May 2012

NFL career gave Priest Holmes opportunity to impact others

May 22 2012 by Roman Gabriel, Sports Q & A

On his Sold Out Sports Talk show Roman Gabriel III had the opportunity to sit down with former Ravens and Chiefs All-Pro running back Priest Holmes. Holmes and Emmitt Smith are the only backs in NFL history to rush for 20 touchdowns in consecutive seasons.
Although a neck injury cut Holmes’ career short, this undrafted free agent left the game with a Super Bowl ring from the Baltimore Ravens. He also held most of the Kansas City Chiefs rushing records. In addition to his play on the field, his reputation off the field has been one of a positive role model.
In the interview, Holmes speaks about his current passions: his foundation, School of the Legends, and his commitment to help young people to reach their dreams and goals, and put their faith in God.
Q: What is it you miss most about the NFL on and off the field?
A: I miss the touchdowns. That’s exciting – getting 70,000 people out of the seats screaming and yelling, the chance to know your teammates off the field. We would meet at Tony Richardson’s house. [The] first hour we’d talk about each other and whoever messed up that week … then work with the young guys breaking down film, how to pick up blitzes, make the linebacker reads. That’s the part I miss.

Priest Holmes is a former Ravens and Chiefs All-Pro running back.

Q: We have heard a lot about the word “platform” from athletes. What is your platform?
A: I am able to do three things: Work with students, be a motivational speaker to former players, and most of all my foundation where we are able to give back to the community.
Q: Tell me about your program “School of the Legends.”
A: It’s [an] interactive site for former NFL players. Once guys retire they fade. They disappear. They are no longer involved in their communities. With former players they have a voice and a huge platform they have been given. It’s to their advantage to take full advantage of that opportunity and give back. This gives these guys an opportunity to be engaged in the community. If you want to know what I am up to you can go online to School of the Legends. See the updates. The biggest thing is that fans can be a participant in all the different things players have going on. After experiencing advantages that not many people have, if [a player] can reach back and grab a hand and pull somebody up it means the world to them. Fans can go to School of the Legends at to be online and interactive with NFL players. My foundation is
Q: What is the most important message that you want young people to know?
A: Having faith is something that is very important. I always talk about having an Ace of Spades. It could be that parent, that grandmother, that uncle that speaks to your life. If they told you you were special ... that God has made you the person who is invincible and you have the ability to bounce back ... you have character. It is encouraging to know at the end of the day when everybody says you can’t do something … that this special person told me I am somebody, that I am a incredible person and that I have a God who loves me.
Q: Obviously drugs and alcohol are never a solution. What would be your advice to kids thinking about doing drugs or alcohol?
A: The biggest point I make is to find something you are good at. Find something you have a passion about and you show up. You go to the things you feel strongest about. If it’s sports you stick to that. If its being involved in the community you stick to that. I can tell you this. I have seen so many guys that had incredible careers just … throw it all away to something that is considered [an] addiction that they could not get rid of. Always lean on that fact that you have something special about you and that you have years to experience and years to give something back to your school and community.
Q: It’s obvious your faith has played a huge role in your life.
A: At the end of the day faith is huge, because it is the substance of things unseen and the evidence of things seen. I could never tell you how my career would be shaped or formed, but I had the faith to believe that if I put my left foot in front of my right foot and continued to walk down the path that was given to me there would be success at some point. I am very fortunate to be a motivational speaker and [an] encouragement to students.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roman Gabriel is an evangelist and motivational speaker. His Sold Out Sports Talk Radio program on American Family Radio can be heard in 200 cities nationally or streaming live at It’s all about faith, family and sports. Visit his website:; Facebook page: Roman Gabriel III Fan Page; connect with him on Twitter: romangabriel3rd; email him: or call 910-431-6483. For more stories from Gabriel, visit here.)
5/22/2012 1:40:59 PM by Roman Gabriel, Sports Q & A | with 0 comments

Lee Porter, former SBC officer, dies at 83

May 22 2012 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (BP) – Lee Porter, who served as registration secretary for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) from 1977-2002, died May 17 in Franklin, Tenn. He was 83.
The SBC’s current registration secretary, Jim Wells of Missouri, said in a statement to Baptist Press:
“I have been attending the Southern Baptist Convention since 1976 and I had the privilege of serving under Dr. Porter’s leadership both as a member of the Tellers and Credentials committees,” wrote Wells, director of missions for the Tri County Baptist Association who replaced Porter in balloting at the 2002 SBC annual meeting in St. Louis.
“Dr. Porter served with distinction, integrity and efficiency during his 26 years as Registration Secretary of the Convention,” Wells wrote. “I cannot imagine how he registered such large numbers of messengers in some conventions without computers or the technology we have today. My love and prayer support go out to his dear wife Pat and his entire family.”

Lee Porter, who served as registration secretary for the Southern Baptist Convention from 1977-2002, died May 17 in Franklin, Tenn.

Indeed, Porter was registration secretary for the two most-attended annual meetings in SBC history – 45,519 messengers at the 1985 meeting in Dallas and 40,987 messengers at the 1986 meeting in Atlanta.
Porter also was the SBC’s first vice president, elected in 1969, and second vice president, elected the year before.
A native of Mexico, Mo., Porter engaged in numerous other dimensions of Baptist life following his ordination to the ministry in 1948 at First Baptist Church in Wellsville, Mo.
He had been a pastor of churches in Missouri, Texas (leading several 400-mile Vacation Bible School mission trips to the Rio Grande Valley), Arizona and Louisiana before joining the staff of the SBC’s former Christian Life Commission (now Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission) in 1972. He was a curriculum editor for the Baptist Sunday School Board (now LifeWay Christian Resources) from 1978 until 1991.
Porter resigned his post when BSSB officials stipulated in 1991 that he choose between his work for the board or as SBC registration secretary, following comments he had made to a student group at the 1990 SBC annual meeting in New Orleans that were critical of SBC conservatives.
Porter issued a statement expressing regret that his comments had involved him in denominational politics.
“I felt the Lord’s leadership in allowing myself to be nominated for the first time in 1977,” Porter also wrote, in part, in the November 1990 statement. “While many hours of work have been involved, I have enjoyed serving Southern Baptists during these 14 years. In registration, in credentials, and in every balloting process, I have determined to serve with honesty and integrity. I can say with a great deal of confidence that the criteria for every balloting, credentials, and registration decision have been the Southern Baptist Convention constitution and bylaws and the principle of treating every individual fairly. When a church or pastor sought to express a problem in political terms, I sought to deal with people on both sides of the political issue with integrity and fairness.
“I love Southern Baptists. I love our denomination,” Porter wrote.
Porter was re-elected as registration secretary the following year at the SBC annual meeting in Atlanta. He became assistant pastor of a church in Florida from 1995-97 before retirement.
Porter held a divinity degree in Christian ethics from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Earlier, he had earned a bachelor’s degree from William Jewell College in Missouri and an associate’s degree from Hannibal-LaGrange College (now University), also in Missouri.
At age 4, Porter contracted a rare bone disease and was in a cast up to his chest for three years. At age 10, he was converted during a revival service in his home church.
“The next night, he was instrumental in leading the son of the pastor to Christ,” according to a 1969 account in a Baptist periodical. “The following night, he led his brother, four years his senior, to be a Christian. Four years later, now fourteen, he became the Training Union director of his church. At fifteen he was elected as Training Union director of the association. At seventeen, at Ridgecrest  summer assembly, he made known his decision to become a preacher.”
Porter is survived by his wife of 56 years, Pat; two sons, Lee (Drew) Porter II and Lane Porter; six grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.
Memorial services were held May 21 at West Franklin Baptist Church in Franklin, Tenn. Memorials may be made to the Alzheimer’s Disease Research, a program of the American Health Assistance Foundation.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press.)
5/22/2012 1:35:38 PM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Personal calling’ leads pastor to start school among Roma

May 21 2012 by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor

Craig Hamlin was unable to get the needs of the Roma people in Munkacs, Ukraine, out of his mind.
For Hamlin, senior pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Apex, the poverty, lack of education, and ongoing struggles of the Roma people – or the “Gypsy people” as many know them – weighed on his heart.
This particular group lived on a trash dump in the slums of Munkacs. Reports of ongoing theft, prostitution and drug use among them has only strengthened negative stereotypes.
“God really began to move in my heart,” said Hamlin, who described his passion to help the Roma as a “personal calling.” It was one he developed during mission trips to Ukraine in recent years to assist with North Carolina Baptist Men’s work that began there in 2007.
“I knew I couldn’t go somewhere else – I had to invest in them. These are the people that Jesus called us to touch.”
Through help from N.C. Baptist Men and their ongoing partnership with the Roma of Ukraine and with Hungarian Baptist Aid – an arm of the Hungarian Baptist Convention – Hamlin is leading an effort to provide sound theological training for the Roma by starting the Roma Bible Institute.
“He really saw a need for the gypsies,” said Richard Brunson, executive director-treasurer for N.C. Baptist Men.

BSC file photo by K Brown

N.C. Baptists work frequently with gypsies. Craig Hamlin, senior pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Apex, is recruiting help to train 30 Roma pastors from Hungary, Ukraine and Romania.

“[And] we take it seriously when [people] come back [from mission trips] and say, ‘I’m really seeing God’s leading, and this is a great need.”
“We want to help make that happen,” Brunson added.
“What we’re good at is sending volunteer teams and helping with logistics, and … people can give [through N.C. Baptists on Mission], and 100 percent goes to that project.”
Through this partnership, Hungarian Baptist Relief has provided a facility in Debrecen, Hungary.
Hungarian Baptist relief has also utilized their network to draw other Roma from Romania and Hungaria who will participate in the training.
If all goes as planned, 30 Roma pastors and church leaders from Hungary, Ukraine and Romania will travel to Debrecen, Hungary to attend the school.
The cost of the training – which will need to be raised – will run each student $2,000 per year.
The expense covers the cost of transportation, Visas, passports, translators, translation of materials, housing and food for the students.
Seminars would be scheduled for three times a year for a one-week period of training. During each week, two courses would be taught. At the end of three years, students would earn a Certificate in Christian Ministry.
Hamlin plans for the first team of instructors – made up of pastors and professors from N.C. and abroad – to lead classes as early as September. Right now, at least three instructors from the state are committed to helping with the project on the first trip. Additional trips could follow in January and April of 2013.

The need for theological education among the Roma is significant, Hamlin said. Most do not have access or money for that type of training.
“It would give them a tremendous amount of confidence,” he said.
“It would give them credibility among the people in their camps … just a sense of ‘Hey, there are some Americans that are willing to come over here and teach us.’”
The Roma also need the gospel.
According to IMB (International Mission Board) research, the Roma are the largest minority group in Europe. An estimated 6 million can be found throughout the continent, and few of them have put their trust in Jesus.
But lives are changing, said Hamlin, who has seen much progress in Munkacs through various N.C. Baptist mission projects.
“There’s this huge transformation that takes place in these believers,” he said. “You see a joy in the midst of their suffering. You see them taking better care of their homes, better care of their children. The relationships between husbands and wives are changed … they’re different.”
For now, Hamlin continues to look for more N.C. pastors and supporters who would be willing to partner with the school.
“I’m looking for guys who when they hear about it, God just puts it on their hearts to say, ‘I want to give back what I’ve learned and invest in a people that can’t get this any other way,’” he said.
For more information about the Roma and the project and how you can help, go to
5/21/2012 2:11:51 PM by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

New partnership to target New England, ‘impact lostness’

May 21 2012 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

On any given weekend, less than three percent of New England’s 14.3 million people will attend an evangelical church. Studies show that 97 out of every 100 New Englanders do not know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. The six New England states are all among the top eight least religious states in America; religious including both Catholic and Protestant churches.
North Carolina Baptists have committed to helping carry the gospel to an area that is mostly unchurched and unreached with the message of Christ. The Baptist State Convention of N.C.’s (BSC) new partnership with the Baptist Convention of New England includes a specific focus on Boston and the interior of the I-495 loop around Boston.
This area is home to 4.5 million people, about 100 Southern Baptist churches and cities as large as 100,000 that have no gospel-preaching church.
Boston’s North Shore, which extends all the way up the I-95 corridor to the New Hampshire border, is also a focus area.
Joe Souza, church planter and North American Mission Board (NAMB) lead church planting catalyst for the Baptist Convention of New England, serves in the North Shore city of Saugus. He is praying that as new churches are started, they will become church planting churches.
05-21-12boston-(1).jpgBSC photo by Melissa Lilley

Paul Yoo, left, church planter/pastor of the Korean church Global Ark Baptist, shares about his ministry and partnership opportunities, while Curtis Cook, right, listens. Cook is the church planter/pastor of Hope Fellowship Church. He is also the North American Mission Board’s city coordinator for Send Boston. N.C. Baptists recently went on a vision trip to find ways to participate in ministry with this partnership.

“We need churches raising up churches from within and having native New Englanders plant churches. That’s ideal,” he said.
“New England is a whole bunch of little towns clustered together. It has a community feel. People will not drive an hour to get to church.
“The churches that will thrive are those that reach that town; that attract people from the 2-1/2-square-mile radius from the church.”
Souza said church planters and leaders are learning from each other how to better impact the city, and gaining insight from things in the past that did not work well. In 1998, the survival rate of church plants was 36 percent. Since 2008, the rate has been 100 percent.
Better assessment of potential church planters has helped with the survival rate.
“It’s not the same deal planting a church here that it is wherever you are from. Some planters are coming here under the impression that you can buy land and build a building and the people will come. That has not worked here in recent years,” Souza said.
Support for planters is also improving. “A lot of the guys coming here were lone rangers. They were well intended, coming here with prayer support, but that was it. You have no idea how vital it is for planters to come here with a support network. It’s the encouragement and knowing someone has your back.”
Michael Sowers, senior consultant for the BSC Office of Great Commission Partnerships, is praying that N.C. Baptists will consider adding Boston to their comprehensive missional strategy. “It is critical that church planters have partnering churches come alongside them in prayer and with resources. Churches have a great opportunity to be used by God to impact lostness by linking arms with a church planter,” he said.
Church planter Curtis Cook came to Cambridge in 2003 and started Hope Fellowship Church. Cook is also city coordinator for NAMB’s Send Boston initiative.
Cook described Boston as a city of great influence. He speculated that one in four future world leaders work in Boston.
More than 250,000 students attend the nearly 80 colleges and universities in greater Boston. Cook said Boston is known for being highly educated, secular and agnostic.

Since 2003, Cook and Hope Fellowship have helped start and support churches such as City on a Hill and Redemption Hill and know the importance of partnership.
“We need North Carolina Baptists to participate in a way that serves the local church and leaves the strategy to the local church planter. Ask the planter what he needs,” Cook said.

Cook encouraged churches to take seriously praying for partner churches. “It’s not just praying for Boston; it’s knowing the planter by name and their real needs.”
Stephen McDonald and Mill City Church in Lowell is one example of a church where Cook and Hope Fellowship continue to invest. Mill City started in 2009, and 10 months ago McDonald moved to Lowell with his wife to become the full time pastor.
“I never thought church planting was something I’d be doing. I saw it as a trendy thing,” McDonald said.
But when God called, McDonald faithfully obeyed, and he has seen God work through Mill City. 
Lowell is not a town with people moving in and out; most are native to New England. “Our growth will be slower because we do not have as many believers, but the fruit and impact will be really substantial. Indigenous planters could come from places like Lowell,” McDonald said. 
In New England, almost 90 percent of the Christian population receives Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior through established relationships with other believers.
Church planters and ministry leaders have learned that for almost 70 percent of these new believers it took more than one year of faithful witnessing to result in a profession of faith in Christ.
“You have to earn their trust and willingness to hear you out. It’s being alert and looking for those opportunities,” McDonald said. Through community outreach and partnership with a local elementary school, where Mill City helps during parent-teacher events and other school events, McDonald and church members are building relationships.
“We have learned to have a desperation for the Spirit of God to work through us. You can’t manufacture things up here,” he said.
Tim Buehner, mission mobilization and ministry evangelism coordinator for the Baptist Convention of New England, never thought he’d end up in full-time ministry, either. In the 1980s, Buehner moved to New England from Cleveland, Ohio, to “chase my dreams of becoming a graphic designer.”
He resisted several years after he knew God was calling him into ministry, but finally responded in faith and headed to seminary. Before coming to the Convention he served as a pastor and associate pastor.
“God changes journey paths at all sorts of ages and generations,” he said.
Since Buehner began serving in New England five years ago the number of churches has increased from 125 to more than 300.
“There’s something special going on in this place,” he said. “It is a dynamic place to come and serve.”
To learn more about opportunities in Boston, visit or
5/21/2012 2:03:23 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

N.C. makes top 5 on ‘smuttiest cities’ list

May 21 2012 by BR Staff

Two of North Carolina’s largest cities – Charlotte and Raleigh – were among the top five on a Men’s Health magazine study entitled “Smuttiest cities in America.” The list – which ranked Orlando at the top – was published in the magazine’s April issue.
The magazine formed the list by researching which cities had the most online porn downloads, porn DVD sales, adult entertainment stores, subscriptions to Cinemax – which features soft-core porn – and porn-related Google searches. Some other city studies that Men’s Health has featured in past issues include: “saddest cities,” “drunkest cities,” “fattest cities” and cities with the “most dangerous drivers.”
Other N.C. cities mentioned on the April list included Durham, which ranked 22; and Greensboro, 44. Winston-Salem came in near the bottom with the least “smuttiest” cities at 98. While celebrating at the May 8 marriage amendment victory rally in Raleigh, the president of the Baptist State Convention of N.C., Mark Harris, commented on the study. Despite the state taking a strong stand on marriage and defining it as being between one man and one woman, Harris said there are “tremendous challenges the church faces.”
“I also believe that [the marriage amendment] is an example of what happens when believers come together and we stand shoulder to shoulder, arm and arm because we’re passionate about a cause,” said Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church of Charlotte.
Harris noted it’s going to take that same kind of commitment to confront issues such as pornography. “I think as we move forward to be salt and light in our community then we’re going to see God do awesome things through his church and that’s my prayer.”
The Top 10 included:
1. Orlando, Fla.
2. Las Vegas, Nev.
3. Wilmington, Del.
4. Raleigh, N.C.
5. Charlotte, N.C.
6. Minneapolis, Minn.
7. Atlanta, Ga.
8. Tampa, Fla.
9. Anchorage, Alaska
10. Austin, Texas
To find the full list, go to
5/21/2012 1:59:28 PM by BR Staff | with 0 comments

Students skip ‘break’ to serve

May 21 2012 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

While most people picture spring break as a time to escape to the beach or the mountains, North Carolina Baptist college students took time to serve.
“We were able to share the gospel with hundreds of Hindus and Muslims, many of whom asked for our translators to come back and share more about Jesus in the near future,” said Nathan Finn, associate professor of historical theology and Baptist studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS).
Finn led 11 students to South Asia. “We’re hopeful some of this interest will result in conversions, baptisms, and, Lord willing, local churches.”
Southeastern partnered with national translators who aspire to plant churches in South Asia.

Contributed photo

Karen Ayala, a Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary student, stops for a photo while on a mission trip in South Asia. View photo gallery.

Through the seminary’s Center for Great Commission Studies, Finn is trying to establish a long-term relationship in this particular region. The people who live there are among the poorest and are located in the most densely populated area of the world.
“The combination of vast lostness plus the presence of solid missionaries with a tie to SEBTS make it a good [region] for us to regularly send mission teams,” Finn said.
Tim Clemons, a member of Faith Baptist Church in Youngsville who is studying to be a church planter, said, “It was very eye opening.”
“In scripture we read that there will be worshipers before the throne of God from all nations, but I never really thought about what that might be like,” he said. “While we were there we heard some locals pray, and it hit me: these people are real, they aren’t just statistics or pictures in a book or on TV. They bear the image of God, and God loves them.”
While Clemons feels “relational evangelism is best,” he said, “this is not always possible. On a short-term mission trip you are often meeting lots of people that you will only see that one time.”
Sharing the gospel, however, is key to “God setting foundations through the team, and then building it up with the missionaries who live on the field.”
Karen C. Ayala, a member at North Wake Church in Wake Forest, said her trip to South Asia was “completely the Lord’s work.”
Ayala, who just finished her first year in pursuit of a master’s degree in biblical counseling, usually goes to El Salvador when she gets a break from school because that is where her family lives.
Although she had traveled to a number of countries, Ayala had never been to a predominantly Muslim nation.
“For me I was not stricken by the poverty although it was heavy,” she said. “I was more taken aback by the sense of oppression and just a heavy burden for a nation that is lost. There was no escaping the oppression especially when you are reminded five times a day that this nation is lost.”
“Being placed in a setting such as this I was reminded of how it is vital that the true believer must always abide in the word of God, abide in prayer, knowing that apart from Him we can do nothing,” she said.
New York
Savannah Swift’s second mission trip took her to the Big Apple. A sophomore at the University of N.C. at Charlotte and member of Parkwood Baptist Church in Concord, Swift said the trip also took her the farthest she’d ever been away from home without her parents.
“I was super excited to see what God had in store for me,” Swift said.
As part of a larger gathering of college students from across N.C., Swift took part in a scavenger hunt designed to familiarize the students with the five boroughs. All the girls shared a room with bunk beds in Metropolitan New York Baptist Association’s headquarters.
As part of the church planting team, Swift prayer walked, cleaned, picked up trash, did construction and shared the gospel.
“Our group was really special,” Swift said. “We all went into this trip with fears of praying in groups, fears of sharing Jesus with the lost, and fears of being uncomfortable. We learned that it’s not all about being comfortable, it’s about sharing God and His great love with just one lost person.”
Rebecca Miller, a senior at the University of North Carolina at Asheville (UNCA) and member of Newbridge Baptist Church in Asheville, said she was excited to be part of possibly her last Baptist Student Union trip before graduating in December.
Miller helped with English as a Second Language (ESL) among Fuganese people in New York.
“It was wonderful to worship and serve the Lord with a group of fellow believers that did not even speak our same language,” Miller said. “It was amazing to feel the spirit of the Lord in a worship service where the language was completely foreign to us. It showed me that God’s grace transcends words and cultural boundaries.”

Contributed Photo

A group of students from N.C. colleges paint in New York. Different teams were sent out to do some clean-up work as well as church planting. View photo gallery.

After services, Miller practiced English conversation skills with Fuganese believers. “If they had trouble with certain words or trouble expressing certain ideas, we would help them out,” Miller said. “Although we were there to help teach them, I feel that I learned just as much as they did.”
Attending lengthy worship services, some that lasted “almost all day,” opened Miller’s eyes.
“In our society, we often complain about getting up and going to church for one, maybe two hours, and we definitely don’t spend the better part of the day traveling to get there,” she said. “Their unceasing motivation to worship the Lord made me feel so guilty about all the times I have checked my watch during church or wondered how much longer the sermon would last. It made me realize that nothing is more important than spending time in the Word and spending time with the Lord and that there is no better way to do this than fellowship with other believers.”
Matt Blakeley, a rising senior at North Carolina State University, could have used his break to work or do nothing, but he felt called to go to New York.
At first, he was planning on participating in the construction track, where he felt comfortable. But he chose church planting, working with Connection Church in Astoria.
“The New York mission trip was probably one of the best experiences of my life,” he said. “I really got the chance to step out of my comfort zone and see God work and do great things in a community. I learned that I needed to put aside my plans and let God use me for his plan. I needed to let go of my fears and step out of my comfort zone.”

Related story
Gardner-Webb University sent 71 people on mission
5/21/2012 1:50:19 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Gardner-Webb University sent 71 people on mission

May 21 2012 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

Doubling 2011’s number of mission trips, Gardner-Webb University (GWU) sent six teams March 8-18.

“We are especially excited about the great variety of projects and ministry activities our six teams are pursuing this year,” said Tracy Jessup, vice president for Christian life and service and senior minister to the university, in a press release. 
One team went to Shelby Mission Camp. Another worked with a community outreach ministry in Lake Providence, La. The other four teams went overseas leading wellness clinics and conducting health assessments in Jinotega, Nicaragua, and Bucharest, Romania; serving orphaned youth at a children’s home in Fortaleza, Brazil; and assisting a school for the deaf in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Chelsea Usher, a senior English major, went to Lake Providence, La., for her first mission trip. She could have chosen to go to Paris with other honor students but instead she painted in an impoverished area.
“We were welcomed into the community by a number of people from a variety of denominations, and were even invited to attend a Lenten lunch hosted by two of the local churches,” Usher said.
“I learned just how much need there is within the confines of the U.S.,” said Usher. “Don’t get me wrong, international mission trips are wonderful, but this trip helped me to realize that there is just as much work to be done and love to be shown inside our own country.”
As a nursing major, Tara Roberts, a junior and member of Mud Creek Baptist Church in Hendersonville, felt a medical mission trip to Jinotega, Nicaragua, was an excellent opportunity to serve God, explore another country and use some of the skills she’s learned.

Photo by Jessica Hibbard

A member of Mud Creek Baptist Church, Tara Roberts, center, helps with an eye exam in Nicaragua. Roberts was part of a team from Gardner-Webb University. See photo gallery.

One of the larger goals was a three-day vision clinic. The group traveled to three rural areas and set up at local schools. Nicaraugans were given vision and blood pressure screenings, glasses, clothing and shoes. GWU students taught some of the local healthcare professionals and firefighters CPR.
“I had felt God’s hand pushing me towards missions for a while, and I knew Nicaragua was an open door to take His Word to others,” Roberts said.
Roberts was joined by 26 other students and two nursing professors. Being her first international mission trip, Roberts wasn’t sure what to expect.
“Nicaragua was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen,” Roberts said. “Pictures do not do it justice.  However, there were some very devastating parts of the trip. The health care is nowhere near what we are used to here in the U.S. and by no means is [it] up to our standards.”
Roberts said it was a humbling experience to visit the dump and the 20 families that live there. She will never forget the smiling faces of those people in spite of their living conditions. “It was incredible to see how much God worked and moved on this trip, and I will never forget the feelings, emotions, and movement of Christ,” Roberts said. “I learned to appreciate and not take for granted anything I have been blessed with.  These people have very little yet were so appreciative of even the little things they were given.” 
Blanca Flor Torres, a sophomore studying nursing, wanted to experience a mission field outside the United States.
“I learned that people everywhere are in such need,” said Torres of her time in Nicaragua. “Yes, physically our body is always in need: shelter, warmth, water, food, healing, but more importantly, they are in greater need spiritually.”
“Sometimes I don’t realize that there is as much spiritual need at home as there is anywhere else. We are called to do missions, whether it is in another country or maybe even at home. But my prayer, my constant prayer is that God will continue to give me His words so that I may go and make disciples. I desire to have an overwhelming passion for God and for Him to break my heart for what breaks His.” 
Caitlin Blazek, a graduating senior from Gardner-Webb and member of Masonboro Baptist Church in Wilmington, considered another trip through the university. But the biology major who aspires to be a physician assistant decided going to Nicaragua would expose her to some medical experience. “It was eye opening to visit these places [in Nicaragua] and see how they do medicine,” Blazek said. “The dump, however, was an experience beyond what we could have prepared ourselves for. Several families live there, competing with stray dogs, chickens, and vultures for food.”

Blazek mentioned the numerous flies that enveloped the group as they got out of their van. “Despite the awful situations, we found joyous children and a church body there,” she said. “We were reminded that God is not limited by language barriers like we may be sometimes. His love can transcend languages, and that was awesome to see.”

Related story
Students skip ‘break’ to serve
5/21/2012 1:44:07 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Ezell announces full-time Northeast missionaries

May 18 2012 by Mike Ebert, NAMB

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) – Moving forward to shift more Southern Baptist resources to areas of North America with the most widespread lostness, North American Mission Board (NAMB) President Kevin Ezell has announced new missionary placements for several states in the northeast United States that have not had a full-time missionary fully funded by NAMB.
“Every state should have at least one full-time missionary before any state has 20,” Ezell told NAMB trustees during their May 15-16 in Alpharetta, Ga. The new missionaries will serve as church planting catalysts with a goal of assisting with the starting of four churches a year in their states and helping nearby existing churches with evangelism efforts.
The new missionary roles – located in Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island, South New Jersey and Vermont – will be the first full-time missionaries fully funded by NAMB serving in those states. A part-time role, fully funded by NAMB, is being added to New Hampshire.
Since coming to NAMB as president in September 2010, Ezell has championed new budget and personnel priorities for the entity, determinedly cutting budgets and staff at NAMB’s offices in Alpharetta. He is shifting the funds into NAMB’s Send North America strategy, which is focused on church planting and evangelism efforts in North America’s largest cities and in areas where Southern Baptist churches are scarce.

North American Mission Board trustees and staff gather around bivocational pastor Eddie Willis and his wife, Frances, during the NAMB trustee banquet celebrating bivocational pastors. Eddie is pastor of CrossConnect Church in Atlanta.

“You have heard about NAMB’s cuts,” Ezell said. “We have told people so often we are not cutting money, we are shifting money from one state to another. We have up to 23 or 30 and in some states up to 60 and 70 jointly funded missionaries all over North America. We are downsizing some of those numbers because quite honestly some of the states have too many.”
Ezell shared the plans against the backdrop of a stated goal to see a net gain of 5,000 Southern Baptist congregations in the next decade. If achieved, the gain would be the largest seen by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) since 1900, representing a 3 percent gain in the congregation-to-population ratio for Southern Baptists. Recent decades have seen a steady drop in the ratio as the North American population has exploded while SBC church starts have failed to keep pace and church deaths have stayed stubbornly high at an average of 880 a year in the last decade.
Ezell told trustees one of his biggest surprises after coming to NAMB was to learn of the high number of bivocational pastors serving the SBC. These pastors, he said, are key to gaining ground on lostness in North America.
“We really believe the only way for us to have a true church planting movement is to really garnish the efforts of bivocational pastors and to train our young people that they, too, can be bivocational,” Ezell said.
With that in mind, Ezell said NAMB will begin celebrating and encouraging bivocational pastors and church planters through a variety of means. He announced NAMB is partnering with Union University to offer bivocational pastors a 33-hour online master of arts in theological studies degree. NAMB will provide a limited number of scholarships for the program each year. Ezell said NAMB also is hosting a luncheon for bivocational pastors at the upcoming Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in New Orleans and will feature the work of bivocational pastors in its presentation there.
Ezell also highlighted several NAMB evangelism initiatives, including GPS: God’s Plan for Sharing, the national evangelism emphasis in partnership with state conventions through the year 2020. In addition, NAMB’s new LoveLoud ministry will connect needs ministries with evangelism and discipleship through local churches and church plants. A new church revitalization effort will engage healthy SBC churches with those that need assistance and give churches on the verge of dying an opportunity to be re-planted with new resources and a new vision for impacting lostness in their communities.
Ezell introduced Douglas Carver to NAMB trustees. Carver, the two-star major general who led chaplaincy for the Army before retiring in 2011, now serves as executive director of NAMB’s chaplaincy team. Ezell said Carver’s vision will help connect SBC churches to chaplains of all kinds and assist churches that want to start ministries to members of the military.
NAMB trustees voted to approve a 2012-13 budget of $114.5 million and a 2013-14 budget of $116.8 million. NAMB is shifting from a calendar budget to a fiscal October-September budget beginning this October. Approving two years’ worth of budgets at one time will help state convention partners in their budget planning. NAMB provides $42 million in funding to state conventions for missionary personnel, church planting and evangelism efforts.
Also during the meeting:
– Trustees voted unanimously to elect Douglas Dieterly as trustee chairman. Dieterly, executive pastor of Plymouth Baptist Church in Plymouth, Ind., has served as first vice chairman of NAMB’s trustees since 2010. He replaces Timothy Dowdy, whose term of service is ending in June. Trustees elected Rickey Camp, pastor of First Baptist Church Florence, Ala., as first vice chairman and Chuck Herring, pastor of Collierville First Baptist Church in Collierville, Tenn., as second vice chairman.
– NAMB Chief Financial Officer and Missions Support Vice President Carlos Ferrer reported that NAMB’s 2012 year-to-date income through the Cooperative Program is running 3.88 percent above budget and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions is 15.4 percent ahead of budget. Ferrer emphasized that it is too early in the year to predict if the offerings will remain above anticipated levels.
– Trustees approved guidelines for NAMB church planters in relationship to other church planting networks.
– Trustees adopted a policy stating that NAMB’s definition of what constitutes a state Baptist convention will follow the policy of the SBC Executive Committee. The move will not affect NAMB’s relationship with or funding to existing state conventions.
– Trustees voted to remove travel limits and quarterly evaluation reports that had been placed on the NAMB president during previous administrations.
– In addition to Dowdy, trustees recognized Keith Fordham, an evangelist and member of Harps Crossing Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Ga., and Robert Parker, a member of Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton, Va., for their years of service on NAMB’s trustee board. Not attending the meeting but also recognized for their service were trustees Todd Garren of Lincolnton, N.C., and Doug Jones of Woodland Park, Colo.
In comments after his election as chairman, Dieterly thanked Dowdy for his service. “He has worked tirelessly on behalf of the North American Mission Board,” Dieterly said.
Dieterly thanked Ezell for his leadership and said, “It’s nice to be on the upward path, but we’re just starting. There is such a bright future for the North American Mission Board.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE —Mike Ebert serves as vice president of the Communications Group for the North American Mission Board.)
5/18/2012 5:00:13 PM by Mike Ebert, NAMB | with 2 comments

Protect your church’s children against sexual abuse nightmare

May 17 2012 by David Roach, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – He looked like the ideal youth minister – recommended by a friend of the pastor, personable, and leading a thriving ministry to teens at Wayside Baptist Church in Miami.

But looks were deceiving.

For months, he had been sexually abusing boys during sleepovers at his home. When the offense came to light, the church had its very existence jeopardized by a $6 million civil judgment in favor of the victims. Eventually the case was settled for an undisclosed amount, and Wayside determined to do everything it could to protect children in the future.

“Now we do criminal background checks on anyone who is volunteering, and they put glass in all the doors [of children’s and youth classrooms],” said Carrel Youmans, a longtime member at Wayside who taught youth when the abuse occurred in the 1970s.

Wayside is not an isolated case, said Patrick Moreland, vice president of marketing at Church Mutual Insurance Company. Church Mutual averages four to five reports of child sexual abuse each week from its approximately 100,000 clients, the vast majority of which are churches. That includes roughly 9,000 Southern Baptist congregations.

Every church needs to have policies in place to protect its children, Moreland told SBC LIFE, journal of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee.

“It is common for a congregation to think, ‘It can’t happen here. We’re small and everyone knows everyone,’” Moreland said. “That is not sound thinking when it comes to child sexual abuse. Most abusers are known to the child and trusted by the congregation. Child sexual abuse occurs in churches of all sizes and denominations and in all parts of the country – urban and rural.”

Reporting suspected abuse
If abuse is ever suspected, Moreland urges churches to contact the proper government reporting agency immediately and to suspend the alleged offender (with pay for employees until the situation is resolved). They also should contact their attorney and insurance company.

Representatives of the church, accompanied by a reporting agency official, should meet with the child’s parents and, in their presence with their permission, the child.

“Reassure the child that he or she has done nothing wrong and that it was right to report the incident,” Moreland said. “Allow the child to speak freely. Do not coach responses from them and do not become defensive. You want the truth and you want to protect the child’s wellbeing.”

Abuse prevention policies
Among the policies Church Mutual recommends to prevent child sexual abuse:

– Have all potential children’s and youth workers (employees and volunteers) complete an application form. Look for irregularities. Ask for and check references. Conduct interviews.

– Perform background screening on all employees and volunteers who will have access to children. The screenings should be national in scope since it is common for offenders to move from state to state. The Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender public website can be accessed at through the SBC website at at

– Never allow anyone to be involved in children’s or youth ministry who has not been active in the church for at least six months.

– Implement and enforce a two-adult rule. Never allow one adult to be alone with a minor. The two adults should not be spouses.

– Install windows in classrooms and keep doors open. Have a hall monitor circulate through the building during children’s and youth activities.

“Most incidents of child sexual abuse can be prevented by following these simple steps,” Moreland said. “The primary facilitators of child sexual abuse are failure to screen and supervise those who will be in contact with your youth and children.”

For Wayside, which averages 800-900 each week in worship, prevention stems from “good people with good training, and … good policies to back that up,” said Leigh Byers, director of preschool and children’s ministries at the church for the past decade.

Today anyone seeking to work with children in the congregation must fill out volunteer forms, including a confidential questionnaire, a background check permission form and an affidavit of good moral character. Volunteers also are required to provide references, and Wayside follows the six-month rule.

Though hardly any potential workers have been turned away, some have declined to go through the application process, Byers said. She added that domestic violence and sex crimes would disqualify a member from working with children.

“If someone is a potential abuser, they’re not looking for the hardest place to accomplish their goal,” Byers said. “They’re probably looking for a place that’s a little easier. So we try to put some things in place that would make somebody think twice before they would necessarily say, ‘This is easy. I don’t have to work too hard to get access.’”

Prevention at small churches
Child abuse prevention is not just for large churches, noted Jonathan Ruth, minister of music and children at Springdale Baptist Church in West Columbia, S.C., which averages approximately 230 in worship.

Before his church instituted mandatory background checks for all children’s workers, one parent asked if volunteers were screened. Ruth said no, and the parent withdrew her children from an after-school program.

“I’m not saying that’s why they left, but she seemed concerned that our volunteers were not checked,” Ruth said. “And if it’s going to be a hindrance to a parent to bring their child to a church where volunteers are not background checked, I think it’s worth it to make sure you have those assurances in place for parents.”

In addition to background screening, Springdale has an unwritten policy of always having two adults in a room where there are children. The congregation is in the process of developing official, written policies, Ruth said.

“I think every church needs to have protection in place for their children so that there’s not going to be abuse taking place,” he said.

With proper screening and an attitude of transparency though, churches stand a better chance of never having an incident to report, according to Byers.

Church members should be “watching and helping each other,” she said. No one should ever think, “There’s somebody watching the kids … let’s not worry about it,” she added. “There needs to be working together.”

For additional information about preventing child sexual abuse, visit and click on the “Sex Abuse Prevention” tab on the left side of the page in the “Resources For” box.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Shelbyville, Ky. This article first appeared in SBC LIFE, journal of the SBC Executive Committee.)

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Background checks are on the rise, LifeWay reports
A former social worker’s perspective
5/17/2012 2:32:26 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Background checks are on the rise, LifeWay reports

May 17 2012 by Erin Freshwater, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — More than 25,000 background checks conducted by churches or organizations on prospective workers in the past three years have turned up more than 1,600 felony offenses, with the number of organizations conducting background checks having risen 27 percent in the past year, according to LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Since launching in 2008, more than 1,656 different churches or organizations have conducted 25,470 background checks. Of those, more than 45 percent (11,656) returned a criminal hit. A “hit” is any kind of incident, ranging from minor traffic violations to felony convictions, explained Jennie Taylor, marketing coordinator in LifeWay’s direct marketing department.

Excluding traffic and non-traffic infractions (jay-walking, noise pollution, etc.,) more than 20 percent (5,107 searches) returned records with misdemeanor or felony results. More than 1,600 of those 5,107 searches returned felony offenses.

In 2008, LifeWay Christian Resources endorsed to offer background screenings for churches and religious organizations at discounted prices. Through LifeWay’s OneSource program — encompassing products and services for churches and religious organizations that LifeWay has endorsed — all churches and religious organizations can receive discounts on background screenings for their camp counselors, bus drivers, staff, volunteers and others.

“Churches are realizing that this is something they need to be doing,” Taylor said. “With the OneSource program we’ve made it more affordable.” works with customers based on their specific needs and will consult with churches one-on-one to help select the best screening process for their particular situation, Taylor said.

“We’ve had tremendous feedback from churches and individuals who have used this service,” she said. “Already we’ve seen more than a 27 percent increase in participation this year over last year. That just goes to show how important this service is to churches.”

Churches can conduct due diligence, Taylor said, by utilizing as a step in their security and safety policy. With a database of over 400 million criminal records, has an extensive collection of public record sources, delivering reports in a concise and user-friendly format.

Fairview Baptist Church in Columbus, Miss., started using in 2010.

“Our mission is to tell others about Jesus Christ,” said Aubrey Adair, volunteer security team chairman at Fairview. “We have a lot of young people and children and we want to provide a safe environment for them and for other worshippers. For any worker who will be working with children 17 years and younger and for our security volunteers, we ask them to submit to a background check.

“This is not a foolproof process, but it’s a stronger method than doing nothing at all,” Adair said, adding that the church also uses the service for its Vacation Bible School.

Fairview has been very pleased with the service from, including the turnaround time, which gives results within minutes, Adair said.

“They helped us set the program up and they gave us some great information,” he said. “We were facing a generational change at church with a lot of younger families coming in — this level of safety and precaution really appealed to them.”

Country Oaks Baptist Church in Elk Grove, Calif., used in their process of interviewing pastoral candidates.

“We were able to get an overall view of our new pastor candidate,” said Arnold Dallas, a deacon at Country Oaks. “[] verified his degrees from college and seminary and had everything electronic, so we could print everything out and could talk by phone whenever we had questions.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Erin Freshwater is a writer in Nashville, Tenn. For more information, visit or call 1-800-464-2799. For additional resources to help churches prevent the devastating effects of sexual abuse and other moral failures by staff members or volunteers, visit and Statistics reported in this article are not derived from a representative sample but reflect clients who purchased background check services through LifeWay without regard to organizational type, denomination, region, demographic makeup or other factors.

For churches intent on enhancing their protection of children, a background checks service through LifeWay Christian Resources can be a key facet of their security policy. With a database of over 400 million criminal records, [URL=]the website[/URL] has an extensive collection of public record sources, delivering reports in a concise and user-friendly format.)

Related stories
Protect your church’s children against sexual abuse nightmare
A former social worker’s perspective
5/17/2012 2:17:01 PM by Erin Freshwater, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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