September 2009

They’re nurturing Hope & CP in Wisconsin

September 8 2009 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

RICE LAKE, Wis. — After a long and fruitful career with Southern Baptist missions in New Mexico and later with the Home Mission Board (HMB — predecessor to the North American Mission Board — NAMB), Gerald and Libby Palmer retired to his family’s farm in Balsam Lake, Wis.

But they didn’t stop serving the Lord.

“I don’t see how any Christian can stop until they die,” said Libby Palmer, now 81.

BP photo

Hope Baptist Church members in Rice Lake, Wis., spread out among area nursing homes and assisted living centers to provide a “ministry of presence,” as pastor Richard Fossum, right, describes it.

“I am getting to where sometimes I can’t do what I’d like to do,” she said. “But I do all I can.”

Gerald Palmer, who retired as an HMB vice president responsible for language missions, chaplaincy and more, died two years ago. His last ministry — which started soon after moving to Wisconsin from Atlanta in 1995 — was restarting what is now named Hope Baptist Church in Rice Lake, about 50 miles northeast of his family’s farm.

Libby Palmer continues to make that drive at least twice a week, often through Wisconsin’s grueling winters.

In addition to rebuilding the congregation one convert at a time, Palmer mentored two men called to the gospel ministry: Richard Fossum, who replaced him as pastor of Hope, and Darrell Robinson, currently a pastor in Barron, Wis.

About 40 people — more on a good Sunday — attend Sunday morning worship at Hope Baptist. As they were taught to do by the Palmers, who had seen the benefit through 50 years of denominational service, Hope continues to commit 15 percent of its undesignated offerings to reaching people through the Cooperative Program (CP), Southern Baptists’ unified effort for state, national and international missionary initiatives.

“The benefit is the fact that we’re helping others who are in more need than we are,” said Fossum, who knew nothing of the Cooperative Program until he was taught by Palmer. “The scripture says it’s more blessed to give than to receive. I think it makes us feel better because we realize what we give is helping somebody somewhere.”

Fossum became a Christian in a denomination with churches that supported individual missionaries. When they came back to the United States each year to raise money for the next, they visited in the churches that supported them. Fossum said he missed knowing missionaries personally, so as pastor he led Hope to find some they could call their own.

One young woman went out from the church to East Asia, where she is employed by the government to teach English. She hosts Bible studies in her home as part of the ministry she has been assigned by the SBC’s International Mission Board. Though the church for security reasons doesn’t put her name in print or the nation where she serves, they know who she is; they know what she looks like; and she maintains regular contact with Hope so members know how to pray for her.

A family in the church hosted a young married couple who since have gone to that same East Asia nation. That couple also have become Hope’s personal missionaries-on-assignment. Two other families were introduced to church leaders during a state convention meeting, so Hope now also has missionaries they pray for who serve in northern Africa and the Middle East.

Hope members minister locally as well as globally. They spread out among area nursing homes and assisted living centers to provide a “ministry of presence” there. Oftentimes Hope members will play table games with the residents, read to them, write letters for them or as the residents express needs, serve as the hands, arms and feet of Jesus.

Hope members hosted a block party in June, two weeks before the start of Vacation Bible School (VBS). “I thought that particular activity drew people together,” Fossum said. “They came together and worked together, and about 150 people came to the block party. That brought some families who hadn’t been to the church before; one family has visited and another indicated they were going to, but they haven’t yet.”

About 60 youngsters came back for VBS, the pastor added.

About 8,500 people live in Rice Lake. Most have a Lutheran or Catholic background that they left behind when they were teenagers. Many don’t return to God until their late 30s to early 40s when they’re facing the consequences of their decisions, the pastor said.

“It’s sad to see them go through all the struggles they go through as they’re walking away from God,” Fossum said. But it’s exciting to see the change in people’s lives when they turn back to God, the pastor quickly added.

The Tony and Cindy Magana family is the personification of that.

Their young daughter was visiting her aunt in Rice Lake perhaps eight years ago, and attended Hope’s VBS. The Palmers went to visit the family, who lived about 15 miles away.

“Their father was a Christian, but very, very timid,” Libby Palmer recalled. “So was Cindy. They would barely open the door when we visited them, and when eventually they let us in, one would go hide while the other one talked with us.”

But over time, they began to visit, then attend, then joined Hope. Cindy asked to speak at Gerald Palmer’s funeral, and wrote down what she wanted to say, Libby Palmer said.

BP photo

Richard Fossum, pastor of Hope Baptist Church in Rice Lake, Wis., drives a school bus, not just to supplement his retirement income, but to extend his community ministry. “Little by little I see things changing in the bus garage,” he says.

“She said she was so thankful we kept coming,” Palmer said. “Today, Tony is the backbone of his whole clan. He was the first one to be reached after their daughter went to VBS.” Now, his brother, sister-in-law and two nephews join them for Sunday and sometimes Wednesday church with Tony, Cindy and their five children.

In addition to Sunday School for all ages, Hope offers a midweek pre-school/kindergarten program led by Gaylie Paul; TeamKids for youngsters in the first through sixth grades, led by the pastor and his wife Violet; and a youth group led by Libby Palmer. She also leads a Wednesday morning Bible study for women and the pastor leads an adult Bible study on Wednesday evenings, after TeamKid. They’re soon to finish Matthew; next: James MacDonald’s “Downpour,” a study of God’s holiness, man’s sinfulness, the need for repentance, the grace of Christ and power of the Holy Spirit.

“I would like to see the individual’s life grow in very close relationship with the Lord, instead of being on the surface,” Fossum said. “I’d like to see them be really committed to God and what He wants to do through them.

“We’ve definitely seen some people become stronger in the Lord,” the pastor continued. “I’ve seen some new Christians come to the Lord.”

Like Palmer, Fossum and his wife returned to his hometown after retiring. He had been a high school agriculture and math teacher and also was an FFA leader for 32 years. He now drives a school bus to supplement his retirement income.

The blessing in his employment is that he is seeing God working, the pastor said. He recently performed the wedding of another bus driver and a bus mechanic, and a driver who calls himself an atheist is asking spiritual questions.

“Little by little I see things changing in the bus garage,” Fossum said. “You’ve got to love them and continue to pray for them.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Willoughby is managing editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message.)

9/8/2009 7:15:00 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Akin resting after colon surgery

September 5 2009 by Baptist Press

WAKE FOREST — Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Daniel Akin underwent successful surgery on his colon Sept. 4 and is now resting.

Akin had the scheduled surgery at the advice of doctors to head off complications associated with diverticulitis, a digestive disorder of the colon with which he has struggled for some time. While Akin’s condition was not life-threatening, if left unchecked it could have led to more severe problems, doctors said.

Akin now faces several days of recovery in the hospital and at least of week of recovery at home in Wake Forest.

He noted how thankful he is for the kind words and prayers that have been lifted up on his behalf by friends at home and around the world. He said he is looking forward to returning to work both at Southeastern and on the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force.

“God is sovereign,” Akin said. “He has His purposes and He has His timing. We don’t question it, we accept it, even if we find it difficult to do so.”

9/5/2009 8:11:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Georgia pastor killed by undercover police

September 4 2009 by Joe Westbury, Baptist Press

TOCCOA, Ga. — A Georgia Baptist pastor was shot and killed by undercover police officers on Sept. 2, apparently in relation to a drug sting.

Jonathan Ayers, 29, pastor of Shoal Creek Baptist Church in Lavonia, Ga., was not the target of the sting, Stephens County Sheriff Randy Shirley told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Early reports were that Ayers dropped off the sting suspect in downtown Toccoa and that two undercover agents from the task force of officers from Stephens, Habersham, and Rabun counties followed him and attempted to question him.

Ayers used an ATM at a Shell convenience store around 2:30 p.m. and the officers, who were in plain clothes, jumped out of a moving vehicle as Ayers was backing out of the parking lot. The agents reportedly identified themselves and drew their weapons, but the pastor apparently tried to avoid them, putting his car in reverse and striking one of the agents as he backed out. Officers fired, hitting Ayers in the chest.

The officers said they did not know who he was but wanted to question him about the woman, who was suspected of cocaine possession and distribution, according to media reports. Ayers drove off before losing control of the vehicle a block away and hitting a telephone pole. He was taken to a hospital, where he died an hour later.

Ayers and his wife, Abby, were expecting their first child.

A search of Ayers’ car turned up no drugs but the woman was arrested on cocaine charges, according to reported the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has been called to investigate and the officers involved have been placed on administrative leave with pay, pending the outcome of the investigation. The injured officer was treated and released at a local hospital, according to the Journal-Constitution.

Ayers’ sister, Rebecca Floyd, told WYFF4 that her brother was known to help strangers.

“I could bet my life on it he did not know her,” she said. “I could bet my life on it, because that’s the kind of person he was. He was a good Christian man, and ... his goal was to lead souls to Christ.”

9/4/2009 7:44:00 AM by Joe Westbury, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Ministry rescues women from slavery

September 3 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

She might be the lone young girl standing like a rock in a stream of teenagers flowing around her at the mall; or a waitress with cigarette burns and bruises; or a dancer in a club nice people avoid.

In America, where 300,000 young people each year are trapped as pawns in a seeping sex trade, chances are you have seen a girl who is economically and psychologically enslaved to a man who rents her out as income property — you just didn’t recognize it.

In Asheville, Emily Fitchpatrick took note of those young people around her and heeded a distinct call from God to begin “On Eagles Wings Ministries,” an organization whose goal is to find, befriend and rescue girls caught in human trafficking.

In an interview in her apartment with staff member Kim Kern and volunteer Dee Schronce, Fitchpatrick shared tragic stories and bewildering statistics about the prevalence of human trafficking in the United States.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

On Eagle’s Wings Ministries leadership, from left, Emily Fitchpatrick, founder and president; Dee Schronce, volunteer; and Kim Kern, executive director of Hope House, are working to offer women an avenue out of the sex trade.

The U.S. Department of Justice says the average entry age into prostitution is 12-14 and that often the child is prostituted by a drug addicted parent. They tell of police finding a 12-year-old in the back seat of a car with a john, while mom was in front with needle in her arm.

Experts say that within 48 hours of a teenager running away, she will be approached by a sharp eyed pimp, just about the time she is hungry and tired enough to be desperate for a “friend.”

These girls fall to the mercy of whoever finds them. There is no count of how many such girls never return home and die on the street because many of their families are consumed with their own problems, and the girl is never missed.

Beneath the floor boards these girls fall through is “a whole predatory arena waiting for them,” according to Schronce, who herself was embraced by predators when she fell through the cracks at age 17.

“Very few people will ever come out and talk about it,” said Schronce, author of a book about her experiences in human trafficking called Mary and Me: From Ruin to Royalty. She is talking now to bring awareness to the tragedy she sees all around her, but that is little discussed  because too often people see trafficking as a victimless crime.

Police haul the girl to jail and tell the man to go home to his wife.

There are brothels everywhere, the On Eagles Wings team says. In Ohio a father found his runaway daughter a year later, in a brothel in the very neighborhood from which she’d run.

On Eagles Wings volunteers reach out to girls in North and South Carolina. Among other things, they take gift bags with bath and body products to strip club dancers.

“I can’t believe a Christian would come here and do this,” said one dancer when presented with a gift and a friendly smile. “Don’t you think I’m awful?”

Volunteers withhold judgment. Their goal is rescue.

A quarterly newsletter to juvenile detention centers is geared toward helping girls see themselves as victims and not just an unlucky soul who fell accidentally into a difficult life.

Often they see their pimps as boyfriends, as if the pimp actually cared about them.

One of the On Eagles Wings ministries is Hope House, a long-term residence in an undisclosed rural location near Asheville. Staff seeks a one-year commitment from girls who come there, a length of time necessary to “deprogram” girls from accepting their lives as objects. Tragically, girls who have been taught their personal worth is only sexual, often return to that life, even though it is filled with danger and pain.

“Hope House is faith based,” said its director, Kern. “There is no true healing without Jesus Christ. So that’s going to be the biggest part of the ministry.”

There is very limited space in the U.S. for sex trafficking victims, fewer than 50 beds for minors, according to Fitchpatrick. Of those, only Hope House is faith based.

So far their only fund raising has been prayer. They take no government grants so their faith basis can be out in the open and central to their work.

A surprise has been that every girl isn’t ready for rescue. One girl returned to her pimp in Florida, even though she was covered with cigarette burns.

Schronce said many girls are self-destructive beneath their careless attitude. They have a terrible self image and only find acceptance in the lie they’ve come to accept as their truth.

One girl, whom Fitchpatrick almost had been able to walk out of the life, told her she felt good on the street when she saw men in cars waiting for her. “They want me,” she told Fitchpatrick.

“That shows you how low they are, where they feel so worthless,” Fitchpatrick said.

In the U.S. as well as in most other parts of the world, poverty is at the root of human trafficking. Girls have no family support, little education, and no skills, “but I can do this,” Kern said. Their masters teach them to identify their self worth in the act, whether it is sex or dancing or pornography.

Organized crime finds sex trafficking profitable because unlike drugs or guns, you can sell a person many times. There are even published books on “How to pimp your girl.”

Some Buncombe Baptist Association churches are helping with specific needs. Fitchpatrick is available to inform groups about the presence of human trafficking in North Carolina. Contact her at

Prayer, fasting weekend
On the weekend of Sept. 25-27 Stop Human Trafficking is sponsoring a weekend of prayer and fasting for victims of sexual trafficking.
Visit Much of the initiative against human trafficking in the U.S. comes from the Salvation Army. At their web site you can find material for sermons, Bible studies, prayer guides and even music.
In at least 39 cities supporters will walk in support of Stop Child Trafficking Now.

Walks are scheduled in:
Sex Trafficking Mini-Symposium
A special symposium on human trafficking-for the purposes of labor and especially sexual exploitation will be conducted by the Working Group for Research on (Sex) Trafficking from 2-5 p.m. Sept. 14 at the Tate-Turner-Kuralt Building Auditorium, Room 136 at UNC. The afternoon will feature formal papers, a poster session, and excerpts from “Machine,” a play-in-progress about trafficking. For more information, contact Pam Lach at

Related story
At bottom, Dee found life
Texas governor signs human trafficking legislation

9/3/2009 4:27:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 1 comments

At bottom, Dee found life

September 3 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Dee felt she never had a family. Her mother died young. Her father, in grief over the death of his own mother, tried to kill them both.

His drinking buddies sexually abused her and she grew up in foster homes where she endured similar trauma.

When no one at the group home believed she was raped, she ran away to New Orleans.

“This is why a lot of victims don’t tell what happened to them – because they think no one is going to believe them,” Dee said. “The worst thing you can do is tell this stuff and then have somebody believe it’s not true. It’s devastating.”

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Dee Schronce

In New Orleans Dee found a job and was trying to “do things the right way” when one night a man and woman asked her to play pool. Before long, she was groggy and felt herself being put into their car.

They took her to a trailer “in the middle of nowhere” and promised to take care of her.

Today a more common practice is to addict the girls to drugs.

They “obligated” her, buying her clothes and feeding her until she felt in their debt.

Then they took her to work in a brothel in Morgan City, La.

She tried to escape but was caught and beaten. She finally prevailed upon a customer to help her get out. She was 18.

Once away from the brothel, she found the only way she could survive on the outside was to prostitute herself. She “dated a mob guy” and tended bar.

A year later she married a man 14 years older than herself.

One day in the laundromat a single mom with three kids showed Dee pictures of herself before and after she became a Christian.

Dee saw a change so dramatic that she agreed to go with the woman to church.

Although she “felt my sin all over me” she climbed into the church van on Sunday and arrived at a new life when she was saved and baptized that very day.

“I automatically felt something different,” she said. “I was a different person.”

Dee shares her story in the book Mary and Me: From Ruin to Royalty self published and available at Xulon Press or for $10 from Dee at

She’s telling her story after years of silence because she wants Christians to be aware of the daily tragedies in human trafficking that surround them.

The organization Stop Human Trafficking reports a grandmother selling her five-year-old grandson for his organs.

A Sept. 1 story in the Charlotte Observer tells of a woman accused of keeping three children for slave labor at her house.

“This book will also teach parents what to watch out for when other parents try to befriend your child through their child,” Dee said.

Play dates “with the children” can become opportunities for a pedophile.    

It first happened to Dee when she was nine. “You just feel like you’ve done something wrong,” she said of a child victim. “Somehow you feel like it’s your fault.”

Married to her second husband for 10 years and the mother of three, a courageous Dee works with abuse groups in the Gastonia area and will speak anywhere to raise awareness and response to trafficking.

She encourages persons who want to win others to Christ, to “find a life with a lot of manure in it because it is fertile soil for a seed to grow.”

She was a prostitute, and alcoholic and would ingest “any pill someone put in front of me” when a stranger approached her with pictures of her own life before and after salvation.

“The gift she shared with me was simple,” Dee said. “It didn’t take her long and it sure changed my life…and other lives because I’ve led others to the Lord. It had a domino effect.”

“If you feel led to talk to someone on the street, someone who is by themselves, pray,” Dee said. “If you want eyes to see people like this, pray for God to open your eyes. It is His work.”

Contact Dee at (980) 329-6618.

Related story

Building on hope: Ministry rescues women from slavery

9/3/2009 4:24:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

2 churches envision model for racial reconciliation

September 3 2009 by David Winfrey, Baptist Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Several questions remain after long talks, compromises and at least one blunt sermon prior to the merger of a black church and a white church in Louisville.

But both pastors say they have the Holy Spirit and a spirit of cooperation to succeed.

More than 560 people sang, prayed and rejoiced Aug. 23 as St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, a mostly black congregation, and Shively Heights Baptist Church, a mostly white congregation, merged into St. Paul Baptist Church at Shively Heights.

Denominational leaders praised the union as a model for racial reconciliation.

Photo by David Winfrey

Pastors Lincoln Bingham, center left, and Mark Payton, center right, along with their wives, lead their newly united congregation in prayer Aug. 23. St. Paul Baptist Church at Shively Heights is the result of a merger of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, a mostly black congregation, and Shively Heights Baptist Church, a mostly white congregation.

“Today is a great example of the gospel at work changing lives, congregations and communities, with impact extending far beyond today and far beyond Louisville,” said Larry Martin, a consultant for the Kentucky Baptist Convention who has long worked with St. Paul’s pastor, Lincoln Bingham, in Christian racial reconciliation efforts.

The location of the combined churches is especially noteworthy. Years ago, Shively was a “white flight” suburb for many families leaving the city of Louisville. Just down the road from the church campus, a bomb destroyed the house of the first black family to locate in Shively 55 years ago.

Pastors at both churches say they realized their congregations were at a crossroads when they proposed combining forces.

At St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, Bingham said facilities were limiting the ministries that members wanted to conduct.

The youth had no gym. Seniors had no elevators. The sanctuary, which seats 220 people, lacked room to grow. “Our challenge was we had ministries and membership larger than what our facilities could properly accommodate,” Bingham said.

Seven miles southwest, Shively Heights Baptist Church was facing challenges both economic and cultural, said Mark Payton, who has led the congregation for eight years.

“We had 100 people trying to raise $112,000 per year,” Payton said. “We were just getting so crunched, and we just knew that we needed help to reach this community.”

Statistics compiled with the help of the Kentucky Baptist Convention reinforced the challenges and opportunities surrounding the church campus, Payton added.

Projections showed that by next year, 30 percent of the neighborhood would be African American, he said. Yet opportunities abound: Reports also noted that 300,000 people live in a five-mile radius of the church, he said, noting, “Shively Heights is sitting in the most populated area in Kentucky.”

The two pastors, who have been friends for 25 years, were talking this past winter when they realized a merger might solve their problems. The Shively Heights campus has a gym, four times as much education space as St. Paul, elevators and a sanctuary to seat 500 comfortably.

Together, Payton and Bingham emphasized the opportunities to reach the community with a witness and racial sensitivity that wasn’t possible before.

Still, both congregations had some objectors. Said Payton: “Me and Lincoln decided when we started this process we would lose some but we would gain far more.”

Bingham said two-thirds of St. Paul voted for the move. He said he maintained focus by casting the vision for what God wanted to accomplish.

“God wants us to do bigger things,” Bingham said. “We’ve had a great ministry here. But God has much more for us to do. And the facility and the racial mix (in Shively Heights) will provide even greater opportunity.”

Payton said approximately 70 percent of Shively Heights voted for the move, but less than 1 percent gave “public opposition.” Nearly 20 members have left since the vote to merge, he added. “Even in this day and age, we would be naïve to think some of it wasn’t because of race.”

Payton even addressed the racial issue in a sermon before the merger.

Photo by David Winfrey

Black and white children sing together during a choir performance at the first service of the newly merged St. Paul Baptist Church at Shively Heights.

“I just told them, ‘You all used to live downtown. Why did you move to Shively? We all know why you moved,’” he recounted. “‘When are you going to quit running from them and start reaching them?’”

Nationally, approximately 8 percent of churches are integrated, according to George Yancey, a sociology professor at the University of North Texas who has studied race and churches.

While schooling and other aspects of life often are integrated, totally voluntary organizations like churches remain less so, Yancey said. “In America we still choose to be among our own racially,” said Yancey, author of “One Body, One Spirit.”

“Families are that way. We usually choose (to marry) someone of our own race.”

Successful integration requires sensitivity and compromise from all parties, Yancey explained.

“Things are not going to be the way they used to be and both groups are going to have to accept that,” he said.

Yancey said some research suggests integrated churches are better able to grow numerically, but there has been no measurement for such things as spiritual growth or true cooperation among different ethnic groups. “There needs to be more research into that,” he said.

At St. Paul Baptist Church at Shively Heights, many details remain to be worked out. Bingham and Payton are taking turns preaching on Sunday morning. All current staff is remaining.

Bingham said leaders are working to maintain a diversity of cultures in all aspects.

“It will take some time to do this, but we’ll do everything we can possibly do to make sure that equity is demonstrated in music, preaching and every other part of our worship,” Bingham said.

Payton agreed: “We are merging all of our teams to make sure we have adequate representation from both churches. We just want to make sure we don’t have all black talking in one area and all white talking in another area. We want it totally blended.”

Payton said he’s asked members to be patient as leaders “nail down the wrinkles.”

“We’re all going to be stretched,” he said. “I’ve reminded them of Joshua as he led the children of Israel. He said, ‘We’ve never been this way before,’ and neither of our churches have been this way before.”

Bingham said he hopes other congregations will learn from the merger that “we all should follow the biblical mandate that we all be one, and that it does not necessarily suggest disaster when we obey that command.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Winfrey is a freelance writer in Louisville, Ky. This article first appeared in the Western Recorder, newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)

9/3/2009 4:20:00 AM by David Winfrey, Baptist Press | with 2 comments

Campaign asks ‘Who’s in Your Wallet?’

September 3 2009 by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Spinning off the slogan of a well-known credit card’s TV ad campaign, “Who’s in Your Wallet?” will again be the theme of Soul-Winning Commitment Day, observed throughout the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2009.

The annual day is sponsored by the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and is part of NAMB’s national evangelism initiative — “God’s Plan for Sharing.”

The board has developed a “3-1-6” prayer card on which Southern Baptists can write the names of three friends or relatives who need Christ. Keeping the card in their wallets or purses as a reminder, Baptists are asked to pray for these three people once a day for six days.

“Sunday, Oct. 4 is the day designated for Soul-Winning Commitment Day, but of course the goal is for Southern Baptists to emphasize evangelism throughout the year,” said Dick Church, NAMB’s church evangelism resource coordinator.

“If not on Oct. 4, we hope SBC churches will schedule and hold an evangelism emphasis on another Sunday during the year,” Church said. “Whenever it’s held, the day should be a time of inspiration, motivation, communication, celebration, instruction, commitment and prayer.”

Believers also will be encouraged to participate in an evangelistic activity each day throughout the month of October, Church said. This includes sharing the gospel with one person, sharing one’s testimony or distributing gospel tracts. Each believer also will be asked to take a personal evangelism training class.

“Personal evangelism has always defined Southern Baptists,” Church said. “This main focus constantly challenges us to build bridges to reach out to people with the good news of Jesus Christ. It is our great privilege and personal responsibility to share the gospel with unbelievers.”

In addition to the “Who’s in Your Wallet?” 3-1-6 prayer cards, other downloadable resources are available online at, Church said. Those resources include an implementation guide, sermon outlines and videos, posters, Sunday school/small group lessons and instructions on how to use the 3-1-6 prayer cards, commitment cards and personal evangelism training methods.

All resources are available in English, Korean, Chinese and Spanish. To order prayer cards, call (866) 407-NAMB (6262). Cards come in packets of 100 and cost $9. For more information, call (770) 410-6247.

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

9/3/2009 4:18:00 AM by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Pastor plans hunger strike for immigration reform

September 3 2009 by Ken Camp, Associated Baptist Press

PASADENA, Texas — A Baptist pastor plans to launch a public weeklong hunger strike in front of Houston’s municipal headquarters to call for immigration reform.

Julio Barquero, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Esperanza in Pasadena, Texas, will eat no solid food and drink only water Sept. 7-13 to draw attention to the plight of undocumented workers.

Interfaith Worker Justice and other Houston-area groups have joined the call for comprehensive immigration reform and an end to workplace raids and deportations of undocumented laborers.

In particular, Barquero — a former chaplain for the League of United Latin American Citizens in Arkansas — is urging city officials not to add Houston to the list of municipalities that are using local police to enforce immigration statutes.

In July, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced plans to expand Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationalization Act, the program in which the federal government authorizes local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws in the place of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.

Supporters of Section 287(g) say it has given the United States an important tool to help stem the tide of illegal immigration and restore the integrity of laws on the books. They note the program requires state and local law enforcement officers to receive proper training and operate under the direction of federal authorities after they voluntarily enter into assistance compacts.

Opponents say it sometimes has been accompanied by racial profiling and has led to family separation when undocumented parents are detained or deported and their American-born children are left unattended.

“The 287(g) program is very bad. It is racist discrimination against Latinos,” Barquero said. The immigration system in the United States needs major reforms, including a simplified system that allows Latin-American workers to obtain visas to enter and remain in the country legally, he insisted.

Church leaders should speak out against social injustice — including the unjust treatment of “strangers and sojourners” in the United States, he said.

“Pastors talk about abortion. They talk about homosexuality. But they say nothing about immigration,” Barquero said. “It is time for reform. It is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue — not an issue for one political party. It is about an immoral situation, and the church should not turn its back.”

9/3/2009 4:17:00 AM by Ken Camp, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Workplace chaplains care for unchurched

September 2 2009 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Most Americans don’t attend church regularly, but they still have deaths in the family, marriage problems and other life crises that they can’t handle alone.

“Seventy percent of the American workforce today does not have a relationship with organized religion,” Gil Stricklin, founder of Marketplace Ministries, told Baptist Press.

“They’re not atheists. They’re not even agnostics, most of them. But they don’t have a pastor, they don’t have a priest, they don’t have a rabbi,” Stricklin said. “They don’t have a Buddhist monk or a Muslim imam. They have nobody that marries them and buries them.”

A growing number of chaplains are finding a niche in the workplace, developing relationships with employees and guiding them through difficult life situations when they either don’t have a church home or don’t feel comfortable seeking help there.

Shane Satterfield, a regional director for Marketplace Chaplains USA, a division of Marketplace Ministries, told about establishing a chaplain presence at a Pilgrim’s Pride chicken plant in Georgia.

A young woman who worked the night shift said to him, “I’m not real sure about this whole chaplain thing. I’m sure I’ll never need you guys, but I’m glad you’re here,” Satterfield said.

“A week later, the first phone call I got — at 1 a.m. — was from her. She said, ‘My mother just passed away, and I don’t know what to do.’ I said, ‘Well, do you have a pastor?’ She said, ‘I’ve never been to church in my life. I have no idea what to do.’

“I said, ‘Well, I’ll be there.’ I jumped in the car, ran out to Carrollton, Ga., about an hour drive, met her at the hospital. She was crying, she was a little bit out of sorts, and she said, ‘Listen, I don’t want to hear any of this ‘She’s in a better place. God knows best.’ I don’t want to hear any God stuff from you. I just don’t know what to do.’”

Satterfield stepped in to notify the woman’s family of her mother’s death, help plan the funeral and even perform the service.

“I said, ‘When this is all over, you’ve still got me to talk to.’ We buried her mom, and on the way out the door, she said, ‘I’m going to take you up on that. I’ve got some questions I want to ask you. I’ll call you next week,’” Satterfield said.

The woman called him in the middle of the night and said she was ready to talk, and he met with her for two weeks as she asked questions such as why her mother died.

“As a chaplain, we’re trained to answer those questions in a way that hopefully settles questions in her heart about it,” Satterfield said. “The very next week, she called me back and said, ‘It’s time for me to make a change in my life.’ I was able to lead her to Christ in a chicken plant in the nurse’s office that afternoon.”

Satterfield, who attends Hopewell Baptist Church in Gainesville, Ga., said that story is a small example of what chaplains do regularly, from factory workers to company owners who are worth millions of dollars and may even go to church but don’t have people they can trust.

“I would estimate that 85 percent of the people that we deal with everyday don’t have a church home,” Satterfield said. “It doesn’t mean they’re not believers. ... Some people know about church, they’ve been to church and aren’t going anymore. Very few that I talk to actually say, ‘I’m consistently going.’

“Life happens at a rapid rate, and when it does, I was shocked to find out how many people don’t have anyone to turn to. That’s why we’re there. What’s what we do,” he said.

Photo courtesy of Marketplace Ministries

Each week, thousands of workplace chaplains minister to employees who may not have a local church home or who don’t feel comfortable discussing life problems with their pastor.

Chris Hobgood, who works with a similar organization, Corporate Chaplains of America, told Baptist Press confidentiality plays a significant role in chaplains’ work. And because their work is not as high-profile as pastors of local churches, people aren’t as aware of workplace chaplains.

“But so many of the times that we interact with employees in the workplace who are believers, they feel that they can’t share those really ugly parts — those deep, dark secrets — with their pastor because, statistically speaking, within about 18 months if you share one of those issues with a pastor, you’ll end up leaving the church just because of what I term the weirdness factor,” Hobgood said.

“If, for example, you reveal to your pastor you’ve had an affair in your marriage, even if the pastor is just preaching through the Bible and comes to the story of David and Bathsheba, you’re going to feel like as a member of that congregation, ‘Well, he’s talking about me from the pulpit.’ As a result, you end up leaving and going to another church.

“What we can do as chaplains is come there and because we do have a high degree of confidentiality and anonymity, we can come alongside the church and help guide those believers and they end up staying in those churches much longer as a result, which we find to be good. In some sense, we’re kind of helping stabilize those congregations,” Hobgood, who attends North Metro First Baptist Church in Lawrenceville, Ga., said.

Stricklin, of Marketplace Ministries, employs about 2,500 chaplains who serve at 411 companies and care for more than 131,000 employees. During the past 25 years, the chaplains have helped lead more than 50,000 people to Christ, he said. Also, nearly half a million dollars has been given to people in benevolent situations through the chaplain work.

Railroad Chaplains of America, another division of Marketplace Ministries, was founded in 2006. Since then, chaplain care teams have been sent to more than 270 families that have had someone killed or critically injured as a result of a train.

“This is where we have gone to families where a young father was fishing off a railroad bridge, a train was coming and he tried to get off the bridge and was killed by the train at 1 a.m.,” Stricklin said.

“We sent a chaplain to a small farmhouse out in the countryside of Nebraska. When our chaplain was there, this man’s little 7-year-old daughter came up to our chaplain and said, ‘Mister, are you here because my daddy got killed?’ Our chaplain knelt down and looked that little girl in the eye and said, ‘Darling, I’m here to help you and your family in every way I can.’”

The chaplain team helped plan the funeral, pay for the funeral and provide food for the family when they gathered on the day of the funeral.

Also, chaplains are there when company employees want to get married and don’t know who to ask to officiate.

“We’re involved not only with the very sad things but we do weddings every week. We’ve done over 1,500 weddings where people come to us and want to get married. They’re usually living together, so we get to share with those people the reason for commitment and what that means,” Stricklin said.

“... We establish a lot of new homes built on biblical principles of marriage and longevity of a family. That’s a great thrill,” he said.

Stricklin has been a member of First Baptist Church in Dallas for 39 years and has two degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“We have more than 400 chaplains who are Southern Baptist on our staff. We have 81 denominations on our staff, and the largest denominational group on our staff is Southern Baptists,” he said.

The need for chaplains is as intense as it has ever been in the workplace, he said, especially given the difficult economy.

“When people don’t have anything but financial resources to lean on and that goes away, then they sense that life is over and there is nothing but despair and loneliness,” Stricklin said.

“We have seen a rise in suicides in the last 18 months because some people don’t have anything else but finances, and when you lose that you’ve lost it all, in their minds. But those people that don’t have much but they’ve got Jesus, they stand strong when the storm is raging and when the wind is blowing.

“And chaplains stand with them to encourage them and to share the love of God with everybody — that there is hope beyond economics. There’s hope in this life but there’s hope also in the life yet to come,” he said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.)

9/2/2009 8:42:00 AM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Marketplace Ministries is 25 years old

September 2 2009 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Marketplace Ministries, one of the largest workplace chaplaincy organizations in the U.S., is celebrating 25 years of service.

The organization — which works for more than 400 companies — has four subsidiaries: Marketplace Chaplains USA, Marketplace Chaplains International, Railroad Chaplains of America and Marketplace Ministries Foundation.

Companies hire the chaplain ministry to send in people to care for their workers, often resulting in higher workplace morale and better productivity.

“Marketplace chaplains are people that go to the workplace to do pastoral care for people that don’t have that care through the local congregation or the local church — which is the great majority,” Gil Stricklin, founder of Marketplace Ministries, told Baptist Press. “The great majority of Americans do not go to church every Sunday, but they still get sick, they still need help, they still need a chaplain, they still need someone to care for them. That’s what we do.”

Stricklin said chaplains come alongside workers to help them through life crises, even investing large amounts of time in someone’s wellbeing.

“We’re in hospitals every day,” he said. “We’ve gone where a person has been in the hospital for as long as six months and then another six months in rehabilitation, and the chaplain becomes the cheerleader for that person’s wellness and for that person’s healing and for any advancement they make in getting back to a life of normalcy,” he said.

“The chaplain is there to cheer them on but also is there when they ask for prayer. The chaplain is there to represent God through the power of prayer, that the Great Physician would touch that person’s life and heal them physically, emotionally and certainly spiritually,” Stricklin said.

During the 25 years, Stricklin said, more than 50,000 people have accepted Christ.

Marketplace Chaplains International now is in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Scotland, Wales, England and Canada.

“It is constantly amazing to me and our national and international team members how many business men and women in the marketplace are more concerned about the top line — workers and their families — than their bottom line — profit and dividends,” Stricklin said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.)

9/2/2009 8:41:00 AM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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