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FROM THE STATES: Texas, Fla., Calif. evangelism/missions news; ‘… It creates this buzz and this excitement’

Today’s From the States features items from:
Southern Baptist TEXAN
Florida Baptist Convention
California Southern Baptist


Personal invitations fuel
Texas student ministry

By Tobin Perry

LONGVIEW, Texas (Southern Baptist TEXAN) — When Cat Arce moved from Hallsville High School to Longview High School before her sophomore year, she noticed not many people from her new high school were attending the youth group at Mobberly Baptist Church in Longview.

Arce wanted to change that. She started by inviting the school’s leaders, the boys from the recently crowned 6A state champion football team, to the church’s Wednesday night youth event, called Elevation. Not only did 12 of the football players come to Elevation, but several of them received Christ as their Savior — and they started inviting more friends to attend. Over about eight weeks, students from Longview High School were saved every week.

And it all started with an invitation. As Arce has seen God use her invitation to engage so many others in the school, her confidence has only grown.

“When I see people giving their lives to Christ and I see people you’d never expect to come to church, I know God has huge plans for me,” said the 16-year-old Arce, who is entering her junior year at Longview. “I’ve gotten people to church you’d never think would come, people who say that if they ever stepped foot in church, it would burn down because they were so devilish. Having God use me and give me just the right words at the right time. … It is just crazy.”

Arce’s commitment to invite others to her youth group isn’t random. Mobberly Baptist’s high school minister, Michael Curl, regularly encourages students to have at least one friend they’re praying for and inviting to church.

“We push it hard,” Curl said. “There’s an expectation that if you come to Mobberly, if you’re a part of Elevation, you need to be inviting your friends. We put that expectation on them, and then the expectation on the staff is that we’re going to have a quality program that students won’t be embarrassed to bring their friends to. They’re going to have a lot of fun. And then the students know that if they bring their friends, they’re going to have an opportunity to hear the Gospel.”

Mobberly Baptist’s youth ministry has seen a 150 percent growth in attendance — counting Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights — since the start of the last school year. Curl says the youth ministry’s growth has come almost exclusively from personal invitations by students to their peers.

“A lot of times we talk about the importance of the Gospel and how it can change lives, but whenever students invite their friends and they see God at work, when they see their lives get transformed, there is no excitement like that,” Curl said. “It creates this buzz and this excitement. Suddenly they have another friend they want to see come to Christ. When they see the Gospel work, that’s what creates the momentum in our student ministry.”

Mobberly Baptist opens their youth building from 5:30-9 p.m. on Wednesdays for Elevation. They have junior high school programming from 6:30-7:30 p.m. and high school programming from 7:30-8:30 p.m. The youth programming includes both preaching and contemporary worship. Before and after the service, students are encouraged to hang out and play video games, spend time with friends, or finish up their homework with one another. Curl says there has only been one or two Sundays since school started last fall when someone has not received Christ during the Wednesday night Elevation meetings.

An average of 300-350 students from about 16 different area high schools attend Elevation each week. Including Sunday morning youth activities, an average of 500 different students attend Mobberly Baptist activities weekly. During “Friend Day,” the week before Easter, the church had more than 900 students attend. Curl says 150 of those students made professions of faith in Christ.

Mobberly Baptist has also made it a priority to disciple the students who respond to the gospel. After making a decision for Christ, students are given a packet of follow-up information, including a guide that provides them with four weeks of devotional materials. They are encouraged to be baptized and join a small group with peers and an adult leader.

Then the church’s high school student leaders head up discipleship groups among their peers. These groups include two or three students who meet together regularly to pray for one another, and the leaders teach new believers how to journal through a list of scriptures. Students in these groups are also challenged to pray for friends and invite them to church. During the last semester, the church had about 80 teenagers participate in these groups.
This article appeared in the Southern Baptist TEXAN (texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Tobin Perry is a freelance writer in Indiana.


Fla. Baptists feed
thousands in Dominica

By Brandi Radella

The Florida Baptist Convention, Florida Baptist Children’s Home and One More Child collaborated with and mobilized 40-plus churches, both stateside and local, to facilitate the Dominica, Windward Islands Feeding of 5,000 Crusade this past June. Thousands of hurting and hungry adults and children were fed and more than five hundred accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior!

The 30,000-plus bags of groceries dispersed throughout the Island of Dominica represents a $2 million impact to its people. Sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, especially with those who were unsaved, represents an immeasurable impact, and eternal life for many. The successful mission was executed through four preaching and food distribution locations every night in five major Dominica towns: Roseau, Grand Bay, St. Joseph, Portsmouth and La Plaine. In total, there were more than 20 preaching and distribution locations and the missionaries also spoke daily at most of the large schools in the country.

“The Feeding of the 5,000 is a movement that recognizes that God is very active in times of disasters, catastrophes and mass migrations. He directed the life of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob through famines and migrated the entire nation of Israel through its toughest and most formative period in history,” explained Pastor Lennox Zamore, Senior Pastor at Exciting Central Tampa Baptist Church. “Therefore, we are using the 5,000 as a post-disaster response to accomplish two goals. The first goal is to mobilize the Kingdom to be able to receive the harvest and the second is to reach the lost in mass.”

Zamore continued, “The Lord has impressed upon us to use the strategy of Jesus Himself and the team of 12 leaders. We hope to return to Dominica with a team of 70 to conduct a conference, sports evangelism, a major children and youth rally, and revivals. This is the fourth revival in four different islands, respectively, and we believe God has given us a strategy to take these islands back for Him. So, we need much prayer and support as the Feeding of the 5,000 sweeps the islands.”

“Churches were strengthened, saints encouraged and the Kingdom advanced,” said Jeffery Singletary, central region catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention.
This article appeared on the website of the Florida Baptist Convention (flbaptist.org). Brandi Radella is a writer in Florida.


Seniors enjoy “retro”
VBS at Calif. church

By Reagan Lee

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (California Southern Baptist) — Vacation Bible School is no longer just for children.

Magnolia Church in Riverside hosted a “retro” VBS, themed, “God’s Masterpiece Theatre,” that drew more than 100 members of the church’s senior ministry and other congregations to encourage them to remember their worth in Christ. The VBS ran from June 17-21 from 9 a.m.-noon each day.

Magnolia’s senior ministry, known as the Caleb Community, welcomed anyone 55 years old and better to join in a five-day study focused on Ephesians 2:10, which emphasizes that people are God’s masterpiece and are renewed in Christ.

The experience also helped participants step outside of their normal social groups, which created new friendships.

“Many of the people sit by people they don’t know in church because they don’t have opportunity to interact with them in worship. Many made comments about making new friends,” said Vi Estel, director of senior adult ministry at Magnolia Church.

Each day began with a parade of the United States and Christian flag and their respective salutes, followed by a recitation of the theme and memory verses, then worship music. “Mission Moments” and an update from recently returned volunteers of Magnolia’s various mission projects preceded the day’s message, presented by a different speaker every day, including Jeff Cate, professor of New Testament at California Baptist University, and Fermín Whittaker, California Southern Baptist Convention executive director emeritus.

Attendees spent the second half of each day participating in age-appropriate recreational activities such as chair volleyball, “giant Jenga” and giant tic-tac-toe; mission-themed refreshments such as churros for Mexico missions or scones and tea for missions in the United Kingdom; and crafts that will be donated to various ministries, such as burp-rags for single mothers and decoupage vases for senior care facilities.

The idea for the senior VBS came from Magnolia’s Lead Pastor Montia Setzler after he read about a similar event in another church’s newsletter. The idea was popular, and a planning committee was formed to idealize and organize the event. Sue Moreland, the VBS director, helped lead the committee in monthly meetings and prayer to bring the event to life.

Moreland led a non-profit organization for 22 years and was impressed by the dedication of the senior volunteers.

“Give senior adults a job one time and they take care of it. That’s one of the amazing things about working with senior adults. They are committed to what God has for them 100 percent,” Moreland said.

Each facet of the VBS had its own leader. Vaughn Jones led worship, Norm and Alyce Markley headed recreational activities, and Mary Jo Sagan took charge of crafts.

The inaugural event was a big hit with participants. There were smiles and bright eyes everywhere as people socialized and got involved in activities.

“I’ve taught VBS for 30 to 40 years and it’s nice to get to be a part of one where I do not have to do everything for a change,” one participant said.

Overall, the first-time event was a rousing success. Planning already is underway for next year’s senior Vacation Bible School, which has a tentative them of WOW (Wonder of Wonders). Each day of the study will feature an aspect of the life of Jesus, such as miracles, His crucifixion and His resurrection.

The leadership team for this year’s VBS plans to prepare a manual to serve as a guide for other churches interested in sponsoring a senior VBS. For more information contact Estel at 951-689-5700.
This article appeared in the California Southern Baptist, newsjournal of the California Southern Baptist Convention (csbc.com). Reagan Lee is a writer in California.


EDITOR’S NOTE: From the States, typically 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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