FROM THE STATES: Wy., Ala., S.C. evangelism/missions news
EDITOR'S NOTE: From the States, published each Tuesday by Baptist Press, relays news and feature stories from state Baptist papers and other publications on initiatives by Baptist churches, associations and state conventions in evangelism, church planting and Great Commission outreach, including partnership missions. Reports about churches, associations and state conventions responding to the International Mission Board's call to embrace the world's 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups also are included in From the States, along with reports about church, associational and state convention initiatives in conjunction with the North American Mission Board's call to Southern Baptist churches to broaden their efforts in starting new churches and satellite campuses. The items appear in Baptist Press as originally published.
Today's From the States features items from:
Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention
The Alabama Baptist
The Baptist Courier (South Carolina)
Youth Evangelism Conference 2012
By Guy O. Thomas
CASPER, Wy. (Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention) -- The 2012 Youth Evangelism Conference of the Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention was held March 23-24 at the Ramada Plaza Riverside in Casper, Wyoming. This year's registration swelled to 185, with over 200 in attendance by Saturday morning. This more than doubled last year's attendance. The theme of the Conference was "Make all things New", coming from the scripture in 2 Corinthians 5:17. The Lord was honored with 17 coming to faith in Jesus Christ, three surrendering to full-time Christian service and 18 commitments of various types.
Marty Roark and his Mustang Ministry Team used a series of cowboy demonstrations to challenge the youth in the principles of Scripture. The first demo was a blacksmith forge, in which they heated an old horseshoe, disregarding a portion and making a new useful hoof pick out of the remainder. The team also used a mule packing demo to challenge the youth to pack their lives with the Word of God and to arrange things in their lives around the Lord for the rough journey of life. Through the trapping demo the team taught the youth some trapping principles as well as animal behaviorisms, then showed through the demo how Satan sets traps for us and how we need the whole armor of God in our lives to avoid the temptations and snares of our enemy. It was amazing to see the teenagers on the edge of their seats in response to the Gospel presentations.
Ed Tharp, Casper College BCM director, recruited the praise team from present and former BCM students. They lead the youth in worship and singing with enthusiasm and inspirations. The group consisted of drummer, keyboard, bass, rhythm guitar and three vocalists.
John Herman, pastor of Set Free Ministries of Casper, gave a testimony of his rebellious youth and 10-year imprisonment. He magnified the power of God in his life and how the Lord has delivered him from a life of drug addiction, criminal activity and incarceration. John encouraged the youth to seek the Lord with their whole heart and stressed the importance of beginning to serve the Lord immediately.
There were 60 giveaway drawings throughout the conference with 40 youth receiving the CDs, T-shirts and other prizes. Youth workers also had a drawing for youth material packets which can be used in their church youth group gatherings. Each registered youth received a long-sleeved shirt with the conference theme and logo, as well as a backpack filled with unique witnessing tools for sharing Christ with their friends and relatives.
We are already praying and planning for next year's conference.
Guy O. Thomas is the state missionary for evangelism strategies with the Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention.
Alabama BCM students spend
spring break ministering in NYC
By Doug Rogers
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (The Alabama Baptist) -- As a theater major at the University of Alabama, Emily Couch was looking forward to spending spring break in New York City -- but not for the reasons you might expect. Having spent the past two spring breaks doing missions work in Memphis and Mexico and last summer in Gulf Shores, Couch began feeling God leading her to New York, not just for her career but to serve Him through missions.
Then when she learned that her Baptist Campus Ministry (BCM) was planning a spring break trip to New York City, she began packing her bags.
"I knew this was an opportunity for me to come up here to see what God is doing and see a way for me to be involved, and I knew this was where he would begin laying the foundation for my future," Couch said.
Couch was one of around 130 college students and leaders from five Alabama BCMs who spent their spring break in New York City as a part of Passport New York. The brainchild of John Ramirez, Passport New York is designed not just to provide college students with a missions experience but to immerse them in a different culture.
Ramirez, strategic partnership coordinator for the Metro New York Baptist Association, explained that people often only think of Manhattan when they think of New York. But this experience introduces students to ministry needs in all five boroughs of New York City, where there are more than 550 people groups and 800 languages spoken. "The world comes to New York," he said.
Over the course of one week, students in BCMs from Alabama State University and the universities of Alabama, Alabama at Birmingham, Montevallo and South Alabama became New Yorkers, learning how to use the subway, talk with street vendors and interact with people of different cultures.
Along the way, the students connected with church planters, pastors and other leaders, doing everything from prayer walking, handing out free coffee and picking up trash to teaching English as a second language, renovating a church building and leading in worship.
Like Couch, Twon Mai, a University of Mobile student traveling with the Metro Mobile BCM team, already had a sense of God's hand on his life. He had been praying about planting a church in New York when this opportunity came along at just the right time. "It's given me more of a burden for the people here, it's given me more to pray about and given me more of an emotional investment," he said.
For many others, like Kasey Barrow, this was their first multicultural missions experience. Barrow, a senior at the University of Montevallo, had never participated in a missions endeavor beyond Vacation Bible School. And while adapting to New York's culture was frustrating at first, Barrow quickly saw God's hand at work. "The amount of lost people in New York seems overwhelming, but God reminded me that He is mighty to save and that it is our job to pray, minister, preach and love," she said.
One of the church planters that Alabama students connected with was Nathan Creitz, who is from Alabama himself. Creitz and his wife Kim moved to New York recently to plant a church in the Forest Park area of Queens. For two back-to-back weeks, a group of Alabama students worked with Creitz, prayer walking the area where the church will be planted and engaging people in conversation.
The help the students provided was a great encouragement to Creitz, because right now they don't have a core group or a team — it's just his wife and two toddlers. "To have all these additional hands and feet on the ground serving multiplies what I'm doing incredibly," he said. "It's absolutely essential for us to have teams like this to come in and help us along the way."
Ramirez explained that one of the goals of Passport New York is for some of the students who participate to return for a summer, a semester, a year or even a lifetime. But for those who don't, Jerrod Brown, campus minister at the University of South Alabama, sees a huge benefit for the local church.
"I think the investment that Alabama Baptists make in college students through their Cooperative Program gifts makes an eternal impact," Brown said. "We're investing in folks who will be our future church leaders with a missional mindset, who will help mobilize people for missions or who will be missionaries themselves."
That's one of the primary purposes of BCM spring break missions trips, explained Chris Mills, associate in the office of collegiate and student ministries at the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. "One of the main reasons we have these trips is because when students help meet needs in other places, it opens their eyes to needs in their own communities," Mills said. "Plus the opportunity to take several groups to New York was ideal because Alabama Baptists have a missions partnership with Baptists in New York."
As for Couch, she's ready to go back. "Just walking the streets, I've seen where God is at work and the opportunities for me to jump in when I move up here. He's showing me such big things that I couldn't have ever imagined," she said.
Doug Rogers is a contributing writer for the Alabama Baptist and is the communications coordinator for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. This article first appeared in The Alabama Baptist (www.thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention.
S.C. Baptists 'gospel pioneers'
WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. (The Baptist Courier) -- South Carolina Baptists are impacting lostness in India. Six members from Kittiwake Baptist Church in West Columbia went on a 10-day trip to Delhi in early 2012 as part of the South Carolina Baptist Convention partnership, and the church already has plans to return next year.
Pastor Tim Smith* said the trip was the next step toward Kittiwake's goal of developing an Acts 1:8 strategy for missions. "We have focused on developing local missions first and then expanded out to Kentucky for the last few years," he said. "Our next step was to take a global level, and we began praying about where God may lead us to form a partnership."
Kittiwake member Otis Kennedy* went on a vision trip to India last year with Jim Austin, SCBC executive director-treasurer, and experienced firsthand the needs there. As a result, the church corresponded with the International Mission Board to see how it could be involved in a partnership, and Kennedy organized the January 2012 trip for his church.
"After my first trip, I sensed the call to go home and 'sell' my church on Delhi. It's hard enough to explain the chaos of the city, and it was harder to explain the need I felt to return. I worked closely with the IMB to create a trip that would allow us to do as much as possible, and it ended up allowing the group to see what I had seen and experience what I'd experienced," Kennedy said.
An estimated 23 million people live in Delhi, a city described as spiritually dark with a predominance of Hindu people and a growing number of Muslim converts. The Kittiwake team's primary work was to prayerwalk Muslim and Hindu temples and neighborhoods where, they were told, no Westerners — and no Christians — had ever been. They also visited house churches and helped them identify unengaged people groups living in the city. The second half of the trip was spent on the outskirts of town at the Sewa Ashram, a Christian-based medical facility that cares for the destitute and dying.
"'Sewa' means 'practice of selfless service,' and 'Ashram' means 'spiritual community,' and it is a place for the untouchables, the sick and dying, who don't get help anywhere else," Kennedy said. "Without organizations like the Ashram, these people will die. There they get food, medical treatments, and some return to work in society and support their families. Many come but never leave."
As a result of the team's experiences there, Kittiwake Church is committing to pay the annual salary of one of the Ashram workers. "We feel that our job is to help train and encourage local believers there and to help the churches gain momentum," Smith said.
Kennedy described his missions-minded church as a "small church with a big heart." That passion for missions can be seen in their Lottie Moon Christmas Offering goal, which, Smith said, was $1,600 nine years ago and last year was set at $12,000. The church ended up giving $17,000 to the 2011 Lottie Moon Offering. "As we have expanded on our Acts 1:8 vision, there are more and more people catching a vision for missions. In these financial times, it was an amazing thing," he said.
The church also emphasizes that missions is not just about giving, but about going. Every member who is physically able is encouraged to experience at least one mission trip. "We don't want to be missions tourists traveling the world, we want to establish a partnership with one place. Then as the relationship grows, the partnership becomes more effective," Smith said.
There is a role for everyone in the India partnership, too: prayer commitment, encouraging a missionary in the field, missions giving, supporting missions teams sent from local churches, financially supporting a pastor or missionary in India or, like the Kittiwake Church team, going on a mission trip.
According to Kennedy, the Great Commission is the greatest reason other churches should become involved in international missions. "If you look on a map of unreached people groups, India has the highest concentration in the world," he said. "Few Christians have been able to share the gospel with the 1.6 billion people living in India. If we believe as we say we do, what's stopping us from sharing the gospel with them?
"We desire to see the gospel penetrate lostness, and there is no greater area of lostness in the world than India. What an opportunity for South Carolina Baptists to be on the forefront of what God is doing in the world and to be pioneers of the gospel in some of the darkest corners of the world." — SCBC
*Names have been changed. This article first appeared in The Baptist Courer (www.baptistcourier.com), newsjournal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.