Today’s From the States features items from:
California Southern Baptist
Baptist Message (Louisiana)
Myanmar refugee leads
others to Christ in California
By Margaret Colson
SAN DIEGO (California Southern Baptist) — Fleeing civil unrest in their homeland, many refugees from Myanmar (formerly Burma) desperately seek new lives in America. Here many, like Soe Htwe, find new life in Christ.
Htwe, a Buddhist monk, journeyed from Myanmar through a refugee camp in Thailand to San Diego. He soon met Pastor Silas Lian, who planted Agape Myanmar Mission to reach the city’s estimated 2,000 Myanmar people.
Passionate and committed, Lian and other Christian leaders visit “Burmese family’s houses to pray for them and to share the Gospel day and night,” he said.
Meeting and soon developing a relationship with Htwe, the pastor invited the monk to a house fellowship on Saturday evenings. Htwe heard the Gospel, but “he could not make the decision to accept Christ as his Lord and Savior easily,” Lian said. He then invited him to weeknight Bible studies.
“We went through creation and the story of Christ,” Lian said. “In the end he made a great decision and got baptized. He is still in the process of discipleship to become a mature disciple of Jesus Christ.”
Htwe is just one of many refugees from Myanmar who have made professions of faith. Lian said he has personally led more than 70 people to Christ; more than 40 have made professions of faith so far this year.
Lian has a heart for Myanmar refugees because he was once one himself. He left Myanmar more than 15 years ago because of political and religious persecution.
“He is a refugee, and he can relate to the mindset of other refugees,” noted Ross Shepherd, California Southern Baptist Convention church planting initiatives team leader.
He also has a heart for those who do not know Christ personally because he recalls his life before becoming a Christian. Although born into a Christian family, “I did not experience salvation in my life,” Lian said. It wasn’t until he was “reading and studying the Word of God” while in seminary in India in 1999 that he made a profession of faith in Christ. After seminary, Lian planted churches among Myanmar refugees in Thailand and Malaysia.
Arriving in San Diego in February 2014, Lian started intentionally meeting refugees from Myanmar, helping them with practical needs such as translation and transportation. He began leading Bible studies for the refugees, who are predominantly Buddhist, and on Christmas Day 2016, Agape Myanmar Mission held its first public worship service with 125 in attendance.
“It is a difficult ministry, and I am so encouraged by the success the Lord has blessed Pastor Silas with in reaching refugees from Myanmar for Christ,” Shepherd said.
“He has a passion for Christ and a passion for His people.”
Each Sunday, those in the worship services of the young church recite its vision statement in unison: “By the year of 2030, all the Myanmar (Burmese) people must hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Then they put that vision statement into action, holding numerous community engagement events, many centered around holidays and other important calendar dates, such as back-to-school. Through these events, “We have come to know a lot of new Myanmar refugee families, getting to know our community better,” Lian said. “A lot of Myanmar people hear the Gospel for the first time, and some of them have made a decision to follow Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.”
CSBC has walked alongside the church planter every step of the way as he reaches into his community.
“We are called to assist the church planter in every way we can,” Shepherd noted.
Funds from the California Mission Offering (CMO) help make the many outreach events of Agape Myanmar Mission possible.
“We really thank God for the California Southern Baptist Convention,” Lian said.
To further fulfill the church’s vision statement, Lian challenges “all my people every Sunday to share their testimony and their blessings to their families and relatives not only in America but back in Myanmar.”
This year, Lian has led the church to “Step Up!” the 2019 CMO theme, “to train and support 120 church planters and pastors in Myanmar,” with plans to conduct a training conference in Yangon, Myanmar in November. Participants will receive meals, accommodations, a Burmese Bible, books and training materials, a backpack, a notebook and pen, and a return bus ticket to their mission fields, Lian said.
It’s a big undertaking, one that would not be possible without financial support through CMO. Agape Myanmar Mission “has raised enough money to cover 60 of the pastors’ costs. CSBC is going to provide the funding for 30 more pastors to attend the training on full scholarship,” Shepherd said.
Training church planters and pastors in Myanmar is one facet of fulfilling Agape Myanmar Mission’s vision statement of sharing the Gospel with all Myanmar people, wherever they are.
“To fulfill that vision, we need to partner with all believers, churches and pastors who believe the Great Commandment and the Great Commission,” Lian said.
Watch the video about Silas Lian’s work with Burmese refugees:
This article appeared in the California Southern Baptist (csbc.com/news), newsjournal of the California Southern Baptist Convention. Margaret Colson is a writer in Atlanta.
Delaware churches host
mobile medical clinics
By Sharon Mager
WILMINGTON, Del. (BaptistLIFE) — Dr. Kim Nalda, a member of Sycamore Hill Church’s (SHC) Hockessin campus in Hockessin, Del., regularly sees patients at her office. She does routine examinations, prescribes medicines, and treats a variety of illnesses.
On Sept. 14, Nalda not only examined patients, but she also hugged them, encouraged them, and prayed with them. Nalda was one of eight medical professionals who participated in a mobile medical clinic at SHC’s Wilmington campus in Wilmington, Delaware.
The clinic utilized the mobile medical unit provided by SEND Relief, the compassion ministry arm of the North American Mission Board. This clinic was one of five events hosted by Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCM/D) churches and sponsored by the BCM/D. The medical awareness events were a first for the convention and were also SEND Relief’s first venture to the northeast with the medical unit.
Nalda said she was especially thrilled to pray with patients and talk openly with them about the Gospel. “I was surprised by how vulnerable people were willing to be in a 15-minute visit with people they didn’t know. They were so willing to ask for help,” she said.
While chatting with Darlene Roberts, a Wilmington resident, and her young niece, Megan, Nalda invited the two to the church.
“Can we go? Please?” asked Megan. Roberts nodded and smiled.
After checking out, Megan smiled as she grabbed a goodie bag before the two left.
The SEND Relief mobile unit parked in a lot across from a Salvation Army site, a few blocks from the SHC Wilmington campus. In preparation for the clinic, church members canvassed the area, talking to folks and sharing about the free clinic.
Duane Davis, the pastor of SHC’s Wilmington campus, said, “I wasn’t sure what to expect, but things went well.” Church members set up three tables — one for intake, another for checkout, and one with crayons and coloring paper for kids. Volunteers chatted with patients, shared about the church, and gave out free Bibles.
“We were wowed by the condition of the truck,” Davis said. The interior of the trailer was much larger than it appeared from outside, he said, with two treatment areas, a waiting room, and a restroom, in addition to the driver’s area.
Jason Matthews, an emergency room physician and member of the Hockessin campus, and Tim McLaughlin, a nurse, were in the trailer waiting for the next patient. Matthews related that he too hadn’t been sure what to expect but was impressed. “I hope we’re making a bit of an impact,” he said.
Tammy Vu, a pharmacist and member of the Hockessin campus, helped transfer one patient’s prescriptions to a pharmacy that was within walking distance of her home.
Dietician Cori McLaughlin provided nutritional counseling. She also volunteered to walk through the neighborhood prior to the event and invite neighbors to the clinic. That was valuable, according to Cori. “We met a lot of people and talked with them,” she said.
Neighborhood relationship development was the primary purpose of the clinics. Christian Liberty Church (CLC), in Baltimore capitalized on that opportunity, as they do with all of their community events.
CLC Pastor Wayne Lee said that for a first-time venture, the church had a surprisingly good turnout. “We had our church service outside, food, a few festivities for the kids, and the medical clinic. We’re excited to do it again,” he said.
A doctor from Southern Maryland volunteered to help at the clinic, in addition to a doctor who volunteers with Imagine Me Ministries, a ministry that Lee’s wife Pascha founded and directs.
The Baltimore City Health Department and Catholic Charities both sent representatives who shared information about mental health resources.
Lee said a doctor advised one patient to go to the hospital immediately. She did, and the church is following up.
David Moore, the pastor of London Village Baptist Chapel in Magnolia, Delaware, said patients were thankful for the clinic. “They appreciated that someone cared enough to offer a little bit of screening,” he said.
A nurse treated 13 people, most from the London Village neighborhood. One patient was a baby and the church was thankful to have a pediatric nurse.
The mother with the baby mentioned to several people that she wanted to come back to the church. At least five people in all said they would return to visit the church, according to Moore.
The church gave all of the visitors medical kits — drawstring bags, printed with the church’s logo, filled with bandages, Kleenex, and a few medicinal items.
Moore said the church would follow up with all who attended. He also noted that the clinic opened the church’s eyes to the need for a substance abuse program.
Katye Moore, David’s daughter and a nurse, also volunteered at the clinic.
At First Baptist Church of Capitol Heights in Capitol Heights, Maryland, members prepared lunch for all who attended and provided children’s activities — Bible lessons and playtime.
Pastor Harold Dugger said the kids especially benefited. “They had so much fun playing that one little girl started crying and didn’t want to leave.”
Even some of the parents had fun playing games, like hopscotch, while waiting to be seen.
In addition to the medical service, the church used the opportunity to reach their community. “We had an opportunity to share the Gospel, which is the nucleus of what the event was about,” Dugger said.
Members of the local police department attended the event and enjoyed lunch, and several officers asked for Bibles.
Dugger said the church gave the officers Bibles and began gospel conversations. “That gave us a chance to share the Gospel while having lunch together,” Dugger said.
Chris Gudmundsson, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Dundalk in Baltimore, Maryland, said the clinic was a good experience. “We found that the spiritual conversations were noticeably more helpful than the health conversations,” he said. Church members prayed with those who attended.
Church members gave out Bibles and church information.
Gudmundsson said it was a pleasure to get to know Michael and Joy Brown, the unit driver and coordinator.
The retired couple, members of First Baptist Church of Elfers, in Florida, enjoyed relaxing and getting to know the volunteers in Maryland/Delaware. Michael drove a tractor-trailer for 30 years before retiring and then volunteered with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, supplying DR sites with supplies.
“We call ourselves a blood vessel in the body of Christ. We get to see what’s happening and the way people reach out. We’re all a little bit different, but we all reflect God in a way that’s unique in our churches and as individuals,” Michael said.
Joy, with a huge smile on her face and the couple’s dog, Ladybug, on her lap, said she and Michael are happy. “We’ve only been married 13 years. Our dream for retirement was to go around the country in a camper or RV,” she said. God answered their prayer, allowing them to travel the country and serve Him.
This article appeared in BaptistLIFE (baptistlifeonline.org), newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. Sharon Mager serves with the convention as a communications specialist and correspondent for its BaptistLIFE newsjournal.
Louisiana summer camps
By Brian Blackwell
BASTROP, La. (Baptist Message) — A total of 767 salvation decisions have been reported by Louisiana Baptist camps as the 2019 summer season closed.
All the data have not yet been received, but the Tall Timbers Baptist Conference Center saw salvation decisions jump from 168 in 2018 to 206 this year (a 22.6 percent increase), coinciding with a 22.1 percent increase in attendance, from 2,428 to 2,965 campers.
Luke Hallman’s repentance for salvation in early July at “Clear Camp” on the campus of the Tall Timbers Baptist Conference Center was a long-awaited answer to prayer for members of the Bonita Road Baptist Church in Bastrop — who have been fervent for several years in asking the Holy Spirit to draw Hallman into a relationship with Jesus.
Those prayers proved to be the spiritual soil for a harvest in Hallman’s life that was sown during a conversation at a worship session with Julie Woodrum, ministry assistant to the Louisiana Baptist youth ministry strategist, Brandon Lewis.
“She broke down the questions I had asked very well, such as ‘How will I know I’m saved?’ and ‘How to mean the prayer I prayed?'” Hallman told the Baptist Message. “It’s great to know that when I die, I know I will go to Heaven and I don’t have to fear death anymore.”
Hallman was baptized with three other teens who asked Jesus’ forgiveness and committed to live for Christ during the same camp for junior high, and high school students who turned to Jesus at the camp were baptized the following Sunday.
See Christ clearly
“We are blessed to have such quality camps put together by our Convention,” said Casey Johnson, pastor of Bonita Road Baptist church and also camp pastor for that particular camp.
“The partnership between the LBC and ‘Clear Camp’ is absolutely perfect. Our kids were so impressed with the energy, biblical integrity and the intimacy of these camps. God visited our teenager while they were there and this pastor is so grateful for that.”
Although “Clear Camp” was designed to engage participants the whole time, the camp experience was crafted to eliminate distractions that keep youth from connecting with God, organizers said.
“Camp is a unique opportunity in today’s world,” said David Anderson, children’s ministry strategist for Louisiana Baptists. “Camp allows young people to get away from all the everyday distractions and spend focused time. That time is often spent reconnecting with friends as they partake in activities together, but more than anything they are engaged to connect or reconnect with Jesus. During camp we have the opportunity to share the hope of Jesus in a very strategic way. This always results in young people being faced with their relationship with Jesus. It is why we do camp and it is why so many of our campers go back home with a new relationship with Christ, or a renewed commitment to their relationship with Him.”
Lewis, who just completed his first summer of camps as LBC youth strategist, was overwhelmed because of God’s gracious answer to prayers that waves of students would come to a saving knowledge of Jesus.
“When God blesses us, as He did this summer, with the opportunity to see that happen at each week of camp it is very exciting,” Lewis said. “More than once this year, adult leaders from a church would tell us that they were praying for a specific student in their group to be saved. I can’t tell you how much fun it was to meet back up with those leaders after that prayer had been answered. For many decades, God has uniquely used camps all over the country as a place where He captures the attention and the heart of teenagers and changes them forever.
“Camps are strategically designed to plant gospel seeds into the lives of the students who attend,” he continued. “Long before camp begins, we are praying for the students that need to be saved and for the students that need to grow in their faith. By God’s grace, we have the opportunity to celebrate each of these happening at each camp we host. We understand, though, that camp is a unique setting. We are removed from our daily routines, the schedule is designed for several hours of Bible study and discussion, students are trained to share their faith in clear and simple ways and the service for cell phones and Wi-Fi is poor. These are all good things that created space for students to hear God’s voice more clearly.”
Throughout the summer, churches have baptized and connected the new student converts with discipleship classes to help them grow in their walk with Christ. Anderson said this is important as they begin another school year, when they will have the opportunity to win their classmates to Christ.
“When they leave camp, they go back into the world,” Anderson said. “This is when the local church and the family unit steps up. This gives our churches and our families the opportunity to follow up by leading any new believers to follow through with baptism. It also gives families the chance and the challenge to help these young people stay strong in their new commitments.”
Lewis said once camp ends, students must then face the everyday struggles of life. It is then that campers are encouraged to apply what they learned in daily spiritual battles.
“As each week closes, students are encouraged to choose what they will do with all that God has taught them once they get back home, back into daily routines, back into a schedule that can make Bible study and discussion more difficult, and with wonderful cell service,” he said. “Our hope is to hear that students all across Louisiana are sharing Christ in their homes, friend groups, schools and teams.”
By the numbers, a salvation count: 206, Tall Timbers Baptist Conference Center; 120, Acadian Baptist Center; 112, Clara Springs Baptist Encampment; 101, Camp Bethany; 85, Dry Creek Baptist Camp; 62, Harris Baptist Assembly; 35, Camp Living Waters; 26, Judson Baptist Retreat
This article appeared in the Baptist Message (baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Brian Blackwell is a staff writer for the Baptist Message.
EDITOR’S NOTE: From the States, typically 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.