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Bill Bangham

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Slain Southern Baptist worker laid to rest

SUDAN, Texas (BP) -- As Cheryll Harvey was buried Sept. 15 in Sudan, Texas, surrounded by friends and relatives who nourished and nurtured her, colleagues told of her love for a people in a land far from those dusty plains.

Slain Southern Baptist worker laid to rest

SUDAN, Texas (BP) -- As Cheryll Harvey was buried Sept. 15 in Sudan, Texas, surrounded by friends and relatives who nourished and nurtured her, colleagues told of her love for a people in a land far from those dusty plains.

Tom Elliff inaugurated as IMB president & ‘bondservant’

RICHMOND, Va. (BP) -- A few days before Tom Elliff's inauguration as the 11th leader of IMB (the International Mission Board), three bite-size packages of Butterfinger chocolate appear on a table at the entrance of his office. Elliff offers one to a visitor, pops another in his mouth. His eyes crinkle at the edges as he savors the morsel -- they are a favorite. Finally the grin that quickly became famous around the office when Elliff arrived seven months ago breaks across his face. [QUOTE@right@150=View bio video of Tom Elliff here]"This is the only kind of bribe I get around here," Elliff quips -- he suspects one of the women at the front reception desk -- "and no one ever asks for anything." It's easy to get this far into the president's office. When you do, you invariably get invited around the corner, past the formal sitting area, into a small room off to the side. It's a spare room, decorated with a couple of photographs of and some artifacts from Africa where Elliff and his wife Jeannie served as missionaries. A chair in one corner, and a simple kneeling rail with cushions against one wall on which a map of the world hangs, complete it. He will ask you if you would like to pray -- and you say, yes. He is, after all, the president. And somewhere in the midst of all this you realize this is not a superior conferring a blessing on a subordinate -- this is brother praying with brother, that the heart of the international arm of the Southern Baptist Convention is not where the president sits, it is where he kneels. Tonight, Nov. 14, at the western edge of the city, the crowd tests the capacity of Grove Avenue Baptist Church, one of the landmark churches of metro Richmond. There are few seats to be had on the main floor; even the balcony takes its measure.

Peace of God finally prevails for couple separated by war

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Amy and Ron Byrd embrace as a prayer of thanksgiving is offered before a bus delivers them to their home church, First Baptist in Forney, Texas. She was part of a team from the church that was stranded in Lebanon when war broke out. She and the rest of the volunteer team had just arrived at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport after being evacuated by boat through Cyprus.Photo by Bill Bangham
FORNEY, Texas (BP)--Ron Byrd is going to meet his wife. It has been nine hard days, a rollercoaster ride of emotion. The love of his life, Amy, is a week overdue, one among many Americans caught in the conflict that exploded in Lebanon, stranded when war began.
      “I’ve had some very high moments, some very low moments,” Ron says. “I didn’t sleep very much. I spent a lot of time praying and looking at the media, communicating with the other families. But you know, the Lord was really good.”
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Family members crowd the arrival gate when a team from First Baptist Church, Forney, Texas, arrives at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Ron Byrd (second from left) spots his wife, Amy. She was among volunteers stranded when war broke out in Lebanon. Photo by Bill Bangham

      Today, Amy arrives home.
      She is part of a team from their church -- First Baptist in Forney, Texas –- who went to Beirut to work with Lebanese Baptists, helping them distribute New Testaments in predominately Muslim neighborhoods. But the war interrupted their efforts. Before they could leave, the airport was bombed. They moved into the mountains above the city, then evacuated by boat to Cyprus. Now, after an overnight stay in Philadelphia, they are on their way home.
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Todd Bradley rushes for the arms of loved ones when he arrives at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. He was part of a volunteer team from First Baptist Church, Forney, Texas, stranded in Lebanon when hostilities broke out.Photo by Bill Bangham

      Hidden within that simple description of the previous nine days are hours of uncertainty, moments of terror, fear, frustration and doubt, followed by certainties, and finally the peace of God.
      “I know one prayer meeting we had,” Ron continues. “[God] just laid on my heart that everything was going to be OK.... I felt in my heart that He said, ‘Amy is painting a tapestry of her life and her painting is not finished.’”

Welch, at Mt. Nebo, urges Baptists ‘to go further’ in missions

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Envisioning the future
From Mount Nebo, Bobby Welch reads the Old Testament account of Moses’ view of his people entering the Promised Land. Welch challenged Southern Baptists to be like the Israelites -- a people of journey, not content to remain where they are but to look toward their future.Photo by Bill Bangham
MOUNT NEBO, Jordan (BP)--Bobby Welch, Southern Baptist Convention president and pastor of First Baptist Church in Dayton Beach, Fla., looks out over the Jordan Valley from Mount Nebo to where the Israelites crossed into the Promised Land.
      “All the Gospel can be seen from here,” Welch said.
      Far below him, the Jordan River cuts a verdant swath through a dry, rock-strewn land. To the left is the Dead Sea. On the opposite rise is Jericho. On clear days, Jerusalem and Bethlehem can be seen in the distance, their lights glittering at night. To the northwest, just beyond the horizon, are Galilee and the Plain of Megiddo, the site of Armageddon. Nazareth, a city on a hill, sits above it.

Church’s new art gallery honors photos of Don Rutledge

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Art for the world
Twenty-plus missions photos by Don Rutledge from around the world are featured in the first exhibit at The Great Commission Gallery at First Baptist Church in Temple, Texas. Photo by Bill Bangham
TEMPLE, Texas (BP)--Warm walls, wood floor and generous lighting set the stage for simply framed photographs spaced precisely about the room. People, plates of finger food in hand, circle the exhibit while a string ensemble and keyboard play beneath the murmur of quiet conversation.
      It could be a Saturday night gallery opening in the art district of many American cities. But this isn’t New York or San Francisco or Dallas -– it’s Temple, Texas. And the gallery isn’t in an art district, but in downtown Temple’s First Baptist Church.

FIRST-PERSON: Don Rutledge’s legacy

TEMPLE, Texas (BP)--When First Baptist Church of Temple, Texas, opened its Great Commission Gallery with an exhibit of Don Rutledge’s photography, I thought how fitting.

David McDonnall’s wife, family & friends remember his life

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Learning to play again
Amy Nobles, worship leader at Deer Creek Community Fellowship, right, talks with Carrie McDonnall at a reception following the memorial service for McDonnall’s husband, David, at Southwestern Seminary. Photo by Bill Bangham
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)--Six weeks after the attack that killed David McDonnall and three other International Mission Board aid workers in Iraq, Carrie McDonnall stood with the aid of a walker before a gathering of colleagues, family and friends at a memorial service for her husband.
      She was in a coma on a medivac flight en route to the United States when he was buried in March. Since then, McDonnall has been hospitalized and in rehabilitation recovering from her wounds. It was her first opportunity to participate in a service for her husband.

Slain aid worker Karen Watson valued ‘the attention of God’

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Tug of the moment
Phil Neighbors, co-pastor of Valley Baptist Church, pauses for a moment, caught in emotion, while leading in the closing prayer at the graveside service for Karen Watson. Photo by Bill Bangham
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (BP)--Yvonne Lawson's fingertips caressed the crate containing the coffin of her daughter, Karen Watson, oblivious to the crowd collected about her, family and friends who met the plane bearing the body at Kern County's Meadows Field.
      "I knew it was Karen the minute I touched that box," Lawson said. "I know it sounds strange, but I could feel her. Her death wasn't real to me until then."
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Earthly homecoming
The casket containing the body of slain Baptist aid worker Karen Watson is carried off the plane in her hometown of Bakersfield, Calif. Phil Neighbors, left, pastor of her home church, Valley Baptist in Bakersfield, leads the procession. Photo by Bill Bangham

      It has been just over a year since mother and daughter said goodbye, a goodbye that would lead Watson, 38, to a heartbreaking death on the other side of the world.
      Lawson saw that goodbye coming years before, long before her daughter would, or could, voice it. It was a small thing, something a mother would notice, a look in Watson's eyes that said something deep was happening within this daughter.

Doctors optimistic about Carrie McDonnall’s recovery

DALLAS (BP)--The lone survivor of a March 15 attack on five Southern Baptist humanitarian aid workers in Iraq is back in the United States.