News Articles

FROM THE STATES: La., Wash., Va. evangelism/missions news; ‘I want them to see themselves as capable of having any of the jobs they see’

Today’s From the States features items from:
Baptist Message (Louisiana)
Northwest Baptist Witness (Washington)
The Proclaimer (Virginia)

FBC New Orleans heavily
invested in inner-city youth

By Brian Blackwell

NEW ORLEANS (Baptist Message) — Holding up a piece of paper, Slade Simons asks a dozen inner-city New Orleans youth to dream.

“What do you want to do for a career?” Simons asks the elementary aged youth. “Just write it down on a piece of paper, two or three things you need to do to have that career.

“What are the things you need to do now, to do in high school and to do in college?” he continues. “I want you to begin with some of the goals you want to set. While you’re young you need to be thinking about that.

“A goal does not tell you where you are,” he says. “A goal just identifies where you want to go.”

Every Wednesday afternoon, Simons is teaching the youngsters life lessons to give them hope through the Summit, a ministry of First Baptist Church in New Orleans. A team of volunteers that includes Simons spend time with the kids at the church, through tutoring, reading skills development and hands-on learning activities.

But not before taking the them on a field trip to a variety of locations. One week the students may be visiting a costume shop that outfits many of the Hollywood movies made in New Orleans and the following Wednesday touring the corporate office of a spice maker.

Other field trips have included a stopping at the projection room of a movie theater and performing experiments inside the Xavier University chemistry department. They even have visited offices of a business on the 29th floor of a downtown skyscraper, which included a ride on an elevator, something a handful of the youth had never done.

Simons said the field trips along with Vacation Bible Schools and summer camps are designed to help the youth develop their skills and encourage their interests. And as an added bonus -– during the past two summers, five of the kids have accepted Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.

“One of the greatest ways to have hope is to have a vision of what is possible in the future,” Simons said. “To that end, we take the kids on field trips to various businesses in the city of New Orleans so that they can see for themselves what a future of hope and stability looks like. They can see how their education today can be part of their future.

“I want to see the various types of jobs that are available and I want them to see themselves as capable of having any of the jobs they see,” he continued. “I want them to know the difference between manufacturing and service. I want them to know the difference between getting paid for what they know versus paid for what they can do. I want them to know that either is fine and both are available. I want them to explore the opportunities in their minds and their imaginations. I want there to be hope –- the feeling that what is wanted can actually be had. The kids have a narrow worldview and I want to help them expand that view to include choices, opportunities and hope.”

Among the students who has learned about that hope is sixth grader Jeremy Grimes. He said that if it weren’t for the Summit, he would be spending his Wednesdays after school at home in the neighborhood, where there is a potential for getting into mischief.

Grimes said the time the volunteers spend with him and the other kids is something he’ll never forget.

“They invest in their time and invest in us,” he said. “I have learned you have to give [to] people who don’t have and care and be respectful.”

Simons said that while the Summit’s activities are organized, developed relationships with students such as Grimes have been one of the greatest blessings since the ministry started in September 2012 with third and fourth graders.

“The success of Summit has really been driven by the volunteers that God has provided,” Simons said. “Our volunteers and college staff have a heart for the kids that cannot be taught or paid for. They are great people who have a sincere love for the kids and a desire to love them like their own family. And the kids have responded in kind.

“They know that we love them and want what is best for them,” he continued. “Our leaders have earned the right to be heard and the kids trust them when they speak and offer instruction, correction or guidance.”
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.


Food needs met
by Wash. church

By Sheila Allen

HAMILTON, Wash. (Northwest Baptist Witness) — Tragedy is known to bring out the best in people and residents of Hamilton, Wash., know that all too well. Built in a flood plain of the Skagit River, the town has experienced devastating floods every few years for over a century.

Standing in the gap to meet needs and pull people from the brink of despair is First Baptist Church of Hamilton, where Pastor Ron Edwards has led the charge since 2003.

“I was told of the flooding when I first came here,” Edwards said. “The church building used to be in the center of town, but was a victim of two floods in 1990. The church decided to move and God opened up opportunity for land that was across Highway 20, on much higher ground out of the flood zone. God worked miracles, for within a couple of years it was paid for in full.”

It was clear to Edwards and his wife, Beth, when they walked through the low-income community that God was calling them to Hamilton. Four months later the town of 350 residents was once again hit by another massive flood and only five homes were not covered by water.

“We already had an arrangement with the Red Cross, so the church was once again turned into an emergency shelter,” Edwards stated. “With national attention, we received donations from all over the country and were quickly overwhelmed by it. At first, five Sunday school classes were quickly filled with donated clothes and other items. Then, a shipping container was brought onto the property. Soon it became unmanageable.”

Owners of a vacant timber mill across the road offered warehouse space to store the materials and a haphazard method of giving out food began. The church people were directly involved for over a year in mudding-out homes and distributing supplies, but the floods only served to uncover problems that were not going away.

Soon, donated modular buildings were in place on church property and became an outreach center for food, clothing and furniture. A ministry to the underserved was born when First Baptist partnered with other Christian organizations in the county to create the Hamilton Community Food Bank, now solely operated by First Baptist.

“We distribute food and clothing and talk to people about the Lord,” Edwards said. “We jumped in with both feet and have up to 25 volunteers who work every week, some giving up to 30 hours per week. There are 150 to 225 families who seek help each week and it’s a pretty big deal. Sometimes there is a lot of frustration and we get tired, but God always makes it clear it is still our time to do this.”

Volunteers want to make certain that anyone seeking help feels comfortable and it has given church members endless opportunities to share the Gospel and meet needs. Edwards first meets with each new client and tells them about the program, which is non-conditional on receiving assistance.

“There are genuine reasons why they come and we build relationships and share the Gospel,” Edwards noted. “We have seen many come to faith and many also ended up attending our church. I have asked God what it is that keeps our volunteers there and have come to the conclusion they realize this really matters.”

The church pays three cents per pound for food they receive from Food Lifeline, which distributes to all the food banks in western Washington and can include out-of-date or nearly expired foods and excess products. They sometimes purchase 6,000 pounds of food at one time.

Jim and Anita Kelly, retired school teachers, direct the program and “are very hands on,” Edwards said. “Anita is an incredible organizer and developed a system for how much we need to give out a balanced diet, as she is concerned as much about the quality as she is the quantity. People can take 50 pounds of food, plus produce each week, which is still a supplement to most people, but does go a long way.”

The food bank has had some clients for many years who may be disabled or retired, so volunteers get to know them personally and care for them.

“A young lady came to us as a teenager, strung out on meth,” Edwards reported. “Since then she has come to faith in Christ and straightened up, with her life turned around. Anita took her under her wing and she is like a daughter to them. Those touches show up all through the food bank. Another lady came in one day on her way to jumping off of a bridge and we asked her to instead stay and help out. Eight years later she is still here and is in charge of our clothing.”

Other ministries of the church include TeamKid and Vacation Bible School which draws large crowds of low-income children, according to Edwards.

“I am humbled by the commitment our people have,” Edwards said.
The church has a good working relationship with town leaders. It turned its buildings over to the city, but then leased them back for $1 per year. The city, in turn, provides the insurance.

“We are an integral part of the community and would appreciate people’s prayers,” Edwards said. “We always need more volunteers and especially some younger folks to catch the vision, but God always provides.”
This article appeared in the Northwest Baptist Witness (gonbw.org), newsjournal of the Northwest Baptist Convention. Sheila Allen is managing editor of the Northwest Baptist Witness.


Va. church recovery program
reaches “the least of these”

By Staff

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (The Proclaimer) — When God called Mike Ellis in 1992 to pastor Geneva Park Baptist Church in Chesapeake, Va., the church sprang into action.

“We started knocking on doors and reaching the people in the community with the Gospel,” Ellis said. “It just so happens that near the church, there were drug addicts and prostitutes.”

The Lord gave Ellis a burden for these types of people and a vision for the church to be passionate about reaching them. Although God called him away for a season to direct a homeless shelter in Gaffney, S.C., He brought him back to Geneva Park Baptist Church two years later.

Within a few months of his return in 2002, the church opened Victory Home, a residence recovery program for addicts. Most ministries of this nature operate as parachurch organizations, but Victory Home is unique in that it falls completely under the direction of the local church.

“We wanted to see Christ transform people’s lives, and we believe that takes place best within the context of a local church,” Ellis said. “We make a distinction between reformation and transformation. It was not our vision that folks would come into our program and just make a few reforms or external changes in behavior. We believed that God wanted to radically transform addicts from the inside out!”

Geneva Park quickly learned that a lack in facilities was a barrier to growing the ministry. But God had a plan and was about to make a miraculous provision. Geneva Park was given the opportunity to merge with Bethany Baptist Church in Portsmouth, Va. Bethany had a large facility and only a few attendees. Geneva Park sold its facility, and the two churches came together, retaining the name of Bethany Baptist Church and Mike Ellis as senior pastor. Funds from the sale of Geneva Park came in handy to make some much-needed repairs to Bethany’s facility and the necessary adjustments to house the ministry of Victory Home.

Constant fundraising is typical with this type of ministry, but not at Bethany Baptist Church and Victory Home.

“Our residents work washing cars, repairing homes, cutting lawns, or whatever else we can have them do to earn money for the program,” Ellis said. “We teach them responsibility and work ethic. They work to support the ministry, and we provide room, board and discipleship.”

Participants in the program have intense Bible study every day. “We teach them how to live for God … how to overcome temptation; what the devil can and cannot do; what godly sorrow is that leads to repentance … ultimately, we want them to know that drugs and alcohol are not the problem. These things are symptoms of a deeper problem. When we help them understand these things, we help them understand how to walk in victory!”

Future plans include enlarging Victory Home to accommodate more residents and expanding an apprentice program for those who sense a special call to this type of ministry. The apprentice program involves a three-year commitment of on-the-job training coupled with theological training provided through Liberty University Online.

The fruit of the ministry is evident. At SBC of Virginia’s Annual Homecoming this past November, Bethany Baptist Church received a Pentecost Award for the most baptisms per capita among SBC of Virginia churches. God is at work and souls are being saved!
This article appeared in The Proclaimer (sbcv.org/articles/category/proclaimer), newsmagazine of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia.


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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