July 2009

In New Orleans, volunteers still needed

July 8 2009 by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press

NEW ORLEANS — Almost four years after Hurricane Katrina brought New Orleans to its knees on Aug. 29, 2005, Southern Baptists continue to spend a week or so in the Big Easy, volunteering their time and skills to rebuild or refurbish homes devastated by the deadly storm.

But the number of Baptists who are volunteering is no longer enough.

Since May 1, 2006, under “Operation NOAH Rebuild” — a cooperative ministry of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans and the SBC’s North American Mission Board — more than 25,000 Southern Baptist volunteers have assisted in rebuilding 1,801 flood-damaged homes. These volunteers represent some 1,530 SBC churches from every state convention in the U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii. Operation NOAH also has assisted in the recovery of 32 churches and 15 other ministry centers or schools damaged by Katrina.

And as a direct result of Operation NOAH, more than 400 professions of faith have been recorded, according to the latest available statistics.

BP photo by Adam Miller

Operation NOAH Rebuild volunteer Andy King, who is skilled at finishing drywall, is one of more than 25,000 Southern Baptist volunteers who have helped rebuild homes in New Orleans since 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. Skilled volunteers are still needed to complete work on more homes damaged by the storm.

While an agreement has been reached to transition the day-to-day management of Operation NOAH to the Baptist association, the North American Mission Board has committed to extend its support of the ministry until year’s end, said Mickey Caison, NAMB’s team leader for adult volunteer mobilization.

“We will continue to work with [the association] to support and implement their ‘2020 Vision’ strategic plan,” Caison said. “Part of that plan is to address post-Katrina needs of the New Orleans community, and housing is still one of the critical needs there.”

Caison said 70 more homes remain in the Operation NOAH pipeline for reconstruction or renovation, and “we want to complete every one of them.”

“Some of the folks we still want to help have not received any assistance at all from their insurance companies or the federal government, and are the folks who’ve fallen through the cracks,” Caison said, noting that only 60 percent of the residents displaced by Katrina have moved back home.

But as NAMB’s time for involvement ticks down, Operation NOAH is not seeing the number of skilled volunteers the program needs to finish work on the 70 remaining homes, Caison said.

“We desperately need Southern Baptists who are skilled as drywall workers, plumbers, electricians, framing carpenters and finishing carpenters to volunteer to help us,” he said. “We can house up to 145 volunteers a week but we’re not averaging 145 a week. We only had 66 volunteers during May.” Caison said volunteers are housed in a volunteer “village” at Hopeview Baptist Church in nearby St. Bernard Parish.

David Maxwell, a pastor serving as coordinator for Operation NOAH Rebuild, echoed Caison, adding that “we want to do quality work for these last 70 houses — the same quality anyone would want for their own home. You just can’t do that with unskilled labor.”

As to the volunteer shortage, Maxwell attributes it to the fact that almost four years have elapsed since Katrina. Other disasters — like Hurricanes Ike and Gustav, floods in the Midwest and fires in California — have siphoned off some of the volunteer force needed in New Orleans.

“The bad economy and higher gas prices have also had something to do with the smaller number of people who volunteer. People are just staying closer to home,” he said.

“Operation NOAH Rebuild has given people hope where there was no hope,” Maxwell noted, “just like Jesus Christ does for all of us. There are literally thousands of homes and people in New Orleans who still need help. Contrary to what local politicians may say, it’s not over. We’ve just scratched the surface.”

For volunteer opportunities with Operation NOAH Rebuild, e-mail noah@namb.net or call (877) 934-0808 (toll-free) or (504) 362-4604.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board.)

7/8/2009 4:43:00 AM by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

In Jerusalem, prayer rises for peace

July 8 2009 by Baptist Press

JERUSALEM — From the Jerusalem Prayer Center in Israel, Southern Baptist volunteers Dale and Anita Thorne have a bird’s-eye view of the city.

“When I look out the door ... I can see the Arab side of Jerusalem, and when I look out the opposite door, I see the Jewish side,” Anita said. “I feel the Lord has strategically placed the center ‘on the line’ between the two.”

BP photo

Jerusalem artist Pam Suran explains the mural she painted in the Jerusalem Prayer Center’s chapel. The mural features the words of Jesus in Matthew 9:38-39.

The center is located in a 120-year-old house near the site of the Mandelbaum Gate — the traditional dividing line between Arab and Jewish parts of the city. The Thornes hope the center will draw Christians to pray for all peoples of the city — Christian, Jewish and Muslim — and all peoples of the world, as stated in Isaiah 56:7: “My house shall be a house of prayer for all nations.”

“We encourage people who come to the center to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and that means peace for all the people of the city ... peace with God and peace with each other,” Dale said. “Just as our physical location speaks of peace and reconciliation, so does all that goes on in the building.”

The Thornes, a retired couple from Oklahoma, organize tours of the building for locals as well as Christian groups visiting Jerusalem for mission trips and Holy Land sightseeing.

“On the landing leading up to the prayer room, one can view a Jewish community, an Arab-Muslim boys’ school and an Anglican-Arab Christian church and school,” Anita said. “From this vantage point, we have not only prayed for God’s blessing on these people but for an open door for developing relationships.”

When visitors arrive, they are given a short overview presentation in the chapel, followed by a guided tour of the building with stops along the way to pray at various points of interest, including exhibits that depict Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities. The tour concludes at an interactive prayer area called the Upper Room with prayer banners in Hebrew, Arabic and English.

Visitors can explore displays designed to educate them about prayer needs and involve them in praying for those needs during and after their visit. Sections in the room emphasize the praise, confession and intercession aspects of prayer. Other displays encourage visitors to contribute drawings and their own prayer requests.

The center’s prayer chapel includes a mural painted by Jerusalem artist Pam Suran illustrating Matthew 9:38-39: “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.” Visitors also can pray in a garden featuring a prayer wall with ceramic maps of the earth’s continents.

About 150 people from the local community and from abroad attended a dedication ceremony in May. The presence of Christian, Muslim and Jewish, believers and nonbelievers, was a tangible reminder of the purpose of the center, the Thornes said.

The house was once part of the American Colony of Jerusalem, founded by Horatio Spafford, who wrote the hymn “It is Well with My Soul.”

Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall, Texas, assisted with the design of center’s displays and set up the interactive prayer room. First Baptist Church in Oviedo, Fla., SonRise Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., along with Lake Pointe continue to support the center through donations, volunteer trips and prayer.

7/8/2009 4:41:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Christianity spreading among Hispanics

July 8 2009 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Hispanic population, the largest ethnic group in the United States, rapidly has been adopting the mainstream beliefs and practices of all Americans, according to a study by The Barna Group.

The study, released July 6, compared the faith of Hispanics today to their faith profile of 15 years ago and found 11 faith dimensions on which there had been substantial change.

Barna found that Hispanics’ alignment with the Catholic Church was down by 25 percentage points, and Hispanics who believe a good person can earn his way into heaven was down 9 percentage points.

Being a born-again Christian by Barna’s definition was up 17 percentage points among Hispanics, and having made a personal commitment to Jesus that is important in their lives was up 15 percentage points.

Church attendance among Hispanics in an average week had increased 10 percentage points, Barna said, and reading the Bible during a typical week was up 5 percentage points.

Hispanics who were surveyed also were more likely to claim to have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs with others (up 10 percentage points), believe that God is the all-powerful, all-knowing creator of the universe who still rules the world today (up 8 points), and believe that the Bible is accurate in all of the principles it teaches (up 6 points) when compared to those surveyed 15 years ago.

The survey also said the number of Hispanics attending a church of 500 or more people was down 6 percentage points.

“The influence of a dominant culture and its traditions has a powerful effect on people’s lives,” George Barna said. “While Hispanics have indisputably influenced American culture, these figures remind us that such transformation is a two-way street.”

Barna said the study reveals how significant faith is in the lives of Hispanics.

“Not only do most of them assert that importance, but the fact that so much is changing in their faith perspectives and practices underscores how much energy they devote to their spirituality,” he said.

“... You cannot help but notice the changing relationship between Hispanics and the Catholic church. While many Hispanic immigrants come to the United States with ties to Catholicism, the research shows that many of them eventually connect with a Protestant church. Even more significant is the departure of many second and third generation Hispanics from their Catholic tradition,” Barna said.

In the same study, The Barna Group compared the faith practices and beliefs of Hispanics with that of the total adult population and found few significant differences. Gaps were found in only a handful of areas:
  • Hispanics remained somewhat more likely to believe that a good person can earn his way into heaven, researchers found.
  • Americans, overall, were significantly more likely to claim that they are “absolutely committed” to Christianity.
  • Hispanics were twice as likely as the total adult population to be aligned with the Catholic Church. Barna said 22 percent of the total population and 44 percent of the Hispanic population in America associate with the Catholic Church.
  • Americans at large were slightly more likely to be born-again Christians based on their theological views rather than self-identification, Barna determined.
When Barna compared born-again Hispanics to the nation’s born-again population at large, researchers found relatively few differences between the two groups.

Among the differences, Hispanics were more likely to believe that even though their salvation was based on accepting Christ, it was also possible for a person to earn a spot in heaven though good behavior.

Hispanics who were born again were more likely than all born-again Americans to say they had been significantly transformed by their faith, Barna said.

The study also revealed that compared to national norms, Hispanics were somewhat less likely to describe themselves as “mostly conservative” on political and social issues yet were not more likely to say they were “mostly liberal.” The Hispanics surveyed gravitated toward a middle-of-the-road ideological stance on social and political issues, Barna said.

To conduct the survey, The Barna Group interviewed more than 9,200 people by phone in 2007-08 and asked if they considered themselves to be Hispanic. Nearly 1,200 adults fit in the Hispanic category, Barna said.

7/8/2009 4:40:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Halfway through year, CP trails by 1.9 percent

July 7 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

June Cooperative Program (CP) gifts from North Carolina Baptist churches significantly narrowed the gap from last year’s giving and through June were 1.9 percent behind the same period in 2008.

At the end of April receipts trailed the same period in 2008 by 2.9 percent and at the end of May, by 5.1 percent.

June CP gifts of $2,873,951 were $221,000 above the average of the first five months and brought the total $16.1 million compare to $16.4 million at the same juncture in 2008.

A possible factor in the June boost is that the last Sunday of May fell on the last day of the month and those receipts would be received in June.

Giving Plan A, through which two-thirds of all gifts are received, was up 1.8 percent through June, to $10.8 million.

Plan B was down 6.4 percent to $1.3 million.

Plan C, 10 percent of which goes to the national Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, was down 23.6 percent to $613,541.

Plan D, which had been growing steadily for several years, was down 1.6 percent to $2.9 million.

Beginning in 2010, the North Carolina Baptist budget will consist of only one giving plan. The budget committee, chaired by Steve Hardy of Winston-Salem, is working on a potential budget to be presented to the board for consideration in September.

“We’re grateful for the confidence shown by churches in keeping CP income almost level during one of the most difficult economic downturns in decades,” said Milton A. Hollifield Jr., Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) executive director-treasurer. “We know their giving represents a sacrifice. One of our pastors recently announced to his congregation that he wanted them to honor their commitment to CP missions support even if it meant he did not get a pay check.”

Hollifield said internal adjustments have kept the BSC operating in the black.

Of the three major special offerings only the Lottie Moon offering for international missions is up, by 7 percent to $9.1 million.

The Annie Armstrong offering for North American missions is down 6.6 percent, to $4.9 million.
The North American Mission Board recognized the Baptist State Convention during the national Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting for leading all state conventions in 2008 with gifts to the Annie Armstrong Offering.

The North Carolina Missions Offering trails last year’s giving by 11.5 percent, with gifts through June at $388,113.

7/7/2009 10:11:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

Mother saved through son’s sermon

July 7 2009 by Keith Collier, Baptist Press

FORT WORTH, Texas — Beau Brewer could hardly complete his sermon. As he preached the gospel in a small West Texas church, he was overcome with emotion by the weeping of a woman seated in the congregation.

That woman was his mother.

Jeanne Brewer was weeping over her sins — a starting point for faith that her son had prayed for earnestly for more than a decade. When Brewer gave the invitation, his mom came forward, and he was able to help lead her to the Lord.

“With my mother, as I started seeing God dealing with her heart,” Brewer said, “I started realizing that God was definitely in charge here. He was doing something that I could have never done.

“I don’t take credit for anything that happened with my mom, though I was there and I was the mouthpiece that day. I simply saw the Lord melting her heart.”

Brewer, a master of divinity student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, was filling the pulpit of Crossway Baptist Church in Abilene as part of an evangelistic weekend coordinated by the seminary and the Cross Timbers Baptist Association. Although Brewer preaches monthly at Bisbee Baptist Church in Mansfield, Texas, where he serves as minister of music, this was his parents’ first time to hear him preach.

Eighteen Southwestern students and faculty, including President Paige Patterson, participated in the association’s outreach weekend in April. Churches that had experienced no baptisms in the previous year invited Southwestern students to do door-to-door evangelism on Saturday and preach in their pulpits on Sunday.

Southwestern students distributed more than 250 gospel tracts and directly shared the gospel with nearly 100 people on Saturday, resulting in nine professions of faith. Additionally, three individuals made professions of faith during worship services on Sunday.

On Saturday evening, the group of students and faculty gathered to share about their evangelism encounters earlier in the day and to pray about the next day’s preaching assignments. During that meeting, Brewer mentioned his parents would be hearing him preach and earnestly prayed over their spiritual condition.

“When you think back through your life experiences and you see the Lord’s hand working through you,” Brewer said, “how can you not pray for the lost, especially those in your immediate family?

“It’s devastating to think where they will be for all eternity if you don’t get the message across clearly. More than anything, I prayed for clarity,” he said. “I prayed that my parents would be able to look beyond who I am and all my flaws ... and see Christ living in me and desire that same thing.”

Brewer was excited to see the woman who gave him life experience the new birth in Jesus Christ. He bought her a Bible and they talk daily as she continues to grow in her faith.

“What I’ve learned about the gospel,” Brewer said, “is that the gospel can reach anyone at anytime.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Collier writes for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

7/7/2009 5:36:00 AM by Keith Collier, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Iranian couple risk all to follow Christ

July 7 2009 by Kate Gregory, Baptist Press

TEHRAN, Iran — Davoud* felt so disillusioned with life that he sank into a deep depression.

He wasn’t destitute. Far from it. Davoud was successful in Iran’s entertainment industry. He brokered motion picture deals and created artwork that hung above fireplaces in the capital city of Tehran.

He had a good home life. He loved his wife. He knew he should be happy.

But he felt hollow inside, like nothing really mattered. He tried to push the feelings aside by burying himself in work, but they kept creeping back, weighing heavier each time.

My life “was meaningless because my heart was empty,” Davoud recalls.

Barriers to faith
He shrugged it off when a friend told him the reason for his depression was that Christ was missing from his life. Most Iranians know of Jesus Christ because He is believed to be one of many Islamic prophets. For Iranians to try to convince others in the Islamic Republic that He is more than that can be punishable by prison or death.

When other friends accepted Christ, Davoud and his wife Susan* still weren’t interested. Fear wasn’t their primary reason for rejecting Christ; it was disdain for religion of any sort.

When Davoud and Susan got married, they agreed that religion was something to be tolerated at special occasions.

IMB photo

According to Islamic law, women must wear coverings in public. But women in Iran still find ways to be fashionable or test the boundaries of the restrictions with tight-fitting jeans.

Both of their families followed religious practices out of obligation and necessity. It was clear to the couple that religion as they knew it had nothing to do with the heart.

Susan was caught off-guard by the joyful outlook of a friend who had accepted Christ.

Up to this point, religion and religious people — including her extended family of strict Muslims — seemed cold and removed.

Finally Susan’s curiosity piqued. She wondered who God really is, and her friend seemed to know.

When her friend led her to Christ a short time later, “It was love, real love, pure love,” Susan says about who God is.

Jesus loves me
Susan’s face softens into a deep, lingering smile when recalling her discovery of God’s love.

“When I pray to God and when I think, I can talk to God directly,” she says, “at that time I can understand how God loves me and how much I love Him.”

Growing up she felt “always behind a barrier so you cannot touch a real God. But in Christianity, I can reach Him very easily. I’m always open to hear Him, to interact with Him.”

Davoud’s first thought when Susan told him about becoming a Christian was: “Don’t react. After a while, she’s going to forget (her impulsive decision) and everything (will) be the same.”

But Davoud couldn’t shake his feelings of restlessness and discontentment. He had recurring daydreams in which he was drawn to a group of people sitting in a circle. When they realized someone was approaching, the group stood up and turned to him.

IMB photo

A man and boy view the archeological site of Persepolis. Persian kings, including Xerxes, used Persepolis as a ceremonial palace. Xerxes was the husband of Esther from the Old Testament.

He decided not to seek professional help. He was afraid people would think him crazy, which is how he felt. But his experience as a filmmaker helped him resolve the mysterious dream.

“I figured out that I can do something in that dream,” Davoud recalls. “I can act. Until that day, I was the audience of a movie but as soon as I figured this out, I started shouting and yelling — ‘What do you want from me? Who are you people?’”

The circle parted, and a man with an intent look asked him, “Have you suffered more than I have?”

Davoud says he realized “with all the cells of my body” that he was receiving a spiritual message.

But he wanted to be sure what it meant, so he consulted a Christian friend. The friend congratulated him for receiving a personal invitation from the One he had been trying to introduce Davoud to for a long time.

This time, Davoud accepted God’s invitation. “After that, I did not feel depressed anymore,” he says.

Following Christ
Davoud has learned that being asked, “Have you suffered more than I have?” didn’t just pertain to his salvation but also to his Christian life, which wouldn’t always be easy.

“God came to save me from my spiritual problems, but you can still encounter problems in life in Iran especially if you become a Christian,” Davoud says.

There is a saying in Iran that being a Christian isn’t a problem unless you’re an active one.

But for Christians, that’s a problem.

“If you try to give people (the) Holy Bible, if you have a place, a room for Christian books, if you openly invite people to Christianity and do other things helping people to get to know Jesus Christ, you are considered an active Christian,” Davoud explains. “If you have a house church, you are an active Christian. If you help people to get baptized, you are an active Christian.”

Davoud and Susan had to leave Iran or risk imprisonment when some of those forbidden activities were discovered. Within less than a week they made arrangements and left behind almost everything they had.

They are now seeking refugee status in another country. They still face restrictions about what they can do and where they can go. Davoud longs to practice his art again. Susan sometimes wonders why rebuilding their lives is such a struggle, but they refuse to surrender to self-pity. They are active in a house church.

“When you read Acts, you don’t find yourself lonely,” Davoud says. “So, we (Iranian Christians) are experiencing this truth — that our Lord was tortured, He was insulted and He was (put to death) in the most brutal way.

“We are His followers.”

*Names changed.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Gregory covered this story on behalf of the International Mission Board. To view video and photos about the peoples of Iran, visit http://www.commissionstories.com/?p=153.)

7/7/2009 5:30:00 AM by Kate Gregory, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Research: Income not matching lifestyle

July 7 2009 by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Most American parents believe things are going well with their families — except when it comes to finances. And a large majority highly values their children having a relationship with God — except when it comes to taking them to worship.

A nationwide LifeWay Research survey of 1,077 American adults with children under 18 living at home found 87 percent feel they have strong marriages. A full 74 percent strongly believe they will remain married for life, and 64 percent strongly agree that if they had it to do over again, they would still marry their spouses. As parents, 76 percent believe they give enough of their time to their children, but only 56 percent agree their families enjoy enough relaxing times together.

Blacks, women and born-again Christians believe most strongly that they give their kids enough time, the study revealed. Parents with evangelical or born-again beliefs and people who attend religious worship services regularly are considerably more likely to report having strong marriages.

When it comes to finances, however, barely half of all adults — 52 percent — agree their households bring in enough income to support their lifestyles. Asked what level of income would be needed to make them “financially comfortable” (not wealthy), 14 percent say they would need $10,000 more a year, and 47 percent say they need at least another $20,000. Only a tiny fraction — 4 percent — say they could be financially comfortable on an income lower than what they now make.

Saving money regularly is a crucial element to financial security, but only 28 percent of parents agree their families put enough into savings each month. More than two-thirds — 69 percent — express concern that their families can never seem to get ahead financially. Half of parents agree they want to give their children more materially than they already have, and almost three-fourths — 72 percent — want their children to have more than they themselves had growing up.

The desire to give their children more than they had growing up was strongest among Hispanic and younger parents who, ironically, came of age during one of America’s wealthiest eras.

Although a large number of parents are dissatisfied with their financial situations, many of them don’t have a plan to improve things, the research revealed. While 64 percent say they have clear goals for what they want to accomplish as parents, only 7 percent have put that financial plan in writing and only 50 percent agree their families have a financial plan for the future.

Research conducted in 2007 for “The Parent Adventure: Preparing Your Children For a Lifetime With God” indicated that 67 percent of parents have a parenting plan. “Parents have great aspirations for their kids,” said Scott McConnell, associate director of LifeWay Research and co-author of the book. “Yet one in three parents is not planning ahead to help their child achieve specific goals.”

While most American parents have a desire for more financial security and material comfort, the large majority also say they place a high priority on their children having a relationship with God. A full 87 percent of parents believe it is important to teach their children how to have a relationship with God, including 57 percent who strongly agree. Almost as many — 79 percent — agree they do that, but just 39 percent agree strongly. When the respondents were broken out by religious affiliation, however, significant disparities appeared between believing it is important and actually doing it.

Only 55 percent of parents say they try to take their children to worship services on a regular basis, while 47 percent say they do not want to influence their children too much about religion, saying, “It’s important they find their own way.” Seventeen percent of weekly churchgoers, 41 percent of born-again Christians and 24 percent of evangelicals do not strongly agree that they need to take their children to services regularly.

“Most parents not only want their children to have a belief in God but also a relationship with God, yet many parents are failing to make the introduction,” McConnell said. “Churches must prove they are ready to help parents make this connection or they will continue to only see those parents who feel most strongly about teaching their children to know God.”

The survey was conducted in June 2008 and used a demographically balanced online panel.

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

7/7/2009 5:29:00 AM by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Krumping gives movement to Spirit’s call

July 7 2009 by Steven G. Vegh, Religion News Service

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — On a peaceful afternoon in a suburban home garage, Demetrus Leslie, 17, jerked like he was dosed with strychnine. His arms lashed menacingly, then he dropped to the floor, only to rear up smoothly.

His chest popped in and out, convulsing as if an alien larva heaved within. He ranged around the garage, “traveling,” or following the direction of his foot stomps and arm swings.

“Go, go!” admiring friends yelled over the pounding music. In his spontaneity, speed and mesmerized concentration, they could see the tell-tale symptoms.

Demetrus had got krump. Praise the Lord!

Krump is a frenetic dance born on the West Coast, combining flashes of modern dance, break-dancing, tribal-like dance, hip hop, “pop lock” steps and free-form motion, often at blurring speed.

But while some krumpers elsewhere - have a nearly religious devotion for the dance, Leslie and his friends say Krump truly is all about God.

“When you going the fastest, that’s when you unleash, that’s when God takes over,” said Demetrus, who belongs to a local krump group, Kreative Mindz Crew: The Syfer Family, that aims to keep kids off the street and in the church.

The origins of the name Krump are obscure, but fans including Demetrus’ older brother, Kreative Mindz manager Danyasius Leslie, give it this definition: Kingdom Radicals Uplifting Mighty Praise.

“How would I describe krump?” said Danaysius, 29. “I would say, because I have a Christian background, that it’s the power of God that moves.”

RNS photo by Stephen M. Katz/The Virginian-Pilot

Nohnee Pervis of the “Kreative Mindz Crew” loses himself in the music during krump practice in Chesapeake, Va.

For Kreative Mindz dancers, to krump is to praise God through movements inspired by the Holy Spirit. “It’s God, man, all we do is give the glory to God,” said Jaren Goodridge, 15.

Krump’s spiritual dimension may not be immediately apparent to the uninitiated spectator, and Leslie conceded it can be hard for outsiders to see the thrashing and jumping as divinely inspired.

In the Leslies’ garage, lithe Goodridge danced like a caffeine fiend, slender arms swinging, bending and jabbing triple-time, one motion flowing into the next, his gaze fixed on the floor.

Alexis Hinton, in contrast, shot wolfish looks, baring her teeth while stamping and clawing the air with outstretching arms. Despite the feminine bows on her red flats, she radiated anger. Krumping, she said, is a powerful emotional release.

Nohnee Purvis, a high school sophomore, said he first krumped for fun but soon, “the whole spiritual thing of it just hit me in the chest,” he said. Now, he even acts differently.

“Sundays, I’d just sit in the house, sleep, talk on the phone,” Purvis said. “Now I get up and go to church. My whole mind has changed. We got Christ up.”

Leslie started the group two years ago with his brother and some friends, inspired by “Rize,” a lauded 2005 documentary on krump by renowned photographer David LaChapelle.

According to Leslie, a hip-hop dancer named Tommy the Clown started krump in California in the 1990s. The expressive, freestyle dance caught on as an alternative to street violence, with dancers competing, or “battling,” one another to display their moves and krumping prowess.

Leslie’s dance practices in his garage fascinated neighborhood kids and he began recruiting, setting conditions for membership.

One rule is to keep up with school work. “I don’t look for C’s and D’s; I look for A’s and B’s,” said Leslie, who often checks in with parents about teens’ grades.

Leslie also feeds dancers a steady diet of Bible verses and expects them to make Jesus Christ their model. The twice-weekly dance practices start with prayer. Dancers are expected to go to church.

The group has performed about 25 times during Sunday worship at New Light Full Gospel Baptist Church in Virginia Beach, which Leslie attends. Bishop Rudolph B. Lewis said some older congregants initially recoiled when he allowed krumping at services.

Lewis himself said he understands krump dancing no better than his parents’ generation understood Elvis Presley’s risque swivel-hips in the ’50s. But he’s told parishioners that teens are more likely to attend church — and to say no to gang-banging — if they know their unorthodox worship styles are welcomed.

“God wants to hear what you want to say, and he don’t care how you say it, and if you say it like this” — Lewis contorted himself, krump-like — “he hears you.”

Krump’s style is radical compared with typical liturgical or praise dance found in many churches.

“Praise dance teams are very lyrical, ethereal, soft. They follow a modern or jazz structure,” said Norfolk State University dance professor Glendola Mills-Parker. Krump, by contrast, “is a pure street form, being done in church.”

But she said krumpers who feel the “spirit” when they’re absorbed in their dance — “in the zone,” some krumpers say — are no different than worshippers who writhe while “shouting” in church. Both transcend their earthly surroundings.

“When you get the spirit, the Holy Ghost,” she said, “then you give way.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Vegh is a writer for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va.)

7/7/2009 5:26:00 AM by Steven G. Vegh, Religion News Service | with 1 comments

Camp Caraway to reopen next week

July 6 2009 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

Camp Caraway will reopen July 13 after being closed for a week due to an outbreak of swine flu.

“The last three weeks of camp will go on as scheduled,” said Jimmy Huffman, director of Caraway Conference Center and Camp.

The camp scheduled for July 6-10 was cancelled after two campers who were at camp June 22-26 were diagnosed with H1N1 flu, commonly called “swine flu.”

Huffman said the camp got word on June 29 that a camper had been diagnosed with the virus. Camp leaders found out about the second camper the next day.

Staff members who had the most contact with the two and those who had flu-like symptoms were tested for the virus on June 30. Five of the 24 staff members at Camp Caraway tested positive.

Those staff members were quarantined immediately and did not have any further contact with campers attending a mini-camp June 29 – July 1. Huffman said he was told the cases appeared to be mild.

“We didn’t have any staff that was really sick,” he said.

The staff members who did not test positive for H1N1 took preventive medication, he said.
“Everybody’s doing fine,” he said.

Caraway Conference Center was not involved in the outbreak. Conference center employees who have contact with the camp, including Huffman, were tested and do not have the virus.

The families of all campers who were at camp June 22-26 or June 29 – July 1 were notified about the illnesses, according to Huffman. The campers who were scheduled to attend July 6-10 can reschedule for one of the last three weeks or get a refund, he said.

“It’s tough to have to cancel a week of camp, but it was the right thing to do,” he said.

Huffman said the Caraway staff had been sent home while the camp is closed for the week. When camp reopens July 13, it will have been 13 days since the staff members tested positive for H1N1, said. That’s almost twice as long as suggested for people with the virus to stay away from other people, he said.

The camp has been cleaned twice and will be cleaned again before it reopens, Huffman said.

Mimi Cooper, the health director of Randolph County, where Caraway is located, said the facility itself is not likely to cause another outbreak, but if someone with the virus comes to camp, it could spread. She said it was the camp’s call whether to close or not.

“I don’t think they did the wrong thing,” she said.

Cooper said that the H1N1 virus is so prevalent now that only patients with a high risk of dying who have flu-like symptoms are normally tested for it. She sent a letter to all the camps in the county before the summer advising them to take precautions, such as encouraging hand-washing.

Huffman said Caraway had installed extra hand-washing stations this year. He said campers will be encouraged to use them frequently when camp reopens.

7/6/2009 7:38:00 AM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

‘Saddle Ridge Ranch’: 2010 VBS theme

July 6 2009 by Polly House, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Kids will head out west for VBS 2010.

“Saddle Ridge Ranch” is the 2010 Vacation Bible School destination where participants will be roundin’ up questions and drivin’ home answers. Set among snowcapped peaks and wide open spaces, the Bible study focus will be on questions real kids ask: “Who am I? Does God care about me? What is God’s plan for me? How can I be like Jesus? What do I do now?”

The VBS 2010 Scripture is James 1:5: “Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him” (HCSB).

The video for LifeWay’s VBS 2010 follows the adventures of four young cowboys and cowgirls and their wrangler friend, Jed, as they discover that the best adventure is more than riding horses or looking for rattlers — it’s about discovering Jesus who wants to be the Lord of their lives.

Jeff Slaughter, who has written the music for VBS the past 14 years and performed in each of the 12 music videos that have been produced, set the Saddle Ridge Ranch segments in fields, by lakes and near snowcapped mountains to teach not only the music and lyrics, but the motions as well.

“The kids get so much out of (the instructional musical videos),” Slaughter said. “Some are fun and silly and others are more serious and thoughtful. Sometimes I mess up and we just leave in those bloopers. The kids seem to think it’s fun when I make mistakes. I just laugh about it, too.”

The CLazyU, a working 9,000-acre guest ranch near Granby, Colo., serves as the backdrop for the VBS video.

Lynne Norris, LifeWay’s producer for the VBS video, said the ranch location helped the video come alive for the children.

“Watching almost 200 horses run down the street of the ranch is a beautiful sight,” Norris said. “The run — the ‘jingle’ — happens twice a day on the ranch as the horses are moved from the corral during the day to the pasture at night, and we had the opportunity to use that as part of our story.”

Bill Cox, VBS video director, said it does so much more than entertain. “Children today know their world through media so they respond to what they see and hear on screen. They connect with visual stories,” Cox said. “This story, the video message, teaches them a valuable lesson on sharing and caring like Jesus.”

Paul Klees, who plays Jed the wrangler in the video, really is a wrangler at the CLazyU. Klees, who graduated from college last year with a degree in economics and management, also serves as project manager at the ranch.

“I grew up loving horses and love working with them on the ranch,” Klees said, “so even when I graduated from college, I didn’t want to give that up.”

Taryn Gardner, comfort and amenities coordinator at the ranch, coordinated the local casting auditions in Granby and encouraged Klees to try out.

“He’s cute and has a great personality,” Gardner said. “I’ve seen how he really plays to the audience at our talent show nights here at the ranch.”

Klees said he was hesitant, but auditioned anyway. He got the part and, after filming completed, said he had a great time, but added, “I think I’ll keep my day job.”

The video is an important part of the total VBS experience, Norris noted. “It is important to remember that VBS is not just one thing, but a combination of many parts,” she said. “It’s five days of Bible study, missions, recreation, evangelism, crafts, music, the video and so much more. No part of our VBS program is ‘fluff.’ Everything ties together. We want churches and the children to get everything possible out of VBS.”

She added, “As we shoot the video I can’t help but think about ... kids who will be touched for Christ by the music and the storyline. It is really my prayer that every song, every motion and every word will be a blessing.”

Churches who use the Club VBS resource for 2010, meanwhile, will go on a wild cross-country adventure from the nation’s capital to Southern California on Route 254, finding that their destination isn’t determined by miles traveled, but in a relationship with Jesus. Route 254 is an updated version of the popular Ramblin’ Road Trip VBS theme.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — House is a corporate communications specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/6/2009 3:42:00 AM by Polly House, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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