May 2012

UNC committee won’t recommend 'all-comers' policy

May 25 2012 by World News Service

(WNS) – The committee reviewing the nondiscrimination policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill likely will not recommend the school adopt an “all-comers” policy for student organizations.
 
Jonathan Sauls, dean of students at UNC, said this week the group did not think such a policy would benefit the school’s student body.
 
“There seems to be a broad consensus that migrating to an ‘all-comers’ policy would not be our recommendation,” Sauls said. “We don’t think that’s what’s warranted or needed at UNC.”
 
An “all-comers” policy would require religious groups to accept members and leaders who do not share the groups’ beliefs. Sauls co-chaired the committee of faculty and students formed to review the school’s existing nondiscrimination policy, which religious liberty experts say offers some of the best protection in the nation for campus religious groups.
 
The current policy has just two clauses. The first prohibits groups from restricting membership or participation based on age, race and religious affiliation, among other factors. The second clause offers an exemption for belief-based groups: “Student organizations that select their members on the basis of commitment to a set of beliefs (e.g., religious or political beliefs) may limit membership and participation in the organization to students who, upon individual inquiry, affirm that they support the organization’s goals and agree with its beliefs.”
 
The school adopted the policy in response to a directive issued by a federal court in 2005, and administrators decided to review it after Christian singing group Psalm 100 asked one of its members to leave because his views on homosexuality no longer matched the group’s stated beliefs.
 
Administrators cleared Psalm 100 of any wrongdoing, but Sauls said committee members want to make it easier in future cases to establish whether any discrimination has taken place.
 
“We recognize there needs to be an opportunity for groups to coalesce around commonly held beliefs,” he said. “But we need greater clarification about what those beliefs are.”
 
The committee’s recommendation does not represent a change to the current policy but clarifies what it means in practical application, Sauls said. The committee members agreed they wanted the UNC campus to remain inclusive and open, with administrators taking a content-neutral and least intrusive approach into the individual affairs of student organizations, Sauls said.
 
In reviewing UNC’s options, the committee evaluated about six different types of policies for official student organizations. Several schools-most notably Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tenn.-adopted “all-comers” policies in response to a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in CLS v. Martinez. The court ruled that such a policy, which requires all groups to be open to all students for membership and leadership, did not violate the First Amendment. But the court did not rule on whether such a policy could still be legal if it included exceptions for some groups but not others.
 
Jeremy Tedesco, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), said he wished more schools would adopt UNC’s position and do everything they can to allow religious groups to exercise their beliefs on campus.
 
“Anywhere they see any restrictive anything they want to strike that out,” he said of schools that have become less tolerant of religious groups. “But that is an absolutely necessary component of the exercise of free speech.”
 
Tedesco recently won a dispute with the University of North Carolina at Greensboro over its refusal to recognize a pro-life group under the nondiscrimination policy’s belief-based exemption. Without the exemption, the group would have been forced to allow anyone, regardless of their beliefs about abortion, to be a member. Two weeks after the ADF filed suit on the group’s behalf, the school relented and granted the exemption.
 
Although the Chapel Hill policy review committee has finished its work, it has not submitted its final report to school administrators. Sauls expects to hand over the final recommendations by mid June. Administrators are not bound to accept the group’s recommendation, but Sauls is confident they will take the suggestions seriously.
 
“The path we chose was a good one,” he said. “We really studied the issue, including case law and best practices. I think we began to have an appreciation that there’s a lot more to this than what policy you want to have.”
5/25/2012 2:28:19 PM by World News Service | with 0 comments



IMB trustees elect VP of marketplace endeavor

May 25 2012 by Kate Gregory, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) – Scott Holste has been elected as vice president for global strategic mobilization for the International Mission Board (IMB).
 
Holste, who was elected during the May 22-23 meeting of IMB trustees in Nashville, Tenn., will direct a new initiative with Christian leaders in business and marketplace professions across the world.
 
Trustees also approved 101 missionaries for overseas service, 41 of whom have served previous missionary terms, bringing the current IMB missionary count to 4,919. The appointees were recognized during a service May 23 at Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, Tenn.
 
Strategic Mobilization
 
Holste’s goal will be to mobilize business leaders and marketplace professionals whose global experience and connections place them in a position of access to difficult-to-reach people groups across the globe.
 
Marketplace professionals include Christians living or traveling overseas, as well as students preparing for careers such as international business, medicine and law. They are in natural positions for global missions involvement, Holste said.
 
More than two-thirds of Southern Baptist missionaries serving overseas encounter some geopolitical-access restrictions, he said.
 
“A solution to these significant, growing challenges fills our pews,” he said. Marketplace professionals “intersect with other professionals in the workplace, where they naturally form relationships.”
 
5-25-12IMB.jpg

BP Photo

IMB trustees elected Scott Holste as vice president for global strategic mobilization May 23 as part of their board meeting in Nashville. Global strategic mobilization is a new initiative to collaborate with business leaders and other marketplace professionals to use their career-based experience and connections to help reach people groups across the globe with the gospel.


Holste begins serving in his new role May 26. Since 2009, the Florida native has been IMB’s associate vice president for global strategy.
 
He and his wife Janie were appointed as missionaries to Asia in 1987, subsequently moving to Richmond, Va., in 1997 as missionaries-in-residence. In 1999, he joined IMB staff as director of global research. From 2005-09, he served as associate vice president for IMB’s research and strategic services.
 
Southern Baptist business leaders from across the United States will participate in a “think tank” with IMB leaders May 31 in Dallas to further develop the initiative which is based on the first-century model of church planting when the gospel spread along Roman roads of commerce.
 
“There are business leaders who have expressed eagerness to move out of the pew and step up to the challenge,” IMB President Tom Elliff said. “Many have asked to join us in carrying the gospel to every language, people, tribe and nation. In some instances, they are already in areas we have yet to reach.
 
“The fellowship of business leaders and their involvement in completing  task will complement the effective work of our personnel already in place around the world.”
 
Financial Report
 
David Steverson, IMB vice president for finance, reported on financial statements for 2011.
 
Total income in 2011 was down $42 million from 2010. “Almost every category in the 2011 financial statement is less than the year before,” he said.
 
Receipts for the 2011 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions will be tabulated after its financial books close May 31.
 
During the trustee meeting, national WMU president Debby Akerman presented a check for $10,706 to the Lottie Moon offering on behalf of two annual endowments, honoring “the longstanding support that women within those families gave to missions and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering,” she said.
 
President’s Report
 
During his president’s report, Elliff encouraged trustees to “live a crucified life,” drawing from John 12 in the New Testament.
 
Christians are to “die to self and our agendas, obsessions, plans, selfish desires and little, insidious sins that seem to capture us,” Elliff said, noting that the only way to spiritual progress is saying, “Lord, it isn’t about me. It’s about You.”
 
“The path to an effective future for IMB does not begin with a bucket load of great ideas,” said Elliff, reminding trustees of God’s exhortation to King Asa in 2 Chronicles 16:9, “but with hearts that are perfect toward God. It is only when we die to self that we can clearly see the plans God has for us.”
 
New Officers
 
Trustees elected new officers for 2012-13: chairman, David Uth, pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla.; first vice chairman, Richard Landry, a physician from Trinity Baptist Church in Lake Charles, La.; and second vice chairman, John Edie, executive pastor of Second Baptist Church in Springfield, Mo. Jana Brown, a retired schoolteacher from Peavine Baptist Church in Rock Spring, Ga., was re-elected recording secretary.
 
Nine trustees were honored for completing terms of service: David Button of New York, Norman Coe of Kentucky, A.C. Halsell of Texas, Elizabeth Harris and Tim Locher of North Carolina, Robert E. Jackson of Alabama, John Keith of Utah/Idaho, Richard Thompson of Oklahoma and Simon Tsoi of Arizona.
 
The next trustee meeting will be Sept. 11-12 in Ridgecrest, N.C., during emeritus recognition week at LifeWay’s Ridgecrest Conference Center. A missionary appointment service is scheduled Sept. 12 at First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, N.C.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Kate Gregory is an International Mission Board writer/editor.)
5/25/2012 1:40:30 PM by Kate Gregory, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



41%, a record low: Pro-choice view slides in Gallup polling

May 25 2012 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON (BP) - Americans who consider themselves pro-choice on abortion are at a record low, according to a new Gallup public opinion poll.
 
Forty-one percent of Americans identify themselves as pro-choice - marking a drop of 6 percent since July and the lowest percentage since Gallup began asking the public in 1995 to self-identify as pro-choice or pro-life. The Gallup organization reported the dramatic downturn for pro-choice advocates Wednesday (May 23).
 
The same survey showed 50 percent of Americans identify themselves as pro-life, one point less than the record high, which was set in May 2009. The previous low of 42 percent for pro-choicers also came in the 2009 poll.
 
Pro-life leaders expressed no amazement at the trend - which was demonstrated among Republicans, Democrats and independents.
 
“This is not just an American phenomenon,” said C. Ben Mitchell, professor of moral philosophy at Union University in Tennessee. “Now that imaging technologies offer us a clearer picture of what’s happening in the womb, it is increasingly difficult to dehumanize the unborn person in a mother’s body.
 
“Even in our fallen, fragile world, human life in all its stages gives testimony to the image of God,” said Mitchell, a longtime consultant with Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
 
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BP Photo

A new generation of pro-life advocates was in evidence during February’s March for Life in Washington, D.C.


Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List pro-life organization, said in a written statement, “It comes as no surprise that more Americans are shedding the ‘pro-choice’ label as they come to terms with what is really meant by this hollow branding.
 
“The big [lie that] ‘abortion liberates’ … and those who promulgate it are becoming unmasked,” Dannenfelser said.
 
In the breakdown by political identification, the poll showed:
 
- Independents identifying as pro-choice dropped since May 2011 from 51 to 41 percent, while those labeling themselves as pro-life increased from 41 to 47 percent.
 
- Republicans pro-choicers fell in the last year from 28 to 22 percent, while pro-lifers grew from 68 to 72 percent.
 
- Democrats identifying as pro-choice decreased in the last 12 months from 68 to 58 percent, while those considering themselves pro-life increased from 27 to 34 percent.
 
While the survey demonstrated a noteworthy shift in Americans’ self-identification as pro-life or pro-choice, it showed little change on the questions of the morality and legality of abortion, Gallup reported. The survey found:
 
- 51 percent say abortion is “morally wrong,” the same as in May 2011, and 38 percent say it is “morally acceptable,” one point less than last year.
 
- 52 percent say abortion should be legal “only under circumstances,” a two-point increase in the last year, while 25 percent say it should be legal “under any circumstances” and 20 percent say it should be illegal “in all circumstances.” The last two results both reflect a two-point decline since last May.
 
Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life, said the latest poll “is only the tip of the iceberg. In fact, a growing number of Americans are uneasy with the unfettered, under-regulated and unsavory abortion industry as it exists today.”
 
Regarding the change in pro-choice and pro-life identification in the last year, Gallup did not offer a reason for the development but pointed to the focus on abortion in several news items, including: the congressional attempt to defund and its investigation of Planned Parenthood, the country’s No. 1 abortion provider; the reversal by cancer charity Susan G. Komen of its decision to halt grants to Planned Parenthood; and the Obama administration’s contraceptive/abortion mandate. That mandate requires health plans to cover contraceptives - including ones that can cause abortions of tiny embryos - and sterilizations as preventive services without cost to employees.
 
Dannenfelser cited the effort to require taxpayers to fund abortions as a key reason for the public’s move away from the pro-choice position, noting, “Those who would have us continue to fund abortion with our tax dollars are arguing in direct opposition to public opinion.
 
“President Obama, his allies in Congress and the abortion lobby have radically overstepped their bounds, causing Americans to turn away quickly,” Dannenfelser said.
 
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, also pointed to Obama’s policies as an explanation for the change.
 
The president’s “radical abortion agenda is finally putting a face on the ‘choice’ movement, and it’s not pretty,” Perkins wrote.
 
“What we’re witnessing is the nationwide backlash to three years of Planned Parenthood-style governing,” he said. “And led by the next generation, America is on the verge of a social revolution that will ultimately reclaim this nation as a culture of life.”
 
It would seem the use of ultrasounds to show images of unborn children continues to have an impact on opinions about abortion as well.
 
After public opinion peaked in favor of the pro-life side in 2009 at 51 percent to 42 percent, the gap shrunk the next two years. In 2011, pro-life Americans were at 49 percent and pro-choicers at 45 percent.
 
Gallup conducted the poll of 1,024 adults by telephone May 3-6.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Baptist Press editor Art Toalston contributed to this article.)
5/25/2012 1:33:32 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Wright previews 'historic' SBC annual meeting

May 24 2012 by Baptist Press

MARIETTA, Ga. (BP) – In his final monthly video as president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Bryant Wright offers a preview at www.Pray4SBC.com of the annual meeting in New Orleans, noting that unengaged, unreached people groups and church planting will be the main focuses.
 
“As we prepare for our convention, I want you to know that I’m very excited about coming together with so many of you in New Orleans this year. It obviously will be a historic convention,” Wright said, referring to the anticipated election of the SBC’s first African American president, Fred Luter.
 
The June 19-20 convention also will have a clear theme of “Jesus: to the Neighborhood and the Nations,” Wright said.
 
“We want to share the gospel of Jesus Christ in our neighborhoods and our local mission fields where our churches are planted but also realize as we do that we also want to go to the nations,” Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., said.
 
At last year’s annual meeting in Phoenix, more than 600 churches went forward to commit to embracing an unengaged, unreached people group.
 
“Now that number is almost up to 1,200 churches along with all of our seminaries and some of our Baptist colleges. So God is working in local churches to give that local church a sense of responsibility of embracing a people group that has not heard the gospel,” Wright said.
 
Last year 3,800 people groups were classified as unengaged and unreached, Wright said, but contacts now have been made with about 400 of those people groups.
 
“As a matter of fact, Johnson Ferry had its first trip to engage one of those unengaged people groups in northern India this past spring. I know many of the churches are in that process,” he said.
 
Also at the New Orleans convention, an emphasis will be placed on the unreached areas of the United States and Canada, such as metropolitan areas where the North American Mission Board plans to plant more churches.
 
“So many of our seminary students are passionate about church planting, and as more and more churches are engaged in church planting, we will see a multiplication process that I think really will reverse the trend over time of seeing more people baptized, more growth within our convention as people are discipled in what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ,” Wright said in the video.
 
Messengers will hear a report from the task force that studied the idea of changing the name of the Southern Baptist Convention.
 
“We are now recommending a descriptor versus a legal name change – Great Commission Baptists – that we hope will become synonymous with who we are and how people think of us and our mission and our purpose as a convention,” the president said. “By being at this year’s convention you’ll have an opportunity to be a part of that very important decision.”
 
Wright recommended people dress casually for the convention, expecting warm, humid weather in New Orleans.
 
“We also will be having our convention sessions during the day, and having no night sessions gives you freedom to fellowship with your friends and family members and enjoy some of the great food that’s there in New Orleans,” Wright said.

By eliminating evening sessions last year, Wright noticed greater participation by messengers. More people were in attendance for the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board reports because they were presented during the day, he said.
 
“So if you can be there, we’d love to have you as a part of that convention to take part as we come together and hopefully renew our commitment to reaching and discipling this world for Jesus Christ as Christ has commanded us to do,” Wright said.
 
Also in the video, Wright thanked Southern Baptists for the privilege of serving as president for two years and said the experience has been “tremendously energizing” and “tremendously exhausting.”
 
“I’ll always be thankful, though, for just seeing how vast is the work for Christ’s Kingdom that Southern Baptists are engaged in, and having a front row seat at so much of that really has been a wonderful privilege,” Wright said.
 
He expressed gratitude for those who prayed that he would stay close to God and to his family throughout his time as president and said God has answered those prayers. Wright added that he is looking forward to taking a sabbatical from his role at Johnson Ferry upon completion of his presidential term.
 
“The timing will be perfect at the end of this time to get the batteries recharged and to have some time to reflect and also look with great anticipation to the future years of ministry here at Johnson Ferry,” Wright said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach.)
5/24/2012 2:07:12 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



‘A lot of hurt’ in Seattle meets with church planter’s vision

May 24 2012 by Joe Conway, Baptist Press

SEATTLE, Wash. (BP) – Crazy. Not the first description that comes to mind for church planting, but for Keith and Kristine Carpenter the word comes up often.
 
The couple, married 21 years, moved to Seattle three years ago to help launch Epic Life Church. The church plant celebrated its two-year anniversary in September 2011, with God having used a still, small, yet extremely direct voice to call the Carpenters to the Pacific Northwest.

“I was sitting in church, minding my own business,” said Keith Carpenter, who was a church’s college pastor in Winona, Minn. “I felt like God tapped us on the shoulder and said, ‘I want you to go start a church.’ And I was like, ‘What?’”

One week later, Kristine had “a pretty crazy dream,” Carpenter continued. “She’d never been to Seattle, but she said, ‘I saw this word, it was just the letters Aurora in Seattle.’ So we checked out Aurora in Seattle and found it was a main drag.

“That kinda got our attention.”

A trip to explore Seattle and Aurora Avenue four months later confirmed their vision, though they found the Aurora corridor to be a crazy place.

“Most people, if you ask them about Aurora, they’ll say bars and strip clubs and adult bookstores and all this stuff,” Carpenter said. “There’s just a lot of hurt along the street.” The couple started meeting people – “walking up and down [the avenue], talking with the homeless, spending time with them, knowing them by name.”

“And people came in from those relationships,” Carpenter said.
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Photo by Ron Storer/Genesis Photos.

Keith and Kristine Carpenter, North American Mission Board missionaries, spend time building relationships with business owners and workers along Seattle’s Aurora Avenue, inviting them into the community that is Epic Life Church.


Epic Life Church, which meets in a movie theater, has grown to a congregation of 100, encompassing the homeless as well as people with comfortable homes and incomes.

“We have a rocking good time,” said Carpenter, a North American Mission Board (NAMB) church planter missionary. “It’s not something we dreamed up. The only way I can explain it is that it’s truly God calling us to do this.

“We really have wanted to bring color to the city. This is a colorless city, spiritually colorless. Our vision at Epic Life is to see North Seattle transformed by finding an epic life in Christ.”

Another crazy occurrence in the Carpenters’ venture to Seattle came when a crack house burned down and became a homeless hangout.

“We prayed for a year and then asked the owners if we could create a garden,” Carpenter said. The owners initially said no, but finally agreed. God’s allowed us to use this space without paying for it. As we have the money we put in gardening containers. We see it as transforming people’s lives – a place to share the gospel.

“There’s a homeless lady who lives there. She has a botany degree. She sleeps on the sidewalk, but she takes care of the plants. Crazy,” Carpenter said.

The Epic Life community is excited that Seattle is a Send North America city, part of NAMB’s national church planting initiative in 29 major cities across the continent. Epic Life already is working with a supporting church in Texas, Oakwood Baptist in New Braunfels.

“They brought 131 youth and their leaders this summer,” Carpenter said. “When a group like that comes, it puts a lot of hands and feet on the ground. They helped us with a block party for several hundred people. People along Aurora are not just down and out, they are marginalized. Showing them love and that people truly care has opened a lot of doors,” Carpenter said.

Brandon Best, Oakwood’s middle school pastor in New Braunfels, said the benefits were mutual.

“We need to get away from our bubble, our place, to be able to experience and see things,” Best said. “We came to show some students and some adult leaders who we’re giving funds to. And not just giving, but doing as well. And man, we’re excited about that.”

Epic already is planning to initiate a second church, this one in the south part of Seattle. Connect with Epic Life Church at epiclifechurch.org.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Joe Conway is a writer for the North American Mission Board. For more information about NAMB’s Send North America initiative, go to www.namb.net/overview-why-send. To view a video about Keith Carpenter and missionaries like him, visit www.namb.net/video.)
5/24/2012 1:49:07 PM by Joe Conway, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Believer sees harvest in months of imprisonment, torture

May 24 2012 by Ava Thomas, Baptist Press

CENTRAL ASIA — “Dad, I think we’re being followed.”
 
Yasemin* drummed her fingers nervously on the car door. Her father kept on driving the familiar route to drop her off at English class, singing a praise song to Jesus as he drove.
 
Yasemin turned around and looked back.
 
“Dad. We’re being followed.”
 
He sang louder.
 
“Would you take it seriously?”
 
Not missing a beat, he changed his lyrics mid-verse and belted out a song of his own: “I’m going to prison today!”
 
James* knew the signs. He’d already been in prison once for his faith in Jesus. That day made it a second.
 
In the region where James and his family live, people bend over backward to show hospitality. Go to your neighbors’ home, and they spread out a feast for you and heap your plate high with special food. Leave your wallet somewhere, and people will guard it until you return.
 
“In lieu of an armored car, I’ve seen cars left unattended with the trunk open and piles of cash inside. No one would dare bother it,” a friend of James said.
 
In his country, they take care of each other.
 
But share Christ openly, and they may torture you.
 
“James has been blindfolded, handcuffed and held in solitary confinement,” his friend said. “During the day, he was confined to a room where there were three compressor units blowing hot air on him, and he was not given any water or food.”
 
Officials interrogated him, asking why he left his former religion.
 
“I am on this Way because of Jesus and what He has done for me,” James said.
 
At the beginning of his imprisonment, he was put in a very small jail cell at night, his hands released just long enough for him to eat a small piece of bread and drink one liter of water.
 
But James didn’t sleep — he stayed awake praying and singing praises, just as he did in the hot room during the daytime.
 
He’s lost nearly 50 pounds since being imprisoned.
 
But he’s seen a lot of people found — many of them from places where James could never get access to go and share. One of them had heard part of the gospel message nine years ago, and when he met James in prison, he heard the whole message and believed on the spot.
 
5-24-12Imprisoned.jpg

“This man had been waiting for nine years to hear the rest of the gospel, just wanting to meet someone who could tell him. He knew immediately it was God’s plan to send him to prison,” James’ friend said. “He danced for joy.”
 
And the guards came and began to beat him.
 
“He cried out for Jesus to rescue him, and he stood firm,” James’ friend said. “He’s still standing firm with James in prison today.”
 
James is seeing more people come to faith in Jesus Christ during this seven-month imprisonment than in the rest of his 20 years as a believer, his friend said.
 
“He is enduring all things, and all the time more people are coming to faith,” his friend said. “He is torn between two things — his release, and the work God is doing there through him. His family is very anxious for him to be out of prison, but he is telling them to be patient, because God is doing great things.”
 
Recently his wife, Ashti*, and Yasemin got to visit him in prison. Tears ran down their faces.
 
“He put his hands on our heads and said, ‘Why are you sad? God has a purpose for me here and He is not finished with it yet,’” Ashti said.
 
He prayed for comfort for them then told them he had a job for them to do.
 
“He said a man had come to believe in Jesus and wanted his wife to know. He asked James to get us to go and share with his wife,” Ashti said.
 
With nerves on edge, Ashti and Yasemin loaded up the car and went straight to her house from the prison.
 
“I didn’t know what we were going to do, how we were going to tell her or how we would be received,” Ashti said. “But when we got there, she said, ‘I want very much to hear what you have come to tell me — there is light all around you, and I want to know why.’”
 
Ashti knows the difference Light can make.
 
She herself came to faith when she encountered Light during childbirth, seven years after James had first believed in Christ.
 
He was a devout Muslim — even to the point of planning terrorism — before someone gave him a copy of the Gospel of John. In the middle of the night he felt someone call his name, shake him and tell him go to read.
 
He lit a lamp, got the book from the shelf and started reading while his family slept. The words jumped off the page at him. By the following year, he was a wholehearted follower of Jesus Christ.
 
“I had been so angry with him for becoming a believer. I tried and tried to get him to return to Islam. I got my mat out and prayed with the kids in front of him on purpose,” she said.
 
He didn’t change his mind, or his heart.
 
“Finally after years of trying to get him to come back to Islam, I was at the lowest point in my life. I decided to divorce him, even if it meant I had to leave the kids,” she said.
 
Then she learned she was pregnant.
 
She headed straight to a clinic to have an abortion — she didn’t want to have the baby of an infidel.
 
“But the doctor said I was too far along to abort, so I decided I would have the baby, but that was it,” Ashti said.
 
She packed her bags and left to live with family until she had the baby. He didn’t see her again until he got a call while she was in labor. It wasn’t to let him know she’d have the baby — it was to let him know she’d decided to come home.
 
During labor, she met Jesus. “All I could see was light,” she said.
 
And now all her children have met Jesus, too, which has helped greatly with understanding why their father is in prison.
 
But they still struggle with his absence.
 
“As the trial with James has continued, remaining upbeat has grown increasingly harder,” James’ friend said. “His family struggled greatly with sadness and frustration. That being said, however, the Father has been working powerfully to strengthen their faith through it all.”
 
And the Father has made such an impact on James’ fellow prisoners that many of them, after their release, have traveled great distances to let James’ family know he’s safe, his friend said. “His wife and kids are encouraged by the reports from the former inmates, but they are also dearly missing their dad and spouse.”
 
But they know that God put him in jail with those men so that their families could also know the truth, his friend said. “Keep James lifted up so that the spirit of love pours from him into their lives and his light burns ever brighter every day.”
 
*Names have been changed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Ava Thomas is a writer/editor for the International Mission Board based in Europe.)
5/24/2012 1:34:11 PM by Ava Thomas, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Shelby Mission Camp dedicated, awaits volunteers

May 23 2012 by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications

Shelby Mission Camp was dedicated and pronounced open for ministry in an April 29 service attended by hundreds of volunteers and supporters.
 
Operated by North Carolina Baptist Men, the camp will become the home base for thousands of volunteers to work from as they minister across Cleveland County and beyond in coming years.
 
This will follow the pattern set by the Red Springs Mission Camp, opened in 2008 in Robeson County, from which several thousand volunteers worked in 2011.
 
Operation of the two camps is funded by N.C. Baptists through their support of the N.C. Missions Offering, the same offering that supports N.C. Baptist Men. The offering’s 2012 goal is $2.1 million.
 
The 45-acre Shelby Mission Camp (SMC) is located just off the U.S. 74 by-pass inside Shelby’s city limits.
The complex includes a 16,000-square-foot building housing an administrative section, dining room and bunk house, which can house and feed up to 200 volunteers at a time, plus a separate 9,000-square-foot warehouse and other buildings. Volunteers who gave time and money toward the camp’s completion were honored during the Sunday afternoon dedication service.
 
“When you do work for the Lord, He puts a lot of people in your pathway. God has put some special people in our pathway, and we want to recognize those people today,” said Eddie Williams, who with his wife, Martha, serves as mission camp director. The two have coordinated the three-year site development and construction of the camp. Earlier, they helped establish the Red Springs Mission Camp in a renovated textile factory. Before then, they led the massive relief effort of some 40,000 N.C. Baptist volunteers to Gulfport, Miss., after Hurricane Katrina. That three-year effort resulted in the construction of 715 houses.
 
Williams singled out volunteer Tony Howell, a member of Massapoag Baptist Church in Lincolnton, who worked on plumbing; Rick Conard, a member of Starnes Cove Baptist Church in Asheville, who worked on the Shelby camp’s electrical system over the past three years; and Bobby Suggs, “the best Methodist friend a Baptist could have,” who has worked 200 days at the camp. Suggs is a member of St. Lukes United Methodist Church in Hickory.
 
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BSC photo by Mike Creswell

Key leaders in North Carolina Baptist Men and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) share a light moment April 29 before the dedication of the Shelby Mission Camp. Chuck Register, left, executive leader of BSC church planting and mission development; Tom Beam, Baptist Men student mobilization consultant; and Richard Brunson, executive director of N.C. Baptist Men and partnership missions, talk with John Butler (in green), BSC executive group leader of business services, and Brian Davis, executive leader of administration and Convention relations. See photo gallery.


In the dedication service Williams cited Colossians 3:23, which says “whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,” explaining, “To me, that means 100 percent and not 90 percent or 95 percent. We’re working for the Lord. If it’s a mission camp or witnessing or whatever we’re doing, we should do it for the Lord at 100 percent.”
 
N.C. Baptist Men staffer Tom Beam announced that Tabor City Baptist Church has named a Royal Ambassador Lads chapter after the Williamses. The boys did yard work to raise money for a set of flags to be displayed at the camp.
 
Dana Hall, president of N.C. Baptist Men, recalled visiting the camp the first time.
 
He said the mission camp will function like he thinks the church should be, “not as a place where we all gather once a week and enjoy each other’s company and leave for the rest of the week and go about our business, but a place where people come to roll up their sleeves and get to work, go out in the community to work with the poor, the outcasts and the overlooked and build relationships with these people and bring them to the table.”
 
“This place is to the glory of God, because God is the one who has done this,” said Richard Brunson, executive director of N.C. Baptist Men.
 
He called attention to Ephesians 3:20 which says God is able to do more than all we ask or imagine.

He also cited 1 Peter 2:12 which calls for good conduct by believers among unbelievers. This verse was a key one when N.C. Baptist Men team members were evaluating the cost and time the mission camps would require.
 
“It’s not so much what we say; it’s what we do,” Brunson said. “They will know we are Christians by our love.”
 
Brunson conceived the idea of a mission camp, an innovative approach to missions work, as a way to capitalize on the equipment and experience N.C. Baptists gained in the Gulfport response.
 
The new mission camp “is an expression of the mission of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, to assist the local church in fulfilling its mission,” said Brian Davis, citing Acts 1:8. Davis is the Convention’s executive leader for administration and convention relations.
 
“We want the churches to utilize this camp to help them fulfill their mission strategy of taking the gospel anywhere and everywhere the Lord Jesus would call them to,” Davis said, praising the cooperative relationships between individuals, churches, associations, the Convention and N.C. Baptist Men that were involved in constructing the camp.
 
“This is just the beginning,” Davis said, “because it’s not finished until volunteers are filling up the place and are working in the area.”
 
To sign up for missions projects or get more information on the Shelby Mission Camp, contact Mary Mountz at the Baptist Men’s office: mmountz@ncbaptist.org, call (800) 395-5102, ext. 5606, or go to: www.baptistsonmission.org/Projects/North-Carolina/Shelby-Missions-Camp.
5/23/2012 1:09:41 PM by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Craft accepts senior pastor position in Mississippi

May 23 2012 by BR staff

Darryl Craft has accepted a position as senior pastor at Temple Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Miss. Since 2007, Craft has served at Green Street Baptist Church in High Point, N.C.
 
Craft spoke on the final evening of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s annual meeting last November.
 
He previously had served as pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn.; Shelbyville Mills Baptist Church in Shelbyville, Tenn.; Capshaw Baptist Church in Capshaw, Ala.; and Bushnell Baptist Church in Durant, Okla.
 
Craft is currently serving as adjunct professor of pastoral theology and evangelism for Tennessee Temple Seminary in Chattanooga.
 
He also is a trustee at Laurel University in High Point, N.C.
 
Craft and his wife, Vicki, have three children and one grandchild. Craft, Vicki and their youngest son, Josh, will move to Hattiesburg in July. 
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Information provided by Temple Baptist Church.)
5/23/2012 1:01:06 PM by BR staff | with 0 comments



N.C. Baptists hold ‘Rooftop Prayer Meeting’

May 23 2012 by BR staff

05-23-12roof.jpg

Contributed photo

Pastors and other church leaders from Yates Baptist Association gather to pray for their community April 18. The “Rooftop” gatherings encourage Christians to pray and seek a “fresh vision of God’s heart for reaching the lost.”

Pastors, church leaders and laymen in North Carolina gathered April 18-19 to pray and encourage each other in seeking a “fresh vision of God’s heart for reaching the lost.”

The two “Rooftop” gatherings were held separately by Yates Baptist Association at the University Tower in Durham, and by Mountain View Baptist Church the next day at its facility in Hickory. The meetings – and others being held across the country – are helping to draw attention toward the Oct. 1 “Rooftop” event. Christians across North America will be asked to gather on rooftops and on the top floors of buildings to pray for a fresh vision.
 
Author and evangelist Dennis Pethers, in partnership with LifeWay, is spearheading the initiative that is inspired by Acts 10-11. For more information go to dennispethers.com/the-rooftop.
5/23/2012 12:53:00 PM by BR staff | with 0 comments



Women vital part of organization known for its men

May 22 2012 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

Llewellyn Jones knows God provides for those in need. As administration team leader for North Carolina Baptist Men, Jones sees God working in little and big ways.
 
“I’ve seen story after story of how God provides for us and how He provides for those in need,” Jones said, noting many times when she had personally seen God provide what was needed at the perfect moment.
 
Many times people hear of the North Carolina Baptist Men and don’t realize that women help make the organization as well.
 
05-22-12women2.jpg

Contributed photo

As administration leader, Llewellyn Jones maintains constant contact with site coordinators via walkie-talkie and computer.


Although “men” is part of its name, both men and women make up its volunteer force. In fact, Richard Brunson, executive director of N.C. Baptist Men, says there are about as many women involved as men. Medical missions and dental bus ministries have more women volunteers than men.
 
“Our main purpose is to help churches involve their members in missions,” said Richard Brunson, executive director of North Carolina Baptist Men.
 
Over the last 20 years, the largest growth has been among women and students. Baptist Men has made efforts to use the name “Baptists on Mission” for the past 10 years.
 
To get to Baptist Men’s website, visitors type in the address baptistsonmission.org and will see “Baptists on Mission” at the top of the page.
 
“We simply couldn’t do disaster relief, medical missions and all our partnerships if we didn’t have women, men and students involved,” Brunson said.
 
A retired educator Jones still does contract work for Wilson County schools with deaf and blind children. A member of Forest Hills Baptist Church in Wilson, Jones said her main goal is to help the Baptist Men’s disaster relief site coordinator for each project.
 
Spring is a busy time for her because there are five regional weekend trainings to coordinate.
 
05-22-12women3.jpg

Contributed photo

Along with helping coordinate Deep Impact for North Carolina Baptist Men, Dollie Noa has planned World Missions Week at Caswell for several years. Noa, seen here in her Vacation Bible School shirt, models some of the gear from J.D. Tew, senior pastor of Freedom Biker Church in Fayetteville.


Jones ensures there are badges for participants. She also finds vendors for various resources. She says the best description for an administrator is “other parts as assigned by supervisor,” indicating that anything can be requested, depending on the needs.
 
Jones said her church’s Baptist Men helped after Hurricane Andrew hit Florida in 1992. But when she saw the work firsthand after Hurricane Floyd struck North Carolina in 1999, Jones said she decided to get trained to help with disaster relief.
 
She is currently scheduling volunteers for Pamlico County where N.C. Baptist Men is working to help people recovering from Hurricane Irene.
 
She is also working to finalize details for training in Region 10 (Cherokee County).
 
“I have just been amazed at how awesome God is,” Jones said, “He blesses the people we go to work with but more so how He blesses us because we go.”
 
Dollie Noa
Jones is not the only woman who helps lead in N.C. Baptist Men. Dollie Noa, director of education and children at Alexis Baptist Church, spends time planning Deep Impact, a hands-on, weeklong retreat for students and their leaders.
 
“I’ve always had a passion for working with youth and young adults in mission,” she said.
 
This summer she is planning the Charlotte Deep Impact.
 
Before she began working at Alexis, Noa was on staff at First Baptist Church in Spring Lake. There, she began working with Red Springs Mission Camp.
 
She took her youth to the camp as a servant evangelism team to help care for the visiting teams. Her work there led to serving on the student mobilization committee.
 
Noa credits “a dear friend” with inspiring her to get involved with Baptist Men.
 
That friend’s involvement with disaster relief helped Noa get started.
 
“She’s won my heart … once her husband passed away she just went,” Noa said, responding to disaster after disaster.
 
In April 2011, Noa headed to Fayetteville. She was scheduled to speak at her former church. The tornadoes that ripped through left devastation throughout the community.
 
“It really hit home how close … when I saw it firsthand,” she said. With no other training other than feeding, Noa and her daughter cleared debris that week.
 
“We were able to come back [to Alexis] and share [how] you just don’t know when these things are going to happen,” Noa said.
 
Noa is excited that her current church is accepting the challenge of hands-on missions.
 
“There are a lot of opportunities for everyone,” Noa said.

“It has changed my whole feel.
 
“Everything I do revolves around missions. It’s not about being inside the church.”
 
Noa said she tries to think outside the box to challenge her congregation, including taking preschoolers to pick strawberries and delivering them to shut-ins.
 
“How can we say we love God and not love those around us?” Noa said. “I want to be used for Him.” Calling herself a “to-do list nut,” Noa said the administration side of Baptist Men can be an adventure.
 
05-22-12women1.jpg

BSC file photo by K Brown

Mary Carroll, right, pharmacy director at Sandhills Regional Medical Center, is one of many women who participates in North Carolina Baptist Men. Carroll, seen here in Ukraine, recently returned from coordinating three medical teams in the country.


“If I don’t mark anything off that to-do list, but I served Him, it’s worth it,” she said.
 
Mary Carroll
Mary Carroll had always sent her husband, Jack, off to help.
 
Part of the Rescue 24 team, he often responded to disasters.
 
Rescue 24 is made up of medical professionals who are able to respond within 24 hours to a hurricane, earthquake or other emergency.
 
He even pursued a paramedic degree so he could help more.
 
“I always stayed home so he could do all this,” Carroll said. Her own first experience serving was Hurricane Katrina.
 
Her husband had just returned from Sri Lanka, so Carroll was able to go. As one of the first feeding teams there, she said the experience really opened her eyes to what N.C. Baptist Men does.
 
The Carrolls, who are members of First Baptist Church in Hamlet, have three sons; at one time they had six teenagers in the house when they were taking care of a sibling’s children.
 
She saves up her holidays and vacation at her job as pharmacy director of Sandhills Regional Medical Center in Hamlet. She just returned from a three-week stint in Ukraine coordinating medical teams.

 
Working with Baptist Men has been an answer to Mary’s prayer to be used by God.
 
“It’s a way to use my skills,” she said. “When I was with Katrina, I just couldn’t believe the spirit of the people. They had lost everything yet they had such a spirit. It’s amazing what people are capable of … what they deal with every day … even just to touch somebody especially with the gypsies” in the Ukraine.
 
While Carroll is thankful she gets to use her skills for glorifying God, she’s also thankful for the turn in her spiritual life since being involved with Baptist Men.
 
“It’s funny because when we first started, I felt like I was on this dry place of land and Jesus gave me water,” she said. “It’s really done a lot for me personally.”
 
N.C. Baptist Men has many ministries for volunteers. Find out more by visiting baptistsonmission.org. Contact (800) 395-5102, ext. 5599.
5/22/2012 1:57:18 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments



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