December 2011

First-Person: An inside look at human trafficking

December 8 2011 by Martha Richards

SOUTH AFRICA (BP)—The odors of liquor, smoke and sweat permeate the air. One small bulb lights the alleyway. Traffic is light on the main road, but this side street keeps busy.

“Mister!” yells a young woman to a car driving past. “You’re the daddy. I’m your little girl, and I got what you want right here!” Another woman hides in the shadows, quietly crying. The pimps’ laughter rises as they share jokes while smoking and playing cards.

Two young women share a bottle of alcohol to give them courage to approach the cars driving through the side street. A client parks in the shade, waiting for a woman to join him in the backseat. Another client follows a woman into her pimp’s apartment. Thirty minutes later the man leaves.

One after another the clients pick up the women, but somehow there is an endless supply. As one woman leaves, another arrives. Two young women stand in the shadows, hesitant and afraid. Suddenly a pimp approaches and provides them with more drugs. The women begin to sell themselves again.

I was convinced I could never end up in a situation like these women — hooked on drugs and alcohol, forced into prostitution and sold from one man to another. I could never be a slave. I could never be trafficked.

One afternoon with a pimp in the park changed my perspective. I knew who he was and what he did. He knew nothing about me.

Charntel Paile (right), an outreach worker who ministers to prostitutes in South Africa, visits with Najia, a trafficking victim, before Najia is admitted to a drug rehabilitation facility. Unfortunately, after the six-week program was complete Najia's trafficker convinced her to return to a life of prostitution.

Diallo* was adept at slyly pulling information about my life and passions. I’m not hesitant in sharing my faith, and soon Diallo learned I’m a Christian. Moments later, he invited me to attend church with him.

The scenario is all too common. A strong, handsome young man meets a single woman. He is lively and charming. Best of all, he says he’s a Christian. New to the area and looking for friends, it would be easy for a woman to fall into his grasp. The innocence of the moment can soon turn into a nightmare.

Just one prearranged meeting is all he needs. An unopened drink that’s already been drugged, a friend or two lying in wait or a short walk down a deserted street. He takes you, arranges for men to rape you, forces you to take drugs and then, once you are under his control, he sells you to someone in another city or country.

Through a fellow Christian in the area who has a ministry to these women, I’ve learned that approximately 90 percent of the women working the streets of South Africa’s urban centers are trafficked — deceived, taken against their will, sold and transported into slavery.

One of these young women, Lisha,* invited me inside her small, bare apartment — no bigger than a dorm room. The only “furniture” was a blow-up mattress. The dirty kitchenette was dimly lit, and dust gathered along the floor. A moment passed before I realized Lisha and I were not alone.

Kaniz* was curled into a ball in the corner of the room, weeping silently. Her pimp had recently purchased her in another South African city. Lisha immediately became Kaniz’s protector, taking her beatings and making sure that only “good” clients picked her up. But Kaniz had just learned she was going to be sold again and separated from Lisha — her only friend.

Lisha and Kaniz desperately want to escape this life of forced prostitution. So why don’t they leave it all behind?

Their lives are not their own.

“[The pimps] just tell you in your face — straight — ‘There’s your house, here’s your wake-up [time], go to the streets next.’ And you can’t say nothing,” said Lisha. “You are far from your [home]. You must go, no matter what, whether you like it or not. It’s by force. … And if you don’t want to go, they beat you well. And you still have to go out after they beat you.”

Alcohol and drugs become the only “relief” in their lives. “Heroin is a very complicated drug,” said Kaniz. “You must smoke it so it doesn’t give you time to think about anything important in your life.”

The night after visiting Kaniz and Lisha, I found myself standing in an alley with 13 other women. It was after 10 p.m., and most of them had already been working for more than 12 hours. As always, the pimps were within view. I leaned against the fence, absorbing the sights and sounds of the “business.”

Periodically the women stepped away from the curb to join me at the fence for companionship and conversation. “It’s my birthday,” said Najia.* “You’re the first person I’ve told.”

Little did I know that a few weeks later my Christian friend and I would be helping Najia escape from her pimp to join a drug rehabilitation program. I broke into tears the day I found out that Najia’s pimp — whom she called her boyfriend — convinced her to return to him after six weeks of successful rehab. Her need for love made her vulnerable to the very man who bought her, abused her and forced her to sell her body to others.

Many of these girls have never received genuine love. They desperately need to know the love of Jesus.

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, where there are resources for church leaders to promote the offering. Download related videos at

*Name changed

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Martha Richards is an IMB missionary serving in Sub-Saharan Africa.)
12/8/2011 1:00:07 PM by Martha Richards | with 0 comments

Billy Graham released from hospital

December 7 2011 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

ASHEVILLE – Evangelist Billy Graham was released from the hospital Tuesday, six days after being admitted with pneumonia.

A statement from Mission Hospital in Asheville, N.C., said Graham had made “good clinical progress” in his response to antibiotics and had “advanced daily” in showing increased strength and mobility. Graham was admitted Wednesday, Nov. 30. He also spent four nights in the hospital in May with pneumonia.

“We are gratified that he has had a good response to treatment and we’re committed to good home care to continue his improvement,” Graham’s personal physician, Lucian Rice, said in a statement.

Graham also expressed thanks to people for thinking of him and praying for him.

“I am grateful for the many thoughts and prayers expressed by individuals across the country and around the world during my stay at Mission Hospital,” Graham was quoted as saying. “I also appreciated the wonderful treatment I received here from such caring doctors and nurses, and feel I have made some new friends. But I am especially looking forward to seeing my home decorated for Christmas and spending the holidays with members of my family.”

Graham will continue physical therapy at home, the hospital statement said, with the “goal of returning to normal activities in the coming weeks.” Those activities include, the hospital said, “resuming his next writing project, summarizing the message he has proclaimed for more than 60 years, incorporating thoughts and discussions on that topic that occurred during his hospitalization.”

12/7/2011 2:32:15 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

NCBM rely on volunteers, funds to operate

December 7 2011 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

North Carolina Baptists are known for their heart. That’s evident to the many peoples that have been ministered to by the North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM).
“Thousands of people have found out that God cares about them” through the efforts of Baptists from the state, said Richard Brunson, NCBM executive director. “I get to see what He’s doing every day.”
Brunson shared a report Nov. 8 with messengers during the 2011 Baptist State Convention of North Carolina annual meeting in Greensboro. He mentioned a visit a few years ago to a hurricane site coordinator.
One of the people said, “I’ve lived in this town all my life, and I didn’t know there was a Baptist church [here].”
Brunson thought to himself, “She’ll never forget that Baptist church.”
In 2011, N.C. Baptists responded to 19 different disasters, including April 16 tornadoes and Hurricane Irene.

Richard Brunson, Executive Director of N.C. Baptist Men, shared a report Nov. 8 with messengers during the 2011 Baptist State Convention of North Carolina annual meeting in Greensboro.

Funds to support Baptist Men are collected through the North Carolina Missions Offering.
Brunson estimated that more than 30,000 volunteer days have been worked with 278,000 meals served. More than 3,300 disaster relief projects have been completed, and thousands of showers and loads of laundry completed.
During a session Nov. 7, Brunson introduced messengers to visitors from Armenia (see story, page 10), Haiti and India who would be at the exhibit hall booths during the meeting. These are three of many partnerships that the Baptist Men lead.
Since January 2010, more than 1,200 volunteers have gone to Haiti to help with relief and recovery efforts. Medical volunteers have seen more than 116,000 patients and 1,400 have come to know Christ.
In India, more than 850 wells have been drilled through the work with Transformation India Movement (TIM). Most of the 100 million people living in Bihar, India, among 45,000 villages, do not have access to clean drinking water. Less than half of 1 percent of the population are Christians.
“I believe it is the responsibility of every believer to help them to hear about Jesus at least once,” said Biju Thomas, TIM’s leader.
Because of North Carolina Baptists, Thomas reported that 114 villages have been adopted, and 39 church planters are traveling to remote villages in hopes of planting churches.
Before N.C. Baptists got involved in Armenia, there were 60 churches, seven buildings and 2,000 Baptists. But Asatur Nahapetyan, general secretary of the Union of Evangelical Christian Baptist Churches of Armenia and director of the Theological Seminary of Armenia, said the numbers have increased since volunteers have been helping. The country now has 150 churches, 30 buildings and 5,200 Baptists.
Baptist Men debuted its latest medical/dental bus during the annual meeting. The $450,000 vehicle was available outside the Koury Convention Center for tours. The medical/dental ministry is one of many ways Baptist Men find to serve the state and beyond. N.C. Baptists have partnerships with 14 different states along with several countries and several focused ministries like the mission camps, aviation, educators and more.
“People know that N.C. Baptists care about them, but more importantly God cares about them,” Brunson said.
12/7/2011 2:24:43 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Unreached people groups in London bring challenges to missionaries

December 7 2011 by Elaine Gaston

LONDON (BP)—Descend into the extensive London underground transport system and only station names on tiled walls tell what lies above ground.

Signs for “Victoria” and “Waterloo” signal bustling railway stations above. Climb the steps from the Oxford and Piccadilly Circus underground stations to reach premier shopping districts in the City. The Green Park station exit leads to a walk through tree-lined park paths to the ornate gates of Buckingham Palace.

Passengers squeezing onto the crowded trains also hint at what lies above; they vary according to the neighborhoods and boroughs that the trains speed through.

Well-tailored businessmen reading the Financial Times appear in lines snaking through the business district or near Canary Wharf. Ride the District line to the Embankment stop and tourists fill the car, clutching maps and guidebooks, ready for their first glimpses of Big Ben. Head toward East London and the passenger balance shifts to Muslim women wearing hijabs and men, many bearded, wearing skull caps. Ride the underground tracks westward on the Central line and South Asians may predominate as the line heads toward “Little India.”
Pockets of unreached peoples in urban environments like London bring unique challenges to missionaries as they look for ways to build relationships and effectively share the Gospel. London, Europe’s largest urban zone, demonstrates the reality that more than 50 percent of the world’s population now live in urban centers like this centuries-old city. The London-based National Centre for Languages estimates that schoolchildren in London speak more than 200 languages.

For Tony Collins,* an IMB (International Mission Board) worker, moving to London became a strategic decision when he and his wife, Christine,* discovered they could not return to Central Asia. They had served there for six years, learning the language and living among the people to whom God had called them to share the Good News. But medical issues with one of their children forced them to move.

Arab youth call for Shariah Law in the UK during a protest in front of 10 Downing Street, the prime minister’s residence. As the headquarters of the British government, Downing Street is a frequent venue for protests in London.

Tony and Christine prayed about five different cities that had significant populations of their people group. They visited the strongest contenders, which included Moscow, Athens and London.

London best fit what they were looking for. Here they can connect with their people group by working in the communities where Central Asians live, by visiting local holding facilities for Central Asian refugees and by providing language help to immigrants learning to operate in an English-speaking environment.

“What I’ve learned is, if you get to know five Central Asians, and you really get to know them well and their families, you don’t really need to (seek out) more,” Tony says. Because Central Asians are such relational people, once there is a foundation of trust and understanding in a relationship, the connections go deep, he explains. “Then you get connected with all their relatives, all their friends. It really travels fast.”

With London’s urban zone of nearly 12 million, it’s this convergence of cultures, peoples and religions from all over the world that makes London the mission field it is today.

Learn more about London at The city is the focus of the International Mission Study 2011 by Woman’s Missionary Union.

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, where there are resources for church leaders to promote the offering. Download related videos at

*Name changed

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Elaine Gaston is a freelancer who writes about people groups in Central Asia and North Africa for IMB.)

12/7/2011 2:19:59 PM by Elaine Gaston | with 0 comments

High court permits NYC schools to ban churches

December 7 2011 by Todd Starnes/Fox News & Commentary High court permits NYC schools to ban churches

NEW YORK CITY (BP) – The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an evangelical church’s plea to overturn New York City’s ban on renting public schools for religious worship services. That means the city now has a green light to begin evicting congregations that pay rent to use public school buildings for church services.

The Supreme Court’s Dec. 5 decision not to hear the case leaves in place a federal appeals court ruling that upheld the city’s policy.

The court case involved the Bronx Household of Faith, a church that has paid weekly rent to hold worship services at a public school since 2002. The church, along with five dozen other congregations, was allowed to continue worshipping at public schools pending the outcome of the lawsuit.

“It’s a sad day for religious liberty,” said Jordan Lorence, the church’s attorney and senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund. “Churches and other religious groups should be allowed to meet in public buildings on the same terms as other community groups, and they’re being denied that in New York City.

“The Supreme Court’s decision not to review this case is befuddling because it has already ruled multiple times in other equal access cases that the First Amendment protects religious worship the same as secular speech.”

Lorence said churches will have to vacate public schools after services on Jan. 1.

“What’s odd about this is that of the top 50 school districts in the nation, New York City is the only school district that has a policy banning worship services,” Lorence said. “It does not show respect for religious liberty.”

The immediate impact means dozens of Christian churches will have to find a new place to hold services.

“A lot of churches are going to be homeless,” said George Russ, executive director of the New York Metropolitan Baptist Association. He said about seven of the 220 Southern Baptist churches in the city will be impacted by the decision.

Russ said churches will be scrambling to rent hotel space, banquet halls and movie theaters.

“It’s going to be a lot more money,” he said.

“The odd thing is these [churches] have blessed the schools they’ve been in,” Russ said. “They all have good relationships with the schools they’ve been in. They’ve purchased furniture for the teacher’s lounge; they’ve given video equipment to the schools. They’ve done so many thank-you kinds of projects.”

Though it excludes religious groups, the New York City school board’s policy permits private organizations to use school facilities for reasons that benefit the community. In addition to the 60 or so churches that meet weekly in the city’s public schools, non-Christian religious groups use school buildings with less frequency.

In a 2-1 decision in June, a Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled allowing churches to use schools resulted in an “unintended bias in favor of Christian religions” – since most Christian churches worship on Sunday.

“Jews and Muslims generally cannot use school facilities for their services because the facilities are often unavailable on the days that their religions principally prescribe for services,” Second Circuit judge Pierre Leval wrote in the panel’s decision. “At least one request(ed) to hold Jewish services (in a school building used for Christian services on Sundays) was denied because the building was unavailable on Saturdays. This contributes to a perception of public schools as Christian churches, but not synagogues or mosques.”

Leval also took issue with the evangelical church’s membership. “Bronx Household acknowledges that it excludes persons not baptized, as well as persons who have been excommunicated or who advocate the Islamic religion, from full participation in its services,” he wrote.

It all boiled down to a key point, the judges decided. “In the end, we think the board could have reasonably concluded that what the public would see, were the Board not to exclude religious worship services, is public schools, which serve on Sundays as state-sponsored Christian churches,” Leval wrote.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Todd Starnes is the host of Fox News & Commentary, heard daily on Fox News Radio stations around the nation. He is the author of “They Popped My Hood and Found Gravy on the Dipstick” and the upcoming “Dispatches From Bitter America.” This article first appeared at Used by permission. With reporting from the Associated Press.)
12/7/2011 2:15:01 PM by Todd Starnes/Fox News & Commentary High court permits NYC schools to ban churches | with 0 comments

Pakistani Christians thank pioneer missionaries for bringing them the gospel

December 6 2011 by Goldie Frances

KARACHI, Pakistan (BP) — Aadam Channar* was only a young boy quietly listening in the shadows when Baptist missionary Hu Addleton first brought the gospel to his Hindu tribal village in the Sindh province of Pakistan.

“They stay all night with us. [The] whole night they shared … telling about Jesus Christ, why He came, what He [had] done for us,” Channar recounted. “The next day, my father says, ‘I want [to] accept Jesus Christ,’ so Mr. Addleton baptized him.”

The urgent invitation to visit the Marwari village came just after Addleton, with the help of his wife, Bettie, had overcome a struggle to not give up and return to the States.

“There were only two or three that I’d baptized after four years,” Hu Addleton said. “I got so discouraged. I got malaria and got hepatitis and I got depressed, and I said to Bettie, ‘We’re going home!’ So we went to Karachi to make our plans to go home. Then she said, ‘You go. I’m not going. I’m gonna stay here.’ And so we didn’t go home.”

In all, Hu and Bettie Addleton served 34 years in Pakistan. When they first went to Pakistan in 1956, Southern Baptists did not yet have work there, so they joined the Conservative Baptist Foreign Mission Society, now WorldVenture. Their last 10 years in Pakistan, they served in Karachi with the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board.

“Karachi is the largest city in Pakistan,” Hu Addleton said. “When we arrived there [in 1956], it was a million population. Now it’s 17 to 18 million. It is a picture of the whole country, because you have every ethnic group living in Karachi.”

Jamin Thomas* was born in Karachi and raised in a Catholic family here, but he did not have a personal relationship with Jesus. He met Hu and Bettie Addleton when he interviewed for a job running errands for a church that the Addletons founded.

“I was thinking that this was just a job. … Someone like me, who came from a private, secular circle, had all kinds of attitude,” Thomas said. “They always responded back to me in love. They not only showed me love through their actions but through Scripture also. By going every Sunday to church, I started hearing the sermons, which were totally different.”

A young man’s headband declares his allegiance to Pakistan as he celebrates Independence Day in Karachi. The song “Dil Dil Pakistan,” or “Heart Heart Pakistan,” was first made popular when the band Vital Signs released it in 1987, 40 years after Pakistan officially partitioned from British India Aug. 14, 1947.

Thomas eventually accepted Jesus as his Savior and has since helped lead his own father to the Lord as well as his wife, his son and several other family members. Thomas now shepherds two house churches in Karachi that reach out to families of all religious backgrounds.

“I love Karachi. Karachi is a place where mixed people are,” Thomas said. “This is the real heart of Pakistan.”

Channar came to Karachi, at God’s command, to serve as a Christian evangelist.

“I heard in Karachi is our country’s biggest city, [and] no one [is] reaching Sindh peoples [here]; so God gave me this vision: ‘Go [to] Karachi. Leave your home, area, village.’ So God sent me here,” Channar said. “That’s why I am in Karachi.”

Hu and Bettie Addleton retired from the IMB (International Mission Board) in 1994 and now live in Macon, Ga., but conversations they have, prayer requests they share, meals they serve and even the décor of their home give evidence that the peoples of Pakistan remain embedded on their hearts. Reports about how the Lord continues the work through Pakistani believers like Channar and Thomas absolutely delight them.

“It is so encouraging to think how far it’s come from when we went there to now,” Bettie Addleton said. “It seems that the door is wide open like we never dreamed it to be open — the house churches, people meeting and praying and, you know, having wonderful work that the Lord is doing.”

The Addletons encourage Southern Baptists to continue giving through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.

“Continue to spread the gospel among the Muslim people and the tribal people in the province of Sindh,” Hu Addleton said. “I thought with the suffering that the church in Pakistan is experiencing that it would die out, but the suffering has brought those Christians alive, spiritually, and we ought to continue to pray for them and to challenge people to go.”

Thomas, who has received training through Southern Baptist giving and teaching, is grateful for the Addletons and other Southern Baptists who have come to Karachi in obedience to the Lord.

“It was all God’s plan,” Thomas said. “The way Pastor Hu and Bettie worked in my life, I will never forget.”

Channar’s heart overflows as well. Hu Addleton led Channar’s father to the Lord in the 1960s. Years later, Addleton discipled Channar when Channar asked to be baptized. In 2010, Channar’s 17-year-old son decided to follow Jesus, taking the legacy to a third generation.

“They brought [the] gospel for our people,” Channar said, “and we are thankful to God.”

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, where there are resources for church leaders to promote the offering. Download related videos at

*Name changed

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Goldie Frances serves among South Asian peoples with IMB. Bettie Rose Addleton’s book, “The Day the Chicken Cackled: Reflections on a Life in Pakistan,” is available through CrossBooks, a division of LifeWay, at and through other online booksellers.)
12/6/2011 2:46:28 PM by Goldie Frances | with 0 comments

N.C. Baptists leaders ask messengers if they’re ‘All In’

December 6 2011 by Dianna Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

North Carolina Baptists are not alone in losing sight of their primary objective.
Just like the people in Ephesus, Greg Mathis says Paul’s words are relevant to N.C. Baptists. He was calling the people back to their primary objective: spreading the gospel.
“They had forgotten that God loved everyone,” said Mathis, pastor of Mud Creek Baptist Church in Hendersonville. “When it comes to the Great Commission of Jesus Christ it is unfortunate that we even have to ask,” he said, referring to the “All In” theme of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) annual meeting Nov. 7-8. The two–day meeting brought together messengers from across the state to make decisions about BSC business and to discuss the “All In” theme, which centered around 1 Timothy 2:3-6.
“Sadly some Christians choose the sin of silence,” Mathis said. He said messengers are living in a “society that believes all religions lead to the same God.” A clear message rings out through scripture for believers to not let other religions be more aggressive.
Jesus’ life and death became a conduit for God’s forgiveness for sinners.
“Shouldn’t we be ‘All In’ to get the message out,” Mathis emphasized.
At each session there was a speaker and someone who led messengers in prayer focused around the theme.
Mathis spoke during the first session Nov. 7. Bartley Wooten, pastor of Beulaville Baptist Church, led the prayer time. Wooten called messengers to pray:
• For harvest for those who do not know Christ.
• For workers.
• That God will give us a heart of compassion.
Wooten had messengers pair off for prayer and asked God to “break our hearts for the lost. “Lord please use this great convention to bring glory and honor to your name.”
Clinton Pressley, senior pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, led off the first session Nov. 8 addressing how God reveals Himself in scripture beyond general revelation to specific revelation.
“[Jesus] rose again to convince them to be ‘All In’,” Pressley said.
“Christ is the avenue that God speaks. He didn’t just forgive our sins. He purified us. He’s not only taken our sin away, He’s taken the stain away.
“Because He is ‘All In,’ I am ‘All In.’”
Pam Blume, who works with BSC’s Embrace Women’s ministry and is the wife of Biblical Recorder Editor K. Allan Blume, led messengers in prayer through Psalm 67:1-3, emphasizing four separate elements:
• Praise Him for His graciousness
• Thank Him for the blessings we have already received
• Ask that He may look on us with favor
• Commit ourselves to see His salvation among all the nations beginning here in North Carolina.
“It is our Father’s desire that all will come to know Him,” Blume said.
Merrie Johnson, who works in student evangelism at the convention, brought sand from Fort Caswell, North Carolina’s Baptist Assembly on Oak Island.
She leads the youth weeks each summer at Caswell, which this year focused on identity.
“As I walk that beach every summer I love to look back to see my footprints,” Johnson said, sharing that everyone likes to leave “an impression that lasts.”
Johnson, who is celebrating her 10th anniversary at the Convention, said around 74,000 students have been to Caswell during her tenure.
Of those, over 7,500 are now Christians and 45,000 recommitments have been made. More than 2,000 have expressed some sort of call to ministry.
“It’s not about me,” she said. “It’s about God working in and through me.”
Johnson led youth to focus on packaging food for Haiti.
The goal was to raise $40,000 and have youth pack 160,000 meals.
Instead, the youth raised $60,000 and packed 220,225 meals.
“That’s a go-God thing,” Johnson said.
Next year, the goal is 300,000 meals.
“What kind of impression do you leave?” Johnson queried.
“All together, all of us in, we can do amazing things. It’s about God working in and through us.”
Jairo Contreras, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Cristo Vive and New Hope Baptist Church, said his members like to pray.
“We should be praying with a clean heart and a pure mind,” said Contreras.
“If God receives us He will receive our prayers.”
Al James, professor of missions at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and pastor of Carey Baptist Church in Henderson, urged messengers to cry out for the nations. James said being “All In” was not a joking matter, “or are we playing spiritual cards while people are doing without the gospel and going to hell?”
Referring to Romans 9:1-3, James said, “If Paul was willing to give up his salvation, there was nothing he was not willing to sacrifice.”
Closing out the final theme highlight with prayer, Brad Lynch, pastor of North Albemarle Baptist Church, focused on John 17:20-26.
He asked messengers to focus on unity.
“Is there anyone that you are not one with,” Lynch asked.
“I pray for a holy, spiritually infused oneness.”
12/6/2011 2:38:24 PM by Dianna Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Merry Christmas from your Biblical Recorder staff

December 6 2011 by BR staff

During the holidays our office will officially be closed Dec. 23-27 and Jan. 2. After Dec. 16, our new office will be located in the Baptist State Convention (BSC) building, 205 Convention Drive, Cary, NC 27511. Our new mailing address is P.O. Box 1185, Cary, NC 27512. Please contact us at (919) 847-2127 if you have questions or need more information. Thank you for your patience during this time of transition. Merry Christmas!

12/6/2011 12:16:13 PM by BR staff | with 0 comments

‘Queen’ reflects fondly on 35 years in Nigeria

December 5 2011 by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor

Shirley Gunn learned to live by some simple rules during her nearly 35 years as an IMB (International Mission Board) missionary in Nigeria – spend time with and love others, hold tight to the Word of God, and keep her eyes open when praying with strangers.
Dubbed by some Nigerians as the “queen of robberies” after being robbed multiple times – including one time at gunpoint – the 67-year-old retired missionary has lived to tell about some difficult years. But the challenges are just part of the story for Gunn, who has grown especially thankful for her career overseas.
With the holiday season upon us, Gunn is quick to share about how blessed Americans are and how so many could sacrifice just a little more for God’s work. She saw firsthand the importance of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Today the offering – with a goal of $175 million – supports nearly 5,000 missionaries around the globe.
“There is so much consumerism and materialism [in this country],” said Gunn, who retired from IMB in 2009 and now lives in Reidsville where she attends First Baptist Church.

Despite the difficulties of living in West Africa, Shirley Gunn has grown especially thankful for her career overseas.

“Is this what Christmas is about, or do we try to teach the true meaning – God sending His son?”
Traveling the tough roads of Nigeria for so many years, Gunn realized how important the offering was to keeping her ministry going strong amidst a challenging environment. Over the years, Gunn watched missionaries pack up and leave Nigeria because they were unable to adapt to the lack of resources, poverty and crime.
“Living in Nigeria, living in West Africa is difficult,” Gunn said.
Still, Gunn misses the place that had become her home. “I miss the Nigerians,” Gunn said. “I miss my work.”
Gunn was appointed to Nigeria in 1975. She went to work for the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary in Ogbomoso. There, she served as a librarian for 14 years. Though Gunn enjoyed her position with the seminary, she longed for days when she was able to spend time ministering to Nigerians suffering from leprosy [or Hansen’s disease].
“I would go out there and just be with them,” said Gunn, who would take them supplies, food and medicine.
In 1990, Gunn went to work for the Nigerian Baptist Convention in Ibadan, a much larger city between 3 and 5 million people.
With the convention, she helped head up the publishing ministry that produced a variety of materials – in three languages –for Bible studies, family and personal devotions, discipleship, evangelism, children’s ministry and literacy education.
It was in Ibadan, however, – where the city’s resources were unable to keep up with its exploding population – that Gunn found herself in a city of many desperate Nigerians struggling to make a living.
For many Nigerians, a single, American woman seemed too tempting a target.
“The office was robbed, the car I was driving was taken at gunpoint, and I was robbed in my house twice,” she said. 
Through all of it, Gunn escaped virtually without a scratch, but the car robbery haunted her for many months.
“I had nightmares for months,” she said. “I would wake up seeing a guy with a gun.”
She recalled the time when a group of men forced their way into her home and were unable to find her hiding in a walk-in closet.
“An angel hid that door from them because they came in the room, took things out of the drawers, and went into the bathroom,” she said. “They never even tried the door.”
There was another time Gunn sat in her living room as robbers threatened her and nearly “tore down the house.” Gunn remembers sitting in a recliner praying out loud for the intruders. “I said, ‘Now Lord I know that you have created them for a purpose,’” she said.
“‘My prayer is that they will find a purpose for which you have created them.’”
“I was never physically harmed,” she said.
“They did push me, but I didn’t fall.”
Gunn said one of her drivers gave her some advice that she often didn’t take.
“He said, ‘Momma, I have tried to teach you that you do not close your eyes when you are praying with somebody you do not know,’” she said.
All of her trials, though, have left her undaunted and have strengthened her faith in God.
“I said if somebody is trying to drive me away this is not going to work,” she said. “When God tells me to go, I will go.”
In 2009, Gunn officially retired from IMB and returned to North Carolina where she was raised.
Today, Gunn takes care of her 94-year-old mother, Gladys, and tutors three days a week for the Rockingham County Literacy Project.
Gunn admitted she remains saddened when she reads headlines of trouble in her former homeland – where poverty and Muslim extremism is on the rise and Christians confront persecution.
She still believes there is hope for Nigeria.
“Reaching the rest of them is going to take a lot of being there and establishing relationships,” she said.
Gunn’s advice to future missionaries?
“Try to be with [your assigned people group] as much as possible and love them,” she said.
“We may not see the harvest … in our generation [but] the story will be told until Christ comes for sure.”
Like IMB President Tom Elliff, Gunn said the responsibility of impacting the tough areas of the world falls on all believers in Christ – not just missionaries.
“Everybody is a missionary,” she said. “All of us must be missionaries where we are and now.”

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12/5/2011 2:58:00 PM by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Ariz. Baptists hear transition report

December 5 2011 by Elizabeth Young

PHOENIX (BP) – After a call to seek God’s face and an invitation to attend a convention-wide sacred assembly in January, Arizona Southern Baptist Convention messengers concluded the 83rd annual meeting on their knees in prayer.

Preceding the time of what state convention President James Harms called family business, the 244 messengers conducted convention business, including adopting a 2012 Cooperative Program budget of $3,180,000, the same as 2011.

With the theme “Opportunities for the Harvest,” the annual meeting featured a missions fair and a single two-hour session at North Phoenix Baptist Church Nov. 11.

“We think we have an obedience problem,” Byron Banta, the convention’s interim executive director, said. “But here are the facts: People will not obey a God they do not love, and they will not love a God they do not know.”

Citing statistics from The Barna Group that only 19 percent of born-again adults have a Christian worldview, Banta asked if the evangelical church in the western world has let its knowledge of God slip away, just as Israel and Judah did in the 8th century B.C. in the days of Amos, Hosea, Isaiah and Micah.

Banta asked, “Is it time for us to go stand before God and say, ‘Father, I want to seek your face’?”

Banta announced that a transition team charged with assisting him as the North American Mission Board rolls out its new strategy had called for a sacred assembly “to seek the face of God for renewal and revival in Arizona.” Pastors, church staff members, key church leaders and their spouses are being asked to attend the event at Mountain Ridge Baptist Church in Glendale on Jan. 15.

“This is about coming to God for who He is, seeing Him as creator, we as His creatures, humbly coming before God and saying, ‘Father, search our hearts,’” Banta said.

Banta presented four declarations included in the report of the 10-member transition team, comprised of pastors, associational directors of evangelism/missions, an associational church planting strategist and state convention staff members, along with Harms and Banta. The team was appointed by Harms in consultation with Banta.

Besides calling for the sacred assembly, the team also affirmed “it is our responsibility to reach Arizona with the gospel of Christ.... (I)t is each church’s responsibility to embrace a culture of accountability, first to God, and then to each other in our endeavor to fulfill the Great Commission.”

While Arizona loves its partners, Banta said, if they all went away, the responsibility to reach the state for Christ would still belong to Arizona Baptists.

“We want to affirm that it is our job, and then we’ll invite our partners to come alongside us and walk with us as we try to be obedient to God,” Banta said.

The team also affirmed the state convention’s belief that “Healthy Leaders Influence Healthy Churches to Evangelize and Plant Churches” and called for a “fresh examination of our church planting, church strengthening, and evangelism processes to promote success and stronger accountability for every dollar invested.”

Finally, the team reaffirmed “our historical commitment to and the value of the local church and the local association” and encouraged “Kingdom partnerships and fellowship in all our Kingdom work.”

Elaborating, the report stated, “We reaffirm our commitment to the Cooperative Program and also acknowledge the value of working with other Southern Baptist Convention churches, associations, the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, the North American Mission Board, and the Southern Baptist Convention in church planting, evangelism, and leadership development. We acknowledge that we are in partnership together in fulfilling the Great Commission, and, as a faith community, we will work together in mutual love, respect, and vision.”

In addition to re-electing Harms, pastor of First Baptist Church in Sierra Vista, to a second one-year term as president, messengers re-elected Shaun Whitey, pastor of First Indian Baptist Church in Phoenix, first vice president and elected Randy Mullinax, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Tucson, second vice president, all by acclamation.

Messengers adopted a $3,180,000 Cooperative Program budget and a $4,600,062 state convention operating budget for 2012. The Cooperative Program budget remains unchanged from 2011.

The budget calls for 26.05 percent of Cooperative Program gifts to be forwarded to SBC causes, unchanged from 2011.

The Cooperative Program budget will be distributed as follows: SBC Cooperative Program, $828,390; Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, $1,913,911; Arizona Campus of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, $236,550; Arizona Baptist Children’s Services, $125,456; and Baptist Senior Life Ministries, $75,693.

Income sources in the ASBC operating budget beyond Cooperative Program giving by Arizona churches include $1,173,216 from the North American Mission Board, $118,800 in church gifts designated for Arizona ministries only, $54,996 from LifeWay Christian Resources, $20,000 in trust income designated for the Cooperative Program, and $53,050 in other revenue.

Steve Bass, who resigned as ASBC state missionary in June to become the West Region vice president for NAMB, was recognized for his 15 years of service to Arizona.

“I tell people with Steve in the position he is, NAMB is no longer just a faceless organization,” Banta said. “NAMB has a face, and it is a face that loves Arizona and is committed to us and to what we do here.”

Bass said he is still a part of Arizona Southern Baptists as he pastors a house church that helps plateaued or declining churches to revitalize or “to die with dignity and keep the asset value in Southern Baptist life so we can put it back into a new plant.” Disciples Church gives 15 percent of its undesignated income through the Cooperative Program and 10 percent to Central Association of Southern Baptists, he said.

Reporting for the state missionary search team as chairman, Harms said the group has completed listening sessions with the state convention staff and directors of evangelism/missions and in each association.

The team will begin looking at resumes in January, he said, and they intend to make a unanimous recommendation.

“My prayer is that we can unanimously call this man to be our leader in Arizona,” Harms said, going beyond the constitutional requirement of a two-thirds favorable vote by both the Convention Council and the state convention messengers.

Next year’s annual meeting of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention will be Nov. 9 at North Phoenix Baptist Church.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Elizabeth Young is director of communications for the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention.)
12/5/2011 2:46:48 PM by Elizabeth Young | with 0 comments

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