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FROM THE STATES: Mo., Ill., Ark. 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:
The Pathway (Missouri)
Illinois Baptist
Arkansas Baptist News

Trips to Africa
amaze Rock Church
By Susan Mires

ST. LOUIS (The Pathway) -– Preaching in a remote area of northwest Kenya, where warring tribes convened and even broke into fights in the middle of the service, Pastor Timothy Cowin urged the people to follow the Prince of Peace.

“At that sermon, I proclaimed that Jesus came with open hands and kept his hands open to the end,” Cowin recalled. “I asked them to join the tribe of the open hand and follow Jesus.”

The message was translated into the Swahili, Turkana and Pecot languages and at the invitation, hundreds of people came forward to make decisions for Christ. Cowin laid hands on and prayed for each person in line.

From a St. Louis suburb, members of The Rock Church had journeyed to Kenya. The church had prayed for years to partner with a specific location for missions. When Karen Smith joined the church and began describing their personal ministry “Getting The Word Out” in Kenya, they knew they had found their calling.

“We felt like in today’s age, the church in America, because of how we’ve been blessed, can go on mission anywhere in the world,” Pastor Cowin said.

Cowin went on the first trip to Kenya in 2009. In addition to peace rallies, they got to know Andrew and Sarah Kendagor, who cared for orphans in their tiny home.

Karen Smith prayed for an opportunity and was able to take 5-year-old Esther back to St. Louis. Doctors at Children’s Hospital at Barnes removed a large tumor from her neck. The Rock Church then built Esther House, where the Kendagors are now able to care for orphans in better conditions.

The Kendagors’ son, Peter, came to St. Louis with a family member who was receiving treatment for leukemia. While in St. Louis, he joined The Rock, was ordained in ministry and now serves as a church planting catalyst in Kenya.

About 15 members of The Rock have visited Kenya on numerous mission trips. They’ve prayed and provided money for Esther House and other projects. Cowin went on the latest trip in January.

“When I went back, I had heard about some people in remote areas of Uganda who had turned to the Lord and requested we go over there,” he said.

Peter Kendagor introduced him to a man named Clement. The man described how he used to be known as Michael, a violent, drunken man that many believed to be demon possessed. He walked from Uganda to Kenya and attended the peace rally to get free food. He stood in line to receive a Bible and when Cowin laid hands on him, he felt a power fall over him and he has never been the same. Michael changed his name to Clement and has started five churches in Uganda.

“I didn’t even know until three years later what God was doing,” Cowin said with amazement.

Another man saved at the rally walked away and started singing. Today, his songs are heard all over Kenya Christian radio.

The Rock Church is amazed at how their prayers for a mission partner have been answered.

“We felt privileged that God wanted to do something among these people and blessed. He’s chosen us to be part of it,” Cowin said.

Another mission trip is planned for this fall. The Rock is raising money for motorcycles for church planters to use to visit churches.

In addition to the Kenyan partnership, the church, which used to be Rock Hill Baptist Church, has a Japanese congregation meeting at its facility and is working with an Indonesian pastor. They also partnered with a church that was closing and have a campus in Soulard. Cowin said missions is a mindset.

“God has raised up people in our church for particular ministries and people rally around them to do what God has called them do,” he said.
This article first appeared in The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention (mbcpathway.org). Susan Mires is a contributing writer for The Pathway.
Volunteers share the Gospel
in Haiti’s voodoo culture
By Meredith Flynn

HAITI (Illinois Baptist) — Dan Gerard was hardly home from his first trip to Haiti before he started planning to go back. The plight of the impoverished country stayed with Gerard, a member of Living Faith Baptist in Sherman, Ill., after he first visited in the summer of 2011.

He returned in November with a mission: to help others in Illinois find ways to serve in Haiti, a spiritually dark country that has seen the light of the Gospel in the years since a devastating earthquake destroyed large parts of it.

Earlier this summer, Gerard took his third trip to Haiti, this time leading six young adults to minister in an area where 80 percent of the people adhere to voodoo practices and beliefs. It was a different experience from Gerard’s other trips, which focused on rebuilding after the earthquake.

“It’s nice to use work projects as a medium to witness to people, but I felt like God was calling us to go over there and meet people and be very deliberate about witnessing to them.”

The team provided Vacation Bible School for 250 children who have never experienced it and also did hut-to-hut evangelism. They partnered with Pastor Evens, a Haitian minister who has declared war on the voodoo beliefs that are so prevalent in his country.

“We had 24 children come forward [to follow Christ], and you wouldn’t think that sounds like a lot, but one of the things Pastor Evens preached is that if you’re going to follow the Lord, you have to give up all your other beliefs,” Gerard said. “He made that very evident. You need to turn away from all of your other false gods, your voodoo and your other idols. [It was] overwhelming to see that many children come forward.”

Gerard will head back to Haiti this fall with a team that hopes to help build a school for 200 students. The building will also serve as a church. The project will build on relationships Gerard and other Illinois volunteers have formed over the past two years. Partnership is key to all these endeavors, he said.

“It’s not as effective when you go in, work and then leave. I think it’s important that we make that decision to stand by them…and help them grow in their ministry.”

For more missions opportunities, go to www.IBSA.org/Missions.
This article originally appeared in the Illinois Baptist (ibsa.org/illinoisbaptist), newsjournal of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Meredith Flynn is associate editor of the Illinois Baptist.
Baptist Home teens touch lives
of children in Brazil
By Stella Prather

FLORIANOPOLIS, Brazil (ABCHomes) — Squatting down in the entryway, Jade Wise extends her arms and motions for the nearby preschooler to give her a hug. The 5-year-old is not so sure about the strange visitor and shyly lowers his head.

Sneaking a quick look upward, a grin slowly creeps across his face and the brown-eyed youngster makes a made dash into the teens’ open arms. He returns the hug, hops down and runs inside the group home as his friends take turns receiving embraces from Wise and her friends.

Hugs were in abundance recently at the Vinde a Mim Orphanage (Let the Children Come Unto Me Orphanage), a group home for children ages 6-12 in an urban and poor area of Florianopolis, Brazil.

Outside the group home, giggles and laughter fill the courtyard – enclosed with a towering fence topped with electrical wire – as the Brazilian children and a group of Arkansas teens began blowing and chasing bubbles. An older group of boys enjoy a hacky sack game.

“These kids are precious,” said Wise, adding that while they ‘don’t really understand” our language, “It’s so fun to love on them.” Before leaving the home, Jade and her friend Krissy Eastridge taught their new 5-year-old friend to sing “Jesus Loves Me” in English. “It was so fun hearing him sing,” said Krissy. “The look on his face was awesome.”

Jade and Krissy were among eight residents of the Arkansas Baptist Home for Children in Monticello that traveled to the southeastern Brazilian city June 15-25 to take part in a 10-day mission trip. The first-ever overseas mission trip for any group of ABCHomes residents was funded by several generous ABCHomes donors.

The Baptist Home residents, along with 11 ABCHomes staff and representatives, ministered alongside Southern Baptist International Mission Board missionaries Ron and Alana Greenwich. Ron, who grew up at the Baptist Home, has ministered in the South American country for 28 years.

“I am so thankful … for the group from Arkansas, especially those from the Baptist Home which is part of my past, for coming to Brazil to minister with us (Alana and I),” shared Greenwich. “I feel so very close to this group just because of our connection to the Baptist Home.”

It was a “privilege,” he said to host this group and to “watch them interact with little children who have even less than they do.”

During their trek to Brazil, the mission team spent two days ministering at a public school-in a Florianopolis favela – the generally used term for a shantytown in Brazil. This very poor, violent community is plagued with drug problems and domestic violence. Many residents’ only means of making a living is by collecting trash and sorting through it to find recyclable items that can be sold.

At the school, several Baptist home team members were allowed to lead a Bible study and share their testimonies in four classes. Others helped the Brazilian children make crafts and balloon animals.

Next door at a community center first started by the Greenwich’s, other team members led area teenagers in recreational and sporting events. American football and baseball were a big hit among the Brazilians. Each teen was presented with a Slipdisc•, a Frisbee-type disc with the gospel message in Portuguese on the underside decal.

Noting that soccer is king in Brazil, team member Dave Bostian, said, the Brazilian kids enjoyed learning about the American games. “They didn’t quite understand the idea of running around the baseball diamond, but they sure did like to like to slam the ball,” said Bostian.

Lucia Perry, wife of ABCHomes executive director David Perry, was among the group who traveled to Brazil. Lucia said one thing she noticed during a visit to the homes of two women living in the favela was the hospitality among those who had so little.

“At each home, they wanted to offer us food and coffee,” shared Lucia. “I was touched by these wonderful ladies.”

The team also visited two low-come day care centers where they led backyard-Bible-type clubs and recreational activities. Four ABCHomes leaders shared about the history, program and funding of ABCHomes with a group who oversee Brazilian residential group/foster care-type homes.

At another orphanage for infants and toddlers up to 3-years-old, team members painted a bedroom and dining area. When team members learned there were three infants onsite, they jumped at the chance to cuddle and rock the precious little ones.

After cuddling 18-month-old Alexander, team member Robin Caldwell, noted, “When he said ‘mamaaaa’, I felt maternal instincts taking over.” Caldwell, an ABCHomes executive board member, jokingly said her husband could surly get used to baby boy around the house.

Each of the Baptist Home residents said they won’t soon forget the experiences and opportunities to minister they had the opportunity to be a part of during the mission trip.

“I can’t event put into words what it meant for me to come on this trip,” shared Jake Roberts, 18. “I’ll never forget it.”

Noting the living conditions of the favela children she observed on the trip, Caitlyn Bradley said, “We (Americans) get more and more things all the time and all we do is take and take. I was so inspired by the joy on the faces of these kids who really don’t have much.”

Team member Erica Wise called the trip an “incredible blessing. “I will never forget holding two of the most precious gifts God could create. It was so hard saying by to these precious babies.”

Krissy called the trip “life changing.” Noting some challenges she has faced, she said, ” We have so much and these kids don’t. I know God is taking care of me. And He sent me here … Just to see the changes on a child’s face when I picked him up was worth it all. ”

Recalling her experiences on the trip and her time spent at the Baptist Home, Cynthia Skattebo, said, “It is crazy how much we take for granted. We don’t appreciate what we have, but being here I can see how much I have … It was an amazing trip.”
This article appeared in the Arkansas Baptist News (arkansasbaptist.org), newsjournal of the Arkansas Baptist Convention. Stella Prather is communications director of ABCHomes, Arkansas Baptist Children’s Homes.

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