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SBC DIGEST: Tornado hits Ark. boys ranch; John Sullivan at FBC; seminarian on ‘Jeopardy!’

Tornado strikes Ark. boys ranch

By Stella Prather

HARRISON, Ark. (BP) — Several buildings and residences at the Arkansas Baptist Boys Ranch were damaged by a tornado early April 3 in northern Arkansas.

The 27 residents and 10 staff were shaken up during the EF1 tornado, but there were no injuries at the 500-acre ranch seven miles north of Harrison. The National Weather Service in North Little Rock confirmed the twister and rated it as an EF1 with winds from 86 to 110 mph.

“When the boys began getting alerts on their phones about the storm, it was coming through” at about 12:45 a.m., said David Perry, executive director of Arkansas Baptist Children’s Homes and Family Ministries.

The ranch’s Independence Hall collapsed in the storm, but no one was in the building that serves as independent living quarters for older teens. A chimney was ripped off at the Arapaho Family Home, leaving a hole in the ceiling; a hay barn was blown away; and a horse barn’s new roof was heavily damaged. Two additional family homes sustained major roof damage while four other buildings received some damage. Trees were uprooted and a walk-in freezer was destroyed. The Jones Chapel and Hannah House Perry received minimal damage.

“The first words I heard when I answered the telephone at 4 a.m. this morning was, ‘Everybody is okay,'” Perry said. “Those words put everything in perspective. While the ranch has tremendous damage, we are thankful to God that all our residents and staff were not hurt. That’s all that matters.

“Our house parents and kids are handling the situation amazingly and with grace. … With God’s help and the help of Arkansas Baptists, we know we will come back stronger. ”

The Boys Ranch serves boys who need a place to live, boys with family conflict issues or boys in need of behavioral guidance. Residents range in age from 6 to 17.

Perry estimated the damage to the ranch to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“God’s at the top of our ministry and He helped us through this experience today, and so it’s at the right place, just to look at it still standing is an encouraging thing,” Perry said.

Perry said the hay barn will need to be rebuilt. Other rebuilding decisions will be made at a later date. Cleanup will take weeks. “It could have easily been a lot worse,” Perry said. “We’re grateful, God’s blessed us.”

Ranch resident Camerson Kinzer, 16, won’t soon forget the experience. “When it hit, it was loud and not really traumatizing, but it was scary. I’m holding onto my bed, the house is shaking, I don’t know how to take it,” Kinzer recounted.

Originally from Arizona, Kinzer said he’s never experienced a tornado before. “It’s only an F-1 and just imagine what people go through on F-5s — it’s traumatizing, I’m really just grateful that my Lord was there to protect all of us and no one got hurt,” Kinzer said.

Two Arkansas Baptist disaster relief teams were deployed to the ranch April 3. A chainsaw crew from the White River Baptist Association is helping cut up downed trees and clean up debris. The North Arkansas Baptist Association feeding unit began serving breakfast, lunch and dinner April 4 to residents, staff and contractors. The feeding until will be in place for at least a week. Food is being provided by Western Sizzlin and the Main Street Outlet, both of Harrison.

At this early stage in the disaster relief process, additional volunteers are not needed. Additional help, however, will be requested at a later date. Those interested in volunteering should email [email protected].

Retired exec John Sullivan joins First Baptist staff

By Barbara Denman

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP) — As he begins his years of retirement, John Sullivan, executive director-emeritus of the Florida Baptist Convention, is returning to one of his first loves — the ministry of the local church.

On Sunday, March 29, Mac Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, introduced Sullivan to the congregation as the newest staff member who, effective immediately, would be serving as evangelist in residence and pastor of senior adults. Sullivan and his wife Nancy are longtime members of the Jacksonville church.

“I am excited to get back to the ministry of a local church,” Sullivan said. As Florida Baptists’ executive director, “I looked for every opportunity I could find to speak in churches and be among Florida Baptists.”

Brunson said he asked Sullivan to come on staff for three reasons — his brain, his heart and his voice.

“He has one of the sharpest minds and is one of the best theologians in the convention,” Brunson said. “He has a heart for people and a heart for the lost. He has pastored pastors. He is one of the greatest preachers of our day.”

Brunson said he hopes Sullivan, in addition to his other roles, will “strengthen our evangelistic outreach — with his heart for evangelism to look at what we do to help us better reach people for Christ.”

Sullivan said he had been in conversation with Brunson about serving in the church since he announced his retirement last September, effective Feb. 28.

In his new role, Sullivan will minister to the church’s senior adults, age 70 and above. He also will preach on Sundays in the absence of the pastor and be added to the church’s rotation to lead Bible studies during Wednesday night services.

The position is part-time, which will enable him to continue preaching in other churches on Sundays, Sullivan said.

Sullivan’s 26 years of service mark the longest of all Florida Baptist executive director-treasurers and place him among the longest tenured state execs in the Southern Baptist Convention.

Prior to coming to Florida as state exec, Sullivan served as pastor of Broadmoor Baptist Church in Shreveport, La., from 1975-89 and several other churches in Texas and Arizona.

Seminary student wins $34K on ‘Jeopardy!’

By Charissa Crotts

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — Years of watching “Jeopardy!” and playing trivia games paid off for Jacqueline Hawkins, a student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, when she won $34,101 over two days on the game show, which aired March 25-26.

“From being a lifelong ‘Jeopardy!’ fan, I always wanted to be on the show,” said Hawkins, who has participated in quiz bowl competitions since middle school.

Hawkins is a full-time English professor at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College who, in 2008, began serving as music director for South Jefferson Baptist Church. In the summer of 2014, Hawkins said she sensed conviction from God that she was not treating her position of music director as a serious calling.

“He just made it very apparent to me over last summer,” Hawkins said, “that I needed to fully commit to what I was doing in music ministry and leading in worship, and I knew one of my first steps was being equipped to do that.”

Southern Seminary had a “wonderful reputation,” and her family lived in Louisville, so she enrolled in a master of arts in worship program in the seminary’s Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry.

The first episode in which Hawkins competed aired March 25. During the category of answers that did not include an “L,” she was asked to name a food from the book of 1 Corinthians. Hawkins could not come up with the correct answer: meat. Later, she talked about a New Testament II class she is taking this semester that will cover 1 Corinthians that might have helped her answer the question.

Hawkins’ two-day reign as a Jeopardy! winner ended on the March 27 episode.

“I knew a lot of the answers, but I couldn’t get in faster than the two guys I was playing against,” she said. “Timing on the buzzer is everything.”

Besides her speedy opponents, a difficult Bible question also challenged her in the Final Jeopardy round — to name the transportation company founded in 1948 that took its name from the book of Hosea. She could not think of the answer — El Al, Israel’s national airline — and neither could the other contestants. Hawkins, however, had the lowest total, so that ended her time on the show.

“Maybe if I had taken Hebrew classes at Southern I would have been able to get this question,” she said. “That was a total stumper for me.”

In 2008, Hawkins found the 50-question eligibility test online that Jeopardy! contestant managers use to decide who competes. Hawkins performed well enough to get an interview in Chicago but was not invited to be on the show. In 2011, she tried again with the same result. Finally, in 2014, her test results got her an interview in Chicago and this time she was invited to compete on the show.

“It’s been a long process,” she said, laughing. “Three times is the charm!”

Now that Hawkins has fulfilled her childhood dream of competing on Jeopardy! and returned home with a substantial sum of winnings, she said the money will be put to good use.

“My husband and I are definitely committed to tithing a portion of the winnings to our local church,” she said. “Other than that, we know we want to try to take our son to Disney World in May of 2016 and we also basically look on my success on the show as God providing a way for me to finish paying for my degree at Southern.”

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