December 2011

Missions-minded grandma confronts thief – and wins

December 14 2011 by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) – They knew something was wrong when they spotted a strange car in their driveway.
 
A black Honda. No one was in it, but it was idling.
 
It was Nov. 8, Election Day. Roger and Vicky Simpson, a retired couple living in Louisville, Ky., had gone out to vote that morning. Afterward, they stopped at McDonald’s for breakfast, then headed home. They pulled in behind the Honda and walked around it, not sure what to do next.
 
“I thought, ‘This is weird,’“ recalled Vicky, a 61-year-old mother of three and grandmother of five. “I’m one of those who always thinks the worst. If it’s good I’m surprised and if it’s bad I’m prepared for it, I guess.”
 
Roger raised the garage door.
 
“I went into the house through the garage and noticed right away that the glass had been broken out of the door off of our deck,” said Roger, 64, who worked 37 years for the Kentucky Farm Bureau. “Little pieces of glass were all over the inside of the house.”
 
But he didn’t see anyone inside, or out back. He did see a large rock on the back deck, the apparent weapon used to break the door glass. Before calling the police, he figured he’d better warn his wife in case the intruder was still around. That black Honda was still idling, after all.
 
Vicky, meanwhile, was waiting in the driveway. Before Roger came back out, a young man walked around the far corner of the house into the front yard, carrying several items belonging to the Simpsons – including a plastic bucket full of coins.
 
“It was like he was out for a stroll,” Vicky said. “He was a little bit spaced out, I think. I’m not sure he was in his right faculties. He wasn’t out of his mind ... just real calm and in no big hurry.”
 
A little background on the coins in the bucket:
 
Vicky and Roger are members of Poplar Level Baptist Church in Louisville, the small congregation she has attended since childhood. They met there, got married there 42 years ago; most of their family members still go there. For years Vicky has led the GA (Girls in Action) mission discipleship group for girls in primary grades. It’s never been bigger than four or five girls. Only one or two currently participate, including one of the Simpsons’ granddaughters, 11-year-old Loren.
 
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Roger and Vicky Simpson, a retired couple living in Louisville, Ky.

Every year, the Poplar Level GAs join with the RAs (Royal Ambassadors, a mission group for boys) to raise funds for missions in the United States and around the world. They sponsor various projects, sell crafts and cookbooks and candy bars, save coins and collect change from a table they maintain at church to remind folks about missions. Last year, about half of the $1,200 Poplar Level contributed to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions came from the girls’ efforts.
 
“We’re a small church, but we’ve had several people who’ve come there and worked with the youth or music who have gone on to be missionaries, so missions has always been a thing for us,” Vicky said. “We’ve done pretty good for a little GA group. The church comes through in collections and anytime we do a special project ... we’ll send that for missions. Usually it’s change, so we have to count it and roll it and turn it in. That’s the fun part.”
 
The coins (plus some dollar bills) in the plastic bucket – about $200, by the Simpsons’ count – were intended for international missions through the Lottie Moon offering. Now the bucket was swinging from the hand of a casual thief who had other things in mind for the money.
 
Something about that rubbed Vicky the wrong way.
 
“It ticked me off, actually,” she said. “That’s a lot of work and a lot of saving, and he was probably going to do something with it that wasn’t nearly as important as Lottie Moon.”
 
Vicky doesn’t recommend what she did next to anyone in a similar situation. Nor do police, who typically urge citizens not to resist criminals who might do much worse than taking possessions if challenged. But she wasn’t about to let the mission money go without protest.
 
“He was pretty skinny,” Vicky said. “I believe I could’ve took him, but I don’t know. It didn’t come to that. I didn’t see a gun. I didn’t see a weapon. I just saw the money. And I thought, ‘No, that needs to stay here.’”
 
When the thief reached the idling car, where Vicky was still standing, she didn’t back away. “Put the bucket down,” she said.
 
He ignored her. Without saying a word, he opened the car door and got in with the loot.
 
“Put the bucket DOWN!” Vicky repeated.
 
He looked at her this time, apparently sensing she meant business.
 
“OK,” he replied after a moment, and set the bucket on the ground before closing the car door.
 
Roger came outside about that time. He and Vicky watched as the thief tried to steer the car out through the neighbors’ yard, hitting a utility box. He backed up and drove through the Simpsons’ yard. Roger jotted down the license plate number on the Honda and called the police. A patrolman responded, called in the license number and within an hour the thief and an accomplice had been spotted and stopped near a local Walmart. The Simpsons identified him to police and later recovered the other things taken from their home.
 
“We’re thankful that no one was hurt,” Roger said. “We feel the Lord blessed us with the outcome of it. Hopefully the young man has learned a lesson that will have a positive impact on him in the future.”
 
Vicky has taken some kidding from friends and church folks since the incident. Would she do the same again? She’s not sure. Things happened so quickly.
 
“I’m a pretty meek person. I’m a wimp actually,” she admitted. “I get braver as I get older, I guess. To stand up to somebody like that is not normally my personality. But I know how badly the missionaries need the money. It just ticked me off that day for some reason.”
 
That $200 might be a tiny part of the national goal of $175 million for the 2011 Lottie Moon offering. But missionaries will know there’s a Kentucky mama who was willing to do whatever it took to get it to the right place.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges is an international correspondent for the International Mission Board. This year’s Dec. 4-11 Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention focused on the theme of “His heart, His hands, His voice – I am Southern Baptist missions” from Acts 1:8. Each year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering supplements Cooperative Program giving to support Southern Baptists’ 5,000 international missionaries’ initiatives in sharing the gospel. This year’s offering goal is $175 million. To find resources about the offering, visit imb.org/offering.)
12/14/2011 8:15:39 PM by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Armenia experiencing revival, hopeful about future

December 14 2011 by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications

Armenia is a small country nestled between its much larger and predominately Muslim neighbors of Iran, Turkey and Azerbaijan. Situated at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, it is a nation with a unique and varied history, including a Christian tradition that dates to the apostolic age.
 
Sometimes referred to as the land of Noah, due to its proximity to the mountains of Ararat, Armenia’s population is 94 percent Christian (Armenia Apostolic Church). The Armenian Apostolic Church is a non-evangelical church with considerable influence inside Armenia. Only two percent of Armenian Christians are evangelical. 
 
Surrounded by large Muslim countries and largely void of evangelical Christianity, Armenia needs the gospel of Jesus Christ. North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM) is working hard to get the gospel to this country through its partnership with the Union of Evangelical Christian Baptist Churches of Armenia.
 
The partnership began in 2003 with an initial focus on construction. Through the coordinating efforts of NCBM, churches and associations from North Carolina began sending construction teams to Armenia to build church buildings for Armenian Baptists. The construction teams supplied the funding and labor that Armenian Baptists lacked to complete such projects.
 
The church buildings provide a public meeting place where Baptists can gather instead of meeting in private homes. Jim Burchette, NCBM Armenia Partnership Coordinator, said Armenian homes are not considered suitable for worship. “Most Armenians will not worship in a home. Most are too small and it’s against the social norm. They like to have a building where they can go to worship,” he said.
 
Another initial focus of the partnership was financial assistance for Armenian church planters and students at the Theological Seminary of Armenia. The seminary graduated its first class of 17 students in 2001.
 
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Contributed photo

Vacation Bible School is one of the most common ways North Carolina Baptists help in Armenia, a partnership with N.C. Baptist Men that began in 2003.

Financial assistance from North Carolina Baptists has enabled more than 300 students to graduate from the seminary since 2003, including 100 students from a Muslim country.
 
Asatur Nahapetyan, General Secretary of the Union of Evangelical Christian Baptist Churches of Armenia and Director of the Theological Seminary of Armenia, is grateful for the support from North Carolina Baptists and believes the partnership has sparked revival in Armenia. 
 
“We are so thankful for the partnership with North Carolina Baptist Men. Because of the partnership we have been able to start churches in areas where there was no gospel witness before,” Nahapetyan said. As the gospel of Jesus Christ is taking root, the partnership is expanding its focus.
 
“The construction teams and sponsorships for students and church planters are still an important part of the partnership,” Burchette said. “But in recent years, as the number of Baptists has grown, we have started sending additional teams to conduct Vacation Bible School, eye glass ministry, and training for church leaders and pastors.”
 
Vacation Bible School in particular has played an important role in the revival. “We have seen Vacation Bible School reach a lot of children and their parents with the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Burchette said.
 
Altogether, the construction teams, sponsorships and various ministry teams have helped fuel a significant growth in the number of Baptist churches and the number of Armenians who have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.
 
“Before the partnership we had 60 churches, seven church buildings and 2,000 Baptists,” Nahapetyan said. “Today we have 150 churches, 30 church buildings, an orphanage center and 5,200 Baptists.”
 
Armenian law forbids children from officially joining the church, thus the overall numbers are actually much higher. “At last count there were 10,000 Armenian children actively involved with Armenian Baptist churches. Many of them have also accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior,” Burchette said.
 
Although the numbers are encouraging, Burchette and Nahapetyan know the job is not complete. As a former Soviet Republic, Armenia’s economy has never fully recovered from the collapse of communism.
 
The sluggish economy means nearly all Armenian Baptist churches are dependent on outside help for survival.
 
“Of the 150 Baptist churches in Armenia, only four are financially independent,” Burchette said. The need is great, but so is the desire to see the gospel flourish in Armenia. “There are no plans to end the partnership,” Burchette said.
 
“We will continue to help build church buildings, support seminary students and strengthen existing churches in Armenia through continued funding of church planters. We will also do that through discipleship efforts such as Vacation Bible School led by North Carolina volunteers.”
 
Nahapetyan welcomed the continued support. “We need more teams to come and help us with Vacation Bible School, medical evangelism and house visiting with personal witness,” he said.
 
“And we need more construction teams to come to Armenia because many of these planted churches do not have places to meet.” Nahapetyan is hopeful for the future and thankful for the support already received.
 
“We are very blessed by North Carolina Baptists. This revival could not happen without you,” he said. “God needs you on mission.”
 
For more information about joining the work in Armenia contact Jim Burchette at jburchette@ncbaptist.org.
 
Learn about this partnership and other ministries online at baptistsonmission.org
12/14/2011 1:17:21 PM by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Glimpse of heaven seen at annual banquet

December 14 2011 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

This year’s Heavenly Banquet Nov. 8 offered a small picture of what heaven might look like.
 
With 160 participants from various tribes, tongues and nations, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) multicultural ministries offered participants a chance to learn from a multicultural church planter and a panel of experts working with various ethnic groups.
 
“If Jesus loves everybody, why then does the local church not reflect that,” said Derwin L. Gray, lead pastor of Transformation Church in Indian Land, S.C.
 
Gray played professional football with the Indianapolis Colts and Carolina Panthers. His multi-ethnic, multi-generational church was named the second fastest growing church by percentage and the 14th-fastest growing church by number of participants in America in 2010, according to Outreach magazine.
 
Known as the “evangelist linebacker,” Gray, who grew up in a Jehovah’s Witness home and attended a historically Baptist college in Texas, talked of God’s sense of humor.
 
Gray said he found his validity in playing football. His greatest fear was not being able to play.
 
It was through a Christian teammate that Gray began to learn about God’s love for him.
 
“The NFL would not teach me to love my wife,” Gray said, but God’s Word has opened up many avenues for him to learn how to be a better husband, father and pastor.
 
Gray said it was important for him to use different musical genres to reach a variety of people at Transformation Church.
 
“We dropped our preferences for the Prince of Peace,” he said.
 
“On that blood-soaked cross Jesus gave us His all. There’s only one race … the human race. Are we allowing the gospel … to fully integrate into our life?”
 
During the banquet, there was a panel of experts: Glenda Reece, international ministry coordinator at Forest Hills Baptist Church in Raleigh; Jairo Contreras, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Cristo Vive and New Hope Baptist Church; and Simon Touprong, pastor of Asian American Outreach in Greensboro. David Moore, BSC senior consultant, led the panel through a series of questions about their ministries.
 
Reece said Forest Hills ministers to at least 11 different people groups through its ministry.
 
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BR photo/Dianna L. Cagle

David Moore, left, Baptist State Convention senior consultant, leads panelists through questions relating to working with multi-ethnic churches. The panelists were: Glenda Reece, international ministry coordinator at Forest Hills Baptist Church in Raleigh; Jairo Contreras, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Cristo Vive and New Hope Baptist Church; and Simon Touprong, pastor of Asian American Outreach in Greensboro.

Reece admitted some resistance from the all-white congregation during the late 70s, early 80s, but the church held cross-cultural workshops to try to teach the congregation to love its neighbors.
 
“Our people have learned and felt good” to be part of this growing ministry, she said. “If God puts them on your doorstep it is a sin to walk blindly [over them].”
 
Being so close to North Carolina State University offers Forest Hills a front seat to international missions. “God did not call us to plant a perfect church,” she said.
 
Reece shared a story of a visiting professor from China who “desperately needed English.” The church offers English as a Second Language (ESL) classes using the Bible as an English book.
 
She advised people to make good on their promises. If they say it is an English class, teach English. Within four months, that professor went from not believing in a god to believing in the Almighty God.
 
When asked what the future church in America will look like, a frustrated look spread across Reece’s face.
 
“I would like to say the church of the future would look like this room, but we need to reach the people not in this room. Are we just preaching to the choir?”
 
Contreras ministers to mostly Central American people but his church has African-American and Anglo leaders participating to appeal to a wider audience. “Never give up,” Contreras urged. “Try your best.”
Churches should look at what the people in the community need and work on building a foundation through relationships.
 
Contreras would like to see fully integrated churches everywhere, but he realizes there are a lot of barriers with language and culture.
 
Touprong said he resisted God’s call to plant a church at first, but “following God’s will is much more important” than being comfortable. Starting in 2008 with just 12 people, Asian American Outreach didn’t experience much growth for about a year.
 
Then, God began to bring more people. Touprong advised flexibility to churches. He shared a story of an African-American visitor who started crying during the worship music.
 
Touprong moved the invitation to accommodate the Holy Spirit working in that man’s life.
 
In the future, Touprong said he hopes “to have every church a multicultural church.”
 
After the lunch Gray sold copies of his book – Hero: Unleashing God’s Power in a Man’s Heart. Gray and Ken Tan, BSC multicultural team leader, led a breakout session later that day on becoming a church for all people. 

12/14/2011 1:07:58 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments



Missionary couple perseveres through challenges in Rio de Janeiro

December 13 2011 by Tristan Taylor

RIO DE JANEIRO (BP)—His greatest fear: One day, he will go out to share the gospel and not come back.
 
IMB missionary Eric Reese serves on one of the most dangerous mission fields in South America — the gang-controlled favelas (slums) of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
 
“I wrote a letter to my wife,” Eric says. “I said, ‘Honey, if I don’t return, be strong. Let the girls know Dad’s going to miss them. That God’s got a plan for their lives, too.’”

Eric’s passion is taking the gospel to drug dealers, gang members and prostitutes on the city streets.
 
“I want to love and show those people that they’re not a forgotten people group,” he says. “They’re not an unimportant people to Christ. Everybody has the same value at the foot of the cross.”
 
Eric and his wife, Ramona, have served in Brazil since 1999 and have raised their daughters Gloria, 13, and Alicia, 9, in the megacity of Rio de Janeiro. The Reeses are from Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga.

Ramona works with women in the favelas and other low-income women in Rio. In the past few years, God has shifted her outreach to include middle-class wives and mothers she meets at the gym and at her daughters’ school and ballet practices.
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Eric Reese (right), an IMB missionary in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, visits the home of his friend Dona Lica (left) and her son David. Once, while Eric was ministering in their neighborhood of Cidade de Deus, a gunfight broke out between the police and a drug gang. As bullets began to fly, this woman pulled Eric into her home and threw herself on top of him to protect him. “I’ve lived a long life already,” she later told Eric. “But the world needs men like you.”


Though Ramona rarely enters violent neighborhoods with her husband, his being there affects the whole family.
 
“I think I was really naïve and didn’t really understand what was going on the first four years,” she says. “But then you start seeing people die — people that you know. And you understand what’s really going on. …”

That reality for Ramona hit home the night the police called Eric and asked him to serve as a mediator in a potential gunfight. He was the only person both sides trusted.

She didn’t want Eric to go, but she didn’t ask him to stay. She told her husband to follow God’s leading.

“I was so afraid. You know how when you’re just so afraid, you can’t do anything but pray?” Ramona asks.

Looking back, the Reeses realize how Eric’s decision to go that night opened doors to share about Christ.
 
“I don’t find that Jesus said, ‘If you’ve got people with guns in front of you, don’t share the gospel,’” Eric says. “I’m not going to let men stop me from sharing the gospel. No matter what the obstacles are, you see, the gospel has got to get to these people.”
 
When Eric first started ministering in Rio, he shared openly with his family about what he experienced. But he soon realized the effect it was having on his wife and children.
 
“When we speak to the girls about the risk factor that their daddy has to go through, [Eric] kind of leads us in that,” Ramona says. “If we just keep them safe and let them know the spiritual aspects of all of it, they’ll be fine. But we can’t tell them all the information, all the things that really, really happen. Then they’ll get scared and get nervous.
 
“There are certain things that, I think he knows now, he can’t tell me [either],” Ramona says.
The Reeses have been criticized for taking on such danger. But Ramona says such critics don’t understand the way God works in lives.
 
 ”I’ve learned to trust in the Lord and to trust my husband with the Lord. The Lord is the main person that’s got to be in charge of keeping him safe in what he does. And I’m fully confident in that.”
 
Erich says his family remains on the mission field because of everything Christ has done for them.
 
“When I think of what Jesus did for me — He was beaten, and He was spat upon for something He didn’t owe and something He didn’t do,” says Eric. “He died so that I could have a chance to be saved. … I’m willing to risk it all, seeing that He gave it all.”
 
Southern Baptists’ gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Cooperative Program help Southern Baptist missionaries around the world share the gospel. Give to the offering through your local Southern Baptist church or online at imb.org/offering, where there are resources for church leaders to promote the offering. Download related videos at imb.org/entirechurchvideo.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tristan Taylor served as an IMB writer in the Americas.)

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12/13/2011 2:08:09 PM by Tristan Taylor | with 0 comments



Interview with a Brazilian drug lord: A first-person account

December 13 2011 by Tristan Taylor

Four years ago, a drug lord called “The Godfather” wanted Eric Reese dead.
 
Reese, an IMB missionary in Brazil, works in the gang-controlled favelas (slums) of Rio de Janeiro. His ministry puts him in contact with prostitutes, drug dealers and gang leaders. Frequently, he finds himself in dangerous situations on streets where violence often rules. But Reese takes every step with faith, following God’s call to go wherever people need Jesus.
 
God has used Reese to do so much good in the favelas that Reese has earned a reputation for being a man everyone can trust. And during the past year, The Godfather has had a change of heart, inviting Reese to come share God’s Word with him on a monthly basis.
 
As my colleagues and I planned our media coverage to tell how God is using Reese and his wife, Ramona, in Rio, Reese asked if we would be willing to interview The Godfather.
 
Cautiously, we agreed and began the process of gaining access to him.
 
Weeks before arriving, we were asked to send in photos of ourselves, so The Godfather’s guards could recognize us. Then we had to submit our interview questions for approval ahead of time.
 
Finally, we traveled to Brazil, and on our second night in Rio, we piled into a car and headed out. The mood was tense as I sat with Reese, our photographer and two videographers. Reese, who is usually joking and talkative, was silent during the eerie drive into The Godfather’s favela.
 
Halfway there, Reese broke the silence and explained that part of the arrangement with The Godfather was that we wouldn’t know where the meeting was taking place. So Reese told us to close our eyes. We did so. And as we felt the car pull into the meeting place and stop, we heard Reese murmur, “My God!”
 
We wouldn’t learn why until later.
 
When Reese finally told us to open our eyes, a man with a ski mask covering his face stood by Reese’s window, shuffling through the pictures we had sent months earlier. In strained voices, Reese and the man talked back and forth about Brad, one of our videographers, who sat in the front passenger seat next to Reese. Finally, we were told to get out of the car.
 
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Eric Reese, an IMB missionary to Brazil, overlooks Rio das Pedras, one of the gang-controlled favelas (slums) in Rio de Janeiro where he ministers. Eric’s reputation as someone who has done good for the people in the favelas gives him access to share the gospel in communities that would be hard to reach otherwise.

We found ourselves in a shadowy, walled-in courtyard with a gate locked behind us. Men in ski masks surrounded us. They made us put our hands against the car so they could pat us down. Reese warned us that all around, just beyond the light, were men with AK-47s pointed at us. We quickly set up our equipment.
 
We had been told The Godfather would stand behind a table 15 yards away, and we would have to ask our questions from that distance. Just as we had expected, a man took his place at a distant table. We got our lights and cameras focused on him and I stood next to Reese, who was going to translate for us.
 
I spoke loudly to project my first question toward the man standing before us. But the answer came from right next to my ear.
 
As it turned out, the man behind the table was a decoy, and The Godfather had come up behind us. Our cameramen shuffled to adjust to the new situation as I continued the interview. We had been given only 10 minutes.
 
I asked The Godfather to describe what it is like to be a powerful man in his community.
 
“It’s really complicated,” he answered. “For you to be the boss in charge of a community, you need to respect to be respected. … You need to respect the older people and the children. Because it is not the fault of old people and the children that someone has to be in charge. It’s for their own welfare.”
 
Then I asked him to tell us about some of the hardships he has overcome in his life.
 
“I don’t know if I ever had a hard time in my life,” The Godfather said. “Because if you believe in God, you can achieve that which you need to do and more. I speak for myself, and I answer for myself. Why do I believe in God? Because I am a child of God.
 
“Those people who want to do the bad things — to me — they are like trees that don’t give good fruit, like in the Bible,” he continued. “When you cut down this tree, you stop it from making the other trees bad. This is what I believe about how God works.”
 
Lastly, I asked him why he allows Reese to share the gospel with him.
 
“Eric is a person that came and helped the community,” The Godfather said. “He didn’t come to help with the financial needs, but to bring the peace that many need. … And when someone comes with the Word of God, we have to support them because they are good people.”
 
Reese became emotional and choked up as he translated. The Godfather was expressing appreciation for him and the work he does. And in that moment, God showed Reese the reason for all the risks he had taken in his ministry. The man who once wanted him dead now was talking about seeing God work through him.
 
“Get your stuff,” Reese urged us. “The interview’s over. Let’s go.”
 
We had to close our eyes again for the drive back. Once we were out of the favela, Reese told us why he had murmured, “My God!” when we arrived.
 
As our driver, Reese was the only one with his eyes open when we pulled up to the meeting place. So he was the only one who saw, just inches outside the front passenger window, the barrel of an AK-47 being pointed directly at Brad’s head.
 
If any of us had broken the agreed-upon rules and had opened our eyes, we would have seen the gun. But because none of us reacted, The Godfather’s men knew we were obeying and could be trusted.
 
Our interview with The Godfather showed that he still has much to learn about how God works. But clearly his heart has been softened toward Reese and toward the gospel. Few people are given access to this man, but God has given Reese the unique opportunity to share Jesus with him regularly.
 
“When I look around Rio — and I see the violence and I see murders and I see rapes — I see a city that’s saying, ‘Can someone help me? Is there a better way?’” Reese says. “I see what this city needs most is people to show the love of God and to share the gospel. That’s the thing I see most.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tristan Taylor is an IMB writer in the Americas. This fall, Eric Reese shared that the Godfather had become a follower of Jesus Christ. Shortly afterward, the Godfather was assassinated by a rival gang.)

Related story
Missionary couple perseveres through challenges in Rio de Janeiro
12/13/2011 1:51:28 PM by Tristan Taylor | with 0 comments



Campbell breaks ground on new medical school

December 13 2011 by Campbell Communications

BUIES CREEK – One simple but powerful word was repeated during the Dec. 8 groundbreaking ceremony of Campbell University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine.

Big.
 
Fittingly, a big crowd gathered under a big tent at the site for Campbell’s 97,000-square-foot medical training facility Dec. 8 to see the ceremonial golden shovels break dirt on North Carolina’s first medical school in 35 years. More than a dozen speakers, including North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue, talked of what the school – scheduled to open in the fall of 2013 – will mean not only to the area’s economy, but to health care in general in North Carolina and the southeastern portion of the U.S.
 
“The question I’m always asked is, ‘How can North Carolina compete?’” Perdue said to the crowd of more than 250. “The answer is simple. We compete by having big ideas and big dreams. Campbell’s big dream will transform the town of Buies Creek, Harnett County and the state.”
 
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Photo courtesy of Bennett Scarborough

Gov. Beverly Perdue participated in the groundbreaking ceremony for Campbell University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine.

Campbell’s efforts to launch a medical school will directly address the growing shortage of physicians in North Carolina, according to Dr. John Kauffman, the school’s founding dean.
 
“Our state currently ranks 35th out of 50 in primary care physicians,” Kauffman said.
 
“There are 20 counties without a single general surgeon and at least that many without an obstetrician. The future, however, is bright.”
 
Kauffman said Campbell’s medical school will eventually graduate about 200 physicians and physician assistants each year, many of whom will practice in rural, under-served regions of the state. Students will spend their first two years training at the new facility in Buies Creek and Years 3 and 4 training at community hospitals, where he expects many will live and put down roots.
 
The primary focus of the School of Osteopathic Medicine will be training for primary care and family medicine, general surgery, pediatrics, psychiatry and other services, with an emphasis on rural areas or regions with little or no health care options.
 
That focus is important to Tim McNeill, chairman of the Harnett County Board of Commissioners. McNeill fought back tears Dec. 8 when talking about the school’s potential impact.
 
“It’s hard to believe there are still people in North Carolina who have to travel 80 miles to see a doctor,” McNeill said. “This is what many are dealing with, especially in the eastern portion of the state. This school, I believe, will alleviate this. This is truly the Lord’s work.”
 
He was equally emotional talking about the school’s immediate boost to Harnett County, which will also see a new 50-bed hospital open in Lillington in 2012. The regional economic impact of the medical school over its first 10 years of operation will be $300 million and 1,158 new jobs, according to a recent study.
 
“When Campbell announced its new medical school, they were sought by many counties … but they chose to stay here in Harnett County. And for that, we’re grateful,” McNeill said. “This school will take Harnett County to a new level.”
 
Billy Ray Hall, president of the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center in Raleigh, echoed McNeill’s remarks.
 
“It’s a win-win situation for us,” Hall said. “It will boost economic development with all the jobs, and it will provide a valuable health care resource. Campbell’s shown great vision in bringing this to fruition.”
 
Campbell also announced the name of its medical facility, the Leon Levine Medical Sciences Center, named for the Charlotte-area philanthropist and member of the North Carolina Business Hall of Fame.
 
“This will be a day long remembered,” Campbell President Dr. Jerry Wallace told the crowd. “I hope each of you can look back and say, ‘I was at Campbell the day they broke ground on new medical school, and it was a grand and glorious day.”
 
A “big” day, Wallace added.
 
“As Barney would say to Andy, ‘This is big,’” Wallace said, quoting “The Andy Griffith Show.” “We used that line back when we moved our law school to Raleigh … and if it’s possible, well … this is even bigger.”
12/13/2011 12:18:03 PM by Campbell Communications | with 0 comments



We’ve moved!

December 13 2011 by BR staff

The Biblical Recorder staff and Board of Directors is pleased to announce that we have moved our office into the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) building. Our last day in the Raleigh office was Dec. 16. With this move, we will help save Cooperative Program dollars as we combine some of our operational resources with the BSC headquarters.
 
Our new street address is 205 Convention Drive, Cary, NC 27511, and our new mailing address is P.O. Box 1185, Cary, NC 27512. Any mail sent to the old address will be forwarded. Our phone and fax numbers will remain the same.
 
As always, we welcome any questions and inquiries. We are here to assist North Carolina Baptists, but please be patient with us during our transition process as we may be difficult to reach during our first few days in Cary.
 
Contact the Biblical Recorder at (919) 847-2127, or e-mail Alison McKinney at alison@BRnow.org.
12/13/2011 12:13:32 PM by BR staff | with 0 comments



Companies pull ads from Muslim reality TV show

December 12 2011 by Omar Sacirbey, Religion New Service

(RNS) Lowe’s, the national hardware chain, has pulled commercials from future episodes of “All-American Muslim,” a TLC reality-TV show, after protests by Christian groups.

The Florida Family Association, a Tampa Bay group, has led a campaign urging companies to pull ads on “All-American Muslim.” The FFA contends that 65 of 67 companies it has targeted have pulled their ads, including Bank of America, the Campbell Soup Co., Dell, Estee Lauder, General Motors, Goodyear, Green Mountain Coffee, McDonalds, Sears, and Wal-Mart.
 
The group’s list of withdrawn companies could not be immediately independently verified.
 
“‘All-American Muslim’ is propaganda clearly designed to counter legitimate and present-day concerns about many Muslims who are advancing Islamic fundamentalism and Sharia law,” the Florida group asserts in a letter it asks members to send to TLC advertisers.
 
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RNS file photo courtesy Adam Rose/TLC

Members of the football team at Fordson High School in Dearborn, Mich., where a majority of the players are Muslim, pray before a game. The team and other Dearborn Muslims are featured in TLC’s new reality show, “All-American Muslim.”

“The show profiles only Muslims that appear to be ordinary folks while excluding many Islamic believers whose agenda poses a clear and present danger to the liberties and traditional values that the majority of Americans cherish,” the FFA’s letter continues.
 
It was not clear whether the companies cited by the Florida Family Association, which has also targeted shows like MTV’s “Degrassi,” stopped advertising on “All-American Muslim” because of pressure or for other reasons.
 
Emails from Home Depot and Sweet’N Low posted on the Florida Family Association’s website suggest the companies had simply bought one commercial spot, and didn’t cancel any commercials. 
A spokeswoman for Amway, also cited by the Florida group, denied the company pulled advertising from “All-American Muslim,” and said those reports were “misleading” and “falsely named” Amway.
 
Lowe’s acknowledged pulling commercials from “All-American Muslim” following consumer complaints, but denied they came from one group.
 
“We understand the program raised concerns, complaints, or issues from multiple sides of the viewer spectrum, which we found after doing research of news articles and blogs covering the show,” said Katie Cody, a Lowe’s spokeswoman.
 
Cody declined to specify whether the complaints were anti-Muslim, and whether Lowe’s advertises on shows with Christian, Jewish, or other religious characters or themes. “It is certainly never Lowe’s intent to alienate anyone,” Cody said.
 
“Shame on Lowe’s, and shame on every one of these companies if they really did cave in to such bigotry and hatred,” wrote Sheila Musaji, who blogs at theamericanmuslim.org. If the Florida Family Association and other reports are misrepresenting these companies, she added, “then they need to speak up.”
 
The first of eight weekly episodes of “All-American Muslim,” which follows five Lebanese families in Dearborn, Mich., premiered on Nov. 13.
 
A TLC spokeswoman, Laurie Goldberg, said the network could not comment about the alleged advertising defections, but that the show maintained “strong” advertising. “There are no plans to pull the show. The show is going to continue as planned,” said Goldberg.
12/12/2011 1:32:53 PM by Omar Sacirbey, Religion New Service | with 0 comments



Refugee center in Europe lacks funds but not opportunity

December 12 2011 by Beth Alexander

She is looking for a little good news.

Shirin has found her way to a refugee center in Europe run by Southern Baptist workers. A worker calls Shirin’s grown daughter in the U.S. — Shirin is desperate to reconnect.

Once a businesswoman in Kabul, Afghanistan, she also was a mom and a wife, married to a man with a prestigious government job. Then the Taliban showed up. They mercilessly killed her husband. Her children were taken from her and raised to hate her and the more culturally liberal way of life she embraced.

She eventually left Afghanistan, joining thousands of other refugees migrating through Iran, Turkey and Greece toward the hope of a better life.

Wandering is part of the nomadic history of many minority peoples of Central Asians. Sadly, running is part of it as well: running from war, persecution, discrimination, poverty.
“War! War! War!” laments the Hazara woman. “Why?”
 
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Christian workers in a European city teach English to refugees who are trying to make new lives for themselves.

The news from Shirin’s daughter is devastating. “Tell her I died 20 years ago” is the message she receives.

For a woman tired of running and longing for a home, the words strangle what little hope she has left.
 
Where is home? It is not with her daughter. It is not Afghanistan. It is not the refugee center in a country that neither welcomes nor supports immigrants.
 
Shirin wants freedom to live as she chooses and rest from the battles that have shredded her home and her family. She wants respect as a Hazara, a marginalized minority in Afghanistan.

She also is spiritually hungry. As she processes the news from her daughter, a Bible study begins at the refugee center. Suddenly breaking off a conversation, she moves toward the front of the room for a better seat.
 
Southern Baptist workers find that many refugees like Shirin are eager for the Good News of Jesus’ love. Many have lived in places where the gospel message is not welcomed.
 
However, once they begin living as modern-day nomads, they are eager to hear the words of One who points them toward an everlasting home.
 
Eventually, when the refugees arrive at their destinations — France, England or Germany, for instance — their openness to the gospel tends to evaporate as they settle into Central Asian expatriate communities. They find mosques and other familiar support systems.
 
“France provides lodging and food,” explains a Southern Baptist worker. “They can settle into a sort of normalcy there. Here they have nothing; they are vulnerable.”

The refugee center that welcomed Shirin has been open for six years. Each week, it provides meals for about 500 people and distributes approximately 150 bags of staple groceries to needy families. Other ministries at the center include clothes distributions, worship services, Bible studies and language classes.

The center used to provide showers but that ministry was cut as a result of Lottie Moon Christmas Offering budget shortfalls. The workers use some of their personal support funds received through the offering to maintain some of the other ministries.

Convinced of the strategic importance of refugee ministry, workers at the center are committed to making do with what funds they have. They saw 70 baptisms in one year as a result of their outreach, and they are witnessing the growth of a Persian church led by Persian believers in their midst.
 
Refugees are not required to stay for the Bible studies offered at the center, but they often do so.

Shirin stayed.
 
Despite the bad news she received — or perhaps because of it — she sits on the edge of her chair waiting to be encouraged. A Persian pastor who was once a refugee himself speaks of the hope she seeks — from a God who is faithful — using Hebrews 10 as his text.

Jesus made it possible for people to run into the arms of God, the pastor explains.
 
“Jesus came to give life, not war,” he says.

To learn more about Central Asian refugees, go to imb.org/wp/europeancity.
 
Southern Baptists’ gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Cooperative Program help Southern Baptist workers around the world share the gospel. Give to the offering through your local Southern Baptist church or online at imb.org/offering, where there are resources for church leaders to promote the offering. Download related videos at imb.org/entirechurchvideo.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Beth Alexander is an IMB writer living in Central Asia.)

Related story
Young refugees journey through trauma toward hope
12/12/2011 1:06:38 PM by Beth Alexander | with 0 comments



Young refugees journey through trauma toward hope

December 12 2011 by Beth Alexander

Many Afghan families, desperate for a better life, pay fortunes to a highly developed network of smugglers who help them escape difficult situations. Often they send their children alone to freedom before the rest of the family can follow.

A quick scan of a refugee center in southern Europe tells the story. The ratio of children to adults is about 11-to-1. A toddler wrestles with his mom, hoping to win the pencil she is using to take notes during a language class.
 
A teenage boy, hair falling over his eyes, stands in the back of the room. He’s come for the food, but he stays for the company. Unable to attend school and afraid of being caught without a passport, he finds the refugee center a safe place to find companionship.
 
The center, manned by Southern Baptist workers, offers practical help to families. The youngest children play with plastic farm animals while older siblings color pictures of superheroes and butterflies. Their parents are freed up for a few minutes to participate in English classes. After a meal, they are invited to stay for Bible study; at least half do so.
12-10-11european2.jpg

A woman from Afghanistan talks with workers in a European city about her day.


One Hazara family from Afghanistan is eager to stay. They have been the recipients of two life-changing gifts during their migration. The first, a Bible, was given to the young father in a seemingly unlikely place: Iran. The second gift came from Christian workers in Europe who realized the man’s son needed glasses.
 
Through the kindness of strangers, the family was drawn to the refugee center where the gospel is preached daily.
 
Now this family chooses to worship with the Persian church in town. Though they are in limbo — immigrants who have yet to find a home — they are settled and free in a way they have never been before.
 
Most Afghan and Iranian refugees are not on the move by choice. Threats and persecution drive them to seek a better life, a safer home, particularly for their children.
 
Dina is a mother who fled Iran after her husband was arrested for crimes against the state. She would have been arrested as well had she stayed, and there would have been no one to care for her 2-year-old daughter. In six months she has heard nothing of the fate of her husband, and she may never know whether he was imprisoned or killed.
 
Dina was able to escape with her child, but other parents have no choice but to send their older children to Europe alone with the aid of smugglers. Workers at the refugee center tell about a 14-year-old boy who came through on his way from Afghanistan to France. He had an uncle there with whom he hoped to connect, but he was traveling without parents or siblings. His story is typical.
 
Almost every family has a traumatic story. One Afghan family of six fled Iran because of discrimination and limitations on their children’s schooling. They could not receive an education beyond grade 5.
 
After nearly two years in Turkey, they were smuggled by boat to Greece. The large family was separated in the course of the journey, and two of the children went missing.
 
“The mother has cried so many tears that she cannot cry anymore,” explains a Southern Baptist worker. “She has no idea where her 12- and 14-year-old children are. She was told — I guess by the smuggler — maybe they are in France.”
 
Another mother of a 6-year-old boy tells of her journey: “It was very bad; our suffering was so great. We went across the mountains and now my son is afraid of the mountains; he is afraid of the police. He does not want to go outside. He can no longer control himself.”
 
The trauma has left the boy incontinent. “We, the pastor and a Persian worker laid hands on the little boy and prayed for his healing. Please pray with us,” the worker says.
 
She adds: “Only God can give these people life and hope. I am thankful to hear their stories. How else can I begin to have a heart with the compassion needed to minister to them?”
 
Southern Baptists’ gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Cooperative Program help Southern Baptist workers around the world share the gospel. Give to the offering through your local Southern Baptist church or online at imb.org/offering, where there are resources for church leaders to promote the offering. Download related videos at imb.org/entirechurchvideo.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Beth Alexander is an IMB writer living in Central Asia.)

Related story
Refugee center in Europe lacks funds but not opportunity

12/12/2011 1:02:41 PM by Beth Alexander | with 0 comments



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