November 2012

WEEK OF PRAYER: BE His heart, His hands, His voice

November 20 2012 by IMB, Baptist Press

Nepalese pastors brave threats and bombs to see Christ’s name glorified in the Himalayas. Believers in West Africa bury a Christian woman, uniting in a strong witness to the Songhai community that refused her a proper burial. 
In Central Asia, an International Mission Board (IMB) doctor’s greatest concern isn’t for safety but that his ministry will make a difference for the kingdom. In war-torn Somalia of the ’90s, an IMB worker knew he’d have to be willing to die for Jesus – an experience that led him to spend years learning how and why believers in persecution grow unimaginably strong in the faith. 
This year’s Week of Prayer stories remind Southern Baptists that engaging people groups in the hard places comes with risk and sacrifice, not just for missionaries but also for all who obediently choose to be His heart, His hands, His voice. Most of us aren’t threatened because of our faith, but we need to be in prayer for those who are – not that persecution will end, but that believers in persecution will stay courageous and bold.
This December is the 100-year anniversary of the death of Lottie Moon, the namesake of Southern Baptists’ offering that supports global missionaries. The emphasis celebrates her life and looks to her as a portrait of obedience – a single woman who went to China despite the risks and persisted through war and famine because the Chinese needed to know her Lord.

Lottie wrote home to the Foreign Mission Board (now IMB): “Please say to the missionaries they are coming to a life of hardship, responsibility and constant self-denial,” she warned, yet acknowledging, “If the joy of the Lord be their strength, the blessedness of the work will more than compensate for its hardships.”
Giving also is a call to obedience and sacrifice. Gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering enable IMB missionaries – going just as boldly as Lottie – to live and work at the forefront of lostness and to extend a witness through their full-time ministry.
As Lottie said more than 100 years ago, “How many there are … who imagine that because Jesus paid it all, they need pay nothing, forgetting that the prime object of their salvation was that they should follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ in bringing back a lost world to God.”
Each individual and church is called to be His heart, hands and voice and to continually take the next step in obedience so that Christ is glorified, even to the ends of the earth. 
The core question is, then, “What am I doing and what is my church doing to be obedient, to BE His heart, hands and voice, no matter the cost?”
Every penny given to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions is used to support nearly 5,000 Southern Baptist missionaries as they share the gospel overseas.
Give to the offering through your local Southern Baptist church or online at, where there are resources for church leaders to promote the offering. Download related videos at
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Visit for more about the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Also check out videos at
11/20/2012 2:19:11 PM by IMB, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Atheist group sues IRS over churches endorsing politics

November 20 2012 by World News Service

After 1,586 pastors purposely broke the law Oct. 7 by endorsing political candidates from the pulpit, an atheist group has taken the bait and sued the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Nov. 12 for not taking action against these pastors’ churches.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) started Pulpit Freedom Sunday in 2008 to challenge the 1954 Johnson Amendment that prohibits tax-exempt churches from making political endorsements. ADF hoped the IRS would take action so that a lawsuit could be filed that would repeal the law.
“It’s outrageous for pastors and churches to be threatened or punished by the government for applying biblical teachings to all areas of life, including candidates and elections,” ADF legal counsel Erik Stanley told Focus on the Family’s Citizen Link last month. He added that the purpose of the October event was “to make sure that the pastor, and not the IRS, decides what is said from the pulpit.”
But the IRS has not taken action against the churches or pastors, so the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Madison arguing that the IRS is not enforcing the federal tax code.
The FFRF claims that churches and other religious organizations have become more involved in political campaigns, adding that they are “blatantly and deliberately flaunting the electioneering restrictions.” In the lawsuit, the FFRF says that not enforcing the law is a violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment and a violation of equal protection rights, because the same preferential treatment is not provided to other tax-exempt organizations, such as the FFRF.
But Stanley told The Washington Times he doesn’t believe the case will go far: “I think the lawsuit itself really borders on frivolous. I don’t know how the FFRF can claim they’ve been harmed by the IRS’s refusal to enforce the Johnson Amendment. But, on the chance it does, then we will seek to protect those churches.”
The lawsuit also cites full-page ads run this fall in The New York Times and other newspapers by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association featuring a photo of Billy Graham urging Americans to vote applying biblical principles without explicitly naming a candidate. Graham met with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in October and pledged to do “all I can” to help the Republican presidential nominee.
Another aspect of the suit refers to an order from Roman Catholic Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, Ill., which required all priests in his diocese to read a statement urging Catholics to vote: “Catholic politicians, bureaucrats, and their electoral supporters who callously enable the destruction of innocent human life in the womb also thereby reject Jesus as their Lord.”
Russell Renwicks, a manager in the IRS’s Mid-Atlantic region, said in October that the agency had suspended audits of churches suspected of breaching federal restrictions on political activity. A 2009 federal court ruling required the IRS to clarify which high-ranking official could authorize audits over the tax code’s political rules. The IRS has yet to do so.
11/20/2012 2:10:36 PM by World News Service | with 0 comments

Amid Israel & Gaza’s bloody faceoff, prayer rises among Christians

November 20 2012 by Ava Thomas, Baptist Press

ISRAEL – The smoke trails of rockets make jagged cuts through the cloudless sky over Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

Stephen Johnson,* a Christian worker among Palestinians, said he feels just as rough around the edges.

After arriving in the West Bank on Nov. 16, he fell asleep but was awakened when a rocket hit near the house where he is staying. “We are fine – a little jittery, but OK,” he said.

He’s not the only one who’s jittery – phone calls to friends who are believers in Gaza Strip confirmed that.

“They are all OK but very frightened,” Johnson said. “They’ve been here many times before.”

As the death toll rises and the conflict escalates between Gaza and Israel, Christian workers in the area are asking believers to ‘pray the news,’ for God to bring real peace to the area and open hearts to the peace only He can bring.

The long history of conflict between Gaza and Israel has been marked in recent years by militants in Gaza firing hundreds of rockets into Israeli populations – triggering severe retaliation by Israel.

With the current fighting, it’s dangerous to be in the street, and there’s little movement outside. Grocery stores are empty.

“People have bought up supplies in case the situation gets worse,” Johnson said.

And they pray that “worse” won’t mean “closer.” The Palestinian Ministry of Interior office, for example – about 200 yards from where some of Johnson’s friends live – was hit by Israeli rockets.

U.S. President Barack Obama said he supports Israel’s right to defend itself and has called for Gaza to stop firing on Israel and work toward peace.

“There’s no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders,” Obama said at a press conference in Thailand during a Southeast Asian tour.

Israel’s “Iron Dome” defense shield intercepted some 250 rockets fired from Gaza in a three-day period, according to the Israeli army. Nearly 800 rockets have been fired since the beginning of the conflict. Tel Aviv has repeatedly been the target.

Netanyahu said Israel is ready to expand its operation. News outlets report the strong possibility of a ground offensive.

In Israel where Ben Martin* lives, people aren’t as worried about rockets as they are about the possibility of others getting involved, such as Egypt or Hezbollah, the Shiite Muslim group based in Lebanon. Egypt’s president stated early in the conflict that it would not leave Gaza on its own.

“The main concern is the secondary threat,” said Martin, a Christian worker among Jews. “In these days, what do we do? We’re told to be sober-minded so that we may be able to pray.

“What we need is people who will pray for the believers in Israel and for the believers in Gaza to be bold to share in the midst of hard times,” Martin said.

One believer in Israel whom Martin knows has already had the chance to share with a family while he was taking cover with them as rockets approached. “We don’t just sit with our hands folded – we look for opportunities.”

Martin, Johnson and others in the region say there is a ready harvest among the Middle Eastern peoples.

“Pray for safety” for believers caught in the crossfire, Johnson said, “but also that they would have opportunities to share the hope that they have.

“As you watch the news, write down the names and places, then turn the TV off and pray the news,” Johnson added. “It’s not a political statement or a stand, but asking the God of heaven to invoke His will in the situation and to bring true and lasting peace. With that, He is well pleased.”

*Names changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ava Thomas is a writer/editor for the International Mission Board based in Europe.)
11/20/2012 1:54:09 PM by Ava Thomas, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

N.C. Baptists challenged to ‘Awaken’

November 19 2012 by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor

After weeks – and even months – of focused prayer and a call for spiritual awakening, this year’s 182nd annual meeting of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) ended with 34 North American Mission Board (NAMB) missionaries being sent out to plant churches in some of the least evangelized areas of the country and Canada.
This year’s meeting was held Nov. 12-13 at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex Special Events Center and drew a crowd of 1,889 – which was made up of 1,605 messengers, 284 visitors and 762 churches. The number of messengers was slightly down from last year’s count of 1,700, but there was an increase of the 138 visitors from the year before.
This year’s annual meeting theme was Awaken, based on Romans 13.
On the opening night, many people fell to their knees – some face down on a concrete floor – in prayer. Much of the routine business was merely a side note to a meeting focused on spiritual renewal, prayer and missions.
“Our time together in Greensboro … has been the object of much prayer,” Mark Harris, president of the BSC and pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, told the crowd. During the month of October, in response to the request of the convention, some N.C. Baptists set aside time to pray daily for the upcoming meeting.
“We’ve been praying that hearts would be awakened,” he said, noting that coordinators sought to make this year’s event “unlike any annual meeting.” 
“They sense the Holy Spirit calling North Carolina Baptists to action.”
Brad O’Brien, a former intern at The Summit Church in Durham, shared how he and his wife, Jenna Marie, who have two daughters, will serve as NAMB church planters in Baltimore.
“We’re going into a city that is less than 9 percent evangelical,” he said. “We’re asking for God to open doors for us that we couldn’t open for ourselves.”
In addition to the commissioning service and ministry reports, messengers did tend to a variety of business.



Messengers approved a proposed 2013 Cooperative Program budget of $33.5 million, which is not an increase over the year before.
“Our year to date receipts are significantly under the $33,500,000 approved budget for 2012,” said Stan Welch, chair of the Board of Director’s budget committee. “We felt it would be unwise to increase the budget at this point.”
For the eighth year, however, the budget did include a one-half percent increase of the allocation that will go to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). This will bring the SBC allocation to 36 percent.
To accommodate an increase to the SBC in 2013, messengers approved a 3 percent decrease for most of the institutions and agencies of the BSC. Exceptions included the Baptist Children’s Homes and Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute, which will receive the same allocation as they did the year before. The 3 percent decrease did include N.C. scholarship programs.

BR photo by Shawn Hendricks

During the missionary commissioning Nov. 12, messengers came forward surrounding missionaries and their families. They had a concentrated time of prayer for them and their ministry.

Messengers also approved a 2 percent cost of living increase for the convention staff. To offset the increase, convention team leaders will reduce program budgets by 3 to 5 percent for the upcoming year. The 2013 N.C. Missions Offering goal and allocations remain unchanged from 2012.


CP challenge

Messengers were challenged to increase their Cooperative Program giving by 1 percent.
Welch noted that since 2006, N.C. Baptists have shifted a greater percentage of the budget to international missions, North American missions and to the six Southern Baptist seminaries, which includes Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest.
The budget allocation for the SBC has increased every year for the past seven years from 27.08 percent in 2006 to 35.5 percent in 2012.
During the same period, the budget allocation for N.C. ministries has increased from 34.8 percent in 2006 to 39 percent in 2012, Welch reported.
The increase in funding for N.C. ministries, he said, has allowed N.C. Baptists to increase support for church planting in the state 90 percent from 2006 to 2012. As a result in 2012, more than $1.5 million was allocated for church planting in N.C. Support for the Baptist Children’s Homes has also been increased by 31 percent over the same period of time.
“But there is a problem,” Welch said. “The Cooperative Program budget pie has been shrinking from 36.4 million in 2006 to 33.5 million in 2012 – nearly 3 million less for ministry.”
A 1 percent-of-budget Cooperative Program increase by all 4,300 Southern Baptist churches in the state would help solve the problem by providing $6 million per year in additional dollars for "Kingdom ministry." Welch said that would equate to an additional $3.9  million for N.C. ministries, and $2.1 million for the Southern Baptist Convention each year. 
“Our state convention’s church planting team could help start 26 more churches across North Carolina each year, helping to reach 5.6 million lost residents of our state with the message of the gospel,” Welch said.
“The Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina could provide for an additional 155 children who need to know of God’s unfailing love.”



This year messengers approved a resolution calling for the pursuit of holiness. Messengers voted down a proposed amendment to the resolution that called for churches to support their pastors in taking a stand against cohabitation before marriage.
To read the resolution, go to

Proposals and amendments

Messengers approved three recommendations from the Board of Directors Articles and Bylaws Committee to amend the bylaws of the convention.
The first motion, presented by committee chairman Bartley Wooten, involved amendments to two sections of a bylaw that addressed qualifications of non-board members serving on special committees of the board of directors. The motion limited the service of non-board members to a single place of service.
The second motion involved changing the bylaws to reflect the title change of North Carolina Baptist Hospital’s School of Pastoral Care to the Division of Faith and Health Ministries.
According to the amendment, the change will not impact the relationship between N.C. Baptist Hospital and the Convention.
The third approved motion was a series of proposed amendments that clarified inconsistencies involving the work of the Committee on Nominations. The amendment addresses how to handle situations involving individuals who are unable to complete a full term of service. To read the entire recommendation go to
Messengers also approved amended and restated articles of incorporation and bylaws for the Biblical Recorder.
Gerald Hodges, chair of the Board of Directors for the Biblical Recorder, explained the purpose of the changes were to make the documents consistent with those of the Baptist State Convention, bring them into line with N.C. nonprofit corporation law, and to reconcile them with current day-to-day operations of the Biblical Recorder.



The three top leaders for the BSC were re-elected Nov. 13 to their respective posts for 2013.
All three ran unopposed.
Messengers re-elected Mark Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, as BSC president. Harris was nominated by Marty Jacumin, pastor of Bay Leaf Baptist Church in Raleigh. 
C.J. Bordeaux, pastor of Gorman Baptist Church in Durham, was re-elected as first vice president. Bobby Blanton, pastor of Lake Norman Baptist Church in Huntersville, nominated Bordeaux.
Scott Faw, pastor of Moon’s Chapel Baptist Church in Siler City, re-nominated Timmy D. Blair Sr., pastor of Piney Grove Chapel Baptist in Angier, as second vice president.
Next year’s annual meeting will be held Nov. 11-12 at the Joseph S. Koury Convention Center in Greensboro.

Related story

Convention agencies bring ministry reports

For more stories from the annual meeting, visit here.
11/19/2012 4:23:39 PM by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Convention agencies bring ministry reports

November 19 2012 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

North Carolina’s Baptist agencies reported to messengers at their annual meeting Nov. 13 in Greensboro how God has blessed those ministries – and through His grace – lives are being impacted.
As a 7-year-old, Travis went to live with his aunt and uncle because of the alcohol and drug abuse issues in his home. But the impact of growing up in that environment had already impacted Travis.
“I had a lot of anger problems and took that out on my aunt and uncle,” Travis told messengers, with his aunt Karen standing with him on stage. “We decided we needed help.” 
Travis’ family turned to Baptist Children’s Homes and Cameron Boys’ Camp, where he learned about God’s love and forgiveness.
“This is not my story; this is God’s story,” Travis said. “It’s about the kids who still need help.”
Travis, now 15, experienced hope and healing during his time at Baptist Children’s Homes.
He asked N.C. Baptists to continue praying for him and his family, and all the children whose lives are being changed because of Baptist Children’s Homes.

BR photo by Shawn Hendricks

Michael Blackwell, center, president of Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH), shares about the Children’s Homes and the affect N.C. Baptists have on families like Travis, left, and his aunt Karen, right. Because of their family’s involvement with BCH Travis came to a saving relationship with Christ and found healing with his family.

The theme for this year’s Thanksgiving Offering for Baptist Children’s Homes is “Sharing Hope,” based on Romans 8:24. This year’s goal is $1,450,000. 
“You have truly made a difference in changing Travis. When you change him, you change everyone around him,” said Travis’ aunt, Karen. “You change his family and his church family. He will be a different husband and father than he would have been because of you.”
Messengers also heard a report from the N.C. Baptist Foundation, which focused on highlighting ways N.C. Baptists can be good stewards of the material and financial resources the Lord has provided.
“As Christian stewards, we have a responsibility to determine what will happen to our stuff when we don’t need it anymore,” said Foundation president Clay Warf.
“An estate plan should be our greatest act of Christian stewardship.”
Through endowments and charitable trust funds, Christians can ensure that they continue making a difference in ministry and missions for years to come. Believers should also be good stewards as they prepare documents such as their last will and testament.
The N.C. Baptist Foundation is ready to assist North Carolina Baptists with financial services, investment planning, gift planning and church growth investment funds. 
“We want all North Carolina Baptists to finish well,” Warf said.
“We are robbing God when we fail to tithe our estate. We need to wake up to what we can do for God if we’ll be faithful stewards.”
Church and community relations director Paul Mullen and Vice President of Faith and Health Ministries Gary Gunderson brought the N.C. Baptist Hospital report. Since 1923, N.C. Baptist Hospital has sought to provide excellent care to patients.
“Our founders in the Baptist State Convention had a simple dream that would extend the healing ministry of Jesus Christ,” Gunderson said.
The hospital continues to prove a national leader in healthcare, being ranked among the “Best Hospitals in America” by U.S. News and World Report in specialty areas such as cancer and geriatrics.
Gunderson thanked N.C. Baptists for their support of the Mother’s Day Offering, which helps patients in serious financial need pay their hospital bills. In 2012, N.C. Baptists gave more than $620,000 to the Mother’s Day Offering.
Also bringing a report to messengers was Biblical Recorder Editor Allan Blume, who thanked them for supporting the Recorder as its staff have “worked diligently to give the Biblical Recorder a fresh identity and to increase its value in Baptist life.”
“We sincerely hope your church, and you personally, are enjoying the inspiring and encouraging stories in the Biblical Recorder about how God is at work among North Carolina Baptists,” Blume said.
Through a print edition, website and weekly e-newsletter, the Recorder is a resource to help church members broaden their exposure to Kingdom work throughout the world, he said. Blume referred to an “information diet” in his comments to messengers. While pastors cannot control what information their members digest during the week, Blume said they can encourage them to read the Recorder and use the publication as a resource for news, training and to guide prayer time. “The Biblical Recorder can be one of the best investments you make in your church flock,” Blume said. “We’re excited to be able to communicate the good stories of people who are standing strong in the faith. Our churches desperately need a powerful movement of God. We want to do our part in encouraging that in every way we can.”

Related story

N.C. Baptists challenged to ‘Awaken’

For more stories from the annual meeting, visit here.
11/19/2012 4:05:18 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

N.C. Baptist Men expect six months for Sandy response

November 19 2012 by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications

Every day more than 300 NC Baptist Men and women volunteers are deployed across New Jersey and New York in response to Superstorm Sandy’s pounding of coastal areas there Oct. 29, which caused some 100 deaths and widespread destruction from high winds, high tides and record-setting floods.
Wrecked houses and fractured lives still abound along the hard-hit coastal area three weeks after Sandy blew through with 80-mph winds; thousands of homes were still without electricity.
“This is their Katrina,” one Baptist volunteer said, referring to the hurricane which destroyed much of New Orleans and the Gulf shore in 2005.
N.C. Baptist Men sent three of their field kitchens and within a week they produced well over 300,000 hot meals that were mostly delivered by Red Cross workers to storm victims. 
  • The Manna One unit was set up on a sports complex that includes a stadium and the Meadowlands horse racing track in Rutherford, N.J., just across the Hudson River from Manhattan.
  • The new Unit 2, which includes enclosed work areas, was set up on a parking lot of Rutgers University at Piscataway, N.J., near the hard-hit Jersey coast and just south of battered Staten Island.
  • A third unit was set up at First Baptist Church in the coastal town of Toms River, N.J.
  • Volunteers were forced to stop work and batten down their units Nov. 7 when a nor’easter brought high winds and up to six inches of snow. They resumed operations Nov. 8. Working in snow amid bone-chilling temperatures was new for most volunteers.
  • N.C. Baptist volunteers set up shower and laundry units inside the mammoth convention center at Atlantic City, N.J., where hundreds of people left homeless by Sandy’s floods were housed.
  • Teams were sent to Graffiti Center at Manhattan’s Lower East Side to clear mud from flooded homes in the area.
  • Volunteers set up a command center at Lumberton, N.J., in Southside Baptist Church, for the highly complex task of coordinating placement of volunteers, equipment and housing. They are coordinating N.C. operations with volunteers from other Baptist state conventions, Red Cross and other helping agencies.
By Nov. 16 replacement teams were relieving volunteers who had been working over the past week.

BSC photo by Mike Creswell

Some of the North Carolina Baptist Men are at the Meadowlands Racetrack, part of a big sports/entertainment complex at East Rutherford, N.J., just across the water from New York City. Washing food trays after meals have been cooked and delivered are, left, Birgit Dilgert, a member of Second Baptist Church, Rutherfordton; Roxanne Terry, also of Second Baptist; and Lawrence Bolin, a member of Chapel Grove Baptist Church in Gastonia. See photo gallery at here.

Fewer meals were needed as areas recovered electrical service. Richard Brunson issued appeals for volunteers for recovery efforts that included clearing trees, removing mud and debris from flooded homes and clearing houses of ruined contents and trim so they can be rebuilt.
“We will be needing clean-up recovery volunteers for some time, at least six months,” said Brunson, executive director of N.C. Baptist Men.
Some volunteers were seeing potential beyond 2013. “Working here in the North is helping open the way for Baptists in one of our neediest mission fields,” said Terry Barnes, blue hat site commander of the Toms River field kitchen.
“God can take something bad, this storm, and turn it into something that’s awesome, because now, if we will be obedient, we can come in and share the gospel with people because we are helping them – people who would normally be closed to us,” said Barnes, a member of Crestview Baptist Church in Lenoir.


Behind-the-scenes heroes

Walk into the command center for N.C. Baptist Men in Lumberton, N.J., and there’s not much to see.
A handful of volunteers sit around a big table strewn with laptops, cell phones and chargers, notebooks. Charts and maps line the walls.
But stand there a minute and you’ll begin to sense the tension and pressure in the air. Site commander Steve Reavis talks to a church in another town – do they have room for volunteers to sleep? 
Sharon Chilton-Moser from the Mt. Airy area pilots her laptop and talks on her cell phone. JoAnn Peyton and Ruth C. Lewter juggle lists on two laptops. Peyton is a member of Wake Forest Baptist Church in Wake Forest; Lewter is a member of Antioch Baptist Church in Chapel Hill.
These command center volunteers are coordinating hundreds of volunteers, who are constantly coming and going to half a dozen locations across New Jersey and New York. One of the biggest challenges has been finding places to house volunteers in an area where evangelical churches of any kind are scarce. Many non-Baptist churches have been willing to provide facilities.
These volunteers were the front-line advance team; they made their way into New Jersey on Oct. 29 as Sandy came ashore. Their caravan of vehicles passed over bridges that were closed soon afterwards by worsening weather.
The electricity was off in Lumberton for a time; they used generators to keep cell phones and laptops going as they began clearing the way for incoming volunteers.
“We are just so glad we were able to provide this kind of service to the volunteers,” said Fernando Downs, pastor of Southside.
“Volunteers who come up here from North Carolina will need to be prepared for snow and cold weather,” said Reavis, a member of Grove Park Baptist Church in Burlington.
“There is obviously a great need to help these people who have lost electricity and need help with everything from fallen trees to mudouts. I think it’s imperative that we help them meet those needs and also have a chance to share the love of Christ with some new people,” he said.


Clean bodies and clothes

In downtown Atlantic City, a few blocks from the glittering casinos, just beyond the outlet stores, is the Atlantic City Convention Center, a sprawling, cavernous complex the size of eight football fields laid side by side.

BSC photo by Mike Creswell

Jerry Collins and Iris Carter fold and bag washed clothes, ready to return to local people who have taken shelter here. They are part of an eight-person team from Long Branch Baptist Church in Lumberton serving at the Atlantic City Convention Center in Atlantic City, N.J.

During the first week after Sandy, hundreds of area residents left homeless by flooding were housed here. On one side of the hall, hundreds of cots were set up; in the middle, children played soccer. Police officers maintained tight security.
In one corner, N.C. Baptists had set up a shower unit and a field Laundromat to provide showers and clean clothes for the victims.
At one table Jerry Collins and Iris Carter folded clothes that had been washed and dried; a hand-marked strip of tape tracked the clothes from the washer to the dryer and then to a plastic bag for storage. The bags carried hand-written Bible verses and smiley faces.
Semi-retired from his job with Wal-Mart in Pembroke, Collins said he is really happy he was able to come help in Atlantic City.
It was the first such expedition away from Lumberton for Carter; she was touched by how appreciative the people were to have their clothes washed.
Collins and Carter were part of an eight-member team from Long Branch Baptist Church in Lumberton.
Gail Fields stood by the bank of a dozen or so washers and dryers in the laundry trailer, waiting for the next load – one of the more than 60 laundry loads she has worked on each day.  Now a widow, she was making her first missions trip. “I like it!” she declared. “This is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ll be ready to go next time something comes up,” she said firmly.
Site coordinator David Seymour showed off a bank of electric water heaters that assured the shower unit of hot water. Safety concerns did not allow their usual gas heaters to be used inside the convention center, so Seymour worked hours with the maintenance staff to get a bank of electric heaters set up and functioning.
Seymour lives in Waxhaw, and is a member of Mount Harmony Baptist Church in Matthews. Seymour helped launch the idea of providing laundry cleaning as a ministry; he and his wife operated the first one in New York following 9/11.
Chaplaincy worker Myra Kanipe spent hours talking to storm victims from Atlantic City and nearby communities such as Egg Harbor, Jersey Shore and Margate.
Some victims had taken shelter in the convention center because their houses were destroyed; others said their homes were still standing but cold because they do not have electrical service.  Outside, snow and sleet fell.
“Their main concern is not getting answers,” she said. “Some have lost everything and they are just wondering how they can replace it. Many have lost hope.”
Kanipe, a member of East Belmont Baptist Church in Belmont, said, “We just try to comfort them. We tell them there are channels of help. We tell them to try to trust in the Lord, the One who can help them through it all.”
She was able to share the gospel with several victims and prayed with them to receive Christ as Savior. She also talked to some who said they were already Christians who wanted to rededicate their lives to Him.


Hot meals to victims

Main Street in Toms River, N.J., is usually a quiet street, mostly residential.
But in the parking lot behind First Baptist Church, a team of 47 Baptist volunteers, men and women, worked at a feverish pace on Nov. 8 to prepare thousands of meals that would have left several McDonalds in the dust.
“We had to shut down yesterday (Nov. 7) because of the snowstorm but we are preparing 5,000 meals for tonight,” said Terry Barnes, blue hat site commander.
Volunteers worked through the night to keep snow from accumulating on their tents and collapsing them; they ran heaters wide open all night. Still they began the day by shoveling snow off the paved parking lot. They improvised a snowplow by fitting a piece of plywood onto a forklift.
“This is unique. I started in disaster relief right after (Hurricane) Hugo (1989) and I never worked in the snow before,” Barnes said.
“We have made history!” proclaimed long-term volunteer Robert Stroup. “We have cooked in the snow!” He is a member of First Baptist Church in Spruce Pine.
Unlike McDonalds, today’s meals will include hamburger steaks, vegetables and mashed potatoes. They will be loaded into covered plates, then into insulated containers called cambros, staged on platforms under tents for pickup by 20 Red Cross vehicles and delivery to storm victims in the area.
Bundled against the cold and working under a tent open on the sides, Jo Nakamura and May Bouboulis worked quickly to unpack frozen hamburger patties, place them on trays and get them into a bank of ovens. Nakamura is a member of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church in Boone; Bouboulis is a member of Howards Creek Baptist Church in Boone.
Carson Pittman of State Line ran the ovens, periodically checking the temperature on the burgers to make sure they cooked completely. Pittman is a member of First Baptist Church in Elkin.
Terry Barnes praised the volunteers for their hard work and sweet spirits. “Their commitment is amazing,” he said. He himself worked for two days non-stop without sleep to get the operation going.
“It has been wonderful,” said Amos Helmsley, a member of Northbrook Baptist Church in Cherryville.
He said he found himself showing new Red Cross workers how to secure loads in their trucks to avoid mishaps.
“It gives us a chance to help those who have suffered and to minister to them,” said volunteer Lanny Stewart, a member of Mount Herman Baptist Church in Taylorsville. He has done similar projects in Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida, plus at several locations in North Carolina.
Volunteer Wayne Beane drove the bus which brought 29 volunteers to serve in Toms River. He is a member of Mulvale Baptist Church in Lenoir.
“Serving like this gives us satisfaction,” said volunteer Eddie Dew. “They can see Jesus through you and it lets them know God loves them. A lot of people don’t know that until somebody comes around and shows them,” he added.
Volunteer Earl Johnson was one of two men who came from Oxford, Miss., to serve. He recalled how thousands of North Carolina Baptists came to help the Gulfport, Miss., area after Katrina.
“It has been a blessing to do this! Praise God!” said Richard Winters, a member of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Cherryville.


Racing to help storm victims

It was mid-afternoon in Rutherford, N.J. on Nov. 8 – Woody Tucker and his 35 North Carolina volunteers were delivering the last of 12,000 hot meals in insulated containers to Red Cross workers for delivery to storm victims in the area.
The portable kitchen and related materials were set up beside the stables of Meadowlands Racetrack, a horse racing track that is part of a sports complex that includes a sports stadium and an auditorium.
“It’s a great location. We have plenty of room and on a clear night we can look over across the water (Hudson River) and see Manhattan,” said Tucker.
The Meadowlands management has provided free meals to the volunteers and allowed them to stay in one of their buildings.
Outside, bundled against a chilling breeze, several volunteers scrubbed trays for the next day’s work.
Volunteer Lawrence Bolin kept the others entertained with stories about his missions trips to Africa. Roxanne Terry joined Birgit Dilgert and her daughter, Janice, as they scrubbed trays. They all are from Second Baptist Church in Rutherfordton.
As they scrubbed, Red Cross workers were in the Sandy-ravaged areas, handing out the hot meals prepared by the volunteers: chicken fillets, mashed potatoes and green beans.
The next day would be longer: They have been asked to provide 22,000 meals.


Food and help to hard-hit coast

As evening fell on Nov. 8, site commander Paul Hooker was happy with the 4,000 meals his 60 volunteers from Region 5 in North Carolina prepared today.
He was also happy with the new Unit 2 portable kitchen they were using; the enclosed tent side units were especially welcome because of the cold. The operation was set up in a parking lot near the golf course of Rutgers University, a few miles from New Jersey’s hard-hit coastal area and just south of Staten Island.
Here, too, the team had to stop working and batten down their facilities for the high winds and snowfall brought by the nor’easter storm, then restart operations this morning.
“We have a lot of first-time volunteers, but they’re doing a great job,” said Hooker, who is pastor of New Vision Fellowship in Madison.
“We are getting feedback from our recovery people out in the field. There are wide areas where people do not have electricity and lots of people who have not gotten any help. There are some areas even the Red Cross workers are not allowed to go in yet, because it’s so dangerous,” said Hooker.
Volunteers took some of the last cambros packed with hot meals out to an emergency truck from the nearby city of New Brunswick. Other volunteers began the usual task of cleaning and sterilizing food trays for use the next day.
Assessment workers Elmer and Barbara Farlow returned after talking to people in Keansburg, N.J., a city right on the coast. Here the storm broke through a levee and allowed a tidal surge of water four feet high to pour through; it took out much of the first two blocks of the town.
“Nobody had power. There was no heat. It is really a sad situation,” said Barbara. She and her husband are members of Crossover Community Church in High Point.
“At one house we visited, a young woman was sitting on the front porch; she said she was waiting for FEMA. She had been sitting there for days. Her cell phone had gotten wet and so didn’t work. She was a single mom of five.
“She had no heat because she was afraid to turn on the gas stove because she thought it might blow up. Elmer went in and got her heating system going. She cried on our shoulder. She told us about her son, age 14. During the storm, water was surging down the river like a whitewater river. He tied an extension cord around his waist while he went out into the street and rescued three people, one of whom was a pregnant lady,” Barbara Farlow said.
“The people are really discouraged because the power is not coming on as soon as they wanted it to. A lot of them are staying with their houses because they’re afraid of looting. They don’t want to go to a shelter where there are many people,” she said.
“They feel like they’ve been forgotten,” Elmer added. He thinks ministering to needs now might open the way to start new churches here later.
Assessment volunteers like the Farlows open the way for later volunteer teams. They cover the area and identify high-needs residents, such as senior citizens. They spent two days in the coastal town of Sayreville, N.J., just south of Staten Island, another hard-hit area.
Although the people here are eager for help, they are suspicious of Baptist volunteers. Why, they ask, would someone come so far to offer free help? “People up here are not as familiar with us as they are in the South,” Elmer said. “There’s not a Baptist church on every corner like back home.”
Inside the command center vehicle, volunteer Charles Aultman said he found lots of suspicions when they offered to help. “They think we want money,” he said. He is a member of Lambreth Memorial Baptist Church in Roxboro.
Most of Aultman’s time has been inside, working on reports and clearing the way for volunteers. He was rejoicing because he had just talked with members of a Methodist church willing to house and feed volunteers. In disaster relief, that’s the kind of victory that will lead to others down the road.
Visit or for the latest updates. To volunteer, sign up online or call (800) 395-5102, ext. 5606.

To contribute, make check payable to NCBM, designated for Disaster Relief, and mail to N.C. Baptist Men, Baptist State Convention of NC, P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512.
11/19/2012 3:42:50 PM by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Arkansas porn shop to fight city ordinance

November 19 2012 by World News Service

An adult store in Clarksville, Ark., may challenge the constitutionality of a city ordinance regulating sexually oriented businesses, the state Supreme Court ruled recently.
According to the decision, the X-Mart Adult Superstore may fight the city’s 2006 ordinance requiring pornography shops to be licensed and regulated. Violations could result in up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Bruce Wilson, Clarksville’s city attorney, said the town stands by the ordinance.
“It’s been studied and passed in a manner that’s proper, and as it comes back to the local court, we’ll certainly defend it as vigorously as we can,” he said.
The ordinance gave businesses the opportunity to apply for and receive six-month extensions over a three-year time frame. X-Mart applied for and received one six-month extension, which expired on July 27, 2009. It did not request any others.
In September 2009, the city of Clarksville filed a lawsuit asking the court to close X-Mart. 40 Retail, which operates the store, filed a counterclaim alleging the ordinance violates its freedom of expression.
In January, a Johnson County circuit judge granted a motion for the city, dismissing 40 Retail’s counterclaim.
In its ruling in November, the state Supreme Court said Clarksville’s ordinance on sexually oriented businesses does not provide any benefits to 40 Retail, allowing the store to move forward with its counterclaim.
11/19/2012 3:37:13 PM by World News Service | with 0 comments

‘It’s all about obedience’ Ezell says to N.C. Baptists

November 16 2012 by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor

Church planting, revitalization and developing a “farm system” of new missionaries throughout North America were the focus of a message to North Carolina Baptists by Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board (NAMB). Ezell gave the convention sermon to N.C. Baptist messengers on the final evening of their annual meeting Nov. 13 in Greensboro.
Pulling scripture from Luke 10:2, Ezell focused his message on how “the harvest is abundant, but the workers are few.” Just before beginning his sermon, he led NAMB in commissioning 34 missionaries, many of whom will plant churches throughout the Northeast and into Canada where there is little evangelical work.
“We desperately need people who are courageous and willing to go to places who are desperately needing the gospel,” he said. “It’s not that the people in the Northeast and the Northwest don’t want to hear the gospel. The problem is that we don’t have enough people [who] want to share it.”

Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, addressed N.C. Baptists at the annual meeting in Greensboro on Nov. 13.

Ezell shared how an average of 900 to 1,000 Baptist churches die each year in the United States. NAMB’s goal is to see an annual net gain of 500 churches. Right now, this means 1,500 churches would need to be planted each year.
Realistically, if there is going to be a net gain of 500 churches, Ezell said church revitalization is crucial.
“We need to decrease our death rate,” he said. “We need revitalization. Too many churches are struggling.
“There are literally hundreds of churches that cannot pay their light bill and cease to exist,” he added. “There are hundreds of churches and hundreds of church properties that sit vacant with no outreach and no ministry.”
NAMB hopes to reduce the church death rate by 20 percent, he said. They plan to help lead more church planters to come alongside dying churches and replant new, healthy churches. In April, they plan to host a church growth and revitalization conference at Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Raleigh. For more details go to
In North Carolina, there have already been thriving churches that have worked with struggling congregations to replant a new work and better reach their community.

But not only must Southern Baptists decrease the death rate, they also must increase the birth rate.
“How do we find 1,500 planters? Ezell asked. “They don’t just happen. You have to intentionally pray and develop those missionaries.”
Seminaries and church leaders can help by encouraging and training students to plant churches, rather than automatically gravitating toward existing congregations, Ezell said.
“We must set the bar so we can find 1,500 planters who are faithful and willing to go where others will not go,” Ezell said. 
A key part of that effort will involve building a “farm system,” Ezell said. This system, he explained, focuses on three specific areas:  student missionaries, interns and apprentices who ultimately become church planters.
“Part of our problem is that we just parachute someone into a town [where] they [have] no experience at all,” Ezell said. “We want to develop them in a farm system … if we’re going to be able to do what Luke 10:2 says.”
Last year, NAMB had less than 600 student missionaries. But next year, they plan to increase that number to 1,000.
“In my opinion, with 45,000 churches, ... [600 student missionaries is] abysmal,” Ezell said.  “We must do better.”
Reaching this goal will depend on better recruiting in church youth groups, high schools and colleges.
“They’re in your churches,” he said. “They’re in your youth groups.
“It’s amazing how … I look and see where some of those ridiculously immature high school students are today, and how God radically changes their life and redirects them in incredible ways.”
Right now NAMB has 125 interns, Ezell said. Pastors mentor these interns for a year before they become an apprentice, and ultimately church planters. Next year, NAMB hopes to double the number of 125 interns. They also hope to double the number of 125 apprentices. 
“We really need 6,000 student missionaries,” Ezell said. “We really need 3,000 interns, and we need 1,500 apprentices.”
Ezell turned to the newly appointed missionaries and thanked them for their willingness to follow God’s call.
“Many of their parents don’t understand why they passed over good opportunities to make a very good living to do what they do,” Ezell said. “Many of their parents have shared with them that they had much higher hopes for them.”
Ezell encouraged them to press past the difficult days ahead and to keep their eyes focused on God’s calling on their lives.
“There are going to be days when you are going to feel very lonely,” he said. “You church plant in a city, and the response is sometimes slow, and you feel all alone. I want you to understand and remember the power of One, the power of influence of [the] One.”
Ezell then shifted his message toward N.C. Baptists.
“North Carolina Baptists … you are one of the finest and one of the strongest conventions the Southern Baptist Convention has,” he said. “You’re one of the finest leaders. You’re some of the finest pastors. That [puts] you in a very dangerous situation because we can look at all that is going right and lose a sense of intensity and tenacity and urgency.”
“Obedience,” he said. “It’s all about obedience. Please join us in praying Luke 10:2. The harvest is indeed abundant. The workers are few.”

Related story

It’s time to ‘Awaken,’ N.C. Baptist president says
11/16/2012 3:12:27 PM by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

It’s time to ‘Awaken,’ N.C. Baptist president says

November 16 2012 by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor

It’s time for Baptists to awaken and take a stand, said Mark Harris, during his presidential address at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s annual meeting Nov. 13 in Greensboro.
Speaking on this year’s annual meeting theme, “Awaken,” Harris shared how N.C. Baptists must continue to fight off apathy and being overrun with “theological junk food” that keeps many from a true spiritual awakening. 
Southern Baptists have to focus more on becoming servants, and understand that one of the signs of spiritual awakening is service.
“[Service is] a fundamental principle that the Word of God teaches,” Harris said. “What’s amazing is the humanists out there understand that all too well as they’re running the modern welfare system. They figured out that whatever agency serves the needs of people will ultimately gain the allegiance of those people. So they’re serving and our church is missing it.”

Mark Harris addresses N.C. Baptists during the annual meeting, Nov. 13.

Far too many Christians do not realize that there is a direct link between serving others and authority, Harris said.
“Authority is earned through service, and early in American history, it was the church that understood this,” he said. “The church was awake.”
Harris added, “It was the church that operated hospitals in this country. It was the church that operated orphanages in this country. It was the church that operated the rescue mission. It was the church that operated the soup kitchens. It was the church that operated the welfare agencies. It was the church that operated the schools. It was the church that operated the universities. … The church was a home to the homeless and a refuge to the rejected.”
“And as a result, the church had authority in this nation.” 
Today Christians are facing increasingly difficult times, but they “have to keep fighting for what is right,” he said. 
Harris said many have approached him recently and said Christians need to let go of pro-life issues or traditional marriage.
“I’ve heard people saying … ‘Listen, we have to accept that day is gone. Let it go,’” he said. “I share with you all the fervency in my being ‘We will not let that go.’”
There are issues that Christians must continue to fight for, Harris said.
“We’ve got to be willing to stand on these issues in our day and refuse to back up.”
Harris shared how churches used to take a stand on political issues and candidates running for public office. He said that changed in 1954, when an amendment to a tax code bill passed in the United States Senate. The amendment prohibits non-profit entities from making public statements in support of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.
Harris said a day is coming in this country when many believers will have to pay a heavy cost for standing up for their faith.
What will taking that stand cost?
Harris said, “Earlier this year, a Catholic Bishop in New York, who is now a Cardinal made this statement recently … ‘I expect to die in my bed. I expect my successor to die in prison. I expect his successor to die a martyr’s death in this country.’”
“I know there’s a cost,” Harris continued. “And we have no choice but to pay it. We desperately need a church. We desperately need people in those churches that are willing to risk their own reputation in order to be counted among people like Noah, Moses, Elijah, Jeremiah, Amos, Ezekiel and John the Baptist.
Harris said he prays God will help N.C. Baptists to be a convention of churches that are awake.
“When we awaken, the world will know it,” he said.
“When 61 percent of North Carolinians went to the polls in May and said marriage is between one man and one woman, I’ve got news for you … they knew we were awake. When you and I begin to engage … it will make all the difference.”

Related story

‘It’s all about obedience’ Ezell says to N.C. Baptists

11/16/2012 3:06:03 PM by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Pastors encouraged to ‘preach the Word’

November 15 2012 by Buddy Overman and BR Staff

The theme of this year's annual Pastors' Conference, held Nov. 11-12 at Lawndale Baptist Church in Greensboro, was "Preach the Word."

With urgency

With this year’s theme based on 2 Timothy 4:2, Greg Mathis, senior pastor of Mud Creek Baptist Church in Hendersonville, opened the conference with an appeal to pastors to embrace the Great Commission with a renewed sense of urgency.
“There is one last great hope for the world, our nation, our children and our churches, and that hope lies in the person and power of Jesus Christ and no one else,” he said. “How can we love the Lord Jesus Christ so passionately tonight and not share Him immediately and continually with those around us?” 
Mathis said the exploding global population and increasing number of people who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior has created an urgent need for missions locally and internationally. Yet, too many believers are unaware of, or unconcerned about, the growing numbers of lostness.
“We’ve got something a lost world needs,” he said. “We cannot keep this to ourselves. God help us, North Carolina Baptists, to be urgent with the gospel.”


With passion

When he finished, no one could accuse Bobby Welch, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, of not being passionate.
With an occasional run up and down the aisle to make a point or two, Welch
challenged pastors from Matthew 9:36-38 to pray that God would send them out of their comfort zones and into the harvest fields. He said he sees much passion in modern preaching. But he said there is a deficiency in compassion, and without compassion, pastors will never feel the need to act on God’s Word. 

BSC photo by Buddy Overman

Greg Mathis, senior pastor of Mud Creek Baptist Church in Hendersonville, urges pastors to share the gospel during the two-day Pastor’s Conference in Greensboro.

“They have great passion but it stops at the doors of the church and it leaves them by the time they get out of the parking lot,” he said. “Herald the gospel with passion and compassion. Don’t just talk about it. Put some action in it.”

With commitment

Joe Brown, former pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, opened day two of the conference by calling pastors to consider carefully what it means to be called by God to preach in modern times.
He cautioned pastors about the dangers of becoming discouraged during an era of widespread sin and godlessness. He called pastors to consider it a privilege to preach even in these difficult times. “I believe God made you for the day we are living in right now,” Brown said. “That is a great and high calling.”
Brown urged pastors to remain faithful to their calling to preach the gospel, to correct and rebuke sin, and to call people to repentance. He said pastors who are faithful with that message will see lives transformed. “In the currency of heaven, the value of your preaching and your church is determined by the lives that are changed,” Brown said.


With relevance

Pastors must remain relevant without conforming to society, as the sweeping changes in society have disturbed many pastors to the point of despair, said Don Bouldin, interim pastor of First Baptist Church Marshville.
“Change is an absolute fact of life,” he said. “The complicated factor to this day is the speed of change. Who would have thought 50 years ago that the culture God called us to minister to would have the kind of things that we have today?”
Echoing the words of Brown, Bouldin said this is no time for pastors to despair, but to recognize that God has called them for this time in history.
“Preaching with relevance simply means nothing more than telling the truth of what God has done in our world,” Bouldin said. “The most relevant sermon you will ever preach will focus on Jesus Christ.”


With conviction

Mike Whitson, pastor of First Baptist Church Indian Trail, spoke to pastors about the role they can have in bringing about spiritual revival in the United States.
“I am convinced with all my heart that God is looking for leaders with convictions and leaders who will stand on those convictions,” he said.
Speaking from Philippians 3, Whitson shared several characteristics that godly men must possess in order to bring about revival. Above all, a man of God must seek to know God intimately, and should evaluate how well he knows God – not by his education or experience – but by the factors that motivate and lead to action.

“What you live for, and what you love, is what will put the energy in your life,” Whitson said. “Is the real purpose to grow a bigger church or to know God?”
“God is not looking for extraordinary people,” Whitson said. “He is looking for extraordinary faith.”


With thanksgiving

Pulling his sermon from Hebrews 12, Mac Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., offered a challenge of thanksgiving. He contended we live in a time in this country when more and more people are lacking hope for tomorrow.
“Over the last week, I’ve had so many people write and tweet and text,” he said.
They ask, “What is happening to our nation? What’s happening to the church in our day?” 
“People are living in despair,” Brunson said. “’I’ve watched people – especially I’ve seen this in ministers in my life – who become angry and upset and bitter over a period of time. And for some reason it eventually leads them to an act of immorality.”
The solution? “Thanksgiving, thanksgiving,” Brunson said. “We don’t thank God nearly enough. We need to give thanks to God for a new covenant. When somebody dies for you, you say ‘thank you.’”


With power

There will be times that God may call on pastors and church leaders to do things that may not seem logical or safe, said Mark Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte. But for those who walk with God, He will empower them.
“If we are ever going to step into the pulpit and preach the word with urgency and preach the word with passion and preach the word,” he said, “then we’re going to have to recognize that it’s going to take some time of just you walking with God.”
In a society of rising divorce and immorality, Harris said pastors cannot confront the challenges the face – in and out of the pulpit – alone.
“All of us are walking through those waters,” he said. “Preach the word in power – you’ll do that when you walk with God … There is nothing … that compares to the sweet companionship that is yours when you are walking with God.”

11/15/2012 2:07:07 PM by Buddy Overman and BR Staff | with 0 comments

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