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FROM THE STATES: Ky., Ark., N.M. evangelism/missions news; ‘For me, it has been a blessing to be in jail’

Today’s From the States features items from:
Western Recorder (Kentucky)
Arkansas Baptist News
Baptist New Mexican

126 inmates baptized
through Hawk Creek ministry
By Lauren Snowden

LONDON, Ky. (Western Recorder) — Sept. 21, 2014 is the date more than 100 Laurel County Correctional Center inmates will remember. It’s a new date that defines them; when they got a fresh start.

That Sunday afternoon, 126 inmates were baptized in the name of Christ, giving hope and a sense of belonging to those who have hit rock-bottom.

Jessica Napier said her time behind bars is God’s work. She has served 18 months so far on a drug charge. “For me, it has been a blessing to be in jail. It sounds odd, but I would just keep doing what I was doing if I wasn’t here. If it wasn’t for the church and me being in jail, I wouldn’t be a follower.”

Hawk Creek Baptist Church has an extensive jail ministry, bringing Bible studies and counseling services to the jail at least three days a week.

“You can just tell that they just have a love for people … you got someone to talk to when you get out. They’re friends,” Napier said.

Hawk Creek started visiting the jail nearly three years ago. Debbie Gilbert, a church member and licensed clinical counselor, said that the jail has become a church satellite. Each Sunday, Hawk Creek Church broadcasts their services via satellite to the recreation room at the Laurel County Correctional Center.

“We are a very outward focused church. We will do whatever it takes,” Gilbert said. “A lot of offenders are repeats. If we can spend time with them, lives will change.” All in all, Gilbert estimates that Hawk Creek Church spends 168 days a year, eight hours a day at the jail.

“Our time is measured in trust. A lot of people in jail don’t trust very many people,” she said. “For us to be there as much as we are, it builds hope. Hope changes people.”

Napier said that this baptism and the influence of Hawk Creek Church has changed the attitudes of the inmates at the jail. “It’s like its own little church!” she said.

Jayna Alexander is a member of Hawk Creek Church, and has a heart for those who have made poor choices, many of them drug related.

“One woman told me she knew how to cut and measure cocaine before she entered kindergarten. When I was a child, we had cereal on the breakfast table, not scales,” Alexander said.

She said a lot of the people she has interacted with are second and third generation drug dealers, and it’s no surprise that they have become inmates. But Hawk Creek Church is teaching these people that there is another and better way.

The Laurel County Correctional Center alerted Hawk Creek Church to the baptismal service just 24 hours in advance. They wanted little controversy or protest of the event. The lead, associate and youth pastor baptized all 126 inmates with a small baptistery attached to the jail and two small pools.

So, why such a big turnout of 126 people? Gilbert said it’s because the jailer allowed the Hawk Creek Church to go cell to cell and witness to inmates.

“Talking to them one-on-one was key for us,” Gilbert said.

“We aren’t going to kid ourselves; some of these people just have ‘inmate religion,'” Alexander said. “But some of these people are forever changed. They’re living for the Lord and can’t wait to begin the next chapter of their lives, to gain a fresh start.”

After the baptism, the story doesn’t end.

Hawk Creek Church makes a point to keep in touch with these inmates — no matter what their next step may be. If they’re released from jail, these inmates generally end up becoming members of Hawk Creek’s congregation and outreach programs. If they move on to federal prison, a member of the church keeps in touch.

Hawk Creek isn’t stopping their outreach at the jail. They’re also looking to take on ministries at local homeless shelters.

“In the end we are just God-loving people, and you’ve got to love the people where they’re at,” Alexander said.

“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Hebrews 13:3 NIV), she quoted.
This article appeared in the Western Recorder (westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Laren Snowden is a freelance writer for the Western Recorder.
Cross Church college
ministry in yearlong revival
By Lisa Falknor

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (Arkansas Baptist News) — College attendance stats at Cross Church, Fayetteville, read almost like the yellowed pages of an 1800s revival newspaper clipping. Last year their midweek service averaged 100. Beginning Sept. 2013, 20 visitors came, then 30, then 40 and then 100.

“I had no clue where they came from,” said Noe Garcia, Cross Church Fayetteville collegiate minister since 2013. “Some nights when I’d give an invitation, 15 to 20 students gave their lives to Christ and 10 got baptized on the spot. When you have nights like that, students left and they’d tweet all night long about it; they’re just on a spiritual high.”

A spiritual high like that must be emotional – a short-circuited fluke, right?

“We’ve gone to doing two services,” Garcia said. “We had 796 last Wednesday (Oct. 8),” Garcia said. They’ve since had more than 900.

Over the last year, he counted 125 salvations and 75 baptisms.

“It’s an incredible thing in terms of growth,” said Garcia. “I’m not even sure how it happened, honestly. The only thing I can attribute it to, and it sounds cliche, but it’s a God thing.

“We’ve seen students who are drastically changed by Christ reach out and share the gospel,” Garcia said. “It’s students reaching students. The Great Commission works.”

Pastor Nick Floyd agrees.

“In an age where many college students are away from home for the first time and making poor decisions, we are seeing God develop a new generation of believers and church members who are ready to do whatever it takes to fulfill the Great Commission,” he said.

One such student is John-Mark Vaughan. Vaughan, a former “missionary kid” whose parents still serve on the mission field, leads a weekly small group Bible study. Forty other Cross Church upperclassmen also lead Bible studies Monday through Thursday in homes and on the campuses of the University of Arkansas, John Brown University and Northwest Arkansas Community College.

Vaughan said his group mostly consists of nonbelievers from countries like Brazil, China and South Africa.

“What you see at C3 (Cross Church College), is the result of prayer and investing in people and really caring about their lives,” Vaughan said.

Garcia labels upperclassmen like Vaughan “influencers,” “persons of peace” strategically placed on their campus by God “for a reason.”

He guesses 150 Cross Church “unofficial student leaders” share Christ regularly.

God continues to add numbers through the power of prayer and personal Wednesday night testimonies.

“Former drug users, porn addicts, molested persons and rape victims have testified to Christ’s victory over sin and power in restoration,” Garcia said.

“We are all amazed at what God is doing through the college ministry,” Floyd wrote in an email. “It truly is a move of God that we have been unable to explain.”
This article appeared in the Arkansas Baptist News (arkansasbaptist.org). Lisa Falknor is the northwest Arkansas regional correspondent for the Arkansas Baptist News.
Banner year for
baptisms in Tucumcari, N.M.
By John Loudat

TUCUMCARI, N.M. (Baptist New Mexican) — Halfway through the most recent church year, members of First Baptist Church in Tucumcari were pleased that more people had already been baptized than had been during the entire previous year. As this year came to a close Sept. 30, they were positively ecstatic, having baptized a whopping 22 times more people than the year before.

The First and the Last

Ron Payne was the 88th person baptized at First Baptist Church since Oct. 1 of last year. His wife, Alice, had been the first.

The Paynes live 47 miles from the eastern New Mexico community. They began coming to church with a friend, a First Baptist member. Since then they have truly enjoyed “being loved on” by their new church family, First Baptist Pastor John Hinze told the Baptist New Mexican.

They have had plenty of need for that love over the past year, which has been for them a truly challenging one.

When Ron Payne was hospitalized this summer and almost died, church members did what they do best, ministering to him and his wife. Most important, God got his attention with his close encounter with the grim reaper, Hinze said.

Payne accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior about three months ago, Hinze said, but his baptism was delayed until Sept. 28 because his wife had to undergo heart surgery.

The Other 86

Baptisms had averaged one a month until this past April, when 54 new believers were immersed on a single night.

It was a Wednesday evening, the final night of a four-day revival that was led by Texas Baptist evangelist Ronnie Hill.

This revival was different from others in recent years in that the church had spent the previous 40 days in an intense emphasis on prayer.

The emphasis brought many members to the point where they were ready and willing to trust God to do “whatever he wanted to do however he wanted to do it,” the pastor said. And the Lord showed them that such an attitude was “well, well worth it,” he said.

“We’ve just seen God move,” Hinze said, deflecting all the credit away from himself and the church, and to God.

An even greater number of people—230 to be exact—professed their newfound faith in Christ during the revival. While there were 150 people in attendance at the first service on Sunday morning, April 13, there were 388 on Wednesday evening.

The church made a real big deal out of each of the more than 41Ž2 dozen people who were baptized that night, taking a picture of each of them and later giving them their picture and a baptism certificate.

Hinze acknowledged that the church did use some methods it had not in the past to encourage people to attend the revival, but it was because that was what the Lord seemed to be telling the church to do.

Another nine new Christians were baptized this summer after another evangelistic effort, the church’s annual Vacation Bible School, during which 26 children made professions of faith.

“The Lord is just blessing our socks off,” Hinze said, recalling that blessed week.

Follow Up

It is apparent that far more people have made professions of faith over the past year than have followed the Lord in baptism and church membership, and the pastor readily acknowledges that.

Other churches also have been blessed by what God has done at First Baptist, Hinze explained, and the follow up continues with the rest.

The 2014-15 church year is beginning Oct. 5 with a kickoff of the pastor’s new class for new members, which he will lead during Sunday school.

Impacting Lostness

Hinze said that the extraordinary harvest of souls is unlike anything he has seen in the five years he has led the church. But, he added, even those who have been members for decades cannot remember a year like the past one.

The best thing about the many blessings the church has experienced is the fact that the “lostness” of Quay County has dropped 2 percent from the 90 percent the Baptist Convention of New Mexico had estimated the first of the year, and that is if only the professions of faith made at First Baptist are considered in the calculation.

The fact of the matter is, though, there are plenty of other churches in the area that are testifying that God is moving in mighty ways in and through them, as well, “to the praise of (God’s) glorious grace …” (Ephesians 1:6 NIV).
This article appeared in the Baptist New Mexican (bcnm.com/archive). John Loudat is editor of the Baptist New Mexican.
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.

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