Today’s From the States features items from:
Northwest Baptist Witness (Oregon)
Florida Baptist Convention
Baptist New Mexican
Ore. church leads
Japan relief efforts
By Stephen Floyd
TIGARD, Ore. (Northwest Baptist Witness) — Pastor Kenji Yokoy would tell you he doesn’t try to grab the spotlight, that he’s simply pursuing God’s will for his family, his community and his congregation, Japanese International Baptist Church (JIBC), in Tigard, Ore.
But JIBC has caught the attention of multiple secular groups in and around Portland, Ore. These groups are using the church’s work as a model for their own efforts to help disaster victims in Japan.
Yokoy said this type of partnership has been years in the making, particularly during the last several months.
“God’s just been really opening doors,” he said.
Since 2011, JIBC has sent disaster relief volunteers abroad through its Hope Japan ministry. Most recently, teams responded to devastating floods in Western Japan in August, and to a deadly earthquake in the northern island of Hokkaido in September.
Yokoy said the August trip did much to strengthen JIBC’s relationship with disaster agencies in Japan, so much so the church was one of the first calls relief agencies made when seeking volunteers in Hokkaido. Yokoy said it has been a challenge to gain the trust of Japanese volunteer groups, but that God has been moving powerfully to form strong, meaningful connections.
God’s hand was moving domestically as well, particularly with the Japan-America Society of Oregon (JASO), whose leadership includes prominent businesses people and community organizers. While JASO has been aware of JIBC’s ministries, historically the church has not had a seat at the table.
This has changed dramatically.
After seeing how effective JIBC’s efforts were in Western Japan this summer, Doug Smith, a JASO organizer, said he wishes JASO had played a role alongside the church.
So when JIBC returned from Hokkaido in September, JASO was ready to put some skin in the game and organized a community meeting for Oct. 22, to form its own team. Other partners included Portland-Sapporo Sister City Association, Consular Office of Japan in Portland, Portland Japanese Garden, Sunrise Newspaper and Japanese Business Association of Portland.
At the meeting, Yokoy said volunteers, especially foreigners, can be far more impactful than money. This is particularly true now, as Japanese volunteers are fatigued by numerous disasters during the last two years.
“Foreigners enable the Japanese to lower their guard and open their hearts to us in ways they would never to another Japanese person,” he said.
Michael Bacon, president of the Portland-Sapporo Sister City Association, then echoed Yokoy’s emphasis on human interaction. He said, without a personal connection, donations of money and supplies mean far less.
“If we don’t have that going on, the rest of it really doesn’t matter,” he said.
Smith said working with JIBC has been “great” and he was encouraged by the church’s developing connections in Japan.
“Let’s strike while the iron’s hot,” he told Yokoy.
By the time the meeting ended, half a dozen volunteers expressed interest in serving. JASO plans to send a team sometime between Nov. 12 and Dec. 2 and could potentially partner with faith-based groups in-country.
This article appeared in the Northwest Baptist Witness (gonbw.org), newsjournal of the Northwest Baptist Convention. Stephen Floyd writes for the Northwest Baptist Witness.
Fla. Baptists bring hope
to U.S. Virgin Islands
By Keila Diaz
U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS (Florida Baptist Convention) — Florida Baptists traveled to the U.S. Virgin Islands during the last week of November to bring discipleship training, family counseling training and stress management training to churches and communities.
Last year the islands of St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John were devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria which hit the islands within days of each other.
“In June and July just after the hurricanes the islands were in panic mode,” said Jeffery Singletary, central Florida regional catalyst. “After the hurricanes there were 60 plus deaths … people were saying ‘I can’t do this anymore’.”
Because of the devastation and hopelessness, Singletary along with other Florida Baptists traveled to the islands to bring training and counseling to the people.
From Wednesday Nov. 28th to Sunday Dec. 2nd the group worked with churches in three areas. Myles Dowdy, missions and ministries lead catalyst, led training and information sessions on family counseling. Lewis Miller, west Florida regional catalyst, led Sunday school trainings. Pastor Grant Hignight of Central Parkway Baptist Church in Orlando led sessions on assessing and managing stress.
“It was important to help them assess where they are [on the stress spectrum] and give them tools to cope,” said Singletary.
This article appeared on the website of the Florida Baptist Convention (flbaptist.org). Keila Diaz writes for the Florida Baptist Convention.
N.M. church plant
breaks attendance record
By Danny Porter
ARTESIA, N.M. (Baptist New Mexican) — A catalyst by definition is someone or something that acts as a spark for an event or movement. Since launching 22 months ago, Catalyst Church, Artesia, has lived up to its name, helping to spark a Gospel movement across its tight-knit southeastern New Mexico community.
In September 2018, the church broke its all-time attendance record and baptized five new believers, including a pair of teenage siblings.
Catalyst, which moved to two services in January, had 180 people attend their Sept. 9 worship services, its largest gathering ever, outside of Christmas and Easter. Three weeks later, on Sept. 30, the church experienced its second-largest Sunday, with 163 people in attendance.
Nolan Frederick, Catalyst’s pastor, planted the church in January 2016 through a cooperative effort with the Baptist Convention of New Mexico and the North American Mission Board. In March 2017, consistent growth allowed the church to hire a second full-time staff member, Charlie Knight. Knight serves as music and youth minister.
Frederick said the decision to expand to two Sunday services was prompted by a desire to develop a “worship one, serve one” culture with the church. “Moving to two services allowed for children’s ministry volunteers to attend one service while serving in another,” Frederick said.
Since adding a second service, Frederick said that Catalyst’s yearly attendance average is “up just over 25 people.” The option of another service has also allowed the number of volunteers to double from the previous year.
While growth was consistent from the start, Frederick said the church really began to take off toward the middle of 2016. Since then, Frederick said the church developed a more established children’s ministry, “grown into” a student ministry, women’s ministry activities and a men’s discipleship group.
For Frederick, “It’s been encouraging to see the Lord work.” He added that Catalyst started “intentionally slow” in order to ensure they had the proper infrastructure to support a multi-faceted ministry. “We didn’t want to just do a bunch of things mediocre. We wanted to be able to do those things well and have the resources and leadership for those things,” Frederick said.
Catalyst’s original three-year partnership with BCNM and NAMB ends at the end of 2018, though the church was unexpectedly awarded an additional year of funding by NAMB.
A three-year partnership is typical of BCNM/NAMB church plants, allowing enough time for the church to become self-sufficient. Frederick said that Catalyst “has reached a point where we’re self-sufficient and we’ve been able to put away quite a bit of money in planning for our future and what we’re going to do in the years ahead as far as property and what that looks like.” He added that the church currently sends back more money to the BCNM and NAMB than they receive, which in part, supports new church-planting efforts at the state and national levels.
Dennis Garcia, BCNM’s church planting catalyst for southern New Mexico, works alongside church planters including Frederick, as a representative of both the convention and the North American Mission Board, ensuring church plants are equipped with and aware of BCNM and NAMB resources.
When asked about Catalyst’s impact over the past 22 months, Garcia said, “Catalyst is doing a great job reaching into the community of Artesia for the sake of the Gospel. This past Halloween they hosted their annual trunk-or-treat but had to move things indoors because of poor weather. People stood in line, in the rain, for up to an hour just to get in. People who enter the doors at Catalyst know they are welcome and loved. Nolan [Frederick] is doing a great job leading the church to make a Kingdom impact in Artesia and beyond.”
Those baptized during the Sept. 9 service were: B. Trujillo, 10; Kadie T., 12; Morgan L., 11; Layne T., 18; and Elexis Towler, 30.
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.