News Articles

FROM THE STATES: Calif., Ill., Ala. evangelism/missions news; ‘I come away … humbled by how little we’ve had to suffer’

Today’s From the States features items from:
California Southern Baptist
Illinois Baptist
The Alabama Baptist


Building new lives in Calif.
opens doors to new life in Christ

By Margaret Colson

ANAHEIM, Calif. (California Southern Baptist) — They immigrate to California from the Middle East to work, go to school, raise their families, escape persecution and hardship. Here, as they begin to build new lives in a new land, some find new life in Christ.

Many Middle Eastern pastors believe there are some 1.2 million Middle Easterners living in California, and that number is growing.

“Most of them are not just lost in their sin, but many of them have been deceived and misled by false teachers and prophets. I believe the fields are white unto harvest among Middle Easterners,” said Randy McWhorter, California Southern Baptist Convention evangelism director.

“This is the time we can reach the Muslims (with the Gospel of Jesus Christ); they are open; they are looking,” agreed Milad Hanna, pastor of Middle Eastern Church of Orange County in Anaheim.

Because of their distinct language, culture and religious background, Middle Easterners are “best suited to reach with the gospel message those who come from a Middle Eastern background,” McWhorter said.

California Baptists, through financial gifts to the California Mission Offering, conduct two annual evangelistic training events for Middle Eastern pastors and laypeople.

The events draw participants not only from within California but also from throughout the United States and as far away as Iran, Iraq and Syria. The most recent event, held at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, drew close to 900 participants.

Not all Middle Easterners immigrating to the U.S. arrive in their new homeland as devout Muslims. Some are marginal in their faith, and others have no faith at all. Because everyone needs to hear the Gospel, the event includes a variety of training topics, with one session focusing on “how to better reach Muslims for Christ,” McWhorter said.

California Baptists invest in such ministries so the Gospel can be taken to unreached people groups.

“Because God loves the world, we care about all people and see our witness to the people from the Middle East as an opportunity to demonstrate our love for them and our hope that their salvation may mean an open door for the Gospel to reach their families, friends and even government leaders in the countries they have come from.

“Middle Eastern Christians have a great burden for their people to know Christ,” McWhorter said.

In his travels throughout California visiting several Arabic-speaking congregations, he has met many Middle Easterners — particularly former devout Muslims — who became Christians in their homelands and subsequently endured estrangement from their families and physical persecution — some still bearing the scars from their persecutors’ instruments of abuse.

Even so, as they build their lives in California, their “worship is passionate, and their commitment is genuine. They are ‘all-in,'” McWhorter said.

“I come away (from being in Arabic-speaking congregations) humbled by how little we’ve had to suffer,” he added.

As Hanna leads his congregation in Southern California, he challenges members to be bold in their witness.

“To really recognize the lordship of Christ in our life, we are supposed to obey Him. The Lord says, ‘Go; go preach the gospel.'”

With the growing number of Middle Easterners in California, McWhorter urges Convention churches to partner with other like-minded evangelicals to reach them for Christ.

Though the task can be daunting, Hanna is undaunted.

“I feel the Holy Spirit is working … The peace of this world … is connected by evangelism.

“If you want peace in Middle Easterners, if you want peace in California, give them Jesus.”

To watch a video about CSBC language missions, go to http://www.calmissions.com/article434571.htm.
This article appeared in the California Southern Baptist (http://www.csbc.com/news), newsjournal of the California Southern Baptist Convention. Margaret Colson is a writer in Marietta, Ga., and executive director of Baptist Communicators Association.


Ill. church planters
take urban challenge

By Illinois Baptist Staff

CHICAGO (The Illinois Baptist) — Seventy-seven neighborhoods. That’s one way to measure the city of Chicago. Seventy-seven neighborhoods, each with its own set of distinct characteristics, selling points, and challenges.

“Every block is a different world,” said church planter Kenyatta Smith. “Every community is a different community, different races, different beliefs.”

Smith should know. He started Another Chance Baptist Church in Inglewood, one of the city’s most violent neighborhoods. Now, he and his church are looking toward another community, Evergreen Park, to start another new church.

“It’s two miles away from our main location, but it’s a world away,” Smith said.

He is one of dozens of church planters in Illinois who have undertaken an enormous challenge — starting a church from scratch, often in neighborhoods that have had few positive experiences with churches.

With the support of Illinois Baptists through the Mission Illinois Offering and short-term mission trips, as many as two dozen churches are started in Illinois every year, some in rural communities, some in college towns, and others in the urban centers. In Illinois, with 13 million residents, at least 8 million people don’t know Jesus Christ … and church planters face great need.

Smith is personally familiar with that need. He launched Another Chance in 2012 to reach people who are in the same position as he once was.

“I was a gang banger, I used to sell drugs, and I believe God gave me another chance,” he said. “And because he gave me another chance, my mission, my job, is to help other people experience what God gave to me.”

Fulfilling that mission often means reaching across cultural boundaries, especially in a city like Chicago.

“The cities of Illinois are our greatest challenge,” said Van Kicklighter, IBSA’s associate executive director for church planting. It’s an incredible challenge, he said, to engage millions upon millions of people, and their neighborhoods, people groups, languages and cultures.

“How do we tell the story of the Gospel to people in languages and environments we don’t know anything about?

“But we know that the Father wants us to go there and to make a difference.”

Kenyatta Smith and other planters are leading the charge, answering a call not only to go to diverse places, but to see the diversity as a blessing.

“There is a whole new generation of young church planters that love the city,” Kicklighter said. Many of them grew up with the diversity they find there, and see it as a fulfillment of the Bible’s command to make disciples of all nations.

“The church ought to be for everyone, regardless of color, or race, or ethnic or racial background,” Kicklighter said. “So those guys that God’s inviting back to the city are helping us have new life and new opportunities to reach people that we’ve struggled with in the past reaching effectively.”

In Inglewood and now in Evergreen Park, for Smith, the call is to take light to a place in desperate need of another chance.

“We believe this community has just lost their hope, and we really want to bring that hope, that aspect of what God is, Jesus, back to our community.”
This article appeared in the Illinois Baptist (ibonline.ibsa.org), newsjournal of the Illinois Baptist State Association.


Outreach sees 9 new
Mixtec believers in Ala.

By Neisha Roberts

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (The Alabama Baptist) — For nearly a decade, volunteers in Montgomery have been sowing the Gospel in Mixtec homes, planting seeds and praying they would grow into new brothers and sisters in Christ.

And this summer, they reaped the harvest.

The Montgomery Mixtec Task Force, made up of volunteers from various Baptist churches in the area and a ministry arm of Montgomery Baptist Association, hosted Mixtec Outreach Weekend on Aug. 26–28, with four evangelistic events specifically aimed at reaching the approximately 2,700 Mixtec residents in the area.

“We’ve spent 10 years building relationships and building trust,” Lisa C. Rose said. “We’ve often offered the Gospel along the way but they hadn’t trusted us yet.”

That is until now.

Nine Mixtec people placed their faith in Christ over the weekend, and six people requested Bible studies in their homes, said Rose, director of Montgomery Association’s church and community ministries.

First of its kind

The weekend, thought to be the first of its kind in the nation, was significant because the gospel was shared in Mixtec, an only oral and tonal language. That’s never happened before.

Forest Park Ministry Center hosted the Aug. 26 evening event with food, worship and a gospel message. On Aug. 27 a block party was held at Serenity Apartments in the morning through Community of Hope and another event was held at the Nehemiah Center of First Baptist Church, Montgomery, in the evening. Every Tribe Ministries hosted the evening event Aug. 28 at Hopper Gardens Apartments.

The Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions’ office of evangelism participated in the outreach weekend by providing financial assistance to help with setup, food and other resources — like CD copies of the first-ever translation of the first six books of the New Testament in Mixtec — made possible by Wycliffe Bible Translators. One hundred copies of Scripture in Mixtec were handed out over the weekend. One hundred copies of the “JESUS” film in Mixtec also were distributed.

Through a partnership with believers in Virginia, three Mixtec Christian men, along with Lloyd Rodgers, who works in global continuing education for the International Mission Board, traveled to Montgomery to share the Gospel in the Mixteco heart language.

The Mixtec, originally from the mountains of Mexico and saturated in spirit and ancestor worship, often only speak Mixtec, although some in Montgomery have picked up bits and pieces of Spanish and many of the children and young adults speak English, according to Rose.

Passion for sharing gospel

Odilon Mendoza, one of the Mixtec believers from Richmond, Va., told The Alabama Baptist how he found Christ six years ago after his wife and children were invited to a Hispanic church in their city, and he eventually tagged along.

After accepting Christ and serving in the church for two years, Mendoza realized his passion for sharing the Gospel. He attended the 2015 Maximum Impact National Mixtec Summit in Montgomery, where he met with other believers trying to reach the Mixtec people in the United States.

Mendoza said when he discovered his “people are very needy” and they don’t know who Jesus really is, he wanted to share the Gospel with them even more.

Now Mendoza works with other volunteers at his church and about 20–30 Mixteco people are attending a weekly Bible study.

Highlights of Scripture

During the outreach weekend in Montgomery, Mendoza shared his testimony along with passages from John 3, Romans 6 and Mark 4 — highlights of the Gospel but also bridges to sharing the Truth in a way the Mixteco can relate to, Mendoza said.

Antonio Lopez, of Lynchburg, Va., also came to share his faith at the outreach weekend.

His testimony is drastically different from Mendoza’s. He’d had three traffic tickets and when he was issued the fourth, he was taken to jail. But while there he heard the Gospel for the first time when a Spanish-speaking evangelist came to share the good news. When Lopez was released from jail he immediately sought out a church to continue to grow in his faith, he said.

Although Lopez only speaks Spanish and Mixtec, the nearly 40 English-speaking volunteers could relate to his passion for his Savior. Lopez would open each of the four weekend events with prayer and he and Mendoza would alternate sharing a Bible story or sharing their own testimony.

Donna McCullough, director of Forest Park Ministry Center and a member of Heritage Baptist Church, Montgomery, said of the weekend, “God is giving us a front row seat to see Him work.

“That’s awesome to me. For so much of my spiritual life I would look back and see how God had worked. But I love being in the moment and seeing Him working live. It’s beautiful.”

Now volunteers from area Baptist churches have the task of leading Bible studies in homes and discipling the new believers, Rose said. But they are not going in unprepared. Several volunteers have already been trained as Bible study leaders and in Bible storying — a method of orally sharing parts of Scripture by telling stories in chronological order and often using visual aids.

Prior to the outreach weekend, few Mixtec had accepted the Gospel and found Christ, despite years of area believers working hard to cultivate relationships and trust. But Mendoza refreshed volunteers with his passion for the Mixtec and encouraged them to keep planting seeds.

‘Don’t be discouraged’

“Don’t be discouraged,” he said. “We saw a lot of people (this weekend). It’s a spiritual battle with these people that don’t know Christ. But we’ll continue to battle and fight and you will see a Mixtec church in this place. Amen.”
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 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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