News Articles

FROM THE STATES: Fla., Ga., Mo. evangelism/missions news; Fla. churches reach out to growing homeschool community

Today’s From the States features items from:
Florida Baptist Witness
The Christian Index (Georgia)
The Pathway (Missouri)


Fla. churches reach growing
homeschool community

By Keila Diaz

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Florida Baptist Witness) — The rate of home education enrollment in Florida has increased steadily since the 2009-10 school year, according to the Florida Department of Education, with homeschooling now making up 3 percent of student enrollment in the state.

As homeschooling continues to become a preferred method of education for more and more families across Florida, it also presents Southern Baptist churches with a unique opportunity for outreach in their communities.

In Duval County, which led the state with 5,916 students enrolled in home education in 2013-14, First Baptist Church of Jacksonville has been serving the homeschool community through its First at Home ministry since 1993.

Kim Ebbers, the First at Home ministry coordinator and a homeschool mom herself, has been leading the group for the past four years. She says that the most important role that a ministry like First at Home can play is to offer support to homeschool parents and students.

First At Home hosts meetings throughout the month to discuss various topics of concern to homeschool families, including testing, college requisites and dual enrollment. Any homeschool family, whether a member of FBC Jacksonville or not, can attend these meetings.

In January, Ebbers teaches homeschool 101 for families that are new to the homeschooling scene and need basic guidance to get started. The group also hosts open forums where parents can talk about the challenges they’re facing and receive feedback and advice from other parents.

All of those meetings serve as an outreach to the Duval County homeschool community and are a simple way to let people know that the church is there, said Ebbers.

For the homeschool children, FBC Jacksonville offers annual Thanksgiving feasts, spelling bees, science fairs, park days and even their own high school graduation ceremony.

There is a $20 annual membership fee that is used to cover the Thanksgiving feast, paper products, administrative fees and the cost of maintaining the group’s website.

In Hillsborough County, Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon is known as the homeschooling church, says Suzanne Nunn, director of Bell Shoals’ homeschool ministry, FISH, and chairwoman of the Florida Parent Educators Association board.

Nunn said that years ago families who homeschooled their children did so largely for religious reasons; they wanted more control to teach their children their faith and beliefs. Today, however, Christian and non-Christian families are leaving the traditional education system because they have become disillusioned with cultural issues being taught in schools, she said.

“There are also those who feel like they can provide the best education for their children and focus on their particular child’s talents, abilities and needs,” Nunn added.

Churches that have a homeschool ministry have an additional and effective outreach tool, said Nunn, because the families coming out of traditional schooling are going to need support, and the church can be ready to offer it.

FISH, which stands for Families Instructing Students at Home, averages between 170-200 families per school year. And this year Nunn estimates that of those who weren’t already members of Bell Shoals at least five have started to become involved in the church.

Nunn and Ebbers agree that churches can start by offering monthly support meetings for homeschool families within their membership or community. Simply having a venue to meet in can be a big help to those families.

But the most important first step, says Ebbers, is for churches to recognize the trend toward homeschooling.
This article appeared in the Florida Baptist Witness (gofbw.com), newsjournal of the Florida Baptist Convention. Keila Diaz is a reporter for the Florida Baptist Witness.


From Ga. to ‘the world
in one zip code’

By Gerald Harris

NEW YORK, N.Y. (The Christian Index) — The Christian Index has been following the ministry of Patrick Thompson for almost 10 years. More than nine years ago he joined the Georgia Baptist Mission Board staff as a Sunday School consultant.

Subsequently, he was asked to serve on the 20/20 Task Force to help chart a course for the future of the GBC and ultimately became a part of the team that helped develop the state convention’s strategy for reaching more of the unchurched through five core initiatives the eventually became the Five Smooth Stones.

During the time Thompson was helping to develop the new structure for reorganizing the Mission Board, God began impressing upon his heart the desire to become a church planter.

Thompson concluded, “People are moving into the cities, but churches are moving out of the cities into the suburbs. This doesn’t seem right.”

By December 2012 Thompson and his wife, Katie, their son, PJ, 14, and daughter Natalie, 12 were preparing to move to New York City to plant a church in Long Island City, located on the westernmost part of Queens on the East River and directly across from mid-town Manhattan.

The world in one zip code

Thompson knew it would be a challenge to move to America’s largest city and adapt to a new way of life. Since over 22 million people live in metropolitan New York City, that means that one out of every 14 people in America live there. Thompson was made aware that 56 different ethnic groups live in the 11101 zip code.

Thompson began to gather a core group of people to establish a ministry in Long Island City and New City Church was formed. The first baptismal service was conducted on Nov. 2, 2014 when three adults were baptized.

Five months ago New City move into a new worship facility. Thompson said, “We were excited about the possibilities this space would provide for us — a consistent location, state of the art worship space and dedicated children’s areas.”

The NYC church planter continued, “We hoped that with this new space, new people would begin to come to our services and connect with the grace and peace of Jesus Christ. We hoped that we would see new people commit to membership and leadership to provide ownership for our growing ministries. We were hoping, asking, and imagining for some great things. And then God showed up!

“Over the past few months Ephesians 3:20 (He is able to do above and beyond anything we can ever ask, think or imagine) has become a reality in our church. Since moving into the new space in October we have had new visitors at every service. Our weekly worship attendance has doubled. People are coming from all kinds of spiritual backgrounds. Some are in church for the first time and others are learning what true Christianity really is while others are asking deep questions leading them to embrace the claims of Christ.”

Thompson stated that more than 25 people attended the last church membership class. The church now has four vibrant, weekly small groups where people are connecting to each other through biblical conversations. There are a number of people awaiting baptism, and more and more people are getting involved in specific church ministries.

From planted to planting

“These last few months have been a great reminder that it is God who is building this church,” he added. “It is by His hands that people are experiencing forgiveness, redemption, hope, and peace.”

In addition to all that is happening regarding the growth of New City Church, Thompson is ready to launch another church start. He explained, “One of our long-term goals when we first started was to not just plant one church here in NYC but help start multiple churches in Queens and Manhattan. Beginning in March we will begin to host a Korean speaking service on Sunday morning in our current location.

“New City Church (Korean) will launch with about 25 people and be led by Pastor David Kim. David lives in our neighborhood and brings strong skills to our church planting efforts. He moved to New York to start a church that focused on connecting with Korean speaking families here in Long Island City. As David and I met we saw that we had a lot in common both philosophically and theologically.

“I’m so excited that we will now be working together to advance the Gospel here in Long Island City and throughout NYC.”
This article appeared in The Christian Index (christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Gerald Harris is editor of The Christian Index.


Mo. church shows Christ’s
love to Haitian orphans

By Vicki Stamps

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (The Pathway) — Red Bridge Baptist Church, Kansas City, owns and operates the Haiti Home of Hope for impoverished Haitian children. In January, they celebrated their 13th anniversary. But the orphanage does more than feed, clothe and educate the children. The ministry also reaches out and serves the entire community.

“In addition to the directors, Bill and Jennifer Campbell, who came out of our church and live on site,” Victor Borden, senior pastor, said, “we employ about 25 locals. We are the primary employer for the area and it helps the economy.”

“We serve newborns to about age 19,” he continued, “and we take care of 40-50 children on average. Some of our kids have significant medical needs.”

Borden cited the case of one young boy who was blind and had hydrocephalus. “He was just left to die and we took him in,” Borden said. “We took care of him every step of the way until his death when he was six years old. The community couldn’t understand why we gave him so much time and resources. The sanctity of life is the answer.”

All activities of the orphanage are Christ-centered. “We function like a huge family,” Borden said. “We have schedules, the children have responsibilities and duties, with tons of love, sufficient discipline and it is all Christ-centered.”

Red Bridge has a long history of ministering in Haiti. Before the orphanage ministry, they supported a man connected with Child Evangelism Fellowship. He made many trips to Haiti and purchased some land and built a few concrete buildings. When he grew older, he asked God whom He was leading to take over.

“That’s how we got involved,” Borden said. “We acquired this ready-made property and planted there. It has exploded. We’ve quadrupled the buildings by adding dorms, a dining facility and mission quarters for visiting groups.”

Borden said these mission groups have provided “life-saving help for hundreds.”

“It is an easy short-term mission trip,” he said. “It is close, the only charge is for the food they eat, and I help plan the trip. The orphanage is contained with secure borders. These missionaries go to make a difference with people, but they are the ones who go back changed.”

In addition to helping with the children, the short-term missionaries get involved with other projects sponsored by the orphanage including the Milk Clinic, the Children’s Feeding Center and support for widows.

“Widows are left out to die,” Borden said. “There is no one to stand in the gap. So, we help them.”

“We have our help down to a science,” he said. “We want our help to go to the ones who need it and not out on the black market. So, we build in safeguards for our resources.”

He went on to explain how some of those safeguards work. “For the Milk Clinic on Saturday, the mom, grandma, aunt or someone must bring the baby to get the formula. Some walk long distances and they are willing to stand in line for four to five hours for the food,” Borden said. “We evaluate the baby’s health and keep accurate records. We know exactly how much to give them to get the baby thriving and if they return and the baby’s weight hasn’t changed, then we tell them they will be cut off from the program. It hasn’t happened but we want them to know that the food is for the baby and not for them to sell at the gate.”

When the baby graduates to food, the Children’s Feeding Center offered by the orphanage takes over. “We distribute rice and beans to families,” Borden said. “We make unannounced visits to homes as a safeguard to see how they are faring. People on mission trips visiting with us get first-hand experience seeing these one-room mud huts with thatched roofs, sometimes housing eight people. It opens their eyes.”

“Haiti is a land in utter chaos,” Borden said. “You wonder how the country can even exist. But, in the 13 years of serving, the community has watched us come and serve in the name of the Lord and they trust us. Many have become our advocates to the community, they have our back.”
This story appeared in The Pathway (mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Vicki Stamps is a contributing writer for The Pathway.


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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