September 2011

IMB trains for unreached, unengaged peoples

September 15 2011 by Don Graham, Baptist Press

MARIETTA, Ga. – It’s a problem many pastors wish they had.

About a year ago Chris Roberts started Bridge Community Church in Blackshear, Ga., with just 36 people. The congregation has since swelled to an average of 280 in Sunday morning worship. The rapid growth has sent Roberts scrambling to lay groundwork for what he hopes will become one of Bridge Community’s hallmarks – missions.

“We already have a heart to connect with an unreached people group,” Roberts said, explaining that his church has the passion but not the know-how. That’s what brought him to the International Mission Board’s first Embrace equipping conference Sept. 7 in Marietta, Ga.

Roberts was one of nearly 500 pastors and church leaders who packed the Atlanta-area Johnson Ferry Baptist Church for the all-day event, a starting point for churches willing to explore the challenge of taking the Gospel to the world’s 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups (UUPGs).

Launched at June’s year’s Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Phoenix, the Embrace initiative represents a radical addition to Southern Baptists’ traditional missionary-sending model and an ambitious goal for the denomination’s 46,000 churches: a lifetime commitment to “do whatever it takes” to make Jesus’ name known among a UUPG.

The idea was born of a prayer-laden collaboration between IMB President Tom Elliff and Bryant Wright, SBC president and pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, who have challenged Southern Baptist churches to claim responsibility by next year’s SBC annual meeting for reaching all 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups.

These UUPGs “are in some of the absolute hardest places in the world,” Elliff told Embrace attendees. “As far as we know there is no ongoing, deliberate strategy involving boots on the ground that is doing these three things – evangelizing, discipling and planting a reproducing church.”

The IMB can’t reach all 3,800 UUPGs, not even with 10,000 missionaries, Elliff explained.

“It’s not so much us asking you to be our partner in this ... but actually it’s about us saying that we want to be your partner,” Elliff said. “It’s going to take us all to reach the ends of the earth.”

For Roberts, the Embrace call is an answer to prayer. Just a few weeks earlier, he had assembled a group of church members to seek God’s direction for the shape of Bridge Community’s future missions involvement. Though the group might be more commonly known as a missions committee at other churches, Roberts calls them a “Go team.” One of the members stumbled upon the Embrace conference while surfing IMB’s website.

BP Photo

Mark Harrison (left) missions pastor at Old Town Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., talks with IMB missional church strategists team director Eric King at the conclusion of the Embrace equipping conference Sept. 7 at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga.

“We’re ready to obey, even though we don’t know the task yet,” Roberts said. “If I allow God’s passion to overflow in my heart, then that’s going to spill out on our congregation.”

That’s why Roberts didn’t come to Atlanta alone. Like many of the 200-plus churches and entities represented at the Embrace event, Roberts brought along two members of the Go team. Between the three of them, their short-term missions experience is deep and diverse, with trips to India, Turkey, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Greece, Ecuador, Brazil and Jamaica. So it’s no surprise that sharing the Gospel with an unengaged, unreached people group doesn’t worry this team. Instead it’s the daunting task of picking a UUPG with whom to share that does.

“It’s intimidating trying to find where God wants you,” said Shannon Gillen, one of Bridge Community’s Go team members who accompanied Roberts. “But once God does that, it’s exciting to be able to partner in one specific place and pour everything into it.”

Helping churches navigate the UUPG selection process is one of the goals of the Embrace conferences, which feature a series of people-group-focused breakout sessions designed to paint a picture of the unique challenges of reaching UUPGs in a specific area of the world. The conference also attempts to tackle some of the “alphabet soup” of acronyms and terms for which IMB is infamous, breaking down information into clear concepts that church leaders can share with their congregations.

For instance, there are more than 11,000 people groups on earth; approximately 3,800 are UUPGs. The first “U,” unengaged, means there is no known active, evangelical church-planting strategy among the people group. The second “U,” unreached, describes a people group that is less than 2 percent evangelical Christian. A “people group” is the largest group through which the Gospel can flow without encountering significant barriers of understanding and acceptance.

BP Photo

IMB President Tom Elliff emphasizes the importance of prayer as churches begin to consider embracing an unengaged, unreached people group. Elliff addressed 500 pastors and church leaders attending an Embrace equipping conference at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga.

Conference attendees also heard success stories from churches already “embracing” unreached people groups – churches like Beulah Baptist, a small, rural congregation in Hopkins, S.C.

Led by pastor Brad Bessent, Beulah began praying in 2007 about partnering with IMB to spread the Gospel among an unreached West African people group. Beulah eventually set its sights on a village of about 3,000 people. There were no evangelical churches in the village and no known Christians.

Short-term missions teams from Beulah began visiting the village every six weeks, openly sharing the Gospel with anyone willing to listen. At an average cost of $4,000 per volunteer, the trips weren’t cheap, and the church didn’t have money to fund them.

“God can supply $4,000 as easily as He can give you four pennies,” Bessent said. “We don’t pay anybody’s way. They have to raise their own support. We’re a blue-collar church. There are no rich people in my church. ... God has always provided.”

During the past four years, Beulah Baptist has witnessed more than 100 new believers among their people group, and that number continues to grow.

“Now some of you are going to go away after what you hear today and say, ‘I can’t do that.’ And I think you need to be honest with yourself and say, ‘I won’t do that.’ Because you can do that with God,” Bessent said.

Elliff strongly cautioned that success like Beulah’s isn’t possible apart from prayer – the single most important component of the Embrace process.

“If this does not begin with prayer in your heart and prayer in your church, then it will never go any further than today,” Elliff said.

“You’re not going to be able to get on an airplane and go to virtually any of these groups tomorrow. You couldn’t if you wanted to. ... But you can be there in a second in prayer. And if God can somehow expand our concept of what praying does, we won’t think that it’s just a little thing to pray about people. We’ll see that God being there is sometimes more important than our being there.”

That’s a truth Chris Roberts isn’t afraid to acknowledge.

“I’m scared we don’t listen enough,” he said. “I feel like we’ve got a lot of work to do but excited that we know the next step.”

There are three more opportunities to attend an Embrace equipping event: Oct. 27 at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Cedar Hill, Texas; Nov. 4 at Applewood Baptist Church in Denver, and March 24 at Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland, Calif. Those who want to participate can register at, which also includes a video from the Atlanta Embrace equipping conference sessions.

Those unable to attend any of the Embrace events can register for a free, one-hour Embrace equipping webinar. Visit to sign up.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Don Graham is a senior writer for the International Mission Board.)
9/15/2011 8:04:00 AM by Don Graham, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

CBF leader sets retirement in 2012

September 15 2011 by press reports

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) Executive Coordinator Daniel Vestal announced his retirement at a recent CBF advisory council meeting.

With a retirement date effective June 30, 2012, Vestal has been the leader for CBF since 1996 when he replaced founding coordinator Cecil Sherman.

Vestal asked officers to appoint a search committee. He said he would leave sooner if the committee can find a replacement. The advisory council meets and acts on behalf of the CBF governing body, the Coordinating Council, between meetings. The Coordinating Council is scheduled to meet Oct. 19-21 in Atlanta. Vestal bid for the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1990 but was defeated. After that Vestal convened a meeting of disenfranchised moderates that led to formation of the CBF a year later. A Texas native, Vestal pastored two churches in Texas and another in Georgia.

“One reason I have great hope for the future of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is because of the quality and character of present and emerging leadership,” Vestal said. “CBF is blessed with a host of Baptist Christians who believe in our vision and values. Thanks be to God.”
9/15/2011 8:03:00 AM by press reports | with 0 comments

Flood recovery remains Pa., N.Y. challenge

September 14 2011 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

MONTOURSVILLE, Pa. – With water rising a foot every 15 minutes, Noel Carr and his young son Jerico grabbed a few possessions, the dog and five pet chickens before abandoning their home to historic flooding from Tropical Storm Lee.

“By this time the water was over our heads and we had no more access to our home,” Carr said Monday, four days after the flooding receded from Montoursville, Pa.

Fellow members of First Baptist Church in Williamsport, of the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey, had placed gravel to give Carr access through foot-deep mud to his home. Church members cleaned and gutted the house’s flood-damaged first floor and thrown out ruined furniture, appliances and clothing.

Carr, his wife Fawn and their 8-year-old son were in church Sunday, full of gratitude.

“It was very important that we see the people and start to thank them for what they’ve done,” Carr said.

“We see (God’s) hand working in this,” he added. “We’ve had a chance to minister to people that we would never have been able to minister to, especially my neighbors.”

Such ministry, both physical and spiritual, is the thrust of Southern Baptist relief and recovery workers who are stretched thin to meet the needs of many in the Northeast where Tropical Storm Lee brought heavy rains to areas that were still flooded from Hurricane Irene.

“What a blessing,” Carr said after some 20 members of his church, five of them trained disaster relief volunteers, responded to his need. “Currently, we’re still homeless. We don’t know where we’re going to live.” Carr hopes to rebuild as the church helps his wife and son secure temporary housing while he lives on his property in a camper trailer.

Kenton Hunt, Carr’s pastor and BCPSJ recovery coordinator, was busy ministering to Pennsylvania communities in need while also helping several families in the Williamsport his own congregation whose homes flooded.

“The damage in Pennsylvania is huge. We’re getting requests from all over the place,” Hunt said. “This is going to be huge.”

The adjacent Baptist Convention of New York is busy responding to needs in Binghamton, where more than 10,000 residents were evacuated because of the flooding Susquehanna River, the same source of flooding in Pennsylvania.

“It literally flooded the whole city,” said Mike Flannery, BCNY director of disaster relief. “The good part is the water is receding quickly. The challenge is getting mud-out teams from other communities.”

The BCNY is shifting its focus from Washingtonville and Schenectady to Binghamton, Flannery said. The feeding unit at Trinity Baptist Church near Schenectady, staffed by volunteers from Kentucky, will prepare meals for Binghamton through today (Sept. 12), while the Washingtonville feeding unit transfers to Davis College in Johnson City to begin serving Binghamton on Tues., Sept. 13.

A mud-out team from Somerset, Va., has responded to Flannery’s call for recovery help, but more teams are needed.

“What we’re trying to do is organize college students to do the mud-out in Binghamton,” Flannery said. More than 100 Davis College students are being trained in clean-up work in hopes of getting mud-out equipment and supplies. Flannery will speak Sept. 13 to some 30 cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, hoping to mobilize them to help.

The Baptist Convention of Ohio has responded with volunteers for the feeding unit in Johnson City, replacing a team from the Pearl River Baptist Association in Mississippi who have returned home after serving in Washingtonville.

Sunday in Pennsylvania, the BCPSJ stationed a feeding unit in Hazelton that prepared 3,000 meals that night with the help of local volunteers and a group from Virginia. The BCPSJ is still assessing flood damage and need. Two churches in the BCPSJ have requested help, Hunt said.

“The problem for us is many of the volunteers we’ve called who would respond are affected by the floods themselves,” Hunt said.

Just after Hurricane Irene, the BCPSJ mobilized two mud-out units to clean about 40 homes in Noxen Township, Pa., only to have Lee reflood the homes.

“It’s a little disconcerting,” Hunt said of Lee coming so closely behind Irene. “You take a step at a time. (You) keep trusting in the Lord, not only for physical strength, but for spiritual direction in how to proceed.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is a freelance writer in New Orleans.)
9/14/2011 8:50:00 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Vt. Baptists persevere in aiding victims

September 14 2011 by John Evans, Baptist Press

BARRE, Vt. – At a flood-damaged Vermont home, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief assessors offered the residents a win-win solution: They would evaluate the home and have a cleanup crew come work for free.

“(T)he people said, ‘No, we don’t want anything to do with religion,’” recounted Terry Dorsett, director of missions for the Green Mountain Baptist Association.

The assessors, all seasoned disaster relief workers, had never been rejected before.

“The (people) that have a tender heart, they’re open to the Lord and their lives are being transformed, and those that don’t ... they’re still just as hard,” Dorsett said.

Ministry in Vermont has been anything but simple since Hurricane Irene turned mountain rivers and streams into raging torrents that flooded towns and villages in late August. Roads and bridges were washed out, isolating entire communities.

As Baptist relief workers visit flood-damaged neighborhoods to offer help, Vermont Baptist leader Terry Dorsett reflects, “since the typical Vermonter doesn’t think of God in his daily experience, it’s my hope that now they will, because they saw the hands and feet of God at work all around them.”

While Southern Baptist Disaster Relief was gearing up, local churches stepped in with immediate relief.

“It was a week that we were kind of on our own,” Dorsett said. “And I don’t know that Vermont Baptists have ever dealt with a challenge of this magnitude … . And yet they rose to the challenge. They did it.”

New Life Community Church in Northfield, with about 50 members, saw that more than 50 nearby homes were flooded after the rains. The church called the Baptist Convention of New England (BCNE) for support, and by the week’s end, a disaster relief trailer arrived with a specialist who taught church members how to mud-out homes and share Jesus during the cleanup.

Since then, New Life has been cleaning homes, preparing meals and sharing the Gospel. The church even canceled its services one Sunday to focus on flood relief.

“Our community needed us to BE the church,” Trey Cates, pastor of New Life, told Baptist Press in an email, “and our church members were blessed as they worked hard to clean out mud-filled basements, tear out water-soaked sheet-rock and insulation, and pull up layer upon layer of saturated flooring.”

With a weak economy, other disasters around the country and fatigue from a particularly busy year, SBDR resources have been stretched thin; teams are struggling to meet the demand for relief work in Vermont. Currently, mud-out teams from Massachusetts, Vermont and Alabama are working in Montpelier; mud-out teams from South Carolina and Maine are in Jacksonville; and a New Hampshire mud-out unit is working in North Bennington. A Kentucky communication team is working in Jacksonville, and a Vermont shower/laundry unit is at work in Northfield.

Not only is it hard getting enough mud-out teams for flooded homes (88 homes currently are awaiting work), but simply restocking supplies can be difficult.

“We have a 45-minute, hour drive to go to a Home Depot and get those kinds of supplies if we run out of garbage bags or work gloves or masks,” Dorsett said.

On days when he can only provide help for a fraction of the people who need it, Dorsett seeks the Lord’s direction about who to aid.

“I do feel like we’ve made the right choices so far, that God has been able to direct us to the most needy people at the most needy times, and I hope He continues to do that,” Dorsett said. “Because the needs definitely are far bigger than the resources.”

Time is also running out for the disaster relief workers; if homes can’t be restored before winter’s harsh temperatures set in, homeowners will have no place to go for months, perhaps even a year.

But amidst the challenges, many opportunities to share Christ have sprung up from Vermont’s muddy basements.

Cates recalled working on a house when a man next door asked him for advice on treating his flooring for mold.

“While we stood in mud, he told me how he hoped all the good things in life would outweigh the bad,” Cates wrote. “Right there, I got to share with him about Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins and God’s amazing grace. He let me pray for him in that mud-filled basement, and we are praying that He will turn his life over to Jesus Christ.”

Dorsett hopes that Vermonters will remember that in a time of disaster, Christians showed up to help.

“And since the typical Vermonter doesn’t think of God in his daily experience, it’s my hope that now they will,” he said, “because they saw the hands and feet of God at work all around them.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – John Evans is a writer based in Houston.)
9/14/2011 8:35:00 AM by John Evans, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

N.C. citizens will get to vote on marriage

September 14 2011 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

RALEIGH, N.C. – After years of watching their neighbor states pass constitutional amendments protecting the natural definition of marriage, North Carolinians finally will get to vote on the issue in 2012.

The North Carolina Senate made sure of that Tuesday, passing a marriage amendment, 30-16, one day after the state House passed it, 75-42. It required a three-fifths majority in each chamber but will need only a simple majority when it’s on the ballot during the primary election next year, possibly in May.

“It is time for us to let the people of this state decide what they want in their constitution as far as marriage is concerned,” Sen. Phil Berger, a Republican, said during floor debate. “It may pass, it may fail. But it is time for them to make that decision about their constitution.”

BSC photo by Alicia Jones

North Carolina citizens who support a constitutional marriage amendment rallied Sept. 12, urging the legislature to put an amendment on the 2012 ballot. The House passed the amendment later in the day, and the Senate passed it the next day.

All four states that border North Carolina passed constitutional marriage amendments in 2004 or 2006, but leaders in the then-Democratic controlled North Carolina legislature blocked an amendment from even coming to a floor vote. That changed last year when Republicans took over both chambers for the first time in more than 100 years. North Carolina also is the only state in the southeast without a marriage amendment.

State polls and experience in other states, though, show the issue is far from a partisan issue and likely will get support from significant percentages in both parties. Marriage amendments have passed in Democratic-leaning states such as California, Michigan, Oregon and Wisconsin.

GOP leaders in North Carolina tried to de-politicize the issue by moving the vote from November 2012 to the 2012 primary, taking away the argument that the amendment’s sole purpose was to bring out conservative voters during a presidential election.

A majority of states, 29, define marriage as between a man and a woman in their state constitutions. The amendments prevent state courts from redefining marriage to include gay couples, as has happened in Connecticut, Iowa and Massachusetts.

“It’s the culmination of over 10 years of intensive work,” Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, told Baptist Press. The organization supports the amendment and works with Christian organizations, including the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. “Every year that that legislation was put forward, the leaders in both chambers would not even allow it even to be heard. But when the leadership changed at the last election, we knew we had hope that we were finally going to get a hearing on it, and if we could get a hearing, that it would pass.”

Still, it was “more of a fight than I anticipated,” Creech said.

With 50 members in the Senate, the amendment passed by the bare minimum (30 votes) for a three-fifths majority. It needed 72 votes in the House and cleared that margin by only three votes.

Minnesota citizens will also vote on a marriage amendment next year, in November. In Maine, supporters of gay “marriage” are trying to collect signatures to redefine marriage, although the issue – even if passes on the ballot – would have to go before the legislature.

The heart of the North Carolina amendment reads: “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.” The amendment also would prohibit New Jersey-style civil unions that grant all the legal benefits of marriage, without the name.

Creech said moving the issue from November 2012 to the primary gained the amendment about 10 votes in the House.

During House debate, opponents said the amendment was discriminatory and unnecessary.

“Our statutes already provide that the only recognized marriage in North Carolina is between a man and a woman,” said Rep. Susan Fisher, a Democrat. “So why is a constitutional amendment needed?”

Supporters countered by saying the amendment – unlike the current statute – would prevent state courts from forcing marriage redefinition on the state.

The support of churches, Creech said, is critical to the amendment’s success.

“There is absolutely nothing more important on this issue than for pastors to stand up and lead their churches to understand that this is a critical moment in our history,” Creech said. “If we fail to protect marriage, we’re talking about it significantly affecting the future of our children and our children’s children. If traditional marriage fails, then over time the country itself will fail. Pastors need to stand up, speak up, preach about marriage and talk about how important it is for the church to stand up in his juncture in history to defend God’s first institution of marriage.”

Churches must address it “compassionately and lovingly,” he said.

“I am confident that once the people of North Carolina are able to enter into the secret chamber of the voting booth – where they are no longer afraid of being labeled a bigot or a homophobe or intolerant – they’re going to vote for traditional marriage,” Creech said.

Although both sides are still planning their campaign strategy, amendment supporters could focus on two themes that have proven successful in other states: 1) children need mother and fathers and 2) legalizing gay “marriage” will have negative consequences on religious freedoms and impact what is taught in elementary schools.

Nationwide, the issue has proven popular at the ballot: Including the 29 states that have voted on marriage amendments and two other states (Hawaii and Maine) that have voted on the issue, voters have passed the proposals by an average margin of 67-33 percent.

“The big lie in politics is that the marriage fight is over,” said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, which supports the North Carolina amendment. “But this vote proves once again the pundits are wrong, the people want the right to decide the future of marriage.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. Learn more about the debate in North Carolina at or
9/14/2011 8:16:00 AM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

9/11 survivors reflect during night of hope

September 13 2011 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

NEW YORK – It was hard to listen to the soulful, toe tapping, jazz-like tunes and not clap along, especially during the group’s rendition of “Just a closer walk with thee.” From all the laughter and smiles, one would not have guessed the crowd to be gathered for an event related to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

Nor would it seem obvious that those gathered represented 9/11 survivors.

Yet the upbeat melodies from the trombone and tambourine seemed only fitting, for this was not a somber occasion at Graffiti Church in the Lower Eastside of Manhattan. On the evening before the 10th anniversary of 9/11, survivors gathered together for a night of hope; a night to remember, rejoice and give God thanks for His faithfulness even in the darkest days.

The evening included dinner and times of prayer, listening and sharing from survivors such as Jacqulyn McNally, whose stepfather died during the 9/11 attacks. It took three weeks for her family to find out for sure that their loved one had died.

When McNally first found out about the attacks it was her aunt she was worried about.

Her aunt worked at a hotel near the World Trade Center. She didn’t even know her stepfather was at the World Trade Center that day until his boss called later in the day to see if anyone had heard from him. It was then McNally learned that her stepfather’s route that day of making deliveries included a stop at the World Trade Center.

McNally shared that her stepfather knew Jesus as His personal Savior, and she knew that her hope was only found in Jesus Christ.

McNally prayed to receive Jesus as her personal Lord and Savior in 1998. Two years later, her stepfather came to faith in Christ. Actually, since McNally was saved, many members of her family have also come to know Jesus Christ. God used McNally’s faithfulness to share with her faith with her family to draw others to Himself.

Trina Craft, a 15-year member of Graffiti Church, is another survivor who gave a testimony. Craft was supposed to have a job interview that day on the 86th floor in one of the towers. A neighbor called her that morning to see if she had already left for the interview and to tell her what had just happened at the World Trade Center.

Craft, who is usually one to be a few minutes early, was running late that day and was still home when her neighbor called.

Craft’s cousin died on Sept. 11. He was a rescue worker trying to help people.

BSC photo

Graffiti Church Pastor Taylor Field signs a “wall of remembrance,” looking back at 9/11.

One year after the attacks, Craft came to Graffiti for help. She took computer classes at Graffiti to help her be better able to find a job. She then began volunteering in the computer lab, and now her full time job is teaching computer and ESL classes and running the soup kitchen at Graffiti.

Craft said during the last decade she has learned to trust God, and to know that whatever happens is His will for her life.

Ashley Allen, director of Embrace Women’s Missions and Ministries for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, began praying last year for an opportunity for women in North Carolina to reach out and minister to those whose lives forever changed after 9/11. The Sept. 10 dinner was an answer to those prayers.

Allen and a team of 16 women from North Carolina Baptist churches came to New York City to work with Graffiti Church and Kareem Goubran, Graffiti’s director of adult ministries, to host the event. The North Carolina team also spent several days serving in mission projects throughout New York City.

“We wanted to encourage survivors of 9/11 and to help them remember that there’s still hope in the midst of tragedy,” Allen said. “Jesus Christ is the one constant.”

Allen said what impressed her heart the most was seeing the “raw transparency” of the survivors. “You could tell the grieving process takes time,” she said, speaking of a woman who cried as she talked about running for her life as the towers fell.

Lisa Chilson-Rose, author of As the towers fell, also helped bring to life what happened that day. She spoke about believers like police officer Brian O’Neil, who worked to pull body parts and personal items from the rubble. In her book she writes that after 9/11 O’Neil is more outspoken about his faith and has a stronger relationship with Jesus.

Chilson-Rose now lives in Alabama and serves with the state Baptist convention, but she spent 16 years living in New York and working at the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association. She was also a member of Graffiti Church, which has been ministering to 9/11 survivors for the past 10 years. After the terrorist attacks, Goubran was brought on church staff to direct the 9/11 recovery program. Graffiti wanted to help minister long-term as well as short term, and so the church offered financial assistance, grief support and job development opportunities. Partners such as N.C. Baptist Men assisted in those efforts.

Goubran said the night of hope dinner was a way for ministry to continue with 9/11 survivors and to remind them that even after 10 years they are not forgotten and people are still here – and will continue to be here – to care for them.

“Ministry is about being present, because God is present in the struggle,” he said. “God does not forget us when we’re in need. If we don’t believe God can bring the best from the worst, then why the cross?”

Perhaps the greatest testimonies of hope that night came not from those who shared on the stage, but from those who died September 11, 2001.

“Their testimonies continued to live on,” Chilson-Rose said. “We don’t realize what an impact we have on others. Never take for granted what influence you will have on someone’s life.”
9/13/2011 8:53:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Cullom DOM Larry Padgett dies

September 13 2011 by BR staff

The news of Larry Padgett’s death is still sinking in with his family and his fellow laborers in the Cullom Baptist Association.

“Larry was a true friend and pastor to the people,” said Rob Evans, the association’s moderator and pastor of Macon Baptist Church. “He genuinely enjoyed seeing the work of Christ being accomplished within each church of the Cullom Association. What a shock! We as an association are doing all that we can to move forward.”

Larry Dean Padgett, 69, died Aug. 20 at his home. He was the director of missions (DOM) for Cullom Baptist Association. Evans said Padgett was always looking for ways to support and encourage the local churches.

“Larry, greatly loved the Cullom Association, and wanted to see it be all that it could be for the Kingdom of God,” Evans said. “Perhaps, one of Larry’s paramount gifts was his ability to connect with people. It is hard to replace friends like Larry Padgett. Perhaps, the one thing that I will honestly miss about Larry is his contagious smile and laughter.”

The association is receiving help from Dougald McLaurin, Tar River Baptist Association’s director of missions, as well as Milton A. Hollifield Jr., executive director-treasurer at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), and Lester Evans, BSC’s team leader for associational partnerships.

Evans said these leaders are helping “formulate a mission plan so that we can continue to be effective for Christ within the Cullom Association area and its outer limits.”

Randy Godwin, director of missions for Mount Zion Baptist Association and president of North Carolina Baptist Associational Missions Conference, said Padgett will be missed. “Larry was one of those rare individuals who uplifted your spirit by just being in his presence,” he said. “I do not remember a time talking with Larry that he was not smiling and happy just to be alive.”

He is survived by his wife, Sue Williams Padgett; children, Lori Martin of Clinton, Veronica Izurieta of Cathedral City, Calif., Mary Fisher of Dunn, Lorayne Lingat of Murrieta, Calif.; sons, Guy Padgett of Clinton, Daryl Padgett of Dunn, Dean Padgett of Charleston, S.C., Gregory Padgett of Wilmington; four sisters; 22 grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.
9/13/2011 8:41:00 AM by BR staff | with 0 comments

Regional gatherings celebrate NCMO work

September 13 2011 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

When North Carolina Baptists give to the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO) they help make possible Kingdom work such as church planting, associational missions and ministry projects, and N.C. Baptist Men ministries and partnerships.

N.C. Baptist Men (NCBM) recently hosted a series of Mission Celebrations across the state to give North Carolina Baptists opportunity to learn more about the work supported by NCMO.

“We want to help churches involve their members in missions,” said Richard Brunson, NCBM executive director-treasurer. “God is using North Carolina Baptist volunteers in a great way. Volunteers are serving as the hands and feet of Jesus.” NCMO supports NCBM disaster relief ministry and 13 other NCBM ministries.

NCMO also supports church planting efforts across the state. During a Mission Celebration at First Baptist Church in Cary, attendees saw a video about how NCMO helped Ronnie Morton start Greater Joy Baptist Church in Oxford. “We’re here to transform the lives of this community, and to change the atmosphere,” Morton said. “If we change the person from the inside out, that transformation then goes into the community. We are claiming Oxford for Christ.”

Lin Honeycutt shares about North Carolina Baptist Men and the ministries that are supported through the North Carolina Missions Offering. Honeycutt, disaster relief volunteer and member of Highland Baptist Church in Raleigh, shared Aug. 23 at First Baptist Church in Cary about the tornado relief efforts in Raleigh.

Michael Royster is one example of how Morton and Greater Joy are, through the power of the Holy Spirit, seeing lives changed. Royster used to be a drug dealer. He was often in jail and would spend days away from home. That was before Morton invited him to Greater Joy. Royster came, heard the gospel, and gave his life to Jesus Christ.

Now Royster is involved in church and giving back to the community. “Whatever I’m doing today is going to count. Not what I’ve done. What I’m doing right now. I love the new Michael,” he said.

This year’s NCMO theme is “Compelled … By Christ, By Love, By Lostness,” and the offering goal is $2.1 million.

During the Mission Celebration at First Baptist, Cary, North Carolina Baptists shared about how they have been involved in local, national and international missions and ministries supported through NCMO.

Lin Honeycutt, disaster relief volunteer and member of Highland Baptist Church in Raleigh, shared about his experience in disaster relief after a series of tornadoes stormed across North Carolina. About one week after the tornadoes hit, NCBM recovery efforts were underway in 13 locations across 12 counties.

Trees fell on the home of Doris Pope, a 51-year member of Carolina Pines Baptist Church in Raleigh.

“There are no words to express what Baptist men and women have done for me,” she said.

Another opportunity to serve locally is through Deep Impact. Deep Impact mission weeks are opportunities for middle and high school students to serve and to share the gospel.

This summer, 1,161 students participated in activities such as construction, Vacation Bible School, prayer walking and service projects. In North Carolina, Deep Impact was held in Fruitland, Red Springs, Greenville, Shelby, Caswell Beach and Bladen County. One week was also held in New York City and Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Allison Huber was one of the college students serving on staff this summer with Deep Impact. Huber said each week she heard stories from the youth about how God worked in the lives of people they met. “I was reminded of how powerful He is,” she said.

Amy Malugen, member of Mountain Creek Baptist Church in Oxford, spoke about how members of her church went to Pennsylvania to help lead a Vacation Bible School. Ministry in Pennsylvania is one of the opportunities North Carolina Baptists have to serve nationally through NCBM. Other sites include Vermont, Hawaii, Appalachian Coalfields and the Rocky Mountain states.

NCBM also provides international avenues in which North Carolina Baptists can serve, such as in Armenia, Ukraine, Guatemala, Honduras, Cuba, India, Kenya and Haiti.

Alicia Jones, a graduate of Campbell University and student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, is involved with the work in Ukraine. She made her first trip to Ukraine last year and went again this year to work among the gypsy people, who are the poorest of the poor in this country. Yet, “God is building the vision for His work there,” Jones said.

After finishing the weeklong mission trip with others from Fairview Baptist Church in Apex, Jones stayed behind to spend several weeks to take language classes. She plans to return to Ukraine next year to begin helping start a kindergarten for the gypsies.

Jones said she has seen the Spirit of God move among these people, and she is committed to serving God in Ukraine.

The North Carolina Missions Offering also helps make it possible for North Carolina Baptists to serve at mission camps in Shelby and Red Springs. The camps provide volunteers with housing and meals at reasonable rates as they serve in communities around the camp. For more information about NCMO, such as news articles, videos and free promotional resources, visit
9/13/2011 8:35:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

‘Visionary’ leader Cecil Ray dies

September 12 2011 by BR staff

Cecil Armstrong Ray, who led the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) in the late ’70s, early ’80s, died Aug. 23.

Ray, 88, of Georgetown, Texas, is known for promoting the Cooperative Program by giving and going.

“Cecil Ray was a visionary leader with many strong qualities,” said Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer. “He was a man of integrity, and he had a deep level of commitment to his family. Dr. Ray recognized the importance of being a good steward with our material possessions. He practiced this in his own life and he also developed excellent resources to help Southern Baptists obey God in this aspect of discipleship by liberally investing financially in the work of God’s Kingdom.”

Cecil Ray

Ray served North Carolina as the general secretary-treasurer 1976-1983. During that time he became known for his focus on stewardship.

“He was a no nonsense, visionary leader who challenged N.C. Baptists,” said Johnny Ross, GuideStone’s representative at the BSC, who was an adult consultant in the Sunday School department when Ray joined the BSC team.

Ross said Ray challenged N.C. Baptists to be good stewards and to participate in the Bold Mission Thrust, which was the Southern Baptist Convention’s evangelism emphasis at the time.

“Stewardship was his expertise and special interest,” Ross said.

Ray focused attention on the giving and going aspects to advance God’s Kingdom. Targeting Sunday School and evangelism, Ray encouraged churches to hold revivals and to find ways to reach the lost.

“He cared deeply about Convention staff and gave strong leadership,” Ross said. “Dr. Ray and my immediate supervisor and dear friend, Robert Stewart, helped me to understand from the very beginning of my employment with the convention the high privilege and awesome responsibility to serve North Carolina Baptists.”

Ray was born Dec. 9, 1922, in Seminary Hill, Fort Worth, Texas. He married his high school sweetheart, Charlene Andrews.

Ray received his high school, college and graduate degrees in Texas, including a master of theology degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a doctor of divinity degree from Howard Payne University.

Ray played high school football while juggling his schoolwork and a part-time job as a bell hop at a local hotel. He also played football in junior college.

Ray became a Christian at age 7 and was ordained at age 17. He preached his first sermon where his father once had pastored.

During World War II, Ray sold war bonds, was a school teacher, Boy Scout leader and pastored four churches in Texas. He started and led Arnett-Benson Baptist Church, Lubbock, Texas (1946-1956). During his tenure, the church grew to a membership of 1,500.

After his daughter Susan contracted polio and almost died in 1952, Ray was determined to help his daughter have the best life possible. He built specialized equipment that she could use to help her travel, breathe, etc. In the 1960s Ray worked with an IBM volunteer engineer to develop a specialized typewriter so Susan could write.

Ray took on more leadership within Texas as superintendent of missions for the San Antonio Baptist Association, coordinating mission activities for 70 churches. In 1960, Ray was recognized by the Baptist General Convention of Texas as the Texas Baptist “Father of the Year” for providing a “new way of life” for his daughter.

He went on to serve as the secretary of the Cooperative Program and church finance department of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and was promoted to director of the stewardship division.

J.W. Hutchens, also a native of Texas, knew Ray and his family when he was younger. Ray hired Hutchens to work at the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and then later lured him to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Hutchens was the BSC’s director of evangelism for 10 years (1982-1992).

“Two things that always got my attention about Cecil was his wonderful mind and his organizational ability,” Hutchens said. “He was always prepared for any meeting as he had done his homework, and he had a plan as to how to get the job done.”

After his time in North Carolina, Ray was the national director of planned growth in giving for the Southern Baptist Convention. He retired Dec. 31, 1988, but continued to be active in the Williamson Baptist Association and taught Sunday School at Crestview Baptist Church in Georgetown, Texas, until 2004 when his health would no longer allow him to teach.

He authored and published: The Holy Spirit and His Ministry (1953); Living the Responsible Life (1975); Christian Family Money Management (1969); How to Specialize in Christian Living (1981); Witnessing-Giving, These Go Together (1988); and co-authored with Susan Ray Cooperation: The Baptist Way to a Lost World (1985); plus numerous articles for state and Southern Baptist Convention. His most widely used book, Living the Responsible Life,  emphasized all aspects of responsible Christian living and has been translated into Spanish, Korean and several African languages.

He is survived by his son, Lanny Ray of Austin, Texas; sister, Beth Hunsinger of Midland, Texas; a granddaughter; and two great-grandchildren.

Memorials: Crestview Baptist Church, Georgetown, Texas; the Cooperative Program of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina; the Cooperative Program of the Baptist General Convention of Texas; the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Atlanta, Ga.; or the Alzheimer’s Association.
9/12/2011 8:58:00 AM by BR staff | with 0 comments

Volunteers feverishly try to fill jobs

September 12 2011 by BR, BSC staff

With Tropical Storm Maria turning away from the United States, disaster relief volunteers breathe a sigh of relief and continue filling jobs across North Carolina as well as other states.

When Hurricane Irene hit North Carolina Aug. 27, North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM) waited in the wings ready to respond to whatever the storm brought. Irene did not stop in North Carolina, but barreled up the East Coast wreaking havoc in the already-drenched Northeast. Tropical Storm Lee brought more rains to North Carolina and continued flooding the Eastern Seaboard.

Currently, NCBM is operating sites at Hatteras, Belhaven (FBC, Smithton), Kinston, Greenville, New Bern, and Williamston.

“People ask what I say to them. I really don’t. I just listen,” said Steve Wynn. “I let them tell their story.”

By day three of helping coordinate Hurricane Irene recovery efforts in New Bern, Wynn already had plenty of opportunities to listen.

One woman was so upset when she came to First Baptist Church in New Bern, she couldn’t even put into words her request. Volunteers followed up with her a few hours later and learned that her home is now condemned due to extensive water damage.

NCBM expects volunteers to be needed at least several more weeks.

The teams have begun to shift to recovery work, but early numbers indicate disaster volunteers have been busy: So far (as of Sept. 11), 21 have accepted Jesus as Savior; 6,385 have volunteered; 164,914 meals have been prepared; 1,143 recovery jobs completed; 102 children served through the Temporary Childcare ministry; 3,736 have used the shower unit; 874 laundry loads completed; and chaplaincy teams have made 746 contacts with those affected by Irene.

Other state conventions have responded to North Carolina. There have been teams from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia.

“In any disaster, we try to find out where we are needed most, and we have to base that on good information. We rely on our assessors to help us make these decisions,” said Richard Brunson, NCBM executive director-treasurer. “Then, we find hubs where we can serve out of. Places where volunteers can eat and sleep, and then go out into surrounding communities to work.”

All the ministries of NCBM, including disaster relief efforts, are made possible by gifts to the North Carolina Missions Offering. For more information visit To volunteer, visit the website or call (800) 395-5102, ext. 5599.

There are several stories about Hurricane Irene coverage in North Carolina as well as other states available on the Biblical Recorder’s website:
9/12/2011 8:54:00 AM by BR, BSC staff | with 0 comments

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