FROM THE STATES: N.M., Okla., Ariz. evangelism/missions news; 'The goal is for everyone to move one step closer to Jesus'
Today's From the States features items from:
Baptist New Mexican
The Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma)
N.M. students build
friendships in East Asia
By Tim Burdsaw
EAST ASIA (Baptist New Mexican) -- Friendship is important in ministry. It can provide an opportunity to share about Jesus, because you have earned your friend's trust. It can help inspire continued spiritual growth in new believers.
A true and lasting friendship is something that most short-term Christian workers going to East Asia for one week rarely achieve. But building relationships with people from other cultures is one of the primary ways that International World Changers, a student ministry program sponsored by the International Mission Board, reaches out to a community. IWC participants this summer included a group of high school and college students from Calvary Baptist Church, Las Cruces, N.M., Woodland Hills Baptist Church, Newcastle, Okla., and First Baptist Church, Blanchard, Okla. More than half of the 40 participants were making their second, third or even fourth trip to this IWC ministry camp.
"Relationships are the ways that Christ is shown," Kai Abrams,* a junior at Oklahoma Baptist University, Shawnee, Okla., said, "because we can see the love of God through the love that is shown."
IWC students helped teach English to Chinese students. In return, the Chinese taught about their customs and cultures. For some, the time with their American counterparts meant a rare time with fellow Christians and discipleship training. For others, it was a time to learn more about Christianity.
According to Christian worker Stephen Gai,* the IWC experience in East Asia functions in a twofold manner. He hopes the American students will learn to focus their attention in investing in each others' lives and he hopes the East Asian students learn how to fully understand their faith in Jesus Christ.
"The goal is for everyone to move one step closer to Jesus," Gai explained.
To achieve this goal, East Asian students were mixed up into six teams with the Oklahomans and New Mexicans. The teams learned how to build relationships with each other and the value of integrity. Each team later had a chance to explain what they learned to the group as a whole in various ways, such as performing a skit, singing a song or other activities. Day by day, friendships grew stronger and deeper.
"It gives us a better platform to build relationships and share," Kalleigh Sands,* a high school biology teacher at Blanchard High School, Blanchard, Okla., said about all of the activities.
This type of hands-on "discipleship" camp was the perfect setting for people like Hu Zhi Wen,* a local Chinese college student who is early in his belief, to increase his knowledge of the teachings of God's Word.
During his struggles—from his brother's drug addiction to nearly being killed in a motorcycle accident—Hu found support and friendship from a family of believers in East Asia. They were able to mentor him and help him draw closer to Christ.
Hu now desires to learn more about what he believes and share it with his friends and family, who often ridicule him for his faith. This weeklong cross-cultural camp between East Asia and American believers played a large role in helping him learn more and grow in Christ.
"I want to learn about the Bible because (God) has done so much for me and I want to follow him," he said.
During the week of camp, teams spent time each day working with primary-aged children. Each IWC team taught the children English words, songs, games and skits. Gai explained that this provided the East Asian and American college students a chance to give back to the community.
"Every year we see (the children) running around," Lane Steadman,* a freshman at Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Okla., said. "It was good to get to know them a little more."
Throughout the week East Asian and American students expressed their eagerness and friendship with each other in various ways. By means of email and other social networking alternatives, they pursue long-lasting friendships for years to come.
"I've had the joy of seeing my students loving the (East Asians) and (East Asian) students loving them back," Jim Martinez,* Calvary Baptist Church, Las Cruces, N.M., said.
*Names changed. This article appeared in the Baptist New Mexican, newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico (bcnm.com). Tim Burdsaw is a summer college intern with Commission Stories, a publication of the International Mission Board (IMB). IMB writers Emily Stockton and Susie Rain contributed to this article.
'Fiddler on the
hoof' in Malawi
By Chris Doyle
MALAWI (The Baptist Messenger) -- Paige Park has played with a master violinist center stage at the Opera House in Sydney, Australia. At 16, she already is an accomplished musician herself.
"She is an award-winning violinist, one of the best in the country," said Paul Koonce, director of missions in Washington-Osage Association (WOA). "She is very gifted in playing the violin and wanted to use that gift to share the Gospel."
Earlier this year, Koonce led a team of 10 from churches in WOA on a mission trip to Malawi. Park, a member of Bartlesville, Eastern Heights, was part of the team and took her violin to perform, but she wanted to do more.
"I spent several hours talking with her and her mother about how our lives
are like a violin in the hands of a 'Master Violinist,'" said Koonce. "I helped her put her words and thoughts into a Gospel presentation using the four strings E-A-D-G as an outline."
Working with Chisomo Baptist Church, which WOA helped plant two years ago in Malawi, the team visited many remote villages. Chisomo is working to plant two additional churches, and the team did hut-to-hut witnessing. Many victorious stories could be shared of lives changing daily at every village the team visited.
Park was asked to play her violin for the different villages. With the help of Malawian Pastor Charles Malekano interpreting, Park took the opportunity to share her testimony as she would play an instrument many in the crowd have never seen.
"Music is very important to me and my family," Park would tell her audience. "This is a violin and a bow. My family can play many instruments, but my favorite is the violin. I work many hours practicing on my violin, so I can play beautiful music on it. I brought my violin to Malawi to help me share my testimony with you and to teach you about God."
She would play a brief rendition, and then using different violin strings she would tell the Gospel story. With the E string, she would say "EVERYONE is created by God for a purpose." With the A string, Park shared, "ALL of us have a problem."
Park would strum D and say, "You must DECIDE to accept God's purpose and plan." And after playing G, "You must GIVE GLORY to GOD."
When the invitation was given by Malekano, Koonce said, many were saved, including the village chief. Koonce also shared this village now has a new church plant named "New Beginning" Baptist Church.
On the fourth day of their trip, Koonce was asked to officiate a wedding, and Park was asked to play.
"Between 300-400 people came to hear Paige and attend the wedding," he said. "It was very surreal to stand in a mud brick church in remote Africa and hear the wedding march played beautifully on a violin. As part of the wedding ceremony Paige shared her violin gospel presentation. When the invitation was offered at the end of the wedding, many were saved, including two village chiefs who had come to hear the violin."
Near the end of the visit, the team travelled to Njande village to plant another church. Koonce said most of these villagers worshipped spirits because they did not know God.
"When we shared about the Creator who made them for fellowship with Him they welcomed the Gospel," he said. "Many people turned from worshipping spirits to the true God. They knew in their hearts; they just needed to be introduced to Him."
Koonce said it was fun to watch people's faces as Park played and shared the Gospel.
"They laughed and clapped with delight," he said. "We ended the day with baptizing 14 in a stream and helping the new believers organize a new church. The village chief was so appreciative of our 'Good News,' he set aside some property for a church building. The new church was named 'Chimwemwe (Joy) Baptist Church'."
More stories could be shared of the team's Malawi trip, Koonce said, including on the last day when they baptized 41 and celebrated with the new churches.
"God blessed in so many ways," he said. "All of the 10 team members did a great job. We had several other overwhelming Divine appointments related to (Park's) violin testimony."
The ungodly traditions of these Malawi villagers proved to be precarious. But thanks to the WOA team members sharing the Gospel with them, their lives are no longer on "shaky conditions," having accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and willing to go and share with others.
Just like a fiddler on the hoof.
This article appeared in The Baptist Messenger (baptistmessenger.com), newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Chris Doyle is associate editor of The Baptist Messenger.
People respond following
sermon on baptism
By Elizabeth Young
SAHUARITA, Ariz. (Portraits) -- What happens when a pastor preaches on baptism and invites people to be obedient?
"It was crazy. We ran out of towels," said Ben Barfield, pastor of Common Ground Church of Sahuarita.
Barfield planned to baptize seven during the two Sunday morning worship services Sept. 22, but at the invitation, 24 more came forward and were baptized.
"It was really cool," Barfield said. "It was a great day. It was obviously the Spirit of God."
The services featured a couple of "firsts" for the church.
Since Common Ground meets in a school, baptisms are usually held outside in a horse trough. The church has baptized more than 225 people this way in the last five or six years, Barfield said.
This was the first time baptisms had been conducted inside as part of the worship service.
In addition, Barfield had never offered "spontaneous baptism" before.
"It's a scary thing," he said. Without the opportunity for follow-up counseling, "what if somebody comes [forward for baptism] and doesn't understand?" That concern was alleviated, though, since Barfield had just preached an entire sermon on the meaning of baptism.
Barfield explained the difference between pedobaptism (infant baptism) and credobaptism (believer's baptism).
He also talked about the difference between sacrament and ordinance. Some denominations believe the sacrament of baptism actually imparts God's grace, he explained, but Baptists practice the ordinance of baptism, believing that "grace comes from Christ alone, not from your works so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)
As he concluded his sermon, Barfield explained what it means to be a believer in Christ -- to give your life to Christ, die to self and receive a new life in Christ -- and how that is illustrated in baptism.
At the invitation, Barfield invited adults to come forward for baptism but said people under 18 needed to have their parents' permission to be baptized.
In the first service, Barfield watched as a 13-year-old girl left the front row, ran to the back of the church, grabbed her parents and came forward. When he looked to the side, he saw a line of people who had also responded.
In the second service, a family of five, including three children ages 10-18, came forward one by one. Because family members are invited to assist Barfield in baptism, the dad baptized his wife and three children and then stepped into the horse trough to be baptized himself.
"The crazy thing is, I knew everybody that came up," Barfield said. "It wasn't like it was people that were brand new. It was all people that had been coming and had heard about Christ and (Sunday) was the day. It was like they were waiting for somebody, the Holy Spirit was waiting for somebody" to invite them to be baptized.
The sermon on baptism followed a sermon a couple of weeks ago on the Lord's Supper. With a lot of relatively new believers coming from other denominational backgrounds, Barfield said, hearing the distinction between sacrament and ordinance was eye-opening for many.
"People that had been delivered from religion and now have walks in a relationship with Christ really, really appreciated me explaining the difference, and it took on a whole new meaning," he said.
Arizona Southern Baptist Convention Missions Facilitator Mitch McDonald said other churches could follow this example.
"If our churches and our pastors would follow this model and teach the importance of the ordinance of baptism," he said, "we would see more people responding out of obedience." In God's economy, He rewards certain things, McDonald said, and one of the things He rewards is teaching the basics.
This article originally appeared in Portraits (azsobaptist.org/portraits_main.shtml), newsmagazine of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention. Elizabeth Young is editor of Portraits.
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.