occurs in the fallopian tubes of a woman or in a test tube within a laboratory (in vitro fertilization).”
 
The research published in Nature was conducted in the U.S. by a team from Oregon Health and Science University along with a cohort of international colleagues.
 
In one portion of the team’s work, 42 of 58 embryos were successfully edited to remove the genetic mutation, apparently without producing other harmful mutations as occurred in previous DNA editing attempts, according to media reports.
 
Researchers said their DNA-editing technique might one day be used to correct genetic mutations that cause more than 10,000 medical conditions, including sickle cell anemia, some cases of early-onset Alzheimer’s and some forms of cancer.
 
Using the technique in conjunction with in vitro fertilization could produce a greater percentage of disease-free embryos and in turn decrease the number of discarded embryos, The New York Times reported.
 
“Potentially, we’re talking about thousands of genes and thousands of patients,” Paula Amato, a member of the research team, told National Public Radio (NPR).
 
Clinical trials of DNA alteration currently are illegal in the U.S., The Times reported. The U.S. also does not allow federal money to be used for any research that destroys embryos, according to a news release from Nature, though embryo experiments funded privately are permissible under federal law.
 
The research published in Nature was funded by Oregon Health and Science University.
 
Even some secular scientists regard the research as unethical, fearing it could lead to genetically modified babies. NPR quoted one scientist not involved in the research as calling it “extraordinarily disturbing.” Another suggested “an immediate global ban on creating cloned or [genetically modified] babies, before it is too late.”
 
Patrick, Southwestern’s vice president for strategic initiatives and communications, noted “a host of ethical questions that must be tackled” regarding genetic engineering, including:

  • “Is it morally permissible to change the human germline, [which] lasts the life of the individual and is passed onto future generations?
  • “Is it morally permissible to use the technology to design a baby with enhanced or preferred traits?
  • “Who decides what is considered an improvement on the human genome?
  • “As a matter of justice and equity, who would have access to germline engineered therapies?
  • “Would germline engineering change the view on the value of human life?
  • “Did God mean we have control over our DNA when He said man has dominion over creation?”

 
Other experiments using the CRISPR tool to edit embryos’ DNA are underway in Sweden and are scheduled to begin in Britain.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)


Related articles:
Scientists develop device to mimic the womb
Journal: assisted suicide about ‘autonomy,’ not pain
Infant’s death cause for grief, work, ethicists say
From baby mice to designer humans?
 

8/4/2017 10:15:05 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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