Maria Elena Baseler

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Cuba trip confirms SBC president’s call to prayer

BAYAMO, Cuba (BP) -- Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd believes the church-planting movement sweeping Cuba could happen in the United States if Southern Baptists and other U.S. believers commit themselves to "extraordinary prayer for the next Great Awakening."

Couple’s autistic son extends their ministry reach in Japan

FUJI, Japan (BP) -- It's Sunday morning at Life Baptist Church in Fuji, Japan, and the sounds of lively praise music fill the small worship center. Worshippers, most of them Brazilian immigrants of Japanese descent, sing a popular praise chorus, accompanied by an amplified acoustic guitar. "I want to know You. I want to hear Your voice. I want to know You more," they sing in Portuguese, clapping enthusiastically to the beat. Near the back of the room, 21-year-old Filipe Koji Kakumu sits with his eyes closed, a frown wrinkling his brow. As the music grows louder, he plugs his ears with his index fingers. Filipe's parents, Japanese-Brazilian Luís Carlos Kakumu and Margarete Kakumu, are Brazilian Baptist missionaries in Japan. Luís Carlos pastors the congregation; Margarete leads the praise team. During the song Luís Carlos strolls to the back of the worship center and stands behind his son Filipe, gently placing a hand on his shoulder. Filipe keeps his ears plugged, looking like he's in pain. But when the music softens, Filipe suddenly stands and begins to jump. After the singing ends, Margarete slips into the seat next to Filipe. Luís Carlos moves to the front of the church. Filipe begins clicking his tongue on the roof of his mouth. He appears to be trying to speak, but no words come. Luís Carlos and Margarete remember when Filipe, their only child, wasn't like this. A family video shows Filipe as a rambunctious 2-year-old, strumming a toy guitar, talking and giggling. But not long after the video was filmed, Filipe stopped speaking. He lost interest in creative playtime and withdrew into a world of his own. "The change was drastic," Margarete recalls. "We couldn't understand what was wrong with him." Doctors in Japan diagnosed him with autism, a developmental brain disorder causing problems in communication, behavior and social interaction. "It was a shock to us," Margarete says.

8.2 earthquake stirs prayer for Chile

SANTIAGO, Chile (BP) -- IMB missionaries in Chile are asking Southern Baptists to pray following an 8.2-magnitude earthquake that rattled the country's northern city of Iquique April 1. Some expressed thanks to God that the damage wasn't worse.

Ministry spreads amid unrest in Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela (BP) -- As tensions escalate amid anti-government protests across Venezuela, International Mission Board missionaries and their Venezuelan Baptist partners are ministering to Venezuelans on both sides of the conflict.

WEEK OF PRAYER: A ‘lesson in miracles’

ASUNCION, Paraguay (BP) -- Inside a small Buddhist temple in Shiojiri, Japan, 23-year-old missionary Steven Kunkel -- who hails from Paraguay -- sits at a grand piano, playing one of his original compositions called "Creation." Seated on the floor nearby, a Buddhist woman listens to the music, enthralled.

Born for this: autistic child becomes missionary to Japan

ASUNCIÓN, Paraguay (BP) -- Steven Kunkel's nickname appears at the top of his Facebook page: Sugoisteve. Sugoi (pronounced sue-GOY) means "awesome" in Japanese. "Sugoi is my catchphrase," Steven explains, "so sometimes my friends call me 'Sugoisteve.'" But from Steven's perspective, the "sugoi" part isn't about him. It's about God. "I always want to give God the glory for what He has done in my life," he says. That attitude was evident as Steven stood before worshippers at a Japanese-Paraguayan house church in Asunción, Paraguay. Accompanying himself on the guitar, he sang a favorite song by Casting Crowns, a Christian praise band: "The voice of Truth says, 'This is for My glory.' Out of all the voices calling out to me, I will choose to listen and believe the voice of Truth." Listening to Steven sing, his parents -- missionaries Tim and Iracema Kunkel -- wiped tears from their eyes. More than anyone else in the room besides Steven, they understood what these words have meant to him. Eighteen years ago, Steven was diagnosed with autism, a developmental disorder causing problems in behavior, communication and social interaction. At age 5, Steven couldn't speak. Today, at 23, he speaks four languages -- English, Spanish, Portuguese and Japanese. And he's learning five more -- Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew, Mandarin Chinese and Tagalog. Symptoms of autism From the beginning, doctors said Steven was high functioning. Even so, he displayed all 14 of the most common symptoms of autism. Steven couldn't tolerate change, for example. He didn't like to hug. He preferred being alone. He avoided eye contact, echoed others' words and laughed at inappropriate times. He also had a habit of spinning himself and objects. Today, as a missionary in Japan, Steven has only one of the 14 symptoms -- inappropriate laughter -- and it's hardly noticeable. He taught himself how to manage it through Internet research.

Wade Watts, former missionary to Peru, dies

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (BP) — Former Southern Baptist missionary Wade Watts, who miraculously survived severe brain injuries in a head-on collision in Peru in 1996, died June 6 at his Memphis, Tenn., home. He was 56. Thousands of Southern Baptists prayed for Watts, his wife Nancy and their sons Joshua and Marcus in the months after […]

Rio school shootings spark Baptists’ prayer & outreach

RIO DE JANEIRO (BP)--A pair of pink and purple heart-shaped balloons, bouquets of fresh flowers and hand-written notes lined the sidewalk outside Tasso da Silveira primary school in Rio de Janeiro. A poster with 12 names on it -- surrounded by photos, artwork, letters and signs -- decorated the concrete wall above the walkway. They were the names of 12 Brazilian children killed by a disturbed gunman inside the school April 7. Standing at the scene, International Mission Board missionary Eric Reese held a dozen pieces of white paper, preparing to make his own contribution to the homemade memorial outside this public school in Realengo, a lower-middle-class neighborhood of western Rio. Reese, a missionary in Rio, and Samuel Rozolem, a Brazilian Southern Baptist pastor in Maryland, posted the papers on the wall. Each page noted the name of one of the slain students. Under each name, this message appeared: "Southern Baptists in the United States are praying for the family." Then, there were these words of hope: "God himself will be with them. 'He will wipe every tear from their eyes'" (Revelation 21:3-4, paraphrased).

Brasington, missions leader, dies at 85

FORT MYERS, Fla. (BP)–“It’s all about Jesus.” Those words were the life motto of retired Southern Baptist missionary J. Bryan “Breezy” Brasington, according to family, friends and former colleagues who participated in a memorial service in his honor March 19 at Gateway Baptist Church in Fort Myers, Fla. Brasington accepted Christ as his Savior at […]

2010 quake in Chile: ‘I could see it coming’

SANTIAGO, Chile (BP)–From his 14th-floor apartment, Elliott Baze* gazed out the window at what normally is a breathtaking view of Santiago, Chile, and the surrounding Andes Mountains. But the skyline looked vastly different that night. The power had just gone out — a rarity in Santiago at the time — so the only light was […]