May 2011

Tuscaloosa pastors ‘standing in the gap’

May 27 2011 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Standing outside tornado-battered Alberta Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, Larry Corder recaps that it was the church where he and his wife grew up in the 1960s.

He returned seven years ago as pastor, prayerful of revitalizing a church surrounded by poverty, crime and illegal drugs.

The devastation of a tornado now has upended the lives of Alberta Baptist Church’s pastor and its members.

Corder and other Tuscaloosa church leaders gathered in Alberta’s parking lot May 25 for a time of encouragement from Rick Lance, state missionary and executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, and Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee.

“The definition of standing in the gap – you’re seeing the best of it here,” Lance, an Alabama native and former Tuscaloosa pastor, said to the group amid the noise and dust of bulldozer operators clearing away remnants of tornado-obliterated houses on all sides of Alberta Baptist Church, just two miles from the University of Alabama. In one block adjacent to the church, five people were killed.

Corder and Donnie Payne were from congregations that, as Payne put it, “took a major hit” from Tuscaloosa’s April 27 tornado. Payne is pastor of Forest Lake Baptist Church in the geographic center of the city.

Other pastors were from churches that rushed into action that evening – Doug Reeves of East McFarland Baptist Church; Dale Glover of Cottondale Baptist Church; and Scott Reynolds of North River Church – along with Tim Foster, chairman of Hopewell Baptist Church’s deacons. Also on hand were Billy Gray, interim director of missions for the Tuscaloosa County Baptist Association, and Gary Bonner, the association’s associate director of missions and pastor of Bethany Baptist Church.

Nearly every church, apart from structural damage, had families whose homes or rentals were demolished by the tornado.

“Wounded” was Lance’s descriptor for “what has happened on April 27 and since April 27.”

“We’ve been wounded as a state; I have felt wounded emotionally, personally, but not to any degree of … [others] in the directly impacted areas,” Lance told Baptist Press. “I’ve traveled the state and been in most of the affected regions, which are many, and the evidences are the same: People have been traumatized … but we will recover and we will rebuild and we will renew as the time goes on.”

Photo by Bethany Rogers/Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions

Pastor Donnie Payne hopes Baptists can give hope to Tuscaloosa’s tornado victims by sharing that, “You’re here for a reason and we want to help you find that reason.”

In immediate recovery, for example, mobile chapels are being placed at various sites where churches need a meeting place during the rebuild phase that may entail two or more years, Lance said.

“Then the renewal part of it: … We hope that we can have a sense of renewal in Alabama – in Alabama Baptist life and our state life -- because this is an opportunity in the midst of a crisis to be the people of God, people of faith, sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ,” Lance said.

Joining in prayer

In a time of prayer for Tuscaloosa and other communities hit by this spring’s tornado onslaught, Lance invited Page to intercede. “Father, in Jesus’ name, we come before You today and I left up these, my dear brothers and sisters,” Page prayed. “Lord, they’ve been through a horrible, horrible valley.

Father, this is the kind of time that we have to say we either believe in Romans 8:28 or we don’t. And we do. We trust You and believe, Father, that You will bring good out of bad, that You’ll bring life out of death, that you’ll bring light out of darkness.

“I pray for Tuscaloosa and all of Alabama and other places, Lord, that have been affected,” Page continued, “but we pray right now for these dear people. …. (We pray) for Brother Rick (Lance), Lord, and how much he loves this state, his home state. God, give him strength. These pastors, these laypeople – God, I pray that You would encourage them today. Through the power of Your Holy Spirit, make Yourself famous in Tuscaloosa and Alabama. May people see there’s a difference in how Christians are, how they treat each other, how they are selfless in their ministry and love. I pray, God, that these dear people would be strengthened and encouraged and that they would not be weary in well-doing.”

Reason for living

Payne, of Forest Lake Baptist Church, told Baptist Press, “We’ve been praying for God to give us a way to connect with the community … and share the Gospel and meet people’s needs.

“We never dreamed that a tornado would give us that opportunity, but it has.”

The message Payne hopes tornado survivors will hear from fellow survivors in Tuscaloosa’s churches: “You’re here for a reason and we want to help you find that reason.”

Three of the church’s senior citizens died of the overwhelming trauma stemming from the tornado, Payne said, while many members were miraculously spared as the tornado tore through their neighborhoods. The church facility sustained an estimated $2 million in structural damage, the pastor said.

At Alberta Baptist, the tornado buffeted the spiritual breakthroughs the church had been experiencing in recent years, Corder said.

The church had participated in Southern Baptists’ pre-Easter “God’s Plan for Sharing” evangelistic initiative in 2010 and seen results from its prayerwalking, door-to-door visits and its invitations to worship.

African Americans, high school and middle school students and older children have been baptized in the aging, predominantly white church – including nine on one Sunday, “more than the previous two years combined,” Corder said.

And the church had dedicated a $1.8 million renovation of its sanctuary and education space last October.

Despite the tornado, and a multiple myeloma cancer diagnosis of his wife Brenda, Corder said the church’s spiritual growth seems to be accelerating.

“It seems like Satan always rears his head in the midst of all the good that’s happening, so other than a few exceptions, we’re seeing our church really pull together,” the pastor said.

“I’m challenging our people from the Word of God every week, trying to encourage them and let them know this is not going to be a short-term recovery, it’s going to be long-term,” Corder said. “We’re running the race. We’ve been given the baton. Our church has accomplished, with God’s blessing, so much good over the years. Many people have gone out in the ministry from this church, including myself.

“I believe that our future is bright,” he said, “that we’re going to be stronger in the future.”

Additional Tuscaloosa-area churches listed by The Alabama Baptist as damaged by the April 27 tornado are Fleetwood, New Eastern Hills, Pilgrim Rest, Rosedale and Temple Baptist.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press. For information about donations to Alabama Baptists’ disaster relief efforts, visit

5/27/2011 8:39:00 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Joplin devastation leaves them ‘stunned’

May 27 2011 by Joe Conway, Baptist Press

JOPLIN, Mo. — The sky over Joplin, Mo., continued to spit light rain and clouds threatened on the horizon four days after one of the nation’s deadliest tornadoes plowed through the heart of the city. Search and rescue teams continued their hopeful trek through miles of debris.

And through it all, a spirit of resolute hope spurred on this city of 50,000. In the middle of the work clearing rubble were Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers by the score.

Chainsaw crews from Missouri and Oklahoma clocked hundreds of hours helping churches and residents clear tons of fallen trees.

“I’m just stunned today, speechless. Please keep the people of Joplin in your prayers,” said Missouri Baptist Convention interim executive director Jay Hughes, who was touring the site of the devastation along with North American Mission Board president Kevin Ezell.

One of the first disaster relief (DR) volunteers Hughes and Ezell visited was also a storm victim, Gary Hunley. Hunley, a Missouri DR volunteer who has already been helping with the response, was taking time to search the remains of his home May 25.

Photo by Joe Conway

NAMB president Kevin Ezell, left, listens as Gary and Twyla Hunley of Joplin, Mo., recount their survival of an EF-5 tornado that destroyed their home and leveled a section of the city. Hunley is a disaster relief “Blue Hat” with the Missouri Baptist Convention. He’s been helping with the response in Joplin.

“I believe the Lord allowed this to help me learn how to relate to people,” said Hunley as he and his wife, Twyla, combed through their belongings. They are members of First Baptist Church in Oronogo, Mo, which is 10 miles from Joplin. “We had downsized,” said Twyla. “We had just gotten the house the way we wanted it. Now it is gone.”

Twyla credited God’s protection and her husband’s devotion for their survival. “The wind was blowing so hard. We were praying. I did not think we were going to make it. Gary never let go of me. We never stopped praying, and God never let go of us, either.”

Gary agreed. “It was very scary — all the noise and the air pressure,” he said. “The wind was so strong it felt like 10 men trying to push the door in. Then everything started breaking apart. We asked God to help us. When it was over, everything else was gone but He held our hand.”

Said Ezell, “If we could see people’s spiritual needs in the same way we see physical needs, we would be much quicker to attempt to help them. You look at the incredible destruction — everything is gone — and a few blocks away everything is fine. Spiritually, it is the same way: you look at one family and they are fine. Just down the block another family is falling apart.”

Southern Baptists, Ezell said, have the opportunity to meet both spiritual and physical needs through disaster relief. He echoed Hughes’ call for prayer for the people of Joplin, and those affected by storms across the country.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon addressed members of the faith-based DR response teams in the city and told them that they had the opportunity to minister in critical ways, thanking them for their efforts. He said search and rescue efforts would continue through the end of the week. The death toll in Joplin stands at 125 and is expected to climb.

President Obama will visit the city on Sunday and take part in a citywide memorial service for the victims of the storm, the governor said.

Following the governor’s dialog, Ezell and Hughes met with Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Craig Fugate, who thanked the men for the work of Southern Baptist DR. Also at the meeting was David Myers, director of the White House Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships with the Department of Homeland Security.

Missouri Baptist DR director Rick Seaton said assessment teams were still at work Wednesday.

“We have seven Missouri chainsaw units out, and two from Oklahoma,” Seaton said. “We also have a shower unit operating and we have 11 chaplains working today. We expect to have a feeding unit up and operating when the city is ready for that.”

The current Southern Baptist DR incident command center located at the Baptist Student Union of Missouri Southern State University might move in the next few days, Seaton said. Housing is being provided at College View Baptist Church, he said. Few places suffered more destruction than Harmony Heights Baptist Church. What little is left of the church, located across the street from the heavily damaged Joplin High School, makes it even more remarkable that only three people were killed when the storm hit during Sunday night services.

“Pastor Charlie Burnett was preaching when the sirens went off. There were 53 people there and they moved into the interior hallways,” said Steve Patterson, Spring River Baptist Association director of missions.

One of the survivors was Greg Hailey, who had been attending Harmony Heights for about five months.

“One of our members is a weather spotter, and he was telling us that conditions were right for tornadoes,” Hailey said. Then we heard the siren. But when you live here, how many times do you hear a siren and think nothing of it? Then the siren went off a second time and they told us a tornado was on the ground. Pastor Burnett told us to move to the center of the hallways.”

The next thing Hailey knew, he was covered in debris. When he was able to pull himself out of the rubble, nothing was left of the church. One car was thrown into the sanctuary and the parking lot was a mangle of twisted vehicles.

“I started helping pull other people out,” Hailey said. Pastor Burnett, who is blind, had no way of knowing that a steel I-beam missed his head by inches.

And near the devastated Saint John’s medical complex Empire Baptist Church was also erased. While no members were injured at the church, many of their homes were also obliterated.

But in the midst of the tragedy, jubilant reunions brought hope. Gary Hunley was embraced by friend and fellow disaster relief volunteer Ron Crow in front of what little was left of the Hunley home. Crow has been helping organize the efforts in Joplin and is pastor of First Baptist Church in Diamond, Mo., about 17 miles from Joplin. The two men have worked together on DR projects.  

“When I saw the destruction and knew it was in his area I screamed out, ‘Where’s Gary?’” Crow said. With all the other DR activity the men were not reunited until Wednesday.

“Gary is a chainsaw guy. The first time we took Gary on a DR response it was about eight months after he had become a Christian,” Crow said. “We arrived on site in Florida and we were ready to unload the trailer. I was looking for Gary and asking people where he’d slipped off to. Then I saw him. He was on the front porch with the homeowner sharing the gospel.”

Said Hunley, “I do believe God allowed this to happen so I can do a better job of helping people. You just don’t know where to start. You don’t want to let people help you because you think other people need it more. Then you realize you need the help. Where do you start? You pick up one thing and then you think you need to contact the insurance company. Your mind is just racing.

“Southern Baptists have been a true blessing to me. They have helped me grow in my faith. When you face something like this, you need to have your life in order. You never know how long you have.”

Some chaplains serving in the Joplin response were accompanying chainsaw crews Wednesday while others walked the miles of shattered homes. One pair was a father and son team, Steve and Matt Tanner. Both men also happen to be directors of mission, Steve in Mexico, Mo., and his son in Poplar Bluff, Mo.

“We walked the neighborhoods and ministered to people,” Steve said. “One lady had nothing left but a slab. She was knocked out in the storm. When she came to, everything was gone. She was concerned about the mental health facility next door where three people were killed.”

Said Matt Miller, “Another woman was still dealing with the trauma of finding a young child dead in the street in front of her home after the storm. We did a lot of praying today.”

People can help by praying and donating financially, said Hughes of the Missouri Baptist Convention.

“We are saddened by the destruction, but we are committed to assisting the community of Joplin in any way we can for as long as they need the help,” Hughes said. “We would ask people to consider how they can be involved in the long-term support for the community.”

While it is still too early to plan long-term rebuild, one thing that will keep Joplin on people’s minds is a World Changers student mission week set for July 25-30 in the city this summer.

“We are committed to the project in Joplin,” said John Bailey, team leader for World Changers and PowerPlant at NAMB. “We have had it on the schedule for the last year. We are committed to be there. It may not look like a traditional World Changers project where we work on roofs, but we will be ministering to the people of Joplin. If a church wants their youth to be involved, they can still register for Joplin.” For information about the Joplin World Changers project visit

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Conway is a writer for the North American Mission Board. To donate to NAMB’s disaster relief fund, visit and hit the “donate now” button. Other ways to donate are by calling 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mailing checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Checks should be designated for “Storms 2011.” Donations can also be sent via texting “NAMBDR” to the number “40579.” A one-time donation of $10 will be added to the caller’s mobile phone bill or deducted from any prepaid balance.)
5/27/2011 7:13:00 AM by Joe Conway, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

NOBTS scholars chase Bible’s changes

May 27 2011 by Bruce Nolan, Religion News Service

NEW ORLEANS — Working in a cluster of offices above a LifeWay Christian Bookstore, Bible scholars are buried in a 20-year project to codify the thousands of changes, verse by verse, word by word — even letter by letter — that crept into the early New Testament during hundreds of years of laborious hand-copying.

Their goal: to log them into the world’s first searchable online database for serious Bible students and professional scholars who want to see how the document changed over time.

Their research is of particular interest to evangelical Christians who, because they regard the Bible as the sole authority on matters of faith, want to distinguish the earliest possible texts and carefully evaluate subsequent changes.

RNS photo by John McCusker/The Times-Picayune

Scholars at the Baptist Theological Seminary in New Orleans are in the midst of a 20-year project to catalogue and post online most of the thousands of text changes that have crept into the New Testament Textual Studies Center, holds a piece of papyrus that contains part of the Gospel of John.

The first phase of the researchers’ work is done. They have documented thousands of creeping changes, down to an extraneous Greek letter, across hundreds of early manuscripts from the second through 15th centuries, said Bill Warren, the New Testament scholar who leads the project at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

After 10 years of work and the interruption of Hurricane Katrina, the seminary’s Center for New Testament Textual Studies has logged those changes, amounting to 17,000 pages of highly technical notes, all in Greek, into a searchable database.

Many of the early changes are well known, and have been for hundreds of years. Study Bibles mark scores of changes in italicized footnotes at the bottom of what often seems like every page. But nowhere have so many changes been collated in a single place and made searchable for scholars and serious students, Warren said. Nor is there an Internet tool like the one being constructed now in the second phase of the project: the history of substantive textual changes.

This fall, the New Testament center will publish an online catalogue of substantive textual changes in Philippians and 1 Peter. Warren estimates there’s 10 more years of work to do on the rest of the New Testament.

Those with more than a passing familiarity with the New Testament know its 27 books and letters, or epistles, were not first published exactly as they appear today.

The earliest works date to about the middle of the first century. They were written by hand, and successors were copied by hand. Mistakes occasionally crept in.

Moreover, with Christianity in its infancy and the earliest Christians still trying to clarify the full meaning of Jesus, his mission and his stories, the texts themselves sometimes changed from generation to generation, said Warren.

As archeologists and historians uncovered more manuscripts, each one hand-copied from some predecessor, they could see occasional additions or subtractions from a phrase, a verse or a story. Most changes are inconsequential, the result of mere copying errors, or the replacement of a less common word for a more common word. But others are more important.

For example, the famous tale in John’s Gospel in which Jesus challenges a mob about to stone a woman accused of adultery: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her,” is a variant that copyists began inserting at least 300 years after that Gospel first appeared.

In the conclusion to the Gospel of Mark, the description of Jesus appearing to various disciples after His resurrection does not appear in the earliest manuscripts.

And in the Gospel of Luke, the crucified Jesus’ plea that his executioners be forgiven “for they know not what they are doing” also does not appear in the earliest versions of his Gospel.

Warren said that even after the fourth-century church definitively settled on the books it accepted as divinely inspired accounts, some of the texts within those books were still subject to slight changes. Warren said the story of the adulterous woman in John’s Gospel, for example, seems to be an account of an actual event preserved and treasured by the Christian community.

“People know it, and they like it,” he said. “It’s about a forgiveness that many times is needed in the church. Can you be forgiven on major sins?”

John had not included it, but early Christians wanted to shoehorn it in somewhere, Warren said. Warren said the story wanders across several early John manuscripts, appearing in a variety of places. It even shows up in two early copies of Luke.

“But probably it was never part of John’s Gospel, in the original form,” he said.

In effect, early copiers were taking what modern readers would recognize as study notes and slipping them into the texts, a process that began to tail off around the ninth century, Warren said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Nolan writes for The Times-Picayune in New Orleans.)
5/27/2011 7:07:00 AM by Bruce Nolan, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Winners named in state Bible Drill

May 26 2011 by BSC Communications

The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) recently hosted the State Youth/High School Bible Drill and Speakers’ Tournament Finals at Abbotts Creek Missionary Baptist Church in High Point. Bible drillers were greeted with colorful balloons, a host of church volunteers and welcome signs.

The state finals drill is the last drill before the National Invitational Youth Bible Drill and Speakers’ Tournament, which will be held this year in Birmingham, Ala., on June 24.

To be eligible for the State Tournament, students had to win at the church and association level, as well as at a regional tournament (regional drills were formerly referred to as state drills).

Contributed photo

Three North Carolina students will head to the National Invitational Youth Bible Drill and Speakers’ Tournament June 24. From left: Chandler Fryar, Union Grove Missionary Baptist Church, Eastern Association, Speakers Tournament; Lauralee Lopez, Unity Baptist Church, Tar Association, High School Bible Drill; and Taylor Oxendine, Mt. Airy Baptist Church, Burnt Swamp Association, Youth Bible Drill. Deborah Robson, right, is the Baptist State Convention of North Carolia Bible Drill coordinator.

The finalists with the top scores from the State Tournament and now continuing on to represent North Carolina in the Nationals are: Taylor Oxendine, Mt. Airy Baptist Church, Burnt Swamp Association, Youth Bible Drill; Lauralee Lopez, Unity Baptist Church, Tar Association, High School Bible Drill; Chandler Fryar, Union Grove Missionary Baptist Church, Eastern Association, Speakers Tournament.

This year six churches across North Carolina hosted 657 drillers and three speakers at the regional tournaments.

“Churches really stepped up to the plate this year in taking ownership of this wonderful ministry. They are really catching the vision of what Bible Drill should be and it’s so exciting to watch,” said Deborah Robson, BSC Bible drill coordinator. “Learning truths from God’s Word really is the foundation to growing in our relationship with Jesus.”

Online Bible Drill registration continues to be successful, as more and more churches are “going green” and putting aside the hard copy registration forms. Churches can register at Next year it will be even easier for church drill leaders and associations to download the church and association drills. They will be able to do so online through a password protected venue. Information will be sent out in January.

The North Carolina Bible Drill site,, is updated often with news and information. The Red Cycle/Cycle 1 verses are already online for Bible Drill 2012.

North Carolina Bible Drillers and leaders can also get updates and share ideas on the Bible Drill Facebook page Churches and associations interested in starting a Bible Drill can contact Robson at
5/26/2011 5:27:00 AM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Joplin church ‘helping people like Jesus would’

May 26 2011 by Susan Mires, Baptist Press

JOPLIN, Mo. — Pastor John Swadley was still huddled in the crawl space under his house when he began forming the plan for Forest Park Baptist Church’s response to the tornado.

Swadley and his family carried a radio with them as they took cover the night of May 22. The local station soon began feeding live reports of the tornado’s destruction. They were spared. Joplin was not.

“I knew at that time we were dealing with a disaster of major proportions,” he said. Forest Park is now at the heart of the national relief effort for Joplin. The church is coordinating food, volunteer assignments and donations in the aftermath of an EF-5 tornado (winds of more than 200 miles per hour) that killed at least 125 and injured 750, with 9 rescued and an unknown number of people still missing.

The National Weather Service reported it was the eighth deadliest tornado in U.S. history. President Barack Obama is planning on visiting Joplin Sunday.

Two men take a break on one of Empire Baptist Church’s red pews, some of the few items left untouched by the EF5 tornado that destroyed the church’s building and much of Joplin, Mo., Sunday, May 22.

“We are just helping people like Jesus would,” Swadley said. “We are being the church and offering help, hope and healing.”

Forest Park’s main campus, which runs about 1,000 in Sunday worship, is just a few blocks north of the storm-damaged area in Joplin. The unharmed church building is perfectly situated to serve as a base of operations for relief efforts.

Response began just minutes after the storm as Swadley used his Facebook page to help family and church members find each other. Church leaders determined Monday morning the most urgent need was for food. Hot meals are being prepared in the church kitchen. Forest Park members are also loading sandwiches in the church van and delivering them to people in the city.

The church’s “bus barn” storage facility has been designated the receiving and staging area for donated items and where supplies such as diapers, toothpaste and soap are distributed. Offers of help have been pouring in from throughout the country.

“I’m really proud of my Heavenly Father and how He is using us for His work,” Swadley said.

Forest Park is the flagship church for the Missouri Baptist Convention in the Joplin area, said John Marshall, convention president and pastor of Second Baptist Church in Springfield.

“They will be in the thick of it until the end,” Marshall said. “They are very community minded. They have three campuses, so they are well-positioned all the way around.”

Forest Park members have also experienced great loss. Thirty-one members have uninhabitable homes. Nearly all of them have been taken into homes of fellow members. Many members share stories of how God protected them through the storm.

“When it says in the Bible to show hospitality, our people have stepped up and done that beautifully to help each other and their friends and Sunday School classes,” Swadley said.

One of the most urgent needs has been helping members get salvageable belongings collected and out of the rain. (Wednesday’s forecast called for a 60 percent chance of rain and scattered thunderstorms.) In addition, grief counseling sessions have been set up at the church and more support groups will be forming. Swadley’s message on Sunday will be titled, “Where do we go from here?”

“We’re going to try to construct a worship service where everyone can experience God’s presence in a way so that they leave stronger than they came,” he said. Most debris clearing is on hold while the search and rescue operation is under way, but volunteers are expected in large numbers soon. Samaritan’s Purse will use Forest Park as its base of operations, providing expertise and direction while the church supplies workers and resources for the relief effort.

“God sets the agenda for His church. When something like this happens, we have to set aside our plans and goals in the short term and adjust to what God would have us do,” Swadley said.

The recovery and Forest Park’s efforts are not short term, Swadley said, but will take many months.

“We’re going to have dozens and dozens of people who will be unemployed because the place where they work no longer exists,” he said. “We want to be able to help provide financial support so they’re not further hurt in their already wounded heart. We want to do our best to cushion the blow as much as we can.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Mires is a contributing writer for The Pathway, the official newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. To donate and learn how to help with relief in Joplin, visit
5/26/2011 5:18:00 AM by Susan Mires, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

VBS: Connecting kids in need with kids who care

May 26 2011 by Sarah Palmer Goff, Baptist Global Response

The Iranian boy and his family left their home to escape conflict and persecution. They sought a better life in Greece, but it wasn’t the dreamland they envisioned. The family is stuck “living in limbo” — they can’t leave the country, but are unrecognized by the government.

Lost in the system, illegal citizens with no rights or a way to work, they are “non-persons.” The boy’s parents have no way of gaining income, and he can’t attend a Greek school. He could get an education through a nearby co-op, but his family can’t even buy the basic school supplies needed for that.

Sadly, this boy’s plight is all too common. Children across the globe can’t afford the simplest of supplies needed to attend school.

Now a Baptist Global Response (BGR) project will provide children with the basic supplies they so desperately need — and give them the opportunity to attend school.

FILLING — LifeWay Christian Resources is highlighting a school supply kit for Baptist Global Response through its Vacation Bible Schools this summer.

BGR’s “Kits for Kids” project will launch full-force this summer as the featured project in the missions rotation of LifeWay Christian Resources’ Vacation Bible School summer program. LifeWay is partnering with BGR to send the educational kits to BGR partners overseas who have requested kits and will distribute them to children in need.

When LifeWay expressed interest in partnering with BGR for their 2011 VBS program, everyone agreed the kits were “perfect for VBS because it’s about kids, it’s for kids and kids would be collecting it,” Funderburk said. LifeWay had partnered with BGR in 2010 to promote the In-Home Care Kits, but that project was too expensive for and difficult to explain to children. Darlene Parrish, LifeWay content editor for VBS curriculum, said they were interested in partnering with BGR on Kits for Kids because many churches want to include a hands-on mission project in VBS, and children would easily understand the need for school supplies.

“The Kits for Kids campaign will help children understand there are places where simple things like notebook paper and pencils are luxuries that are hard to come by,” Parrish said. “They can be kids who care about other kids who don’t have those same luxuries. In addition, kids will learn there are many ways they can help and ‘do something big for God,’ whether that’s for children far away or just down their street.

“We want kids to understand that this is what God has called us to do: to reach to others and help them in His name, and they get to be a part of that,” Parrish said. Lori Funderburk, BGR’s prayer strategist, and Regina Palmer, the group’s signature projects coordinator, are co-coordinating the Kits for Kids initiative.

“An important aspect of the project is that it’s something the children could actually do themselves — going to the store with their parents and picking out the supplies from the shopping list,” Funderburk noted. “In doing so, the children could make a connection that a child across the globe will use these same supplies they use and these supplies will help a child who couldn’t go to school otherwise.”

As of May 17, Funderburk and Palmer have received requests from BGR partners in 31 countries for approximately more than 138,000 kits. Many large requests have come from the South Africa region — including countries such as Rwanda, Botswana, Kenya and Madagascar — and the countries of China and the Philippines. The largest area of request by far is Asia, with 18 project requests for approximately 56,000 kits.

Though VBS is sponsoring the project, anyone can pack a kit, Funderburk said. Groups that have already contacted BGR to pack kits include Women’s Missionary Union chapters, university students, whole churches and individual families. Even packing just one kit is fine “because one will make a difference to that person,” she said.

The kits give churches and individuals an opportunity to change the world and make a difference — something they often don’t know how to approach, Funderburk said.

Ben Wolf, BGR area director for Asia Rim, said he is excited about the impact these kits could have in so many different areas and ways.

The Asia Rim region is diverse, from the world’s largest population in China, the big inland country of Mongolia, and third-world Cambodia to the smallest of islands in Fiji,” Wolf said. “The kits will be used in tribal areas, as well as big urban centers.

“The kids are some of the poorest of the poor. These are families that are living from hand to mouth or just daily — what they earn today pays for supper tonight,” Wolf said. “They have no additional income to pay for the basic need of school supplies.”

The kits will make an impact on entire families, not just children, because when you minister to the children in a family, new relationships and trust are built, Wolf added.

To learn more about this project and how to pack a kit, visit
5/26/2011 5:12:00 AM by Sarah Palmer Goff, Baptist Global Response | with 0 comments

Yeats to be re-nominated recording sec’y

May 26 2011 by Baptist Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — John L. Yeats will be re-nominated for another one-year term as recording secretary of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) during the June 14-15 annual meeting in Phoenix, an SBC seminary leader has announced.

“John Yeats is a respected leader in our convention who has led with skill, integrity and Christlikeness,” said Russell Moore, dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. “John is held in affection and admiration by Southern Baptists in every sector of our denominational community.

“As Southern Baptists move to the future of our convictional, cooperative mission together, it is critical to have the kind of wise, experienced, gospel-centered leadership we find in John Yeats,” Moore said.

Last year’s annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., marked Yeats’ 13th annual meeting as recording secretary.

The SBC recording secretary is responsible for the record of the proceedings of the Southern Baptist Convention, training volunteer pages and the final edit of the SBC Book of Reports and the SBC Annual. He also serves as an ex officio member of the SBC Executive Committee.

Yeats designed the process currently used for the flow of information from the convention floor to the platform and distribution to the Order of Business Committee, a process that has enhanced the accuracy of the official record.

Yeats currently serves as director of communications for the Louisiana Baptist Convention (LBC) and edits the LBCLive missions magazine. He is a former editor of state Baptist papers in Oklahoma and Indiana and has served churches in six states during 40-plus years of pastoral ministry.

Yeats is a graduate of Dallas Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. In 2006, he received a doctor of ministry degree from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compiled by Mark Kelly, an assistant editor at Baptist Press.)
5/26/2011 5:08:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Teens send out S.O.S. on human trafficking

May 25 2011 by Laura Moore, BR Editorial Aide

Today somewhere near you is a girl that feels alone and sees no hope. She is being used to provide income in a brothel.

She sees no way out. She might even have children. She sees no way out for them either.

“Through S.O.S., I have learned so many things about God. He has taught me what faithfulness is,” said Morgan Barney about Save Our Sisters (S.O.S.), the ministry that she and her friends started July 14, 2010.

Four high school freshman girls, including Barney, from Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, sat down together and prayed July 4, 2010, for women across the world trapped in the sex slave trade.

Before they knew it, they were planning and shaping a vision for Save Our Sisters. Through this ministry, they raise money for Project Rescue (, an operation that runs safe homes for girls being rescued from sex slavery.

Save Our Sisters strives to support the effort of freeing girls in the sex slave trade and bringing them into safe environments where they can heal and learn about Christ. When forming the ministry, the girls chose Project Rescue to be their focus because “they are unapologetically founded on Jesus Christ,” Barney said. Both Project Rescue and the S.O.S. girls agree that the only true rescue these girls can have is through Christ.

Currently, Project Rescue has 11 homes in India, Nepal and Moldova with plans for homes in other countries as well. These safe havens and places of healing and teaching are called Homes of Hope.

BR photo Dianna L. Cagle

Amy Burke, left, and other young ladies from S.O.S. work at their display table during the North Carolina Baptist Men’s annual meeting April 2. The girls led breakout sessions at the youth conference as well as participated as an exhibitor at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. See photo gallery.

One of the S.O.S. girls, Amy Burke, was able to recently visit a Project Rescue home in Delhi, India. Many of the girls in this home are actually daughters of sex workers, and their mothers do not want them to have the same fate they have had. Without a Home of Hope to turn to, these children would have no option but to continue living in the brothels and eventually become part of the prostitution. In the Homes of Hope more than 1,000 young women have found freedom and a new meaning in life.

So far, the ladies have raised around $25,000, most of which has been sent straight to the field through Project Rescue. A huge part of S.O.S.’s mission in the last couple of months has been highlighting the Delhi Home of Hope, which is older and outdated and needs to be rebuilt. They want to raise $90,000 toward rebuilding this home. They are beginning to set aside funds toward this effort as well.

Barney said, “It’s been amazing to see the positive response. So many have wanted to help and be involved.” In just under a year, S.O.S. has grown to include nine girls on their leadership team ranging from 7th through 9th grade with many others that support and contribute to the effort.

Julie Barney, mother of Morgan and McCall on the leadership team, talks with excitement about all that her daughters are accomplishing: “I feel like I’m getting to be involved in ministry right along with my children, and only our God would do that.”

Through their efforts, the girls have managed to hold a fund-raising event for each season of the year with their spring event May 14, a barbeque in Advance. Many supporters came to join in fellowship, music and dancing, henna tattoos and eating while all of the proceeds went to S.O.S.’s mission.

Reflecting on the bondage and utter darkness that sex slaves are in, supporters put together a sanctuary project by bringing personal pictures that they posted to a collective display. “These girls have no sanctuary,” Morgan Barney stated as she talked about how she wanted people to contribute photos of their own sanctuaries and safe havens: places that they spend time with God.

As S.O.S finds more ways to raise support for girls in slavery, they are advocating for those that have no voice. As they embrace Isaiah 61:1-3, the Lord has given them a passion to serve girls often around the same age as them, but who were never given the choice to fight for their sexual purity.

The U.S. Department of Justice reports that the average age for trafficked victims is 11-14. A 2004 study by United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has shown that 30 million children have lost their childhood through sexual exploitation over the past 30 years.

Not only do the S.O.S. girls strive to be examples for Christ with their own standards of purity, but they are fighting for the purity of others.

S.O.S. is building these young women up in their faith, teaching them how to trust God as well as stretching them to handle tough challenges. One of the leaders, Brianna Weir, said, “We continually are trusting in Him for our strength and courage even when things don’t go as we had planned.”

“We want to encourage youth to be serving in things that they are passionate about — to respond to God’s call,” Morgan Barney said in response to being asked about S.O.S.’s local goal.

Visit for more information about S.O.S. and to donate to their cause.
5/25/2011 12:50:00 PM by Laura Moore, BR Editorial Aide | with 0 comments

Joplin relief workers cry out for rain to stop

May 25 2011 by Brian Koonce, Baptist Press

JOPLIN, Mo. — Relentless rain and the threat of more severe weather are holding back efforts in Joplin, Mo., to move forward with rescue and cleanup two days after the May 22 tornado that killed at least 117 people, including three worshipping at Harmony Heights Baptist Church.

The weather is not cooperating. The Weather Channel forecast for the evening of May 24 noted a 70 percent chance of storms and winds of 20-30 miles per hour. Occasional thunderstorms may be severe, with damaging winds, large hail and possibly even another tornado. Wednesday’s forecast is just as bleak with an 80 percent chance of rain and more strong winds that may produce large hail.

Greg Walker, student pastor at Forest Park Baptist Church, asked for prayers that the rain and lightning would stop. “It would be a huge help,” Walker said. “People go out to work and then they have to run right back.”

Steve Patterson, director of missions for the Spring River Baptist Association based in Joplin, said the rescue and cleanup process is barely moving.

“It’s been a long, strange prep stage,” Patterson said. “Everybody is so ready to do something. We just don’t want to get in the way of search and rescue work.”

Patterson said disaster relief assessment crews are staging to move in as soon as the city gives the go-ahead. A DR incident command center was set up May 23 at the Baptist Student Union of Missouri Southern State University and a meeting took place May 24 to regroup DR efforts and focus.

Photo by Brian Koonce/The Pathway

Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief chaplains and assessors meet in Joplin, Mo., to discuss the morning’s work in the aftermath of the May 22 tornado.

On Sunday evening, 53 people at Harmony Heights Baptist Church were listening as pastor Charlie Burnett preached when storm sirens began to sound. Burnett moved everyone into the designated storm shelter interior rooms of the church (it had no basement). Moments later, the tornado hit the church, tearing it apart.

“It is a miracle that many survived,” Patterson said.

Empire Baptist Church, near the heavily damaged hospital that has received extensive media attention, was likely a total loss, Patterson said. No one was injured there.

“The whole sanctuary wall collapsed and that caused the roof to cave in and the windows to blow out,” he said.

Eastvue Baptist Church was spared, but its pastor, Tim Sumners, is one of the hundreds whose homes were destroyed. Patterson added that all of the churches affiliated with the association had at least one member who lost a home. John Marshall, president of the Missouri Baptist Convention and pastor of Second Baptist Church in Springfield, reported that Forest Park, the largest church in Joplin, has several injured members and one fatality. More than 30 members lost their homes.

“As a church, we’re doing pretty good considering, but we’re trying to look outside our walls,” said Walker, the student pastor. “Everybody knows someone who lost someone. Some of our students have lost their homes, but as far as I know they’re OK.”

The facility of Forest Park was unharmed and has been serving as a collection point for donated items. Most feeding is being done on the campus of Missouri Southern State University.

The death toll of 117 is the highest for any one single tornado in the United States since a 1953 twister hit Flint, Mich., killing 116, reported. Several sources have indicated to The Pathway, the Missouri Baptist Convention’s newsjournal, that the number of fatalities will grow.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Koonce is a staff writer for The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Online donations can be made through Trained DR volunteers should check in through their DR chain of command.)
5/25/2011 12:42:00 PM by Brian Koonce, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Raleigh association connects to seniors’ needs

May 24 2011 by Carol Layton, N.C. Baptist Aging Ministry

Heads turned throughout the fellowship hall to see which one of the many seniors present was responsible for the loud and rhythmic snore echoing through the room. As it turned out, the only one dozing on this action-packed evening was a three-year-old snuggled in her daddy’s lap. Reflecting the trend toward more interactive meetings, the April 26 semi-annual meeting of the Raleigh Baptist Association (RBA) was not your daddy’s association meeting. A mini-conference themed “Connecting Churches to Seniors’ Needs” followed the business meeting. Messengers heard a keynote address, and had the choice between four breakout sessions that provided options for individualized and interactive learning.

Michael Blackwell, president of Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH) as well as North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry (NCBAM) provided the keynote address. He set the stage for the breakout sessions to follow by sharing statistics and stories about the changing face of aging in North Carolina. Blackwell challenged the group that “each statistic represents ministry opportunities for North Carolina Baptists.”

Cindy Buffaloe, consultant for church start strategy for the RBA, said the affluence of Wake County generally means a lot of physical needs for food and medical care are met.

“There are many people, however, who are lonely and just need someone to visit them,” she said. “I was excited to learn tonight how churches can be involved with NCBAM to meet not only physical needs, but the unique spiritual needs of the aging and their vital need for socialization.”

Contributed photo

NCBAM Eastern Regional Director Wendy Minton-Edwards visits with attendees at the April 26 semi-annual meeting of the Raleigh Baptist Association.

The aging population in N.C. will double between 2000 and 2030. North Carolina ranks as the sixth most popular state for retirees. The number of North Carolinians age 65 and older is expected to grow 76 percent over the next 20 years.

Blackwell further defined this growing segment of the population into “frail-aging” and “well-aging” categories.

He detailed the benefits and challenges of an aging population and congratulated the aging adults present for service to their churches and communities — and to the frail aging of their generation. Blackwell stated that the mission of NCBAM is to “provide help for the journey while seeking to enable the aging to maintain independence and quality life.”

He gave examples of the ways NCBAM fulfills its mission:

  • The Call Center on the Mills Home campus in Thomasville which connects those 65 and over (or their caregivers) with help for their needs
  • Regional directors providing information and training from Murphy to Manteo, and making vital connections with civic and social agencies
  • Christ the Cornerstone Projects (publications that support the spiritual needs of the aging and their caregivers)
  • Fall prevention awareness initiatives
  • NCBAM’s most powerful alliance — partnerships with servant volunteers in Baptist churches Because messengers came with different needs for information, the four breakout sessions provided relative information for attendees.

Builders and Boomers presented by Johnny Ross, GuideStone representative from the Baptist State Convention, explored the mindset differences between these two generations and how churches can best design ministries for each.

Assisting Seniors in a Low-Budget Economy presented by Bill Wallace, retired director of missions in the Tar River Association, explored free or low-cost resources that can ease stress for financially burdened seniors.

Connecting to Community Resources presented by Debbie Pilson, central regional director for NCBAM, revealed how to find civic, social and faith-based programs that can meet the needs of aging adults. Life with Christ presented by Wendy Minton Edwards, eastern regional director for NCBAM, addressed natural life issues encountered during the aging process and how they might be intentionally maximized in order to fully experience the presence and power of God.

Roger Nix, executive director of the RBA, has been aware of NCBAM since its beginning through the work of Edwards.

“We partnered with Wendy to plan tonight’s meeting. It is our first attempt to educate the churches in the RBA about the transition from the ministry of Baptist Retirement Homes to NCBAM. The convention did well when they placed the ministry in Mickey’s hands.” And with a grin of understatement, Nix added, “Dr. Blackwell has taken on his new assignment pretty well.”

Ephesus Baptist Church in Raleigh hosted the event. Greg Templin wants his church to be prepared for the aging population shift. “It was an honor to be able to host this special event and learn about NCBAM firsthand from Dr. Blackwell. I’m looking forward to sharing about it next week with the deacons,” Templin said.

Craig Saunders, associate pastor of Highland Baptist Church, said Blackwell’s record at BCH speaks for itself. Saunders said he came away with “lots of good ideas” to develop a senior program and possibly an adult day care.

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

5/24/2011 8:34:00 AM by Carol Layton, N.C. Baptist Aging Ministry | with 0 comments

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