March 2012

God’s Plan for Sharing has new team leader

March 8 2012 by Joe Conway, Baptist Press

ALPHARETTA, Ga. – God’s Plan for Sharing (GPS), the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) national evangelism initiative, has a new team leader, Ken Ellis.
“Ken is a strong leader and I am excited about this new role for him,” said Kevin Ezell, the mission board’s president. “NAMB’s commitment to GPS has never been stronger. In fact, our 2013 Find It Here New Testament distribution will put an additional $2.5 million in resources behind the GPS effort.”

Ellis, a NAMB staff member for 13 years, has served with GPS since its inception. He replaces Thomas Hammond who is leaving NAMB to become vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee’s Convention Advancement office.

“I’m excited about the future of GPS,” Ellis said. “We had a great 2010 as Across North America was wonderfully received by our partners, and we are looking forward to Reaching Across North America this year.”

God’s Plan for Sharing (GPS), the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) national evangelism initiative, has a new team leader, Ken Ellis.

Ellis noted that state conventions, associations and churches have embraced GPS yet he hopes for even greater participation in the future.

“It was always our hope and desire that churches would not see GPS as just another event, but as a tool to use biblical principles to reach people with the Gospel.” Ellis said GPS “is about the things that Jesus is excited about. It is precisely because it is biblical that I see a future for GPS beyond 2020. We do what we do with GPS because it is in the Bible.

“I hope it will be a groundswell for people to get out of their comfort zones and tell someone about Jesus. I appreciate the opportunity to give leadership to GPS. I am thankful for the confidence of Kevin Ezell and Larry Wynn,” said Ellis.

“Ken will be great for the task,” said Larry Wynn, NAMB’s vice president for evangelism. “He understands GPS and has been there from the ground up – through the development and the process. He is very passionate about evangelism and is a great communicator. He is one of the most respected men in the field. Pastors and all of our partners have tremendous respect for Ken.”

Wynn said Ellis also will head up NAMB’s Crossover New Orleans efforts prior to the SBC in June.

Launched with pilot projects in 2009, GPS will culminate with Celebrating Across North America in 2020.

“We have a tremendous team here and we have great tools. I am thankful for the work of men like Thomas Hammond and Jerry Pipes and others who have provided leadership to GPS. I’m also grateful to be working with great partners in the states. They are providing excellent leadership,” Ellis said.

One key feature of the GPS initiative, Ellis noted, is its linear nature. Churches are not limited to the current emphasis. They may use any of the tools and apply what best suits their needs.

“It is never too late to get on board,” Ellis said. “If a church has not participated in GPS yet, they can use the tools to prayerwalk their community, put door hangers on homes and invite people to church on Easter. They can mobilize their deacons, their youth groups; organize to reach their community; and prayerwalk. Anyone can do that.

“GPS also dovetails with Send North America,” Ellis said. “There is no church planting without evangelism. Evangelism and church planting go hand in hand. Again, it is biblical. And it is exciting to think about churches reaching their communities with the gospel.”

Ellis began work with the former Home Mission Board as a church planter in Chicago in 1989 where he pastored First Baptist Church in Burnham. He joined the NAMB evangelism team in 1998. He previously served as a regional chaplaincy administrator for the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Ellis, from Winter Haven, Fla., holds master of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville and a bachelor of arts from Western Kentucky University.

He and his wife Penny have three daughters, Imani, Nailah and Aisha, and a son, Emmanuel. They are members of Peace Baptist Church in Decatur, Ga.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Conway is a writer with the North American Mission Board.)
3/8/2012 1:32:05 PM by Joe Conway, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Young Koreans face tension in transition

March 8 2012 by Tess Rivers, Baptist Press

SEOUL, South Korea – Seoul is a study in tensions between old and new.

Modern high-rise apartment and office buildings sit alongside ancient palaces and temples. Young Koreans with money to spend pack popular shopping districts. The elderly take their daily exercise amidst young families, cyclists and joggers along the banks of the Han River and in parks throughout the city.
At night the city skyline is dotted with the glow of red crosses atop Christian churches, dotted among trendy restaurants, nightclubs and karaoke bars that attract businessmen and university students until the early hours of the morning.

Photo by Tess Rivers

Although Seoul stands apart from other Asian megacities for its embrace of Christianity, tensions between old and young exist both in Korean society and in the church as the younger generation seeks greater involvement in many spheres of life.

Seoul is South Korea’s bulging center of politics, culture, finance, entertainment and religion. Nearly half the country’s population resides in Seoul, Incheon and Suwon – Seoul’s larger metropolitan area, which many consider the world’s second largest city.

Yet Seoul stands apart from other Asian megacities for the prominence of Christianity and its global influence on evangelical causes. In 2011 government statistics report nearly one in three South Koreans follow Christianity – nudging Buddhism from the lead it has held for centuries. It is one of the few cities in Asia considered “evangelized” by many mission organizations. More than 21,000 South Korean missionaries serve in 169 countries according to 2009 statistics from the Korea World Missions Association.
Meanwhile, Seoul churches are at the forefront in developing Christian programs, materials and leaders – and exporting them around the world, says Joseph Kim, lead pastor of Wonchon Baptist Church and headmaster of Central Christian Academy in Suwon.

“In the 1990s, most of the innovation in Christian ministry flowed from North America to Korea,” the 50-year-old son of Korean evangelist Billy Kim says. “But since 2005, Korean churches are developing songs, programming and innovations in the Korean language. Korean churches in North America are beginning to copy things that are happening in Seoul.”

Active participation
Tensions between the traditional and modern, however, are evident both within Seoul society and within the church. Young Koreans are looking for active rather than passive participation in government and worship – which Kim describes as a radically different concept from the hierarchical structure so important to traditional Korean culture.

“Young Koreans want to be involved,” Kim says. “They want to make a difference.”

Kim says this explains the social justice efforts increasingly prevalent in many Korean churches, with many congregations providing facilities for the homeless, the elderly and the disabled.

“This is a new movement of this young generation in participation,” Kim says, explaining that the distinction between “liberal” congregations focused on social ministries and “conservative” ones focused on preaching and teaching hardly exists in South Korea.

Photo by Tess Rivers

Older South Koreans are well-known for their passion for prayer, evangelism and missions. Persecution and poverty during the Japanese occupation and Korean War drove Korean Christians to their knees, explains Daniel Lee, emeritus pastor of the 30,000-member Global Mission Church in Suwon. The continued fear that it may happen again keeps them there.

“In Korea, even the conservative evangelical church is still very active in social work,” Kim says.

Abigail Shin, a 31-year-old visiting professor at Seoul National University, also sees evidence of the younger generation’s commitment to social issues, noting that a popular red-light district shut down a few months ago after decades in the city’s center. However, she remains concerned over a number of other issues facing her generation, including the drinking culture, marital unfaithfulness, dads who are never home and children under pressure to excel.

Such issues, Shin says, stem from a hierarchical culture built on unquestioning respect for authority – one that is often abused in the business world by “bosses who demand younger workers do the dirty work or serve them in certain ways.” While many young people “robotically” give respect to the older generation, some are rebelling against it, Shin says.

For young and old, Shin says, “I believe there needs to be education about mutual respect.”

Within the church, Shin believes many young people are turned off by the “in-your-face” evangelism of their elders.

“In Korea, it seems there is an all-or-nothing way of doing Christianity,” says Shin, who attends Jubilee Church in Gangnam, a suburb of Seoul.

Part of this stems from societal demands placed on young businessmen, Shin explains, noting that many men are rarely at home and are required as part of their job to visit bars and strip clubs after hours with co-workers and clients.

As Christians, these young men must make “radical decisions such as giving up their job or joining a seminary,” Shin says. “It is difficult to live in the world and not be part of it with all the pressures and expectations that come from society.”

Korean families are struggling, agrees 34-year-old Isaac Surh, fellowship and youth pastor at Onnuri English Ministry in Seoul. “Parents, especially fathers, are distant from their children, harsh and overly strict, causing children to overreact and rebel.”

Surh believes the answer lies in family ministries and church-sponsored pre-marital and marital counseling to help minimize the potential for family dysfunction. Surh applauds initiatives such as the “Fathers’ School,” an Onnuri ministry that teaches Korean men to be good husbands and fathers.

Kim likewise believes that Christian education is the next phase of Korea’s church growth and the key to nurturing an evangelistic vision among the young.

By planting Wonchon Baptist Church on the campus of Central Christian Academy, Kim as a pastor and educator merges church planting with Christian education. The church consists of 10 congregations with 200 to 300 members each, which meet on the school campus in a building designed much like a multiplex theater. Membership comes primarily from families associated with the school.

Although services at Wonchon aren’t polished, Kim says the structure brings families “closer to community.” Though radically different from the mega-church model dominating South Korea’s evangelical landscape, Kim believes the shift is essential to involve this generation and reach the next.

Mijung Kim, a student at Torch Trinity Graduate School of Theology in Seoul, agrees. The 35-year-old former life coach explains that Korean families are built on relationships, while the church structure separates families by age group, gender, ministerial roles and specific ministries.

“The basic infrastructure of the [Korean] church is not oriented for family ministries,” Mijung Kim says. “The time is right to shift toward family ministries. One local church can be the model.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tess Rivers is an International Mission Board writer in Southeast Asia. For more stories specific to Asia, visit Southern Baptists support mission outreach in South Korea and throughout the world by their giving to the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.)

3/8/2012 1:21:18 PM by Tess Rivers, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Lottie Moon film aims for theaters, DVD

March 7 2012 by Kelly Shrout, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Charlotte “Lottie” Moon left a privileged life in Virginia in the late 1800s to follow God’s call to war-torn China – and spent the rest of her life there.
“Lottie’s life and message needs to reach a new generation,” said Erich Bridges, screenwriter and a producer for “Heart of a Rebel,” a feature-length film in development about Moon, who spent 40 years in China teaching young girls and sharing the gospel.

“There are many young people today who are searching for purpose greater than themselves. They need role models, stories and heroes to look to,” said Bridges, a longtime global correspondent for the IMB (International Mission Board).

Photo by Kelly Shrout

“Heart of a Rebel,” a feature-length film about missionary Lottie Moon, is being developed by a five-member team of, from left: Chris Forbes, production representative; Erich Bridges, screenwriter; Keith Swezey, executive producer; Chris Haas, screenwriter; and Payton Dunham, production manager. The film will chronicle the life of the Southern Baptist missionary who spent 40 years in China teaching young girls and sharing the gospel. This year marks the centennial of Moon’s death on Dec. 24, 1912.

“Lottie is one of the great giants of mission history. Her story needs to be told.”
The namesake of Southern Baptists’ annual Christmas offering for international missions, Moon was among the first single women appointed by what was then the Foreign Mission Board (now IMB). This year marks the centennial of Moon’s death on Dec. 24, 1912.

Bridges began writing the film script about three years ago with Chris Haas, a New York-based writer and actor.

Last year they expanded the film team to include marketing specialist Chris Forbes, veteran film production manager Payton Dunham and Keith Swezey, president of Erin’s Hope Foundation, which has helped fund start-up work on the project. (A concept trailer is available at

“Viewers will witness a true historical drama,” Haas said, noting that depicting Moon’s life through film will help preserve her legacy. “She made a huge impact by cultivating evangelists, promoting education for girls and simply being an incarnational witness among the Chinese.”

Swezey, the film’s executive producer, said Lottie’s story will resonate with young people, especially Millennials, who comprise one of the most socially conscious generations in history.

“Young people will find a powerful voice and a kindred spirit in Lottie Moon,” Swezey said. “She battled for justice and freedom long before it was fashionable or even realistic for a single woman to do so.”

Moon earned an undergraduate degree and master’s degree, an educational feat for women living in the pre-Civil War South. She left a promising teaching career and declined a marriage proposal from a prominent Southern Baptist professor in order to plant her life in China.

“The more I learn about Lottie, the more I am amazed by her life and what she accomplished,” Bridges said. “Lottie was so far ahead of her time. She was a rebel. She had to overcome the odds to do what God was telling her to do.”

Moon, often described as the matriarch of Southern Baptist missions, wrestled with her calling and often fought against great loneliness.

“Lottie, like many missionaries, went through times of despair and depression,” Bridges said. “She seriously considered moving back to Virginia to marry the man she loved. She tangled with religious leaders both in America and in China because she always maintained her strong personality. She simply put her personality to the service of God. She was a brilliant, courageous, cultured woman who broke out of the missionary compound to share the Gospel in remote villages across North China.”

Dunham, the production manager, said parts of the movie might be filmed in Taiwan or Thailand as well as Virginia where she grew up. Special effects and sets also will be used to capture the aesthetics of Moon’s missionary work in rural villages.

“In Lottie I see a person who found that which was most important to them,” Dunham said. “She shot like an arrow to capture that purpose, and I don’t think she ever realized how her life’s work impacted people for eternity.”

Having exhausted all of her earthly resources to feed the poor, Moon died at age 72 on a boat bound for America. She left her mission post feeling like a failure, yet numerous churches and schools for young girls were created as a result of her ministry. Today, thousands of Christians in north China can trace their “spiritual ancestry” back to Moon’s decades of ministry.

“Viewers will see the Gospel in action,” said Forbes, the project’s production representative. “The film calls people to transform the world, and Lottie is proof that one person can make a difference.”

Heart of a Rebel will be produced by Lottie Moon Film, LLC, an independent production company, and funded entirely by private investors. In addition to the big screen, the film will be released on DVD for distribution to individuals, churches and other groups. More information is available at the website.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kelly Shrout is a writer based in Nashville, Tenn.)


3/7/2012 4:04:12 PM by Kelly Shrout, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Week of Prayer for North American Missions – March 4-11

March 7 2012 by Baptist Press

The North American Mission Board sets aside a specific week each year to highlight the work of its missionaries. This year, five missionaries representing thousands of missionaries serving throughout the United States, Canada, and their territories are spotlighted. The other three days focus on ways Southern Baptists are reaching the lost in North America.
N.C. Baptists are encouraged to pray for these ministries and missionaries March 4-11 or at other times and to promote the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, which helps support these efforts. This year’s national goal is $70 million.
The “Whatever It Takes” theme is based on Mark 2:1-5. “Whatever It Takes” means a willingness to engage the lost by starting conversations that lead them to Jesus. Once they decide to follow Christ, we connect them to a church for discipleship and growth – a church with people intent on doing whatever it takes to start more conversations, leading to new converts and more new churches.
Are you willing to do whatever it takes to reach North America with the gospel?
Day 1
Send North America
Church planting is at the core of the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) national strategy, Send North America. Believing that anything healthy reproduces, NAMB works with partners to plant healthy,  reproducing churches with evangelistic passion as part of the New Testament church planting movement among all people groups in the United States, U.S. territories and Canada. A new church in Boston grew out of a Russian Bible study as they began reaching people like Nelya, a medical student from the Ukraine who was recently baptized in the church. Nelya had a works-based idea of salvation. She shared what she thought the gospel meant as, “It’s when you try really hard to gain God’s approval.” When the church planting missionary shared the gospel, Nelya was transformed by the good news of grace found in Romans and now is a growing believer.

›› That Southern Baptist churches will mobilize to plant churches to reach all people.
›› For more individuals to answer the call to be a church planter.

Day 2
Shaun and Deshni Pillay, Connecticut
Shaun is a church planter and pastor of Cornerstone International Church in Norwich. The church ministers to a large international population, reaching about 14 nationalities. Norwich also has a large homeless community. The church works closely with a downtown soup kitchen, meeting physical needs and directing people to Christ. David, a carpet cleaner, was seeking a church and a new life. He attended the launch service of Cornerstone International Church, where he gave his life to Christ. After two years of discipling, mentoring, and active involvement in the church, David was ordained as its first deacon. Because Shaun was willing to invest his time and share Christ’s love with David, a former drug user and dealer, David’s life has changed and he is impacting his city with the gospel.
›› For Shaun and Deshni as they seek out opportunities to share Christ with the many nationalities in Norwich.
›› For Cornerstone International Church as it reaches and disciples people wherever they are – under bridges, in the soup kitchen, or on the streets.

Day 3
Jason and Kimberley McGibbon, Canada
Jason is a church planter working to start a new church in Hamilton, a downtown, urban/arts community near Toronto. This new church will be a third-generation church start of The Sanctuary Church and The Sanctuary Church Milton. Recovering from surgery for a brain tumor, Liam, Jason and Kimberley’s son, shared God’s words of comfort from Mark 8 with his surgeon who was visibly upset after sharing that a second surgery would be needed. The story of Jesus’ healing of the blind man was a reminder that God always has a plan. The McGibbons’ trust in God forged a relationship with the surgeon and many others in the Hamilton area, which God used to open their hearts to the possibility of starting a new church.
›› For Jason and Kimberley as they seek people of peace with whom to begin discipleship.
›› For a new church to begin that will grow leaders for a multiplying network of groups.

Day 4
Josh and Tiffany Lenon, Ohio
As a church planter and pastor of Red Door Church, Josh is leading his church to “spend their lives bringing heaven to earth.” By encouraging members to share the gospel with unbelieving friends, restore homes in broken neighborhoods, and take care of poorer neighbors, Red Door Church is doing whatever it takes to bring people to Christ.Three sisters, all under the age of 25, found themselves alone with a house that needed significant repair and a mortgage they were unable to pay. Their dad had left the family when they were very young. Later, they experienced their mom’s tragic and unexpected death. Volunteers from Red Door Church descended on the house to make repairs, and a connection was formed that is having eternal impact. One of the sisters finally understood and saw God in action. With the help of two Red Door Church members, she is learning what it means to follow Christ.
›› For the community group leaders who are key leaders within Red Door Church to help shepherd and lead.
›› For Josh and Tiffany to remain focused on Jesus and the mission of bringing heaven to earth, and that more churches will take hold of the idea.

Day 5
Derek and Sharla Osburn, New Mexico
Derek is a church planter and pastor of The Vine Community Church in Clovis, a rural community with a large population of Air Force personnel. As hundreds of military families move into the Clovis community every couple of months, The Vine Community Church seeks new ways to reach them using the Internet. The church’s web presence has enabled many military families to connect and learn about the church even before they move to the area. Men serving overseas use the Vine’s podcasts to lead Bible studies with groups of other military personnel.
›› That The Vine Community Church will be seen as a place where sharing the gospel is priority and where people are welcomed no matter where they have been in life.
›› For Derek and Sharla to model a Christian marriage and to be a strong witness for Christ within the community.

Day 6
Daniel and Karina Egipciaco, Florida

Daniel is a national church planting missionary working with and training church planters in South Florida, seeking opportunities to start new groups and churches. Sal’s life was in shambles. His marriage was falling apart and he was on the brink of returning to a lifestyle that included dealing drugs. Then he met Daniel, who shared the gospel and invited him to Relevant Church in Miami, a new church plant reaching second-generation Hispanics. There, Sal found healing and restoration with God and with his family. Thanks to Daniel’s willingness to share the gospel, Sal and his family are happily serving Christ within the church.

›› For Daniel and other church planters as they seek partnerships and opportunities to start new churches.
›› For more church planters to answer God’s call to start new churches in South Florida, where 82 percent of the population is lost.
Day 7
Equipping the Next Generation
Each year NAMB facilitates the placement of more than 1,000 summer, semester, and US/C2 missionaries who work alongside missionaries and church planters. These short-term experiences are a training lab for future career missionaries, church planters and on-mission Christians. These young adults are learning by doing, cultivating their personal passions and skills, and seeing lives changed by Christ.
›› For more individuals to answer God’s call to serve in short-term missions experiences.
›› That short-term missionaries will have godly vision to see the needs of their field of ministry and to develop methods of reaching people for Christ.
Day 8
‘Love Loud’
Ministry evangelism missionaries love loud through service in a variety of ministry roles such as community, literacy, resort, seafarer, sports evangelism and pregnancy care. Through meeting needs and taking the gospel to people where they are, missionaries are seeing transformation in their communities. They infuse ministry evangelism in the church planting process and know that making disciples of Christ means an investment in people’s lives, which is a critical element in helping a church to grow and be healthy.
›› For Southern Baptist missionaries to be compassionate and sensitive to the needs of others so they can share the good news of Jesus Christ with all people.
›› For doors to be open for new church plants and individuals as they minister to hurting communities.

Related story
Parents' worst nightmare becomes call to missions
3/7/2012 3:44:25 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Parents’ worst nightmare becomes call to missions

March 7 2012 by Adam Miller, North American Mission Board

If Liam McGibbon had been tumor-free, you might not be reading about his parents this week. They probably would have never made it to Hamilton, Ontario, and certainly not as miraculously.
For one, Jason and Kimberley McGibbon didn’t really imagine themselves as church planters. At least that’s what they’ll tell you. And two, they weren’t looking to leave their life in Milton, a suburb of Toronto where Jason served as worship leader at The Sanctuary Church Milton, and move to the other side of Lake Ontario.
Jason and Kimberley McGibbon are one of five missionaries featured during the Week of Prayer for North American Missions, March 4-11, 2012, and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® emphasis. The offering helps support McGibbon and other missionaries like him who are serving on behalf of Southern Baptists in North America. With a goal of $70 million, this year’s offering theme is “Whatever It Takes.”

Photo by Ted Wilcox

Shoppers look on as Jason McGibbon (playing guitar), wife Kimberley and Mike Harvey (on the fiddle) sing, play and share the gospel in Hamilton, an urban/arts community popular locally for its restaurants and shopping near Toronto.

Their story began three years ago in a pediatrician’s office. Little eight-year-old Liam was complaining of headaches. Migraines run in the family, and so they assumed the best. When Kimberley heard it was much more serious, a parent’s worst nightmare materialized before her eyes.
“I remember when I found out about Liam and I thought ‘I can’t breathe’ and the room got very cold,” says Kimberley.
A tumor was growing in the middle of Liam’s brain.
The next week Jason, Kimberley and Liam were in Hamilton, meeting with neurosurgeons at MacKids, the pediatric division of McMaster University Hospital. This couldn’t be happening. But it was.
Two surgeries and several weeks passed. As Liam, now 11, recovered, God opened Jason and Kimberley’s eyes to the needs of those around them and shifted their hearts. Looking around the waiting room, the couple could see a desperate loneliness across other parents’ faces.
“As we waited, we saw people sitting there by themselves in the hardest times of their lives. We wondered how they made it through,” says Jason. “We heard so many stories from other parents whose lives were rocked by illness. They had no real hope outside of medicine and science.”
Jason and Kimberley couldn’t get away from the idea of true community, which they had experienced with church members praying for them, visiting with them, practically camping out at the hospital with them.
And then there were these parents in Hamilton who had no Christian presence, no church family to walk with them during their own difficult journey. To leave the area without a gospel presence seemed out of the question.
“I’d been to Hamilton before. I’d pass through it when I was at graduate school,” says Jason. “But I’d never really thought much about it.”
Anchored there for weeks, the McGibbons learned of a city full of beauty, diversity, creativity but with no true spiritual direction. Hamilton is a Toronto-area city on the west side of Lake Ontario. More than 500,000 people live there. More than 100,000 are immigrants. Only 3 percent of the Greater Toronto Area population is evangelical.
The McGibbons chose to live in a section of Hamilton frequented by artists and musicians, just the type of people Jason, a musician, wants to reach. So they moved. But first they prayed.
“Once we found our neighborhood and found every street in that neighborhood, we signed people up from our church to prayerwalk every street in our neighborhood,” Jason said.
Jason and Kimberley are planting The Hamilton Fellowships, a plant of The Sanctuary Church Milton, which is a church plant of The Sanctuary Church Oakville. In the early days, planting in Hamilton has centered on building relationships with neighbors and with people on the street, inviting people over for meals and Bible study. The McGibbons launched their first house fellowship in September 2011. Their vision is to start several fellowships throughout Hamilton.
“When I sit down and think about it, I can become very intimidated,” says Jason. “I’m a pretty normal, average guy and to be quite honest when I see some of the church planter kind of stuff, I don’t see myself as fitting that mold all that often. But one of the things we know is that God has called us to do this. We just know God is there and God works. Even when you seem like you’re up against the biggest, thickest, brick wall, it’s then that you see God work.”

Related story
Week of Prayer for North American Missions – March 4-11
3/7/2012 3:22:53 PM by Adam Miller, North American Mission Board | with 0 comments

Central Asia water project is saving lives

March 7 2012 by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press

CENTRAL ASIA – In remote areas of Central Asia, access to clean water is a matter of life and death, especially for children. One humanitarian project supported by Southern Baptists in that region is making steady progress against the deadly scourge of impure water.

Worldwide, an estimated 4,500 children die each day – about one every 20 seconds – from illnesses related to impure water, primarily diarrhea, diphtheria, hepatitis and cholera, according to the United Nations. Those who survive suffer from poor health and missed opportunities for education.

In the 2012 portion of an ongoing project, as many as 15,000 people will be protected from water-borne diseases in a Baptist-sponsored demonstration of God’s love as 30 new water wells are installed and several broken pumps are repaired on existing wells.

A humanitarian project supported by Southern Baptists in Central Asia is saving lives by providing access to pure water – as well as providing a demonstration of God’s love. Worldwide, an estimated 4,500 children die each day – about one every 20 seconds – from illnesses related to impure water. In the 2012 portion of this well drilling project, as many as 15,000 people will be protected from water-borne diseases as 30 new water wells are installed and several broken pumps are repaired on existing wells.

“Only about 12 percent of the people in this area have access to a clean water source,” said Francis Horton, who with his wife Angie directs work in Central and South Asia for Baptist Global Response (BGR), an international relief and development organization. “If a family can’t afford a deep well, they are dependent on community wells or water systems, which may not work or may be salty. Water is one of the basic needs for life, and the majority of people in this country do not have access to clean water.”

The humanitarian group partnering with BGR in that area of Central Asia has good experience in these communities and is working with the local government and other humanitarian organizations that have drilled wells in the area, Horton said. Communities receiving wells contribute by hosting the drilling crews and preparing the well site. Each community also takes responsibility for the ongoing maintenance and repair of the well and pump.

While the cost of installing or repairing the wells comes to about $10 per person, the long-term benefits of the resulting relationships cannot be calculated, Horton said.

“In one community where a new well began providing clean water, community development workers were able to start an animal husbandry project. In another community, the well project was followed with a latrine project,” Horton noted. “Workers have been able to drink many cups of tea and share meals in the homes of community leaders. We were able to help with a medical need, a young boy who had eye problems. Relationships of trust are being built and through these relationships, transformation of communities can come.

“Well drilling is messy work, and as our partners labor alongside their crew members, community residents have an opportunity to see their character and understand this well is a demonstration of Christ’s love for them,” Horton added. “We do this because God is, in the words of the prophet Jeremiah, ‘the fountain of living water’ and we want people to experience the river of living water Jesus offers to everyone.”

Community residents respond to the demonstration of Jesus’ love with praise that God had answered their prayers for clean water and affirmations the Lord had been gracious in sending the drilling teams, Horton said.

“We are able to present life-saving gifts like this to these communities because Southern Baptists are a people who care about people in need,” Horton said. “When these families celebrate the pure water pouring from a new pump, Southern Baptists can celebrate too, because their gifts will make a life-changing difference for generations.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Kelly writes for Baptist Global Response.)
3/7/2012 3:15:21 PM by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

N.C. Baptist Men responds to tornado damage, needs volunteers

March 6 2012 by BR Staff

Following the tornadoes that struck over the weekend in several states, – including North Carolina – N.C. Baptist Men’s Disaster Relief Ministry has responded to damage in the central and western part of the state and sent volunteers to eastern Kentucky.
On March 2 tornadoes claimed the lives of at least 39 people in multiple states. There were 21 deaths reported in Kentucky, 13 in Indiana, three in Ohio and one in both Alabama and Georgia. In some areas of the country, entire communities were wiped away. 
N.C. volunteers needed
N.C. Baptist Men sent a team leader Sunday to assess damage in Kentucky and assist the Kentucky Baptist Convention with relief efforts. A team is now working there in an area bordering Martin and Johnson counties. About 40 to 50 homes were reported damaged in that area. Volunteers are still needed to help with clearing debris and placing tarps on damaged roofs.
Efforts in Kentucky could continue for about two weeks before assessing future work in the area, said Gaylon Moss, who directs disaster relief and volunteerism for N.C. Baptist Men. 
Teams also have been working in the Charlotte area and in Cherokee County in the Western corner of N.C.
In Cherokee County, where teams have been since Saturday, they have helped with about 30 projects. In the area, about 10 homes were heavily damaged and five were destroyed.
Working alongside volunteers from First Baptist Church in Murphy, N.C. Baptist Men has provided 2,500 meals to those in need. About 150 volunteers assisted with the effort. Teams plan to work in the area through Thursday. 
For more information on how you can volunteer, contact Gaylon Moss at or at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5605. Or, find out more here.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Baptist Press contributed information to this story.)
3/6/2012 4:18:10 PM by BR Staff | with 0 comments

Ind. church shelters 200 for Henryville tornado; relief work under way

March 6 2012 by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press

HENRYVILLE, Ind. (BP) – Pastor Toby Jenkins and 200 others were hunkered down in the basement of First Baptist Church in Henryville about 3 p.m. last Friday, March 2, when an EF-4 tornado barreled down the main street of the small Indiana town of 6,000.
Jenkins and the 200 survived, as did the church, although most of its windows were blown out by the 175 mph winds. Houses on either side of the church were destroyed. Half of Henryville – the birthplace of Kentucky Fried Chicken’s Col. Sanders – gone.
“It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my life,” Jenkins said, “and I’m from Mississippi and went through Katrina.” Jenkins had briefly left the basement just prior to the tornado and saw the black funnel cloud coming toward him and the church.
“I ran back to the church, got our people down in the basement and it hit with full force.” Jenkins said while no church members were killed, two deacons lost their homes.

Photo by Cade Campbell.

This is all that remains of the home of Willie and Carol Stoffregen in Henryville, Ind., following last Friday's EF-4 tornado. Both Willie, a deacon at First Baptist Church in Henryville, and his wife Carol survived.

In all, the deadly tornadoes killed at least 39 people across five states – 21 in Kentucky, 13 in Indiana, three in Ohio and one each in Alabama and Georgia. Three separate EF-3 tornadoes tore through 46 of Kentucky’s 120 counties, injuring 300.
The Southern Baptist Disaster Relief incident command center has been deployed at Bethel Baptist Church in Memphis, Ind., about four miles south of Henryville. The command center arrived Monday morning (March 5) after a 412-mile trip from Alpharetta, Ga.
John Rogers, disaster relief coordinator for the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana, said ongoing assessment would speed up in Henryville on Monday following permission from Homeland Security to enter the most severely damaged areas.
“Our chaplains are also arriving and beginning to minister to the victims in Henryville,” Rogers said. “Our top priority is to tarp damaged roofs and board up windows on the houses that survived the tornadoes. We will also have a need for chainsaw crews.” Rogers said Indiana Baptist DR teams expect to handle the situation without help from other state conventions.
Rogers and Jenkins said First Baptist in Henryville is overflowing with donated food items and clothing to the point where the church is running out of storage room.
“While we appreciate these donations, we really have enough at this time,” Rogers said. “What we need instead are monetary donations that can be used to help people get back on their feet. If a person’s home is in rubble, they really don’t have anywhere to store the clothing.”
In hard-hit West Liberty, Ky., Southern Baptist Disaster Relief recovery and feeding teams – ready to prepare 5,000 meals a day – are mobilized. Baptist volunteer deployments in Kentucky also include recovery and shower/laundry units and chaplains in Crittendon, recovery units and chaplains in London and assessors and chainsaw teams in Enterprise, reported Coy Webb, state DR director for the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
Prior to the Friday afternoon tornadoes, some 60 Illinois Baptist DR volunteers were already on the scene doing chainsaw work in the Harrisburg, Ky., area, where a tornado struck last Wednesday (Feb. 29).
Assessment teams also were responding in Branson, Mo., where a tornado also hit last Wednesday, damaging many of the theaters in the tourist town, and in Alabama, Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mickey Noah writes for the North American Mission Board. For regular updates about Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, visit to subscribe. Donations to SBDR are fully tax deductible and 100 percent of all gifts are used to meet the needs of hurting people in the wake of disasters. Donations can be made through state Baptist conventions; online at; by phone, 1-866-407-6262; or by mail. Checks should be made payable to “North American Mission Board” and sent to Disaster Relief Fund, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543.)
3/6/2012 4:08:36 PM by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Winter Jam tour moves thousands to Christ

March 6 2012 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) – At a recent Winter Jam concert, a girl approached evangelist Nick Hall in response to the message he had just delivered and held out her fist. She wanted to give him a necklace she had been wearing for three years. Attached to the necklace was a razor blade.
The girl had been cutting herself, and she wore the necklace as a daily reminder of how worthless she felt. But she grasped God’s love for the first time as she listened to Hall’s message from 1 John 1 about walking in the light.
“She asked me if I’d take the necklace because she didn’t want to see herself the way the world saw her anymore but she wanted to see herself the way that God sees her,” Hall told Baptist Press.
Winter Jam, in its 17th year, is Christian music’s largest annual tour, combining 10 popular artists and a speaker each night in major venues across the United States.
Last year Winter Jam outpaced attendance for all other tours in the first quarter, including Bon Jovi, U2, Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber, according to Pollstar’s 2011 Worldwide First Quarter Ticket Sales “Top 100 Tours” chart.

Ministry is at the heart of Winter Jam, and instead of selling tickets in advance, people pay $10 at the door, making it more accessible for families, individuals and groups of all sizes.
“A lady told me the other day she was on a spiritual Winter Jam high like when she was younger and would come back from camp in the summers,” Eddie Carswell of the group Newsong, Winter Jam’s founder, told Baptist Press.
“She wanted to talk to everybody about the Lord, and she went to another tour location a few weeks later, bringing her friends so they could see it. There’s nothing like being there,” Carswell said, adding that 21,000 people had turned out for the event in Greensboro, N.C., recently. “Sometimes we’ll get there and people will be camping out in tents, waiting to be first in line.”
This is the first year Hall, founder of Pulse, a young evangelistic movement, has been the speaker for the tour, and he has been struck by the numbers of students attending the events who are coping with major problems.
“I think so many students are hurting and depressed and into varying forms of self-mutilation,” Hall said. “They feel inward pain maybe from abuse they’ve experienced, and they’re externally trying to manifest that through cutting or burning or anorexia or whatever. It’s some real heavy stuff.”
In addition to the girl who gave up her razor blade necklace, Hall has had a student give him a bullet to symbolize handing his struggle over to God, and a middle-aged woman gave him a bottle of prescription painkillers because she wanted to gain freedom from her addiction.
“My message is basically about light and dark. We know that we’re created for light, we know we’re created for more, but a lot of times as young people we face the pressures of the world – peer pressure to drink or do drugs or peer pressure to mess around in relationships or look a certain way or act a certain way,” Hall said. “There’s a lot of hurt that comes in and a lot of confusion.
“There’s a lot of depression, a lot of spiritual questioning and identity issues of ‘Who am I?’ and ‘How do I find my contentment?’“ he said.
“For me, I was a church kid growing up but as a teenager I certainly experienced all the peer pressure that these kids are experiencing. It wasn’t that long ago for me,” Hall said. “I remember having those questions and wrestling through them, seeing friends that went the wrong way and ultimately destroyed a lot of things in their lives.”
After bands play some of Christian radio’s most popular songs, Hall explains from the stage that only Jesus can offer a way out of darkness and can help people walk in the light.
“It’s a call for those who don’t know Him to respond to Jesus, to confess whatever’s wrong and get right, to give their lives to Him. But it’s also a call for those that have been church people that have been kind of living a double life,” Hall said. “It’s a call for them to recommit themselves to this message, not just living in the light but also reflecting that light to others, which is such a huge part of being a follower of Jesus.”
More than 80,000 people have responded to Christ in some way since this year’s Winter Jam tour began in January.
“Last week a youth pastor emailed me and said several of his students responded to the gospel at Winter Jam and then since Winter Jam he’s seen seven more students come to know Christ as a result of the fire that was lit in the group,” Hall said.
In addition to the life-changing impact of Winter Jam, Carswell said it’s a good opportunity to hear an array of Christian artists in one night.
“What I love about it is you may come to it because you hear of a certain artist that’s going to be there, but you hear them all and usually leave liking others as well,” Carswell said. “You may come to hear Newsong or Building 429 or one of these bands that you like their song on the radio and realize you like a lot of the bands and want to get their CDs too.”
Though the audiences are mostly young, Carswell said people of all ages benefit from Winter Jam.
“It’s a great way to find out more about Christian music, and the whole night has always been based around a gospel invitation. It’s a great night to bring friends, a neighbor or anybody you want to hear the gospel presented very clearly,” Carswell said.
Bands on tour for Winter Jam this year are Newsong, Skillet, Sanctus Real, Peter Furler, Kari Jobe, Building 429, Group 1 Crew, Dara Maclean, For King and Country and We As Human.
More than a dozen shows are still on the calendar before the tour wraps up in April, and stops include Nashville, Tenn., Dallas and Indianapolis. A fall tour is planned for the West Coast.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press. For more information about Winter Jam, visit
3/6/2012 3:59:26 PM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Gay issues threaten domestic violence act

March 6 2012 by Mark Norton, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON (BP) – Enacted into law as landmark legislation, the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 has received bipartisan support every time it has needed reauthorization, but not this year.
A 10-8 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee produced division along party lines over the act – known as VAWA – and its protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights; undocumented immigrants; and Native American authority.
 “There are provisions in the bill before us that have never been part of VAWA before. They’re not consensus items,” Sen. Charles Grassley, R.-Iowa, the panel’s lead Republican, said in a press release before the vote.
Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land and two dozen other conservative leaders urged the Judiciary Committee to reject the bill.
They said in a Feb. 1 letter VAWA would harm the family while maintaining programs that are ineffective. They acknowledged the “very real problem of violence against women and children” but said VAWA “encourages the demise of the family as a means to eliminate violence.” The signers also said the latest version of VAWA would add expensive programs, including one that would have the effect of re-educating “school children into domestic violence ideology.”
The letter quoted Angela Moore Parmley, a Department of Justice official who wrote in 2004, “We have no evidence to date that VAWA has led to a decrease in the overall levels of violence against women.”
Other signers of the letter included Penny Nance, president of Concerned Woman for America; Tom McClusky, senior vice president of Family Research Council; Phyllis Schlafly, chairman of Eagle Forum, and Mathew Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel.
Opponents disagree with parts of VAWA, not with the intent of VAWA. “If all S. 1925 did was reauthorize the valuable programs that VAWA authorizes, I’d be an original cosponsor,” Grassley said.
VAWA would extend the power of Native American tribes “over all persons” in the special circumstance of domestic violence, allowing them to open and operate rape crisis centers with grant money from the measure.
For undocumented immigrants, visas would be extended to those who are victims of domestic violence if they meet all the requirements in the bill.
The bill would make grants available to programs that serve those in the LGBT community who are victims of domestic violence. It also prohibits discrimination in funding based on gender.
VAWA – enacted in 1994 and reauthorized in 2000 and 2005 – has produced a domestic violence hotline (two million calls a year) and new federal and state laws (660) to improve help for victims and punish perpetrators.
The law has many defenders.
VAWA has changed the definition of domestic violence, stalking and the prosecution of these crimes, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
“Domestic violence in America is down 50 percent since the passage of the Violence Against Women Act,” Vice President Joe Biden said in September. He originally drafted VAWA in 1994.
Stats show that “nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 75 men in the U.S. have been raped at some time in their lives,” and a majority of the victims knew the perpetrator, according to a 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence survey done by the Centers for Disease Control.
VAWA’s co-sponsors are Sen. Patrick Leahy, D.-Vt., and Sen. Michael Crapo, R.-Idaho. Leahy is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Esta Solar, president of Futures Without Violence, said, “We are grateful to Leahy and Crapo for introducing this important piece of legislation that has set the standard for our national response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.”
The legislation will need 60 votes to pass in the full Senate. Even if VAWA is not reauthorized, it will still be funded, Grassley said.
The Senate Judiciary Committee vote was Feb. 16
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Norton is an intern with the Washington bureau of Baptist Press.)
3/6/2012 3:47:41 PM by Mark Norton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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