News Articles

BP Ledger, Dec. 15, 2014

EDITOR’S NOTE: BP Ledger carries items for reader information each week from various Southern Baptist-related entities, and news releases of interest from other sources. The items are published as received.

Today’s BP Ledger contains items from:
World News Service
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Florida Baptist Convention
Baptist College of Florida
Association of Christian Schools International
A. Larry Ross Communications

The light of the sun
in a dark basement
By Jamie Dean

WASHINGTON, D.C. (World News Service) — In a remote feeding tent in famine-stricken Ethiopia in 1984, Congressman Frank Wolf held a dying baby in his arms and had a great awakening in his soul.

The Republican from Virginia had been in office less than four years –and had never traveled to an underdeveloped country — when he showed up in Ethiopia and asked the U.S. embassy in Addis Ababa to take him to “the hunger area.”

Embassy personnel balked. They hadn’t traveled to the famine-hit regions themselves. So Wolf hitched a ride on a flight with the Christian aid agency World Vision to visit a massive relief camp in an area called Alamata.

What he witnessed stunned him: cracked earth, failed crops, squalid conditions, and thousands of Ethiopians starving in the searing sun. By the end of 1985, the famine would kill an estimated 1 million people.

In one photo from Wolf’s visit, the congressman looks shaken as he cradles a starving child bearing signs of impending death: swollen head, sunken eyes, skeletal legs. The experience transformed him. “What I saw and experienced in Ethiopia … fully awakened me to the suffering of other people,” Wolf later wrote. “And as both a U.S. congressman and a Christian, I knew I had to do something about it.”

Wolf would spend the next 30 years — and 17 terms in Congress — doing something about miserable conditions in some of the most dangerous places in the world. As part of his work in the House of Representatives, he traveled to hot spots like Cold War–era Romania, oppressed Tibet, communist China, beleaguered Sudan, and war-ravaged Iraq, often focused on the plight of religious minorities persecuted by government officials or extremists.

A decade after Wolf’s first trip to Ethiopia, veteran Washington Post reporter Blaine Harden described him as the “ubiquitous, not-famous face that pops up in places where bullets fly, babies starve, and thousands of people suffer in obscurity.”

Ask Wolf why he so often left the comforts of a Capitol Hill office to brave danger, skip showers, and use latrines in far-flung lands, and he quotes Jesus: “To whom much is given, much is required.”

Wolf believes that principle applies to nations blessed with great power and Christians blessed with God’s grace. “I believe I’m going to be held accountable at the end of my life,” he says. “What have I done?”

The story of what Wolf has done hasn’t slowed, though he will retire from Congress this month.

In 2014 he’s pressed for investigations into the Benghazi scandal and pleaded with government leaders to notice the Islamic State’s assault on Christian communities in Iraq: “I believe what is happening to the Christian community in Iraq is genocide,” he said in a floor speech in July. “Where is the Obama administration? Where is the Congress? Where is the West?” 

At a Washington conference for Coptic Christians in June, Wolf, 75, ditched his prepared remarks and urged the Middle Eastern participants to find ways to act, not just meet: “We don’t need any more think tanks. We need do-tanks.”

Wolf’s blunt style isn’t always popular, but it’s often effective: Starving people have eaten, political prisoners have gone free, and Christians have found relief because of his tenacity. Even when he doesn’t prevail, he persists.

Indeed, one of the great lessons of Wolf’s tenure is the value of showing up and shedding light on abuses. Oleg Mikhailov, a political prisoner in a Soviet labor camp in 1989, told the Post his captors treated him more humanely after Wolf visited the gulag: “Wolf’s visit to our prison camp was the light of the sun in a dark basement.”

And though Wolf has been an equal-opportunity burr for both Democrats and Republicans wary of uncomfortable confrontation with foreign powers, he’s also managed to make friends on both sides of the aisle and work with those who often disagree with him.

Chuck Colson of Prison Fellowship once called Wolf “the patron saint of unpopular causes.” He added: “There is no one in American public life I admire more.”

For his decades of courageous public service, and his commitment to Christ-centered compassion at home and abroad, Rep. Frank Wolf is WORLD’s 2014 Daniel of the Year.

Peruse Wolf’s D.C. office and you’ll find the usual Capitol Hill décor: photos of family, a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, and a print of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. Look closer and you’ll notice less-common items: framed Bible verses, a quote from Christian leader James Dobson, and a portrait of British abolitionist William Wilberforce, the British politician Wolf counts a hero.

Lean over a table and you’ll find a verse from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah etched in calligraphy: “I heard the Lord saying whom shall I send? Who will go for me? And I answered: Here am I. Send me!”

For Wolf, being sent didn’t always seem likely.

The son of a blue-collar electrician, Wolf grew up in south Philadelphia in the 1940s, earning low grades and fighting classmates. His father enlisted in the Navy during World War II, and his mother supported the family by working in a helicopter factory.

Wolf focused on at least two things: reading presidential biographies in the library and overcoming a debilitating stutter. He eventually took multiple speech therapy classes to battle the impediment, but the most useful treatment helped forge his political career: He forced himself to speak when it was easier to stay quiet.

Wolf calls his stutter “an uncommon gift,” saying it taught him drive and determination. “Clearly had I not stuttered, I wouldn’t be in Congress,” he told a speech therapy journal. “And if it’s a good thing that I am in Congress, then it’s a gift.”

Another childhood gift: His mother took him to church. He remembers weekly Sunday school classes at Southwest Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia, and though he’d be a young adult before he fully engaged his Christian faith, he’s thankful for an early start.

Wolf met his wife, Carolyn, at Penn State University and took his first job in Washington after graduation, working construction on the Rayburn House Office Building, a block from where he’d one day have his own congressional office. After graduating from Georgetown Law School, he worked five years at the Department of the Interior, ran for Congress in 1976, and lost. 

It would take two more tries before Wolf won his 10th District seat, riding the coattails of President Ronald Reagan’s victory in 1980. And while northern Virginia from that time has been more liberal than the rest of the state, he’s held onto the seat ever since.

For his first three years in office, Wolf focused on transportation, but an unexpected encounter at the Department of Motor Vehicles in 1983 would alter his course. He bumped into a relief worker from World Vision, and she asked him whether he knew about the famine in Ethiopia. Wolf decided to see it for himself.

When U.S. legislators visit foreign countries, they often travel in groups, stay at Western hotels, meet with government officials, and avoid danger. Wolf on his first trip overseas left behind that checklist.

He arrived in Ethiopia alone, traveled to the feeding camp with World Vision, and spent the night in an Ethiopian aid worker’s hut as torrential rains poured on a corrugated tin roof. The next morning he visited children near starvation, and watched aid workers dig graves for victims who died the night before.

The trip galvanized him. When he returned, Wolf asked to brief President Ronald Reagan as a member of the appropriations committee handling foreign aid. Within a few days, Reagan authorized food shipments to Ethiopia.

The congressman continued to push for emergency aid to millions in famine-hit regions in Africa, but also says he learned the best long-term solution for such countries is promoting economic development, not short-term aid.

Shortly after his first trip to Ethiopia, Wolf traveled to Cold War–era Romania in 1985 with Rep. Tony Hall, D-Ohio, and Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J. The congressmen visited Christians crushed under the persecution of communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, and learned of bulldozed churches and imprisoned believers.

Government officials tried to shut down one congregation before the congressmen visited. Instead, the church was packed and the members were singing a hymn when they arrived. Christians pressed notes into Wolf’s hand with messages like: “My son is in prison,” and “My husband disappeared.”

Hall, a Democrat who became one of Wolf’s closest friends, remembers meeting with a handful of government officials about specific cases of persecution during their trip: “Frank was not only outspoken, he just wouldn’t let it go.” One imprisoned pastor later said he wouldn’t have been released without Wolf’s persistence.

Wolf also wouldn’t let go of something else he discovered in Romania: rolls of toilet paper made from pages of Bibles. Romanian leaders apparently authorized factories to use the paper from thousands of donated Bibles. The paper still bore the imprint of words like Esau, Israel, and God. Wolf was incensed. He displayed the toilet paper during congressional testimony, detailed human rights abuses, and called for the United States to revoke Romania’s Most Favored Nation (MFN) status.

Reagan balked. So did leaders of both political parties, arguing the MFN status would promote greater civil liberties for citizens. Wolf thought it rubber-stamped a regime increasing its abuses.

The congressman didn’t relent. He gave Reagan a copy of a Romanian defector’s exposé of the Ceausescu regime and met with the president in person. In November 1987, Reagan wrote in his diary that after meeting with Wolf and others he changed his mind: “I’ve proposed … to drop Romania’s most favored nation status until they clean up their human rights act.”

Two years later, Ceausescu’s regime fell.

Wolf pursued a less successful attempt to revoke the MFN status of China in the 1990s. After a visit to Beijing in 1991, he brought back another object lesson for Congress: golf socks. The lawmaker picked them up during a visit to Beijing Prison Number One, where he learned the inmates, including some Tiananmen Square activists, produced the clothing for export to America.

Wolf highlighted China’s record of forced abortions and persecution of Christians and other religious minorities, and called for repeal of its MFN status. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton both disagreed. So did some evangelicals, including most prominently evangelist Billy Graham. Wolf’s plan failed.

He continued to press China on its human rights abuses and traveled to Beijing with Rep. Chris Smith in 2008. They pressed government officials to release 734 political prisoners from a list compiled by the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China. Wolf insisted on the importance of raising cases of political prisoners by name: Persecution has thousands of faces.

But Wolf’s concern for religious freedom doesn’t extend only to Christians facing persecution. In 1997 he slipped into Tibet and managed to tour the region without Chinese handlers — something no other member of Congress had done since China took over Tibet in 1959. (Wolf didn’t inform the U.S. government of his plans.)

A contact helped Wolf and an aide meet secretly with Buddhist monks, who described imprisonment, torture, and abuse at the hands of their Chinese occupiers. A taxi driver drove him past Tibetan structures demolished by Chinese officials. Back in Washington, Wolf announced the abuses at the National Press Club, infuriating Chinese officials who didn’t know of his visit.

In 1998, Wolf was primary author of the International Religious Freedom Act, a measure creating the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and mandating reporting on religious freedom abuses around the world to the State Department. At the same time, he became absorbed in other international conflicts, including the war in Sudan. He made several trips to the region, bumping along roads littered with land mines, eating granola bars, and warily crossing a footbridge over a river to meet south Sudan guerrilla leader John Garang.

After one trip, Roger Winter, a longtime expert on south Sudan (not then a country), told The Washington Post he and Wolf visited a town bombed by the Islamist north and witnessed shrapnel-ridden bodies. “For months afterward, he agonized about the meaning of bombing civilians,” said Winter. “With Frank, these things stick.”

In June 2004, Wolf and then-Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., became part of the first congressional delegation to visit Sudan’s western region of Darfur. Victims of a vicious scorched earth campaign described nightmarish scenes of massacre, rape, and torture. A month later, the House passed a resolution calling the atrocities genocide.

Wolf was moved by other wars as well, including the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The congressman voted to authorize force in 2003, but thought someone in Congress should travel to the region to observe how the campaign was unfolding. The Pentagon warned against it. Wolf went anyway, traveling into the country with an NGO two months after the war began. They visited military outposts and surprised soldiers by announcing he was a U.S. congressman.

On subsequent trips, Wolf saw the security situation deteriorate and wondered what would happen if the mission failed. He worried about the kind of civil war now enveloping Iraq with the incursion of Islamic State militants. In 2005, Wolf recommended Congress create an Iraq Study Group to examine the campaign’s progress and failures. The bipartisan group offered a list of recommendations, including embracing the idea of the surge of U.S. troops.

Sitting in his Capitol Hill office, Wolf shrugs off the danger of his high-risk adventures: “I don’t know … I’ll avoid the question by telling you every time we’ve been away, I always pray nobody gets hurt or killed…. Everything has always been good.”
No excuses: college student serves
Christ despite difficulties
By Margaret Colson

GRACEVILLE, Fla. (Florida Baptist Convention) — Her smile emerges quickly and brightly, and she laughs right out loud.

Her lips recite Scripture with a natural ease and intimacy.

Her eyes mirror the brilliant blue of a Gulf Coast Florida sky.

Yet, behind the smile and laugh resides the darkest of experiences that could cast a spirit-breaking shadow on all of life.

Behind the natural recitation of Scripture lives a young Christian, far more mature in her faith than her four-years-young Christian commitment might suggest.

And, behind the sparkling blue eyes lies a physical blindness that catapulted her to a spiritual vision of how God could use her in unique ways.

For Melle Chambers, a 23-year-old college student at the Baptist College of Florida (BCF), there are no excuses for not serving God.

In spite of her dark life experiences, in spite of her youthful faith, even in spite of her physical blindness, Chambers says, “Everywhere you go is a missions opportunity.”

In the summer of 2014 alone, she joined a group of her fellow BCF students on a mission trip to Cuba, a partnership missions experience sponsored by the Florida Baptist Convention. As she served, she said it was a “blessing to spiritually see lots of opportunities to share the gospel.”

She volunteered as a counselor at a children’s camp in West Virginia, another Florida Baptist partnership missions trip. There, she memorized the layout of the camp the day before the children arrived so that she wouldn’t have to use a cane or “sighted guide” to walk the trails. When she joined in a “walk by faith, not sight” game with the children, many did not even know that she was blind and that walking by faith is no game for her. It’s a way of life.

And, she served as a counselor for middle-school girls at a summer camp for her home church, First Baptist Church, Panama City. At the rural camp, she zip-lined across the camp’s lake, while the astonished middle-schoolers cheered her on.

“I couldn’t see a thing, but I could hear the wind swishing past my ears,” she laughed breathlessly as her feet found themselves planted on solid ground after her flight across the lake.

Born into a dysfunctional family, the youngest of five children, Chambers was whisked away as an infant from her birth parents, going into a maddening and confusing cycle of foster care, while occasionally living with her grandparents and, at times, with her older sister.

As an angry young teen, Chambers struggled with depression, and she nose-dived into self-mutilation cutting herself. The pain somehow seemed an antidote to her deep emotional anguish.

“I was so helpless and broken,” she said.

When her eyesight began failing at age 18 from the disease pseudotumor cerebi, Chambers found herself homeless and alone, her belongings sitting on the front porch of her sister’s home.

That’s when Florida Baptists stepped into Chambers’ young, tormented life and began slowly, patiently building a relationship with her and introducing her to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Through a series of events that “God sovereignly used to draw me in and pursue me,” Chambers said, Jenia Roberson, a member of First Baptist Church, Panama City, took the girl into her home. She helped her learn to cope with her sudden blindness. She introduced her to the youth minister at her church. She prayed. 

“That’s when I learned the distinct difference between ‘knowing about Jesus’ and actually ‘knowing Jesus,'” said Chambers.

After Chambers made her profession of faith in August 2010, “God gave her a vision of purpose,” said Shane Booker, Chamber’s college pastor of First Panama City at the time.

God assured her, “You’re so valuable to me, and you’re valuable to My Kingdom and building My Kingdom,” said Booker.

The young believer quickly decided that her blindness, what others may see as a disability, is actually a “capability in Christ.”

“The Lord has given this blindness to me as a gift, and I want to do whatever He’s calling me to do with it,” she said.

She believes that her blindness opens opportunities for her to share the gospel that she might not otherwise have, placing her in relationships that might not otherwise come her way.

“Melle is always looking for what she can do next for God,” according to Pam Smitherman, ministry assistant for student ministry at First Baptist Church, Panama City.

“She wants to be a servant, no matter where she is.”

In addition to the mission trips that she eagerly takes, Chambers has taught middle school girls Sunday School classes, served at homeless shelters and shared Christ with others, even her estranged father.

“Melle perseveres in what God has called her to do. She is one who finds abundance in the midst of difficulties,” explained Rich Elligson, BCF associate professor of missions. She is a “delight as a student,” he said, even when he cautions her not to “run” to classes, with a white stick trailing behind her, just because she is a little late.

“I really love serving. I love missions. I want other to hear the good news of what Christ has done,” she explained. 

“He’s given me this life, and He’s living it through me.” 
BCF graduates release
book and record

GRACEVILLE, Fla. (Baptist College of Florida) — Graduates of The Baptist College of Florida (BCF) in Graceville continue to make a difference within their fields of study. Jenifer Jernigan, a 2000 Christian Counseling graduate, recently released her first Bible study book entitled “Dive Deeper: Finding Deep Faith Beyond Shallow Religion.” The book, published in March of 2014 by Thomas Nelson, is part of the InScribed Studies Collection encouraging individuals to spend time in God’s Word and “Dive Deeper” into Scripture.

In this inspiring writing, Jernigan leads readers through the book of Ephesians, providing them with a deeper understanding of Christ and how to have a stronger relationship with Him. Jernigan uses the acronym D.I.V.E in her book which stands for: Define, Investigate, Visualize, and Embrace as a means to help readers identify and grasp the contents and context of the Scripture.

Jernigan is a wife and the mother of three children, as well as the founder of Diving Deeper Ministries and co-owner of Internet Café Devotions. Her passion is to equip others to D.I.V.E. into the Bible so that they can experience the wonderful power of freedom in Jesus Christ.

In just a few weeks, Walker Sherman, a 2010 Ministry Studies graduate, will release a full length album called “The Contender.” According to Sherman, it is the newest project from the Sound and the Fury which reflects “the problem of evil, doubt, and Jesus’ faithfulness in the midst of both.”

Sherman and his wife Amanda have been involved in several music projects since graduation to include “Love > Fear” a worship recording by the Believers Fellowship Band and “1,000 Miles” recording by The Sherman Family.

Walker, Amanda, and their soon to be one year-old daughter Cosette are currently living in the Pacific Northwest. They are serving in a local church called Believers Fellowship and are excited about what God is doing with their music projects.

For more information on how BCF graduates are making a difference after graduation, contact The Baptist College of Florida at 850.263.3261 ext. 460 or visit the website at www.baptistcollege.edu.
ACSI congratulates
Rhodes Scholar

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Association of Christian Schools International) — The Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) is pleased to congratulate Ruth Fong, a graduate of an ACSI member school, who was recently chosen as a Rhodes Scholar. Fong is one of 32 Americans selected to represent the United States as she studies at the University of Oxford in England.

Fong graduated from ACSI member Timothy Christian School (Piscataway, N.J.) in 2011 as class valedictorian. She is completing her senior year at Harvard University and majoring in computer science.

“With so few people recognized each year as Rhodes Scholars, ACSI is thrilled that one of our member schools has an alumnus receiving this honor,” said Dr. Stephen Dill, ACSI senior vice president.

The scholarship will provide Fong with all expenses for her graduate studies in mathematics and computer science.

“We are extremely proud of Ruth’s accomplishments and are pleased that she desires to live for Christ,” said Dr. Hubert Hartzler, Timothy Christian School superintendent.

ACSI, headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colo., is comprised of nearly 24,000 member Christian schools in more than 100 nations. ACSI is a leader in strengthening Christian schools and equipping Christian educators worldwide, providing services through a network of 28 regional offices. The organization accredits Protestant pre-K–12 schools. Learn more at www.acsi.org.
Andy Stanley urges singles not
to obsess about finding right person

DALLAS (A. Larry Ross Communications) — The paradox at the heart of Andy Stanley’s book, “The New Rules for Love, Sex & Dating,” is this: Instead of obsessively looking for Mr. or Ms. Right, it’s best to concentrate on “becoming the right person,” which will help prepare you for a successful, long-term relationship.

In fact, Stanley writes, the idea that “there’s a right person for you, and once you find your right person, everything will be alright,” is a myth. Being attracted to someone is easy; building a relationship is not, says the well-known pastor and author.

Sexual attraction is not the litmus test for a good relationship. In fact, it can mask problems. Stanley compares romance to a fog that keeps couples from seeing clearly.

“Sex distorts positive and negative traits in a partner,” he writes. “Men and women exaggerate the good and turn a blind eye to the things that would normally give them pause.”

Instead, Stanley asks singles to reflect on this question: “Are you the person the person you’re looking for is looking for?” Becoming the right person prepares you for a successful relationship when the right person comes along, Stanley suggests. So he intentionally didn’t write a book about building healthy relationships, but rather about building a healthier you.

“The healthier you are, the healthier your relationships will be,” he writes. “Truth is, your relationships will never be any healthier than you.”

Stanley urges men to do three things:

— Stop listening to music that degrades women;

— Avoid erotic images; and

— Take a year off from dating if you have been sexually promiscuous or have a porn addiction to break bad habits and begin healthy ones.

He warns men and women that a string of sexual relationships outside of marriage can make it more difficult to find sexual fulfillment later in life.

“Your sexual experiences before marriage may enhance your sexual experience once you’re married, but they won’t enhance your relationship,” Stanley writes. “Just the opposite. Romance is fueled by exclusivity, not experience. Sex is not like learning to play the violin. If you want to learn to play the violin, you’ll need lessons and a lot of practice. People have been figuring out sex on their own for milleniums.”

“The New Rules for Love, Sex & Dating” is available from Zondervan in January. Please see http://alarryross.com/newsroom/love-sex-dating-newsroom-home/for more information.

    About the Author

  • Staff