News Articles

FROM THE STATES: Ark., Okla. and Calif. evangelism/missions news; ‘God began to do something that we didn’t fully expect’

Today’s From the States features items from:
Arkansas Baptist News
The Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma)
California Southern Baptist


Ark. native plants
‘multiplying’ churches in Wyo.

By Caleb Yarbrough

CASPER, Wyo. (Arkansas Southern Baptist) — The Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Annie Armstrong Easter Offering (AAEO) season has just past.

The AAEO is the SBC’s annual cooperative offering for North American missions and goes to support missionaries like former Arkansas pastor Chris Sims.

Sims, former pastor of Pilgrims Rest Baptist Church in Batesville, Ark., and his wife Eve are North American Mission Board (NAMB) church planting missionaries in Casper, Wyo.

The Simses family relocated from Batesville to Casper in June 2014 to plant what they hoped would be a multiplying church.

According to Simses, in 2014 more than 60 communities in Wyoming had no gospel presence.

“We recognized that just one church probably wouldn’t do it. So we had these bold ideas that we would try to multiply,” Sims said. “We thought that would be a slow work, and we thought that would be one at a time, but as we got out there … God began to do something that we didn’t fully expect.”

After the Simses planted Wind City Church, God began sending people from other places, including Arkansas, who wanted to be part of the gospel movement that was beginning to form in Wyoming.

Today, six families have either relocated, or been raised up, to be church planters in Wyoming through the ministry of Wind City Church and the Forever West Church Planting Network, an organization started by Sims in 2015.

“We are seeing the map fill up, little by little, with folks that have a burden similar to us: to reach people with the Gospel, see them saved and then to make disciples that make disciples,” Sims said.

While most of the Wyoming church planters raised up out of Wind City Church’s ministry have come from far and wide, Sims said that there are now indigenous Wyomingites who are accepting the call.

“They see these other people come from outside and they say, ‘We can do that too,'” said Sims.

Wind City Church, and its associated ministries and five church plants, currently have 20 church partners from Arkansas, according to Sims. These churches partner in numerous ways including in prayer, financial support and by actively traveling to Wyoming to work hands-on with the new church plants. Each new plant is connected with four to five partner churches.

Started in 1895 by the Woman’s Missionary Union, the offering that would be named for Annie Armstrong in 1934 has raised more than $1 billion for North American missions.

Today 100 percent of the AAEO goes toward supporting the more than 5,000 Southern Baptist missionaries serving throughout the United States, Canada and their associated territories.

For more information on Wind City Church and the Forever West Church Planting Network, email Sims at [email protected]. For more information on the AAEO visit anniearmstrong.com.
This article appeared in the Arkansas Baptist News (http://www.arkansasbaptist.org/), newsjournal of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. Caleb Yarbrough is assistant editor at the Arkansas Baptist News.


Okla. church more than
doubles number of children

By Emily Howsden

IDABEL, Okla., (Baptist Messenger) — Deep in southeast Oklahoma, at First Baptist Church in Idabel, a children’s ministry is rapidly expanding. The program isn’t expanding because of any miracle materials or special event; the growth has been fueled by prayer.

Months ago, Jana Hughes, children’s minister First Idabel approached her pastor, Andy Bowman, in order to brainstorm about different ways the children’s ministry could reach more children in their town. The two concluded that prayer was the best way to begin reaching their goals.

“At that point we were averaging about 30 children each Wednesday night. So we set our goal at 75 children and started praying that we would have the workers needed for that amount of children,” Hughes said.

Months and many prayers later, the children’s ministry at First Baptist is averaging around 75 children each Wednesday night.

First, Hughes and Bowman saw a family from the church donate funds for another vehicle for the church’s van and bus ministry.

Then, they saw volunteers begin to pour into the children’s ministry. “It seems like all churches struggle with getting enough volunteers, but we just started praying about it, and we’ve seen a lot of new people who are coming. They just have a heart for kids,” Hughes said.

Hughes noted that the volunteers aren’t necessarily people who have attended the church for a long time, but these members felt the need to be connected in their new church home and jumped in to serve where needed.

Next, they saw the Lord move in the lives of some of the new children attending their church through the bus and van ministry.

Bowman specifically told the story of one boy who started to come to church on Wednesday nights and made a profession of faith in Christ. The boy brought his family members to church with him, including his brother, cousins and some friends.

“I would look up every week or two, and he’s bringing a cousin or friend down the aisle in the invitation. We’ve seen him, his brother, mother and two or three cousins all get saved and baptized now,” Bowman said.

Sunday School attendance has also increased through Wednesday night outreach and 12-15 children and adults have been baptized as a result.

“About a year ago, I was concerned about all the church kids who weren’t coming, and God just laid it on my heart to not worry about the kids who aren’t coming but focus on the kids who want to come but don’t have a way to come,” Hughes said.

Children would call the church, Hughes said, on Wednesdays immediately after school, asking if the church would pick them up and bring them to church that evening. “I realized that was where I needed to put my heart — into those kids — majority of them being kids that we bring on the bus,” she said

Bowman pointed to the leadership and heart of Hughes as one of the key factors of the growing program saying, “The heart of Jana Hughes, our children’s minister, is behind all of this, and she just has a great compassion and burden for these kids.”

“When the kids come, I think they just feel like we want them here. They feel welcomed and loved, and really that’s all they’re looking for is to be accepted and loved,” Hughes said.

Prayer and petitioning for the lost in Idabel are the tried and true methods of the church at First Idabel. Hughes says, “Prayer — we’ve just bathed our ministries in prayer, and the Lord has been good to hear our cries.”
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.


Calif. Churches
cooperate to reach out

By Karen L. Willoughby

PORTOLA, Calif. (California Southern Baptist) — Feather River Baptist Association puts a unique spin on its summer camp experience for youngsters and youth.

It’s called “Missions Camp,” and it teaches participants to become comfortable talking about their faith in Jesus with family, friends and others.

“My wife Nicky spearheaded getting it started; she’s the driving force behind it,” said Feather River’s director of missions J Ballard. “The first camp was in 2009; the association had never had a camp before. We figured we’d make missionaries.”

A sense of missions awareness permeates the association, which stretches into three states: north into Klamath Falls, Ore., east into Reno and a 115-mile-wide and 325-mile-long stretch of “mostly little mountain roads” in northeast California, he said.

“The amount of world missions impact these churches have is amazing,” Ballard told the California Southern Baptist. “Almost all of them are doing something: a Mexico orphanage, West Africa, South America, South Asia….”

To reflect that global interest and increase that focus, on its website the association is called the Feather River Missions Network.

“I think every Christian should be a missionary,” Ballard said. “Going forward, we want to raise up the next generation of leaders and be a lighthouse of the Gospel in each of our communities.”

Missions Camp is part of that.

“We teach them to do Bible stories, gospel presentations through bracelets and face-painting, and the youth go into town and do a service project,” Ballard said.

The project for the last two years has been helping Chester Baptist Church with its annual AWANA carnival. The week-long camp also includes swimming, team-building, archery, fishing and a climbing wall.

Missions Camp, in its tenth year, runs two tracks — 3rd through 6th grade, and 7th through 12th — the same week, with separate worship each evening that includes testimonies, skits, exciting music and messages from missionaries.

“Last year we had four salvations, six rededications and 17 surrendered to Christian service,” Ballard said, with 15 churches participating. In July Sierra Butte Baptist Association will join in Missions Camp, which takes place at Camp Tehama in Mill Creek.


Feather River celebrated its 65th anniversary at its annual meeting last September.

Community Church in Loyalton, which has been meeting in its present building since 1903, has been a Southern Baptist congregation since 2012, and is one of seven churches new to the association since Ballard was called as DOM in 2009.

Bill Loveridge is “lead elder” of the church that has baptized 19 since it joined Feather River and the Southern Baptist Convention. The church partners with the association to “spread the gospel and grow Christian disciples,” according to its website.

Community Church each year has increased its mission support through the Cooperative Program.

Another church that came into Feather River in 2012 is Evergreen Baptist Fellowship in Klamath Falls. They baptized 20 in their first seven years and have also steadily increased CP giving.

The most unique church building in the association is The Log Cabin Church (formerly First Southern Baptist) in Janesville, built in 1938. Interim pastor John Lloyd has been there since 2015 and the church has baptized nine over the last 10 years.

The building used by First Baptist Church in Quincy used to be a bowling alley, Ballard noted. Ryan Nielsen is pastor of the church that started in 1950.

First Southern Baptist Church in Susanville has the longest tenure in the association. John Murdock has been pastor since 2005 of the church that was started in 1948. Nearly 90 have been baptized over the last 10 years.

Two Pacific Islander congregations meet in First Southern’s building.

The newest church is a replant of First Baptist Church in Truckee, which started last year as a mission of Faith Ministry in Reno. Faith, Reno was started five years ago by Ballard and is jointly affiliated with Feather River and Nevada’s Sierra Baptist Association.

Each of the churches in Feather River Association is uniquely planted where it can be used by God, Ballard said. They are in a part of California where small towns are dependent on government services — dams, prisons, power plants — for their economic base, now that logging and timber industries have withered.

Inland Empire Baptist Association in Riverside has come alongside Feather River with financial support and encouragement, said Deryl Lackey, Inland Empire DOM.

The association — with its 230 congregations and emphasis on assisting churches to fulfill the Great Commission — wanted to be involved in ministries outside its area, he noted.

“Our association admires the work J and his wife are doing in Feather River,” Lackey continued. “It’s amazing to us how much they accomplish with limited resources.”


Feather River’s DOM started his association service in 2007 as director of missions for Shasta Baptist Association. Ballard added Feather River to his assignment in 2009.

As of 2011, when the North American Mission Board stopped funding associations and started funding church planting, Ballard moved from Shasta, trimmed down to a one-third position in Feather River, and later started Faith Ministry in Reno, where previously he had been a pastor.

“Feather River churches relate to the airport and hospital in Reno, so it’s a close fit,” Ballard said. “I blur the lines, really, between church and association; it’s all Kingdom.

“We’ve positioned Faith Ministry to be a ‘missional church’ to Feather River Association,” Ballard continued. “We send teams for training, event evangelism and summer missionaries.”

The association also now is equipped with a trailer fitted out for Disaster Relief mud-out ministry.

Seven from the church and association went to Houston in January to assist in hurricane recovery.

“We work together,” Ballard said. “We cooperate. That’s the Southern Baptist way.”
This article appeared in the California Southern Baptist (csbc.com/csb), newsjournal of the California Southern Baptist Convention. Karen L. Willoughby is a writer 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, formatting and grammatical changes, the items appear in Baptist Press as originally published.

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