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FROM THE STATES: Ky., Ala., Fla. evangelism/missions news

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.

Today’s From the States features items from:
Western Recorder (Kentucky)
The Alabama Baptist
Florida Baptist Witness

KBC signs missions partnership
with St. Louis Baptists
By Drew Nichter

FLORENCE, Ky. (Western Recorder)–Larry Baker came to know about the city of St. Louis as a child in west Kentucky picking up radio broadcasts of St. Louis Cardinals’ baseball games.

Now, he’ll be “deeply involved in trying to reach the lost of St. Louis with the gospel of Jesus Christ,” he told Kentucky Baptists last week.

The missions growth team leader for the Kentucky Baptist Convention helped introduce a new missions partnership with Baptists in St. Louis at the KBC annual meeting Nov. 15.

During his report to messengers, KBC Executive Director Paul Chitwood ceremoniously signed the agreement along with Jim Breeden, director of missions for St. Louis Metro Baptist Association, and KBC President Floyd Paris.

The formal signing followed the approval of the partnership by the KBC Mission Board a day earlier. The missions relationship will last three to five years.

“The city of St. Louis is nearby, and the city of St. Louis is incredibly lost,” Chitwood noted.

According to 2010 U.S. Census data, the Greater St. Louis area has a population of more than 2.8 million people; 2.2 million of them do not profess a faith in Jesus Christ or have any religious affiliation whatsoever, Chitwood said.

St. Louis “needs a faithful witness of the gospel,” he stressed. “There are churches and an association there struggling to give that witness that need help. Kentucky Baptists are answering that call to help them.”

The partnership stems from the North American Mission Board’s newly adopted strategy, Send North America. St. Louis is one of 27 cities in five regions tabbed for “coordinated efforts” in evangelism and church planting, according to NAMB.

“The opportunities are numerous for church planting and multi-ethnic work,” Scott Pittman, director of the KBC’s partnership missions department, told the Mission Board.

Pittman added that St. Louis provides “tremendous possibilities” for missions in urban, surburban and rural settings and is only a few hours’ drive for most Kentuckians, especially those in the western half of the state.

Chitwood said the KBC soon will make missions opportunities available for Kentucky Baptist churches. Those will include the ministry areas of evanglism, discipleship, construction, leadership development and especially church planting.

NAMB’s Send North America strategy is concerned primarily with getting established congregations involved in planting churches in its 27 “Send” cities. According to NAMB’s website, one of the goals of the initiative is to increase Southern Baptist participation in church planting from 4 percent of SBC churches to 10 percent.

“If your church is looking for a place to carry out the Lord’s charge to be a witness in your Samaria, we’re going to make it easier for you to do that in St. Louis,” Chitwood said. (WR)
This article originally appeared in the Western Recorder (westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Drew Nichter is news director of the Western Recorder.
Teams focus on construction, medical
needs, evangelism, discipleship
By Gary Hardin

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (The Alabama Baptist)–When the January 2010 earthquake inflicted severe damage in Haiti, Alabama Baptists responded immediately through disaster relief ministry. After the disaster relief work wound down in the summer of 2010, the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM) formed a ministry partnership with Jacmel, a large region in southern Haiti.

To date, 43 teams from Alabama Baptist churches have provided short-term missions ministry in Jacmel. Teams focus on church construction, medical needs and evangelism-discipleship ministries.

In March, a 10-member team from Hopewell Baptist Church, Andalusia, constructed a church in less than a week.

Phyllis Walters knew the team had work to do when, on the first day, it worshiped with the Haitian Baptist congregation while sitting on 2-by-4 boards nailed to posts under two tarps.

“We started our construction of a building for this church on Monday, and by Thursday, we had the work completed,” Walters said. “We even had enough lumber left to build 14 benches for the people to sit on and also a pulpit for the church’s pastor. He was so excited to be able to preach from a pulpit.”

Her husband, Glen, was amazed at how quickly the construction project came together.

“Whenever we needed something, it was there. God showed up and showed out,” he said.

A 15-member medical team from Guin and Winfield found it accomplished much in a short time frame as well. It treated 1,100 people in less than five days in June.

“It was amazing how the Lord gave us strength,” said Teresa Markham, a nurse and member of First Baptist Church, Guin. “We treated people at three different locations and turned no one away.”

First, Guin, sent four other members to do church construction and orphan ministry. “The effect on our church was wonderful,” Markham said. Paul Radosevich, associate pastor for mission and family life at First Baptist Church, Decatur, has seen the effect a missions trip to Jacmel can have.

Just a few weeks ago, a team of nine men from First, Decatur, built a church, handed out audio Bibles and showed the “JESUS” film.

“By the end of the week, our team members were drained both physically and spiritually, but we know God used us,” Radosevich said.

For Hopewell Baptist, one trip wasn’t enough. Pastor Barry Wilkinson organized a six-member evangelism-discipleship team that ministered in Haiti in July. Women on the team taught Bible studies for Haitian women in the mornings; men taught Bible studies for men in the afternoons. Team members also did children’s ministries after lunch each day.

“Some of our people had never taught adults before,” Wilkinson said. “It was a real faith-stretching time for them.”

Opportunities abound for Alabama Baptist churches to minister in Haiti in the latter half of 2012.

Scotty Goldman, an associate in the SBOM office of global missions who coordinates teams, said there is a critical need for dental teams. He also mentioned a need for pastors to help with a pastors conference.

“We wish to take several pastors from Alabama to teach Old Testament, New Testament and personal evangelism to Haitian pastors,” Goldman said.

For more information, visit www.alsbom.org/haiti.
This article originally appeared in The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Gary Hardin is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist
Crossover South Florida
reaches many cultures for Christ
By Barbara Denman, Margaret Dempsey-Colson & Joni B. Hannigan

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. (Florida Baptist Convention/Florida Baptist Witness)–Surrounded by children sitting in the dirt, Chad Little, from rural Airline Baptist Church in Mayo, used the EvangeCube to share the Gospel and a word of hope with young ones born into violence and despair in an impoverished south Miami community.

A bright south Florida Saturday morning coaxed a neighborhood resident into jogging with her three dogs. Pausing at the Primera Iglesia Bautista de Plantation, the young Hispanic woman chatted with several Florida Baptist women who invited her to the festival. Maria’s life was changed for eternity as she heard the Gospel and professed faith in Jesus.

Using a brightly colored soccer ball, with each color representing a different aspect of the salvation message, a coach shared the Gospel with a group of children and their parents who had gathered for a Saturday morning soccer clinic. By the clinic’s conclusion, more than 30 individuals had heard the Gospel.

From just off Florida’s turnpike in north Broward County to the south at Homestead in Miami-Dade County nestled between Biscayne Bay and the Everglades such scenes were repeated endlessly during Crossover South Florida, an evangelistic effort preceding the 2011 Florida Baptist State Convention annual meeting Nov. 14-15 in Coral Springs.

This year’s evangelistic outreach included two baseball clinics, a soccer clinic, international festivals, health clinics, a youth rally, block parties and even free haircuts. There were 14 venues across three counties and in multiple languages where an estimated 95 percent of the population is unsaved.

Nearly 3,200 came to events where the Gospel was presented more than 100 times, resulting in 260 professions of faith and almost 300 prospects, according to Jeff Hessinger, lead strategist for the personal evangelism team for the Florida Baptist Convention.

Churches participating in Crossover were allocated financial assistance to purchase food, supplies and Gospel tracts in various languages for their community events, according to Hessinger who said Crossover is a joint effort between the local association, state convention and churches. Volunteers from throughout the state were trained in personal evangelism before converging on South Florida.

For many of the churches involved in Crossover South Florida, the events marked the first time they had conducted intentional evangelistic outreach, according to Hessinger. Such experiences provide a training ground and model for continued evangelistic penetration into the communities served by each church, he said.

ChristWay Baptist Church, Miramar

At Christway Church Miramar, a community with a high concentration of Caribbean and East Indies families, a Saturday morning clinic attracted 35 children, along with many parents, to an active morning of running and kicking. As the children honed their soccer skills, they also heard the life-changing message of the Gospel.

A local high school athletic director as well as several church members shared with the children about God’s goodness as well as His love for all people.

Pointing to the color gold on a soccer ball he was holding, a church member told how the gold represented God’s goodness and the white, His purity.

According to pastor Wesley Green, sports are a universal language to help build relationships with children and teens. The soccer clinic was one aspect of his church’s ongoing evangelistic outreach in the community. Leading a church representing 27 nationalities and enjoying a new facility that seats 500 people, Green plans to follow up with each prospect that participated in the clinic.

Greater Mercy Baptist Church, Miami

Bright blue skies and sunshine provided a beautiful backdrop for the face-painting, ring toss, free haircuts, strength team demonstration and clothing give-away at the international festival held in an empty lot adjacent to Greater Mercy Baptist Church in Miami’s Overtown community during Crossover South Florida.

With help from eight members of Airline Baptist Church in rural Mayo, the congregation, which averages around 40 in worship on Sunday mornings, distributed 400 flyers promoting the festival in the impoverished community.

Pastor Willie Williams and his wife Creola own a barber shop and hair salon located in the same storefront building as the church; they live on the second floor of that same building. Together, they led other barbers and hair stylists in providing 100 free haircuts to boys and 50 free hairstyles to girls during the festival.

The “hair ministry” was possible in large part due to the generosity of Airline Baptist members providing $1,200 to help defray costs. The generous gift from the rural church left no extra money for volunteers to stay in a hotel during their mission trip to South Florida; instead, they spent the night camping out at Florida Baptists’ Urban Impact Center in Hialeah.

One Airline Church member, Cynthia Shiver, brought books with her from Mayo to share with the eager children in Miami. Her book ministry began following the death of her only daughter after bullying kept her home from school and led to a tragic accident that claimed the 12-year-old’s life.

“It’s a privilege to be here, serving,” she said.

A married couple who have been attending the Greater Mercy congregation, Ortence and Tracy Kemp, recalled their own lives on the streets and drug addiction as they shared clothing and Gospel tracts with festival goers.

Although many in the community may feel forgotten by the world, “Jesus hasn’t forgotten about them,” said Ortence.

For two Florida Baptist campus ministers, the festival in Overtown provided them an opportunity to give back to the community where they were both raised. Rahul Agarwal, who serves in Tampa, and Tony Olesky, who serves in Pensacola, helped with the games and witnessing activities located just down the street from a shop where Agarwal’s mother still runs a family business.

Several opportunities to share the Gospel with the approximately 175 attendees during the festival using the EvangeCube as well as Gospel presentations from the strength team resulted in at least 30 professions of faith.

“We hope to get closer to the community so they can get closer to God,” said the pastor’s wife, who has served alongside her husband for seven years in the area known for its high rate of crime and drug use. The ministry duo looks forward to following up with the individuals who made professions of faith.

Atlantic Baptist Church, Margate

As the crowds enjoyed snow cones and cotton candy, visited the mobile dental unit and watched strength team members break wooden bats across their backs, 10 evangelism teams wandered purposefully, seeking to share the Gospel with their neighbors who turned out for the international festival on the grounds of Atlantic Baptist Church in Margate.

Messianic Jew Steve Grossman served enthusiastically on one of the evangelism teams. “We love Jesus, and Jesus loved people,” he explained. He and fellow team member Fred Smith shared the Gospel with three young women. Two prayed to receive Christ and were ushered into the church facility to meet with another church member for immediate follow up.

Led by pastor Carolos Lugo, a native Puerto Rican, the congregation of approximately 125 people is multicultural, reflecting its community’s cultural make-up.

“I love the multi-cultural aspects of this church,” said Grossman. “To me, it’s the essence of being a Christian.”

Twenty-three-year old Crystal Holgat waited patiently for her turn to step into Florida Baptists’ mobile dental unit to receive free dental care and a word of Christian witness. The young single mother knows that her front teeth are beginning to decay, and she feels self-conscious about smiling when she interviews for jobs.

“I am scared of the dentist, but it’s free and I’ve heard good things.

“I am so grateful, and I thank God. This is something to smile about and talk about,” said the young woman who, although facing daunting circumstances, is determined to care for her one-year-old son.

By mid-afternoon, when tents were being taken down and popcorn makers cleaned out, Gospel presentations resulted in 21 professions of faith.

Parkridge Baptist Church, Coral Springs

Much like the early church on the day of Pentecost, Parkridge Baptist Church in west Broward County reached out with God’s love to four language groups at its international festival during Crossover South Florida.

Doing so seemed a natural fit for the upper-middle-class church which holds services in English, Portuguese and Korean every Sunday as well a weekly Bible study in Spanish.

Pastor Fernando Facidi leads the Brazilian congregation which has been meeting for about 18 months. With as many as 150,000 Brazilians in the greater community, his congregation attracts about 40 in its Sunday evening services.

Additionally the Brazilians meet one night weekly for Bible study and hold a prayer vigil once a month. Already he has led church members to do mission trips with Amazon Vision Ministries.

With Bibles in Portuguese and traditional Brazilian snacks at the festival, Facidi hoped to meet fellow Brazilians with whom he and his church members could build a relationship and share the Gospel.

The Korean congregation, led by pastor Sung Yoon Ko, began 10 years ago and currently holds two worship services on Sundays, one at 8 a.m. and one at 1:30 p.m. Because as many as 80 percent of Koreans own their own small businesses, he said the struggling economy has hit his small Korean congregation particularly hard, which provides even greater motivation to reach out to fellow Koreans who may be personally hurting.

The festival offered a ready-made opportunity to be a welcoming presence in the neighborhood, home to about 700 Koreans. He hopes to lead his small band of believers to be involved in planting a church to reach other Asian families in the community.

Director of missions for Gulf Stream Baptist Association Michael Petty, present at all of the Crossover South Florida events in his association, applauds the multicultural outreach and facility sharing of Parkridge Church. Because property prices are often prohibitive, churches need to use their facilities “to the max,” he said.

“Parkridge is a great example of an international Kingdom-minded ministry.”

In addition to the language congregations meeting in the Parkridge Church facilities, the church also houses a Christian school. According to Parkridge pastor Eddie Bevill, the child-friendly aspects of the festival, such as face-painting, a balloon-sculpting clown and inflatable games, drew many families from the school to the festivities. Many of these families are unchurched and several made committments to pastor Bevill that, because of the welcome they sensed from the festival, they would attend worship at his church the following Sunday.

During the day, nearly 400 people attended the festivities where the Gospel was presented 30 times and 3 people prayed to receive Christ.

Northside Baptist Church, Hialeah

Multi-hued streams of light pierced the darkness while hip hop music pulsated from a massive sound system during the Student Evangelism Rally held at Northside Baptist Church in Hialeah Saturday night. The concert and feats of physical power performed by the Strength Team drew 275 primarily Hispanic students from Miami-area churches, garnering 34 professions of faith by the night’s end.

The Christian concert was a collaborative effort of students enrolled in a Student Ministry Leadership Certificate program taught by Hessinger in cooperation with the Miami branch of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

The youth pastors planned the outreach event as part of their final exam, designing the artwork, graphics and t-shirts, as well as organizing the service and logistics. Bringing a true touch of the new phenomena sweeping Miami, the team enlisted several food trucks to feed the crowds—much to the youths’ delight.

On the Monday night prior to the event, a vigil was held to bathe the concert in prayer, said one of the organizers, Carlos Rodriguez, pastor of the Palabra de Vida Baptist Church in west Miami.

“Our main goal was for our youth to be more committed to the Lord; and those that didn’t know Him to get to know Him,” Rodriguez said.

Hessinger said he was pleased with their effort, hinting the class would get an “A” in the course. “They accomplished this in a culturally relevant way that speaks to Miami youth.”

In January Hessinger will teach another term of the class in both Fort Lauderdale and in Marianna.


A basket of lollipops on a student table at a make-shift free health clinic at Eglise Baptiste de Galilee brought a smile to a young boy’s face as he faced a doctor at a Crossover event early Saturday morning in Hollywood. Moving his hand away from the basket Dr. Dorothy Straw assured him of a treat after she had a chance to listen to his chest, check out his ears, and look into his eyes.

“OK,” the youngster grinned.

Straw was joined by another doctor from her West Palm Beach pediatric office, Dr. Stephanie Henry to help check dozens of children in a happy triage setting where volunteers from the church and a nearby medical center were on hand to refer patients who needed follow-up care to the Gulf Stream Baptist Association Health Center.

In another room at the church, a film on hepatitis prevention was well-received by a group of adults, while another group met outside to listen to and watch a trio of women demonstrate measures for early detection of breast cancer to a large group of women. The women were given vouchers from a nearby medical center for a free mammogram.

Vasquez Jean Jacques, pastor of Eglise Baptist de Galilee, said this Crossover event builds bridges in a community where over 80 percent of the residents do not have health insurance. “One person accepted Jesus,” Jacques said, already that morning, and he will come to church. Some others, mostly of Haitian origin, will also get advice on immigration difficulties from an attorney who is a leader in the church, Larry Fleurantin, Jacques said.

The event serves as a “catch-all” for the Haitian community, Jacques said, where residents can learn about Jesus—find a place of ministry and service, be made aware of healthcare opportunities, and get legal advice.


Snatches of animated conversation in Spanish and English drifted out of a big tent at Primera Iglesia Bautista Hispana de Plantation where members of four Broward churches connected in a multi-cultural, multi-generational Crossover event that went on long past its scheduled closing time.

Four Central and South Broward County Hispanic churches—Sheridan Hills Baptist, Stirling Road Baptist, Caanan Baptist and Primera Plantation—joined for the warm Hispanic festival drawing over 400 for music, food, face painting, dominoes, story swapping, and sharing an evangelistic message.

“It’s a wonderful event and everybody is happy,” Herberto Becerra, the longtime pastor said. “It’s important for Koinonia.” Becerra said it’s a time when people from the various churches can share their message with each other through son and speaking, and strengthen each other in reaching out for Christ. Family members who come to such events, he said, are open to hearing the Gospel.

At this Crossover event, babies and their mothers mingle with grandmothers and grandfathers. Older men encourage the younger men—even while whipping them at dominoes—and couples stroll the grounds with young children who quickly lay claim to the large inflatables.

One young man wrests the cap off a bottle of water for an older woman.

“Gracias [Thank you],” she beams, wrinkles reaching up to catch the sparkle in her deep blue eyes. “Dios le bendiga [God bless you].”

“You’re welcome,” the handsome young man pats her shoulder. The woman and her friends nearby chuckle.

Herbert Becerra, a music leader at the church, and Becerra’s son, said the church reflects the gathering, with 95 percent of the younger people speaking both English and Spanish. Founded as primarily a Spanish-speaking church, they now have Sunday School classes in both languages, he said, and are reaching a variety of culture groups as well. Located next to a high school, Becerra said the church draws students who sit on its porch to wait for rides—and end up staying for church activities.

Like Maria, who was jogging by with her dogs. She was invited to stay for the festival and ended up inviting Christ to stay in her life.

Other Venues during Crossover South Florida:

Baseball Clinics at Christ Community Church, Pembroke Pines and GracePoint Church, Fort Lauderdale. Block Party at Bethel Worship Center. Health Clinic at South Dade Residency Center. Strength Team at First Baptist Church, Key Largo; Parkview Baptist Church and Miami Shores Baptist Church in Miami.
This article originally appeared in the Florida Baptist Witness (gofbw.com). Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention. Margaret Dempsey-Colson is a writer for the Florida Baptist Convention. Joni B. Hannigan is managing editor of the Florida Baptist Witness.

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