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FROM THE STATES: La., Ark., Tenn. evangelism/missions news; ‘Having a relationship with the Lord is now top priority in my life’

Today’s From the States features items from:
Baptist Message (Louisiana)
Arkansas Baptist News
Baptist and Reflector (Tennessee)


La. church rides ‘wave’
of more baptisms

By Brian Blackwell

CHOUDRANT, La. (Baptist Message) — Megan and Joshua Passon have spent many hours in a swimming pool on a hot summer evening, but on this particular night a dip in the water was extra special.

Standing in front of one another and dozens of friends, the husband and wife were baptized along with 11 others from Longstraw Baptist Church. The 13 new believers, ranging in age from 7 to 72 years old were baptized in pairs Sunday evening of Memorial Day weekend.

Megan Passon said her baptism represented a public declaration of her faith in Christ, and added that being baptized with her husband was special because their marriage had been restored only several months before.

“Being baptized in the pool with everyone was really cool,” Passon said. “Everyone was gathered all around us and I believe I can speak for everyone when I say that you could feel so much love surrounding all of us.

“Having a relationship with the Lord is now top priority in my life,” she continued. “I have found that even in the chaos of everyday life, there is now a sense of joy and peace that I have; that joy and peace came from my Lord and Savior.”

The service marked the highest number of baptisms for the church in a single day since Larry Emory became pastor in 2006.

Emory said a catalyst for the increase was the book “The Desperate Church” — which he became familiar with during the Louisiana Baptist Convention Evangelism Conference.

As he began reading the book written by LBC Evangelism Associate Keith Manuel, Emory said he realized his church could change and experience renewal, but only if members became desperate for God and completely surrendered to Him.

Emory recalled how Manuel said a church must choose “the right wave” to get on and ride all the way to the beach, and after prayer he sensed for Longstraw Baptist Church that wave was its children’s program.

Last summer, 68 children had attended the largest Vacation Bible School in church history, and the congregation decided to offer to pick up the youngsters by van for services.

By March of this year, drivers were picking up children on three routes for Wednesday evening activities, and the church started to search for an additional vehicle to accommodate the growth.

In April the church held a revival and many of those same kids brought their parents to attend.

Emory said seeds planted in 2015 produced a harvest this year with 22 of the new folks becoming children of God, including three parents of the children who started attending Wednesday services.

Attendance across the board has increased, Emory said, with Sunday morning services expanding from 65 to 80 worshipers in a year, and turnout for Wednesday night activities more than doubling from 30 to 65 participants during the same period.

Emory believes a second wave of baptisms will occur by the end of this summer, trusting God will again bless the church’s Vacation Bible School efforts.

Heather Council-Hyatt was thankful for the added investment Longstraw Baptist has made in the lives of children. Her nine-year-old daughter Mia was one of the new believers who were baptized during the holiday pool ceremony.

“Watching Brother Larry dunk her in the water and then bring her back up took me back to the first time I ever laid eyes on her,” she said. “She was being born all over again. Mia loves going to church, and loves the Lord! She continues to amaze us on a daily basis.”

Emory said he’s going to continue riding the wave, as long as God allows.

“It’s been fun and all I’ve tried to do is stay out of God’s way,” he said. “I see what He’s doing and jump in there and work with Him.”

For churches that realize their need for revitalization, Manuel advises they follow Longstraw Baptist’s example and find the “wave” God has sent their way already.

“There are opportunities where the giftedness of a congregation intersects with needs in community,” Manuel said. “For Longstraw, this opportunity was in their weekly Children’s Ministry. They simply identified a wave of opportunity the Lord already sent their way and intentionally focused on reaching these children with the Gospel.”

Even though Longstraw Baptist has experienced tremendous growth in just a few months, the congregation knows God is just beginning a great movement at the church that is celebrating a new life, Emory said.

“You hear people talking about it and see a lift in the spirits of people,” Emory said. “They are talking about it and reflecting back on it. It’s created a new vital spirit among the church itself.

“I stress that we will go and give to world missions and state missions and national missions, but we live in a mission field,” he continued. “All you have to do is drive down a road, where in a three-mile radius there are 225 homes and most of those are unchurched people. We are living in a mission field. And we are reaching it one child, one person at a time.”
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.


‘Foreign missions’ at
Arkansas church

By Lisa Falknor

JONESBORO, Ark. (Arkansas Baptist News) — Mark 16:15 says, “Go into all the world,” but at Walnut Street Baptist Church in Jonesboro the world has come to them. The city has 834 international students from 62 countries at Arkansas State University (ASU).

Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) metro director Bit Stephens explained why the church began looking for an international student missionary. “Walnut Street has a heart to join God in what He is doing, and it was obvious to them God was bringing the nations to Jonesboro. They felt like they had to engage them to be obedient to God,” she said.

God had already planted a person in Jonesboro called to international missions — Sarah Seibert. The recent ASU graduate with a degree in world languages and culture already had been serving internationals through leadership at the BCM for four years; she began serving at Walnut Street in January.

“Sarah was the obvious choice, one who loves internationals and is strongly connected to Walnut Street Baptist,” Stephens said.

“She has always had a heart for international students,” said Grey Falanga, Walnut Street Baptist’s associate pastor of teaching and collegiates, “and this past summer as she thought she would get an affirmative to do international missions overseas; she heard a different word.”

That different word, Seibert said, was that God did not call her to go but to stay.

“Over 40 times in the Old Testament alone, God talks about loving foreigners in our land,” she said. “It’s a command in places like Leviticus 19:33-34 and Deuteronomy 10:17-19.”

Her advice to those thinking about reaching out to international students is simple.

“It does not have to be a complicated thing; it’s just being a friend,” she said.

She hopes international students will accept the Gospel and share it in their own language, culture and country. Since 65 percent of international students come from unreached regions of the world, it may be the only way their nations hear about Christ. These are the educated and wealthy individuals who could have influence in government.

“God has given us total access,” Seibert said. “We have the opportunity to reach the world without ever leaving home.”
This article appeared in the Arkansas Baptist News (arkansasbaptist.org), newsjournal of the Arkansas Baptist Convention. Lisa Falknor is a correspondent for the Arkansas Baptist News.


Tenn. Baptists provide hot showers,
conversations along Appalachian Trail

By Connie Davis Bushey

DAMASCAS, Va. — Tony Broyles was a little out of his comfort zone. A lot of the folks he was meeting at Damascas Trail Days for “through hikers” of the Appalachian Trail were different from most folks he knows.

“Back in the 60s, when folks like these became popular, I was just a kid,” explained Broyles. And he didn’t live around any such folks. He has always lived in rural East Tennessee.

Of course, there were regular people attending Trail Days, he added.

Many of the people at Damascas Trail Days were happy to meet Broyles and the other Tennessee Baptist volunteers.

They were excited about the hot showers Broyles and other volunteers were offering at the shower trailer, dubbed the “Clean Machine.” Some had not had a hot shower in months because they were hiking the Appalachian Trail.

As he was “still processing what we could do for these folks,” he quickly learned they were not only interested in a shower, even if they had to wait, but they were interested in conversation. So they were glad to sit under an awning near the Clean Machine and enjoy some bottled water and snacks and visit.

Broyles began visiting with folks and, as the Holy Spirit led, witnessing to them.

Amazingly, one man Broyles, George Jones, and others witnessed to made a profession of faith.

The new Christian was the only person who made that decision among the hundreds witnessed to by the about 25 Tennessee Baptist volunteers at Trail Days.

Broyles of Cherry Grove Baptist Church, Jonesborough, and Jones of Tennessee Avenue Baptist Church, Bristol, ministered at the Clean Machine of Holston Baptist Association along with Les Guinn, a DR chaplain, of Cherry Grove Baptist; Tal Thompson, retired director of missions, Holston Association; of Tennessee Avenue, and his wife Liz. Also from Tennessee Avenue were Beverly Jones; Paul Thompson, student pastor; and Phil Whitaker, minister of music.

Providing a similar ministry was a larger group from First Baptist Church, Sevierville, operating its laundry/shower trailer. About 20 volunteers from the church were led by Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers John and Kaye Thomas.

The annual Damascas Trail Days was held May 12-15 and draws about 15,000 hikers and former hikers of the Appalachian Trail to the small town. Through hikers who converge there began hiking the trail in March in Georgia and often have not had a hot shower since, explained Kaye Thomas. They also desperately need the few clothes they can carry laundered.

Some of the hikers are counter-cultural and others are “people just like us,” described Kaye Thomas. The Thomases developed the ministry four years ago as a way to minister and use the equipment. Holston Association has been joining them for two years.

Besides witnessing through conversation, the First, Sevierville, volunteers placed Bible verses and spiritual tracts in the pockets of the clothes they washed and dried, added Thomas.

Tal Thompson noted that many of the hikers he met were students who were searching for “direction in life. It is an ideal time to approach them about spiritual matters and who they should follow.” He added that none were rude or negative toward engaging in “Christian talk.”

Broyles said some people he met said they were agnostics.

“Many of them wouldn’t open up. But you go along with them (in conversation) and serve them,” he explained.

Some of the hikers he visited with were “under conviction” and eventually “very open,” to his witness.

He tried to be “a fruit inspector” who wasn’t judgmental, he added.

“Most were very respectful, very attentive to what we were talking about, and very thankful …” said Broyles.

“They were there for the showers, but it wasn’t about the showers.”
This article appeared in the Baptist and Reflector (http://tnbaptist.org/BRNews.asp), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Connie Davis Bushey is news editor of the Baptist and Reflector.


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. The items appear in Baptist Press as originally published.

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