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FROM THE STATES: Oklahoma DR’s work ongoing after fires, tornadoes; SBTC hosts conference for Arabic Baptist pastors

Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief workers see professions of faith

SHAWNEE, Okla. (BP) – Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief (DR) continues to do work on multiple fronts. According to Jason Yarbrough, state director for DR, relief work continues after wildfires and a series of tornadoes and severe storms in Oklahoma.

“We are seeking to provide the help and hope people need in the wake of these devastating circumstances and also point them to the ultimate hope in Jesus Christ,” Yarbrough said.

According to a report on May 3, there have been eight professions of faith in Christ during the recent response efforts. Yarbrough shared the story of one property owner who was initially hesitant to have DR volunteers help him or tell him about God.

“This homeowner was a self-proclaimed atheist,” Yarbrough said. “He allowed DR volunteers to help him with his needs and a chaplain shared the Gospel. In just a matter of days, this man went from an atheist to a follower of Jesus.”

Oklahoma Baptist DR has served in the Edmond and Guthrie areas after the wildfires on March 31, having completed 30 jobs. “A huge thanks to Pastor Heath Tucker and the church family at Edmond, Waterloo Road for allowing us to use their facility for three-plus weeks,” Yarbrough said.

Tornado relief work continues

“As of May 2, all work associated with the April 19 tornadoes is being processed through our command center at Shawnee, Immanuel,” Yarbrough said. “While at Cole, First our teams completed 60 work orders for that area. This community experienced the loss of two individuals. Our chaplains were able to do some ministry here with families as well as with first responders. A big thank you to Kurt Bloomstadt and the church family at Cole, First for opening their facility to our volunteers.

“The Shawnee, Immanuel site is an active place,” Yarbrough continued. “To date we have received 283 work orders and have completed 142 of those—that’s pretty amazing for 10 days of work.”

This week, DR has approximately 70 volunteers working between incident management, feeding, assessors/chaplains and chainsaw teams. This includes DR teams from Texas Baptist Men, Missouri, Kansas/Nebraska and Southern Baptists of Texas Convention along with Oklahoma teams.

Read the full story here.

Arabic Baptist pastors find rest, rejuvenation at Texas conference

By Jayson Larson/Southern Baptist TEXAN

GRAPEVINE, Texas (BP) – Many Texans have a general understanding they live in one of the most diverse states in the nation. What they may be less aware of is how many Arabic-speaking Southern Baptist churches exist in the Lone Star State.

Pastors from across the state, nation, and even Canada attended the Arab Pastors Network Conference held at the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention in April. SBTC photo

And perhaps an even smaller number understand the difficulties Southern Baptist Arabic pastors and their families face: disconnect from their native communities, adjusting to a new culture, the struggles inherent to a minority immigrant population – not to mention the burden of shepherding their churches and finding opportunities to share the Gospel with the half-million Muslims who call Texas home.

Lack of a support system to face those challenges is what drove Ra’id Al Safadi, pastor of Arabic Baptist Church in San Antonio, to form the Arab Pastors Network, which held its third-annual conference in April at the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s offices.

Al Safadi said the purpose of the conference was multi-faceted: to help build community among Arab pastors who often struggle to connect, to provide training and resources to equip and encourage them to focus on their calling as they face countless challenges, and, simply, to give them time to rest. One pastor and wife at this year’s conference, Al Safadi said, had not had a vacation in 15 years.

“The idea is really just to be together with like-minded pastors, to hug each other, and to tell each other we understand each other’s challenges,” Al Safadi said. “It’s a big deal because they’ve never had anything like this before.”

The conference drew 19 pastors and their wives (a total of 36 people) who came not only from across Texas, but from 10 states and Canada. Six countries were represented: Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Eritrea and Lebanon.

Bruno Molina, SBTC language and interfaith evangelism associate, delivered a message from John 17 on the opening day of the three-day conference. The theme of his message, he said, was that “the prosperity of our unity is for the purpose of partnership to the glory of God.” He explained that Christ is the basis of our unity and that the purpose of that unity is fruitfulness that leads to personal transformation as believers grow into the likeness of Christ. Those factors combine to lead followers of Jesus to partner with one another to share the Gospel with those who are lost – bringing glory to God.

Molina noted that all coins manufactured for monetary use in the U.S. have inscribed on them the Latin phrase, “E pluribus unum,” which means, “Out of many, one.”

“Though many countries are represented here today, we are one in Christ,” Molina said. “No matter what our ethnicity, no matter what our language … our culture should express the love and character of Christ.”

Echoing the theme of unity, SBTC Executive Director Nathan Lorick encouraged the pastors and their wives and said he prayed they would experience the presence of God at the conference so they could continue to have Gospel influence in the places the Lord has called them.

“Here at the SBTC, we live by the phrase: ‘Reaching Texas and Impacting the World Together,’” Lorick said. “You being here is an extension of reaching the world together from your cities and communities all around the globe.”

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