February 2012

Moms, daughters learn about God’s heart for the nations

February 29 2012 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

When Beth Deichler and her 10-year-old daughter Noelle stopped in to visit a woman at Cross Road Retirement Community in Asheboro the woman was waiting on a call from her daughter.
 
The woman didn’t really have much to say.
 
But as the Deichlers talked with her and encouraged her, she opened up. She talked about her family and showed them photos of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
 
The Deichlers spent a good part of their time at the retirement community visiting with residents and praying for them.
 
The retirement community served as a mission project site for first through fourth grade girls and their moms during the Embrace Mother Daughter Retreat Feb. 10-11.
 
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Photo by Alexandra King

Third and fourth grade girls work on making valentines to share the love of Christ with those around the world. The girls were at a retreat with their moms at Caraway Conference Center near Asheboro.


The retreat was held at Caraway Conference Center, but Saturday morning participants went out into the community to serve and share the gospel.
 
At the retirement home, girls helped with cleaning projects inside and outside the facility.
 
They played games with residents, and they took time to just listen. The fifth and sixth grade girls and their moms spent Saturday morning serving at a local food bank.
 
At both sites the girls were encouraged to share their faith.
 
“If we know Jesus, we are to tell His name,” said Ashley Allen, director of Embrace Women’s Missions and Ministries. “That’s what missions is. We are supposed to go and tell others about Him.”
 
Through the mission projects and breakout sessions, this year’s retreat focused on the theme “God’s Heart.”
 
It also focused on teaching children and parents that God desires for all believers to share the gospel with people where they live and around the world.
 
“God lets us be part of sharing His name among the nations,” Allen said. 
 
A Skype call during the Friday evening session with missionaries Mark and Melissa Hobson gave the girls an opportunity to understand that no matter their age, or where they live, they can be missionaries by telling others about Jesus.
 
The Hobsons and their daughters Olivia, 9, and Claire, 7, serve in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It’s a city where 13.5 million people do not know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
 
Olivia shared how she has learned to try and build trust with people she meets, and Claire often invites friends to church. 
 
“Everything we do is based on relationships and earning the right to share,” Melissa said.
 
“You never know how God wants to use you in someone’s life.”
 
Although they live overseas and serve as missionaries, the Hobsons are still intentional in teaching their daughters about God and how to share their faith.
 
During the retreat Deichler said she was encouraged to see her home as a mission field.
 
“Our mission starts at home. As a parent, I have to treat it as such and ask for God’s wisdom and discernment,” she said.
 
Deichler also appreciated that the retreat allowed her to spend some quality time with her daughter; something that can be hard to come by with two other children at home.
 
Evette Orcutt, children’s minister at Central Baptist Church in Wendell, led the breakout sessions for third and fourth graders.
 
From local outreach at Baptist Children’s Homes to helping lead sports camps in Pennsylvania, missions is a priority in Orcutt’s family. She has taught her two sons that God’s heart is for missions.
 
“My goal is to get children on the mission field,” she said. “They develop a love for other people and meet people who don’t know anything about the gospel.”
 
Orcutt said she has seen God use children for His purposes when parents are intentional about planning family mission trips.
 
“They will develop relationships with other children that we (as adults) can’t,” she said.
 
Orcutt encouraged parents to model for their children a missions lifestyle.
 
“If they see their parents boldly witnessing, they will feel empowered to do it as well,” she said.
 
Courtney Veasey, breakout session leader for fifth and sixth grade girls and former girls ministry associate at First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C., is a frequent speaker at Embrace ministry events.
 
One reason Veasey said she enjoys serving in girls ministry is because her mom died when she was 14 years old, and she views this as an opportunity for her to encourage moms and daughters to be thankful to the Lord for each other.
 
“I didn’t know my mom wasn’t going to be there,” Veasey said. “This is a blessed time these moms have with their daughters.”
 
During the retreat Veasey talked with girls about what it means to have “beautiful feet,” as described in Romans 10:15. Her desire is to help girls learn – from a young age – that they should pursue God’s Kingdom first.
 
The only thing worth living for is God’s glory, she said.
 
“If you sell out to anything else in this world it will burn you in the end,” she said. “God’s love is real. I want these girls to hear that in a passionate, bold way.”
 
To learn more about upcoming Embrace events visit embracenc.org.
2/29/2012 4:12:15 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Snow-stricken Afghan refugees receive aid

February 29 2012 by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press

KABUL, Afghanistan – Refugees in more than 40 camps at Kabul, Afghanistan, are suffering from the heaviest snowfall in many years and bitter cold temperatures. Humanitarian partners in Kabul are moving to bring relief to more than 500 of the hardest-hit families.
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BGR photo

More than 500 refugee families in Kabul, Afghanistan, are receiving relief aid due to the heaviest snowfall in many years and bitter cold temperatures.


“The tent, mud or cardboard housing in which the refugees live offers little protection against the cold,” said the project director in Kabul whose name is withheld for security reasons. “Many people in these camps do not have money to buy expensive firewood or coal to keep their families warm or to cook food that would provide them with necessary nutrition.”
 
In January and February, Kabul has been hit with more than four feet of snow, and temperatures have sunk as low as 5 degrees, said Francis Horton, who with his wife Angie directs work in Central and South Asia for Baptist Global Response. As of Feb. 27, news services were reporting that nearly 30 children had died because of the weather since mid-January.

Southern Baptist relief funds are being tapped to provide emergency assistance “Winter Relief Family Packs” that consist of firewood and food, at a cost of $98 per family, Horton said. The food packs will include rice, oil, beans and tea. The partners will follow up with selected families, providing courses in practical job skills like carpentry and welding.

“When God gives us an opportunity to help people in desperate need, we are so grateful to have relief and hunger funds we can use to respond immediately to the need,” Horton said. “These families will experience the love of God firsthand because Southern Baptists are a people who care about people in need.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Kelly writes for Baptist Global Response, on the Web at www.gobgr.org.)
2/29/2012 4:08:12 PM by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Kazakhstan heightens religious crackdown

February 29 2012 by Baptist Press

OSLO, Norway – The Central Asian country of Kazakhstan has toughened its crackdown on religious freedom, stripping previously recognized religious groups, including Baptists, of their registrations.

Religious freedom monitor Forum 18 is reporting that Kazakh authorities have rescinded the legal registrations of 579 “small religious groups” (groups with fewer than 50 adult members) as part of a new religion law passed last October.
 
“We have a new law,” Kazakh official Saule Ibrayeva told Forum 18. “And as it does not allow for the existence of religious associations which have fewer than 50 members, then they should either re-register with 50 members or stop their activity as a religious association.”

Small religious groups have until Oct. 25 to re-register with 50 members, but regulations for re-registration have not been put in place, according to Forum 18, which is based in Oslo, Norway. Some groups are concerned they will not be able to reach 50 members or that potential members will be afraid of giving out their information to Kazakh authorities. In the meantime, small religious groups will not be permitted to continue their activities.
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The Central Asian country of Kazakhstan


Pastor Franz Thiessen, head of Kazakhstan’s Baptist Union, told Forum 18 that small Baptist groups were warned to stop their activity and hand over their registration certificates. Other religious groups such as Presbyterians, Seventh-day Adventists and independent Muslims also are being targeted.

Baptists previously have found themselves in the Kazakh government’s crosshairs, such as when officials raided the Ekibastuz Baptist congregation on Nov. 30 of last year. The congregation is part of the Baptist Council of Churches, which chooses not to seek state registration out of principle. Shoe repairer Aleksei Asetov, a father of 10 who leads the congregation, was fined an estimated year and a half’s wages for leading an unregistered religious organization as part of new, harsher punishments for religious offenders. The judge also outlawed the congregation.

Nikolai Popov, leader of another Baptist Council of Churches congregation, was handed a two-day prison sentence for refusing to pay fines for not registering his congregation with the state. Since the council’s policy is not to pay such fines, authorities have in the past confiscated property instead or taken fines directly from wages.

Forum 18’s 2009 religious freedom survey of Kazakhstan zeroes in on a number of issues, including attacks on religious freedom by President Nursultan Nazarbaev down to local officials; censorship; raids; interrogations; unfair trials; state-sponsored stoking of religious intolerance; legal restrictions; and police surveillance of religious communities.

Kazakh officials are defending the new law restricting small religious groups. When questioned by Forum 18 over how Christians belonging to a small group could do things like preach or administer the Lord’s Supper without meeting together, Ibrayeva responded tersely.

“This is the Law and everybody must obey it,” she said. “This is not Norway, this is Kazakhstan.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by John Evans, a writer based in Houston.)
2/29/2012 4:02:48 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Hand-cranked trikes bring hope in Nepal

February 29 2012 by Raye Hudson, Baptist Press

DHARAN, Nepal – Uraj experiments awkwardly with the hand-propelled tricycle.
 
“His grip is good. He’ll be sore tomorrow, but he’ll get the hang of this,” says Bruce Burk, a Christian worker in Nepal who designed the trike after seeing how difficult it was for Uraj and other disabled individuals to travel in their villages.

Uraj survived polio but was left with withered legs and a limited future. Though the tricycle will take some getting used to, it will offer him an independence he’s never known. Instead of crawling along the ground or moving awkwardly with the aid of others, he’ll ride securely upright even along the rough roads of his village.

Burk and his wife Sherri want to help the disabled find dignity and independence. With a grant from Baptist Global Response (BGR), the Burks opened a welding shop called Hope Haven in Dharan, Nepal, to build tricycles especially designed for the disabled who do not have use of their legs.

Tricycles offer independence and hope to Uraj and other disabled individuals in Nepal.


Even those who are not disabled find it difficult to travel rural Nepali roads while dodging water buffalo. In congested cities, meanwhile, it can be nearly impossible for the 300,000-plus physically disabled in Nepal to navigate streets where buses, trucks, motorcycles and rickshaws jostle for space.

The hand-powered tricycles are sturdy enough to withstand the rough roads plus big enough to protect their rider and carry packages. Burk’s design makes it possible for the physically disabled to get to school, work, church and the market on their own – opening new roads of hope and opportunity. They are lighter than similar models and blend in with the rickshaws that crowd the roads.

Each tricycle costs around 15,000 Nepali rupees (around $200 US) to build, but Hope Haven sold them for only 1,500 (about $20) – a payment that nurtures a sense of ownership for disabled people and their families.

“If they pay for it, they respect it,” Burk says. “But ... to come up with 15,000 would take years, if they ever could.” The 1,500-rupee price, made possible by Southern Baptists, still can entail four to six weeks of extra effort to make a purchase.

No longer waiting
Gangaram is a skilled worker with small electronics, but he had to wait for customers to bring him an item to repair. His lack of mobility made it difficult for him to make enough money to support himself and his family. “Now I can go where the work is on my own,” he said upon receiving a tricycle. “Everyone in my family will be helped.”

A father told how his tricycle is allowing him to take his children to school and helping him to be more involved in their lives.

A young boy was getting too big for his mother to carry. She was afraid he would become confined to his home, like many other disabled. With his tricycle he has the freedom to move around outside, leaving behind a life trapped within the walls of his house.

A young man called the Burks to say, “I just took my school tests and passed! I never could have done this without the tricycle.”

Tricycle recipients aren’t the only ones to benefit from Hope Haven. Burk hires only people who are disabled themselves or are advocates for the disabled. “It’s not about me training up workers for my production; it’s about building up people,” Burk says.

“We have had three deaf workers, two polio survivors and two who were advocates for disabled ministries. None of them had any fabrication or welding skills when they started. The confidence gained from the training has allowed some to choose other types of work,” he says. One of his deaf workers saved his money and opened his own shop after Burk taught him to weld.

Another worker, Dundaa, “quickly learned the fabrication and welding skills. Yet he watched as I would custom fit the units to the individual,” Burk recounts. “One day, he asked if he could do the custom fit. He did an excellent job of evaluating the individual and then made the correct adjustments. Because of his ability, I was able to turn the entire production over to the workers.”

In Nepal, hope now comes to some on three wheels and Southern Baptists have helped bring it.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Raye Hudson is an international correspondent for Baptist Global Response, on the Web at www.gobgr.org.)
2/29/2012 2:26:16 PM by Raye Hudson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



N.C. couple shares ‘miracle medicine’ in Haiti

February 28 2012 by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor

A growing crowd of Haitians gathers behind Bob and Wanda Temple as they carefully count medication on a makeshift table of boxes somewhere outside of Port-au-Prince.
 
This scene is captured in a photograph from one of the Temple’s trips to Haiti last year. It shows the couple, both on-site coordinators for North Carolina Baptist Men, helping medical volunteers at a clinic. Medication and equipment are sprawled out on a couple of folding tables that rest on blue tarps.
 
Most of the Haitians lined up behind them are women. Some are holding small children – many of whom are anemic and malnourished. Those in line are suffering from various illnesses – some as simple as a common headache or diarrhea. Though many of their troubles can be treated with over-the-counter medication, finding such supplies in Haiti can be a difficult challenge. 
 
“Even providing eye drops for dry eyes is a welcomed thing in Haiti, where most don’t have access to simple things,” said Wanda Temple, a 61-year-old grandmother with silver hair and a smile that can put about any troubled Haitian at ease.
 
“Here we are out in the dirty dusty roads and up against a tree [with volunteers] putting IVs in [a child],” Wanda said during a phone interview while on break back home in North Carolina.
 
“For the three to five hours we’re there that child is revived and … we know that child has been given another day.”
 
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Contributed photo

Wanda and Bob Temple sort medicine at a clinic in Haiti. The Temples, members of Fellowship Baptist Church in Creedmoor, have been overseeing vollunteer teams working in Haiti for N.C Baptist Men.

During most of last year the Temples, members of Fellowship Baptist Church in Creedmoor, helped coordinate volunteer efforts in Haiti – rebuilding homes and setting up medical clinics. The retired couple will rotate in for a month or so and then head back home for a short break before returning again.
 
The Temples shared some of the stories of hope they had encountered during their time in Haiti. Since the devastating earthquake in 2010, N.C. Baptist Men have helped build 46 homes, 800 temporary shelters and provided medical care for 130,000 patients.
 
But there is more to the story than those numbers, the Temples contend.
 
While reports of change and progress continue to trickle out of Haiti, the Temples believe most people are not seeing the faces and the changed lives behind the numbers and news reports.
 
“That’s the sad part to us is that we see the change because we’re there,” said Wanda, who noted most volunteers are only there for a week at a time.
 
“I feel bad for the volunteers who have worked in Haiti over the last few years. So few of them truly get to see the fruit of their work.”
 
“You can see results,” added her 65-year-old husband, Bobby.  “People being healed, so many salvations … we have salvations every week.”
 
Since N.C. Baptist Men began rebuilding efforts in Haiti, there have been more than 1,300 salvations. The clinics that the Temples work with continue to see an average of 1,000 people a week. Though many of the rebuilding efforts since the earthquake are winding down, N.C. Baptists plan to open a new medical facility by the end of the year.
 
The couple also shared stories about how more businesses are starting to come back to Haiti. People are beginning to find more job opportunities.
 
Flour mills are expanding to produce noodles and other products. Cement factories are making a better quality product in the hopes that newly built structures can better withstand future earthquakes. Some of the tent cities in Haiti are gone – though others still remain.
 
“People have found housing in other places,” Bobby said. “The goal is to get everybody out of a tent but it’s going to take a while. They’re making progress on it.”
 
It’s smaller day-to-day victories, however, that encourage the Temples the most.
 
They recalled one woman who was nearly too weak to stand in line for treatment at one of the clinics.
 
“We gave her vitamins and [liquid] iron,” Wanda said. “We see her the next week with a bright smile and much more energy. She came back saying we had given her ‘miracle medicine.’”
 
One woman – a mother of six children – visited the clinic and discovered she was pregnant.
 
She asked for the clinic to help her have an abortion.
 
Instead, volunteers prayed with her and led her to Christ. The woman left the clinic saying she would depend on the Lord to provide for her children – including the one she was carrying.
 
One man – a former voodoo doctor – also accepted Christ.
 
Since making his decision to follow Jesus, he’s been kicked out of his home. No longer working in voodoo, he struggles to make a living. He continues to visit a clinic for support from other believers.
 
“He comes to the clinic quite often,” Wanda said. “And the doctors help him with getting food and things like that.
 
“To accept Christ is a sacrifice,” she added. “We think, ‘Oh accept Christ and your life will be changed.’ It will be changed … but in many places in the world it will be changed detrimentally. Here in America we have no idea how blessed we are.”
 
While preparing to return, Wanda shared what she looks forward to when she and Bobby return to Haiti – helping Haitians see better both physically and spiritually.
 
“We get our [eye] charts out for them to read, but most of the time they’ll pull their Bible out because that’s what they want to read,” she said.
 
A Haitian patient usually won’t leave the clinic without being prayed for or asked about their relationship with Jesus.
 
“They know right off the bat that we are there because God has sent us there,” she said.
 
Some Haitians will ask volunteers in Creole, “Do you know my Jesus?” Wanda added, explaining that the Haitians are also asking the question of others around them.
2/28/2012 2:51:24 PM by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments



Judge: NYC churches can meet in schools

February 28 2012 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

NEW YORK – A federal judge has handed New York City churches a major victory, issuing a preliminary injunction that will allow congregations to meet in schools while the lawsuit proceeds – that is, unless the city wins on appeal.

Seven Southern Baptist congregations have been affected by the ongoing legal battle, according to George Russ, executive director of the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association. Dozens of other churches also have been impacted.
 
The Feb. 24 order by District Judge Loretta Preska made clear that all churches – and not just the named plaintiff, Bronx Household of Faith – will be able to meet in public schools.

Unlike her previous order that was to last only 10 days, Preska’s latest decision contains no expiration date, meaning it will remain in effect while the case proceeds – or until a higher court decides differently. City attorneys said they would appeal.

Several churches met Feb. 26 in public schools, but others already had made arrangements to meet elsewhere – some permanently.

Congregations are attempting to overturn a New York City Department of Education rule that prevents school buildings from being used for “religious worship services.”

Preska’s decision prevents the city from enforcing the rule against Bronx Household of Faith or “any similarly-situated individual or entity.”

“If a rule is unconstitutional, it is unconstitutional as to all similarly-situated parties,” Preska wrote.
 
Although her decision was a big win for churches, the Southern Baptist congregations already had found alternate locations. For instance, Crossroads Church – previously profiled in Baptist Press – is moving from a public school location to a theater. It met Sunday at a fellow church because the theater won’t be ready until March 4.

“Whether the Department of Education wins their appeal is not going to affect them for now. They’ve already made the move,” Russ said.

Preska’s ruling no doubt had in mind the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals which, after she issued her temporary 10-day order Feb. 16, ruled that it applied only to Bronx Household of Faith. The Second Circuit’s decision on Friday, Feb. 17 prevented dozens of churches from meeting in their normal location last Sunday. Churches now are wondering if they’ll have a repeat – high hopes that are quickly dashed.

Represented by the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), Bronx Household of Faith contends the city’s rule amounts to hostility toward churches and a violation of the Free Exercise Clause, because the city’s rule allows non-religious groups to meet while banning churches.

An earlier round of decisions that went against NYC churches were based on an examination of the Free Speech and Establishment Clauses, not the Free Exercise Clause. That earlier round of cases ended in 2011 when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to get involved. It appeared churches had reached the end of the legal road until Preska sided with the congregations.

“The city can’t single out religious expression and treat it worse than the expression of everybody else,” said ADF senior counsel Jordan Lorence. “The court’s order allows churches and other religious groups to meet in empty school buildings on weekends just as non-religious groups do while the lawsuit proceeds. The city’s view of the First Amendment is wrong, and we intend to continue to demonstrate that in court.”

Preska ruled that Bronx Household of Faith likely will succeed in the case and that it “will suffer irreparable harm in the absence of an injunction.”

“A law is not neutral if its object is to infringe upon or restrict practices because of their religious motivation,” she wrote.

Churches are meeting in places such as a movie theater, a private school and a community center, Russ said. The Metropolitan New York Baptist Association’s building on 72nd Street in Manhattan already houses several congregations, Russ said, from church plants to a church that has been in existence for years.

The association offers space for staff meetings, overnight retreats and special services. Even so, the association is prepared to help one or two more congregations in Manhattan as needed.

Read the decision online at http://www.adfmedia.org/files/BronxPI.pdf

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. With reporting by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach.)

Related story
NYC churches suffer last-minute decision
In NYC, schools in churches are OK, but churches in schools are not?
2/28/2012 2:40:26 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Former Colts tight end discusses winning Super Bowl, faith, music

February 28 2012 by Roman Gabriel, Sports Q & A

A few weeks ago during the week of Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis, Biblical Recorder sports correspondent Roman Gabriel III sat down with former NFL tight end Ben Utecht. Utecht helped the Indianapolis Colts, under then head coach Tony Dungy, win Super Bowl XLI. Utecht stepped away from the NFL in 2009 after suffering a concussion while playing with the Cincinnati Bengals. In his conversation with Utecht, Gabriel talks with him about his success in the NFL, living for Christ, Tim Tebow, and a prospering music career.
 
Q: I have such a respect and fond memories of the 2006 Colts Super Bowl XLI team. They were so strong as a family and were such a mature spiritual group of men. What was so special to you about that team?
 
A: Most people do not know [the Colts] Super Bowl championship ring is the only ring in NFL history to have any kind of faith symbolism.
 
We have the word “Faith” on the side of our 2006 Super Bowl ring. You see the picture of us all praying together after the game.
 
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Former NFL tight end Ben Utecht

That’s how we started the year, that’s how we finished the year.
 
Q: I was right next to you when every person in that locker room kneeled and prayed. Incredible moment, wasn’t it?
 
A: The thing I love about coach Dungy is his consistency. This team was all about prayer. It was something we did as a family and as a team, every single Sunday. It just made sense to us to put our hands up to the media [and] say, “We’re going to put a hold on this, and giving glory to God.” This was what was special about that moment and winning that Super Bowl game.
 
Q: Obviously you were forced to retire from the NFL because of concussion problems after the 2009 season. How grateful are you to have been blessed with a successful music career that resulted from that career-ending football injury?
 
A: My music is a part of my heart, and my heart is what my faith is all about. I really felt like the Lord was leading me into the mainstream music area. … I want to lead by example. It was one of the greatest things I learned from Tony Dungy … the importance of living out your faith. It’s more than just words. It’s more than going to church on Sunday. It’s being Christ with skin on, and that’s our goal as Christians.
 
Q: You are a Christian athlete who was serious about your platform for the Lord. What are your impressions about the impact Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow is having now as a young NFL player?
 
A: God lays his hands on people, and Tim is one of those people. He’s an anointed man in my opinion. You listen to his testimony you see where he’s gone and where he’s going. Everywhere he goes the Lord has brought him success. I really relate it to a number of different stories from characters from the scriptures. I believe there is something special about this kid. What I want people to hear from me is that he has never changed who he is, who he was in college, or who he is in the NFL.

The media wants to portray that he has stepped out and is proclaiming this more than he ever has. The truth is Tim Tebow has proclaimed it consistently ever since he gave his life to the Lord. I give that guy so much credit for his courage and strength in what he is doing.

Editor's Note: Roman’s Sold Out Sports Talk Radio program on American Family Radio can be heard in 200 cities nationally or streaming live at afr.net. It’s all about faith, family and sports. Visit his website: soldouttv.com; Facebook page: Roman Gabriel III Fan Page; connect with him on Twitter: romangabriel3rd; email him: soldoutrg3@gmail.com or call (910) 431-6483.
 
2/28/2012 2:31:30 PM by Roman Gabriel, Sports Q & A | with 0 comments



House panel OKs ban on sex-based abortions

February 28 2012 by Mark Norton, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – A U.S. House of Representatives committee has approved a bill prohibiting abortions based on a child’s sex or race.

The House Judiciary Committee endorsed the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act, H.R. 3541, in a party-line vote. Republicans on the panel outpolled Democrats 20-13.
 
“As Americans, all of us know in our hearts that aborting a little baby because he or she happens to be the wrong color or because she is a little girl instead of a little boy is fundamentally wrong,” Rep. Trent Franks, R.-Ariz., the bill’s sponsor, said at the committee meeting.

The legislation would bar doctors and medical staff members from performing an abortion if they know the intent of the procedure is based on race or gender.

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and other pro-life organizations support Franks’ proposal.

Abortion rights advocates oppose the bill.

Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a written statement the proposal “likely would restrict the ability of women of color to obtain abortion care, and ultimately could jeopardize the availability of abortion services for all women. Given that the Franks bill subjects providers to fines or a prison sentence for failure to detect that a woman is seeking abortion services for reasons of race or sex selection, the legislation essentially would encourage racial profiling in the doctor’s office.”

Franks rejected Keenan’s assertion.

“There is nothing in this bill that requires doctors to police or to have some responsibility to ask their patients anything about the motivations for the abortion,” he said.

In defense of requiring doctors to report the intent of a woman seeking a sex- or race-selection abortion, Franks used an analogy: If a doctor prescribes a drug that could kill but does not know the purpose of its use, that doctor is not breaking the law, but if the doctor knew the intent was to kill “then, of course, he would be implicated as part of the crime,” Franks said.

According to the bill, “The evidence strongly suggests that some Americans are exercising sex-selection abortion practices.”

A March 2008 study suggested sex-based abortion is being practiced in some communities in the United States. The report, published in the journal of the National Academy of Sciences, said the increase in son preference is noticeable in census data and “sex-selection abortion is happening in the United States.” The research found American-born children of Chinese, Korean and Asian Indian parents were more likely than those of white parents to be boys if the first children in the families were girls, according to ABC News. The third child in such communities was 50 percent more likely to be a boy if the first two children were girls.

Franks introduced a similar bill in 2009, but it was held up in a committee. Franks’ state, Arizona, is the only one that has a race-selection abortion ban. Gender-selection abortion laws exist in four states: Arizona, Illinois, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania. Florida is also considering such legislation.

According to a Zogby International poll last March, 86 percent of Americans agree on making sex-selection abortions illegal.

The committee voted Feb. 16.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Norton, a senior at California Baptist University in Riverside, Calif., is attending the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities’ Washington Journalism Center this semester and serving as an intern with Baptist Press.)
2/28/2012 2:24:23 PM by Mark Norton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Making of a planter: Offering supports N.C. pastor in Arizona

February 27 2012 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Dennis Conner is a North Carolina native who had no interest in being a church planter – much less one who would live in Arizona. But God was preparing him to invest Southern Baptists’ Annie Armstrong Easter Offering dollars in an unreached part of North America.
 
Two Baptist churches in Mecklenburg County, Westside and Chapman Memorial, had shaped Conner’s life from the time he trusted Christ at age 8 to the time he was called to ministry in 1986.
 
When he decided it was time to pursue his calling, he entered Chowan College (now University) in eastern North Carolina and pastored the congregation at nearby Riverside Baptist Church during those four years.
 
After graduating, a declining congregation in Charlotte asked him to help them through a difficult transition. He accepted that call to Thomasboro Baptist Church, now called HollyHunter Baptist Church, in west Charlotte in 1998 and entered Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (SEBTS) extension campus at Hickory Grove Baptist Church at the same time.
 
Several years later, Cashie (pronounced cash-eye) Baptist Church in Windsor, asked him to return to the eastern part of the state to pastor their congregation. Founded in 1770, Cashie is one of the oldest churches in the state.
 
“Before I went to Cashie, Ron Pinkerton, the director of missions for the Mecklenburg (Metrolina) Association, asked me to consider planting a church in northwest Mecklenburg. ‘Ron, I’m not a church planter,’” Conner declared. Pinkerton said, “Well, I think you are.”
 
Conner told him he was already in conversation with Cashie. “I’ve served in that county before, and I know the people. I think if I go there and behave myself that I can stay there ’til I retire.” Conner was comfortable with serving in older, established congregations.
 
Pinkerton said, “Dennis you’ll never be satisfied with that.”
 
“It took me three years to realize he was right,” Conner admitted.
 
It was a fruitful time at Cashie. The church was numerically growing, members were spiritually growing and they baptized “quite a few believers.”
 
 Looking back, Conner now sees God’s hand in that segment of his ministry. He told a deacon a few years ago, “Had I not had that experience at Cashie, I don’t think I could have planted a healthy church. They were loving, wonderful people in Bertie County.”
 
Changing directions
Conner has long felt a compulsion to engage unbelieving people. “I’m not content with just having a place and meeting time and say, ‘you ought to come.’”
 
Conner points out that one mistake many Christians make is the way they see themselves in relation to the unreached. We often tell the world, “We like who we are, and if you come be like us, we think you’ll like being like us, too,” he says.
 
Pastoring in North Carolina was very satisfying, but there was a restlessness in Conner.
 
“Cindy and I began praying a very simple prayer of surrender, ‘whatever, wherever, whenever.’”
 
During that time Conner took a mission trip to Quebec to work with Pastor Francois Verschelden who had planted Church of the Living Rock in Quebec.
 
Conner remembers the day he went to the town of Rawdon in the Province of Quebec to simply engage some people in conversation – doing what Francois called “scouting.” The purpose was to meet people and gauge the interest in a church plant for the community. Looking for a good cup of coffee, Conner found a café called “The House of Chocolate.” “I got into a conversation with Kathryn, the owner, who recognized I was not a local. I told her why we were there – looking to plant a church.”
 
“What kind of church?” Kathryn asked.
 
“In faith and practice it will be Baptist,” Conner answered.
 
At that moment a young woman named Marie stepped out of the kitchen and shared that she and a friend were driving 45 minutes each week to attend a Baptist church in another city. She was very interested in being part of the project. God used that experience to convince the Conners of a call to church planting. “It also opened our eyes to look at some of the needs.”
 
They explored some possibilities for new church starts in North Carolina, but nothing seemed to come together.
 
They were challenged as to how seriously they meant “wherever” in their prayer.
 
Conner began researching places in the United States where population growth warranted new churches. He said, “where there’s new people, there’s a need for new churches.”
 
“I never wanted to start a new church that would draw people – discontented people – from other churches. I wanted to start a church which would engage people and effectively reach those who were off the radar screen from most churches.”
 
Crosspointe, the Church at Tartesso
In 2004, Conner made some contacts with church planting leaders in every part of North America. In God’s providence he connected with the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) church planting strategist for Phoenix, Phil McConnell. “It was astonishing to me the need that he shared,” Conner said.  
 
02-27-12conner.jpg

Contributed photo

Dennis and Cindy Conner have a wide mission field in Arizona. The Conners work with N.C. Baptists and receive help from the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering to reach people with the gospel of Jesus.

With the help of McConnell, in May 2005 Conner began developing a new church plant. Tartesso, a planned community in Buckeye – west of Phoenix – became their target area.
 
“At the time the only thing there was construction trailers and markers. We were convinced that this is the location for the vision to take place. I went back to share the vision with the good folks at Cashie on September 18, 2005,” Conner said. “I told the church we would be leaving, but this was not your traditional resignation – we did not know exactly when this was going to happen ... Their response was a demonstration of great grace and favor.”
 
By May of 2006 support had been raised and the Conners moved to Buckeye to begin the new church. “The very first family who moved into that community got involved with [the new plant] and still is today,” Conner said.
 
Our mission statement for Crosspointe, the Church at Tartesso, became, “We want to lead people to become transformed, ever-maturing followers of Jesus Christ.”
 
While the economy has stopped new construction in Tartesso over the last three years, the church has grown to an average of 90 people each week. They have baptized 46 new believers and involved them in an intensive discipleship strategy. A new church plant is in the exploration stages now. In 2007 Mike and Michelle Bailey joined the Conners in Buckeye. Bailey had pastored Greens Cross Baptist church in Windsor and graduated from SEBTS with Conner.
 
The plan from the beginning was to equip the Bailey’s to start another church after Crosspointe got on its feet.
 
“Our vision was to plant another church. ... I wanted to build into the life of the church the expectation of multiplication,” Conner explained.
 
In 2009 Conner and Bailey began discussing a leadership change for Crosspointe. Conner believed Bailey should become the pastor, while the Baileys’ hopes were focused on returning to North Carolina. They stayed, and the church was handed over to Bailey in April 2010.
 
Another new assignment
Around the same time, Phil McConnell left the position as NAMB’s church planting strategist for Phoenix. The leadership of the Arizona convention then asked Conner to consider the role. On Jan. 1, 2012, Conner began his assignment with NAMB as the church planting catalyst for Arizona.
 
Part of Conner’s work is to coordinate a network of house churches, primarily in apartment communities. It requires spending a lot of time connecting with people in local coffee shops and restaurants.
 
“The spiritual soil is tough, but there’s a sea of humanity here – in a three-and-a-half mile corridor, 6,700 people are living in apartments and condos,” Conner said. 
 
Less than 2 percent of them are connected to an evangelical church.
 
“Institutional expressions of church are not being effective in reaching these people,” he said. Conner explained that “institutional expressions” of church refers to traditional churches with a building and Sunday meeting time.
 
“I believe these 6,700 people are open to the gospel,” he said. “They are simply unfamiliar with and therefore uncomfortable with traditional churches.”
 
Helpful support
Conner is using financial support from the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering to reach those who are open to the gospel in Arizona. He said, “The support of Southern Baptists through this offering and the Cooperative Program are essential to our work.”
 
The state of Arizona has over 400 Southern Baptist churches. Their goal is to plant 39 new churches this year.
 
Conner asks Southern Baptists to pray for “laborers for the harvest.” “The need is overwhelming in Arizona. We need churches to send us couples who will share a church planting vision. We need mission teams and we need a lot of prayer,” he added.
 
Parkwood Baptist Church in Gastonia has been a strong partner since Dennis and Cindy moved to Arizona. Pastor Jeff Long said, “Dennis Conner’s infectious personality makes you want to join with him. He has the ability to talk to anyone about any subject.
 
“We have a wide variety of people who regularly go to Phoenix to work with Dennis,” Long said. “They all return excited to have been a part of the work that God is doing in Phoenix.”
 
The Cashie church is supporting the work in Arizona, and the West Chowan Association has been a supportive partner. Many N.C. churches have given gifts and sent teams to Arizona including First Baptist Church of Welcome. Pastor Mark Blair said the church enjoyed a four-year partnership with Crosspointe. Blair said, “[Dennis] yearns to be used by the Lord to penetrate centers of darkness with the gospel. ... I admire his innovative thinking in how to reach the lost in strategic areas, such as urban Phoenix.”
Conner also wants church planters to understand a very important principle.
 
“The value of a strong partnership goes beyond the dollars. Parkwood [church] taught me that,” he said. “Churches like this not only gave us their dollars, but they gave us their heart. They prayed for us, and did so passionately.”
 
2/27/2012 1:41:09 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments



Lives changed, N.C. baptism numbers up

February 27 2012 by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor

She had been raised to be an atheist. Growing up in Asia, those around Jing taught her to be skeptical of any religious teaching. Still, a curiosity about Jesus rested deep inside her.
 
Last fall Jing, 23, moved to the United States to pursue a master’s degree in textile engineering at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. She soon met the Jones family through a program for international students with a desire to have dinner in an American home. When Jing discovered the Joneses were members of Fairview Baptist Church in Apex, she asked if she could go with them to church.
 
Jing developed a strong relationship with the Jones family – particularly Teresa and her 23-year-old daughter, Alicia. For Jing, her experience in church, watching others worship and hearing about who Jesus “really” is changed her life.
 
“The songs … were so powerful,” she said. “When the pastor was praying I was so touched.” 
 
In November, Jing overcame her initial doubts about Christianity and gave her life to Jesus. She was baptized Dec. 18, 2011. Teresa proudly keeps a photo of Jing gripping her first Bible – a gift that was given to her to celebrate her baptism.
 
“The change I’ve seen in [Jing’s] life has been astounding,” said Teresa, who also works as executive assistant for administration at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).
 
“God was already at work in her life. It’s God’s work, and we happen to be walking along a part of it.”
Jing refers to her decision to abandon her atheistic upbringing and follow Jesus by simply saying, “God changed my mind.”
 
Baptisms in 2011
Last year Jing represented one of 24,376 baptisms that were reported by 2,844 N.C. churches.
 
That number of baptisms exceeds the 23,756 baptisms reported for 2010. If broken down, the average number of baptisms per church that reported their numbers in 2011 was 8.57 baptisms.  
 
The results for 2011 were the highest number of baptisms reported since 2003, which was 25,154. The highest annual baptism total since 1990 was in 2002 with 28,169 baptisms.
 
“This is a phenomenal increase,” said Don McCutcheon, executive director of evangelism for the BSC.
“It’s my prayer we could see between 15 and 20 baptisms per church in the future.”
 
Top churches
The top 10 churches in baptisms for 2011 included the following:
 
Elevation Church in Matthews reported 2,410 baptisms. Biltmore Baptist Church in Arden reported 460; The Cove Church, Mooresville, 362; The Summit Church, Durham, 359; Cleveland Community Church, Clayton, 279; Hope Community Church, Raleigh, 245; [see note below] Catawba Valley Baptist Church, Morganton, 217 [see note below]; Word Tabernacle Church, Rocky Mount, 214; Hickory Grove Baptist Church, Charlotte, 213; and First Baptist Church, Indian Trail, 213.
 
Two of the top international churches for 2011 included Hanmaum Church (a Korean congregation) in Durham with 51 baptisms. Christ Center Church (a Nepalese church) in Charlotte started up last year, and with 50 members, they reported 12 baptisms.
 
McCutcheon said he hopes to see churches become more evangelistic through helpful initiatives such as the Convention’s Intentionally Evangelistic Church Strategy (IECS) and its Find it Here: Expanding the Kingdom emphasis, which focuses on missions mobilization and getting the gospel to those needing to hear it.
 
“We try to encourage churches to pray, to make connections, to engage lost people in fellowship and sharing the gospel,” McCutcheon said.
 
“We encourage them to give evangelistic invitations.
 
“Jesus did it.
 
“Paul did it. Peter did it. God did it.”
 
Approximately 5.6 million people – out of 9.2 million in the state – have not put their trust in Jesus Christ. Southern Baptists have a tremendous opportunity, McCutcheon said.
 
“If we’re going to impact lostness, we have to keep our churches here strong,” he said.
 
“An evangelistic church will be a mission minded church because they want to see the whole world won. They will start at home.”
 
For more information about Intentionally Evangelistic Church Strategy (IECS) go to ncbaptist.org/iecs or call (800) 395-5102, ext. 5557.
 
To find out more about Find it Here, go to finditherenc.org or call (800) 395-5102, ext. 5571.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Baptism figures based on information available at time of publication.)

Correction (updated in the March 31 publication)
Please note that one of the churches listed has an incorrect baptism number. Catawba Valley Baptist Church in Morganton originally listed 217 baptisms but the actual number was 12. The list the Biblical Recorder published in print and online was compiled through Annual Church Profiles. We regret the error. The Biblical Recorder strives to maintain clear and accurate stories. Part of that is relying on submitted information. Please help us by checking information before it is sent.
 
2/27/2012 1:34:16 PM by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments



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