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FROM THE STATES: Ky., La., Tenn. evangelism/missions news; ‘That just creates a little piece of heaven …’

Today’s From the States features items from:
Western Recorder (Kentucky)
Baptist Message (Louisiana)
Baptist and Reflector (Tennessee)

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Ky. church sees growth
through bilingual approach

By Myriah Snyder

VERSAILLES, Ky. (Western Recorder) — For years, Versailles Baptist Church in Woodford County has been supporting their Hispanic ministry, led by Emilo and Mirma Zapata. But in the last few years, it has taken off. And they’ve decided that instead of incorporating as a separate church, they’d become one congregation in every way possible.

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The approach has been working, because in the last 12 months, 20 people with Hispanic backgrounds have been baptized and 32 have joined.

“An integrative, multicultural approach is possible, even when you speak different languages,” Michael Cabell, Versailles senior pastor, said. “The mindset is normally that you go plant a Spanish speaking church. Instead, we’ve said, let’s make our church multi-lingual. Within that, that has brought so much strength, and our church has just embraced that thoroughly.”

Each Sunday morning, two worship serviced are held in the same building—one in Spanish and the other in English. Both congregations are Versailles Baptist Church. But the children’s ministry and youth group are fully integrated.

Kevin Hash, Versailles’ youth pastor, sees that this approach helps not only his church’s teenagers, but his own children as well.

“My kids are better Christ-followers because they know kids from other backgrounds,” Hash said. “These relationships are about helping us to be more like Jesus Christ. And we can’t be more like Jesus Christ if we’re only around people who think, and act, and look, and speak exactly the way we do.”

As a youth pastor, he is intentional about seeing kids discipled, and one way he found to do that was by partnering with the already existing tutoring program and encouraging the kids who attend to come to church as well. From this, he’s seen a lot of fruit recently, he said.

Additionally, once a year, both congregations come together for their “One” service, where Pastors Zapata and Cabell both preach, songs are in both languages, and testimonies are given in both languages.

“That just creates a little piece of heaven to hear multiple languages and people from 10 to 12 countries worshipping together,” Cabell said.

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At the church’s most recent bilingual service, Rosa gave her testimony. She was thankful for the ministry to her children, because, through it, she came to know the Lord.

“In her testimony, she said, on top of all these crazy things happening to her life and marriage, she was suicidal. When she was at her lowest point, her elementary school son and daughter came to her with things that they had learned in church and at tutoring, telling her to have faith in God, believe in God, and God will take care of (them),” Hash shared.

He recounted, “She said that’s why she didn’t kill herself. She gave that testimony in front of 500 people through a translator.”

Although the ministry is thriving now, it hasn’t always, Hash recounted.

It took the Zapata’s, who also hold Hispanic services partnering with churches in neighboring Jessamine County, working “in a lot of messy relationships for years, being faithful without much numerical fruit,” he said.

Hash added, “And now in the last couple years, it’s all starting to blossom. And they’re so very passionate.”

“It has given us a picture of the power of the Gospel. It’s not just white, middle-class folks, but it’s refugees from Columbia. It’s people seeking asylum from Venezuela. It’s people wanting a new life from Mexico,” Cabell said.

Not only has this model of church given his congregation “a bigger picture of the Gospel,” but it’s helped them “see people as people, particularly when it comes to immigration issues, although, he added, “there are political issues at bay,” still.

“Both churches have mutually blessed one another because of the faith that we see, that the Gospel transcends culture,” he added. “When multiple languages and ethnic groups make up the church, it reminds us of how big the Gospel is. The Gospel is for everyone. It has given us a picture of God’s grand design.”
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This article appeared in the Western Recorder (westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Myriah Snyder is former assistant editor for the Western Recorder.

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La. athletes turn to Christ
at Tomorrow’s Hope crusade

By Brian Blackwell

JENA, La. (Baptist Message) — The Jena High School football and men’s basketball teams scored a win of a different kind when 38 players, combined, came forward to humble their hearts before Christ during the Tomorrow’s Hope GO TELL Crusade in late September.

Nine football players declared Jesus as Lord of their lives, and 24 football and five basketball players repented to restore fellowship with Christ at Jena High’s gymnasium.

Among those was Cameron Jackson, a junior cornerback and wide receiver who turned to Christ during the opening night of the crusade.

“Though I was nervous, I knew this was what God wanted me to do,” said Jackson, whose father, Anthony, is principal of Jena High. “Now I’m excited about praying and reading my Bible, and I hope to influence others on my team and at school for Christ.”

Jackson said his newfound faith helped him persevere through the aftermath of an injury sustained during a game against Alexandria Senior High the following Friday evening. He expects to recover from the injury before the state playoffs begin in November.

Terry Townsend, youth and recreation minister at the First Baptist Church in Jena, said he was overcome with emotion as he watched many of the same players he knew walk to the front of the Jena High gymnasium to declare their faith in Christ. They were among 119 persons who turned to Christ during the Tomorrow’s Hope Crusade September 23-26. Another 109 individuals repented to restore their fellowship with Christ, and 15 men and women made other decisions.

“It’s unbelievable because I’ve prayed for some of them for quite some time,” Townsend said. “This is proof that God answers prayers. He showed up and showed off during those nights they walked down in front to declare their faith in Christ.”

Jena High Football Coach Jay Roark said he is delighted whenever a student, especially one of his players, makes a decision to change.

“These decisions seem to have a profound effect on not just the team but the student body,” Roark said. “It takes a lot for a teenager to come down in front of their peers and do that. By them doing so, it tells me what happened was a real deal for these young men.”

The Tomorrow’s Hope Crusade featured Gospel messages by Rick Gage, founder of GO TELL Crusades in Duluth, Georgia, and Scott Camp, founder of Scott Camp Ministries in Fort Worth, Texas, as well as music by GO TELL vocalists and an area choir. Each night, 700-800 attended the crusade.

The crusade was part of the statewide Harvest campaign to “pray for every home and share with every person” in Louisiana through the end of 2018. Nearly 900 of 1,650 Louisiana Baptist churches have signed up to participate in concentrated prayer and soul-winning activities such as multi-church crusades, door-to-door outreach, one-on-one evangelism, single-church revivals and other activities which leverage compassion ministries to share about the love of Christ.

Buddy Willis, director of missions for LaSalle Baptist Association, said the area churches were unified in their mission to reach others for Christ during the crusade.

“We have a pretty strong ministerial alliance that works together, but this full cooperation among the different denominations has positioned us to work even closer together,” he said. “It has promoted unity in our churches and created an even greater interest in reaching the lost.

“I’m so thankful that the state leadership came up with the Harvest,” Willis said. “It’s allowed our churches another chance to join in and reach others in our community for Christ. We give God all the glory for what he did here in LaSalle Parish.”
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This article appeared in the Baptist Message (baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Brian Blackwell is a staff writer for the Baptist Message.

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Tenn. Christmas backpack ministry
brings gospel, toys to children

By David Dawson

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (Baptist and Reflector) — This Christmas, hundreds of underprivileged children in Tennessee will be receiving Barbie dolls and board games, matchbox cars and model planes.

More importantly, they will be receiving hope through the good news of Jesus.

All across the state, Tennessee Baptists are participating in “Christmas Backpacks for Children and Teens” — a ministry that originally started in 2001 with a group of GAs (Girls in Action) in Georgia. The ministry, which has grown dramatically since its inception, provides children with brand-new backpacks, filled with toys, card games, hygiene products and more.

The backpacks also include Bibles and other age-appropriate Christian books, and the gospel is shared with each child who receives the backpack. Since the beginning of the ministry, more than 3,000 professions of faith have been made in Tennessee.

Although many churches in Tennessee are involved with the ministry, the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board is encouraging more churches to participate in order to ensure that the ministry expands this year and more children are reached.

Tennessee WMU is helping promote the ministry with funds from the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions.

More information about the Christmas Backpacks can be found at the TBMB website at www.tnbaptist.org/backpacks.
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This article appeared in Baptist and Reflector (baptistandreflector.org), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. David Dawson writes for the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

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