March 2011

Missionary family bonds with neighbors

March 16 2011 by Tess Rivers, Baptist Press

SENDAI, Japan — Donna Qualls is just happy to be alive. Of the 31 International Mission Board (IMB) families living in Japan, the family of six lives closest to the areas most affected by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

Over the weekend, as authorities rushed to rescue victims, clean up debris and contain two nuclear plant explosions, the Qualls hunkered down in their home with no electricity, gas or running water — unable to contact friends or family and unaware of the tsunami and subsequent explosions.

Shortly after the quake hit at 2:46 p.m. on March 11, Qualls talked with IMB missionary Renae Oue and assured her the family was safe and together. A few minutes later, most of Sendai lost electricity and phone service, leaving the Qualls isolated from the outside world.

“We didn’t know about the tsunami until Sunday,” Qualls said. “We also didn’t know about the explosion at the nuclear plant.”

Though the Qualls had no contact with co-workers or family — who were desperately trying to reach them — their Japanese neighbors offered assistance, food and counsel.

“One of our neighbors told us we needed to turn off the gas because of the risk of fire,” Qualls said. “Another shared a camp stove with me so we could boil water and cook some food.”

IMB photo

Donna Qualls, a Southern Baptist missionary in Japan, says: I want people to pray for us, but I also want them to pray for those in life or death situations. Pray for open hearts.


When the Qualls ventured a walk to a nearby grocery store on Sunday, they found the shelves nearly empty and strict rationing in place.

“Stores only allowed families to spend up to 1500 yen (about $15). They divided the food into bags that were 500 yen each,” Qualls said. “We bought a meat bag, a drink bag and a cereal bag.”

In spite of the rationing and primitive conditions in Sendai, Qualls said she was OK because her family was together. She also noticed that her Japanese neighbors were friendlier and more willing to spend time talking to each other.

“Usually, Japanese are so focused on their work that families spend very little time together,” Qualls said. “It’s been nice to see fathers playing catch with their sons and neighbors talking to one another. That’s not something we see very often.”

The Qualls took the opportunity to reach out. Shortly after the quake, the family ventured outside with the rest of the neighborhood and Qualls prayed with a friend whose husband had not come home.

“We prayed for him and just as we finished he drove up in his car,” Qualls said. “My neighbor thanked me for praying.”

The family also prayed for neighbors with family members in the affected areas and offered small care packages, including gospel tracts.

“We don’t have much but we wanted to let people know we care,” Qualls said.

For the next day or two, authorities advised Sendai residents to stay indoors to minimize any risk of radiation exposure from the explosions at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. The plant is located about 40 miles south of Sendai.

“Our neighbors told us to wear rain coats, hats and masks if we must go out, especially if it’s raining or snowing,” Qualls said.

Though they have been offered the opportunity to evacuate, for now the family intends to stay in Sendai. Qualls, who celebrated her birthday on Saturday and her wedding anniversary on Sunday, knows that prayer will continue to sustain them.

“Right now, we’re okay,” Qualls said. “We don’t know how long it will last without water, gas and ATM access, but for now we’re going to stay here. “I want people to pray for us,” she continued. “But I also want them to pray for those in life-or-death situations. Pray for open hearts.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Rivers is a writer with the International Mission Board based in Asia.)

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Missionary family bonds with neighbors
2 families relocate as Japan crisis heightens
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(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 
3/16/2011 4:10:00 AM by Tess Rivers, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



2 families relocate as Japan crisis heightens

March 16 2011 by Susie Rain, Baptist Press

SOMA, Japan — Dangerous levels of radiation, leaking from a crippled nuclear plant, forced Japan to order 140,000 people to seal themselves indoors March 15 and prompted two missionary families to leave their homes.

As a nuclear plant explosion and fire dramatically heightened Japan’s unfolding crisis, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said radiation spread along Japan’s northeastern coast from the four stricken reactors of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant. The region was shattered by March 11’s 9.0-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami.

Kan and other officials warned there is danger of more leaks and told people living within 19 miles of the complex to stay indoors to avoid exposure that could make people sick. Some 70,000 people had already been evacuated from a 12-mile radius. About 140,000 remain in a new 30-mile warning zone.

Although no International Mission Board personnel serve within the evacuation radius, two families living about 100 miles south of the nuclear facility relocated to other parts of Japan. A third family in the area is watching the situation closely and is prepared to leave when the need arises.

As hard as it is to leave people in whom they have invested their lives, missionaries Bob and Gail Gierhart said they decided to travel 80 miles south to Tokyo by train as the nuclear crisis deepened March 15. Jared and Tara Jones and their children packed their van with food and supplies for a trip to Osaka on Japan’s southwest coast.

“We want to be proactive,” Jared Jones said.

With some roads impassable and fuel almost nonexistent in the north, relocating safely out of the radiation zone for thousands may be a struggle. Lines at gas stations stretch for blocks, some waiting for more than eight hours. One IMB missionary got word of a fuel shipment coming to a nearby gas station — and many people planned to spend the night in their cars to hold their place in line at the pumps.

After Prime Minister Kan’s announcement March 15, many people ran to grocery stores to stock up on whatever food they could find. Shelves were already empty throughout the northern part of Japan. Food is even hard to find as far south as Tokyo. Fields of produce were harvested to salvage crops before any could be contaminated by radiation.

Low levels of radiation were detected as far as 100 miles northeast of the plant, according to the U.S. Navy, which repositioned ships and planes after detecting low-level “airborne radioactivity.”

Tokyo officials also reported slightly elevated radiation levels but said the increase was too small to threaten the 39 million people in and around the capital, about 170 miles from the endangered nuclear plant. If radiation levels increase to evacuation levels, IMB personnel in Tokyo will relocate to another city.

The radiation fears added to Japan’s triple disaster — earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis — that has been unfolding since the March 11 calamity. As many as 10,000 people may be dead. Officials said about 2,000 bodies were found Monday along the coast of battered Miyagi Prefecture. Kyodo news agency reported 30,000 people in the devastated areas remain unaccounted for. Millions of people have spent the last four nights with little food, water or heat in near-freezing temperatures.

While the conditions sound extreme and miserable, IMB missionaries said the decision to relocate was a tough one. It meant leaving friends and neighbors behind during a crisis.

“We need wisdom to know what to do and when to do it,” Gierhart said. “It means a lot to know so many people are praying for us.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Rain is an IMB writer/editor living in Asia. Tess Rivers contributed to this article.) 

Related stories
Baptists struggle to reach disaster zone
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Nuclear threat complicates Japan relief efforts
Japan’s Christians pray, muster funds for relief
Missionary family bonds with neighbors
2 families relocate as Japan crisis heightens
Guest column: Begin helping by praying
N.C. Baptists respond to quake, tsunami

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 
3/16/2011 4:05:00 AM by Susie Rain, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Repentant prayer first step toward change

March 14 2011 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

GREENSBORO — No matter how impressive a church may seem, if the church lacks a strong anchor, it will never succeed.

Ryan Pack, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, believes that strong anchor is prayer. Pack preached from Daniel 9 during the recent statewide evangelism conference at Friendly Avenue Baptist Church and challenged those in attendance to not only be more focused on prayer, but to refocus on repentant prayer.

Prayer, especially repentant prayer, allows believers to shift their focus from self to God. “We can become so full of ourselves that we miss the presence of God,” Pack said.

Repentant prayer draws eyes heavenward, and it does so by acknowledging God’s faithfulness. Sometimes a person may hesitate to ask someone for forgiveness, even when they know they must, because the response on the other end is unsure.

Not so with God. “God keeps His covenant of love,” Pack said. “He is going to approach us with grace and restoration.” Although sin has consequences, and those consequences may be painful for awhile, God will restore with grace.

“Without acknowledging God’s faithfulness, we have no other steps to take,” Pack said. He urged church leaders and pastors to remember God’s faithfulness, and in light of that, to always seek His glory above all else.

BSC photo by Mike Creswell

Ryan Pack, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, was one of the speakers at the recent statewide evangelism conference in Greensboro.


“Sometimes we ask God to bless something He never wanted started in the first place,” Pack said. When that happens, leaders must run to God in repentance.

When leaders only expect God to bless, and never seek His face and never seek to discern where He is leading, they end up treating God as a “cosmic vending machine” to get what they want. “That’s some made up prosperity gospel,” Pack said.

The second component of repentant prayer is admitting rebellion. Pack described today’s culture as a “no-fault culture” where no one wants to step up and admit when a mistake has been made. “Here is authentic leadership: when we as the shepherd of the church admit our rebellion first,” he said. No matter what has happened in a church in the past, no matter what mistakes have been made, “today, you are the shepherd,” Pack reminded pastors. “You are required to take ownership of whatever is there.” Admitting rebellion requires believers to make their prayers specific and get to the heart of the issue. “You have not genuinely repented if you are still blaming someone else,” Pack said.

Pack pointed out how in Daniel 9:5, Daniel admits that the people have ignored God’s commands. “At some point we must evaluate the consequences of not listening to God,” he said.

Sometimes God brings into the life of a believer people who can speak truth in love and who can help bring to light sin that has remained in the darkness. “Is it possible God has placed in your life personal prophets to speak truth in your life but you’ve ignored it?” Pack asked.

The third component of repentant prayer is change. “We have made ministry so much about ourselves we are no longer doing ministry for the sake of God,” Pack said. The prayers of the repentant will confess that and ask God to use ministry to make His name great among all people.

Ministry, in whatever capacity, is for God’s glory and for the salvation of those who are not in Christ Jesus. Ministry exists so that the eyes and hearts of believers will be opened to more fully know Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of their life.

“We can no longer continue in ministry as usual,” Pack said. “It’s going to take repentance, prayer and the power of almighty God.”

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(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)
3/14/2011 9:40:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Living water transforms hearts, lives

March 14 2011 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

GREESNBORO — When Mark Harris preached during the recent statewide evangelism conference he didn’t just talk about how God transforms lives — he brought a picture of the real thing.

Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, told the story of a Charlotte woman who got pregnant at age 18, suffered through a marriage marked by domestic violence that ended in divorce, and ended up leading the largest Internet-based prostitution ring in the country.

Sallie Saxon was eventually found guilty and charged with a two-year prison sentence. Her husband was also found guilty and sentenced to 21 months in prison. Though she faced prison, Sallie knew she was already free. She knew because one day, about a year before her sentencing, she prayed to receive Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior.

Sallie, 60, is now involved in ministry through First Baptist Church in Charlotte and in her community. She ministers to pregnant women in need and is a supporter of 40 Days for Life.

Harris didn’t tell the audience that sitting among them that night was Sallie Saxon. When he asked her and her husband to stand, they did so as a reminder that God’s grace and mercy are enough to forgive sin, heal broken hearts and forever change lives.

Harris’ message from John 4 told another story of redemption and salvation. Harris described Jesus as a sensitive Savior who planned to go through Samaria one day in order to meet a Samaritan woman who needed to know about living water.

The Samaritan woman Jesus met that day came to the well during a time when others would not be there. She did so because she was an outcast, someone not looked kindly upon by others in the town. Jesus was tired from His journey when He met the woman. Yet, “our Savior, no matter how tired He got, never let anything stop Him from meeting a person in need,” Harris said. “He was always seeking to minister.”

Harris challenged those in attendance to consider whether or not they are willing to be devoted to ministering to those who need Jesus Christ. When it comes to ministry, “there’s a price to be paid,” he said. Whether time, resources or reputation, believers must be willing to give it all for the sake of Christ.

“God expects that He can put people in your path so you can share the gospel,” Harris said. “You’ve got to be sensitive.”

The woman could not understand why Jesus, a Jew, would talk to a Samaritan, especially a Samaritan woman. Yet, Jesus overcame her national and racial prejudices when He took time to minister. When Jesus told the woman He could give her living water she was still thinking on a material level, as she did not understand who was speaking to her. Jesus had to explain to her that He is living water and that all those who trust in Him will never thirst again.

“People who try to quench their thirst with this world always get thirsty again,” Harris said. “The wells of this world never satisfy.” From prosperity to sexual gratification to filling the calendar with church activities, nothing will satisfy like the love of Christ.

Harris said believers must never lose sight of the fact that the greatest, deepest need of every person they meet is on the inside; they need Christ. “The people in your community aren’t just bodies,” he said. “They each have a soul. They will spend eternity somewhere. I fear tonight we’ve forgotten that.”

Jesus always cuts to the heart of the matter, Harris said. Jesus knew the Samaritan woman was living with a man who was not her husband. “He loved her enough to confront her with the truth,” Harris said. “No one can ever get a drink of living water until they face up to their sin.”

After her encounter with Jesus the Samaritan woman went and told others about Him, and through her testimony many in her town believed and worshipped Jesus. “Worship has never been nor will ever be about a place,” Harris said. “It’s always been about the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

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(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)
3/14/2011 9:35:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Do you see what Jesus sees?

March 14 2011 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

GREENSBORO — Studies show that more and more churches are on the decline or have reached a plateau. Yet, studies also show that most people will respond positively to an invitation to come to church.

Perhaps the problem, then, is that believers are not doing enough inviting. “Do we care enough to extend an invitation?” asked Phillip Davis, pastor of Nations Ford Community Church in Charlotte. “We are all responsible for gathering the harvest.”

Davis was one of the featured speakers for the Feb. 28-March 1 statewide evangelism conference at Friendly Avenue Baptist Church.

When believers get serious about seeing people come to know Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior they will, as Davis said, reach out to others and “become the evangelistic program” of the church. Davis said that only happens when believers begin to see people like Jesus saw people. Matthew 9:35-38 is just one example of a time when Jesus showed compassion for people.

He saw how they were “weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd.”

“Jesus did not just see a bunch of bodies,” Davis said. “He was moved with compassion; He was stirred at the deepest level.” Jesus saw all their worry, hurt and anger — He knew their hearts.

Davis challenged church leaders to ask themselves whether or not the church they serve is a place known for being compassionate. Care for others happens when the church takes time to get to know people and to really see who they are.

BSC photo by Mike Creswell

Pat Cronin, pastor of Friendly Avenue Baptist Church in Greensboro, talks to the crowd at the statewide evangelism conference. Friendly Avenue hosted the two-day event.


“What we notice about people reveals more about us than it does them,” Davis said. If all the church is known for is being critical and judgmental, that says more about how the church is abiding in Christ than it does about the ones being judged.

“What do you see when you see your family?” Davis asked. What do believers see when they see friends, neighbors and co-workers?

“Jesus didn’t just see an adulterous woman,” Davis said. “He looked at her need for forgiveness and love. Jesus saw people and He saw their needs.”

One reason believers may be slow to offer compassion instead of judgment is because they have forgotten what it was like to be lost. They have forgotten what it was like to live in darkness without the light of life that is Jesus Christ.

The question Davis asked that must be answered, but only with humble and repentant hearts, is: “When we see someone caught in the grip of sin does it disgust us or move us to compassion?”

Davis seemed to plead with those in attendance to never allow their hearts to grow cold to the gospel or to the Holy Spirit’s leading.

The scene in Matthew 9 is one that could just as easily describe communities throughout North Carolina and around the world: people needing direction; needing someone to heal physical sickness and spiritual sickness.

Davis asked leaders to consider what Jesus meant when He called the people sheep. Sheep are not very smart, they are not quick and “without a shepherd will wander aimlessly for days until they die.”

Without a personal relationship with Jesus, the Savior and Good Shepherd, people are just like sheep wandering through life without direction or meaning. Believers must care enough about the souls of human beings that they are obedient to sharing what it means to know the Shepherd.

“The longer we go without a shepherd the more empty life becomes,” Davis said. “Fulfillment is something you and I have now, because as Christians we know where we came from, why we are here and where we are going. Jesus gives protection and direction for life.”

In Matthew 9 Jesus instructed His disciples to pray for God to send workers into the harvest, for the harvest is abundant but the workers are few.

Davis reminded the audience that serving God and telling others about Him is a privilege. The church must step up and do what God has commanded the church to do.

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(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)
3/14/2011 9:27:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Chowan, BTSR merger talks off

March 14 2011 by wire services

After early reports from Associated Baptist Press (ABP), a North Carolina newspaper article announced March 10 that talks have ended about a possible merger of Baptist Theological Seminary (BTSR) in Richmond, Va., and Chowan University.

The Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald said the executive committee of Chowan’s board of trustees voted March 8 to discontinue discussions. ABP had reported March 1 that a merger with a university was one option under consideration by BTSR trustees to secure the seminary’s future.

“The big elephant in the room is money,” said Chris White, Chowan’s president. BTSR has $7 million in debt.

A blog by BTSR President Ron Crawford said that talk of a merger with a particular university was premature and that Chowan’s president overstated the seminary’s financial woes.

BTSR trustees will meet March 21-22. Before the announcement that the merger was off the table, it was expected that a formal announcement would be made at the BTSR trustee meeting. Then the decision would have been up to Chowan’s board which is slated to meet April 7.

“Last October our trustees looked hard at our business plan in light of our future,” Crawford said. “They asked a committee to study possibilities and make a recommendation at the March meeting of the full board of trustees.”

Crawford said those possibilities include “partnering” with other institutions, but added, “We’re still in the process of seeing what the best options are. It’s a little premature to say we have focused on one option and that’s the only one we’re looking at.”

BTSR receives significant funding from both the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Baptist General Association of Virginia. It’s not clear how or if a merger would affect those revenue streams. Currently, BTSR is one of only two theologically moderate seminaries not affiliated with a university. In 2008 BTSR downsized its faculty and staff by seven due to lack of funds.

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)
3/14/2011 9:21:00 AM by wire services | with 0 comments



N.C. Baptists respond to quake, tsunami

March 11 2011 by Susie Rain, Baptist Press

TOKYO — A massive earthquake hit northeast Japan March 11, triggering tsunamis throughout the region.

A massive wall of water swept away cars, ships and even buildings after the 8.8-magnitude earthquake. It struck about 250 miles from Tokyo.

Death and casualty tolls continue to rise as the nation begins to dig out amid a rash of aftershocks.

A spokesperson with the International Mission Board (IMB) in Asia confirmed that all personnel in Japan are accounted for and suffered no injuries.

 Within hours of the quake the Japan Baptist Convention contacted Rescue 24 to request disaster relief assistance. North Carolina Baptist Men is part of Rescue 24. A N.C. Baptist Men search and rescue team flew out of Raleigh March 11 to respond.

This team will be working with another from Hungarian Baptist Aid in initial assessment. N.C. Baptist Men expect to send a number of teams to help with relief efforts.

The tremor hit around 2:46 p.m. local time. Seismologists said it is the largest earthquake to hit Japan and the seventh largest to be recorded, according to the U.S. Geological Survey data.

Tsunami warnings have extended to the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, the Pacific coast of Russia and Hawaii.

Southern Baptist missionary Cornelia Walker was in her family’s 10th-floor apartment when the quake hit, buckling the road in front of her home.

“It was rather scary to be in the hallway, with hands against the walls while things fell in the dining area and kitchen,” Walker told Baptist Press. “We went downstairs to the yard with other folks and checked in with a few of the older people next door.

“Everyone was scared but OK,” she said. “Japanese children were walking home from school with their earthquake hats on, and there are still sirens going off outside.”

The quake rattled buildings and toppled cars off bridges and into waters underneath. Waves of debris flowed like lava across farmland, pushing boats, houses and trailers. All trains in the country have stopped, as well as all airports shut down.

In Tokyo, crowds gathered in the streets and tried to reach relatives via cell phone but towers were down.

International Mission Board personnel stayed in touch with families and friends via Internet.

Missionary Mark Bennett used Facebook posts to let people know his family was safe.

“The boys said their school had ‘cracks,’” Bennett said in one post. “The street in front of our house is buckled and tons of grey sand has filled the street. Utility poles down the street have fallen down but we still have water, electricity and Internet.”

This quake was the latest in a series in the region the same week. Early March 10, an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.3 struck off the coast of Japan’s Honshu island.

On March 9, a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck near the same island. As aftershocks continue to rock the nation and other countries in the area, missionary Lana Oue asks friends to pray for continued safety.

“There are still many strong aftershocks, so please continue to pray for safety,” Oue posted on Facebook. “Pray for our personnel and for the many Japanese people who have been affected.”

An IMB assessment team will also evaluate and determine what response might be facilitated through local Japanese churches.

Baptist Global Response, an international relief and development organization, told Baptist Press it has allocated $100,000 for an initial response and is in touch with partners in the region to assess immediate relief needs.

If disaster relief specialists are needed, Baptist Global Response will mobilize teams from the Baptist state conventions on call, said Jeff Palmer, executive director of BGR.

“We have notified our call-out states to be on standby,” Palmer said. If you would like to donate to the Japan Earthquake/Tsunami Fund, please make your check payable to N.C. Baptist Men, PO Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512. Designate on your check Japan Earthquake/Tsunami Fund.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Rain is a writer for the International Mission Board. Tess Rivers, also an IMB writer, contributed to this article. N.C. information was added from a N.C. Baptist Men e-mail.) 

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)
3/11/2011 3:17:00 PM by Susie Rain, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Meeting needs in Indy’s inner city

March 10 2011 by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press

INDIANAPOLIS — Robert Maul is a modern day version of the widow best known for her mite, whom Jesus described in Luke 21:1-4 as having “put in more than all of them. For all these people have put in gifts out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.”

A 62-year-old tall, slender African American, Robert foraged the sidewalks, curbs and streets of Indianapolis, pocketing lost coins — picking up a penny here, a nickel or dime there. His painstaking work, all on foot, would add up to a sacrificial $25 contribution to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions.

By the way, Robert was homeless.

Photo by Ted Wilcox

Robert Maul, a 62-year-old former drug addict, now is one of the most faithful members of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in downtown Indianapolis led by missionary Tom Polak. See video.


Poor in the pocketbook but not in spirit, Robert is a former heroin addict who liked to fight. He served five different sentences in an Indiana penitentiary. He slept under bridges and interstate overpasses. But through the ministry of missionary Tom Polak, who is jointly funded by the North American Mission Board and the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana, Robert was redeemed by the Lord.

Tom and Marla Polak are two of the 5,000-plus missionaries in the United States, Canada and their territories supported by the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions. “Robert came to a block party we had about a year ago,” Polak said. “He came, had his lunch, listened to music and, somewhere along the line, somebody witnessed to Robert and shared the gospel. He was saved that day, a Saturday. The next day, Robert was in our church service and he began to come every Sunday.

“He was baptized, and he’s been very faithful. Now, a year later, you see the growth in him. He’s very genuine, very sincere. He’s really been quite an encouragement to me to see what God can do in a person’s life,” Polak said.

In 1995, Tom and Marla Polak left a Kansas City ministry for Indianapolis, where Polak began serving as director of the Metro Baptist Center in the inner city and pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship.

“We are here helping people, ministering to people, praying, evangelizing and giving people a place to go,” Polak said. “We minister to the people who live in the downtown Indianapolis area, who are homeless, low-income people -– people who are struggling.”

Although 52-year-old Polak pastors an inner-city church where “we don’t have a lot,” he encourages new Christians like Robert to find a way to give.

“These are people who themselves are standing on the corners asking for money. These are people who are homeless. But I encourage them to give what they can to Annie Armstrong. I tell them the money is going to missionaries who are sharing the gospel around the country. I did that for about three weeks, leading up to the Sunday we took up the Annie offering.”

On that Sunday, Robert had a surprise for Polak.

Photo by Ted Wilcox

Tom and Marla Polak are North American Mission Board Week of Prayer missionaries based in Indianapolis, where Tom serves as director of Metro Baptist Center and pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship.


“Robert calls me over and he hands me this large cylinder and it has some weight to it. I asked him what it was, and he told me it was his offering. ‘I’ve been finding this money and have been dedicating it to the Lord,’ Robert told me. I thought of the woman with the two pennies who gave all she had,” Polak said. “That’s Robert.”

Polak said Christians don’t always meet the “Roberts” of the world.

“We may see them on the corner or may bump into them downtown, but do we see them as people who may have made mistakes, maybe have issues or problems? You know God loves these folks and has a plan for them, and He can use them in many ways.”

On a typical day, Metro Baptist Center runs a food and clothing pantry for the needy and offers job placement services and substance abuse assistance. Polak and his staff not only try to minister to a person’s physical needs — as important as they are –- but also to their spiritual needs.

“When a person comes in and they are in need and hurting, they see we’re here for them. They see a genuine concern in us. That makes them more open to hearing the gospel and for prayer. They’re more apt to open up and tell you where they’re coming from and what their real needs are.”

In addition to harvesting the “Roberts” for Christ, Polak also is encouraged by the mission groups, including seven last summer, who travel to Indianapolis from Southern Baptist churches around the United States using sports and construction ministries to reach lost people, especially youth.

“For instance, we had a wonderful adult and youth group from Collinsville, Okla., who came to do a weeklong sports camp in one of the low-income housing projects.”

Inner-city kids were coached in basketball, football, baseball and golf. More importantly, they heard about Christ.

Born and raised in Syracuse, N.Y., Polak earned a bachelor’s degree from Howard Payne University in Texas and a master of divinity degree from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo. Although he went to school and pastored in Texas and Missouri, he said he’s more comfortable in the north.

“I’m in a place where I feel God has called me. I have a great assurance that God wants me here for this time, and that’s a great feeling. I like using my talents and abilities on the things God has gifted me with so I’m able to put them into practice and help people.

“Indianapolis is a wonderful city,” Polak said. “It’s a clean city, an active city with many activities and things to do. The Christian organizations here work together well. We see tremendous needs of homelessness, mental illness and drug addiction. But we’re trying to address these issues. We have about 80 churches in central Indiana working together.”

Tom and Marla, a native of Topeka, Kan., an occupational therapist and a graduate of the University of Kansas, have five children: Hannah, Rachel, Caleb, Moriah and Joel.

(EDITOR’S NOAH — Noah writes for the North American Mission Board. The annual Week of Prayer for North American Missions in Southern Baptist churches is March 6-13 in conjunction with the 2011 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, with a goal of $70 million to help pay the salaries and ministry support of 5,000-plus missionaries serving in North America under the SBC’s North American Mission Board. For more information, go to www.anniearmstrong.com.)  

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)

3/10/2011 1:32:00 PM by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Executive Committee set for 2011

March 9 2011 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

CONOVER — The Executive Committee (EC) of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) met March 4 at Hollifield Leadership Center for a brief business meeting that included hearing committee and budget reports.

The meeting was the first regularly scheduled meeting for the newly elected 2011 EC. Serving on the EC this year are: Bobby Blanton, president, Board of Directors; Phil Qualls, vice president, Board of Directors; Ed Yount, president, BSC; Mark Harris, first vice president, BSC; C.J. Bordeaux, second vice president, BSC; Harvey Brown, chairman, Business Services Committee; Todd Marlow, chairman, Church Planting and Missions Development Committee; Jon Hall, chairman, Communications Committee; Scott Faw, chairman, Congregational Services Committee; Rit Varriale, chairman, Christian Higher Education; Randy White, chairman, Evangelization Committee; Jarrod Scott, chairman, Christian Life and Public Affairs Committee; Cameron McGill, chairman, Christian Social Services Committee; Randy Godwin, president, Associational Missions Conference; Dana Hall, president, N.C. Baptist Men (NCBM); Shannon Scott, chairman, Articles and Bylaws Committee; Stan Welch, chairman, Budget Committee; Michael Barrett, at-large; Mike Ivey, at-large; David Horner, at-large; Lee Pigg, at-large.

Bobby Blanton announced that he has appointed Shannon Scott (chairman), Kay Enloe, Dennis Harrell and Patrick Fuller as new members of the Articles and Bylaws Committee. In addition, Blanton has appointed Stan Welch (chairman) and Bill Grisham to the Budget Committee.

Reporting for the Christian Higher Education Committee, Rit Varriale said the Committee is exploring ways to continue working with the educational institutions affiliated with the BSC. During the Congregational Services report Lynn Sasser, executive leader, reported that Find it Here 2011: Embracing Christ is underway in churches across the state. He encouraged EC members to participate and to make a commitment to disciple-making this year. “Disciple-making is a serious issue that affects every area of ministry and missions,” he said.

Chuck Register, executive leader for Church Planting and Missions Development, reported that the BSC partnership with Moldova officially kicks off in March. BSC staff, as well as Allan Blume, pastor of Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Boone; Pam Blume, who has served on the International Mission Board (IMB) Board of Trustees and various BSC committees; Bobby Welch, past president of the Southern Baptist Convention and former pastor of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla; Bobbye Rankin, wife of former IMB president Jerry Rankin; and John Ewart, associate vice president of project development and director of doctor of ministry studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, will spend a week in Moldova leading in a pastor’s, women’s and youth conference.

The BSC hopes to send at least one team of North Carolina Baptists into each of the 33 districts in Moldova in order to help strengthen churches, assist believers in unreached areas of the country in planting multiplying churches, and share the gospel with those who have never heard.

Hall reported that NCBM volunteer teams have begun working in central Guatemala with the Quiche Baptist Association and are helping build a health clinic and community center. NCBM is also working in Honduras. The fourth volunteer team is now in Honduras and 21 teams are expected to go throughout the year.

Under new business, the EC approved a church loan of $50,000 for River City Church in Hamptonville. River City is a church plant that started about one year ago.

Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer, and John Butler, executive leader for Business Services, brought the financial report. They shared that Cooperative Program funds are $4,449,749.73, a total that is 5.77 percent ahead of last year at this time.

Hollifield reported that the BSC, like many other churches and organizations, has been under tremendous financial pressure the past few years. However, faithful giving from North Carolina Baptists has allowed the Convention to remain in the black.

Although the BSC has reduced its budget by about eight percent over the past three years, its Cooperative Program giving to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) increased 1.5 percent during that same time.  

Hollifield also shared that the SBC operates on a different fiscal year than the BSC. The SBC begins its fiscal year October 1, and the BSC begins its fiscal year January 1. When comparing receipts from October 1-February 28, 2009-2010 to that same time frame in 2010 and 2011, the BSCC increased its giving to the SBC by 2.99 percent.

“That came at a time when we were 13 percent under budget,” Hollifield said. “We have been increasing our Cooperative Program contributions at the rate of half a percent each year. This is helping get the gospel to the nations. If Cooperative Program receipts go up, we can give even more to the Southern Baptist Convention.”

The next Executive Committee meeting is April 14 in Cary. 

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)
3/9/2011 1:46:00 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Day of Prayer for Moldova: Sunday, March 13

March 9 2011 by BSC Communications

The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) begins its new Great Commission Partnership with the Baptist Union of Moldova in March.

The Baptist Union of Moldova is asking its partnering churches to participate in a day of prayer and fasting on Sunday, March 13, in preparation for the events of the following week. The focus of the day of prayer and fasting will be for God to prepare the hearts of the Moldovan people for revival and spiritual renewal.

North Carolina Baptist churches are encouraged to join with Moldovans March 13 in prayer and fasting as well. 

Moldova is a former communist country surrounded by Romania and Ukraine. The partnership is an opportunity for North Carolina Baptists to impact one of the unreached people groups in the world today. About 96.4 percent of the people in Moldova do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

“God has opened the door for the gospel of Jesus Christ to penetrate the lostness that is still so great in Moldova,” said Michael Sowers, senior consultant for Great Commission Partnerships.   

The launch of this partnership begins with a series of three Great Commission Partnership conferences March 16-19 in Moldova. These conferences will be for pastors and church leaders, women and youth. These events will take place in five venues in three cities across Moldova and will directly impact about 1,400 attendees and many more people indirectly in the years to come. 

The pastors’ and church leaders’ conference will focus on Revelation 3:8 in which Jesus reminds the church in Philadelphia that He has opened a door that no one can shut.

This timely conference for the nation of Moldova will be led by: Allan Blume, pastor of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church in Boone and chairman of the BSC Vision Fulfillment Committee; Bobby Welch, strategist for global evangelical relations for the Southern Baptist Convention; and John Ewart, associate vice president of project development and director of doctor of ministry studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The womens’ conference, which will serve as an encouragement and time of equipping for pastors’ and deacons’ wives, will be held in three locations throughout Moldova. The conferences will be led by Bobbye Rankin, wife of Jerry Rankin who is president emeritus of the International Mission Board (IMB) of the SBC; Pam Blume, who has served on the IMB Board of Trustees and various BSC committees; and Ashley Allen, director of Embrace women’s missions and ministries for the BSC.

John Miron, executive director of the Baptist Union of Moldova, shared that this is the first time that women in the Baptist Union have had a conference that will focus on their needs.

The youth conference will focus on the last command of Jesus and will serve as a challenge for students to go to the unengaged and unreached people groups of the world. Sowers and Chuck Register, executive leader for church planting and missions development at the BSC, will lead the youth conference Saturday, March 19. 

Students in Moldova have the opportunity to go to parts of the world where others have no access. It is the hope of the Baptist Union and the BSC that this conference will inspire a generation to take the name of Jesus to those who have not heard of His gospel.

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)
3/9/2011 1:43:00 PM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments



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