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FROM THE STATES: Ala., N.C. and Texas evangelism/missions news; ‘… [I]t doesn’t matter where you are when God shows up’


Today’s From the States features items from:
The Alabama Baptist
Biblical Recorder (North Carolina)
Southern Baptist TEXAN


Ala. association sees
God move at tent revival

By Grace Thornton

SEALE, Ala. (The Alabama Baptist) — Marty Holley said he’s heard people say tent revivals are a thing of the past, but he doesn’t really buy it.

“Tent or no tent, it doesn’t matter where you are when God shows up,” he said with a laugh.

Holley, director of missions for Russell Baptist Association, saw several hundred people make decisions for Christ during a tent revival held Nov. 5–9 in the Seale community. The gathering drew crowds of up to 2,000 each night, with dozens making decisions to follow Jesus.


But once again, Holley emphasized — you may be surprised where God shows up. The planning committee sure was.

“The revival started before we ever got to the tent Sunday night,” he said.

Evangelist Ken Freeman, the speaker for the event, preached in the two morning services at Golden Acres Baptist Church, Phenix City, and 60 people made salvation decisions.

“I think the pastor was overwhelmed,” Holley said.

That spirit carried over into the tent services each night, where Freeman preached and the Akins provided the music.

The vision for the event first started when Richie Ashburn, pastor of Silver Run Baptist Church, Seale, read an article in The Alabama Baptist in 2016 about a tent revival held in Monroeville. The article quoted revival organizers describing the event as “electric” and “unifying” as well as emphasizing the importance of bathing it in prayer ahead of time.

“He envisioned that for Russell County, so 10 of us got together to pray about it,” Holley said.

By the next week’s meeting, they had 30, and the following week 40 showed up, pastors from across denominational and racial lines.

Power at the Point

“During those three weeks, we prayed and brainstormed and felt like God was calling us to have this event,” Holley said.

They called it Power at the Point, because the tent was pitched in a corner lot that came to a point between two highways in Seale. The total number of decisions from the week’s events landed at 390.

“It’s exciting. It’s been awesome,” he said. “God has heard our cry for revival. It’s been a powerful move of God, and we hope it spreads across Alabama and the nation.”
This article appeared in The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Grace Thornton is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist.


N.C. churches distribute
thousands of coats

By Mike Creswell

GREENSBORO, N.C. (Biblical Recorder) — Scores of volunteers from more than a dozen Baptist churches around Greensboro and High Point distributed thousands of coats to local immigrants from a dizzying number of nations and language/cultural groups in a major outreach effort ahead of the Annual Meeting of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) in Greensboro last fall.

Taking part were staff and volunteers from Friendly Avenue Baptist Church, Daystar Español Church, Pleasant Garden Baptist Church, South Elm Street Baptist Church and Southside Baptist Church in Greensboro; Crossover Community Church and Green Street Baptist Church in High Point; First Baptist Church of Summerfield; plus Karen people, Matu and Khmu churches and a Hispanic class that meet with Green Street Baptist; and a Congolese church. Also, a five-member team with years of cross-cultural outreach came from North Side Baptist Church in Greenwood, S.C., to help.

Though heavy clouds threatened rain all day, it remained mostly dry until after the distributions were completed in the early evening.

Volunteers set up tables of coats, tents and refreshment stands in several of the Triad area’s “pockets of lostness,” which are identified areas where concentrations of unchurched people live. Baptist state convention staffers have identified such areas across the state through extensive demographic studies in recent years. Workers with the convention’s Office of Great Commission Partnerships and Peoples Next Door N.C. ministry took part in the event.

High concentrations of immigrants have also settled in these same areas.

Volunteers were reminded that about 10 percent of Guilford County’s population was born outside the United States.

A 10-member team of Baptists from New York City brought multicultural and multilanguage expertise to share with their North Carolina Baptist partners for the project. Since at least 2011, N.C. Baptists have been sending coats and volunteers to New York for new church plants to distribute in their local neighborhoods. They first worked in the Jackson Heights area of Queens, and in recent years, coats have been distributed at a dozen or more points all over the city.

This year Coats for the City in New York City was held Dec. 2. Hundreds of N.C. Baptist volunteers helped distribute thousands of coats with the aim that New York Baptist churches can multiply their outreach into local areas.

“I’m really glad to be able to give back to North Carolina Baptists through the efforts of some of our pastors and members of our churches,” said George Russ, executive director of Metropolitan New York Baptist Association, who was present to observe and offer suggestions during the Nov. 4 effort in the Triad.

Following are highlights from the various coat distribution areas.

Pocket No. 22

Volunteers from Friendly Avenue Baptist Church set up tables bearing some 200 coats about a mile from their church in the parking lot of a grocery that caters to Hispanic customers.

“Our church is mostly Anglo, but we have a small Latin ministry,” said Steve King, Friendly Avenue’s associate pastor for discipleship and evangelism. “That means missions,” he explained about his title.

Friendly Avenue is partnering with Daystar Español, a Hispanic church led by Pastor David Duarte, a member of the Baptist State Convention’s Board of Directors, in the outreach to immigrants.

“We anticipated many Hispanics would come, and we have made a great number of contacts today,” Duarte said. He estimated that about 40,000 or more Hispanics now live in Greensboro with approximately 30-40 percent from Mexico and the rest from across the Caribbean and Central and South America.

Duarte said Hispanics have been in North Carolina long enough now that some have attained a middle class lifestyle. Although they may not be as prosperous as middle class Anglos, having a house, a car and perhaps a business means they are doing well compared to what they had before coming here.

Though no signs are posted to say so, the distribution was happening in “pocket of lostness No. 22,” where Friendly Avenue will be focusing on outreach in months ahead.

This is more than a passing program for the church, King indicated. Friendly Avenue volunteers were contacting many Hispanic young people, many of whom have grown up speaking English.

“We are inviting them to come take part in our youth basketball program, and we will be doing everything we can to develop good relationships with them,” King said.

“We are praying now on whether we should start a new church or bring these immigrants into our fellowship and change the very face of our congregation,” King said as he moved among the volunteers and distributed pastries from a large plastic bag as the cool morning sped by.

Friendly Avenue volunteers Krystal Weeks and Elizabeth Danner were among the dozens of fellow church members who used warm smiles and hand signals in place of Spanish to help Hispanic women plow through the coats-laden tables and find coats that fit.

Also on hand to help with the Hispanic outreach was Ruben Rodriguez, a church planter from Union City, N.J., who started a new church two years ago in a neighborhood that has about 110,000 residents in 1.25 square miles. More than 90 percent of those residents are Hispanic.

Rodriguez said his church gave out some 200 coats in 45 minutes during the 2016 Coats for the City event, and he became convinced it’s a good outreach tool. They are planning distributions at two locations for 2017.

Summit Avenue

At an apartment complex on Summit Avenue, volunteers from Pleasant Garden Baptist Church set up tables with hundreds of coats sought by hundreds of immigrants from the surrounding neighborhood.

An African girl — barefoot despite the chilly, damp weather — ran happily around in her coat that was so new it still had the brand tags dangling from it. Across the way, a Pleasant Garden volunteer made faces at a young African boy as she tried to get him to smile.

Volunteer Ben Willey, who already signed up for the Coats for the City distribution in New York, approached volunteers with clipboard in hand as he tried to get names and addresses for follow-up.

Marty Tobin, Pleasant Garden’s associate pastor who heads such ministries, said they were delighted with the good turnout. Tobin and Pleasant Garden have worked with Coats for the City in New York from the earliest days. He talked to many immigrants as he moved about the yard in Greensboro.

Beyond the coats project, Tobin said Pleasant Garden Baptist has been working with an immigrant ministry group called New Arrivals Institute. In August, the church distributed backpacks filled with school supplies to immigrant children.

“They’re scrapping for every dollar, and the backpacks were a big help to them,” Tobin said. “Many of the immigrants are just overwhelmed with living in a new country; sometimes they don’t even know what school supplies their kids are needing.”

First Baptist Church, Summerfield

Hundreds of immigrants gathered at a distribution point set up at Legacy Crossing Apartments in northeastern Greensboro to get about 900 coats handed out by volunteers from First Baptist Church, Summerfield. This church has long been involved in Coats for the City in New York, and its volunteers are known for their good work in both acquiring and distributing hundreds of coats each year.

Volunteers saw people from Burma, Burundi, Nepal, Rwanda, Congo, Ghana and Sudan and counted 17 Arabic speakers, among others, according to Larry Kirby, associate pastor of music and college at First Baptist.

“It was like New York all over again,” Kirby said. “The people came from everywhere and organized chaos ensued. It was beautiful — so many nations together in one place. Folks receiving coats, Bibles and having great conversations with the volunteers. We were not sure exactly the crowd that we would have, and it was certain in very short order that God had gone before us and we were able to catch up to the work already being done.”

Downtown High Point

At Hamilton Place apartment complex near downtown High Point, the Baptist team visiting from New York sang as Boto Joseph played guitar as the last of 350 coats were picked up by immigrants that included those from Myanmar (Karen people), Vietnam, Sudan and several other African countries, plus refugees who fled the bloody conflict in Syria.

Ruben Rodriguez, a volunteer from New Jersey, and Zac Lyons, who heads Great Commission Partnerships and Peoples Next Door N.C., prayed with four men from Sudan.

One volunteer from Green Street Baptist Church in High Point held a long and animated conversation with two Syrian refugee men. That worker has traveled five times to New York to work on coats distributions.

Immigrants also included Hispanics, people from Nepal, plus several ethnic groups from Myanmar (Burma).

Pastor Derick Mehboob, who started a new church in Brooklyn in 2010, was looking perplexed as he surveyed the refugees. He is accustomed to seeing people from around the world back in Brooklyn, but he admitted he had not expected to see immigrants from so many places here in North Carolina.

Along with coats, the refugees were offered DVDs with multiple language editions of the Jesus film and bags of candy.

Crossover Community Church, High Point

Leaders of Crossover Community Church decided to distribute coats from inside a fellowship hall after heavily overcast skies threatened rain. Lines stretched across the lawn as immigrants from many lands waited to gain access.

Inside the front door, Crossover’s Senior Pastor Daryl Love greeted refugees and asked questions about their residence and what they understood about Jesus.

Crossover volunteer Debbie Anglin talked to a woman wearing Middle Eastern clothing whose face was etched with concern. An equally concerned Asian woman waited with a wide-eyed infant in her arms.

Once inside the hall, refugees saw hundreds of coats laid out on long tables — one for men and one for women. Crossover volunteer Tim Mottey helped men find coats and helped them check for fit.

On the women’s side, Crossover volunteer Kim Taylor was rewarded with a brilliant smile from an African girl as she tried on a new-looking purple coat. Nearby, a boy smiled broadly and almost danced with happiness as he slipped his arms into a jacket with bright orange patches.

“This was wonderful!” exclaimed Jonathan Lawson, connections pastor at Crossover, as the day ended. “This was the first time we have tried such a distribution.”

Lawson said they expected to give away 500 jackets and 300 heavy coats.

In a training and prayer class held at Crossover Community Church on Friday night, Ellice Altman reminded volunteers that they needed to do more than just say a few sentences about Jesus or just give a coat. She is a missionary volunteer with Joseph in Queens.

Try to establish a friendship, she urged, which is the only way to become trusted enough to present a meaningful Christian witness. She told of how she became friends with a Muslim woman in New York and has been able to have weekly meetings to discuss matters of faith.

In North Carolina, Baptists are praying that many friendships and discussions about Jesus can come about through efforts like giving away coats.
This article appeared in the Biblical Recorder (brnow.org), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Michael D. Creswell is senior consultant for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.


Texas church puts
missions first

By Karen Willoughby

ROCKWALL, Texas (Southern Baptist TEXAN) — Members of First Baptist Church in Rockwall brought in $1.2 million the first Sunday in December for the church’s World Missions Offering, and an additional $64,000 the second Sunday.

This is in addition to the 18 percent of undesignated income that is allocated each week to missions through the Cooperative Program, which supports the state convention and global missions and ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention.

“It’s all about One Sacred Effort on our part to raise more money than ever before to support our nearly 10,000 missionaries at home and abroad,” Pastor Steve Swofford wrote on his blog in November. “It’s a big world, and it takes lots of money to even try to reach it for Jesus.”

“I really really felt the strong leadership of the Lord that I had to be one of the guys on the home base who has helped to support [missions,]” Swofford said in 2005, when he was given the M.E. Dodd Award at the SBC annual meeting for his efforts in supporting Southern Baptist missions and missionaries. “I just believe very strongly in missions, both at home and abroad.”

“Our budget is about $70,000 a week and the Sunday of the mission offering [people gave] $120,000, so the one doesn’t affect the other,” said Swofford, pastor of the church where about 1,800 people gather in one of three worship services. He spoke in response to a question about how the World Mission Offering affects regular giving.

“Our people are in that kind of giving mood,” the pastor continued. “They don’t rob Peter to pay Paul. They just give.”

First Rockwall does more than just give. Their hands-on missional outreach includes a variety of local and regional activities, such as the work of the “Yarn Angels,” who make hats, scarves, mittens and more for the Appalachian Regional Ministry and a local hospital. Members from the church go on several international and national mission trips each year.

Church programming includes support groups such as Grief Share, for those who have lost loved ones. Music provides ministry to the adult, senior adults and children who participate in choirs and orchestra, and to the congregation that benefits from the leadership of Music Minister Trent Blackley.

Mosaic is an inward and outward ministry that promotes adoption. This group visits orphanages in other countries and makes day trips to area shelters and children’s homes. The group also promotes hands-on ministries to those who have adoptive or foster children.

“Can’t go? Can’t give? Take a meal, mow a lawn, host a shower, write a card, PRAY,” are suggestions given on Mosaic’s page on the church’s website, FirstRockwall.org.

Reviews on Facebook and Yelp attest to members’ appreciation for the church.

“The pastor has a way of letting you know exactly what he believes,” wrote Dala Harvick Reick on Facebook. “He’s not afraid to give his opinion about the state of our country, either. Refreshing to hear someone who is not afraid to say the things that need to be said.”

Cathy H. wrote one of 26 reviews on Yelp, “Ya wanna know something? This place rocks! We by far have the most amazing, loving, non-condemning, straight-talking pastor this side of the Mississippi. You wanna come here and hear something about God that you can take with you for the rest of the week.”

Swofford preaches in all three Sunday morning services, and Wednesday evening. He has served as president of the SBTC, a trustee for the International Mission Board and currently serves on SBTC’s Executive Board.

When Swofford came to the church, he directed the three seasonal missions offerings instead become one World Missions Offering, as he had the two previous churches he had pastored. Rather than promoting one offering three times a year, he chose to make a huge thrust for one early December offering.

That first year, the offering was about $8,000. Last year was the first time the offering exceeded $1 million.

Today, 70 percent of First Rockwall’s World Missions Offering is allocated for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, 20 percent for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, and 10 percent for Reach Texas, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention state missions offering.

And in addition to the 18 percent of undesignated income allocated for the Cooperative Program, 2 percent for the Dallas Baptist Association, and 1 percent or more for missions-related endeavors. First Rockwall also has been in a building project for the last five years, which receives designated offerings by church members.

But it’s the steadily-increasing World Missions Offering that grabs the most attention.

“It’s amazing that our people are doing what they’re doing,” Swofford told the Southern Baptist TEXAN. “It’s a big deal to them. It’s a big deal for us. It’s one of the biggest days of the year for us. It’s special that they’ve caught the vision.

“I try to be very careful to show our people where the money goes,” the pastor continued. “I think it’s just an educational process…. I’m very grateful to have a church that has people who are willing to give.”
This article appeared in the Southern Baptist TEXAN (texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Karen Willoughby is a freelance writer living in Utah.


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 issues, formatting and grammatical changes, the items appear in Baptist Press as originally published.