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Youth camp at Univ. of Mobile raises record amount for missions

MOBILE, Ala. (BP)–A motivational challenge to “get radical” reaped big rewards this summer, as 2,800 teenagers attending summer camp at the University of Mobile broke a Southern Baptist Convention record for missions offerings by M-Fuge or Centrifuge campers.
The record-breaking $41,664.30 was contributed by church youth groups from 15 states during nine week-long camp sessions held on the Alabama Baptist college campus.
“The contributions received at the University of Mobile site are the most given to missions by a single location in M-Fuge and Centrifuge history,” said Joe Palmer, manager of the Centrifuge and M-Fuge programs. Palmer said the record giving was even more remarkable since the University of Mobile sponsors one of the smallest M-Fuge sites in the United States.
In fact, the nearly 45,000 M-Fuge, or Ministry-Fuge, and Centrifuge participants in 15 camps across the United States this summer topped giving from any previous year, with $294,000, according to Palmer. Last year, 43,000 teens gave nearly $256,000 to mission projects of the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board. Spiritual decisions made by campers in 1998 totaled 7,796, with 1,027 of those making decisions to accept Christ as their Savior.
M-Fuge and Centrifuge are week-long camps sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention’s LifeWay Christian Resources (formerly the Sunday School Board) in Nashville, Tenn. The camp mixes worship and fellowship with opportunities for community ministry through various projects.
Throughout the years, youth at these camps have donated more than $2.3 million for missions, Palmer said.
Campers housed at the University of Mobile worked in inner-city areas to build homes through Habitat for Humanity, repaired and painted homes for the elderly, held Backyard Bible Clubs and sports camps at apartment complexes and performed creative ministries using puppets and clowns at the Salvation Army, YMCA and other agencies. M-Fuge camps also were held this summer at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn.; California Baptist College near Los Angeles; Palm Beach Atlantic College in West Palm Beach, Fla.; in Washington; and in Quito, Ecuador.
“Missions giving is an integral part of these summer camp experiences,” Palmer explained. “Teenagers are learning that what they do can have a major impact on people’s lives — not only through the work they accomplish during summer camp, but also when they contribute their own personal money to mission projects throughout the world.”
For Hope Prather, an M-Fuge staff member at the University of Mobile site, breaking records is nice — but it’s just a small part of the story.
“It’s really not about records. It’s not about being the biggest or the best. It’s about the power of God working in the lives of students,” said the 25-year-old seminary student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. “The amount raised makes me ecstatic because more people in more countries will get to hear about the love of Christ.”
As missions representative, Prather was responsible for promoting missions programs of the Southern Baptist Convention to 300-plus campers each week.
“It’s exciting to watch teenagers come to camp on Saturday night and, during the week, step out of what’s comfortable for them and into what’s uncomfortable. As the week progresses, you see them reach a point where witnessing to others and standing up for Jesus Christ becomes comfortable,” she said. “When the ministry of Christ becomes comfortable, giving becomes a natural part of who we are.”
During each camp session, the 20 M-Fuge staff members at the University of Mobile site challenged youth leaders to set church group goals for missions. During daily assemblies, staff members educated campers about how funds were used in four specific missions projects. The Southern Baptist Convention projects include translating the “Jesus” film for the people of Tibet, funding a “True Love Waits” program in Uganda, helping a children’s camp in east Asia, and building a Baptist camp site in Venezuela.
“Each week as goals were set, I challenged youth ministers to get radical in their approach to raising funds,” Prather said. Youth leaders responded to the challenge — some even pledging to shave their heads or dye their hair if their group’s goal was met.
“The first week of camp, 30 people shaved their heads,” Prather said. The excitement of challenges issued and goals met continued throughout the summer. One week, a youth group met its goal and had the once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing their youth minister preach from the pulpit — sporting a Mohawk haircut.
High spirits and high jinks were part of the camp’s reason for success, but the real key was prayer, Prather said. “When you get before God and ask him to blow you out of the water, it’s amazing what he can do.”
At lunch, campers found a “missions moment” note attached to their bag of chips. The note asked them to pray for a particular missions effort or need. Nightly devotions and prayer focused on missions. And, each day, teenagers experienced missions firsthand as they worked to meet the physical and spiritual needs of people who were strangers just a week earlier.
“My desire, and the desire of each member of our M-Fuge staff, was to burn a passion in their hearts to do missions in their own community, and to give them a global vision of what God wants us to do in missions throughout the world,” Prather said. “We want these teenagers to know the feeling of investing in the life of another person and sharing the love of God.”
Dean is director of public relations at the University of Mobile.

Baptists respond to China flood
with units to provide clean water

DALLAS (BP)–Thousands of Chinese driven from their homes by record floods are drinking safe, pure water thanks to Southern Baptist world hunger funds.
More than 5 million houses have been destroyed and 52 million acres of land inundated by the worst flooding in 44 years in central and northeast China. Raging rivers have inundated wells, leaving millions without safe drinking water.
The death toll from the ongoing disaster had topped 3,000 by Aug. 26 with no end in sight to the flooding.
In response to the need, two veteran Texas Baptist Men disaster relief volunteers left Aug. 13 for the city of Wuhan in central China, carrying water purification equipment and 200,000 two-gallon plastic bags to hold purified water. The project was launched at the request of local Chinese officials in China and was facilitated by an American Christian studying in that area.
Mel Goodwin of Kilgore, Texas, and Jim Pinkston of Edgewood, Texas, took two water purification units purchased with $24,000 from the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund, said Bill Cashion, a Southern Baptist hunger and relief consultant. The two portable units are capable of purifying up to 15,000 gallons of water per day. Goodwin owns the water filtration company that built the units.
An additional $10,000 released from the World Hunger Fund will buy food and medicines to combat hunger-related and water-borne diseases.
The plastic bags will give people a clean container for the purified water.
“We became aware of this need when we operated water purifiers in other disasters and discovered people were bringing anything they had for the water — rusty cans, dirty buckets, grease containers,” said Bob Dixon, retiring executive director of Texas Baptist Men. “So we were able to get the containers, which have a closure tie which says in English, ‘A Cup of Water in Jesus’ Name,’ with the Scripture reference from Matthew 10:42.”
Cashion asked Southern Baptists to pray for workers operating the equipment under difficult conditions created by the flooding. He also requested prayer that they will be able to share their faith through “many cups of cold water, given in Jesus name.”

Disaster units respond to Bonnie;
coast avoids anticipated destruction
By James Dotson

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Three North Carolina disaster relief feeding units remained activated on North Carolina’s coast in the wake of Hurricane Bonnie Aug. 31, but officials said the impact of the storm fortunately was far below all expectations.
“It’s hard to believe that a Level 3 hurricane went in and did no more damage than it has done. It just caught us all by surprise,” said Mickey Caison, national disaster relief coordinator for Southern Baptists and an adult volunteer mobilization associate for the North American Mission Board.
Caison, who spent several days in the area, said the situation allowed feeding units from Kentucky and Tennessee to be sent home over the weekend without ever setting up operations. In Elizabeth City, N.C., the disaster relief team from Corinth Baptist Church was able to handle the needs itself in the church’s kitchen.
“That storm definitely had a mind of its own,” said Preston Speers, the disaster relief team captain at Corinth. Most of the meals prepared at the church were for residents of a mobile home park in the area that received significant damage, Spears said.
Overall, about 25,000 meals were prepared at the three Southern Baptist sites, most delivered to neighborhoods in impacted areas by the American Red Cross. Other feeding units in operation Aug. 31were based at Winter Park Baptist Church in Wilmington and Brunswick Island Baptist Church in Supply.
Red Cross volunteer Vickie Souvé of Dayton, Ohio, said her deliveries in the Supply area were mostly to residents along the north end of Carolina Beach. As residents pulled out wet carpet and furniture damaged by flooding, the Red Cross vehicles troll neighborhood streets offering free meals. Power had been restored, she said, but the food prepared by Southern Baptists helped alleviate the stress.
“These people are so appreciative of all the work that not only the Red Cross does but all the Baptist (volunteers). They have glowing comments about the food and are so thankful. … And they really like pudding,” she said. “… A lot of what we do is just bring some hope to them and a little bit of laughter if we can.”
In Wilmington, team captain Shirlowe Powell, a member of Athens Drive Baptist Church in Raleigh, said most of the damage there also has been from flooding.
“We’ve had so much rain in this area that a lot of the roads … have been closed because of high water,” he said, adding the water was receding quickly. Electricity was restored in most areas, he said, thanks in part to the thousands of power company workers from neighboring states mobilized to help speed the recovery.
Caison said he anticipates the feeding units should be deactivated before the end of the week.
“While almost 100 percent of the power has been restored to the coastal region, there are still communities that have damage that will need support for a while,” he said.
Additionally, First Baptist Church of Washington, N.C., is being used as a distribution center for Red Cross relief supplies — primarily non-food items such as cleanup kits and other materials. North Carolina disaster relief volunteers are also involved in cleanup and recovery in the Wilmington area, and other units remain on alert to assist with cleanup efforts.
(BP) photos (color) available in SBCNet BP Photos Library.

Baptist ministries rush in
after Texas flood waters
By Ken Camp

DEL RIO, Texas (BP)–In the first four days after flood waters swept through much of south Texas, Baptists prepared more than 15,000 meals for displaced residents of Del Rio, Uvalde and Laredo and provided $10,000 to the local family ministry task force in Del Rio-Uvalde Baptist Association.
The remnants of Tropical Storm Charley hit the Texas shore near Corpus Christi Aug. 22. Moving across south Texas the next day, the storm system dumped more than 12 inches of water on Del Rio in 24 hours — more than the region had received in the previous 12 months. Another six inches fell in the days immediately following the initial deluge.
Flood waters then moved downstream along the Rio Grande to Eagle Pass, where 5,000 residents were evacuated, and to its sister city across the border, Piedras Negras. Finally, the Rio Grande crested at about 20 feet above flood stage at Laredo and Nuevo Laredo on Wednesday, Aug. 26, before emptying into Falcon Reservoir.
Volunteers working from the Texas Baptist disaster relief mobile unit, an 18-wheel tractor-trailer rig specially equipped for emergency food service, prepared meals at the Civic Center in Del Rio beginning Aug. 25. Two days later, crews arrived to help residents begin the “mud-out” process of cleaning and recovery.
Texas Baptists cooked all of the hot meals served by Red Cross and the Salvation Army in Del Rio, in addition to those served at the civic center and three satellite sites. Those satellite food service sites at Primera Iglesia Bautista and Northside and First Baptist churches in Del Rio were designated to provide meals for those who were unable or uncomfortable going to the large central emergency assistance site, according to Bob Dixon, TBM executive director.
Local church members joined other volunteers in serving hot meals both from the serving line at the civic center and from the church-based satellite locations.
Volunteers with the San Antonio disaster relief “mud-out” unit prepared meals at the civic center in Uvalde both for that city and Eagle Pass. When the immediate need for food lessened in that area, volunteers began helping residents clear their homes and businesses of mud and water.
A volunteer team from the Tyler area brought the Smith County Baptist Association mobile unit to Laredo to set up emergency food service on Aug. 27. The next day, a skeleton crew stayed in the Rio Bravo colonia near Laredo to maintain a small-scale feeding operation, while most of the Tyler crew moved on to Del Rio.
In addition to serving meals, volunteers also distributed English and Spanish Bibles, Scripture portions and evangelistic tracts made available by the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
At the height of the flooding, rescuers in Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters searched remote areas to retrieve people left clinging to tree limbs or stranded on rooftops.
Among those rescued were Denise Tatum of Fort Stockton and her 13-month-old son, Garrett. Tatum’s husband, David, is minister of music and education at First Baptist Church, Fort Stockton, and her father is Jim Watson, director of missions in Frio River Baptist Association.
Denise Tatum was traveling by car when she came upon high water about eight miles from Uvalde, Watson said. She was able to climb into the back seat, remove the baby from his car seat and escape through a rear door just before water swept the vehicle away.
“The current carried the car off, and it hasn’t been seen since,” Watson said.
. Tatum clung to a tree branch and held her baby, the current beating against her back for three hours before she was rescued. She sustained minor cuts and the child had some fever, but both were treated and released from a local hospital.
Lynn Eckeberger, director of River Ministry, and Milfred Minatrea, director of the BGCT church ministries department, visited the area Aug. 25-26 to determine church and family needs. James Semple, director of the state missions commission and chairman of the Texas Baptist Disaster Relief Committee, joined them on the second day to visit church and mission sites in Del Rio and Piedras Negras.
Working closely with Jack Calk, director of missions for Del Rio-Uvalde area, they discovered no extensive damage to church buildings in Uvalde, Eagle Pass or Del Rio. While the sanctuary of First Baptist Church in Del Rio was flooded for a time, it was not underwater for long and experienced minimal damage. Northside Baptist Church also sustained some minimal carpet damage.
Churches did not immediately report extensive damage to the homes of member families. However, many congregations still were in the process of assessing the needs of households in isolated areas and the needs of families less closely associated with the churches.
“We found churches caring for their people in a remarkable way,” Minatrea said. Even before Texas Baptists from outside the area arrived, local churches met the immediate needs of their neighbors and reassured displaced residents that additional help would be forthcoming.
“Pastors were able to reassure people that while things were not going to be like they were before, they would be OK. That’s a real ministry,” Minatrea said.
The Texas Baptist Family Assistance Task Force provided $10,000 to the local association for churches to distribute to needy member families and to other households within the extended outreach of those congregations.
The pastor at Primera Iglesia, Piedras Negras, had surveyed other pastors in his city who reported no significant damage to their church facilities or to the homes of members.
“Primera had housed 100 refugees on Monday evening and had fed 400 to 500 on Tuesday, but everything was back to order by our visit,” Eckeberger said.
“Our ongoing contacts by River Ministry personnel in health care services, church and community ministries, construction and agricultural ministries will be a steady source of follow-up and recovery from this disaster.”

Strengthened inner-city ministry
targeted at New Orleans Seminary
By Steve Achord

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Ken Taylor recalls an article he read in the June 1, 1998, issue of Newsweek about a Pentecostal minister, Eugene Rivers, working in Dorchester, Mass., one of the poorest neighborhoods in Boston.
Rivers explained to Newsweek writer John Leland the humble beginnings of the Ella J. Baker House, the nerve center of Rivers’ inner-city ministry. Leland’s article explained how Rivers sought out a local drug dealer and gang member named Selvin Brown. Brown took the reverend into crack houses and introduced him to the neighborhood.
“He gave Rivers a lesson in why God was losing to gangs in the battle for the souls of inner-city kids,” Leland said in his article.
Leland presented a conversation between Rivers, the minister, and Brown, the local drug dealer: “I’m there when Johnny goes out for a loaf of bread for Mama. I’m there, you’re not. I win, you lose. It’s all about being there,” Brown was reported to have said.
“Reading this article fueled my desire to do what I can to see that Christians are in the inner city,” said Taylor, assistant professor of urban missions and director of the newly revised supervised ministry program (previously field education) at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
“The church needs to be there too and compete with what the devil is doing,” said Taylor.
Structured ministry classes are not only helping students see the needs of the inner city and giving valuable ministry experience, but the tradition of what brought a seminary to New Orleans in the first place continues with each student, with each semester, with each class.
“That’s why our seminary was put here in the first place — not because it was a bastion of Baptists, but because it was a den of iniquity,” said Steve Lemke, NOBTS provost.
“I can’t imagine a better opportunity for ministry and missions than in New Orleans,” Lemke said.
In March of this year, NOBTS trustees voted unanimously for the 80-year-old seminary to remain in its present location rather than build a new campus somewhere else in the greater New Orleans area. With this vote, the seminary confirmed its desire to be a role model to the inner city and provide ministry opportunities within the inner city.
“We will be true to the heritage of our mission. We will be neighbors and not naysayers. We will do reality-based and not reality-shielded theological education,” said seminary President Chuck Kelley following the vote to stay in New Orleans.
An avenue into the inner city for most students at NOBTS has been through the required field education courses, now supervised ministry, specifically through Continuing Witness Training (CWT).
Two other changes are being instituted besides the name change, Lemke said. The first is the addition of an assessment in Supervised Ministry I “to identify early in the student’s career areas for possible improvements to be a better leader and work more effectively with others,” Lemke said.
The second change comes in Supervised Ministry II, giving even more emphasis to the practical application of ministerial skills appropriate to the student’s calling, he said.
Although CWT has been the most prominent such program in Southern Baptist Convention churches, Lemke said, “We are not locked into that particular program. We will very likely go to the FAITH approach.”
Bobby Welch, a 1972 NOBTS master of theology graduate, creator of the FAITH concept and pastor of First Baptist Church, Daytona Beach, Fla., shared about the new FAITH strategy linking Sunday school and evangelism during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting last June in Salt Lake City.
Jointly sponsored by SBC’s LifeWay Christian Resources and the North American Mission Board, 7,000 people, including pastors and members from more than 1,000 churches, have made commitments to attend one of 27 nationwide FAITH training clinics this fall, Welch said at the annual meeting of Southern Baptists.
One of the 27 clinics will be held at NOBTS March 8-12, 1999, Lemke said.
Presently there is an open door for witnessing that exists in most U.S. cities, Taylor said. To say how long that door will be open for opportunities is a question Taylor cannot immediately answer.
Taylor’s 14-year experience as a minister at New Orleans’ Elysian Fields Avenue Baptist Church and as assistant to Kelley when he was director of field education has shown he can teach students how to make even a tough urban situation into a stirring field of ministry by effective servant leadership, Lemke said.
“God has blessed Ken’s patient leadership as pastor of Elysian Fields Avenue Baptist Church, a church that is over half African American and doing tremendous outreach in its own community.
“They have shown us that urban churches don’t have to flee to the suburbs. They can thrive in the city if they reach out to the community,” Lemke said.
In order for students to be better equipped to minister in inner-city communities, an NOBTS task force presently is working on a graduate-level degree in the area of urban ministry, Taylor said.
Today, just like Boston, New Orleans and every major city in the country must compete with the likes of Selvin Brown.
It may be one mean street at a time, but when Johnny goes out for a loaf of bread for Mama, Ken Taylor wants to be there too. When he is, Christ wins, and Johnny wins … eternally.

Concrete landscape replaces
prof’s dreams of rural life
By Steve Achord

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Inner-city landscapes paint a strikingly different picture for a man who grew up in a small town in northern Alabama and had planned out a lifetime of service as a country lawyer and pastor.
After responding to a call from God to enter full-time ministry, Ken Taylor had no doubt he would settle into a church field ministering away from the hectic circumstances associated with big-city life.
“Lord, I’ll go anywhere you want me to go,” Taylor recalls praying many years ago. “Just not in the city, please, Lord.”
He and his wife, Sheila, arrived at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 1983 so Taylor could begin work on a master of divinity degree and later a doctorate in philosophy with an emphasis in evangelism.
Now, 15 years later, the lure of rolling pastures, cornfields and a country church are distant memories.
“As soon as I got out in the city, God showed he wanted me to minister in the city,” said the soft-spoken Taylor.
As an assistant professor of urban missions and director of the John T. Christian Library at New Orleans Seminary, Taylor still has found time to be the pastor of Elysian Fields Avenue Baptist Church, a neighborhood, inner-city congregation near the seminary where he has worked since moving to New Orleans.
“It’s in his blood,” said his wife. “He just has to do it.”
His passion and love for urban dwellers has evolved into a new role at New Orleans Seminary. Taylor has become the director of the newly revised supervised ministry program, the program previously known as field education, a required course for all NOBTS students.
Taylor, who has been named to the endowed Chester L. Quarles Chair of Missions, will help prepare students for “the open door that presently exists in the cities of America,” he said.
“The Southern Baptist Convention has not been very effective in urban environments in the last 30 to 40 years,” Taylor said. With an emphasis on urban ministry — and in the near future a new degree program as well — New Orleans Seminary is in a unique position to help students minister more effectively in an urban environment, he said.
“Whether you like it or not, you have an urban future, and my passion is to get students out in the city to see what God is doing in the city,” he said.
Statistics from “World Resources, 1996-97” show more than 70 percent of the population in both North America and Europe are now living in urban areas. Some predict between 1990 and 2025 the number of people who live in urban areas is expected to double to more than 5 billion. Almost all of this growth — a staggering 90 percent — will occur in the countries of the developing world.
“New Orleans is a great training ground for ministry because it’s tougher than most anywhere else,” said NOBTS Provost Steve Lemke.
“New Orleans is not a Bible-belt town in the Old South. In fact, it’s more like a city in a foreign country than a sleepy Southern town,” Lemke said. “But if we are going to be serious about winning our nation and our world for Christ, we have to begin in cities like New Orleans.”
New Orleans is a perfect laboratory for urban ministry due to its poverty-stricken inner-city, its racial diversity, the large areas of international residents and the city’s struggle to rejuvenate itself and combat many of the social ills associated with large metropolitan areas, Taylor said.
Instinctively, Taylor rattles off neighborhood after neighborhood where he has visited and ministered and found people who are hungry and open to the gospel.
It’s not an easy task, he said, primarily because of the spiritual warfare taking place in the heart of the city. But the people are not giving up, he said, citing the number of people who have stopped him in the street asking for prayer.
“God is wanting those neighborhoods to know him,” he said.
North Rocheblave is a prime example of a street that dissects a declining neighborhood in desperate need of knowing about God’s grace and love.
For several years, Taylor felt inclined to minister in the area, but at first was apprehensive due to the high crime rate there.
As the Lord convicted him more, Taylor began ministering despite some of his earlier fears. Now, twice a week, along with students from New Orleans Seminary, Taylor is conducting backyard Bible clubs and witnessing to the residents who are struggling to rise above the poverty line.
“It’s a troubled neighborhood, but there is a hunger and an openness to the gospel,” Taylor said.
From a learning standpoint for seminary students, Taylor added, “when students see what is happening here, they can apply real-life context ministry anywhere.”
“You could not possibly pay for such a lab that we have here that prepares people so well for ministry.”

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  • Kathy Dean