March 2013

Mali Christians aid displaced countrymen

March 21 2013 by William Bagsby, Baptist Press

BAMAKO, Mali – Throughout the conflict in Mali, Christians in the south have embraced their fleeing northern countrymen with compassion and helped provide basic necessities.

As their funds run dry, international Christian workers in Mali are coming together with Baptist Global Response (BGR), a Southern Baptist international relief and development organization, to continue to meet their needs.

Last year several rebellious factions, including Islamic extremists, took over the northern part of Mali. As they pushed from town to town, northerners were forced to escape south to save their families. There are now over 260,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Mali, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. An estimated 170,000 more are registered as refugees in neighboring countries.

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This month Baptist Global Response began partnering with southern Malian Christians to help provide displaced northern Malians with food and support for housing and school fees.

More than 400 Christians arrived in Mali’s capital, Bamako, with what they could carry in a simple sack and the clothes on their back.

“The Christian community in Bamako rallied together and, despite many missionaries being called to return to their sending countries or choosing to evacuate temporarily, the Malian believers began collecting offerings to support their brothers and sisters from the north,” said Debra Fields*, an American Christian living in Mali.

“One [IDP] explained that they didn’t really know what to expect,” Fields said. “There were cultural and language barriers with these believers from the south but their common bond was Jesus. Local believers brought clothes, food and money to the [IDPs], and they were visited and comforted by their new brothers and sisters.”

The provisions were made possible, Fields said, because a local evangelical association spread the word, church by church, and a committee was formed to set up a fund to help with the crisis.

“The initial fund that was put together was quite substantial, but now, 10 months into the crisis, the funds are practically finished,” Fields said.

Recently she and some colleagues visited a group of IDPs to hear their stories and share gifts of rice and oil.

“It was then I found out that their daily stipend of $1 a day had been slashed to 50 cents a day per person,” she said. “This was to provide for their food, clothing and supplies such as soap and health care supplies. The need had now reached emergency levels with no help in sight.”

Fields and Jerry Samples*, a Southern Baptist worker in West Africa, decided to meet with the IDPs to discuss relief needs.

“In the initial meeting that [Fields] and I had with two pastors representing the [IDPs], we were impressed with their honest presentation of their needs; their upbeat attitude despite obvious difficulties they were facing; the way they received a small personal gift from [Fields] for the work; and their thankful spirit that we had even talked to them,” Samples said.

Fields explained that “though much of the north has been liberated, basic services such as police, schools and government offices have not been reopened. It is not a stable or safe environment to return to as of yet. With the local funds used up and stress levels rising, [we] in partnership with BGR [Baptist Global Response] will be bringing food, support for housing and school fees to these internally displaced persons.

“... The project is just now launching, but the initial response from the leadership was a feeling overwhelmed with gratitude,” Fields said. “One leader said that the timing was providential that, with their support fund finished and the stress level so high, this act of love was sent from God.”

The United Nations indicates the needs in Mali will continue for quite some time. Humanitarian activities in the north are restricted because of ongoing violence and military operations and the threat of mines and other explosive remnants of war.

Fields asked for prayer for the believers to have wisdom to know when to return to their homes.

“One leader said he was in a safe place, nice by Malian standards, but still he felt like he was in prison because he was far from the comfort of his own home,” she said. “He longed to return to Gao, a difficult place to live and serve, but that was where God had called him to live and work.

“Pray also for reconciliation with the believers who fled and their communities,” Fields said. “Their possessions left behind were stolen and sold, their libraries burned and their worship places desecrated.”

Samples challenged Southern Baptists to consider how they can assist Mali’s IDPs and refugees.

Baptist relief funds are “in short supply and the needs are enormous,” he said. The figures concerning IDPs change constantly. Hundreds of thousands in countries bordering Mali are wondering when they can/should return and what they will find when they do. They will need help.

“Will Baptists respond on their knees in prayer, be willing to take risks and come as volunteers ... and sacrifice financially to BGR so that we can intervene and help?”

*Name changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – William Bagsby is an IMB writer based in Europe. Resources for the Malian IDP assistance are provided by the World Hunger Fund. Donations can be made at http://world_hunger_fund. To inquire about other ways of helping displaced Malians, visit Baptist Global Response.)
3/21/2013 3:33:09 PM by William Bagsby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Huss’ legacy fading among Czechs, but climate improving

March 21 2013 by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press

PRAGUE, Czech Republic – He was burned at the stake by the church, quoting Psalms as the flames engulfed his body. 

And he lit a fire in the church that still burns today. It started in his country and spread outward.

But as people mill about his imposing memorial statue today in Prague’s Old Town Square, many of them have no idea who John Huss is.

Huss is part of a “great legacy of faith” in the Czech Republic, said Mark Edworthy, a Southern Baptist regional leader based in Prague. “The country annually celebrates the martyrdom days of John Huss and King Wenceslas, from the Christmas carol.”

IMB photo
A statue of John Huss stands in Prague’s Old Town Square. Huss was burned at the stake in 1415 because of his devotion to Jesus Christ and the scriptures. The other figures immortalized on the monument represent the 27 evangelical leaders executed on that spot in 1621 after the Battle of White Mountain, in which a largely Protestant Czech army was crushed by the combined forces of the Catholic Holy Roman Empire, the German Catholic League and others.

Both were killed for their faith, Edworthy said.

“But when I ask Czechs who these men were and how or why they were killed, I get blank stares or general answers like, ‘I think he was a priest or king or someone,’” he said.

A priest Huss was – at least until he was stripped of his priestly garb piece by piece on the way to the stake. 

He became a priest not for noble or spiritual reasons but simply to escape poverty. 

He died stripped of his priesthood because of his devotion to Jesus Christ and the scriptures. 

Thanks to the writings of John Wycliffe, Huss went from a complacent comfort-seeker to a man clinging to truth, “desiring to hold, believe and assert whatever is contained in [the Bible] as long as I have breath in me.”
Czechs rallied around the scriptures with Huss, simply wanting to put the Bible at the center as he did. But it soon became a political issue, and before long Huss’ ideas pitted him against the pope and the king, who were rolling in the wealth of indulgences paid to the church.

Huss was burned at the stake in 1415, his ashes thrown in a lake. But that wasn’t the end of his influence on the church. His people were furious and stuck to their guns. They faced three military attacks over the next few years and, even after compromising with the Catholic Church, continued to influence change.

A century later, Martin Luther dusted off a book of sermons and found a new hero in Huss, his ideas and his commitment.

The Reformation was born.

But many Czechs neither know nor care about it, Edworthy said.

“Evangelicals comprise far less than 1 percent of the population, so Huss’ spiritual legacy is not very strong. As stated, most Czechs don’t really know his story or that he was an inspiration to Luther 100 years later,” he said.

And even if they do know his story, the “tragic paradox” is that they remember him not for his faith but for the deeds his faith energized, said Preston Pearce, a Southern Baptist representative who serves with his wife Karen in Prague. They think of him as “a revolutionary against established power,” he said.

A Hussite church still exists in Prague, but “unfortunately it is quite dead,” Karen Pearce said. “This is a sad legacy to the man.”

The story of the other figures immortalized on the Huss monument in Prague is telling also, Preston Pearce said. He explained that they represent the 27 evangelical leaders executed on that spot in 1621 after the Battle of White Mountain, in which a largely Protestant Czech army was crushed by the combined forces of the Catholic Holy Roman Empire, the German Catholic League and others.

After that, “the evangelical movement suffered greatly and most either recanted, fled or were killed,” Pearce said. “In my opinion, this forced re-catholicization is the reason for Czechs’ entrenched atheism today.”

Edworthy said Czechs “often know of a general Catholic heritage, but the very brutal wars between Catholics and Protestants following the Reformation have tainted the role of religion.”

Religion was watered down even more by communism’s 40 years of propaganda, he said, so the biggest challenge now is their indifference.

“They are not strongly committed to their position of atheism but are generally uninterested in an evangelical position,” Edworthy said.

They are biblically and spiritually illiterate, he said – a tragic reality after Huss’ sacrifice to defend the authority and centrality of scripture in one’s relationship with God.

“They rarely can make distinctions between Catholics and evangelicals,” Edworthy said. “They also have the postmodern orientation where truth can be relative. They could easily say about someone’s faith, ‘That is really nice for him,’ but see no disconnect with their own faithless walk.”

But Karen Pearce said Christian workers in Prague are starting to see a marked difference in the openness of Czechs to the gospel.

“Czechs are not actively searching for spiritual truth per se right now – they are very secular and self-satisfied,” she said. “However, we ... have seen a definite change in the past three to five years as far as openness. We can see much evidence that the spiritual climate is changing slowly but surely through the persistent prayer, witness and faithfulness on the part of God’s people who labor in this country.”

They are seeing Czechs get saved and baptized “somewhat regularly,” she said, noting that it used to be “virtually unheard of.”

“We praise God for that,” Karen Pearce said.

And most Baptist churches in the Czech Republic – as well as Protestant and evangelical churches in general – exercise and appreciate the freedoms Huss championed, said Keith Jones, rector of International Baptist Theological Seminary in Prague.

“Czech Baptists certainly feel a strong affinity with John Huss and his proto-reformation – communion of both kinds, use of the vernacular in worship, the sense of a believing community not suffocated by heavy, clerical leadership,” Jones said. 

They see Huss as a “distant father figure,” he said. “Many Czech free, Protestant, believing church groups ... use the chalice as a symbol on their buildings and in their logos, harkening back to the Wycliffe/Hussite era.”

But Czech Baptists don’t have any direct connection to Huss, said Milan Kern, president of the Czech Baptist Union.

“The Baptist church in the Czech Republic doesn’t have any link with the Hussite church and doesn’t feel influenced by John Huss,” Kern said.

But, he said, Huss is “a symbol for many Czechs as a man who dared to criticize publicly evil things in the Roman Catholic Church,” for example, the immorality of priests. “In his braveness, he is an example for Baptists,” Kern said. 

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Grace Thornton is assistant editor of The Alabama Baptist, newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention, where this story first appeared. Some historical facts were compiled from Christianity Today.)

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Czechs ‘are searching’ for truth, worker says

3/21/2013 3:15:56 PM by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Czechs ‘are searching’ for truth, worker says

March 21 2013 by Kate Ryan, Baptist Press

PLZEN, Czech Republic – Larry and Melissa Lewis stood in Plzen’s town square and watched the woman walk right toward them. Just as they thought she might speak, she brushed past to take hold of the iron gate. 

She reached out, paused briefly at a row of golden angels and turned to walk away. The angel she had touched had no face, worn down from years of being touched by passersby.

The Lewises, who serve as Christian workers in the Czech Republic, said they see this all the time, and it’s a sign that Eastern Europe is a lot more open to spiritual things than most people think.

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A passerby pauses to touch a worn-down angel on the iron gate of a church in Plzen, Czech Republic. For centuries, Czechs – though largely self-proclaimed atheists – have touched statues to offer up wishes or prayers.

“Legend has it that in 1500 the executioner was not allowed into the church,” Larry Lewis said. “His unholiness kept him out of the building, but he could stand in the front and pray. Each Sunday he would come and kneel by the fence.” 

When the executioner finished praying, he would pull himself up by grabbing the angel knob. Because of that gesture, whatever he touched was considered lucky, Larry Lewis said. Citizens of the town began to come to touch the angel and make a wish.

Melissa Lewis said it’s a telling tradition.

“I sat at the square yesterday waiting for a friend and watched a never-ending stream of people who stopped to touch the angel and make a wish or [say] a prayer,” she said. “It really made me realize that in a country that claims to be atheistic, there are a lot of people who are searching.”

And, she said, they do not know what an atheist is. When they touch, they pray to something or someone, but it’s hard to know much about what they are thinking, she said.

“Czechs embody a heritage of detached emotions. They have emotion but do not show it. Even with family members, they keep it inside,” Melissa Lewis said. 

The Lewises attribute this behavior to a history filled with religious persecution and war. The Czechs have continually been conquered and oppressed, they said. 

“Czechs are coming from ground zero. They do not know about Adam and Eve,” Melissa Lewis said. “As a whole they do not believe in God and they are afraid to talk about what they believe.” 

A woman once told Melissa Lewis, “I don’t believe God exists, but I pray to him. Do you think that makes him mad?” 

“It is a contradiction,” Melissa Lewis said of the woman’s tradition.

Larry Lewis said the attitudes stem from communism. “Under communism, you were looked down on if you attended church,” he said. “All important things were taken away, so they held on to the peripheral.”

Czechs need a Savior, but they reach out to superstition, he said. 

And it doesn’t just happen in Plzen. In Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, a constant line of people waits to touch a famous statue on the Charles Bridge.

When actions become ritual, Melissa Lewis said, it’s hard to get them to change. 

“Breaking with past traditions is no easy task,” she said. “Explaining the folly of such customs is even harder. Statue rubbing is a part of who they are. This custom is imbedded in their hearts.”

She said the life of her friend Milena* showed her just how much that tradition can linger.

“Milena came to faith and was baptized in May, yet she still has a tendency to go back to the angel,” Melissa Lewis said. “She has a true understanding of who God is. She knows He died for her.” 

But Milena has a lingering belief that touching the angel is the same as praying to the Father, Melissa Lewis said. “My prayer is that Milena and the Czech people would learn they do not have to touch an angel. They can reach out to God from anywhere and know He is there.”

Larry and Melissa Lewis said they have been trying to peel away the layers of false belief as they share that Jesus is a real deity who can hear, see and know them intimately. They tell Czechs that no matter how many times you call on Jesus’ name, it will not be erased over time like the angel’s head.

Czechs have responded and come to faith because of the Lewises’ witness. They ask for prayer as they seek to etch the story of Jesus on the hearts and minds of the people of the Czech Republic.

*Name changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kate Ryan is a writer for the International Mission Board in Europe.)

Related story

Huss’ legacy fading among Czechs, but climate improving

3/21/2013 3:03:23 PM by Kate Ryan, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Three N.C. Baptist colleges get service honor

March 20 2013 by Press releases

Three Baptist-affiliated colleges in North Carolina are among recipients of a national service honor.
Campbell University in Buies Creek, Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs and Mars Hill College in Mars Hill were recently announced as recipients of the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. The list annually recognizes institutions of higher education across the nation for their commitment to and achievement in community service, and it raises the public’s awareness of the contributions that colleges and their students make to their local communities and the nation.

Contributed photo
In August, Mars Hill students participated in its annual Day of Caring by harvesting cabbage at Fields of Hope in Mars Hill. This is one of several ways that the college seeks to create a culture of service.

Nationwide, a total of 690 higher education institutions were named to the 2013 honor roll. Of this number, 113 institutions earned the recognition of Honor Roll with Distinction, including five N.C. institutions: North Carolina Central University, Durham; North Carolina State University, Raleigh; The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill; The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro; and Warren Wilson College, Swannanoa.
Joining the three Baptist colleges was 20 N.C. colleges: Cabarrus College of Health Sciences, Concord; Central Piedmont Community College, Charlotte; Charlotte School of Law, Charlotte; Davidson College, Davidson; Duke University, Durham; East Carolina University, Greenville; Elizabeth City State University, Elizabeth City; Elon University, Elon; Guilford College, Greensboro; Johnson & Wales University, Charlotte; Johnson C. Smith University, Charlotte; Lenoir-Rhyne University, Hickory; Mid-Atlantic Christian University, Elizabeth City; Pfeiffer University, Misenheimer; Queens University of Charlotte; The University of North Carolina at Charlotte; The University of North Carolina at Pembroke; University of North Carolina Wilmington; Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem; and Western Carolina University, Cullowhee
3/20/2013 2:37:52 PM by Press releases | with 0 comments

TV’s ‘The Bible’ again finishes No. 1 for night

March 20 2013 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – History Channel’s “The Bible” miniseries climbed back into the top slot in its third week Sunday (March 17), finishing No. 1 for the night among all broadcast and cable programs thanks to an increase in viewership.

The episode drew 10.9 million viewers, better than its previous week of 10.8 million. It bested AMC’s “Walking Dead” (10.8 million) and CBS’ “60 Minutes” (10.2 million).

The series was No. 1 among broadcast and cable shows in its first week but dropped to No. 3 in its second week.

Unlike most History Channel documentaries – which generally cast a skeptical eye on the truthfulness of Scripture – the five-part, 10-hour miniseries has placed the Bible in a more positive light. The final two episodes will be broadcast over the next two weeks, wrapping up on Easter Sunday.

Two professing Christians, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, are the executive producers.

Downey told the radio program “For Faith & Family” that the “intention of making this series was to glorify God.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press.)
3/20/2013 2:24:00 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

GuideStone garners another Lipper award

March 20 2013 by Roy Hayhurst, Baptist Press

DALLAS – For the second year in a row, GuideStone Financial Resources has been recognized in the Lipper Fund Awards, with the MyDestination 2025 Fund being named Best Fund Over Three Years among Mixed-Asset Target 2025 Funds.

The Southern Baptist entity’s MyDestination Funds was the nation’s first Christian-based socially screened date target fund when it was launched in August 2006.

Jeff Tjornehoj, head of Lipper Americas Research, one of the financial world’s leading fund research and analysis organizations, said the Lipper awards “honor those funds that excelled at producing superior risk-adjusted returns for their investors. For that, we are pleased to recognize GuideStone’s MyDestination 2025 Fund as the top Mixed-Asset Target 2025 Fund over the past three years.”

The MyDestination 2025 Fund was ranked No. 1 among 92 similar funds for its performance over the three years ending Nov. 30, 2012.

Earlier in 2012, the entire GuideStone Funds family was ranked No. 1 out of 182 eligible fund families with up to $40 billion in assets, receiving Lipper’s Best Overall Small Fund Group in the U.S. over the three-year period ending Nov. 30, 2011, for fund groups with at least three equity, three bond and three mixed-asset classes. GuideStone Funds was the first Christian-based socially screened fund family to win the premier Lipper honor.

The MyDestination Funds provide a simpler approach to retirement planning. Investors choose the fund that corresponds closest to their retirement date. Each MyDestination Fund is a “fund-of-funds” with a diversified asset allocation that automatically becomes more conservative as investors move to, and through, retirement. In addition to the MyDestination 2025 Fund, GuideStone Funds offers MyDestination Funds with target dates of 2005, 2015, 2035, 2045 and 2055.

GuideStone Funds has achieved its recognitions through its sophisticated proprietary manager-of-managers investment platform that leverages what GuideStone believes to be the best possible intellectual capital worldwide. The 27 funds in the GuideStone Fund group are managed by more than 20 professionals dedicated to its investment process and committed to GuideStone’s biblically based, social screening guidelines.

“The Lipper Award recognizes a standard of excellence that we pursue daily,” said O.S. Hawkins, GuideStone’s president. “… [W]e have a vision statement, which reads: ‘GuideStone Financial Resources exists to honor the Lord by being a lifelong partner with our participants in enhancing their financial security.’ The Lipper Award, we believe, gives evidence to our commitment.”

GuideStone Funds was honored during an awards reception and dinner sponsored by The Wall Street Journal and Thomson-Reuters on March 14 in New York City.

“We have said many times in the past that people often think that they have to compromise their biblical integrity for investment performance,” said Roddy Cummins, vice president and chief investment officer of GuideStone Funds. “We believe we continue to dispel that myth, which is evidenced by this most recent Lipper accolade.”

Lipper, a Thomson Reuters company, provides independent insight on global collective investments, including mutual funds, retirement funds, hedge funds, fund fees and expenses to the asset management community and to the media. Lipper reports on more than 122,000 funds in 61 registered for sale universes. It provides the free Lipper Leader ratings for mutual funds registered for sale in over 30 countries.

GuideStone Funds are available to Southern Baptist and evangelical Christian churches and ministry organizations that GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention is authorized to serve. In addition, the funds are sold to individuals associated with those organizations that are eligible to utilize products and services made available by GuideStone Financial Resources. For more information, visit

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roy Hayhurst is senior manager of editorial services at GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
3/20/2013 2:14:27 PM by Roy Hayhurst, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

As crisis worsens, 4 million in Syria need humanitarian relief

March 20 2013 by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press

AMMAN, Jordan – Conditions for civilians in Syria have deteriorated so badly that Southern Baptist humanitarian leaders have decided they must expand relief efforts inside the country.

At the same time, relief workers in neighboring countries have seen a “staggering escalation” of refugees streaming out of Syria – and the international community is delivering only a fraction of the aid they promised when the crisis began nearly two years ago.

“After nearly two years of violence, over 4 million people are in need of assistance,” said Jeff Palmer, executive director of Baptist Global Response (BGR). “The number of refugees from Syria is approaching 1 million, with 80 percent of those being women and children. IDPs (internally displaced persons) in Syria are now approaching 3 million.”

After nearly two years of violence in Syria, more than 4 million people need assistance. The vast majority of the nearly 1 million Syrian refugees are women and children.

The United Nations refugee agency said March 14 that more than 121,000 refugees registered in just one week, a jump of more than 10 percent. Just a week earlier, the U.N. announced the number of registered refugees had reached 1 million – an average of 8,000 a day in February.

“This represents a staggering escalation,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said, according to news reports.

“Host fatigue” in surrounding countries where refugees have fled is combining with dwindling resources inside the country to fuel an alarming situation, Palmer added.

“In Syria, food is in short supply, as well as basic necessities, such as medicines and fuel,” Palmer said. “A field partner recently made a trip into the affected areas and witnessed heartbreaking scenes of human suffering and darkness. In one area, a package of seven pieces of pita bread, a staple food, was selling for US $4. In another area, one liter of fuel was going for $10 – the equivalent of about $40 per gallon.”

While the bulk of Southern Baptist relief work with Syrians has been conducted in surrounding countries, now additional efforts will be added inside the country, Palmer said.

“We have had four project sites, with three being outside the country and one inside,” he said. “Now, because of the deepening crisis in the country, we feel compelled to mobilize more resources through trusted partners inside Syria, while still supporting work in the refugee areas in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.”

During the past 18 months, Southern Baptists have expended nearly $300,000 in Syrian refugee relief, with most of that providing food, shelter and cold-weather needs. With the crisis intensifying, Palmer said he expects as much as $400,000 will be needed over the next few months, with $250,000 being directed toward relief efforts inside Syria. Those initiatives will focus on staple foods, medicine and hygiene supplies, shelter, heaters and oil, clothing, blankets, mattresses, carpets and opportunities to help families start micro-businesses.

Work inside Syria will be dangerous and BGR does not at this time project using many volunteers in the country. There is, however, “a growing potential” for volunteers working with Syrian refugees in Jordan, Palmer said.

Even with all the turmoil and suffering in the region, one positive note can be seen, Palmer added.

“In the midst of the crisis, we are seeing a widespread seeking of God. People without hope are turning to God for hope,” Palmer said. “One businessman, who is now living in a hovel, told a BGR partner that he gave thanks for the crisis, because if it weren’t for what was happening, he would have never thought about God.”

Palmer urged people to pray for relief workers and partners helping with the response and, especially, for the Syrians who are suffering. “It is a very complex situation. No one knows who to trust,” Palmer said. “They just know their families need help in these desperate times.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Kelly writes for Baptist Global Response. Donations for human needs efforts like in Syria may be made at under the “Give” tab.)


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3/20/2013 2:01:22 PM by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

China: 336 million abortions in barely 4 decades

March 20 2013 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – China has aborted 336 million unborn children, many of them forcibly, during slightly more than four decades, the government has announced.
The staggering number of abortions should prompt mourning for the victims, but it should not be shocking, said pro-life observers of China’s policy, because the Communist government has enforced a coercive, “one-child” policy for more than 30 years.

On March 14, the Chinese Health Ministry reported the following statistics for its family planning practices since 1971, according to the Financial Times:
  • 336 million abortions performed;
  • 196 sterilizations conducted;
  • 403 million intrauterine devices inserted.
China, the world’s most populous country, first instituted limits on population growth in 1971. It established its “one-child,” population control program in 1979. The policy has resulted not only in many reports of authorities carrying out forced abortions and sterilizations, but there also have been accounts of infanticide.

The 336 million abortions surpass the current United States population of about 315 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It also dwarfs the number of abortions reported in this country during the last 40 years. Since abortion was legalized for any reason throughout pregnancy in 1973, there have been an estimated 55 million of the lethal procedures in the United States, which has a population about one–fourth that of China.

The abortion total should not be unexpected, said Reggie Littlejohn, an opponent of China’s “one-child” policy.

“Devastating though they are, such numbers do not come as a surprise,” said Littlejohn, president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers (WRWF). She described 336 million as “a realistic approximation,” since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) disclosed in 2009 there are 13 million abortions a year in the country.

“One statistic the CCP never discloses is how many of these abortions were forced,” Littlejohn said in a written statement provided to Baptist Press. “Of these 336 million abortions, how many women were dragged out of their homes, strapped to tables and forced to abort babies that they want, up to the ninth month of pregnancy? How many women died as a result of these violent procedures? And of these 336 million abortions, how many were selectively aborted because they were girls?”

She said, “Another statistic the CCP never discloses is how many of the 196 million sterilizations were forced? ... Forced sterilization is a crime against humanity.”

Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, uncovered the forced–abortion practices of the “one–child” policy in 1980, while he was a Stanford University doctoral student in China.

“Having witnessed some of the 330 million abortions that the Chinese Communist Party has admitted performing on China’s women, I can attest to the fact that most of those abortions have the character of a rape,” Mosher told BP in a written statement. “That is, they were performed on women who were ordered, or even physically forced, to submit to the knife.”

“We should mourn not only for the hundreds of millions of unborn victims of China’s misguided policy, but also for the women themselves whose bodies were violated, whose minds were scarred, and whose hearts were broken,” he said. “It is no accident that China’s women have the highest suicide rate in the world, not to mention the highest rates of breast cancer, all in consequence of having had their babies killed in utero by a state ruthlessly bent on population control.”

More than 70 studies have shown a link between abortion and an increased risk of breast cancer, according to the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer.

Littlejohn said China’s overwhelming abortion statistics “boggle the mind and mask the hundreds of millions of individual broken lives caused by this brutal policy. ... Forced abortion and involuntary sterilization are violence against women. ... China will not be free until the women of China are free.”

She urged new Chinese President Xi Jinping to halt “this state-sponsored crime against humanity.”

The Chinese government announced March 10 it was merging the National Population and Family Planning Commission, which oversees the “one-child” policy, with the Health Ministry, according to Xinhua News Agency.

The “one-child” policy has resulted in many reported deaths of female babies by abortion and infanticide because of the Chinese preference for sons, as well as a dramatic gender imbalance.

China’s “one-child” program generally limits couples in urban areas to one child and those in rural areas to two, if the first is a girl. Parents in cities may have second babies if the husband and wife are both only children. Couples who violate the policy face the possibility of not only forced abortions or sterilizations but of large fines, job loss and imprisonment.

The intrauterine device, or IUD, is a contraceptive that can cause an abortion by blocking the implantation of a days-old, human embryo.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
3/20/2013 1:48:58 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Spiritual Town Hall’ focuses on prayer, unity, citizenship

March 19 2013 by BR Staff

Christians were called to action March 12 during a nationwide simulcast at First Baptist Church of Charlotte.

First Baptist and North Greenville University in Travelers Rest, S.C., joined forces to present the event, “Awaken: America’s Spiritual Town Hall.” It featured a panel discussion and individual messages on prayer, unity and “Christian citizenship.” Speakers included Mark Harris, Alex McFarland, Ken Hemphill and Tony Beam. North Greenville University’s Joyful Sound also performed.
The decline of church baptisms, the rise in college students who leave the church and the 80 percent of churches that are declining or plateaued are all signs “we live in tragic times,” said Harris, pastor of First Baptist and president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. It has been more than 100 years since the last great nationwide movement of God, he added.
“For there to be a real spiritual awakening in this nation, we must awaken to the reality of the world around us … a culture that has become desensitized.”
Christians must follow Jesus’ example and stand up for what they believe. Jesus approached people in love, Harris added, but He “never ever sacrificed Truth.”
“We have a place at the market place of ideas,” he said. “… I really believe that when we demonstrate a love for people and stand on Truth in that love … that’s when we begin to see real genuine conversion.”
According to a study by The Barna Group, Harris said, only 51 percent of our nation’s pastors hold a “biblical worldview.” He read six questions from that study. The questions included: Do you believe in the accuracy of the Bible? Do you believe in the sinless nature of Jesus? Do you believe in the literal existence of the devil? Do you believe in the omnipotent and omniscience of God? Do you believe in salvation by grace alone? Do you believe in the personal responsibility to evangelize?

 “It burdens my heart, no it breaks my heart, to report … that of America’s pastors, those six simple questions that should have been answered ‘yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes,’ only 51 percent of the people in the pulpits of this country said they bought in to those six things,” he said.
“We as the people of God must come back to the foundation of our nation, the foundation that said the reliance will not be in our programs,” he said. “It will be in the movement of the Spirit of God and in Him alone.”
“Desperate prayer” is crucial to a spiritual awakening, added Ken Hemphill, director of the Center for Church Planting and Revitalization at North Greenville University. “It’s not just Ok, we’re going to open the meeting with prayer. It [needs to] become … a saturation point of your church.”
Churches must also “speak with one voice,” Hemphill said.
“We have a powerful testimony to a lost world,” he said. “Particularly [with] the issues of the day, the social issues that are defining, and in some ways undermining, our culture.”
During a question and answer time, one man asked how discipleship and relationship should play a role in improving today’s churches. 
“Bring people into your home,” Hemphill said. “People are more open to the gospel than we are prepared to share the gospel. … We’ve got to learn how to build relationships with lost people again.”
“[Discipleship] … doesn’t happen by osmosis, but it does need to happen in the natural walking together of two people … as they share from their experience,” added Tony Beam, vice president for Student Services and director of the Christian Worldview Center at North Greenville.
“They walk together and that lifetime of experience gets poured into another person,” added Beam, who hosts a Christian radio program. “I like to think about it as one person pouring themself out, pouring their knowledge, their love of God, their understanding of the scripture … into another person and that’s a good way for discipleship to take place.”
Christians – especially today’s college students – in the United States also need to know their country was founded upon biblical principles, said Alex McFarland, director for the Center for Apologetics and Christian Worldview at North Greenville.
“Seventy-two percent of people raised in church go away to college and then walk away from the faith,” said McFarland, who has authored numerous books related to apologetics and has been a guest contributor on Fox News.
“Now when I speak on university campuses I’m told the Founding Fathers were atheists [and] secularists. False!” he said. “Fisher Ames who wrote the First Amendment said … the primary text book in public schools should be the Bible.  I think it’s interesting today that the secular humanists leading America today seem to know more about the First Amendment’s application than the men that wrote the First Amendment.”
He added, “My friends, we will lose America on our watch if we don’t pray and don’t stand up and lovingly … say to our citizens, our neighbors, ‘We love America but we love God.’ … Hollywood can outspend us, the media can shout more loudly, but we who are Christians have Jesus and His promise.”
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3/19/2013 2:42:48 PM by BR Staff | with 0 comments

NAMB spends day thanking Southern Baptists

March 19 2013 by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press

ALPHARETTA, Ga. – With many Southern Baptist churches focusing on North American missions during the month of March, North American Mission Board (NAMB) staff made nearly 8,000 personal contacts with Southern Baptists to express appreciation for continued partnership.

All of NAMB’s Alpharetta staff spent March 12 making phone calls, writing letters and note cards and sending personal emails to Southern Baptists. Throughout the day staff members expressed appreciation to churches for their partnership through giving through the Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and their efforts to reach their communities with the gospel.

Regional NAMB staff also participated in the effort from their various locations.

Photo by Susan Whitley
North American Mission Board staff in Alpharetta, Ga., contacted partners across the United States and Canada to say thanks March 12. Staff connected with approximately 8,000 churches through phone calls, emails, letters and note cards.

“We are so grateful for our pastors and churches,” NAMB President Kevin Ezell said. “This was a great chance to personally thank a lot of them and to let them know we are here to serve.”

Darlene McDaniel called the day “one of the best I have had in my 13 years at NAMB.” A highlight, she said, was her conversation with Alabama pastor Larry Inman.

“We have pastors in our churches who are just waiting for someone to call and tell them, ‘We know what you’re doing, and we appreciate what you’re doing.’ Pastors don’t get that for the most part,” McDaniel said.

Inman spoke of his church’s growing enthusiasm for reaching the international community of Huntsville, Ala. The enthusiasm had led two years ago to the church changing its name to All Nations Church. McDaniel told the pastor about NAMB staff members whose roles are centered on helping churches reach international communities. She also mentioned tracks at NAMB’s upcoming Send North America Conference in Dallas for those interested in reaching ethnic groups.

“You don’t know how happy it makes me feel that NAMB is on board with what we’re doing,” Inman told McDaniel.

Of the 8,000 contacts, NAMB staff had conversations with more 1,300 church leaders. Many had the opportunity to pray for those they called as well.

NAMB videographer Scott Blair spoke to a church that has been through recent struggles and dwindling membership. Blair prayed with the person he called and let her know about NAMB’s church revitalization ministry.

Many NAMB staff members expressed the desire to have another similar opportunity at a later date.

“As I thanked the people I talked with, many thanked me as well for what I’m doing,” said Matt Smith, a senior accountant at NAMB. “It was great to hear that from them and to hear the partnership between us, knowing they’re out on the front lines and we’re supporting them and they’re supporting us.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.)
3/19/2013 2:31:06 PM by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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