November 2017

Migration a ‘divine opportunity,’ conference speakers say

November 1 2017 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor & Lauren Pratt, SEBTS

This year’s Reaching the Nations conference brought together more than 500 people in person and via live stream to learn and grow in how to reach refugees and immigrants in North America.

Photo by Maria Estes, SEBTS
J.D. Payne, pastor of church multiplication at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., describes God as says God is “the Divine Maestro” orchestrating the movement of unreached peoples “to our backyards” during the Reaching the Nations conference, Oct. 27-28 at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.


The Oct. 27-28 event at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) in Wake Forest, N.C., occurred both as a catalyst and result of “a movement starting in local churches across North America – a genuine awakening to the amazing opportunity we have to reach the nations next door,” according to the conference planning committee.
 
More than 280 people attended the sessions in person with another 231 viewing online toward helping churches engage foreign-born people in North America. The conference was sponsored by SEBTS, the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and Peoples Next Door, a research and equipping initiative for missions in North America.
 
Speakers included J.D. Payne, pastor of church multiplication with The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala.; SEBTS President Danny Akin; J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Bryant Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., and Chris Clayman, co-founder and associate director of Global Gates, a missions organization focused on large international cities.
 
Payne led off the conference’s first main session, speaking on the “pathway to planting,” which begins with evangelization and discipleship and leads to a mature local church.
 
He first addressed the demographic contours of North America that shape church planting strategies. After reading Acts 17:26-27, he noted, “Isn’t God good? He tells us to go and make disciples of all nations, and simultaneously, as the Divine Maestro, He orchestrates the movement of unreached people groups to our backyards as well.”
 
Two of the world’s top six countries with the most unreached people groups are in North America, Payne said. There are 207 unreached, unengaged people groups in the United States and an additional 141 in Canada.
 
“In light of that practical reality and Acts 17,” Payne asked, “how are we responding?”
 
Akin outlined Romans 15:8-24 as “a scriptural strategy that can help us as God’s people to find our rightful place in His redemptive story at what I believe is absolutely a propitious moment in the Western world.”

Photo by Maria Estes, SEBTS
The worship band from Family Church in West Palm Beach, Fla., led worship during the Oct. 27-28 Reaching the Nations conference at SEBTS.


Akin noted five ways for Christians to respond: by praying for those in need; sacrificing financially to support ministry to internationals; asking God to call out missionaries to the nations; equipping church members to engage foreign-born people with the gospel; and seeking to influence American politicians for the sake of immigrants and refugees.
 
“Is it an accident that America is being flooded with immigrants and refugees?” Akin asked. “No, it is a divine appointment and a divine opportunity that we dare not neglect.”
 
Akin encouraged attendees not to get caught up in political agendas but to boast in Christ by speaking well of immigrants and refugees who are made in His likeness.
 
Citing Lifeway Research, Akin said 60 percent of immigrants do not know a Christian and have little assistance from Protestant churches.
 
“Where there are people who have no access to the gospel ... that deserves our attention, that deserves our energy, that deserves our priority,” Akin said.
 
Greear offered an exposition of Luke 10-25-37, the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan.
 
“What if the person we are most supposed to identify with in the story is not the priest, not the Levite, not even the Good Samaritan?” Greear asked. “What if, instead, we are supposed to hear this story and primarily identify as the guy who is bleeding on the side of the road?
 
“What if somebody who had every reason to hate us and be our enemy – someone very unlike us – had chosen to put himself in danger to help us? What if the really Good Samaritan in the story is Jesus? ... We are the ones who have been saved by radical grace. ... When we embrace that, we will become givers of radical grace.”
 
Referring specifically to how churches might engage immigrants and refugees, Greear urged attendees to ask the right questions.
 
“There are a lot of Christians asking the same question,” he said. “What do we have to do when it comes to refugees and other things we are dealing with? It’s really the wrong question. The question is what does the person who has been transformed by the gospel want to do? If your heart has been moved by the gospel, what is that going to look like?”
 
People who have experienced the gospel, Greear said, “develop an uncontrollable impulse to be generous and an insane ability to forgive.”
 
For Wright, desperation is a key word for describing the refugee crisis.
 
In looking at Matthew 2:13, Wright highlighted how Jesus Himself was a refugee when He and His family fled from Bethlehem to Egypt from King Herod, who was trying to kill Jesus.
 
“How you treat the immigrant, how you treat the refugee is how you treat [Jesus],” Wright said, calling conference attendees to decide whether they are willing to let the Bible guide how they think and act in regard to their treatment of refugees.
 
Clayman challenged the audience to think practically about steps to move beyond hospitality among immigrants and refugees to having gospel conversations within those relationships.
 
“If you have a genuine relationship that is loving, then you’re going to share your life with them,” Clayman said. “If your life is what it should be, that means that you’ve shared Christ with them.”
 
The conference featured peer group discussions and breakout sessions on more than 30 topics, such as prayer strategies, international student ministries, cross-cultural communication, English-as-a-second language (ESL) ministries, refugee resettlement, discovering unreached people groups in North America and more.
 
The 2018 Reaching the Nations in North America Summit is scheduled for Sept. 14-15 at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Seth Brown is content editor for the Biblical Recorder, BRnow.org, news journal of North Carolina Baptists; Lauren Pratt is Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s news and information specialist.)
 

11/1/2017 8:46:44 AM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor & Lauren Pratt, SEBTS | with 0 comments



500 YEARS: Baptists celebrate Reformation

November 1 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

European study tours, conferences, publications and confessions of Protestant unity are among the ways Southern Baptists celebrated the Protestant Reformation’s 500th anniversary during the past year.

Ferdinand Pauwels [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Traditionally, the start of the Reformation is dated to Oct. 31, 1517. On that day, a monk named Martin Luther posted 95 theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany, challenging the Roman Catholic Church’s practice of selling indulgences – infusions of supposedly excess merit from saints granted by the Catholic Church to decrease a person’s time in purgatory.
 
Within a few years, Luther and others also challenged some of the Catholic Church’s fundamental teachings about salvation. The Reformers, who held a range of opinions on secondary doctrinal matters, began their own churches and argued salvation comes by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. While the Catholic Church responded positively to some critiques by Reformers of immoral practices among clergy, Protestants and Catholics remain divided on certain specifics regarding the doctrine of salvation.
 
Many scholars regard Baptists as among heirs of the Reformation tradition.
 
Among the past year’s Reformation commemorations:

  • Southern Baptists published a range of Reformation-themed materials. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) theology professor Gregg Allison coauthored The Unfinished Reformation, a book clarifying what unites and divides Catholics and Protestants. LifeWay Christian Resources published both the six-session Bible study Echoes of the Reformation and Reformation 500, a multi-author book exploring how the Reformation has shaped the world.
  • SBTS and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary both offered study tours of key Reformation sites this summer. New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) each will lead a Reformation study tour in the spring.
  • Conferences focused on the Reformation included the National Religious Broadcasters’ “Proclaim 17” convention, which featured addresses on the five Reformation “solas”; The Gospel Coalition’s National Conference, which featured historical addresses on Reformation figures and workshops on Reformation themes; and SBTS’s Here We Stand conference on the Reformation’s legacy that begins Oct. 31-Nov. 2.
  • Plans to celebrate the Radical Reformers were announced at Truett McConnell University in Georgia, New Orleans Seminary and SWBTS. The Radical Reformers were 16th-century Christians who left the Roman Catholic Church but didn’t believe the Magisterial Reformers – as Luther, Calvin and company came to be known – went far enough in purifying the church.

 
New research and theological statements also were occasioned by the 500th anniversary.
 
A poll by the Pew Research Center suggested a majority of U.S. Protestants today reject the doctrines of sola fide (the belief men and women are saved by faith alone) and sola scriptura (the belief scripture is the only infallible guide for faith and practice). Pew also suggested the differences between Catholics and Protestants are narrowing in many cases.
 
Still, a November 2016 statement by the Italy-based Reformanda Initiative claimed persistent doctrinal divides should give evangelicals pause about cooperating with Catholics in missions and evangelism.
 
Within Protestantism, the “Reforming Catholic Confession,” released in September, sought to express “interdenominational unity in the essentials of the faith” shared by all Reformation heirs.
 
Southern Baptists were among signatories of both the Reformanda Initiative’s statement and the “Reforming Catholic Confession.”
 
“From radio interviews to Rotary Club meetings, I’ve seen significant interest in this anniversary,” Union University professor Ray Van Neste wrote in a February column. “... As Baptists we may wonder if the Reformation has anything to do with us. Why should we celebrate something that happened 500 years ago?
 
“I believe the Reformation has much to do with us, and we are duty-bound to celebrate it,” Van Neste, co-editor of “Reformation 500,” wrote. “Here is why: At its heart, the Reformation was a rediscovery of the gospel.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

11/1/2017 8:42:37 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Judge OKs suit over baby body parts research

November 1 2017 by Samantha Gobba, WORLD News Service

A woman’s lawsuit against a New Mexico abortion center will proceed, thanks to a New Mexico judge’s refusal to dismiss her case.

Photo courtesy of New Mexico Alliance for Life
Jessica Duran announces her lawsuit against Southwestern Women’s Options in 2016.


Jessica Duran filed suit last year against Southwestern Women’s Options (SWO) for not telling her about its relationship with the University of New Mexico (UNM) and the possibility that it sent her dead baby there for research.
 
The abortion center and abortion doctor Curtis Boyd filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, but New Mexico District Judge Clay Campbell ruled this month that all seven counts filed against SWO – including negligent supervision and intentional infliction of emotional distress – merit a trial by jury.
 
Because the consent form Duran signed before her abortion “only authorized the clinic and/or physician to perform any research, the plaintiff Jessica Duran did not have knowledge of the facts, conditions or circumstances that would have caused her to make a reasonable inquiry into whether someone or some other entity other than the clinic and/or treating physician may perform research on any donated tissue or parts,” Campbell wrote.
 
Elisa Martinez, director of New Mexico Alliance for Life, said her organization is optimistic Duran will win at trial, since the facts are “clear and unambiguous.”
 
“This case is a monumental decision in that it shows what we and the Select Panel on Infant Lives have been pointing out all along that women are being deceived and taken advantage of by the abortion industry,” Martinez said. “The very reason the abortion industry seeks to deceive women like Jessica about the value of their baby is the very reason the bodies are harvested for parts: their humanity.”
 
Last year, the U.S. House of Representatives Select Panel on Infant Lives, chaired by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., disclosed the relationship between UNM and SWO and requested an investigation by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas.
 
After the House panel procured and published a log of baby body parts collected by SWO for UNM researchers, Duran suspected her baby was among their number.
 
Duran said her abortion haunts her, and discovering researchers might have used her baby for experiments added to her pain. Staff never told her what could become of her baby or that she could have declined to participate in the research program. The research consent form staff gave her was the same as the one providing consent for the abortion procedure.
 
In her lawsuit, Duran claims SWO staff “violated my right to choose.”
 
“We found evidence that women were being misled by these consent forms,” Blackburn noted in a statement. “I welcome this ruling and applaud Ms. Duran for continuing her fight against these injustices on behalf of the women who have endured the same.”
 
The case will now go to trial, although a judge has not yet set a date for jury selection.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Samantha Gobba writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)
 

11/1/2017 8:39:46 AM by Samantha Gobba, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



Transgender military ban setback may be appealed

November 1 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

A federal judge’s decision to block the Trump administration from enforcing a ban of transgender military service is “likely” to be overturned on appeal, says a former military attorney who serves as general counsel for the Missouri Baptist Convention.
 
“The Obama Defense Department changed the longstanding policy just last year regarding transgender service in the military,” Mike Whitehead, the Missouri convention’s attorney and a former member of the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps, told Baptist Press, “and President [Donald] Trump merely changed it back.
 
“A D.C. trial judge cannot substitute her judgment for the President’s about what is good for military readiness and unit cohesion,” Whitehead noted. “The Commander in Chief is likely to prevail on appeal regarding his power to set policy for building a strong, combat-ready force. He certainly has authority to stop diverting scarce defense dollars to social engineering instead of essential health care for wounded warriors.”
 
In response to a lawsuit by eight current and prospective military members who self-identify as transgender, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly issued a preliminary injunction Oct. 30 preventing President Trump from reversing a 2016 Obama administration decision to allow military enlistment and continued service by transgender individuals.
 
However, Kollar-Kotelly, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, dismissed a portion of the lawsuit challenging Trump’s ban on using military funds for gender reassignment surgery. None of the plaintiffs, she wrote, demonstrated they were likely to be affected by that portion of the policy.
 
The ruling put on hold portions of a presidential directive set to take effect in March. The injunction will remain in place until the lawsuit is resolved or a judge revokes it.
 
A 76-page opinion by Kollar-Kotelly, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, noted the suit is still in “its very earliest stages.” But, she wrote, the transgender ban appears to violate the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee that “no person shall be ... deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”
 
“On the record before the Court,” Kollar-Kotelly wrote, “there is absolutely no support for the claim that the ongoing service of transgender people would have any negative effect on the military at all. In fact, there is considerable evidence that it is the discharge and banning of such individuals that would have such effects.”
 
To ban transgender individuals from the military, she wrote, “disfavors a class of historically persecuted and politically powerless individuals.”
 
Kollar-Kotelly seemed to suggest the administration hastily composed its policy before collecting data to support it, though she left open the possibility such data may emerge as the lawsuit proceeds.
 
The Justice Department said in a statement it is “currently evaluating the next steps” it will take in the case, according to The Washington Post. Kollar-Kotelly’s order gave both sides until Nov. 10 to state how they plan to proceed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

11/1/2017 8:32:55 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Harvey disaster relief showed ‘faith in action’

November 1 2017 by Southern Baptist TEXAN & BP staff

Melissa del Flora took it upon herself to organize meals for Hurricane Harvey survivors occupying 40 rooms at the Quality Inn in Seabrook, Texas.

Southern Baptist TEXAN photo
Armando Hernandez, 27, on his first feeding deployment in Corpus Christi after Hurricane Harvey, called it “humbling” to see “older men, most over the age of 70, working not just for free but with intensity, and for no other reason than ... a calling from God to serve.”


Even though food and drinks arrived for a month, del Flora grew weary. Through a random conversation with one of the evacuees, she learned that Baptists could help lift the load.
 
Del Flora contacted Susan Bumpas, director of preschool and children’s ministries at nearby Nassau Bay Baptist Church. She and her husband Bill, a Southern Baptists of Texas Convention media consultant, knew that Arkansas and Arizona disaster relief teams were feeding mud-out volunteers staying at University Baptist Church in the Clear Lake area.
 
The disaster relief (DR) groups readily agreed to prepare 100 meals a day for the families at the Quality Inn, and church member Dana Rust began organizing delivery of the meals by Nassau Bay and other local church volunteers.
 
Rust and Bumpas both praised the Quality Inn’s manager, Moses Retiwala, for facilitating the feeding by allowing use of the hotel’s breakfast room.
 
Retiwala, a Muslim from the Indian state of Gujarat who has lived in Texas 17 years, told the Southern Baptist TEXAN he was glad his hotel could house the evacuees. Retiwala said he had gone to secondary school in India with Muslims, Hindi, Christian and Farsi friends, adding, “We grew up like a family. Today we live all over the world and are still good friends.”
 
Bumpas said evacuees at the hotel “were overwhelmed when they heard folks from Arizona and Arkansas had cooked the meals for them. Many wanted to know why we were doing this for them. We were able to tell them that God had not forgotten them and there were people that love and care for them.”
 
When the Houston Downtown Food Bank sent 10 pallets of tuna, applesauce, candy bars, Pringles, MREs (meals ready to eat), soaps, body washes, Rust and volunteers packed them in boxes to distribute to other area hotels full of evacuees over the weekend of Oct. 7.
 
“We [at Nassau Bay] are not alone. Other churches … have done what we are doing, found a hotel and tried to help them out,” Rust said. The church provided meals through Oct. 10, when FEMA funds for hotel lodging ran out.
 
Nassau Bay also used its gym as a distribution center “and ministered to hundreds of families that way,” Bumpas said. “We also sent teams to help clear out flooded homes.”
 

Faith in action

Photo by Jane Rodgers, Southern Baptist TEXAN
Texas disaster relief volunteer Josh Andrews from San Antonio, right, and New Mexico volunteer Angus Campbell prepare food for Hurricane Harvey survivors at a feeding unit deployed to Clay Road Baptist Church in northwest Houston.


Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC), said his visits to Houston and south Texas “broke my heart as I saw the suffering. Theological facts are not enough to comfort the hurting. Faith in action is necessary.”
 
Writing in the TEXAN, Richards said Baptists were “on the ground cooking food, clearing debris, cleaning houses and washing laundry” soon after Harvey’s landfall on Aug. 25. The SBTC is one of two Baptist conventions in the state within the Southern Baptist Convention, with both the SBTC and Baptist General Convention of Texas having extensive disaster relief networks. Each convention is a key part of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief that has responded to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
 
Among the SBTC, Richards reported, convention staff members attempted to contact “every single one of the 764 impacted churches within days of the storm’s landfall in order to pray with them and see how we could assist them.”
 
“The greater Southern Baptist family also rallied to Texas,” Richards recounted. “Many state conventions sent their disaster relief teams. The North American Mission Board with the new Send Relief effort came alongside the SBTC. Churches by the hundreds in Texas and beyond came on their own. I heard over and over about being the ‘hands and feet’ of Jesus. First responders, government agencies and the National Guard were used of the Lord as well.
 
“Generous giving toward Harvey victims has been amazing,” Richards continued. “Truckloads of supplies have poured into the affected areas. Cleanup materials collected by churches through the SBTC ‘Buckets for Harvey’ have blessed thousands. People from across the United States have given online at sbtexas.com. SBTC churches and individuals sent checks. Several state conventions provided funds. Alabama Baptists under the leadership of Executive Director Rick Lance sent over $100,000. Every penny designated for Harvey will be invested in the lives of those impacted. Not one cent will be used for administrative costs.”
 
Yet, he noted, “The financial impact of this disaster on our churches and convention will be significant. Six of the top 10 Cooperative Program (CP) giving churches (in dollars) are in Houston. If their facilities were not damaged, they had members who lost their homes or jobs. Those churches may experience some financial difficulties.
 
“It is crucial that other SBTC churches continue with regular Cooperative Program giving. For those who are not participating in CP giving, now this is a good time to start. The infrastructure of disaster relief is dependent on CP,” Richards noted. “Having personnel in the field touching lives is possible because of the Cooperative Program. Because of CP, church planters in the storm area will not miss a support check and pastors who were in Harvey’s path will get help. We are in Kingdom work together.”
 

Youth fill the gap

Southern Baptist TEXAN photo
Jacksonville College student and staff volunteers, in serving residents of southeast Texas affected by Hurricane Harvey, tackled such tasks as removing soggy sheet and damaged cabinets from survivors’ homes.

The breadth of Baptist ministry after Harvey continues to be reported, with the TEXAN noting, for example, the work of young people in several stories.
 
First Baptist Church Mauriceville in south Texas took on 18 inches to three feet of floodwater in their auditorium and surrounding buildings as did a number of members.
 
“[A] lot of people were tied up with their own homes, or their family and friend’s homes,” said Kevin Brown, First Baptist’s pastor. “The youth were able to fill a gap and help with a great need.”
 
Working from 8 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon, a dozen middle and high school students helped pull soggy carpet and sheetrock from the church buildings so that the congregation could meet on the first Sunday in September. The youth also handed out water and supplies to Harvey survivors in the community.
 
Eighth grader Kaitlyn Ewing said she learned anew “to stop thinking only of myself, but to think about all of the others that need our assistance and have lost everything. It’s a humbling experience to be able to help not only the church, but also being able to hand out supplies, meals and water to people who come by.”
 
High school senior Luke Hanson said, “Being a member of this church, I felt called to contribute to the body of believers and to Christ by my service through working at the church building,” while high school junior Caleb Weaver said, “I believe that through our service, it is showing others that we truly love the people around us.”
 
Brown said the church has worked to grow their students by involving them in other community events and projects in the past.
 
“There is an intentionality to this,” the pastor said. “Sometimes we think of youth as another group of citizens in the Kingdom, but we want them integrated in the whole body of Christ and the church. I believe that when you see youth working and serving alongside adults, something transformational happens in which they grow spiritually.”
 
The youth “enjoy not just being together having fun, but they enjoy the work,” Brown said, “and when it is all said and done, they look back and say, ‘I had a part in that.’”
 
Hanson, meanwhile, said he believes God is moving in Mauriceville and surrounding Orange County in a big way.
 
“I believe we, as in the churches, had started to grow stagnant in our outreach and this has jumpstarted our presence in the communities,” he said. “I believe God handed us all an entire county here and said, ‘Go minister and fulfill the Great Commission’ and now it is our turn to listen and do the work in His name.”
 

Collegians deployed

From Jacksonville College, owned and operated by the Baptist Missionary Association of Texas and affiliated with the SBTC, four teams of student and staff volunteers worked in Conroe, Houston and Port Arthur in debris removal and food distribution after receiving SBTC DR training a week after Harvey’s onslaught.
 
Randy Decker, director of the college’s music program who took members of the choir to Conroe, said, “Things get real in a hurry. There are no barriers when you are meeting people in desperate need. These homeowners look you in the eye. They want to thank you, they want to hug you, they want to cry with you and they want to pray with you. It is intense and yet it is tremendously satisfying.”
 
Assistant men’s basketball coach Louis Truscott led members of the basketball team, accompanied by college President Mike Smith, to Houston. “Seeing the damage as we were driving into the disaster area was unbelievable,” Truscott said of his hometown. “It was like seeing a war zone.”
 
“God has transformed the lives of those receiving aid,” Smith said, “and He has most certainly transformed every life that has taken part in the recovery effort. Sometimes it is during the most difficult times that we can see God’s goodness and grace most clearly. This is one of those times.”
 
The SEND Relief initiative of the North American Mission Board sent its initial teams of collegians from across the U.S. – in this case from the University of Mobile and University of Alabama at Huntsville – to the Beaumont-based Golden Triangle Baptist Network over the Oct. 7 weekend.
 
Working alongside seasoned SBTC volunteers, the collegians will provide “young shoulders and backs” to help, said Terry Wright, pastor of First Baptist Church in Vidor. “Instead of doing a house every two or three days, we now hope to be doing a house every day” for cleanup and recovery.
 
“There is still significant work to be done in southeast Texas. I don’t know if we are even halfway there,” Wright said. With a number of citizens able to handle their own recovery needs, he added, “We focus on folks who can’t do the work.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston from reporting by Jane Rodgers, Morgan Collier and other writers for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, texanonline.net, news journal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)
 

11/1/2017 8:04:21 AM by Southern Baptist TEXAN & BP staff | with 0 comments



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