September 2009

Post-tsunami aid heads to Amn. Samoa

September 30 2009 by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press

PAGO, PAGO, American Samoa — A Baptist-sponsored Seafarers’ Center has been lost in the destruction by a deadly tsunami that struck several islands in the South Pacific on Tuesday, Sept. 29.

“Our Seafarers’ Center is a total loss,” reported Veryl Henderson, executive director of the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention in Honolulu.

In response to a rash of storms to strike the globe this week, N.C. Baptist Men has dispatched an assessment team to Georgia; is responding to a request from Hungarian Baptist Aid by sending a doctor and two emergency medical technicians to the Philippines and is talking with Henderson about his future plans for the Seafarers' Center.

A North American Mission Board (NAMB) missionary directs the center in Pago Pago Harbor in American Samoa and lives there his wife and three children. But Joeli Sovea, a NAMB Mission Service Corps (MSC) missionary, his wife Tupe and their three children, Joel-Samuel, JoHannah and Joreignna, are now without a home.

The Soveas, indigenous citizens of American Samoa, have served at the Seafarers Center since their commissioning as NAMB MSC missionaries in May 2008.

The center has been an outreach primarily to fishermen by NAMB and the Hawaii convention. The Soveas also were instrumental in starting Seafarer’s Christian Fellowship, a new church plant in Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa, a U.S. territory with a population of 65,000.

The tsunami pushed four devastating waves — each 15 to 20 feet high — into Pago Pago Harbor, smashing boats, houses and other structures in its devastating path, pushing flooding a full mile into the island.

“All wood structures along the shoreline are gone,” Henderson said. “Boats have been deposited on land.”

At the Seafarers’ Center, all that remains is a concrete shell; the facility’s contents were destroyed.

NAMB’s disaster relief operations center in Alpharetta, Ga. — already open to coordinate a response to devastating floods in Georgia — is taking early steps to help in American Samoa, working closely with Henderson and others at the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention.

A Hawaii convention feeding kitchen in Honolulu with the capacity to serve up to 3,000 meals a day will be flown to Pago Pago as soon as a flight can be arranged, NAMB disaster relief coordinator Bruce Poss reported. As many as 15 trained disaster relief volunteers in Hawaii, including two chaplains, also will be deployed to American Samoa.

“We’re looking at setting up the kitchen and a disaster response staging area at a school near Pago Pago,” Poss said.

The massive South Pacific tsunami is reported to have killed at least 99 overall — some 30 on American Samoa alone — and left dozens more missing, possibly swept out to sea. The death count is expected to climb. The tsunami was created by a powerful earthquake measuring from 8.0 to 8.3, which hit around dawn on Tuesday.

According to Associated Press, the earthquake was centered about 125 miles from Samoa, an island nation of 180,000 people located about halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii. Samoa is about 120 miles from American Samoa — a six-hour flight from Hawaii.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board.)

9/30/2009 12:11:00 PM by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Disastrous Manila flooding poses relief challenge

September 30 2009 by Tess Rivers, Baptist Press

MANILA, Philippines — When Tropical Storm Ketsana blew through Manila Sept. 26, it dumped more rain in six hours than the Philippines’ capital normally receives the entire month of September, resulting in what has been called the worst flood in 40 years.

In any city, such rainfall would lead to flooding. For a crowded city that sits below sea level with an underdeveloped sewage system, the results proved disastrous. By late Saturday afternoon, the government reported 80 percent of Manila was under water.

More than 240 people have lost their lives and hundreds of thousands are displaced. Southern Baptist missionaries living in Manila expect the death toll to climb higher.

“Just in my area of town alone,” said Jill Harvell, a missionary living in Quezon City, “I can think of 22 people who have died as a result of this storm.

“People have been stranded on their rooftops for three days without food and water. Cars were floating down the streets. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Jay Directo/AFP

Filipinos clamber onto a roof to escape floodwaters dumped by Typhoon Ketsana in the Quezon City suburb of Manila Sept. 26.

It is the worst flood that Shirley Seale, who has served in the Philippines since 1987, can recall.

“We’ve been assessing the needs in areas around Manila. One of our national pastors estimates that in one area alone, more than 100 are either dead or missing,” she said.

Many of the missionaries found themselves stranded at various locations around Manila when the rain came. However, as roads became passable, their thoughts immediately turned to the enormous needs around them.

By Sunday, Harvell — whose husband Greg was stranded in nearby Quezon province — already had submitted a request for funds from Baptist Global Response to help with relief efforts. By Monday, initial funds had been approved and released.

“When I arrived home Monday night, Jill had already organized Filipinos from our house church and the community,” Greg Harvell said. “They were all there packing bags of relief items to give away.”

Jill, together with her children and the national believers, packed 400 bags with rice, powdered milk, canned meat and coffee to distribute to those in the immediate areas affected by the flood.

Seventeen-year-old Josh Fern, whose parents, Dwight and Gloria Fern, were stranded at a school across town, opened their home to about 15 people affected by the storm, including one teenage girl who developed appendicitis.

“The girl’s parents also were stranded in another part of the city. Thankfully, though, there was a nurse in the group who helped care for her,” Gloria Fern said.

Getting the young woman to the hospital involved a number of vehicles, including a rubber raft.

Gloria was not surprised that her son opened their home to those in need. “Missionaries all over the city were opening their homes,” she said. “I had just finished major grocery shopping the day before, so we had plenty of food and supplies to share with others.”

After the Ferns arrived home, they began to think of other ways to help their community. Armed with shovels and rakes, the small group in their home headed out to assist with cleanup efforts in some of the more heavily damaged areas.

Long-term relief and cleanup will take months. More immediate needs involve rescue, temporary shelter and food and water.

“Typically, our goal in a disaster situation is to meet immediate needs first,” said Philip Monroe from the Asian Disaster Foundation, an organization that works with Baptist Gloral Response.

“Meeting short-term needs can take from two weeks to two months,” Monroe said. “Then once those needs are met, workers seek to identify a smaller segment of the population and develop a holistic and strategic approach to meeting their needs.”

In the Philippines, Monroe continued, this longer-term strategy will include involvement of national believers in relief and cleanup efforts as they seek opportunities to share the gospel.

But for now, the challenge remains to meet immediate needs as quickly and efficiently as possible. With major food warehouses under water and grocery shelves nearly empty, it is difficult.

“This is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” Greg Harvell said. “The flooding ... has affected everybody in the city.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Rivers is a writer for the International Mission Board.)

9/30/2009 12:05:00 PM by Tess Rivers, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Draught leaves famished hearts & stomachs

September 30 2009 by Caroline Anderson, Baptist Press

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Oct. 11 is World Hunger Sunday for Southern Baptist churches across North America. Since 1974, Southern Baptists have fought the problem of hunger through their World Hunger Fund. One hundred percent of every dollar given to the fund is used to provide food to undernourished people all over the world — 80 percent through the International Mission Board and 20 percent through the North American Mission Board. For more information on the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund, including resources for promotion of World Hunger Sunday in your church, go to

SAMBURU, Kenya — Charlie Daniels (no relation to the country music legend) is in mid-sermon when an elderly woman faints. It isn’t the Kenyan heat that’s the culprit — it’s hunger. She has not eaten in four days.

“Is there any food?” the woman’s son asks. “Please, anything,” he pleads. No one volunteers.

Daniels stops his sermon and retrieves a peanut butter and jelly sandwich from his truck. Village women slowly feed the elderly woman tiny pieces of the sandwich.

Daniels asks why no one answered the son’s plea for food.

“There’s no food here,” the people respond.

It’s been three days — or more — since any of them have eaten.

BP photo

Charlie and Sandra Daniels have held two food distribution projects this year using funds from the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund. Charlie and his teammates have been delivering tons of dried corn, beans and cooking fat to thousands of people. They estimate that more than 15,000 people will have received rations.

Daniels, a Southern Baptist missionary in Kenya, heads to a nearby town in search of food in a country that’s already skeletal from famine.

Drought and famine are close cousins in the Samburu district in central Kenya. Crops have shriveled from the lack of water. Daniels’ wife, Sandra, says there has not been sufficient rain since last November and livestock is dying.

In January, the Kenyan government reported more than 10 million people could be facing starvation. The Kenya Food Security Steering Group, which acts as an advisory board on issues of drought management and food security, reported in September that 3.8 million people in several districts, including Samburu, are in need of emergency humanitarian assistance.

When Daniels drives to the town of Kisima to buy beans and maize meal for the villagers, he uses World Hunger Funds to pay for the supplies.

As he returns to the village, the crowd has swelled from 25 to 50 as word spreads that someone is bringing food. The two 200-pound sacks of beans and maize meal will feed the families for another week.

“Thank you for bringing the food when you did,” a Samburu man later tells the Daniels. “I would not be here today if you had not come with the food.”

Everywhere Charlie and Sandra travel in the region, they are met with food requests. There also is a great need for medicine, rides to hospitals and money for hospital bills.

The Danielses have formed a plan with Baptist Global Response, an international relief and development organization, to help alleviate the hunger needs they are witnessing.

Mark and Susan Hatfield, who direct work in sub-Saharan Africa for Baptist Global Response, an international relief and development organization, helped the Danielses design a relief project to feed 4,800 people a month for the equivalent of $5.11 per person. The money, $24,528 in total, is coming from Southern Baptists through their World Hunger Fund.

Despite the drought, the Danielses are seeing God at work in great ways. Almost 300 Samburu have been baptized this year. One Samburu leader has been instrumental in starting 10 new churches since January.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Anderson is a writer for the International Mission Board. Sandra Daniels, a Southern Baptist missionary in Kenya, contributed to this story. To watch a short video on hunger relief efforts in Kenya, go to

9/30/2009 11:53:00 AM by Caroline Anderson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

How God taught me to care about poverty

September 30 2009 by Don Graham, Baptist Press

NORTH AFRICA — I’m going to be upfront about this: I never gave much thought to people in poverty-stricken places around the world who didn’t have enough to eat. Nor did I worry that they had no access to clean drinking water or basic health care.

I wasn’t concerned about where my money should be going because I wanted an iPhone. Still do. Not the older iPhone mind you — the new one, Apple’s 3GS with a video camera and speedier processor. But every time I seriously consider forking out $200 to acquire this piece of technological wizardry, God reminds me about the difference between wants and needs.

On Oct. 11, Southern Baptist churches across the United States will observe World Hunger Sunday. It’s meant to focus our attention on the global epidemic of poverty and challenge us to do something about it by giving our hard-earned, recession-strapped cash to the World Hunger Fund, which Southern Baptist missionaries use to help hurting people across the globe (including the United States).

BP photo

Dust coats this boy’s ebony skin since he has little access to clean water for drinking or bathing. Life in remote North African villages is hardest on children; this area has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world.

But in my insulated, suburban utopia, where my church spends more to air condition our sanctuary on Sunday morning than a poor person in Africa earns in a year, true poverty is a hard concept to grasp. At least, it was.

Earlier this year, the International Mission Board, where I work as a writer, sent me to North Africa to write a story about a team of doctors and nurses who run a medical clinic near the Sahara Desert. They use medicine to show Jesus’ love to a town of more than 17,000 Muslims that, until the team’s arrival, had no known Christians or churches.

The country where the medical team lives can’t be identified without risking their work or the safety of the national believers with whom they partner. But the World Bank and United Nations Human Development index rank it among the poorest places on the planet.

While I was there, I tagged along with one of the clinic’s mobile medical teams as they went into the bush to give vaccinations to children in an outlying village.

Most of the families there survive as farmers or shepherds, living on less than $2 a day. There’s no electricity or running water. Animal dung litters every inch of the village; its stench permeates the air.

The shots are the only medical care most of these children have ever received. There was no hospital or doctor when their mothers delivered them on the dirt floor of their hut. Some are sick; many are malnourished. There’s no source of clean water for them to drink or use to bathe. My eyes welled with tears as I watched the spectacle. True poverty is hard to stomach.

I suddenly remembered channel surfing at home, punching my television’s remote every time I saw one of those ads asking for money to help feed needy children in Africa. Now I understood why — I wanted to ignore the problem. Those images of distended tummies and flies swarming children’s faces disturbed me. I didn’t want to be confronted with the reality of their existence because I would be forced to act. So I turned the channel.

But as I stood in that North African village, there was no remote control to change what I was viewing. This was poverty I could see, smell and touch.

I thought of my own daughters, a 2-year-old and a 6-month-old, and how much I love them. How I would do anything for them. And how I wish I could somehow lift each and every one of these precious children from the shackles of abject poverty.

Here’s another confession: In my 15 years as a member of a Southern Baptist church, I have never given to the World Hunger Fund. Sure, I’ve tithed, contributed to my church’s building campaign, helped Lottie and Annie (international and North American mission offerings). But somehow there was never enough left over after satisfying my "needs" to do what Jesus asks of every believer in Matthew 25 — feed the hungry, clothe the naked and care for the sick.

That’s exactly what this medical team is doing in North Africa. Though the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering are used to support and sustain them on the field, it’s the World Hunger Fund that finances their medical ministry — this year to the tune of $107,000. Without the World Hunger Fund, there would be no money for the mobile clinics like the one I witnessed. World Hunger funds buy vaccines and syringes, gas for the clinic’s truck — not to mention paying for the vehicle itself.

But that’s just the beginning. World hunger funds support the clinic’s pediatric malnutrition program, which provides meals for children ages 5 and younger. World hunger funds keep the medical team’s clinic in business, providing salaries for the staff of national nurses, medicines for the pharmacy, equipment and supplies for exam rooms and a generator for electricity. It’s important to know that every penny given to the World Hunger Fund goes straight to helping lift someone out of poverty.

Gifts are split 80/20 between IMB and the North American Mission Board. No administrative or promotional costs are taken out because the money is disbursed through workers like Chuck Castle,* the Southern Baptist doctor who founded the clinic.

It’s too early to tell what effect the recession might have on giving to the World Hunger Fund this October. In 2008 Southern Baptists gave $6.1 million to the fund, the lowest offering since 2000. Still, that money helped fund more than 300 human needs projects throughout the world last year, including relief following a 7.9 earthquake that struck China’s Sichuan province and hurricanes that slammed Myanmar and Cuba.

Let’s be honest — giving isn’t easy, especially in a tough economy where people are losing jobs and homes. Finances at my house are extremely tight, and sometimes it’s hard not to feel sorry for myself. But it’s even harder to whine about wanting a new cell phone when I look into the face of a child who won’t eat anything more than a few grains of rice today. Please join me in giving generously to the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund this year through your church.

*Names changed.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Graham is a writer for the International Mission Board.)
9/30/2009 11:45:00 AM by Don Graham, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Families serve together during missions week

September 29 2009 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

FORT CASWELL — In the parking lot behind the fire station Frank Smith and his father-in-law grilled hamburgers and chatted with firemen. Inside, chili warmed on the stove and Smith’s children poured sweet tea. His wife and mother-in-law set out chips and condiments. Occasionally the three Smith children ran outside to check on dad.

When lunch was ready Oak Island firemen and police officers gathered for the blessing, but first, Frank and Rachel’s youngest, five-year-old Lydia, led a devotion with her grandfather. They talked about how God sent His son Jesus Christ to die on a cross to pay the penalty for sins so that sinners could be forgiven and know God.

The Oak Island fire station was just one of the sites where families served during Family Missions Week in September, the first event jointly sponsored by N.C. Baptist Men and Embrace Women’s Missions and Ministries.

BSC photo

Frank and Rachel Smith brought their entire family to Caswell. Rachel’s father and her son served together one afternoon and grilled hot dogs for Oak Island firemen.

Chuck Register, Baptist State Convention executive leader for church planting and missions development, said, “It is a natural partnership for North Carolina Baptist men and women to come together to bring glory and honor to Christ.” Every morning families went out and served, and every evening they met together for worship.

Mike Sowers, N.C. Baptist Men youth missions and family foundations consultant, developed this event, as he coordinates the Deep Impact summer missions weeks to give families a place to do missions together. “Many kids have never seen their parents doing missions work,” he said.

Family Missions Week helped the Smith’s three children put “hands and feet to what they believe,” Rachel said. To participate in something like Family Missions Week parents must take time off from work, rearrange nap and bedtime schedules and sometimes make financial sacrifices. Yet, the value in teaching children to put others before self and being ready to share their faith is worth it.

For the Smiths, “it doesn’t seem like a sacrifice because we made this commitment to missions.”

Mission sites included feeding meals to public servant workers, beach evangelism, construction and visitation at assisted living facilities.

BSC photo

Painting is just one of the ways families served during missions week. Thanks to these volunteers, by the end of the week an elderly couple came home to a new paint job and new floors in the kitchen, bathroom, living room and laundry room.

“We are trying to reach families for Christ, which means it starts with the parents,” said Ashley Allen, Embrace director who led beach evangelism. “Children are watching their parents. They imitate and model what they do. They don’t know how to apply God’s word if they only see their parents at church and never on mission.”

Joseph Graham served on the beach all week, along with his wife and daughter. They prayer walked, played games with children and passed out cups of cold water. Graham, a retired Navy man, usually goes overseas once a year on a mission trip but this was the first mission trip as a family. Graham wants his family to understand that serving others is done every day — “it’s not just a quote in the Bible.”

Julie Harrison, her husband and two children worked at the construction site to help repair the home of an elderly couple who are both are unemployed and the husband is disabled. The team replaced rotten floors and added piers and floor joists in the bathroom, kitchen, living room and laundry room.

They had funds to replace the toilet thanks to a Deep Impact car wash earlier in the summer, and put in a new washer and dryer donated by a local church. Harrison’s husband Mark is missions pastor of Old Town Baptist Church in Winston-Salem.
Harrison said the children often watch as dad leaves home on different trips, so this week at Oak Island was a chance for them to learn about missions and why dad has to go.

“I hope this week develops within them a heart to serve others,” Harrison said. “We can’t forget about the rest of the world — it’s a mandate to serve.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Lilley is research and communications coordinator for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.)

9/29/2009 3:12:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Blasphemy gets its own holiday

September 29 2009 by Leanne Larmondin, Religion News Service

TORONTO — You’ve never seen Jesus like this before: dripping red nail polish around the nails in his feet and hands, an irreverent riff on the crucifixion wounds. The  provocative title of the painting: “Jesus Does His Nails.”

Blasphemous? Absolutely. Deliberately provocative? You bet.

It is part of an upcoming art exhibit in Washington that will mark the first-ever International Blasphemy Day Sept. 30 at the Center for Inquiry DC near Capitol Hill.

RNS photo courtesy Dana Ellyn

This is part of “Jesus Does His Nails,” an oil painting by Washington artist Dana Ellyn, will be on display as part of International Blasphemy Day on Sept. 30.

Artist Dana Ellyn says her “Blasphemy” paintings are a tongue-in-cheek expression of her lack of belief in God and religion. The self-described “agnostic atheist” — she doesn’t believe in the existence of any deity but can’t say for sure one doesn’t exist — says her introduction to religion was in college when she studied art history. Stories from the Bible, she says, are just that: stories.

“My point is not to offend, but I realize it can offend, because religion is such a polarizing topic,” Ellyn said of the exhibit.

Atheists, skeptics, freethinkers and free-speech advocates around the world will mark Blasphemy Day by mounting their soapboxes — figuratively and literally — and uttering words and displaying images that may cause offense.

And they’re making no apologies.  

“We’re not seeking to offend, but if in the course of dialogue and debate, people become offended, that’s not an issue for us,” said Justin Trottier, a Toronto coordinator of Blasphemy Day and executive director of the Ontario chapter of the Center for Inquiry. “There is no human right not to be offended.”

St. Thomas Aquinas described blasphemy — deliberately showing contempt or irreverence for something considered sacred — as a sin “committed directly against God ... more grave than murder.” In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus said, “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.”

While it may sound as anachronistic as a witchcraft trial, blasphemy remains punishable by death in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan. In addition, Ireland recently introduced a defamation law making blasphemy punishable by fines up to 25,000 euros ($37,000 US). What’s more, six U.S. states (Massachusetts, Michigan, South Carolina,
Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Wyoming) have laws that, in some way, prohibit or regulate blasphemy, noted Ron Lindsay, a lawyer and president of the CFI International in Amherst, N.Y.

CFI also cites efforts by the United Nations to introduce anti-blasphemy resolutions that many say would curtail free speech about religion.

Sept. 30 was chosen for the inaugural Blasphemy Day because it is the anniversary of the 2005 publication of the controversial Muhammad cartoons in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. The cartoons resulted in worldwide riots by outraged Muslims and widespread self-censorship by media.

Lindsay said the Blasphemy Day events are part of his group’s larger Campaign for Free Expression, which encompasses more than protection of speech about religion. CFI, he said, aims to expose all religious beliefs to the same level of inquiry, discussion and criticism to which other areas of intellectual interest are subjected.

Will the public events and demonstrations disturb some people? Without a doubt, said Lindsay, but causing offense is not the intention. Participants are encouraged to avoid vulgarity and profanity.

“We’re stressing that we want something that is insightful and thoughtful,” Lindsay said. “The point we’re trying to make is that we’re against restrictions on speech based purely on the possibility that some people might be offended, because if you go down that path there’s no end to it.”

9/29/2009 3:09:00 AM by Leanne Larmondin, Religion News Service | with 4 comments

Study: One in 5 Americans may be secular by 2030

September 29 2009 by Angela Abbamonte, Religion News Service

The number of American adults who do not identify with a particular religion is growing and may comprise more than 20 percent of the population in two decades, according to a new study.

Conducted by researchers at Trinity College, the study, entitled “American Nones: The Profile of the No Religion Population,” showed that people who profess no religion, or “Nones,” are similar to the general public in marital status, education, racial and ethnic makeup and income.

According to the study, it is possible that one in five Americans will put themselves in the “None” category by 2030.   

“We are here. We are like everybody else. We are part of the community.” said Jesse Galef, communications associate at the Secular Coalition for America.  

Galef hopes that this trend will dispel stereotypes that Nones have no morals because of their lack of religion and help them gain a political voice.

The study indicated that a large percentage of Nones also decline to identify with a political party. More than 40 percent call themselves independents; 34 percent say they’re Democrats; and 13 percent Republican.

“If the Republican Party wants these votes back, they can’t be dominated by the religious right,” said Galef.

Barry Kosmin, head researcher for the study, said that the spread of the Nones is a national and historical phenomenon. He cited examples from the Founding Fathers, such as Thomas Jefferson’s version of the Bible, in which he cut out reference to Jesus’ divinity.

The most notable difference between Nones and the religious population is the gender gap. Only 12 percent of American women are Nones while 19 percent of American men claim no religion. According to the study, women who grew up in non-religious homes are less likely to stay non-religious. Women are also less likely to switch out of religion.

“Why, now, I have no clue,” said Kosmin. “(The study) raises as many questions as answers.”

Most Nones would not consider themselves atheists. More than 50 percent believe in either a higher being or a personal God, while only 7 percent are self-proclaimed atheists. One in three say they “definitely” believe that humans developed from earlier species of animals.

Of “converted” Nones, 35 percent identified as Catholics until the age of twelve. William D’Antonio of Catholic University says this finding accords with his research, and that other studies have shown that Catholics often leave the church because they view it as overly dogmatic.

Kerry Robinson, executive director of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management (NLRCM), has been working to keep Catholics involved in the church by asking them to give of their talents in service.

“When you invite someone to give what they do best,” said Robinson, “they become more invested in the church.”

NLRCM is partnering with St. Thomas More Catholic Chapel and Center at Yale University to bring this concept to students who are excited about being a part of the Catholic Church. They are planning a pilot program that will span several campuses, bringing students together to be trained for church leadership after graduation.

Most of these students will be graduating with degrees in subjects like accounting and communication. This program hopes to “bring them and their service to the church and its temporal needs.”

While this and other initiatives to keep people involved in religion develop, Nones are still growing in number and continue to look more like the general population.

In the conclusion of the Trinity study, researchers say Nones are the “invisible minority” in the U.S. “because their social characteristics are very similar to the majority.” The shift to secularism in the 1990s largely happened “under the radar,” the researchers said.

9/29/2009 3:05:00 AM by Angela Abbamonte, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

34 relief teams deployed to Georgia

September 28 2009 by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Thirty-four Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams from six state conventions are on the scene or en route to assist victims of historic flooding in Georgia, which resulted in 10 deaths and damages estimated as high as $500 million across the northern half of the state.

North Carolina volunteers, who are ready and willing, have not been called upon as of Monday night, according to Gaylon Moss, who directs disaster relief efforts for N.C. Baptist Men.

An estimated 20,000 homes were damaged, with 14 counties declared disaster areas by President Obama. Seventeen counties were declared as disaster areas by Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue.

BP photo

Christina Herring of Locust Grove, Ga., shovels wet insulation in a home devastated by recent floods in Atlanta.

To assist Georgia's thousands of flood victims, a toll-free number, 1-800-460-6881, has been established by the North American Mission Board and the Georgia Baptist Convention to field calls from homeowners needing help to clean up their flooded, mud-filled homes.

The call center, staffed by volunteers, is now open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week and will relay requests to Baptist disaster relief teams in the field.

One flood victim, Rebecca Cash, sat in her carport as Georgia Baptist disaster relief volunteers hauled out water-soaked Sheetrock and insulation from her home, which filled with muddy water as floodwaters rose quickly on Monday, Sept. 21.

"I've lived here 36 years and I've never seen water come this far up the hill," Cash said. "It's just devastating. It might not be a fancy $300,000 home but it's everything to me."

Forgoing church attendance, Sunday dinner at home and NFL football, a 10-person crew of Georgia Baptist volunteers worked all day on Cash's home, cleaning out mud and ripping out ruined drywall and paneling. The home was stripped down to its studs with the hope of saving it from mold and mildew so Cash can rebuild.

"We just want to help her get back in her home," said mud-out volunteer Kenneth Bryant of Palmetto, Ga., a disaster relief volunteer since 2001.

NAMB's disaster operations center -- which coordinates disaster response among the 43 Southern Baptist state conventions during major disasters too big for one state to handle within its borders -- went into full operation on Saturday, Sept. 26, at the mission board's Alpharetta location.

"Assessing just started Sunday (Sept. 27)," said Mickey Caison, NAMB's team leader for adult volunteer mobilization, reporting that 140 homes have already been identified for projects. "[W]e know we'll have to activate many more units for assessment and recovery," Caison said.

The 34 Baptist disaster relief teams are now operating at nine Georgia sites: First Baptist Church Chattahoochee, Atlanta; West Metro Baptist Association, Lithia Springs; Beulah Baptist Church, Douglasville; First Baptist Church, Powder Springs; First Baptist Church, Austell; Glen Forest Baptist Church, Mableton; First Baptist Church, Summerville; First Baptist Church, Trion; and Ebenezer Baptist Church, Toccoa.

The 100-year flood, caused by an estimated 9-12 inches of monsoon-type rainfall, ironically follows a two-year drought in the Peach State.

9/28/2009 11:58:00 AM by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press | with 2 comments

GCR listening session Oct. 14 at Hardin

September 28 2009 by By Staff

Al Gilbert, one of three North Carolina representatives on the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force appointed in June by Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Johnny Hunt, will hold a listening session Oct. 14 at Hardin Baptist Church in Dallas.

Gilbert is pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. The other North Carolina representatives on the task force are Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and J.D. Greear, pastor of the Summit Church in Durham.

Hardin pastor Austin Rammell, a member of the Baptist State Convention Board of Directors, has organized the session, which is open to all. Other Gastonia area pastors involved in putting the event together include Jeff Long, Parkwood Baptist Church; Dickie Spargo, Bethlehem Church; Ronnie Bowers, Flint Groves Baptist Church; Chris Griggs, Denver Baptist Church; and Sandy Marks, Alexis Baptist Church.

“It is no secret that more and more studies are being released that demonstrate we as Southern Baptists have to begin to think seriously about our future,” said Rammell. “From the growing number of churches in plateau or in decline to declining baptismal numbers and shortfalls in Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions and Cooperative Program dollars, there is a disturbing trend.”

Rammell said Baptists “must be honest before the Lord and cry out for His renewed direction in the only mission He gave us to do! There is no question that God will get the job done; therefore, the only question left for us is what role will the SBC get to play in it?”

The SBC Great Commission Resurgence Task Force is charged with examining all aspects of cooperative life among Southern Baptists at every level and find efficiencies to free up missions dollars.
The task force will conduct its third meeting Oct. 27 in Dallas, Texas, and Gilbert wants to take input from North Carolina Baptists from the listening session in Dallas, N.C.

The listening session will be 10 a.m. to noon, Oct. 14 in the auditorium of Hardin Baptist Church, 548 Hardin Rd., Dallas, N.C. 28034.

“Come prayed up and willing to share your ideas, opinions and concerns,” Rammell said. “The SBC can have an incredible future if we will stay humble before Him, owning nothing but a grateful heart for His salvation and amazing calling to labor with Him!”

9/28/2009 3:55:00 AM by By Staff | with 0 comments

Bulletin: Sandy Ridge pastor found dead

September 27 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor


David Treadway, pastor of the fast growing Sandy Ridge Baptist Church in Hickory, was found dead in his car Sunday morning by his wife as she was leaving to go to church.

Although Hickory police are investigating, a note Treadway left indicates he died by his own hand.

Several months ago Treadway, 42, pastor at Sandy Ridge since October 2004, told the congregation he was under doctor’s care for depression. An early statement Sunday from church leadership said their pastor had “succumbed to the disease of depression.”

Treadway was chairman of the Baptist State Convention Board of Directors Business Services Committee.

Catawba Valley Baptist Association Director of Missions Duane Kuykendall met Sunday night with church leadership. He said the 895-member church has undergone “significant growth” during Treadway’s tenure.

Treadway and his wife, Melissa, have two children, Lindsey, 19, and Landon, 16.

The funeral will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 29 at the church.

A post on the church web site Sunday night by a staff pastor, Rodney Poe, asked prayers for the church family.

9/27/2009 1:34:00 PM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 49 comments

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