Today’s From the States features items from:
Arkansas Baptist News
Baptist Courier (South Carolina)
VBS takes on ‘special’
emphasis at KY church
By Mark Maynard
ASHLAND, Ky. (Kentucky Today) — Rose Hill Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Matt Shamblin has used Vacation Bible Schools — plural, not singular — as a means of outreach, growth and serving the least of these.
The second-year pastor of the northeastern Kentucky church has met outreach needs by not only staging a big on-campus VBS, but taking VBS throughout the many small communities in the Ashland area. Last year, the church put on six and eight are scheduled this year, including a recently completed one that was for children with special needs that was both unique and an enormous blessing to all involved, he said.
“It was an amazing thing to watch,” Shamblin said of the Special Needs VBS. “Jesus talks about ‘doing for the least of these’ and I can say, with confidence, we ministered to Jesus.”
It was a church member, Vanessa Akers, who asked Shamblin about trying a Special Need VBS about a year ago. Akers is a veteran special education teacher of 24 years in Ashland and Shamblin’s response to her was an enthusiastic yes.
The church has been building momentum through outreach efforts and this was another one close to the heart of Shamblin. He and his wife, Chrissy, were foster parents to two children with special needs in the past.
“I tell people all the time, I learn so much from my kids and they have so much to teach,” Akers said. “People ask me: How do you do it? My response is how do you not do it? I’ve always felt like the kids I work with are the closest thing to God’s angels you can get.”
The Special Needs VBS has already splintered off into a regular Sunday night ministry for special needs children at Rose Hill.
Akers said the parents of the children with special needs were blessed by the VBS and it also allowed them to experience church.
“They are very excited about starting it on Sunday nights,” she said. “(For) some of them, this will be first opportunity to go to church. One of them told me they were asked to leave a church because their child was loud.”
God had already equipped Rose Hill with trained special needs workers, like Akers, Shamblin said.
“God started bringing church members to us who are specially trained in that area — psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses, teachers,” he said. “A significant portion of the special needs staff in the Ashland school system was involved.”
Angie Vanover, the church’s children’s ministry coordinator, called it “an amazing event. It was completely new territory for us. Our church was able to put together a special needs leadership team. I felt like the Lord was shouting, ‘What are you waiting for?'”
Akers said regular church members found out they could learn how to minister to the children, too.
“What was very interesting to me, watching this whole thing unfold, we are fortunate,” Akers said. “We do have special needs trained people, (but) I do think every church could offer a form of this. By the time we were finished, people absolutely loved it and were saying ‘I really feel like I could do this now.’ I do think there’s a lot of opportunities. It’s so desperately needed. Our parents (of special needs children) never get a break, but they need church. They need that spiritual food, too.”
Through his own experience, Shamblin knew teaching children with special needs wasn’t something the average church member, with no experience in that area, could effectively handle alone. But when God kept bringing him people who were trained in special needs, he knew it was going to be a VBS of God-sized impact.
“None of my staff knew how to put on a Special Needs VBS,” he said. “We got everybody together and said, ‘You tell us how to do this.’ They took it and ran with it.”
The roster was limited by age and to a dozen children and they came from as far away as Louisville, about a three-hour drive, to attend. They had autistic children and some who were medically fragile and non-verbal. But they all experienced the thrill of VBS and the love of Jesus from the experienced church team that was put together.
“We had a room set up for parents to minister to them,” Shamblin said. “It was a respite for parents with food and soft drinks, couches, televisions. No parent stayed one night the staff was so competent.”
The three-day VBS was a “lifelong dream” for the parents who watched their children do activities like making crafts and singing together. On the celebration night, church members came to rejoice with the children and their parents, Shamblin said.
“Because we had this, the parents told us the children have been talking about it all summer,” Shamblin said. “They (the parents) got to see their children perform in a church play. I didn’t know what to expect. It really was a dream come true. It’s the most special ministry I’ve ever been part of. It was amazing.”
The church, he said, is returning to its roots of being “very outreach driven.” They have multiple outreach opportunities each week and the church members are responding to the call.
“We have a program called ‘Mission: Ashland’ where we go to the surrounding communities of Ashland and do servant evangelisms,” Shamblin said. “We’ll have block parties, Bible schools and cook up some hot dogs. The only complaint I’ve had about ‘Mission: Ashland’ is it doesn’t last long enough.”
Akers said her pastor “has a big vision and we’re excited” about serving alongside him.
This item appeared in Kentucky Today (kentuckytoday.com), a news resource of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Mark Maynard writes for Kentucky Today.
Ark. church helps
take Gospel to Ethiopia
By Sarah Davis
MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. (Arkansas Baptist News) — A counter-cultural movement is starting in a tribal city in Ethiopia. The Kara tribe is experiencing a revival and the movement of God’s Spirit, with the help of an Arkansas Baptist church.
Lale Labuko, 33, is a part of the Kara tribe in Dus, Ethiopia. Labuko received his education from missionaries and became the first person in his tribe to come to the United States. He graduated from Amherst College in Massachusetts. Instead of staying in America after graduation, he went back to Ethiopia so God could use him to impact his tribe.
“The Kara tribe has been practicing what is called mingi for perhaps 1,000 years,” said Sam Bailey, pastor of Twin Lakes Baptist Church in Mountain Home. “Mingi is a curse that they believe goes on a child. If a child is cursed, they would throw it in the river, or they would stuff dirt in its mouth and throw it out in the bush to die.”
Children were considered cursed if they had women mingi, girl mingi or teeth mingi. Women mingi is when the elders in the village did not approve of a child being born to a married couple. Girl mingi is when a baby is born out of wedlock, and teeth mingi is when a baby’s top teeth show before their bottom teeth.
Every time a baby is declared cursed, the elders force the child to be killed, usually by the mother’s hand. Hundreds of thousands of children have been killed in the Kara tribe. If a “cursed” child were to stay alive on the tribe’s land, the Kara people fear that their ancestors would bring disease, famine and drought.
Labuko began taking in children who were declared cursed and started an orphanage called Omo Child Home. In a documentary titled, “Go Before Me,” Labuko is seen pleading with a pregnant woman’s father saying, “Let me be a river. Let me be a bush. Please give me the baby after the birth.”
Later in the documentary, Labuko challenged the Kara elders to stop the practice of mingi even after they threatened to kill him. The elders finally voted to stop the custom.
“The Kara people believe that the sign of God is when it rains,” Bailey said. “Right after they voted to stop mingi, there was a pouring rain. I’ve been in the ministry for 43 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s the most amazing thing I’ve seen.”
Although the Kara tribe has stopped mingi, two other tribes in the area continue to practice it. The Omo Child Home continues to take in children from those tribes. Approximately 50 children now live in the home with 11 nannies to care for them.
A business in Austin, Texas, has committed to give the orphanage $10,000 a month, which is the cost to run Omo Child Home. After Labuko came to Mountain Home through a connection with Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas, Twin Lakes Baptist Church raised $18,000 on June 25, so he could build a church: New Life Ethiopia.
“This has created a revival in our church,” said Bailey. “There is an unreached group of almost 200,000 in those three tribes that will now have a Southern Baptist church planted in the middle of it.”
This article appeared in the Arkansas Baptist News (arkansasbaptist.org), newsjournal of the Arkansas Baptist Convention. Sarah Davis is a former intern at the Arkansas Baptist News.
S.C. church’s community
garden touches lives
By Rudy Gray
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (Baptist Courier) — A heart for missions, a passion for gardening, and a vacant lot across the street became the perfect storm for Jo Cooper as she caught a vision for connecting with people through a community garden.
Jo and her husband, Glen, have been members of First Baptist Church, Myrtle Beach, for 34 years. A few years ago, they relocated to a house behind the church, and the vacant sand lot owned by the church began to weigh on her mind. “I could almost hear God’s voice telling me to start a garden, but being the daughter of parents raised on farming, I knew nothing grew in sand,” she said.
However, she kept seeing an article about hay bale gardening on Facebook. After sharing her thoughts with her husband and her dad, the three bought 60 bales of hay and two bags of pure nitrogen. A cousin in North Carolina donated a shoebox full of seeds.
Her vision was to have a community garden where people in the neighborhood could come and get free vegetables. She saw it as part of the church’s Jerusalem. Her intent has been to build relationships, help people by providing healthy food, and share with them the love of God.
She says, “From the first week, it generated curiosity from onlookers, neighbors and tourists. People stopped at first because they had never seen a hay bale garden, and later they could not believe it was for them to use for free.” An old mailbox was installed in the garden and filled with bags that people could use as they picked the vegetables.
Associate pastor Larry Cashatt said the garden went over well. “Jo had the vision for it, and several volunteers from the church helped with it,” he said. “She is there every day, tending the garden.”
This past summer, they grew corn, bell peppers, banana peppers, assorted hot peppers, tomatoes, cantaloupes, watermelons, squash, snap beans and pumpkins. Church members also donated fig trees, blueberry bushes and muscadine vines. The garden is organic. “Once you plant, all you use is water,” she added.
“Our church is starting an after-school program this fall for neighborhood kids, and we are looking to expand the garden to include fruit trees, a worm farm, and bee boxes — all of this to teach inner-city children about growing, harvesting and healthy eating.”
The success of the garden has surprised even Jo. “Never in a million years did I think a garden would grow with any success this close to the beach [just three blocks away]. I don’t have the exact numbers, but we serve foreign students working here, shut-ins from our church, widows and widowers, and neighbors who are unchurched. We have the opportunity to pray with them and invite them to church. It is my prayer that God will allow us to reach more and more people for His kingdom.”
She said she plans on growing collards, cabbage, onions, radishes and beets this winter. “Then we will gear up for spring.”
According to Jo, “Long before our church became First Baptist Church of Myrtle Beach, it was known as Eden Baptist, so this has become known as our Garden of Eden. We are looking forward to God growing our Garden of Eden, our Jerusalem, and most of all [winning] souls for His kingdom.”
This article appeared in the Baptist Courier (baptistcourier.com), newsjournal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Rudy Gray is editor of the Baptist Courier.
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.