Today’s From the States features items from:
The Christian Index (Georgia)
The Alabama Baptist
Md. churches deliver water – and
hope — to residents in Flint
By Shannon Baker
TEMPLE HILLS, Md. (BaptistLIFE) — When Taye Hailu saw the news of the water situation in Flint, Mich., he was burdened.
With over 100,000 residents, the city has faced a critical crisis in its infrastructure. The city’s water supply, used for drinking, cooking and bathing, is contaminated by lead, creating a serious public health danger.
This past January, the state’s governor declared a state of emergency, followed shortly after by President Barack Obama’s own declaration as a federal state of emergency for the city, Michigan’s seventh largest, northwest of Detroit.
Now mostly out of the news cycle, Hailu, pastor of New Direction Church in Temple Hills, Md., felt the people of Flint were lost and forgotten.
He knew an old classmate, George Anderson, who was delivering bottled water to residents and asked to join in the effort. He urged members from his church and his partner church, El Bethel Baptist Church in Ft. Washington, Md., to donate bottled water, baby wipes and hand sanitizer for his friend’s next delivery.
“It wasn’t just a water drive; it was an opportunity to share the love of God — with every race, not just African Americans, but also Hispanics and Caucasians,” he said.
Hailu cast vision at the two churches’ services and through social media, with the goal of securing 300-350 cases of water. To his great surprise, donations surpassed over 1,000 cases “based upon the extravagant generosity of over 70 people donors, some I haven’t even personally met,” Hailu said.
Because of weight restrictions on Penske’s rental trucks, Hailu rented three large delivery trucks, to be driven by volunteers with CDL licenses. Volunteers who would distribute the water followed behind in vans.
On the day they traveled, Hailu’s van got caught in traffic, causing his late arrival. When he finally made it to Flint, he learned the other vans already delivered their supplies of water to pre-established distribution centers, which were, to Hailu’s surprise, in the nicest neighborhoods.
His burden deepening, he instructed his van driver to deliver the water instead to the housing developments, where the city’s poorest residents lived. He was advised against it, as others described the crime-ridden area to him.
But he couldn’t resolve in his mind how single moms could make it to the distribution centers. And more than that, how could they carry the heavy water packs miles back to their homes?
It just wouldn’t work, so he and other team members drove straight to the poorer areas, where they were met often by people who tearfully proclaimed, “I thought you forgot about us!”
Over and over, Hailu personally visited door-to-door distributing the supplies. He saw families whose children, forced to bathe in the contaminated water, had blisters and sores marring their skin. He saw the unhealthiness of residents who were living off of sodas and other sugar-laden drinks they had to purchase in the absence of clean water.
It devastated him.
But it also gave him the opportunity to proclaim the goodness of God, whom he credited for sending him all the way from Maryland to this hurting inner city. He shared about Christ often, praying openly at the residents’ doors. He heard over and over how thankful the people were to receive the hope contained in the plastic water bottles.
The whole experience rejuvenated Hailu’s faith. He knew this was just the beginning of caring for the city that one no longer sees in the news.
“It has been an amazing experience to see strangers, see the need, and respond in support by way of wipes, water or sanitizers. I thought I was going to give the residents of Flint something, but actually they gave me something as well … love!” Hailu said. “Though we returned with our energy, trucks and hands empty, God ensured that I returned with my heart full.”
Hailu said he was reminded of Matthew 25:40, when Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.”
Presently, the two churches are collecting donations again, with plans to have delivered them to Flint on July 23. If you are interested in donating supplies and even offering financial assistance to offset the cost of the rental trucks, contact Hailu at 310-357-4621.
This article appeared in BaptistLIFE, newsmagazine of the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network, formerly known as the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, Shannon Baker is director of communications for the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network.
Ga. camp immerses youth
in missions education
By Joe Westbury
CLAYTON, Ga. (The Christian Index) — God sometimes calls individuals to leave friends and family and move to another location as a missionary. And sometimes He calls an individual to be a missionary right where they live.
Indigenous missionaries, as they are called, remain in their home community or state and serve where they best understand the culture. They have natural insight that provides them with eyes to see the needs that someone moving into the culture may take months to recognize.
That indigenous ministry was the focus of Culture Camp at Camp Pinnacle for a recent week as campers learned firsthand about the ministry of Bryan and Lisa Catherman in Utah.
“It’s hard being a missionary where you are from because you see the brokenness and lostness more clearly than an outsider. You know many of the people on a personal level so the pain is deeper as you struggle to lead them to Christ,” Bryan Catherman told the girls in one of his sessions.
The couple are different from other missionaries because they were not always Christians where they serve. When they first met, Lisa was struggling with doubts of her Mormon faith and Bryan was not a believer. After they were married they felt they needed a spiritual foundation that was not tied to the state’s dominant faith.
Within two years of visiting an independent church Lisa accepted Christ and Bryan followed. Before long he felt called not to church planting specifically, but “to make disciples and gather them into a church,” Catherman explains.
He makes the distinction because he feels many church planters are focused on starting a church first and then growing the congregation. His approach, though very similar, focuses on winning people to Christ, starting a home Bible study as others are reached, and then gathering the group into a new church plant.
Laying the foundation
“I joined the staff of Holladay Baptist Church, a small congregation in Salt Lake City, where I served for five years helping them launch a new congregation. I had already completed my master of divinity degree from Liberty University and was working on my doctorate from Golden Gate (now Gateway Seminary). Eventually Holladay Baptist — and our sponsors throughout the nation — sent Lisa and I out to find the lost, share the Good News, and gather them into a new church,” he adds.
And that’s the story the missionary couple shared with the young girls at Pinnacle. They told stories of hard work, of being lonely even while serving at home due to the lostness of Utah.
“It’s very lonely work because of the spiritual darkness we encounter every day. We serve where there are fewer Christians than in some locations in the world; 97 out of every 100 people we meet are lost without a relationship with Christ.
“What makes it even harder is that so many of those are members of an established religion (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as Mormons) so they feel that they have already found Jesus.”
Volunteers key to their ministry
That hasn’t slowed down the couple, though. Using volunteers from around the nation they and their small church have placed more than 20,000 door hangers on front doors, each one with a Gospel message. They have also distributed 10,000 tracts and 400 Bibles “while praying for every home in the entire west side of Salt Lake City. We literally have stood in the front of each home and prayed for the individuals living there,” Catherman says.
Growth, as expected, has been slow in such an environment. But still, 13 baptisms have been recorded since the new congregation — Redeeming Life Church — began at Easter 2015.
The church averages 60 members with more than 60% of those being new believers.
First century church starting
“We live as close to a first century church starting model as possible,” Bryan notes.
One way the couple brought the difficulty of finding the unchurched in the midst of a perceived churched state is through a creative exercise with the campers. First, Catherman enlists just three or four girls from the group to be open to the Gospel if they were approached by a missionary. That left about 20 girls who would not be responsive to a witness. Then he chose one volunteer and gave her a tract, challenging her to see how long it took her to find those who might be seeking God … all the while the group is walking around the room.
The exercise brought the struggle home to the girls in just 10 minutes.
Following that experience the group visited a coffee shop similar to one where Bryan and his wife meet new prospects. Then the girls were asked to write personal notes or Scripture verses on door hangers which the couple could use as they continue their door-to-door witnessing.
“We literally pray Luke 10:2 every single day in Salt Lake City, asking the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into the field because it is so hard and we are so few,” Catherman states.
“We trust that someday some of these girls, or a group from their church, will come to Utah to labor alongside us.”
Pinnacle offers a distinctive missions education perspective
That’s what sets Camp Pinnacle apart from other summer camps. While many include Bible studies and Scripture memorization, Pinnacle offers a distinctive Southern Baptist missions experience. Missionaries from the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board regularly share their experiences from the field and offer one-on-one mentoring.
And that’s why Pinnacle remains a spiritual place for unknown numbers of girls who first surrendered to mission service through experiences like the one this year’s campers are experiencing.
Camp Pinnacle is a ministry of Georgia Baptist Women’s Missionary Union and Women’s Enrichment Ministries. For more information on Camp Pinnacle or WMU ministries, call 1-800-746-4422, ext. 324, or email [email protected]
Registration for 2017’s camping and missions education season will open in September of this year. Contact WMU/WEM for the schedule and affordable cost structure.
This article appeared in The Christian Index (christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Joe Westbury is managing editor of The Christian Index.
ESL provides Ala. Baptists
way to reach internationals
By Grace Thornton
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (The Alabama Baptist) — Kristy Kennedy said she doesn’t have a number. She doesn’t even have a ballpark figure.
“I just kind of hear about it as I travel around visiting churches,” she said.
But what she hears, she loves.
“What I’ve really enjoyed seeing is that some of our smaller churches and small towns are really catching the vision for ESL (English as a Second Language) ministry,” said Kennedy, a state missionary who leads ESL ministry efforts for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. “Internationals are all over the state right now. It isn’t just a big-city opportunity.”
As a result churches from all corners of the state are calling and asking about how to start ESL ministries, she said.
“Word is getting out that it’s a great way to reach and share and just meet needs,” Kennedy said. “They have so many other needs with learning English, like helping children in school — it’s a never-ending list.”
In areas like Greenville with several companies that make car parts, populations of immigrants have swelled to significant numbers over the years.
And the opportunity is great, said Mary Bertha Zorn, a member of First Baptist Church, Greenville.
“Our ESL ministry originally started when we had two Spanish speakers come to the church to get some help,” she said. “Between the pastor and I and the little bit of Spanish we had together, we managed to get them what they needed. But that was as far as we could go that day.”
So Zorn decided they needed a more organized effort.
“It’s probably been 10 years since that first language class, and it’s waxed and waned over the years,” she said.
The Korean population in the area greatly increased, and they also picked up students from Mexico, Guatemala and other places.
“I don’t know how the word got out, but slowly it did,” she said.
Their classes always stayed small but over time they became more friends than teachers and students. Over time their English got better.
And eventually Zorn began to see them understand the Gospel too.
“We see the growth. We see the questions,” she said. “They need me to be their friend first, then it’s easier for them to accept my faith and my beliefs. It’s a beautiful thing to watch them understand it and come to see it for themselves.”
It’s something that’s happening all over the state, Kennedy said.
First Baptist Church, Montgomery, is still running a strong ESL outreach, including ministry to the Mixteco people (see story, this page).
And Mobile is a refugee city with a lot of opportunity, Kennedy said.
But the truth is that immigrants are in every corner of Alabama, and Kennedy said she’s glad to see that ESL ministry is “spreading like wildfire.”
“You can see internationals everywhere,” she said. “I hear them talking and I know they need help with their English. To me English is the most effective way to reach internationals in the U.S. with the Gospel.”
It’s an instant need they have when they show up in Alabama, Kennedy said.
“And helping them learn can open doors to make friends we might not otherwise be able to make.”
This article appeared in The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Grace Thornton is assistant editor of The Alabama Baptist.
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.