July 2011

Former Caraway camper works way up to director

July 21 2011 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Asst. Managing Editor

When Mark Moore, 27, talks about his favorite things, Camp Caraway for Boys ranks at the top.

“My favorite thing about camp is to hear the laughter of the campers through the woods,” he said. An infectious sound like that will instantly wipe away the winter doldrums.

Since the age of 7, Moore has been coming to the camp near Asheboro.

It started at father-son camp and progressed to camper and camp staff. Camp is in his blood. His father served on the staff as did a brother and a cousin.

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

Camp Caraway staff members, in orange, try to get some noise going as the boys, ages 7-9, get ready to share what they’ve learned at camp with their parents. See photo gallery.

“Caraway has always been a vital part of my Christian growth,” Moore said.

He lives at the camp year-round dividing time between the camp and North Carolina Baptist Men where he’s children’s mission consultant and Royal Ambassador director.

“We’re trying to reach all boys where they are,” said Moore, who was just completing a mini-camp for 7-9-year-old boys, a first for the camp. “We had great numbers for the first year.”

The camp maxes out at 180 people but this summer most of the weeklong camps are averaging 100 boys or so, he said. While he believes the economy is a factor, Moore doesn’t cast the blame of lower numbers solely on the tighter budgets.

He’s trying to learn how to better market the camp. With 4,200 Baptist churches across North Carolina, Moore said the key is getting the word out to those churches.

“I think there is still something very special about ministering to a boy in a single-gender setting,” he said of Camp Caraway’s programs for boys aged 7-17. “We have a great potential for growth if parents will continue to buy into our ministry.”

Moore hopes happy campers and parents will share their experience with others. In a recent debriefing session with parents, Moore shared that about 30 boys ages 7-9 gave $80 towards the North Carolina Baptist Men’s medical/dental bus ministry.

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

Mark Moore, far right, leads a Camp Caraway for Boys debriefing after a recent camp. The staff members discuss what worked and what didn’t and talk about preparations for the next group. Moore, 27, serves as director of the camp and also works for North Carolina Baptist Men.

Demonstrating tools This year’s theme Tools of the Trade highlights spiritual gifts of Romans 12:6-8.

“Everything we do at camp is intentional to point people to Jesus Christ,” he said. “Having fun is an avenue to minister to the boys.”

The counselors are trained to point every activity to a teachable moment.

Camp pastors and missionaries take different angles on that theme as they teach the boys.

As director, Moore said it’s hard to be at all the functions during camp but he tries to be at as many as he can — around dealing with paperwork and fielding emails from parents and other general office work. And planning for 2012 has already begun.

Building relationships with those boys pays off later, Moore said. At least half of the boys in the older groups are repeat campers.

At the end of a recent mini-camp of 7-9 year olds, Moore debriefed parents before allowing them to pick up their campers. He asked them to partner with Camp Caraway in prayer and to invite their son’s friends to hear about camp.

Moore said a face-to-face meeting is worth more than a mailed DVD or brochure.

The camp sometimes borrows the nurse across the road at Camp Mundo Vista but also has a local doctor and nurse available for questions. Moore’s medical training as a paramedic also plays a part.

Moore loves the father-son option at Camp Caraway. He likes the freedom in the schedule for fathers or male mentors to have time with their boys. The youth and children camps are more structured.

“Caraway has been a place where I can always be myself,” he said. It helped prepare him for “serving God in everyday life.”

While Moore’s salvation decision did not happen at camp, he credits the staff with “creatively discipling me as a boy.”

“Camp helped motivate me to stand on my own feet spiritually and live out my faith in Jesus Christ every day,” Moore said.

He also said being on staff helped prepare him for the responsibility of parenthood. He and his wife Ashley have two children.

Capital campaign Caraway Conference Center and Camp is in the midst of a three-phase $7.5-million capital campaign called “New Beginnings.” Part of the improvements will help with an indoor multi-purpose recreation facility geared at visitors to Camp Caraway as well as the conference center. “Whether former staff or campers, if they say they support Caraway they need to back it up financially,” said Moore.

Gifts of stocks, bonds, real estate or other items of value can also be contributed through the N.C. Baptist Foundation (NCBF) designated for “Caraway — New Beginnings.” Contact Caraway at (336) 629-2374 or P.O. Box 36, Asheboro, NC 27204. Contact NCBF at (800) 521-7334 or 205 Convention Drive, Cary, NC 27511.

Visit campcaraway.org or facebook.com/Camp.Caraway.for.boys. See more photos here.
7/21/2011 5:18:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Asst. Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Resources point believers toward ‘Loving Muslims’

July 19 2011 by Ava Thomas, Baptist Press

RICHMOND, Va. — Cade Rutledge* used to wave his American flags and get really fired up about “getting those terrorists.”

From most people’s viewpoint, he had a right to feel that way. His brother was working in the Twin Towers nearly 10 years ago on Sept. 11, 2001.

As the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks approaches, the International Mission Board is launching a website and study guide to encourage believers to reach out in love to Muslim neighbors.

He made it out alive, but the attack was still way too close to home physically and emotionally for Rutledge to consider the idea of loving terrorists, or loving any Muslims for that matter.

Until Jesus showed him a different way.

“I asked myself, ‘How can we possibly love the lost — the Muslim terrorists — who attacked my city?’” Rutledge said.

“Our answer should always be yes because our Jesus-centered faith demands it. Our Christian response must never resemble the world’s.”

A heart of love for Muslims is something the International Mission Board hopes to cultivate through the new Loving Muslims resources, which are being released in conjunction with the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington D.C.

The resources include free study guides for small groups to use for one session the week before Sept. 11, 2011, and one on the anniversary itself, as well as an eight-day prayer guide for use the week in between.

The first session focuses on loving Muslims, and the second on reaching Muslims with the gospel. The prayer guide leads believers through praying for their Muslim neighbors and ways they can show hospitality to their Muslim neighbors.

The website, lovingmuslims.com, also includes feature videos, stories, photos and other resources for learning more about Islam, Muslim culture and ways to reach out to Muslims and share Jesus Christ with them. For more information and free downloadable resources, visit lovingmuslims.com. The site opens Aug. 1.

*Name changed           

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Thomas is an IMB writer/editor based in Europe.)

Related story
Former terrorist trainees turn to Christ
7/19/2011 9:53:00 AM by Ava Thomas, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Former terrorist trainees turn to Christ

July 19 2011 by Shiloh Lane, International Mission Board

SOUTHEAST ASIA — As a teenager, Budi Mulyadi* trained to kill Christians with a 9 mm pistol.

For months, he aimed it at a target while an instructor shouted slurs against Christianity. Mulyadi didn’t know anything about the religion, just that it threatened Islam. Not once did someone explain Christ’s sacrifice to him.

Yet, almost 20 years later, he serves as a Christian worker.

Today Mulyadi works with American Christian workers to manage worship sessions for youth in Southeast Asia. He helps local farmers learn better ways to raise healthy fish and grow their crops. He gives food to poverty-stricken families.

As Mulyadi works, the jobs and the people he works with bring him joy and he smiles, but his smiles fade when he talks about his adolescence. At the age of 14, he lived in an Islamic terrorist camp that imbued him with wrath and hate.

Hate “was something that was implanted in my mind,” he said. “I could just think about Christians and the hate would pop up.”

An obstinate child, Mulyadi ran away from an Islamic boarding school in his early teenage years. The school merely taught him Muslim scripture but had too many rules for his taste. He had already run away from home after a violent disagreement with his father. The 13-year-old had nowhere to turn. Then he met an Islamic extremist who promised him a new education.

The man took the young Mulyadi to a large compound consisting of tents and surrounded by trees.

Twenty other boys slept in these tents at night and trained with knives and guns during the day. They only stopped for sleep, food and prayer. When their instructors talked to them, they touted the supremacy of Muslims and the wretchedness of Christians. The Christians, they said, deserved to die.

“We were told that the Christians were infidels,” Mulyadi said. “If we would kill Christians, then that would be a free ticket into Heaven for us.”

At the camp, Mulyadi felt anger and self-righteousness boiling inside. As he practiced with a gun supplied by the camp, hate filled him. At times, however, he also felt doubt and confusion. The instructors told him that Christians should burn in hell, but did he want to send them there?

The boy continued to mull over these questions as his marksmanship improved and as the gun felt more and more familiar in his hand. Eventually, the leaders believed, Mulyadi and four other boys were ready to prove their worth. Without a clear strategy, they sent their students out to kill anyone they could.

“There wasn’t any specific hit, so there wasn’t any specific contract,” he said. “If we could find someone that was particularly ‘holy’ — someone that would really make a dent … then that’s who our primary target was.”

Once they left the compound boundaries, Mulyadi discovered he wasn’t the only one with doubts. The other boys had examined themselves as well, eventually determining they had no desire to kill.

“We were given a task to go kill Christians, and we had to make a decision — did we want to do that or not?” he said. “And, that was the point that we broke (and went our separate ways).”

All five boys decided to abandon the jihad. For all the camp’s brainwashing, they never wanted to kill anyone — no matter how much they hated them.

Mulyadi went home briefly, but his father’s anger forced him out on the road again. He eventually landed in a city several hours away and found a job tending the lawn of a health clinic. He spent the rest of his teen years living alone in a rented room.  

The Damascus Road
As he trimmed hedges year after year, Mulyadi became interested in general spirituality — not simply what he found in the pages of the Koran.

During his spiritual search, he found the name of Jesus, a prophet according to the Koran, and questioned why Muslims never mentioned Him in their lectures and discussions. He seemed overlooked. Mulyadi picked up a Bible and investigated.

Then, one night, as he prayed alone in his room, he heard a voice say, “I will send a Helper unto you.”

Mulyadi didn’t know where the voice came from or who the “Helper” was, but he turned to Scripture, and after exhaustive reading, found John 14:16: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper to be with you forever” (NASB).

From the moment he read that verse in John, the young man devoted himself to Jesus, a man who had the power to send him a Helper — the Holy Spirit — and the power to tell him about it 2,000 years after His initial promise.

“My whole demeanor has changed, and God has filled my heart with love,” he said. “I’m not an angry person anymore. My temper is gone. I don’t get mad at people like I did before. Because God loves me, I am able to love others.”

This love turned Mulyadi into a Christian worker. He loves the people he once hated. He leads worship for people he once scorned. He desires to bring people to Christ when he once wanted to punish them for following the Savior. This is his new passion.

“Until God chooses to take me home, I’m going to be here on a mission to share the gospel with people who need to hear it,” he says.

As Mulyadi preaches God’s word in scores of villages and spends time with his family — a wife and daughter — he rarely speaks to anyone of his time as a terrorist in training. Only after an hour of questioning does he mention it, and until recently, his American partner didn’t know about that section of his life. It’s personal.

However, every once in a while, he reunites with the four other men with whom he left the Islamic camp. They get together and discuss their work and families, and they discuss God. Although Islamic extremism filled them with revulsion for Jesus, Christ pursued every one.

All five are Christian pastors.

*Name changed  

Related story
Resources point believers toward ‘Loving Muslims’  
7/19/2011 9:49:00 AM by Shiloh Lane, International Mission Board | with 0 comments

Churches divided on Hungary’s new religion law

July 19 2011 by Jonathan Luxmoore, Religion News Service

Christian leaders in Hungary are divided over a restrictive new law on religion, with larger denominations welcoming its curbs on church activities and smaller groups voicing fears for their future.

“We wanted a new law to make it more difficult to establish churches here — and we’re happy the present government has now done something,” said Zoltan Tarr, general secretary of the Hungarian Reformed Church, which claims around a fifth of the country’s 9.9 million inhabitants as members.

The new “Law on the Right to Freedom of Conscience and Religion, and on Churches, Religions and Religious Communities” was enacted July 12 with backing from Hungary’s governing center-right Fidesz party.

Under the law, only 14 of 358 registered churches and religious associations will be granted legal recognition, while others will have to reapply for legal registration after two-thirds approval in parliament.

However, the final law was “very different” than a draft shown to faith groups in May, said Laszlo Debreceni , a leader of Hungary’s Church of God, which traces its roots to 1907 but was stripped of recognition under the new law.

“I don’t think anyone will come and tell us we can’t worship God,” Debreceni said. “But it will raise serious issues that some churches are now on the approved list and others not.”

Under the law, religious groups will need at least 1,000 members and a 20-year presence in Hungary to be recognized. The Hungarian Methodist church and Islamic community were among those stripped of their previous legal status.

The law recognizes Hungary’s predominant Reformed, Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Orthodox churches, as well as the Jewish community.
7/19/2011 9:47:00 AM by Jonathan Luxmoore, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

BSC’s Executive Committee approves 2012 budget

July 18 2011 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

The Executive Committee (EC) of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) met July 14, to hear the proposed 2012 Cooperative Program (CP) budget and other reports.

The proposed budget presented by the Budget Committee is the first budget since 2008 that reflects an increase in ministry dollars. The $33.5-million budget is a 2.5 percent increase from the 2011 budget, according to Stan Welch, chairman of the Budget Committee.

The budget includes an additional one-half percent increase in the dollars that are sent to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). This is the seventh year in a row that the BSC has increased this percentage by one-half percent. The proposed allocation to the SBC is 35.5 percent.

Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer, shared with the committee that he is committed to continue increasing the funds that are sent to the SBC because he believes in the SBC’s efforts to be involved in missions and taking the gospel to the unreached and unengaged people groups of the world.

However, he also shared that because state conventions are not mirrors of the SBC, meaning there are distinctive ministries to which state conventions are committed in which the SBC is not involved, he is also committed to making sure that North Carolina ministries and missions efforts have the funds needed to be effective.

Welch pointed out that the proposed 2012 budget includes an increase for evangelism efforts and church planting. This is the sixth year in a row that the budget for church planting has increased.

Other ministries and agencies reflecting an increase in allocated funds include the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina, Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute, the Biblical Recorder and North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry.

One of the areas with the most significant percentage increase, 7.4 percent, is the allocation for GuideStone known as “Retirement, Protection, and Care for NC Church staff.” About 10 years ago GuideStone began phasing out its contributions to state conventions to help pay for the retirement and protection benefits for North Carolina Baptist church staff, thus BSC contributions must increase.

In 2009, the EC began to follow a reduction plan approved by the Convention for direct funding of affiliated educational institutions, specifically Campbell University, Chowan University, Gardner-Webb University, Mars Hill College and Wingate University. The new relationship with the affiliated educational institutions was established with the agreement that the BSC would reduce unrestricted direct funding by 25 percent each year beginning in 2009. Therefore, the 2012 budget will be the first in decades to no longer allocate direct funding to these schools.

The EC approved the budget as presented. If the budget is approved by the Board of Directors at its September meeting, the Board will then present the budget to messengers at this year’s annual meeting in November for final approval.

Other reports
The EC approved the following recommendations from the Committee on Nominations related to appointments on the BSC Board of Directors: Gary Carroll, Newport Baptist Church, Newport, to fill the 2012 unexpired term of Steve Weaver; Daniel Justice, Ogden Baptist Church, Wilmington, to fill the 2013 unexpired term of Mike Pittman; Steve Jarvis, Colonial Baptist Church, Thomasville, to fill the 2014 unexpired term of Perry Comer; Andy Atkins, Fairview Baptist Church, Dobson, to fill the unexpired term of Elizabeth Billings; Katie Harris, Eastside Baptist Church, Shelby, to fill the 2012 unexpired term of Lynn Sherrill; Branton Burleson, Christ Covenant Community Baptist Church, Hendersonville, to fill the 2012 unexpired term of Ed Lowder; and Wade Harding, West Burnsville Baptist Church, Burnsville, to fill the 2014 unexpired term of Stan Willet.

The EC heard a request from Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMU-NC) to obtain mailing address information for the wives of new BSC pastors in order to mail them information about their annual new ministers’ wives retreat. The EC approved the BSC Administration and Convention Relations Office to mail the information on behalf of WMU-NC.

In committee reports, the Church Planting and Missions Development Committee shared that spots are still open for pastors and leaders on the two upcoming vision trips to Toronto and New York City through the Office of Great Commission Partnerships (GCP). GCP also has spots open in the Next Generation Missional Leadership Journey. For more information contact Michael Sowers at msowers@ncbaptist.org.

Dana Hall, N.C. Baptist Men president, gave an update on disaster relief efforts. So far this year, NC Baptist Men has responded to 13 disasters and 1,500 North Carolina Baptists have participated in disaster relief training. Since N.C. Baptist Men began its work in Haiti last year, they have ministered to more than 91,000 people in the medical clinics and seen more than 1,000 salvations. They have also helped build 15 permanent houses, 10 church buildings and several orphanages.

Baptist Men is also working in India, and to date have built 657 new drinking wells and sponsored 37 church planters.

Randy Godwin, president of the N.C. Baptist Associational Missionaries Conference, reported on a recent semi-annual gathering of the state’s directors of missions. Among the topics being explored by the group is the future of local associations.

Beverly Volz, BSC senior accountant, brought the financial report. Volz reported that through the first week in July, Cooperative Program funds are $16,138,324.42, a total that is 4.91 percent behind last year at this time. When compared to last year this time, the BSC is ahead in both the Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong missions offerings.

The next Executive Committee meeting is August 11 at Caraway Conference Center.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Biblical Recorder Editor K. Allan Blume contributed to this report.)
7/18/2011 9:23:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Bivocational pastors learn about conflict

July 18 2011 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Asst. Managing Editor

For any minister, conflict is inevitable.

While there are many words — anger, warfare, hurt — that come to mind when conflict is mentioned, M. Wayne Oakes encouraged ministers recently to consider the word opportunity.

“Not everyone experiences the world the way you do,” said Oakes, who retired from the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina several years ago. Oakes was part of a two-day North Carolina Baptist Bivocational Ministries Conference July 8-9 at Caraway Conference Center near Asheboro.

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

A group of bivocational ministers and spouses swap prayer requests during a meeting July 8-9 at the North Carolina Bivocational Ministries Conference. The event, held at Caraway Conference Center in Asheboro, dealt with “Conflict Resolution: Strong Anchors for Stormy Times.” View the photo gallery here.

The theme — “Conflict Resolution: Strong Anchors for Stormy Times” — challenged participants to use even the negative experiences to build bridges to healthy relationships.

Part of building bridges is setting goals “that stretch us,” said Oakes.

“I just don’t think we engage people enough,” he said.

“We have a real ministry opportunity to put our arm around somebody and offer a listening ear.

“We cannot save anybody. I think we can come alongside people and say ‘I can tell you’re hurting.’”

Oakes said many ministers fall into the trap of trying to rescue their church members but instead the members need to be encouraged to confront people with their concerns.

“I’ve learned that I can’t solve anyone else’s problem,” Oakes said.

“A lot of negative language in church life would disappear if we didn’t fan it.”

Oakes compared conflict to a virus.

“The single purpose of a virus is to replicate itself,” Oakes said, but was quick to stress that conflict, much like a virus, cannot multiply in isolation.

Change is never easy.

“They will feel awkward and ill at ease,” he said.

“They will feel alone even when everybody else is going through the same process of change. They can handle only so much change at one time.”    

Three anchors
During some of the devotional time, Phyllis Elvington, a well-known N.C. Baptist speaker and member of Tabor City Baptist Church, focused on the subtitle of the event: “Strong Anchors for Stormy Times.”

She encouraged the ministers and their wives to abide in the vine as a spiritual anchor. “Satan wants you to settle for less than God’s best,” Elvington said.

Believers also need a mental and physical anchor.

Contact Lester Evans at levans@ncbaptist.org or (877) 224-5615.  

Bivocational Resources
  • Bivocational & Small Church Leadership Network — bivosmallchurch.net; national coordinator: Ray Gilder, rgilder@tnbaptist.org; (615) 371-7907; this site offers a large number of resources and links for helpful information for small church or bivocational ministers.
  • Bivocational Beacon — newsletter produced by North Carolina Bivocational Minister’s Association. Contact levans@ncbaptist.org.

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Guest column: Bivocational ministry not just a ‘rural’ issue
7/18/2011 9:11:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Asst. Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Church aims to refresh community with grant

July 18 2011 by Laura Moore, BR Editorial Aide

Within a 10-mile radius in Middlesex, there is no playground and no secure place that children can gather outdoors for play.

Seeking to meet this need for their town, Rocky Cross Baptist Church is in the race to win a 25,000 dollar grant from Pepsi.

The Pepsi Refresh Project is giving millions away to projects that will “refresh our world.”

People must simply vote for the project that they want to win. The top 15 projects in the 25,000 grant category will all receive a full grant.

If voting continues to go well for Rocky Cross Baptist, they will soon have a new playground and security fence for the entire community.

“God can really work if you have faith,” Melissa Fields said as she praised Him for how He’s working in her community.

“Something that was just a dream is becoming a reality.

“We have people that have never really been involved at church (before), but they’re working at this and getting excited about it.”

Some people from the community even go dumpster diving to find more Pepsi bottle caps. The caps have a code inside that voters can use to “power vote.”

A power vote is worth multiple votes. However, anyone can vote for free with or without a Pepsi bottle.

Fields confirmed, “It has grown us as a church and community.” And it really is a community-wide effort to raise the support for a community playground. The local gas stations and restaurants have even gotten involved by saving bottle caps to give to the effort.

“It’s such a blessing to see everyone coming together and unite,” she said.

Not only has the Pepsi Refresh project built unity within the Rocky Cross Baptist community and their entire town, but it has helped many people to visit the church for the first time.

Voting for the grant ends July 31. Visit refresheverything.com/rockycrossplayground to see their video and vote.

As this is an ongoing project for Pepsi, there are still many chances to submit your own idea for a project grant.

There is a new contest each month through December. The last submissions will be accepted Nov. 1-5. Visit refresheverything.com for more information on how to enter. Grants are offered for $5-, $10-, $25- and $50-thousand dollars.

To celebrate and thank the community, Rocky Cross Baptist plans to throw a fall festival after the construction. Whether they win or lose, the church still plans on going forward with the project, albeit on a smaller scale. They also want it to be handicap accessible, which is an extra expense.

Project submissions for a grant are selected by Pepsi to be in the contest.

Then, people vote on the different projects, and voting lasts for the month.
7/18/2011 9:04:00 AM by Laura Moore, BR Editorial Aide | with 0 comments

In Honduras, chaplains find unique ways to serve

July 18 2011 by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press

SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras — While scores of Southern Baptist military chaplains minister to U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, others are serving faithfully in other hot spots, often in isolated regions.

In the mountainous heart of Honduras, for example, where the four military branches work together in drug interdiction, Chaplain (Maj.) Dan Thompson and Chaplain (Capt.) Paul Cartmill serve some 500 soldiers who are part of Joint Task Force-Bravo located at Soto Cano Air Base near Comayagua.

Even though enemy fire may not be as prevalent as in the war on terrorism in the Middle East, the troops in Honduras are on the front lines of efforts to stem the rising tide of illicit drugs entering the United States — tantamount to another attack against the U.S., but much closer to home.

Thompson, 38, has served as a chaplain since 1996, first in the Navy and now in the Air Force. His military service began as an enlisted Marine. He’s halfway through a six-month deployment to Honduras from Germany, where he’s stationed and where his wife Erica and their three children are now based.

“Even though we don’t have bullets flying over our heads, it’s still important to make worship services and Bible study available to our military,” Thompson said. “My vision is to enrich the spiritual fitness of Joint Task Force-Bravo, providing opportunities for our people to come to worship and study the Bible — just as they could outside the military.”

Villagers in El Paraiso, Honduras, receive donated food and school supplies from U.S. military personnel led by Chaplain (Major) Dan Thompson, a Southern Baptist Air Force chaplain deployed as part of the drug-interdiction Joint Task Force-Bravo at Soto Cano Air Base in Honduras.

Many of the soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines in Honduras are veterans of one or more tours of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan. Although still on active duty, Soto Cano Air Base is a place where they can unwind and decompress from the rigors, tough conditions, bad memories and dangers of the Middle East war zones.

“There’s still a lot of hardship.... It’s still hard to deal with the counseling load,” Thompson said. “The men and women still have a lot of spiritual needs ... facing post-traumatic stress syndrome from Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Thompson and Cartmill preach, teach and counsel as well as baptize new believers in the base swimming pool.

And they extend their faith to remote Honduran villagers.

Thompson and 120 other Joint Task Force-Bravo personnel spent a Saturday in June strapping on 40-pound backpacks of food and school supplies to hike two miles up the mountains where so many poor Hondurans live in isolated villages.

The troops — males and females dressed in civilian hiking clothes — hiked up to the tiny village of El Paraiso (means “paradise”) with 160 backpacks of food, with some of the soldiers carrying three or four backpacks.

The backpacks contained dry food items such as beans, rice and other staples for about 800 meals, Thompson said.

“These people have nothing and are truly starving,” said Thompson, who had already scouted out the village and talked to village leaders in advance to determine how much food would be needed and which families needed it most.

Supported by chaplain assistant Brandon Jones and his Honduran-born secretary and interpreter, Maria Santos, Thompson’s group used El Paraiso’s local chapel as the food distribution site, attracting lines of grateful villagers.

“I can’t describe how beautiful it was on the top of this mountain in El Paraiso,” Thompson recalled. “It is a paradise ... untouched, green and lush.

“While most of us didn’t speak Spanish, Maria translated for us. But the language of love can communicate across cultural barriers,” Thompson said, mentioning that El Paraiso is only one of 20 villages they hike to several times a year to deliver food and school supplies.

The El Paraiso hiking team was the largest group yet for the bi-monthly chapel hike, Thompson said. “It was also the largest amount of money we’ve ever raised for a hike and the most families we’ve ever been able to provide for.” All ranks from Joint Task Force-Bravo chipped in nearly $1,700 for the food. A portion of the money also was spent on school supplies and two piñatas for the village’s children.

“I’m told that the children are not permitted to go to school unless they have their school supplies,” Thompson said. “If the kids can’t go to school, that means the parents can’t go to work, so it’s critical that we help them.” Most of the parents subsist on meager incomes from area coffee plantations.

Thompson is a native of DeLand, Fla., and Florida State graduate who hold a master’s degree and doctorate from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

His fellow chaplain in Honduras, Capt. Paul Cartmill, missed the recent hike because he was attending the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Phoenix, where he was commissioned by the North American Mission Board (NAMB) as a new chaplain.

“It’s through the faithful prayer support and encouragement we get from Southern Baptists and the North American Mission Board that inspires us to move forward,” Thompson said. “It’s the little things — like getting emails on our birthdays — that really matter.”

Representing the Southern Baptist Convention, the North American Mission Board has more than more than 1,300 endorsed SBC chaplains in the military, which requires that all of its chaplains be endorsed and qualified by a recognized denomination. In all, 3,400 NAMB-commissioned and endorsed chaplains are ministering in the military, healthcare institutions, corporations and in public safety.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Noah writes for the North American Mission Board.)
7/18/2011 8:58:00 AM by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Carrier chaplain wants others ‘to see God in me’

July 15 2011 by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press

NORFOLK, Va. — Southern Baptist chaplain Fred Holcombe Jr. pastors a flock numbering 3,500-5,800 people — the population of a small town. But this “town” is more than 18 stories high, 1,123 feet long, 200 feet wide and takes up 4 1/2 acres. When fully loaded, this town weighs in at 95,000 tons — yet it floats.

It is the USS Enterprise, the “Big E” — the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and, when launched in 1962, the longest naval vessel in the world. Its home port is Norfolk, Va., where the Big E has left for one of her final six-month deployments before she is scheduled to be decommissioned — after 51 years of service — in 2013.

NAMB photo

Southern Baptist chaplain Fred Holcombe (Lt. Cmdr.) serves as one of four U.S. Navy chaplains ministering to the thousands of sailors on the USS Enterprise. See video.

But until then, Lt. Cmdr. Holcombe, 47, has a full-time job to do. Fortunately, he’s not the only chaplain on the Big E. There are three others — the command chaplain who is Presbyterian, a Catholic priest and another Southern Baptist chaplain.

“The old saying on a ship is that every day is Monday except Sunday,” Holcombe said. “On Sundays, we obviously have church. In fact, we have many, many different services go on each Sunday.” As a chaplain, Holcombe said he not only prepares weekly sermons but his mission is to share the gospel and take care of his floating flock, most of whom average 18-25 years of age.

Holcombe assists Enterprise crew members with any kind of issue they might have — from a sailor who’s run afoul of his chain of command, to helping someone salvage or maintain a marriage, to even talking some sailors out of committing suicide. He also spends time just visiting the aircraft carrier’s living and work areas — every nook and cranny — of the Big E, no small feat when you consider it spans the length of five football fields.

“With all the spaces we have on board the ship, there’s always somebody to go visit,” Holcombe said, “and they all want a visit from the chaplain, even the folks in the (nuclear)] reactors and other places you may not think a chaplain would typically go. But we’re always welcomed and well-received because they’re happy somebody’s coming in to see them.”

U.S. Navy photo

The USS Enterprise, or the “Big E” as its known in the military, is the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. When launched in 1962 it was the longest naval vessel in the world spanning the length of five football fields.

For six months, it’s a ministry that spans 24 hours a day, seven days a week ministry.

There’s no wife, kids or house to go home to each night, just the claustrophobic close quarters of a tiny stateroom Holcombe shares with another officer — a complete stranger at the beginning of the six-month voyage but certainly not at its end.

“You have to have a very forgiving spirit of the people around you,” Holcombe said. “You tolerate what they do and they tolerate what you do. There’s a camaraderie that is built and tested in a refining fire. It’s amazing to watch the interpersonal relationships that go on and how an individual begins to grow close and the word ‘shipmates’ becomes a term of endearment, not a derogatory one.

“As a chaplain, there are times you feel like you can never be off, you always have to be on. Yet (crew members) see who you are, and I can tell you I want them to see God in me. I want them to see a person who is genuine ... even with all my bumps, bruises, warts and scars.”

What earns military chaplains the right to be heard, Holcombe said, is the very fact that they are present and accounted for among their soldiers, airmen or sailors — as in the case of the USS Enterprise.

“The saying is true that people don’t care what you have to say or what you know until they know how much you care,” Holcombe said. “The ship’s crew knows I’m there enduring the same things they are — the separation from their families, the hardships and the long hours. They work 24-36 hours straight sometimes because that’s what it takes to get the job done.

“The American people would be absolutely amazed and astonished and proud of these kids — their sons and daughters — serving on the Enterprise.”

“Orchestrated chaos” is how Holcombe describes activity on the Enterprise’s flight deck, day or night. Imagine flying in to land on the Big E’s deck on a moonless night when the only light for 100 miles is the carrier’s landing lights. To a pilot, the landing deck may look like a floating postage stamp as the aircraft carrier — although mammoth — pitches to and fro at the mercy of a much larger ocean.

“You have so many people moving around doing so many different things, if you go up on the flight deck you’d better keep your head on a swivel,” Holcombe said. “You’re constantly looking around — over your shoulder, behind you, in front of you.”

The Navy chaplain believes the real unsung heroes of the Navy are the military spouses — both men and women — who keep the home fires burning.

“When you think about leaving your home for six months and you’re married, there are things that happen,” Holcombe said. “You leave one person and when you go back home, something mysterious has happened. You’ve changed and so has your spouse. So you begin to have these anxieties of the reunion because you wonder how she has changed, what’s she done and how you have changed in ways you may not even recognize.

“The amazing thing about my wife Wendy is that she is just as sold out to do this for God as I am,” Holcombe said. “I think that is such a quality in her life that God is able to give her the strength and dependence on Him to endure the separations and the hardships we have.”

Back home in Norfolk, they have two sons — Brent, 20, and William, 9 — who also endure the long months without their dad’s presence. Fred and Wendy celebrated 16 years of marriage in May when he was deployed somewhere on the other side of the world serving his country, but most important, serving God.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Noah writes for the North American Mission Board (NAMB). NAMB serves as the endorsing entity for more than 1,350 military chaplains serving throughout the world. In addition, NAMB commissions more than 5,000 missionaries throughout North America.)

7/15/2011 7:54:00 AM by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Fatal car crash didn’t kill wife’s calling

July 15 2011 by Ava Thomas, Baptist Press

MADRID, Spain — Hearing Jan Johnsonius’ story, some people might wonder why she went back.

She already had given everything to missions, it seemed — even her husband.

“But once it’s in your spirit to serve the Lord overseas,” Johnsonius said, “it doesn’t leave.”

She and her husband Jim hadn’t been in Argentina for long as International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries when they had a serious car crash. Jim was killed and Jan was badly injured. That was Aug. 1, 1993.

And exactly nine years later — on Aug. 1, 2002 — she was commissioned again, this time for service in Spain.

Missionary Jan Johnsonius faced a tragic juncture in her missions career when her husband was killed in a car crash in Argentina in 1993. Now, after returning to the field in 2002, she uses life coaching and movie discussion groups to reach urban professionals in Madrid, Spain, with the gospel.

“It was too coincidental not to be the Lord redeeming that difficult date into something new,” Johnsonius said. It was another chance to follow the calling she and her husband shared and use the language they had studied together.

“The people who knew me best knew it wasn’t a question of ‘if’ I was going back but instead a question of ‘when,’” she said, recounting that she had sealed her missions calling with the Lord individually before she and her husband ever ventured to the field. “I didn’t want to be just following my husband,” she said. “I wanted it to be a personal call.”

And it was.

Now Johnsonius works among urban professionals in Madrid, serving as a life coach to help people reach their goals. “The unemployment rate is 22 percent in Spain,” she noted, “so there are so many opportunities to serve people and build relationships through life coaching.”

And as often as she’s given the opportunity, Johsonius points her clients to the wisdom and peace that can flow from the Word of God. One woman she had been coaching continues to meet with her to study the Bible even though their life coaching time has ended.

“Doors open through this — it’s all about being sensitive to the work the Holy Spirit is already doing,” Johnsonius said.

And seeing open doors is a cause for rejoicing, she said. In the bustling city of 6 million, people don’t just talk to anyone. They are open to relationships but rarely make the first move in starting a friendship.

But Johnsonius doesn’t accept the idea of “tilling hard ground” as an excuse to hold back in sharing the gospel.

“I used to be more hesitant,” she said, “but before I came back to Spain I decided I wanted to be more open to going there in conversation and just seeing what He did with it.”

One way that’s happened is through movie discussion groups with urban professionals. Believers invite nonbelieving friends to watch a movie with good conversation topics, and then the group talks about them.

“It’s a way to help empower local believers to share their faith,” she said.

In conjunction with her outreach, Johnsonius asks for prayer:
  • that the hearts of the people of Spain would be open to the gospel.
  • that Spanish believers would be passionate about reaching out to their friends who don’t know Christ.
  • that urban professionals in Madrid would come to know the peace and salvation that Jesus offers.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Thomas is an International Mission Board writer based in Europe.)
7/15/2011 7:49:00 AM by Ava Thomas, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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