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FROM THE STATES: Ark., Calif., Ala. evangelism/missions news

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 3,800 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. The items appear in Baptist Press as originally published.

Today’s From the States features items from:
Arkansas Baptist News
California Southern Baptist
The Alabama Baptist — two items

Dayton Baptist Church reaching out:
Mission trips bring ‘spiritual revival’
By Jessica Vanderpool
Arkansas Baptist News

MANSFIELD, Ark. — It was a small beginning – just one person on a mission trip. But it started a trickle of mission work that led to a flood of service by members of Dayton Baptist Church, Mansfield.

“It is my opinion that the spiritual revival we have witnessed … began in 2007,” said Tina Smith, Dayton Baptist member. That was the year one member of Dayton Baptist joined a mission team from Buckner Baptist Association on a trip to South Dakota. Several more Dayton Baptist members went on mission trips over the course of the next few years.

“After each journey, our pastor, brother Bill Whitledge, would allow the mission team to report during the Sunday morning worship service,” said Smith. “The services led to shared testimonies and spiritual revival.”

The church members are now on mission ministering to their community. The church recently held a Back to School Bash, which included games, a band, food, a speaker for older children and a puppet show for younger children.

This summer, the church reached out to its community through a food distribution ministry and a mini-vacation Bible school (VBS), along with the church’s annual full-length VBS.

They called their food distribution program “the summer backpack program.”

Smith explained that, for years, the church had partnered with other area churches to help provide school supplies and school clothing for children in need in the Mansfield School District. With many families struggling financially this summer, Dayton Baptist members wanted to do something more.

In June, the church began distributing sacks of food every Friday at two locations for children in need. About 60 children, ranging in ages from 8 months to college age, benefitted from this program.

Dayton Baptist members didn’t stop there. They decided to hold a mini-VBS at one of the locations each Friday when parents came for the food distribution. The sessions would only last an hour, and they would get to share the gospel and play with the children.

They decided to keep the message simple: “God made you and loves you.”

On that first day of the mini-VBS, several children attended, and one teenager accepted Christ.

A couple days later, the church began their annual full-length VBS.

Smith explained that each child who received a sack of food from the food distribution also received an invitation to VBS. This gave them access to children who had no other connection to their church. Some of those children got involved in the mini- and full-length VBS programs.

Denise Jones, a church member and director for the full-length VBS who played an integral role in the food distribution ministry, said VBS attendance was up, as has been church attendance.

But Dayton members have seen more than increased attendance. They have also seen salvations.

Smith said that, in the course of about a week, eight people accepted Christ, including the teenager in the park. Another person was saved later in the summer, and a tenth was saved after school started back.

Though the church’s food distribution/mini-VBS ministry ended with the start of the school year, Smith said they want to pick back up next summer.

Jones, too, said they are looking forward to next time.

“We are so excited about the opportunity the Lord bestowed upon us, and we are looking forward to continuing the program next summer,” she said.

“It was enriching, I believe, for the families and for us as individuals and as a church,” she said.
This article originally appeared in the Arkansas Baptist news, newsjournal of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.
Hundreds of migrant workers
come to Christ this summer
By Amanda Phifer

FRESNO, Calif. (California Southern Baptist) — Nearly 200 pairs of boys’ jeans for $4 each.

Nine hundred backpacks for $4.20 each.

892 patients receiving free medical and dental checks.

And, the most significant number of all from this summer’s “Feeding Those Who Feed Us” ministry: 1,165 professions of faith.

The shoes and backpacks are among many items that Tom Stringfellow, who works year-round with the ministry, collects during the off-season, when they can be purchased at deep discounts. The items are held at a storage facility, then made available for churches and associations to distribute to migrant children during the summer.

In its 10th year, this ministry, born out of First Baptist Church of Beverly Hills where Stringfellow was pastor before becoming director of missions for Sierra Butte Baptist Association, continues to grow, particularly in the current baleful economy – and particularly in seasons like this summer, in which the harvest was delayed by an unusually cool and late spring.

“The weather made crops not mature enough to pick, and the delay had a real impact on workers,” Stringfellow said. “We went to lots of places where men were sitting around the home when they should’ve been out working. And sometimes the schedule we work off of put us in places before workers had even arrived. In Yuba City, for instance, the migrant center was only half full.”

FTWFU, which this year involved more than 130 churches, is conducted primarily at California’s state-operated migrant centers – an unlikely alliance at first glance.

Stringfellow explained that the first year, “I went to five locations before I found one that would let me on the gated property. We were giving away new shoes, shirts and pants to every child, putting food in the house and holding a Vacation Bible School. Finally, one center invited me back to a meeting … and had me present what we were going to do. They said if the migrants approve it, it’s okay with the state of California.

“Well, without hesitation, with a standing ovation, they approved it,” Stringfellow recalled. “State officials said it was okay so long as no one was forced.”

Only legal migrant workers, with families, are allowed to live in these centers, removing one potential complication involved with migrant ministry. Most centers host around 90 households, the majority of them two-bedroom units with five to six people per unit. Most families have two or three children under the age of 12 who must change public school every time their parents relocate, following the seasonal crops – from peaches in California to apples in Washington.

FTWFU retains its original elements from the first year – a new pair of shoes, two shirts, a pair of pants and a backpack for each child, food for the family and a Vacation Bible School with an evangelistic emphasis – but has expanded over the years to include, in many places, free medical and dental clinics, block parties, sports camps and more.

“From the churches that participate, we try to get $3,500 per migrant center,” Stringfellow noted. “Last year when I spoke at the Tsunami Student Conference, the youth there raised just short of $7,000 for the project, and some went back and got their churches on board. That was really neat.

“And the California Mission Offering has now put us in, with a little bit left over from this year; and a couple of churches have been very generous. We buy collectively with that money. Otherwise you couldn’t afford to do it.

“It’s a year-round job for me and Oscar!” Stringfellow added, referring to Oscar Sanchez, California Southern Baptist Convention migrant ministries specialist.

Sanchez was at the Merced migrant center with CSBC’s Mobile Medical Clinic the last week of June. “While we were at the clinic,” he said, “someone from the center came running to tell us there was an emergency. An older woman from the center had just fainted from heat exhaustion.

“Dr. Michael, a volunteer doctor, immediately went over to attend to this lady’s situation. He was able to help her, and her family was very grateful to the doctor.

“Situations like this — helping people with no medical insurance — make this ministry worthwhile,” Sanchez said.
This article originally appeared in the California Southern Baptist, newsjournal of the California Southern Baptist Convention.
Alabama Baptists help
plant church in Brooklyn

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (The Alabama Baptist) — Planting a church, like planting a tree, takes time and effort. Just ask Nathan and Lesley Tubbs.

Nathan grew up in First Baptist Church, Clanton, where the first seeds of missions awareness were planted in his life weekly through Royal Ambassadors. He went on to attend Auburn University where he met and married Lesley who had also experienced a call to missions.

While in college they took part in a missions conference, then, while attending Southern Baptist Theological Seminary extension courses, they had the opportunity to participate in a missions internship in New York City in 2006. The experience changed their lives.

“God just laid it on our hearts that ‘I’ve been raising you up to be called to missions and New York City is the place where I’m sending you,'” Nathan said.

Two years later, they were back in New York as North American Mission Board (NAMB) church planters with the goal of starting a new church in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn. Nathan took a job as a science teacher in a local public school, and they began planting themselves in the community.

The 2-square-mile area that makes up Bay Ridge has a population of 70,000 and is considered 97 percent lost, Nathan said.

Working in cooperation with Metro New York Baptist Association and the Baptist Convention of New York, Nathan and Lesley spent three years “plowing the ground and sowing the gospel seed” in preparation for the launch of Cornerstone Church at Bay Ridge. They held their first monthly worship service on Easter at a hotel in Bay Ridge. Then, on Sept. 11, they began meeting weekly.

Many Alabama Baptists have stepped alongside Nathan and Lesley to help plant and water those seeds. In September 2010, Reggie Quimby, director of global missions for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM), connected with the couple at a Send New York conference sponsored by NAMB. Upon learning that Nathan was an Alabama native, Quimby organized a vision team to return to New York in January 2011, to discuss ways Alabama Baptists could partner with Nathan and Lesley in planting the church.

Then in July, more than 200 volunteers from Shades Mountain Baptist Church, Vestavia Hills — which has been at work in New York for the past 10 years — spent several days helping Cornerstone clean up a park in Bay Ridge and visiting with community members. They concluded the week with a picnic which drew 150 people. In addition, First, Clanton, and Lakeview Baptist Church, Auburn, sent missions teams during the summer.

Now fast forward to the Friday and Saturday leading up to Sept. 11, when a team of state missionaries — Executive Director Rick Lance and his wife, Pam; global missions personnel Reggie Quimby and Scotty Goldman; and communications coordinator Doug Rogers — traveled to Brooklyn to provide encouragement and assistance for the first weekly service.

While there, they prayer walked the Bay Ridge area, handed out invitations, put up posters, engaged area residents in conversation about the church and attended the Sept. 11 service. Lance also presented Tubbs with a check, a tangible investment of Alabama Baptists in the young church.

Anthony Bright was one of the visitors on Sept. 11. He first heard about the church when he stopped by the picnic that Shades Mountain helped with, and was impressed that a church would invest in their community in that way.

Lance said, “Ten years after the towers came down, a church was born not far from the scene of devastation. It is an example of the beauty of God’s grace at work in lives of people in the Big Apple.”

Nathan is grateful for what Alabama Baptists are doing. “Because of your prayers, your giving and your going, we’re able to work and see the glory of God here in New York City,” he said.

For more information, visit www.cornerstonebayridge.org.
Alabama Baptists minister
after earthquake in India
By Neisha Fuson

NORTH INDIA (The Alabama Baptist) — Overcoming roadblocks — both figurative and literal — in north India became a common theme for an Alabama Baptist missions team from The Church at Brook Hills, Birmingham, in late September.

After preparing for months for an evangelistic missions experience in the western section of Sikkim state Sept. 24–Oct. 2, the team learned only days before departing it would be needed in a remote mountain village to the north and east of the original location.

A magnitude-6.9 earthquake shook the mostly Nepalese area near the India-Nepal border Sept. 18 at 6:10 p.m.

The shock was felt even into Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and China. At press time, India was reporting 93 deaths, China six deaths and Nepal six deaths.

But the reports will most likely remain inaccurate in India because of the Hindu caste system, which prevents members of the lowest caste from being mentioned in death tolls, and the fact that some villages are unreachable.

Some deaths were from the earthquake, while others were from the landslides that followed it. Roads were blocked in numerous places around the affected area.

Because of potential disaster relief and medical needs, the team was diverted to a relief camp set up near the most accessible mountain village impacted by the earthquake.

National partners suggested the camp, hosted by a village in a valley area, as a place that would benefit most from the team’s time and the most easily accessible of the affected areas.

And so the team — an engineer, a paramedic, a law student, an agent at an accounting firm, a physical therapist and others under the leadership of Brook Hills member Casey Reeder — arrived in Delhi on Sept. 24 ready to tackle its new assignment.

Less than 10 hours later in a Jeep-like taxi, the team arrived in Mangan, where it had to obtain entry permits. Since the area has become highly dangerous after the earthquake and landslides, anyone who is not Lepcha (the people group in the area) must obtain a permit. Hours passed, along with countless prayers; the team waited, hoping to hear it had permission to enter.

The permits were obtained only because there was a physical therapist and paramedic on the team, allowing it to serve in medical relief.

Permits in hand, the team members became the only Americans to enter the area after the earthquake, passing over several landslides and shabby-looking bridges and through very tight squeezes along bumpy mountain roads to get there.

The timing of the team’s arrival was perfectly precise because if it had arrived even one day earlier, then the roads would not have been cleared from the landslides and fallen rocks, said Adam Reese, a Southern Baptist representative working in north India.

Reese, the team members and national partners who served as translators stayed at a Buddhist school, sleeping on cloth mats on the cold, gray concrete floor.

While nongovernmental organizations and others wanting to help supplied the nearby camp with rice, potatoes and tea, the team brought medical supplies, other food and water.

More than 100 Lepcha and Nepalese people sought refuge and food at the camp, located about a half-mile up the hillside from where the road was too dangerous to pass by car.

Russ Kinniburgh, the physical therapist on the team, saw an elderly woman making her way through the crowds.

Her feeble hands held a cane that was about a foot too long in the wrong hand and backward.

Kinniburgh cut the cane down and taught her how to use it properly. The next day, she hobbled by with a smile, cane properly in place.

The team cleaned some minor wounds and taught a few long-term care practices to those at the camp.

Team members also had time to visit with the people and look for opportunities to share something greater than a bottle of water or a Band-Aid — hope.

The people opened up to the team members.

They invited them into their homes; gave them tea, or “chiya;” and listened as the smiling white faces shared stories about a man named Jesus.

Team member Chance Walters said, “As we were struggling to get (to the camp), it became frustrating and discouraging (to all of us).”

But, he added, “I see now that even if just one person heard the gospel, then all the trouble to get here was worth it.

“I won’t ever forget the spiritual battle that went on inside myself as I shared the Word. I thought, ‘Why isn’t it like this in Alabama?’ Well it’s because I don’t do anything in Alabama,” Walters said, half in jest and half serious.

“My spirit knows that progress is being made here for those who heard the gospel, but I felt like a used car salesman who couldn’t close a deal. But ultimately I feel like the Spirit was just saying, ‘You just remember this. There’s a reason the enemy is on you now. You are preaching the gospel. You are sharing my Word.'”

The team shared the gospel with many at the camp and surrounding area, even as officials kept a close eye on its work.

After leaving the camp, the team traveled to a larger town and prayer walked and shared the gospel in a nearby village, about a 30-minute walk away.

Several people welcomed the team into their homes and listened to Bible stories.

As the trip came to a close, the discouragement that sat heavy at the beginning of the week turned into an uplifting joy.

And team members recounted situation after situation that could only have happened because of the Lord’s hand.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Some names changed for security reasons.
These articles originally appeared in The Alabama Baptist, newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention.

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