News Articles

FROM THE STATES: La., Okla., Tenn. evangelism/missions news; ‘First and foremost it starts with our helping them to find the Lord’

Today’s From the States features items from:
Baptist Message (Louisiana)
Baptist Message (Oklahoma)
Baptist & Reflector (Tennessee)

Main Street Mission meeting
needs for more than 20 years
By Hannah Boggs

PINEVILLE, La. (Baptist Message) — To find churches who are trying to “be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ” one needs to look no further than the Main Street Mission in Pineville.

Located at 312 Main Street in downtown Pineville, the Mission is a homeless shelter and ministry of First Baptist Church Pineville. And it has been meeting the needs of the homeless for more than 20 years.

“Main Street is a place that not only takes people in to meet their needs but also to share the gospel,” Mission Director Sam West said. “It is our goal to give these people hope and hopefully lead them to Christ.

“It is a place where people from all walks of life can serve and grow together as part of the body of Christ,” he continued.

And churches from across Central Louisiana share West’s vision.

Fourteen churches partner with the Mission and 50 to 65 people weekly volunteer their time and efforts to cook, serve breakfast and lunch, help with the clothes and work with any of the needs of the clients there.

Churches from as far away as Vidalia, Marksville, Oakdale, Woodworth and even some in Grant Parish come to the Mission where they donate time, volunteers and money. In addition, there are numerous churches in the Alexandria and Pineville area that partner with the Mission as well.

While not all churches are able to send volunteers, they assist with donations, either monetarily or through clothes, food, or hygiene items.

“Anything you use at home, we use here,” said Mercy Ministries Director Janet Pufahl. “Any type of clothing is important. We also allow the homeless to wash their clothes here so even laundry detergent would be of help.

“We take everything right on down to the kitchen sink and the dish soap,” she said. “Every Monday we distribute hygiene and snack backs for those living on the streets. Our number of clients are growing.

“We have a lot of groups that have been coming weekly for years but it would be so helpful if we could have other groups give these guys a break,” Pufahl said. “We are always in need of extra volunteers.”

The Main Street Mission holds Wednesday night services, Sunday morning services, and the Mercy Ministry service, which has been in existence for the last seven years, is open every day from 9 a.m. until noon.

“We just want to help these people get re-established in life. God has a purpose for all of us,” said West. “To help these people fulfill their purpose and to see what God has in store for them we offer them a helping hand, both physically and spiritually. Sometimes people do get a little lost or off track as we all do but then it’s our responsibility to not only feed them physically, but spiritually as well.”

And Main Street Mission is expanding to help meet the needs thanks to the Louisiana Baptist Convention, the Georgia Barnette Offering for State Mission and Church Sight funds.

“With their help we were able to purchase the building adjacent to where we are right now … debt free. It is such a huge blessing,” said West.

The purchase will allow more room for expansion plus more storage space for their food pantry. West said they are looking to re-model and expand what they do with the Mercy Ministries, as well as expand youth and children’s Sunday schools.

“I want us to really be able to grow a church that meets the needs of the community and really use it for God’s glory and to see his kingdom grow,” said West.

In addition to the feeding and clothing of the homeless, the Mission also offers Bible study daily; assists with the purchase of Greyhound bus tickets or with some medical needs.

If a client needs to see a doctor, needs help with a pair of eyeglasses or is having surgery, the Mission does its best to assist the client. It also helps out those who are staying at the Salvation Army, which is located across the Red River in Alexandria.

Volunteers at the Mission take down the clients’ information and needs; learn about their situations and do what they can to direct their clients to facilities, agencies, organizations, or individuals in the community who may be able to help them get back on their feet.

If someone is in between jobs, an employer may call and say they need some men to help to do carpentry work, or bricklaying.

The Mission also holds summer camps for children, and even offers scholarships for youth as well.

“Our goal is to help meet their needs,” said West. “First and foremost it starts with our helping them to find the Lord. Once they come to know Jesus, other things are going to fall into place,” said West.

If you are interested in getting involved, give them a call at 318.442.5803 or join them for worship on Sunday. If you would like to donate, the Mission is open from 9 a.m. until noon every day and will accept anything except big furniture. Donations of food, men’s clothing and paper goods are always greatly needed.
This article appeared in the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Hannah Boggs is a staff writer for the Baptist Message.
Oklahoma nurses serve
Syrian refugees in Lebanon
By Bob Nigh

RAHBE, Lebanon (The Baptist Messenger) — When Janet Wilson of Blanchard retired March 1, she was looking forward to having the freedom to serve the Lord in medical missions alongside her mentor, Lucille Sewell of Mustang, wherever He led them.

It didn’t take long for that “wherever” to turn into Lebanon, with the pediatric nurse specialists using their God-given skills to treat Syrian refugees who had fled their homeland’s devastating civil war. The Oklahoma nurses joined a Missouri physician, his wife and a physician from Pennsylvania to form a Baptist Global Response medical team that recently was dispatched to Rahbe, Lebanon to conduct clinics.

While there, the team saw more than 500 patients, including more than 90 Syrian children at a school, and a few Bedouins. Their clinic was set up at a local library.

“This was the second time they had set up a medical clinic in the area. It was a small public library; a very nice building. We set up four medical stations; two physicians and two nurses,” Wilson said. “They had pre-registered people prior to our arrival and done the groundwork. They checked in at the front and we provided medications they needed, such as antibiotics, head lice medications, and Ibuprofen — basic medical things — and after that they went to the back where a local believer would share the Gospel with them.

“We were able to ask if we could pray with them. The translators were very good to share our story about where we came from and that we were believers in Christ and followers of Jesus. They were very welcoming and interested when they found out we were from America.”

They also helped a Kurdish family who has a 6-year-old son suffering from cerebral palsy.

“They had received some braces from the World Health Organization, and we took a walker to help him get around better,” Sewell said. “His mother has to carry him everywhere, since he can’t walk yet.”

Sewell was especially touched by the plight of the infants she ministered to, most of whom were malnourished.

“Some people may say, ‘you only helped them temporarily; what good did that do?’ Well, yes, that’s right, but along with that, we were able to share the Love of Christ and the Gospel with them as well,” Sewell said

Sewell retired from Children’s Hospital when her husband, Leon, became ill in 2002. He passed away shortly after that. They had been married 24 years.

“I was really lost. No job, no husband. The kids were all grown and gone,” she admitted. “I asked the Lord, ‘What are You going to do with me now?’

“I was foundering. I didn’t have a purpose. He directed me to Disaster Relief. It exploded from there. I went to Indonesia twice with medical teams. It’s just amazing at my age of 77 that God calls me to go. I want to be obedient to Him, and these opportunities just seem to come.”

“I met Lucille in 1991, but I left Children’s in 1994 to work at the McClain County Health Department because my children were small, and I stayed in public health for 22 years,” Wilson explained. For the last eight years, I worked at the State Health Department.

“I really enjoy going places with Lucille. We really re-connected working With disaster relief and then at the BGR trainings together.”

Sewell and Wilson are departing July 19 on a medical mission trip to Nicaragua with Baptist Medical Dental International.

“Janet went last year and is going again this year; this is my ninth year.” Sewell said. “My church (Mustang, First) has its very own team this year; 40-50 people are going.”

The pair are grateful to God, Who always provides the means for them to serve Him.

“God always provides,” Wilson proclaimed.

“He wants us to be obedient, first. And, so, that’s something that I have done, and I know Lucille has, too. Every time, God has provided, and it may come in the most creative ways. It might be I sold an old used van that I had … But God’s always provided, and I think that’s a message that people can’t or won’t grasp onto. They’re fearful or say I can’t afford that; that’s a lot of money, or I’ve always wanted to do that, but …”
This article appeared in The Baptist Messenger (baptistmessenger.com), newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Bob Nigh is managing editor of The Baptist Messenger.
‘Petie’s Pantry’
provides needed food
By Lonnie Wilkey

SPRINGFIELD, Tenn. (Baptist & Reflector) — The reality of people going hungry is not confined just to larger cities.

In fact, it may even be worse in rural counties and communities, said Pastor Steve Freeman of Grace Baptist Church in Springfield.

There’s not as much benevolent aid available in the non-metropolitan counties, Freeman observed.

Earlier this year the church adopted a “backpack project” in which they filled backpacks with food for children to take home with them on the weekends. “We knew some children would have little to eat without those backpacks,” he said.

Realizing that children would need food during the summer as well, Freeman and the church came up with “Petie’s Pantry,” a free farmer’s market which is available to anyone in the community on Sunday afternoons from 4-6 p.m.

The market is named after Mary Margaret “Petie” Porter, a longtime member of Grace Baptist who died in 2010. Until her death when she was 83 years old, she was known for her gardening, Freeman recalled.

“She would have loved to have seen the work of gardening turned into ministry,” he said.

The church began providing the farmer’s market in early June and will continue through the end of August, Freeman said.

Since it began the church has served about 60 families each week, he noted. And, about seven people who have gone through the market have come back to attend church, Freeman said.

The free market was advertised in the community by a billboard and through flyers sent home to parents of elementary school children at the end of school.

All the produce given was either grown or bought by members of Grace for Petie’s Pantry, Freeman added.

In addition, about 30 volunteers have helped staff the farmer’s market which is directed by church member Bob Morgan.

Morgan, who grew up on a farm and farmed at one time, is now retired and lives in a condo.

Because of his background, he was more than willing to accept Freeman’s invitation to lead the new ministry at the church.

“It’s been a blessing to me to be a blessing to these people,” Morgan said.

He admitted he was surprised at first by the number of people who needed the fresh produce. He now sees the farmer’s market as one of the “best ministries” the church provides.

Both Morgan and Freeman see the ministry as an extension of the ministry modeled by Jesus Christ.

“He has called us to meet physical needs in order to meet spiritual needs,” Freeman said.

Terri Shrum and her husband, Chester, are two of the members who regularly bring produce they grow to the church each week.

She is hopeful that the fresh produce can be used as a tool to reach someone who will eventually come to church and be saved.

“The main reason we do this is so someone may be introduced to Christ,” she said.

Kelly Whitaker, a resident of Springfield, is grateful for the church’s farmer’s market.

“It really helps our family and saves us a lot of money,” she said.

Freeman estimated that about 60 percent of the church’s members have been involved with the ministry in one way or another.

He has been pleased with the ministry and expects it to continue again next year. “This has been an encouraging ministry for our people,” Freeman said.

He is hopeful other churches will consider starting similar ministries.

“If every church could think of doing a ministry like this we could eradicate hunger,” he observed.

The farmer’s market is an inexpensive way to provide food because it basically requires the cost of seed and time. “The Lord does the producing,” he noted. “We just help with the harvest.”
This article appeared in the Baptist & Reflector (tnbaptist.org/BRNews.asp), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist & 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 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.

    About the Author

  • Staff