June 2011

Mars Hill College hires chaplain

June 6 2011 by Mars Hill College

Effective mid-summer, Mars Hill College has hired Stephanie McLeskey as chaplain.

McLeskey was at the University of Georgia, where she served in two positions, as academic advisor and as campus minister through the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia.

McLeskey is an ordained Baptist minister and a member of Milledge Avenue Baptist Church in Athens, Ga., where she is a supply preacher, Sunday School teacher, Wednesday night teacher and chair of the Outreach Committee. She also holds committee positions with CBF/Georgia and national CBF.
6/6/2011 8:10:00 AM by Mars Hill College | with 0 comments

Religious leaders call a strike on tobacco

June 3 2011 by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

Religious leaders are hoping to hit a home run in a campaign to get Major League Baseball players to ban tobacco use on fields and dugouts of the national pastime. More than two dozen members of the coalition group Faith United Against Tobacco wrote May 30 to Michael Weiner, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, focusing on the hazards of smokeless tobacco.

“What players do on their own time is their business, but what they do when they are in uniform and on camera is all of ours, especially considering what’s at stake,” wrote the leaders, citing increased use of smokeless tobacco by high school boys, and players who have been sickened or killed after dipping or chewing tobacco.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig has proposed that smokeless tobacco be banned just as it has been in the minor leagues; the proposed ban has already drawn support from politicians and medical groups.

Weiner has said the issue would be part of collective bargaining talks this year, but has called smokeless tobacco a legal substance that does not have the secondary health risks of cigarette smoke.

Leaders of Christian, Jewish and Muslim organizations see baseball players’ role-model status as the biggest risk for young people.

“When the cameras are rolling and they zoom in on a player, the last thing we want our kids to see is a big wad of chewing tobacco in his cheek or under his lip, as if he’s an advertising spokesman for deadly tobacco,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
6/3/2011 8:50:00 AM by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Baptist school nurtures faith in Nazareth

June 3 2011 by Ava Thomas, Baptist Press

NAZARETH, Israel — Flat-roofed houses still dot the Nazareth skyline like they did in Jesus’ time, but these days they’re covered with satellite dishes.

A good bit has changed since Jesus grew up in the Galilean city. But one thing rings true across the years: Christ’s hometown still needs His peace, said Charles Tyson*.

“People think of Israel, and they automatically think of biblical Israel instead of the modern-day political state of Israel,” said Tyson, a Southern Baptist worker in Israel. They don’t realize that Israel is a diverse nation of many different ethnic populations, he explained.

The residents of Nazareth — including the members of Israel’s first Baptist church, planted 100 years ago — are Arabs, not Jews, even though Israel is majority Jewish. The Word is preached today in Arabic at Nazareth Baptist Church, just as the church’s first sermon was preached decades before Israel was a nation.

Today in the town of 80,000, roughly 80 percent are Muslim, 20 percent are Christian by background and a tiny sliver of that number are evangelical believers in Jesus.

It’s that way even though Christians have had strong roots in the town since Jesus’ day. Two churches — including the Church of the Annunciation, the largest church in the area — claim to be on the place where Gabriel told Mary she would bear God’s Son.

“Even in Nazareth where we’ve had a Christian presence for a long time, it’s hard for Arab Muslims to see what a Christian is,” said Adam Roberts *, a Southern Baptist worker in Israel. “We want to show them that it’s not just our identification or our background. Our faith … transforms our whole life in Christ.”

It’s slow work to overcome religious barriers, but workers are still tending the mission field where Baptists began planting spiritual seeds in 1911, Roberts said. One way he’s doing this is through his work at Nazareth Baptist School, where he teaches Bible to teens. About 20 percent of the K-12 students are from a Muslim background, he said.

“The parents in the community respect the high academic reputation of the school to the degree that they are willing to accept that their children will be taught about the Bible,” Roberts said. “Because of this, I’m able to talk openly about the Gospel.”

“Openly” is a bit of an understatement — he said he’s shared the Gospel more in one year at the school than he did in several years of youth ministry back in the States.

“I encourage them to speak freely about their questions and their own faith and talk about where our beliefs are different,” Roberts said. “I tell them if we fall to the temptation to say we are the same, we are robbing both of us of important aspects of our faith. It’s good to talk about what we share, but it’s also good to discuss where we are different.”

Roberts asked for believers to pray:
  • for the 1,000 students who attend the Baptist school in Nazareth.
  • that the school will find qualified teachers who are Christ followers.
  • that churches in the United States will partner with the school, leading a week of chapel at the school or partnering in other types of work.
*Names have been changed.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Thomas is an International Mission Board writer/editor based in Europe.)
6/3/2011 8:47:00 AM by Ava Thomas, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Planter: Cooperative Program is ‘crucial’

June 2 2011 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

EVANSVILLE, Ind. — “If we stop reaching people, we’re going to die,” church planter Bobby Pell, pastor of NorthWoods Church in suburban Evansville, Ind., said.

“I never want our people to get away from that sense of desperation, and the best way I knew to do that was always to be about the process of church planting,” Pell said. “We have been effective in reaching people as a church plant, and we want to invest in church planting. We believe it is an effective way of evangelizing in communities.”

The Cooperative Program is the most effective way of funding church planting, the pastor said. CP helps support Southern Baptist work in state conventions, across North America and around the world.

“From a church planting perspective, the Cooperative Program is crucial to how the North American Mission Board receives funds and is a conduit in helping church planters be on the field,” said Pell, who twice has served three years with church planter support from NAMB. “One of the things CP does that people don’t think about is that it relieves stress from the planter and his family. From a church planter’s perspective, it’s a big deal for the wife and family to have some (financial) security....

“If there wasn’t a Cooperative Program, there would be fewer churches planted, and what planters there were would all be bivocational because there wouldn’t be income from a congregation yet,” Pell said. “They wouldn’t be able to devote all their attention to the church plant.”

NorthWoods Church illustrates the symbiotic relationship between the Cooperative Program and a church planter.

Pell moved to Indiana in 1993 from Chattanooga, Tenn., to plant a church in Greencastle, Ind. He started with four families – and church planter support from NAMB – and when he left nine years later to plant NorthWoods, more than 500 people were participating in Sunday morning worship. The church also had started two other churches.

He moved to suburban Evansville in 2002 after catching the vision of another group of four families. They’d been sent by Grace Baptist Church in Evansville to plant a church. Today the congregation numbers about 525.

“Our church is very much a church planting church,” Pell said. “We’ve planted churches in lots of places.... Our philosophy has been that we need to be about the process of church planting.

“To not be missional is to be wrong,” Pell said. “The Bible tells us we are to make disciples. We are His witnesses. This is not a choice. This is obedience or disobedience. We have the (Southern Baptist) Convention with 85 percent of churches plateaued or in decline. When we as local churches stop making the effort to reach people, we have moved into sin.”

About 125 people were involved at NorthWoods Church when it started its first church plant. It was in Vincennes, about an hour north.

“We helped financially, administratively and with prayer support,” Pell said. “In church planting you don’t always have to give up people, but you always have to give up something. The question from a church’s perspective is, ‘Do we have a sacrificial heart?’ I pray we do, but that does become a hard question.”

A classic car show with a block party atmosphere is one of the annual events NorthWoods Church in Evansville, Ind., hosts for the community as an outreach tool.

Vincennes was started in 2004; Bloomington in 2006. Like NorthWoods, they too started by giving 10 percent to missions through the Cooperative Program.

“CP funding was crucial in allowing our churches to get off the ground and communicating the Gospel,” Pell said. “There is no better way for us to be doing missions than for us to be doing missions together.

“It has been very good to see God at work,” he said. “I’m very appreciative of that, and I recognize it’s His hand.”

Others recognize Pell’s giftedness in church planting. He is team leader for church planting in the Southwestern Indiana Baptist Association and a church planting trainer and assessor for the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana.

“Bobby understands our Indiana culture, which is a challenging new work area,” said John Horn, director of missions for the Southwestern Indiana Baptist Association. “It’s certainly not as easy to start a church in Indiana as it is in the Bible Belt.

“Bobby’s entrepreneurial, creative, evangelistic, very solid biblically in how he does ministry, and he’s cooperative as a Baptist in networking with others,” Horn said. “He maximizes Kingdom work. We’re very blessed to have him in our association.”

NorthWoods sent out 40 people from its congregation to start a church in downtown – inner-city – Evansville last year. Also last year, NorthWoods sent out 50 people to start a church in neighboring Warrick County, the largest unchurched county in the area.

That plant currently is a second campus of the NorthWoods church “with the desire and hope that the campus would one day become an autonomous body,” Pell said. That congregation leases a storefront. Pell preaches – sometimes via video – and on occasion the campus pastor preaches.

“Part of the reason behind him preaching live is a training process for the future,” Pell said. “I am currently in the process of mentoring three people in our congregation as possible church planters for the future.

“God has blessed us with the church planters,” Pell said. “My responsibility is to train them to the best of my ability and to send them out as prepared as they can be.

“The greatest opportunities I have today are to develop leaders to go out as missional people either as a church planter, a member of a church plant or to assist us where we are in reaching and discipling the lost,” Pell said. “We are constantly looking at areas around us to plant the next congregation, and the moment we have the leadership and the funding and we have the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we’re going to go again.”

When NorthWoods sent out 90 people last year to start two churches, it left gaps at NorthWoods.

“The people who go are the most missional you have,” Pell said. “What you’re faced with is the responsibility to develop missional people to replace them. And that’s difficult. At the end of last year we experienced that, but we made adjustments and we’re OK. We did not allow what happened from a financial perspective to keep us from accomplishing a mission. We figured out a way. We made some budget adjustments because we were not going to stop being missional.”

At NorthWoods, the congregation goes through LIFE, leadership development classes, on Wednesday evenings. These might include Old or New Testament survey or relational studies such as deepening roots in God’s family. They also have Sunday evening or midweek discipleship-based Connect groups that are more relational.

“We believe discipleship is both something you learn and something you walk together with someone,” Pell said. “It’s a head issue as well as a feet issue.”

Some of the ways the congregation puts feet to their learning is by participating in one or more of the special events the church puts on for the community, such as a classic car show that includes a block party atmosphere; a booth at two county fairs; and a children’s fishing rally on the church’s four-acre pond – biggest catch last year was an 11-year-old girl with a 6-pound fish.

At the fairs, passers-by have a chance to win a 4-wheel ATV at no cost except for three minutes of their time, during which they receive a personalized Gospel witness. It’s the “Sturgis model” of intentional evangelism used in recent years by the Dakota Baptist Convention’s intentional evangelism ministry during the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

“What makes Bobby a good church planter? Bobby knows who he is, what God wants him to do and how God wants him to do it,” said Jim Hamilton, executive director of the Dakota Baptist Convention who has known Pell for several years. “Bobby engages people where they are and positions them to hear from God and move toward a shared vision. He is a gifted gatherer of people. He places a high value on relationships.”

Another church plant that NorthWoods had a part in is Hills of Grace in Rapid City, S.D. This summer, with Hills of Grace now well-established, NorthWoods plans to participate in a church plant in Middletown, Ohio, with a family mission trip from NorthWoods.

“We encourage whole families to go,” NorthWoods executive pastor Ed Collins said.

They do prayerwalks, pass out flyers, host basketball and baseball clinics and backyard Bible clubs, or whatever works best in the local situation to gain entry to people in the community, Collins said.

NorthWoods doesn’t make long- or even mid-range plans for new church plants.

“We have determined as the leadership of our church that we want this to be Spirit-led,” Pell said. “As God continues to bless our body, two things we are watching: growth in our own body to allow us to send people out, and funding. We are watching to start another church or another campus.

“Starting another church or campus is in our mind the best way to reach lost people for Jesus. We believe it’s the best way because we have seen a congregation grow from four families to more than 500 in nine years. We have seen the campus go from 50 in December to 100 in mid-April. We are seeing lost people come to Christ, and we are seeing growth,” Pell said of growth not just locally but also in the Kingdom of God.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message, Dakota Baptist Connections and The Montana Baptist.)

Related story
CP: 1.92% below previous years pace
6/2/2011 5:45:00 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

CP: 1.92% below previous year’s pace

June 2 2011 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Year-to-date contributions to Southern Baptist national and international missions and ministries received by the SBC Executive Committee are 1.92 percent below the same time frame last year, according to a news release from SBC Executive Committee President and Chief Executive Officer Frank Page.

The total includes receipts from state conventions and fellowships, churches and individuals for distribution according to the 2010-11 SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.

As of May 31, gifts received by the Executive Committee for distribution through the Cooperative Program Allocation Budget totaled $130,314,404.44, or $2,545,288.04 behind the $132,859,692.48 received at the end of May 2010.

Designated giving of $147,289,329.48 for the same year-to-date period is 6.78 percent, or $10,719,812.29, below gifts of $158,009,141.77 received at this point last year.

Monthly CP allocation receipts for SBC work totaled $15,936,344.95 while designated gifts received last month amounted to $16,315,629.58.

Month-to-month swings reflect a number of factors, including the timing of receipts from state conventions. The end-of-month total represents money received by close of business on the last business day of each month.

For the SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget, the year-to-date total of $130,314,404.44 is 97.82 percent of the $133,214,726.79 budgeted to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America. The SBC operates on an Oct. 1-Sept. 30 fiscal year.

The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists method of supporting missions and ministry efforts of state conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention.

Designated contributions include the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund and other special gifts.

State and regional conventions retain a portion of church contributions to the Southern Baptist Convention Cooperative Program to support work in their respective areas and forward a percentage to Southern Baptist national and international causes. The percentage of distribution is at the discretion of each state or regional convention.

Related story
Planter: Cooperative Program is ‘crucial
6/2/2011 5:39:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

NAMB to partner with Timothy Barnabas

June 2 2011 by Adam Miller, Baptist Press

WOODSTOCK, Ga. – Southern Baptist pastors will be the beneficiaries of a new leadership development partnership between the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and the Timothy Barnabas ministry.

“One thing we hear consistently is that in addition to starting new churches, Southern Baptists need to do a better job taking care of existing churches,” NAMB president Kevin Ezell said.

“Leadership development for pastors is one of the ways we can do that. My hope is to see the Timothy Barnabas conference become an equipping and growing place for pastors but also a place where they can come and relax and be appreciated. That’s what we want to do,” Ezell said.

Through the partnership, NAMB will provide office space for Timothy Barnabas at its Alpharetta, Ga., offices along with need-based scholarships for church leaders and a more regionalized approach to Timothy Barnabas conferences through Southern Baptist state partners.

Started in 1994 through the leadership of Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., Timothy Barnabas has provided leadership development through instruction, encouragement and networking at annual events such as pastors’ retreats and men’s conferences. The partnership is aimed at providing reproducible and contextualized experiences that would help meet needs region by region.

Hunt sees the NAMB partnership as a natural outgrowth of what Timothy Barnabas is all about.

“I am ecstatic about the partnership Timothy Barnabas has formed with the North American Mission Board,” Hunt said. “NAMB has supported this ministry for many years, but we now are becoming close ministry partners utilizing the strengths of both our organizations.

“We will be more effective as will NAMB, and the primary beneficiary will be pastors and church leaders. With NAMB’s help, we will be able to reach more areas across the country that need leadership development greatly,” Hunt said.

First Baptist Woodstock’s executive pastor, Jim Law, and NAMB vice president of evangelization Larry Wynn will provide direct leadership as the organizations develop ministry strategies in the coming months.

Wynn said Timothy Barnabas fits the model for leadership development NAMB is moving toward in its overarching Send North America strategy.

“For a pastor to continue to minister effectively, he has to continue to grow and to learn,” Wynn said. “Rather than reinvent the wheel, we wanted to research best practices, and Timothy Barnabas is one of the few ministries doing this kind of concentrated work.”

Law said Timothy Barnabas would add to its cache of speakers several leaders and practitioners working with NAMB and would look soon at expanding conference venues into regions such as the Northeast and Canada. The ministry also is interested in drawing younger leaders.

“We older guys would like to help younger pastors avoid a lot of mistakes we’ve made coming along,” Law said. “I’ve been in ministry 38 years and I’ve made a lot of mistakes, and we’re trying to teach pastors and church leaders what we’ve learned through the school of hard knocks.”

Ezell said the partnership is an important step for NAMB and one marking the beginning of much more to come.

“This is something we can get started with right away. I believe this will build momentum for both our ministries and provide a foundation for building up men and families who will help lead Great Commission efforts in North America,” Ezell said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Adam Miller writes for the North American Mission Board.)  
6/2/2011 5:31:00 AM by Adam Miller, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Ivory Coast refugees finally get water

June 2 2011 by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press

AMPAIN, Ghana – Ethnic and political rivalries plunged your country into civil war less than 10 years ago. Five months ago, you elected a new national leader, but your president refused to leave office. Forces loyal to the new president took to the streets, and your family joined thousands of others in fleeing your homes to escape the violence. Along the way, gangs loyal to the former president murdered dozens of your neighbors, simply because you came from the opponent’s hometown.

You made it across the border into a neighboring country, only to find your family jammed into a crowded refugee center, waiting for new refugee camps to be constructed. Days turn into weeks, and you wonder whether you’ll ever get to go back home. You wonder whether there’s even anything to go back to.

That’s the situation faced by residents of Ivory Coast, who fled their homes in the West African country for refuge in neighboring countries like Ghana. Although the former president, Laurent Gbagbo, was arrested in April, the new president, Alassane Ouattara, is still working to control the country. More than 1 million people were driven from their homes and the country’s economy was wrecked by the months of fighting, which has claimed at least 3,000 lives.

Most refugees are afraid to leave the camps, much less try to return home.

“For us, this war is not finished. There is no security. Even as I speak, I cannot set foot outside here,” cocoa farmer Michel Tieoula told a reporter for the Reuters news service. Tieoula, 51, fled with his family after a Christmas-Eve gun battle in his village. Like many refugees, he saw his village burning as he ran for his life.

About 15,000 Ivory Coast refugees made it to the eastern border town of Elubo, Ghana, where they are being housed in a transition camp until new long-term camps can be carved out of the bush, said Mark Hatfield, who with his wife, Susan, directs work in Sub-Sahara Africa for Baptist Global Response, an international relief and development organization.

“More than 100 new refugees are being registered each day at Elubo, and more than 600 people have spent weeks in the transition camp, which was designed to hold people for only a couple of days,” Hatfield said. “People are being transferred to a refugee camp at Ampain as new shelters are constructed, but that camp is getting close to its maximum capacity of 5,500 people.”

The government of Ghana has requested assistance as it scrambles to open a new camp about 95 miles away, said Shadrach Black, a BGR partner who is coordinating a Southern Baptist response to the refugee crisis.

“This new camp site is undeveloped bush made available by Ghana’s government,” Black said. “The United Nations and the Ghana Refugee Board are coordinating the development of this camp. They have requested assistance in both food aid as well as water, sanitation and health areas of the camp.”

Southern Baptists are helping with the project by providing five wells for the camp, which will house about 4,500 people when it opens, Black said. (Watch a video about the relief effort at http://vimeo.com/24168272.)

“This project will provide four wells with manual hand pumps and a fifth with a submersible electric pump,” Black said. “That pump will provide pressure to fill up large water tanks throughout the camp, as well as to run chlorination units for potable water.”

Southern Baptists also plan to provide food aid to the camp when refugees arrive, Black noted. The wells are being provided with $34,000 from the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund. Local churches of the Ghana Baptist Convention will be trained to conduct trauma counseling and other kinds of ministries needed by camp residents.

Gbagbo’s arrest sparked a new flood of refugees into Ghana and prompted the need for quick response, Hatfield said.

“We’re grateful we could respond on short notice to this need because Southern Baptists have given generously to the World Hunger Fund,” Hatfield said. “Because we already had funds on hand, we are able to move quickly to demonstrate the love of God to people in crisis.”

The World Hunger Fund is a “dollar in / dollar out” program, Hatfield noted. Because the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program provides administrative support for world hunger projects, 100 percent of each hunger donation can be used to meet needs overseas.

People who care are asked to pray for the work going on to open the new camp, Black said.

“Please pray that all five borehole wells will produce abundant water that will test clean and provide potable water for the occupants of this camp,” Black said. “Pray that through the example of providing water for daily living, refugees can find true living water through a relationship in Jesus Christ.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Kelly is senior writer and assistant editor for Baptist Press. Baptist Global Response is located on the Internet at www.gobgr.org.)
6/2/2011 5:23:00 AM by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Band of brothers’ gathers at Arlington

June 1 2011 by Manuel A. Biadog Jr., Baptist Press

ARLINGTON, Va. — Today’s Marines in combat are our modern-day “Band of Brothers.”

The term Band of Brothers was popularized by the 2001 Stephen Spielberg and Tom Hanks 10-part TV miniseries about a U.S. Army elite paratrooper unit during World War II, based on a book by Stephen E. Ambrose.

In the book and the miniseries, the men of “Easy Company” of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division formed a brotherhood of their shared experiences from basic training in 1942 at Camp Toccoa, Ga., to D-Day in June of 1944 and their ultimate triumph at the end of World War II.

A modern-day band of brothers has shared a difficult, dangerous and traumatic experience in battle, losing their brothers-in-arms in combat. Those who know the true meaning of brotherhood have lived it daily and established a special bond that binds them together for the rest of their lives.

Photo courtesy of Dan DeGuzman Jr.

From left, Corporals Stephen Rothermelpilla and Richard Castagna salute Lance Corporal Kevin Michael Cornelius’ and Lance Corporal Tyler Owen Griffin’s gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery.

This brotherhood was evident at Arlington National Cemetery during a bittersweet reunion of a small band of 18 Camp Lejeune Marines of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force on April 1.

Charlie Company Marines gathered to pay homage and respect on behalf of their two fallen brothers, Tyler Owen Griffin of Voluntown, Conn., and Kevin Michael Cornelius of Ashtabula, Ohio, both Lance Corporals who gave their lives while supporting combat operations in Afghanistan in April 2010.

From Camp Lejeune, N.C., the Marines were joined by the families, friends and loved ones of the fallen Marines who talked and exchanged memories and life experiences that brought them together.

Standing at attention, the Charlie Company Marines looked on while the families and loved ones were given time to grieve alone through a moment of silence and prayer at the gravesites at Arlington National Cemetery.

Slowly, one by one, each of the 18 Camp Lejeune Marines knelt down with dignity and honor, removed their covers and placed their hand on their fallen brothers’ tombstones offering silent prayers, reflections and tears.

That moment of silence was broken from afar by someone softly whispering, “Semper Fi.”

Choking back tears, Lance Corporal Griffin’s mother Suzie Wilding said she had an impression she heard the distinct voice of her son Tyler saying faintly in her heart, “Mom, I don’t deserve this honor, I was only doing my job. My job is being a Marine.” Others shared their observances:

— “It is one thing to serve in combat with these Marines and to see them hurt or die, (but it) is another to face reality by meeting their families and relive their sacrifices by a physical remembrance of them at Arlington. It is very humbling. That’s makes it real for me,” said First Lieutenant Daniel Kapavik, Third Platoon Commander.

— Celeste Corbissero, grandmother of Lance Kevin Corporal Cornelius, said: “My grandson was very fortunate to be with such a wonderful group of men.” She vividly remembers all the letters and email she received from Kevin in Afghanistan. “Every email and letter I received from Kevin always ended up with the same last sentence: ‘I’m doing what I want to do. There is no place else I rather be. Semper Fi.’”

Corbissero spoke proudly of her grandson: “Kevin wanted to be the best Marine.” She remembers him telling her: “Grandma, if anything happens to me, if I die, don’t cry because I’ll be in heaven.”

— Johnny Wilding, Lance Corporal Griffin’s step-father, said humbly: “Tyler and Kevin were the best of friends since they first met at Camp Lejuene. It is pretty incredible they had served together in Afghanistan, lost their lives four months apart, and (are) both ... buried together one space apart at Arlington National Cemetery is truly remarkable.”

It has been 235 years since the independence of the United States of America. Countless courageous Americans have defended this country since the Revolutionary War — in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon, Panama, Grenada, the Persian Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the world.

The unselfish deeds and inspirational actions of our fallen American heroes are inscribed at The Confederate Monument at Arlington National Cemetery that reads:

Not for fame or reward
Not for place or for rank
Not lured by ambition
Or goaded by necessity
But in simple
Obedience to duty
As they understood it
These men suffered all
Sacrificed all
Dared all — and died

May we never forget Lance Corporals Griffin and Cornelius’ final acts of bravery and accomplishing their duties with HONOR, COURAGE and COMMITMENT. Their ultimate sacrifice and love for our flag, our country, their comrades-in-arms, their faith in God, their friends and their families will forever be enshrined in the hearts of our nation’s proud and grateful citizens.

May God grant us the vision, wisdom, understanding and determination to make us worthy of the sacrifices of our dead heroes, and may we never forget that all future wars and conflicts again will cost the lives of the best and brightest of our nation in order to keep America safe and to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States of America.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Commander (Chaplain) Manuel A. Biadog Jr., CHC, USN, is a Southern Baptist chaplain endorsed by the North American Mission Board. He currently is serving as the Command Chaplain, Naval Base Kitsap, Washington. He previously served as Command Chaplain, Naval Station Newport, R.I.; Deputy III MEF Chaplain/III MHG Chaplain, III Marine Headquarters, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Courtney, Okinawa, Japan; Group Chaplain, Carrier Task Force-76, White Beach, Okinawa, Japan; Deputy Chaplain, Multi-National Force-Iraq, Baghdad, Iraq; Staff Chaplain, Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, Irvine, Calif.; and Assistant Command Chaplain, Naval Base Guantanamo, Cuba.)
6/1/2011 7:53:00 AM by Manuel A. Biadog Jr., Baptist Press | with 0 comments

NAMB offers $15M for church plant loans

June 1 2011 by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — As part of its expanding emphasis on church planting, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) is dedicating up to $15 million for financing new church plants across North America.

The new church plant loan initiative was approved by NAMB’s board of trustees at their regular meeting on May 11. The board’s church finance ministry will continue to make loans to established, existing churches.

“We are serious about planting new churches and giving church planters all the tools and resources they need to be successful,” NAMB President Kevin Ezell said. “The new church plant loan program, recently approved by the trustees, is just another example of that.”

NAMB and its predecessor, the Home Mission Board (HMB), have been making loans to established churches since 1900. But this marks the first time NAMB has utilized its church loan resources specifically for creating new loan products for church plants, said Karl Dietz, director of church finance ministry for NAMB in Alpharetta, Ga.

Interest income from the loans flows directly back to North American missions. As of April 30, Dietz said NAMB had $135 million representing 428 outstanding church loans on its books.

Dietz, whose team consults with 600-800 churches seeking financial counsel and loans each year, said the new church plant loan program is designed for church plants that do not qualify under NAMB’s current underwriting guidelines but have commitments of outside support or sponsorship from an established Southern Baptist church.

The new program consists of five loan options. Three of the new loan products will be used for the purchase of a first unit facility or land for the church plant. The loan amount can go up to $3 million, based upon the outside support of the church plant. A fourth loan product will allow an existing SBC church to use part of its equity in its own facilities to go toward a church plant. Loan proceeds can be used for almost any purpose directed by the loan borrower.

The final new loan product (up to $50,000) can be used by a church plant for the purchase of equipment and furniture.

Dietz said NAMB’s underwriting guidelines will require that the new church plant be at least one year old; does not own its first building; is a self-governed, legal entity; and averages 40 adult attendees each Sunday. The plant must have documented financial support extending into the future at least two years.

The purchased property serving as the new church plant has to be owned, not rented, and can be a new or previously used church building, storefront or any other building.

“In today’s economy, we recommend to church plants that the best thing they can do at first is to buy an existing building and do renovations,” said Dietz, who noted that the new program’s interest rate will be the same as the current rate of 6 percent, which is subject to change. NAMB does not charge any additional fees beyond normal real estate closing costs, he said.

Dietz said it normally takes his team at NAMB 10 days to approve a loan if the church plant’s loan package is complete. Because of the number of people involved — appraisers, realtors, engineers, attorneys — it usually takes another 45-60 days for the loan to close.

“We’ve been doing this for over 100 years now,” said Dietz, referring to NAMB and HMB. “We’ve developed guidelines over the years that have been tested in good and challenging economies. We know how much debt a church can take on based on historical income, salaries and other expenses.

“A church that is healthy spiritually will be healthy financially. If you see a church doing a lot of the right things, that’s a healthy church. The challenge for NAMB is that when you make a loan to a church, you’re making a loan to an entity that doesn’t sell a product or service. It’s totally dependent on its members’ giving.”

In the wake of this spring’s devastating tornadoes and major flooding across the country, NAMB’s church finance ministry team also is offering a free resource, “After a Disaster,” a guide for churches whose properties have been impacted by disasters. The booklet is under “downloadable resources” at www.churchfinanceministry.com.

The booklet outlines what must be done immediately following any major disaster affecting a church; how to organize leadership teams; how to evaluate the impact of the disaster on facilities, finances and ministries; how to develop an action plan; how to rebuild and/or renovate; and how to partner.

For additional information, Dietz recommends that church planters, missionaries or pastors access NAMB’s church finance ministry website, www.churchfinanceministry.com, or call (800) 759-5901. At the website are tools for modeling a loan based on the church’s finances, budgeting, recordkeeping and forecasting.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Noah writes for the North American Mission Board.)  
6/1/2011 7:41:00 AM by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

26 new IMB missionaries tell of need for gospel

June 1 2011 by Don Graham, Baptist Press

RICHMOND, Va. — The stench of dead bodies and human waste filled Mike Reid’s* nostrils as he stepped inside a filthy, rundown medical clinic in the South African bush. A cholera outbreak was ravaging area villages and the then 18-year-old college freshman had volunteered to help provide clean drinking water.

So far the job had been easy, even fun — pump river water into large steel tanks, then add chlorine tablets to kill any germs. Until now, Reid hadn’t encountered any cholera victims, but the clinic brought a sobering dose of reality. As he scanned the room his eyes locked on a gaunt, South African girl lying on a gurney. She was dead, but her eyes were still open.

Dehydrated and exhausted from days of cholera-induced diarrhea, the girl had collapsed under a tree. By the time she was brought to the clinic it was too late. Reid didn’t know anything about her — where she was from, how old she was, not even her name. But as he stared into the girl’s lifeless eyes, God awakened something inside him.

Reid shared the story of his call to missions at Mandarin Baptist Church in Los Angeles, Calif., May 22, as Southern Baptists honored 26 newly appointed International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries including Reid and his wife, Laura.* The couple will soon trade their Jacksonville, Fla., home for southern Europe where they will work among Muslims from North Africa and the Middle East.

Samuel Cheung, music minister at Mandarin Baptist Church in Los Angeles, Calif., leads the congregation in the hymn “O Zion Haste” during the IMB’s missionary appointment service May 22.

“This girl most likely died having never heard the Good News of Christ,” Reid says. “I was just overwhelmed with an urgency that there are people — real people — who are dying because they’re drinking dirty water, but they’re dying into a Christ-less eternity. And as that [truth] sat on me and filled my senses ... God confirmed in my heart that this is what I’m going to spend my life doing.”

Their son convicted them
Like Reid, many of the new missionaries spoke of first hearing God’s call to missions as teenagers or even children. For Ben and Olivia Harrison,* God used the couple’s son, Matthew,* to ignite one of the first sparks that would eventually lead them to leave their Georgia home to share Christ in Central Asia.

Two years ago, Matthew caught his parents off guard while the family was praying for Muslims during Ramadan.

“We were explaining to the kids how there were Muslims in our own community,” Harrison says, referencing a mosque less than a mile from the church where he serves as an associate pastor. “My son, Matthew, who was 5 at the time, looks at me and says, ‘Daddy, we’ve got to go there and tell those people about Jesus.’

“My wife looked at me like, ‘So, what are you going to tell him?’” Harrison laughs. “Immediately my mind fills up with a million reasons about why that’s a bad idea.” Harrison promised Matthew he’d think about it; soon he found himself face to face with the mosque’s inter-faith liaison who was curious to know why Harrison wanted to meet him.

“I’ve lived in this community for five years. I drive by the mosque and every Friday the parking lot is full of cars — I’m ashamed to say I don’t know a single Muslim in my own community,” Harrison told him.

But that was just the beginning. While Harrison built relationships at the mosque, the Harrisons’ children asked if the family could continue praying for Muslims after Ramadan ended. Two years later, it is still part of the family’s evening devotion, a habit they credit for “breaking their hearts” for the Muslim world.

“Every night we’re praying for an unengaged, unreached people group and asking the Lord to send somebody to go. Eventually we came to realize, He’s calling us to go!” Harrison says.

Lawyer turned missionary
Dustin Jones* was an attorney in Atlanta, Ga., before he and his wife, Miriam,* answered God’s call to share Jesus in North Africa and the Middle East in 2008. During the couple’s two years as short-term missionaries, Jones says he learned God can use anyone to spread the gospel — even a lawyer.

As proof, Jones tells the story of a young Arab student named Fadi* whom he led to Christ. Introduced by mutual friends, Jones spent months delving through the Bible with Fadi, meeting at a tea shop every Sunday from 7 p.m. to midnight — or later. Fadi wrestled with some of the things Jones was teaching because they were contrary to the small bit of Gospel exposure he’d received growing up in his country.

Eventually, Jones and Fadi agreed to go to a priest to settle the issue. Jones was stunned by what he heard.

“Finally the priest turned to him and said, ‘Here’s the problem, Fadi — you’re ignorant and you can never understand the Bible. You need to quit reading it because it will only confuse you. If you have a question, you need to come to one of us priests and we will tell you what to believe,’” Jones says.

For several months afterward, Fadi would come right to the edge of making the decision to accept Jesus but would pull back. Finally, after 18 months of one-on-one discipleship and untold gallons of hot tea, he embraced Christ.

“Since that time, whenever I go out (to share the gospel) Fadi goes with me. He goes as my interpreter,” Jones says. “We’ll go out for seven to eight hours at a time and I keep asking him, ‘Is this OK? Is this messing up your school?’ He says, ‘all I want to do is serve God.’”

Elliff’s challenge
After hearing the missionaries’ testimonies, IMB President Tom Elliff challenged the crowd gathered at Mandarin with a question: “Does your heart beat for missions?” Speaking from Romans 1:14-17, Elliff outlined the qualities at the core of Paul’s missions-driven heart, calling the Great Commission a “profound and personal debt” that every Christian must pay.

“Sometimes we think we can discharge the debt by being in a church that does mission work,” Elliff said. “Soon there will be 7 billion people on this globe. Over half of them have very little access to the Gospel; 1.7 billion of them will die without hearing the name of Jesus, unless you and I join (these missionaries) who go to share the Gospel.”

For missionaries like Reid, that debt often involves personal sacrifice. The semester after returning from South Africa, Reid remembers wrestling with his call to missions late one night in his dorm room — a letter of acceptance from a Bible college in one hand and a contract to play semi-professional soccer in the other.

“That was always my dream,” Reid says. “Growing up I always wanted to play soccer at a high, high level and had pursued that in college.”

But he says the image of that South African girl’s face weighed heavily on him — like an anchor tied to his heart. He turned down the soccer contract and decided to transfer to the Bible college.

“There were several times in my life when I needed to make a big decision and that girl’s face would stick out.... It’s something that I’ll remember for as long as I live.”

*Names changed for security reasons.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Graham is a senior writer at IMB.)
6/1/2011 7:32:00 AM by Don Graham, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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