FROM THE STATES: Ark., Okla. & N.C. evangelism/missions news
Today's From the States features items from:
Arkansas Baptist News
The Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma)
Biblical Recorder (North Carolina)
Park Hill celebrates
65th through mission work
By Jessica Vanderpool
NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Arkansas Baptist News) -- As the mission team from Park Hill Baptist Church in North Little Rock strolled down the street in Ecuador on the way to their Bible study, they saw a husband and wife holding hands.
And while it might sound like just another couple showing affection, it had special meaning to the team. Just that morning, the husband had been set on divorcing his wife. But after the Park Hill team shared with him about Christ, the man became a Christian.
He was not the only one the team saw changed. In total, 494 people trusted Christ as Savior. In addition, the team helped plant 14 new churches.
"God just did some amazing things, and our students were able to be instruments of God's peace," said David Whittington, Park Hill music and worship pastor, who helped lead the student worship team's mission trip to Ecuador.
But the mission trip was only one of a number of mission projects in which the church participated last year. In fact, Bob Harper, associate pastor at Park Hill, said the goal was for the church to participate in 65 mission projects in 2012 – all in celebration of their 65th anniversary as a church.
Harper said the church exceeded its targeted number of projects for 2012 and hopes to "begin doing missions even stronger in 2013."
Though some of the 2012 projects –- like the Ecuador trip -– required international travel, not all projects operated on such a grand scale. Some were as simple as working at the Rice Depot, supporting Christmas toy drives or holding the church's yearly Easter egg hunts across town.
"Park Hill Baptist Church has been a traditionally strong mission-minded church," said Harper. "She has been a leader in mission giving gifts in years past. Our goal is to get more involved in 'practical hands-on missions,' which will encourage more financial involvement. As projects are done, our folks seem to be more aware of local and foreign missions' needs. In turn, they are able to be personally involved and put names and faces together, as well as support other projects in other areas."
He noted the impact the 2012 missions initiative had on young people.
"I think it is helping our children and youth to get a better missions education than just sitting and talking about missions," he said. "They have opportunities to do missions. That is contagious."
"Missions births missions as people discover the needs of others and their own ability to make a difference in the lives of others," Harper added. "Most people genuinely want to help others and often do so without anyone else's knowledge. Missions is people caring for the needs of others in Jesus' name. And all of us receive a huge blessing in giving of ourselves."
This article originally appeared in the Arkansas Baptist News (arkansasbaptist.org), newsjournal of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. Jessica Vanderpool is assistant editor of the Arkansas Baptist News.
God At Work In Northwest India
NORTHEAST OKLAHOMA (The Baptist Messenger) -- “All mankind will come to worship me ... says the Lord.” Isaiah 66:24
Upon exiting the airport in New Delhi and stepping out into urban India, "all mankind" seems to be immediately before you. Suddenly you understand Gitanjali Kolanad's depiction of this scene in her book Culture Shock!
"Urban structures lie shipwrecked in the sea of humanity and a flowing, sinuous, teeming mass enlivens the streets, causing what Erik Erikson calls 'sensory and emotional seasickness'. Every space is filled, and just as on temples, where carvings complicate every surface, there is no background, only the endlessly shifting patterns of the human form in all its postures."
You're quickly overwhelmed with the reality of Isaiah 66:24, realizing that it's God's design and purpose to be worshiped by each one of these people. He invited us to work alongside Him in reaching all of them with His love, grace and mercy.
During a recent trip to aid our national church planting partner, who we call "Paul," our church’s involvement brought us new understanding of the many ways in which God is at work to reveal Himself -- and the truth of the Gospel -- to these multitudes that are so precious to Him. For three years, our church in Northeastern Oklahoma (which will not be named in this article for security reasons) has supported Paul, and our purpose on this trip was to simply love and encourage both him and his family. We also sought to pour into the leaders Paul is training, who will serve the new church plants when he moves on to establish an evangelical presence in another needful place.
To form and nurture evangelical relationships, Paul relies on a small school and sewing training centers as platforms for ministry. As trusting relationships develop, he is able to share the Gospel with these primarily Hindu and Sikh peoples, start Bible studies in homes and eventually gather the new believers into groups who, by New Testament definition, are now "churches."
Every day, we saw new evidence of God at work in powerful, miraculous ways:
-- Sixty-five Christ followers gathered in a 10-by-15-foot space on Sunday to worship together through prayer, song, testimonies, sermons and the giving of their meager means.
-- The testimony of a college student who is determined to continue meeting for worship in spite of persecution by her Hindu family.
-- An unexpected opportunity to share the story of Christmas with 2,000 children at one school.
-- Celebrating baptism with five new believers.
-- Seeing the ministry of U.S. expatriates in a nearby city. One started a ministry to the affluent class youth, using a coffee shop setting. Another was a U.S. physician, who has relocated his family, including six children, to begin ministry to the very affluent of the same city.
-- Fellowshipping with a relatively new believer who now pastors a relatively large evangelical congregation in the city that holds the most holy Sikh site in the world.
-- Sharing with the leadership of an indigenous self-supporting missions outreach organization that runs a school, regularly hosts medical campaigns in poor rural areas, provides for orphans, and has planted dozens of churches across northern India.
Testimonies of God revealing Himself to these people through dreams and visions are common, as are testimonies of how God uses national and international missionaries.
For centuries, southern India has been home to a relatively high percentage of evangelical believers, while northern India has remained in a spiritual vacuum -- home to many of the unreached, unengaged people groups. But now, there is strong evidence that God is moving, calling these people to Himself for His glory.
There are many opportunities for you and your church to be involved in what God is doing in north India. Your prayers are vital, while cooperative giving makes it possible for Christian workers to plant themselves and focus on taking the light of the Gospel to the spiritually darkest places.
More churches -- and churches of every size -- are needed to support national church planters. You don't have to be a big church to have a big impact. If you sense that God may be calling you or your church to become hands-on involved in what He is doing in north India, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will be happy to share more information about how you can join God in His work there.
*Due to security concerns, only the first name of this writer is used. This article appeared in The Baptist Messenger (baptistmessenger.com), newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
'Provision for vision': Planter
finds creative ways to share Gospel
By Melissa Lilley
GREENSBORO, N.C. (Biblical Recorder) -- While growing up in Nigeria, Wole Ajala enjoyed spending time with his father and grandfather as they honed their woodworking skills. Sometimes he watched; other times he helped.
Ajala's grandfather was a carpenter and a cocoa farmer. With some wood and a few tools, Ajala's father could make just about anything a church needed, from pews and pulpits to offering plates.
Woodworking was always part of Ajala's life. "I never knew the Lord was providing it as a ministry for me to reach out," he said.
Ajala moved to the United States about 10 years ago to attend seminary and eventually plant Beautiful Gate Baptist Church, a multi-ethnic church in Greensboro, N.C., to reach African Americans and French-speaking African immigrants and refugees. He still has his grandfather's 1936 foot-pedal scroll saw.
In 2006, Ajala started the "Make and Donate Toy Clinic," an effort to use woodworking as a way to help children and teenagers combine mathematics with art and imagination.
"It's amazing what we've been blessed with, just with our hands. God gave us hands to be creative," he said.
Ajala is a physicist by training, and recently earned his middle and high school mathematics teaching license. He is currently a substitute mathematics teacher and hopes to begin teaching full-time. Ajala enjoys helping children and teenagers understand concepts such as friction and Newton's Law of Motion, all by using their hands to create something unique.
He teaches younger children how to assemble and paint toys from recycled wood, and teaches older youth how to use some of the woodworking tools. He also teaches children how to transfer their designs for toys from a computer to the wood.
Last summer, Beautiful Gate Baptist Church in Greensboro hosted day camps for children and youth to come learn about the woodworking ministry.
Throughout the year Ajala sponsors a workshop the second Saturday of every month at the Piedmont Baptist Association office. He also hosts monthly workshops at the Greensboro cultural center. "We encourage children to do more than one toy project," Ajala said.
"They take one home, and then donate one. We encourage the kids to give back to the community." Every year "Make and Donate" gives about 5,000 wooden toys to children in need.
The first toys Ajala started making were small cars that he carried in his pocket when he went with members of his church for door-to-door evangelism visits. He wanted to have something to share with the children he met throughout Greensboro.
Evangelism is the real reason Ajala started the woodworking and toy ministry. He wanted to have opportunities to meet children, to meet their families, to build relationships, and to share Jesus Christ.
"Through these ministries, God has opened so many doors for us to reach out to the kids. If we can reach the kids, we can reach the parents," he said.
"It's a discipleship opportunity, and an opportunity to show them the love of Jesus Christ. Our goal is to use our talents and skills to serve the community. It's not about growing our church, but growing the Kingdom."
Ajala is praying for a school bus to be donated so he can turn the ministry into a mobile workshop.
He is also preparing to help church planters in Toronto learn how to use a toy ministry as a means of evangelism and community outreach.
Ajala recently went to Toronto on a vision trip to learn more about the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina's (BSC) partnership in Toronto.
While in Toronto, Ajala met African refugees, as well as two French-speaking church planters. Ajala is fluent in French.
Ajala's goal is to teach the church planters skills they can reproduce, and to help plant a church in Toronto. "I will help build up the ministry, and then hand it over to the local church. We believe in training the trainer," he said.
Advancing the Gospel
Evangelism is the reason behind everything Ajala does. When God called him to stay in the United States after seminary and to plant a church in Greensboro, he knew he must obey.
"When He says go, you have to go. There's no excuse before God. With every excuse Moses gave, God was reassuring him that He was the one who created him. With every vision, God has given provision. There's nothing called accident in the lives of God's children," Ajala said.
Ajala received church planter training from the BSC, as well as funding. Beautiful Gate Baptist Church meets at the Piedmont Baptist Association office, but Ajala is praying the church can rent a building downtown to hold worship services and be closer to where church members live. Every Sunday, Ajala drives downtown to pick up a number of people for Sunday services, many of whom are homeless and neglected.
He is trying to help these people get back on their feet by teaching them skills, such as lawn care, so they can start earning an income again. Some of the homeless people he works with have just been released from prison.
Ajala seeks to help people learn skills to improve their quality of life. He is working on a biodiesel project that he hopes will help people living overseas in poor countries.
With help from the Piedmont Association, U.S. Department of Agriculture and North Carolina A&T University, he has also started a community garden ministry to help feed the hungry in Greensboro. Church members and volunteers help plant in the garden, and then the food is freely distributed to those in need. Ajala also hopes to share special gardening and irrigation techniques with poor people living overseas. "To penetrate lostness in our community, we must do whatever it takes. There's no limit to what we can do to advance the Gospel," he said.
To learn more about "Make and Donate," email email@example.com. To learn more about church planting efforts in North Carolina, visit ncbaptist.org/churchplanting.
This article originally appeared in the Biblical Recorder (brnow.org), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Melissa Lilley is the research/communications coordinator for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
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.