July 2009

Couple finds ways to reach arts community

July 20 2009 by Jami Becher, Baptist Press

ATLANTA — In Paris, while on a short-term mission trip, God planted a seed in Kerry Jackson’s heart that ultimately would become Bezalel Church.

“For part of the two weeks we were in Paris I ministered to street artists. We discussed our art, and I was able to have some great spiritual conversations with them,” Jackson said. “When I got home I began praying for the missionaries and the artists we met, but I couldn’t shake the question, ‘Who is trying to reach the arts community with the gospel?’”

That question eventually grew into a calling, as he felt God asking, “Will you?”

So began the journey of Jackson and his wife Twyla to plant a church that not only would reach visual artists but actors, designers, photographers and all types of creative people. A visual artist himself, who works mostly in fine art painting and drawing and mixed media, Jackson understands the culture of creative types.

“I want to create an environment that welcomes those who’ve been labeled as ‘weird’ because of their artistic expression,” Jackson said. “I’d like to offer them a place to express and share their creativity while learning about the Creator.”

Bezalel Church, named for the artist chosen by God to lead a team of artisans to decorate the tabernacle in Exodus 31:1-6, is part of Jackson’s assignment as a church planting national missionary with the North American Mission Board (NAMB). He and Twyla, a NAMB Mission Service Corps (MSC) missionary, are working through the Georgia Baptist Convention and the Atlanta Association of Southern Baptists to develop a church-planting model for the affinity group of cultural creatives.

Reaching this affinity group has not been easy. Jackson compares sharing Christ with creatives to Jesus’ parable of the sower.

“We’ve encountered lots of hard, rocky and thorny soil,” he said. “We’ve come to realize that before you can plant a seed you need to prepare the soil. We feel like we’ve spent the last two years removing debris and plowing, and we’re finally beginning to see the seeds we’ve planted grow.”

BP photo

Kerry and Twyla Jackson are North American Mission Board missionaries ministering to Atlanta’s artistic community.

The Jacksons began plowing the hard soil of Atlanta’s creative community by moving from their suburban home in Sugar Hill, Ga., into the city of Atlanta.

“We looked at cities all over the world to find a place where we could reach creatives,” Twyla said. “But God kept drawing us back here. We moved to midtown to be where the creative people are. We wanted to be able to touch this community on a daily basis.”

The Jacksons began serving the arts community by joining the Atlanta Artist Center, the city’s oldest arts organization.

“We’ve made some great connections through the Atlanta Artist Center,” Jackson said. “We brought in volunteers to help check in and hang art for shows. We’ve done yard work, and we’re bringing in a mission team this fall to replace the roof of their building. Our goal is to serve in love and help Atlanta artists be successful.

“We’ve broken down walls and dispelled a lot of misconceptions about Southern Baptists and Christians in general by making ourselves available to do the jobs nobody else wants to do.”

One of the jobs was sorting artificial flowers in an un-air conditioned storage room on a hot and humid Atlanta afternoon for the Alliance Theater.

“They needed help, and we explained that we had a group that wanted to do a community service project. So we brought in this group of mostly guys who worked so hard even though it was hot and they were working with flowers. The theater director said to me, ‘What did they do?’” Jackson laughed. “He thought they committed a crime.

“Because those guys served with such excellence we were able to say, ‘We’re not doing this because we have to. We’re here because we love Jesus, and we want you all to know that He loves you.’ The theater staff allowed us to pray with them before we left.”

While reaching out to Atlanta’s creative community, in a large sense the Jacksons and their core group — which also includes NAMB MSC missionary Adam Jachelski and his wife Sherri — are making personal connections and starting small group Bible studies that will be the foundation of Bezalel Church.

Bezalel has started three small groups throughout the city. The Jacksons worked through the Baptist Colligate Ministries of Georgia State and Emory universities to start small groups on campus and also hold a Bible study in their home. Jackson hopes to see their small groups multiply in the next year.

“Because the Atlanta arts community is so pocketed throughout the city, we see Bezalel Church as a series of small groups that come together for corporate worship,” he said. “We see a lot of creative people who have a desire and need for community but don’t know how to get it. We want our small groups to be a place where they can be transparent enough to connect.”

Bezalel Church held its first preview services during the week of Easter this year. On Palm Sunday the church held an exhibit titled “In Remembrance” featuring the work of Christian artists who were asked to interpret different elements of Passion Week.

“We had paintings depicting the crucifixion and resurrection. We had poetry, video, multimedia pieces and even an instillation piece that illustrated the effects of sin and God’s power to forgive,” Twyla said. “Each artist provided a statement to explain the work they had created.”

Their Passion Week events culminated with the first service of Bezalel Church on Good Friday. Meeting in the common area for the Tula Art Center, where Jackson’s studio is located, “The 94 people in attendance clearly saw and heard the Gospel communicated through song, painting and the preaching of God’s Word,” he said.

Another unique facet of Jackson’s ministry is creating live art in worship services. Through his art, he is able to tell God’s story of redeeming love in a contemporary way. The Jacksons and their core group hope to officially launch Bezalel Church by the end of the year.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Becher is editorial assistant of On Mission magazine.)

7/20/2009 5:00:00 AM by Jami Becher, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Baptist camp director on leave after arrest

July 16 2009 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

HERTFORD — A Baptist association in North Carolina is standing by a camp director indicted July 13 on two counts of engaging in sexual activities with a child.

Police arrested Stephen Wayne Carter, director of Cale Retreat and Conference Center in Hertford July 1 on charges of taking indecent liberties with a child and first-degree sex offense involving a child. He was released from jail on $80,000 bond.

Carter, 50, has directed the Christian camp operated by Chowan Baptist Association since 2002. Rob Roberts, association missionary, said Carter remains employed as camp director but has voluntarily left the camp until the matter is resolved. The association is a group of mostly rural Baptist churches in the northeastern part of the state.

“Chowan Baptist Association stands firmly behind Steve and we are confident of his innocence,” Roberts wrote in an e-mail to the Perquimans Weekly newspaper shortly after the arrest. “Steve remains away from the Cale Retreat and Conference Center campus but continues to receive full salary and benefits. Our hearts go out to Steve and his family during this very difficult time. We are praying for everyone connected with this situation.”

Steve Carter and wife, as pictured on camp web site.

Carter, who recently celebrated his 25th wedding anniversary, told a local television station the allegations against him are untrue.  

Neither Carter nor Roberts responded to e-mails requesting additional comment. Carter is still listed as Cale’s director on the association’s website. Roberts told local media that Baptist leaders were cooperating with police.

According to the camp web site, Carter and his wife, Grayce, who works as assistant director, are former missionaries who worked as church planters in Central America.

Wendy Norvelle, associate vice president for mobilization at the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, said Carter served from 1997 to 2001 in Belize through a short-term mission program called International Service Corps.  

Norvelle said the IMB has a zero-tolerance policy regarding child sexual abuse, and that leaders began the process of notifying children and parents who may have had contact with Carter when they read a newspaper report about his indictment July 13. She added that local Baptist leaders would also be notified so they could follow up with children.

Norvelle said all IMB personnel, including volunteers, are required to complete training in both prevention and detection of child sexual abuse. Background checks and references are also required. She said the board also maintains a 24-hour hotline that anyone can use to report any allegation of child abuse involving IMB personnel.

“Prior to July 14, 2009, IMB leadership was not aware of any allegation of child sexual abuse by Mr. Carter either prior to, during, or after his service with IMB,” she said.

According to media reports, Carter is not being allowed to enter the Camp Cale property or have contact with any child under 18 except his own. The Carters have a 20-year-old daughter and a 17-year-old son.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)

7/16/2009 11:57:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 11 comments

Struggle continues for teen hurt in crash

July 16 2009 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

SHREVEPORT, La. — A teenager from Shreveport, La., continued to fight for her life in a Mississippi hospital four days after a July 12 bus crash that killed one and injured 22 passengers on their way to a church camp in Macon, Ga.

John Henson, associate pastor for emerging ministries at First Baptist Church in Shreveport, reported on Facebook that a July 16 CT scan found extensive swelling and hemorrhage to the brain of his daughter Maggie Lee, a rising seventh grader at First Baptist Church School.

She remains the most critical of surviving youth and adult sponsors injured when a church bus carrying them blew a tire and rolled over near Meridian, Miss., on the way to a Passport youth camp on the campus of Mercer University in Georgia.

One boy, 14-year-old Brandon Ugarte, died while being airlifted to a hospital in Jackson, Miss. Hundreds attended his funeral July 15 at the Catholic church his parents attend.

Maggie Lee Henson continues to battle severe head injuries received in a church-bus accident July 12.

Updates on Maggie Lee Henson’s condition indicate her lungs and heart are stable, but doctors continue to be concerned about intracranial pressure (ICP), a critical measure in monitoring and treatment of brain injury.

According to an informational web site, the average ICP in a healthy adult is in the range of 0 to 10 mmHg (or millimeters of mercury, a standard measuring unit for pressure). Any pressure greater than 20 mmHg is abnormal and above 60 mmHg is fatal. Henson’s pressure had hovered in the 30s all week before spiking into the 40s during the night of July 15.

John Henson reported midday July 16 that his daughter’s ICP was in the low 20s, a plateau that doctors had hoped to reach during a critical first 72 hours after a head injury.

Elevated ICP creates a problem when fluid surrounding the brain has nowhere to go and can deform and cause further damage to the brain. Outcome is affected by both the amount and duration of pressure, but children have better recovery rates than adults.

John Henson and his wife, Jinny, both made Internet appeals July 16 for urgent prayer for their daughter. People from all over the world are responding. The largest of a number of Facebook prayer groups dedicated to the youth group had grown to nearly 8,000 members by the time this story was filed.

Meanwhile, others who suffered serious injuries continued to improve.

Teenager Chase Johnson was discharged from Rush Hospital in Meridian, Miss., July 15 and headed for home.

Sarah Smith, who was originally taken to a hospital in Meridian and transferred to Jackson with neck and upper-back fractures, awaited a final consultation with her doctor before being released, possibly July 16.

Lauren Murchison had surgery July 15 in Jackson to clean out a facial bone fragment that was affecting eye movement. Earlier she underwent surgery to repair a femur broken in two places, a broken clavicle and other injuries. According to a July 16 Facebook posting by her older sister, Marcia, the surgery “was a success,” but that her sister is “a bit upset that she can’t open it and that it’s so sore, but we are told that is normal.”

Jason Matlack, the church’s youth minister, was transferred to a private room in Meridian and expected to be transported to Shreveport by the end of the week.

Kyle Kelley, an adult chaperone on the trip who works part time for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Louisiana, was also moved to a private room in Meridian. An update on the church web site said he was in a good deal of pain and it would take some time for his broken bones to heal, but both he and his wife, Charlene, a member of the national CBF Coordinating Council, are in good spirits.

Another Facebook group applauded heroic efforts by a National Guard unit that happened to be following the bus when it went out of control and rolled three times before landing on its side with three passengers trapped underneath. Soldiers used their hands to lift the 30-passenger bus to gain access to the pinned victims and began triage credited with saving lives.

Lauderdale County Coroner Clayton Cobler told The Meridian Star that seeing dozens of people littered across eastbound lanes of Interstate 20/59 -- many of them seriously injured and in shock -- was one of the worst scenes he had ever worked.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)

Shreveport church focuses prayer on daughter of staff member
Guard helps save lives at bus crash
Church bus overturns, killing teen
7/16/2009 11:46:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Adrian Rogers’ son resigns as missionary

July 16 2009 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — David Rogers, son of the legendary preacher and Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president Adrian Rogers, is resigning after 19 years as an SBC missionary to Spain.

Rogers, a blogger who has written extensively about his disagreement with SBC International Mission Board (IMB) policies against praying in tongues, said Baptist politics had nothing to do with the decision, which is based solely on health issues involving a family member.

Rogers said he will remain in the Memphis, Tenn., area to work full-time with the Adrian Rogers Pastor Training Institute, where he has been editing training materials in Spanish and English on a temporary basis for several months.

At the institute, founded in 2003, Rogers works alongside his brother Steve and sits at the desk formerly used by his father while he was pastor of Memphis’ Bellevue Baptist Church for 32 years before retiring in 2005.

Rogers said part of his work will be dedicated to building the Adrian Rogers Legacy Library, a project by the family to electronically index and cross-reference notes and transcripts of more than 6,000 sermons the elder Rogers preached during a ministry spanning more than 50 years before his death in 2005.

Rogers and his wife, Kelly, have been on stateside appointment and leave of absence for two years. He said they had planned to return to Spain a year ago but decided to remain in the United States for family reasons.

He described the decision to leave the IMB as “painful” and said he would continue to support and pray for missionary colleagues still on the field.

Three years ago Rogers wrote IMB trustees objecting to a new policy banning missionaries who admit to a “private prayer language” in their devotional lives. He said he could not speak for his late father, but he voiced concern that the “conservative resurgence” that the elder Rogers helped launch in 1979 was “in danger of being commandeered in a new, more extreme direction.”

Rogers told an Associated Baptist Press reporter July 16 his opinions about IMB policies or SBC politics had nothing to do with his resignation, and he hoped media would not ask personal questions that intrude into a private family decision.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)

7/16/2009 11:38:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Exec. Committee elects first Embrace leader

July 16 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Ashley Allen, a May doctor of philosophy graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, was elected as the first director of Embrace women’s ministries at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) July 16.

The BSC Executive Committee unanimously elected Allen, who taught adjunctively in the women’s program two years at Southwestern while earning her degree. She will begin Aug. 1.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Ashley Allen, May Ph.D. graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, was elected July 16 as the first director of Embrace women’s ministries for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina during the Executive Committee meeting in Cary.

Chuck Register, executive leader for church planting and missions development who will supervise the work of Embrace, called Allen “delightful and energetic.”

He said Allen comes to women’s ministry “not from an event orientation, but from the biblical model of mentoring in Titus,” in which older women walk with younger women “to help them grow as followers of Christ.”

Allen based her doctoral thesis on study of women’s ministries in three Baptist state conventions.

She is a 2000 journalism graduate from the University of Texas, and earned a masters degree in Christian education from Southwestern in 2003.

She has worked in a book publishing firm, in communications at both a newspaper and a church, as a women’s ministry intern at First Baptist Church, Dallas, and as a corporate chaplain for Marketplace Ministries in Dallas.

She addressed the Executive Committee before they voted to elect her, and said her ministry philosophy is a three-legged stool of evangelism, discipleship and missions involvement.

She said she has heard women in North Carolina “want to share the Lord, but don’t know how.”  She was encouraged by that desire because she said most women are afraid or have no desire to be a witness.

“These women are not afraid and have the desire, they just need the tools,” she said.

Responding to a question, Allen said she was familiar with the recent history of the Baptist State Convention and Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) and said Embrace does not replace WMU.

“What WMU does with missions education is necessary and needed,” Allen said. “Some of our churches have done away with missions education and that’s a great disservice. We’re producing children who have never heard the names of (mission pioneers) Lottie Moon or Annie Armstrong.

“Churches that have WMU and desire women’s ministry will be taught how they can work together and coincide. For those that have no WMU but want women’s ministry, they will be taught the need for missions involvement.”

7/16/2009 10:48:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 4 comments

Ministers model racial reconciliation

July 16 2009 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

The friendship of six ministers — three black and three white — served as visible evidence of racial reconciliation at a workshop on the subject July 13.

Four of the ministers spoke at the meeting at Greystone Baptist Church in Raleigh. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina’s Racial Reconciliation Task Force sponsored the workshop.

The group of ministers began with Willard Bass, director of the Institute for Dismantling Racism and an assistant pastor at Green Street United Methodist Church in Winston-Salem, and Nathan Parrish, pastor of Peace Haven Baptist Church in Winston-Salem.

BR photo by Steve DeVane

Willard Bass, left, director of the Institute for Dismantling Racism, participates in a panel discussion with Hal T. Ley Hayek, rector at St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Greensboro.

After taking a spiritual foundations course, Bass was convicted about the need to share the spiritual journey with someone. For about a year, he and another African American minister met together.

When the other minister moved, Bass thought about who else might fit that role. Parish came to mind.

“I didn’t limit myself to African American ministers,” Bass said.

Bass and Parrish set aside time each week to have prayer and discuss scripture and other issues. They met together for a few years before two others and later two more joined them.

Bass said he looks forward to the group’s two-hour meetings each Wednesday.

“I’ve seen the scripture opened up in ways I had never thought about,” he said.

Parrish said he realized when he became pastor of Peace Haven about seven years ago that he was racially isolated and that needed to change. He joined The Minister’s Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity, a historically African American group.

Parrish said he now sees issues in a new way. Students at substandard schools are now children of his friends.

“It changes the way you see your community,” he said. “I’ve had to learn to be accountable to people of color.”

Parrish said churches need to do the hard work of racial reconciliation.

“We need to learn a new way,” he said.

Racism goes beyond individual attitudes to institutional systems, Parrish said. That means the issue must be addressed in deeper ways, he said.

Parrish said he once thought of racism as an individual and personal issue involving the use of racial epithets or hostility. While not minimizing those attitudes, he now believes that patterns of racism are an “embedded reality” to the point they are “almost baked into the DNA of the social structure.”

Tim Monroe, director of the Forsyth County Department of Public Health, said health care reflects institutional racism. In an average year, an African American is 30 percent more likely than a white person to die in his county, he said.

African American infants in the United States are three times more likely to die before their first birthday than white infants, Monroe said. The overall infant mortality rate has improved since 1972, but the gap between the races hasn’t changed, he said.

Monroe showed maps from the 1960 census showing an inverse relationship between wealth and the percentage of black population. Then he showed a map from the 2000 census indicating little difference.

Suggestions about how to remedy the situation are often called “social engineering” or “socialism,” Monroe said.

“Let’s set aside the labels and have the debate about what’s best for our community,” he said.

Those attending the workshop saw other evidence that racism still exists.

They watched a video of an ABC-News segment that included a white man and a black man with similar backgrounds and abilities.

The two men interacted separately with employees at stores, car lots, an apartment complex and an employment agency. In every instance, the white man received preferential treatment.

Later at the workshop, Parrish read a passage from Mark 4 that told about Jesus calming a storm while he and the disciples were crossing a lake. He asked those in attendance to talk about impediments to racial reconciliation.

“What is it that we are feeling and facing that we have to confess and get out at some point to get to the other side?” he said.

One participant mentioned the belief that since he wasn’t as racist as his parents that he was OK. Another talked about how some people refer to “my church” rather than God’s church.

Otto Gaither, a black minister who is in the group of six ministers, pointed out that Jesus left some people behind when they got in the boat. The disciples were on board and were prepared to face the storm. Those attending the workshop are similarly prepared to face the issue of racism.

“That’s why you’re here today,” he said.

Gaither, an associate minister at Dellabrook Presbyterian Church in Winston-Salem said white ministers should become friends with black ministers in their community.

“That one relationship with one person can grow to be more,” he said. “In this case, the change will have to start at the top because you have the power. Your people need to see you in different circumstances than they did yesterday.”

As the workshop was winding down, Parrish asked participants what gives them hope.

A teenage girl at the workshop said she was glad to see older people there who were concerned about racism. Another participant mentioned evidence of races coming together in schools.

Jack Glasgow, pastor of Zebulon Baptist Church, told about an eight-year partnership between his mostly white congregation and the predominantly black Zebulon First Baptist Church. The two churches collaborate each year on Operation Inasmuch, a one-day community missions blitz.

The workshop included assurance from the leaders that all discussion was confidential. After the meeting Glasgow agreed to talk generally about the partnership.

“There has been incredibly open and honest dialogue, especially after about three years, that brought trust to a new level,” he said.

7/16/2009 10:05:00 AM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 1 comments

Small church has excuse-proof VBS

July 16 2009 by Polly House, Baptist Press

SIDNEY, Ark. — It’s not Sydney, Australia; it’s Sidney, Ark.

BP photo by Guy Lyons

From left: Dylan Hawkins, teacher Charley Koch, Meghan Pectol and Dawson Turner make “Aboriginal rain sticks,” reusing the poster mailer tubes from the VBS posters.

VBS director Jennifer Shaw and her crew of volunteers took the Boomerang Express Vacation Bible School theme to heart and offered children, youth and adults at Sidney Baptist Church the opportunity to learn about Jesus through the Aussie-themed VBS curriculum from LifeWay Christian Resources.

Sidney is small — the population is about 250, and that includes people who don’t live in the town proper in northern Arkansas. But that statistic doesn’t even come up when Shaw and her volunteers talk about Vacation Bible School. They could list several reasons not to have VBS. After all, it is a challenge to host VBS in a small church, but Shaw and her team don’t whine or give excuses. They debunk them.
  • Excuse 1: “Our community is too small and we don’t have enough kids.”
Sidney doesn’t have many kids either, but that provides an opportunity to reach out to the community. Sidney Baptist leaders encourage their church’s kids to invite their friends from all around the area. The ones who do receive prizes.
  • Excuse 2: “We don’t have enough workers to plan every detail for VBS.”
Using the VBS Super Sampler, Shaw had just about everything she needed, including instructions and suggestions. She ordered posters, inflatables and other items that made decorating easy. She handed off the appropriate information to the grade-level workers, the “snack ladies,” the audiovisual coordinator, the music leader and others. They all took care of their responsibilities and let Shaw know if they needed her help.
  • Excuse 3: “There aren’t enough snack, craft or other ideas to keep kids busy, and they get restless.”
Sidney Baptist Church handles this by using ideas provided with the curriculum along with some original theme-centered ideas. For instance, a VBS craft teacher recycled the cardboard mailing tubes from the VBS posters and used them to make Aboriginal rain sticks.

It helps to have an experienced leader heading up the crafts. Joyce Hancock has served with VBS for 43 years. She knows what the kids like and how to customize craft ideas to appeal to them. “You have to make sure there is plenty for them to work on,” she said.
  • Excuse 4: “We are concerned about security when the children leave. It’s too hard to keep up with them.”
Everyone indeed should be security-conscious. At Sidney, Shaw had every class return to the sanctuary for a 10-minute closing session. She had a prize giveaway, read announcements and offered a closing prayer. This time also allowed her to account for everyone. After that, children were dismissed to the person picking them up, and it wasn’t a free-for-all in the parking lot. Shaw knew every child was safely on his or her way home, and she didn’t have to worry about anyone being left behind.
  • Excuse 5: “Our children and adults don’t have time to memorize all the songs and drama for our parents’ program, so we just don’t do one.”

BP photo by Guy Lyons

Leta Engle, right, prepares “train tracks” — peanut butter and jelly on frozen waffles cut into strips — for snacks during Vacation Bible School at Sidney (Ark.) Baptist Church.

Alana Green, the VBS music leader at Sidney Baptist Church, also is a certified financial planner who understands a good plan. Knowing that memorizing all the words to the songs and the drama for the parents’ program is difficult, she came up with a solution. On family night, a screen is placed at the back of the church so everyone on stage can see the words. Green said this relieved the actors’ anxiety and helped the singers feel more confident.
  • Excuse 6: “We are a very creative church and we don’t want to do VBS ‘by the book’ like everyone else.”
VBS is all about being creative in telling children, students and adults the Good News of Jesus Christ. God is a God of creativity! A church can start with a VBS sampler then find ways to personalize the program for its community.

Green said that several years ago she saw a white-gloved group use sign language and motions while signing under a black light. She liked the idea and, for the past few years, the youth and some older children have performed one of the slower VBS songs in the dark with glowing hands. She said the audience looks forward to that song because it’s different and fun. It’s not “by the book,” but it’s special to them.

At Sidney, they get creative with the snacks as well. The “snack ladies” prepare themed snacks, like this year’s kangaroo tails (chocolate-dipped bananas on a stick), but they also prepare other snacks the children like, such as this year’s homemade chocolate-dipped strawberries and some veggie-stuffed squash fresh from the garden.

In a small church like Sidney Baptist, the workers aren’t many, but each one has a heart for VBS. They look forward to each summer and spend hours in planning and preparation.

Part of that preparation is being alert to opportunities for outreach to children and youth throughout the year. In her small community, Shaw comes in contact with many people who are past or future VBS attendees.

“We draw kids from all around the area,” she said. “When I see little kids at school or in town, they look at me and remember me from Bible school. It’s funny; they look at me like ‘I know you’ and say they went to Bible school.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — House is a corporate communications specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources.)

7/16/2009 10:02:00 AM by Polly House, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

GCR task force to meet twice in August

July 16 2009 by Martin King, Illinois Baptist

SPRINGFIELD, IL — The Southern Baptist Convention’s newly minted Great Commission Task Force will meet twice next month, once in Atlanta, Ga., and once in Rogers, Ark., according to a story released by the Illinois Baptist July 15.

SBC president Johnny Hunt confirmed that the task force will meet Aug. 11-12 at the Renaissance Hotel near the Atlanta Airport, and again Aug. 26-27 at the Embassy Suites Northwest Arkansas in Rogers.

Hunt is pastor of First Baptist Church, Woodstock, GA., north of the metro Atlanta area, and task force chairman Ronnie Floyd is pastor of First Baptist Church, Springdale, Ark. and the Church at Pinnacle Hills in Rogers.

The Arkansas meeting will be preceded, according to Floyd, by a luncheon for area pastors and staff, laypersons serving on SBC entities and “anyone who wants to come.”

“I have asked Dr. Hunt to come in early (for the meeting), and he and I will address these leaders about the GCR and the future of the SBC,” Floyd wrote in an email to the Illinois Baptist. “We will open it up for questions and try to provide an entre for them to interact with us. I want this to be one of our listening sessions and an opportunity to speak to the people about the SBC.”

Floyd said invitations to the luncheon which will be held at The Church At Pinnacle Hills’ campus will be mailed in early August to SBC leaders within a two hour driving radius of Rogers including eastern Oklahoma and Southern Missouri, but offered, “If anyone wants to come, just call our office at 479-751-4523 and RSVP to Debby Swart.”

Hunt appointed the 19-member task force during the SBC annual meeting in Louisville, Ky. last month, then added four members last week to broaden its representation.  The vote authorizing the task force charges it with studying how Southern Baptists can work “more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission.”

Floyd said the task force is going to launch in early August a prayer web site.

7/16/2009 5:28:00 AM by Martin King, Illinois Baptist | with 0 comments

Amid Kenya’s drought, thousands fed

July 15 2009 by Sydney A. James, Baptist Press

Joy and gratitude radiate in the smiles of Maasai women who know their families will have something to eat for the next month thanks to Southern Baptists’ World Hunger Fund.

ILMAMEN, Kenya — The rains come too late for the crops. Cows, selling for about $5, have no meat on their bones. The drought’s damage will be fatal for many.

From the Maasai Mara wildlife reserve in Kenya to Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania — about 11,700 square miles — everyone is hungry.

“The problem is that there is no grass,” Bob Calvert says. “There is not enough water, not enough rain. For the past month, as I was waiting on relief supplies to come, I have been cutting grass around Nairobi to take to pastors for their animals to eat.”

Calvert, an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary, lives outside Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. He partnered with Baptist Global Response (BGR), an international relief and development organization, to deliver nearly $500,000 worth of flour and cooking fat to women between May and July.

The money, provided by Southern Baptists through their World Hunger Fund, was enough to feed 180,000 people for one month — at a cost of $2.70 each.

“Pastors started coming to me in November of last year to tell me that they needed food,” Calvert recounts. “I told them to start collecting names of those who needed the food immediately — women, orphans, old men, those with no other income.”

Pastors in 238 churches collected the names of 29,280 women whose families need food. The reason for identifying the need through women is that some men have as many as four wives. This way each woman can feed her children.

Baptist Global Response worked with Calvert to develop a strategy for providing staple foods to people suffering in Kenya’s Rift Valley area.

“Cyclical hunger in Africa is a fact of life,” says Mark Hatfield who with his wife Susan directs Baptist Global Response work in Sub-Saharan Africa. “Environmental changes, in association with land use methods that have degraded the environment, along with a series of very poor rainy seasons, brought about this need for assistance.”

Each woman received 12 five-pound bags of flour and one tub of cooking fat. While the distribution will stave off hunger for a month, it will be six months before families will have an opportunity to plant new crops.

Pastor Jon, located near the Maasai Mara, tells Calvert there has been no rain in his area. “We are eating dust,” Jon says.

When word spread that relief supplies had arrived, about 2,000 people, mostly women, hiked more than an hour to assemble at one of the distribution points, Ilmamen Baptist Church, located in a village about two hours south of Nairobi.

Agnes Mongela has eight children. For the past four years, she has not had more than one meal every other day.

After waiting in a neighboring schoolyard for seven hours, Agnes hears her number called and, smiling broadly, crosses over to the church to get her food.

The women tie the 60-plus pounds of food onto their backs and prepare for the long trek home. They center the rope, made from dried cowhide or sisal, on top of their heads and balance the food on their lower backs.

They chatter happily about the food they received. It was more than they expected.

Not everyone will get food today, however. At each church, only slightly more than a thousand women are on the list to receive food. The other thousand will beg for a small share.

During a two-month period, 10 people have died because food is so scarce. One family lost a father, mother and child when a boulder fell on them while they were hand-cutting grass for their animals on a steep mountainside.

The price of flour has risen greatly in the past year. The locals cannot afford it. The many aid organizations located in Kenya are out of money to feed the millions of people who still need food.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — James is an international correspondent for Baptist Global Response.)

7/15/2009 7:06:00 AM by Sydney A. James, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Still alive, Samburu give thanks to God

July 15 2009 by Sydney A. James, Baptist Press

BP photo by Sydney A. James

In the Samburu culture, the oldest members of a family are the last to receive food.

SAMBURU, Kenya — The women danced and sang, thanking God for the food that kept their families alive for a while longer.

The food, delivered by Charlie Daniels, a Southern Baptist missionary in southern Kenya, literally kept these women and their families from starving to death.

The Samburu people live in the highland forests of Kenya, at almost 7,800 feet above sea level. An ongoing drought and post-election violence in 2008 gravely disrupted the area’s food supply, contributing to the starvation of people and animals.

“Needy, hurting people came to me, asking for help, and I knew I had the means to help them. So how could I not help?” Daniels said. “How could I refuse them?”

Daniels consulted with Mark Hatfield, who with his wife Susan directs work in Sub-Saharan Africa for Baptist Global Response, an international relief and development organization. Together they designed a relief project to feed 4,800 people for a month at a cost of only $5.11 per person.

Using $24,540 provided by the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund, Daniels bought maize, dried red beans and cooking fat from local vendors who also transported the food for distribution. The Daniels’ supplier went all the way to Uganda to find the food the Daniels wanted to provide. The supplier also reduced transportation costs so they could buy more food.

Four Baptist pastors among the Samburu handled the logistics of distribution, identifying vulnerable people in their communities to receive the food — those with tuberculosis, AIDS, orphans, women with nursing babies, the sick and elderly. In the 12.5-mile radius of the distribution area, food was distributed regardless of ethnic or religious background: Turkana, Muslims, Samburu and Kikuyu — all were helped.

Leserewa, a 67-year-old Samburu man, said Charlie brought the food when his people were in need — when he had nothing in his stomach.

“The food helped us very much,” Leserewa said. “If we had not gotten the food that day, we would have died.”

Daniels said the people who were helped were more desperate this time than three years ago when he had done a similar project. He witnessed the hopelessness and despair of people who had gone without food for a very long time.

“The people who got the food survived for another month,” Daniels said. “There is still no rain, there are still food shortages and prices are still high. I could do this every month for the foreseeable future.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — James is an international correspondent for Baptist Global Response.)

7/15/2009 7:02:00 AM by Sydney A. James, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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