January 2010

10 steps for implementing GPS

January 19 2010 by Chip Arnhart & Jerry Pipes, Baptist Press

As Southern Baptists prepare to implement “God’s Plan for Sharing: Across North America” in the coming months, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) offers 10 steps toward reaching the goal.

1. Pray.
Mobilize your church to pray for all lost people in your community and your church’s efforts to reach them.

2. Determine your territory. Which homes will your church touch through prayer and the “Find It Here” gospel distribution? Check with your association to identify other participating churches so as not to overlap efforts.

3. Order “Across North America” materials. The Pastor/Church Preparation Guide is available for free at gps2020.net or order a copy for a small fee by calling (866) 407-6262. You may be able to order plastic bags and Find It Here gospel drop-in pieces from your association. Find contact information at gps2020.net. You can also order promotional items at Outreach.com by searching for “Find It Here.” Or find North Carolina specific materials at www.finditherenc.org.

4. Update your church’s profile. Visit sbc.net and view your church’s listing, and if necessary, correct your church’s information. Churches can make changes to their online information anytime using their 7-digit SBC ID# (the same number used for the Annual Church Profile) by going to churchsearch.net. Be sure the address listed is your physical address and not a P.O. Box. Those looking for church homes during this campaign will be sent to this web site to find churches in their area.

5. Become an ERC Covenant Church. The information from individuals contacting the Evangelism Response Center is sent to Covenant Churches for follow-up. If your church is equipped and registered as a Covenant Church, then the contact information of people accepting Christ in your area will come to you. For more information about Covenant Churches call (770) 410-6383 or e-mail erc@namb.net.

6. Provide your congregation with evangelism training. 

7. Prepare your church for company. Easter Sunday will be a day when many people visit for the first time. Be sure this isn’t their last time visiting by preparing to welcome and incorporate them.

8. Keep it simple. Across North America consists of four simple steps:

    a. A three-week targeted media saturation March 20 through April 11 (TV, radio,     billboards, newspapers, etc.).
    b. Prayer walking your community on the weekend of March 20.
    c. On March 27 distributing clear bags containing a “Find It Here” gospel drop-in piece     and an invitation to your Easter services to each home in your territory.
    d. Conducting a five-week follow-up process after Easter.

9. Make Easter Sunday, April 4, special. Because of your prayers and hands-on work to distribute the gospel, many lost people will be at your Easter Sunday services. Take full advantage of this time by clearly presenting the gospel and providing an opportunity for people to respond.

10. Celebrate what God has done. Host a baptism celebration, reflect with thanksgiving on the changed lives, praise God for the number of believers trained and rejoice about the revival experienced in your community. Let God continue this transformation in your heart, your church and your community.
 

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Arnhart is resource coordinator for the North American Mission Board’s spiritual awakening team, and Pipes is the team’s leader. If your church is going to be involved, please share information or photos with the Biblical Recorder by contacting Dianna Cagle at dianna@biblicalrecorder.org.)

Related story
GPS: An audacious vision to reach America
1/19/2010 2:25:00 AM by Chip Arnhart & Jerry Pipes, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Pastors long hours can hurt people, ministry

January 19 2010 by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press

Protestant pastors in America are working long hours, sometimes at the expense of relationships with church members, prospects, family and even the Lord.

A telephone survey of more than 1,000 senior pastors indicated a full 65 percent of them work 50 or more hours a week — with 8 percent saying they work 70 or more hours. Meetings and electronic correspondence consume large amounts of time for many ministers, while counseling, visitation, family time, prayer and personal devotions suffer in too many cases.

The results of the LifeWay Research study “How Protestant Pastors Spend Their Time” show the typical pastor works 50 hours a week.

Scott McConnell, associate director of LifeWay Research, pointed out, however, that this average actually understates the number of hours because it takes into account bivocational pastors (11 percent of survey participants), part-time senior pastors (5 percent of survey participants), and volunteer pastors (2 percent of survey participants) — the majority of whom work, by design, less than 40 hours for their church each week. 

“Since the phone survey went to church offices, it was pastors who were at the church office and more likely to take the phone call who are included in the survey,” McConnell said. “Bivocational pastors often follow the apostle Paul’s example of ‘working night and day’ in Thessalonica as they hold a job outside the church in addition to their job as pastor.” 

When factoring out those who are not full time, the median number of hours full-time senior pastors work for their churches each week is 55 hours, with 42 percent working 60 or more hours.

Among ministry activities, pastors spend the most time on sermon preparation. Half of them spend five to 14 hours in sermon preparation.

Nine percent say they spend 25 hours or more in sermon preparation each week, and 7 percent report they spend less than five hours preparing to preach.

Ministry-related meetings and electronic correspondence drive the number of hours worked even higher.

More than 70 percent of pastors say they spend up to five hours a week in meetings, and 15 percent put their meeting load at 10 hours or more.

E-mail and other electronic correspondence eat up between two and six hours a week for half the pastors, while 14 percent indicate they spend at least 10 hours a week in electronic correspondence.

Many pastors, however, find it difficult to make time for two primary ways of relating to church members and prospects: counseling and visitation.

While 24 percent say they spend six hours a week or more in counseling ministry, the same percentage reports spending an hour or less.

By the same token, while 12 percent of pastors say they spend 11 or more hours a week in hospital, home or witnessing visits, 12 percent also indicate they spend an hour or less.

Forty-eight percent say they spend between two and five hours a week in visitation. Time with family rates as a priority for many pastors, but some find alarmingly little opportunity to be with their spouses and children.

While 30 percent of the pastors report spending 20-29 hours with their families each week – and 16 percent indicate spending 40 or more hours with them weekly – almost 10 percent say they spend nine hours a week or less with family members.

At the same time, 24 percent say they watch 10-14 hours of television each week, and 13 percent put their TV time at 15 hours or more.

The amount of time spent in prayer and personal devotions raises questions about the vitality of many pastors’ spiritual lives. While 52 percent report spending one to six hours in prayer each week, 5 percent say they spend no time at all in prayer. Furthermore, while 52 percent say they spend two to five hours a week in personal devotions unrelated to teaching preparation, 14 percent indicate they spend an hour or less in personal devotions each week.

“In the early church, the apostles recognized the need to focus their time on prayer and studying the Scripture, as evidenced in Acts 6:4, for instance,” McConnell said. “They shared other ministry tasks – even pressing issues – with qualified believers. Pastors’ top two uses of their ministry time today show this same priority in sermon preparation and prayer.”

“While the priorities are right, they may need better protection.”

McConnell continued. “The total hours pastors work in addition to these biblical priorities shows that more of the other ministry tasks need to be shared. Jesus Christ designed the work of the church to be done by believers together in unity.”

The research also turned up some interesting contrasts between evangelical pastors and those who serve churches in mainline denominations:
  • 30 percent of evangelical pastors say they spend 20 or more hours a week in sermon preparation, contrasted with 20 percent of mainline pastors.
  • 49 percent of evangelical pastors report they spend three hours or less each week in ministry related meetings, while 38 percent of mainline pastors report the same number; 62 percent of mainline pastors report spending five or more hours a week in meetings, contrasted with 52 percent of evangelical pastors. 
  • 39 percent of evangelical pastors indicate spending less than four hours a week in personal devotions unrelated to teaching preparation, contrasted with 47 percent of mainline pastors.
Methodology: LifeWay Research conducted the telephone survey of 1,002 randomly selected Protestant pastors Oct. 13-29, 2008. Responses were weighted to reflect the geographic distribution of the churches, and the sample size provides 95 percent confidence that sampling error does not exceed ±3.2 percent.  
1/19/2010 2:18:00 AM by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



SBC President Hunt clear of cancer

January 17 2010 by Baptist Press

WOODSTOCK, Ga. — Follow-up tests for Johnny Hunt show him clear of cancer, according to a spokesman for the president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Jim Law, executive pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church in Woodstock where Hunt is pastor, shared Hunt’s doctor’s report that there was “no trace of cancer” and he “could not be more pleased” with Hunt’s prognosis.

According to the doctor, he is “healing well,” Law said.

Hunt underwent surgery to remove his prostate Jan. 7.

“Dr Hunt would like to extend his heartfelt appreciation to all who have prayed for him and his family during this time,” Law said. “God has been faithful and has used you all to be such a great source of encouragement and blessing to him. “He is deeply grateful.”

Law asked Southern Baptists to continue to pray for Hunt’s complete healing, and said Hunt expressed that he “was excited about seeing how God will use Southern Baptists at an even greater way in the days ahead.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compiled by Will Hall, executive editor of Baptist Press.)  
1/17/2010 9:09:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 1 comments



Missionaries heartbroken over tragedy

January 17 2010 by Baptist Press

RICHMOND, Va. — Southern Baptist missionaries with long-term connections to Haiti, where the death toll from a Jan. 12 earthquake is still beyond counting, are anxiously waiting to hear from friends and former co-workers in the country.

Currently, the International Mission Board does not have long-term personnel stationed in the country.

Mark Rutledge, who served with his wife Peggy in Haiti for 26 years, has been unable to contact anyone he knows in the country. The earthquake destroyed much of Haiti’s communications infrastructure, according to news reports, and telephone service is spotty at best.

Inadequate building codes may have multiplied the death toll, Rutledge observed.

“To me it’s pretty overwhelming,” said Rutledge, who was in the United States when the quake occurred. “The codes were sufficient in the 1800s, but they’re not now. The houses are very close together with multiple stories. There is a lot of potential for widespread devastation. There could easily be hundreds and hundreds of thousands dead or homeless.”

Dawn Goodwin, who worked in Haiti for nearly 17 years before transferring to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, has been able to learn about conditions in Haiti through the Facebook social networking site.

Although cell phones and land lines are not working, people with Internet access through satellite dishes have been able to communicate online, Goodwin said. Through Facebook, Goodwin learned about friends Bruce and Cindy McMartin, who serve with another missionary organization, working into the night Jan. 12 to try to locate students at their Bible school who were missing after the earthquake.

“We’re all just still in shock I think ... just too incredible to believe and to think about all the damage is overwhelming,” McMartin wrote on Facebook. “The noise around (the neighborhood) this morning is of people digging out and then the wails as they find their dead loved ones.”

Goodwin finds it hard to express the emotions she feels about the destruction in Haiti and her desire to help survivors. The Port-au-Prince neighborhood in which she used to live was just a few blocks from the United Nations building that was destroyed by the quake.

“The devastation is so overwhelming — there are no words for me to express what I see when I see the pictures,” Goodwin said. “I don’t know what I can do as one person, but I do feel like I should be there ministering and helping. I know that the missionaries (from other groups) who are there, many of them are out in the streets now trying to find people to help.

“Haiti is a place that had so many problems already; if the world will come in and help, Haiti can be rebuilt,” Goodwin added. “My heart is really heavy for the people who are suffering and can’t get anybody to come rescue them because there are probably thousands who are trapped, waiting for rescue.”

Haitian Christians will be giving themselves wholeheartedly in service to neighbors in need and would be grateful for prayer support, Rutledge added.

“We just ask Southern Baptists to pray for the many people impacted and for the (local) Christians to minister to communities at large,” Rutledge said. “Haitians are very caring people.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Reported by the International Mission Board’s communications staff. Southern Baptists can contribute to “Haiti Earthquake Disaster Relief” through their local church or directly to their state convention, the North American Mission Board or the International Mission Board.)

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1/17/2010 9:05:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Baptist pastor confirmed among dead in Haiti

January 17 2010 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Baptists in Haiti mourned the death of a beloved pastor killed in the Jan. 12 earthquake.

Gedeon Eugene, a vice president of the Baptist Convention of Haiti, told the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) that Bienne L’Amerique, 46, pastor of Eglise Baptiste du Shiloh (Shiloh Baptist Church) in Port-au-Prince, was one of thousands of victims buried in rubble of collapsed buildings in the capital city.

L’Amerique, described as a beloved pastor and leader among Haiti’s Baptists, was a host to mission groups from the United States and was due for a U.S. visit next month.

‘‘Everybody in our office is crying,’’ Jack Groblewski, senior pastor of New Covenant Christian Community in Bethlehem, Pa., told the Morning Call newspaper in Allentown, Pa.

With most of Haiti’s power grid destroyed, information from Haiti was slow in coming during the first three days after the disaster. Eugene told BWA officials there had been no word on the fate of about 15,000 members of six Baptist congregations located in Port-au-Prince.

Groblewski said about half of L’Amerique’s church building collapsed, and it was constructed better than some others. The American pastor said streets in the neighborhood where Shiloh was located are said to be lined with corpses, which are covered with sheets or blankets because there are no body bags.

According to a BWA report, First Baptist Church in Port-au-Prince also sustained damage.

Baptists in America responded quickly to the humanitarian crisis, but aid was slow in arriving due to difficulty in getting into the country.

A medical team from North Carolina Baptist Men left for Haiti Jan. 14, but was still trying to get across the border a day later.

Texas Baptist Men were waiting for clearance Jan. 15 to send 5,000 water-purification systems that cost $30 each. The group asked for donations to help cover costs of the $150,000 commitment.

Buckner International was preparing four containers of shoes and emergency food items for Haiti, which will cost $5,000 per container to ship.

Buckner asked the public to supply new items such as new socks, tents, toiletries and new and unopened first-aid kits. Relief agencies said the best way to help in the short term is to give money.

Aid cannot be distributed until staging areas are established, and most volunteer work will not be needed until after the initial search-and-rescue phase.

Groups including Baptist World Aid, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and American Baptist Churches USA are all raising money for earthquake relief.

Several Baptist congregations are also making large commitments to disaster relief. Seventh and James Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, set aside $10,000 for earthquake aid.

Mitch Randall, pastor of NorthHaven Church in Norman, Okla., asked his church members to give money to Baptist World Aid.

Randall visited Haiti last year to distribute mosquito nets with His Nets, a ministry that fights malaria in developing countries started by T Thomas, coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Oklahoma.

Baptist leaders also sought prayer for Haiti. www.d365.org, a devotional web site sponsored by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, The Presbyterian Church USA, and the Episcopal Church, is editing content to guide readers in devotion and prayer about Haiti.
Colleen Burroughs of Passport, Inc., the organization that produces d365.org, said the site was created in response to 9/11, when it became apparent that Advent literature written months earlier for students was not relevant at the time.

The site offers daily devotions, along with Advent and Lenten series, but it is also designed to respond immediately to events like the tsunami in Asia or Hurricane Katrina.

“The immediate response helps make it a relevant ministry to students,” Burroughs said. Last year d365.org had 450,000 visitors from all around the world, and the site is currently being translated for Christians in Mongolia at their request.

Related stories
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Haiti conditions bad, but relief pipeline opening
Haiti response may require $2 million
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Spoke’n (Editor's Journal): Haitians were 1779 allies
Spoke’n: Finding the first question
The Way I Hear It (blog): How to Handle Haiti
Answering the Call (blog): No ‘Flash in the Pan’ Needed
Guest column: Hope for Haiti
Raleigh video
IMB video
1/17/2010 9:00:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Being a pro-life church

January 17 2010 by Karen Cole, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Is your church pro-life? As a body, are you encouraging each other not only to think in a pro-life way but also to act in a pro-life way?

Undeniably, Christians have been the backbone of the pro-life movement since its inception. If more churches would harness their membership and organizational power on behalf of pro-life causes, however, perhaps the tide could be turned in America and we would once again live in a society that values every human life.

Let’s think about some practical ways your church members can be pro-life.
  • Teach your children
“Impress these words of Mine on your hearts and souls ... teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road” (Deuteronomy 11:18-19).

Explain to your children from an early age why human life is sacred. Impress upon them that humans are made in the image of God, who loves and has a purpose for every person. In age-appropriate ways, prepare them to defend the pro-life ethic.
  • Pray for a pro-life ministry
“In everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).

The pro-life ministries in your area covet your prayers! Pregnancy care centers, Baptist children’s homes, Christian nursing homes and adoption agencies are just a few of the pro-life ministries that depend on God’s grace and the prayers of His people. Most will joyfully provide you with a list of their prayer concerns.
  • Support a pregnancy care center
“Rescue those being taken off to death, and save those stumbling toward slaughter” (Proverbs 24:11).

Pregnancy care centers typically have a paid director and some paid staff, but they could not function without an army of volunteers. If your church members have skills such as nursing, sonography, counseling, fundraising, graphic design, etc., your local pregnancy care center probably needs their help.
  • Establish a mentoring organization
“Whoever welcomes one little child such as this in My name welcomes Me. And whoever welcomes Me does not welcome Me, but Him who sent Me” (Mark 9:37).

The National Fatherhood Initiative reported that 23.3 percent of children lived in single-mother families in 2006. Many single parents are eager to find Christian role models for their children. In the past, parents looked to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America; that organization now requires that every local affiliate accept homosexuals as mentors. You could establish a Christian mentoring organization within your congregation, being diligent to implement measures to protect the children from abuse.
  • Provide relief for stressed caregivers
“Blessed are the merciful, because they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7).

Parents of special needs children and adult caregivers of the elderly or disabled live in stressful environments. For some, everyday errands must be scheduled when a relief caregiver is available, and the opportunity to attend church is priceless. Perhaps Sunday School classes or other small groups could share this responsibility. Some churches have had success with a regularly scheduled monthly night of care and activities for special needs children and adults, allowing a few hours away for their regular caregivers.
  • Support foster and adoptive families
“Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27).

Children across the United States and around the world are in need of families to be a part of for a short while or a lifetime. Evangelical Christian social workers have long lamented the lack of Christian foster and adoptive families, people willing to share their homes, their hearts and their love for Christ with vulnerable children. People in your church can form a loose fellowship or an organized group to promote awareness of the needs and support the families who make these children a part of their lives.
  • Remember senior adults
“You are to rise in the presence of the elderly and honor the old” (Leviticus 19:32).

The aging Baby Boomer generation coupled with advances in health care have produced a growing senior population. Ministry to the senior adults in your area will be a blessing to all involved. Make an effort to connect the younger families in your church with the senior adults. Encourage them to keep in touch, help with household tasks and errands, and share special days together.
  • Volunteer with a hospice
“Carry one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2).

Many people find great fulfillment in giving their time to help improve the lives of those who are terminally ill. Volunteers can provide companionship, do light housekeeping or use their skills and talents to improve the quality of life for both patients and their families.
  • Express your opinion
“You are the light of the world ... let your light shine before men” (Matthew 5:14,16).

Issues regarding the sanctity of human life are constantly being debated in the media and in local, state and federal government. These issues include abortion, genetic engineering, stem cell research, reproductive technology, sexuality education, marriage, child welfare, euthanasia and assisted suicide, insurance regulations, etc. Keep your congregation informed of these issues and provide contact information for your state and federal legislators, government agencies and the media. The statement “All politics is local” is true because people in politics usually are very sensitive to the people who voted them into office. School boards have changed their policies on abstinence education because one citizen took a stand, and legislators have been known to vote a particular way on an issue because of just a handful of correspondence.
  • Give to the Psalm 139 Project
“For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13).

The Psalm 139 Project gives women in crisis pregnancies a “window” into the world of the children they are carrying by helping pregnancy care centers secure sonogram machines. One hundred percent of the funds given to the Psalm 139 Project are used to purchase and place sonogram machines and for the ongoing work of the fund. The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission provides the administrative oversight as a part of its ongoing Cooperative Program-funded ministry. Your tax-deductible gifts can be sent to the “Psalm 139 Project,” c/o ERLC, 901 Commerce St., Suite 550, Nashville, TN 37203. An acknowledgment and proper accounting of your gift will be provided. Visit psalm139project.org (where you can give online through PayPal) or contact the ERLC (1-800-475-9127) for more information.
  • Celebrate Sanctity of Human Life Sunday
“A truthful witness rescues lives.” (Proverbs 14:25).

The Southern Baptist Convention observes Sanctity of Human Life Sunday on the third Sunday in January. This date was chosen to both mourn the children lost to abortion since the Supreme Court handed down Roe v. Wade in January 1973 and remind us that there is much work to be done before all human life will once again be cherished in America. Host a pro-life speaker on that Sunday and allow local pro-life organizations to promote their work. A free bulletin insert can be downloaded at www.ilivevalues.com/life and other materials may be purchased at www.familybookstore.net.

“We just don’t have the influence we once did,” some pro-life Christians lament. How does God expect us to remedy that situation? The answer is simple: Go to work for Him. Whether you are a caregiver, mentor, prayer warrior or parent with enough love for just one more, He is calling you to stand up for Him. “Here I am” are words He is longing to hear.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Cole is an editor at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Sunday, Jan. 17, is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday in the Southern Baptist Convention.)

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1/17/2010 8:35:00 AM by Karen Cole, Baptist Press | with 3 comments



Being a pro-life church

January 17 2010 by Karen Cole, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Is your church pro-life? As a body, are you encouraging each other not only to think in a pro-life way but also to act in a pro-life way?

Undeniably, Christians have been the backbone of the pro-life movement since its inception. If more churches would harness their membership and organizational power on behalf of pro-life causes, however, perhaps the tide could be turned in America and we would once again live in a society that values every human life.

Let’s think about some practical ways your church members can be pro-life.
  • Teach your children
“Impress these words of Mine on your hearts and souls ... teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road” (Deuteronomy 11:18-19).

Explain to your children from an early age why human life is sacred. Impress upon them that humans are made in the image of God, who loves and has a purpose for every person. In age-appropriate ways, prepare them to defend the pro-life ethic.
  • Pray for a pro-life ministry
“In everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).

The pro-life ministries in your area covet your prayers! Pregnancy care centers, Baptist children’s homes, Christian nursing homes and adoption agencies are just a few of the pro-life ministries that depend on God’s grace and the prayers of His people. Most will joyfully provide you with a list of their prayer concerns.
  • Support a pregnancy care center
“Rescue those being taken off to death, and save those stumbling toward slaughter” (Proverbs 24:11).

Pregnancy care centers typically have a paid director and some paid staff, but they could not function without an army of volunteers. If your church members have skills such as nursing, sonography, counseling, fundraising, graphic design, etc., your local pregnancy care center probably needs their help.
  • Establish a mentoring organization
“Whoever welcomes one little child such as this in My name welcomes Me. And whoever welcomes Me does not welcome Me, but Him who sent Me” (Mark 9:37).

The National Fatherhood Initiative reported that 23.3 percent of children lived in single-mother families in 2006. Many single parents are eager to find Christian role models for their children. In the past, parents looked to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America; that organization now requires that every local affiliate accept homosexuals as mentors. You could establish a Christian mentoring organization within your congregation, being diligent to implement measures to protect the children from abuse.
  • Provide relief for stressed caregivers
“Blessed are the merciful, because they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7).

Parents of special needs children and adult caregivers of the elderly or disabled live in stressful environments. For some, everyday errands must be scheduled when a relief caregiver is available, and the opportunity to attend church is priceless. Perhaps Sunday School classes or other small groups could share this responsibility. Some churches have had success with a regularly scheduled monthly night of care and activities for special needs children and adults, allowing a few hours away for their regular caregivers.
  • Support foster and adoptive families
“Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27).

Children across the United States and around the world are in need of families to be a part of for a short while or a lifetime. Evangelical Christian social workers have long lamented the lack of Christian foster and adoptive families, people willing to share their homes, their hearts and their love for Christ with vulnerable children. People in your church can form a loose fellowship or an organized group to promote awareness of the needs and support the families who make these children a part of their lives.
  • Remember senior adults
“You are to rise in the presence of the elderly and honor the old” (Leviticus 19:32).

The aging Baby Boomer generation coupled with advances in health care have produced a growing senior population. Ministry to the senior adults in your area will be a blessing to all involved. Make an effort to connect the younger families in your church with the senior adults. Encourage them to keep in touch, help with household tasks and errands, and share special days together.
  • Volunteer with a hospice
“Carry one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2).

Many people find great fulfillment in giving their time to help improve the lives of those who are terminally ill. Volunteers can provide companionship, do light housekeeping or use their skills and talents to improve the quality of life for both patients and their families.
  • Express your opinion
“You are the light of the world ... let your light shine before men” (Matthew 5:14,16).

Issues regarding the sanctity of human life are constantly being debated in the media and in local, state and federal government. These issues include abortion, genetic engineering, stem cell research, reproductive technology, sexuality education, marriage, child welfare, euthanasia and assisted suicide, insurance regulations, etc. Keep your congregation informed of these issues and provide contact information for your state and federal legislators, government agencies and the media. The statement “All politics is local” is true because people in politics usually are very sensitive to the people who voted them into office. School boards have changed their policies on abstinence education because one citizen took a stand, and legislators have been known to vote a particular way on an issue because of just a handful of correspondence.
  • Give to the Psalm 139 Project
“For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13).

The Psalm 139 Project gives women in crisis pregnancies a “window” into the world of the children they are carrying by helping pregnancy care centers secure sonogram machines. One hundred percent of the funds given to the Psalm 139 Project are used to purchase and place sonogram machines and for the ongoing work of the fund. The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission provides the administrative oversight as a part of its ongoing Cooperative Program-funded ministry. Your tax-deductible gifts can be sent to the “Psalm 139 Project,” c/o ERLC, 901 Commerce St., Suite 550, Nashville, TN 37203. An acknowledgment and proper accounting of your gift will be provided. Visit psalm139project.org (where you can give online through PayPal) or contact the ERLC (1-800-475-9127) for more information.
  • Celebrate Sanctity of Human Life Sunday
“A truthful witness rescues lives.” (Proverbs 14:25).

The Southern Baptist Convention observes Sanctity of Human Life Sunday on the third Sunday in January. This date was chosen to both mourn the children lost to abortion since the Supreme Court handed down Roe v. Wade in January 1973 and remind us that there is much work to be done before all human life will once again be cherished in America. Host a pro-life speaker on that Sunday and allow local pro-life organizations to promote their work. A free bulletin insert can be downloaded at www.ilivevalues.com/life and other materials may be purchased at www.familybookstore.net.

“We just don’t have the influence we once did,” some pro-life Christians lament. How does God expect us to remedy that situation? The answer is simple: Go to work for Him. Whether you are a caregiver, mentor, prayer warrior or parent with enough love for just one more, He is calling you to stand up for Him. “Here I am” are words He is longing to hear.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Cole is an editor at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Sunday, Jan. 17, is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday in the Southern Baptist Convention.)

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1/17/2010 8:35:00 AM by Karen Cole, Baptist Press | with 3 comments



UPDATE: Seven trying to get to Haiti

January 15 2010 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

A team of seven North Carolina Baptist Men volunteers stuck in Dominican Republic as of Friday morning, connected with the Hungarian Baptist international search and rescue team, and gained U.N. escort into Haiti. They set to work immediately rendering medical aid.


A crowded Port-au-Prince airport had prevented the team from gaining permission to fly into Haiti.


According to Baptist Men’s Disaster Relief Coordinator Gaylon Moss, the team consists of a doctor, a paramedic, three emergency medical technicians and two other helpers. They flew Thursday to Dominican Republic.


Haiti has a population similar in size to North Carolina, but is desperately poor, with people typically living on $2 a day. The government has depended for years on charities to provide basic services.


In a Baptist Global Response report earlier this week David Brown, who directs Baptist Global Response work in the Americas, estimated that 2 million people in Port-au-Prince are directly affected.


While N.C. Baptist Men’s phones have been ringing off the hook for three days with volunteers eager to help, it will be some time before general relief help can be brought online. The first and immediate need is for medical personnel and funds for supplies


“Haiti will be a long-term ministry,” Moss said. “We do believe we will be using lots of volunteers, but I cannot venture to guess when we will be ready to deploy them.”


Moss said the earthquake in Haiti created devastation “on a tsunami scale.”


He emphasized that 100 percent of any donation to N.C. Baptist Men for Haitian disaster relief “will go directly to helping Haitians recover from this devastation.”


“We are joining the efforts of many organizations to provide immediate, emergency response to Haiti,” said Moss. “But ongoing efforts of N.C. Baptist Men and the volunteers that will help in coming months will be to offer the hope of Christ with the hand up.” 

 

The Baptist State Convention has established an online giving site here.

Checks designated for Haiti disaster relief, made payable to NC Baptist Men, can be mailed to NC Baptist Men, PO Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512.

To stay updated by the minute, follow NCBM on Twitter @ NCBMHaitiRelief or on Facebook @ ncbmhaitirelief.

 

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1/15/2010 5:44:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments



UPDATE: Florida Convention staff missing

January 14 2010 by Barbara Denman, Baptist Press

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- All but one of the Florida Baptist Convention mission personnel initially missing immediately after the earthquake in Haiti have been found. Still not heard from on Friday are 15 people who operated the guest house used by volunteers who came to Haiti to serve.

“They are like our family,” said Craig Culbreth, director of Florida’s Partnership Mission Department who has traveled to Haiti for the past 11 years. Florida Baptists have a 15-year partnership with Baptist in Haiti and have helped plant 890 churches during that time.

“They have been in our homes and we have been in theirs. We have laughed together and we have cried together, we have walked side-by-side and shared our vision for the nation of Haiti to come to Christ,” he said. “They are mothers, fathers, sons and daughters and they are hurting right now. Many of them have small children. Some of their homes may be damaged and they are sleeping in the streets. It is a desperate situation there.”

Culbreth will lead an assessment team of Florida Baptist Convention staff members to Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, this weekend to learn the condition of the convention-owned guest house and employees.

They will also begin preliminary plans in coordinating the delivery of disaster relief aid to the hurting nation, checking logistics and the availability of transportation of food and medical supplies into the damaged neighborhoods.

Joseph Gaston, director of the convention’s Language Haitian Church Development Department and a native of Port-Au-Prince, has not heard from his wife’s family since the devastating earthquake, but has learned that his own family survived. He will search for the wife’s sisters and brothers while in Haiti.

Culbreth said he will “have faith and be optimistic” that the convention staff is safe.

“Communication in Haiti is difficult in good times,” Culbreth said. “We have not been able to communicate by landlines for the past year. And we understand the cell phone towers have been damaged, making cell phone communication non-existent.”

The guest house can sleep nearly 50 volunteers and provides food and safety for mission teams traveling into Haiti. Wilbanks recalled that 65 employees and their children attended a Christmas Party hosted by the convention at the guest homes in December.

“There were lots of little kids there,” he said. “It is risky to live in Haiti when times are good,” said Wilbanks, noting that he often asked his Haitian co-workers why they remained in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. “They all reply that God has called them to Haiti.” Culbreth said as he has watched the news reports originating in Port-Au-Prince, he was dismayed at the lack of vehicles on the roads. That signifies for him that there is no available gas or passable roads, which will negatively affect the relief effort.

“I am not concerned about getting to the Port Au Prince airport,” Culbreth said. “I am concerned about being transported into the neighborhoods where the hurting people are.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE -- Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention.)  

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1/14/2010 12:09:00 PM by Barbara Denman, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Smithfield carries hugs to Guatemala

January 14 2010 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

The universal language of hugs overcame regional differences in words when youth from First Baptist Church, Smithfield, embraced children living on the edges of the municipal dump in Guatemala City.

During spring break last year youth minister Tommy Cook took a group to help in the Tabitha Ministry, which provides day care for children whose mothers scour the stifling stench of the municipal dump, scratching for anything to eat, wear or resell.

These children are too young to scavenge or they would be kicking around the piles of refuse themselves. With such a difficult existence, where a rising sun boils the seven square miles of festering garbage; and its setting extinguishes the opportunity to scour for more sustenance, children are at risk every hour. The dump sprouted in a deep valley within the city. Waste of all kinds is dumped there without regard to hazard, including medical waste. People have died beneath garbage slides.

Into this setting a Guatemalan Christian woman named Carol Bercian started the Tabitha Ministry to help the children and families. Women who cannot scavenge enough from the garbage piles to live often turn to prostitution. Drugs dull the pain but leave the adults incapable of providing for their children.

Cook was looking to establish a long-term relationship for ministry…not just swoop into a different place each year with fresh scrubbed, eager but naïve teenagers. So he intends to establish that relationship between his comfortable, middle class teens and some of the most desperately poor people in the world. Estuardo Bercian and his wife, Cindy, volunteer at Tabitha, which was established by Estuardo’s sister in a small rented house.

It is now in a larger house they intend eventually to buy. Children in daycare there receive two meals and a snack each day.

Additionally, mothers learn practical job skills that may liberate them from the dump or prostitution. Jerusalem Church in Guatemala City helps to support the ministry. Piney Grove Baptist Church in Fuquay-Varina also has helped. Another goal is to establish a church in Tabitha.

Initially, children coming to Tabitha Center did not know or understand hugs or the love of strangers. When a worker or volunteer approached them with open arms and a smile, the children thought they were about to be hit.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Youth from First Baptist Church (FBC), Smithfield, reunited over Christmas with two leaders of a ministry to children and families in Guatemala where the youth ministered last year and to where they are returning over spring break. They are, from left: Mallory Barnes, Elizabeth Ashley, Cindy Bercian from Tabitha Project in Guatemala, Fronia Knott, FBC Youth Minister Tommy Cook, and Estuardo Bercian from Tabitha Project in Guatemala. They are displaying several artisan items made by participants in Tabitha that the Bercians brought with them to sell to support the work.


Smithfield youth conducted a Vacation Bible School for Tabitha children last spring and will do the same in April. The church also funded renovations in a private home that needed a wall repaired to keep out rats that had been getting in and biting the toes of children.

They delivered bags of food that would last about three days for a family; told Bible stories through a translator and played lots of games. The children loved bubbles.

At one home in the dump when they delivered food to a mother with two children, one of the children pulled a piece of candy out of a drawer for each of the girls.

“I still have my candy,” said Elizabeth Ashley. “They gave us a gift for coming to help them.  It stuck with me that we need to be more giving here.”

“It didn’t matter that we didn’t know Spanish,” said Mallory Barnes. “They were so excited to have people there helping them and playing with them language was not an issue.”

“We spoke the language of love,” said Cook, who for wedding gifts when he married Robin last year asked for help for Tabitha.

He said their wedding gift is a bathroom for the Tabitha Center.

Fronia Knott, herself adopted from Guatemala as an infant, was overwhelmed to see what she had been rescued from. She said all the children liked hugs and she remembered one who crawled onto her lap and slept the whole way back from a zoo visit.

Smithfield kids felt like strangers all of “three minutes” Fronia said.

Guatemala is the first country south of Mexico in Central America. Guatemala City has a population of 12 million, half of whom are Christian, according to the Bercians.

The government is unstable and thievery is common.

The youth felt safe while there because of Estuardo’s constant attention. For safety, it is also important to know where to take groups and to be gone by five p.m. when the men who live in the area return from their labors and when drug sellers and thieves follow them.

Carol, Tabitha’s director, would stretch the Smithfield girls as she took them around to meet families. She asked the girls to lead Bible study and to pray with the ladies, many of whom asked for prayer that husbands who had abandoned them would find God.

Contributed photo

Robin and Tommy Cook make hand prints with children that say, “God created me.” Tommy is youth minister at First Baptist Church, Smithfield.


“Who am I to give these women advice?” said Mallory, a senior. “The part I focused on was that you are a child of God. We’re all children of God. We’re all beautiful in God’s eyes. We don’t need another human being to validate us.”

The girls were especially impressed that the abandoned wives didn’t necessarily ask for prayer that their husbands would return and love them again, but that they would find God.

“I’ve never heard anyone here pray that way,” said Elizabeth. “We think, ‘OK let’s find somebody different now.’ The kids were always happy, no matter their circumstances. That’s one thing that really touched my life.”

“We think as Americans we’re supposed to teach, that we are it,” Froni said. “You go down there and realize you are absolutely nothing compared to these women and they teach you so much. It’s so humbling. They are so grateful. God is the reason they get up in the morning.”

Do American teenagers parachuting into a foreign world for a week of hugs, Bible lessons and food distribution make a difference to families dragging one step at a time through life in a dump? The Bercians said the teenagers make a difference “because of the love they give to the children.” 

Cook will take a group of 14 back to Tabitha in April to share more of that love.
1/14/2010 11:18:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 4 comments



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