News Articles

FROM THE STATES: S.C., N.M., Md. evangelism/missions news; ‘My eyes have ached to see this all my life’

Today’s From the States features items from:
Baptist Courier (South Carolina)
Baptist New Mexican
BaptistLIFE (Maryland)

1,000-plus professions of
faith reported at S.C. revival

By Julia Bell

CONWAY, S.C. (Baptist Courier) — A revival meeting turned into a spiritual awakening for a coastal South Carolina community, resulting in more than 1,000 professions of faith.

Langston Baptist Church in Conway planned a four-day youth-led revival to begin April 15 led by evangelist Tyler Blue, 21, of Highways and Hedges Tent Ministry in Lancaster. However, the church began to experience a spiritual awakening that extended to people in the surrounding community. Revival services continued for weeks, with more than 1,000 professions of faith recorded.

“My eyes have ached to see this all my life, and I thought I’d die before I saw it,” said Hampton Drum, pastor of Langston Church. “It’s amazing to see our auditorium packed wall-to-wall with young people, and they are coming in an hour and a half before it starts just to get a seat.”

Norman Abernathy, who serves as interim youth director, described it as “a movement like I’ve never seen in my lifetime. Our church will never be the same after this.”

A youth ministry volunteer suggested that Abernathy consider booking the evangelist who, at age 21, could likely connect with the Langston Church students and others from the community that the church hoped to reach. He describes Conway as a smaller, modest country town, perhaps most widely recognized as being on the way to Myrtle Beach. So when about 170 showed up in the church’s student center for the first night of revival, it seemed to be a good turnout.

“I call Tyler Blue the ‘lean, mean preaching machine.’ We had 17 salvations the very first night and, within days, we packed out the student center. It was growing faster than we thought it could. It was an amazing thing.”

Services were moved into Langston Church’s sanctuary, which seats 2,500. Abernathy said that 1,200 people were in attendance one week into the revival, but soon they were nearing capacity in the sanctuary each night. Services began at 6:30 p.m. with worship, and Blue began preaching around 8 p.m. Response cards indicate that people from about 100 different churches attended services, including one group that drove more than seven hours to attend the revival.

Blue travels with his wife in a small RV. As the end of the initial revival time period approached, Blue told Abernathy he would not leave while God was still moving. The couple remained in Conway, and Blue continued to preach during the services each night. He was also invited to speak in school assemblies where additional salvations occurred, and school representatives have told the church about the changes they’ve seen in students’ lives because of the revival.

Drum has seen youth in the church become engaged and connected in worship and others becoming emboldened to share their faith. “A deaf child was in the service Sunday night. And, without the help of an interpreter, he felt the Holy Spirit on his heart, came forward, and got saved. When that was announced, the young people jumped to their feet and applauded,” Drum said.

The stories of spiritual awakening and life-change continue to pour in from the community. Norman’s wife, Sherri Abernathy, spoke with a teenager contemplating suicide but who gave her life to the Lord instead, and another who had not been to church for two years. That teen said she and her sister prayed to receive Christ and were baptized, and then the very next day her sister was killed in a drunk-driving accident. Paralyzed with grief, the teenager refused to go back to church but was looking for hope.

Abernathy asked the girl if her sister would want her to be in church, and she said yes. “The girl had tried drugs but wanted a different life, and now she’s decided to come back to church. This time has been truly amazing. It’s almost like there’s a canopy in the sanctuary, and God is above us. As these young people are praising Him, He’s raining down on them, changing lives, one after another,” Abernathy said.

Church member Terry Jordan described the atmosphere during the revival services as electric. “My heart is overflowing with joy. Youth are coming to the altar each night. It’s overwhelming. This county desperately needs revival,” she said.

Norman Abernathy said he’s excited to hear stories coming from the schools and to see photos of students praying together for the revival. “One teenager said he hadn’t accepted the Lord because ‘a seat in hell was waiting on him,’ but several nights ago he came and got saved. I really believe that … if there is a time for people to come and tell their stories, it would be the kind of thing they write movies about,” he said.

Langston Church live-streams the revival services through its website, www.langstonbaptist.com, and all of the previous services held in the sanctuary are accessible there. A local teacher told Abernathy his students wanted to play a recording of something they heard Blue say one night at the revival as part of their lesson for an elective Bible class. After the teacher played the particular section, the class asked to continue watching. In his sermon, Blue asked participants in the sanctuary to turn around and kneel in the church pews. The teacher told Abernathy his students also responded to the video’s message, quietly turning and kneeling in front of their classroom chairs.

“We’ll never know this side of heaven all the ways that this revival has impacted lives,” Abernathy said.

But what Langston Church members have seen are entire families receiving Christ and being baptized together, a 77-year-old woman becoming a believer, and students on the baseball team talking about revival as they sit in the dugout. One church member received more than 7,000 “likes” after live-streaming a revival service through Facebook. Members of the community are noticing changes in the schools, in homes and in other churches, as well.

“My prayer is that the glory of the Lord would show in such a way that it would stream from the top of our church and be a beacon to the entire county, so that they could hear about the one who loves them the most,” Sherry Abernathy said.

Drum said, “We’re seeing a revival when we least expected, and in a way that we least expected. The only explanation is that it’s a move of God. If you could see 68 pastors from churches in our community at the altar weeping over kids, ministering to and loving each other … this is not a Langston revival, it’s a Jesus revival.”
This article appeared in the Baptist Courier (baptistcourier.com), newsjournal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Julia Bell writes for the South Carolina Baptist Convention.


N.M. church recognized as a partner
in education for Soles4Souls Ministry

By Kevin Parker

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (Baptist New Mexican) — The board and administration of Las Cruces Public Schools recognized Mesilla Park Community Church as a Partner in Education for giving over 5,000 pairs of new shoes to needy school students.

During the recognition at the board’s April 17 meeting, the school district’s Community Outreach Liaison, Brigitte Zigelhofer described the church’s efforts. She said, “Many of us know how important a new pair of shoes is and the feeling and the confidence that it gives, not only to us adults, when we put on a new pair of shoes, but to children who have to face their peers every day with sometimes torn and tattered shoes.” She continued, “So, the gift of a new pair of shoes is just … Words cannot express how important it is.” Zigelhofer presented the church’s pastor, Dennis Diaz, with an engraved wood plaque to commemorate the occasion.

The shoes are part of Mesilla Park’s Soles4Souls ministry led by church members Judy Humphreys and Cyndi Sluder. This past year the two ladies led the church to partner with 16 elementary schools. The church launched the ministry seven years ago, but Humphreys and Sluder came on board with the ministry two to three years ago. Each one was looking for a place to serve after coming to the church.

In a typical year, the church’s members donate 1,200 pairs of shoes. Humphreys and Sluder work with counselors at the schools to identify up to 70 children per school who could use the shoes. Once children are identified, the church works with the schools to complete a personal process that ends in free shoes.

Humphreys and Sluder both work with eight schools directly, as they guide the church through the annual ministry. Around November, the ladies contact school counselors and request a list of needy children. Once they receive the lists, they calendar dates with the schools for ministry volunteers to meet the children and measure their feet. Those measurements are placed on “Shoe Tags” that are made available to church members. Members take the tags, purchase shoes, and return them to the church.

Once the shoes are collected, Humphreys, Sluder and their volunteers match the shoes and the children, grouping them by schools. The church hosts a distribution day on the church’s campus, complete with snacks and games. Families bring their children to receive their shoes. About 200 volunteers make the day possible. Sluder said the church sees the activity as an outreach.

Every child’s new shoes are checked for proper fit. If they don’t fit, the ministry corrects the shoes and tries again. Volunteers keep at the process until each child has a new pair of well-fitted shoes.

For those children that do not pick up their shoes on distribution day, church volunteers take the shoes to the schools, again coordinating with counselors and staff. The process remains personal. Shoes are tried on and checked for proper fit. Sometimes, it takes several tries to get the shoes right. But, everyone gets their shoes, Humphreys and Sluder said.

Some students change schools between measurement day and delivery day. Soles for Souls volunteers track them down and deliver the shoes. The effort makes an impression on the children. “Kids are surprised that we tracked them down to give them their shoes,” Sluder explained.

In addition to working with public schools, the church also provides shoes for children at an orphanage in Mexico near Juarez, the Rivers of Mercy orphanage. Sluder, who orchestrated this year’s trip, said that the experience impacts volunteers as much as the children. “They were so moved by the ministry and by seeing the impact on the kids at the orphanage,” she remarked.

Humphreys said, “It’s such a blessing to go and see the children and the smiles on their faces when they get the new shoes.” She said she and other volunteers want the children and their families to “see we are friendly and [that] church is a safe place.”

When accepting the plaque on behalf of the church, Humphreys, Sluder, and their cadre of volunteers, Diaz said, “It is our honor and our blessing to be able to serve the children in our schools. We do it because we want to make a difference in our city, and we especially want to make a difference in the families.”

Humphreys and Sluder said they are willing to talk with other churches and help them see how similar ministries can help children in other communities.
This article appeared in the Baptist New Mexican (bcnm.com/bnm), newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico. Kevin Parker is editor of the Baptist New Mexican.


Md. church’s special needs class
reflects God’s Kingdom on earth

By Sabrena Klausman

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (BaptistLIFE) — I want you to meet Sonny.

Sonny is quite a gentleman. Like his name, when he enters a room light emanates from within him. Even on this soggy Sunday in May, his smile tugged to the right in a crooked smile, as did his gait. His limp was caused by recent hip replacement; yet his shuffle conveyed a rhythmic joy into the tiny Sunday school room of Virginia Avenue Baptist Church.

Sonny began attending church at Virginia Avenue Baptist Church many years ago, serving in multiple roles, but most recently as an usher during Sunday morning services. During the week he lives in a nearby special needs group home and works days at Goodwill.

On Sundays, Sonny is treated as an equal — having served as a faithful and needed member of the church for over thirty years. In addition, he devotedly attends the church’s “Special Education Sunday School Class,” led by Lorena Sterns and Barbara Cooper.

Described on the church’s website as a class for those with mental or physical handicaps, this Sunday school class revealed a piece of heavenly revelation. Originally assembled by the previous pastor’s wife and Lorena’s late husband, Orville, the ragtag group of saints has thrived for over two decades for two reasons: strong and consistent leadership and enthusiastic membership.

After her husband passed away, Lorena stepped in to continue his legacy with this amazing group of individuals. When Barbara and her husband transitioned into the pastoral role at the church, Lorena served as a mentor and co-conspirator with Barbara. Today, they lead this vibrant group of people in worship and Bible study each week.

“Not everybody can work in this area of ministry,” Lorena stated. “You must have a love in your heart for these people.” When it came time for Lorena to retire, she knew that Barbara was the perfect person to continue the legacy to which she and her husband, Orville, had dedicated their lives.

Complete with sugar-free cookies and steaming hot coffee, as the clock struck 10:00 a.m., these two ladies were ready to “do church.” As the attendees scuffled into the room, often with their counselors by their sides, the ladies would greet each one, inquiring about specific prayer requests and beloved family members. They were a rowdy and fun bunch, each shouting greetings to Sonny, who was now seated and devouring his cookies. They asked him about his hip replacement and slapped each other on the back in friendly welcomes. Terry and Lee arrived first, followed by Randy, April, Abby, Lorena, and Sunday, each person bringing with them a beautiful smile and often a warm hug. Despite the gloomy weather outside, the Son was shining brightly in this tiny room.

Barbara launched the service by offering a platform for each attendee to share their lives with the group. Entering into an almost divine intimacy, willing people shared the concerns of their hearts, their pressing worries, and their sometimes debilitating physical pain. It was a holy time of communion of souls. Then the fun began, for the “Special Education Sunday School” class loves to sing! Sonny began the round of worship by requesting, “This is the Day,” a Christian hymn derived from Psalm 118:24.

This is the day the LORD has made.

We will rejoice and be glad in it.

Boisterous and brimming with joy, each person in the room worshiped through the strains of this familiar childhood hymn. Next, April selected “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” a traditional American Spiritual from the 1920’s. She knew the words to every verse by heart. Together — leader, counselor, special need attendee, and journalist — we gathered at the feet of the cross in humble worship. Not worrying about how voices sounded or how much racket we made, as a body of believers we entered the presence of God as little children.

“We have a rare opportunity to reach both the special needs attendees and their counselors during these classes,” Lorena asserted. Directly following our moving worship time, Lorena began a time of quiet prayer and supplication, including both attendees and their counselors. Each person had the chance to bring their burdens to the table of faith. The group carried the afflictions together, offering empathy when needed and joy when appropriate.

“Thank you, God, that You created each one of us for Your purpose,” Barbara prayed as together we thanked God for our homes, our health, family and friends, and jobs. Afterward, she brought out the paper figurines of the characters in the current Bible story: Jacob and his family. She shared that after Jacob was tricked into giving Esau his birthright, his twin brother Esau was violently angry.

“Do you ever get angry?” she inquired. Many heads around the table nodded in agreement. Yes, it was easy to understand how Esau felt. Barbara expounded that Esau was so angry, in fact, that it was necessary for Jacob to leave town for a while until his brother cooled off a little. As such, Jacob went on a journey. During this journey, many things occurred; he fell in love, got married, and received a new name and a new purpose. He was invited to be a part of God’s big plan for his people.

One night, Jacob had a dream that he met God and wrestled with him. God won the match, much to the delight of the listeners in the group, but God blessed Jacob despite his loss. He gave Jacob a brand-new name, “Israel.” From that day forward, he and all his descendants had a very special relationship with God. Barbara explained that like Jacob, each of us was invited to live out a special purpose in God’s plan, just as we are. As the story came to a close, each attendee hung on Barbara’s every word. Lorena shared that we would “be amazed at how many details and biblical-learning they retain and understand each Sunday.”

After the Bible story was completed, it was once again time to sing. The room swelled with hymn stanzas from “Jesus Loves Me” and “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus!”

It was exactly how I picture heaven. Slowly each person in the room said their goodbyes, piled back into their group-home vehicles, having experienced “church” in so many ways. As he was the first member to arrive, Sonny was also the last to leave, taking it upon himself to clean up the coffee and cookies before he resumed his usher duties.

Nonetheless, he couldn’t sneak out the door without a loving goodbye and a “See you next week” from his leaders, Lorena and Barbara.

When Jesus taught us to pray, He communicated that He longed for God’s will to be done on earth as it was in heaven (Matthew 6:10 NIV). May God’s Kingdom come on earth as it was reflected in this group of authentic and childlike believers.

In Lorena’s own words, “You get more out of this kind of ministry than what you put in. The reward is phenomenal.”
This article appeared in BaptistLIFE, newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. Sabrena Klausman is a writer in Arkansas.


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.

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