January 2010

Finding ‘a new normal’: WMU-NC relocation good

January 25 2010 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Nearly two years after Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMU-NC) relocated its offices from the Baptist State Convention staff building, WMU-NC Director Ruby Fulbright says it was a good move.

After months of negotiations over WMU’s status as an autonomous organization, or whether the Baptist State Convention executive director-treasurer had final say over staff hiring in WMU as he does in every other department and for every position that received a BSC pay check, WMU asserted its independence, shouldered responsibility for its own operating budget and moved into rented quarters 13 miles away in Raleigh.

“It’s been a good move,” Fulbright said during an interview in her office Jan. 21. “I feel that, the board does and the staff does even though for them it’s scary. We have peace that we did the right thing; that God still has work for us to do.”

Fulbright said that in 2009 WMU started 149 new organizations in 69 different churches, including two in cowboy churches, “which is neat.”

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Ruby Fulbright, left, works closely with Jan High and other Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina staff members to teach others about missions. View video.


Most are children’s mission education programs.

She credits that ongoing success in part to the positive relationship WMU has with church planters who learn “WMU can be their very best friend. They’ve seen the value of missions education being in the very DNA of their church, beginning with their children.”

WMU also is enjoying “significant growth in Hispanic congregations,” Fulbright said.

It has not been easy.

WMU’s 12 staff members went from being treated as employees where the Baptist State Convention provided offices, computers, telephones and vehicles with a value of about $1.2 million annually, to having to fund operations themselves.

They lost their place in the North Carolina State Missions Offering, which provided primary funding and have re-instituted the Heck-Jones Offering among churches to raise operating funds. 

Their goal for the 2010 Heck-Jones Offering is $1.3 million, or their entire budget. That offering is being promoted among churches in February.

It is unlikely WMU will raise that much through the offering. The 2009 offering received $429,787 and the 2008 offering received $431,281.   

More than 500 churches support WMU regularly through their budgets. WMU is in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina mission resource plan.

A significantly higher fourth quarter contribution from CBF-NC may indicate increased support from that organization.

Fulbright denied that WMU “left the BSC” to be the women’s organization for CBFNC. She reiterated that the only thing that changed in relationship to North Carolina Baptist churches is its address.

WMU-NC utilized $300,000 from reserves in 2009 to meet operations and to finish an important unit building at their Camp Mundo Vista. A unit building is a central meeting space for combined activities of the campers in five cabins.  

Startup organization
WMU-NC in effect assumed the burdens of a startup organization to fund its operations.

Unlike a startup, it began with a full staff and program to support — with no time to grow into it.

There have been no staff changes, although tight budgets prompted the WMU board to stop making retirement contributions as a staff benefit, and to lower reimbursement for business miles. Staff pays a higher portion of their health insurance. The board adopted a 2010 budget 10.3 percent below 2009.

The uncertain financial future has been for Fulbright a “heavy burden, not only for the ministry we do, but for the people who work here.” 

“We’re going to have to figure out how to work smarter; how to use volunteers more in the office,” Fulbright said. “We’re doing more with technology. We don’t mail as much information; we email it or put it on the website so they can download it themselves.”

Fulbright said that had WMU still been in the Baptist staff building in Cary, they would have been subject to staff reduction determined by persons other than the WMU leadership or board.

Additionally, she said, “We have the freedom to determine who our partners will be without someone looking over our shoulder.”

“Our purpose is not to promote or support only one entity or convention,” Fulbright said.

“We’re here to promote missions and to help churches know the best ways to do that; to give them tools in the way of program structure if they want that; to raise their awareness of issues in the world and needs and give them opportunities to be involved.”

The landscape has changed, both for WMU and all denominational entities. WMU intends to respond to requests of mission educators from any entity, but admits “we’re still trying to figure out” what such response would look like.

“It’s almost like going back to where we were in the beginning, in 1886,” she said. “Nobody wanted us. The men didn’t want us then, so the women just went about doing missions. And gradually as the churches saw the value in what we were doing, we became closely aligned with Southern Baptist churches.”

Fulbright said WMU has always been a grassroots organization, effective in missions but ineffective in telling its own story. It failed to pay close attention to cultural shifts that took younger women to work outside the home, limiting their willingness and availability for traditional evening meetings and events.

But because WMU toots not its own horn, Fulbright said there is missions action taking place all over the world that will go unrecognized, but that occurs because women were made aware of needs and given the mandate to do something about them.  

Future
“We’re learning what our new normal is,” Fulbright said. “This has been in some sense a time of transition and survival. Going forward is dreaming the dream and recalling the vision of who God wants us to be at this point in time.”

There are 2,446 churches with a WMU director and many more utilize some WMU programs, without having a director. When Baptist State Convention staff, at the direction of the Executive Committee, asked each church if they wanted to receive their mission offering promotional materials from WMU-NC or from another source, both by response or default 3,961 churches indicated they would work with WMU-NC.

During the discussions on WMU-NC’s relationship with the BSC, Executive Director-treasurer Hollifield declared the BSC would have a women’s ministry emanating from the Baptist staff building in Cary. If it was not WMU, it would be something else.

When WMU-NC moved out, a task force recommended a women’s ministry that became Embrace. Ashley Allen came Aug. 1, 2009 to lead that ministry. 

While observers feared a competitive atmosphere between the two women’s groups, Fulbright immediately invited Allen to lunch.

“Everything I’ve read that Ashley has said and everything she’s said to me personally indicates WMU and Embrace ought to be able to co-exist in North Carolina and find ways we can partner,” Fulbright said.

Although potential partnerships were considered in formal understandings between WMU and the BSC, Fulbright has sensed that initial steps toward specific partnerships show possibilities, and then collapse when the BSC office they were working with later says “they cannot be partners with us.”

“We appreciate churches and individuals who support us with prayers and gifts and who believe in what we do,” Fulbright said. “They show faith not just in our history and heritage but in where we’re going.”  

1/25/2010 6:40:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 2 comments



2009 Annie offering $8.5 million short of goal

January 25 2010 by Mike Ebert, Baptist Press

TALLADEGA, Ala. — Southern Baptists gave $56.5 million in 2009 to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions. The amount was 2.7 percent (or $1.5 million) off the previous year’s giving mark and $8.5 million below the stated goal of $65 million.

Richard Harris, interim president of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), shared the total in an address to the Woman’s Missionary Union board of trustees at the Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center in Talladega, Ala.

The $56.5 million received in 2009 is the fourth-largest total in the offering’s history. In a year filled with 10 percent unemployment, a bleak housing market and other distressing economic news, Harris said the amount given to “Annie” was a blessing.

“Only God could do that,” Harris told the WMU leaders Jan. 10, “and only through the faithfulness of people like WMU ladies out there lifting up the opportunities and needs.” Harris expressed his appreciation for WMU’s year-round efforts to promote missions and missions giving.

“I appreciate the partnership we’ve shared,” Harris said. “We are about the same thing — trying to advance the Kingdom for missions. I thank all of you for what you are doing. In some of our churches there would be no emphasis on missions if it wasn’t for you. You keep it up on the front burner. You wave the flag. And we at NAMB are indeed grateful.”

Wanda S. Lee, WMU executive director, joined Harris in celebrating the giving achievement.

“In a year of significant financial challenges for many within our denomination, we are excited about this level of giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering,” Lee said. “Through missions discipleship, Southern Baptists understand the spiritual needs across our nation and the kind of resources it will take to share Christ effectively. WMU is grateful for and committed to our strong partnership with NAMB staff and missionaries as together we seek to engage more people in fulfilling the Great Commission.”

Before Harris’ remarks, North American Mission Board missionary Michael Allen shared about his ministry as pastor to the diverse community surrounding his Uptown Baptist Church in Chicago.

“I like to say that there are three things that power our ministry: prayer power, financial power and people power,” Allen said. “WMU has given all of that to the ministry of Uptown for many years.”

Allen ministers to a broad range of residents who live and work near the church. The ministry includes a shelter for up to 50 homeless women who sleep in the church basement, a weekly meal that serves more than 250 people and an addiction recovery program.

“You can pray that we will see more women come to Christ through the shelter,” Allen said. “And pray that our church continues to be on mission in the Acts 1:8 model.”

Referring to the daunting task of reaching the 258 million people in North America who do not know Christ as Savior, Harris spoke from 2 Chronicles 20, telling those present, “The battle is not ours, it’s God’s.”

Regarding current challenges Southern Baptists face, Harris asked, “Is our problem primarily organizational or is it primarily spiritual? I believe it’s the latter.”

Harris shared research indicating that since 1998, the number of SBC churches that baptized no one has increased to the point that now 25 percent — one in four — recorded zero baptisms in 2008. Churches baptizing five or fewer and 10 or fewer also are on the rise. Only 21 percent of SBC churches baptized 11 or more in 2008. The number of churches baptizing no teenagers also is increasing.

In addition, Harris said membership trends indicate that 71 percent of SBC churches are either plateaued or declining.

“Now I ask you this: Are we seriously thinking we can fulfill the Great Commission with 71 percent of our churches that are either plateaued or declining? I think not,” Harris said. Harris shared NAMB’s key focus areas — Sharing Christ, Starting Churches and Sending Missionaries — with the group and a number of current initiatives the entity is working on, including “Across North America,” the first phase of the 10-year God’s Plan for Sharing (GPS) national evangelism initiative. Across North America launches in the weeks leading up to Easter.

The goal for the 2010 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions is $70 million. This year’s North American Missions Emphasis theme is “Live with Urgency: Share God’s Transforming Power.” Churches and individuals who wish to promote the offering can find resources at www.anniearmstrong.com.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Ebert is communications team leader for the North American Mission Board.)  
1/25/2010 6:35:00 AM by Mike Ebert, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



First-person post from Haiti: 'Unbelieveable'

January 24 2010 by Amy Perry

Editor: April Perry, from Durham, is with the second N.C. Baptist Men’s medical team and posted this report from her station in Haiti.

 


So many amputations it just is horrible. Many had to get limbs amputated because there wasn't the equipment and people available to try to fix their fractures earlier. That just sickens me. Now they are without a major limb simply because they didn't have what was needed to fix it at the time. Unbelievable.
 
The tent city outside is growing daily with people we can't keep inside and who have to be "discharged." Additionally many are afraid to go home or don't have a home to go to.
 
I decided I really needed to try to get organized a bit. I spent so much time yesterday looking for things I needed. I think some of the other staff felt the same way because I saw makeshift shelves going up made from concrete blocks and a desk top.

 

I went to the supply area where I was working and started cleaning when an MD from Sweden came into the supply room. She thought that it might make a decent patient room and could help alleviate the overcrowding in their room. So I agreed to try to clean it up and add one additional room for patients.

 

At this point, skill sets aren't as important as doing what is needed. So I found a broom, donned some gloves and spent about an hour cleaning up this supply room for patients.
 
After a quick break for lunch I spent most of the afternoon in the intensive care unit. The folks there really needed a break. We had a woman with hemoglobin of 2 – pretty much as inconsistent with life as you can get and still be alive. They had somehow procured blood for her – one of the volunteers here gave some – and I got that started.

 

Several post-op patients came in as well. We had a woman with tetanus, a woman with a complicated C-section and her baby, and various other folks who needed a little extra attention. It was really amazing to me what we were doing caring for these patients in the midst of this disaster.
 
I walked by a room where an elderly quite sick looking man was calling out and no one seemed to hear him. I went in and immediately recognized him from yesterday. Yesterday he was lying on the ground in the hospital foyer covered up, but just barely, with no clothes on.

 

Next to him was a sign which was so eerie to me: NPO, IV fluids only, DNR. He has sustained a spinal cord injury and there was really nothing to do for him. He had no family with him. Today he just wanted something to drink. So I spent about 5 minutes just giving him sips of water.
 
I think most of you know where I am going with this. Jesus says we need to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty and help those in need. It might have been the most important thing I really did all day long.
 
Many people are here helping in many, many good ways – giving of their hearts and souls, body and talents. So be encouraged, the world is reaching out to Haiti. 


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1/24/2010 8:46:00 AM by Amy Perry | with 0 comments



Number of suspected church arsons reaches 9

January 22 2010 by Jerry Pierce, Baptist Press

TYLER, Texas — Early Wednesday saw two additional church fires in East Texas, bringing to nine the number of suspected arsons to churches in the region since Jan. 1.

Federal investigators are working with state and local authorities in seeking clues to the string of blazes in Smith, Van Zandt and Henderson counties.

According to the Associated Press, a fire at the Bethesda House of Prayer in Lindale, north of Tyler, Texas, was contained Wednesday morning. Meanwhile, firefighters fought a blaze inside the chapel of the Fellowship of Prairie Creek Church in rural Smith County near Lindale, news reports said. Smith County is about 100 miles east of Dallas.

Federal investigators on Wednesday upped their reward from $5,000 to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the fires. Anyone with information may contact the Tyler, Texas ATF office at (903) 590-1475.

During the weekend of Jan. 16-17 arsonists apparently struck the Tyland Baptist Church and the First Church of Christ, Scientist, both in Tyler. Tyland was the third Southern Baptist church to burn in the rash of fires.

On Jan. 12, Lake Athens Baptist Church in Athens, about 65 miles southeast of Dallas, was one of two churches in that town heavily damaged by what investigators believe were arson fires set in the early morning hours. The week before that, another church near Athens was apparently torched.

In Van Zandt County, located between Athens and Tyler, arson is also suspected in two fires set in early January, one at the Little Hope Baptist Church in Canton on New Year’s Day. Authorities in the three affected counties are being aided in their investigation by the Texas state fire marshal’s office and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Authorities first suspected burglary as a motive at the Athens churches, said Athens Assistant Police Chief Rodney Williams, but the investigation is ongoing.

Tyland Baptist Church pastor David E. Mahfood told the Southern Baptist TEXAN: “I was sick when I heard about it. I was up here with several church members, watching it burn. I never thought it would happen to us. I am frustrated, angry, sad, but hopeful, very hopeful, that this will turn out for good for our church.

“Thankfully no one was injured, but we lost records, all of my files, journals, books. I had just put my diploma from Southwestern (Baptist Theological Seminary) on the wall five days ago after graduating in December. We had worship service the next day at Asbury Methodist Church, right across the street. We’ve had dozens of offers to hold church at their facilities, but we have just made an agreement with Willowbrook Baptist Church to meet there.”

For his first sermon after the fire Mahfood preached from 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, which states: “We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed,” and Psalm 136, which has the recurring refrain of “His mercy endures forever.” They also sang “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” and “It is Well with My Soul.”

“This has taught us that all you need is God’s Word. All of this is good and helpful,” he said, pointing to the burned remains of the church, “but all we need is God and His Word. But still, we have some charter members here at the church, memories of those who have been married, baptized, funeral services held here, a lot of memories in this building.”

Tyland Baptist Church began in the early 1960s and has 140 members on the roll with an average attendance of about 120.

“I can’t say enough about the people here,” Mahfood added. “We were just about to hold an evangelism training time on the 24th of January, and we still are, because we are going to keep doing what we’ve always been doing, telling people of God’s love.”

John Green, pastor of Lake Athens Baptist Church in Athens, told the Southern Baptist TEXAN that despite an estimated $500,000 damage to its auditorium in the Jan. 12 fire, “Our hearts are full and our spirits are encouraged. We believe God is going to bring something good out of this.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Pierce is managing editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)
1/22/2010 12:46:00 PM by Jerry Pierce, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



GCR chairman: ‘difficult decisions ahead’

January 22 2010 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The chairman of the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) Task Force is asking for Southern Baptists to be in a “concentrated” time of prayer as members of the task force meet Jan. 26-28 in San Antonio to make “many difficult decisions” regarding its report to the Southern Baptist Convention.

GCR Task Force Chairman Ronnie Floyd sent an e-mail to prayer partners Thursday, saying the “pressure is on” as task force members prepare a preliminary report to present to the SBC’s Executive Committee Feb. 22-23. The task force’s final report will be presented at the annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., June 15-16, for a vote by messengers.

“While additions or revisions to this report (to the Executive Committee) are probable before the final report is made in June at the Orlando Southern Baptist Convention, the release of it in February will give Southern Baptists four months to gain clarity and have their questions addressed,” Floyd wrote.

Following is the complete text of Floyd’s e-mail:

“Your Great Commission Task Force has listened to Southern Baptists, gathered as much information as possible, asked the tough questions, gone through volumes of information, and has really sought to hear what Southern Baptists desire to do to advance the Great Commission in our generation. Equally, we have been before God to seek His will. Now we enter the season and the crucible of decision-making. The pressure is on and the test is real. For the past three months, these decisions have been in process, and in our next meeting we will finalize and make many difficult decisions. This is why we need you.

“On Tuesday through Thursday, January 26-28, our Great Commission Resurgence Task Force will be meeting for our most significant moment in this journey. As our process goes forward, we will be presenting our report to the upcoming meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee on February 22-23. While additions or revisions to this report are probable before the final report is made in June at the Orlando Southern Baptist Convention, the release of it in February will give Southern Baptists four months to gain clarity and have their questions addressed.

“Therefore, I am asking you to give some concentrated prayer time for this upcoming meeting. Please ask your prayer ministries to pray for us. Our need for prayer has never been greater. Please consider even praying for us during the various segments of our meeting. Our meeting begins on Tuesday at 3:00 p.m. and concludes on Thursday at 2:00 p.m. We will meet in the mornings, afternoons, and evenings of each day. We would appreciate various groups within your church having continual prayer for our GCR Team during these hours.

“How can you pray? We need God’s leadership and will to be manifested. We need the wisdom of God regarding every situation. We need complete clarity on presenting our convention of churches a compelling vision for the future. We need to abound in spiritual unity as we move through this significant meeting. We need courage to make the decisions that will truly advance the Great Commission through the ministries of Southern Baptists. We need God’s protection upon our own lives, our families, and the ministries we are a part of, because dealing with major Great Commission issues brings strong spiritual warfare.

“Please continue to enlist people to be a part of our www.pray4gcr.com prayer team. We have just under 6,000 people who are prayer partners with us daily. We would love to see hundreds more join us in this daily commitment to pray for a Great Commission Resurgence to occur in and through the Southern Baptist Convention.

“Additionally, please share with your congregation that Dr. Johnny Hunt, the President of our Convention, has issued a ‘Call to Prayer’ for Sunday, January 31. He is appealing to every Southern Baptist Christ-follower and church to pray for the future of our convention of churches on this day.

“May God bless you wonderfully for being our partners in prayer. “Dr. Ronnie Floyd “Chairman, Great Commission Resurgence Task Force”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compiled by Michael Foust, an assistant editor of Baptist Press.)  
1/22/2010 12:44:00 PM by Baptist Press | with 2 comments



Haiti video available

January 22 2010 by BSC Communications

A two-minute video with current pictures from Haiti and information about North Carolina Baptists’ response to date is available here.

Richard Brunson, director of N.C. Baptist Men, suggests churches that are interested in helping in Haiti show the video Sunday morning.

Most of the first medical team that went to Haiti last week will be returning to North Carolina Friday evening (Jan. 22). The second team of 13 people is onsite and a third team is being assembled to leave Jan. 24.

The single immediate personnel need is for medical help.

Teams are having to fly into Dominican Republic and come overland to Haiti because of the clogged airport.

“We have taken in many medical supplies,” said Brunson. “ Right now the needs are medical and very specialized,” Brunson said. “But in the future we will have many more opportunities for volunteers with other skills to be used in Haiti. Potential volunteers can sign up on our web site. We are looking at being involved in Haiti for a long time.”

How to donate:
  • Go to our site, click on the button Donate Now. You will be taken to a page that shows the option of donating in several different monetary denominations. Follow the instructions. 
  • You may send a check to: N.C. Baptist Men, P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512. Please mark the check Haiti Disaster Relief efforts.   
(EDITOR'S NOTE — The Biblical Recorder has a channel on YouTube where other Haiti videos are available.)

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1/22/2010 3:12:00 AM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Raleigh pastor clings to news, phone, hope

January 21 2010 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Erilus St. Sauveur lost a sister and two nephews to the Haitian earthquake Jan. 12. His sorrow was mitigated only by the first phone call from his son in Haiti six days after the quake to say he was alive.

St. Sauveur, pastor of First Haitian Tabernacle of Grace in Raleigh, is no stranger to pain, having lost three siblings during political violence in Haiti years ago. With seven children of their own, he and wife Mureille, are parents to six other relatives for whom they’ve taken responsibility.

With the television in his sparsely furnished house in Garner tuned constantly to news, and his telephone ever at hand, St. Sauveur yearns for any news from his native island. He knows all surviving relatives are living on the street with hundreds of thousands of others. He also has learned how narrow the margin between life and death is.

One of St. Sauveur’s grandsons was with his father in Haiti on Jan. 12 when they heard a strange noise. The father stepped outside the house to look at the sky, just before the ceiling collapsed on his son. The boy’s last words were, “Help me; save me.”

St. Sauveur also lost a niece and her two children. The four churches and two schools he planted in Haiti are all destroyed, with 12 known casualties. The fate of many others is simply unknown.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Erilus St. Sauveur (see video)


He is anxious to get to Haiti to assess the situation, and pledges his availability to help any group going over.

St. Sauveur, an entrepreneurial church planter who started 14 churches in the Chicago area and two more in Pennsylvania, moved to North Carolina just last year in search of warmer weather for better health.

He formed an organization called Solid Rock. Prior to that he worked under the auspices of two other denominations and his church is now meeting in the facilities of Athens Drive Baptist Church in Raleigh.

He was a district overseer for 42 congregations in Haiti when he left for America in 1985 as a missionary to reach Haitians for God.

His vision is to start Haitian churches everywhere. “We plan to go and get them for the Lord,” he said, noting also Haitian populations in Charlotte, High Point and Greensboro. “You have to go out there and cry in the wilderness like John the Baptist and people will come to you,” he said.

He called Raleigh a “tough place” to start a Haitian church and said if a preacher does not “have God’s spirit after a while you will say au revoir and will leave.”

St. Sauveur, 58, grew up with an aunt in Port-au-Prince from age five after she took him in following destruction of his hometown of Anse-a-veau by a hurricane. She was a member of First Baptist Church of Port-au-Prince.

St. Sauveur offers some insight as to why Haiti is so poor. He said Haitians picked up from the French colonialists that only certain professions had honor. Craftsmen or tradesmen had no prestige and no one sought training or employment in those roles.

Instead, “everyone wants to be the chief or president” he said, and everyone who gets into such a role takes the money and leaves.  

Way to help
As North Carolina Baptists prepare to help Haiti recover, St. Sauveur suggested building a trades training school. With so much rebuilding ahead, and so few craftsman, training Haitians to lead their rebuilding effort would help to establish a middle class economy.

Of course, St. Sauveur’s No. 1 concern is to lead Haitians to Christ, and he sees great potential in a training school with a spiritual training element.

More immediately he says thousands need to get off the streets, and he suggests erecting temporary shelters just out of the city that each will be a distribution point for food, medicine and water. He is very concerned that survivors of the earthquake are dying in the aftermath.

In offering his help, St. Sauveur said he would go every month if he could help navigate the local mazes in Haiti. He reminds North Carolina Baptists to bend to tasks that are good for Haitians, not necessarily good for themselves.

In each project, he encouraged the N.C. Baptist group to incorporate several local workers and to train them. When the project is over, not only will there be a building, but also several trained Haitians who will have a way to make a living.

He said Haitians believe in commerce and are entrepreneurs and that micro loans of just a few hundred dollars could jump start many businesses. 

“I would strongly suggest we go there and build houses, and that we make sure we have a church and school for them too,” St. Sauveur said. “God in heaven will be very, very pleased with that. 

“I know the job you are doing is definitely out of love. You owe us nothing but you go for love.”
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1/21/2010 9:12:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 1 comments



Haiti conditions bad, but relief pipeline opening

January 21 2010 by Baptist Global Response

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Conditions on the ground in Haiti are very difficult, a member of Southern Baptists’ joint assessment team reported from Port-au-Prince Jan. 20. A U.S. military commander, however, said important progress has been made on enlarging the conduit for relief shipments into the quake-ravaged island nation.

“We’ve seen quite a bit of damage — more so toward the center of the city,” reported Jim Brown, U. S. director for Baptist Global Response, in a terse e-mail sent from his cell phone. “We’ve helped with a couple of deliveries. Helicopters everywhere. People still being found alive!”

In another report, relayed to a meeting of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Network, team member Bruce Poss indicated that traffic in Port-au-Prince is terrible and milling crowds are making travel and security serious concerns. He reported seeing 5,000 or more people lined up outside the US Embassy in the capital.

The five-member team delivered relief supplies — water, plastic sheeting, bottled gas, beans, rice, eggs, diesel fuel, canned goods — to a couple of churches and orphanages, Brown said. They were planning to connect with a Florida Baptist assessment team later in the day.

A U.S. military commander said the flow of relief supplies into Haiti would be helped by the opening of three new airfields and the country’s seaport, news services reported. Gen. Douglas Fraser, who heads the U.S. Southern Command, told the Miami Herald newspaper the capital’s seaport would reopen Jan. 21 and could accommodate about 150 shipping containers per day. The port’s capacity is expected to grow to 250 containers per day by Jan. 22.

The main airport in Port-au-Prince, which has one runway and one loading ramp, has been a bottleneck for the arrival of humanitarian aid, even after it was reopened. A total of 1,400 flights are backlogged to land at the airfield, Fraser said. Because congestion on the roads has been hindering delivery of relief supplies, 63 U.S. helicopters have been dropping water, food and medical supplies into the most inaccessible areas, he told the newspaper.

The U.S. military has distributed 1.4 million bottles of water, more than 700,00 meals, and about 22,000 pounds of medical supplies directly to people in need, Fraser said.

As many as 2 million Haitians are homeless because of the Jan. 12 earthquake, relief officials say, with vast numbers of people living in makeshift tents made of sheets and sticks. The estimated death toll stands at 200,000, but humanitarian medical groups warn that number will continue to grow as people die of untreated injuries and disease that infects the ramshackle camps, news services report.

Southern Baptist medical personnel who are willing to help in the relief effort can e-mail haitiresponse@imb.org to register their availability. Baptist state convention disaster relief offices also will be organizing teams of volunteers to help once the assessment teams have returned with strategic recommendations for the response.

The Southern Baptist relief effort, like the one mounted after Hurricane Katrina and the South Asia tsunami, will be focused on the long term, Mickey Caison, who directs disaster operations for the North American Mission Board, told the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Network Jan. 20. Previous strategies have focused on short-term help for people being missed by large-scale humanitarian projects and a long-term emphasis on helping people rebuild their lives and communities. 

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1/21/2010 9:09:00 AM by Baptist Global Response | with 0 comments



Haiti response may require $2 million

January 21 2010 by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press

ROCKVILLE, Va. — Southern Baptist workers anticipate spending at least $2 million on relief and rebuilding projects in earthquake-ravaged Haiti over the coming months, International Mission Board (IMB) trustees were told during their Jan. 18-19 meeting in Rockville, Va.

A joint disaster assessment team is in Haiti, comprised of personnel from the IMB, North American Mission Board (NAMB), Baptist Global Response (BGR) and Florida Baptist Convention (FBC), which has longtime ministry ties to Haiti.

IMB photo

International Mission Board strategist Scott Holste reports to IMB trustees on Southern Baptist response to the Haiti earthquake crisis during the trustees’ meeting Jan. 18-19 in Rockville, Va. (See video.)


“We’ve already released an initial $150,000, but anticipate over the coming months appropriating at least $2 million for projects in Haiti,” Scott Holste, associate vice president for global strategy, told trustees meeting at the IMB’s International Learning Center. “Establishing supply lines for water, food and temporary housing will be an integral part of our response. Anticipated needs over the coming months will include cleanup, distribution of food, temporary and permanent construction projects, counseling and medical care.”

As relief projects get under way, Southern Baptist volunteers will be recruited to work alongside Haitian Baptists and others, Holste said. Longer-term education and microenterprise efforts also are being planned to help Haitians get back to work.

Recovery will take years for the impoverished Caribbean nation, where authorities estimate as many as 200,000 people died as a result of the Jan. 12 quake. Hundreds of thousands more have suffered injuries, lost their homes and lack food, water and medicine. Many thousands of homeless and hungry Haitians are streaming out of the shattered capital, Port-au-Prince, in search of food and shelter.

“Southern Baptists are a people who care,” Holste said. “They want to be personally involved in the lives of those affected by this disaster.”

Churches and individuals already have given nearly $500,000 to Haiti relief via IMB funding channels. Money can be donated online at imb.org/haitifund.

“Because of Southern Baptist giving to the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, 100 percent of any money that’s given (through the IMB) to disaster relief in Haiti will be used to address the needs of people” rather than paying for administrative costs, Holste added.

Cooperative Program giving and Lottie Moon offering funds pay for the ongoing support of the IMB’s mission workers who are part of the SBC’s relief efforts, he said.

“People in the places where our personnel are serving are dealing in a very harsh reality,” said Gordon Fort, IMB vice president for global strategy. “Some have lost their loved ones. They don’t know where their families are. They’ve lost everything, their homes destroyed. But sometimes their reality intersects with hope....

“We believe the same thing will happen in Haiti as happened in (South Asia) following the tsunami. There are ... people in that region who would never have had the opportunity (to hear about Jesus Christ) except that there was a tragedy that swept 250,000 people into eternity,” Fort added. “A door was opened, and in the midst of a harsh reality God sent people called Southern Baptists to extend a message of hope.”

Search for new president
The 15-member trustee search committee continues seeking a successor to IMB President Jerry Rankin, who will retire in July, trustees were told. Search committee chairman Jimmy Pritchard reported the group has completed the “gathering phase” of the search and is beginning the selection process.

“We’ll start going over the resumes, so this is the time we really ask people to pray,” said Pritchard, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Forney, Texas. “We had over 270 different people make recommendations, and they recommended 74 different candidates. We’ve made contacts with all of them. Some of them have declined (to be considered), but everybody who had an interest we have communicated with.”

Pritchard said he hopes the selection process will move along quickly, but he emphasized the committee members “do not feel pressure to go faster than God would lead us. We will proceed as quickly and efficiently as we can, but we’re not going to rush it. Pray that we would hear God and would be sensitive and would end up with His man, at His time, for His job.”

Four mission ‘myths’
In his remarks to trustees, Rankin said that before “fading away into the sunset” he intended to use his remaining board reports to review “where we are in our mission task, why we do what we do and the foundational principles of our mission.” He used the first such opportunity to confront four “prominent myths” that “create misinformation and distort perceptions” about IMB strategy and work:
  • “Evangelism and missions are one and the same.”
“One does not do missions without evangelism. Witnessing, winning and discipling people into the kingdom as Christ-followers is the heart of the mission,” Rankin stressed. But failing to understand the “subtle distinction” between the two leads many churches and Christians to conclude they are primarily responsible only for evangelizing the people who live right around them — or people around the world who are immediately responsive to the gospel. It also leads to another assumption that has long hindered missions: Since salvation is the “sovereign work of God, we don’t need to be concerned about results.”

Such misunderstandings continue to lead many Christians to relinquish the mission task to “an elite few ministry professionals and missionaries who work on their behalf,” Rankin lamented. As for concentrating exclusively on responsive regions and peoples, he added, “we could probably double the number of reported baptisms each year by concentrating our missionary force in a handful of open and responsive countries, but that would hardly be fulfilling God’s mission, as it would result in multitudes never hearing the gospel.”
  • “Church-planting movements are a humanly designed strategy to speed the completion of the Great Commission.”
The notion that authentic, rapidly growing church-planting movements — led by lay believers, often amid persecution — are just another mission program or strategy “is a blatant misrepresentation of the work of God,” Rankin charged.

“There will never be enough missionaries to reach the whole world. The only possibility of everyone having access to the gospel is through a grass-roots network of indigenous, reproducing churches being planted in every community,” he said. “It is a matter of pride to assume that an almighty, sovereign God is dependent on the human instrumentality of educated, mature Western missionaries to teach and train and lead before (local believers are) qualified and capable of sharing their faith with another.

“I find it appalling that there are those who actually advocate slow growth, taking years to disciple new believers to maturity, requiring seminary training of leaders before they can pastor a church or share their faith.... Certainly training is valuable, and our reports reflect the priority that is being given with the number of those being trained (by IMB missionaries and their ministry partners) growing from 30,000 to more than 200,000 in the last decade. We believe in theological education.... But which church is healthier and more spiritually vital — the one reproducing and sharing their faith, or those which never start another church and see negligible numbers coming to Christ?”
  • “Our mission strategy of reaching all peoples is based on Matthew 24:14 and a desire to hasten the return of Christ.”
In Matthew 24:14, Jesus Christ declares that the gospel “will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Reaching all peoples in order to hasten the end of the age, however, “has never been voiced or intimated by me or anyone responsible for strategic leadership at the International Mission Board,” Rankin stressed. “Yet it continues to be voiced by critics of our passionate devotion to what our Lord has mandated us to do. The time of our Lord’s return is in the Father’s hands, and we will do nothing to change that timeframe. We could never presume to interpret the Father’s criteria for what it means to fulfill the Great Commission. My frequent use of Matthew 24:14 is simply to glorify God that this prophecy is being fulfilled as the gospel is being proclaimed among all peoples and nations.”
  • “Advocating a certain priority or objective nullifies or excludes others.”
Prime examples of this myth, Rankin noted, include the perceptions that because IMB missionaries focus on evangelism, reaching unreached peoples and partnering with Southern Baptist “mega churches,” they are no longer committed to theological training, medical and humanitarian work, aiding established churches in evangelized areas or working with smaller Southern Baptist churches to mobilize for missions.

“Such reasoning is illogical and so far from the truth as to be ludicrous — were it not representing the perception of so many, even among some of the ranks of our missionaries,” Rankin said. “It doesn’t seem to be simply a misunderstanding, but an intentional way of holding on to a narrow, personally convenient position....

“We must realize there will always be critics and detractors,” Rankin concluded. “We must do a better job of communication. We need to be sympathetic and patient with those who resist change. We need to minister to those who are challenged and stressed by change. But we must not be deterred from moving forward in the task our Lord has committed to us.”

Memorial service
Also during the meeting, IMB Executive Vice President Clyde Meador led the trustees’ annual memorial service for members of the greater missionary family who died during the previous year.

Trustees remembered 39 retired missionaries, two active missionaries, five retired staff members and a child of a missionary family who died in 2009. The retired missionaries honored during the memorial served an average of more than 27 years each on international fields.

The trustees’ next meeting is March 2-3 in Memphis, Tenn., with an appointment service for new missionaries scheduled for March 3 at Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Bridges is a global correspondent for the International Mission Board.)

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1/21/2010 9:00:00 AM by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



Quake shakes ground but not Haitians’ faith

January 21 2010 by Bob Braun, Religion News Service

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Did God abandon Haiti?

No, say its people of faith — and there are many here in a place without much beyond faith. The earthquake was a sign of God’s presence.

So, it should be no surprise that on a narrow street choked by debris, outside a church with a shattered ceiling open to the morning sky, what was left of the congregation of Haiti’s Second Baptist Church stood in a courtyard and waved their hands in the air and shouted, “Victoire! Victoire!”

Victory.

Simeon Vilneus based his sermon on Matthew 24, when Jesus was asked how long the temple in Jerusalem would stand. “I tell you,” Jesus answered, “not one stone here will rest upon another. Every one will be thrown down.”

And the men and women, dressed in suits and dresses rescued and cleaned from the relentless dust, heard that and shouted, “Alleluia! Alleluia.”

They should be happy, they should smile, Vilneus told them. What happened Jan. 12 was not an example of God’s absence, but rather proof that he is coming back soon. Proof that the good people of Haiti will be the first to welcome him because they suffered first. Vilneus reminded his people that Jesus also said: “There will be famine and earthquakes ... and all this will be the beginning of birth pains.”

In the Haiti after the cataclysm of the 7.0-magnitude earthquake, hope is found in the idea that indescribable destruction and death must be proof its people are on the threshold of salvation. God, they say, has chosen Haiti of all places as the nation where the End Times, Armageddon, the end of the world, will begin.

“My faith is stronger because I know God is at the door,” Vilneus cried out. “He said he is coming soon. The End Times are here. He has come to Haiti.”

It may be impossible to argue matters of faith, but it’s easy to understand why what has happened to the people of Haiti should be seen as proof of the coming end of the world. For probably more than 100,000 people, this world already has ended.

“I think it may be true,” said Jean Charles, a member of the church. “Nothing like this has ever happened before. It’s what the Bible says will happen.”

RNS photo by Tony Kurdzuk/The Star-Ledger

People sing and pray at the Shiloh Baptist Church in Trenton, N.J., during a prayer and thanksgiving service after the earthquake. Twenty people from this church as well as the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville, and Kingdom Church in Trenton, landed in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Jan. 12 several hours before a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit the island. An e-mail sent Jan. 13 from a member of the group confirmed the survival of all the members.


Not far from Vilneus’ church stands what looks like Jesus’ words made real — the ruins of the nation’s largest church, the National Cathedral. It’s the closest thing in this country to a temple, with the importance of the temple in Jerusalem.

Vilneus did not miss the point, mentioning that many churches, including his own, including the largest, were damaged and destroyed.

“God,” he said, “is showing you the temple of Jerusalem destroyed, he is showing you he is coming back and you must stay at his feet.”

When the service began, many sat stunned and lethargic. One woman wept quietly in one of the pews. Denise Midy says she cannot find her children. “Ma famille,” my family, she repeated again and again.

The pastor estimated that as many as half of his 3,000-member flock may have been killed in the earthquake, although it is impossible to know. Vilneus says he lost his home and his best friend, but his family was saved.

Because most phone service is out and many streets impassable, trying to learn what happened to their relatives is nearly impossible, unless they found their bodies in the morgue.

“I thought maybe I’d find some people here,” said Ruth Yvon, an elderly woman who cannot find her daughter and grandchildren.     

Outside the church, men and women, their faces covered in masks, gathered scraps of wood and sheets to make portable shelters. They ignored the calls of church elders who stood outside the courtyard asking them to come in and “accept Jesus.”

“We have no home,” said one woman pushing a wheelbarrow piled high with a barrel of water and some clothes. “Your home is here,” one of the elders answered. She answered, “Then let me live there.”

Vilneus, in fact, has opened the church school as a shelter, and invites both members and strangers in. He cannot open the church — a vast structure with plenty of room — because it might yet fall.

Outside the National Cathedral, a truck pulls up and a crew of rescue workers from Fairfax County, Va., piles out. They are there, they say, to rescue anyone who might have been trapped inside.

“Is there anyone here who can tell us whether anyone is inside, or who’s in charge of the church?” asked Pat Sheehan, one of the recovery workers.

He is talking to a woman dressed in purple, a large silver cross hanging from her neck. She appears to belong to the church.

“No, no one is here,” explained the woman, Marie Lourdes. “They are all gone.”

Then she turns back and shows the reason she has come to the church. She is draping her wet laundry on the high fence of the once grand temple.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Braun writes for The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J.)


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1/21/2010 8:53:00 AM by Bob Braun, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



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