News Articles

FROM THE STATES: N.M., O.K., N.C. evangelism/missions news; ‘The Creator of the universe has His eye on them’

Today’s From the States features items from:
Baptist New Mexican
The Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma)
Biblical Recorder (North Carolina)

Ethiopian children
on heart of N.M. family
By John Loudat

ARTESIA, N.M. (Baptist New Mexican) — God has connected a family from Artesia with children in need on the other side of the planet, and a ministry has been born that is now being supported by individuals and churches across the nation.

“IAMNOT4GOTTEN MINISTRIES” is sharing the love of God with “shoeshine boys” of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with the help of churches like First Baptist Church, Artesia, which is sending a group of six to eight men to minister to the boys in June.

The ministry traces its beginnings to 2012, when Todd Guy, who grew up in the church in southeastern New Mexico, and his wife Jodi went to the country located in the Horn of Africa to pick up their two newly adopted sons. There God began giving the couple, who have lived in Tulsa, Okla., for several years, a great love not only for their own new children but for the many shoeshine boys they encountered.

“The city of Addis Ababa calls them shoeshine boys. The government of Ethiopia calls them entrepreneurs. (Their) families … call them breadwinners. Travelers call them beggars. But the Lord God Most High calls them ‘beloved,'” Todd’s sister, Kellye Jones, told the Baptist New Mexican.

“The Creator of the universe has His eye on them,” said Kellye, who also grew up at First Baptist as did her husband Kevin. And the One who is known as the Great I Am “hears their cries for help,” she said.

The 6- to 8-year-old boys traveled to Addis Ababa from villages in southern Ethiopia, where they had no means to care for themselves and their families, said Kellye, who moved to Tulsa with her husband a few years ago.

“(God) showed Jodi the deplorable living conditions these young boys endured,” she said. “He sent her to some of the homes, which consisted of four straw beds on mud floors in a seven by seven square-foot hut” that had only a tarp they had found on the streets for a roof.

“… (T)hese boys would eat a meal maybe three or four times a week, because they were trying to save whatever they could to send back to their families, so they too could eat and build huts to shield them from the elements,” she said.

The boys make their living shining shoes, usually less than a dime a day, Kellye said.

“For over a year, while teaching their two new sons from Ethiopia how much they are loved, Todd and Jodi prayed for a way to help the ones left behind on the streets of Ethiopia,” Kellye said.

That’s when Kellye told her sister-in-law, “If you ever go back to Ethiopia, I would like to go with you.” She did, and they did, and Kellye said that was when “the Great Physician did open heart surgery” on her and began revealing his plan to the women.

Two months later they returned to Africa, and three others had set dates for going themselves — Kim York, a friend of Jodi’s in Tulsa; and Dixi Campanella, Kevin’s sister, and her husband, Blaise, both residents of Artesia and members of First Baptist.

“In a week’s time the first home of IAMNOT4GOTTENMINISTRIES was opened,” Kellye said. “God filled it with 12 shoeshine boys.

“God had heard their cries. He saw their needs and he provided for their basic needs …,” Kellye said. “And, as always, God did exceedingly abundantly more than that. He gave them family.”

Meanwhile, back in the States, Kevin, Todd, Blaise and Rick York, Kim’s husband, were using their “business minds” to organize the new ministry. The four couples’ children also caught the vision, with Nikki Pressnall, Kevin and Kellye’s daughter, joining the board.

“We had our second home up and running within the year,” Kellye said. And it wasn’t long before God gave them a vision of a feeding center that would feed other homeless children six days every week.

“Six months later we are feeding over 80 boys,” Kellye said. “Seriously, these are things only God can accomplish.”

About that same time, the ministry began connecting boys with special needs — “the blind, the lame, the deaf, the mute, the HIV-positive and the forgotten children” — with people who were willing to sponsor them for $25 per week.

“Sponsors from all over the (U.S.) rose up and proclaimed with us, ‘God has put inside us a desire to help,'” Kellye said. “From East Coast to West Coast of this great nation, God called forth a network of sponsors to give generously … so we can help our family that lives half a world away.”

Three mission teams have made the 7,000-mile trip so far, and another four are expected to go this year.

For more information about the ministry, go to https://www.iamnot4gotten.org/.
This article appeared in the Baptist New Mexican (bcnm.com/archive). John Loudat is editor of the Baptist New Mexican.


Okla. couple sees results
of serving people in need
By Dana Williamson

OKLAHOMA CITY (The Baptist Messenger) — Chad and Anna Clement are fast learners. Just four years after moving to Oklahoma City with their three children, two Great Danes and a calling from God on their lives, they have established a growing ministry in many poverty areas of the city.

The couple moved from Amarillo, Texas, where they worked in a children’s ministry and with youth, feeding some 2,300 children a day during the summer months.

“We used the lunch ministry to develop relationships with families so we could pick up kids for events during the year,” said Chad. “We also had a rock climbing ministry, and Anna started a tuition-free Christian school.”

But about the same time Anna’s father, a Baptist pastor, died, Chad said he sensed God was calling him to preach. Chad grew up in Oklahoma City, and felt a draw back to his home, so the couple stepped out in faith and moved to the Sooner state thinking they would probably start a church in a storefront, using their own money.

“I had no idea there was help for church planters,” admitted Chad. “But we soon found that the Baptist community was on board with us. We were able to get help from the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and the North American Mission Board as well as support from Oklahoma City, Quail Springs.”

The Clements were pointed to a low-income apartment complex in Northwest Oklahoma City, which they had not considered working in, although they had experience ministering in poverty-stricken areas.

“We had worked in a low-income area, but moving in with them was different,” said Anna. “We were truly living on a mission field. God directed us there, and when you have that call on your life, you aren’t satisfied until you fulfill it.”

They soon started baking cookies and taking them to neighbors.

“I knocked on one lady’s door to invite her to church, and she told me she had been praying that someone would knock on her door,” recalled Chad. That experience opened both Chad’s and Anna’s eyes to the ministry they had been called to. And Truth Baptist Church was born.

Inviting their neighbors to church was a stretch, because that “church” was the Clements’ apartment living room. They soon outgrew the living room and moved outside to the tennis courts, which proved adequate until it rained or was really cold. The apartment complex finally provided a community room which accommodated about 20 people.

“We still had most of the activities involving the kids outside,” said Chad.

The Clements, who met while working with inner-city kids in Dallas, admitted that trying to grow a church in an apartment complex is challenging.

“We had a sense of urgency in our hearts that the Gospel needed to be lifted up in this place,” said Anna.

Chad said just the presence of a church in the complex caused people to act differently.

“We worked with gang members and a violent population of people,” he explained. “They came to us with their needs. We had drug dealers beating on our door asking us to pray for them.”

Chad revealed that the biggest problem for church planters is getting over the hump of getting into a facility. He said they were grateful for the willingness of the apartment complex to let them move in, but recently when new owners bought the complex, the Clements were told they were taking the complex in a new direction, and the church, which is now called Mission OKC to more accurately reflect its ministry, needed to move out.

“We were in a sink or swim moment, but God intervened and has provided us with great facilities,” said Chad. “In March we signed a lease agreement with Oklahoma City, Britton, which is located in the heart of the community we are reaching. We had prayed for four years that God would open a door for us to move into a facility.”

Mission OKC had its first service in the 400-seat Britton auditorium on the evening of March 15, and held a dedication service on Palm Sunday, March 29, which featured the Oklahoma City, Quail Springs adult choir and volunteers who have helped with the ministry the past four years. Britton members meet in the fellowship hall on Sunday evenings. The church has also provided Mission OKC with office space and meeting rooms for children and youth.

“We now can pick up more kids because we have more space,” said Chad. “We have a bus ministry ready to go.”

Over the past four years, the Clements have seen more than 200 decisions for Christ and fed thousands of lunches to kids in 13 apartment complexes in two areas of the city.

They have a ministry on Northwest 10th St., and are looking for a building in that area to hold church services. Chad said their goal is to have Mission OKC North, South, East and West, plus downtown, each with a pastor who doesn’t have to raise his own salary, but who can focus on reaching people, raising funds and organizing to reach families.

He said a typical offering at Mission OKC on Sunday evening is $25.

“So we reach out to the community to let people know this is mission work. There is a lot of poverty in Oklahoma City, and to meet this need, there will have to be churches funded from the outside.

“There are numerous church buildings in the Metro that are underutilized,” he added. “Even if individual Britton members never help us, by allowing us to use their facilities, they are doing mission work, and we are so grateful.”

Chad said this summer, Mission OKC will serve around 24,000 lunches to kids. They have partnered with Feed the Children to provide free lunches for as many as 20 apartment complexes.

“There are at least 100 complexes in the metro area that need to be reached,” Chad said. “During the summer, our goal is to have three churches per week working with us over a six-week period. We use the summer work force to get the bulk of work done, which is building relationships, but we are discipling kids throughout the year.”

Chad said he is praying God will make Mission OKC a great force to bring the Truth and Light of the Gospel to lost families living in poverty across the city.

“We are praying to form partnerships with many other Christ-centered churches to see salvation come to the lost all around us,” he emphasized. “There are a lot of opportunities for Mission OKC to partner with existing churches to reach people groups around those churches. There has to be a plan to reach out to their neighbors, and we would like to be a part of that.”

Chad noted churches in poverty areas are almost doomed to close their doors because of funding.

“There is going to have to be a shift in church thinking that urban churches are mission fields that need to be supported like foreign mission fields,” he advised. “The Gospel is the answer to fighting these areas. We can’t just turn our backs. God has called us to go to these locations. If we are going to transform the areas, it is going to take the Gospel to do it. When churches are looking for mission work, we want Oklahoma City to be at the top of their list. We need their help.”

“From the moment our eyes were opened to the needs of those living in poverty areas of our city, we knew why God had sent us here,” said Anna. “These people have names. Their names are known by Jesus, as well as their need to be loved in His name. I’m thankful God sent us here and is empowering us each day to deliver the life-transforming message of the Gospel to those who are hungry to hear it.”

For more information or to volunteer to help, call 405/694-8381 or [email protected].
This article appeared in The Baptist Messenger (baptistmessenger.com), newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Dana Williamson is a correspondent for The Baptist Messenger.


N.C. church’s Moldova partnership
is about relationships
By K. Allan Blume

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Biblical Recorder) — Lake Norman Baptist Church (LNBC) in Huntersville has a growing understanding of international missions because of a four-year partnership with a small country in Eastern Europe. “Moldova has helped us cast our eyes beyond ourselves,” said Bobby Blanton, the North Carolina church’s senior pastor. “We have really stepped up our missions emphasis over the last couple of years, and Moldova has been a big part of that.”

The church has participated in mission projects in Cuba, Honduras, Panama and Haiti, but Blanton said this new partnership has given the church a much needed, sustained missions focus. And the breadth of the project has offered a variety of ministry opportunities for members with different skills.

The partnership has included medical clinics, children’s Vacation Bible School ministry, church demolition and construction, pastoral training, youth camp ministry, orphan hosting and adoption, nutritional outreach and vocational training. Blanton has been to Moldova three times and plans to return this year to train pastors. Almost all national pastors are bi-vocational and have no formal training in ministry. “The pastor training has been a great blessing to me,” he said. “My heart is with those pastors … I can’t say enough about the work ethic of the people in Moldova. It’s amazing. The pastors work in the fields during the day and preach in the churches on the weekend. God bless them.”

LNBC prays for and supports 12 pastors, providing $1,000 annually for each pastor’s ministry.

Food ministry

Last September LNBC held a massive food-packing event that yielded 70,000 dehydrated meals in sealed packets. The church shipped 40,000 meals to Moldova and 30,000 to Haiti.

The pack-a-thon was organized in part by Feed the Hunger (feedthehunger.org), a ministry based in Burlington that works with N.C. Baptist Men (also known as Baptists on Mission) and many Baptist churches.

Ron Hoppe, a volunteer missions coordinator, manages the Moldova partnership for LNBC. He said a church member worked with FedEx to arrange delivery of the four large pallets of food. “FedEx donated the complete cost of air freight to get the pallets to Moldova. They arrived on schedule, undamaged and nothing had been compromised,” he said.

The food arrived in late October and is stored for weekly distribution throughout the year. Each meal meets the daily nutritional needs of four adults or six children. The packets include beans, rice, dehydrated vegetables and vitamin powder.

“It’s not gourmet dining,” Hoppe said, “but in locations where food is a major issue, this will be a very powerful tool that pastors can use to get out into the communities and expand ministry opportunities.

“We’re excited to see what the potential of those meal packets might be to help the pastors in Moldova spread the gospel,” he added.

Victor Mirza, pastor of Agape Church in the capital city of Chisinau, Moldova, said the meals help small churches as they work with children and families in the villages. “Most of the villages have a children’s ministry where they depend on these meals,” he said. “After school, the kids come to church for a meal and a Bible lesson. This is a great resource for these local churches to reach children.”

Some of the food is distributed in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, orphanages and to the poor. Mirza said a large portion of the meals went to neighboring Ukraine, a nation that has recently experienced much social and political unrest.

Hoppe said the value of Moldova’s currency has declined significantly, making food more expensive. “So the meal packets are more valuable now than when they were packed and shipped,” he added. “Victor and the other pastors are using those meals in ways that are innovative and effective to reach their communities.”

An older Moldovan pastor and wife who live on $150 monthly, still found a way to feed 20 children in their village twice each week, Hoppe said. “So, stepping in and providing them with some of these meal packages made a great difference in their ability to serve their community.”

Some LNBC volunteers enjoy manual labor, so they responded to the needs of a small church in the town of Leova. An old, unsafe building was demolished, and a new church is being constructed on the same site. In 2012 Hoppe learned about a home for disabled and developmentally challenged adults that had a very inadequate kitchen. “A man in our church who is an architect made a trip over to evaluate the needs, then he drew up plans,” said Hoppe. “A team from LNBC demolished the kitchen and took a lead role to rebuild a commercial kitchen. It was a very significant project, and it certainly improved the quality of the food service provided in the home.”

Orphan ministry

Moldova’s sustained poverty and high unemployment has created a large number of orphans. When an orphan reaches 18 years of age, they are forced to leave government-run orphanages. Jobs are scarce; crime and human trafficking lure many children into hopeless traps. LNBC is trying to respond to that need, also.

Hoppe said LNBC is asking some hard questions. “How can we engage these 17 to 19 year old orphans in a productive way from a vocational or occupational perspective, so they have some legitimate means of supporting themselves?”

He found a family who runs a group home. “They take in 5-6 young men who have to leave the orphanage system with no place to go,” Hoppe said. “The husband of the family is a mechanic. Since the government offers some trade school training for aspiring mechanics, we asked him, ‘What would it take to set up a small auto repair business where some of these young men could be gainfully employed?’ So, we are in the exploratory phase to see what it would take to set up that small business as a ministry.”

Another vocational ministry idea surfaced when they met a man who leads an addictions ministry. Hoppe said, “This man has professionally made boots in the past. We had an opportunity to see the footwear, and it was quite impressive. So we are looking at the opportunity to gainfully employ some young men to help produce work boots, if we have an outlet to sell those boots.”

LNBC’s missions leaders are exploring ways to export the boots. “They were producing what looked to me to be a good quality men’s, fur-lined work boot for under $25.00,” Hoppe said. “I think we can generate funds for that ministry without any difficulty whatsoever.”

Hoppe is trying to launch a project similar to one that is working in Ukraine. It will train orphans in computer programing skills, and work with businesses in the U.S. to contract with the graduates to program remotely. He said, “This is a fairly ambitious undertaking, but we believe this is something that has potential to succeed.”

Hosting and adopting

The Lake Norman church is no stranger to the ministry of adoption. “Our church family has established quite a record of orphan child hosting and adoption,” Hoppe explained. They have worked with several adoption agencies, but most recently with New Horizons for Children.

Last Mother’s Day the church announced the establishment of a scholarship fund that provides financial assistance to families interested in hosting and those making a commitment to adoption. Church members have connected with orphans in Latvia and Ukraine, but not Moldova. On Hoppe’s trip to Moldova in March some representatives from New Horizons for Children met him in Moldova, along with the government’s secretary of social services and the secretary of family services. They hope to see some results from the meeting by the end of the year with short term hosting relationships. Some of those could turn into adoptions.

“What is exciting to me is that this is another point of contact where our church family can be part of an ongoing dynamic relationship,” he said. “If we can get some of these kids there integrated into our church families over time, I think that will bode very well for the relationship between us and Moldova, and ultimately for the gospel.

“We want to show these children the love of a Christian family, that there is more to life than what they have seen, and there is hope. These kids need hope.”

Relationships vs. events

Both Hoppe and Blanton want the Moldova partnership to focus on long-term relationships, not short term mission events. Hoppe said, “It’s easy to go on a mission trip, have an event in the country and never hear about it again. In our activities, we are trying to enter into relationships and also see how those relationships interact.

“If they need a new church building, fine, but there’s far more to it than that. If we are ministering to those kids in the orphanage, we ask ‘What can we do with and for those kids when they get out of the orphanage?'”

The partnership has something for everyone. Hoppe said, “Somebody is interested in construction, somebody has a heart for children, somebody has a heart for hunger, somebody has a heart for medical needs, somebody has a heart for Bibles – if we can present opportunities to engage as many of those constituencies within our church family as possible, I believe we will succeed.”

History of Moldova partnerships

When the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina began a partnership with Moldova in November 2011, two separate channels of ministry were established. One was a partnership with the Baptist Union of Moldova. This is a “convention” of 490 Baptist churches and mission points in this small Eastern European nation.

A second partnership was launched with a small network of churches labeled the Agape Network, named after the Agape Baptist Church in Chisinau and a fellowship of churches that were not comfortable with some of the theological positions of the union. Many N.C. Baptist churches were already working with the Agape network and with individual churches across Moldova. Lake Norman Baptist Church in Huntersville has taken the lead role in this second partnership.

The Biblical Recorder reported on the partnership with the Baptist Union in a story about Hephzibah Baptist Church in Knightdale in the Feb. 28 print issue. Read the story here.
This article appeared in the Biblical Recorder (brnow.org), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. K. Allan Blume is editor of the Biblical Recorder.


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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