November 2010

Haiti relief turns from rescue to rebuild

November 5 2010 by Barbara Denman, Baptist Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Walking up to a one-room cement block house on the outskirts of Croix des Bouquet, Tommy Green “oohed” and “aahed” over a snuggly wrapped newborn of a young Haitian.

It was a scorching hot day in October and Green had gone to visit one of the first families to move into a home recently constructed by Haitian laborers under the direction of a rebuilding effort led by the Florida Baptist Convention.

“She delivered the baby during the construction and now they have a safe home in which to live,” said Green, pastor of First Baptist Church in Brandon.

The meeting personified the Florida pastor’s trip to Haiti to teach seminary classes to Haitian pastors and see firsthand the work of Florida Baptists in the nine months since the earthquake.

Photo by Ken Touchton/Florida Baptist Convention

A youngster waits outside the Florida Baptist Mission House in Port-au-Prince for food in the early days after the Jan. 12 earthquake. Florida and Southern Baptists distributed 65 tons of rice and 20 tons of beans in the aftermath of the earthquake and have another 17 tons of rice ready for disbursement if a hurricane hits.

“One life being changed in the Lord is the focus of the work that we must do in Haiti,” said Green, a former president of the Florida Baptist State Convention.

“This baby boy might be the one that God will raise up to be the voice that will be used to change the entire nation of Haiti,” Green said.

Upon his return to Florida, Green said he “left Haiti with a heavy heart for the hurt and struggles of the people and with a thankful heart that I serve in partnership with the Florida Baptist Convention which takes seriously the demands of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to touch the world with the love of Jesus Christ.”

For nine months, Florida Baptists have joined hands with Haitian Baptists to mount an all-out recovery plan to heal shattered lives from the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that shook the core of Port-au-Prince and the surrounding region Jan. 12.

Working in conjunction with Southern Baptist Convention disaster relief and the church leaders of the Confraternite Missionaire Baptiste d’Haiti (CMBH), Florida Baptist disaster relief leaders are looking toward the future while assessing the past nine months.

The next phase of work in Haiti — CMBH Rebuild, focusing on constructing homes and rebuilding churches — launched Oct. 1, closing the door on the relief phase, said Fritz Wilson, incident commander of the Haiti earthquake response and Florida Baptist disaster relief director.

Foremost in the plan is a goal of building 3,200 “transitional homes,” a 12-by-16-foot cement block structure with a metal roof. Additionally, relief workers have set a “Hallelujah goal” to build another 3,000 homes to bring the total of new homes planned for the Haitian people to more than 6,000.

Funding for these homes will be shared through resources from the Florida convention, North American Mission Board and Baptist Global Response relief organization and additional donations.

Other state conventions have expressed interest in helping to build homes, including the Kentucky Baptist Convention which has earmarked $200,000 for the rebuild. Florida Baptists developed the model for the transitional home using the experiences they gathered as they tore down homes damaged by the earthquake and built 350 temporary shelters for more than 350 families. The concept is similar to one used by BGR after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

The homes will be built primarily on sites where previous homes had been located, Wilson said, to keep families together.

Volunteers will not be needed to build the houses. Instead, Haitians will be hired and trained to do the construction, which will “provide jobs and job skills to families in addition to building homes,” Wilson said.

Currently the CMBH Rebuild is employing 117 Haitians as contract workers to build homes, including 35 who are managing the construction. Wilson believes as many as 200 Haitians will be employed in the future.

Construction materials will be purchased in the country to help the local economy and to avoid construction delays and “the challenge of getting donated materials through the Haitian customs system,” Wilson said.

Ultimately, Wilson believes the construction of new homes will serve as a platform for local churches to evangelize their communities. “Our goal is to build a home for a lost family for every home we build for a church member,” he said.

Along with the building of homes, another $300,000 is allocated to help rebuild 186 churches damaged in the earthquake. Funding will not cover all repair and reconstruction costs for the churches, Wilson said, which will allow Haitian churches to contribute to their own buildings.

During the relief phase of the past nine months, Florida Baptists as well as Southern Baptist from around the country alongside CMBH churches accomplished more than most people could have imagined, Wilson said.

Primary among the accomplishments, Wilson said, is the work of the CMBH churches to seize the time of spiritual unrest caused by the earthquake to lead 165,213 Haitians to Christ and start 272 churches.

Added to that, another 2,000 professions of faith were reported by Florida and Southern Baptist disaster relief and ministry teams, which included 1,800 volunteers from 39 state conventions and the Canadian National Baptist Convention. More than 200 volunteers were from Florida Baptist churches.

Another 200 Florida Baptist volunteers worked stateside in the relief effort, which included collecting, palletizing and shipping Buckets of Hope food supplies for Haitian families.

The Haiti earthquake spurred the largest international medical response in Southern Baptist disaster relief history, Wilson said. From mid-January through March, an average of three medical teams per week was deployed. After that, three medical teams a month were sent to Haiti.

Yet perhaps the greatest phenomena of the relief effort, Wilson said, was the concept and implementation of Buckets of Hope as a hands-on ministry that every Southern Baptist church could adopt. Wilson conceived the idea and developed the process, including determining packaging and food stuffs to purchasing the buckets.

To date, 150,000 Buckets have been filled by Southern Baptists and shipped to Haitian families.

As of Oct. 1, Wilson reported, 80,000 buckets had distributed throughout Haiti, both in the quake zone and in outlying areas to families who lost their homes and migrated to other areas. Another 60,000 buckets remained in port at Port-au-Prince awaiting clearance through customs, while 10,000 buckets were in transit from the United States. Currently, buckets are being dispersed at a rate of 10,000 a week, and all are expected to be distributed by Thanksgiving.

To accomplish a relief effort of this magnitude has been amazing, Wilson said, yet it could not have been done without vision and dozens of people working behind the scene. “The establishment of the CMBH 15 years ago along with the work of the Florida Baptist Convention’s Partnership Missions Department laid the groundwork for what was accomplished.

Without that organization, we would have been struggling to accomplish half of what we did,” he said.

Likewise, Wilson added, “The Lord’s sparing of the CMBH guest house and the many churches located near the tent cities allowed us to minister more effectively to the people of Haiti, giving a home base for operations and housing for volunteers.”

It is “remarkable,” said Craig Culbreth, director of the Florida convention’s Partnership Missions Department, “that in spite of the death and destruction in Haiti, we have made advancements in the work. A total of 272 new churches, 165,000 new Christian believers and increasing the size of the CMBH mission house to accommodate more volunteers — that is growth.

“Rather than take a step backwards, in the past nine months, the CMBH has taken three or four steps forwards. That is a miracle of God,” Culbreth said.

Pastor Green who has traveled back and forth to Haiti concurred. “The confidence of Florida Baptists can remain high that the gifts to Haiti donated through the Florida Baptist Convention are reaching and impacting the lives of people in Haiti,” he said.

“I rejoice for the vision of (convention executive director) Dr. John Sullivan for the work in Haiti and that we were on the ground before, during and after the earthquake sharing the love of Jesus Christ with the hurting in this country,” Green said.

“The salvation decisions that are being made in Haiti are a reflection of the presence of the Lord through the ministry of Florida Baptists in Haiti.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention.)

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11/5/2010 9:17:00 AM by Barbara Denman, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Hunt recounts bout with emptiness

November 5 2010 by Allen Palmeri, Baptist Press

BRANSON, Mo. — Johnny Hunt said he experienced a spiritual, emotional and physical “dryness through duty” a couple of months ago after completing an intense two years as president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Hunt, pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church in Woodstock, took time here during his Timothy + Barnabas Pastors’ Conference Nov. 2-4 in Branson, Mo., to relay several transparent statements about his recent bout with emptiness. After advancing an epic set of reforms on the denominational level known as the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR), Hunt found himself experiencing a “meltdown of biblical proportions” like the Old Testament prophet Elijah did in 1 Kings 19. He shared heart-felt truths with the conferees in various sessions so that they would go home better equipped to handle similar situations.

Hunt talked about the process of how he gradually found himself being separated from his wife of 37 years, Janet, due to all of the busyness that came his way. The concept of Sabbath rest had become a stranger to him.

“I would start my day at 4:30 or 5 o’clock on Sunday and finish at 10 o’clock that night, go get in bed, and be up early the next morning and head for the airport to get to something with GCR or speaking engagements,” Hunt said. “Janet said, ‘You’ve got to be tired,’ and I’d say, ‘I sleep pretty good on a plane — I’ll get a nap on the way there.’ Janet would drive me and I’d sleep on the way to the airport, try to slip it in. I was violating time and it bruised me. It bruised me.”

In January he underwent surgery to remove a cancerous prostate. It may have been the Lord trying to get his attention, Hunt said. But there were many more important meetings and activities and strategy sessions to attend, so he went on with his busy routine.

On Sept. 19 at First Baptist Woodstock, Hunt preached a sermon on his experience. The notes for the sermon, which he titled “Dryness Through Duty,” can be accessed through the church’s website. Since then, he said he has been experiencing the grace, love and healing of God as his priorities have been realigned.

His testimony in that message was that he was “leading on empty.” Unable to bounce back, Hunt felt spiritually, emotionally and mentally empty. All of that gripped him physically, leaving him drained. He warned the pastors in Branson that something similar could happen to them.

Hunt, who has been teaching men in conferences for 19 years, has been thinking about his legacy. He is 58, and statistics he has seen indicate that men, on the average, will die at 74.

In the recent case of the Chilean miners who were trapped underground, Hunt said they asked for gospel preaching to be piped in and received the words in Spanish of Adrian Rogers, who has been dead since 2005. That told Hunt that Rogers is like Abel (Hebrews 11:4) who by faith still speaks, even though he is dead.

“I want to keep giving the devil hell after I’m in heaven,” Hunt said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Palmeri is associate editor of The Pathway, newsjournal of congregations in the Missouri Baptist Convention.)
11/5/2010 9:15:00 AM by Allen Palmeri, Baptist Press | with 3 comments

Americans choosy about dispensing forgiveness

November 4 2010 by Whitney Jones, Religion News Service

Most Americans have a desire for more forgiveness in their lives, but they are more critical when choosing who to forgive, according to a new survey.

Sixty-two percent of American adults said they need more forgiveness in their personal lives, and 94 percent wanted to see more forgiveness in the country, according to a study by the Michigan-based Fetzer Institute.

“Americans express a near-universal desire for a more loving and unified world,” said the “Survey of Love and Forgiveness in American Society,” released Oct. 28.

Researchers found that even though the U.S. is composed of people who are usually forgiving, more than half of Americans said there are situations where people should never be forgiven, including abuse, sexual crimes, murder and other intentionally committed crimes.

The survey found that a majority of Americans also believe forgiveness is conditional: 60 percent said “forgiving someone would first depend on the offender apologizing and making changes.”

Most people said they sought the advice of friends and family rather than religious leaders when grappling with issues of forgiveness, while one in four said they did not know where to go for help with spiritual needs, and a third of them struggle with spirituality.

While most Americans are not running to churches and religious leaders for guidance with forgiveness and other personal issues, 60 percent said they are more spiritual now than they were five years ago.

These findings were based on an online survey conducted by StrategyOne, which was taken Aug. 4-15 by 1,000 U.S. adults, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.  
11/4/2010 5:52:00 AM by Whitney Jones, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Road to Canaan: Haiti’s need ‘incredible’

November 3 2010 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

Traveling to the poorest country in the western hemisphere challenges one’s thinking.

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

Jennifer Dillon Straughn, center, a dental hygienist and member at Open Door Baptist Church in Raleigh, took care of a lot of teeth while in Haiti. She, along with her translator Jimmy Gel, left, and other volunteers from the United States saw students, staff members and local pastors as well as some of the patients at the medical clinic. See more photos and video.

“It was amazing,” said Kim Wheeler, a sophomore at the College at Southeastern, about her October trip with 37 others to Haiti. “God really taught me about love that week.”

Wheeler joined other students from the college and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest as well as members of Open Door Baptist Church in Raleigh, four volunteers from Tennessee, and one from South Carolina. They went to Canaan Christian Community near Montrouis, Haiti, in October. There is a medical clinic and school on the premises.

The journey was the first international mission trip for Wheeler, who served with Elevation Church in Matthews before starting classes at the college this summer.

“It definitely changed my whole way of thinking,” she said. “I expected to break when I went, but I broke more when I came back over what we take for granted.

“I walk outside and things are the same but I see things differently. That’s the closest to unconditional love I’ve ever experienced. I was struggling over there because I wanted to love the kids more.”

That’s when she realized that God’s “going to be able to provide for them in a way I can’t.”

When Wheeler was assigned to organize a closet at the school, she was disappointed at first. She came on the trip to spend time with the children and now she was knee-deep in papers. But after she and her teammate realized “this is going to be a huge blessing to the school so the kids will not have to sit around and wait” for their teacher to find their next assignment. This menial assignment, while not working with the children, would help those children learn better and faster.

One of the things the team dealt with was heat. Even in October the heat index rose to 115 degrees some days.

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

Kim Wheeler, a college student, shares a story with young girls at Canaan Christian Community in Haiti. See more photos and video.

“Being willing to sweat and get dirt all over” is a requirement, said seminary student Andrew Goodson, 23.

“Everyone’s heart was in the right place desiring to serve rather than be served,” said Seth Bible, director of student life at Southeastern and member at Open Door, who organized the trip.

Bible said planning travel arrangements for 38 people made for some logistical challenges.

For this trip, though, he said participants were “singularly focused on the task at hand.”

“The thing that stands out the most no matter how hard you work, the need is still incredible,” Bible said. “You work your tail off all week and still there’s so much to do.”  

Pursuing partnership
Bible said Southeastern and Open Door are working on this partnership. Some time ago Open Door identified Canaan as a place “where we could plant ourselves for future missions, church planting and pastor training,” Bible said. Because of the needs, Southeastern makes a good fit as well. Plus it provides an opportunity to see ministry in an orphanage context.

Bible hopes three or four volunteer groups a year will go to Canaan. He will return with a small group in December.

The seminary will most likely plan a large trip in the fall every year, while Open Door will send teams at Christmas and possibly a couple of other times a year.

Elders at Open Door have been working with Canaan’s leadership toward unifying its vision. There are so many ministry opportunities at Canaan that the task seems overwhelming.

Now Bible said they are pursuing a “unified stream of ministry.”

A child dropped off at six weeks old can be raised there and given an education either vocationally or through a college.

“To get a degree with the hope to come back to Haiti and really make a difference” is the goal, Bible said. They want the local pastor’s to “take ownership of the need.”

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

Robby Scholes, a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, plays with Chibelson, also called “Chevy.” The mission team has passed along prayer requests, especially for Chevy, who had surgery in October, and the cholera outbreak, through Facebook. See more photos and video.

Right now the local leaders are having trouble seeing past their own needs and the need of their own congregation. But Bible hopes that can change because “the gospel is the hope for Haiti.”

Bible said Canaan’s leadership thought the trip was successful.

“They are really excited about some of the conversations we’ve had since the trip,” he said. “They were even more excited about the attitudes and the connections that were made.”  

Training pastors
One of the main trip purposes was to work with local pastors. Because of one of the founder’s connections in the community, there is a network of pastors linked to Canaan.

“It was great to see those brothers,” said Dwayne Milioni, pastor of Open Door Baptist Church.

Milioni, along with several other men, went to Canaan to specifically assess needs and train pastors.

The leaders asked questions about the pastors and their churches and went through the basics of covenant theology.

There were more than 40 pastors who came from across the country and stayed on the compound for training.

Smaller groups divided up and got some counseling from U.S. pastors and were encouraged to work together in their areas to reach the people for Christ.

“In many ways it infused them with energy and made them feel equipped,” Milioni said.

For Milioni, the hardest part was hearing the struggles — those who lost buildings and people in the Jan. 12 earthquake and the “gigantic lack of resources” such as Bibles.

A gathering like the one at Canaan is rare but Milioni said it helped the pastors feel “like they are being cared for and trained.”

Milioni said another big need at Canaan is for teachers. He hopes people through his church or from Southeastern will volunteer to go for longer periods of time like six months or even a year.
11/3/2010 10:37:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Platt, Greear preach & learn in Indonesia

November 3 2010 by Shiloh Lane, Baptist Press

INDONESIA — Tears slid down the curve of her brown cheek; her shoulders tensed in emotion. She cried without reservation as a man placed one hand on her head and raised the other. His prayer for her was drowned out by praise music.

J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, talks with a local man outside an Indonesian mosque. Greear lived in Indonesia more than a decade ago and can still converse in that language.

From the first pew to the back wall of a seminary auditorium, Indonesian and American Christians closed their eyes, raised their hands and sang praises to God. Southern Baptist pastors David Platt and J.D. Greear stood in the first row, hands lifted with the rest. Greear had just given an invitation to the audience, asking if anyone wanted to know Jesus as their personal Savior.

That night, three people accepted Christ.

The church can reach these unreached peoples with the love and joy of Christ, Platt said, however it will come at great cost. “But in the end, it will be totally worth it.”

In his recently released book, Radical, Platt calls for American churches to abandon their inward focus and forgo comforts to share the gospel with all nations — to sacrifice and go.

Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., preached in churches, seminaries and Baptist conventions in Indonesia in mid-October. J.D. Greear, lead pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, and eight other Southern Baptist pastors and missions leaders from the United States preached in addition to Platt.

They encouraged local Christians and challenged them to proclaim Christ’s love throughout Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation. The pastors also sought ways their own churches could actively get involved in taking the gospel to unreached people groups. During this process, they found inspiration from their audiences.

Speaking in stifling hot auditoriums and sanctuaries, the pastors delivered messages about the cost of witnessing and the worth of Jesus Christ.

On a break from preaching in churches and at a Baptist seminary in Indonesia, pastors David Platt, left, and J.D. Greear interact with young locals at a mosque.

“Some of you might be called to go to places that are very dangerous or where people may not like you,” Greear said from the pulpit. “My friends, is Jesus enough for you?”

Many listeners already knew the price of the gospel. One female listener had begun a movement that birthed four generations of believers in a previously unreached village. One man went to jail for the same kind of initiative.

Christian representative Jacob Snow* is encouraging Indonesian believers to do what’s necessary to share the news of Christ. But because of ethnic and cultural divisions among people groups, he said many local congregations — like many American churches — embrace the status quo.

But things have begun to change, he said, noting that local Christians have started to see their neighbors differently — as people God loves and as people with whom they must share their faith.

Because of this, Platt and Greear’s presence made an impact.

“I think the local people are humbled by the fact that Christians from America are willing to come to this island, and they come having a heart for the unreached,” Snow said. “It’s a ... reminder to the local believer that the body of Christ is trusted with the gospel and that baton of faith must be passed to the unreached. They have a right to hear.”

As Platt and Greear spoke in Indonesia, their audiences responded.

Greear still speaks some Indonesian from his stint 12 years ago as a short-term worker there. He used the language he recalled to mingle with audiences, getting ideas for future ministry from Indonesian pastors and finding encouragement through stories of the people God has already used to advance the faith.

One of those stories was Budi Syamsuddin*, a former drug dealer from the island of Java who became a Christian while in prison and has since led 10 people to Christ. Under his training, those 10 people have started a church-planting movement resulting in nearly 700 new believers in five years.

“I began to think what would happen if every follower of Christ was doing what Budi is doing — making disciples,” Platt said. “And, when you make disciples, churches start happening and churches start growing and churches start multiplying. What happens when every follower starts doing that? Then we realize, ‘Wow, together we are a part of a global purpose that has the potential to spread the gospel to every people group and to every nation.’”

Syamsuddin embodied Platt’s dream for the future of the church. Syamsuddin made his life count by fulfilling Christ’s command to train believers. And those believers followed Christ and trained more in an ongoing process.

“I praise God for Budi, and I pray for a lot of Budis to be raised up in the churches I lead and in churches all across our context and our country,” Platt said.

To reach the lost, he said, people must live out the gospel. Whether they minister to family and friends in their hometowns or move their businesses 11 time zones to the west, they must live as Christ commanded.

*Names changed.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Lane is a writer for the International Mission Board.)
11/3/2010 10:26:00 AM by Shiloh Lane, Baptist Press | with 2 comments

NAMB closing 2 Baptist centers in La.

November 3 2010 by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press

NEW ORLEANS — The Rachel Sims Baptist Mission and the Carver Baptist Center — now owned and operated by the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) North American Mission Board (NAMB) — will close effective Dec. 31, 2010. Effective Jan. 1, 2011, ownership of both properties will transfer to the New Orleans Baptist Association.

“The closing of the two ministry centers and the property transfer reflects NAMB’s process over the last 12 years of giving NAMB-owned properties to local Baptist associations or churches,” said Richard Leach, the mission board’s team leader for servant/ministry evangelism in Alpharetta, Ga. The New Orleans Baptist Association (NOBA, formerly the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans) is an association of 107 Southern Baptist churches in the New Orleans area.

“For several years, dating back before Hurricane Katrina, our three entities — NOBA, NAMB and the Louisiana Baptist Convention — have discussed a new Southern Baptist ministry strategy for New Orleans,” Leach said.

Under the “2020 Vision” strategy adopted by NOBA in 2008, NOBA, the Louisiana Baptist Convention (LBC) and NAMB remain full partners in the “rebuilding of New Orleans for the glory of God.” The strategy agreement includes the transfer of assets from NAMB to NOBA.

“The Baptist community in New Orleans is grateful for the historic partnership we have shared with NAMB,” said C. Duane McDaniel, executive director of the New Orleans Baptist Association. “From the founding of the SBC in 1845 — when the Domestic Mission Board (now NAMB) was commissioned to reach the great city of New Orleans — to more recent years when Southern Baptist volunteers through NAMB poured in by the thousands to help rebuild the city after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans has been the focus of our cooperative efforts to share the gospel.

“Now, five years post-Katrina, we are turning the page to a new chapter,” McDaniel said. “Building on the foundation that has been laid, we are looking to the future, excited about the possibilities for partnering with NAMB, LBC and churches across the SBC in a newly envisioned mission/rebuild strategy to reach New Orleans through church planting, compassion ministries and volunteer mobilization.

“There is yet much to be done in this city, and we believe our very best days are ahead of us,” McDaniel said.

Photo by John Swain

The Rachel Sims Baptist Mission in New Orleans will close Dec. 31 and be transferred to the New Orleans Baptist Association on Jan. 1. The mission, founded in 1910, is one of many such centers the  North American Mission Board has turned over to local Baptist associations and churches. A second ministry in New Orleans, Carver Baptist Center, also will close, while a third, Baptist Friendship House, will remain open.  

The Carver Center —established in 1951 — is located at 3701 Annunciation St., while the Rachel Sims Baptist Mission – founded in 1910 — is located at 729 2nd St., a mile and a half from each other on the edge of the city’s Garden District. Both centers are primarily involved in after-school ministries for children.

Leach said Larry Miguez, director over both of the centers, and Linda Middlebrooks, director of programs at Rachel Sims, will retire under the current retirement incentive now being offered to all NAMB employees age 54 and older with at least five years’ service. Jennifer Fannin, assistant director at the Carver Center, will have the option of accepting a severance package from NAMB.

“Words cannot express how much we appreciate and applaud the dedicated Christian service of Larry, Linda and Jennifer,” Leach said. “Only God knows how many lives they touched and reached for Jesus Christ during their many years of service.”

A third Southern Baptist ministry center in New Orleans, Baptist Friendship House -– located at 813 Elysian Fields Ave. and founded in 1944 — will continue to operate as a ministry for homeless women with children.

The Baptist Friendship House is a ministry that responds to the growing number of displaced, homeless women with children in need of food and overnight lodging, medical assistance, education and job training. Under NOBA’s new 2020 Vision strategy, the center’s ministry may be expanded.

Kay Bennett, the center’s director since 1997, will continue in that position — her salary paid by NAMB — although effective Jan. 1, 2011, she will be under joint supervision of NOBA and NAMB.

“In the homeless women’s ministry, our program has ministered to 27 women and their children each night since January of this year,” Bennett said. “In addition, our food ministries have provided food to 76,192 people during the first three quarters of this year.”

Bennett said, “One reason Southern Baptists created the old Home Mission Board was to evangelize and minister in New Orleans. And we’re going to continue to do ministry in New Orleans. Here at Friendship House, we will continue to help people rebuild their lives — to continue to minister to homeless and abused women and their children.”

“As NAMB and as the Home Mission Board, we’ve enjoyed many decades of ministry in New Orleans,” Leach said. “NAMB will continue its historic partnership with NOBA and the churches of New Orleans for years to come.”

Leach said Baptists were never more involved in New Orleans than during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina following the Aug. 29, 2005, calamity. Thousands of Southern Baptists from across the United States donated their time, talents and resources to help rebuild New Orleans after the hurricane.

“Southern Baptist work in New Orleans today is better and stronger than it has been in the five years since Hurricane Katrina forever changed the city and churches of New Orleans,” Leach said.

As a result of the closings, mission teams that already planned and scheduled 2011 mission trips to the Carver and Rachel Sims centers will be notified and an attempt will be made to re-schedule at other venues at a later date.

“NAMB encourages all Southern Baptists to continue to pray for the city of New Orleans, to support the churches of the New Orleans Baptist Association and to send volunteers to partner and work with New Orleans Baptists to meet the great spiritual and physical needs of this mission field,” Leach said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board.)
11/3/2010 10:21:00 AM by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Embrace leader knows how to get things started

November 2 2010 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Ashley Allen is not only a self-starter; she ignites other things, as well.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Ashley Allen, 31, is building Embrace for women and girls based on evangelism, ministry and discipleship.

Allen, 31, is founding director of Embrace, the women’s ministry of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC). Embrace arose after a painful separation of Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina from its BSC patron in 2007.

During the discussions that led eventually to separation, BSC Executive Director-treasurer Milton A. Hollifield Jr. said the BSC would have a women’s ministry emanating from the Baptist staff building in Cary. A task force chaired by Phyllis Foy came up with Embrace as a name and idea and Allen was enlisted from Texas where she was finishing her PhD, teaching adjunctively in women’s programs and church administration at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and working as a chaplain with Marketplace Chaplains USA.

When Allen was asked to put into words her vision for Embrace, she wrote that it would be based on the Great Commission, with evangelism, missions and discipleship at its core, and would engage older women to disciple younger women in a relationship encouraged in Titus 2. Her vision was strikingly similar to the broad outline of the task force.

After Allen came on board in August 2009 she quickly started visiting churches and associations to listen to what women in the church were saying they needed. When she heard enough questions about how to study the Bible, how to witness to friends, how to share faith with their children and how best to support the ministries of their church, Allen wrote a training manual. She carried it on a two-week blitz of regional meetings at which women learned how to start an Embrace chapter in their churches. She answered further questions such as how to select Bible study curriculum, how to teach the Bible and how to bridge age gaps.

She held a major training session in October at Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute. Two more sessions that will help ladies start Embrace in their churches are planned in 2011, including April 15-16 at Apex Baptist Church and Oct. 7-8 at Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Boone.

Embrace is not a program, but a process to help local church leaders engage women in missions, discipleship and evangelism.

“These ladies are hungry to know how to do this and how to tailor it to their church,” Allen said. “They want to know how to go out and minister effectively. I think having these practical tools is what’s been lacking. They want to minister. They want to look like Christ and share Christ with their family and co workers.”  

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Ashley Allen, 31, is building Embrace for women and girls based on evangelism, ministry and discipleship.

Embrace training very practical
“Instead of saying, ‘This is how you prayer walk,’ we had ladies that were assigned to a prayer walking team,” Allen said. Trainers held a Muslim women’s “prayer tea” that teaches ladies how to pray for Muslim women.

“I’ve been grateful for pastors and directors of missions who have provided open doors to speak in churches and who have welcomed Embrace in their churches,” Allen said.

Counting those churches represented at meetings, or who download information from the Embrace site online, about 250 have embraced the new women’s department. She handles calls daily from women who say they are the Embrace leader for their church, but who are still “under the radar” for not having attended a training event. Overall Allen said Embrace is growing faster than she anticipated.  

Allen from Texas
Allen grew up near Dallas, Texas, and attended the First Baptist Church Academy. She is a journalism graduate of University of Texas and worked briefly on a newspaper in Corpus Christi before moving back to Dallas in 2001 to attend Southwestern Seminary.

While a college student she started “Impulse” as a mechanism for upperclassmen to disciple freshmen. She intended to study law and enter politics but an internship for a U.S. senator convinced her otherwise.

Through a study involving “Experiencing God” Allen realized that “serving Him” was what God wanted for her life and after several days praying at a rural house of her cousin’s, she felt perfect peace in setting her course toward full-time ministry.

A wise college minister plugged her into areas to gain practical experience and she established a mentoring program at Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin. She enlisted women mature in faith to mentor college girls.

BSC photo

Women at an Embrace training event at Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute take part in a Muslim prayer tea. The women wore head coverings and as they stood, kneeled and bowed, prayed for the salvation of Muslim women.

After earning her master of arts degree in Christian education at Southwestern, she served as a chaplain with Marketplace Ministries before starting her doctoral work. The title of her dissertation is “A study of selected factors related to mentoring in women’s ministry leaders in selected Southern Baptist churches.”

She had no interest in conducting doctoral research that would have “no bearing on the Kingdom,” she said. “That would be a waste of time and resources.”

She trusted God and her response led her to the Baptist State Convention to embrace a new women’s ministry.

“Women’s ministry is very important,” Allen said. “Look at the challenges facing women today. It is important to focus on every area of the body, women who are single, divorced, married, struggling with infertility, struggling with toddlers, they need help from God’s word. As we show them where and how to find that help, that will have great impact on communities.”

“It’s been an incredible year,” Allen said. “To see how God has moved, to see the growth that’s occurred, at least from my perspective, it’s been neat and humbling.”

Just launched is a version of Embrace called Girls Embrace Ministry, or GEM, specifically for girls in grades 7-12.

“GEM is encouraging those girls to go out and take their faith seriously,” Allen said. “High school and junior high are such important parts of a girl’s life. They need to have people come alongside and disciple them, but they also need to be faithful and share Christ with those in the hallways and those who share a locker beside them.

“We want to see girls involved in the ministry, to take ownership and take leadership in the ministry, under the direction of adults, so when they are in college and adulthood they are more likely to stay involved in ministry and in reaching people for Christ.”

Embrace already has organized an international missions trip for women to Argentina and a trip to New York City. In Buenos Aires their work helped International Mission Board missionaries Mark and Melissa Hobson start five Bible studies, which led just recently to the start of a new church.

Allen intends to return with another group to Buenos Aires May 27-June 4, 2011. Contact Allen at or call her directly at (919) 459-5559.  

Related story

Clyde’s Chapel embraces women’s ministry

Special series
Did you know you have a large church staff? Your gifts through the Cooperative Program support a staff resource at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina that exists to serve your church.

Body Parts, a Biblical Recorder special series, is inspired by 1 Cor. 12:12.
11/2/2010 10:23:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 1 comments

Clyde’s Chapel embraces women’s ministry

November 2 2010 by BR staff

When Tara Johnson sensed younger women were not involving themselves in missions at Clyde’s Chapel Baptist Church in Wendell she found an inclusive bridge in the Embrace model.

Johnson, a local banker, leads the church’s overall women’s ministry and is president of the younger women’s group, leading them in “a year of change.”

She invited Ashley Allen, director of the Baptist State Convention’s Embrace women’s ministry, to present to women of the church, and said Allen was “awesome” as she explained the Embrace model, even though it is “hard to accept change.”

The older women’s group remains committed to missions as realized through Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) and feels comfortable staying with the traditional WMU program. Younger women wanted to know what the difference was between Embrace and WMU and “why is it a big deal” to either add an option or keep what they had.

“I tried to say to them Embrace is not a program, it’s a model of ministry,” Johnson said. “It’s to help churches align their women’s ministry to better serve God with areas to focus on and also provided us an opportunity to better support our church’s mission through the deacon-led ministry teams.” 

Clyde’s Chapel younger women’s group has adopted ministry teams for missions, evangelism, discipleship and prayer, asking women simply to pick the area to which they feel led of God.

While Johnson appreciates the Embrace model, “Embrace is not the only resource we use,” she said. “We’ll use anything that will equip us to use our hands and feet for ministry.” 

“We’re not WMU or Embrace, we’re just a ministry team that is willing and able to serve,” she said. Johnson said while the two women’s groups have adopted different approaches, they are still committed to working together to reach outward. “This is not a competition. We’re going to do whatever we can to reach the women of this congregation and the women outside this congregation for the sole purpose of serving Jesus.”

Participation has more than tripled with the renewed focus of all areas of ministry which has created a larger impact. “Embrace has been beneficial in helping us reach goals, grow in our personal walk and most importantly, act upon outreach opportunities.” 

Johnson also added that Ashley Allen was also a key resource during her visit in helping to identify more definitively the role of a biblical woman. “Embrace helped me start from ground zero,” she said.

Related story
Embrace leader knows how to get things started
11/2/2010 10:21:00 AM by BR staff | with 0 comments

Christians in Baghdad living in fear

November 2 2010 by Baptist World Alliance

WASHINGTON — Baptists and other Christians in Baghdad say they are living in fear following an attack on a Roman Catholic Church in the Iraqi capital that left more than 50 Christians dead.

The massacre occurred on October 31 when al-Qaida-aligned gunmen attacked worshipers from Our Lady of Salvation Chaldean Catholic Church in central Baghdad leaving at least 58 dead, the majority of them worshippers, including two priests, and another 75 wounded.

Tony Peck, Baptist World Alliance (BWA) regional secretary for Europe and general secretary for the European Baptist Federation (EBF), reports the pastor of the Baptist Church in Baghdad informed him that the “Christian community is now very fearful for its safety” and that “some of the Baptist believers are talking about moving away from Baghdad to North Iraq, others to Jordan and Syria.”

Baptist churches in the Middle East are affiliated with the EBF, one of six regional fellowships of the BWA.

Peck fears that “this very understandable response would leave the Christian church in Iraq even weaker than before.” It has been estimated that since the invasion of Iraq by the United States and its allies in 2003, approximately half the Christian population have fled the Middle Eastern country, leaving an estimated 550,000 believers. Many of those who remain are increasingly harassed and often experience violence.

News reports suggest that part of the motivation for the attack was the plan by a pastor in Florida in the United States to burn the Quran, Islam’s holy book, in September. The pastor abandoned his plans, under pressure. “It shows again how Christians in the West must be wise and considerate in the way they engage critically with Islam,” Peck declared.

In the wake of the attack, Baptists in Baghdad are considering changing the day of worship from Sunday to Friday, the traditional day of worship for Muslims, and a practice already adopted by Christians in several Muslim-majority countries.

“We deeply regret the unjustifiable murder of Roman Catholic Christians during worship last Sunday in Baghdad,” said BWA director of Freedom and Justice, Raimundo Barreto.

“We affirm our profound solidarity with the Christian community in Iraq as they mourn those who lost their lives. We assure our brothers and sisters in Iraq of the prayerful support from the larger Christian family around the world,” Barreto stated. “As followers of Jesus Christ we advocate for true and lasting peace in that region. We call on Christians all over the world to diligently work to prevent any escalation of violence, by not repaying evil with evil, but by overcoming evil with good” (Romans 12:17, 21).

Peck asked the Baptist pastor in Baghdad to assure believers in the city of the prayers of the worldwide Baptist family.  
11/2/2010 10:19:00 AM by Baptist World Alliance | with 0 comments

BCH celebrates rich legacy — 125 years

November 1 2010 by J. Blake Ragsdale, BCH Communications

On November 11, 1885, nine-year-old Mary Presson walked onto the campus of the new Baptist Orphanage in Thomasville and became the first child ever admitted into care. At that moment, founder and longtime Baptist John Haymes Mills’ dream of establishing a Baptist-operated orphanage was realized.

Mary Presson’s walk up the steps into the John Mitchell Cottage began a legacy not measured by words or statistics, but by innumerable lives renewed and restored throughout the institution’s 125-year history.

BCH photo

Michael Blackwell, president of Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BSC), talks with current residents at the Mills Home campus in Thomasville. The campus is BCH’s flagship campus, which originated in 1885 as the Thomasville Baptist Orphanage.

The original Baptist Orphanage has grown into Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BSC), with facilities across the state. It has served children and families through parts of three centuries marked by war, depression and the ups and downs of society. Through times good and bad, it has never wavered from its mission to bring hope and healing.

“Changed lives, that’s what we’ve always been about,” says Michael C. Blackwell, president since 1983.

In the late 19th century, children endured the repercussions of the Civil War and Reconstruction. Because of war deaths and poverty many families consisted only of women and children.

Food, shelter, clothing and education were scarce. North Carolina had only one orphanage at the time, currently known as the Masonic Home for Children in Oxford. Mills, who was instrumental in establishing that facility, believed there was a need for more facilities dedicated to rescuing children.

With the support of seven other men, Mills spearheaded a committee to stimulate support and purchase a suitable site for the orphanage. That site would be in the city of Thomasville on a piece of property purchased just a few miles away from the Rich Fork community farm where Mills lived. The first cottage was erected in 1885. Today, BCH’s Mills Home residential campus, Thomasville’s oldest, continuing business, still resides on that original piece of property.

Throughout the years, BCH has grown from its Thomasville campus to establishing care facilities in 18 communities. Stretching from western North Carolina all the way to the east coast, BCH’s child care network includes four residential campuses, four group homes, two wilderness camps for at-risk boys and girls, a residential ranch, three five-star Weekday Education centers, and a home for single, teenage mothers and their babies.

BCH’s newest group home, Britton Ministries in Ahoskie, opens in December.

“We are particularly excited about the new home in Hertford County,” Blackwell says. “There is not only a tremendous need in that area for our services, but Mary Presson, the very first child admitted into BCH’s care in 1885, came from this county. It’s fitting that we would establish this home during the year we celebrate our 125th anniversary.”

In 2000, BCH was approached by the Baptist State Convention to establish the Developmental Disabilities Ministry (DDM). DDM provides care for special needs adults in nine group homes throughout the state. BCH will begin fund-raising efforts in 2011 to build two new DDM homes in Raleigh.

DDM provides residents the opportunity to reach their highest potential through independence, learned self-help skills and training.

Just as important, the ministry gives their family members the peace to know that their children will always have the care they need.

“There are so many families that have worried about the future care of their adult children,” Blackwell explains. “DDM is filling a great void.”  

NCBAM born
The newest addition to BCH’s services is the North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry (NCBAM). In 2008, the Baptist State Convention asked BCH to create an expansive non-residential ministry offering a statewide network of information and resources to aging adults and their families.

With headquarters in Thomasville, NCBAM staff works closely with Baptist churches, associations, and social agencies to meet needs.

“NCBAM has quickly become a vital part of ministry through the hands and feet of North Carolina Baptists positioned across the state,” Blackwell says.

“And as with DDM, it is a great example of BCH’s willingness to adapt, expand, and change in order to help families with the multitude of challenges they face.”

Blackwell is no stranger to change. One of the most significant decisions he has made during his tenure as BCH president is leading the agency to become more family focused and child centered.

BCH photo

Harrison Powell, from left, Allen Carroll, and Bobby Floyd enjoy watermelon in the mid- to late 1940s. The three children lived at Mills Home in Thomasville and gathered in “the valley,” a grassy area in the middle of campus, daily from 6 until 8 p.m. during the summer. Each summer children looked forward to the two times they would have a watermelon cutting.

“The number of orphans kept decreasing over time,” Blackwell explains. “Today, we outreach to children and families in crisis. Some children are victims of abuse and neglect, others are desperate to overcome feelings of anger and hopelessness.”

As a nonprofit agency, BCH depends on the financial support of North Carolina Baptists and others to provide for the children’s daily needs.

“Our friends see their giving as an investment,” says Blackwell. “We are blessed with supporters who see their generosity as a way they can be a part of our ministry and share in the successes of our boys and girls.”  

Many successes
Some would be surprised to learn that a pair of professional athletes spent their formative years at BCH.

Pat Preston was a college All-American who played professionally with the Chicago Bears from 1946 to 1949.

Johnny Allen pitched for the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians and set an American League record of 17 consecutive wins that stood for 60 years. He was honored as Sporting News’ Major League Player of the Year for 1937 and is credited with inventing the “slider” and the legendary “spit ball.”

Both men grew up at Mills Home.

This year, BCH’s residents and staff members have engaged in a year-long “Quasquicentennial” celebration commemorating the ministry’s 125th anniversary.

On June 15 every BCH staff member and resident came together at Mills Home for a day of fun, fellowship and worship.

“Looking out into the crowd of young faces I couldn’t help but remember past children who have called BCH ‘home,’” Blackwell says. “They came to us battered by the storms of life, but left with their heads held high — their lives repaired and their hope replenished.”

And while BCH has experienced its share of change throughout decades of ministry, one enduring constant has been the agency’s Christ-centered focus.

“Our mandate is biblical … our model is Jesus,” Blackwell says. “At Baptist Children’s Homes, no goal is accomplished, no life is transformed, and no success is obtained apart from God. Every day we witness miracles happening in the lives of children and families because we have the privilege of introducing them to the Miracle Worker.” 

With 125-years under its belt, Blackwell is confident that BCH is poised to continue its agency mission of helping hurting children … healing broken families well into the future.

“Thanks to the unwavering support of North Carolina Baptists and the leadership of our Heavenly Father, BCH is charting an exciting pathway forward by bringing hope and the promise of a better tomorrow to those we serve,” he said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Ragsdale is communications director for Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina.)

Related stories
Children’s Homes growth reflects needs
Guest column by Michael Blackwell: There’s still a place for children's homes: Don’t let anyone fool you
11/1/2010 2:26:00 PM by J. Blake Ragsdale, BCH Communications | with 0 comments

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