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FROM THE STATES: La., Fla., Md. 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:
Baptist Message (Louisiana)
Florida Baptist Witness
Baptist Life (Maryland/Delaware)

Water flows from teen’s heart
By Holly Jo Linzay, Special to the Message

SULPHUR, La. (Baptist Message) — A wellspring of compassion flooded Addie Young’s heart after hearing her youth pastor tell about how thousands of children worldwide die each year due to drinking tainted water.

“I knew then I wanted to make a change, a difference in the world. I did some research on the internet, and decided I wanted to raise money to drill wells for clean water in Haiti,” 15-year-old Addie recalled.

Her concern about Haiti’s need for clean water was the spark that compelled Addie to start fundraisers with her church family at Houston River Baptist Church that garnered more than $15,000.
“We just mailed a check this week for the fifth water well,” Addie enthused over the amount raised, which was quadruple the amount needed for the initial goal of funding one water well.

Last month, Addie, her identical twin, Allie, her father, Steven Young, and her younger sister, Jamie, 13, of Sulphur, all traveled to Haiti on their first mission trip to see first-hand the drilling of a water well. They stayed in a kindergarten classroom at night in the village of Ferrier.

“They drill about 100 feet to tap the clean water. I felt pure happiness when I saw the little kids jumping up and down and clapping with joy. I just prayed to God and thanked Him for doing something so amazing,” Addie recalled.

The decision to become involved with helping to raise money for Haiti initially was made when Addie was 13 years old. Her youth pastor, Blake Forman, who had been on a mission trip to Haiti, was sharing some facts about poverty-stricken areas in preparing the youth for their “30-hour Famine” project.

“He was telling us about the world’s need for clean water. One of the facts was that it would take about $9 billion to solve the entire world’s tainted water problem, and how Americans spend an average of $450 billion a year to buy presents for Christmas. I was mainly concerned about all the kids dying from drinking unclean water. I wanted to do something to help raise money to drill wells,” Addie said.

She attempted to try to get her youth group to become involved in a program called “Advent Conspiracy,” where you give up the money for one Christmas present and donate it to a specific cause, in her case, water wells in Haiti.

“We raised around $200, but I knew we needed $3,000 for a well to be dug,” Addie said.

With young children being especially vulnerable to tainted water, one in every eight kids in Haiti reportedly will not reach his or her fifth birthday. Haiti is still trying to recover from the 2010 earthquake that killed an estimated 315,000. More than a million people were displaced by the earthquake, and many live in camps with limited access to clean water and sanitation.
Through Addie’s youth pastor, Mission Waco was chosen as the non-profit organization to handle the donated funds to help dig water wells in Haiti. For $3,000, a well can be dug that will serve about 800 people.

After her initial attempt to raise funds, Addie posted an online challenge to her youth group on Facebook asking them to help her raise enough money for one well within a year. During spring break, her youth group held a car wash and raised $326. Addie and her youth pastor designed a T-shirt that said, “Where there is a well, there is a way,” and sold them for $15 each. Vacation Bible School offerings were designated for the Haitian water wells.

“An anonymous donor said they would match any offering brought the second day of VBS, and by the end of the day, we had $6,300. We had enough for two water wells. It was a miracle of God,” Addie said.

The children of the church kept bringing money, Addie added.

“The kids were bringing their piggy banks and their allowances. They saw how they could make a difference in the lives of children who had bigger worries then they did. The church took up a special offering, and by the end of the week, we had $9,000,” Addie said.

More donations were given, and the youth participated in other efforts until $15,000 was raised.

“I feel like God can use one person, even children, to affect one portion of the world. The world is a broken place. God puts us here to glorify Him and to help other people glorify Him. Whenever we help people get clean water and food, that one small portion of people gets to see Christ through the people that helped them. God used me as a spark, but everyone else fanned the flames to help raise the money for the wells,” Addie said.
Holly Jo Linzay is a freelance writer for the Louisiana Baptist Message and a member of Pisgah Baptist Church in Forest Hill, La.
Florida mission team makes first
evangelistic contact with Amazon village
By Carolyn Nichols

MANAUS, Brazil (FBW) — A Florida Baptist mission team, including three from First Baptist Church in Arcadia, made possibly the first-ever evangelical contact with a tribe living along the Amazon River system in Brazil. The team visited every stilted home in the village with permission from the tribal chief.
After flying into Manaus, Brazil last fall, the Floridians expected to travel west on one of two rivers merging into the Amazon, but dropping river levels—up to four inches per day—forced the group to head into another, less travelled, waterway.

The unexpected route gave the team an opportunity to visit the previously unreached village, according to team leader Dennis Wilbanks, Partnership Missions team strategist with the Florida Baptist Convention. The Florida Baptist Convention is partner with Amazon Vision Ministries, based at Baptist College of Florida in Graceville that maintains a continual presence in the Amazon region.

According to Wilbanks, the Brazilian government has outlawed contact with indigenous peoples along the Amazon River unless a person or group is invited to make contact by a village resident. Even with an invitation, contact is forbidden if a “No Trespassing” sign is posted on the river bank.

One of the AVM staff members had met Paulo, a new Christian, in Peru, and Paulo had invited AVM to visit his home village where his uncle is chief. When the Florida team arrived in the village and asked for Paulo, he was not there, so team leaders debated whether or not to attempt to find the chief.

“We had spent a day and half getting to the village, and if we couldn’t get in, it would be a day and a half to get back there. We thought the potential was so great, and we felt we should go for it,” Wilbanks said.

With no sign along the river stopping them, the leaders found the chief, who wore western-style shorts and war paint and feathers in a headband. With apprehension, the chief invited the team to set up a medical clinic in the village. Leah Coulter, a registered nurse from First Baptist Church in Arcadia, and a Brazilian nurse immediately began work in the village where malaria is rampant. The two nurses saw more 70 patients in the tribe.

“These nurses provided the open door for contact with this village,” Wilbanks said.

The mission team included Leah Coulter, RN, Chris Jones, deacon, and Pastor Richard Englert, all from First Baptist Church, Arcadia; Fernando Facioli, Brazilian Baptist Church, Coral Springs; Don Minshew, Wellborn Baptist Church; Eddie Bevill, Parkridge Baptist, Coral Springs; Jeff Stading, Bayless Highway Baptist, Starke; Phil Nason, Causeway Baptist, Tampa; Carlos de Silva, Brazilian Baptist church planter, Orlando; Eliel Santas, New Hope Brazilian Baptist, Tampa; Chad Driggers, First Baptist, Fruitland Park; and Dennis Wilbanks.

Coulter, a veteran of mission trips to Honduras, said she was uneasy at first with the evangelism aspect of the trip in which she was the only female team member apart from translators. After initially attempting to stay in the background, the medical personnel became the reason the team was welcomed in the village. Even the chief was treated, and asked for a photo with Coulter and himself.

“My anxiousness was not necessary,” she said.

With the chief’s acceptance of the mission team, the villagers became “very open” with the Floridians, who accepted invitations to their homes and to go fishing with the men, according to First Baptist Church, Arcadia Pastor Richard Englert, also a veteran international mission volunteer. Chris Jones, a deacon at First Baptist, Arcadia, sang songs, colored and played games with the children of the village, and the chief invited the Florida pastors to tell the children about Jesus.

“This was an exciting, exhilarating, unbelievable opportunity that I will never forget,” Englert told the Witness.

On the morning of the second and last day with the tribe, the Floridians were reading the Bible and praying before going ashore, when a police boat rounded the river bend and docked near the AVM vessel. The team anxiously waited to see whether they were would be banned from the village. To their relief, the law officers were responding to a complaint from the chief that a barge was stealing sand from a position upstream of the village. The policemen were invited to eat breakfast on the AVM boat, creating another opportunity for witnessing, according to Wilbanks.

Englert said he and Jones tried to visit each home in the village. During a visit across the river from the AVM boat, the Arcadia volunteers were praying for a sick child in the family when a violent wind arose on the river, so loud that their voices could not be heard.

“The storm was as ferocious as any I’ve ever seen, and I was looking for shelter. We were on a bluff and there was none,” Englert said.

When Jones said “amen,” however, the wind instantly died down, Englert said. The mother of the family made a profession of faith during their visit.

“We believe the Lord stopped that storm from coming and interrupting our witness there. He turned that storm away,” Wilbanks said.

The Florida group that included nine pastors held a worship service the last evening of their visit. The Gospel was presented through interpreters, and several made professions of faith, including the village chief, his brother and uncle. According to Englert, the chief’s “hard” countenance disappeared along with his face paint and feathers.

AVM assured the group it would follow up on the Floridians’ initial contact with the villagers. Englert said he is confidant of the Holy Spirit’s work in the village.

“The power of Jesus will always aid in sharing the Good News of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and will give the opportunity to those who hear to react to the Holy Spirit in any environment,” he said.
Carolyn Nichols is newswriter for the Florida Baptist Witness.
Valley Church members minister
to their own people groups
By Sharon Mager

TOWSON, Md. (Baptist Life) — Valley Baptist Church is on a mission and each member is working to discover his or her personal mission field.

“Missions used to be about going on mission trips and only highly trained specialized people did long-term missions. Now everyone is struggling to see themselves as a missionary and every believer is working to find his or her own people group,” Jeff Elkins, associate pastor of Valley Church, said.

Elkins said church members are looking at their people groups as neighbors, members of their community associations, parents and friends at local schools and recreation leagues. Some members are working with the homeless community and others are ministering to prostitutes.

“It’s changed how we view discipleship,” Elkins said. As members go out and minister, they learn together. Each quarter they meet to assess how they’re doing, what tools they need to develop and how they can improve.

“That shift in understanding discipleship has brought radical lifestyle changes. It’s brought new energy and life to the congregation. It has excited everyone about chasing Jesus.”

Church member Adam Hartry leads a group from Valley that ministers alongside Baltimore Street Church, serving breakfasts to the homeless and poverty stricken community. Hartry sometimes preaches at the church. Last summer, members of Valley Church, partnering with Baltimore Street Church, took homeless people to Ocean City—some for the first time.

The church is a year into the long-term plan, and they’re already seeing growth with over 20 new members and several confessions of faith.
Senior Pastor Rick Cash said the church has always taught the idea of every believer is a missionary. “Now we’re being intentional. That is the major difference. We’re doing rather than saying, combining word and deed as James says.”

“We get locked into life and routine and think of church as a series of programs. We forget that we’re supposed to be living on mission,” Elkins said.
For more information about Valley Church visit their website, www.valleybaptistchurch.org.
Sharon Mager is a correspondent for the Newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.

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