Today’s From the States features items from:
Arkansas Baptist News
The Pathway (Missouri)
Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma)
Ark. church partners with
city, others to aid homeless
By Margaret Colson
JONESBORO, Ark. (Arkansas Baptist News) — Soon after Chelsea* walked out the doors of prison — embracing her freedom for the first time in a long time — she walked through the doors of Helping Underserved Belong (HUB) at First Baptist Church, Jonesboro, where she would be embraced by those committed to helping her get back on her feet.
HUB is a partnership of the City of Jonesboro with several local entities, including area churches, intent on connecting homeless or near-homeless individuals with resources needed to begin their journey out of homelessness.
The primary focus of HUB is to work with “individuals who are ready to make changes in their lives,” according to the City of Jonesboro website (jonesboro.org).
Sitting down with HUB volunteer Sherry Pierce, a member of Central Baptist Church, Jonesboro, Chelsea admitted that she had no money, no place to stay, no job. The response? “No problem.” Pierce, who understands, “It’s tough out there right now,” reassured the young woman, “There’s nothing we can’t help you with.”
For years, First Baptist, Jonesboro, a downtown church, has ministered to the homeless in Jonesboro. Bruce Venable is senior pastor of the church.
“We want to be invested in our community,” said Kristie Stokes, missions and community outreach pastor for First Baptist, Jonesboro.
“Our church has embraced the opportunities of being downtown,” she said.
Through its Care Center, the church provides clothing and groceries to those in need and serves hot meals four days each week to about 100 people each day.
Care Center volunteers “have been doing a lot of good for a very long time,” she said, but the volunteers realized that more could be done to serve those in need.
Homeless people often find themselves in a confusing maze of services scattered throughout the city.
City leaders understood the unique challenges facing the city’s homeless population, and the idea for HUB began to take shape.
HUB was founded by the Mayor’s Task Force to End Homelessness in Jonesboro as the point of entry for homeless individuals into the larger network of services offered throughout the city.
“Given the many needs facing our homeless population, the task force decided that a one-stop shop would be the most efficient and effective way to meet those needs,” said Emma Agnew, community services manager for the City of Jonesboro, in a press release highlighting the launch of HUB on April 4.
Still, it wouldn’t be right for a program designed to serve the homeless not to have a home of its own.
First Baptist, Jonesboro, had just the right space for HUB. The first floor of its Activity Center, adjacent to the church’s Care Center, was available and, with HUB’s launch in April, it became HUB’s home, allowing the congregation to “expand its services” to those in need, said Stokes.
“We have the perfect location. It’s been a good fit, a really good fit. Our church opens its heart and its buildings to those in need,” she said.
Now, as homeless individuals seek services, their first point of entry is HUB, where they can receive help with documentation, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates and Social Security cards, as well as referrals for employment, housing, budgeting and medical and dental referrals. Also, homeless individuals can pick up bus passes, have access to computers and telephones at HUB and can use the HUB address for mailing needs. Then, they can go right next door to the church’s Care Center for a hot meal, clothes and groceries.
HUB volunteers offer spiritual counseling to their homeless neighbors, with church members sharing about the hope found only in Jesus Christ. Because First Baptist, Jonesboro, has long been involved in serving homeless people through its Care Center, many of those served regularly attend Bible study and/or worship at the downtown church.
“We welcome those who come,” said Stokes. “This (homeless ministry) has been a part of who we are for many years.”
HUB is undergirded with a federal grant as well as donations from local individuals and groups.
Open for less than two months, HUB has already made a positive impact in the lives of numerous homeless people — people like Chelsea whose first step through the doors of HUB was her first step into a changed life.
*Last name withheld.
This article appeared in the Arkansas Baptist News (arkansasbaptist.org), newsjournal of the Arkansas Baptist Convention. Margaret Colson is a freelance writer in Atlanta.
Baptists make disciples, multiply
churches, develop leaders in Italy
By Ben Hawkins
VENETO, Italy (The Pathway) — There’s a church on every block in northeastern Italy. At least, there are church buildings on every block. Most of them now stand empty or have been converted into museums, pizza joints or banks.
Kevin Finch, a member of First Baptist Church in De Soto, Mo., said he noticed these relics from Italy’s Christian past during two mission trips he took with the church during the past six months. He also noticed Italy’s spiritual darkness. Despite the nation’s history, very few people have heard the message of God’s love and grace in Jesus Christ.
For this reason, FBC De Soto and some other Missouri Baptist churches are eager to multiply churches, make disciples and develop leaders in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy, sandwiched between the Alps on its north and the Adriatic Sea to the southeast and containing cities such as Verona, Padua and Venice. FBC De Soto, as well as Missouri’s Verona Baptist Church, Freshwater Church of Bolivar and Emmaus Church of Kansas City, are among the Missouri Baptist churches pursuing partnerships in Italy to dispel the spiritual darkness in this ancient country.
MBC Multiplying Churches Catalyst Rick Hedger hopes God will call out more Missouri Baptist congregations to build partnerships in Italy.
“Northeast Italy consists of three regions containing fifteen provinces,” Hedger said.
“Our missionaries have told me that the population in these three regions is 0.045 percent evangelical,” Hedger added, explaining the area’s need for a gospel witness. This means that only four-and-a-half people out of every 10,000 are evangelical believers.
“It is an exciting time for God to invite MBC churches to cooperate together on the front lines in northeast Italy to see lives and communities transformed by the Gospel,” he said.
Finch, who took his first trip to Italy last November, said the churches in Italy were excited to meet them and spend time studying Scripture together and sharing with one another.
“I would add that they were pleased to see us back,” Russ Sander, a deacon at FBC De Soto said, describing a return trip to Italy that the church took earlier this year. “It made them realize that we were serious about trying to come alongside them. They were pretty overjoyed.”
The few evangelical churches in Italy desire to reach their friends and neighbors with the Gospel. In fact, Brazilian missionaries in the area set before them a vision to plant a total of 20 churches in the region. They’ve planted 6 and are laboring to start 14 more.
“It’s a desperate situation, and it’s going to require multiple churches from Missouri getting involved,” Pastor Jeremy Muniz of FBC De Soto said. Existing churches in Veneto, Italy, especially need help developing leaders to equip these churches for ministry.
“We in the United States take for granted the abundance of seminary trained, biblically based leaders that we have to draw from,” he said. “Even a small church here might get multiple candidates for a senior pastor job.”
But this isn’t the case in northeastern Italy, Muniz said. Finch and Sander noted that, in one area, three ministers were juggling the responsibilities of pastoring 6 different churches.
“One of the things we feel is important for us moving forward,” Muniz said, “is to come alongside those churches and truly focus on helping to develop leaders, in particular for the pastorate.”
Indeed, traveling to Italy not only showed Muniz the need for developing leaders in that region, but also for developing the next generation of disciple-makers and leaders at home.
“We talk about how we want the church to be strong when we leave this earth, how we want to make a difference,” Muniz said. “If we really mean that, then I think that means we need to be discipling our leaders. This has really shown me how important it is for the leaders of today to develop the leaders of tomorrow.
“Italy has shown me,” Muniz added, “the future of our country, if we don’t take seriously the call to make disciples” — a future where people see empty church buildings on every block.
This article appeared in The Pathway (mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Ben Hawkins is associate editor of The Pathway.
Okla. trailers on a roll
to evangelism block parties
By Emily Howsden
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (Baptist Messenger) — On a stormy April afternoon at the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma’s (BGCO) Baptist Building, four Oklahoma Baptist associations received blessings on wheels for bright days of evangelism ahead.
The BGCO Evangelism office presented Cherokee Strip Association, Johnston-Marshall Association, North Canadian Association and East Central Association with block party trailers, provided by funding through the Oklahoma State Missions Offering (SMO).
The 16-foot trailers are equipped with various attractions and items to create a first-class block party experience where people can have a good time of fellowship and learning about the Lord.
At the block party event, BGCO Executive Director-Treasurer Anthony L. Jordan prayed over the trailers and the ministry that will come from their use. Alan Quigley, BGCO Mobilization Team leader, expressed appreciation for the SMO.
Mike Napier, BGCO evangelism specialist, introduced the evangelistic block party trailers along with John Roe, a church planter in Shidler. Together, Napier and Roe were responsible for assembling the trailers with all items they thought necessary for evangelistic events to come.
“We’ve been working on this for 18 months now, planning, being very strategic with what outdoor games and indoor games to get, and this is what we’ve come up with,” explained Napier.
Each trailer holds resources including 10 different indoor and outdoor games, various sports balls, cotton candy, snow cone and popcorn machines. The trailers also have a sound system and outdoor lighting.
Explaining the vision that went into the creation of the trailers Napier said, “We wanted to make it as functional as possible to be able to pull into a park or neighborhood, open the doors, and you have everything there that you would need for a daytime or nighttime gathering.”
The trailers are to be used to intentionally reach neighborhoods, for new church starts, to help in revitalizing a church, for senior adult events, fall festivals, back-to-school events, holiday celebrations, sporting events, outreach and more. The audiences that can be reached with the evangelism trailers are limitless.
According to Napier, the most pivotal point in the use of the trailers is to be outreach-oriented and evangelistic in nature when sharing the Gospel in whatever method it is shared.
Matt Spann, director of missions (DOM) inCherokee Strip Association, expressed his excitement about the trailers and the opportunities they bring saying, “I think this trailer will help us get outside the walls of our church buildings and out into the communities around us and really help us focus on reaching people who normally wouldn’t go to church.”
When Napier brought the idea of the trailers to a group of DOMs at a retreat, he was surprised with the responses he heard. Many said their associations have been saving for something just like this for years. It was an answer to prayers.
“God was in this process from the beginning; we just got to join in on how He was at work and where He was at work. So we were not only meeting needs that we didn’t realize existed, but we were able to resource churches and associations, and their evangelism through these trailers that we wouldn’t be able to provide otherwise,” Napier said.
Spann pointed out that block party evangelism is a refreshing approach to reaching the lost world in the towns and cities of Oklahoma, “The block party trailer is a chance to say we care, and we’re going out to show you that. It’s just a different approach that gets you out in the community where the people are.”
The opportunities for use of the trailers are plentiful. A church could use the trailer for an evangelistic Vacation Bible School (VBS) rather than hosting one inside the walls of the church. “That would really be one way to draw in the un-churched children and present the Gospel all week long to the kids,” said Napier, “You see so many salvations that way because not only are you mentoring to the children but you’re reaching their parents and families as well.”
The evangelism trailers are unique because they are entirely funded by SMO dollars given by Oklahoma Baptists. Each trailer cost approximately $15,000 and has room for each association to add items like a barbecue grill and other things deemed useful to block parties.
“It feels really good to see those trailers pull away and know that it’s an investment that our entire state has made together,” said Napier. “If you think about it, from all corners of the state, every church has given to this cause, so they all have a little ownership in every soul being saved through these evangelism trailers.”
“The State Missions Offering being put to use like this is about as the most affective bang for your buck as you can get. I was amazed it worked out that we could even have something like this to use as an evangelism tool,” said Spann.
Those interested in using an evangelism trailer should contact their associational DOM. All associations that have existing trailers can contact the evangelism office at the BGCO to have someone look at potentially updating their trailer or training those interested in effective block party trailer evangelism.
As for Spann, he has already had churches interested in using his association’s trailer for events.
Napier expressed excitement for the potential kingdom advancement through these trailers saying, “I really believe that God is going to honor our prayers, the work and the gifts given to provide these trailers, and we’re going to see souls saved and lives changed.”
This article appeared in the Baptist Messenger (baptistmessenger.com), newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Emily Howsden is a staff writer for the Baptist Messenger.
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. The items appear in Baptist Press as originally published.