October 2015

South Carolina Baptists move forward

October 12 2015 by South Carolina Baptist Courier staff

First Baptist is mourning, yet like so many other churches in Columbia, S.C., and across the state, engaging in ministry as flooding continues to grip Hurricane Joaquin survivors and first responders.
Richard Milroy, 82, “died in his car sometime in the last couple of days due to devastating floods,” minister of discipleship Wes Church wrote to First Baptist members, The Baptist Courier, newsjournal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, reported Oct. 6.
“How do we even begin to put into words all of the emotions we are experiencing?” Church said. “There is so much heartbreak and need in our community.” Milroy was one of at least 17 drowning or auto accident fatalities from the hurricane’s downpours in South and North Carolina.
Some First Baptist members have lost homes or cars, and some have lost all their belongings. College and high school students and their leaders are helping clean up their flood-damaged homes.


Baptist Courier photo by Raz Bradley
Baptist Collegiate Ministry students help set up a South Carolina Baptist disaster relief feeding unit at Riverland Hills Baptist Church in Columbia.

The church also is housing 13 South Carolina Baptist disaster relief volunteers who are feeding more than 1,000 first responders at a nearby city maintenance area.
And volunteers are coordinating with a sister church to collect donations of bottled water and are delivering refreshments to security personnel, EMS staff and firemen.
First Baptist’s outreach is being replicated by churches in numerous other locales.
Richard Harris, interim executive director-treasurer of the South Carolina Baptist Convention (SCBC), wrote to the state’s Baptists in a letter posted by the Baptist Courier on Oct. 6: “We say we are serious about presenting the gospel to everyone in South Carolina and to fulfilling the Great Commission in our lifetime. This flood crisis provides one of the greatest opportunities to reveal our love for our fellow citizens and obedience to the Lord who commissioned us. The empowering of the Holy Spirit is ours to change the population of heaven and hell as we love folks in Jesus’ name.”
Harris, recapping the trauma inflicted by Hurricane Joaquin, noted: “South Carolina has experienced historic rainfall and flooding that few of us have experienced in our lifetime. Thousands across our state have lost homes or had significant damage to their homes, as well as vehicles and other personal property. Business owners are facing huge damage to buildings and inventory loss. Numerous churches (many of our SCBC churches) and their members have felt the wrath of the heavy rains and flooding.
“Throughout Columbia and much of the state,” Harris continued, “the roads, highways and interstates, as well as much of the state’s infrastructure (water, electrical, sewer, etc.), have notable damage which will require days and weeks to repair.”
Harris called for prayer, volunteers and finances.


Baptist Courier photo by Clay Shook
South Carolina Baptist disaster relief volunteers man a feeding station for first responders near downtown Columbia.

“I want to call South Carolina Baptists to join hearts, heads and hands to pray for flood victims as well as our Southern Baptist Convention disaster relief teams already rallying and responding to overwhelming needs. I want to respectfully ask our SCBC pastors to call and mobilize members (some already are) in a united prayer for the victims and those responding with assistance and aid. This crisis provides all of our churches historic opportunities to undergird in prayer the front-line responders as they express the love of Christ, meet needs and share the hope found in the gospel with thousands of the 3.6 million lost/unchurched in South Carolina.”
Regarding volunteers trained in Southern Baptist Disaster Relief ministry, Harris noted, “Many churches and associations have their own trained teams who are/will be responding to the flood crisis. … Some of our fellow state conventions are inquiring about service in South Carolina. We welcome their assistance! … As floodwaters recede and a thorough assessment of damage and needs can be made, teams will be deployed to appropriate locations.”
Regarding finances, Harris wrote, “Big dollars will be needed to give appropriate response to all the challenges before us.” He noted that donations from churches can be received online here https://secure-q.net/Donations/SCBCDonations/11081 and from individuals here. https://secure-q.net/Donations/SCBCDonations/11080.
South Carolina Baptist disaster relief assessment teams, chaplains, two feeding units, mud-out and chainsaw teams and a laundry unit have been deployed to various locations in the state, The Baptist Courier reported. Command centers have been stationed at the South Carolina convention office in Columbia and at the Charleston Baptist Association.
Assessors and chaplains, for example, are visiting homes in the Columbia area to estimate the scope of work that needs to be done in the coming weeks and months. Members of the Baptist Collegiate Ministry at the University of South Carolina helped with one of the feeding unit’s setup. The laundry unit is based at a Columbia fire station to wash first responders’ uniforms. Disaster relief teams from North Carolina and Alabama also have arrived.
In an apparent grassroots movement spurred by social media, numerous churches and Baptist associations across the state have begun collecting truckloads of bottled water and driving them to Columbia, where residents are under a “boil water” advisory due to water supplies compromised by bacteria-laden floodwater.
At the Columbia-area Lexington Baptist Association, disaster relief coordinator David Lee said three types of calls have been received: from homeowners with property damage seeking help; from churches volunteering to help; and from individuals also ready to help. The association is on the Web at mylba.org.
Among the volunteers: Keith and Kristyn Getty, contemporary hymn writers best known for “In Christ Alone,” who will hold a benefit concert at 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11, at First Baptist in Columbia.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Adapted from Baptist Courier reporting by Art Toalston, senior editor of Baptist Press. The Baptist Courier at baptistcourier.com is the newsjournal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Rudy Gray is the Courier’s editor; Butch Blume, the managing editor.)

10/12/2015 12:37:21 PM by South Carolina Baptist Courier staff | with 0 comments

U.S. actions could benefit persecuted Christians overseas

October 12 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Oppressed Christians and other religious adherents around the world stand to benefit from recent actions by the United States government.
The House of Representatives approved reauthorization of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in a voice vote Oct. 6. The Senate passed the same legislation without opposition Sept. 30. The measure, awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature, will extend the authority of a bipartisan panel that serves as a watchdog on global religious liberty conditions.
Congressional action to renew USCIRF’s mission came shortly after Obama selected one of the commission’s own staffers as the first special advisor for religious minorities in the Near East and South/Central Asia. David Saperstein, the U.S. ambassador at large for international religious freedom, announced the appointment of Knox Thames to the new post Sept. 16. Thames, formerly USCIRF’s director of policy and research, began work in the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom Sept. 28.
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), applauded both developments.
He expressed gratitude Congress “acted in the best interest of Americans and millions of other people around the world by reauthorizing [USCIRF], which plays a crucial role in standing up for soul freedom against tyranny around the world.”
In written comments for Baptist Press, Moore described Thames as “an excellent choice to serve as a special advisor for religious minorities in some of the most oppressive regions in the world. His stalwart commitment to religious freedom and years of experience both on the field and in crafting policy will help play a crucial part in defending religious freedom in countries where there might otherwise be little or no advocacy for it.”
The road to congressional reauthorization of USCIRF proved rocky. The international religious freedom community supported bills sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio, R.-Fla., and Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., that would not only have renewed USCIRF’s authority but strengthened it. The Rubio and Smith measures included provisions calling for expanding the designation of severe violators of religious liberty to include non-government, terrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the Near East and Boko Haram in Nigeria.
Congress finally approved a compromise but one that accomplished its main purpose – keeping USCIRF’s doors open. It appeared in late September the commission might have to shut down, at least temporarily. Its authorization was to end Sept. 30, but Congress managed to extend USCIRF’s life by including it in a continuing resolution to keep the federal government operating. A continuing resolution is a short-term funding measure.
The newly approved reauthorization is for four years, a fact Rubio highlighted after the Senate vote. The four-year authorization will enable USCIRF “to focus, without distraction, on their critical mandate at precisely the time it’s most needed,” he said in a written statement.
“Attacks on houses of worship, imprisonment and even death are daily realities for people of faith around the world,” Rubio said. “This is especially true for religious minorities in the Middle East who are facing a genocidal onslaught.
USCIRF “has been a steadfast champion of this ‘first freedom’ and a reliable voice for the oppressed and marginalized,” he said.
Moore commended Rubio’s efforts, saying USCIRF reauthorization “would never have been possible if not for the longstanding and valiant leadership” of the senator.
The post now filled by Thames remained vacant for 13 months after the Near East and South Central Asia Religious Freedom Act became law in August 2014. Moore joined a diverse coalition of religious liberty advocates in an April letter urging Obama to make an appointment for the position.
Thames’ responsibilities as special advisor include monitoring religious freedom conditions in the Near East – also known as the Middle East – and South/Central Asia, and recommending responses by Washington to violations of religious rights.
Repression or persecution of religious adherents in recent years has continued or increased in such countries as Iraq, Syria, Iran, Pakistan, Egypt and Afghanistan. Among the religious communities victimized by ISIS and other Islamic extremists in particular are Christians, Yazidis in Iraq, Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan and Baha’is in Iran. The existence of entire religious movements is threatened in some countries, such as Iraq and Egypt.
Moore also joined the International Religious Freedom Roundtable (IRFR) in August to call for congressional reauthorization of USCIRF. Moore and his allies said USCIRF “has been vital to elevating the promotion of religious freedom in U.S. foreign policy.”
USCIRF, a nine-member panel, came into existence in 1998 upon the enactment of the International Religious Freedom Act. Evangelicals helped lead the effort to gain passage of the legislation after the widespread persecution of Christians and other religious adherents overseas gained attention in the mid-1990s.
The commission makes an annual report on global religious freedom, as well as periodic reports on particular countries. In its yearly report, USCIRF includes recommendations of governments it believes the State Department should designate as “countries of particular concern,” a label reserved for the world’s most severe violators of religious freedom.
While conditions have improved in some countries through the efforts of USCIRF and the federal government, about 77 percent of the world’s population lives in countries with high levels of religious restriction, according to the Pew Research Center.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

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Senate approves USCIRF reauthorization
USCIRF crucial to religious freedom, Moore says

10/12/2015 12:27:48 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

In Honduras, hunger offering aids Mayan corn farmers

October 12 2015 by Ann Lovell, Baptist Global Relief

LAS MEDIAS DOS, Honduras – Lucio, a 23-year-old Chorti farmer, emerges from the hedgerows with a machete in hand. He has been tending his small plot of land in preparation for the next sowing season for corn.
In the past, soil erosion complicated his efforts and made his farm less productive.


BGR photo
Lucio, a young father of two, received training from the Chorti Agricultural Development Center in Cabañas, Honduras, funded in part by Global Hunger Relief and Baptist Global Response.

“I tilled the soil with a hoe, [and] the soil would roll downhill whenever it rained,” Lucio said. “Now there’s been an improvement with the barriers … because the soil that rolls stops at the barriers. In the past, people didn’t think about this … but it is a big help for the land.”
The “barriers” are hedgerows of nitrogen-fixing legumes, a key component of a farming technique called SALT or Sloping Agricultural Land Technology. Lucio learned the technique while studying at the Chorti Agricultural Development Center in Cabañas, Honduras, a nonprofit center that receives a portion of its funding Global Hunger Relief and Baptist Global Response (BGR).
Southern Baptists have an opportunity to help address hunger through a special offering to Global Hunger Relief in the month of October. BGR, a Southern Baptist relief and development ministry, uses 100 percent of gifts to Global Hunger Relief to meet hunger needs among the Chorti and around the world.
The Chorti are a Mayan people group living in western Honduras and eastern Guatemala. As a community leader, Lucio also is teaching others in his village about SALT – first developed in the southern Philippines to help subsistence farmers improve crop yield and give their families better lives.
“I brought pictures of the project, and I showed them the improvements seen [at the center] before we started here,” Lucio said. “When I started here … they asked me what it did, whether it produced something good to eat. I told them it was to maintain the soil and to provide nutrients the soil needed.”


BGR photo
Funding from Global Hunger Relief and Baptist Global Response allow Mayan Chorti farmers to grow better and more abundant crops for their families.

With SALT, crop health has improved, providing Lucio’s family and others in the community a better quality of life. The corn no longer needs fertilizer to grow; farming costs are reduced and the harvest is increased.
Thanks to a silo provided provided in part through gifts to Global Hunger Relief, Lucio also has a means of storing the corn. This past season, he harvested 1,200 pounds and sold 600 pounds of corn. He only needs about 200 pounds to feed his family, and the silo allows him to store the remainder to sell at a later time.
“Since there are times when the value of the corn goes up, we can store it when the harvest is good … and sell it when the time is right,” Lucio said.
The young father of two also takes his work as a community leader very seriously.
“I’m training quite a few people,” Lucio said. “As a leader, I must inform the community of projects or things that are of benefit to the community … Some already think there has been an improvement since I started leading.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ann Lovell writes for Baptist Global Response. For more information about BGR’s humanitarian work, visit gobgr.org/projects. Part of the BGR funding for this project was provided by Global Hunger Relief, the Southern Baptist campaign against the global hunger crisis. Learn more at globalhungerrelief.com.)

10/12/2015 12:10:11 PM by Ann Lovell, Baptist Global Relief | with 0 comments

Foley to retire as University of Mobile president

October 12 2015 by Kathy Dean, Mobile University

Mark Foley, president of the University of Mobile, has announced he will retire in 2016 after more than 17 years as head of the Baptist-affiliated college.
Foley, 65, announced his retirement during the Oct. 8 meeting of the university’s trustees.
“Since accepting the position of president of the University of Mobile in 1998, it has been my determination that part of my responsibility is, at the appropriate time, to lead the institution carefully and effectively into the hands of my successor,” Foley said. “Just as in a relay race, the key to winning is an effective handoff, I believe now is the time to begin that handoff.”


Mark Foley

Trustee chairman Terry Harbin said the board has formed a search committee and engaged a Nashville firm that has had success in the Christian college community. He said the process to select a new president is expected to take six to nine months.
Harbin said Foley came to the University of Mobile during a critical transition time and led it through a period of significant growth.
“Dr. Foley led us to a much more solid spiritual and financial footing, while upgrading facilities, programs and the university’s stature in the community,” said Harbin, market president of Bancorp South in Mobile. “Additionally, through his influence, Dr. Foley has expanded the understanding of the university’s mission and goals far beyond the borders of our traditional Baptist constituency and into the community at large.”
In a letter to students, faculty and staff, Foley said he will continue as president until July 31, 2016, or until a successor is in place.
“Between now and then, we will press our mission forward. Remember, to win the race, one must enter the hand-off zone at full stride,” he wrote.
Foley has served as president of the University of Mobile since 1998 and is the third president since its founding in 1961. He led in a move to intentionally integrate learning, faith and leadership in all areas of university life while raising academic standards, building new facilities and establishing programs such as the Center for Performing Arts.
During his tenure, the university invested $44.8 million in capital projects, including a recent $7 million campus enhancement program that was the most far-reaching campus-wide improvement of buildings and its 880-acre grounds since the 1970s. The university built three residence halls, added a professional recording studio and Ram Hall auditorium, and created Bedsole Commons student center. The university expanded its music program into the Center for Performing Arts, with 22 performing ensembles that tour nationally and internationally and present the annual Christmas Spectacular for an audience of thousands.
Community service was incorporated into the university’s academic programs, resulting in nationally recognized efforts such as Project Serve, an annual day of service involving more than 1,200 students, faculty and staff volunteering at more than 60 locations across two counties in south Alabama.
Foley was preceded by William K. Weaver Jr., now deceased, founding president of what was then Mobile College. Weaver served from 1961-84. The second president, Michael A. Magnoli, a member of the first graduating class, served as president until 1997. It was during Magnoli’s tenure that the school became the University of Mobile.
More than 1,500 students are enrolled in more than 40 undergraduate and graduate programs, and the university has expanded its offerings to include online programs for adult students. The university, located in north Mobile County, is on the Web at umobile.edu.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kathy Dean is director of media relations for the University of Mobile.)

10/12/2015 12:00:33 PM by Kathy Dean, Mobile University | with 0 comments

NAMB trustees approve Send Relief, IMB aid

October 9 2015 by Mike Ebert, NAMB

Trustees of the North American Mission Board (NAMB) have approved the establishment of Send Relief – a new compassion ministry to offer Southern Baptists opportunities to meet physical needs and serve underprivileged communities.

Also during their Oct. 7 meeting, NAMB's trustees approved a $4 million budget reduction so the entity can send funds to assist International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries.


NAMB Photo by John Swain
North American Mission Board (NAMB) President Kevin Ezell pauses with David Melber and his wife Tera at the Oct. 7 trustee meeting where Melber was named senior vice president of NAMB’s new Send Relief compassion ministry.

NAMB President Kevin Ezell, commenting on the Send Relief initiative, noted shortly after trustees closed their meeting in Salt Lake City, “Imagine 40,000 Southern Baptist churches engaged to meet needs in their communities and across North America. Send Relief will give churches hands-on opportunities to alleviate suffering and transform lives.”
Send Relief will launch in 2016 and include compassion ministries to combat hunger, poverty, serve children through foster care and adoption, combat human trafficking, minister to migrants through international learning centers and meet inner-city needs with construction and medical teams.
NAMB trustees approved David Melber as vice president of Send Relief. Melber has led Crossings Ministries camp outreach in Kentucky since 2003.
“Send Relief is going to be an ideal way for us as Southern Baptists to meet a real need – not only for the physical side but to proclaim the gospel, see people come to Christ and help be part of the church planting effort,” Melber said.
NAMB’s disaster relief team will be part of Send Relief and continue to have its own director. The mission board will continue to serve as coordinator of national disaster relief responses.

Aid to IMB missionaries

Trustees approved the $4 million budget reduction to assist IMB missionaries during NAMB’s 2015-16 fiscal year. Ezell requested the action in response to the IMB’s announced reduction in personnel of up to 15 percent in order to address ongoing revenue shortfalls.
“This is a Kingdom vote,” declared NAMB trustee chairman Chuck Herring, senior pastor of Collierville First Baptist Church near Memphis, after NAMB trustees unanimously passed the resolution. Next, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee must approve the proposed assistance before NAMB can transfer funds to IMB.
In other business:

  • Trustees received a report showing that revenue for 2014-15 was 1.15 percent higher than the previous year and revenue exceeded spending for the year.

  • Trustees authorized several other position and structure changes in addition to Melber’s in Send Relief. Carlos Ferrer will serve as executive vice president; Kim Robinson will serve as vice president of marketing and ministry support; and Clark Logan will serve as chief financial officer. All three men have been promoted from other roles at NAMB.

  • Gary Frost shared with trustees that he has resigned from his role as vice president of NAMB’s Midwest Region to move to the role of national facilitator for prayer and compassion initiatives with Mission America.


NAMB Photo by John Swain
“We believe Send Relief is a way to help thousands of churches take their first missions step” into ministry combining compassion and evangelism, North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell told trustees at their Oct. 7 meeting in Salt Lake City.

Ezell, in his address to trustees, included a brief look back at his first five years at the entity. Among the sharpest contrasts: In 2010 NAMB’s annual summer meeting had 300 attendees and NAMB paid them to attend; in 2015, the Send North America Conference in Nashville drew more than 13,000 attendees and all but a few paid their own way.


Ezell also pointed to downsizing that has allowed more resources to go to the field, better counting and tracking of Southern Baptist church plants and a tripling of resources NAMB sends to Canada.
“You are changing lives,” Ezell told trustees. As examples he mentioned a church plant in Detroit that recently had 250 at a preview service. Another in Augusta, Maine, is now averaging more than 700 a week in worship attendance.
“There are church planters all over North America who, because of your leadership, are being taken care of better than they ever have.”
Ezell closed by thanking trustees for their affirmation of Send Relief and shared his excitement about its potential.
“People are very excited about compassion ministry,” Ezell said. “We believe Send Relief is a way to help thousands of churches take their first missions step.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mike Ebert writes for the North American Mission Board.)

Related Story:

Send Relief VP Melber brings ‘passion, experience’

10/9/2015 12:37:37 PM by Mike Ebert, NAMB | with 0 comments

South Carolina flood response: Southern Baptists mobilize

October 9 2015 by Joe Conway, NAMB

With dams continuing to fail in South Carolina Oct. 7, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) leaders gathered by conference call to plan a multi-state long-term response to historic flooding that has overwhelmed the state.
SBDR command centers have been established at the South Carolina Baptist Convention office in Columbia and at the Charleston Baptist Association where a North American Mission Board (NAMB) mobile command unit is stationed.
South Carolina Baptist disaster relief director Randy Creamer has placed all of the state convention’s disaster relief volunteers on alert for potential service, knowing that many of them are flood survivors themselves. Creamer said he expects to request assistance from fellow SBDR Region II states Alabama, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina.
Although Hurricane Joaquin did not make U.S. landfall, the weather pattern it created dumped a historic deluge on South Carolina Oct. 3-5. The rains are blamed for 17 weather-related deaths in North and South Carolina. Flooding is widespread. As of Oct. 7, the South Carolina Emergency Management Division reported 12 dam breaches, including one intentional break to alleviate upstream flooding. The South Carolina Department of Transportation reported 271 road closures and 143 bridge closures Wednesday morning. Shelter counts, however, are low because survivors have moved in with family and friends.


NAMB photo by Susan Whitley
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers Dale Price, left, and Serge Renard, working at the Atlanta-area North American Mission Board headquarters, load a pallet of water headed for South Carolina to aid survivors of historic flooding in the state and neighboring North Carolina.

“We have had assessment teams serving the last two days,” Creamer said. “Some trained mud-out teams have already self-deployed to help their neighbors. We have had a mobile kitchen serving in Columbia supporting first responders and emergency management staff. We will have a second kitchen operating tomorrow. We have distributed 2,000 cases of water through four church locations.”
Feeding of survivors may not be a large part of the response, but long-term recovery and mud-out will be. “It may get worse before it gets better,” Creamer said.
North Carolina fared much better overall. North Carolina disaster relief coordinator Gaylon Moss said they expect to serve up to 20 flood survivors in Brunswick County, N.C. Moss will lead SBDR efforts in the Myrtle Beach, S.C., area.
Mickey Caison, interim executive director for the NAMB SBDR, is assisting by heading the mobile command center in Charleston. Caison and Creamer met with leaders of the Charleston Baptist Association and Screven Baptist Association Oct. 7.
“We started working assessments on Tuesday [Oct. 6],” Caison said. “We are still days away from the crest from the rains and the water receding. Now we have to wait until the water is gone before we can get volunteers in to help.”
A NAMB semi-truck with supplies is expected to arrive in Columbia on Oct. 8 and Charleston on Oct. 9. A second truck is on its way to Washington State with ash-out and recovery supplies to aid survivors of western wildfires.
NAMB also will be deploying two shower trailers, two recovery units and a generator to South Carolina.
“Time and again, when disaster brings the worst, Southern Baptists respond with the best,” NAMB President Kevin Ezell said. “We will serve alongside our partners, assist our fellow Southern Baptist volunteers and help survivors in every way we can. Our prayers are with the people of the Carolinas.”
Those wishing to donate to SBDR relief can contact the Baptist convention in their state or visit donations.namb.net/dr-donations. For phone donations, call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”
NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships with 42 state Baptist conventions, most of which have their own state Disaster Relief ministries.
Southern Baptists have 65,000 trained volunteers including chaplains and 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, child care, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained Disaster Relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.
Updates on the latest SBDR response are available at namb.net/dr/atlantic-coast-floods.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.)

10/9/2015 12:32:57 PM by Joe Conway, NAMB | with 1 comments

Send Relief VP Melber brings ‘passion, experience’

October 9 2015 by Mike Ebert, NAMB

David Melber was approved as vice president of Send Relief by North American Mission Board (NAMB) trustees at their Oct. 7 meeting in Salt Lake City. NAMB’s trustees also approved funding for the new ministry area.
“I know David’s passion, experience and his heart for people make him a great fit for this new role,” NAMB President Kevin Ezell said. “Southern Baptists want to help people who are hurting, and with David’s leadership, Send Relief is going to greatly expand the opportunities for churches and individuals to serve.”


NAMB Photo by John Swain
David Melber, pictured here with his wife Tera will lead the North American Mission Board’s new compassion ministry, Send Relief.

Melber said ministries like Send Relief can help Christians reach a culture that has become suspicious or indifferent toward Christianity.
“It lets people see there is something to this gospel,” Melber said. “It’s more than just a message.”
Melber comes to NAMB after 12 years as president and CEO of Crossings camp outreach in Kentucky and a lifetime of ministry service. Under Melber’s leadership, attendance at Crossings Ministries has grown from 1,800 in 2003 to a record 13,000 this year. Campers have given more than $1.3 million to missions offerings in that time. Crossings is funded in part through Cooperative Program gifts from Kentucky Baptists.
Melber’s heart for compassion ministry was shaped in his childhood.
“From early on my parents were big on volunteering and service work,” he said. “Then I gained more skills in business, in seminary and at camps seeing what students could do if they were presented with tangible needs.”
Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, said Melber’s ministry in Kentucky has prepared him well for a larger platform at NAMB.
“God has used David in miraculous ways to transform Crossings Ministries into one of the most successful Christian camp ministries in the world,” Chitwood said. Under Melber’s leadership, Chitwood said, Crossings launched a successful children’s ministry as well as a worldwide missions strategy that is helping campers and churches share Christ among the nations.
“I believe the skills and experiences David has sharpened as president of Crossings have prepared him for the opportunity God is setting before him with NAMB,” Chitwood said.


NAMB Photo by John Swain
David and Tera Melber with their family after son Alex’s college graduation. Melber was approved Oct. 7 by North American Mission Board trustees to the new Send Relief compassion ministry of the Southern Baptist entity.

Ezell told NAMB trustees details of the Send Relief ministry still must be developed. It will include ministries such has hunger and poverty relief, foster care and adoption, ministry to victims of human trafficking, and construction projects in low-income inner-city areas. NAMB’s national coordination responsibilities with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief will come under the Send Relief umbrella, serving state conventions and other ministry partners as it always has.
“Young people want to serve,” Ezell said. “People are retiring with 10 or 20 or more years of good health left. They want meaningful ways to use their skills and serve. Send Relief will do that.”
Melber said Send Relief won’t focus on building its own ministries but will find people who are already demonstrating leadership and success and give them a larger platform to expand their ministry.
“I don’t think I’ve got the greatest idea on how to address human trafficking but God has no doubt burdened people with that. They are already doing great things and they need to be given some encouragement and resources to see those ministries expanded,” he said.
Melber said Southern Baptists have a great reputation for serving in times of disaster and he wants to build on that inclination to serve.
“The reality is there are plenty of human conditions that need relief without hurricanes or tornados,” Melber said. “Jesus went to where the people were. These ministries will help us do that. Ultimately this will be for proclaiming the Gospel and helping to start new churches. I don’t want to say it’s the best thing going at NAMB, but I’m pretty excited about it.”
Melber and his wife Tera are the parents of six children, including two who are adopted from Ethiopia and one from the Philippines.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mike Ebert writes for the North American Mission Board.)

Related Story:

NAMB trustees approve Send Relief, IMB aid

10/9/2015 12:21:44 PM by Mike Ebert, NAMB | with 0 comments

Suicide law called unjust, grotesque

October 9 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

California’s newly enacted assisted suicide law is an affront to human dignity and the practice of medicine, Southern Baptist ethicists say.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed the End of Life Option Act into law Oct. 5, making California the fourth state with legalized, physician-assisted suicide. The measure enables a person who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness to request a prescribed drug to end his or her life.
Southern Baptist ethics leader Russell Moore called Brown’s enactment of the bill “a moral injustice.”
“The value of human life doesn’t rise and fall depending on the quality of that life,” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), in written comments for Baptist Press. “Legal assisted suicide is a blight upon any culture’s conscience, and its emergence in California should ignite us to work for justice and human dignity everywhere.”
C. Ben Mitchell, another Southern Baptist ethicist, said assisted suicide “is grotesque, especially in the age of effective pain management and palliative care.”
“If the fears of patients are not adequately addressed, of course they are going to despair, but if pain is well-managed and their fears of abandonment, loss and suffering are relieved, most patients do not want to die unnaturally,” said Mitchell, provost and professor of moral philosophy at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. “So-called death with dignity is one of the least dignified ways to die.
“Physicians who participate in physician-assisted suicide are forfeiting human medicine on the altar of ill-informed public opinion,” he told BP in written remarks.
In a written message explaining his decision, Brown said he read the arguments for and against assisted suicide before he ultimately reflected on what he “would want in the face of my own death.”
“I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain,” he said. “I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.”
Disability rights activist Diane Coleman, however, said Brown’s reasoning is based on misconceptions.
“When held up alongside the factually based and well considered reasons that disability rights organizations oppose legalization of assisted suicide – mistaken prognoses, insurance denials, family coercion and abuse, among others – his failure to veto the bill amounts to a breach of his duty to protect all Californians, not just the privileged few who can count on high quality health care and the support of a loving family,” said Coleman, president of Not Dead Yet.
Not only pro-life advocates but some progressive Democrats opposed the End of Life Option Act when California lawmakers approved it in a special session in September. Foes of the bill inside and outside the legislature expressed concern for the poor, as well as other citizens whose insurance may pay for a lethal prescription but not drugs to treat their illness. Terminally ill patients already have reported such decisions by Medicaid and insurance companies.
Physician-assisted suicide “endangers the weak and marginalized in society,” said Ryan Anderson, a fellow with the Heritage Foundation, in a March interview with the ERLC. “Where it has been allowed, safeguards purporting to minimize this risk have proved to be inadequate and have often been watered down or eliminated over time. People who deserve society’s assistance are instead offered accelerated death.”
Aaron Kheriaty, a psychiatrist at the University of California-Irvine and a board member of the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, said in written comments those “who are economically and socially marginalized, who do not have access to even decent medical care, will be vulnerable to pressures to accept this cheap and expedient ‘option’ for dealing with difficult, complex, and frequently expensive situations at the end of life.”
California joins Oregon, Vermont and Washington as states with legalized assisted suicide. Montana has not made the practice legal, but its Supreme Court has ruled a doctor can use a patient’s request as a defense if charged with assisting in a suicide.
Oregon – which became in 1997 the first state to legalize assisted suicide – has received reports of 859 patients dying after taking legally prescribed drugs. Washington has surpassed Oregon in the yearly number of assisted suicides since it legalized the practice in 2009. In 2014, Washington reported 170 deaths by assisted suicide, while Oregon had 105.
Messengers to the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention meeting adopted a resolution affirming “the dignity and sanctity of human life at all stages of development, from conception to natural death.”
The resolution also called on churches and Christians “to care for the elderly among us, to show them honor and dignity, and to prayerfully support and counsel those who are providing end-of-life care for the aged, the terminally ill, and the chronically infirmed.”
In related news:

  • A Tennessee judge blocked an attempt by a former gubernatorial candidate to take his life with a prescription for a lethal dose of drugs. Davidson County Chancellor Carol McCoy ruled Sept. 29 that John Jay Hooker, 85, who has terminal cancer, and two physicians do not have legal standing to bring a lawsuit, The Nashville Tennessean reported. If the doctors prescribe drugs for suicide, they will “engage in criminal conduct,” McCoy said.

  • The New Mexico Court of Appeals struck down Aug. 11 a lower court decision that had legalized assisted suicide. The court rejected a district court ruling that found in the state constitution that “aid in dying is a fundamental liberty interest.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/9/2015 12:08:02 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

101-year-old’s salvation caps wife’s 24-year prayer

October 9 2015 by Brian Blackwell, Louisiana Baptist Message

Lou Warshaw prayed for 24 years that her husband George would accept Christ as his Lord and Savior.
After years of refusing to give up on the hope that he would become a Christian, God answered her prayers when, at the age of 101, George made that decision and followed through with believer’s baptism.
“The devil kept telling me it wouldn’t happen,” Lou said, admitting to times when her faith was tested. “But I kept believing God would let it happen. I think I’m still on cloud nine.”
George’s conversion story began on July 24, 1991, when he and Lou became husband and wife. The two were of different faiths; George was a Jewish non-believer; Lou was a Christian.
Even so, George attended Calvary Baptist Church in Alexandria, La., most Sundays with Lou, where she was a member. They sat in the same pew every Sunday for worship and then attended a Bible study class.
Lou and other friends never pushed their faith on George through the years but showed him Christian love and prayed he would come to know Christ.


Photo courtesy of Calvary Baptist Church
David Boothe, left, and David Brooks jointly baptized George Warshaw, who accepted Christ after his wife, Lou, and others prayed for him and showed Christian love for 24 years. Boothe is the teacher of his Bible study group at Calvary Baptist Church in Alexandria, La., and Brooks is his pastor.

In recent months, George had become unable to continue attending Calvary or even living at his residence with Lou, so he went into the Veterans Affairs (VA) Nursing Home in nearby Pineville but still remained in constant contact with Calvary members and staff.
In late June, questions he asked about the Christian faith were more frequent and, on July 10, George asked David Boothe, his longtime Sunday School teacher, to visit him.
Boothe said the conversation “moved to that of denomination and [Lou] and I both explained to him that being a member of a denomination doesn’t mean anything as far as a relationship with God.”
“We told him you have to get your relationship with God straightened out, and the way you do that is trusting in God. We talked some more and he said he wanted to accept Christ.”
Three weeks later, Lou was at the VA Nursing Home for a moment flowing from her intercession for George. Surrounded by friends and family who had prayed and never given up hope that he would accept Christ, George was baptized.
Since he was too weak to undergo baptism by immersion, Boothe and Calvary pastor David Brooks jointly baptized George using water from the Jordan River that Brooks had collected during a trip to the Holy Land.
Brooks described Lou is a perfect example of a Christ-like follower who obeys Christ’s commandments even when the situation seems hopeless.
“She prayed for him for years and lived out an exceptional Christian life in front of him,” Brooks said.
“It is a great lesson to be persistent in praying for the salvation of anyone and witnessing to them. And never underestimate living a Christ-like life 24-7 in front of your family members. You never know the impact your life will have on them.”
Since his conversion and baptism, Lou and George read the Bible when they are together during her visits at the nursing home.
“He can’t see well anymore, so I read him the Bible for a long time when I’m at the nursing home with him,” Lou said. “I really didn’t know he would love to hear the Bible as much as he does. It’s like he has a hunger for it.”
George’s baptism portrays a lesson Lou for Christians who have witnessed to a non-believer for many years: “Keep praying and believe God will answer your prayers.”
“Just stay with it,” she said. “God’s time is not our time. When the time is right, He will answer your prayer.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Blackwell is a staff writer for the Baptist Message at baptistmessage.com, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)

10/9/2015 12:02:20 PM by Brian Blackwell, Louisiana Baptist Message | with 0 comments

Empty & baffled as he looked at Bible display

October 9 2015 by Alex Sibley, SWBTS Communications

Vincent stood baffled in front of the numerous Bible translations at the Lifeway Christian Store on Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s campus.
Lifeway associate Patricia James was called over to assist him and, in the process, they struck up a conversation.
James learned that Vincent was visiting his girlfriend in Texas. He had grown up in a “spiritual household” but stopped attending church after his family had moved to Holland. Recently, though, his girlfriend and her family had been getting him back in touch with his “spiritual side” and he wanted to get right with God.
James saw that Vincent was confused. “To clear things up, I asked him, ‘If you were to die tonight, where you would you go? Would you go to heaven or would you go to hell?’”
Vincent stated that he would go to heaven.
“Okay,” James replied, “but why?”
“Because I’m a good person and I’m nice,” he answered.
James asked Vincent about his understanding of heaven and how good one has to be in order to go there. His answers revealed a limited understanding of spiritual matters, so James proceeded to share the gospel. Though people cannot earn their way into heaven, she explained, God made a way through Jesus.
Vincent reiterated that his girlfriend was getting him back in touch with his spiritual side, and he alluded to feelings of emptiness and loneliness, saying he simply needed to try harder and go to church as much as he could.
God created everyone with an emptiness that only He can fill, James told Vincent, and when they try to fill it with other things – even church – that hole still remains. James said that she, at one time, had come to a point where she did not want to be lonely or empty anymore; she wanted to be filled with Jesus, and nothing else would fill her.
“I knew that God was urging me to ask the same of him,” James recounted, “so I looked him in the eyes and asked if he would like to be filled by the same Jesus who filled me. The young man looked right back at me and said, ‘Yes.’”
So, in the middle of the store, as other customers were passing by, Vincent asked Jesus to forgive him of his sins, come into his life and make him whole.
“As he said ‘Amen’ and looked at me,” James said, “he had a smile that reached from his eyes all the way to his soul. I will never get over seeing someone fully experience the awesomeness of Jesus coming into his life.”
They proceeded to pick out a Bible and James counseled him in how to study God’s Word. Before departing, James asked Vincent what was going through his head. All he could say was, “I don’t feel empty anymore.”
They hugged, and James told him, “Welcome to the family, brother.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Alex Sibley is the senior writer/copy editor for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

10/9/2015 11:56:19 AM by Alex Sibley, SWBTS Communications | with 0 comments

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