November 2017

DR intern helps in Houston, earns college credit

November 3 2017 by Brian Koonce, Missouri Pathway

Maddy Atwell spent her entire summer preparing for a disaster.
 
A member of Laura Street Baptist Church in Maryville, Mo., and a collegiate intern for Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief, she spent her summer training to respond however she was needed – whether in mass care, child care, laundry, mud-out work, chaplaincy, chainsaw or incident command.

Photo courtesy of The Pathway
Maddy Atwell, a student at Northwest Missouri State University, was given time off school to serve with Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers in the Houston area after Hurricane Harvey.


And while nobody would complain about a disaster-free summer, it was a little bit ironic when one of the most destructive hurricanes on record hit Houston weeks after her internship ended and her junior year classes at Northwest Missouri State University began.
 
“I kept seeing how bad Hurricane Harvey was in Houston and how our disaster relief teams were responding, and here I am trained but stuck in Missouri,” she said. “I wanted to be there!”
 
Fortunately, Atwell’s major is emergency disaster management. That not-so-minor detail helped convince her professors to give her time away from class to serve with other Missouri Baptists in the Houston area.
 
“They knew I had credentials and had been working with them all summer,” she said. “They put it down as field experience and not only got me out of class but got me credit. I called my mom, my job and then found a ride down.”
 
Because she was cross-trained, Atwell served in the incident command center, conducted damage assessments, mud-out work and prepared food with the mass-care unit.
 
“It was difficult to catch up on a week and a half of classes, but it was so worth it,” she said. “It was so cool to be able to tell each of my professors ... at a secular school about what Southern Baptists are doing and my role in that.”
 
Two professors even had Atwell present her trip to the class when she returned.
 
“I knew God was going to work through all the experience I was going to get,” she noted, “but I never expected that He would continue working even after I got back and bring me opportunities after I got home.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Koonce is a staff writer for The Pathway, mbcpathway.com, news journal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.)
 

11/3/2017 10:12:09 AM by Brian Koonce, Missouri Pathway | with 0 comments



Nat’l CP 5.53% under first month projection

November 3 2017 by Baptist Press staff

Contributions to Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) national and international missions and ministries received by the SBC Executive Committee in October were 1.34 percent below last year’s opening month of the convention’s fiscal year and 5.53 percent below the projected budget for the first month, according to a news release from SBC Executive Committee President and CEO Frank S. Page.


As of Oct. 31, gifts received by the Executive Committee for distribution through the Cooperative Program Allocation Budget totaled $15,114,641.08, or $205,368.92, below the $15,320,010.00 received in October 2016. The October total is $885,358.92 below the $16,000,000 monthly allocation budget projection to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America.
 
The Cooperative Program (CP) is Southern Baptists’ channel of giving, begun in 1925, through which a local church can contribute to the ministries of its state convention and the missions and ministries of the SBC through a unified giving plan to support both sets of ministries. Monies include receipts from individuals, churches and state conventions for distribution according to the 2017-2018 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.
 
Meanwhile, designated giving of $3,625,755.93 during October was 3.04 percent, or $107,119.01, above gifts of $3,518,636.92 received last October. This total includes only those gifts received and distributed by the Executive Committee and does not reflect designated gifts contributed directly to SBC entities.
 
Designated contributions include the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, Southern Baptist Global Hunger Relief, Disaster Relief and other special gifts.
 
State and regional conventions retain a portion of church contributions to Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program to support work in their respective areas and forward a percentage to SBC national and international causes. The percentage of distribution is at the discretion of each state or regional convention.
 
The convention-adopted budget for 2017-2018 is $192 million and is disbursed as follows: 50.41 percent to international missions through the International Mission Board, 22.79 percent to North American missions through the North American Mission Board, 22.16 percent to theological education through the six SBC seminaries and the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, 2.99 percent to the SBC operating budget and 1.65 percent to the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. The SBC Executive Committee distributes all CP and designated gifts it receives on a weekly basis to the SBC ministry entities.
 
Month-to-month swings reflect a number of factors, including the timing of when the cooperating state Baptist conventions forward the national portion of Cooperative Program contributions to the Executive Committee, the day of the month churches forward their CP contributions to their state conventions, the number of Sundays in a given month, and the percentage of CP contributions forwarded to the SBC by the state conventions after shared ministry expenses are deducted.
 
Cooperative Program allocation budget gifts received by the Executive Committee are reported monthly to the executives of the entities of the convention, to the state convention offices, to the state Baptist papers and are posted online at cpmissions.net/CPReports.
 

11/3/2017 10:08:59 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



CP helps small Idaho church reap global harvest

November 3 2017 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

Emmanuel Baptist Church, Cottonwood, Idaho, seeks to scatter its seeds as lavishly as does the cottonwood tree that is the namesake of the church’s hometown of about 1,000 residents.

Photo courtesy of Emmanuel Baptist Church
Emmanuel Baptist Church in Cottonwood, Idaho, uses Cottonwood Creek as its baptistery.


With an average Sunday attendance of 50 people, Emmanuel reaps an international harvest by giving 11 percent of its undesignated through the Cooperative Program (CP), the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) giving channel for missions and ministry.
 
Longtime pastor Dan Coburn said the success of the Cooperative Program is indicative of the Lord at work.
 
“Giving to the Cooperative Program is part of Kingdom work,” Coburn told Baptist Press (BP). “We’re trusting in the good, God-led people [who handle CP dollars]. We pray that God would ... use it for the furtherance of His Kingdom to His glory and the benefit of those who might be saved.”
 
Emmanuel Baptist increased its CP giving two years ago in response to the 1 percent challenge issued by SBC Executive Committee President and CEO Frank S. Page.
 
Emmanuel Baptist supports an International Mission Board couple in southern Mexico, a North American Mission Board Mission Service Corps “carpenter for Christ” worker, two area crisis pregnancy centers and a state Awana missionary.
 
The church’s outreaches include a prison ministry at the North Idaho Correctional Institution and missions conducted through the Whispering Pines Association in such Idaho communities as Stites, Grangeville and Kamiah. Missions videos and occasional speakers from local churches’ global missions work motivate interest in supporting missions, the pastor said.
 
“God did not save us to go to heaven, but to be His missionaries,” Coburn told BP. “He commissioned us no less than if we would be going into the military.”
 
Coburn said his bivocational status as an on-call heavy equipment operator frees some of Emmanuel Baptist’s financial resources for robust participation in missions. Even before Emmanuel Baptist members started visiting the North Idaho Correctional Institution five years ago, members were buying Angel Tree gifts for children of inmates at the 400-bed minimum-security prison.

Photo courtesy of Emmanuel Baptist Church
About a dozen members of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Cottonwood, Idaho, drive an hour northeast each month to help Stites Baptist Church distribute food.


Today, Emmanuel Baptist leads a mid-week Bible study for up to 30 inmates at the prison, answering questions and allotting up to two hours to each session. The church has also been able to share the gospel with inmates’ families, Coburn added.
 
“It’s the most heartfelt, sobering, talk-about-Jesus time you can imagine,” Coburn said. “It’s just wonderful.”
 
In cooperation with Grangeville Church of the Nazarene, Emmanuel Baptist has baptized more than 200 inmates at the prison in the past two years, Coburn said.
 
When fellow Whispering Pines Association member Stites Baptist Church dwindled to four people, Emmanuel Baptist provided pulpit supply to help Stites Baptist regain its vigor. Eventually, Stites Baptist called as its pastor Bill Hill, one of Emmanuel’s preachers. In turn, Stites Baptist became a food bank distribution site, ministering to and feeding more than 200 families each month.
 
About a dozen Emmanuel Baptist members travel the third Thursday of each month to Stites, where they distribute food and foster friendships.
 
Once a month for the last five years, children at Emmanuel Baptist have led what is called a “noisy offering.” The youth pass pots and pans through the congregation to collect coins for pregnancy centers in Grangeville, 20 minutes south, and in Kamiah, 40 minutes northeast.
 
“This is a kids’ ministry, but is to the tune of about $40 a month,” Coburn said.
 
Emmanuel’s youth have adopted a child from a third-world country and were instrumental in sending $2,240 to the Romania-based Yellow Shirts Association youth ministry in its outreach to Puerto Rico. Founded in 2010 in Baia Mare, Romania, the Yellow Shirts Association helps youth thrive as active members of society, according to its website.
 
Coburn, known for his vocal ability, is routinely asked to sing at community functions such as the county fair.
 
“The community is not going to take you seriously unless you show them you’re part of the community,” said Coburn, a pastor there for 14 years. “I’ve done a lot of funerals and weddings. If God calls you to a place, you pastor the community as well. They might never darken the door of the church but will call you when they have troubles.”
 
The church that started in 1988 not only reaches out to Cottonwood, but also the thousand or more rural residents of far-western Idaho County.
 
Every Sunday in October, the church visits the nearest nursing home in Grangeville. Midweek Awana for youngsters and Bible study for adults are part of the church’s ongoing programming.
 
“Any good done here,” Coburn said, “is at the hand of Jesus and His people.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press.)
 

11/3/2017 10:03:39 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Chaplain orientation equips, encourages

November 3 2017 by Brandon Elrod, NAMB

During a panel discussion at the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) inaugural New Chaplain Orientation, four veteran chaplains described some of the criticism they received from other believers when they answered the call to chaplaincy. These chaplains recalled being told that they were leaving “real ministry.”

NAMB photo
North American Mission Board staff and guests surround and pray over the military chaplains at the conclusion of NAMB’s first annual New Chaplain Orientation.


Steven Turner, however, told them that, as chaplains, they would often find themselves at the crossroads “where death meets life.” He reminded them that, in those moments, “Jesus makes the difference.” Turner, who serves as the director of chaplaincy services at the Georgia Department of Corrections, encouraged and challenged attendees, many of whom were just starting out their ministry roles.
 
Brent Bond, NAMB’s senior director of chaplaincy, told the group of chaplains that they “will go a lot of places that pastors can’t go.” Bond, who once served as a hospital chaplain in Atlanta, said he was able to discuss spiritual matters and share Christ’s love with a Wiccan high priest who was dying.
 
Many people hear the word “chaplain” and may immediately think of the military. Various other realms utilize chaplains, though. There are corporate and community chaplains, those who serve in the public safety and healthcare fields as well as those who minister in prisons and with disaster relief.
 
Fifty-four chaplains attended the Aug. 21-23 orientation. In the past, orientation was held during annual training events, through state Baptist convention partners or through college or seminary education.
 
NAMB’s chaplaincy team shifted to hosting a separate event to bring more cohesiveness to the content and build stronger bonds between chaplains. The event also allows NAMB leaders to communicate how much they value and appreciate Southern Baptist chaplains.
 
The majority of these chaplains face the challenge of maintaining a calling to faithful ministry in the midst of secular institutions. Maj. Gen. Douglas Carver, NAMB’s executive director of chaplaincy, took time to point out the various pitfalls that accompany such ministry.
 
Carver cautioned them, “Don’t fall prey to the professional urge that would overtake your spirit.” While a chaplain “should meet all the standards of professionalism,” such as turning in work on time and not being late for meetings, Carver reminded the chaplains that they were to focus primarily on their calling to serve and love both Jesus and people.

NAMB photo
A panel of veteran chaplains shared their experiences and answered questions during the North American Mission Board’s first annual New Chaplain Orientation.


The cultural tug-of-war going on in the United States often impacts institutions where chaplains serve. Andrew Walker, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s director of policy studies, spoke to attendees about the challenges facing chaplaincy.
 
Despite serious roadblocks to religious liberty, Walker expressed a long-term optimism because God’s sovereignty and justice will never be overthrown.
 
Randy Edwards, NAMB’s chaplain coordinator for federal institutions, urged the chaplains never to compromise on biblical truth in order to advance their career. After all, they were called to minister to hurting people and to share the gospel whenever the opportunity arises.
 
Each session ended with worship led by Alison Everill of Waleska, Ga. Joey Anthony, lead pastor at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Colonial Heights, Va., delivered messages from Exodus 3, focusing on the call of Moses.
 
NAMB leaders hoped the event encouraged chaplains, who serve on the front lines in some of the most difficult situations.
 
On the final day of orientation, NAMB President Kevin Ezell welcomed the chaplains to the NAMB family. “We want to thank you for your faithful service and let you know we are going to do whatever it takes to have your back,” he told them.
 
Ezell also reminded the chaplains of their mission.
 
“You do what you do to provide help so others can see the hope in Christ,” he said. “Our goal is to see lives changed through gospel conversations.”
 
Denny Gorena, chairman of NAMB’s Chaplain Commission and pastor of Sagamore Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, told Carver he’s “honored to serve as the Chaplains Commission chairman and to know that we have endorsed the best of the best.”
 
“NAMB’s New Chaplains’ Orientation gave me more confidence in the men and women we endorse to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and to minister to those in need,” he noted.
 
NAMB serves as the endorsing entity for Southern Baptist chaplains. In all, more than 3,700 Southern Baptist chaplains serve in a variety of settings including the U.S. military, prisons, hospitals, police, fire and rescue and in private companies.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.)
 

11/3/2017 9:51:50 AM by Brandon Elrod, NAMB | with 0 comments



‘Help & hope’: DR’s Appreciation Day set for Nov. 5

November 3 2017 by Greg Teffertiller, Send Relief

As far as disasters are concerned, 2017 will forever be known as “unprecedented.”
 
The nation has been impacted by hurricanes of historic proportions, regionally pervasive wildfires and localized storms that struck numerous communities. Nations in the Caribbean also have been pummeled. The losses of life and property are more than statistics – they represent people who desperately need hope and healing.

NAMB photo
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams have become a vital part of disaster relief efforts in the United States. The year 2017 has involved major responses to natural disasters – hurricanes ravaging the Gulf Coast states and the Caribbean to wildfires in the West. SBDR leaders and volunteers have been ready to respond at a moment’s notice to bring hope and healing during the darkest days of peoples’ lives.


In each of these moments when many families and communities were reeling, thousands of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers from 48 states faithfully answered the call.
 
“Southern Baptists have responded by serving over 700,000 hours and providing 2.7 million meals,” said David Melber, president of the Send Relief ministry of the North American Mission Board (NAMB).
 
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers “bring healing to those in need and offer the hope of Jesus Christ in the midst of life’s biggest challenges,” Melber said. “Over 500 people have made professions of faith in Christ through the efforts of Southern Baptists.”
 
NAMB President Kevin Ezell noted in advance of Disaster Relief Appreciation Day in the Southern Baptist Convention on Sunday, Nov. 5, “Because of your efforts and your giving, Southern Baptists are among the three largest providers of disaster relief in the United States. What an incredible example of how our family joins together to meet needs and, most importantly, share Christ.”
 
In a Nov. 2 statement, the mission board stated, “The commitment of time and energy from Southern Baptists are always essential to delivering help and hope during times of great need. You are known for compassion and sacrifice. Your willingness to respond at a moment’s notice is a reflection of your dedication to loving your neighbor, even those you’ve never met. Thank you, Southern Baptists, for reflecting Jesus and faithfully sharing the [g]ospel. You have served well.”
 
So far this year, nearly 22,000 volunteers have served on food preparation, flood clean-up, fire clean-up, chainsaw, mud-out and childcare teams.
 
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief dates back to 1967 with the response by Texas Baptist Men to survivors of Hurricane Beulah in the Rio Grande Valley.
 
For more information about SBDR, click here.
 
Watch a thank-you message from Ezell and Melber:



 (EDITOR’S NOTE – Greg Teffertiller is marketing director for the Send Relief ministry of the North American Mission Board. Disaster Relief Appreciation Day in the Southern Baptist Convention is Sunday, Nov. 5.)
 

11/3/2017 9:32:36 AM by Greg Teffertiller, Send Relief | with 0 comments



N.Y. terror attack opens gospel doors, pastors say

November 2 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Hours after an alleged Islamic terrorist killed eight and injured 12 by driving onto a busy pedestrian and biking path in Lower Manhattan Oct. 31, two strangers approached pastor Sterling Edwards as he roasted hotdogs for a Halloween outreach to his Brooklyn church community.
 
“On a Tuesday night in the middle of the street, I had a chance to pray with some people, and that’s significant,” Edwards, a Southern Baptist who pastors Park Slope Community Church, told Baptist Press (BP). “It wasn’t like I had to go and ask.”
 
The women had been in the vicinity of the site just blocks from the World Trade Center when Sayfullo H. Saipov, an admitted supporter of Islamic State terrorists (or ISIS), allegedly drove a rented truck along several blocks of the path, stopping only when he collided with a school bus.
 
Embed from Getty Images

“As horrific a situation as it is,” Edwards said, “anytime that we get a chance to point back to our hope being in Jesus, it can actually open a door for us. And I know that that’s not the avenue that we would necessarily like to go down, but at the same time ... I got to pray with some people.”
 
The impromptu prayer encounter is said to be indicative of what happens when New Yorkers, accustomed to diversity and tolerance, are met with such tragedies, according to Manhattan church planter Rob Russell. Seven weeks ago, he planted Restoration Church in the same neighborhood where the attack occurred, the same neighborhood where he has lived the past three years.
 
“We unite during these times, rather than display any kind of fear,” Russell, a North American Mission Board (NAMB) church planter, told BP. “And that’s something that we hope can be an inspiration or a beacon for the rest of the country. The people that have different backgrounds, living with different belief systems, our conversations are actually more collaborative in these times, than being less so.”
 
Members of his new congregation of about 40 people held small prayer gatherings on their own after the event, Russell said, and lifted up several prayer concerns for the city and those affected by the tragedy.
 
“It’s definitely sobering and people are dealing with it in different ways, but I don’t think anyone feels like they’re dealing with it alone, or that they need to,” Russell said. “And even for our church, to me, in just the last 24 hours, it’s only been more of a reminder of the image of God that’s in every single person. That’s why every person has dignity and worth.”
 
All of New York still appears shaken by the killings, Russell said, even amid unity and strength.
 
The tragedy didn’t deter a million New Yorkers from participating in the annual Halloween parade of costumed residents hours later, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the annual New York City marathon will proceed on Nov. 5 as scheduled.
 
Police identified Saipov as a 29-year-old native of Uzbekistan who had lived in the U.S. since 2010 and said he cried “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for God is great, as he was shot and arrested.
 
Steve Canter, a NAMB Send City missionary, said the words are perhaps less shocking to New Yorkers than Americans in other parts of the country.
 
“Because we’re constantly surrounded by the diversity and the nations of the world, that to hear phrases like that,” Canter told BP, “I don’t think there’s as much of a shock value by those words and that they’re being proclaimed by someone.”
 
Cultural groups that don’t like each other, for the most part, figure out ways to live together in New York, Canter said.
 
“Part of that is you almost get desensitized to some of the language and the words and rhetoric that you hear,” Canter said. “But now still, it’s obviously, in the context of people being murdered, then it’s shocking.”
 
Canter works with several Southern Baptist church planters in New York, many who seek to share the gospel with Muslims and Arabic language communities.
 
“This is a reminder of the need for praying for them, for seeing them thrive in those neighborhoods that are very tough and very difficult and very dangerous, for some of them,” Canter said. “I think for Southern Baptists, I would love [for this to be] a reminder that they just need our love, and our support and encouragement.”
 
The attack is the deadliest in New York since Sept. 11, 2001, although the death and injury toll of the latest doesn’t rival the death toll of 2,600 in the earlier tragedy.
 
Six tourists died at the scene, New York police said in a press conference today. Two others died at hospitals. Nine remained hospitalized – four in critical but stable condition – as of noon Eastern Time today, police said. Among the injured, two were aboard the school bus Saipov hit. In the rental truck he drove, Saipov left a note pledging allegiance to ISIS, police said. Most recently, he had worked as an Uber driver.
 
On Sunday, Russell will begin a preaching series on faith and freedom, focusing on “how a just faith sets us free to pursue justice for everyone,” he said.
 
“We’re going to be able to unite as a church family in speaking to the issue and praying together this weekend,” Russell said. “That was actually what was in the sermon calendar before everything happened.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

 
11/2/2017 8:49:48 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Facebook’s First Amendment chokehold

November 2 2017 by Bonnie Pritchett, WORLD News Service

Facebook shut down two Christian ministry pages last month, without warning or explanation, renewing fears about the social media giant’s ability to control access to an important corner of today’s public square.
 
A Facebook media representative said due to privacy issues she could not discuss details about the company’s actions against The Tree of Life Outreach and Sheologians. The representative also refused to speak on the record about company protocol for denying administrative access and what constitutes a violation of Facebook’s community standards.
 
On Oct. 3, Facebook blocked administrative access to all Pastor Ron Cusano’s pages, including The Tree of Life Outreach page he uses to conduct Bible studies for house churches in Pakistan, India and Africa. Facebook “kicked out” all Sheologians administrators from their personal accounts Oct. 13, preventing them from accessing their page, Sheologians founder Summer White told me. Facebook offered no explanation other than a notification saying the page’s content may have violated community standards.
 
Facebook forbids “hate speech,” which it defines as “attacks” against people based on characteristics including sexual orientation and gender identity. The company warns individuals or groups “dedicated to promoting hatred against these protected groups are not allowed a presence on Facebook.”
 
Both White and Cusano said they previously posted items dealing with Christian views of sexuality and gender but neither make those issues a major part of their commentary.
 
White and Cusano don’t accuse Facebook of outright censorship, but the abrupt and inexplicable punishments prompted suspicion – and frustration. White has regained access to her page, while Cusano continues to battle Facebook’s unresponsive management.
 
Sheologians uses Facebook to promote a weekly podcast and blogs about cultural and political headlines from a biblical worldview, White said. With no guidance from Facebook other than a request she review its community standards and remove any offending material, White followed the prompts to regain administrative control. But she didn’t have to remove any material from the page, which only added to her confusion.
 
“A lot of people think everything I say is hate speech,” White said. “A lot of people think everything I say is good and lovely and spurs them on to love Christ. Ultimately, Facebook gets to decide if I have violated their standards.”
 
Cusano’s two-week social media banishment prevented him from communicating with his overseas Bible study groups.
 
“It’s like I didn’t exist,” Cusano told me from his home in Commack, N.Y., adding the company should provide a better process for restoring access to blocked pages. “It’s blowing my mind that they have that power.”
 
Online censorship happens on a much larger scale than most people realize, a trend alarming free speech advocates. Jeff Rosen, president of the National Constitution Center, predicted in 2013 the centralization of internet hosting sites and laments the control they now wield.
 
“This is a day when platforms like Google and Facebook have more power over who can speak and who can be heard than any king, or president, or Supreme Court justice,” Rosen said on a recent episode of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education podcast So to Speak. “And yet as private companies they’re not bound by the First Amendment.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bonnie Pritchett writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)
 

11/2/2017 8:44:11 AM by Bonnie Pritchett, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



India: Officials, police halt worship in 10 churches

November 2 2017 by Morning Star India correspondent

Officials and police in Tamil Nadu state, India, have ordered 10 churches to discontinue worship services, sources said.
 
Hindu extremists compelled state officials and police to issue orders to the churches in Coimbatore District to stop worship unless they obtain permission from the collector’s office, church leaders said. And extremists reportedly intend to target 20 others in the same way.
 
“It is a well-planned conspiracy against the Christian community, as the Hindu extremists know that it is not easy to approach the collector’s office for such permissions,” pastor Johnson Sathyanathan, president of the Synod of Pentecostal Churches of Coimbatore, told Morning Star News. “The time to get such approvals can stretch from a year and a half to many more years.”
 
The district revenue officer told church leaders that orders against six churches were issued on the complaint of members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu nationalist, paramilitary organization widely regarded as the parent organization of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Orders were issued in one case based on a complaint by the Hanuman Sena, a fairly new Hindu extremist group.
 
A Christian delegation met the minister of Internal Affairs of Tamil Nadu early last week and expressed concern and fear about the recent notices. The state minister on Oct. 24 called on the deputy superintendent of police and the local member of the Legislative Assembly of Sulur to look into the matter and take steps to ensure that the worship services can resume, pastor Sathyanathan said.
 
“Altogether there are 10 churches that have been directly affected in the last two months,” he said. “They are all residents of the area, and people have never had trouble with these churches before. These pastors have been doing ministry for many years now.”
 
Besides the six churches, another congregation, an Assemblies of God Church in Thennampalayam, was first targeted during its Vacation Bible School this summer, when the members of RSS attacked its van transporting children, assaulting three young people. The revenue officer has closed down the church based on a complaint by the RSS, saying the pastor must secure permission from the collector to continue worshipping.
 
The pastor has been leading the church at its present location for more than five years.
 

Other shut-downs

In Myleripalayam, a police inspector called the pastor of an independent fellowship, Solomon Raja, following a complaint by members of the Hanuman Sena, and forced him to sign documents stating that he would “obtain proper permission” to continue worship services.
 
“This happened with Solomon on Sept. 1, and since then no worship service has taken place in his church,” Pastor Sathyanathan told Morning Star News.
 
In Mathampalayam, where pastor Vinod Kumar had constructed a small hall for church services, about 25 RSS members on Oct. 15 disrupted a church service and called police.
 
“The inspector deliberately vacated the church, and Kumar was ordered to stop conducting worship in the future,” Pastor Sathyanathan said.
 
Though no case has been registered against Kumar, he has been threatened with warnings to halt worship services or bear the consequences, he said.
 
In Kalampalayam, police accompanied by 20 RSS members approached a church leader identified only as Pastor Charles and ordered him to close down services until he obtained permission from the collector, Pastor Sathyanathan said.
 
In Sulur, pastor Selva Singh of Sultanpet has filed a case with police against the notice that the revenue officer issued to him. A court has granted him one month’s permission to continue the regular church service – with a condition that there should be no use of amplifiers during the service. The permission will be voided if there are complaints.
 
The court instructed Pastor Singh to obtain permission from local officials within one month.
 
Pastor Singh has been leading the area church for more than 10 years.
 

Demand to re-open churches

Nearly 500 protesting Christians approached the district sub-collector and the superintendent of police on Oct. 11 and submitted a memorandum demanding protection and appealing for the churches to be re-opened.
 
Pastor Sathyanathan, who participated in the protest, told Morning Star News that the city superintendent of police flatly refused any support or action.
 
“They said that they can do nothing about it, and why should we create unnecessary trouble, that instead we should go ahead and get legal permission for our churches,” he said. “We had organized a day of silent protest on Oct. 21, but we were denied permission to carry it out, as they stated that it was a law-and-order situation.”
 
Clarifying reports that 30 churches had been targeted, Pastor Sathyanathan said Hindu extremists had yet to take action against 20 of them.
 
“The Hindu extremists have openly threatened Christians that they are going to do the same in 20 more churches of the area that they have done to these 10,” he said.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014. Since then, the hostile tone of his National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), against non-Hindus has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack Christians, religious rights advocates say.
 
India ranked 15th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of the countries where Christians experience the most persecution.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Morning Star News is a California-based independent news service focusing on the persecution of Christians worldwide.)
 

11/2/2017 8:39:32 AM by Morning Star India correspondent | with 0 comments



Zimbabwe trip seeks to foster racial reconciliation

November 2 2017 by Myriah Snyder, Western Recorder

A group of Kentucky Baptists embarked on a mission trip to Zimbabwe with a twofold focus on biblical training for national pastors and lay leaders, while also exploring and modeling racial reconciliation.

Photo courtesy of the Western Recorder
The Kentucky Baptist mission team included, from left to right, Curtis Woods, Shawn Mcilvory, C. L. Jordan, TC Taylor, Doug Williams, Blake Jessie, Justin Compton, Nate Bishop, Norman Poucheau Franklin, Joel Bowman, Todd Young, Kevin Jones, and Silas Session.


Reflecting back on the experience, some of those on the racially-diverse mission team – made up of five Anglo-Americans and eight African-Americans – shared how the trip brought healing and strengthened relationships.
 
Practical racial reconciliation, noted Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC) missions strategist Doug Williams, was a key focus of the time spent together as a team. Getting to know each other, learning about each other’s ministries and lives was a large part of travel time and evening discussions.
 
Before the October 6-15 trip, each participant read Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention edited by Jarvis Williams and Kevin Jones.
 
Openness about how to further improve race relations in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) dominated group discussions. KBC’s Williams said he saw “how the gospel breaks down all dividing walls,” and believers modeling how to live in community can begin to take shape.
 
Even Zimbabwe nationals, one team member noted, appeared to notice the uniqueness of the trip.
Joel Bowman Sr., pastor of Temple of Faith Baptist Church in Louisville, noted “a powerful moment in our mission trip to Zimbabwe was when a continental African said I was the first African American missionary he had ever seen.” It was Bowman’s second mission trip to Zimbabwe.
 
During the trip, the team collaborated with national pastors and a Southern Baptist missionary, and took theological training to areas from where it is often too difficult for most of the local leaders to travel to the national seminary.
 
Justin Compton, lead pastor of Redemption Hill Baptist Church in Fisherville, described the scene as “a land of theological famine.” Some who received training had never received any before.
 
“I was humbled and overwhelmed to see God open eyes and shape lives through the clear teaching of His Word,” he said.

Photo courtesy of the Western Recorder
Kentucky Baptists partnered with a Southern Baptist missionary and national pastors to take theological training to Zimbabwe.


Some of the sites had received training last year by a five-member KBC team. Overall, the teams taught six courses – three at each location – including New Testament, Systematic Theology 1, Ecclesiology, Expository Preaching, Soteriology and Hermeneutics.
 
“They were very eager to get the Word of God right,” KBC’s Williams said of the national students. “That was very encouraging to our team members.”
 
The team spent the last day in a remote village, going door to door – hut to hut – sharing the gospel with whoever would listen. Many made professions of faith.
 
Bowman hopes the trip will provide “a model that could be replicated across the country.”
 
“When people see black, brown and white believers serving as equals, there is a powerful Christian witness,” he said. “There is a tangible example of the transformative and uniting power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
 
Bowman continued, “Racial reconciliation only truly takes place within the context of relationships.”
 
Curtis Woods, associate executive director of the KBC, noted that “the trip was an amazing opportunity for healing and hope for several pastors who felt that many within evangelicalism in general and the SBC in particular had given up on confronting the sin – racism – that so easily besets us.”
 
“The experience [led to] one of the most amazing conversations I have had on race, racism and friendship,” he said. “God’s grace was all over our team. We can only pray that God would increase our numbers next year for the sake of the gospel and racial unity.”
 
The KBC hopes to replicate the trip twice in 2018.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Myriah Snyder is assistant editor of the Western Recorder, westernrecorder.org, news journal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)
 

11/2/2017 8:29:13 AM by Myriah Snyder, Western Recorder | with 0 comments



Myanmar crisis draws BGR aid, recalls Judson legacy

November 2 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Residents of Myanmar – early beneficiaries of the Baptist missions movement two centuries ago – once again are the focus of work by Baptists. This time, Baptists are providing aid in response to a humanitarian crisis among the Rohingya, a large Muslim people group in southwest Myanmar.

Photo courtesy of BGR
Since the end of August, Baptist Global Response and its local partners have provided aid to thousands of Rohingya Muslims in southeast Asian refugee camps.


Baptist historian Jason Duesing said the Rohingya crisis illustrates that the legacy of Adoniram Judson, the first missionary funded by the Triennial Convention in 1814, largely has been eradicated in contemporary Myanmar.
 
Over the past two months, more than 600,000 Rohingya have been displaced from Myanmar’s Rakhine State by so-called security operations of the nation’s Buddhist government. The security operations were initiated in response to Rohingya militant attacks on government outposts and have involved burning numerous villages to the ground among other acts of violence, according to media reports.
 
Most Rohingya refugees are in camps in neighboring Bangladesh and claim there is a “consistent, methodical pattern” of killings, torture, rape and arson being perpetrated against Rohingya in Myanmar, Reuters reported Nov. 1.
 
The United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has called the Rohingya crisis “the largest mass refugee movement in the region in decades.”
 
In light of the crisis, the humanitarian aid organization Baptist Global Response (BGR), in conjunction with local partners, has launched relief projects for thousands of Rohingya in Southeast Asia.

With BGR’s assistance, one partner organization provided food, cooking oil, water, shelter and medicine to 4,000 refugees fleeing the conflict, BGR told Baptist Press (BP).
 
Another project is providing targeted aid to some 5,000 Rohingya “living in extreme conditions,” BGR reported. The project’s focus “will be on hygiene education and emergency supplies to avoid sickness and spread of disease in overcrowded areas where infrastructure does not yet exist to absorb the dramatic increase of the refugee population.”
 
BGR CEO Jeff Palmer called the Rohingya crisis “a very sad situation.”

Adoniram Judson


Based largely on religious differences, Palmer told BP, “the Myanmar government does not recognize the Rohingya as a people group of Myanmar and therefore they have no legal status there. They are almost considered by the government as squatters or illegal aliens. This is one reason why there has been such a large effort to force them out of Myanmar.”
 
For many Baptists, mention of Myanmar (also known as Burma) calls to mind Judson’s pioneering mission work with the Triennial Convention – a precursor organization of the Southern Baptist Convention that was officially named the General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination in the United States of America for Foreign Missions.
 
Enduring the death of two wives and at least five children, Judson labored nearly four decades in Burma, producing a Burmese Bible translation, planting 100 churches and seeing 8,000 previously unreached people profess faith in Christ.
 
Duesing, provost at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and editor of Adoniram Judson: A Bicentennial Appreciation of the Pioneer American Missionary, said Myanmar’s current government has sought to eradicate Judson’s legacy as well as his Christian influence on the culture.
 
“Judson’s legacy in Myanmar has ebbed and flowed in the 205 years since he first arrived there,” Duesing said in written comments. “In 1913, the Burmese people dedicated an enormous monument in his honor to recognize the sacrifices and physical sufferings he endured to bring them the gospel. In the 1980s, the government successfully eradicated all monuments and recordings of his legacy to the end that many there today know not Judson.
 
“Yet, Judson’s greatest gift to the Burmese remains – the Bible in their language. Completed by Judson finally in 1840 the Judson translation persists as a reliable translation through which many Burmese are able to read and learn that God sent His Son so that any Burmese who believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life,” Duesing said.
 
Today, just 9 percent of the nation’s population is Christian, with the government-favored Buddhist religion encompassing 80 percent of the population, according to Morning Star News, which reports on Christian persecution worldwide.
 
Two pastors arrested in Myanmar last December were sentenced to prison Oct. 27 on what Morning Star classified as “false charges of unlawful association, defaming the military and spying.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

11/2/2017 8:22:43 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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