News Articles

FROM THE STATES: Texas, Fla., La. evangelism/missions news; ‘[Taking] the Gospel into all the world is catching fire in our church.’

Today’s From the States features items from:
Southern Baptist TEXAN
Florida Baptist Convention
Baptist Message (Louisiana)

Urban missions conference motivates Texas
churches to work with Antandroy people
By Jane Rodgers

GARLAND, Texas (Southern Baptist TEXAN) — The first DFW Urban Missions Conference, sponsored by the International Mission Board and held at North Garland Baptist Fellowship in February, continues to bear fruit among African American congregations.

The conference involved some 75 participants from predominantly African American congregations in North Texas and was aimed at spurring urban churches to greater missions involvement.

“Our church has responded remarkably to the missions emphasis,” said Tony Mathews, North Garland Baptist Fellowship pastor. “The idea of following the Matthew 28 mandate to take the gospel into all the world is catching fire in our church.”

The conference also “encouraged us to learn more about what African Americans have done historically” in world missions, said Mathews, adding that his congregation’s exposure to historic links between African Americans and global missions was “beyond motivating.”

North Garland Baptist Fellowship participates in an annual outreach to India. Since the Urban Missions Conference, the church’s mission emphasis has also spread to Africa.

In fact, three members of North Garland Baptist Fellowship, including Barry Calhoun, SBTC Missional Ministries team leader, recently returned from a short term mission trip to assist IMB missionaries working among the Antandroy people group of southern Madagascar. Known as the “people of the thorns,” the Antandroy have only recently been exposed to the gospel.

Another predominantly African American DFW congregation, Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church, has expressed interest in partnering with North Garland to further minister to the Antandroy, Calhoun said.

Getting churches to consider God’s work around the world is a major goal of the Urban Missions Conferences, according to Keith Jefferson, IMB African American church missional strategist and conference planner.

“In the past, many African American churches and multiethnic churches have felt that the communities around them had enough problems of their own, but as we know, missions doesn’t stop with Jerusalem, it only begins there. Charity doesn’t stop at home; it only begins there,” Jefferson told the Southern Baptist TEXAN at the DFW conference.

“African American churches are growing in the SBC. We want them to grow internationally,” continued Jefferson, who noted that, as of February, fewer than 30 of the IMB’s nearly 5,000 missionaries were African American, about “half of 1 percent of the missionary force.”

It is a statistic he is working to change. “We want to encourage more African Americans to be on the field through the IMB and local churches. It’s got to be both. It cannot be either/or,” Jefferson said. He hopes to mobilize black Southern Baptists for both short and long term missions work.

When asked if the African American missions effort is targeted chiefly at Africa, Jefferson explained, “Yes and no. There are people in Africa who are waiting for African Americans to get there. They have heard about us and when we get there, they are saying, ‘Where have you been?'” Still, “Christianity is for all the people of the world.”

The need is universal, according to Jefferson. “We want African Americans to go to China, Asia, India. In India there are millions and millions of people of color. Soon India in the next 30 years will have 2 billion people. Those are people of color,” he said.

Pastors like Mathews are vital in encouraging African American involvement in missions, Jefferson noted, referencing Mathews’ workshop “The Senior Pastor as the Mobilizer for International Missions.”

At the conference, Bill Smith, pastor of North Buffalo Community Church in Buffalo, N.Y., delivered a motivational address chronicling his background as a former DFW resident and seminary student and challenging congregations to participate in global missions. Scott Holste, IMB vice president of global and strategic mobilization, presented the challenge of reaching unengaged, unreached people groups.

Breakout sessions were conducted by Mathews, Jefferson and Smith as well as Leroy Fountain, NAMB national coordinator of church mobilization; Robert Williams, president and CEO of Miracle Making Ministries; and Rick Armstrong, evangelism and missions pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington.

A second DFW Urban Missions Conference is in the works for February 2014, although neither venue nor date has been finalized.

Of the 2013 DFW Urban Missions Conference, Mathews said, “We gained great insight into the IMB’s global strategies for reaching people groups around the world. But simultaneously what made the conference unique is that we were also encouraged to reach people around the block, around the neighborhood and around the state and nation. We are mission minded and thank God for it.”
This article appeared in the Southern Baptist TEXAN (texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Jane Rodgers is a correspondent for the TEXAN.
Summer camp was turning
point for NAMB missionary
By Barbara Denman

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Florida Baptist Convention) — At only 10 years old, Lorna Bius experienced what she now describes, some 30 years later, as the “most transforming and foundational experience of my life with Christ.”

The young Bius had spent a week at Camp WorldLight, Florida Baptists’ camp for Girls in Action (GA) and Acteens, missions discipleship organizations for girls. At that camp, one of Bius’ cabin counselors, “Miss Karen,” became her “first hero of the faith.”

Sitting on a dock at sunset on the camp’s last night, Miss Karen gave the girls a “pep talk about returning home and living for Jesus,” closing the time with the girls by singing, “I Am Willing Lord.”

Weeks later, at East Hill Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Bius’ GA teacher gave her a letter from Miss Karen. Clutching the letter “as if it were from a celebrity” in the Sunday evening worship service, Bius was surprised when a musical group began singing the same song Miss Karen had sung by the lake.

“I knew that was God!” she said.

“I remember feeling so stunned, realizing the Lord had orchestrated this so I would see I could trust Him no matter what happens in life.

“Though I did not fully understand it then, I know the Lord set me apart for His purpose during that time.”

Much has happened in Bius’ life since that childhood experience. She answered the call to fulltime ministry 20 years ago and served for several years with local churches. Today Bius serves throughout 13 states in the western United States as a LoveLoud missionary for the North American Mission Board (NAMB). In this role since the summer of 2012, she works alongside churches and other SBC partners, helping them to “demonstrate God’s love by meeting significant human need while sharing Christ.”

“It is a humbling joy to travel across the west and extend the love and support of every Southern Baptist to churches and leaders who are working to share Christ in difficult places,” said Bius.

According to Cindy Goodwin, team strategist for Florida Baptists’ Women’s Missions and Ministries/Missions Education, Lorna is a “true model of a Christ follower. She is genuinely interested in everyone she meets, always alert for God’s nudging to share.

“She has a passion for reaching people who need to know the Lord. It is not a ‘job’ or ‘career’ for Lorna—it is a personal passion.”

Camp WorldLight “allowed Lorna, like so many others, to realize how much God loved her and how He uses people to share His love,” Goodwin continued. Overall, 70 percent of current Southern Baptist career missionaries responded to the call of missions while attending a GA or Royal Ambassadors (RA) camp.

Over the past seven years more than 350 girls and young women have answered a personal call to missions through Florida Baptists’ camp experience, including 48 who made the decision last year alone, according to Anne Wilson, Camp WorldLight director. Even for those who are not called to full-time Christian service, the camp provides a foundational “understanding and appreciation of missions,” she said.

For more than 60 years, Camp WorldLight has existed as a camp designed “to teach our children missions in order to show them there are more than 1.7 billion people in the world who are waiting to know about God,” she explained.

Six weekly camp sessions are offered each summer at Lake Yale and other locations in the state, reaching more than 1,000 campers annually.

Florida Baptists’ Maguire State Mission Offering provides $40,000 in financial resources for the camp that prepares the next generation of missionaries and mission-minded church leaders.

“The Maguire State Mission Offering provides opportunities for girls and young women all over Florida to spend a week focused on God’s love for them and the world. This time away from their ‘normal’ lives to experience camp provides opportunities for them to hear from God and choose to follow Him with their lives, answer His call to missions or to a life of ministry,” said Wilson.

The offering resources are used to house, feed and pay the staff and also pay for the week of training that is required as an accredited camp in the American Camp Association, she explained.

This past April, so many years since her week as a young camper at Camp WorldLight, Bius returned for the first time to the place that had been so meaningful in helping her discern her call to fulltime ministry. This time, she had been asked to speak and share about her Christian journey and calling.

“I have no doubt that the Lord brought me back to this special place to remind me once again of His perfect control in the midst of life’s trials,” said Bius.

Three days after she spoke at the camp, her mother passed away in south Georgia.

“I have been so encouraged by the kind support of so many Florida Baptists,” she said.
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.
2 Louisiana Baptist families
head westward to share the Gospel
By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer

ALEXANDRIA, La. (Baptist Message) — Two Louisiana Baptist families have headed out West to share the Gospel.

Scott Belmore and Ronnie LaLande and their immediate family members have left the comforts of home and a successful ministry to pursue missions in Alaska and Colorado, respectively.

And both men are confident that even though they have left their home state, God is clearly leading them to walk alongside Him on an incredible journey of faith.

Belmore arrived in Anchorage, Alaska, on Sept. 1 while LaLande began ministry in the Denver/Front Range area on Aug. 1.

Belmore is working alongside former University of Louisiana-Lafayette Baptist Campus Ministries director Brenda Crim in the ministry Alaska Missions.

They will meet basic physical needs to break down walls to be able to share the ultimate need which is a relationship with Christ.

Servant evangelism his ministry is involved with include key, signature Alaskan events such as Kodiak Crab Fest, Iron Dog Race and Salmon Frenzy. They also will participate in feeding programs in Anchorage as well as 13 bush villages to find persons of peace. Additionally, the ministry also will partner with the Alaska Baptist Convention in order to plant churches.

According to the Alaska Baptist Convention, between 95 and 97 percent of Alaskans are unchurched.

Belmore served as Baptist Campus Ministries director at University of Louisiana-Lafayette since 1999 and for the past five years has led his college students on missions trips to Alaska. During the 2012 trip to Alaska God showed Belmore he and his family were to move to the state, but his wife, Dana, was not ready to leave Lafayette where their family resides.

However, a trip to Atlanta in January for the Passion 2013 spiritual awakening conference for young adults changed her mindset. Shortly after the conference the Belmores accepted the call to serve full time in Alaska.

Belmore compared his call to that of Abraham in the Bible.

“God called him to leave his family, his people and his land,” Belmore said. “Abraham responded in absolute unwavering obedience.

“He left,” he said. “He didn’t even have a destination. And yet he obeyed.”

Dana Belmore said she is excited about the lessons God will teach her family in the years ahead.

“We have learned what it means to fully rely on the Lord’s provisions, day by day,” she said. “We have learned what it means to walk by faith, not by sight.”

Meanwhile, LaLande is scouting out the Denver area to plant a church there. His desire is to start a church that in turn plants other churches. He is working with the North American Mission Board and Colorado Baptist General Convention.

Previously director of new project developments at Louisiana College in Pineville, LaLande said the transition from Louisiana to Colorado has not been easy, as his family misses their loved ones in Louisiana. But knowing God has called them to minister in Colorado has helped lessen the uneasiness.

“I am energized to get back to my roots as a missional leader,” said LaLande, who was saved while attending a church plant, Warren Street Baptist Mission in DeRidder, in 1975. “I believe people need the Lord and the fields are white unto harvest. I am both humbled and excited for this new ministry opportunity.”

LaLande said his interest in Colorado can be traced back to vacationing in the state and admiring the beauty of God’s creation and culture.

Since 2012 God placed a burden of LaLande and his wife, Sandy, for the people in Colorado. He recently read an article by JD Payne about the lostness in America, which included a map of how much of the area south and west of Denver were lost and unengaged with the gospel.

According to the Colorado Baptist General Convention, of the 2.8 million residents who live in the Denver metropolitan area, 2.4 million do not have a personal relationship with Christ. Eighty-five percent of Denver residents indicated they do not attend a church, synagogue or temple on a regular basis.

“Looking at that map of ‘our Colorado’ I became convicted and knew I had to leave the Bible belt,” LaLande said. “My wife and I spent many hours in prayer about God’s will for us. We both came to the conclusion that we needed to go to Colorado and win souls to Christ and to help change the direction of the state.”

Looking ahead to their future in Alaska and Colorado, Belmore and LaLande say financial support and prayers are their two main needs.

“We have been praying through this process as a family,” Belmore said. “Many of you have been praying with us.

“We are confident God has gone before us,” he continued. “… Become a part of what God is doing in the Last Frontier. Thank you so much for supporting us and praying for our family as we begin our next adventure.”

LaLande said wisdom from the Lord is needed as they move forward in their ministry.

“We need clarity as to where we should plant a church,” LaLande said. “We need prayer for our family.”

Those wanting to contact Belmore may do so by e-mailing [email protected] or calling 337-739-8700. His website is www.akmissions.com.

Anyone wishing to contact LaLande can do so by e-mailing [email protected], calling 337-396-8039 or writing La’Rock’Lande Ministries, PO Box 308, Castle Rock, CO 80104.
This article appeared in the Baptist Message (baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Brian Blackwell is a staff writer for the Baptist Message.
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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