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FROM THE STATES: Ga., Calif. And Texas evangelism/missions news; ‘What we really hope and pray to do is impact their lives for Christ’

Today’s From the States features items from:
The Christian Index (Georgia)
California Southern Baptist
Southern Baptist TEXAN


Ga. literacy missions bringing
Gospel to refugees, immigrants

By Joe Westbury

CARROLLTON, Ga. (The Christian Index) — For Annette Ingram, it began when she drove by a low-income apartment complex and saw a large sign that said, “Free ESL Classes.”

That piqued her interest because she was already certified as an English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) instructor through the State of Florida when she served in the DeSoto County public schools. When she moved to Georgia, she brought those skills to Carrollton where those abilities were in high demand. Carroll County was seeing the need for a strong literacy program for internationals who were moving into its communities. She was one of the first two instructors hired.

But she had never made the connection with using those skills in ministry until she stopped into the apartment complex. She was looking for brochures for the parents of her students who needed to brush up on their English language skills.

That’s when she learned about Impact West Georgia, a multifaceted non-profit, faith-based ministry.

Today she is an integral part of the Georgia Baptist statewide Literacy Missions network, working in the five public high schools by day and doing ministry by night. It’s the perfect arrangement, she says, because she has the perfect answer to parents of her children who ask if they also qualify for instruction through the school system.

Carrollton’s impact west Georgia provides free ESL classes

“I tell them unfortunately there is no program for adults … but I know just the place they can attend for free,” and she gives them the address for the Adult Basic Education program at Impact West Georgia.

The non-profit, which has a large presence of Baptists from Carrollton Baptist Association, meets a variety of needs ranging from ESL to veterans to homeless to otherwise needy individuals and families.

Ingram — who serves as volunteer Region 4 Coordinator for the Mission Board’s Literacy Missions ministry — appreciates the outlet the Georgia Baptist Mission Board provides through its Literacy Missions program and for the annual workshop. This year’s conference will be held Sept. 8-10 at the Georgia Baptist Conference Center in Toccoa.

North American Mission Board missionary Kim Carr and her staff from the International Learning Center in Jacksonville, Fla., will return as keynote speaker. Carr has pioneered ESL ministry in Florida.

Over 1,300 professions through center curriculum

More than 1,300 professions of faith have been registered through the Center’s 17 years of existence, along with more than 80 church plants. The approach seeks to fast-track the learning experience, equipping students to become proficient in English in five years.

Carr’s updated and streamlined approach was featured in this year’s Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for Home Missions and on Baptist Press.

“The ILC teaches English as a Second Language, scripture-based reading, and citizenship. What we really hope and pray to do is impact their lives for Christ,” Carr said. Through NAMB, the approach is being rolled out to 34 cities nationally.

State Missionary Paulette DeHart, who oversees Georgia Baptists’ Literacy Missions program, says Carr has much to share about shortcuts to literacy without sacrificing quality for the students.

“We want to learn from what Kim is doing with refugees in Jacksonville and how we can incorporate her methodology in Georgia, as appropriate,” she added.

The ILC sessions are not meant to replace what ESL leaders are doing in Georgia but to undergird their ministry. If there are techniques that will strengthen a ministry, Georgia ESL volunteers are encouraged to use them as they see fit.

“We need to be more spiritually productive; the ILC curriculum will help us with that goal,” she added.

The Toccoa weekend features training for three major workshops:

— Adult Reading and Writing (ARW) which teaches illiterates and semi-literate, as well as those further along to brush up on their skills for GED exams that lead to a high school diploma.

— Tutoring Children and Youth (TCY) helps children who are brought to a church setting for as little as an hour each week for help with class assignments. The program encourages them to stay in school and excel.

— English as a Second Language (ESL, also known as ESOL for English to Speakers of Other Languages), is tailored for immigrants or refugees who want to assimilate into American culture through better language skills. Some are highly educated professionals, DeHart said. Others … such as women from Somalia who were denied education in their homeland … are excited to write their names for the first time. Classes are tailored for beginners, intermediate, and advanced learners.

Breakout modules will include citizenship classes for individuals in the U.S. legally, but who need help preparing for the exam and interview.

Arise2Read, begun by a Tennessee Baptist pastor and his wife, will also be introduced to those interested in children’s tutoring. Like the ILC, the approach is being taken nationally by NAMB.

The outreach sends volunteers into public schools to identify children who are struggling and offering one-on-one tutoring.

“Just a half-hour a week of personal instruction has shown to have tremendous impact on the child and her self-esteem,” DeHart noted.

The tutoring focuses on second graders because that is the most pivotal point in a child’s ability to learn. The instruction builds confidence and a solid foundation in the child’s life.

By the time the child reaches fourth grade she has to take state tests for content reading and if she fails, her ability to catch up is greatly hampered.

Failure of the exam is so important that Arizona, California, Texas and Florida look at fourth grade reading scores to determine how many prison cells they will need in the next decade. Indiana looks to second grade levels to make that determination.

“Those facts are very indicative of what will happen in society in just 10 years because of what happens in the classroom today,” DeHart said.

And that is why it is so important for Georgia Baptists to be on the front lines of working to lower the state’s incarceration levels while sharing the Good News with the next generation.
This article appeared in The Christian Index (christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Joe Westbury is managing editor of The Christian Index.


Single step of faith leads
to vibrant Calif. church plant

By Margaret Colson

WOODLAND, Calif. (California Southern Baptist) — A single father whose children were dropped on his doorstep after his ex-wife overdosed … a rodeo cowboy, dripping with sin, who walked away from a life of fame and fortune … a former Mormon who turned his back on his faith at age 18, vowing never to talk to God again … a single woman coming out of years of abuse.

These are all people who “gave their lives to Christ,” through the ministry of Catalyst, Woodland, a four-year old church plant just a few miles northwest of Sacramento.

In the summer of 2013 church planter Matt Van Peursem, his wife and three young sons packed their bags in Southern California and moved to Woodland.

“We showed up here with just our family following a call from God” to plant a church, Van Peursem said.

His journey to that point began when he was only 19 and his pastors influenced him to “preach, lead and discover” his gifting to plant a church. He served as a worship and arts pastor in Southern California for 10 years before moving to Woodland.

In spite of the unknowns a new city and new life would bring the family, God’s call could not be ignored.

Church plants such as Catalyst are supported by the California Mission Offering. That support undergirded Van Peursem as he took his step of faith.

“Personally, it was a step of obedience to what we felt God has called us to do,” he said.

Van Peursem explained that the move “knit our family together in a way that only a move to start a church from scratch could do,” teaching his children to live their calling and putting him and his wife “on the same spiritual trajectory.”

His passion was to plant a church “where skeptics can bring their doubts and believers can grow in their faith — where all are challenged to find a reason to live for, not just rules to live by.” He wanted to plant a church that would be missed if it ever shut its doors, a church “that was relentlessly focused on those far from God.”

Planting Catalyst has had its share of challenges.

“The primary obstacle was that we didn’t know a soul. Meeting enough people in a short period of time in order to launch a church was incredibly difficult,” Van Peursem said.

Yet the victories have far outweighed the defeats.

“The biggest victories are in seeing the dozens of people who have given their lives to Jesus and gone public through baptism,” he explained.

Recently he received an e-mail from the mayor, thanking him for the impact the church has made throughout the community — not only in the lives of those who are involved at Catalyst but also in the lives of the students, foster children and senior adults the young church has served.

Just as Van Peursem and his family took their step of faith in moving to Woodland, he encourages others to follow God’s calling in their lives.

This year’s CMO theme, “It Begins with You,” has special meaning for the young church planter. The theme, he said, reminds him of Jonah who resisted God’s call on his life. God continued to pursue Jonah and he “saw amazing revival happen once he got on board with God’s mission.”

“‘It Begins with You’ means … partnership with a God who can do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine,” Van Peursem said.

Even one person following God’s call can make a difference for eternity, he believes.

“If even one person decides to find and follow Jesus because another person answered God’s call, then it is completely worth it,” Van Peursem said, because that one new believer may influence others to follow Jesus.

He recalled a recent Sunday when a single mom visited the church because one of her friends had been baptized six months earlier.

“Intrigued by the Gospel,” the young mom “joined a serve team and a community group and a few months later met Jesus,” Van Peursem said. This young Christian mom had several friends who came to see her baptized; now the friends “are on the same journey,” he said.

“For a Christ-follower, if God places a call on your life to do a specific task within the local church, it seems ridiculous to ignore such a call. Becoming part of God’s family comes with His purpose, plan, provision and power. I don’t know why any Christ-follower would pass up that kind of opportunity.”
This article appeared in the California Southern Baptist (csbc.com/news), newsjournal of the California Southern Baptist Convention. Margaret Colson is a freelance writer in Atlanta.


Texas churches reach men with
the gospel through Man Church

By Jerry Pierce

LONGVIEW, Texas (Southern Baptist TEXAN) — Just a couple of years ago, Brian Sizemore wouldn’t have dreamed of leading a Sunday school class, much less a roomful of young married couples trying to build their homes around their faith in Jesus Christ.

Neither would Wes Moyers have thought he’d be leading a Sunday night home fellowship group, helping fellow church members chew on the message their pastor preached that morning through discussion and Bible study.

Both men credit Holy Spirit-inspired moments of clarity from God’s Word delivered at something called ManChurchETX (ETX stands for East Texas) for spurring them to take unprecedented steps to follow Jesus.

They are far from alone in profiting spiritually from the bimonthly worship gatherings held at rotating church venues in the Longview area.

Since ManChurchETX was launched more than two years ago at Joy Baptist Church in Gladewater, more than 100 men in a handful of nearby towns have received Christ as Savior; many more have committed themselves to biblical discipleship and greater ministry involvement in their local churches.

Sizemore and Moyers were both saved prior to participating in ManChurchETX, but neither man was emulating Jesus all that closely at work and, more importantly, in their homes.

Sizemore, a member of Emmanuel Baptist Church in White Oak for eight years, says he is much more involved in his church than before, and he has a new understanding what it means to be a real man.

“I was raised in a tough, stern kind of way,” Sizemore told the TEXAN. “Those are good qualities to an extent, but I realized that being a godly man for me meant I needed to be more loving and caring to those around me, to my wife and kids especially. I needed to lead in being a biblical man. It’s been an eye-opening experience.”

A few months after coming to some of these realizations, Sizemore said he felt a strong leading to begin teaching a young marrieds Bible study at his church. He also realized following Jesus and leading by example meant he had to provide servant leadership in his home and be the catalyst for prayer and spiritual conversation in his family.

Wes Moyers of Joy Baptist Church in Gladewater said he was moved by a message from Shane Pruitt, SBTC missions director, who during a ManChurchETX gathering in 2016 encouraged the men to continue building on what God had started, reminding them that a movement of God cannot be stopped.

“It really resonated with our men’s group,” Moyers recalled. Soon, Moyers was seeking God’s direction on how he could grow in his faith and serve fellow church members. He ended up volunteering to lead a home group fellowship. He said his wife, Katherine, is reaping the benefits of deeper relationships at church by hosting the group in their home.

“She’s growing right along with me,” Moyers said.

Additionally, Moyers saw one of his younger brothers receive Christ at the first ManChurchETX meeting more than two years ago.

Teddy Sorrells, the pastor who had the vision for ManChurchETX and whose church, Joy Baptist, hosted the first meeting, says he was motivated largely by his friendship with the man who led him to Christ years earlier, the late Chris Rodgers.

Rodgers, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer in the months before ManChurchETX was birthed, was a consistent witness for Christ who wanted his legacy to be leading men to the Savior.

With only a few months to live, Rodgers spoke at the first ManChurch meeting, sharing with the men his journey through addictions and false concepts of manhood before his conversion and call to become a pastor.

“Teddy,” Rodgers told Sorrells, “I just want to show men what it means to finish strong.”

Sorrells, likewise, says ManChurchETX in many ways reflects what Rodgers wanted to do.

During a typical ManChurch, the men eat “man food,” followed by a worship band leading in music that appeals to men, and then a straightforward Bible-focused message that challenges the Christian men there and extends the offer of the Gospel to the unconverted.

The first meeting more than two years ago drew 80 men. These days, between 200 and 250 men will show up.

“At every event,” Sorrells said, “men are being saved, men are repenting of sin, and chains are being broken.”

Chad Richardson, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist in White Oak, said he has seen the fruit of ManChurchETX in his own church.

“The great thing about ManChurch,” Richardson said, “is they are able to speak to a man the way men need to be spoken to on a range of issues: sexual purity, a man’s marriage, fatherhood, just general living for Jesus kinds of messages.

“The overall central theme is that Jesus is the answer to whatever problem you face, and guys are responding to that awesome call of Christ in their lives.”

ManChurch is not unique to the Longview area. Different variations of the concept are held in churches elsewhere, a few using the ManChurch moniker.

But Sorrells is hoping more churches around Texas will capture the vision of bringing the message of the cross to guys in a man-friendly environment.

Two decades ago, the Promise Keepers movement was successful in engaging men in large stadium events, but no large-scale revival or awakening occurred. Sorrells is praying that God might spark true revival and awakening in a movement of godly men, but this time driven by local churches rather than large parachurch groups.

“Promise Keepers tried, but it was top down,” Sorrells said. “This is a bottom-up effort involving local churches. These men are discipling the men they are bringing to Christ.”

For more information, visit manchurchetx.com.
This article appeared in the Southern Baptist TEXAN (texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Jerry Pierce contributes to the TEXAN.


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, formatting and grammatical changes, the items appear in Baptist Press as originally published.

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