FROM THE STATES: Ill., Ga., Mo. evangelism/missions news; 'I said sure, we can take care of that'
Today's From the States features items from:
Christian Index (Georgia)
The Pathway (Missouri)
Ill. couple's love for international
students started with one 'yes'
By Morgan Jackson
MAHOMET, Ill. (Illinois Baptist) -- Two girls, both college students far from their home country of China, giggle at church on Sunday as they admire the brand-new English/Chinese Bibles just given to them -- the first either has ever owned.
For another girl, this day marks the first time she has ever attended church. And another student, intrigued about what she heard during the service, agrees to a "Christianity Explained" study in hopes of having more of her questions answered.
These are just a few of the examples of spiritual growth Duane and Alice Davis have witnessed over the past several years. Duane, who served as director of missions for East Central Illinois Baptist Association, and Alice, a longtime member of the Woman's Missionary Union lead team, live in Mahomet, a town just outside of Champaign and the University of Illinois campus.
Four years ago, they got a call asking if they could help a Chinese international student named Echo get acquainted with people in the area -- more specifically, with Christians. Echo's cousin, Tulip, wanted to make sure she got plugged into a Christian community while in the U.S. for grad school, something that had changed Tulip's life and led her to place her faith in Jesus Christ.
"I said sure, we can take care of that," Duane remembered. "So we met her at the train station and immediately she just latched onto us." The couple asked Echo if she would like to go to church with them that first Sunday. She said yes, "and I don't think she missed a Sunday since," Duane said.
Echo invited two of her friends to church, and they befriended the Davises too. Over Christmas break, another friend of theirs got acquainted with the couple when he had nowhere to go for the holidays.
"All we said was yeah, we'll take care of introducing Echo around," said Duane. "And we became American parents."
The Davises realized that one of the greatest needs the students had was speaking English. They started conversational English groups on Thursday nights, as a way to offer practical help with the language barrier as well as an opportunity to share the Gospel.
The first year consisted of Echo and her three friends. The group grew to seven the following year, then 25. This past school year, they had 60-70 attending each week.
When asked what those Thursday nights look like, student Yewin Yin said, "[We eat] dinner, they tell a Bible story, and then we just talk about it. And we also play games."
Alice said sometimes there are questions about the Bible story, and other times there aren't. "The kids that come to us are the ones who are just a little curious," she said. "They just want to know what it's about ... but it gives them a place to start."
Six students in the group have come to Christ. Which doesn't seem like many, Alice said, with 70 students in attendance. But looking at the exponential growth of this group offers perspective: what started as four students has become a movement.
Alice explained that a lot of these kids have never gone to church before. But the Davises have up to 10 attend with them on any given Sunday, and their searching and exploring is an encouragement -- even if the couple never gets to see the outcome of the seeds they've helped plant. They give them a Bible and answer their questions about what church will be like.
"We've never really advertised," she said. "It's always been word of mouth and people inviting people. It's the relationship they have at our house and with us that's made the difference."
This article appeared in the Illinois Baptist (ibonline.ibsa.org), newsjournal of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Morgan Jackson is an editorial contributor to the Illinois Baptist.
Ga. MOVE Conference sees 334
students pray to receive Christ
By Scott Barkley
MACON, Ga. (Christian Index) -- This is your time. God gave you a faith of action. Be the difference others notice.
Summed up, that was the message from the assortment of speakers and worship leaders at the MOVE Conference held Dec. 29-30 at Macon Coliseum. Previously known as the Youth Evangelism Conference, the event was hosted by Georgia Baptist Mission Board Student Groups and Faith Development.
Though held at the end of 2016, the conference's focus positioned students and student leaders to prepare for 2017.
"The focus of every MOVE Conference is encouraging students to move," pointed out Ricky Jackson, state missionary. "So many are stagnant or hesitant to step out and live their faith. We want them to allow God to move in them, so we used the word 'move' in a lot of different ways [to make the point].
"God wants to move them from where they are to where He wants them to be. There's no neutrality with God. We have to be moving."
By the time the conference ended, 334 students had prayed for a new life in Christ out of the approximately 6,500 in attendance. More indicated decisions afterwards via communication cards presented through students to their youth ministers.
Worth in Christ
As a student minister Len Kight attended MOVE several times prior to accepting a position at Shady Grove Baptist Church in Carrollton last June. Last week's MOVE Conference was the first for his current church's students.
"A key point for me from the conference – one I've repeated to my youth – was our identity in Christ," he said. "Jesus was who He said He was. I also wanted them to understand our worth as God's children and the value He places on each of our lives."
It clicked with one student for sure. A middle school-aged boy, Kight reported, prayed to receive Christ after connecting with a story told by speaker Ed Newton. "It helped him see he was valuable to God," said Kight.
The student recorded his decision through one of the communication cards mentioned earlier.
"Ed Newton and Trip Lee connected right on point," agreed Marc Galo, minister to students at First Baptist Statesboro. The testimony of Newton, lead pastor of Community Bible Church in San Antonio, includes growing up as the only child -- and voice -- of two deaf parents. Accepting Christ came amid adversity and hardship during high school.
As evidenced by several Dove Award nominations and three latest albums debuting at #1 on the Billboard Gospel Charts, most know Lee initially as a hip-hop artist. However, the Atlanta pastor/author/speaker has grown to become a significant voice among young evangelicals in a church growing more multicultural.
Faith lived out
"Ed resonated with the crowd leading up to the presentation of the Gospel invitation out of Hebrews 12," Galo recollected, "pointing to the 'great cloud of witnesses' and for us to 'lay aside every encumbrance' to 'run with endurance the race set before us.' Trip spoke clearly and relevantly to this generation about authentic faith lived out, not just talked about."
Other speakers and artists taking the stage included Northern Ireland worship band Rend Collective, singer Francesca Battistelli, worship leader Bethany Barr Phillips, illusionist/Bible communicator Drew Worsham, former UGA Bulldog and Atlanta Falcon DJ Shockley, and Pastor Jason Britt of Bethlehem Baptist Church.
Britt taught from Romans 8:1.
"In a world quick to give us labels, Paul gave those who follow Christ an eternal label," he explained to The Index. "In Christ there is a tension of our journey. It lies where you and I understand a world with our identity based on what we do or have done. But, we have a faith where our identity is based on what someone else has done, Jesus."
God gave students their identity in Christ, he explained. Therefore, they can't do anything to lose it.
"I think many times we leave conferences with a list of things to do better or stop doing," he added. "My hope is when students think about their faith they'll live in confidence of what Christ has done. That label – in Christ – is eternal and not based on our performance."
Michael Brown, student minister at Gordon Heights Baptist in Cairo, responded personally to part of Lee's message.
"Jesus didn't save people in moderation," Brown reflected. "That concept was earth-shattering to me. I'm one of those people who don't get too upset or wound up about something. That can be good, but it could also mean I don't get passionate about things like I should."
Brown has led a group from Gordon Heights to MOVE since he joined the church midway through 2014. Sometimes he'll see the unexpected, such as a student this year who had been experiencing doubts in his faith, but became really involved in the worship. Other aspects of the conference remain consistent, he said.
"You see so many talents used at MOVE. It shows my students that whatever your talent is, God can use it to His glory."
This article appeared in The Christian Index (christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Scott Barkley is production manager for The Christian Index.
'Hangar Hangouts' develops
disciples in Mo.
By Brian Koonce
CALHOUN, Mo. (The Pathway) -- You don't need to be inside a church's auditorium to hear the truth. Sometimes, pulling up a lawn chair next to a 1945 Piper Cub in a small, unfinished hangar will do just fine.
That's what been going on at "Hangar Hangouts," a disciple-making ministry of sorts for men and boys hosted by Tom Spooner, a member of First Baptist, Clinton.
"There are some folks out in this world – basically men – who do not want to go to church to hear anything," Spooner said. "They figure they're going to get beat up over the head with a Bible. They'd rather go deer hunting, fishing, or even sit at home playing solitaire. I'm trying to just get men together to talk about what we need to hear. Not talk to us; with us. No spin, no garbage, just what we need to hear and do as Christian men."
So at 7 a.m. on the first Saturday of each month, Spooner provides a place for just such a conversation. His wife, Sandra, provides the coffee and sweet rolls, and Spooner brings in a discussion leader, which so far has included an IMB missionary home on furlough and Pathway editor, Don Hinkle.
"At 7 a.m., it's too early for soccer or baseball games, and the farmers aren't even at work yet unless they're milking, but there's only one guy left in the county who milks and he's way up north anyway."
Spooner, a retired physician, could easily carry on a conversation by himself, but he's intentional about drawing other men into the informal discussions.
"Men and boys have taken a backseat to a whole lot of stuff for whatever reason," Spooner said. "We've got to figure out how to reach the men and boys. You don't talk astrophysics to a ditch digger and talk ditch digging to a astrophysicist. You've got to be on the right frequency to communicate. We're trying to talk on men's frequency, not over, under or around them."
Although these hangouts are happening outside the small town of Calhoun, Spooner sees no reasons why similar conversations can't happen across the state and country; informal, casual conversations where truth reigns, "not spin" about living a Christian life.
"A lot of folks are very cynical about a lot of folks," Spooner said. "There's a lot of anger in the world; people don't know what they're mad about, but they're just mad. If you can get those lines of communication open, you can get the conversation rolling a little bit, expand upon mutually agreed upon facts then steer the conversation from there."
This article appeared in The Pathway (mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Brian Koonce is a staff writer for The Pathway.
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 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.