News Articles

FROM THE STATES: Tenn., Okla., Fla. evangelism/missions news; ‘It’s more than anything we could have dreamed up,’

Today’s From the States features items from:
Baptist & Reflector (Tennessee)
The Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma)
Florida Baptist Convention

5-year-old rural church has baptized
146 people since January 2012
By Lonnie Wilkey

CUNNINGHAM, Tenn. (Baptist & Reflector) — Phillip Chambers says he is a mail man.

Only he doesn’t work for the United States Postal Service. He is the bivocational pastor of Yellow Creek Baptist Church located near the Montgomery/Houston County line in Middle Tennessee.

Instead, the mail he delivers is God’s Word each and every Sunday morning and Wednesday night.

Apparently those in attendance are paying attention and heeding the messages Chambers delivers.

The rural congregation has grown from 42 people in its first service five years ago to an average attendance of 200 with a high attendance of 292 this past Easter.

Yellow Creek baptized 89 people in calendar year 2012 and has baptized 57 people so far in 2013.

The church, which has been renting a building from a nearby Church of God of Prophecy, also is in the process of constructing a new facility about six miles from its current location in Montgomery County to a site just inside Houston County. The church is a member of Stewart Baptist Association.

“It’s all God,” Chambers says of the growth of Yellow Creek.

Chambers was key in starting Yellow Creek five years ago, but he was not the first pastor. “I felt the call to start Yellow Creek during a revival meeting I was leading worship for at Parkers Creek Baptist Church in Burns in 2008,” Chambers recalled.

He noted that he fought that call for about three months until he finally surrendered to God. Chambers went through the local association and Director of Missions William Gray and also with Fred Davis of the Tennessee Baptist Convention to begin the church.

To help get the fledgling church off the ground, Chambers contacted Dennis Jones, a good friend who was the couple’s pastor when Chambers lived in West Tennessee while his wife, Erin, attended medical school in Memphis.

In October of 2008 the church began with a Bible study in the Chambers’ home. They soon outgrew that space and moved into the Church of God of Prophecy building in February of 2009.

Jones came and stayed with the church until he accepted a call to First Baptist Church, Talledega, Ala., in 2011. Before he left, he helped Chambers recognize his call to preach and ordained him into the gospel ministry.

Chambers was called as pastor of the church in January of 2012 and he has seen God do some amazing things at the church.

Looking back, Chambers, who still works with a local radio station, said his call was “a process. I fought it and tried to do other things but I have no doubt that I’m where God wants me to be.”

He is the first to admit that the location for Yellow Creek “did not make sense” but that is where he felt God was leading him to help start the new congregation.

“We’re in the country and have people drive as much as 45 minutes one way to come,” he said.

In addition, the facility they have used for five years has “an uneven floor, an air conditioner that can’t keep it cool, only two bathrooms, and we’ve had to knock out every wall we could,” Chambers said, explaining that the growth is not related to the building in which they meet.

Neither is the growth related to a worship style, he continued. “We sing both hymns and praise and worship music.”

The secret for the growth is really not a secret, the pastor shared.

“It’s simple and it’s biblical. Yellow Creek people, all of them, are fired up for God and are constantly inviting their lost friends and family members to church.”

At the end of each service, Chambers issues a gospel invitation and people are getting saved, he said.

“Once people get a taste of salvation and then once they get a taste of their friends getting saved, they just keep on and keep on inviting people to come,” he noted.

“It’s more than anything we could have dreamed up,” he said. “It’s all God and what He’s done is absolutely amazing.”

He noted that the church begins each year with a 21-day fast in January “to dedicate our year to the Lord. We’ve seen incredible things at Yellow Creek as a result of fasting and prayer,” he said. Among them, he cited people getting jobs, having children when they thought they were unable to, physical healing, financial miracles, marriages saved, addictions removed, and more. “It’s quite common for us to call a church-wide fast and prayer for situations because we have seen first hand the power and results,” he said.

Chambers said the church also has been very active in the community, helping and leading a free clothing giveaway each spring and a food giveaway in the fall that provides a week’s worth of food to more than 400 families. The church also held a huge community patriotic celebration with fireworks the Sunday prior to the Fourth of July which drew more than 700 people, with four professions of faith that night.

The church also prayerwalks the local schools each year and members volunteer at nearby schools throughout the year.

Chambers said that the Lord is also blessing the church financially. The land on which they are building their new 14,500-square-foot facility is bought and paid for.

The church borrowed money for the materials, Chambers said, but they have been able to pay the contractors each month from their offerings. He noted the church has been given a lot of materials and services at no cost. “God has provided for everything,” Chambers said.

The church also has seen fantastic results from its radio ministry and is looking to have its services telecast in the near future, the pastor added.

Yellow Creek, however, remains true to its Southern Baptist roots, stressed Chambers. The church gives 10 percent of its undesignated receipts to the association and through the Cooperative Program.

Chambers is assisted in his ministry by his wife, Erin, who is a physician in the nearby town of Erin.

Erin Chambers, who once said she would never marry a preacher, is now his staunchest supporter, her husband said.

“Obedience is the key of what I’ve learned,” said Erin Chambers. “As long as I’m in God’s will, everything will be taken care of,” she said.
This article appeared in the Baptist & Reflector (tnbaptist.org/BRNews.asp), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist & Reflector.
Tulsa gets a
‘New Beginning’
By Dana Williamson

TULSA, Okla. (The Baptist Messenger) — Although K.J. Jackson was born, raised, educated and employed in California, it was pretty obvious God had a work for him to do in Oklahoma—and connections to bring him here.

After graduating from the University of San Diego, where he met his wife, who was from Tulsa, Jackson and Kimberly settled in San Luis Obispo, where Jackson was employed in sales and marketing and was bivocational children/family pastor at First Church there before becoming full-time at the church. The couple had lived in the California coastal city for seven years when Jackson’s mother-in-law suffered six strokes in one month. Knowing she needed some extra care, they encouraged her to move to California, but she wouldn’t budge from her hometown, so the Jacksons relocated to Tulsa to help take care of her.

“She was fine the first two years we were here, but she contracted colon cancer after a few months and died in 2006,” Jackson said.

After moving from California, the Jacksons had joined Sand Springs, Cornerstone, where he was employed as children’s minister. While there, Jackson ventured on a church planting vision tour of the Tulsa area with several others from across the nation.

“We visited several areas, including Broken Arrow, Bixby and Sand Springs, where there was great excitement among the tour members, but when we stopped in North Tulsa, there was just silence,” he recalled. “It was such a different area.”

Jackson said he later discovered Tulsa is one of the most segregated cities in the nation.

“I started investigating, and found that North Tulsa is 97-98 percent black,” he said. “Then I read that the largest incident of racial violence occurred in Tulsa in 1921. The Greenwood District, known as Black Wall Street and the wealthiest black community in the U.S., was burned to the ground.”

The area was just north of the Frisco train tracks that cut a racial border through the city. Today, the city is still divided by those same railroad tracks. Doing further background, Jackson discovered his great-grandmother, Juanita Delores Arnold, was an educator, civil rights activist and survivor of the 1921 race riot.

Jackson said what he learned bothered him tremendously.

“I grew up with all nationalities,” he noted. “My wife is white, our children are biracial. I didn’t understand the segregation.”

Jackson said he talked to his pastor about the disturbing facts he had discovered, and his pastor said, “Maybe God is calling you to do something.”

“He sent me to a Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO church planting basic training conference,” Jackson said. “I wasn’t looking to plant a church, and I fought the whole process.”

But while at the conference, which was held in a hotel, Jackson and his wife walked in on a multi-ethnic worship service at the site.

“I knew in my heart I wanted to see multi-ethnic ministry, but I had never seen it until then,” he disclosed. “God breathed a vision into me, and instantly, I got it. I knew who we would be. Tulsa needed a New Beginning.”

While looking for a place to locate the new church, Jackson, who got lost looking for Tulsa, Phoenix Avenue, stumbled upon a warehouse that had been abandoned for eight years and was in disrepair.

“I sensed this was the place,” he acknowledged. “God told me to prayerwalk the building, and as I did, Josh. 1:3 came to mind—’I have given you every place where the sole of your foot treads.'”

As he walked around the building, which the owners wanted $500,000 for, Jackson noticed a phone number etched in the dirt on a window. The number was answered by the wife of the owner.

“I told her about our vision for planting a church there and was encouraged when she said her husband had a heart for church planting,” Jackson remembered. “But when I talked to him, and asked him if he could come down on the price, he said no, that if God told me this was the place, I should trust Him for the money.”

It turned out that the owner of the building knew Jackson’s father-in-law, who had introduced the owner to his wife. But even with that connection, he still would not negotiate on the price.

As Jackson continued to prepare to start the new work with a Bible study, he found an abandoned community center two miles down the road, and worked it out with city officials to meet there.

During his quiet time the week before Bible studies were to begin, God impressed upon Jackson to call the owner of the building again.

“They still wouldn’t negotiate, but the wife said she understood the need to get into the building so people could have a vision of what they were being asked to contribute to.

“They agreed to give us a 30-day lease with the stipulation that at the end of the 30 days, we bring them $50,000. Then they would sell us the building and carry the note,” Jackson explained. “In the meantime, we got an email from the city saying there was a gas leak in the community building, and we couldn’t meet there. So we started meeting in the warehouse and raising money.”

Jackson, whose full first name, Kuyanga, is a combination of three Swahili words meaning “to build, be strong and be number one,” said on Saturday, two days before the end of the 30 days, they had done everything possible to raise the money, and were still $11,291 and some change short.

“By Sunday, we had done all we could and were still short of the money we needed the next day,” he said. “On Monday, I got a call from the church we served in California, and unknown to us, they had taken an offering for us. It amounted to $11,291 and some change—seven cents more than we needed.”

Jackson said the church now owns about four acres, along with two buildings on the land, which appraise for $1.5 million, and owes $300,000 on the note.

The epitome of what a church should be, Tulsa, New Beginnings, established in 2006, has started three new works this year, in North Tulsa, Broken Arrow and Muskogee. It also started a church in Sand Springs two years ago, has a Hispanic congregation and has been helping a church in Lawton for six years. Jackson’s vision of a multi-ethnic church is seen in the New Beginnings congregation, which is about 49 percent Caucasian, 47 percent African-American, with a few Hispanics and Native Americans.

“The best form of evangelism is new works,” Jackson emphasized. And, the new church has worked closely with the BGCO church planting group.

While investing in new church starts, the New Beginnings congregation is actively involved in the community.

“We operate under a non-profit, 501c3, ministry called TOUCH—Tulsans Operating in Unity Creating Hope,” Jackson explained. “A lot of churches in this area have started and failed. The community doesn’t have a lot of trust in church, but as a non-profit, we can address community needs.

Jackson noted that schools in the area are under performing, and to get to families, the church had to go through schools.

TOUCH operates a federally- funded after-school program, medical clinic, social services in six apartment complexes, counseling, cooking classes and GED classes, as well as a number of other ministries. Through Jackson’s work, New Beginnings has been given $1 million in grants during the last six years.

Jackson underscored that Sunday mornings (Sunday School is conducted on Wednesday nights at the church) are a by-product of what goes on Monday through Saturday.

“Stuff isn’t happening in this building,” he exclaimed. “Members are in schools, apartment complexes, penetrating the workplace. There are opportunities to sow seeds of the Gospel in all these places. Sundays are a celebration of what has happened during the week.”

Jackson said the BGCO partnered with Sand Springs, Cornerstone to sponsor New Beginnings for three years, paying his salary for one year and half of his salary for two years.

“The best thing you can do for church planters is make sure they don’t have ‘di-vision,'” he divulged. “We were self-sustaining after three years because I had a focus for three years. I didn’t have to worry about any job except the church.”

Jackson said New Beginnings tries to reproduce at least every 18 months.

“I like us to be a little lean,” he said. He said that keeps everyone working, stating that 150 is a good number for them, but if sending out people to start other churches gets them down to 100, that’s OK, too.

“Ninety-five percent of our congregation is from new converts or those who have not been in church in the last 5-10 years,” he pointed out. “That’s what a new work is supposed to do.”

“This story can, and should, be repeated throughout Oklahoma,” said BGCO church planting specialist Bo Holland. “If we are going to reduce the lostness of Oklahoma, we must continue to evangelize the lost through church planting. Contact the church planting group, and let us help you answer the call to church planting.”
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.
Working in East Asia brothels
softens heart of campus ministry leader
By Barbara Denman

FLORIDA’S PANHANDLE (Florida Baptist Convention) — The brightly hued neon lights of the East Asian city flashed as Molly Frank walked along the streets at night. Looking for telling signs and symbols of sex trafficking, she easily spotted the brothels, as many as ten on each street, within blocks of each other.

Many of the young women walking the streets, enticing men in bars and along sidewalks originally came from outlying villages, searching for a way to support their families still living in the countryside.

What they find is isolation, physical abuse and sexually transmitted diseases in this degrading form of prostitution and slavery. They live in a tangled web unable to escape their predators—their hopes for a brighter future dashed by cruel reality.

“A lot of the girls were younger than me and I kept thinking what if it were me or my sister or friends,” said Frank. “They don’t realize that they are getting into something that they are not going to get out of.

“I wanted the girls to know that God has not forgotten them and that He does have a plan for their lives, regardless of their circumstances.”

Molly Frank is not her real name, but today when the worldwide Internet makes information accessible to groups antagonistic toward Christianity, she must go by a pseudonym if she hopes someday to return to minister among the hurting East Asia women. Even the specific city and country where she serves cannot be named to protect full-time workers who continue to minister there.

Although a language barrier existed, Frank was able to make contact with several of the young women roaming the streets and working in brothels.

“They were really surprised that people from America would just come and spend time with them. I didn’t know that would make them feel special, but they are not used to anyone giving them attention,” she explained. “That someone would come, just sit with them, give them a hug and bring them little gifts.”

Frank and the small team of summer missionaries with her offered the women something many of them had never experienced—genuine, Christ-like love and compassion.

One young woman in particular seemed “stand-offish at first. She didn’t want to talk about Jesus, she just stood there, looking scared,” Frank reported.

But as Frank began to model the hands and feet of her Savior, the young prostitute grew comfortable with her and the Americans. Hearing the story of Christ, she accepted Him as her Lord. Now joy springs forth within the East Asian woman, visible for the world to see, said Frank, proving to her that one life matters.

The East Asia city is far geographically from the small West Florida town where Frank grew up and the university she attended. During her first months of college, few would have envisioned her serving Christ among the sex trades in that East Asian urban center.

Arriving on campus as a freshman, Frank was much more interested in her sorority’s party lifestyle than living out the truths she had found through her own home church.

But when she attended a Baptist Campus ministry event, the Panhandle student heard another young woman—and former party girl—share her experiences as a summer missionary.

“I remember thinking that God would never use me like that,” Frank said. So she spoke to the speaker who told her if she would “give up all that stuff to the Lord, you will be amazed at what He does with it,” Frank recalled.

“I was like, okay God, I’ve made a mess of some things but if you can use this, here you go.” The next summer Frank participated in summer missions for the first time.

That year Frank conducted vacation Bible schools for Haitian churches in Miami where she led a child to Christ for the first time. From then on, she spent her summers and spring vacations finding opportunities to serve Christ. She traveled globally to spread the Gospel message—to Canada, Russia, Ghana, Georgia and Alabama—for tornado relief.

Upon graduation from college, the 28-year-old joined the university’s BCM staff leading Bible studies and mentoring young women, taking a group of them with her when she returned to East Asia.

As one life touched hers, she, in turn, has touched others, both in her Panhandle community and a world away. Through her mentoring she invested in their lives, demonstrating a heart of generosity of time and spirit.

Now Frank challenges others to follow in her footsteps through summer missions. “It’s something that changed my life in college so I’m always trying to encourage other students to do summer missions. It makes it possible for people to experience what God is doing all over the world.”

Florida Baptists have the opportunity to demonstrate a heart of generosity through the Maguire State Mission Offering, which provides funding each year for students like Frank to participate in a summer missions experience. In 2013 offering proceeds allocate $15,000 to underwrite the cost of the trips for students who serve as Florida Baptists’ missionaries around the world.

“God is working through the lives of college students,” Frank said, “yet a lot don’t have money to go on mission. The offering helps them raise that much needed money.

“And that will change their lives like it changed mine.”
This article appeared in the Florida Baptist Witness (gofbw.com), newsjournal of the Florida Baptist Convention. Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention.
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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