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SBC DIGEST: LifeWay Women’s Leadership Forum; Missouri Baptists pray for Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict; The 13th Mission:Dignity check

Leaders unite through virtual LifeWay Women’s Leadership Forum

LifeWay author Angie Smith delivered the first keynote address at the 2020 LifeWay Women’s Leadership Forum. Smith’s latest Bible study is “Matchless: The Life and Love of Jesus.” Photo by Bethany Miller

By Joy Allmond

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) — On the heels of a divisive year—including a pandemic, several painful cultural moments and an intense election season—women gathered physically and online for the 2020 LifeWay Women’s Leadership Forum, held Nov. 12-13 at Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn.

For COVID-19 safety and compliance reasons, in-person attendance was capped at nearly 250, which included women spanning 21 states and seven denominations. Hundreds more attendees joined virtually from 41 states and Canada in the first live stream of the LifeWay Women’s Leadership Forum.

Attendees heard from ministry leaders including Angie Smith, Kadi Cole, Dorena Williamson, Jamie Ivey, Lisa Harper, Ben Mandrell and Ruth Chou Simons. Travis Cottrell and a praise team led corporate worship times.

Emceed by author and Bible teacher Whitney Capps, this year’s forum theme was “One,” based on John 17:21: “May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe you sent me.”

LifeWay author and Bible teacher Angie Smith delivered the opening keynote address of the forum.

“When I heard the topic of this year’s forum I felt so stirred,” Smith said. “The church needs to do a good job of modeling this (unity). We’ve started taking on the world’s definition of unity. What this often looks like is ‘unity equals uniformity.’ But that’s not the biblical definition of this word.”

Speaking from Philippians 2:1-2, Smith zeroed in on the word “intent” from the second verse.

“It means to be intent on purpose, to earnestly move in the same direction, to cherish the things we have in common,” she said. “It doesn’t mean we have to do everything the same way or agree on every single thing.”

Read the full story here.

Missouri Baptists encouraged to pray amid crisis in Armenia, Azerbaijan

By Ben Hawkins

This map depicts the geo-political situation in Armenia and Azerbaijan before the outbreak of conflict in 2020. Wikipedia image

ABOVYAN, Armenia – In a state of shock, Armenian Pastor Vazgen Zohrabyan couldn’t stand to enter the Abovyan City Church for three days. Located in a town only 10 miles north of the Armenian capital of Yerevan, his 250-member church offered on social media to take in refugees of war. The response was overwhelming, and for a short time it emotionally took its toll on the pastor.

This crisis began in late September, when fighting once again erupted between Armenia and its neighbor, Azerbaijan. The conflict centered around a contested territory called Nagorno-Karabakh—an enclave within Azerbaijan that is roughly the size of Delaware and that was largely populated by ethnic Armenians.

Although tensions have been high in the region for three decades, this was the worst conflict there since the end of the “Nagorno-Karabakh War” in 1994. According to a Nov. 10 Wall Street Journal report, the latest conflict has led to 5,000 deaths and has forced more than 100,000 to flee their homes. Fighting ended Nov. 9 with a Russian-brokered cease-fire, but according to representatives of Mission Eurasia the humanitarian crisis in the region is only getting worse.

Zohrabyan shared his story Nov. 11, during a Zoom call with Christian journalists organized by Mission Eurasia.

“Bus drivers,” he said, “used to call me and say, ‘There is a bus full of refugees. Could you help them?’”

Zohrabyan said he told God that if He would send refugees their way, he would never say, ‘No,’ to them. So far, he said, they’ve helped find shelter and food for 2,000 refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh.

And they’ve seen their share of tragedy.

One evening in the early phases of the conflict, Zohrabyan expected three refugee families to arrive at the church. But only two arrived. In a state of shock, they couldn’t share what happened, but they burst into tears the next day and shared how the other family’s car had been hit in a drone strike. They were all dead.

“We were shocked,” Zohrabyan said.

Nevertheless, he and his church sought comfort in Christ and continued their efforts to relieve refugees. But they’re not alone. Evangelical Christians in both Armenia and Azerbaijan have made efforts to share the hope and love of Christ amid war and suffering.

Though he admits moments of shock and weakness amid the crisis, Zohrabyan adds, “Despite the situation, we have to be strong to help others.”

Read the full story here.

The 13th Mission:Dignity Check
How a Partnership with the South Carolina Baptist Convention Provides Additional Help

By Kyle Scott

DALLAS (BP) — In a year marked by financial insecurity and anxiety due to the novel coronavirus, many of us have needed a little extra help — and perhaps none have needed support more than the older members of this generation. The pandemic has heightened their challenges of loneliness, finances and mobilization.

But Mission:Dignity® and the South Carolina Baptist Convention hope to make even more of a difference this year with an extra blessing to counteract 2020’s extraordinary circumstances.

Mission:Dignity, a ministry of GuideStone®, exists to honor retirement-age Southern Baptist pastors, denominational workers and their widows through advocacy and financial assistance by providing steady financial assistance. This financial assistance usually comes in the form of a monthly check, but the Mission:Dignity recipients in South Carolina received a special gift this year—a 13th check—thanks to a partnership with the South Carolina Baptist Convention. This additional support is a special supplement to the ongoing monthly grants these individuals receive to help meet essential needs like paying bills, buying groceries and purchasing much-needed medication.

The partnership between Mission:Dignity and the South Carolina Baptist Convention that made this extra check possible was established many years ago.

In 1980, the Baptist Foundation of South Carolina—a ministry partner of the state convention—established a fund to aid retired pastors, workers and widows in South Carolina. This initial fund grew at a steady pace through small gifts and was soon supplemented by the establishment of a second fund by Jesse E. Davis, who desired to make an impact for ministerial relief in South Carolina. His generous stock contribution began a legacy of giving among South Carolina Baptists.

Over the years, other faithful donors have given to the same meaningful cause, like Meredith Satterfield, a retired South Carolina Baptist Convention employee. During her time in the collegiate ministry department at the state convention, she took note of the many students called to ministry who came through her department. Satterfield began contributing to this fund as she worked with these students because she knew that many would have future needs. Their calling, she says, was not about financial gain but about honoring the Lord wherever He led.

Seeing the legacy and impact of Davis’ initial gift has been profound to many—including his son Edwin. He reflects, “It has been inspiring to see how our father’s vision has grown to include other contributors and to see how many pastors and their widows have been helped over the years.”

Today, more than 10 funds have been established through the Baptist Foundation of South Carolina that go toward meeting the needs of retired pastors, denominational workers and their widows in South Carolina. The earnings from the funds are sent to the South Carolina Baptist Convention, which works in conjunction with Mission:Dignity to provide a 13th check to current Mission:Dignity grant recipients in South Carolina.

As of 2020, more than $375,000 has been disbursed through the ongoing partnership. These gifts have resulted in an outpouring of thanks to God from 13th check recipients.

Read the full story here.