September 2012

Church’s partnership leads to close encounter with Africa

September 19 2012 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

When the idea of attempting the church’s own Vacation Bible School (VBS) was first proposed, Joy Stallings rolled her eyes and walked away.
 
She knew the amount of work it would take.
 
“It did take a lot of extra work, [but] it was all for a good reason,” said Stallings, director of children and outreach for First Baptist Church in Washington. “Before I knew it we had a list of people who could handle [everything].”
 
First Baptist’s 16-year partnership with Swaziland, Africa, played a central role in this summer’s VBS.
Because more than 75 members have gone to the country since the partnership began in the mid-1990s, members could share first-hand experiences about what it’s like while showing off pictures and authentic mementoes from their trips. One member built a hut – complete with noisy chickens and goats.
 
“I think it may have been more real,” Stallings said. “You felt like you had been taken to another place.”
 
The display also included people who told stories about Peter, his calling and how God spoke to him.
 
In 2011, the church was going through renovations and had to cancel its plans to hold its own VBS. 
 
The church was meeting in a confined space while the renovations took place. Before the cancellation last year, the church averaged 150 children at Vacation Bible School.
 
09-19-12swazi1.jpg

Contributed Photo

Since the girls won the fundraiser during Vacation Bible School some of the male leaders received pies in the face to reward them for raising money for medical missions in Swaziland, Africa. First Baptist Church in Washington has had a partnership with the country since the mid-1990s.


This year, the average was up slightly with 170 children registered.
 
“FBC has been known for its Bible school,” Stallings said. “It hurt to skip it. We just didn’t have enough space. It wasn’t going to be safe for the kids.”
 
Every Sunday night for a year, five women, who made up the VBS planning team, met to discuss progress of the school.
 
“We just have a lot of talent in the church who are willing to give their time and talent,” said Tammy Condrey, the church’s youth minister until 2007. Stallings credits Condrey, who teaches high school math, with spearheading “this homegrown VBS.”
 
Condrey, along with several others, wrote the curriculum. Others pitched in to write words for a theme song. They decided to use a commonly known song from a children’s movie and inserted new words.
 
“We had a Swazi museum [with a] curator there every day,” Stallings said.
 
“It was different for the kids and the workers and it was nice.”
 
09-19-12swazi2.jpg

Contributed Photo

Swazi Safari was created by members of First Baptist Church in Washington as its Vacation Bible School (VBS) this summer. They had record attendance and raised the most they have ever raised in VBS to help with medical missions in Swaziland, Africa.

The volunteers tried to emphasize how Swazi children live without phones and iPods and other technological devices and modern amenities.
 
“A large number of people have been to Swaziland … and it’s where a lot of our heart is for our church,” Condrey said.
 
The VBS offering for the week was to help a medical mission team from their church go to Swaziland in February 2013.

“We’ve never raised over $500 for a Bible School,” Stallings said, but this year, they raised more than $1,000.
 
“It’ll be neat to see what they’ll use that money for,” she said.
 
Even some of the older youth helped with leading groups.
 
“That meant a lot to me that a teenage boy was able to reach out to my son,” Stallings said about her nine-year-old.
 
Stallings had advice for others planning VBS.
 
“Don’t make [the volunteers] plan anything,” she said.
 
Instead she asked for volunteers mainly to help with crowd control and leading groups to their next station. That cut down on the amount of volunteers needed for leading the main segments of VBS. “The easier you make it for them the more volunteers you get,” she said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Dianna L. Cagle is assistant managing editor of the Biblical Recorder, North Carolina’s main source for Baptist news.)
9/19/2012 3:16:13 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments



SBC Exec. Committee hears GuideStone pitch, addresses motions

September 19 2012 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – GuideStone Financial Resources president O.S. Hawkins told members of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Executive Committee Tuesday (Sept. 18) that changing the entity’s ministry assignment to make its investment and insurance products available to church members would benefit Southern Baptists.

Hawkins made his pitch during a PowerPoint presentation to the Executive Committee’s Cooperative Program Committee, which was only gathering information and did not take a vote. A vote could take place during the EC’s February 2013 meeting.

As part of the proposal, GuideStone would be allowed to offer its products to members of Southern Baptist and other evangelical churches.

Hawkins listed several primary reasons for the move, saying it would:

– undergird GuideStone’s long-term strength and stability, allowing it to, for instance, maintain “competitive products, services and fees.”

– create additional revenue to support its Mission:Dignity ministry, which provides financial assistance to retired Southern Baptist ministers, workers and their widows. More revenue is needed, Hawkins said, because 63 percent of GuideStone’s current participants likely will retire in the next 15 years.
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Photo by Morris Abernathy

GuideStone Financial Resources president O.S. Hawkins gives a report to the SBC Executive Committee Sept. 18. Earlier in the day, Hawkins had presented a proposal to the EC’s Cooperative Program Committee to allow GuideStone to offer its products to members of Southern Baptist and other evangelical churches.


– provide revenue allowing future financial support of Southern Baptist mission causes on the state and national levels.

The timing is right for the move, Hawkins said, because research has indicated there are “thousands” of Southern Baptist church members who are interested in GuideStone’s products.

GuideStone would remain a non-profit, Hawkins added.

GuideStone’s hope is for the recommendation to be presented to messengers at the SBC annual meeting next June in Houston. GuideStone does not receive Cooperative Program funds.

Other business

The Executive Committee declined a call for a bylaw amendment that would have required certain content in nominating speeches.

In its response to the motion made during this summer’s annual meeting in New Orleans, the Executive Committee acknowledged the “generally-recognized importance of various elements of church activity such as number of baptisms and Cooperative Program giving” but chose not to recommend the requirement of particular content in nominating speeches, “believing the messengers to be fully capable of assessing whether the information given about any nominee is accurate, sufficient and persuasive.”

Addressing another motion from the New Orleans convention, that the Executive Committee (EC) create an SBC officer policy manual addressing vacancies and other issues, the EC “respectfully” declined to develop a “‘convention officer’s policies and procedures manual’ or a complaints and/or removal process pertaining to SBC officers.”

The Executive Committee declined to act on a referred motion requesting that the 2015 annual meeting be moved to Memphis, Tenn., “believing that the lack of adequate meeting facilities” in Memphis as well as current contractual agreements in Columbus, Ohio, “preclude consideration at this time.”

Regarding another referral from the annual meeting, the Executive Committee declined to act on a request that future annual meetings be scheduled during the last week of June. The schedules for the currently approved dates from 2013 to 2018 “do not conflict with the week following Father’s Day.”

Defining a specific week for the convention, the Executive Committee said, “could reduce the availability of facilities to consider in the site selection process.” The convention arrangements workgroup, though, “will intentionally seek to avoid recommending the third week of June for future SBC annual meetings in order to encourage our churches to promote, celebrate and support godly fathers.”

The convention arrangements workgroup, the Executive Committee said, will study possible alternatives to the 2019 dates to eliminate any conflict with Father’s Day.

The Executive Committee adopted resolutions of appreciation for Bill Crews, who will retire in December after five years as executive director of the Northwest Baptist Convention, and Emil Turner, who will retire in February after 16 years as executive director of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.

Among Crews’ achievements, as noted in the resolution, were leading the Northwest convention through a major reorganization; serving as president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary for 18 years; serving as chancellor and president emeritus at Golden Gate; and serving as president of the California Southern Baptist Convention and the Northwest Baptist Convention.

Crews “distinguished himself as an exemplary leader of Southern Baptist work across the entire western region of the United States for more than forty-five years, developing contextualized strategies for theological education, leadership development, evangelism, and church-planting,” the resolution stated.

The Executive Committee also said Crews “has been noted by colleagues and friends for his integrity, devotion, faithfulness, compassion, warmth, and unflagging commitment to reaching the West for Christ.”

Turner was recognized for “educating local churches about the power of cooperative giving through Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program for the purpose of reaching the state of Arkansas, the United States, and the nations of the world with the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

According to the resolution, Turner “modeled for Arkansas Baptists the discipline of personal evangelism, encouraging pastors, local churches, and the convention as a whole to devote themselves to reaching the lost with the saving message of salvation through Jesus Christ.”

During the course of Turner’s leadership, the Arkansas convention “baptized more than 200,000 precious souls, an average of 13,000 per year for the sixteen years he served as their executive director,” the resolution stated.

Also during the meeting, Brad Waggoner, executive vice president of LifeWay Christian Resources, presented checks to the Executive Committee totaling more than $630,000 designated for the SBC’s two mission boards. The funds were mission offerings given this summer by more than 100,000 participants in LifeWay’s Centrifuge, CentriKids, World Changers and PowerPlant projects. The International Mission Board will receive $308,107 and the North American Mission Board $322,592.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press associate editor Michael Foust and assistant editor Erin Roach.)

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Luter vows to help SBC’s entities reach Kingdom goals

September 19 2012 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Fred Luter Jr. pledged to work with all Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) entities to accomplish their Kingdom goals in his first presidential address to the SBC Executive Committee Sept. 17 in Nashville, Tenn.

Speaking with a fervor akin to his popular rhythmic sermons, Luter called his service as president a “sacred oath” and described himself as a team player.

“I love the saying that says, ‘Teamwork makes the dream work,’” Luter said. “Teamwork, brothers and sisters, makes the dream work.”

He addressed various SBC entity leaders by name, drawing from relationships built during his 25 years of service and leadership as pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans.
 
“Therefore I want to work with the existing groups of the Southern Baptist Convention, and my question to each of them would be ... ‘How can I help you as entity heads, as seminary presidents, as brothers and sisters in this convention, as pastors, as executive directors?’” he said. “How can I help you to carry out your vision that you hope to do in this convention?
09-19-12luter.jpg

Photo by Morris Abernathy

Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter Jr. promoted teamwork capable of realizing the dream of winning the world for Christ, delivering his first address before the SBC Executive Committee in Nashville, Tenn.


“Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, instead of implementing something that will take a long time to implement and complete, my prayer and my vision is to go to these brothers and sisters across our convention, and say in the short window that I have, ‘What can I do as SBC president to help you to carry out your vision and your goal that God has assigned for you to do?’”

Luter spoke, for example, of Richard Land, who has announced his October 2013 retirement as president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

“How can we partner together to help you to carry out your vision for America to challenge believers to be salt and light in our society?” he asked of Land. “The problem in America is saints are not being salt and light.”

But Luter urged SBC leaders and scholars to resolve the Calvinism debate, which he said has the potential to foster divisiveness within the SBC when the priority should be winning the lost.

“This debate we’re having across the convention about Calvinism needs to be resolved among us ASAP,” Luter said. “Brothers and sisters, the dream of turning this convention’s heart to missions and evangelism, missions and discipleship can easily turn into a nightmare if we do not resolve this Calvinism issue in a Christ-like manner. However, if it’s going to be resolved, it must start with many of us right here in this room.”

Luter said the convention should focus its energies on Kingdom building and the vitality of SBC entities.

“The question should be, ‘What can we do in our churches about the declining numbers in baptisms?’ The question should be, ‘What can we do about the declining numbers in church attendance across America?’” Luter said. “The question should be, ‘What can we do about the declining numbers of young people in our churches across America?’ The question should be, ‘What can we do about the declining messengers at the annual Southern Baptist Convention meeting?’ The question should be, ‘What can we do more to plant churches, to win the lost and send missionaries across the world?’”

Luter said pastors and associational leaders he has encountered in meetings since his June election have expressed concerns about the Calvinism debate that has heightened in the SBC in recent months.

“Without fail, every time I’m asked questions, without fail, the question about Calvinism always comes up. The question that I’m asked ... is, ‘Brother Luter, why can’t you all preachers get along?’” Luter said. “Why can’t the leaders of this convention get along? Because what happens in the pulpit is what happens in the pews. Why can’t preachers get along?

“I am convinced that the enemy will do all that he can to stop this wonderful, dynamic convention from doing all that we can do to win the lost, to plant churches and [send] missionaries,” Luter said. “And I believe that [the enemy] has chosen this time, this debate about Calvinism to slow us up and stop us from doing what God has called us to do.”

At other points in his address, Luter encouraged SBC churches to increase their Cooperative Program giving by 1 percentage point of their budgets, which could generate millions in additional Kingdom funding Southern Baptist missions and ministry at home and abroad. Luter pledged to begin with his own congregation in meeting the 1 percent challenge.

“Accept the challenge from our CEO Dr. Frank Page [EC president], the 1 percent challenge. If all of our pastors and all of our churches would give an additional 1 percent to our Cooperative Program, over $100 million that would generate,” Luter said. “So we can send, Dr. [Tom] Elliff [IMB president], more missionaries. So we can train ... more students [in the SBC’s seminaries]. ... So we can carry out the Great Commission. So we can win the lost. So we can plant churches.

“So we can do all that God has called us to do,” Luter said.

He implored leaders of all ethnicities to become full participants in the SBC and to practice the “theology of presence. You have to be there. You must show up.”

Participation and giving are prerequisites for leadership posts, Luter said.

He recited John 13:34-35 and 2 Chronicles 7:14, exhorting believers to love one another and pray that God will send revival to the SBC and the world.

“America needs to be healed. Our states need to be, our cities, our world needs to be healed. If it’s going to start in the Southern Baptist Convention, it’s going to start with us right here in this room.

“Brothers and sisters, ladies and gentlemen as I go to my seat, my prayer as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, is that God would send a revival throughout this convention,” Luter said. “However, it starts with prayer. It starts with us loving one another. It starts with us humbling ourselves. And realize it’s not about us. It’s not about our agenda. It’s about winning the lost. It’s not about the pastor. It’s about the Master.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ staff writer.)

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‘Get it done,’ Page says of gospel task

September 19 2012 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee, used the Book of Jonah to exhort Southern Baptists to heed the call of God to accomplish the Great Commission.

Most people think the miracle in the Book of Jonah was that a fish swallowed a man and the man survived, Page said at the Executive Committee meeting Sept. 17 in Nashville, Tenn.

“But I tell you that’s not the big miracle of the Book of Jonah. The big miracle of the Book of Jonah is that God would speak to a human being,” Page said.

The book, only 48 verses long, is “packed with the sweet message of God for a people that He loved and a man that He wanted to go tell a story.”

“It speaks of the compassion of the Lord for a people who are lost, even a blasphemous people whom God saved from impending judgment,” Page said.

Commentators who study the Book of Jonah spend a great deal of time trying to determine what kind of fish swallowed Jonah and how he could have survived, Page said, noting that he did the same when he wrote about the book for the New American Commentary Series.

“I’m telling you I did a lot of studying. In fact, I got so tired of studying fish I didn’t want to eat fish for months afterwards,” Page said. “... Why would you spend so much time studying the gullet size of mammalian species in the eastern Mediterranean and the ongoing effect of mammalian digestive juices upon the epidermis of a human being? ...

“If it’s a miracle, what does all of that matter? If it’s a miracle, God could have made a guppy big enough to swallow Jonah,” Page said. “The miracle is not that a fish swallowed Jonah but that God would even put up with that man.”

God’s call came to Jonah a second time, Page said. “That’s a miracle.”

“My question tonight is simple: How many times is God going to have to speak to us? How many times is He going to have to tell us as believers to get the job done?” Page said. “I believe His call as we’ve already heard has not been revoked, and I believe He wants us to get serious about winning this world to Christ.”

As he travels throughout the Southern Baptist Convention, Page tries to explain the work of the Executive Committee, which he said can be hard for most people to grasp. With a relatively small staff, he said, the Executive Committee handles legal and policy issues, produces publications, relates to the public and keeps track of convention finances.

“What I want to do is try to find money so that our entities can do what God has called them to do, so that our International Mission Board will not have over 1,200 missionaries ready to go but they can’t go!” Page said, referring to streamlining budgets so that more Cooperative Program funds can be distributed for the Great Commission.

Churches need to be planted all over the United States and Canada, Page told EC members, and seminary students need to be trained without incurring tremendous debt.

“God’s call has come again and again and again: Get it done. Get it done. Get it done,” Page said. “... He wants us to have a strong home base with an aggressive global vision, and He wants us to help make sure that we can get it done.”

Noting that God repeated his call to Jonah, Page said, “Pouting prophet though he was, he went out and did what God called him to do the second time. How many times will God have to call Southern Baptists before He says, ‘I’m going to call somebody else’?

“I don’t want to be left on the sideline. I don’t want to be a part of a declining denomination. I don’t want to be a part of a failing system. I want to be a part of getting done what God said get done.

“So I just challenge you tonight that we as an Executive Committee would see ourselves as a central hub that’s trying to do everything we can to get the fuel out there for everybody to get their job done,” Page said. “That’s what I believe God wants us to do. So I encourage you tonight, I challenge you tonight, and I thank God for you and the gospel work to which He called us.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press.)

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9/19/2012 2:29:46 PM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Mideast violence creates gospel opportunities

September 19 2012 by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press

MIDDLE EAST – Bloody protests against an anti-Muslim film have stretched from the Mideast to Australia and Indonesia, and continue to roil the wider Islamic world.

But Christian workers say the turmoil has created new opportunities to share the gospel.

Committed local believers in some of the toughest places in the region are setting the example, such as a young Christian in one Middle Eastern nation who isn’t letting the turmoil slow him down.

“I had coffee with Mark* this morning, and he was not terribly concerned,” a worker said of the young man. “He said many Christians here are leaving, and those that are staying are concerned about the increasing Islamization in the country. His dad really wants him to travel to Australia to live with an uncle there. But [he wants to train] young people to start new groups and learn to disciple new believers. He’s really focused on the work right now and is somewhat oblivious to the things going on around us.”

Terrorists sparked the crisis when they launched a deadly attack Sept. 11 in Libya, killing the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans. Rioters have breached U.S. embassies in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Sudan and have threatened American embassies in many other countries. Demonstrations and violence have spread to more than 20 areas, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Iran, with no end in sight.
09-19-12mideast.jpg

A Christian worker in the Middle East says, “We have to see this from God’s perspective. If we don’t, we’re going to miss God’s pursuit of the nations.”


The latest round of rage against America and the West may die down, or it may go on for a long time, as old grievances and the political struggles unleashed by the December 2010 Arab Spring revolutions continue.

Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former U.S. State Department official, told The New York Times, “The reality is the Middle East is going to be turbulent for the foreseeable future and beyond that. It’s going to present the United States with any number of difficult choices.”

It also presents a choice for U.S. Christians and others weary of wars and terrorism, and angry about ongoing attacks. Any decision regarding U.S. withdrawal from the Middle East must consider political and spiritual ramifications, urge American Christian workers in the region.

“From a human perspective, we have every right to hate one another,” admitted one worker based there. “But we can’t look at this through human eyes only. We have to see this from God’s perspective. If we don’t, we’re going to miss God’s pursuit of the nations.”

Another worker there said he fully understands the anger and frustration Americans might feel more than 10 years after 9/11, but appealed to Christians to take a “long, hard look” at their own hearts.

“To those who say, ‘Well, they hate us, so we hate them,’ what did Jesus say?” he asked. “Love your neighbor. ‘Well, they’re our enemies.’ Jesus says to love your enemy. We need to get back to the Bible. The Bible says there will be [followers of Christ] from every tribe, tongue and nation. We’re nowhere near that among peoples in North Africa and the Middle East. There’s work to be done.”

In another country rocked by protests and mounting extremism, Abdel,* a young believer, recently suffered a serious beating, losing several teeth, at the hands of four robbers. Two other young believers escaped the attack.

“The amazing thing about this is how [Muslims in] the community [have] come to their aid,” reported a worker in the country. “They went to the thieves’ house and retrieved [Abdel’s] laptop and his phone. Many in the neighborhood came over last night to check on him and give their regrets that something like this happened to them. The believers that all live together in this one house are considered ‘good people,’ and the neighbors wanted to express their shame about what happened to them.

“Many new relationships have formed because of this incident. Abdel decided to show mercy on these guys and not press charges,” the worker said. “Abdel and his friends continue to share boldly in the face of such trials and are seeing some fruit. What the enemy desired for evil, to shut them up by smashing them in the mouth, the Lord has used for good, shouting from the rooftop of a house of Light about the good news of the Messiah.”

Still another young believer in the same area broke his wrist in a fall. He loves to hand out Christian materials and books, “so he just uses the other hand,” said the worker. “Believers here are still working hard, pressing on in the face of tough times. There is a spiritual war that is much bigger than the political war that they are seeing on TV.”

A worker in another city was walking on a beach recently when he encountered six young Muslim men. Their long beards indicated their religious conservatism. They were sitting in a circle chanting verses from the Quran, Islam’s holy book.

“As I passed by, I greeted them and they me,” the worker recounted. “They invited me to sit with them. ... We had 90 minutes of talk about Jesus and their religion.”

The conversation became heated as the young men, obviously trained in aggressive Islamic apologetics, lectured the worker about the error of his beliefs.

“They were very intense in telling me how wrong I was in what I believed and how wrong the Bible was,” he said. “They had been trained to attack intelligently and if we had not been in a public place they might have used more than words in their attack, because they were intent on establishing a kingdom ruled by their sect of religion and would not tolerate alternate beliefs if they were in power.

“They repeated several times that I was the first ‘real Christian’ that they had ever met. I replied that I was sorry, because there are actually many ‘real Christians,’ even among their fellow countrymen. They said that they would pray that my eyes would open and I would follow God’s path of their religion, and that they hoped we would be together in heaven. …

“They were the first guys I have met who actually asked questions and then waited while I thought about the best answer and did my best to give my answer in very simple English and Arabic. We exchanged phone numbers, so maybe we can meet again, in daylight in a public place.”

Even in broad daylight, the beach encounter wasn’t comfortable and probably wasn’t safe, but occurred because the worker took a chance to listen and share.

That’s the kind of boldness that will be required in the days and years ahead, Christian workers say.

“Prayer against fear is a big request, not only for workers, but especially for national believers,” said one veteran of ministry in the Middle East. “Always we pray that these demonstrations and unrest will open more opportunities for the sharing of Truth.”

Another worker put it this way: “We are convinced that events like this are caused by the enemy for distraction. Pray for [us] to stay focused on what we are here to do and pray that your hearts don’t become hardened to these precious people that live in darkness.”

That’s the bottom line for the men and women putting their lives on the line daily. They hope U.S. churches will understand and join them in the task.

“People here are craving life,” one Middle East worker said. “They’re craving change, and not just political and economic change. Their deep heart cry is for answers. What they grew up with is not giving them answers. [The protests and turmoil eventually] will create even more of a spiritual harvest. What men meant for evil, God will use for good.”

*Names changed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges is an International Mission Board global correspondent.)
9/19/2012 2:12:49 PM by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Ga. convention launches reorganization

September 18 2012 by Joe Westbury/The Christian Index

DULUTH, Ga. (BP) – The Georgia Baptist Convention (GBC) has reorganized around a more aggressive strategy focused on reaching more of the state’s unchurched through five core initiatives.

The GBC reorganization – the most far-reaching since 1997 – was shared with GBC executive committee members during their fall meeting on Sept. 11 and with convention staff the previous day.

The reorganization reflects the “5 Smooth Stones” strategy approved by messengers at the GBC annual meeting in November – the result of a two-year study of the state convention by a GBC Study Task Force.

The core initiatives include spiritual renewal, kingdom generosity, church revitalization, church planting and authentic evangelism.

“We are going to take the staff into a new alignment around the 5 Smooth Stones,” GBC Executive Director J. Robert White told employees in their meeting. “Some of you will be moved into other work units, others will remain where you are, but all will be focused on these new objectives to reach the growing number of lost in Georgia.”

No staff reductions will be involved and the limited new positions will not require additional funding, White noted.
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Photo by Joe Westbury/The Christian Index

J. Robert White, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention, sets forth the convention’s reorganization to the GBC executive committee on Sept. 11.


The state convention already has experienced several rounds of staff reductions amid the economic downturn, with staffing levels down 26 percent since 2008. As recently as late January, 16 employees and two vacant positions were removed from the chart. The convention currently is operating at funding levels akin to 1998.

But with a leaner, more focused staff, White said the state convention is poised to reach Mission Georgia 2020 goals created to reach the estimated 8.1 million unchurched who will be living in Georgia over the next eight years.

The realignment includes revised purpose and vision statements and the creation of workgroups for that address the specific components of the 5 Smooth Stones and provide church strengthening services, White said.

In staffing areas:

– Bobby Boswell was named assistant executive director in charge of day-to-day GBC operations in White’s absence in addition to providing administrative leadership for all ministries.

– Steve Parr will serve as vice president of staff coordination and development and will be responsible for coordinating GBC staff in fulfilling the 5 Smooth Stones vision. He also will oversee five work groups – one for each of the stone themes – that will be integrated into the new structure. Parr previously served as the convention’s evangelism vice president.

– Kevin Smith has been named vice president of operations and will provide leadership for human resources and support ministries. He previously supervised the human resources area.

– Toby Howell, as vice president of finance, will now manage all finances and budgets.

– Larry Wynn will join the staff Oct. 1 as vice president of church revitalization and leadership. In the newly created position, he will coordinate all ministry staffs to undergird revitalization. The longtime Georgia pastor has served as vice president of evangelism at the North American Mission Board (NAMB) since early 2011.

After his introduction Wynn affirmed his passion for Georgia and his sense of following God’s calling. “I have never lived anywhere else. I have never pastored anywhere else. My primary connections are in Georgia.

“I am looking forward to interacting with pastors and asking them, ‘How can we help you?’“ Wynn said. “I want to be used of the Lord to help churches break through those barriers that have hindered growth. It will be wonderful to see churches revitalized and experiencing new growth.”

Wynn thanked NAMB President Kevin Ezell for the ministry opportunity afforded him during the early days of Ezell’s administration.

“I thoroughly enjoyed working with Kevin and I believe him to be the most godly, visionary man that I know,” Wynn said. “I believe he is taking NAMB in the right direction.”

White said Wynn, in leading the church revitalization area of the 5 Smooth Stones, will be responsible for designing a ministry to help the 72-78 percent of churches that are plateaued or are declining. Benny Pate and Jay Vineyard, who served in leadership ministries, have been assigned to work with Wynn in the new structure. Marcus Merritt, who currently serves in evangelism ministries, will join church-minister relations.

A cluster of workgroups around each of the five emphases will serve as a major linchpin of the new structure, White stated. All staff and ministries will be assigned to one of the groups most closely supporting their assignments.

“Each ministry area will continue to provide church strengthening services that will be multi-faceted in their particular ministry offerings,” he said. “All ministry specialists and consultants will receive training to ensure knowledge sufficient to interact and assist any pastor or church with the fundamental principles of the 5 Smooth Stones.”

The spiritual renewal ministries workgroup will consist of collegiate ministries, discipleship & spiritual renewal, men’s ministries, and WMU & women’s enrichment ministries.

The kingdom generosity ministries workgroup will include Cooperative Program/stewardship and church financial services.

The church revitalization workgroup will include church revitalization & leadership, church-minister relations, regional state missionaries, and music & worship.

The church planting workgroup will include church planting Ministries and intercultural church planting ministries.

The authentic evangelism ministries workgroup will consist of evangelism, associational missions/disaster relief/mobilization, Sunday School/small group, and youth.

The ministry support area will include executive leadership, convention financial services, communication services, conference center services, employee services, information services, research services and support services and will not be assigned to work groups.

Other areas with their own boards and with separate supervision, such as The Christian Index, children’s homes, health care ministries, Baptist Foundation and retirement communities, remain intact in their current roles.

The Georgia convention’s revised staff purpose statement now states: Georgia Baptist state missionaries exist to make disciples and to equip Georgia Baptists to make disciples who intentionally share Christ with the lost.

The revised staff vision statement is: Georgia Baptist Convention state missionaries seek to reduce lostness by focusing with Baptists on spiritual renewal resulting in Kingdom generosity, church revitalization, church planting, and authentic evangelism.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Westbury is managing editor of The Christian Index, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.)
9/18/2012 1:32:31 PM by Joe Westbury/The Christian Index | with 0 comments



Evangelist sentenced to 10 years in prison

September 18 2012 by Baptist Press

HERNANDO, Miss. – Sammy Nuckolls, an evangelist who spoke for years at Southern Baptist and other youth gatherings, remains in custody after being sentenced to 10 years in prison for taping women with a hidden pen camera.

Nuckolls, who is in his mid-30s, also must pay nearly $85,000 in fines and counseling for his victims.

Having waived his right to a jury trial, Nuckolls was found guilty by a Mississippi judge on 13 counts of video voyeurism for crimes dating to 2006, according to WMC-TV in Memphis, Tenn. Though Nuckolls may appeal the Sept. 14 decision by DeSoto County Judge Gerald Chatham, bond was denied.

Over a period of four years, Nuckolls videotaped women as young as 17 in private situations without their consent. WMC reported that victims wept on the stand as they recounted friendships with Nuckolls, a spiritual leader they trusted.

Chatham said Nuckolls hid behind the cloak of religion to commit despicable crimes, WMC said.
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Sammy Nuckolls


“You were fulfilling your depraved, licentious sexual desires,” the judge told Nuckolls. “You robbed them of their dignity and trust. It’s the first time I’ve ever heard the expression ‘video rape.’ I suppose that’s what it is. That’s what they feel anyway.”

Defense attorney Ronald Michael told ABC 24 News in Memphis, “I see someone who got caught up in lust. It’s almost like a pornographic-type situation. I think it overpowered him.”

Eric Garner, who leads Celebrate Recovery at NorthStar Church in Saltillo, Miss., told Baptist Press Nuckolls recently participated in the rehabilitation program but did not complete it before he went to prison.

A total of 21 victims were confirmed in Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas and Virginia, ABC 24 News reported.

After his sentencing, Nuckolls was taken straight to the DeSoto County jail.

“The judge ordered that he undergo a mental evaluation, saying he’s not convinced Nuckolls isn’t suffering from some sort of disease or psychosis,” the ABC affiliate reported. “The judge said he will reevaluate this ruling after that test and those results.”

WMC-TV, meanwhile, said the report is due in court in nine months, and Nuckolls’ sentence could be reduced depending on the findings.

Earlier this year, Nuckolls pleaded guilty to charges of video voyeurism in two Arkansas towns. He still faces charges in Texas.

Nuckolls admitted in April to videotaping women in private situations without their consent in Waldron, Ark. His five-year prison term was suspended, he was ordered to register as a sex offender in the state of Arkansas, and he was asked to pay more than $1,600 in fines and fees.

In Gosnell, Ark., Nuckolls also pleaded guilty to video voyeurism after videotaping a woman undressing in her home where he was staying while preaching a revival last fall. He was put on probation there for three years.

In Seymour, Texas, Nuckolls was charged with one count of improper photography or visual recording with multiple victims.

According to sources familiar with Nuckolls’ speaking schedule, an estimated 100 churches or groups per year were scheduling him to speak before the crimes surfaced.

Among those that have used Nuckolls were LifeWay Christian Resources’ student camps, which terminated its relationship with Nuckolls when the charges were revealed last fall.

In a statement to Baptist Press Sept. 17, LifeWay said, “We are praying Nuckolls’ conviction and sentencing help the victims begin to heal from this terrible violation of their trust and faith.”

The statement continued, “And, even though Nuckolls passed numerous background checks and there are no allegations any victims were videotaped at LifeWay events, this situation illustrates the need for constant vigilance by churches, agencies and other ministries trusted with protecting our children and youth.”

Nuckolls originally was hired to serve in the role of a camp pastor from 2003-06. In 2007 his role changed to a contract speaker at general assemblies and large gatherings. LifeWay conducts both reference and criminal background checks for those speaking at student camps.

According to an Internet search, among the places Nuckolls spoke were the Baptist Campus Ministries at the University of Alabama in November 2009, Blue Mountain College in Virginia in August 2011 and churches in several states.

A non-denominational church in Southlake, Texas, where Nuckolls spoke to youth about a half-dozen times in three years, said he passed a required background check there, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach.)
9/18/2012 1:22:30 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Roy Fish ‘loved all the right things’

September 18 2012 by Keith Collier, Baptist Press

FORT WORTH, Texas – “Without hyperbole, I can truthfully say I never met a man greater than Roy Fish,” Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church near Memphis, Tenn., said in eulogizing the distinguished professor of evangelism emeritus during a memorial service at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Faculty, former students, denominational leaders and pastors from across the country joined with family members to honor Fish at the seminary’s campus Sept. 14 in Fort Worth, Texas. Fish, 82, died peacefully the morning of Sept. 10.

“He loved all the right things in the right way,” said Gaines, who served as Fish’s grader for seven years while earning a master’s and doctorate from Southwestern. “He loved Jesus first; he loved his family second; he loved his ministry after that. He loved students, he loved this school and he loved the Southern Baptist Convention.

“He turned down job positions where he could make more money than he made as a seminary professor,” Gaines continued, “but the wealth he turned down is not worthy to be compared to the riches he poured into students decade after decade. Nor is it comparable to millions who’ve heard the gospel because of him training thousands of preachers. He was where he was supposed to be; he belonged at Southwestern.”
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Photo by Alyssa Karr/SWBTS

A friend visits with Jean Fish, wife of Roy Fish, during the memorial service for the distinguished professor of evangelism emeritus at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Sept. 14.


Roy Fish’s son Steve spoke of growing up in the Fish household with a dad who was a man of prayer and a passionate evangelist. He recalled numerous times when his father would share the gospel with neighbors, strangers, waitresses and people they met on family vacations.

“This man was not sharing the gospel because it was his job; it wasn’t his profession,” Steve Fish said of his father. “It wasn’t something he wanted to leave behind on vacation. It was his passion. It was his life. It was his very breath.”

Steve Fish recalled how his father knew the spiritual condition of all his neighbors and how he loved and prayed for each one of them regularly. Even in his final days in the hospital, Roy Fish asked every nurse who attended him if she had a relationship with Jesus Christ. All but one professed to know Christ, and he was burdened for that one who was still lost.

Fish reminded those in the memorial service about the power of the gospel that his father preached and how it continues to thrive. He pointed to 2 Timothy 2:1 as a reminder of Roy Fish’s legacy.

“The legacy that Roy Fish carried did not go with him to the grave,” Steve said in reference to the gospel. “That legacy is in this room right now. That legacy has been imparted to us, that something amazingly precious has been imparted to us through this man. No amount of money can buy the spiritual things that have been entrusted to us.

“We are not here this morning to simply honor and remember the life of a man, but we are here before the Lord to take up that legacy. We are here to respond afresh to heaven’s call.”

During those final days, as family gathered at his bedside, Fish asked for them to open his Bible and place his finger on 1 John 5:13, which says, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.”

He also asked Steve to read aloud 2 Timothy 4:6-8, which says, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”

Roy Fish served Southwestern for nearly 50 years and had occupied the L. R. Scarborough Chair of Evangelism (“The Chair of Fire”) for many years. Preaching in churches around the world, his name has become synonymous with “evangelism” throughout the Southern Baptist Convention.

After earning a bachelor’s degree at the University of Arkansas in 1952, Fish moved to Southwestern Seminary, where he earned his bachelor of divinity (equivalent to the M.Div.) and his doctor of theology. As a professor at Southwestern, Fish impacted the lives of thousands of students, many who credit their professor with instilling a fire for evangelism in their souls. For many years, Fish organized the annual spring break revival practicum (now called Revive This Nation) as the seminary sent out hundreds of student preachers across the United States to preach revivals in local churches.

Fish held several prominent denominational positions, including interim president of the North American Mission Board and second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention. He served as pastor or interim pastor at more than 20 churches, and he spoke and preached at conventions, conferences and churches on every continent except Antarctica. He authored several books and numerous articles and essays on evangelism.

Fish also received various awards, including the W.A. Criswell Lifetime Award in Evangelism from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) and the Charles G. Finney Award for Evangelism in Theological Education. In 2006, the SBTC established the Roy Fish Evangelism Award.

In 2005, Southwestern honored Fish when the seminary’s division of evangelism and missions in the school of theology was reorganized and named the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions.

Fish is survived by his wife Jean Holley Fish; their four children, Steve Fish, Holli Lancaster, Jeff Fish and Jennifer Pastoor; and 15 grandchildren.

A video of the memorial service can be accessed at http://www.swbts.edu/RoyFishMemorial.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keith Collier is director of news and information at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

Related story

Roy Fish, former Southwestern professor, dies
9/18/2012 1:02:10 PM by Keith Collier, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



ERLC search committee meets

September 18 2012 by Dwayne Hastings, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Facing a full agenda, trustees of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) opened their annual meeting with an extended time of intercession. The meeting was punctuated with even more time dedicated to prayer over its two-day session.

In his address to the trustees, Richard Land, ERLC president recalled the board’s Tuesday morning meeting 11 years earlier as the nation came under attack from al-Qaeda operatives. Land led the trustees in praying for the “families who are being reminded of what they lost on that day.”

The trustees’ Sept. 11-12 slate included a meeting of the group’s presidential search committee, created following Richard Land’s July announcement that he was retiring as ERLC president in October 2013.

The trustees’ presidential search committee met in executive session with the full board but has not yet released a report. Barry Creamer, vice president of academic affairs and professor of humanities at Criswell College in Dallas, chairs the search committee.

During their meeting trustees voted to name Land “president emeritus” of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission upon his departure from the commission. While noting the title was “purely honorary,” trustees indicated their desire to recognize Land for making the SBC entity “into what it is today.”

The board also voted to disburse $250,000 to the Richard Land Center for Cultural Engagement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas, upon Land’s retirement from the ERLC.

The amount, which is being given in honor of what will be Richard Land’s 25 years of service at the ERLC, includes approximately $100,000 in funds previously designated for the center by the trustees. The center, which was established in 2007, encourages the study and research of ethics, public policy and other cultural issues.

Land nearly D.C.-bound

Land recalled that he was originally considered third in line in the eyes of the search committee that eventually tapped him for the top position at the Christian Life Commission, now the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, in 1988. Land said three weeks before his meeting with the search committee, George W. Bush had asked him to consider joining his father’s administration if he was elected president.

George H.W. Bush did win the presidency in November of that year but by that time Land had been chosen to head the Southern Baptist Convention’s moral concerns and religious liberty entity.

“I was stunned; my wife was stunned,” Land said of the committee’s decision to select him for the position. “I took it as providential.”

Land noted he was now in his 50th year of ministry, having begun preaching as a 16-year-old in Houston.

“It has been the honor and privilege of a lifetime to serve the Lord and His people called Southern Baptists through the ERLC,” he continued.

Progress in race relations

Land told the trustees as a youngster growing up in Texas in the 1960s, he was impressed with the work of the then-Christian Life Commission in its willingness to engage the race issue.

Even as a teenager Land said he appreciated the commission’s “uncompromising and courageous” stance on race relations.

“It was very important for me as a child growing up in Houston in the 1960s that the then-Christian Life Commission was on the right side of the race issue when too much of Southern Baptist life and American life was on the wrong side,” he said.

Land said he was grateful for the role the commission played in the SBC’s 1995 resolution on racial reconciliation, which was, he admitted, “a step in a long journey.”

“A convention that was born in slavery and one that endorsed, by and large, segregation could come to the place where God could change our hearts and be the most ethnically diverse denomination in the country and now has elected our first African-American president is a trophy of God’s grace and monument to the fact that God does change hearts,” he said.

Land went on to say: “We haven’t arrived. That is just another step in the process.” He said the SBC’s goal should be to have a convention that reflects the demographic makeup of the U.S.

Earlier in the year Land’s commitment to racial reconciliation was seriously questioned by a number of African-American leaders and others after he suggested, among other things, that President Obama’s comments following the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin were politically motivated.

Land later acknowledged his remarks were “racially insensitive and hurtful,” noting, “I have been committed to the cause of racial reconciliation my entire ministry.”

The commission is working with African-American Southern Baptists in conjunction with the SBC’s Historical Library and Archives in planning a series of consultations beginning next February designed to advance the cause of racial reconciliation in the SBC. A prayer event focusing on racial reconciliation is scheduled by the ERLC for early summer 2013.

Threat from pornography

The ERLC president went on to talk about the damage pornography is causing to families, suggesting Satan had seized upon perversions of God’s plan for human sexuality as an effective tool to destroy individuals.

“We cannot afford to not talk about this in our churches,” Land insisted. “Pornography is as lethal a threat to the family and as lethal a threat to the country as anything we face.”

The average age of a boy’s first exposure to pornography in the U.S. is 11, Land said, adding the ERLC is committed to continuing the fight against this scourge.

The ERLC executive told trustees the commission was looking forward to resources being published by the Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) that focus on pornography. Land said the resources were being built on a foundation provided by extensive research on the pornography issue done by Jay Dennis, pastor of First Baptist Church at the Mall, in Lakeland, Fla.

Land noted that Dennis had met with him about the issue and he suggested WMU might be interested in publishing the material. Land said WMU was anticipating the release of the first resource focusing on building a “movement of men committing to living porn free with the support of women praying for them and their families.”

WMU plans to roll out the complete campaign at the Southern Baptist Convention in Houston in June 2013. The WMU’s publishing arm, New Hope Publishers, is producing the resources.

Religious Liberty Awards

ERLC trustees awarded two men the John Leland Religious Liberty Award for 2012 – Youcef Nadarkhani and Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

Nadarkhani, a Christian pastor who was imprisoned for more than 1,000 days for refusing to renounce his faith in Christ, is a hero for religious freedom, Land said. The Iranian’s death sentence for apostasy was met by an international outcry that led to his release. Nadarkhani was freed Sept. 8.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who serves as archbishop of New York, was also honored with the religious liberty award.

Land recognized Dolan for his role in pushing back against the Obama administration’s mandate that requires religious institutions to provide health insurance coverage that “violates their deeply held religious or moral convictions on contraceptives, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs and devices.”

“While we may disagree with Roman Catholics on the issue of contraceptives, we are 100 percent in agreement with them that the government has no right to coerce them to subsidize and pay for that which they find unconscionable,” Land said.

Distinguished Service Award

Trustees also announced Tony Perkins as the recipient of the 2012 Richard D. Land Distinguished Service Award.

Land emphasized Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, is a “longtime defender of faith, family and freedom,” noting Perkins is “standing in the gap to call our nation back to righteousness.”

“Tony’s courageous and eloquent stands in defense of traditional, Judeo-Christian values have been a tremendous resource in the culture war,” he added.

In other business, trustees:

– elected Richard Piles, pastor of First Baptist Church of Camden, Ark., as chairman of the ERLC’s board of trustees. Stephen Long, Church Planter Catalyst with the Northwest Baptist Association in Toledo, Ohio, was selected as vice chairman. Lynn Fruechting, a pediatrician in Newton, Kan., was elected secretary of the board.

– tapped ERLC trustee Barry Creamer, vice president of academic affairs and professor of humanities at Criswell College in Dallas; Trey Dimsdale, research associate at the Richard Land Center for Cultural Engagement; and Evan Lenow, assistant professor of ethics at Southwestern Seminary, as fellows of the ERLC’s Research Institute.

– approved a $3.259 million budget for the ERLC’s 2012-2013 fiscal year, up 4.87 percent from the previous year’s budget. The ERLC receives 1.65 percent of Cooperative Program funds received nationally.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Dwayne Hastings is a vice president with the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.)
9/18/2012 12:47:56 PM by Dwayne Hastings, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Noted Christian leader Freddie Sun dies

September 18 2012 by Baptist Press

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Freddie Yi-Yin Sun, who served a decade in Chinese prisons because of his faith and who helped establish more than 150 Bible institutes in the communist country, died of cancer Aug. 22. He was 76.

Sun’s Sept. 15 memorial service was scheduled at First Baptist Church in Charlottesville, Va., the church where Lottie Moon, a celebrated Southern Baptist missionary to China, was baptized in 1858.

Sun, born in Shanghai in 1936, immigrated to the United States as a teenager while his mother was a visiting faculty member at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, according to a report by Bill Bray, special projects coordinator for the Virginia-based Christian Aid Mission.

When he returned to China, Sun completed his education at Nanking University and became a geologist with the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He was involved in house churches planted by Watchman Nee. During the revolution launched by Mao Zedong, Sun’s faith in Jesus led to his imprisonment in a labor camp.

During a work release period, Sun met and married Dorothy Chang, who served 20 years in a labor camp because of her faith in Christ. Despite China’s one-child policy, the Suns were blessed with twin sons, Joseph and Daniel.
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Freddie Sun, who helped establish more than 150 Bible institutes in China, died of cancer Aug. 22. He was 76.


In 1988, Sun joined Christian Aid Mission’s staff as director of indigenous missionary works in China. The couple traveled more than 25,000 miles inside China each year since 1992, visiting every province. They helped start 154 Bible institutes and missionary training centers in China, some in every province including Tibet, Christian Aid said.

More than 50,000 graduates of those institutions have formed thousands of house churches throughout China, leading millions to faith in Christ, Christian Aid said.

Bob Finley, founder and chairman of Christian Aid, said, “No other missionary or Christian leader has had a more significant influence for Christianity in China than has Freddie Sun.”

In the United States, the Suns led an active ministry among Chinese students at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Dorothy started a Chinese Bible Study Fellowship in 1987, with weekly meetings on the Christian Aid campus. More than 125 new believers were baptized at the meetings, the organization said, and more than 50 of them had been members of the Communist Party in China.

The group that emerged from those weekly Bible study meetings organized into a Chinese congregation that has been meeting at First Baptist Charlottesville.

“I believe history will show that Freddie Sun’s work in establishing and distributing financial support for 154 Bible institutes in China during the past 20 years has had a greater impact for the cause of Christ in that communist country than that of any other single person or ministry,” Finley said in a statement.

“When I left China in 1949 we estimated that there were less than half a million evangelical Christians in the entire country. Today there are more than 100 million,” Finley said. “Most have been won to Christ by native missionaries working with local house churches throughout the country. And by far the greatest source for these native missionaries has been the 154 Bible institutes started and financially supported by Freddie and Dorothy Sun since 1992.”

In addition to his wife, Sun is survived by his sons Joseph and Daniel, their wives and five grandchildren, all living in northern Virginia. In her husband’s absence, Dorothy Sun will continue the work between Christian Aid and the Bible institutes, the ministry said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach.)
9/18/2012 12:07:23 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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