Today’s From the States features items from: The Pathway (Missouri); Southern Baptist TEXAN; Northwest Baptist Witness (Washington)
Mo. church stirs hope
in hotel residents
By Kayla Rinker
HAZELWOOD, Mo. — Sometimes staying in a hotel is no vacation.
“There are hotels in Hazelwood that cater to people who are homeless,” said Jim Walker, lead pastor at Hazelwood Baptist Church (HBC), located in northwest St. Louis County. “They are families who get evicted because they couldn’t make rent or because outstanding utility bills overwhelm them and they’ve exhausted their other options. They are living week to week or even day by day.”
Seeing the need and desiring to do something about it, HBC essentially adopted one of the hotels as one of their mission fields. They bus people from the hotel to the church to take part in Bible studies and children’s ministries, they provide lunches when they can and, most importantly, they make it their mission to build relationships with the people.
While the church has been reaching out to them in various ways for the last year or so, Walker said the church intends to utilize the Missouri Baptist Convention’s (MBC) Summer Missions Mentor Initiative to serve with even more intentionality in the coming months.
“It is part of the disciple-making purpose of our church to raise up young people to be lifelong missionaries,” said Walker, who has served at Hazelwood for 11 years. “We realized about seven years ago that we were sending our young people to college basically unprepared in hopes that they would be ready to bring the gospel to the world around them. We were wrong, we’ve repented of that, and now we are taking that responsibility back.”
Not only will HBC members intentionally pour into the discipleship of these young people, Walker said the church also plans to allow their interns to take charge of the logistics for a month-long food service and outreach ministry at the hotel.
“Summer school ends in June so throughout the month of July our plan is to take lunches over there every day,” he said. “Yes, I said every day. While there, we also want to have a backyard Bible club in the common area.”
He said missionary interns will be in charge of recruiting daily volunteers, scheduling on-site security and organizing lunches every day.
“We have one outside mission team coming to help us one week, but it would great if we had more,” Walker said. “Since we’ve started building relationships with people there we’ve seen youth come to believe in Christ and many of the children are now involved in our children’s ministry.”
The hotel outreach is not the only community-focused ministry God has given HBC. The Hazelwood Police Department asked Walker to be their chaplain, which has opened up more opportunities for service and for sharing the love of Christ.
“We believe very strongly in relational missions and don’t hop around from one place to another,” he said. “Just like in our church planting partnerships with El Salvador and Peru, we try to find the people of peace and work those avenues. When the police department needs volunteers, they call us. That’s exactly what we want them to do.”
On June 3 HBC will celebrate its 60th anniversary and Walker’s prayer is that the church will continue to reflect the community at large and embrace its diversity in Hazelwood.
“Whatever God wants, that’s what we want,” he said. “It’s an amazing privilege to be an instrument God would choose to be a part of his work. I pray that we will be able to shift ministries as the Lord leads, never get too comfortable and to always be faithful. We have been a vibrant fellowship in the community for a lot of years. I pray we continue to keep shining the gospel bright in north (St. Louis) County.”
This article appeared in the The Pathway (mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Kayla Rinker is a reporter living in southwest Missouri.
Small-town Texas church
remains town hub
By Jane Rodgers
CARBON, Texas (Southern Baptist TEXAN) — Jody and Wendy Forbus left their small hometown of Carbon, Texas, in 1989, intending never to return permanently. They came back eight years later to take over a start-up church, among the first supported by the fledgling Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
Today, Carbon Community Baptist Church continues strong, with 150 active members from Carbon, Gorman and Eastland: a hub of energy in a town with a population under 230.
“It all happened nearly at the same time,” Jody Forbus told the TEXAN. “When the SBTC was forming, we were forming as well … so was our association [Cross Timbers Baptist Association].”
Forbus praised the SBTC’s “instrumental” assistance in the church’s early years, calling the convention’s provision of a building grant and monthly support, “our survival.”
Forbus assumed leadership in May 1997 of the small congregation pastored for eight months by Buck Landingham. Forbus knew the members; the nucleus attended a Friday night Bible study he had driven from Stephenville to teach the prior year. His parents were among that original group which met in an abandoned peanut weigh station.
The years were unkind to Carbon. When the peanut industry dried up and the school district was absorbed by Eastland ISD, people pulled up stakes.
“We once had five churches here,” Forbus said. “Now there are only two, a full gospel church and ours.”
When the “faithful few” decided to start a church from the Bible study group, Forbus told them to find a pastor. Landingham came.
With $5,000 donated by a relative of local businessman Ike Whitson, the group bought the abandoned three-story school with its gymnasium and 14 acres from Eastland ISD.
After Landingham left, the church called Forbus, who packed up his family and came home.
The large old school building was dilapidated, its windows broken, its third floor home to roosting pigeons for years.
“You can imagine the mess,” Forbus said.
Help arrived from an Abilene congregation, who sent teams to assist in the clean-up, an effort facilitated by Forbus’s father-in-law, Dwaine Clower, pastor of Pioneer Baptist Church in Cross Plains and Cross Timbers director of missions.
CCBC converted a classroom for worship, adding a piano and pulpit before Landingham’s departure.
The school proved problematic to heat and cool, prompting the church to quickly launch a building project with a grant from the SBTC. The structure was later expanded, with SBTC help.
The school is still used part of the year. The once pigeon-infested third floor serves as a dormitory for two three-day overnight camps for preteens and secondary students sponsored by the church each June since 2000. A K-2nd grade day camp is held between the preteen and youth camps.
Campers enjoy swimming in the pool and the one-acre tank adjacent to the gym, bouncing on an inflatable blob in water dyed vivid turquoise for camp.
“The camp is for kids who could not afford to go to camp,” said Wendy Forbus, adding that an annual spring community fun run/5K provides scholarships.
Camp is the capstone of a children’s and youth program to which the church busses dozens of kids from nearby Eastland for a Wednesday night meal and activities.
But on New Year’s Day 2006, such outreach nearly went up in flames.
“As we came out of church Sunday morning … someone said it looked like a big thunderstorm was headed our way,” Jody recalled. The thunderstorm was actually an enormous wildfire which swept east of Hwy. 183, “shaving off Carbon,” destroying 60 homes, including the Forbus residence outside town.
This baptism-by-fire saw CCBC become a distribution and collection center for donations.
Although they had lost everything, the Forbuses, like many residents, rebuilt. Jody recalled encouraging visits from Jim Richards, SBTC executive director.
“Dr. Richards gave me a full [set] of commentaries, Genesis to Revelation, because I had lost all of my books. We had a revival and he preached,” said Jody, who is now chief of the Carbon Volunteer Fire Department, which holds fundraisers at the church twice yearly.
Five years ago, the Forbuses made a further commitment to the community by purchasing a local business: Carbon Agri Center, now Carbon Ag & Outdoors. The all-purpose hardware, feed store, agricultural supplier, deer processing plant and fertilizer company has become a hub as locals gather for coffee mornings and afternoons in a town whose last eatery closed years ago.
“They like the free coffee,” Jody chuckled, adding, “This ag center is an outreach. When we bought it, our mindset was to reach the community,” devoting “our lives to Carbon.”
The purchase enabled Jody to resign as a contractor for a healthcare company and stay in town rather than traveling. Congregational growth coincided with the acquisition of the business.
Now with a bi-vocational associate pastor and youth volunteers, and a revamped deacon structure, the church is populated mostly by adults in their forties and younger, including many new believers.
“We baptized 22 last year,” Jody said of his congregation of ranchers and farmers, their land dotted with bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush each spring: signs of new life near a church filled with the same.
This article appeared in the Southern Baptist TEXAN (texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Jane Rodgers is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN.
A day at the (missions)
fair in Wash.
By Ruth McHaney Danner
SPOKANE, Wash. (Northwest Baptist Witness) — The fellowship hall buzzed with conversations during North Addison Baptist Church’s first Missions Fair. The church, long a fixture in northwest Spokane, had established an On Mission Team a year earlier to plan the fair with a purpose.
“We wanted our members to see what’s already happening in our church,” said Tom Wade, Mission Team leader. “We chose the theme ‘A Mission for Every Person’ to encourage each member to consider how to be involved.”
The event, promoted for several weeks beforehand, took place on a Sunday in January. After morning service and Sunday school, members and guests gathered in the fellowship hall, where display tables lined the walls. Each display featured a mission project or mission-related activity, literature and handouts.
Notable examples included Jolene Harris’s table. She’d participated last summer with the Northwest’s mission trip to Cuba, led by NWBC church health catalyst Danny Kuykendall. Harris, a college student, had opportunities at the fair to explain the purpose of her trip, the work she did in Cuba, and the blessings she received.
“I hope that through my trip, I’ve been able to show the church family that God can use anyone,” she said. She wanted Mission Fair visitors to understand one fact: “If God calls you to do something, even if it sounds crazy, you should always do it. God can do amazing things, and we’re blessed to allow him to do them through us.”
Another table presented SBC literature and an interactive quiz on various denominational facts: How many Southern Baptist churches are in the Northwest? What area does the North American Mission Board cover? What’s the name of our Christmas offering for International Missions?
The quiz helped open the eyes of Pastor Steve Peters concerning the “missions IQ” of the congregation. “I was surprised that most — but not all — of our members could recall Annie Armstrong or Lottie Moon,” he said.
At yet another table, Julie Peters, wife of the pastor, displayed literature and videos of relatives who serve with the International Mission Board. Next to Julie, Myron Person’s table showed photos and memorabilia from his years as an IMB worker.
Some tables represented local missions, like Robert Sherwood and his college class, who minister to neighborhood children; or like Darrell Worth’s and Bill Parker’s senior adult Sunday School classes, with their frequent witnessing opportunities in a mall-walking group. Other tables featured the church’s ongoing relationships overseas.
One unifying feature of the Missions Fair was prayer cards. At every table, participants offered prepared 3×5 cards, listing specific prayer requests for their ministries. Attendees collected cards as they visited the tables, eventually punching a hole in one corner of the set and binding it with a one-inch book ring. They were encouraged to take the set home for regular prayer.
A potluck lunch followed the fair, and guest speaker Mike Thibodeaux of Simplicity Ministries challenged all attendees to find their place of service, whether local or beyond. “We all have a mission, to share Jesus with others,” he said, then pointed to the displays. “How are you going to fulfill your part of that mission?”
Peters pronounced the Mission Fair a success. “The fellowship was great, but I think it was more important that people received information about each other and about how our church is actively involved in a variety of mission projects,” he said. “This reflects the true heart of the whole congregation.”
This article appeared in the Northwest Baptist Witness, (gonbw.org), newsjournal of the Northwest Baptist Convention. Ruth McHaney Danner is a writer in Spokane, Wash.
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 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. Except for minor style, security, formatting and grammatical changes, the items appear in Baptist Press as originally published.