August 2019

Greear: ‘Gospel Above All’ SBC theme worth repeating

August 23 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The gospel stands in 2020 as the focus of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting June 9-10 in Orlando, Fla., with the theme, “Gospel Above All. Always.”

SBC President J.D. Greear announced the 2020 theme and unveiled an accompanying logo Aug. 21 during a planning meeting in Orlando with Florida pastors and SBC Executive Committee (EC) President Ronnie Floyd. “Gospel Above All” was the 2019 theme as well.


“I know it is unusual for us to have the same theme two years in a row,” Greear told Baptist Press (BP) after the meeting, “but I believe this is what the Spirit of God is saying to this generation of Southern Baptists. With regards to our identity, our mission, and our priorities, the gospel must be above all.”

Repetition can be beneficial, said Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C.

“Most pastors know that when we are sick of saying something,” Greear said, “our leaders have ‘just heard’ it, and when they are sick of hearing it, the congregation usually is ‘hearing it’ for the first time!”

The annual meeting Scripture, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, also remains from 2019. The Scripture and theme will hopefully influence Southern Baptist culture, Greear said, echoing a principle Floyd has also promoted.

Photo by Roger “Sing” Oldham
SBC President J.D. Greear announced the 2020 theme and unveiled an accompanying logo Aug. 21 during a planning meeting in Orlando. “Gospel Above All” was the 2019 theme as well.

“We also need a ‘gospel above all’ culture,” Greear told BP, “a disposition that allows us to have strong, differing opinions on secondary and tertiary concepts while maintaining enthusiastic unity on the essentials. We need to let the gospel shape our interactions with each other, loving each other as He has loved us.”

Floyd has promoted a gospel culture among Southern Baptists since his election as SBC EC president in April.

As Floyd told a group of Southern Baptist pastors and leaders in Atlanta Aug. 1-2, “I believe one of the greatest issues we've had in the last decade of Southern Baptist life is our culture; the way we talk with one another, the way we treat one another, the way we respect one another. ... Quite honestly, we need to develop a deep, spiritual culture.”

The 2020 annual meeting will be the 175th such gathering of Southern Baptists.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
8/23/2019 10:51:30 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Dew urges humility during 1st NOBTS sermon as pres.

August 23 2019 by Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS

Jamie Dew, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College, challenged listeners in his first chapel service as president to take on Christ’s humility for service.

Drawing from Philippians 2:1-11, Dew said believers must follow Christ’s example.

“Here the apostle Paul holds up Jesus Christ Himself to us and calls us to model our lives, everything about it, after the example He gives,” Dew said. “The great command of this passage is, ‘Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.’”

Pointing to a peacock’s manner of strutting in front of others, Dew cautioned that ego and sin can choke out God’s Spirit in a believer’s life.

“There’s a little bit of peacock in each of us,” Dew warned. “Kill the peacock.”

Christ’s followers are called to unity and selflessness, Dew said, adding that believers must stand out from a broken world divided along racial, political and cultural fronts.


Photo by Hunter Burcaw
Jamie Dew, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College, warned against pride during a chapel service Aug. 20.

“If ever there’s a people on the earth that ought to be able to rise up out of that, it would be a people that has been redeemed from their brokenness ... that have tasted the sweetness of Christ ... that have been redeemed by the great mercies of Jesus Christ,” Dew said.

Dew noted that two of Jesus’ disciples – Simon the Zealot and Matthew the tax collector – came from viewpoints radically opposed to one another, explaining that Zealots resented fellow Jews who cooperated with Roman rule, particularly tax collectors. Yet, scripture records no tension between the two disciples, Dew pointed out.

“Something happened to them when they came to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and though they were different, they loved something else more,” Dew explained.

The “peacock” has no place in Christian discipleship, Dew said, adding that believers must look out for others’ interests more than their own.

Second, Christ is the believer’s model for service and believers must remember the significance of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet (John 13: 1-19), Dew noted.

While the Philippians 2 passage shows Christ’s “emptying” of Himself by coming in human form, Dew said Paul intended to give believers “a frame of reference” for what service should look like.

“Washing the feet of others was the job of the lowest servant,” Dew said. “And yet our Lord Jesus Himself, the one who brought it all into existence with a simple word ... took up a towel and basin and stooped and washed the filth from his disciples’ feet. Let this mind be in you.”

Taking up “the towel and the basin” – a symbol Dew uses frequently to illustrate the seminary’s vision and task – means letting go of money, power, fame and recognition, Dew said, a calling he acknowledges may not be convenient or “fun.”

Believers may wonder if serving others is worth the cost, Dew said. To answer, Dew said Paul calls believers to remember what Christ has done.

“Admittedly, obedience to Jesus has its moments where we have to let go of something that we really, really like. But, in letting go, we find out that what we thought would actually be bitter has become sweet and life-giving,” Dew said.

Christ gives life and the reward for service is full and abundant life, Dew said.

Dew concluded with the challenge to the seminary community: “Kill the peacock. Be a servant.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marilyn Stewart is assistant director of communications for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.)
8/23/2019 10:44:53 AM by Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS | with 0 comments

After mass shooting, how do churches help survivors?

August 23 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Someone walks into the marketplace and starts shooting. Chaos ensues. Lives are lost. How does the church help survivors recover?

“How numbing that has to be on those people?” asserts Ted Elmore, an incident preparation and recovery specialist with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC). “What do you do next? What are your next decisions? ... It’s a shock. What do you do?”

The SBTC offers a new resource to Southern Baptists through a manual Elmore authored, “Incident Preparation and Recovery: A Spiritual and Physical Guide for Churches and Their Communities.”

“When we are prepared both spiritually and physically,” Elmore said, “we at least minimize the effect that the enemy intends through these evil acts and these shootings.”

Elmore describes God as a protector and encourages prayer and practicality in preparing to respond to such tragedies.

“The idea for the resource is first of all, that our churches would take serious ... the evil in the form of shootings and pray, because God is our ultimate source and supply,” said Elmore, who is also an SBTC prayer strategist. “Through prayer we demonstrate our confidence and trust in Him, and He has said that He would be our protector.

“But we know from biblical-based and extra-biblical history that evil happens even to the people of God,” Elmore told Baptist Press (BP). “Knowing that, we are wise to be prepared in case it does happen.”

Among several mass shootings in the U.S. since late July, a young man walked into an El Paso, Texas, Walmart Aug. 3, shot and killed 22 people and injured 26 others. The death toll nearly matched the November 2017 slaughter of 26 and wounding of about 20 worshipers at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards believes the SBTC has learned lessons that can be duplicated in other states.

“Our goal is to use the tragic experiences in Texas to benefit our sister conventions,” Richards told BP. “Since prayer is a key part of the strategy of healing and prevention, we pray the Lord will build a spiritual wall of protection around churches all across the nation as they use this resource.”

Thursday (Aug. 22), Richards and Elmore will be in El Paso for an evening prayer banquet for Southern Baptists of Texas church pastors and their wives at Immanuel Baptist Church, with targeted prayers for different aspects of recovery in El Paso. Elmore is arranging a weekend clinic in El Paso to train pastors in grief counseling, he told BP.

Initially, the SBTC mailed 3,500 copies of the manual in English to its cooperating churches, but will make the manual available as early as September to churches outside the state, with English and Spanish language versions available. A hard copy of the resource may be ordered from the SBTC Resource Store and from Ted Elmore Ministries.

Elmore described the manual as about 16 pages long. Written specifically with Texas in mind, he said, other state conventions may adapt the manual to benefit from resources available in their individual states.

The manual follows extensive research, Elmore said, and includes a prayer guide encouraging prayer walking in communities targeting schools, churches and public places. It also recommends security training through Teamworks Consulting Inc., a firm in Dallas the SBTC has contracted with; and advises churches to offer certified grief and trauma counselors and to utilize laypersons in such roles as a public information officers and recovery detail personnel, the latter to determine whether all persons are accounted for after a shooting.

“If you can get leaders in place to do all of those things then, God forbid,” Elmore said, “if it happens you’re further down the road than you are if in your grief and your numbness, you have to get those people in place at that time.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

8/23/2019 10:33:50 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Fla. Hispanic gatherings highlight ‘Gospel Above All’

August 23 2019 by Keila Diaz, Florida Baptist Convention

More than 1,000 Hispanic Florida Baptists are coming together across the state for the annual Hispanic State Fellowship gathering focusing on the Great Commission.

In the course of three Saturdays themed “In God We Will Do Great Things,” Hispanic Baptists in Florida are joining the Southern Baptist Convention’s emphasis to make the “Gospel Above All” through the “Who’s Your One?” evangelism initiative as well as church planting through the Send Florida network.

Bobby Sena, Hispanic relations consultant for the SBC Executive Committee, said the three regional celebration and equipping meetings are “a time to celebrate what God has done in our lives, churches and ministries; a time to remind us that our priority is to proclaim the Gospel in our Hispanic community and beyond; and [a time when] a spirit of unity will glorify God, strengthen the church and impact many with a Gospel witness.”

Emanuel Roque, Hispanic church catalyst of the Florida Baptist Convention, said pastor David Perez of Primera Iglesia Bautista Casa de Bendicion in St. Cloud, Fla., is leading the Fellowship of the Hispanic Churches in Florida, with 355-plus churches and hundreds of ministries in a movement to highlight reaching all Hispanic people in Florida.


Florida Baptist Convention photo
Hispanic pastors and church leaders join in prayer during one of their regional gatherings to advance the Great Commission.

The first of the three meetings took place at Iglesia Real in Hollywood on Aug. 10 led by pastor Martin Vargas, with involvement by six local Hispanic fellowships. The second, on Aug. 17, was at Iglesia Bautista Central Kissimmee, encompassing five fellowships. The next will be Aug. 24 at Primera Iglesia Bautista Tallahassee for north Florida, encompassing three fellowships.

Roque credited various organizations and leaders for “the strong beginning and launch” of this year’s gatherings, citing the Fellowship of the Hispanic Churches in Florida; its president, David Perez; Al Fernandez from the Florida convention; James Peoples with the Send Florida network; Sena; Ramon Osorio of the North American Mission Board; Oscar Tortolero from the International Mission Board; “and the incredible support of many others locally.”

Sena preached at both meetings and also will preach at the next gathering, underscoring to Hispanics the urgency of reaching all people groups with the Gospel. Osorio, NAMB’s national church mobilizer, is conveying a presentation on the Send Florida network and Who’s Your One? initiative. Chris Wong, NAMB’s second generation church mobilizer, also is addressing the meetings about reaching second-generation Hispanics in their communities.

“We are a diverse convention,” said Fernandez, southeast regional catalyst of the Florida convention. “Hispanics need to be involved and be seen in Baptist life. We are responsible before God for our communities, state and nation.”

The meetings will lead the way to the Florida Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Orlando this fall and also create momentum for the Southern Baptist Hispanic Leaders Celebration prior to next year’s SBC annual meeting, also in Orlando.

Roque said these will be the “largest-ever statewide and SBC Hispanic celebrations sharing the Gospel and representing our unity and presence. This is truly historic and momentous.”

Looking toward the 2020 Hispanic celebration, Sena said leaders are “hoping, praying and working to have 750 to 1000 people from across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico and we are thrilled to announce that Dr. Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, will be the preacher for this historic event. The Orlando celebration will be a worship service to glorify God; declare the unity among Hispanic Baptists; and highlight the contribution of Hispanic Southern Baptist to the Kingdom and the SBC.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keila Diaz writes for Florida Baptist Convention.)
8/23/2019 10:22:27 AM by Keila Diaz, Florida Baptist Convention | with 0 comments

SBC leaders cast vision for 2020 SBC

August 22 2019 by Barbara Denman, Florida Baptist Convention

More than 220 Florida Baptist pastors and leaders were challenged by Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee President Ronnie Floyd to mobilize messengers “for the sake of the gospel” to attend the SBC annual meeting, June 9-10, 2020, in Orlando.

During the Aug. 21 meeting held at First Baptist Church in Orlando, Floyd asked for the pastors to “begin a journey of casting a vision” that will bring “thousands and thousands” to the annual meeting.


Photo by Barbara Denman
Ronnie Floyd, Tommy Green, David Uth and J.D. Greear (left to right) discuss plans for the 2020 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Orlando.

“It is important to make it a big deal,” he said. “The more people coming to the convention means more people will hear our message.”

Floyd shared his goal of having 12,000 in attendance in 2020.

“Let’s encourage and empower our people and say, ‘let’s do something big for the sake of the gospel,’” he said.

Floyd urged pastors to bring laypeople to the meeting, a group that has dwindled in attendance in recent years. “Laypersons bring a reality to our ‘la la land’” where many pastors reside, he said.

The 2020 meeting, Floyd said, will celebrate the 175th anniversary of the convention meeting. He said the anniversary “needs to be a wake-up call” and “bring us back to the message, bring us back to the mission to bring the world to Jesus Christ ... advancing the gospel to every person in the world.”

Along with Floyd, SBC President J.D. Greear; David Uth, senior pastor of the host church and president of the 2020 SBC Pastors’ Conference; and Tommy Green, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, shared their excitement to mobilize Southern Baptists during the upcoming meeting.

Greear announced the theme of the 2020 annual meeting, “Gospel. Above All. Always,” noting that it is a continuation of the 2019 theme, and previewed the meeting’s logo. “We are a gospel people with a gospel message and the gospel is the most important, above all.”

The Orlando convention will offer opportunities to champion church planting and bless the city with the gospel, said Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area.

The nations have come to Orlando, said Uth, and the SBC presents “an opportunity to touch the nations for Jesus.”

Green shared that the annual Crossover evangelism event held prior to the SBC will be emphasized on a larger scale in all Florida churches – “from Pensacola to Key West. ... By casting the net across our churches, we will see a great movement of God.”

In closing, Floyd shared the need “to transform the culture within the SBC for the purpose of reaching the world for Christ.”

He suggested “five keys” to lead to transformation: living and breathing gospel urgency; empowering all churches, all generations, all ethnicities, all languages; telling and celebrating what God is doing; loving others like Jesus loves; and prioritizing, elevating, and accelerating generosity. 

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Barbara Denman writes for the Florida Baptist Convention.)
8/22/2019 12:06:56 PM by Barbara Denman, Florida Baptist Convention | with 0 comments

‘Caring Well Challenge’ on abuse to launch Sunday

August 22 2019 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The “Caring Well Challenge” to help Southern Baptists address sexual abuse will launch this Sunday (Aug. 25) in about 750 churches.

Caring Well Sunday will mark the next step in an eight-part, 12-month effort to help equip churches to prevent abuse and to care for survivors. The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and the Sexual Abuse Advisory Study jointly announced the “Caring Well Challenge” in early June and invited all Southern Baptist churches to participate.

Churches may continue to sign up for the challenge at

The “Caring Well Challenge” is part of a multi-faceted effort in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) to address a crisis involving the failure of churches to protect and care for hundreds of sex abuse victims and to prevent perpetrators in many cases from continuing their abuses.

Caring Well Sunday – whether Aug. 25 or another date – is an opportunity for participating churches to launch and explain the initiative.

“I am grateful so many churches are committed to the challenge to become safe for survivors and safe from abuse,” ERLC President Russell Moore told Baptist Press in written comments. “This unified call to action, the ‘Caring Well Challenge,’ is a resource to equip churches to do everything we can to combat the satanic evil of sexual abuse. I pray this coming Sunday is a significant first step as churches across our convention launch many needed efforts.”

In a video for Caring Well Sunday, SBC President J.D. Greear said the challenge is a process of “first listening, then learning, assessing and launching needed initiatives to ensure that a church is doing everything it can to prevent abuse and to care for abuse survivors. [T]he church should be a place of refuge for the most vulnerable. It takes all of us working together to help prevent abuse and to care for survivors.”

According to information on the challenge at the ERLC’s website, Caring Well Sunday enables each participating church to:

  • Acknowledge the need to become more aware of, prevent and respond to instances of abuse;
  • Explain the “Caring Well Challenge;”
  • Introduce its “Caring Well” team of members who will lead the effort;
  • Pray for survivors processing their own abuse, the “Caring Well” team and the growth of the church in the area of abuse.

Resources include videos of Greear and Moore, bulletin inserts and a prayer of lament Greear offered at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in June.

The ERLC and the Sexual Abuse Advisory Study began their collaboration when Greear – pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area – formed the fluid study group shortly after his election as SBC president in June 2018. The group has received input from hundreds of people, including abuse survivors and their advocates, lawyers, pastors, law enforcement officials, counselors and denominational leaders.

The ERLC and the Advisory Study worked with LifeWay Christian Resources to produce “Becoming a Church That Cares Well for the Abused.” The new, free multimedia resource released in early June is a comprehensive training curriculum that consists of a handbook with 12 video lessons from experts in a variety of areas.

The Sexual Abuse Advisory Study issued a 52-page report, also in early June, that recommended several steps of action intended to help combat abuse and to care for survivors. The Advisory Study made a presentation at the SBC’s annual meeting June 12.

Each church that participates in the “Caring Well Challenge” makes a commitment to take eight steps during the next year:

  • Commit to the “Caring Well Challenge.”
  • Build a “Caring Well” team to lead the church’s effort.
  • Launch the “Caring Well Challenge” on Aug. 25 or a similar date.
  • Train your team at the 2019 ERLC National Conference, which is Oct. 3-5 in Grapevine, Texas. The conference theme is “Caring Well: Equipping the Church to Confront the Abuse Crisis.”
  • Equip leaders through the “Becoming a Church That Cares Well for the Abused” curriculum.
  • Enhance church policies, procedures and practices related to abuse.
  • Dedicate Sunday services on May 3, 2020, or a similar date to address abuse.
  • Reflect on the “Caring Well Challenge” at the 2020 SBC annual meeting.

All the SBC’s entities, 37 Baptist state conventions, and many Baptist associations and colleges have encouraged the “Caring Well” effort.

Registration for the ERLC National Conference is available at

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

8/22/2019 11:41:01 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Sweeping changes ahead for 8 state conventions

August 22 2019 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Eight state Baptist conventions – at their own initiative – are moving toward sweeping changes.

The conventions’ goal: adding value to their churches.

Colorado Baptists – the first to launch a broad revisioning – are now in the second year of a process facilitated by Will Mancini, a Houston-based church consultant/coach and author.

Nathan Lorick, executive director of the Colorado Baptist General Convention, said the process aims to help churches “discover, design and execute” strategies to make “a greater gospel impact in their respective communities.”

This “strategic revisioning and relaunching has positioned our convention to best assist our churches in moving forward together to accelerate the gospel in Colorado.”


Submitted photo
Church consultant/coach Will Mancini leads a strategic revisioning session for the Colorado Baptist General Convention.

“Our convention realized we must shift from being reactive to proactive,” Lorick told Baptist Press (BP). “We knew we needed to reposition our organization to add value to churches like never before. Through our revisioning with Will Mancini and his team, we are now poised to have the greatest days ahead as a network of churches.

“We know how quickly culture changes,” Lorick said. “This includes the culture within the SBC. Colorado Baptists were resolved to change the culture of how we operate and execute as a convention. We believe as we help change the culture, we can help change the world.”

Nearly 70 Colorado churches, among 350 in the convention, are engaged in the initial “Next Step” process.

Ohio Baptists, meanwhile, are just beginning their venture toward a new future with the help of Mancini’s ministry named Denominee, denoting both the idea of a religious body and of a value such as currency that comes in different denominations.

The Mission Council of the 750-church State Convention of Baptists in Ohio (SCBO) voted unanimously July 25 “to learn how best to add value to the churches,” as noted by SCBO President Ryan Strother, pastor of Central Baptist Church in Marion.

According to a news release from the Ohio convention, “The core of the three-year journey is a sequence of full-day, on-site consulting experiences with a state convention ’Future Team.’ These sessions will feature assessment, training, dialogue, decision-making, planning and implementation coaching. The end result will redefine how the SCBO can best add value to its member churches, including a strategic implementation plan.

“The Future Team will consist of approximately 12 members, appointed by the convention president, and drawn from SCBO staff and volunteers, local pastors and other thought-leaders from throughout the state. During the process, a broader group of key influencers will be invited to give input at key checkpoints along the way.... Denominee [also] will include video conferences, regional collaborative events and an annual summit to engage SCBO member churches throughout the visioning process.”

Jack Kwok, SCBO executive director-treasurer, said Denominee offers “a process under the leadership of the Holy Spirit to identify and implement a more effective strategy and structure to assist cooperating Ohio Southern Baptist churches in obeying Christ’s Great Commission.”

Submitted photo
Ohio collegiate ministry leader Brian Frye addresses a strategic initiative discussion by State Convention of Baptists in Ohio’s Mission Council July 25. Frye has since relocated to the Pacific Northwest.

Six other state conventions also are utilizing Denominee’s revisioning, with partial funding by the North American Mission Board: Illinois, Indiana, Kansas-Nebraska, Pennsylvania-South Jersey, Michigan and Arizona.

NAMB President Kevin Ezell said Mancini “does a great job helping ministries and leaders maximize their strategic effectiveness. Over the years, state leaders have expressed to me a need for this kind of consulting resource and NAMB is happy to help provide it. Ultimately, we want to see pastors and churches served well and for our partners to have a significant impact.”

Mancini leads Denominee as the third organization he has founded since transitioning from pastoral work to full-time church consulting in 2001. In 2004 he started Auxano, a nonprofit which serves 400 churches yearly in Southern Baptist and other evangelical denominations through onsite consulting, training and certification of services that include visionary planning, leadership development and capital campaign design. 

In 2016 he started Younique, a company that helps leaders deliver personal visioning and life planning to members and attenders in their churches. He is the author of “God Dreams: 12 Vision Templates for Finding and Focusing Your Church’s Future” and “Church Unique: How Missional Leaders Cast Vision, Create Culture and Create Movement.”

Through Denominee’s work with state conventions and Baptist associations, “we’re trying to help local churches thrive through biblical network leadership that thrives,” Mancini told BP, by “activating a new imagination for how groupings of churches flourish and how the network brings value to those local churches.”

The local church is “a complete local expression of the body of Christ,” he said. “But we as Southern Baptists have always believed in partnering for the sake of ... going beyond what one church can do.”

Mancini said he works as a “strategic outsider,” his preferred term for a church consultant. His aspiration is for every church to have its own strategic outsider – “someone who brings a strategic viewpoint from an outside objective vantage point ... not entangled emotionally with the dynamic inside the organization, but who brings fresh insight. Each three-year process is customized based on several realities, including the current state strategy, the current level of church engagement and the unique needs and opportunities in each region.”

Although Auxano has become somewhat of a network as new churches every year use their vision and discipleship tools, Mancini said he began to sense God’s direction toward something larger.

“I don’t want to compete with all of these other preexisting networks of state conventions and local associations,” he said. “I want to add value to them, and I want to help them add value to their churches.”

For more information about Denominee contact Mancini at

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press.)
8/22/2019 11:27:53 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

SE Asian earthquake victims find healing

August 22 2019 by Lucy Campbell, IMB

He sped home on his motorbike, desperate to see his family in the wake of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. He had waited 30 minutes – long enough to let the tremors subside – but a sudden landslide took him by surprise.

The treacherous trip for Cahya* affected his life forever.

When he resumed consciousness, he had two broken legs. Unable to afford medical care, Cahya and his parents sought out the shaman for healing, but his efforts were painful and fruitless.


IMB photo
Soybean harvesters in Southeast Asia continue to rebuild their lives after a devastating earthquake in their area.

About six months after the earthquake, Cahya, who was still hobbling painfully on crutches, met missionaries who lived and worked in the area. One night, Cahya came to their Bible study, where the missionaries shared stories of Jesus’s healing power. Cahya shared his own story about his injuries and trips to the shaman.

Joyo,* a new Christian and fellow earthquake victim, shared how God had answered prayers about healing his own foot. Together the group prayed for Jesus’ healing for Cahya.

A few weeks later, Cahya could walk without crutches and pain. He and his family stopped going to the shaman.

“The Lord did a mighty work in Cahya’s legs, but the greater work was in Cahya’s heart,” one Christian worker said.

Cahya and his family were all baptized, and they now go to a house church with Joyo and his family.
  • Pray that Christians in the local church in this Southeast Asian area would hunger and thirst to know God and make Him known.
  • Pray for wisdom and discernment for the missionaries and their national partners.
  • Pray also that the Lord would mobilize His Church to help with continued efforts in earthquake relief.

Gifts through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering support Southern Baptists in Southeast Asia and around the world who minister in the wake of natural disasters – and who share the gospel with those who have never heard it.

Learn more about Southeast Asian peoples here.

*Names changed.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lucy Campbell is a Journeyman serving in Eastern Europe.)

8/22/2019 11:20:37 AM by Lucy Campbell, IMB | with 0 comments

Puerto Rico: NAMB breaks ground on Send Relief center

August 21 2019 by Brandon Elrod, NAMB

Send Relief celebrated the start of construction of a new ministry center in Puerto Rico with a ceremonial groundbreaking on Monday, Aug. 19. As the compassion ministry arm of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), Send Relief expects the new facility will be a major boon to outreach efforts on the island.

“It’s not so much about the building, but it is about our testimony here on the island as to why we’re here,” said Send Relief President David Melber. “We’re here because God commands us and gives us the privilege to be here to be able to meet needs, to see lives change, to be able to share the hope of the Gospel and see a movement all across this island.”


NAMB photo
Government and Send Relief leaders prepare to break ground on the new ministry center. From left to right: Carlos Ferrer, North American Mission Board vice president; Hector Albertorio, Faith Based Partnership Liaison for Puerto Rico’s governor; Angel Perez, Guaynabo mayor; David Melber, Send Relief president; Juan Oscar Morales, representative for Puerto Rico’s speaker of the house; and Jonathan Santiago, Send Relief’s Ministry Center director.

In the aftermath of the historic impact of Hurricane Maria in 2017, Send Relief prioritized a response to the crisis and has continued sending volunteers to help homeowners rebuild. The new ministry center will expand the ministry’s ability to serve and equip mission teams who come to the island to meet needs and change lives through the power of serving communities.

“This gives hope to our people,” said Angel Perez, mayor of the municipality of Guaynabo, where the center is located. “In this moment, after two years and still having hundreds of families with blue tarps, with other needs, establishing this organization permanently here in Guaynabo gives hope for our families and through the whole island.”

Send Relief has established strong relationships with local government officials in Puerto Rico through their persistent presence, serving people affected by the massive storm. Volunteers have invested 12,278 days’ worth of service, engaged in 1,510 gospel conversations and seen 107 professions of faith.

Since the hurricane, Send Relief has helped distribute more than 760,000 meals, provided 1,134 water filtration kit and assisted in the clean-up or repair of 400 properties.

Ricardo Agudelo-Doval, a representative with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Faith & Opportunity Initiatives and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), called the ministry center something Puerto Rico has needed for a long time.

“This is not a recovery that’s going to be over in the next few years,” Agudelo-Doval said. “This is something that’s going to take a long time to finish, and having an organization as established, as important, with the background that Send Relief has, is an amazing opportunity for Puerto Rico.”

Architect’s rendering
Once construction is complete, Send Relief will have the capacity to house more than 100 short-term missionary teams at any given time as well as space for missions leaders.

Once construction is complete, Send Relief will have the capacity to house more than 100 short-term missionary teams at any given time as well as space for missions leaders. There will be a dining hall with a full, commercial kitchen as well as an event space that will seat between 100-120 people.

“The facility creates a permanent presence in Puerto Rico,” said Jonathan Santiago, Send Relief’s ministry center director in Puerto Rico. “It’s not just for relief efforts but for community engagement on behalf of Southern Baptists. We will run logistics from a centralized location, which will help facilitate ministry on the island.”

Melber said the permanent ministry center communicates a level of commitment to the residents of Puerto Rico.

“The fact that we’re still here, that Southern Baptists are still here, two years later and committing for the long term speaks volumes to the fact that we’re going to be here,” Melber said. “We want to embed ourselves in Puerto Rico, to know the culture and see these communities transformed.”

NAMB President Kevin Ezell noted the work in Puerto Rico revolves around starting new evangelistic churches and strengthening existing churches.

“We intentionally involve local pastors in the work the volunteers are doing,” Ezell said. “Meeting the physical needs is an urgent priority right now, but we know the larger, long-term need is spiritual, as it is everywhere. NAMB’s work will be all about the gospel as we share Jesus in Puerto Rico.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.)
8/21/2019 11:20:26 AM by Brandon Elrod, NAMB | with 0 comments

Ebola deaths & fears return to West Africa

August 21 2019 by Toni Braddix, IMB

The second-worst Ebola epidemic in history is taking place in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The disease has claimed more than 1,900 lives since the outbreak garnered World Health Organization (WHO) concern in August of last year. In the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, more than 11,000 deaths were recorded, according to WHO records.

WHO is reporting an average of 12 new cases of Ebola each day in the DRC, with the Congolese government estimating that only 50 percent of Ebola cases are being identified.

In mid-July, the Congolese city of Goma reported its first case of Ebola. With a population of 2 million, Goma is situated near the borders of Rwanda and Uganda. Because the city is a major transportation hub in the region, there are real concerns that Ebola may become an international problem.

Health care workers in all three countries are being trained extensively, and their governments are cooperating in efforts to contain the disease, but it is a serious and complicated issue, especially in the eastern DRC. In mid-August, cases were reported in a third province in the country.


Screen capture from CBS News
A health care worker enters an Ebola treatment facility in Democratic Republic of Congo. The second-worst Ebola epidemic in history is taking place in the eastern part of the country.

Churches in the DRC can help by caring for orphans and vulnerable children who are often stigmatized because of the effects of Ebola on their families. Churches also can positively impact their communities by spreading truths about Ebola and demonstrating good relations with treatment centers. In early August, Protestant churches in Goma provided hand washing stations at their facilities to promote a preventative measure as simple as this method of good hygiene.

Despite the efforts of faith leaders to convince their communities that Ebola is real and that there are ways to prevent its spread, decades of political instability, mistrust of government and preference of traditional remedies over what is offered at medical clinics have caused many people in the affected areas to refuse to seek treatment.

An International Mission Board (IMB) missionary who recently led a Bible storying seminar for Christian leaders just south of the DRC’s worst-hit areas asked one of the church leaders about Ebola, and the response was that it isn't a real disease – a belief held by an estimated 25 percent of people in the parts of the DRC most affected by the disease. The church leader believed the disease has been manufactured by political factions to reduce the population, which would then allow them to exploit the country's vast mineral wealth.

Because so many people wait until they are extremely ill to go to a treatment center, and therefore they are likely to die there, the centers have become unfairly regarded as places of death instead of places of recovery. Many who accept the reality of Ebola haven't had access to medical care because regional conflict and mistrust of health care workers has led to numerous casualties and the destruction of treatment facilities. The BBC reports there have been some 200 attacks against Ebola treatment facilities and health care workers this year.

The WHO's declaration of a public health emergency marks only the fifth time the agency has taken this action regarding any global health situation. It should help increase the amount of aid being directed to the Ebola epidemic. Already, stepped-up production of an effective vaccine is underway and the production of a second vaccine is in discussion. And in recent days, two drugs have been found to raise the survival rate to 90 percent in patients who receive the drugs when they still have low levels of the virus in their blood.

Larry Pepper, an IMB medical doctor in neighboring Tanzania who ministered during an Ebola outbreak in Uganda several years ago, suggests some ways we can pray for those in areas affected by Ebola:
  • Pray for the safety and courage of health care workers.
  • Pray for the sick to heal.
  • Pray for peace among the families who suffer from the stigma of being touched by Ebola in some way.
  • Pray against the lies and schemes of Satan regarding Ebola.
  • Pray for local churches to show Christ's mercy in their communities through services like material aid, food distribution and praying with and for health care workers.

Now a second man has died of Ebola in Goma, and his wife and one of his 10 children have confirmed cases. A pastor there says people are afraid. Perhaps their fear signals they accept the reality of Ebola and will take precautions. Pray they do so before it becomes too late.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Toni Braddix has served with the International Mission Board for nearly 38 years.)

8/21/2019 11:11:21 AM by Toni Braddix, IMB | with 0 comments

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