September 2012

Roy Fish, former Southwestern professor, dies

September 10 2012 by Benjamin Hawkins, SWBTS & BR staff

Roy J. Fish, 82, died earlier today (Sept. 10). Fish served Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, for nearly 50 years.
 
“Dr. Roy Fish was at once a fabulous lecturer and the most consistent soul-winner I know,” Southwestern president Paige Patterson said. “He lit a fire under thousands of students. While we support his family in heart-felt prayer, and while he is irreplaceable for us, we rejoice with Dr. Fish and his entry to his Heavenly home. God help us all to love lost people like he did.”
 
Fish once occupied the L. R. Scarborough Chair of Evangelism (“The Chair of Fire”), and his name has become synonymous with “evangelism” throughout the Southern Baptist Convention.
 
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SWBTS photo

Longtime evangelism professor Roy Fish preaches during a chapel held in his honor at Southwestern Seminary in this 2007 file photo.


After earning his 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 in 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), the Charles G. Finney Award for Evangelism in Theological Education, and an honorary doctorate from Southwest Baptist University. 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. The seminary later designated Oct. 10, 2007, as “Roy Fish Day, honoring Fish during a special chapel service and reception. He was honored as professor of emeritus of evangelism at Southwestern.
 
Fish is survived by his wife, Jean Holley Fish, and their grown children: Steve and Marci Fish, Holli and Dan Lancaster; Jeff and Holly Fish; and Jennifer and Charles Pastoor. He is also survived by 15 grandchildren.
 
Visitation will be held at Laurel Land Memorial Chapel at Laurel Land Funeral Home in Fort Worth from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 13. The address is 7100 Crowley Road, Fort Worth, TX. 76134, and the phone number is (817) 293-1350.
 
The funeral service will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 14, in the Truett Auditorium at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, with graveside services following at Laurel Land Memorial Park of Fort Worth.
 
If you would like to make a contribution in Dr. Fish’s honor, the family has requested that you make it to the Roy and Jean Fish Evangelism Scholarship Fund. Please note the fund name on your check and send to: Southwestern Seminary, P.O. Box 22500, Fort Worth, TX 76122.
9/10/2012 2:33:23 PM by Benjamin Hawkins, SWBTS & BR staff | with 0 comments



Ministry, politics converge in Charlotte

September 10 2012 by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor

While politics was the biggest draw in Charlotte during the week of the Democratic National Convention (DNC), many North Carolina Baptist churches in the area saw the large out-of-town crowd as an opportunity to share the love of Jesus.
 
Getting around the Charlotte area, however, came with many challenges. Tight security and closed roads often made it difficult to access some of the areas where ministry was taking place.
 
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BR photo by Shawn Hendricks

National Guard soldiers pick up freshly laundered clothes from North Carolina Baptist Men volunteers on Sept. 4. The soldiers were part of security for the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. Laundry and medical teams were on site to provide needed services.


Several National Guard soldiers and a Humvee blocked the entrance to a makeshift military base where N.C. Baptist Men volunteers provided needed help. On the base, a few miles outside of downtown Charlotte, the team of volunteers carried out their own special mission – sorting, washing, drying and bagging freshly cleaned clothes for troops who helped with security in Charlotte.
 
“These guys are doing an outstanding job,” said Staff Sgt. Danny Smith, who was picking up a load of laundry. “It’s a benefit to us especially with the way the missions are running. It would be hard for the soldiers … to sleep and then do laundry and then [go] right back on mission. This has been 100 percent very affective.”
 
“We try not to get used to it,” he said with a laugh. “We can’t pack them up and take them with us in the field.”
 
By the end of the day, the team had washed nearly 100 loads of laundry.
 
Volunteers pointed out that the large volume of laundry couldn’t have been done without the help of N.C. Baptist Men’s portable laundry station, complete with 10 washers and 10 dryers.
 
“[The volunteers are] amazing because they have a one-day turnaround,” said First Sgt. Barbara Campbell, who has served in the National Guard for more than a decade.
 
“I can’t tell you how much we appreciate this because there wasn’t anything in place for us to have our laundry done with what’s going on out there.”
 
Campbell added she especially appreciated the artwork drawn on the plastic bags of clean clothes that were provided by Sunday School classes. When time allows, volunteers also like to write Bible verses on the plastic bags.
 
“[We appreciate] words of encouragement,” added Campbell. “It’s good to know someone’s praying for you.”
 
A couple miles away another N.C. Baptist Men’s team, invited by the state’s Office of Emergency Medical Services, helped set up medical equipment. They also provided a medical unit to help support other emergency crews from around the state in case of an unexpected crisis situation.
 
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BR photo by Shawn Hendricks

Police officers set up a perimeter with bicycles on North College Street in Charlotte Sept. 4 near the Democratic National Convention was being held. The increased traffic and closed streets made travel a challenge for those trying to do ministry.


Richard Brunson, executive director-treasurer of N.C. Baptist Men, described the opportunity as a “high security event.” He estimated there were about 30,000 law enforcement and emergency response personnel in the Charlotte area that week.
 
While Brunson admitted there were some initial concerns about N.C. Baptist Men’s involvement with a political event, he said the need outweighed the politics.
 
“This has everything to do with having our volunteers in places where they can respond to disasters,” he said, “and where we can serve county and state emergency management people in Jesus’ name.”
 
For Baptist Men’s volunteer Sharon Chilton-Moser, who led the medical team, opportunities to share Jesus were everywhere they turned. 

“The beautiful part is when you’re sharing the love of Jesus you don’t have to do it by throwing tracts and Bibles at people,” she said. “You [can] do it with your life, with your hands and feet first. Then they ask you the question ‘Why are you doing this?’ ‘What’s different about you?’ Who needs a tract at that point?”
 
Meanwhile uptown, other N.C. Baptists were also sharing the love of Christ as opportunities developed around them. But ministry in the heart of the city wasn’t easy – especially since rain was in the forecast most of the week.
 
Throughout the week, helicopters circled around the city. In many places traffic moved at a crawl while protestors drew crowds with their signs. Some shouted into megaphones under the watchful eyes of law enforcement.
 
While many locals tried to avoid the downtown traffic, and many streets were blocked off or difficult to access, volunteers from throughout the Metrolina Baptist Association were there in force.
 
Near First Baptist Church, close to the corner of Third and South Davidson streets, a group of volunteers handed out water bottles and the Gospel of John booklets. Other teams made their way through the city handing out Christian materials and inviting people to various outreach events.
 
Bob Lowman, executive director of the Metrolina Baptist Association, admitted he was initially tempted “to be as far away from Charlotte as [he could be] that week.”
 
But – similar to Brunson’s decision to involve N.C. Baptist Men – the opportunity outweighed the politics – and the inconveniences.
 
“The way I look at it, as an associational missionary, is they’ve come to our mission field,” said Lowman.
“Personally, I couldn’t abandon this mission field I look out the window at every day.”
 
Mark Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church of Charlotte and president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, also saw the DNC as an opportunity that couldn’t be ignored.
 
Harris spoke one afternoon at a forum on politics and religion hosted by First United Methodist Church in downtown Charlotte. It was one of many similar events held during the week of the DNC.
 
Harris and RJ Davis, minister of evangelism and outreach at Nations Ford Community Church in Charlotte, were the lone Southern Baptists on a panel of more than a dozen people.
 
The panel also included a Muslim, a Mormon, a Jewish rabbi and a host of other religious and political leaders.
 
“We have a responsibility not only to be stewards of the gift we’ve been given [to vote] but also to be salt and light,” Harris told the crowd that was made up of many college students from the area. “And that means … we must, we must be involved in the process.” 
 
Davis urged those in attendance to vote according to their values.
 
He described his first voting experience in 2000 when he was admittedly “uninformed.”
 
“I had just graduated college,” he said. “I didn’t know too much about either party.”
 
Davis decided to ask his parents for advice.
 
“They said their reasoning behind the way that they were voting was because [that] person and this platform closely aligned with the values that we shared,” he said.
 
Davis said those “deeply rooted” Christian values that he and his family shared helped him decide which way he needed to vote. “Now I can say that no longer am I uninformed.”
9/10/2012 2:18:58 PM by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments



Suspect arrested in death of IMB worker

September 10 2012 by Erich Bridges and Don Graham, Baptist Press

RICHMOND, Va. – A suspect has been arrested in the death of Southern Baptist representative Cheryll Harvey in Jordan, according to Jordanian authorities investigating the attack on the veteran teacher.

Harvey, 55, whose body was found Sept. 4 in her apartment in Irbid, Jordan, was stabbed to death. Police reports indicate she was killed by a young Jordanian man. Robbery was the apparent motive, police said in the report obtained Sept. 7 by Southern Baptist officials. There was no indication the crime was sexual in nature.

Harvey, of Sudan, Texas, worked in Jordan for 24 years, teaching English and other subjects. Ten years ago she founded the ESL language center where she taught in Irbid, Jordan’s second-largest city and home to several universities. The center, which averages between 300 and 400 college students each semester, is so popular that a lottery system is used to determine which students can apply for entrance. Previously, Harvey taught primary school-age children at the Ajloun (Jordan) Baptist School.

Teaching wasn’t just a job for Harvey; it was a passion. Co-workers had to pressure her to take a vacation once in a while.
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Southern Baptist worker Cheryll Harvey, seen teaching young Jordanian students in this file photo, became a beloved and respected teacher and friend to many during her 24 years in Jordan. Harvey’s body was found Sept. 4 in her apartment in Irbid, Jordan. Jordanian police say a local man has been arrested in her stabbing death, the apparent result of a robbery attempt. Harvey, a 55-year-old Texan, taught English and other subjects in connection with the Jordan Baptist Society. Ten years ago she founded the ESL language center where she taught college students in Irbid. The center is so popular a lottery system is used to determine which students can apply for entrance. Previously, Harvey taught primary school-age children at the Ajloun (Jordan) Baptist School.


“God has given me the ability to teach,” she once said – and she used that ability to the fullest. But it wasn’t an end in itself. For her, teaching was a way to express the love of Christ to generations of Jordanian students.

“It’s obvious that they love her because they feel her love for them,” a friend observed.

Despite her relentless work schedule, Harvey made time to connect with her students as a friend and mentor.

“What was so amazing to me about Cheryll was that she could be the director of the center and teach full time and make numerous visits every week [to her students’ homes],” said a colleague. “In my whole life I’ve never known anybody who could pack one day with as much as Cheryll constantly did.”

She spent many hours of her own time tutoring Jordanian high school students to pass the high-stakes, comprehensive exams that determine who graduates, who gets into college and what they will study.

She helped one student struggle through nursing school, even studying medical terms and textbooks to tutor him more effectively. He respected Harvey so deeply that he asked her to visit the family of his prospective bride to help him decide if she would be a suitable wife.

“She had such a gentle and mild spirit,” said a friend. “She was a person that people could come to.”

It was the same with her younger students at the Baptist school in Ajloun.

“Cheryll was known throughout the village,” recalled a co-worker. “She visited in the homes of all of her students. She even showed up at students’ homes when they weren’t expecting her. ... Cheryll was all about the people. She spent a large portion of every year visiting her students, making sure that she went into the home of every single student.”

A colleague asked Southern Baptists to pray for the many people touched by Harvey’s life.

“Cheryll was a gentle person who loved Jesus,” he said. “She showed that love to Jordanians, first to the many children she taught in Ajloun and their families and then to those in Irbid as she taught English. ... She connected with her people at the heart level. We pray that her witness continues to bear much fruit. ... Cheryll’s life has crossed the finish line. She was faithful through the end of this life and to the beginning of her real life.”

International Mission Board (IMB) President Tom Elliff also appealed for prayer.

“We pray for her immediate family members in Texas, and for her family members and friends around the world, but especially in Jordan,” Elliff said. “The impact of Cheryll’s life will live on for eternity. For Cheryll’s assailant and his family, we pray God’s mercy and grace to invade the dark corners of his heart. For us, Cheryll’s death brings us face to face with the urgent importance of our work. With every word, thought and action we must glorify the One who purchased our salvation.”

Harvey was a member of College Heights Baptist Church in Plainview, Texas. She grew up attending First Baptist Church in Sudan, Texas. She received the bachelor of science degree from Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas; the master of arts degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas; and the master of education degree from Wayland Baptist University in Plainview. She taught in several Texas schools before going to Jordan.

Harvey is survived by two brothers who reside in Texas. Funeral arrangements are incomplete pending the ongoing police investigation of her death.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bridges is IMB global correspondent. Graham is an IMB senior writer.)

Related story
IMB worker’s death in Jordan ruled foul play
9/10/2012 2:09:18 PM by Erich Bridges and Don Graham, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Iranian pastor acquitted, freed

September 10 2012 by Baptist Press

Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has been acquitted of apostasy and released, ending a saga that drew international attention and saw him spend more than 1,000 days in jail in the face of a death sentence – simply for being a Christian.
 
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reported Sept. 8 that Nadarkhani, in jail since 2009, was acquitted of apostasy – that is, converting from Islam to Christianity – but found guilty of evangelizing Muslims. CSW said Nadarkhani was sentenced to three years in prison for that latter charge, but released due to time already served. Nadarkhani said he never was a Muslim.
 
A picture of a freed Nadarkhani, greeting his family, soon made its way across the Internet and was Tweeted by Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which has championed Nadarkhani’s case.
 
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Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has been acquitted of apostasy and released.


Nadarkhani’s perseverance had served to inspire Christians around the world.
 
“CSW is delighted to learn of Pastor Nadarkhani’s release after a long incarceration,” CSW chief executive Mervyn Thomas said. “We commend the Iranian judiciary for this step, which is a triumph for justice and the rule of law.
 
“While we rejoice at this wonderful news, we do not forget hundreds of others who are harassed or unjustly detained on account of their faith, and CSW is committed to continue campaigning until all of Iran’s religious minorities are able to enjoy religious freedom as guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is party.”
 
The White House, the U.S. State Department and governments around the world had spoken up for Nadarkhani.
 
Nadarkhani was arrested in October 2009 while registering his church in Rasht, Iran, although he initially was arrested for protesting his children being taught Islam in school, ACLJ reported. He was charged with apostasy for supposedly abandoning Islam and later was given a death sentence.
 
In September 2011, Nadarkhani was given four chances to recant his faith in court and refused each time. ACLJ reported one of his court exchanges.
 
“Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?” Nadarkhani asked.
 
“To the religion of your ancestors, Islam,” the judge reportedly replied.
“I cannot,” the pastor responded.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Michael Foust, associated editor of Baptist Press.)
9/10/2012 2:01:04 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



N.C. Baptist Men respond to Hurricane Isaac damage

September 10 2012 by BR staff

On Sept. 9, a North Carolina Baptist Men’s disaster recovery team arrived in Walker, La., to help people impacted by Hurricane Isaac. Approximately 450 homes in the area were affected by the storm, according to a report on Baptists on Mission website at baptistsonmission.org
 
Over the weekend Baptist Men’s team evaluated needs in the community, and began installing tarps on damaged roofs and clearing mud and debris from homes. The team still needs more volunteers “both skilled and unskilled.” Additional support equipment and teams from N.C. could be assigned to the area in the days to follow.
 
Volunteers are also being sought for other projects.
 
For more information, or to get involved with the relief effort, please register at http://baptistsonmission.org/Projects/Type/Disaster-Relief/Hurricane-Isaac/Get-Involved.
9/10/2012 1:54:08 PM by BR staff | with 0 comments



Prof who did gay parenting study is vindicated

September 7 2012 by Baptist Press/World News Service

AUSTIN, Texas – The University of Texas at Austin (UT-Austin) has cleared sociology professor Mark Regnerus of academic misconduct after he was excoriated by some in the media over a study showing that parents’ homosexual relationships can have negative effects on children.
 
Regnerus made headlines in June when his study was published in the widely respected journal Social Science Research. According to his findings, children raised by homosexual parents are more likely than those raised by married heterosexual parents to suffer from poor impulse control, depression and suicidal thoughts. They also are more likely to require more mental health therapy; identify themselves as homosexual; choose cohabitation; be unfaithful to partners; contract sexually transmitted diseases; be sexually molested; have lower income levels; drink to get drunk; and smoke tobacco and marijuana.

As a result, a gay-activist blogger accused Regnerus of academic fraud, demanding in July that the university release all his research material and emails with fellow sociologists.
 
Administrators conducted an exhaustive pre-investigation to determine whether a more comprehensive one would be necessary – including hiring a consultant who formerly ran the Office of Research Integrity at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to oversee the process.

After sequestering all of Regnerus’s correspondence and conducting both written and oral interviews with him and his accuser, Scott Rosensweig, UT-Austin research integrity officer Robert Peterson wrote in an Aug. 24 memorandum to administrators, “None of the allegations of scientific misconduct put forth ... were substantiated either by physical data, written materials, or by information provided during the interviews.

“Since no evidence was provided to indicate that the behavior at issue rose to a level of scientific misconduct, no formal investigation is warranted,” Peterson wrote.

Glenn Stanton, Focus on the Family’s director of family formation studies, said Regnerus went to great lengths to make sure his study was well-designed and executed, including soliciting input from other sociologists with whom he has ideological differences.

“Basically,” Stanton said of Rosensweig, “this guy was crying, ‘Fire!’ and they didn’t even find any smoke.

“The university has essentially concluded there is not even the slightest whiff of credibility” to the accusations, Stanton said. “That surprises none of us, because Mark is not an activist scholar, and that is very clear in the research that he did.”

David Hacker, senior legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, agreed, saying that America’s universities “should always serve as truth-seeking, free marketplaces of ideas.”

“Disagreeing with a study’s conclusions is not grounds for allegations of scientific misconduct; therefore, we are not surprised that those accusations were found to be baseless,” Hacker said. “We agree with the UT-Austin inquiry’s conclusion that the academy is the appropriate place for debate about this study.”
9/7/2012 3:37:58 PM by Baptist Press/World News Service | with 0 comments



In Nepal’s Himalayas, 7 students engage Tibetans in conversation

September 7 2012 by Caroline Anderson, Baptist Press

KATHMANDU, Nepal – Elderly women walk clockwise around a Tibetan Buddhist temple in Kathmandu, Nepal. Their hands bear sculpted calluses earned from years of rolling prayer beads between their thumbs and index fingers.

Tibetans are known for their resistance to the gospel, International Mission Board (IMB) representative Tal Bratcher* tells those who’ve come to work with him.

Before they return home, seven recent high school graduates will see some of the spiritual calluses soften when they tell how God softened hard spots in their own hearts.
 
The students came from Concord Baptist Church in Jefferson City, Mo., to help Bratcher and his wife Janice* start churches in two Tibetan areas of Kathmandu.
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Near a Tibetan Buddhist holy site in Kathmandu, Nepal, recent high school graduate Paul Frazier of Concord Baptist Church in Jefferson City, Mo., pauses for prayer.


The Bratchers are responsible for planting churches among 10 Tibetan unengaged and unreached people groups in Nepal. Unreached and unengaged people groups have never heard the gospel, have no one actively spreading the Good News and have no known believers. Many of these people groups in Nepal live tucked away in the Himalayas.

It’s a daunting task, and that’s why the Bratchers are investing in national believers and short-term teams like Concord to help them fulfill the Great Commission among the Tibetans of Nepal.

English, Jesus & coffee
Though the students had just graduated from high school, the Bratchers had big plans for their venture to Nepal.

“Really try not to put God in a box and feel like He won’t be able to use you because you’re young, or because you don’t have any missions experience or don’t know the language,” Bratcher told the students during their orientation.

Their ministry time centered on English clubs, scheduled times where anyone could come practice English for free. Tibetan and Nepalese children learn English in school but rarely have the chance to practice.

Concord students spent time walking and prayerwalking through neighborhoods trying to start conversations. Everyone the students met received an invitation to come practice English for an hour in a local coffee shop.

This allowed the students to meet one-on-one with Tibetans and build relationships in order to share the gospel. In the afternoons, they hosted sports camps and shared the gospel at the end of the camps.

“By having the team here and sharing the gospel in the English clubs, it’s helped tremendously because it’s multiplied my own efforts,” Bratcher said.

Discipleship & transformation
Bratcher plans to continue with one-on-one discipleship with the contacts the team made. One-on-one discipleship is the reason Bratcher is in Nepal today.

Before he found Jesus, Bratcher also had spiritual calluses. The former high school football player was “a hooligan,” the Kentucky native said. If he hadn’t become a believer, Bratcher believes he’d “either be dead or in jail.”

Kevin Hall, Bratcher’s former high school and college youth group leader, trained him as a disciple. Now Hall ministers to students at Concord, and he led the summer team’s trip to Kathmandu.

Bratcher is using the same model Hall used, life-on-life discipleship. Bratcher has been discipling Lobsang Sherpa*, a believer from the Dhokpya Tibetan people group, one of the 10 groups Bratcher is trying to reach. Lobsang is the only believer in his people group.

“I see his [Hall’s] influence in my life overflowing into Lobsang, in that his methods weren’t really orthodox,” Bratcher said. “We spent a lot of late nights together, going to these really greasy diners and praying over the Word together, having accountability times.”

Bratcher said Hall saw potential in him that he didn’t see. It was the same with Lobsang.

“As we’ve looked in the Word together and seen God’s heart in the Scripture and in the gospel for him, saving Lobsang for a purpose – and that’s not for Lobsang’s happiness or his mere joy – but God has called Lobsang out of his people group as the first believer, to be that light to his people and see more of them into the Kingdom,” Bratcher said.

Lobsang came alongside the Concord team, translating and acting as a cross-cultural guide for the American students.

Equipping the next generation
Just as Hall discipled Bratcher and, now, Bratcher is discipling Lobsang, Hall is investing in a new generation of students at Concord and instilling a vision for reaching the lost.

Five of the seven Concord students have expressed a calling to serve overseas. The trip was a chance for the students to see what life overseas is like. One of the students is Hall’s daughter.
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Anna Bommel of Concord Baptist Church in Jefferson City, Mo., talks with a Tibetan Buddhist monk during an English club outreach in Kathmandu, Nepal.


“My whole life, I’ve been fighting a call,” Kalee Hall said. “That’s what pastor’s kids do.”

God used a summer camp her dad led to change her heart.

Kalee, now a freshman at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., had the chance to talk with a Tibetan girl during an English club.

The girls bonded quickly. Both are 18 years old and have three younger sisters.

Kalee told her how God would take her sins away and the consequences of not believing.

“I’m saying this because I care about you,” Kalee told her new friend. Soon, both girls were in tears.

“My family, I can’t go against my family,” the girl said when Kalee gave an invitation to become a Christian.

Though her new friend left without accepting Christ, Kalee is still praying God will work in her life and continue to soften the calluses on her heart.

Now Kalee is able to say, “Wherever you want me to go, God.”

After graduating from college, she plans to move overseas and teach English as a Second Language.

Jake Wise, now a freshman at Columbia (Mo.) College, said he also feels called to serve overseas. The pianist in a band, he thought of pursuing music as a career but said the Lord called him to minister cross-culturally instead. He plans to study English in college so he can teach overseas.

Wise had the chance to plant seeds of the gospel with children in a Tibetan refugee camp during one of the team’s sports camps.

Richard Donnelly, who now works in Missouri, had the chance to talk about his faith during an English club.

One of Donnelly’s English students listened intently when he shared about God, but like Kalee’s friend shied away from firmly committing because of loyalty to his parents and culture.

The converse was true for Donnelly. He was raised in a Christian home but felt no loyalty to his parents’ faith. “I wasn’t a believer at all. I was a pretty big sinner,” Donnelly said.

Donnelly was sent to a correctional facility in high school. There, surrounded by godly people, he accepted Christ as his Savior.

Donnelly prays his new friend also will act on his faith.

Though many spiritual calluses remained at the end of the week, Laura Smith, an adult leader on the Concord team, shared the gospel with a young Tibetan man who accepted the message. Bratcher is following up with this Tibetan man and hopes to begin the discipleship process as Hall did with him and as he currently does with Lobsang.

Hall continues to invest in students. The Concord students are taking the gospel to their campuses and workplaces and will look for people to disciple so they also may find the life Christ has for them.

*Names changed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Caroline Anderson is a writer for IMB who lives in Asia. For more stories specific to Asia, visit AsiaStories.com.)



Related story
Tibetan believers find God in music
9/7/2012 3:21:19 PM by Caroline Anderson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Tibetan believers find God in music

September 7 2012 by Caroline Anderson, Baptist Press

KATHMANDU, Nepal – The Tibetan men and women begin to weep as the believer’s hands slide over the guitar strings. It’s their hearts’ melody – put to music in their own language.

The gospel came alive to these believers when they realized God speaks to them in their language and culture, said James, one of 12 leaders in the Tibetan church among the Lhomi people group.
 
“When we sing the song in our own context, and own style, people start to cry in our church,” James said. “They found the message of God in their own melody.”

Today between 250 and 300 believers worship among the Lohmi people group in Nepal. The International Mission Board’s Global Research reports a total Lhomi population of nearly 5,000.

The Lhomi believers love to worship, and their worship is an expression of the freedom from dreams and demons they’ve found in Christ. When they worship, it paints a picture of their rich cultural heritage.

James remembers when the gospel came alive for him.

His mother had an illness everyone attributed to demons, and he was possessed with a fear of demons. But when he and his family believed in Christ, they learned Jesus was stronger than demons. His fear evaporated and his mother was healed. Today, he expresses his freedom in Christ in his music.

“The Lord gave me the heart to create the song,” James said.
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Between 250 and 300 believers worship among this Tibetan people group who live in Nepal. James, one of their leaders, plays an indigenous instrument. He wrote the first praise and worship songs for the Lhomi Tibetan language.


James, a singer, songwriter and worship leader, plays the Tibetan guitar and has composed between 60 and 70 hymns.

The gospel came to the Lhomi through Finnish Bible translators. Portions of the Lhomi Bible first were printed in 1976. As the Lhomi became believers, some like James began writing music in their own context.

James studied ethnomusicology at a university in Thailand. He has produced several CDs and his music already has been translated into Dzongkha, one of the languages in Bhutan, and Managi, the language of another Tibetan people group in Nepal.

Lhomi culture, language and worship are very different from that of the surrounding Nepalese culture. Tibetan music is based on the pentatonic scale, meaning they use only five notes per octave instead of the standard seven.

The Lhomi and other Tibetan people groups have tried to worship in Nepali, but they say it doesn’t feel authentic.

Worse, “Many ... just [become] really confused because they don’t know the melody,” James said. “They come from the mountainside and they never try to sing the Nepali song.”

Non-Christians enjoy the Christian music, too, James said, “because we borrow the tune from the southern culture and language. Melody is very important in our culture.”

Because most Lhomi have heard the gospel, Lhomi believers are planting churches among other Tibetan people groups, partnering closely with IMB representatives and Tal and Janice Bratcher* and Kendrick and Jewel Deckard*.

The Bratchers and Deckards came to Nepal to see the gospel saturate the other 25 Tibetan people groups as it has the Lhomi.

“God has done something amazing in the Lhomi people. They are really an anomaly among the Tibetan Buddhist peoples in the Himalayas,” Bratcher said.

“We’re trying to tap into the Lhomi people and encourage them, to mobilize them to go and reach culturally similar groups in different areas in the Himalayas,” Bratcher said.

“Working with the Lhomi people has been incredible for us because they don’t have some of the barriers that we have going into some of these remote, isolated villages that it takes days and days and days to get to.”

U.S. churches also play a role in reaching the Himalayas with the gospel. Several churches partner with the Bratchers, Deckards and the Lhomi to reach Tibetan people groups who have yet to hear the gospel. Some churches adopted people groups and committed to see the gospel penetrate hidden Himalayan villages.

Many times, James Lhomi and other Lhomi believers travel with short-term teams from churches in the United States. The short-term teams and Lhomi believers work to each others’ strengths to make sure the gospel reaches all.

Short-term teams draw an audience and cultivate an interest in the message that James and other Lhomi believers bring. Most Americans that these people groups meet are more interested in Nepal’s mountains than they are in the people. When Americans come and want to hear about their lives, it creates an opportunity for Lhomi believers to share their faith.

James focuses much of his time on sharing the gospel with the Managi people group, which has only two families of believers. He’s writing music in the Managi language so they, too, can hear the gospel in their hearts’ melody.

*Name changed.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Caroline Anderson is a writer for the International Mission Board who lives in Asia. For more stories specific to Asia, visit AsiaStories.com.  Pray for James as he brings his music and the gospel to Tibetan men and women among the Managi people group. Pray for the Tibetan people groups who have yet to hear of their Creator.)




Related story
In Nepal’s Himalayas, 7 students engage Tibetans in conversation
9/7/2012 3:12:50 PM by Caroline Anderson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Unearthed stone seal may depict Old Testament judge Samson

September 7 2012 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A small stone seal unearthed in Israel is likely the first archaeological evidence of the Old Testament judge Samson, say the co-directors of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Center for Archaeological Research.

While not involved in the excavation that led to the discovery, center co-directors Daniel Warner and Dennis Cole said evidence characterizing the find makes it plausible that the seal supports a story of a young boy killing a lion with his bare hands.
 
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A small stone seal unearthed in Israel is likely the first archaeological evidence of the Old Testament judge Samson.


About half an inch in diameter, the seal depicts a human figure – perhaps with long hair – fighting what appears to be a lion-like animal with a feline tail. The seal dates to the 12th century B.C. and was excavated at the Beth Shemesh site in the Judean Hills near Jerusalem. Archeologists found the seal with other items on the floor of an excavated house near the Sorek River, the ancient border between Israelite and Philistine territories. Seals were used in biblical times by those of wealth and influence as proof of authenticity.

“My initial assessment based upon what has been published to date would be that once again we have an artifact that does not contradict the biblical text, but in fact affirms it,” said Warner, New Orleans Seminar associate professor of Old Testament and archaeology.

Excavation directors Shlomo Bunimovitz and Zvi Lederman of Tel Aviv University do not claim that the figure on the seal is of the actual biblical Samson. Rather, they believe the seal probably indicates that a story was being told in 12th century B.C. of a hero who fought a lion.

Judges 14:6 records Samson killing a lion with his bare hands. Samson lived near the end of the biblical era of judges, which scholars have estimated began as early as 1400 B.C. and ended around 1050 B.C. The date of the seal falls within that range.

Warner, on staff at New Orleans Seminary’s Orlando Hub in Florida, has been on archaeological expeditions with Bunimovitz and Lederman.

“According to the excavators, whom I have dug with in the past, the evidence places the find in close proximity of Samson’s hometown of Zorah. Beth Shemesh is just across the Sorek Valley to the south of Zorah, in fact you can see it from Beth Shemesh,” Warner said. “The date of the find appears to be in a solid context of the 12th century B.C., certainly within the time frame of Samson.”

Cole, New Orleans Seminary’s professor of Old Testament and archaeology, and the chair of the division of biblical studies, said the location of the find is significant.

“The interesting fact is that [the seal] was discovered in the shadows of Samson’s hometown area of Zorah, located on the top of the hill immediately to the north of the [location] where the seal was found,” Cole said. “The late 12th/early 11th century B.C. date would approximately date it to the judges period, and hence Samson.”

Like Bunimovitz and Lederman, Cole said there’s no clear evidence that the drawing on the seal depicts Samson himself.

“The geographical, chronological, and motif aspects fit the Samson context from Judges, but only textual data could fully confirm a direct relationship between the artifact and the biblical account,” Cole said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press Staff Writer Diana Chandler.)
9/7/2012 3:09:20 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



IMB worker’s death in Jordan ruled foul play

September 6 2012 by Don Graham, Baptist Press

RICHMOND, Va. – Jordanian authorities are investigating the death of Southern Baptist worker Cheryll Harvey, whose body was discovered in her apartment in Irbid, Jordan, on Tuesday, Sept. 4. Foul play has been confirmed in the death of the 55-year-old single woman from Texas.

Harvey had served the Jordanian people for 24 years, demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ through teaching English and other subjects in connection with the Jordan Baptist Society.

“Cheryll was greatly loved by both our personnel in the Middle East and by her many students,” International Mission Board (IMB) President Tom Elliff said. “We are faced once again with a sobering reminder of the brevity of life and the importance of faithfully serving the Lord to the very end of our time on earth. Cheryll has left for us a great example that we should follow.
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Cheryll Harvey


“She ... will always be remembered for her quiet and unassuming spirit, as well as her passion for sharing the Good News,” Elliff said.

Harvey was a member of College Heights Baptist Church in Plainview, Texas, and grew up attending First Baptist Church in Sudan, Texas. Family and colleagues in the United States have been notified and await word about the circumstances surrounding her death. Harvey is survived by two brothers who reside in Texas.

“As with any event such as this, it is imperative that we remember Cheryll’s surviving family members and friends,” Elliff said, “and that we lift them up in prayer during these days. We best honor her by giving honor to the Lord Whom she so faithfully served.”

Robert Roecker, pastor of First Baptist Sudan, said the church is in a “state of shock.” Harvey had visited her childhood church several times since Roecker became pastor, offering slideshows of her work in the Middle East.

A friend of Harvey’s relayed to him that “Cheryll talked about how when she retired she might just stay in Jordan. She just really loved it there and loved the people.”

“The thing that always astounded us was when you heard her speak she was just a meek and mild person with just a soft voice,” Roecker recalled. “It’s not the picture you have in your mind of someone who is on the front lines in Jordan. To have that courage and faith was amazing to us. The folks who knew her here were always saying how surprised they were at what was God was able to do through her.”

LaDelta Vernon, Harvey’s third-grade teacher who would often talk to her when Harvey came home on occasional furloughs, said she always imagined the quiet, well-behaved girl with the distinctive laugh would grow up and raise three daughters. As it turned out, she never married. She was a helper, Vernon said, so her teaching English wasn’t a surprise. Her teaching it in the Middle East was, however.

“She was a good student. If she was your friend, she was your best friend. She didn’t talk behind people’s back. She was just a sweet, sweet girl,” Vernon said. “She was doing what she wanted to do, what God called her to do.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Don Graham is a senior writer with the International Mission Board, with additional reporting by Jerry Pierce of the Southern Baptist Texan.)
9/6/2012 2:27:18 PM by Don Graham, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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