May 2009

Legend promises ‘precious’ gift to tribe

May 20 2009 by Don Graham, Baptist Press

PACIFIC RIM — No one knows when the legend began. But generations of the Sayang* people have waited for its promise to be fulfilled.

For more than five centuries they have eked out their existence on a remote South Pacific island — virtually cut off from the outside world. Here, the Sayang have survived as farmers, growing crops on rocky soil nearly too poor to farm. Rain has been the only source of fresh water. They’ve had no electricity or phone service, not even a doctor.

IMB photo

A boy rests on the porch of a standard Sayang* home in the village of Yang Juah. Wooden stilts keep the structure dry, while large, open-air eaves provide cooling in the jungle's heat and humidity.

Twice government troops have tried to force the village of 10,000 to relocate — once at gunpoint. But the Sayang refuse to leave because they are bound by the legend’s promise — the arrival of a foreigner bearing a precious gift.

In 1967 a German tourist stumbled upon their village. He was the first foreign visitor in the history of Yang Jauh.* He left behind his signature and photograph but nothing more. Then in 1986 a Japanese scientist came. She, too, left only her signature and photograph. Nearly 20 years would pass before Yang Jauh village saw another outsider — Southern Baptist worker Michael Martin.*

Would the legend finally be fulfilled?

Agus* remembers Martin’s arrival vividly. His father had taught him the legend as a boy, and it was his father’s voice that echoed in Agus’ mind as he hurried to the house where Yang Jauh’s elders had gathered to receive their latest visitor.

Martin sat waiting. The North Carolina native had spent the past three hours navigating some of the island’s roughest roads to reach the village. He’d heard about it by chance, through a Sayang student who attended one of the English classes Martin taught in town. Nobody else he had talked to on the island knew of Yang Jauh, much less the Sayang. As far as Martin could tell, they weren’t on anybody’s map except God’s.

As he spoke with Agus and the elders, Martin worked up the courage to ask a question that had bothered him since his arrival. Why did these people live in such an inhospitable place in the middle of nowhere?  

Something precious
Agus gazed intently into Martin’s eyes and replied, “Our village has a story that has been passed down through generations. My father told it to me as a child and his father told him.

“That one day a foreigner with white skin will come to our village and reveal something precious to us.”  

Silence filled the air. Martin could feel goose bumps race down his back. Agus and the elders stared expectantly at him, waiting.

After a few moments, Agus stood and removed a tattered notebook from a shelf. The first page held a yellowed photograph of the German tourist, his signature and the date he came to Yang Jauh.

Agus pointed to the picture and looked at Martin. “He didn’t reveal anything precious to us.”

Below the German was another photograph, this one of the Japanese woman. She also had signed and dated the book. Agus pointed to her picture. “She didn’t reveal anything precious, either.” Martin didn’t say a word. Agus felt his heart beginning to sink. Perhaps this man wasn’t the one they’d been waiting for.

“I was afraid something got lost in translation — this was too good to be true,” Martin remembers. “I know a lot of people probably would have jumped on that and laid out the plan of salvation. But I wanted to learn more about this story and the culture. Their worldview, their mindset, is very different from ours.”

That night, Agus had a dream.

“I saw a big field in front of my house where everyone ran and gathered to see a helicopter come,” he says.

Suddenly, Martin “appeared and lowered a rope to me. Then the helicopter rose slowly into the air — I grabbed the rope and was lifted up. Everyone watched.”

Though he didn’t understand what the dream meant, Agus felt compelled to strike up a friendship with Martin. Agus repeatedly shared the story of the legend to make sure Martin understood. Little by little, Martin shared the gospel with Agus.

Then one day Martin got the news he’d been praying for — Agus had surrendered his life to Jesus, becoming the first Christian in Yang Jauh’s history.

“I’m excited because I’ve taken Jesus into my heart,” Agus told him. “I am a follower of Jesus the Messiah.”

Convincing others
Since his conversion, Agus has been working to help Martin convince others that Christ is the precious gift the Sayang have been expecting. But it hasn’t been easy. Many in Yang Jauh — even Agus’ younger brother — believe the legend refers to some sort of financial gain. Others have lost faith in the story altogether.           

“A lot of people know the legend, but they’re not brave enough to talk about it,” Agus says. “Jesus is the one that can bring peace and calm to this place. … That is what my people are looking for.”

But the ministry among the Sayang is still in its infancy. So far, the language barrier has kept Martin from spreading the gospel on a broad scale, though it hasn’t stopped Agus from sharing one-on-one.      

“He’s looking for ways that the Bible intersects his culture,” Martin says. “He really likes the story of Noah and the ark because the Sayang also have a story about a great flood that covered their island.”

Martin believes the Sayang are open to the gospel. He plans to distribute hundreds of cassette tapes containing key Bible stories recorded in their language, believing the tapes could be a tipping point.

“We’re on the verge of this people group being able to hear the gospel in their heart language on a large scale for the very first time,” he says. “Each time I go out to the village someone new has had a dream and has questions about who Jesus is, why we’re coming and what this precious thing is that we have to share with them.

“God’s plan for the Sayang started hundreds of years ago before I ever showed up. I’m just glad to know that I can be a small part of it.”

*Name changed for security.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Graham is a writer for the International Mission Board.)

Loving the peoples of the hard places
The Sayang* are just one example of the many people groups around the world who live in places or cultures where it is especially difficult to share the gospel — and often dangerous for those who believe.

Geographic isolation, physical hardship, threats of violence and lack of freedom and resources are among the biggest barriers separating the lost from the opportunity to know Jesus.

That’s why Southern Baptists are coming together to show their love for lost peoples living in hard places  during the Day of Prayer and Fasting for World Evangelization. On May 31, churches across the United States will unite in earnest prayer, asking God to move powerfully among the most spiritually dark places on the planet.

“The Holy Spirit knows no barriers when we get on our knees,” says Gordon Fort, vice president of the International Mission Board’s overseas operations. “Among these ‘pockets of lostness’ where there are no churches, no Christians, no Bibles and no way of reaching the people living there — prayer is the one thing we can do.”

Use this article as you pray for the Sayang and others living in those hard places. A new DVD is available by calling (800) 999-3113 or at Other resources also are available.

*Name changed for security.

5/20/2009 6:59:00 AM by Don Graham, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Call 2 Fall’ issued for July 5

May 20 2009 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON — Churches and individuals are invited to answer the Call 2 Fall on Sunday, July 5. The initiative is aimed at praying for the healing of America and declaring dependence on God immediately after celebrating the nation’s independence from Great Britain.

“It’s incumbent upon the church to assume the responsibility for where the nation is and leading us forward, not from a political standpoint but from a spiritual standpoint,” Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said. “If the spiritual things are in order, the political things seem to be a lot easier to solve.”

Shortly after Perkins announced the multidenominational initiative via conference call with Christian media May 19, more than 3,500 people had clicked “I’m in” on the web site, which is hosted by the Family Research Council.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, participated in the conference call and said the only real answer for America is spiritual renewal that must start with those who claim the name of Christ.

“As Christians we have failed to live in a way that has been as pleasing to the Lord as we would hope, and we need to repent of that and we need to humble ourselves and we need to seek His face and seek His guidance and direction for ourselves, for our churches and for our country,” Land said.

“I’m excited about this. I think the Holy Spirit is leading different segments of the Lord’s Kingdom in a very similar direction to call for the revival that our hearts yearn for,” Land added.

Larry Stockskill, pastor of Bethany World Prayer Center in Baton Rouge, La., said too many pastors have failed to set the moral tone for the nation, neglecting the kind of spiritual leadership that the Apostle Paul wrote about in the Epistles.

“I feel it’s our only hope as a nation,” Stockskill said of Call 2 Fall. “There really isn’t a new political agenda we can pull out of the hat or any other form of medicine for the country. It’s only prayer and fasting.

“... We feel deeply and passionately that if something is not done quickly, we really could lose our country,” Stockskill said. “As Paul Revere woke up the nation to the invasion of the British, we’re waking up the nation to the invasion of the demonic powers that are pulling us away from God.”

Wellington Boone, pastor of The Father’s House in Atlanta, said the only way to get God to move in America is for spiritual leaders to be on their knees acknowledging that the only way up is down.

“I’d rather be voluntarily humble than to be humbled by God,” Boone said. “... I don’t want God to have to turn me around by tribulation. I’d rather Him turn me around by revelation. I believe that this Call 2 Fall initiative is a revelation that I want to be a part of.”

Harry Jackson, founder of the High Impact Leadership Coalition, said it’s important for people to understand that Call 2 Fall is not an anti-Obama or anti-administration movement.

“Every president needs the power and the wisdom of God in order to take the most powerful position in the world and appropriately administer justice and represent not only the nation but the world in God’s name,” Jackson, an African American pastor in Maryland, said. “We’re praying, and I am expectant that we are going to see something very dramatic happen not through demonstrations or political action but the spiritual dimension of God awakening the hearts of people and causing them to be revived by His grace.”

Perkins said he is hopeful that if churches will take the Call 2 Fall challenge, God will move in the nation.

“I’m encouraged because I think the church is coming to a point where we’ve come to the end of our own devices and we’re looking to God for the prescription of what it will take to turn this nation around,” Perkins said.

“We can’t come to God on our terms. We have to go to Him on His terms. He has made it very clear in 2 Chronicles 7:14 and Joel 2 that we are to humble ourselves before Him and to seek Him and turn from our wicked ways. That’s not the nation, that’s the church,” Perkins said.

Land said he expects a good response from churches because he has observed in Southern Baptist congregations a profound sense of conviction that Christians need revival.

“We need to have the kind of refocusing on righteousness and holiness in the lives of our church members and our corporate lives as Christians,” Land said. “If we look at the country and the economic situation, we find that people are really focusing on this and focusing on the need for personal and family and congregational and national revival.”

Jackson said it’s time for a dramatic movement of God’s people that will get the attention of the culture and will demonstrate the sort of posture God wants to see before He heals committed wrongs.

“What we need is something like the civil rights movement of the last century that brought liberty and freedom to African Americans as a discriminated people in the nation,” Jackson said.

“We need to recognize that if we do not ... aggressively seek God in these spiritual things, the Christian community is going to be an oppressed people, discriminated against and put down by this culture that God has ordained that we turn around.”

Perkins agreed that no matter where the blame should be placed, Christians are in a position to take responsibility for the status of America.

“There’s no question that when you take the sum total of the political and cultural elements of what is happening in America today there is a recognition that America is on the wrong track,” Perkins said. “We’re removing God from everything.

“... There’s a recognition that we have gone astray. The focus is not on non-Christians. It’s on Christians and our responsibility to be the salt and light. We’ve kind of lost our savor, and it’s a focus of the church returning to its first love and its commitment to follow God and to influence the world around it,” Perkins said.

Family Research Council has set a goal of seeing 8 million Christians in 40,000 churches participate in Call 2 Fall, and church leaders are encouraged to offer their buildings as host sites July 5. FRC will publish an online directory of those churches so that people will know where they can participate.

Observances can take several forms, Perkins said, from a three- to five-minute period during a worship service when people would get on their knees and pray to a full day of praying and expressing dependence on God. Those who commit to participate will receive periodic e-mails linking to resources such as free devotionals, inspirational videos, sermon outlines, bulletin inserts and prayer suggestions.

“From homosexual ‘marriage’ to proposed curbs on religious speech, there are serious matters for the church to address humbly and with great earnestness before God,” Perkins said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.)

5/20/2009 6:57:00 AM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Wingate students give back to the community

May 20 2009 by Wingate University

What do college students do with the roomful of belongings that won’t fit into their cars after the year ends?

Students at Wingate University came up with a green solution with a humanitarian angle that is good for the environment and the community.

Wingate University photo

Hundreds of people lined up to take part in Wingate University's Community Giveaway project May 7.

They named the project “Don’t’ Dump it. Donate it.” The students spent the first week in May collecting unwanted items from their friends before they left campus and stockpiled the merchandise in the university gymnasium.

“This was a fantastic event,” said Carolina Twiggs, director of service for Wingate University,” noting that all of the items were gone in about an hour on May 7. The university plans to continue the event next year.

Thousands of items covered the gym floor  — from food to furniture. Most of the items would have ended up in the campus dumpsters. After hours of sorting and organizing, the students held a Community Giveaway day for local residents.

People came in droves to browse through the items offered for free. Students from the University Community Assistance Network (UCAN) organized the event with several classes on campus.

The project started last year to alleviate problems with dumpster diving by local residents after students leave.

“I have seen families walk up to the dumpster and help their children climb into the bin to pull out boxes of cereal,” said Sarah Hyde, association director of marketing and communication.

By the time doors opened, a few hundred residents had lined up at the door.

A pile of the college staple, Ramen Noodles, lay near a 20-foot row of shoes. Floor lamps stood in one corner and tables of folded clothing in another. “Our students themselves were amazed at the variety and quantity of items that could be recycled for others to use,” said Heather McDivitt, assistant professor of religion, who started the project last year with her ethics class.

Although items were free, the students collected donations to support future UCAN projects. They also asked for a $5 donation for each electronic device.  

5/20/2009 6:53:00 AM by Wingate University | with 1 comments

Church care plan for chaplains unveiled

May 20 2009 by Ken Walker, Baptist Press

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — The Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) first ministry care plan for churches whose pastors are called to active duty with the military will get its official launch at this year’s SBC annual meeting, June 23-24 in Louisville, Ky.

Keith Travis, director of the North American Mission Board’s chaplaincy and evangelism team in Alpharetta, Ga., said the plan outlines steps churches can take when a pastor or staff member has to serve as a National Guard or reserve chaplain.

“If they do mobilize and leave, it is difficult for churches and pastors to work out how they’re going to transition and what’s going to happen in that transition,” said Travis, who, as a pastor, was called to duty the day after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“This plan addresses all of those things,” Travis said.

The 67-page handbook was written by Jay Padgett, minister of music at Graefenburg Baptist Church in Waddy, Ky., as part of his doctor of ministry studies through Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.

“If it helps one chaplain or church, this plan will be worth it,” said Padgett, who is completing training this spring prior to heading to Iraq for the second time. Endorsed by North American Mission Board (NAMB) in 1999, he will serve with the Kentucky National Guard’s 103rd Chemical Battalion.

The plan, now posted at, features extensive suggestions about steps churches can take before, during and after a pastor or staff member departs for duty. Among details it reviews are documents the chaplain should provide his church, information to provide the interim pastor, caring for the chaplain’s family and how to conduct a commissioning service.

Padgett hopes the plan also will help educate Southern Baptists about chaplaincy. While researching the document, he discovered that many Baptists don’t know that the mission board endorses chaplains and their qualifications or that their service is rooted in the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom.

Such information is relevant in helping church members understand that reserve chaplains act as missionaries in the same way as civilians who go to the mission field, Padgett said.

A six-member work group from Graefenburg Baptist Church helped Padgett develop the plan, brainstorming about the things the church did right during his first tour in Iraq and how it could improve.

“We had to keep outside the box,” Padgett said. “I had to think, ‘I am the senior pastor. How can we make a product that will help all sizes of Southern Baptist churches?’”

Graefenburg Baptist, interestingly, became the first church to use Padgett’s plan when it approved the two interims who will take his place; adopted policies related to his absence; and held his commissioning service.

“It enabled us to think through a lot of things we otherwise would have overlooked,” said Sanford Hill, Graefenburg’s senior pastor. “Now we are able to have a guide to help us through it.

“The good thing about this plan is it’s all-encompassing,” Hill added. “It helps churches and chaplains work out the details. It has suggestions on how to send him off and how to support the family left behind. It includes a lot of information on things you need to understand.”

Padgett experienced some of the positive aspects of church support when he served in Iraq in 2003-04, having received numerous cards, letters, expressions of prayer support and care packages while overseas.

However, he watched other congregations fall short. One chaplain’s church expected him to continue counseling members and tend to other church business while in the field, which Padgett called very stressful.

Others returned from active duty to learn their pastor’s position had been filled.

“Those things didn’t get talked about beforehand,” Padgett said. “One chaplain came back and the interim pastor had changed a lot of stuff. It really posed some problems for him. There are a lot of difficult issues the chaplain and churches have gone through, especially after deployment.”

Travis agreed, noting that pastors, staff members and congregations face as many adjustments once the reservist returns from the field as during his deployment.

“Even if the church allows the position to stay open, by the time the chaplain returns, the church and staff member have often moved in different directions,” Travis said.

The plan, which will be publicized at the upcoming SBC annual meeting via cards distributed to pastors, is part of a group of resources at that will address post-traumatic stress disorder and other issues likely to face churches in the future.

NAMB has endorsed 3,048 currently active chaplains on behalf of Southern Baptists, including 1,200 who serve in various military capacities. Though no specific figures are available, Travis said several thousand reserve chaplains have been among the 600,000 National Guardsman deployed over the years.

Those figures mean Padgett’s care plan is a valuable addition to the website, Travis said. The points it brings out are worthwhile for all churches to consider, regardless of denomination, he noted.

“I’m hoping it’s going to be a big hit for pastors and chaplains,” Travis said. “We’re bundling a lot of things to get into pastors’ hands so they have resources they know will work.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Walker is a freelance writer based in Huntington, W.Va.)

5/20/2009 6:51:00 AM by Ken Walker, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Africa needs draw Newmans time and again

May 19 2009 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

BR photo by Steve DeVane

Once Ernestine and Harold Newman went to the mission field, they felt drawn to go back. Between them is a portrait by Harold of a girl he treated in Zimbabwe.

FAYETTEVILLE — In 1974, Harold Newman’s old college roommate, Zeb Moss, wanted him to come to Africa on a medical mission trip. That one didn’t work out, but it launched a lifetime of international medical missions for a Fayetteville couple.

Moss had roomed with Newman at Wake Forest University in the 1950s and was regional coordinator for missions efforts in Africa. Newman was then a surgeon and a member at Snyder Memorial Baptist Church in Fayetteville.

Contacts at the International Mission Board (then called the Foreign Mission Board) said there was a greater need in Gaza. Newman and his wife, Ernestine, decided to go there even though a missionary nurse had been shot and killed in the area a year earlier.

“I said, ‘I better go where the Lord needs me,’” Newman said.

So the Newmans went to Gaza for about a month. It would be the first of 21 mission trips the couple would take together.

In Gaza, Harold Newman filled in for a Baptist missionary surgeon on furlough. Ernestine helped in a nursing school built by Baptists.

The Newmans went back to Gaza in 1977 and 1981, then later went to Nigeria, Indonesia, Thailand and Ghana. Harold Newman also made a trip to Brazil without his wife.

In 1991, the couple took their first mission trip to Zimbabwe. They went back again and again, going for the 14th time in 2007. They haven’t been back due to the deteriorating conditions in the country.

The repeated trips let the Newmans know what to expect.

“I could be there and about 30 minutes later be at work if they needed me,” he said.

The couple came to love Zimbabwe, often taking long walks to watch sunsets. They visited Victoria Falls, which they describe as beautiful, especially because it is not commercialized.

“It’s just like David Livingstone saw it,” she said.

Harold Newman, who graduated from Mars Hill College, Wake Forest University and the Bowman-Gray School of Medicine, is a general and thoracic surgeon. But on the mission trips, he did all types of surgeries, from fractures to head trauma. He said he really enjoyed obstetrics and did about 300 Cesarean Section operations.

“Bringing babies into the world is a pleasant part of medical practice,” he said.

One night he was about to make the first incision on a C-Section when the electricity went out. Fortunately, Newman always carried a flashlight with spare batteries.

“One of the aides held the flashlight over my shoulder while I did the surgery,” he said.

Large cities in Zimbabwe look much like Raleigh, Newman said. “Five miles out and you’re in a different century,” he said.

The hospital in Sanyati, Zimbabwe, which is about 200 miles from the country’s capital, is fairly primitive, Newman said. The operating room has a window, unheard of in most hospitals, but the instruments are sterilized and there are seldom any secondary infections, he said.

Newman has seen patients with goiters the size of grapefruits. He amputated one man’s leg that had gangrene for six months. The leg was barely hanging on and looked like it could have been on a mummy, he said.

One patient was raped, cut with a machete and left for dead in the bushes. She was found three days later and lived, Newman said.

About 30 percent of adults in the country have the virus that causes AIDS. The doctors don’t do elective surgery on these patients, and if they do need to operate make sure they don’t prick themselves.

“You’re seeing HIV positive people every day,” he said.

No lawsuits

Newman said there aren’t worries about lawsuits and other issues on the mission field.

“You don’t have to worry about getting paid,” he said. “You just do the work.”

Ernestine went to Meredith College for two years, before getting a bachelor of science degree in nursing from Vanderbilt University.

During the early trips she helped nursing students, who were mostly boys, learn English, concentrating on medical terms. In Nigeria, she worked as a public nurse in a well-baby clinic.

But when the couple went to Zimbabwe, Ernestine Newman hadn’t done nursing in a while so she helped teach Bible in a school and later worked in the library.

Then one day she saw some boys playing in the courtyard. She decided to start a Bible school of sorts in a thatched-roof hut. She started teaching the 23rd Psalm to about 10 boys. Later more boys came. Then the girls wanted to join what had become known as “the rainbow club,” because the Bible they used had a rainbow on the front cover.

“One of the marvelous things about teaching children is you know when they get it,” she said. “With the children you know whether they understand you. They’ll tell you.”

Word would get around when she was coming. Kids were eventually “jam packed” in the hut.

The children called Ernestine Newman “Mai Newman.” Mai means mom. People in Zimbabwe called Harold Newman “Baba Newman.” Baba means poppa.

Patient finds Jesus

He remembers a young man he met one day after he finished surgeries and went out to help medical doctors seeing regular patients. He saw the boy and his mother in line and asked what was wrong. The mother said the boy’s stomach was hurting.

Newman pulled them out of line, examined the boy and determined that he had appendicitis. Newman operated on the boy that evening. Later a hospital chaplain left him a note telling him the boy had accepted Jesus.
Service oriented efforts help people become more receptive to the gospel, Newman said.

“You meet their physical needs,” he said. “Jesus did that.”

During several of their trips to Zimbabwe, the Newmans saw an old friend. Moss, who had left Africa to work at the IMB offices in Richmond, Va., decided to return to the field. His assignment: Zimbabwe.

Moss retired about 12 years ago after serving the mission board for 38 years and now lives in Aberdeen where he has served as interim pastor for five churches.

Mars Hill College recognized Harold Newman in April as its 2009 Baptist Heritage Award recipient.

5/19/2009 6:05:00 AM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Zimbabwe orphans’ presents hail from N.C.

May 19 2009 by Mike Creswell, Baptist Press

BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe — The orphan girls stood silently as the brown paper parcels were opened, their eyes widening as they began to think maybe this was something for them.

BGR Photo

Orphan girls in Zimbabwe model dresses made by Addilene Leonard.

They squealed with delight when colorful new dresses were handed to them to try on.

A new dress is a remarkable and precious thing in this impoverished country. Zimbabwe has been battered by economic collapse, political turmoil, violence and disease in recent years. A cholera outbreak in late 2008 killed more than 4,000 people and sickened at least 10,000.

But those numbers are small compared to the ongoing AIDS epidemic, which has killed millions across central and southern Africa, leaving countless children orphaned —  like those in the home in Bulawayo, which is assisted by the Baptist Union of Zimbabwe.

“The kids are all smiles,” said Ann Mitchell, executive director of the Baptist Union of Zimbabwe. “The materials used are a constant cause of amazement. They will last for ages, even if they are pounded on a rock in the washing process. The designs are so very different from anything seen here. What a blessing!”

Getting the dresses delivered was made possible by Southern Baptist missionaries who partnered with staff from Baptist Global Response. General relief donations —  given by Baptists across the United States through their state conventions, North American Mission Board and International Mission Board —  paid for 600 dresses to be delivered to Zimbabwe.

The dresses themselves, however, came from the hands of Addilene Leonard of Louisburg, a smallish town about 30 minutes from Raleigh.

Baptists use Bibles, puppets, videos and many other tools for missions. Leonard uses her sewing machine.
Her small drapery workshop sits beside her hillside house on Highway 56 near the outskirts of Louisburg, but from here Leonard has seen a world in need —  and responded.

BGR Photo

Addilene Leonard of Louisburg shows one of the outfits she made for girls in Zimbabwe, an African country in a severe economic crisis.

Making 600 dresses would be a big assignment for even a good seamstress, but Leonard is a sewing machine master. An active 87 years old, she operated a drapery business for some 50 years. Her drapes still hang in many homes and offices around the area, designed by her and stitched together by her six workers. She even sent custom drapes to other states and as far away as Canada and Greece.

The big shop is closed now. Her last big project was in 2008, installing drapes in the library of Louisburg College in town —  a big project requiring some 800 yards of fabric. But she still has her smaller basement sewing room with a big work table and the four types of sewing machines required to make drapes.

Leonard has always blended her business with her Christian faith. A member of Maple Springs Baptist Church since 1949, she still sings in the choir. Fellow members say it takes more than bad weather to keep her from Sunday services.

Over the years she has made numerous missions trips, often traveling with a sewing machine so she could make and donate drapes and curtains. Making these as a ministry occurred to her years ago when she attended a Woman’s Missionary Union meeting at Camp Mundo Vista, the WMU camp near Asheboro.

“I saw there was a need for curtains and drapes in the cottages and the office. They really needed somebody’s touch,” she recalls.

She returned with her sewing machine and whipped up curtains for two offices and two cottages.

She made window treatments for offices and cottages of Kennedy Home, part of the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina; Ridgecrest Conference Center near Asheville; and for churches in West Virginia and Vermont, among others.

She and her sister, Nannie Ree, spent a week in a small West Virginia town while they sewed up drapes and got them installed. “We ate our meals in a gas station snack bar.”

In Montpelier, Vt., she made drapes and furniture slip covers for a three-story house being used as a church led by her daughter and son-in-law, Southern Baptist missionaries Connie and Jim Markham.

Leonard is modest about her life’s work, and spurns any praise, but allows that she has indeed had an interesting life. “I haven’t sprouted any wings yet,” she says with a smile and insists that her home missionary daughter deserves the praise.

When Leonard’s husband, Q.S., retired in the 1980s, the two traveled some and went fishing. But after he died in 1988, she dusted off her sewing machines and kept busy. “I’m not one to sit around all day watching soap operas,” she says.

Making drapes was an artistic expression for her, not just work, she says. She took up painting and turned out canvases good enough for local churches to sell for missions projects. Her rambling house is filled with travel mementos and framed inspirational verses. Leonard descends the steep steps to her sewing room carefully, but spryly for her years. She insists on staying active. “I’m 87 years old but that has nothing to do with my outlook on life,” she declares.

She is determined to stay positive and says that will help her “beat the odds.” It’s important to live as a reflection of God who made you, to follow the Ten Commandments and the commandment of Jesus to love your neighbor as yourself, she says.

“Your life is a product of what you create. I pray I’ll be productive till the day I die,” she says. And so far, she is. In recent months, for example, she has produced a DVD that teaches how to make curtains that require only graceful draping instead of sewing. “Many girls today don’t know how to sew a stitch,” she says, “and so this approach will help them.”

And those 600 dresses?

That was just part of what she made over the several months she was focused on making dresses. She actually made a total of 1,335 dresses. The others went to Haiti, another poor country where a new dress can light up faces with smiles.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Creswell is senior Cooperative Program consultant for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.)

5/19/2009 5:55:00 AM by Mike Creswell, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Flint-Groves enjoys ‘incredible’ day of serving

May 19 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

If Flint-Groves Baptist Church pastor Ronnie Bowers had to pay for each time he used the word “incredible” to describe the church’s fifth annual Community Care Day, he would be broke.

Contributed photo

Two ladies look for clothing during Community Care Day.

People were lining up in the rain before the doors opened May 6, and about 1,500 eventually found help with a meal, food boxes, clothes and counseling in the steadily growing mill town church.

“There is desperate need in this community,” said Bowers, pastor since 2000. Countless textile jobs have been lost in Gastonia. Conceived as a way to meet the tangible needs of their neighbors, as the “hands and feet of Jesus, meeting people where they are” Flint-Groves members hesitated only the first year, when faced with a $21,000 non-budgeted expense to buy the equipment needed to cook and feed the main meal.

Since then, members look forward to it and some plan family vacations around the event week so they can be there with their children to serve.

In the days leading up to May 6 members sorted and racked donated clothing, loading a 7,500-sq.-ft. warehouse next to the church three-quarters full. By 1 p.m. it was empty.

Bowers attributes the turnout to “increased needs” in the community. “We’ve never had it happen like this for us before,” he said.

Medical and dental volunteers conducted screenings with the help of the Lions Club vision van and the North Carolina Baptist Men’s medical/dental bus. Of the 300 given general health screenings, 40 were referred immediately onto clinics or hospitals because of negative health indicators.

Bowers, whose brother Michael is pastor of Rich Fork Baptist Church in Thomasville, said his volunteers served 5,200 meals of chicken, lasagna, pork tenderloin and fixin’s. His father Dick, who was in the restaurant business, organizes the meal.

Contributed photo

Volunteers from Flint Groves Baptist Church prepare food.

Volunteers on the serving line come early and stay late and do not give up their position in line. “It is so funny to watch,” Bowers said. “If they get a spot they won’t move. We’ll fight to stay in that spot.”

More than 300 volunteers swarmed the campus that day. Bowers is delighted to see intergenerational teams of senior adults serving with youth; parents serving with their children.

With the hum of activity in service and the intergenerational and interracial mix of people, Bowers was moved when one of his members told him, “This is the way the church should look.”

Flint-Groves has endured fluctuations of growth and decline in its 86 years. It has grown in the past nine years from a struggling congregation of 150 to a thriving and involved body of more than 700 in Sunday morning worship. Average age of members has dropped from 60 to the “low 40s” Bowers said.

“It’s really simple,” said Bowers, in his first pastorate. “We want to focus and point people toward Christ.”

As often happens, progress came on the back side of a crisis met and overcome. When asked what they wanted most in church, senior adults said they wanted their children and grandchildren back. Bowers asked some drop outs why they stopped coming and they told him the church was “just not relevant, it’s not helping us to live our lives.”

That prompted Bowers to lead Flint-Groves “back to the basics of faith,” modeled after the church in the book of Acts and after Nehemiah whose job rebuilding the was “too great a cause” to neglect when others urged him to come down.

“Now we have the warmest church,” Bowers said. “It really looks like the body of Christ to me.”

While Community Care Day is special, Flint-Groves small groups each find ways to serve in their neighborhoods. Some will feed quarters into washing machines at the laundromat for strangers. Others take snacks to local youth athletic events or pass out water. Bowers encourages members “as you go” to find a place to serve in the normal traffic patterns of their lives.

5/19/2009 5:46:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

Graduates celebrate degrees, begin job search

May 18 2009 by From staff reports

More than 2,000 students graduated from N.C. Baptist colleges in May.

Chowan University celebrated the first graduate of its Adult Degree Completion Program when Amy Elizabeth Guy of Roanoke Rapids earned a bachelor of science degree in social sciences.

The program allows adults with an associate’s degree to take classes at night or online to earn their four-year degree.

Campbell University photo

Children's ministry leader Janice Haywood receives the honorary doctor of divinity degree from Jerry M. Wallace, president of Campbell University.

Commencement exercises May 15 at Chowan focused on the more than 100 graduates.

As is tradition at the school, graduating seniors rang the memorial gazebo bell to signify the close of their academic careers.

At Mars Hill College, 137 graduates received degrees on May 9. Of those, 117 were in the traditional college program and 20 were adult ACCESS (Accelerated Credit/Continuing Education/Summer School) students.

“I had a vision for what my college experience would be,” said graduate Jessica Blanford.

“I never expected to fall in love with everything about it. What a privilege we have had to be in this place for a time.”

Blanford, a history and religion major from Concord, described her college experience with a quote from Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck that compares the struggles of life to rocks on a roadway that you discover to be diamonds.

Campbell University held commencement in the Gilbert Craig Gore Arena of the John W. Pope Jr. Convocation Center for the first time May 9.

More than 600 undergraduate students and graduate students from the Lundy-Fetterman School of Business and the School of Education filed onto the arena floor to receive their degrees.

Separate hooding and graduation ceremonies for the Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law, School of Pharmacy and the Divinity School were held May 8, conferring an additional 228 graduate and professional degrees.

Janice Haywood, a longtime leader of children’s ministries among N.C. Baptists, received an honorary doctor of divinity degree.

Haywood, who is coordinator and lead instructor in the Divinity School’s Preschool and Children’s Ministry Certification program, accepted the degree at the hooding ceremony for the Campbell Divinity School.

U.S. Representative and Campbell alumnus Bob Etheridge delivered the general commencement address.

Etheridge encouraged students to remain confident in their educational preparation during these tough economic times.

“Don’t despair. We will come out of this downturn,” said Etheridge. “The very forces you have studied will generate tremendous innovation.”  

“Your education received here at Campbell University will help make that success possible.”

Gardner-Webb University honored 512 graduates in two ceremonies May 11.

Gardner-Webb University photo

Graduates like Abbie Helms of Gardner-Webb University shared joyous expressions with friends and family as more than 2,000 students finished degrees at North Carolina Baptist colleges.

A morning ceremony was dedicated to all undergraduate students.

Author Ron Rash, a Gardner-Webb alumnus, delivered the commencement address.

Rash is currently Parris Distinguished professor in Appalachian Cultural Studies at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee.

Two graduates, John A. Tagliarini of Bryson City and Deardre J. Gibson of Gastonia, gave commencement speeches.

Gibson received a doctor of education degree and told the audience the GWU graduate program provided an opportunity for students to foster meaningful intellectual discussions.

“I was fortunate to meet colleagues from diverse backgrounds and geographic areas and collaborate with administrators, who helped me to grow professionally through their experiences and insight,” Gibson said.

Tagliarini, who received a doctor of ministry degree, said his experience at GWU offered opportunities for growth and rejuvenation.

“My three years in pursuit of a degree resulted in a renewed sense that God has called me to and equipped me for ministry,” he said.

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper spoke at Wingate University’s outdoor ceremony, where more than 400 graduates received degrees May 9.

He advised students to thank those who inspired them through the years and “see that they share this honor with you.”

He also offered advice about job hunting:

“You’re going to have to be persistent ... keep seeking that ‘yes’ after you’ve heard 100 ‘no’s.’”

One of the things that can hurt graduates is negative images in their social networking tools.

“Be careful of what you put on Facebook,” he said.

He also told students to be active in their communities through churches, civic clubs, mentors, fighting poverty, running for office and voting.

Cooper received an honorary doctorate along with Tom Williams and Georgia Dunn Belk.

Wingate’s ceremony was webcast for the first time for family and friends unable to attend.

5/18/2009 6:47:00 AM by From staff reports | with 0 comments

Online church makes global connections

May 18 2009 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

If you struggle in your church to find ways to connect people with others and with ministry opportunities, imagine the challenge of a congregation that meets in more than 100 countries over the internet.

That’s what leaders of the international online campus at are facing. The church, which started in Edmond, Okla., has 14 locations around the United States, and an online campus that hosts 16 worship “experiences” each week.

Brandon Donaldson, the online pastor at, said the online aspect of the congregation is one way the church seeks to fulfill its mission to lead people to become “fully devoted followers of Christ.” pastor Craig Groeschel and his wife, Amy, started LifeChurch in 1996. Ten years later, the church launched its online campus. web site

"Elijah" is the current series is working through. The church offers 16 worship "experiences" a week. is a member of the Evangelical Covenant Church. The LifeChurch web site says the denomination “strongly affirms the clear teaching of the word of God” but allows believers freedom to have “varying interpretations on theological issues that are not clearly presented in scripture.”

In a welcome message on the web site, Groeschel says the church is not about denominations, buildings or any religious organization.

“We’re about Jesus,” he said.

Donaldson said the online church uses the Internet as a way to reach people. He said doesn’t want to “go overboard” with that tool, but also doesn’t want to sell it short.

Some people who participate in the online church are members of other churches, but some aren’t. The online church makes it easy for people to “step through the doors” by lowering barriers, he said.

“We’ve seen some incredible response,” Donaldson said.

About 4,000 computers in about 140 different countries log on to participate in one of the church’s worship experiences each week, according to Donaldson. During a service on May 14, 36 countries were represented, including Kenya, Jordan, Pakistan, India, Iran, Yugoslavia, Haiti and Vietnam, according to a map that can be seen during the service.

The experiences resemble typical contemporary worship services, but with added interaction available through the Internet.

While a praise band sings, the name of the song and the band that recorded it are displayed below, along with a button to buy it. A prayer button allows those taking part to send prayer request. A chat room lets people discuss the service with each other in real time.

Sermon notes are visible while the pastor preaches.

During the offering, participants can click on a button to donate with a credit card. On May 14, Groeschel preached about Elijah from 1 Kings. At the end of the experience, three people clicked a button indicating that they’d like to give their lives to Jesus.

After the service ended, links offered the opportunity for people to connect with the church through a blog or Facebook. Another button took people to a page where they could learn about the church’s small groups, which are called LifeGroups. is currently advertising for an “online connection pastor.” Donaldson said the person will seek to find ways that people can connect with each other and with mission opportunities.

The ad, which was running on a blog about technology issues, says the person should be an “insanely talented, passionate, Jesus following, relational guru who wants to use the web to impact and change the world.”

The online connection pastor will have to “oversee a growing team of remote leaders to effectively build a scalable structure for multiple small groups around the world,” according to the ad.

Donaldson said about half the church’s LifeGroups meet online. The church wants people to become part of a biblical community where they can get involved in ministry, he said.

“We don’t want people to just observe,” he said.

5/18/2009 6:44:00 AM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

WMU-NC team ministers in Beirut, Lebanon

May 18 2009 by Tana Hartsell, WMU-NC

After making a commitment in 2007 to minister among needy women and children in mission settings, Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMU-NC) has sponsored trips to Texas, California, Kentucky and Hawaii.

Contributed photo

A team went to Lebanon to work with Chaouki and Maha Boulos.

In April the first international team went to Beirut, Lebanon, to minister among Bedouin women and children and other groups from the poorest of the poor, to some of the most influential people in all of Lebanon.

Team members helped local Christians assemble and distribute food boxes. They also helped at an orphanage for street children.

Many came to the orphanage with skin and/or lung diseases. Young girls often were victims of physical and sexual abuse; all of them forced to live horrific lifestyles just to survive. These precious children were given love and care for the first time, yet they were afraid to accept and receive it.

Several times a year, missionaries Chaouki and Maha Boulos, field personnel with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, organize and promote weekend celebrations of fellowship, music, and worship. Special invitations were extended to Palestinian college-age students from area refugee camps.  Transportation was provided by the office of the Palestinian ambassador to Lebanon, and the ambassador himself addressed the gathering.

This is but one example of the political and religious leaders the Bouloses have befriended, all for the purpose of extending and expanding their work. Team members prayed with them and introduced them to the WMU-NC.

Chaouki is developing a Christian retreat and conference center, which North Carolina Baptist Men is helping to build, with trips scheduled in May, June and September. The common thread in every activity was prayer.

The N.C. team was Ashley Arnette, Mechele Arnette, Dorothy Barham, Ruth Bass, Laura Davis, Pat Davis, Ruby Fulbright, Tana Hartsell, Susan Taylor, and Delores Thomas.

5/18/2009 6:43:00 AM by Tana Hartsell, WMU-NC | with 0 comments

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