July 2010

For shy worshippers, church can be overwhelming

July 9 2010 by Lilly Fowler, Religion News Service

LOS ANGELES — If Jesus were to take a Myers-Briggs personality test, would he rank as an introvert or an extrovert? He was, after all, popular with crowds, but often retreated to pray in solitude.

As an undergrad, Daniel Perett wrestled with similar questions as a member of the evangelical InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Middlebury College. He soon discovered that his introverted personality clashed with the group’s prayer-and-share ethos.

“The expectation is if you really are having a spiritual experience, the first thing that you’re going to do is share it very publicly,” said Perett, 31, now a graduate student at the University of Notre Dame.

In other words, “if the Holy Spirit were working in your life,” you’d be talking about it — “you would be an extrovert,” he said. But what Perett really needed most was time to process what was happening to him spiritually.

Perett says evangelical Christianity — with a bigger-is-often-better strain deeply embedded in its DNA — is stacked against introverts like himself. And so, like other introverts, he began to develop coping methods rather than a deeper theology.

Perett started to speak in code. He sprinkled phrases like “God was testing,” rather than “God was absent,” in his testimonials so that his peers would not realize that he was actually trying to determine how — if at all — God was present in his life.

“It forces you to put on a spiritual show for everyone else,” he said.

Perett is far from the only Christian whose introverted personality has caused religious obstacles. Writer and pastor Adam McHugh has taken note and released a book called Introverts in the Church.     

“In my mind at the time, ideal pastors were gregarious, able to move through crowds effortlessly, able to quickly turn strangers into friends,” he writes in the introduction of the book published by InterVarsity Press.

RNS photo courtesy William Vasta/Claremont McKenna

Pastor and author Adam McHugh is the author of the new book, Introverts in the Church.

But as an introvert himself, McHugh found the social demands of his job overwhelming, which led him to take a closer look at his specific personality type.

McHugh discovered that although introverts had previously been thought to be in the minority, more recent studies reveal that introverts actually make up roughly half of the population. That doesn’t mean, however, that they’re always understood.

By definition, an introvert is someone who is energized by solitude rather than social interaction. An introvert might also love long intimate conversations; they aren’t necessarily shy, but they may very well dislike small talk. In short, introverts like to go deep, and they often like to do it alone.

As writer Jonathan Rauch described introversion for the Atlantic Monthly magazine in 2003, “introverts are people who find other people tiring.”

McHugh, for example, felt absolutely exhausted by all the retreats he was required to attend as an InterVarsity college minister in California. Canadian Jamie Arpin-Ricci says he has endured similar frustrations as a pastor.

Arpin-Ricci, a Mennonite pastor in Winnipeg, Manitoba, said most Christians expect a pastor to be available at all times, which gives introverts like him and McHugh little of the much-needed downtime.

Arpin-Ricci said it’s important not to fall into certain stereotypes — that introverts are anti-social, for example, or extroverts have plentiful but only shallow relationships. His church, the Little Flowers Community, is intentionally community-led, giving him the freedom to hand off certain responsibilities — especially when he feels a more extroverted personality may be better suited to the task.

Donna Katagi, director of spiritual formation at Cerritos (Calif.) Baptist Church, estimates that her congregation is made up mostly of introverts who don’t fit neatly into the category of demonstrative Christians that many believe define a truly spiritual person.

Although Katagi says her church engages in typical activities like refreshments after worship, she also says she’s catered her spiritual formation program to meet the needs of her introverted congregation.

Outside of worship, Katagi says she’ll break up members into smaller rather than larger groups to better facilitate discussion.

For his part, McHugh says he has learned to incorporate solitude during the day, and says he remains confident that introverts can make good Christian leaders. “I had to just figure out my own rhythm,” he said.
7/9/2010 6:25:00 AM by Lilly Fowler, Religion News Service | with 1 comments

Tebow successful but not because of football

July 7 2010 by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press

CUMMING, Ga.—With dozens of kids toting Florida Gator signable footballs or miniature orange football helmets, or decked out in blue jerseys with “15” on the back — and grown-ups wearing their game-day Gator shirts — it could have been October in Gainesville, Fla.

Instead, the site was First Redeemer Church, a sprawling, 4,000-member SBC church in Cumming, Ga., right in the middle of Georgia Bulldog and Georgia Tech country. The draw was Tim Tebow.

The 6-foot-3, 250-pound former University of Florida Gator, Heisman Trophy winner and new Denver Bronco quarterback spoke to 4,800 in two packed worship services and at a breakfast on Sunday, July 4 as part of the church’s annual “God and Country Day.”

Tebow, who turns 23 in August, was nattily dressed in a pink tie and gray pin-striped suit that failed to hide the bulging left arm that helped lead Florida to two national championships and two SEC championships. But Tebow, a member of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., didn’t come to talk about football.

“I was recently doing an interview with a nationally known sports reporter,” Tebow said. “She said, ‘Now that you’ve graduated from college, are going to the NFL, will make a lot of money, everybody will know your name and want your autograph ... because of all that, do you count your life as a success?’

“I told her, yes, I count my life as successful,” Tebow said. “But not because I’m famous or won two national championships or the Heisman or going to the NFL, it’s because I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”

It’s common knowledge that Tebow has spent the offseason altering his southpaw, side-armed throwing motion to gain a quicker release for the NFL, where he knows the linemen, linebackers and defensive backs will be bigger and faster. He’ll have to get rid of the football quicker, with a much smaller margin for error.

NAMB photo by Mickey Noah

Denver Bronco rookie quarterback and former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow spoke to some 600 at a breakfast on “God and Country Day” at First Redeemer Church in Cumming, Ga., July 4.

While by all accounts, Tebow had a tough but “educational” mini-camp in June in Englewood, Colo., he said in a Baptist Press interview July 4 he’s excited about reporting to camp later this month.

Tebow’s daily regimen at the recently concluded mini-camp included days that began at the crack of dawn with weightlifting, running and conditioning. There was a new offensive playbook for the NFL rookie to master, so much of his time was spent in the classroom. Practice followed and Tebow’s long day did not end until 7 or 8 p.m. Such is life in the NFL.

Tebow told the First Redeemer crowd that the nationally known sports reporter also asked, “How will you handle the NFL? Some say you’ll make it, some say you won’t.”

“I told her I don’t know what the future holds,” said Tebow, “but I know who holds the future. “I’ve been on a lot of teams with people who are successful in the world’s eyes,” he said.

“They’ve made a lot of money. They’ve been first-round picks. They should be extremely happy but they’re not because they’re missing something. They’re missing what’s most important — Jesus Christ.”

In 1993, on his knees with his mom, Pam, Tebow accepted Christ when he was only 6 years old.

Born in the Philippines, the son of missionary evangelist Bob Tebow, young Tebow was blessed with two Christian role models. Indeed, “Timmy” — as his parents still call him — is just blessed to be here. His mother suffered from amoebic dysentery while pregnant and the doctors advised her to have an abortion. She bravely told the doctor “no.”

Tebow is especially close to and proud of his dad.

“The examples a dad sets for his sons don’t always come from his mouth,” Tebow says, “but from what they do. A dad should be the greatest role model in the world for his sons. I learned from just watching my dad — not what he said but what he did. He believes in making the biggest impact he can in the world for Jesus Christ. That’s why I’m so proud of him.”

Tebow told the crowds that it was his dad who first instilled passion in him by showing him and his brothers the film “Braveheart.” The elder Tebow told “Timmy” he wanted him to have the same kind of passion depicted in the movie.

“If you’re passionate and enthusiastic about something, you’re going to influence other people. You’re going to make a difference in other people’s lives,” Tebow told the audience.

“Shouldn’t we be as passionate about the greatest gift of all — Jesus — as we are about football? God gave us His Son, an abundant life and if you can’t be passionate about that, I don’t know what you can be passionate about.

“But we are not passionate about sharing it and that’s pretty disappointing. We talk about football or the movies we see. Why wouldn’t you talk about the love of Jesus Christ?”

Tebow said early on, his goals at Florida were to play football with passion, live with passion and be unashamed of the gospel. “Every day, I wanted to set myself apart as a person, as a Christian and as a player.”

One way Tebow displayed his passion and set himself apart for Christ during his four-year career at Florida was his trademark “eye-black” strips — always inscribed with a Bible verse — he wore for every game. At the beginning, the strips cited Philippians 4:13. But when he decided to change to John 3:16 for the 2009 BCS National Championship Game against Oklahoma, Tebow caused a panic among his fellow Gator players, especially Urban Meyer, his typically intense and highly superstitious head coach.

“Coach Meyer said, ‘No, no, no. What’s wrong with Philippians 4:13? We’ve won a lot of games with that one.’” The players also asked Tebow: “You’re doing what?” But Tebow made the change to John 3:16 anyway and the Gators chalked up another win.

A few days later, it would be Meyer himself who would inform Tebow that only 24 hours after that Florida game, 94 million people had “Googled” John 3:16 to see what it says.

Tebow wound up his 20-minute remarks at the First Redeemer breakfast by advising his listeners to “finish strong.”

“In football, you have to finish strong,” he said. “You finish strong in the weight room, on the practice field, and running sprints. Even if it’s hard, you pretend it’s not. You fake it until you make it. You don’t train for the first quarter but for the fourth quarter. You win games in the offseason. You win them in April, May, June and July.”

Tebow recounted the time in January 2009 when the last seconds ticked down in Florida’s national championship victory over Oklahoma and Meyer welcomed him to the sideline with a big grin and a hug.

“Coach hugs me and tells me ‘Great job, you finished strong. I’m so proud of you.’ That memory means more to me than any national championship ring or Heisman Trophy,” Tebow said. “We also have to finish strong in life. My goal in life is that when I die and am standing before Jesus, His arms are going to be open wide. He’ll hug me and say, ‘Timmy, great job. Thataboy. You finished strong. I’m so proud of you.’ That’s what I’m looking forward to. That’s something to live and die for.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board.)
7/7/2010 11:00:00 AM by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Fewer reports of accounting fraud in Bible Belt

July 7 2010 by Michael Tomberlin, The Birmingham News

(RNS) Companies in the Bible Belt are less likely to be sued for accounting fraud or to practice aggressive financial reporting, a study indicates.

Research by Mays Business School at Texas A&M University found that companies headquartered in counties with high levels of churchgoing tend to use religion as a self-regulating mechanism in the absence of more formal external monitoring.

The study conducted by faculty members Sean McGuire, Thomas Omer and Nathan Sharp is not the first to examine fraud in the context of religion, Sharp said. But they are the first to use data from Gallup Inc. in their analysis.

Gallup surveys show the top Bible Belt states where residents indicated religion is important in their daily lives are Mississippi (86 percent), Alabama (84 percent) and Tennessee (79 percent). Texas came in 13th with 72 percent.

The financial study examined shareholder lawsuits related to accounting malfeasance and other crimes. Overall, the study found a 49 percent decrease in the odds that a firm headquartered in a “religious” county will be sued for wrongful accounting.

Sharp said the study is a measure of an overall accounting approach among firms of various sizes in the Bible Belt and can’t predict mega-frauds such as those Enron Corp., which was based in Texas.     

“We would view them more as anomalies,” Sharp said. “What we focused on was smaller, systemic aggressive accounting occurring as almost a part of doing business.”

The study focused on how companies in areas of high levels of religion approached accounting. “On average, when you hold everything constant, accounting practices are less aggressive in areas with high religiosity.”

Sharp said he is not sure to what degree investors will use the study’s findings when it comes to deciding where to risk their money.    

The study also found that Bible Belt firms scored lower on measures of corporate social responsibility, including support for the community and diversity initiatives.

But the researchers believe corporate leaders in religious counties likely feel that role is best filled by religious groups and support those efforts personally through a church or organization rather than through the company.  
7/7/2010 8:20:00 AM by Michael Tomberlin, The Birmingham News | with 1 comments

Churches torn on child molesters in pews

July 6 2010 by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

“All are welcome” is a common phrase on many a church sign and website.

But what happens when a convicted sex offender takes those words literally?

Church officials and legal advocates are grappling with how — and if — people who’ve been convicted of sex crimes should be included in U.S. congregations, especially when children are present:
  • On June 23, a lawyer argued in the New Hampshire Supreme Court for a convicted sex offender who wants to attend a Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation with a chaperone.
“What we argued is that the right to worship is a fundamental right, and the state can only burden it if it has compelling interest to do so, and then only in a way that is narrowly constructed,” said Barbara Keshen, an attorney with the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union who represented Jonathan Perfetto, who pleaded guilty in 2002 to 61 counts of possessing child pornography.
  • On June 28, the Seventh-day Adventist Church added language to its manual saying that sexual abuse perpetrators can be restored to membership only if they do not have unsupervised contact with children and are not “in a position that would encourage vulnerable individuals to trust them implicitly.”
Garrett Caldwell, a spokesman for the denomination, said the new wording in the global guidelines tries to strike a balance between protecting congregants and supporting the religious freedom of abusers in “a manifestation of God’s grace.”
  • On July 1, a Georgia law will take effect that permits convicted sex offenders to volunteer in churches if they are isolated from children. Permitted activities include singing in the choir and taking part in Bible studies and bake sales.
Madison Shockley, pastor of Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad, Calif., whose church publicly grappled with whether to accept a convicted sex offender three years ago, said he hears from churches several times a month seeking advice on how to handle such situations.

“The key lesson for churches is this: The policy, however it winds up, must be a consensus of the congregation,” Shockley said. “I talked to so many pastors who decided they’re going to make the decision because they know what’s theologically and spiritually right — and that’s absolutely the wrong thing to do.”

Shockley’s church will soon commission a minister to address prevention of child sex abuse; the church also distributes a 20-page policy on protecting children and dealing with sex offenders. Shockley declined to say how the church handled its admission of a known abuser in 2007, citing the congregation’s limited disclosure policy.

Beyond the thorny legal questions, theologians also find that there are often no easy answers to the quandary of protecting children and providing worship to saints and sinners alike.

“My own theology of forgiveness is not that it’s a blanket statement — ‘You are forgiven; go and sin no more,’” said Joretta Marshall, professor of pastoral theology at Texas Christian University’s Brite Divinity School. “Part of what we have to do is create accountability structures because damage has been done.”

Sometimes, legal and religious experts say, crimes are so severe that convicted offenders must lose their right to worship.

New Hampshire Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Cort argued in court documents that Perfetto should not be permitted to change the conditions of his probation to attend a Manchester congregation because “restricting the defendant’s access to minors was an appropriate means of advancing the goals of probation — rehabilitation and public safety.”

Barbara Dorris, outreach director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said it may be possible for convicted offenders to attend worship if “proper safeguards are in place,” but offenders “forfeit many rights when you commit this kind of a felony.”

In other cases, the wording of laws has made it difficult for offenders who want to worship to be able to attend church legally.

In North Carolina, attorney Glenn Gerding is representing James Nichols, a convicted sex offender who is contesting a state statute that made it illegal for him to be within 300 feet of a church’s nursery. He was arrested in a church parking lot after a service.

“Technically a person could go to an empty church and violate the statute if that church has a nursery,” said Gerding, whose client was convicted in 2003 of attempted second-degree rape and released from prison in 2008.

In Georgia, the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights successfully argued for the removal of a legal provision that would have prevented registered sex offenders from volunteering at church functions, said Sara Totonchi, executive director of the center.

Andrew J. Schmutzer, a professor at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, is editing a book called The Long Journey Home, which includes essays from theologians and ethicists about how churches can both address sexual abuse and predators.

“The churches are on the cusp of trying to figure out what they can do,” he said, “without scaring the public and without breach of confidentiality.”
7/6/2010 9:24:00 AM by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service | with 2 comments

Church attendance inches up, Gallup says

July 6 2010 by Alfredo Garcia, Religion News Service

WASHINGTON — A new Gallup Poll found that Americans’ self-reported church attendance has increased slightly since 2008. When asked “How often do you attend church, synagogue, or mosque?” 43.1 percent of Americans in 2010 said they attended church “at least once a week” or “almost every week.”

That’s up from 42.8 percent in 2009 and 42.1 percent in 2008. Researchers previously believed that church attendance rises when economic times are bad. The Gallup data, however, indicates that the opposite may be happening.

“There has been well-publicized speculation about the possibility that church attendance has risen over the past two years as Americans became more despondent and worried as a result of the economic recession,” Frank Newport of Gallup writes.

“However, trends ... reflect just the opposite pattern, with both church attendance and economic confidence increasing from 2008 to 2009, and now into 2010.”

Conservatives, non-Hispanic blacks and Republicans demonstrated the highest participation, with 55 percent of each group reporting frequent church attendance. Liberals and young adults (18 to 29) rounded out the bottom, with 27 and 35 percent respectively.

In its report, Gallup says “the small increase in attendance between 2008 and so far in 2010 is statistically significant, suggesting that there has in fact been an uptick in religious service participation in the real world over the last 2 1/2 years.”

Others are more skeptical.

“Frankly, I wouldn’t put much store in a 1 percent increase in the attendance rates,” said Nancy Ammerman, a sociologist of religion at Boston University. “It’s just too small to make a very big story of. That number, the 42-44 percent range, has been so stable for so long that that in itself is a story.”

Ammerman added that these figures are not demonstrative of actual American religious participation.

“If you go into any church on any given weekend, you will find less than 43 percent in the pews,” she said, citing a more realistic figure of 20-25 percent. “But that in and of itself is quite striking, that a quarter of the population of any given country will be found in a religious service on any given week.”

The poll is based on more than 800,000 interviews since February 2008, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1 percentage point.
7/6/2010 9:17:00 AM by Alfredo Garcia, Religion News Service | with 1 comments

Most live in multi-housing; few are Christian

July 1 2010 by Mickey Noah

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)--The statistics are staggering: about 57 percent of all people in North America reside in multi-housing -- apartments, expensive high-rises, mobile home parks and condominiums. An estimated 95 percent of them are lost without Christ.


"Multi-housing is an arena most Southern Baptists don't know how to get their arms around," said Richard Harris, interim North American Mission Board president, in welcoming 15 of the most experienced leaders in multi-housing church planting and evangelism to NAMB for a two-day summit.


"You folks are all about a great need and task. Seventy-five percent of the 343 million people in North America -- about 258 million -- are lost, and most of them live in urban multi-housing areas. That's where the multitudes are. You have a passion and a heart for it or you wouldn't be here," Harris said.


"If we could impact multi-housing, we could change the landscape of lostness in North America."


One attendee at the summit, David Bunch, first tackled multi-housing evangelism and church planting over 20 years ago when he worked at the former Home Mission Board (NAMB's predecessor). Bunch and another summit attendee, Barbara Oden, helped write a pioneering book on the subject, "Starting Congregations in Multi-housing."


"It's critical we do a better job of reaching people in multi-housing," said Bunch, now retired and living in Atlanta. "This style of housing is not open to traditional methods of approaching people. Because of the barriers to reaching residents of multi-housing, many church leaders hesitate to approach them. ...


"You just can't go in and start knocking on doors. You can't get mailing lists for multi-housing residents like you can for single-family dwellings. The residents are often skeptical of outsiders and may not even be open to them. After all, they live there for a reason," Bunch said, they have "a right to live in a style that gives them safety, protection and economy."


Bunch said he is excited that the Southern Baptist Convention is again showing interest in multi-housing ministry on a larger scale.


"Twenty years ago, the convention just didn't embrace it. Now that North America is more urban and we're more conscious of people groups, there's been a resurrection of interest in how to address multi-housing," Bunch said. "That's evidenced by the calling of this summit conference at NAMB.


"We need to realize there are other different styles of churches that are still authentic. Out of this summit, we're seeing and hearing examples that multi-housing churches are not only authentic, but reproducible in bringing people to Christ."


Oden, based in Fort Worth, Texas, began as a missionary who planted a church at an apartment complex in Houston in 1986, leading to a long career in multi-housing ministry and with Bunch, co-authorship of the book. Today, she works as director of multi-housing for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and the Dallas Baptist Association.


"The lostness in the multi-housing world is vast," Oden said. "We're hoping that through this summit, we can collaborate and formulate a plan -- a national plan -- for all churches to do work in the multi-housing area."


Ronnie Cox, director of multi-housing for the South Carolina Baptist Convention, said he spends 80 percent of his time working with churches to provide training in multi-housing methods and recruiting multi-housing church planting teams.


"In South Carolina -- as it is across the convention -- multi-housing ministry and church planting is an uphill battle," said Cox, who has ministered in multi-housing settings for 15 years. "We have to show it's non-threatening to the church, that a church can engage a multi-housing community that is primarily lost."


Cox said there's no "one-size-fits-all" strategy or method when it comes to multi-housing strategy. "It can be done as a church plant, as the satellite church of a sponsoring church, or as a house church. We can't do door-to-door evangelism in an apartment complex. Instead, we have to build relationships, start Bible studies and minister to residents individually by responding to their needs.


"It's a long-term engagement of people," Cox said. "We try to stress one church for one community. But there are 1,000-1,500 major multi-housing communities in South Carolina alone. One church can't handle them all."



Mickey Noah writes for the North American Mission Board.


7/1/2010 4:12:00 AM by Mickey Noah | with 0 comments

Joni prognosis 'positive ' after surgery

July 1 2010 by Art Toalston

AGOURA HILLS, Calif. (BP)--Joni Eareckson Tada has a positive prognosis after breast cancer surgery June 28, according to her physician.


"Joni's cancer was determined to be Stage 2," Dr. Geoffrey Drew reported, according to an A. Larry Ross Communications news release. "[W]hile some lymph nodes were affected and Joni will need chemotherapy to follow up this surgery, this is a highly survivable cancer and we anticipate a positive prognosis," Drew said.


Doug Mazza, president of the Joni and Friends International Disability Center in Agoura Hills, Calif., said Tada, 60, is resting comfortably and "appreciative of all the prayers on her and her husband Ken's behalf and is grateful to God for His sustaining grace and extra measure of strength during this time. … With prayer and good care, we look forward to her full recovery."


Tada, a quadriplegic, is an internationally known advocate for the disabled; founder and chief executive officer of Joni and Friends International Disability; and an artist and author.


"I've often said that our afflictions come from the hand of our all-wise and sovereign God, who loves us and wants what is best for us," Tada said several days prior to the surgery. "So, although cancer is something new, I am content to receive from God whatever He deems fit for me. Yes, it's alarming, but rest assured that Ken [her husband] and I are utterly convinced that God is going to use this to stretch our faith, brighten our hope and strengthen our witness to others."


Tada said her quadriplegia would not significantly impact either the surgery or the treatment. "I'm like any other woman who has breast cancer," she said. "I want to pour all my energies into getting better."


Tada was 17 when, in 1967, she was injured in a diving accident that rendered her a quadriplegic. During two years of rehabilitation, she spent long months learning how to paint with a brush between her teeth. Her high-detail fine art paintings and prints have become collectors' items.


Updates of Tada's recovery will be posted here.


Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press


7/1/2010 4:09:00 AM by Art Toalston | with 0 comments

Haitians begin to carry Buckets of Hope home

July 1 2010 by Barbara Denman

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (BP)--At garbage dump on the northern outskirts of Port-au-Prince, gaunt and weary-looking Haitians formed two lines to wait in the searing sun June 20 for Buckets of Hope to be unloaded from a truck near Eglise Baptiste Canaan.


The church, named for the Promised Land, ironically is planted at the garbage dump where a makeshift city of displaced Haitians has sprung up after the Jan. 12 earthquake.


The Buckets of Hope were among the thousands that had been languishing in the capital city's port for two months before Haitian customs officials, overwhelmed by the processing of other shipments of supplies since the earthquake, would release the shipping containers transporting the buckets. Five containers filled with 6,750 buckets have been released by government officials as of June 25.


Another 13 containers remain at the port, while Florida Baptist Convention staff work through government bureaucratic channels for their release. For the disaster relief team on the ground in Haiti, which includes Southern Baptist volunteers and Florida Baptist Convention staff, each day brings additional meetings and the processing of paperwork to satisfy government officials. Each day the team wonders if more containers will be accessed so more Haitians will have food that night.


At the garbage dump, Moreno Robert, pastor of Eglise Baptiste Canaan, coordinated the food distribution to the tent city.


"Normally we don't ask strangers to give food to our families," he said through a translator. "But since Jan. 12 there is little work so there is little food. We are obliged."


The vivid blue-tarped structures dotting the mounds of refuse became a place of refuge after the earthquake left them fearful for their safety. Living in wide, open spaces away from concrete debris falling off city buildings is surely safer, they reasoned.


Like many Haitians, they have repeated a similar phrase -- "my home has become my enemy."


Robert started the church in the dump after an evangelistic crusade resulted in new Christian believers. Sweeping his hand across to the sea of blue tents along the mountain ridge, the pastor said, "What you see here was not here before the earthquake."


As the buckets were handed to those first in line, each recipient quickly departed, unwilling to chance losing their bucket to someone else.


Despite having to stand in line for the promise of food, the crowd waited for their turn, never becoming unruly or disorderly.


That same day, nearly 250 people crowded inside Eglise Baptiste Bethaniem in Port-au-Prince as others stood outside waiting for the Buckets of Hope distribution at the end of the service. As pastor Louis Joseph called each name, some families sent their children to the front of the church to receive their bucket.


The buckets were given to church members as well as others in the community who attended the nearly two-hour worship service and heard the Gospel message proclaimed.


An air of solemn excitement filled the congregation while the 150 buckets were distributed. Guarding their newly acquired prize, families raced to their homes to open the five-gallon buckets.


The contents of each Bucket of Hope include flour, rice, beans, oil, pasta, peanut butter and other items that will feed a family for at least a week, depending on the size of their extended family.


Not only will the family consume the food but the buckets themselves will be used to carry water from wells and in numerous other ways as Haitians survive in abject poverty.


In all, Southern Baptists packed just over 155,000 buckets for the Haitian people after the earthquake. Other containers of buckets remain in Florida until the ones currently in Haiti can be systematically worked through customs.


Jean Phito Francois, a Baptist director of missions in Port-au-Prince, said he had been telling his churches that the buckets were coming.


"Many people asked, 'When did the U.S. people get time to do this?'" Francois said.


"This is a great blessing unto God," he added. "See the buckets -- the people are so happy to receive [them]. Especially for me, it has touched my heart."


Francois reported that even though the containers were delayed in customs, everything was "extraordinarily in good shape" once the buckets were opened.


The concept for the Buckets of Hope originated with Fritz Wilson, director of Florida Baptists' disaster relief, during his first trip to Haiti after the quake.


Wilson, who also is serving as the Haiti disaster relief incident commander for the North American Mission Board, determined the buckets' ingredients after consultation with the Haitian kitchen workers at the Florida Baptist Mission House. He and his family assembled the first bucket when he returned to the States.


"As I watched a family in Haiti open their bucket, I thought about my family going up and down the aisle of a Walmart putting the very first bucket together. We knew that the food bucket would be a blessing to a family but could not really comprehend the enormity of it all," Wilson said.


While the challenge of working the containers through Haitian customs has been frustrating, Wilson looks at the challenges as a "God-thing."


"The need for the buckets continues to be great, even as Haiti is recovering," he said.


The rainy season in the tropical Haitian climate is in full force. Wilson constantly tracks the weather via the Internet to determine if any hurricanes or tropical storms are threatening the island of Hispaniola which Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic.


The need for food could become increasingly critical during the next few months, he said.


"I have said it often, God in His perfect timing will release the containers at the perfect juncture. Our job is to wait on Him," Wilson said.


Wilson equated seeing the first bucket distributed to "the first water station in a marathon. It was a welcome site. It was refreshing and re-energizing but there are still many miles to go."


Barbara Denman is director of communications of the Florida Baptist Convention.



7/1/2010 3:55:00 AM by Barbara Denman | with 0 comments

Displaying results 41-48 (of 48)
 |<  <  1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 >  >|