November 2013

Baptist aid on Cebu now gearing up

November 15 2013 by Caroline Anderson, Baptist Press

CEBU, Philippines – Tarps for shelter are among immediate needs signaled by Filipino workers with Baptist Global Response (BGR) during a Nov. 14 meeting on the island of Cebu.

Nabango Driz, Cris Paño and Adore and Hope Sabido met with International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries Susan Stokeld and Dottie Smith to discuss ways to partner in relief plans for the island in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.

Though the Filipino BGR workers each had personal stories of God’s protection, the typhoon crippled the communities and villages where they serve.

On Cebu, the northern part of the island was the hardest hit by the typhoon, with countless homes destroyed, while overall in the Philippines, the island of Leyte sustained the most catastrophic damage.

Baptist relief aid on Cebu, as elsewhere, will “go to the most needy places,” Stokeld said. “We need to help those who will not receive help from other places.”

Baptists on Mission or North Carolina Baptist Men have been monitoring the situation and have three teams on standby to respond to the Philippines.

“We have our international, medical and water purification teams on standby,” said Gaylon Moss, disaster relief and volunteer coordinator with Baptists on Mission. “I hope to know something this weekend or early next week.”

IMB photo by Hugh Johnson
International Mission Board missionary Dottie Smith, right, prays with Baptist Global Response national partner Hope Sabido during a joint disaster relief planning meeintg in Cebu, Philippines, in the aftermath of typhoon Haiyan.

Moss said he is communicating with several contacts and agencies there to coordinate teams to where they can do the most good.
Driz reported on the need for shelter to replace houses made of bamboo that were blown away by the typhoon’s winds. In the Tabuelan municiplaity on Cebu, Driz said more than 2,100 houses are uninhabitable. Trees and debris block many roads that lead to water supplies.

Since other aid organizations are providing food and water, Driz presented a plan to provide tarps and sheets for people in Tabuelan.

Paño said a generator would be helpful in the village where he works within the Borbon municipality. The government estimates electricity will be restored there early next year. Paño said only six of the 200 buildings remain intact in the village.

Sabido noted there are different categories of damage in assessing post-disaster needs: agricultural damage, infrastructure, residential and loss of life.

Some villages are “100 percent lost,” Sabido said.

Houses can be repaired in one or two months, whereas agricultural damage will take up to nine months to restore, Sabido said, estimating damage to 90 percent of Cebu’s agricultural areas. Driz, who has been involved in BGR community agriculture projects, estimated that 90 percent of fruit trees on Cebu were destroyed, with only the coconut trees remaining. All of the poultry houses in the Tabuelan area also were destroyed in the typhoon, Driz said.

Food is a major need for families in northern Cebu; some have received one or two kilos of rice, a staple in the Filipino diet, with a family normally consuming about 10 kilos of rice in a week.

“When your adrenaline is high, you forget about eating,” Sabido said. “But kids get hungry often.”

Sabido recounted encountering a family on the side of a road under a makeshift tarp. The family had a one-month-old baby who was sunburned. Their home was washed away. “I asked them if they got help,” Sabido said, but the family said they had not yet received any assistance.

The Sabidos journeyed to a small neighboring island on Nov. 13 which had not yet received any aid. Many people have missed international aid workers because they’ve been out scavenging during the day, Sabido said. He also noted major news organizations as well as relief organizations sometimes don’t know where the people with the most needs are.

As the Baptist team met, a westerner wanting to bring supplies approached Sabido. The man had seen photos of children who held signs saying “we have no food.” Sabido had seen these same children and he gave the man directions on how to find them.

The Sabidos recounted how their family came through the typhoon unscathed. For months, Sabido sent in reports to electrical authorities about a tree that was leaning dangerously close to his home. He said God protected their home because when Haiyan’s winds blew through, the tree fell in the opposite direction.

The Sabidos’ story of God’s protection extended to their vehicle. They work in several municipalities and had parked a van they use for ministry near a mango plantation. During the storm, all of the mango trees fell down, but none fell on the van.

“My words for my children: ‘We are like the Israelites in Egypt, the Lord spared us,’” Sabido said. “We are the salt, we are the light, we are here to help.”

Driz, Paño and the Sabidos left the meeting to continue making assessments of areas and families most needing aid. The BGR workers will meet again with Stokeld and Smith in the coming days to make further plans for post-Haiyan relief on the Cebu island.

The workers asked for prayer:
  • for God to sustain people in need as they await relief.
  • for wisdom in their Baptist Global Response ministry with IMB partners as they assess the most critical needs.
  • for people around the world to respond generously to the needs stemming from the typhoon’s devastation.
Every dollar given toward Philippines disaster relief through the International Mission Board goes directly to meet needs, since IMB personnel are supported through churches’ gifts to the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Online giving can be accessed at

Churches and individuals interested in going as volunteers to help with the disaster response should contact the disaster relief director of their state Baptist convention.
Visit to respond for North Carolina. Donations may be sent here.
Currently Baptists on Mission has teams in Pamlico County in North Carolina working with Hurricane Irene rebuild efforts, as well as New Jersey and New York for Hurricane Sandy efforts. Moss said there are also plans to help rebuild in Catawba County from the late summer floods.
International disaster response requires teams to be certified in certain skills, with the mobilization of volunteer teams to overseas disasters coordinated with state conventions. Volunteers also can indicate their interest through the BGR website.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Caroline Anderson writes for the IMB from Southeast Asia. Dianna L. Cagle, Biblical Recorder production editor, contributed to this report.)
11/15/2013 11:33:27 AM by Caroline Anderson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Moore prays for Obama, urges immigration steps

November 15 2013 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – President Obama’s request of Russell D. Moore was an opportunity for the Southern Baptist ethicist to apply the Bible’s teaching on how Christians relate to governmental authorities.

During a meeting Nov. 13 in the Oval Office with religious leaders, Obama asked Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), to pray for him. The request was “a joy,” Moore said.

“We disagree, sharply, on some very important issues, but the Bible calls on us to pray for our leaders and to show honor where honor is due,” Moore said in a statement for Baptist Press. “I stand on the other side of the president on many matters, but I love him and pray for God’s wisdom and discernment and direction.”

The president made the request of Moore during a meeting regarding immigration. Moore and the other seven largely evangelical Christian leaders met with Obama and Vice President Biden to discuss the opportunity to enact legislation soon to reform a system that nearly everyone acknowledges is badly broken. Flaws in the system and its enforcement have resulted in an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living illegally in the United States.

At the meeting, Moore called for cooperation between the White House and Congress in the effort.


Official White House photo by Pete Souza
ERLC President Russell D. Moore, second from right, and other religious leaders meet with President Obama and Vice President Biden Nov. 13 in the Oval Office to discuss immigration reform.

“My message to the president is that there are many things that divide us as a country, but on this issue we have a remarkable consensus that the system is broken and the government isn’t doing its job to keep the border secure, to shore up the economic health of the country, and to keep track of who is and isn’t legally here,” Moore said.

“I urge the president and the Congress to work together to fix the system in a way that honors the rule of law and finds a way for those who’ve broken the law to make things right,” said Moore, who expressed gratitude that Obama and Biden took time to dialogue with the faith leaders. “I think we can do that, and now’s the time. There are a number of ways we can do this, and I am for every good suggestion, but the same-old, same-old political gamesmanship isn’t an option.”

Obama told the religious leaders, however, “there is no reason for House Republicans to continue to delay action” on immigration reform, according to a statement released by the White House. GOP action would show the federal government can work together to solve the country’s problems, said the president, who thanked the faith leaders for their work to reform immigration.

On the same day, however, Speaker John Boehner threw cold water on any expectations a quick fix in the House of Representatives is near. He made clear to reporters Nov. 13 that the House would not consider broad legislation like that approved by the Senate in June. Nor would it go into negotiations with Senate members in a conference committee to work out legislation to present to Obama, Boehner said.

“The idea that we’re going to take up a 1,300-page bill that no one had ever read, which is what the Senate did, is not going to happen in the House,” Boehner said in a news conference. “And frankly I’ll make clear – we have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill.”

Instead, Boehner said, the House will “move on a common sense, step-by-step approach in terms of how we deal with immigration.”

So far, two House committees – Judiciary and Homeland Security – have approved a total of five bills. Those bills deal with strengthening border and national security; providing visas for guest workers; requiring employers to use the E-Verify system to check workers’ eligibility; and setting levels for the number of immigrants.

The broad Senate measure needs some repair work, the ERLC has said.

The ERLC and other evangelical organizations have called for reform that would provide border and workplace security; uphold the rule of law; respect family unity; and establish a path to legal status and citizenship to those who want to live in this country permanently and are willing to pay penalties and meet the requirements.

In addition to Moore, others who met Nov. 13 with Obama, Biden and senior administrations officials were Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Seattle; Joel Hunter, senior pastor of Northland Church in Orlando, Fla.; Hyepin Im, president of Korean Churches for Community Development in Los Angeles; Mike McClenahan, senior pastor of Solana Beach Presbyterian Church in Solana Beach, Calif.; Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition; and Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners.

In 2011, messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix approved a resolution on immigration reform that called for the advancement of the gospel of Jesus while pursuing justice and compassion. The measure urged the government to make a priority of border security and holding businesses accountable in their hiring. It also requested public officials establish after securing the borders “a just and compassionate path to legal status, with appropriate restitutionary measures, for those undocumented immigrants already living in our country.” It specified the resolution was not to be interpreted as supporting amnesty.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
11/15/2013 11:03:12 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Ordinary Christians’ ready to pay the price, trustees told

November 15 2013 by Laura Fielding, Baptist Press

CHARLOTTE – He stood at the podium, almost too emotional to speak.

Drew Carson*, an International Mission Board (IMB) strategist, shared the story of missionaries willing to pay the ultimate price – their own lives – for the gospel in a report to IMB trustees during their Nov. 7-8 meeting in Charlotte.

A few weeks ago, Carson visited a group of missionaries who serve in “a place where it is not a theory that you can die for serving the Lord and proclaiming the gospel.”

As they talked about that reality, the missionaries challenged Carson.


IMB photo by Will Stuart
International Mission Board President Tom Elliff gives a “Thanksgiving report” during the Nov. 7-8 trustee meeting in Charlotte, N.C., voicing gratitude to God for Southern Baptists’ support of international missions through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. 

“They said, ‘[Drew], we know we may go out and take our whole family out, and we may not come back,’” Carson recounted through tears. “‘But please, please, please promise me that you will not say that we were anything but ordinary Christians, and please promise me that if we do lose our lives, [IMB] will not back away from sending people after us to reach these people.’”

God has called Southern Baptists to take up “marching orders” to share the gospel with those who have never heard, Carson said, “… not if it fits our plan, but if it fits His plan.”

Carson presented some of the “brutal facts” about spiritual lostness in the world today: of the 7.1 billion people on earth, 4.2 billion are unreached (living in populaces that are less than 2 percent evangelical Christian) and of those, 244 million also are unengaged (populaces with no church planting strategy among them).

But in these areas of great lostness, IMB missionaries “have heard God’s call to place themselves there,” Carson said. “We are there and we are engaging.”

In 2012, International Mission Board teams engaged 141 new people groups, and “our primary place of being deployed is among the unreached,” he said.

“May we not let the cross fall to the ground from our hands in this generation,” Carson said. “May we be known as those kind of people who took up those orders and marched to the edge, to the heart of darkness that all might be saved.”

In a “Thanksgiving report” to trustees, IMB President Tom Elliff expressed gratitude to God for Southern Baptists’ support of IMB through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Elliff also expressed thanksgiving for the untiring work and interest of IMB trustees, the dedication of IMB personnel in the U.S. and especially for the faithfulness of IMB’s 4,875 overseas personnel.

“All of [your missionaries] believe that they are there with your support, with your prayers, and the support and prayers of Southern Baptists for one purpose: and that is to chase darkness, to take the light of the gospel into the darkest corners of this world,” Elliff said.

2014 budget

Trustees approved a budget of $299 million for 2014. The budget relies on every dollar of this year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering goal of $175 million being given.

David Steverson, vice president for finance, expressed gratitude to Southern Baptists for the generous way they have supported missions through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

“However, we fully anticipate that churches and individuals are going to step up and give even more sacrificially than ever before,” so that the goal is met or exceeded, Steverson said, noting that the IMB is “totally dependent on the Lord and on how He leads Southern Baptists” to provide support for their missionaries.

Also during the meeting, trustees unanimously approved a new way that IMB can partner with Southern Baptist churches, titled “Great Commission Global Connect” (GC2). GC2 stems from a church’s passion and commitment to reach those who do not know Christ by sending out missionaries to share the Good News.

Through GC2, IMB will partner with a Southern Baptist church that is focused on engaging a people group or population segment in an indigenous church planting strategy and, as a part of that strategy, sends and supports missionaries from its own fellowship for two to three years.

IMB will walk alongside the church, providing field strategy development, personnel selection criteria and process, training, administrative support and supervision of the church-sent missionary as a part of an IMB-directed team.

GC2 was launched at IMB’s trustee meeting in November 2011 as a pilot project, with a stipulation that results would be reviewed periodically and a determination made by the end of 2013 whether to permanently adopt the program.

“This [has proven to be] a marvelous avenue to get more people out on the field sharing the Good News of the Lord Jesus Christ,” said Jay Wolf, chairman of the trustees’ church and partner services committee and senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala.

Trustees also approved the appointment of 68 new missionaries, who were recognized at an appointment service Nov. 10 at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte.

The next IMB trustee meeting will be Feb. 25-26 in Austin, Texas. An appointment service will be held at Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin on Feb. 26.

*Name changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Laura Fielding is a writer for IMB.)
Related story
Missionaries express desire to be ‘Totally His’
11/15/2013 10:01:34 AM by Laura Fielding, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Missionaries express desire to be ‘Totally His’

November 14 2013 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

Justin* and Angie* grew up in North Carolina and will be leaving next year for language school so they can better serve the people they are assigned in Belgium.
Justin, who is from Durham, and Angie, who is from Lexington, will be taking their two children – an eight-year-old son and four-year-old daughter – with them as missionaries with the International Mission Board (IMB).
“We were open to go anywhere in the world,” said Angie, but their son’s allergies severely limited their options.
“God’s going to use those allergies to lead us somewhere,” she told Justin.
In fact, there were only two options at the time they were going through the hiring process with IMB. Belgium fits in their church planting mindsets.
“Together … we will be His hands reigniting the gospel in the spiritual darkness of Belgium,” Justin said.

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
A N.C. couple holds hands during a special prayer time for their appointment to the mission field through the International Mission Board.

After studying French for a year in France, Justin and Angie will head to Belgium to work with French-speaking Belgians in Brussels. They will be the only IMB personnel in Brussels.
The N.C. couple was among 68 missionaries who shared their story about being appointed Nov. 10 through a service at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte. North Carolina is well-represented in this new missionary group. There were 23 people appointed who have some tie to the state; 11 of those call N.C. home now.
These missionaries rely on the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. “Totally His … heart, hands, voice” is the theme for this year’s offering. Based on Matthew 22:36-39, believers are encouraged to be totally committed to God, first to love Him, then to love others.
Churches are asked to pray and give especially during this time. This year’s offering is $175 million and the Week of Prayer is Dec. 1-8. Churches are encouraged to promote the offering with various materials available through IMB.

‘Not an easy road’

“I am the person the International Mission Board has hired to come to these meetings and cry,” said Tom Elliff, IMB president. “I started when I walked in … looking at these faces of these new missionaries … and I probably won’t stop until I get back to the hotel.”
Speaking from 2 Timothy 1:8-12 Elliff talked to the missionaries about “an old missionary’s last appeal.”
Paul writes to Timothy from prison. Modeling what Jesus did, Paul encourages Timothy to join him in “suffering for the gospel,” Elliff said.
“Paul is saying first of all, ‘The road you have chosen is not an easy road,’” Elliff said.
“God starts with the cost. It cost Jesus His life.”
Elliff challenged participants in the service to say, “I am willing to embrace the very next thing God shows me about missions.”
That could be praying, giving or going. He shared the story of an older woman who approached him recently and said, “All I can do is pray.” Elliff said he backed up and said, “You are in the big leagues. … Everything begins and ends with prayer.”

Deaf affinity group

One of the highlights of the service was interpreters for the Deaf. Clint Pressley, senior pastor of Hickory Grove, began the service by explaining the presence of these interpreters.

IMB photo by Will Stuart
Family and friends gather around the International Mission Board’s newest missionaries for prayer during a Nov. 10 appointment service at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C. The Deaf in the congregation gather to pray for Nick and Lisa J., center, backs to camera, for their work among the Deaf of South Asia.

“Our International Mission Board has found out that there is a universal affinity group found around the world of Deaf people,” he said. Because of that the IMB sends missionaries who are deaf and can communicate with the Deaf.
“Tonight is about the gospel … it is about who we are as Southern Baptists. This is what holds us together,” Pressley said. “We pool our efforts and we send our best to the nations for the gospel.”

Other missionary stories

“We are excited to be given the opportunity to carry the gospel to a spiritually-dark area where the early church once flourished,” said Matt*, who met his wife Carly* in Raleigh. They will be leaving soon to serve in Central Asia.
“We are humbled knowing God doesn’t need us to make His name known but He’s chosen to use people to tell His story of redemption,” Carly said.
Josh* “was planning to make a name for myself in the corporate world,” he said, “but God showed me on a mission trip to Zambia that it was His Name that really mattered, and I surrendered to missions on a plane over North Africa.
Now, he and his wife, Amy*, will be serving in Central Asia.
“Studying to be a doctor I had my life figured out,” said Jimmy*. “Then, after returning from an international mission trip God showed me and made it clear that being totally His meant for me living the rest of my life cross culturally.”
He and his wife Natalie* will be serving among European peoples.

Joel* and Heather* are heading to a place known as the land of fire and ice – because of the volcanoes and snow – in far eastern Russia.
They joked about there not being snakes but numerous bears. “And lots of people who may never hear unless someone is sent,” Joel said. “Our hope is that God’s Word will spread like fire and rescue cold hearts.”
Grace* is a journalist “who ran from a missions call.”
But, she said, God was patient with her.
“He broke my heart for the nations and, during a service just like this one, I knew it was time to be totally His. Now, I’m going to Europe to write stories to encourage others to go to.”
For more about the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering or IMB resources, visit
* Full name not given for security reasons.
11/14/2013 4:37:32 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments

Missionaries share story of miraculous typhoon survival

November 14 2013 by Caroline Anderson, International Mission Board

TACLOBAN, Philippines – Suzie Miller sat on her mattress, floating on the second level of her flooding home, not knowing whether she and her husband would survive.
But Suzie and her husband, Carl – who serve among the 26 International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries assigned to the Philippines – knew they were exactly where God wanted them: in their home in Tacloban during Typhoon Haiyan.
Miller said the entire experience was a testament to God’s provision and the power of prayer.
As the typhoon engulfed the peninsula of Tacloban on Nov. 8, Miller said the wind outside sounded like a semitrailer was passing. Their house also shook as if a semitrailer was grazing the sides of their house – traveling at 235 miles per hour.
The glass windows in the Millers’ home shattered, and water began pouring into their home. The first thing Miller grabbed was a prayer journal she has had since college.

Upstairs, the Millers climbed with their two dogs onto a mattress floating in the water in their bedroom.

Dr Pepper to the rescue

The Millers had just returned to Tacloban from Cebu City, where they had the option to remain until the typhoon passed. But they believed God wanted them to go home to Tacloban.  
For Suzie’s birthday on Nov. 3, her son and daughter-in-law bought Dr Peppers – a rare treat in the Philippines, and a favorite of the Millers. IMB missionaries Stan and Dottie Smith also had given the Millers Dr Peppers as a birthday present.
Suzie said she and Carl felt like they were dying of thirst, stranded on their mattress with no water, as the wind and rain torpedoed their home. Prior to the storm, Suzie placed the three Dr Peppers from her son on a desk. As the water rose in their room, the Dr Peppers floated over to the mattress.

IMB photo
Carl and Suzie Miller rode through Typhoon Haiyan on a mattress floating in their bedroom. The Millers serve with the International Mission Board in Tacloban, Philippines. Suzie Miller said the entire experience was a testament to God’s provision and the power of prayer.

“We just opened a Dr Pepper and shared it,” she said. “There is nothing that helps you out like drinking Dr Pepper in a storm. We love Dr Pepper.”

The power of prayer

Miller said God brought a scripture verse to her mind during the experience: “Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck” (Psalm 69:1, ESV).
“I never thought about literally praying that prayer,” Miller said.
The Millers live in a split-level home, and the water level in their house rose to more than 7 feet deep. They watched as their furniture bobbed up and down.
“[We were] praying for God’s mercy, but also realizing, if we didn’t make it, we chose to leave Cebu and come back,” Miller said. “We felt very confident in that decision. We trusted Him to take care of us, whatever His will was.”
This confidence didn’t keep her from feeling afraid at times, Miller said. Surge after surge of water pummeled their home.
“When the water was coming up, we had no idea if we were going to survive or not,” she said.
Susie suggested to Carl that they crawl out the window to escape their flooding house. “Honey, we can’t get out – if we get out, we will die,” Carl said.
The torrential wind, rain and waves from the ocean made an exit from their home a deadly hazard. The winds were so strong, they broke gauges used to measure their speed. As the Millers weathered the storm in their home, a close friend clung to the rafters of what remained of his house, hanging on for dear life as wave after wave pummeled him. He miraculously survived.
“I hate to be closed in – that whole panic of being closed in and trapped and drowning,” Miller said. “My husband, he was such a dear, he said, ‘You know, we just pray and we ask God to save us and that is all we can do.’”
Miller said they started praying out loud.
“I’ve heard of folks crying out to God, and that is what we did – [we were] crying out to God.”
After the Millers cried out to God, the water began to recede, but another wave soon poured in. The couple continued praying, and the water receded and did not rise again.
“We saw all of our furniture floating around … and then it all settled down,” Miller said. “God saved us.” 

Thanksgiving turkey

After the rain and water subsided, the Millers crawled out of a window, but they quickly retreated back inside because the wind was still so powerful that it hurt when it hit their skin.
A car was washed up against their back door. The Millers’ car was wedged in their fence.

Their couch was on top of their piano. Their china cabinet fell, one end propped against their stationary bike. Miller said their only dishes that broke were cheaper items purchased recently; the 33-year-old dishes from their wedding survived unscathed.
Despite the tragedy, God brought the Millers moments of humor. Carl lost his glasses in the storm and had to wear Suzie’s pink pair. Most of Carl’s shoes washed away – all he could find was one boot, so he borrowed a purple sandal of Suzie’s to wear outside.
Of 200 books the Millers own, a copy of David Jeremiah’s “What in the World is Going On” was plastered on the wall. Their dining room table floated up, remained level and then floated back down as the water eventually receded. Amazingly, all of the items on the table did not fall off into the water.
The Miller’s freezer also floated through their home. Remarkably, the freezer remained sealed, preserving a turkey they had purchased for the upcoming holidays.
Instead of keeping the turkey for themselves, the Millers gave the poultry to their neighbors, who were struggling to feed their family. The neighbors prepared the turkey and insisted the Millers come and join them for “turkey adobo.” (Adobo is a popular seasoning used in the Philippines.) A Christmas warehouse released its storage of queso, macaroni and canned fruit cocktail, and the Millers and their neighbors ate those foods as side dishes.
“This is our Thanksgiving turkey, we are giving thanks that we all survived,” Miller told her neighbors. “It really was thanksgiving for survival.” 
The Millers reported the neighbors in their immediate vicinity all survived. Through the experience, Miller said she learned the true meaning of community.
Five Bible school students in need of shelter stayed with the Millers during the weekend, helped muck the mud out of their home, and moved and cleaned their furniture.
Miller’s neighbors shared their washing boards and soap with her, since her cleaning supplies were lost. Washing clothes together quickly led to a time of community, with everyone sharing their stories of survival.
The community shared tools, gasoline, food and other supplies with one another. Everyone shared everything they had, Miller said.
The Millers’ church is located on the opposite side of town, and they didn’t know whether it survived. On Sunday, four church members walked almost five miles through debris and dead bodies to see if the Millers and other church members were alive and well.
“It was a great time to see Filipinos care for each other,” Miller said. “It is kind of like Acts: everyone had everything in common, and no one had anything that was their own.”

No reservations

Miller said she never doubted the decision to return to Tacloban.
“It wasn’t ‘Oh why, oh why did we come back?’” she said. “It was just a peace.”
Miller said it was important to go through the tragedy with her neighbors, rather than leaving and letting the neighbors go through the tragedy alone. If they did that, Miller said, “You come back as an outsider to minister.”
Instead, the Millers experienced the life-changing disaster with the people they love and serve. Without cell phone access or electricity, they heard they could make phone calls at the airport. On Monday, they set off on foot, walking for several miles.
They found their beloved city decimated.
The Millers walked past leveled homes and corpses. The house next to theirs was gone. Tin, boards, nails and wires littered the streets. They passed a home that had caved in; the corpses of the family remained inside, crushed.
Entire communities were wiped out.
Cars were upside down. A mini-semitrailer rested on top of a tree. Around the beach areas, only coconut trees remained. Gnarled steel girders protruded from spaces where buildings once stood. People tried to bathe in standing water on the road.
“It was just destruction, everywhere you looked,” Miller said.

Peace in destruction

The Millers knew they were being blanketed in prayer. Prior to the storm, they sent an email to their network of churches in South Carolina and Texas asking for prayer. They also had requested prayer from their extended family.
Email inboxes and Facebook and Twitter feeds buzzed with prayers and well-wishes for the Millers.

“We could really tell that people were praying,” Miller said. “There was such an uncanny peace in the midst of everything happening. I think it is the grace that God gives when you are in a crisis situation.”
“He walks through it with you,” Miller said. “We just knew God was in control.”
The Millers boarded a military aircraft on Tuesday for Manila, where they are recuperating and making plans for relief work. Staying in Tacloban became dangerous after the storm passed, as looting and violence over the lack of food is increasing. The delivery of aid supplies to the island has been slow. There is a lack of water, food and phone service.
But the Millers hope to return and help their community rebuild.
The Millers pray that they “would do things to give God all the glory, and that He would be the focus of this, and not us.”
  • Pray for the Waray Waray people, who the Millers serve.
  • Pray the Lord would guide the Millers’ next steps and give direction on where He wants them to go.
  • Pray for the Millers’ family in the U.S.
Churches and individuals interested in going as volunteers to help with the disaster response should contact the Baptists on Mission or North Carolina Baptist Men. Visit International disaster response requires teams to be certified in certain skills, and the mobilization of volunteer teams to overseas disasters is coordinated with state conventions.
Donate here.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Caroline Anderson writes for IMB from Southeast Asia.)
11/14/2013 4:25:17 PM by Caroline Anderson, International Mission Board | with 0 comments

BSC Board report focuses on impacting lostness, discipleship

November 14 2013 by Michael McEwen, BR Content Editor

The Board of Directors (BOD) report at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) Annual Meeting was presented Nov. 12 to discuss the strategy of impacting lostness.  
Before introducing Milton Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer, to the podium, Michael Barrett, BOD president and pastor of Pleasant Garden Baptist Church in Pleasant Garden, said, “Milton and the committee spent much time in prayer as they developed this strategy, and I truly believe that we have an opportunity to reach more people than ever before.”
An 18-member Strategy Development Committee (SDC) – comprised of BSC staff and the SDC – worked for nearly a year to prepare the initiative called, “Impacting Lostness.” Because the board approved the strategy, it did not require messenger action at the BSC.

Hollifield asked, “North Carolina Baptists, are we being effective in fulfilling the mission of our Lord by the proclamation of His gospel?”

BSC photo by K Brown
Michael Barrett, pastor of Pleasant Garden Baptist Church of Pleasant Garden, presents the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s Board of Directors report during the annual meeting Nov. 12 in Greensboro.

North Carolina is home to more than 5.8 million people who need the Good News of Jesus. Additionally, the population in the state increased 18 percent from 2000 to 2010. Impacting Lostness will equip N.C. churches to engage and impact spiritual darkness in whatever context they are.
“In order to be obedient to Acts 1:8 – and reach all people groups with the gospel,” Hollifield said, “we must create a culture in our churches, and in our personal lives, that is focused on disciple-making.”
The strategy calls for a commitment to both strengthening churches and planting churches through the facilitation of a disciple-making culture that utilizes a relationship-driven model of consultation. “In order for this to happen we must cooperate,” Hollifield said. “In fact, everything in this new strategy is contingent upon cooperation.”

The strategy plans to begin in the most concentrated areas of lostness across North Carolina.
“Impacting lostness will only be accomplished through spiritual awakening and revival,” Hollifield said. “Utter dependence will be on the power of God. I pray that North Carolina Baptists will work together to impact lostness through disciple-making.”
The board moved that messengers approve Articles I and III of the Constitution of Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute. This approval would change the name and purpose of Fruitland to Fruitland Baptist Bible College. The messengers approved the motion.
David Horton, president of Fruitland, said, “Second Timothy 2:15 is our foundation for ministry preparation at Fruitland. Even with this name change, the school will continue to retain an atmosphere that encourages development of the whole person for Christian ministry.”
The board has responsibilities to give general oversight of programs and ministries of the convention in addition to the responsibility of the recommendation of the annual budget to the convention.
The messengers approved the $30 million Cooperative Program Mission Budget, a decrease from the 2013 budget of $33.5 million. Messengers also approved a one-half percent increase of Cooperative Program (CP) receipts that are sent to the Southern Baptist Convention. This consistent increase of one-half percent for each of the past 10 years by N.C. Baptists results in a five percent increase in total CP giving to international missions, North American missions and the seminaries.
On behalf of the board’s recommendation, Bartley Wooten, articles and bylaws committee chairman and pastor of Beulaville Baptist Church in Beulaville, made a motion that the messengers approve the proposed amendments to the convention’s bylaws. These motions addressed the necessary support to the new convention structure, the change of purpose at Fruitland Baptist Bible College and clarification to matters related to voting by messengers at the BSC annual meeting.
Bylaws help the BSC maintain local autonomy, work cooperatively and conduct effective statewide ministry and missions. The motion was approved without any discussion from the floor.
11/14/2013 4:12:04 PM by Michael McEwen, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments

Steady stream of abortion cases headed toward high court

November 14 2013 by Richard Wolf, USA Today/Religion News Service

WASHINGTON – A steady stream of abortion cases is heading toward the Supreme Court, making it only a matter of time before the justices are likely to consider a new wave of state restrictions.
Although the justices have refused to consider two major cases from Oklahoma in the past two weeks, more states are seeking the high court’s blessing for restrictions that have been struck down by state and federal appeals courts.
As conflicting decisions at those courts pile up, it becomes more likely that the justices will agree to consider laws such as those banning abortions after 20 weeks, regulating the use of abortion-inducing drugs, imposing restrictions on clinics and doctors, and requiring that women receive counseling and testing before ending their pregnancies.
“It’s a pivotal moment,” says Caitlin Borgmann, a City University of New York law professor who writes a blog on reproductive rights. “The restrictions are now getting to a point where they’re actually shutting down clinics.”

RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks
Throngs of anti-abortion activists gathered on the National Mall Friday Jan. 25, 2013, for a rally marking the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion. After speeches by new March for Life President Jeanne Monahan and political and religious leaders, they marched to the steps of the high court.

The court already has on its January calendar a challenge to Massachusetts’ 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics. Early next month, justices are likely to agree to consider another case, challenging the requirement under President Barack Obama’s health care law that nearly all employers provide insurance coverage for contraceptives.
Those two cases represent conservatives’ challenges to state and federal laws aimed at providing added protections for women’s health. But the overwhelming majority of cases headed to the high court focus on efforts by states to restrict or limit abortions.
The court refused Nov. 12 to consider Oklahoma’s appeal of a state Supreme Court ruling striking down a requirement that women have ultrasound tests performed, displayed and explained before getting abortions. But a North Carolina case working its way through lower courts eventually could reach the justices.
Last week, the court turned away another Oklahoma appeal of a state Supreme Court decision, striking down a law that restricts abortion-inducing drugs to the uses approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Because doctors prefer off-label uses in most cases, the law would have banned almost all medication abortions.
Whatever cases the justices ultimately agree to hear, they will offer the court a chance to clarify its 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld abortion rights but gave states broader authority to impose restrictions such as 24-hour waiting periods and parental consent.
“The stakes have been ratcheted up,” says Teresa Collett, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis who had hoped to defend Oklahoma’s mandatory ultrasound law at the Supreme Court. “The stakes are higher for both sides.”
Since its landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade established a woman’s right to abortion, the Supreme Court has revisited the issue on a sporadic basis, and limits have increased.
A 1980 case restricted the use of Medicaid funds for abortions to cases involving rape, incest or the woman’s health. Casey approved a range of restrictions in 1992. And in 2007, the justices upheld a federal ban on so-called partial-birth abortions, usually performed between 20 and 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Since then, state restrictions have multiplied. In 2011, 92 provisions passed in 24 states. Last year there were 43 more, according to a survey by the Guttmacher Institute, a sexual and reproductive health think tank that supports abortion rights.
While opponents of abortion may be winning in state legislatures, backers of abortion rights have beaten back many of those laws in court. That has led state officials to appeal their cases to the Supreme Court in hopes that Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the Casey opinion with two colleagues who have since retired, will side with other conservative justices and approve more restrictions.
“If the court decides to take an abortion case, it could certainly use the case to further elaborate on the standard that should be applied to evaluate abortion restrictions,” says Jennifer Dalvin of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Among the cases headed toward the high court:
  • A Texas law banning most abortions from medications such as Mifepristone, also known as RU-486, and requiring doctors who perform abortions to get hospital admitting privileges. A district court judge struck down the hospital provision, but an appeals court said it could take effect pending the state’s challenge. That ruling has been appealed to the Supreme Court.
  • An Arizona law banning most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, by which point the fetus may feel pain. That is before the fetus becomes capable of surviving outside the womb, making it a direct challenge to Roe and Casey. Similar laws are being challenged in Idaho and Georgia.
11/14/2013 4:03:24 PM by Richard Wolf, USA Today/Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Luter calls for return to the transforming gospel

November 13 2013 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

More violence, hatred, abortions, pornography, drug use and crude music and movies – it all points to a nation in trouble.
“All of it seems to be the norm in America. We are living in the last days, in perilous times,” said Fred Luter, Southern Baptist Convention president and pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, La. Luter delivered the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina Convention sermon during its annual meeting Nov. 11-12 in Greensboro.
Preaching from Romans 1:16-17 on the power of the gospel, Luter asked North Carolina Baptists to consider what it will take to change the downward spiritual spiral, and the morals and values, of this nation. 

BSC photo by K Brown
Fred Luter encourages N.C. Baptist messengers to return to the transforming gospel. Luter delivered the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina Convention sermon during the organization’s annual meeting Nov. 11-12 in Greensboro.

“Before we talk about what it’s going to take to change America, what is it going to take to change you?” Luter said. “Before you were who you are today, what did it take? Somewhere along the line you heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. You heard the Good News. Your life was transformed.”
The same gospel that has been transforming lives for 2,000 years all across the world still changes hearts and lives today when people place their trust in Jesus.
The gospel transforms lives because it is personal, Luter said. Regardless of a person’s situation in life, the gospel meets every need. He pointed to the apostle Paul as an example of a Christ-follower who trusted the gospel in every circumstance. While in prison for his faith Paul wrote the book of Philippians, claiming the truth that all things are possible with God. Although chased out of Thessalonica because of his preaching, Paul wrote to the believers and encouraged them in the gospel. During his house arrest in Rome, Paul wrote the book of Ephesians and urged believers to put on the “full armor of God,” which is the gospel.
Luter said the gospel is not only personal, but it is also powerful.
“The gospel is the only thing that can penetrate years of sin and save a soul,” Luter said. “It means deliverance from the power and dominion of sin.”
Luter described the gospel as practical because it is powerful to change the lives of individuals from all walks of life.  
“The Word of God can be accepted by anyone no mater their race, culture or heritage,” he said.
The gospel also transforms lives because it is persistent. God’s Word tells the gospel story of redemption, and God’s Word will never cease to exist.
“No matter where you’ve been, you can depend on the Word of God. God’s Word is crucial if we want to impact our society,” Luter said. “It will continue to exist and endure. When everything else in life has failed, the Word of God will still be standing.”
In a world that desperately needs love, peace and joy, only the gospel can deliver. 
“The only hope for America is the Word of God,” Luter said. “Only the Word of God transforms lives. There is one thing I’m not ashamed of, and that is the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
11/13/2013 4:48:37 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 1 comments

Harris asks N.C. Baptists, ‘Are you desperate?’

November 13 2013 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

The prophet Jeremiah was known as the “weeping” prophet because of his burden for God’s people who turned away from God after He brought them deliverance and redemption. God had blessed the nation of Israel, and they were prosperous beyond their wildest dreams – yet they forgot God.
“Jeremiah lived in a day much like ours. But Jeremiah wasn’t into asking the ‘what’ questions. He was all about asking the ‘why’ questions; the difficult questions,” said Mark Harris during his Nov. 11 president’s address to messengers of the Nov. 11-12 Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) annual meeting in Greensboro.

Preaching from Jeremiah 8, Harris described the truths and applications of this text as “one of the toughest in all of scripture that God has burdened my heart to declare. I wish I could come and share everything good. But sometimes God burdens the heart of an individual to be sure he is sharing the whole counsel of God. Sometimes those things are hard to hear.”

BSC photo by K Brown
Mark Harris addresses messengers to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina annual meeting Nov. 12 during the organization’s two-day event. Harris ended his two-term presidency upon the election of C.J. Bordeaux. See story.

Harris, who completed his second term as BSC president after presiding over the recent annual meeting and is pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, pleaded with North Carolina Baptists to be bold enough to ask the ‘why’ questions and to hear a word from God – not from man.

“I believe God is calling North Carolina Baptists to stop asking the easier, surface questions of ‘what’ and finding simple answers and solutions. Let’s lead this state and nation in asking the hard questions and get down to the root of the issue,” he said. “Is it possible that a nation might fall and reach such a depth that it can no longer rise again? Is it possible that a people can so turn away and go so far that they can’t return again? Those are powerful questions.”
These questions God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah and they are just as relevant for today’s nation. Jeremiah asked the nation of Israel why they had slidden back and why they did not recognize God’s judgment.
“We are still not yet desperate enough to turn back,” Harris said. “We will not come before the Lord and pray until we are really desperate. So many of our prayer meetings are all about all kinds of things except really seeking the heart and mind of God.”
Although Jeremiah calls for the nation of Israel to turn from their idols and lusts of the flesh, the people are unaware that their unrepentant sin and lives of disobedience have removed them from God’s presence. God’s power was no longer in their midst, and they were not even inclined to seek it.
“He is calling for repentance and looking for the slightest sign of anyone who will say, ‘what have I done?’ And yet, He sees nothing,” Harris said. “The Spirit of God had fled – and the people didn’t even notice.”
The people didn’t notice because they had just enough “religion and religious practices” that they deceived themselves and wandered from the truth of God. The people made excuses for sin, trivialized sin and refused to repent before a holy God. The nation of Israel provoked God to anger because the nation’s leaders held the people captive to lies, encouraging them to rationalize sin.
“Why do we sit still when it’s time to come together in repentance, confessing our sin?” Harris said. “Are you willing to come in silence and simply submit to His judgment and confess that it is your sin and my sin that’s to blame?”
Israel, like America, held the answer to their plight, the solution to their recovery, in their hands – the Word of God. Jeremiah knew this was the answer and he used the “balm of Gilead” as a symbol for the healing power of God’s Word. Jeremiah cried out for God’s people to apply this healing balm to their lives.
“Why is there no recovery today? Is there no balm today? Of course there is. But, is there no physician left to apply it?” Harris said. “This is a question for the American pulpit.”
If America is ever going to experience spiritual awakening and revival, pastors and spiritual leaders must step up and point people to faith in Jesus Christ as they boldly proclaim His Word. 
“Are we going to preach for popularity, political correctness and itching ears, or are we going to be willing to stand and proclaim the Word of God? Are we willing to pay whatever price may come?” Harris said.
“We have one life to live, one life to give for the furtherance of God’s plans and purposes.”
11/13/2013 4:40:57 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Bordeaux, Blair, McGill win BSC offices

November 12 2013 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

For the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), it was the first time since 2005 that two candidates for president were being nominated. There were also two nominees for second vice president.

More than 1,600 messengers gathered in Greensboro for the BSC annual meeting Nov. 11-12 at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro.

BSC photo by K Brown
C.J. Bordeaux won the presidential election for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina during its annual meeting Nov. 12 in Greensboro. Timmy Blair was elected first vice president and Cameron McGill the second vice president. From left: Timmy and Wendy Blair, C.J. and Donna Bordeaux, and Tiffany and Cameron McGill.

With 1,082 ballots cast, 692 messengers gave 64 percent of the vote to C.J. Bordeaux, senior pastor of Gorman Baptist Church in Durham, who defeated Bobby Blanton, senior pastor of Lake Norman Baptist Church in Huntersville. Bordeaux was serving as the first vice president and replaces Mark Harris, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Charlotte, as president.
Blanton received 390 votes or 36 percent of the vote. Twenty-two ballots were spoiled and unable to be counted.
Greg Mathis, senior pastor from Mud Creek Baptist Church in Hendersonville, nominated Blanton, and Ed Yount, senior pastor of Woodlawn Baptist Church in Conover, nominated Bordeaux.
Timmy Blair Sr., senior pastor of Piney Grove Chapel Baptist Church in Angier, was the only candidate nominated for the office of first vice president. Messengers raised their ballots to approve his nomination. Stan Welch, pastor of West Asheville Baptist Church in Asheville, nominated Blair.
The second vice president office was decided by cast ballot. Scott Faw, senior pastor of Moon’s Chapel Baptist Church in Siler City, nominated Marc Sanders, senior pastor of Sandy Creek Baptist Church in Bear Creek. Richard Hicks nominated Cameron McGill, pastor of Dublin First Baptist Church.
With 677 ballots cast, 381 messengers voted for McGill, who defeated Sanders by 85 votes. Twenty-three ballots were spoiled and unable to be counted.
11/12/2013 9:35:05 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments

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