January 2011

Liberty leads ranks of would-be chaplains

January 12 2011 by Tim Townsend, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

(RNS) According to Air Force data, no training program is more popular among prospective chaplains than Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, part of the late Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.

One out of every five Air Force chaplain candidates studying at an evangelical seminary is enrolled at Liberty.

Critics say that high rate of enrollment could add to an imbalance of evangelical Christians among the military’s corps of chaplains. And some even within the military have raised questions about the quality of Liberty’s program.

Liberty’s pairing of evangelical Christianity and patriotism is exemplified during the university’s annual Military Emphasis Week. According to the school’s website, the highlight of that week is “the patriotic convocation, occurring the Wednesday closest to Veterans Day, featuring patriotic music, veteran testimonies and an inspirational message from a Christian combat veteran.”

Liberty is not accredited by the Association of Theological Schools, the national accreditation agency for graduate-level seminaries. Instead, it is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The Department of Defense requires only that seminaries that train chaplain candidates be listed with the American Council on Education, which is not an accrediting body.

Retired Air Force chaplain Charles Davidson is a professor at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and director of the school’s chaplaincy degree program.

Davidson launched the program in 2007, taking advantage of a 2004 change in Armed Forces Chaplain Board policy that set training requirements for the Master’s of Divinity at 72 credit hours. Most seminaries require 90 credit hours. Liberty eliminated Greek and Hebrew from the required coursework, meeting the Pentagon’s 72-hour level.

Davidson also made the coursework available online, and the combination has resulted in an explosion of interest in the program, growing from two students in 2007 to more than 1,000 today.     

“The majority” of those students are Army chaplain candidates, Davidson said. Only about 30 of Liberty’s chaplain-track students reside on campus.

Such online degrees are a “concern” for Air Force chaplain leaders, said Col. Steven Keith, commandant of the Air Force Chaplain Corps College in Fort Jackson, S.C.

“We are taking note of that,” he said. “Resident seminarians, we feel, are better prepared.” 

All military chaplains must first have the endorsement of a denomination or other institutional religious body before entering a chaplain-candidate track. Liberty has its own military endorsement arm, Liberty Baptist Fellowship. Davidson is the endorsing agent, and estimated that the school has endorsed 180 chaplains or chaplain candidates.

“Praise the Lord, 10 or 15 years from now we could have 600, 700, 800 evangelical chaplains sprinkled throughout the military who are Liberty graduates,” Davidson said.

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)
1/12/2011 7:12:00 AM by Tim Townsend, St. Louis Post-Dispatch | with 0 comments



Quake-ravaged Haiti struggles to recover

January 10 2011 by Kim Lawton, Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (RNS) — Driving through downtown Port-au-Prince, it can be difficult at first to see much change from a year ago, when a devastating 7.0 earthquake devastated this impoverished island nation.

The presidential palace is still in ruins, with thousands — among an estimated 1 million homeless Haitians — living in massive tent city across the street. Around the corner, a tent city remains on the grounds of the destroyed Roman Catholic cathedral, still full of piles of rubble and shattered stained glass.

But despite the surface appearances, faith-based aid workers who have been active here over the past year insist there has been progress in dealing with the humanitarian catastrophe.

“The progress is slow, maybe not as quick as other emergencies, but ... we’re moving ahead,” Nicole Peter, the Haiti operations director for the Christian relief agency World Vision, told Religion & Ethics NewsWeeekly.

World Vision has already spent more than $100 million in post-earthquake work, including shelter, water and sanitation, job creation, education and family support. That includes the Corail displaced persons camp about an hour outside the capital city, where the Haitian government moved some 7,000 people last April.

At the time, there were no preparations, no essential services, no infrastructure. World Vision and other private agencies provided tents, latrines, clean water and set up schools. The government still hasn’t developed a long-term housing and resettlement plan for the people in the camp, so World Vision has begun building sturdier transitional shelters.

“We had to negotiate with donors to convince them that timber frames were necessary,” said World Vision’s Mary Kate MacIssac. “They said that those were perhaps too permanent, but we said, no, these people need something strong if they’re going to be out here.”

MacIssac said she’s heard a lot of criticism from the media — and even some donors — about the slow pace of recovery. She said she, too, is frustrated, but said critics don’t fully understand the realities on the ground.

“Haiti was a country that was facing a humanitarian crisis even before the earthquake,” she said. “Then you have a massive earthquake hit an urban center, the capital of a country. And it’s a complexity of urban disaster that agencies have not had to deal with before.”

Adding to that complexity is a rising cholera epidemic, which Peter called an “emergency within an emergency.”

World Vision set up cholera treatment units near various tent camps. Visitors are disinfected before they enter and when they leave.

According to official figures, more than 150,000 people have come down with cholera, and nearly 3,500 have died.

Aid groups say the numbers are vastly underreported. Rick Ireland, administrator of the Free Methodist Haiti Inland Mission, is also all too familiar with the complexities here.

Last January, he and his wife were in Western New York preparing to become missionaries. When the earthquake hit, denomination officials asked him to get to Haiti — immediately. 

A multi-story building on a church compound had been completely destroyed, and the American administrater of the mission, Jeanne Munos, was killed, as were two other American workers and a Haitian staffer.

“It’s a little harder to get around — you’re dodging potholes and broken-down vehicles,” he said. “If you want to go to the bank, you’re probably going to have a three- or four-hour wait in line. Everything is just a little bit harder here and that does get discouraging.”

The Free Methodists have been working through local churches. At one church, Sunday morning services start at 6 a.m. Shoe shine vendors line up outside to help congregants look their Sunday best, while local taxis ferry in more worshippers.

With more than 2,000 people in the church, it’s standing room only. Ireland says this is the best resource to aid Haiti’s recovery.

“They know their community,” he said.

Indeed, for many in this predominantly Christian nation, faith has been the key to survival.

“They’re filled with tremendous hope,” Ireland says of the Haitians. “It’s unbelievable because it would be so easy just to give up and they haven’t given up.”

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)
1/10/2011 3:35:00 PM by Kim Lawton, Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly | with 0 comments



Mo. Baptist leaders call special meeting

January 10 2011 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The executive board of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) will convene Jan. 14 in a special meeting to hear details of the state executive director’s resignation for “immoral behavior.”

In an internal e-mail dated Jan. 7 obtained by Associated Baptist Press, convention president John Marshall said Executive Director David Tolliver submitted his resignation, effective immediately, on Jan. 6.

Marshall, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Springfield, Mo., said he and another pastor were asked to attend a meeting with Tolliver and an unnamed associational director of missions Jan. 6.

Before they arrived, Marshall said, Tolliver “had already resigned in response to allegations made by a woman.”

Marshall said both the executive board meeting scheduled at 2:30 p.m. and a preceding called meeting of the administrative committee at 1 would be in executive session. Tolliver, 60, had been executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention since February 2009.

Before that he served 22 months as interim executive director after the executive board fired his predecessor, David Clippard, in 2007 for reasons including low morale in the Baptist Building and conduct and comments deemed unprofessional by convention leaders.

Frank Page, president of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, released a statement about Tolliver’s resignation through Baptist Press.

“It is disheartening to learn of any fellow believer succumbing to sinful choices,” Page said. “It is doubly so when the individual is in a visible and trusted role of ministry leadership.”

In his e-mail to Missouri Baptist leaders, Marshall said Jay Hughes, associate executive director of support services, has been named acting interim director until the administrative committee can bring a final recommendation to the executive board.

“At this moment, all our energy must be directed toward ministering to our personnel in the Baptist Building,” Marshall wrote. 

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1/10/2011 3:33:00 PM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Graham in TV interview: ‘My time is limited’

January 7 2011 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Billy Graham granted his first interview in several years Dec. 20, telling Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren that if he could do it over again, he would spend less time traveling and more time in meditation and prayer.

The renowned evangelist, now 92, spoke to Van Susteren just before meeting President George W. Bush and his wife Laura, along with Franklin and Jane Graham, for lunch in Charlotte. The Bushes were at the Billy Graham Library to sign copies of their autobiographies.

Van Susteren asked Graham if he has hope, and Graham said he has a tremendous amount of hope because he is a believer in Jesus Christ, who was raised from the dead and “is alive right now.”

“My wife is already in heaven. I look forward to seeing her definitely in the near future because I’m 92 now and I know that my time is limited on this earth,” Graham said. “But I have tremendous hope in the fact I’ll be in the future life. And I’ll be there because of what Jesus Christ did for me on the cross and by the resurrection. And this gives me a great deal of hope.”

If Graham had the opportunity to live his life over again, he said there are things he would do differently.

“I would study more. I would pray more, travel less, take less speaking engagements. I took too many of them in too many places around the world,” he said. “If I had it to do over again, I’d spend more time in meditation and prayer and just telling the Lord how much I love Him and adore Him and (am) looking forward the time we’re going to spend together for eternity.”

Billy Graham gave his first interview in several years Dec. 20 when he spoke to Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren about his relationship with the Bush family and his hope for the future.


Van Susteren inquired about what age Graham realized he wanted to be a preacher, and he said it was around age 18 or 19 when he was a student at a Bible school near Tampa.

“I used to walk the streets in this area that had completely disintegrated because of the Depression at that time. And I would pray and I would ask God for a direction for my life and for the genuine purpose of my life. What am I here for?” Graham recounted.

One night at a nearby golf course, as he was lying on the 18th green amid the palm trees, he heard God’s call.

“The Lord seemed to call me and say that I was to preach the gospel. And from that time on, I began to prepare,” Graham said. “By preparation, I mean I began to read books which contributed to what I would say in the years to come. And then I began to realize that my job was to try to win over people to Christ, which I did privately and publicly, which became eventually my sermons that we call evangelism.”

Over the years, as he spoke to millions, he was surprised by the numbers who gathered to hear his message, Graham said. He noted a particular engagement in Seoul, Korea, the largest audience he ever had.

“They were just spread out as far as you could see, in a great plaza along the river,” he said. Graham passed along some advice to young preachers.

“Spend more time in study and prayer. That’s the secret of successful evangelism,” he said. “If you neglect that, you’ve neglected the very heart of God’s call to you.”

Graham said the Christmas holiday always meant “a great deal” to him, and his wife “always made a big thing of Christmas for the children.”

“We all looked forward to it. We would get up on Christmas morning and have our prayers, and then we would sit under the tree and open our presents, usually on Christmas morning, sometimes on Christmas Eve,” Graham said.

“But when I looked into the crib or the manger and saw that little baby who was going to rise to become the greatest teacher that ever lived, to die on the cross for my sins, to know that I’ll be forgiven because of what He was doing, it absolutely transformed Christmas for me,” he said.

“And all the shopping and the gifts and all the things we celebrated (at) Christmas, it’s a spiritual time. It’s a time that strengthens my faith and gives me courage for the future. And I don’t expect to live that much longer, but I do remember that every Christmas strengthened my faith as I came along.”

Also in the interview, Van Susteren asked about Graham’s relationship with the Bush family, and Graham recalled that he first met Bush’s grandfather, Prescott Bush, in Florida and then was invited by Bush’s grandmother to answer biblical questions and pray with a group of neighbors in her home.

“She was one of the sweetest women I think I ever met, a very deep Christian. And she became a wonderful friend to me. And through her, I began to meet the rest of the family,” Graham said of Dorothy Walker Bush.

President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara “became very close friends to Ruth and me,” Graham said, and it was during a visit to their retreat in Kennebunkport, Maine, in 1985 that he met their son George. Graham had been asked to conduct a Bible study for the family, and Bush stood up to ask questions. Later the evangelist and the future president went on walks and played tennis together.

“I remember he was very interested in spiritual things and he asked a lot of very deep questions about the Bible and about the Christian faith. And I tried to answer as best I could,” Graham told Van Susteren.

After lunch with Graham, Bush sat down with Van Susteren to elaborate on what he wrote about Graham’s influence on his life in his book Decision Points.

“He’s a gentle soul. I mean, here’s one of the most famous people in the world, and in his presence, you realize how humble he is,” Bush said. “And his humility, and obviously, his love for God and Christ can overwhelm the cynic. And I was a cynical person at the time, and his spirit overwhelmed me.”

Graham, at Kennebunkport, was able to lead Bush from being a man full of questions to one with some peace about God.

“I mean, one way, from a kind of biblical analogy, he was — started to help me plant seeds. And the ground was — the ground was pretty hard,” Bush said. “But after meeting Billy, the ground became more fertile for the seed, is one way to put it. No, he helped change my life. He truly did. And I was a questioning person. I was drinking a lot. And religion was — you know, I used to — I put in the book ‘I would listen but never hear.’ And Billy Graham helped me understand the redemptive power of a risen Lord.”

More than 1,000 people lined up outside the Billy Graham Library in December to meet the Bushes, and Graham joined them briefly to receive the first signed copies of their books that day. Franklin Graham gave the former president and first lady a private tour of the library and later said his father’s mind is as strong as it has been in the past few years.

“His mind is sharper today than it was five years ago,” Franklin Graham said. “I don’t know what it is. He is getting better. He is getting stronger.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Roach is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.)

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)
1/7/2011 3:31:00 PM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Mo. Convention executive director resigns

January 7 2011 by Baptist Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — David Tolliver, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) since February 2009, has resigned, according to an announcement by the convention Jan. 7.

The full text of the convention’s brief statement follows:

“With deep regret we announce, Dr. David Tolliver has resigned as Executive Director of the Missouri Baptist Convention due to immoral behavior with a woman. His resignation is effective immediately. Jay Hughes, Associate Executive Director of Support Services, will serve as acting interim executive director until a permanent Interim executive director is named by the Executive Board.”

The MBC Executive Board is scheduled to meet Friday, Jan. 14.

Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, issued a statement after the MBC announcement. The full text follows:

“It is disheartening to learn of any fellow believer succumbing to sinful choices. It is doubly so when the individual is in a visible and trusted role of ministry leadership. Our heartfelt concern goes out to David, his wife, the families and friends affected, and the many churches that cooperate with the Missouri Baptist Convention. The pain they feel is real. We share in their grief.

“Instances such as this remind us that we serve a Savior who died to offer spiritual redemption from sin. Though the consequences of this action will reverberate for years to come, we pray for genuine repentance and for God’s peace and forgiveness to sustain each one involved.”

Tolliver, 60, elected by the MBC Executive Board on Feb. 3, 2009, had been the convention’s interim executive director for nearly 22 months and had served on the MBC staff as an associate executive director since May 2005. He previously had been a longtime Missouri pastor.

Tolliver is married and the father of two, with two grandchildren.

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1/7/2011 3:27:00 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Greear encouraged by Indonesia believers

January 6 2011 by Shiloh Lane, International Mission Board

INDONESIA (BP) — J.D. Greear has a mischievous sense of humor.

He used that sense of humor as a witnessing tool 11 years ago when, as a short-term worker, he walked the streets of Indonesia sharing the love of Christ.

And he used it in a return trip to Indonesia in fall 2010.

Greear, lead pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, traveled to Indonesia with nine other Southern Baptist pastors and missions leaders, including David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala. For a week, Greear taught in churches, convention meetings and seminaries.

Greear joined the other leaders in encouraging local Christians — and in searching for ways to connect their own congregations in America with people who have never heard the name of Jesus.

Just before the call to prayer sounded over loudspeakers one day, Greear nudged a humorous moment when he and Platt stood in the courtyard outside an Indonesian mosque near a group of boys wearing backpacks.

BP photo

J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, talks with an Indonesian pastor before preaching a Sunday sermon. Greear traveled to Indonesia with nine other pastors and missions leaders from the United States to teach in churches, seminaries and conventions. See video.


“You know, he’s a professional dancer,” joked Greear, motioning toward Platt. Platt grinned and shyly shook his head.

The boys looked at one another and giggled, unsure who to believe.

Sorting out who or what to believe can be a challenging problem for many Indonesian peoples.

With one audience, Greear shared the story of Achmed*, a friend he met while serving in Indonesia.

Just before Greear left in 1999, Achmed told him about a dream in which Greear walked through the gates of heaven with Achmed. He asked what it meant.

“Brother, you’re in luck,” Greear said. “Dream interpretation is my spiritual gift.”

Greear had never interpreted a dream before.

Fortunately, he did know what this one meant. Greear explained that God was telling Achmed he needed to become a follower of Christ so he could enjoy eternal life. But Achmed felt confused.

“Today, my friend, you are going home, and we will probably never see each other again,” he told Greear. “You are the only Christian I know. Now who will teach me the ways of God?”

Even after Greear explained the dream, his friend wouldn’t abandon his familial religion for Christ. The pastor still doesn’t know if Achmed decided to follow Jesus, but his friend’s question lingers in his mind — Who will teach me the ways of God?

The answer sat in the chairs in front of Greear. He listened as audience members shared how they are boldly professing their Christian faith. One woman said she has seen four generations of believers spring from a previously unreached village. An Indonesian man told how he had gone to jail for proclaiming the gospel.

“To see God’s Spirit stirring among them reminds me that it’s His work and not ours,” Greear said. “This is a message we cannot keep quiet about. Jesus paid it all.”

*Name changed.  

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1/6/2011 3:57:00 PM by Shiloh Lane, International Mission Board | with 0 comments



Calif. war memorial cross ruled unconstitutional

January 6 2011 by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court ruled Jan. 4 a veterans’ memorial featuring a 43-foot cross on California’s Mount Soledad is unconstitutional.

“The use of such a distinctively Christian symbol to honor all veterans sends a strong message of endorsement and exclusion,” wrote Judge M. Margaret McKeown for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “It suggests that the government is so connected to a particular religion that it treats that religion’s symbolism as its own, as universal.”

The decision that the memorial in La Jolla, Calif., violates the Establishment Clause reverses a lower court decision but does not determine what will happen to the cross that has been the dominant feature of the monument since it was erected in 1913.

“This result does not mean that the memorial could not be modified to pass constitutional muster nor does it mean that no cross can be part of this veterans’ memorial,” McKeown concluded.

The case has wound through the courts for two decades.

“We are grateful to the Ninth Circuit for its recognition that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment affirms the contribution of diversity in American democracy without pre-eminence to any single religion,” said Robert M. Zweiman, past national commander of the Jewish War Veterans of the USA, which worked with the American Civil Liberties Union to challenge the memorial.

Legal groups that supported the memorial, including Liberty Institute and the American Center for Law and Justice, called the decision a “slap in the face” to military veterans.

A second case involving a controversial monument in Southern California also remains in the courts.

Last April, the U.S. Supreme Court permitted a war memorial cross to remain at the Mojave National Preserve and told a lower court to further consider a congressionally approved transfer of the cross to private land.

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)    
1/6/2011 3:42:00 PM by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



Poll: Americans see religion’s role declining

January 6 2011 by Daniel Burke, Religion News Service

Seven in 10 Americans say religion’s influence on the country is waning, and 61 percent say they belong to a church or synagogue, equaling the lowest number since Gallup began asking the question in the 1930s.

Opinions about religion’s influence have fluctuated in the last 50 years, according to Gallup, loosely following partisan politics: When a Republican occupies the Oval Office, Americans generally believe religion’s influence is increasing; during a Democratic presidency, the opposite is true.

However, Gallup cautioned against drawing firm conclusions from politics in the latest survey.

“Although views that religion was increasing its influence were highest during the Republican administrations of Eisenhower, Reagan and George W. Bush, this political connection does not appear to be the primary explanatory factor,” writes Gallup’s Frank Newport, in a study released Dec. 29.

A wide variety of social, political, and economic trends are likely factors in Americans’ view of religion’s clout, according to Newport. In 2009, 70 percent also said religion is losing its influence in American life, the highest number since 1970.

Self-reported church and synagogue membership, meanwhile, continued its downward drift. Slightly more than six in 10 Americans say they belong to a church or synagogue, tied with 2007 and 2008 for the lowest percentage since the 1930s, according to Gallup.      

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1/6/2011 3:41:00 PM by Daniel Burke, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



Small church finds heart for world missions

January 5 2011 by Alan James, Baptist Press

WAR, W.Va. — Pastor Travis Hyde didn’t exactly get the reaction he’d hoped for. He saw dropped jaws and looks of disbelief; one woman appeared to almost fall out of her pew.

In 2006, when Hyde became pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in War, W.Va., about 15 people were in the pews on Sundays. As the Christmas season approached, Hyde challenged the congregation to set a goal of $500 for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions.

“It was obvious from the look on some folks’ faces that they thought that was an impossible kind of task,” Hyde said. “The most they had given in the past wasn’t much more than $150.”

In this small coal-mining town of about 700 people, giving money can be a sensitive topic.

There are few stores in War. Many buildings are abandoned or closed for business. The local post office does not deliver mail, and cell phone coverage is unreliable unless the town’s only cell phone provider is used. In the 1950s, when more coal mining jobs were available, the town’s population neared 3,000.

Today, many of those jobs and the people who lived there are gone.

“I tell people that War is one of the closest places you’ll come to in the United States to a third-world country,” Hyde said.

“The economic struggles here in War are tough,” Hyde’s wife Cathy said. “There are a lot of people who are unemployed. There are a lot of people who are on disability. We see people who struggle to pay heating bills, power bills, to buy groceries.”

‘Whistling Dixie’
When Hyde announced the $500 Lottie Moon goal in 2006, Juanita Stress, a retiree who has attended Calvary since the eighth grade, was shocked and a little aggravated.

“On the way home from church, I told my husband if this character thinks he’s going to see that kind of money from us, he’ll be whistling Dixie,” she said.

BP photo

Pastor Travis Hyde talks with a member of Calvary Baptist Church in War, W.Va. Since he became pastor more than four years ago, the church has increased its Lottie Moon Christmas Offering giving from about $150 to more than $7,000 to support Southern Baptist missionaries overseas.


Hyde pressed forward with the goal.

He preached on the needs of those who do not have access to the gospel. He also shared how the offering supports Southern Baptist missionaries serving around the world.

That year, the congregation gave $1,350.

The next year, they gave $1,500.

The year after that, the offering reached $4,400.

In 2009, Calvary Baptist collected more than $7,000 for international missions.

Hyde and Stress still joke about her “whistling Dixie” comment.

“I was wrong,” Stress said. “I admitted it.”

For this year’s offering, Hyde decided not to set a goal. He simply asked the congregation, now about 45 people, to pray about what they should give.

“Our people have come to realize over these last few years that God knows no limits,” Hyde said. “He has no restrictions other than those we put on Him.”

“I’ve told our people for several years that our task is not defined by the size of our congregation,” he added. “It is defined by the size of our God.”

The members of Calvary Baptist take that seriously.

One member uses the money she’d spend on Christmas gifts for her grandchildren to give to the Lottie Moon offering. Others won’t spend more money on Christmas gifts than they plan to give to the offering.

The Hydes contend that the congregation connects — at least in a small way — with the struggles of those who live in other countries.

“Most of the people in our church have had hard times,” Cathy said. “They know what it’s like to do without a meal, to not have heat in the wintertime, to not have warm clothing. I think because of their past experiences, they can relate to people in other countries who are suffering.”

Right now, there are 6,426 unreached people groups in the world. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering theme — “Are we there yet?” — considers the sacrifice it will take to reach those remaining people groups.

“Most of the time we think of evangelism in terms of trying to meet some kind of physical need,” Hyde said. “But no matter how many meals we feed the people, we’ve got to get the gospel to them. To me that’s the essence of what the Lottie Moon offering is about.”

There are plenty of struggles in War, but Hyde remains confident about the future. Though nearly all of the adults in the congregation are either retired or over the age of 50, a third of the congregation consists of teens or children. The church provides rides for many of them each Sunday.

“Most of the parents won’t come to church for anything,” Hyde said. “We’re basically missing the parent generation. Probably between 80 and 90 percent of the people in War are unchurched. The best success we’ve had is in reaching the kids and young people.”

The Kaylan factor
One of those successes is 10-year-old Kaylan Lockhart.

Kaylan travels 45 minutes from her home in a nearby town to her grandmother’s house in War so she can attend Calvary Baptist on Sundays.

On Dec. 5, Kaylan drew a crowd as she carried a cardboard box into church. She was all smiles as she opened the box. Inside was $202 in bills and change — and every bit of it went to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. For the past three years, Kaylan has collected about $200 a year. One year she reached $240.

Even at 10, Kaylan seems to understand sacrifice.

“If my mom gives me snack money, and I don’t use it all, I bring it over to my grandma’s house and I put it in our little jar,” she said. “Sometimes I do not buy the stuff that I usually want ... purses, coloring books, crayons.”

For Kaylan, giving to international missions is more important.

“It’s not fair that we only get to learn about God. Other people should be able to,” she said. “If you really want other people to learn about God, you should put at least a few dollars into the Lottie Moon offering so we’re not the only one’s learning about Him.”

“If everybody was as committed as Kaylan is, we would be there,” said Cathy, referring to the “Are we there yet?” Lottie Moon theme.

Travis Hyde does not believe God is finished working in the town or that Calvary Baptist has reached its potential.

“We only have 45 members, but the same God that works in a church of 5,000 works in our church,” the pastor said. “I think they are convinced of that now.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — James is a writer for the International Mission Board. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering supplements Cooperative Program giving to support more than 5,000 Southern Baptist missionaries as they share the gospel overseas. The 2010 offering goal was $175 million. The focus is on celebrating what God has done in recent years, praising Him for allowing Southern Baptists to be a part of His work, while emphasizing that reaching those who remain untouched by the gospel is a doable task, but these will be the hardest people groups to reach — requiring that believers pray, go, partner and give as never before. To find resources about the offering, go to imb.org/offering.)

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)    
1/5/2011 8:55:00 AM by Alan James, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Photos capture infants’ brief lives on film

January 5 2011 by Kay Campbell, The Huntsville Times

MADISON, Ala. (RNS) — For the entire lifetime of his daughter, Joey Karr smiled into her eyes.

Then the infant, who couldn’t overcome a fatal form of dwarfism, died in his wife’s arms as their other three children patted their sister. Photographer Kelly Clark Baugher caught that lifetime of love in photos, images that are now sacred with the weight of life and loss that the death of a baby brings.

Baugher is one of a small but devoted number of professional photographers who volunteer their time at hospitals to take pictures of heartbreakingly short-lived joy. A Colorado-based group, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, sends professional photographers, if the families request them, to quietly record their child’s brief life.

“It’s one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever done,” Baugher said as she looked through photos from the more than 60 families she and photographer Mary Ellen Pollard have served. “It’s almost as though time slows down in that room. I will never forget the feeling: I felt God in that room.”

RNS photo courtesy Kelly Clark Baugher

Evan Salter comforts his father, Ken, as the family comes to the decision to release Jacob, in the foreground, from machinery. Jacob’s twin, Joshua, naps peacefully.


She is referring to the hospital rooms where parents sit with an infant that was stillborn or has been disconnected from life support when death has become the kindest option. The photographers stay at the periphery, quietly working without a flash as they record the fleeting moments. The idea is macabre only for people who haven’t lived through it, say Ken and Amy Salter, who became the parents of twin boys born last fall, one of whom died after months in neonatal intensive care. They wouldn’t have considered having their last minutes photographed, but agreed when nurses suggested they call Baugher.

“The photographs are a lasting comfort,” said Amy Salter, who now volunteers as a parent coordinator for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. “Yes, it was difficult, but to have pictures, to remember the little smile he makes, his little fuzzy head — it’s priceless.”

The photographers make a CD of the photographs after they edit the photos, giving parents finished pictures with the calm sheen of magazine shots. Parents can choose to print them or look at them — or not. Many find themselves returning to them often for a quiet space of remembering and weeping, Salter said.

Nurses who have assisted families going through such a wrenching time have seen how the photos become, later, a source of comfort as people thread the long valley of grief.

“Pictures, as well as clothing, footprints, handprints, stuffed animals and blankets are tangible reminders to these families of the precious little life they have lost,” said Ashley Ray, a nurse in Huntsville, Ala., who works with bereaved parents.

“It is so awesome to be able to offer these families professional photos of their sweet babies.”

For the photographers, it’s a ministry, Mary Ellen Pollard said.

“I had my son two months early, and he is still with us on this side of heaven,” Pollard said. “He spent two months in the NICU. We were told he was not going to survive, but our son went home. Beside us, there was a family whose daughter didn’t. I needed to do something to give back.”

The photographs help to make the lifetime of their daughter real, say Joey and Michelle Karr, who lost their daughter Janie Beth.

“The one time Janie Beth opened her eyes, Kelly happened to catch that on film — I never even noticed she was taking a picture,” said Joey Karr.

But Baugher noticed the moment when the tiny face peers up at her father from his arms. “It’s like she looked right into his soul,” Baugher said.

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)    
1/5/2011 8:51:00 AM by Kay Campbell, The Huntsville Times | with 0 comments



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