November 2012

84 new missionaries appointed by IMB

November 28 2012 by Tess Rivers, Baptist Press

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A deer meat processor and a doctor. A nanny and a nurse. A soldier and a statistician. These are just a few of the jobs previously held by 84 men and women appointed by International Mission Board (IMB) trustees Nov. 15 at Second Baptist Church in Springfield, Mo.

From as far away as Thailand and as near as the hills of Tennessee, the appointees shared testimonies of being called by God to a journey – a journey to be the heart, hands and voice of Jesus to the nations.

Prinna Puakpong was born in Thailand, where she was raised in a Buddhist home. Her journey led her first to Atlanta, Ga., and then to Chattanooga, Tenn., where she earned a master’s in business administration with an emphasis in finance. Disillusioned by the stock market crash of 2000, Puakpong prayed that God would reveal Himself to her.

“I prayed, ‘God, I don’t want to be confused anymore,’” Puakpong said. “‘Please reveal Yourself to me in a way that I can understand.’”

In a Bible study for international students in Chattanooga, Puakpong met Christians who showed her God’s love, and the direction of her life changed. Now, more than 10 years later, her journey will take Puakpong and her husband, Jack Wattanawongsawang, to Japan to be the voice of Jesus among those who have not yet heard the gospel.

Photo by Paul W. Lee

Ken Kuwahara, right, from Hawaii, is among IMB trustees interacting with Jack Wattanawongsawang and Prinna Puakpong, new IMB appointees who will work in Japan. A reception followed the appointment of 84 new IMB missionaries Nov. 15 at Second Baptist Church in Springfield, Mo.

For pharmacist Sarah Smythe*, her journey entailed a series of personal challenges during her college years – a time when she came to understand what it means not just to follow Jesus but to rely on Him.

“I realized my need,” Smythe said. “I needed to rely on God. I needed to be in community with His people and I needed to loosen my grip on academic excellence.”

During her first week in pharmacy school, Smythe knocked on the door of a stranger who had advertised a Bible study. Through that study, she developed a heart for the nations and she spent the next two summers working among Asian college students. Soon, she will return to East Asia with her husband Drew* and their two daughters to carry the gospel to those who are hurting.

For Hunter Wells*, who will serve in southern Asia, a job loss redirected his path.

“I felt like I was being called to missions but I really enjoyed my job, and I was going to have a hard time leaving that comfort and security,” the 37-year-old engineer said. “I asked God to take away my job if He wanted us to go.”

A couple of months later, Wells’ department was outsourced. He used his severance pay and a tuition option to pursue seminary studies in preparation for him and his wife Eva* to help reach the lost in southern Asia.

This appointment service brings the number of Southern Baptist missionaries serving around the world to 4,908. IMB President Tom Elliff challenged the audience to pray, “I will embrace whatever God is telling me about world missions” to reach the more than 3,100 unengaged, unreached people groups.

However, “embracing” does not necessarily mean God is calling everyone to “go,” Elliff said.

“He may be calling you not to go but to let go,” Elliff said. “Or to help go – to pray for and support those who are going.”

Referencing the Great Commission task, Elliff underscored the itinerant nature of global evangelism and encouraged appointees to continue their journeys.

“We do not go to settle down in countries and develop a lifestyle similar to the U.S.,” Elliff said. “We go as pioneers, constantly pressing forward to the ends of the earth.”

*Names changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tess Rivers is a writer with the International Mission Board.)

Related story

Global ‘harvest’ at hand, Elliff says
11/28/2012 2:52:08 PM by Tess Rivers, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Sandy, tax changes expected to impact year-end donations

November 28 2012 by Elizabeth Weise, Religion News Service

The recession continued to affect how much Americans gave to charity last year, and the triple whammy of Superstorm Sandy, a national election and the looming fiscal cliff may cut how much we donate in the crucial final month of 2012, experts say.
Charitable giving overall increased by $6 billion in 2011, an increase of almost 4 percent from 2010, according to the 2012 report by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. Individuals gave $217 billion, compared with $209 billion in 2010.
“A little less than two years out from the end of the Great Recession, we’re starting to see charitable giving increase modestly each year,” said Geoffrey Brown, executive director of the Giving USA Foundation, which publishes the report.
Giving was highest in 2007, at $311 billion, and then fell in 2008 and 2009 and only began to increase in 2010. The 2011 total for all giving, including foundations and corporations, was $298 billion.
Giving for 2012 seems on pace to meet or slightly exceed last year’s $217 billion level, Brown said.
“It takes six months to a year for someone who’s been unemployed to feel secure enough to open up their wallet and start contributing again,” said Sandra Miniutti, chief financial officer at Charity Navigator, a charity watchdog. “People are still somewhat uncertain. I don’t think this is going to be a big rebound year.”
Doubts about the economy may be tempered by worries over any tax increase or decreases in exemptions for charitable giving. People may be deciding “it’s better to make a donation this year,” Miniutti said.
Potential donors might have been waiting until after the election because they “didn’t have a sense of what tax changes were on the horizon. People now have a better sense of where we might be going with capital gains, tax brackets at the high end and limiting the charitable-giving deduction,” said Ellen Israelson, vice president for donor relations at the Jewish Communal Fund in New York City.
Superstorm Sandy could have an effect on giving only because it happened so close to the end of the year, the traditional giving season. Thirty percent of all annual giving happens in December, and 10 percent of annual donations are sent in the last two days of the year with an eye toward tax breaks, Miniutti said.
“We have a lingering stagnation in the economy, people don’t have a ton to give, and if they’ve just given to Hurricane Sandy charities, they may not have as much to give this year,” Miniutti said.
The vast majority (81 percent) of money donated to charity in the United States comes from individuals. Seventy-three percent is from individuals, plus 8 percent from bequests from estates. Foundations give 14 percent and corporations 5 percent.
Giving to religious groups dropped 1.7 percent from 2010, totaling $95.8 billion, the report found. Religion is the largest single category of recipients.
Giving to arts, culture and the humanities is estimated to have increased 4.1 percent from 2010, to $13 billion in contributions. Whether that will increase this year is hard to say yet, Israelson says.
She said a lot of donations are “going to go to disaster relief. And that means less will go to culture, the arts and organizations that don’t support basic needs.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Elizabeth Weise writes for USA Today.)
11/28/2012 2:29:50 PM by Elizabeth Weise, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Metro Chicago’s diversity tugs at visiting mission board members

November 28 2012 by Adam Miller, Baptist Press

CHICAGO – “I was raised in a place where there’s a Baptist church on every corner,” Sissy Franks said during a visit to Chicago.

“When I come here and I see this, then my heart is reminded that we have much to do,” said Franks, a trustee of the North American Mission Board (NAMB).

“To see the work of a church planter in places where they leave their home and family and come because of mission, vision and passion for sharing the gospel reminds me there is much to do – and everybody needs to be involved,” said Franks, a member of Philadelphia Baptist Church in Deville, La.

Franks and other North American Mission Board trustees, in conjunction with their trustee meeting in Chicago on Oct. 10, saw firsthand the great need for churches and missionaries to reach the United States’ third-largest city for Christ.

Among the 8.7 million people in metro Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods, there are only 308 Southern Baptist churches, one for every 32,000 residents.

NAMB photo by Susan Whitley

North American Mission Board trustees and staff pray with leadership from Church of the Beloved, a church plant in Chicago’s University Heights neighborhood.

Trustees dedicated a day to visiting three Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) church planters who have recently begun new congregations in Chicago. In places like Wicker Park, the University District and Northlake, trustees saw eclectic and impoverished boroughs often within several blocks of each other.
Trustee Chuck Herring, pastor of First Baptist Church in Collierville, Tenn., recounted that “the thing that God said to my heart coming from the Deep South is I must never ever take the gospel for granted.”

“And I’ve got to teach my people not to take the gospel for granted,” he added.

Chicago encompasses 670,000 college students and is home to 2,000 people groups speaking 200 languages. Among the diversity, Southern Baptists are starting churches with multiplication built into their DNA.

Church planter David Choi, pastor of Church of the Beloved, hopes to start several churches throughout metro Chicago. He’s reaching a very diverse section of the city and mentoring younger planters to join forces.

“It’s amazing to have people from all over North America come here and pray for us,” Choi said of the trustees’ visit. “Our partnerships with Southern Baptists are what have made our work possible, and we are so grateful.”

As early as 1957, Chicago was included in the SBC’s “Big Cities” program and received funds for 10 church plants. Today, as a Send North America City, Chicago is still on the map as an urban center in spiritual need.

The need for more planters and more partnerships was apparent to trustee Rick Wyatt, a member of First Baptist Church of Brandon, Fla.

“I think as our church gets more involved in church planting, we have to relay to the congregation that it’s not a quick fix,” Wyatt said. “We need to encourage them to be involved in student missions, and continue through high school and college, if the numbers of church planters we need to start these churches will be available.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Adam Miller is a writer for the North American Mission Board. For more information on NAMB’s Send North America: Chicago emphasis, visit

11/28/2012 2:13:58 PM by Adam Miller, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Anonymous author embraces obscurity, humility

November 28 2012 by Russ Rankin, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – The world is filled with people who live and die in anonymity. To those who yearn for true success as modeled by Jesus, the anonymous author of a new book points toward humility, service, sacrifice and surrender.

The author of “Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God’s Everything,” released by B&H Publishing Group, chose to publish under the name “Anonymous” and to maintain nearly complete anonymity. Only one B&H editor and a couple of executives at LifeWay Christian Resources know the identity of Anonymous – reportedly a well-established author – who communicates via a specially created email address.

“We did not know anything about the identity of the author when we received the manuscript,” said Selma Wilson, vice president of B&H Publishing Group. “But the message of the book grabbed us immediately. It is exactly what we are about at B&H – bringing an engaging and substantive Christ-centered message.”

“This book is a call to stop imitating the world’s formula for success and instead follow the model of our humble King,” Anonymous said in quotes provided by B&H. “I couldn’t think of any way to reconcile that message while simultaneously promoting myself, so I chose to take up the challenge of embracing my own obscurity.”

Obscurity “can be either assigned (by God) or chosen (by us),” Anonymous writes in the book. “I don’t know whether one is harder than the other. I just know that from a prideful, human point of view, either can gnaw at us. We don’t want to live as one in a crowd. We don’t want to be just another person living in a subdivision in the suburban sprawl that has become America.”

“It is my desire to awaken the church to the unsurpassing peace and pleasure of becoming nothing in light of God’s everything,” the author said via B&H.

“Even when an overarching, global obscurity has been assigned to us, we still have a choice of whether to embrace personal obscurity – an obscurity of heart as much as position,” Anonymous writes. “And that is the message I believe God has for us, a message He modeled as well as taught.”

The author has modeled the principles of the book well, Wilson said.

“Writing a book, especially one with deep transparent personal themes, is a painstaking event,” she said. “And to do that with zero credit is a tremendous thing. The message Anonymous brings forward in this book is very appropriate for the evangelical world today.”

To maintain the integrity of his/her anonymity, the author will not make any appearances or speaking engagements in support of the book, Wilson said. However, Anonymous will interact with visitors at In addition, Anonymous is available for interviews via email.

B&H Publishing Group is a division of LifeWay Christian Resources. B&H’s print and digital releases for the trade, church and academic markets include New York Times No. 1 bestsellers “The Love Dare” and “The Vow,” as well as the award-winning HCSB Study Bible.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Russ Rankin writes for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
11/28/2012 2:06:56 PM by Russ Rankin, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Boy surviving HIV with help from World Hunger Fund

November 27 2012 by Elizabeth James, Baptist Press

The boy carefully climbs out of the desk and makes his way to the large chalkboard at the front of the classroom. After eyeing his teacher, the 10-year-old, Clive, picks up the piece of chalk and fills in the subtraction problem. It may seem small, but Clive’s headmaster and teacher agree he is making remarkable improvements. Just a few months earlier, Clive was spending more time in the clinic than he was in the classroom.
Like many others in the Zimbabwe village of Zvavahera, Clive is HIV-positive. But Clive’s battle with HIV began long before he was diagnosed. Before the disease began to consume his own body – stunting his growth, making him smaller than other boys his age – it already was shaping his life. In 2007, AIDS took the lives of both Clive’s mother and father, recasting the roles of his family and forcing his 16-year-old sister Mercy into the role of primary caregiver.

On their own

“When my parents were still alive, everything was better,” Mercy says. “They used to assist us and play their role. When they passed away, things became very difficult for us.”
While other children their age come home from school to fully prepared meals, Clive and Mercy begin the race to complete chores before sunset. The balancing act of cleaning the dishes, sweeping the home, finding firewood, fetching water, searching for food, preparing the meal, finishing homework and other tasks often kept them out of school.
In 2011, when Clive received the news he was HIV-positive, he had no idea what it meant, Mercy says.
What began as a few missed days of school soon spiraled into months of illness. The decline in health made it impossible for Clive to make the 7-kilometer walk from home to school.
“Clive used to be in the clinic every week or every month,” Evans Thonolana, a nurse at the Zvavahera Clinic, recounts.
On the rare occasions Clive could attend school, his teacher noted that the most he could do was sleep at his desk, unable to even copy notes from the chalkboard onto his paper. Clive’s headmaster, Shadreck Makaganise, wondered if the boy would ever recover.
“We once went to see him,” Makanganise says. “It was terrible, because we never thought he was going to survive.”

BGR photo

Clive, age 10, carefully measures out cooking oil for the evening meal. The cooking oil and other foodstuffs supplied by through the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund have dramatically improved Clive’s health. View the photo gallery here.

Though Clive had medicine, he lacked the one simple thing needed to sustain his life – food. As Thonoloana explains, many of the symptoms Clive suffered were caused by his not having enough food for his medicine to be effective.
Finding food was nearly impossible for the two children. Extended family could not help, and drought made it difficult to grow crops. The combination forced Mercy and Clive into a desperate situation.

Mercy often skipped school in order to work a neighbor’s gardens, in hopes of providing a little extra food for her brother.
“At times when he got sick, I used to cry because I didn’t know what to do,” Mercy says, her eyes filling with tears. “When he got sick, he used to lose a lot of weight within a few days or so. ... I felt like I was hopeless. I could not improve the situation of my brother.”

Help arrives

After a visit to the village of Zvavahera and seeing many in situations like Clive and Mercy, Aaron Mutingwende, orphan care program director for the Baptist Union of Zimbabwe, decided something had to be done. Mutingwende applied for a grant through Baptist Global Response to fund a feeding program in the area. Through that effort, hundreds of HIV/AIDS families have been provided with food.
The life-saving food was provided by the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund.
Every month, around 350 people come to the faded-blue clinic in Zvavahera to receive their food. After weighing in and recording their progress, they fill their plastic sacks with rice, peanut butter, sugar, oil, soap and various goods handed out by volunteers from the local Baptist church. The recipients leave with more than a full bag of food. At every distribution, Thonoloana educates the crowd on HIV care and prevention and Mutingwende encourages them to live the full and abundant life promised by Jesus.
“We have to take care of the needy. We have to take care of the sick,” Mutingwende says. “We can’t allow people to think just because they are sick we no longer value them. ... They are part of our family, still part of society.”
Mutingwende has seen the restoration in both individuals and the community as a result of this food distribution. From bedridden patients now walking to several HIV support groups developing, he says he could have never imagined this type of progress when the first distribution was made in January 2011.
“We have seen wonders being caused by the program,” Mutingwende says.
For Clive, even the small changes are reminders of God’s mercy. From being able to play outside without getting headaches, to staying awake in class, the simplest signs of progress are monumental victories in the boy’s personal battle against HIV.
“They told us about the program and we got very excited,” Mercy says, “because it was going to make a big change in our lives.”

A life saved

The food Clive received was a catalyst for recovery, soon enabling him to regain strength and re-enter school.
“Now they are attending school every day because some of the problems were solved because of the distribution,” Mutingwende notes.
Though he was able to return to school, Clive’s illness had taken a toll. Because he had missed so much school, Clive had to be placed in a remedial class. When he first came back to school, his teacher noticed he was unable to complete simple math problems or say the alphabet. Within a matter of months, however, Clive was improving, soon leading his class in completing problems on the board.
Clive’s improvements have expanded outside the classroom as well. Though he once struggled to keep friends, he now has plenty of them and often walks to school with two or three.
Time at the clinic no longer consumes Clive’s days. Instead, he spends his spare time climbing trees to collect fruit, playing outside with his dog, Cheetah, and helping his sister with household chores. Though he will continue to face the effects of HIV, for the moment he has enough strength to lead the life of a normal 10-year-old boy.
“He used to be very weak before we started receiving food, but now he has greatly recovered,” Mercy says. “I am no longer scared when he goes out because I know he has enough strength to come back.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Elizabeth James writes from Johannesburg, South Africa. Learn more about the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund at World AIDS Day is Dec. 1. For information about HIV/AIDS outreach through Baptist Global Response, go to View interactive graphic:; or video:
11/27/2012 4:23:27 PM by Elizabeth James, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

College students to help Sandy survivors

November 27 2012 by Joe Conway, Baptist Press

EDISON, N.J. – College students will have their second opportunity in as many years to use their holiday breaks to minister to disaster survivors in the Northeast as the North American Mission Board (NAMB) is coordinating their deployment to respond in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey.

“The opportunities for short-term mobilization will be ongoing because the need is so great,” said Susan Peugh, a NAMB staff member who coordinates volunteer opportunities and helped pull the initiative together.

“It is great to see this partnership come together to assist the people affected by Sandy. We know students want to help and [we] have seen the excellent ministry they have provided in the past. The opportunities to serve here will be life-changing,” Peugh said.

The first wave of students, expected Dec. 7, will lodge at Staten Island’s Arlington Warehouse and will pay for the privilege. A $15 registration fee and a $15 per-night fee will help reduce logistical expenses, such as insurance, identification badges and lodging.

The students will work with trained Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers, primarily assisting residents affected by Sandy to clean up their properties.

Photo by Susan Whitley

Susan Peugh discusses plans to involve college students in disaster relief recovery ministry in response to Hurricane Sandy with Mickey Caison, second from left, Randy Corn, right, and Vince Alderman at the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief incident command center in Edison, N.J., hosted by Raritan Valley Baptist Church.

Students will be required to view a SBDR training video prior to traveling to New York. They will receive additional onsite training specific to their assignments. More than 350 students assisted in SBDR clean up ministry last year in response to Hurricane Irene.

Campus student directors and college students interested in ministry opportunities in the area may register at (use code “collegiatedr”). A mobilization coordinator will contact those expressing interest to connect them with ministry opportunities.

SBDR volunteers surpassed the 1.5 million meals prepared mark Nov. 23. Kitchen operations will continue to decline as power is restored, but the recovery efforts, like those with which the students will assist, will continue for months into the new year, according to NAMB DR executive director Fritz Wilson. On Thanksgiving Day, six SBDR kitchens in New York and New Jersey prepared 40,000 meals.

Volunteers have reported 57 individuals who have made professions of faith in Christ as a result of SBDR ministry. One of those ministry contacts included NAMB trustee chairman Doug Dieterly. His Indiana SBDR volunteer team was working a mud-out job at a condo in New Jersey when they were able to share the gospel with the owner who prayed to receive Christ. Dieterly, an attorney, is executive pastor of Plymouth Baptist Church in Plymouth, Ind.

NAMB also is coordinating church-to-church partnerships in the region. Churches interested in assisting churches in the areas affected by Hurricane Sandy may email to submit their requests for partnership.

In total, more than 1,200 SBDR volunteers from Canada and 37 states have responded to Sandy. Baptist convention volunteers have served from Alabama, Arkansas, the Baptist General Association of Virginia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas-Nebraska, Kentucky, Maryland/Delaware, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota/Wisconsin, Mississippi, Missouri, New England, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, the Northwest Baptist Convention, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania/South Jersey, the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, the Southern Baptists of Texas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah/Idaho and West Virginia.

Also responding are volunteers from North Carolina Baptist Men and Texas Baptist Men.

From its disaster operations center in Alpharetta, Ga., NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through a partnership between NAMB and the SBC’s 42 state conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief programs.

SBDR assets include 82,000 trained volunteers, including chaplains, and some 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, childcare, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained disaster relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.

Southern Baptists and others who want to donate to the disaster relief operations can contact their state conventions or contribute to NAMB’s disaster relief fund via Other ways to donate are to call 866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.)
11/27/2012 4:13:07 PM by Joe Conway, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Supreme Court revives Obamacare challenge

November 27 2012 by Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – Religious objections to the Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate have gained new life after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a federal appeals judge to reconsider a Christian university’s challenge to the health care law.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals previously dismissed Liberty University’s challenge to the law’s individual and employer insurance mandates as well as the subsequent mandate by the Department of Health and Human Services that employee health insurance cover contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs. While Liberty appealed to the Supreme Court, the court dismissed the appeal when it issued its groundbreaking decision upholding Obamacare in June.

But the High Court on Nov. 26 granted Liberty a new hearing, ordering the 4th Circuit to reconsider Liberty University v. Geithner in response to a new appeal Liberty filed after the June decision.

The nonprofit Liberty Counsel, representing the Virginia university, said the newest development revives the religious challenge to Obamacare, possibly returning the issue to the Supreme Court in 2013.

“Today’s ruling breathes new life into our challenge to Obamacare. Our fight against Obamacare is far from over,” said Liberty Counsel founder and chairman Mat Staver, dean of Liberty University’s law school.

“Congress exceeded its power by forcing every employer to provide federally mandated insurance. But even more shocking is the abortion mandate, which collides with religious freedom and the rights of conscience.”

At least 35 Christian universities and businesses have filed suits against the health care mandates, including Louisiana College, Houston Baptist University and East Texas Baptist University.

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) joined the legal fight in October, signing a friend-of-the-court brief in support of a joint challenge by evangelical Wheaton College in suburban Chicago and the Roman Catholic Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina. The ERLC was among 11 evangelical groups signing the brief filed by the Christian Legal Society in support of the Wheaton and Belmont Abbey appeal.

Liberty University’s challenge, filed in 2010, marked the first private lawsuit against Obamacare. According to Liberty Counsel, the original lawsuit said Congress lacked the authority to pass the health care law and challenged the government’s forced funding of abortion as unconstitutional, based on the First Amendment Free Exercise of Religion Clause and the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

In reconsidering the case, the appeals court could ask both sides for new legal briefs, according to news reports.

The Obama administration did not oppose the Supreme Court’s ruling but, according to news reports, told the court that none of Liberty’s remaining challenges hold legal merit and that its challenge to the employer mandate is blocked by the Anti-Injunction Act. The act was enacted in 1867 to stop federal courts from preventing the federal government from assessing and collecting taxes.

Others suing the federal government over Obamacare include Hobby Lobby, Christian publisher Tyndale House, Priests for Life and the EWTN Catholic television and radio network.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press staff writer Diana Chandler.)
11/27/2012 4:00:38 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

University student ventures to Chilean port city’s ‘42 hills’

November 27 2012 by Emily Pearson, Baptist Press

VALPARAÍSO, Chile – Maria had reached her limit. Seeing no other way to escape her troubled life, she was considering suicide. But because of the faithfulness of Chilean university student Ruth Aguirre and Southern Baptist missionary Karen Wright, she chose to live for Christ instead.

Maria had received a Gospel of John when Aguirre and Wright were prayerwalking on Polanco Hill, one of the 42 hills upon which Valparaíso, Chile, is built. By the time Aguirre visited her several weeks later, Maria had read the entire scripture portion. That day she accepted Christ and agreed to let Aguirre begin a Bible study in her home.

Aguirre was even more amazed when Maria’s husband said he, too, wanted to learn more about Christ.

IMB photo by Sophia Hayden

University student Ruth Aguirre pauses by a mural of a popular Chilean comic strip character, shown ascending one of the colorful 42 hills of the port city of Valparaíso. Through a church-planting effort called the 42 Hills Project, Aguirre is taking the gospel to a local hill called Polanco. Its steep cobblestone streets see extensive drug trafficking, gang violence and witchcraft.

Aguirre has “adopted” Polanco Hill as part of the “42 Hills Project,” an initiative begun by Wright linking U.S. churches with Chilean believers to reach the 42 hills of Valparaíso – Chile’s chief seaport – with the gospel.

For Aguirre, it was during a vision trip with Wright that she felt called to reach Polanco Hill, a dangerous place for any outsider but especially for a single 22-year-old female. Aguirre realized she would be trusting God with her life every time she set foot there.

“It was difficult at first to go,” Aguirre said. “I was afraid. But once I finally began going and praying, I became very aware of the needs of the people.”

Like much of Valparaíso, Polanco Hill is dotted with brightly colored houses. But beneath the cheery appearance is an area riddled with poverty, crime and violence. Alcohol is cheap and readily available. A house on one street is painted completely black, a sign of its use for drug deals. Unemployment rates are among the highest in the country.

Many of the youth in Valparaíso suffer from broken homes and a lack of role models. A majority of teens never finish high school. Faced with a bleak future, they often turn to theft and dealing drugs. Throughout the city, groups of young people loiter in the streets with nothing to do – a perfect breeding ground for peer pressure and poor life decisions.

IMB photo by Sophia Hayden

While visiting one of the 42 hills of Valparaíso, Chile, International Mission Board missionary Karen Wright, right, offers a word of encouragement to Maria, a new believer who accepted Christ after receiving a Scripture portion from Wright and Chilean university student Ruth Aguirre. Maria had been considering suicide before Aguirre and Wright reached out to her.

Aguirre sometimes prayerwalks the area alone despite the risk.

“It’s a little hill, but there’s a lot of need,” she said. “There’s a strong sense of abandonment, of desolation.”

But she also sees the hand of God at work in her adopted community. Many people are beginning to share with her about their lives and struggles – such transparency is uncommon here.

“I feel like God has put a sign on me that I can’t see, but that other people must see,” she said. “It must say, ‘Talk to me, tell me your problems!’”

One day after a Bible study, a man on the street corner noticed the Bible she was carrying. He came up to her and said he also wanted to study it.

“People are responding to God’s desire for them in this place,” Aguirre said. “It’s an unusual phenomenon here.”

Aguirre intends to begin more Bible studies in homes throughout Polanco Hill. She also wants to work with local youth, many of whom face a life of crime without Christ. Recently, she expanded her outreach to O’Higgins Hill after Maria and her husband relocated there. Every week Aguirre leads a Bible study in Maria’s new home.

“God is teaching me to do His will and to obey Him, and that in the Bible I can find what God wants for me,” Maria said. “He has me here for a purpose, and I will find that purpose … as I dig deeper in His Word.”

Aguirre rejoices at what Christ is doing in Maria’s life but grieves for other area residents who haven’t yet responded to the gospel, knowing that she needs Christian partners to help reach them.

“We are seeing the Lord at work, and it’s an exciting thing,” said Wright, who is from Kentucky. “My prayer now is for Chilean churches to step up and see that this is their mission field, too.”

Of the 42 hills in Valparaíso, only four have a Baptist church in the community. Some have no evangelical presence at all.

Wright added that U.S. churches also are needed to partner with Chileans like Aguirre to carry the gospel to the other hills of Valparaíso. Churches that “adopt” a hill will be asked to pray for their hill and send volunteer teams several times a year to evangelize and start Bible studies.

“There are 42 hills,” Aguirre said. “God is working there, and He’s going to use either me or someone else to get His Word out. Pray that God will shine through Polanco and [His Light will] spread to the other hills.”

To learn more about the 42 Hills Project, visit

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Emily Pearson is an International Mission Board (IMB) writer living in the Americas. Morgan Phillips, an IMB writing intern in the Americas, contributed to this story.)
11/27/2012 3:51:02 PM by Emily Pearson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Longtime prof Marvin Tate dies at 87

November 27 2012 by Aaron Cline Hanbury, Baptist Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Marvin Embry Tate Jr., a longtime professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, died Nov. 16. He was 87.

Tate was a professor of Old Testament interpretation at Southern Seminary from 1960 until 1995, and then a senior professor until 2003.

Born May 2, 1925 in Hope, Ark., Tate grew up in Washington, Ark., where he attended Washington Elementary and High School. In 1944, he enrolled at Ouachita Baptist University, from which he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1947. Tate then attended Southern Seminary, earning a divinity degree in 1952 and a doctorate in 1958. An Old Testament scholar, Tate’s doctoral dissertation is “A Study of the Wise Men of Israel in Relation to the Prophets.”

While finishing his education, Tate served as the pastor of Goshen Baptist Church in Glen Dean, Ky., where he met and married Julia Moorman, one of 11 children in a Methodist family from Western Kentucky. Tate then served as pastor of a church in Tulsa, Okla., while he finished his dissertation. After Tate graduated, the couple moved to Texas, where he taught at Wayland Baptist College. He joined the Southern Seminary faculty in 1960.

Marvin Embry Tate Jr., a longtime professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, died Nov. 16. He was 87.

In 1965, Tate, who became known by students for his quick wit, signed the seminary Abstract of Principles, the signing of which is historically significant in the life of Southern Seminary. In 1992, Tate took an endowed position as the John R. Sampey Professor of Old Testament – a chair he held until his retirement from full-time teaching in 1995. This chair, intended to preserve Old Testament scholarship at the seminary, is one of Southern Seminary’s oldest and highest honored endowed professorships, held first by John R. Sampey from 1938 to 1943 and currently by Duane Garrett.

Tate authored numerous books and articles, including two works in the Word Biblical Commentary series: “Psalms 51-100” and “Job.” He and Southern colleague, Clyde T. Fransisco, published a translation of Exodus, and he helped with Hebrew translation for the New International Version of the Bible. Tate was also editor of “Review and Expositor,” the seminary’s academic journal now called “Southern Baptist Journal of Theology.”

Tate leaves behind his wife of 55 years and his five children, Sarah McCommon, Martha Kent, Betsey Tate, Andrew Tate and Virginia Phelps, and five grandchildren.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Cline Hanbury is manager of news and information at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.)
11/27/2012 3:45:46 PM by Aaron Cline Hanbury, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

La. Baptists mark 200 years of ministry

November 26 2012 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

WEST MONROE, La. – Messengers to the 165th meeting of the Louisiana Baptist Convention (LBC) were reminded that they are “the key” to what God is going to do during the next 200 years of ministry in the state.

A brass key in the shape of the state of Louisiana was given to every person present Nov. 12 in the worship center at First Baptist Church in West Monroe, where John Avant is pastor.

The keys were distributed as part of the 200th anniversary of Baptist ministry in the state, celebrated during the Monday evening session of the LBC’s 165th annual meeting, with 703 messengers registering from 267 churches.

“You are the key to our future,” said David E. Hankins, the convention’s executive director. “It is our calling to reach Louisiana with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

With a theme of “Refresh: Awaken and Go,” the two-day event was designed to continue the “Awaken – It’s Time” thrust launched at last year’s annual meeting to point Louisiana Baptists toward revival and spiritual awakening that would start locally and spread nationally.

Hankins reminded messengers of the 21 Days of Prayer for repentance leading to revival that began last January. To date, more than 550 churches have participated, and a new 21 Days of Prayer, authored by Louisiana pastors, is slated to start in January.

Hankins also noted the parish-wide prayer meetings – most often at courthouses – in each of Louisiana’s 64 parishes, which culminated in a prayer meeting April 29 in front of the state capitol in Baton Rouge.

“So, has all this activity produced an awakening? No,” Hankins said. “We’ve heard good reports, but I think all of us would agree that the widespread awakening we long to see, that we need to see, has yet to occur.

“We know we cannot schedule an awakening,” Hankins continued. “We cannot program it or demand that God send it, but we can continue to prepare ourselves, pray and plead with God to send one.”

The messages of each of the speakers reinforced the need for repentance, prayer and God-directed action. Other reports noted the activity of God’s people across Louisiana over the last year and plans already set for 2013.

Steve Lemke, provost and professor of philosophy and ethics at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, led three sessions of Bible study. The first was on the need for pastors to be refreshed physically and spiritually. The second was on the need for God’s people to be awakened to a bankrupt culture and a church that isn’t shining brightly enough to attract people. The third was that the Christian life is a journey to be filled with doing good while giving a witness of Jesus. “‘As you go’ starts at home,” Lemke said, referring to the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20.

In his president’s address, LBC President Waylon Bailey, pastor of First Baptist Church in Covington, spoke from Revelation 2:12-17 on the lack of purity among God’s people and on the 1904-05 revival in Wales, which started after years of prayer with young people confessing and dealing with all known sin, obeying the Holy Spirit immediately and proclaiming Jesus Christ.

Chuck Pourciau, pastor of Broadmoor Baptist Church in Shreveport, brought the convention sermon from Acts 11:19-26. “It’s really all about missions,” Pourciau preached. “Every member is a missionary.”

Johnny Hunt further unpacked the concept of living life as a missionary. Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., and a former Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president, brought the final message Tuesday afternoon from Luke 14.

“Have a Kingdom life table,” Hunt said. Invite non-Christians to share a meal and use the opportunity to share the gospel, Hunt said. “People aren’t being saved because they’re not hearing the gospel.”

During times set on the program for business, Bailey was re-elected by acclamation to a second one-year term. Richard Blue, pastor of Walker Baptist Church in Walker, was elected by acclamation as first vice president. Dwayne Monk, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Choudrant, was elected second vice president with 57.3 percent of the vote over Bert Langley, longtime director of missions in the Evangeline and Gulf Coast Baptist Associations.

Messengers approved without discussion a $21,627,235 Cooperative Program (CP) budget for 2013, up $87,375 from 2012. LBC plans to send 36.74 percent – or $7,945,846 – of CP gifts from the churches to SBC missions and ministry through the Cooperative Program, up from 36.49 percent – $7,859,895 – last year.

The LBC will retain 63.26 percent of Cooperative Program dollars from churches for mission needs in Louisiana, and 50 percent of income that exceeds the budget. The budget does not include any calculations for shared LBC-SBC ministries.

In other business, the LBC Executive Board approved a minor bylaw change and declined to recommend a motion presented in 2011 that nominees for LBC president “must be a member of a church which contributes at least 7.5 percent” through the Cooperative Program.

“We believe it is not the wisest course of action to codify a required percentage,” according to the Executive Board’s printed response in the Book of Reports. Among four stated reasons for declining the recommendation, the board noted its objection to “implying the required threshold percentage is the new goal for everyone, thus encouraging minimum, rather than maximum giving.”

The board also noted, “It is not too much to suggest that, without the Cooperative Program, the Louisiana Baptist Convention would be reduced to a mere fellowship of churches with no sustained joint-ministry enterprises.”

The LBC Executive Board did recommend that a statement noting five expectations of LBC officers be attached as a footnote to the LBC constitution, including “A commitment to cooperative missions, especially mission endeavors of Louisiana and Southern Baptists as evidenced by strong congregational support of the Cooperative Program.”

After some discussion, a slate of six resolutions was passed by messengers, including one objecting to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette offering a LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) minor course of study. The other resolutions voiced concern regarding protecting religious liberty; opposed any attempt to frame same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue or to legalize same-sex marriage; commended the use of a “Sinner’s Prayer” in evangelism; and encouraged church members and churches to practice financial responsibility according to biblical principles.

The 2013 annual meeting will be Nov. 11-12 at the Riverfront Convention Center in Alexandria. Bill Dye, pastor of North Monroe Baptist Church, is to bring the annual sermon. Stewart Holloway, pastor of First Baptist Church in Pineville, is the alternate. Benji Harlan, LBC church music strategist and NOBTS professor of church music, is to lead worship. Fred Guilbert, minister of music at Philadelphia Baptist Church in Deville and chair of the Louisiana College division of fine arts and media, is the alternate.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Baptist Message, official newsjournal for the more than 1,600 churches and nearly 600,000 members affiliated with the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)
11/26/2012 3:36:42 PM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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