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FROM THE STATES: Ark., Tenn., Ala. evangelism/missions news; ‘We have never had a response like that. It was pretty amazing’

Today’s From the States features items from:
Arkansas Baptist News
Baptist and Reflector (Tennessee)
The Alabama Baptist


Ark. church’s first revival in
two decades sees 139 saved

By Caleb Yarbrough

GREENWOOD, Ark. (Arkansas Baptist News) — When many people, even Southern Baptists, hear the word “revival,” their mind produces images of old-time preachers and tents full of the rural masses. However, First Baptist Church, Greenwood, would be the first church to testify that revival events are still a great tool for seeing people come to know Jesus.

First Baptist Church held their first revival in two decades Oct. 18-21. According to Jeff Ivey, First Baptist’s spiritual formation teaching pastor, 139 people were saved and 74 more people made recommitments to the Lord over the four-night event. The event’s speaker was Ken Freeman, a San Antonio evangelist.

“We asked our church to pray for revival. We have never had a response like that. It was pretty amazing,” said Ivey.

He said that First Baptist began praying for revival in January. However, at that time, they did not have a revival event planned.

“A few months into the year, Cross Church had had Ken Freeman. We are friends with a lot of their staff, and they recommended him. We prayed about it and scheduled him,” said Ivey.

Ivey said the immense response to First Baptist’s revival event was incredible.

“We probably averaged about 600 a night in revival and the last night had about 800. It was enough that we had to simulcast into another building on campus … because we couldn’t fit any more people in the building,” he said.

Ivey said that during the week of the revival event, Freeman spoke to about 500 students at local middle, junior high and high schools, inviting the students to attend First Baptist’s revival meeting. Nearly 100 of the people saved during the revival were students, according to Ivey.

“There was a real outspoken atheist student who pretty much persecuted our students…. As late as Wednesday afternoon … he was still saying he would never come to church, that God is dumb and all that kind of stuff,” said Ivey. “That night (Wednesday) he came and was saved. It was pretty incredible. We saw some major answers to prayer, and that was just one example.”

Following their revival event, Ivey said First Baptist is offering “new Christian” classes for both adults and students. They have invited all of the people who accepted Christ or rededicated their lives to Christ during the recent revival to attend. The church is also attempting to get the individuals plugged into their life group ministry.

Ivey said that while holding a multi-night revival event was not something First Baptist had done in many years, the results of their recent event were so great that they are already planning another revival event for around the same time next year.

“If you would have asked me a few weeks ago, I don’t know what I would have said, but witnessing what I witnessed, our people were hungry for it. There was a big response,” said Ivey.

“It was a spirit of revival that led us to have a revival event. I think the prayers and the teaching that led up to it are what led us to have that event, but I definitely think it was a great tool. It was definitely part of that bigger revival that we are praying for,” said Ivey.
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.


Tenn. churches cross
racial barriers

By Connie Davis Bushey

COLUMBIA, Tenn. (Baptist and Reflector) — Race relations often are tense across the United States, but in Columbia, especially in several Baptist churches, “we work together,” reported Dale Ledbetter, director of missions, Maury Baptist Association, based here.

During his 15-year tenure as DOM, racial tensions here have always been minimal, but recently, some great things have occurred which should encourage and be refreshing to all Tennessee Baptists, he said.

“Others should see God’s work in our little corner of the world to counteract all the negative we see and hear,” Ledbetter reported recently.

African-American and Anglo Baptist congregations in Columbia are crossing the racial divide, he noted.

Two players in these instances agreed.

Kenny Anderson and Dwight Church, both African-American pastors in Columbia, are very encouraged by recent racial developments.

Anderson noted that even before the shooting by a white man at a black South Carolina church in June killing nine, “we (African-Americans and Anglo Baptists) were already worshiping together…. It wasn’t a reactive thing; it was a proactive thing and that’s always good….”

A “racial divide” does exist in the country, added Anderson. “There have been so many hateful things said, but we’re making it work in Columbia and we’re doing it on purpose.”

Dwight Church noted, “People talk a lot about unity and being unified, but they don’t want to do something about it.”

When Christians take a step to cross the racial divide, it might make a dramatic impact as it did in his case, said Church.

Anglo and African-American churches merge

Joey Johnson, a bivocational pastor, had been waiting and praying for God to work through him for the last several years.

Johnson has been pastor of several African-American churches over the past 17 years while working at Vanderbilt University, Nashville.

Then, last year he started a church in Columbia but after about a year the small congregation had dwindled. He and his family were paying a lot of the expenses of the congregation which was renting space in a strip mall.

During this period through a friend, Kenny Anderson, Johnson met Ledbetter and learned more about Southern Baptists than he knew.

Soon Ledbetter visited the new church being led by Johnson, Blessed Hope Baptist Church. In a few weeks, Ledbetter had talked again to Johnson and then to Ezell Rose, interim pastor of Mooresville Pike Baptist Church, Columbia.

Johnson and Rose got to know each other and in June, Mooresville Pike invited Blessed Hope Baptist to a joint service of the two very small congregations at Mooresville Pike. Johnson was invited to preach.

Soon, the two churches had merged, with Rose continuing to serve as interim pastor. In a few months the new congregation called Johnson as pastor.

“This is something that has never happened here in Columbia, a black and a white church merging,” said Rose, who has served as a pastor and, after retirement, as interim pastor of Baptist churches for 50 years. Recently Rose was called as interim pastor, Southside Baptist Church, Mount Pleasant.

“There was a community over there that didn’t have the ministry that they needed,” explained Rose, noting that the neighborhood is made up mostly of African-Americans. If the two churches grew separately “they wouldn’t have ever gotten together. I think this was God’s way of bringing them together,” Rose said.

“We’re just about winning people. It’s not about race, not about age, not about anything like that. It’s just about winning people to Christ …,” added Johnson. “We are a family now,” he concluded.

Anglo church shares facility with African-American church

This past Easter members of Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, Columbia, arrived at church to find that a fire had broken out and they would have to worship somewhere else.

The black congregation met in the facilities of several churches in the area who offered help. Then Kenny Anderson, pastor, received a phone call from fellow pastor Mike Dawson.

Mike Dawson already knew of the situation of Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist. Anderson called him the very morning of the fire to ask him for prayer.

Dawson and Anderson have known each other for about 20 years as they have both served Baptist churches here. Dawson is a retired pastor of First Baptist Church, Columbia. Anderson was a regular vocalist for an annual women’s event held by First Baptist. Also, the two churches held joint services together.

So it was natural for Dawson, who is now interim pastor, Pleasant Heights Baptist Church, Columbia, and church leaders to invite Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist to meet at their facility. Pleasant Heights has a large, new facility.

Anderson thought it would work out because Pleasant Heights worships at 9 a.m. and Mount Calvary worships at 11 a.m.

The situation has not only worked out but has been a blessing, said Anderson.

Sharing a facility has impacted both congregations, he added. In a joint communion service, deacons from both churches “were working together” and choirs “were singing together…. It was a picture of what heaven looks like,” stated Anderson.

He has heard and seen members of Pleasant Heights learn from the more demonstrative worship of Mount Calvary members.

The two congregations also joined together recently for a benefit for Tim Anderson, Kenny’s brother, who is ill and needed help with some expenses. About 400 folks attended from across the county.

Another reason the two churches have worked well together is that they are both on cable TV and, thus, can use the same equipment. In fact, Pleasant Heights staff have recorded services for Mount Calvary, noted Anderson.

Of course, the situation also has helped the Anglos and African-Americans see the “brotherhood and sisterhood” they share, added Dawson.

“This just happened real naturally and it’s been a real joy,” said Dawson.

Pleasant Heights isn’t helping Mount Calvary Missionary “to make a big thing or to create headlines out of bringing people together,” but certainly “some racial harmony has come from it,” noted Dawson.

Anderson concluded, “It’s about working together. This community has always come together.”

African-American pastors lead predominantly Anglo churches

Two predominantly Anglo churches in Columbia are currently being led by African-American pastors.

First, Northside Baptist which draws about 150 to Sunday morning activities, recently called Willie McLaurin as interim pas tor. McLaurin is special assistant to the executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

Ledbetter reported he has heard positive things from church members about their new leader.

Second, Immanuel Baptist Church, Columbia, a multicultural congregation including Anglos, Hispanics, and African-Americans, is led by Dwight Church. The congregation has a majority of Anglos.

Church has served the congregation for five years as pastor and been a member for another eight years. He and his wife joined the church when they were the only African-Americans there.

Church said he joined the white church because God called him to be a reconciler between the races after experiences at a Promise Keepers rally in 1995.

What struck Church during the Promise Keepers rally and on the bus ride there and back were the relationships formed between Anglos and African-Americans who represented several churches. Plans were made to continue those relationships but that did not pan out, recalled Church.

What he experienced as men of all races got together and got to know each other “overwhelmed me and I wanted more. I was so excited I was about to bust. I thought, ‘We’re missing the boat here.’ ”

Also, at that time he and his wife, Marilyn, were looking for a new church home.

God led them to join Cornerstone Baptist Church in Neapolis, a community located between Spring Hill and Columbia. After Church was called as pastor, the church changed its name to Immanuel Baptist.

What has happened at Immanuel Baptist has been led by God, said Church.

For years it met in a former restaurant facility. Just one of the demands of the situation was making arrangements and relocating to another church for baptisms.

Church challenged the congregation to find a permanent facility. One day a member told him about a former church facility for sale. Amazingly, the pastor as a child had attended church activities in the facility. Also it was located in a multicultural community and was affordable.

Immanuel bought the facility and paid it off in two years because we “don’t believe in debt,” explained Church. Immanuel didn’t hold fundraisers to raise money, noted the pastor. Part of what the congregation did was, along with members of the community, renovate the facility “from the inside out,” noted Church.

“We tithe and we roll up our sleeves and we get the job done.”

Today Immanuel Baptist is seeing people’s lives changed such as the new Hispanic members who are former Catholics.

Another amazing event here was a marriage conducted by the pastor on the Saturday before Easter. Then the new bride was baptized on Easter.

“What brings people together is the truth,” explained Church.

“When you communicate the truth, unity is a natural by-product.”
This article appeared in the Baptist and Reflector (http://tnbaptist.org/BRNews.asp), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Connie Davis Bushey is news editor of the Baptist and Reflector.


Ala. association reaches
Mayans in Guatamala

By Neisha Roberts

CLANTON, Ala. (The Alabama Baptist) — It’s been an eventful nine years for Chilton Baptist Association, with at least one missions trip to Guatemala every year and sometimes multiple trips in one year.

On Aug. 12–18, a team of 13 traveled once more to Guatemala, Chimaltenango district, to work with International Mission Board representatives David and Glynis Miller one more time before they retire in December.

The association was introduced to the Millers when Alabama Baptists began a three-year partnership with Guatemalan Baptists in 2006.

This year’s team was comprised of volunteers from Bell Lane Baptist Church, Clanton; Maplesville Baptist Church; Friendship Baptist Church, Clanton; Pleasant Grove #1 Baptist Church, Jemison; and Mount Bethel Baptist Church, Clanton; along with Director of Missions Larry Felkins and his wife, Judy.

The team spent the week providing free medical clinics to Mayan Indians in four cities around Antigua, where the Millers serve. More than 400 patients were served at the clinics. Volunteers also shared the Gospel through personal evangelism and delivered about 30 bags of groceries and Bibles in Spanish to individual homes in the communities. Six people prayed to receive Christ as their Savior, according to Felkins.

He said several amazing things happened while the team was in Guatemala — moments he said he’ll never forget.

One “miracle” that took place on the trip was when the team was welcomed into a gated and guarded community called “December 29.” No evangelical group has ever been allowed into the self-governed Mayan Indian community that was established when the six-year-long Civil War ended Dec. 29, 1996.

During the war the government attacked the Mayan Indians and their land was confiscated. It was a very brutal war, Felkins said, noting that if the Mayans stood in the way, they were killed for their land. The Catholic Church sided with the government at the time so the members of December 29 are very anti-religion and “distrust churches of any kind.”

“There are no churches of any kind in this community,” Felkins said.

Recently a Mayan Indian member of a church in a city nearby formed a relationship with some December 29 members. The group eventually invited the Christian woman into the community to teach the children the Mayan dialect, something many of the children were beginning to lose.

Through that connection Chilton Association and other members of the neighboring church were allowed to enter the community to provide a medical clinic in August. The team was told they would not be able to give away any tracts, Bibles or be able to share their faith.

But what happened that day was “very special,” Felkins said. “It was a spiritual thing. I cannot explain it. … Not only did they allow us to give out gospel tracts and Bibles but they even allowed two members of our team to visit in homes and pray for them. … God is at work in that place” and doors were opened for further ministry in December 29.

During the trip the team also visited the land purchased by the association and two churches in Georgia for Pastor Apolinario Quixquinay, who serves at God is Love Baptist Church, San Andres Itzapa, about 45 minutes from Antigua.

The church grew from a Bible study with a handful of children to nearly 200 Mayan Indians in worship every Sunday.

When Pastor Apolinario (or Pastor Polo, as Felkins affectionately calls him) suddenly found himself kicked off his land and out of his home because of persecution by his family, the Millers called on Chilton Association for help. Volunteers from the association had met Pastor Polo on the second associational missions trip years ago and formed a friendship with him so they were happy and willing to help.

About $20,000 was given to Pastor Polo and with it he purchased land overlooking the city he ministers to and has begun building a small three-room house for his family.

“As I walked the property with my friend Apolinario,” Felkins said, “I had the overwhelming feeling we were walking on holy ground.”
This article appeared in The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Neisha Fuson is a writer for The Alabama Baptist.


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.

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