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FROM THE STATES: Miss., Okla., Ariz. evangelism/missions news; ‘Many teenagers have had their lives changed for an eternity…’


Today’s From the States features items from:
The Baptist Record (Mississippi)
The Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma)
Portraits (Arizona)

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100 decisions at
Miss. youth event

By William H. Perkins Jr

JACKSON, Miss. (The Baptist Record) — Horses herded out. Baptist young people herded in.

That’s what Don Lum, evangelism director at the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board (MBCB), witnessed at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson on July 22, the date for this year’s Mississippi Baptist youth Night.

“The Coliseum folks were quickly removing dirt from the floor that had been put down for the equine event that had just wrapped up minutes before. They were taking out the trash and mopping all around.

“The thought occurred to me, ‘Right now it’s a dirty mess from the previous event, but in just a few hours this place will be a shining worship theater ready to praise and worship God and His Son Jesus Christ.'”

Coliseum workers came through with their part of the prep work. The state-owned facility that has been the mainstay for Youth Night for at least 45 years was spic-and-span for the 2016 version. It was a good thing they did, said Lum, a former longtime youth minister, because young people and their chaperones from as far away as Slidell, La., outside New Orleans, piled into the building in anticipation of an unforgettable evening of worship, praise, and Bible study.

Mississippi Baptist Youth Night is the largest annual gathering of Mississippi Baptists anywhere in the state.

“We had people from out of state, and we had Mississippi Baptists from Pascagoula near the Gulf Coast all the way up into north Mississippi,” he recounted. “We certainly appreciate all the churches who believe so much in the value of Youth Night that they’re willing to bring their young people long distances to make sure they are part of the life-changing music and message.

Appearing at this year’s Youth Night was the Justin Cofield Band from Austin, Texas. The band is connected with Austin Stone Church in Austin, where Cofield serves as director of worship development and as worship pastor for the church’s St. John campus.

Featured speaker was evangelist and former youth minister Ronnie Hill from Ft. Worth, Texas. Hill, who was also the featured speaker at last year’s Youth Night, surrendered to full-time ministry at the age of 14 and holds a D.Min. degree from Southwestern Seminary in Ft. Worth.

“Ronnie is a guy who can communicate the Gospel on multiple levels. His background in youth ministry is a real asset at events such as Mississippi Baptist Youth Night. He really speaks their language,” Lum said.

More than 100 decision cards were filled out during the time of invitation, Lum reported.

“Each young person who made a decision for Christ that evening was able to talk on-site with a trained counselor. His or her chaperone who traveled to Jackson with them was notified of their decision, and the information will also be referred to the appropriate home church because the church staff there will know the personal and family situations better than anyone else.”

Mike Brister, assimilation pastor at Temple Church in Hattiesburg, is a former youth minister and currently serves as MBCB youth consultant. He and a team of Mississippi Baptist leaders plan and coordinate each year’s Youth Night.

“What a privilege it has been to be a part of Youth Night for the last 20 years,” Brister said in a written statement to The Baptist Record. “We have had the privilege of having some of the greatest speakers and worship leaders in the country. God has had His hand on this event for years. Many teenagers have had their lives changed for an eternity and to that we say, ‘To God be the Glory!'”

In addition to Brister, the 2016 Youth Night Planning Team included:

— Jon Daniels, senior pastor of Country Woods Church, Byram.

— Danny Forrest, associate pastor/youth minister at First Church, Richton.

— Casey Williams, pastor of adult groups at the Madison campus of Pinelake Church, Brandon.

Lum wanted to stress that all precautions are taken each year to ensure attendees will have a safe Youth Night outing. “We are thankful for the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department personnel who are so willing to serve as guards during the event — and they always tell me about how respectful and well-behaved our young people are.

“God is honored in the eyes of other people by the conduct of our Mississippi Baptist young people during events such as this.”

Date, time, and program personalities for the 2017 Mississippi Baptist Youth Night will be announced in the near future. For more information, contact Lum at P.O. Box 530, Jackson, MS 39205-0530. Telephone: (601) 292-3278 or toll-free outside Jackson (800) 748-1651, ext. 278. E-mail: [email protected] Web site: mbcb.org.

Mississippi Baptist Youth Night is funded in part each year by gifts to the Mississippi Cooperative Program.
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This story appeared in The Baptist Record, newsjournal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board (mbcb.org). William Perkins is editor of The Baptist Record.

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Okla. seniors share
salvation stories

By Chris Doyle

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (The Baptist Messenger) — Bill Pierce, president of Baptist Village Communities (BVC), had a conversation with Chris Finley, BVC director of chaplain services, in 2014. One of the things they discussed was making a greater emphasis on evangelism at the eight Baptist Villages in Oklahoma.

Finley then approached Mike Napier, personal evangelism specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, and in the last year, they began the process of asking all BVC residents to share their salvation experiences.

“We concluded that many senior adults have a salvation story to tell, but have never written it down to share with family and friends,” said Finley.

Napier and Finley traveled to every Baptist Village, and with the help of local pastors and church leaders, they asked residents if they would write their story of how they accepted Christ.

“Sometimes they had a story; sometimes they didn’t,” said Napier. “For those who had stories, we helped them write it and then placed it on The Most Important Thing website for them.”

Napier said how sharing their salvation stories on the website would have an impact on not only the residents’ children and grandchildren, but also those of their family who have yet to be born.

“That is for the point of legacy,” said Napier about the influence residents can have in sharing the Gospel to future generations. “Children who haven’t been born yet, they can go read their (relative’s) story because it’s capsuled right here. The legacy aspect of this is great.”

Along with receiving great feedback from residents sharing their story, they also encountered other great results.

“I got to lead a lady to Christ in Hugo,” Napier said as he told about the time he and retired pastor Fred Greening were visiting Baptist Village of Hugo.

He and Fred were walking the hall as they were visiting with residents, and concluded they had time for one more visit. Dan Stiles, campus director of Baptist Village of Hugo, saw them and led them to Madeline Baker’s room.

Napier recalls what Stiles said to Madeline, “‘These gentlemen would like to help you write your story about how you came to know Christ.’ And her response was this, ‘I don’t know if I have a story.’ (Stiles) looked at us and said (to her), ‘Well, they can help you with that, too.'”

After he shared the Gospel with her, Napier noticed her eyes welled up. He remembers her response.

“‘I knew there had to be more. I knew there had to be something more,'” Napier said quoting Madeline.

Other stories from meeting with residents include an experience at the Baptist Village of Cleveland. After a pastor, youth pastor and the young pastor’s daughter visited with a resident, the resident initially declined and said she was not ready to accept Christ.

As time passed, the resident spoke with Terry Dennis, campus director, and asked if the pastor, youth pastor and daughter would come back.

“I’m ready to receive Jesus,” she said.

Along with residents making professions of faith, some, when asked about sharing their story, admit they have never been baptized, like Fred and Pearl Hopkins at Baptist Village of Oklahoma City. They were recently baptized at the on-campus pool.

The number of stories continues to grow. They include experiences of Baptist Village employees and family members of employees accepting Christ.

As Napier mentioned the legacy impact of Baptist Village residents sharing their story, though the impact is there for upcoming generations, there also are powerful results happening now.

Visit mostimportantthing.org to see testimonies of Baptist Village residents, as well as others who have made professions of faith.
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Chris Doyle is associate editor of The Baptist Messenger (www.baptistmessenger.com), newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

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Ariz. Baptists help families
go from despair to hope

By Irene A. Harkleroad

TUCSON, Ariz. (Portraits) — If you were a victim of persecution because of your religion or nationality, and you had spent two years (or as many as 30) in a refugee camp, and you were one of the many who endured imprisonment, torture and enormous personal loss, would you be happy to see a friendly face when you got off the plane in Tucson? Someone who was glad you came to America with your family of five and your two small bags containing all your worldly possessions?

Greeting new refugees is part of what Tucson Refugee Ministry does. In some ways, it is the most important part.

“Life here is going to be difficult for them,” says Cherie Gray, Tucson Refugee Ministry executive director. “Their greatest immediate need is for genuine friendship, and their hearts are open to God’s love.”

As a Christian worker overseas, Gray learned what it was like to live as a stranger — to learn a new culture, a new language, to try to connect with the people.

Today, serving with the North American Mission Board’s Mission Service Corps, she applies the lessons she learned and helps strangers assimilate into American life by building a bridge between our countries, our cultures and our religions.

In 2006, with the support of Casas Church in Tucson and Catalina Baptist Association, she started Tucson Refugee Ministry with a goal of greeting refugees and coming alongside them for three months, helping them learn how to make their way in a new world.

“Many refugee agencies meet the immediate needs of food, shelter and clothing,” says Gray. “Tucson Refugee Ministry meets the critical need of connection. We focus on educating, equipping and mobilizing a network of about 100 volunteers from 50 Christian churches in the area. We minister in four major ways that span from single events up to walking beside a family.”

The need and opportunities are great.

“There is an unprecedented mass displacement of people around the world,” Gray says. “It’s not an accident that God is moving these people here. The church needs to be at the center, not on the sidelines.”

And it begins by building relationships.

“Many of our refugees are Muslim,” Gray says. “In both the Bible and the Koran, it says to love God and love your neighbor. It is something Muslims and Christians agree on. It opens a door.”

At a recent special event, Muslim and Christian women and girls enjoyed an evening of fellowship, music and an old-fashioned (Baptist) potluck — a gathering of friends and a wide-open door.

This summer, 160 Muslim and Christian kids from 13 countries attended Tucson Refugee Ministry’s International Kids Kamp, thanks to donations from the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention through the Cooperative Program, three churches and 20 individuals. Five days of games, songs, skits and stories will be remembered as a fun time with friends.

Tucson Refugee Ministry crosses the borders of countries, languages, denominations, governments (from local to global), private agencies and religions.

There are many misconceptions about refugees, who are legal immigrants.

“They have permanent visas, but they must learn English, get a job and make their own way in this country,” Gray explains. “The majority assimilate into the culture and give back. They pay back the travel loans granted to them when they relocated to the U.S. They add to the economy by working hard to achieve the American dream. They start successful businesses, create jobs and pay taxes.”

Less than 50 percent of the many refugees who come to the United States will be befriended by an American, let alone a follower of Jesus, Gray says. Who will walk through this open door?
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This article appeared in Portraits, newsmagazine of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention (http://www.azsbc.org/). Irene A. Harkleroad is a freelance writer in Carefree, Ariz.

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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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