FROM THE STATES: Ore., N.C. and Okla. evangelism/missions news; 'They are choosing to be dangerously obedient ...'

Today's From the States features items from: Northwest Baptist Witness (Oregon); Biblical Recorder (North Carolina); The Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma)


Ore. church partners with

city to help neighborhood

By Sheila Allen

PORTLAND, Ore. (Northwest Baptist Witness) -- A remarkable neighborhood on Portland's eastern edge is home to the youngest, most diverse pocket of people in Oregon, where 60-plus languages are spoken. Annexed to neighboring Gresham in the 1980s, Rockwood has seen its share of struggles.

"Rockwood has a median age of 27 and also the lowest car ownership rate in the state," said Amy Evans, who works in community outreach for the city of Gresham and who's taken strong ownership in Rockwood Rising, a public/private development project to stabilize and revitalize Rockwood. "There is a huge rental and low-income rate in Rockwood with multi-generational families and large apartment complexes to accommodate them."

An inn located in present day Rockwood became a stagecoach stop in the late 19th century, a junction that also attracted a church, a grocery store and other businesses. Today, another church located in the heart of Rockwood agreed to make its mark on that neighborhood in a partnership with the city.

Many negative perceptions about Rockwood are not accurate, according to Evans, who grew up in nearby Troutdale, and traveled to Portland on the light rail system through the heart of Rockwood while pursuing her master's in English as a second language (ESL).

"Rockwood has dense housing but is far from amenities for their residents," Evans said. "I began praying for Rockwood every day while riding light rail and a year later was offered the opportunity to be a part of this project, which fits my goals."

A member of Pathway Church in Gresham, Evans became concerned about a specific playground with picnic tables that had become a gathering spot for immigrant mothers with no other place to congregate.

"It is so important for their cultures, but this playground needed to be removed for the revitalization project that will help with job creation, grocery access and housing," Evans said. "I became an advocate for the playground and began seeking a new place to relocate it that was within walking distance. I have so much passion for Rockwood and feel I am here for this time and place."

The city of Gresham was willing to invest the funds to move the equipment, worth more than $20,000. After looking at six possible locations it appeared none would work out, until Evans approached Burnside Baptist Church, a congregation whose property borders the light rail line and is one block from the current playground location and had space to spare.

"Amy Evans showed up at a Sunday morning service and I talked to her afterward about the playground," Pastor Joel Sykes said. "It was nice to know that she had worked through the North American Mission Board and had a Southern Baptist background, but we had reservations if it would work or not."

In the past, the church had struggled with vandalism, garbage on the property and kids playing on their roof, according to Sandra Sykes: "People were just out on our property and that included homeless people and drug users. We have run into people cooking heroin right on our grounds and were concerned about children getting exposed to needles, some of whom are barefoot."

After meeting with Evans and talking to church members, Sykes' response to her was that the church would not pursue the partnership. But the conversation with him didn't end there.

"We have a mostly older congregation," he noted. "But Amy was very patient and her perseverance was striking as she showed up another time on a Sunday morning and we talked it through again. I have to hand it to her -- she hung in there with us. We want to keep God's presence in Rockwood. Our commitment is to the Lord and I want the church to prosper."

The couple experienced significant loss in their own life and they continually seek to reach others who are hurting. They were members of Burnside Baptist many years prior to Joel accepting the pastorate. The duo also minister at the Multnomah Country Justice Center in a jail ministry.

"Our son died of AIDS due to drug use," Sandra Sykes said. "To have a child addicted was unbelievable to me, but Burnside Baptist had a SAFE (Setting Addicts Free Eternally) program that he went through and I completed it alongside him. The church accepted Dan and our family."

"It's been a real blessing to be here and this is exciting," Sykes added. "Our people have been faithful and God will put something together that is very fruitful."

Burnside member Terry Goebel sees possibilities surrounding the opportunity for people coming to their church grounds in positive ways.

"If people come to the picnic tables we can go out and visit with them," Goebel said. "The school bus drops them off right by here, so there is opportunity to make friends with the primarily Spanish speakers that live around us."

The city of Gresham committed to regular garbage pickup, policing the property regularly and visitors must adhere to posted signs of regular park hours. The zone will be specified as alcohol- and drug-free zones.

"Although our building is debt free, we are poor in other resources," Sykes said. "But the Lord is providing and we decided you can either sequester yourself or reach out, which we are choosing to do."

"We have this incredible opportunity with people from Burma, Afghanistan, Iran, Somalia and beyond," Evans said. "Places we can't take the Gospel, but we can take it to them since they are here.

"This is a huge chance for Burnside Baptist folks to interact with their neighbors and offer something to their community," she added. "Developers want to come in and snap up their property, but instead, they are staying and making a sacrifice to make a difference in these cultures. I am praying this will lead to many coming to know Jesus. They are choosing to be dangerously obedient and I am so proud of them."

This article appeared in the Northwest Baptist Witness (, newsjournal of the Northwest Baptist Convention. Sheila Allen is managing editor of the Northwest Baptist Witness.


N.C. church, college

athletes become 'family'

by Liz Tablazon

MARSHVILLE, N.C. (Biblical Recorder) -- When Amy Duke made an announcement to Philadelphia Baptist Church (PBC) in Marshville, N.C., about an opportunity for families to sponsor a Wingate University volleyball player, she thought she might hear from a handful of interested church members.

Twenty minutes after service ended, all 18 athletes were matched up with families.

"There were more families wanting to participate than there were girls," Duke said.

Duke coordinated the partnership between PBC and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Wingate, directed by Shannon Powell. Powell initially contacted PBC Pastor Caroll Anthony, searching for churches to sponsor each athletic team, said Duke.

"Caroll had been looking for a way to get onto campus to minister," she said. "Caroll mentioned possibly doing something with Wingate, and before I even knew what it was, I said I wanted to do it!"

Duke's daughter received a full scholarship to attend Wingate, and she too was looking for a way to give back to the school.

Sponsor families attended every home volleyball game, with some traveling to watch away games. They cheered the players on and stayed after games to talk to them. They took students to dinner, invited them into their homes, prayed for them and built relationships with them.

"'Adopting' the volleyball team at Wingate has been one of the best things we have done in a while," Anthony said.

A home away from home

Kristi Cox, a PBC member, credited Anthony for creating a mission-minded church culture.

"Every door in the [church] building has a sign that says 'mission field,'" Cox said. She recalled the first international trip PBC took to Honduras during Anthony's first year as pastor. Cox went with her husband, Roger, and their two children who were in middle school at the time.

"It set the stage and opened our eyes to different people and cultures. We looked for opportunities like this -- not only internationally, but opportunities to see from different perspectives."

When Kristi and Roger learned the one international student on the team, Dunja Sobot, was from Serbia, they immediately chose to sponsor her. In February, the Cox family befriended another young woman from Serbia. Slavica Bambur was a certified nursing assistant who cared for Roger's father as he battled complications from multiple myeloma.

"We loved her. She had great bedside manner.... We vowed to keep in touch even after my father-in-law went home to be with the Lord," Cox said. "When we saw Dunja's name on the team roster, also from Serbia, we felt certain God had a plan."

Cox introduced Sobot to Bambur, and the two discovered they had plenty in common and even grew up in towns about one hour apart in Serbia.

Sobot recently spent Thanksgiving with the Cox family. "We have continued to enjoy and learn from our time spent with Dunja. We hope to give her a little taste of 'home away from home,'" Cox said. "No one can replace a parent, but we feel like we can stand in, encourage her and support her."

Cox also had the chance to get to know other players on the team from seeing them during games. "The whole church feels invested in the team," she said.

Phillip and Carla Bowers have two sons, Clay, 7, and Drew, 3. Clay expressed the most excitement when they decided to sponsor Treslyn Ortiz, a student from Texas. "He said, 'I always wanted a sister!'" Carla told the Biblical Recorder in an email.

"We thought we'd become a blessing to her, but it was the other way around. She has been a big inspiration to all of us, especially Clay," she said.

"At first I just figured we would talk a little and pray for them, but this has turned out to be so much more," Phillip added. "These girls have taught us so much about respect, teamwork and love.... Clay can't wait for the next game or the next time he will get to see or talk to Treslyn. We thought this would be a one-year thing, but after the first meeting, we knew we had met a wonderful person and a lifetime family member, and now we have extended family in Texas."

Duke, the program coordinator, agreed. She realized the relationships built between families and students would last longer than one volleyball season.

"These girls can be in our lives forever now if they choose to be." She recently sent a text message to the player she sponsors, telling her she was praying for the team's safety and health.

"She sends me back, 'Thank you, Mama Duke. Thank you for being my second mama.'"

This article appeared in the Biblical Recorder (, newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Liz Tablazon is a staff writer for the Biblical Recorder


Okla. church has

tea with Lottie Moon

By Chris Doyle

OKLAHOMA CITY (Baptist Messenger) -- Portland Avenue Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, with support of the Capital Baptist Association, has been hosting a Lottie Moon Christmas Tea for 10 years. Different churches have been invited to participate in this event for first- through sixth-grade girls.

Last month, the annual tea was extended to mothers, which caused attendance numbers to increase. Quail Springs Baptist Church hosted, as approximately 250 mothers and daughters total, representing 12 churches, celebrated this special light meal commemorating the namesake of the International Mission Board's Christmas offering.

The theme for this year's tea was "Enchantment Under the Star," based on Matt. 2:9-11. Activities included praying for missionaries, learning about the life and ministry of Lottie Moon and participating in missions by donating a new toy or gift for the Baptist Mission Center Christmas Store.

"Each girl made their own set of 'Story Stones' to share the true meaning of Christmas with their family, friends and neighbors," said Gina McKean, director of childhood ministries at Portland Avenue. "And of course, we enjoyed a delicious brunch!"

Gracie, a missionary to Poland, shared about serving in an orphanage. "We all had tears in our eyes," said Shelby Egender, preschool ministry associate at Quail Springs, when describing Jones' experience of caring for children who did not have a mom or dad in their lives.

Portland Avenue featured a dramatization about Lottie Moon that featured well-known Oklahoma Baptist Willa Ruth Garlow and her granddaughter Angela Lee who portrayed Lottie Moon. "The girls were mesmerized," McKean said about the Lottie Moon performance.

McKean said the annual tea is always scheduled for the first Saturday in December and consistently features a telling of the Lottie Moon story. "We wanted the girls to understand why every year at Christmas they hear about Lottie Moon," she said. "We wanted them to have an understanding about who she was and about how she started out as a child and how she grew in sharing God's love and how God called her."

Children also participated in delivering the toys and gifts to the Baptist Mission Center the following Monday.

Plans are being made to have the Lottie Moon Christmas Tea next year at Quail Springs.

This article appeared in The Baptist Messenger (, newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Chris Doyle is associate editor of The Baptist Messenger.


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. Except for minor style, security, formatting and grammatical changes, the items appear in Baptist Press as originally published.

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