FROM THE STATES: Ariz., Fla., Texas evangelism/missions news; 'This is a fresh, exciting, God-sized goal'
Today's From the States features items from:
Florida Baptist Witness
Southern Baptist TEXAN
Arizona Southern Baptists
By Irene A. Harkleroad
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (Portraits) -- When Arizona Southern Baptists voted to affirm the Centennial Vision statement Nov. 15 in Tucson, many had already had opportunities to offer their input.
Since May, David Johnson, Arizona Southern Baptist Convention executive director, has traveled the state presenting the Centennial Vision and seeking helpful insight. He's heard from the Convention Council, pastors, directors of evangelism/missions and shared with congregations.
As leaders have heard the vision, they've welcomed the opportunity to collaborate. Motivated by the ASBC's disappointing statistics from the last 30 years, they have voiced strong support for working together toward a common vision.
Jim Martin, pastor of Queen Valley Baptist Church in Queen Valley and part-time director of evangelism/missions for Valley Rim Baptist Association appreciates the process.
"I first heard the presentation when I sat in on a [Convention] Council meeting," Martin says. "Then I asked Dr. Johnson to come and talk to our pastors. We discussed sections of the vision and mission statements and goals, made comments and asked questions. Through this process, we began to see and understand the heart of the mission and what it means."
Pastor Mark Pitts was already casting a fresh vision at Village Meadows Church in Sierra Vista.
"After hearing the vision at a [Convention] Council meeting, we had to take a long, hard, sober look —the statistics showed that the state convention was shrinking," he says. "We went home with materials which we were invited to review and provide feedback."
Pitts is spreading the word from the pulpit.
"Each person in the congregation should be able to state the vision and know what it means," he says. "This is a fresh, exciting, God-sized goal."
As a Convention Council member, Scott Williamson, pastor of First Baptist Church of Sun City, says he "had the opportunity to discuss aspects and goals of the vision. I saw Dr. Johnson's concerns and was glad he had taken the time to look at the past."
The vision fits well with what his church is doing, Williamson says.
"We are very involved in church planting as part of the Central Association by partnering with others to encourage and assist in the effort as well as giving as a church to the association's church planting funds," he says. "And our seniors are very generous in giving to missions."
Ron Rich invited Johnson to present the vision at Cochise Association's annual meeting.
"We had 25-30 pastors attend," he says, "and the response was positive. As director of evangelism/missions for the association, I function as a missionary. I preach at a different church almost every Sunday, relaying the vision and the concept of unity."
Rich is trying to bring 36 churches, four missions in Sonora, and two community missions together as one unified group.
"Churches can do more together than each can do alone," he says. "Pastors and a large number of lay people are already reaching out, asking how they can help. I have been a pastor for over 50 years and have never seen this before."
Rich has driven 20,000 miles since April, blanketing 1,600 square miles with enthusiasm and excitement for the future of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention. "People need to understand that we are all missionaries," he says.
Tommy Thomas, director of evangelism/missions for River Valley Mission Network, says the vision fits well with his association.
"I believe this is the beginning of a wave of church planting in Arizona," he says. "I am asking for a significant commitment from our people: 'Don't give your permission for the vision — give your
Thomas notes the vision makes no distinction between evangelism and discipleship.
"These have been separated too long," he says. "We need to be intentional about being and making disciples. This is more than teaching the Bible in class on Sunday mornings."
As a member of the Convention Council and the Executive Team, Diane Kephart believes the core values are critical. Her home church, Emmanuel Baptist Church in Tucson, is already living out the mission, she says.
"We share the campus with another church and have outreach ministries to teens, those in recovery, different cultures and refugees, and are the location of a satellite healthcare clinic one day per week," she says. "The vision works for us. We need to think big. If we all catch and commit to the vision we can accomplish it."
This article appeared in Portraits, newsmagazine of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention (http://www.azsobaptist.org/). Irene A. Harkleroad is a freelance writer in Carefree, Ariz.
Starke, Fla., auction raises
$11,800 for Lottie Moon
By Carolyn A. Nichols
STARKE, Fla. (Florida Baptist Witness) -- For the past 17 years Kingsley Lake Baptist Church in Starke has raised money for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering through an auction of items crafted and donated by church members. A Dec. 1 auction raised $11,800 for international missions, and another $10,000 was raised during the next two weeks.
Church missions coordinator Lucinda Stern, who has headed the auction since its inception, said the event's success is a result of the church's "heart for missions."
"We're not a big, powerful church with lots of money. Most of our people are hourly workers. It's like God said about the auction, 'OK, y'all can do this,'" Stern said.
Craftsmen and artisans in the rural congregation begin creating items for next year's auction each January. However, the church's mission team -- including some "young people with some new ideas," Stern said -- wait anxiously for the items to arrive for the displays the week before the auction.
"I always get nervous the week before, and the team teases me about having 'little faith,' but then people start bringing their things in," Stern said.
The 2013 auction included a homemade quilt that was bought for $1,000, and the purchasers then gave the quilt to the new LaCrosse campus of Florida Baptist Children's Home.
Lamar Williams, who makes turkey callers and knives, donated a skinning knife, and a fruitcake made by 80-year-old Alsine Crawford, sold for $500. A young mother stenciled a plate, "Cookies for Santa Clause," and other ladies put together themed baskets. A Duck Dynasty basket that included books by the Robertson Family, fat lighter (fire starter), and iced tea glasses, sold for about $100. Sacks of fresh oranges from central Florida sold for $28 per sack.
Cakes are baked and then "dressed up" for the auction. A store owner donated a Vera Bradley ensemble, and a farmer offered rolls of hay. A furniture maker re-purposed an antique sewing machine as a table, and an artisan painted an ostrich egg. Bags of shelled pecans were auctioned and Christmas wreaths are always a popular seasonal item.
Stern's husband Roland bought his wife a carving by new church member Jeff Morgan. The Indian face fashioned from swamp magnolia wood caught her eye as soon as she saw it.
"This is really a win, win, win situation for everybody involved. Our folks get to show their crafts, we get to buy things that we like, and Lottie Moon gets money for missions," Stern said.
Annually, on the first Sunday evening of December, the congregation moves to the armory at nearby Camp Blanding for a fellowship meal—a "Birthday Party for Jesus"—and the auction.
Auctioneer Bill Elrod from Middleburg makes it fun. About 50 items are sold in the verbal auction, and another 100 items are bid on in a silent auction. Around 200 church members were present for the December celebration.
Although no goal is set for the auction, the mission team always aims to exceed the preceding year's total during the auction, Stern said.
"Anytime the total goes over $10,000, we dance in the street, nearly," she said. "After all these years, it still amazes us. God still uses our people to do this."
The church goes beyond supporting missions financially by building wells in Sudan and Brazil, and volunteering at mission sites in the U.S.
Pastor Zeb Cook, who participated in his third annual auction this year, said the church hears about the Lottie Moon Offering all year.
"New folks in the church who know nothing about the Lottie Moon Offering or the auction learn about missions through it, so we push missions all year. It is the heartbeat of the church," he said.
This article appeared in the Florida Baptist Witness (gofbw.com), newsjournal of the Florida Baptist Convention. Carolyn Nichols is a writer for the Florida Baptist Witness.
Surrender ... 'wherever
that might be'
By Sharayah Colter
FORT WORTH, Texas (Southern Baptist TEXAN) -- They had established careers—he in the commercial tire business and she as a church treasurer. They owned a home and most of the things Americans would consider to be "normal" possessions. They had finished raising their children and were faithful servants in their local church.
The Hammits were, by most definitions, comfortable.
That comfort soon was disrupted, though, and the couple could not be happier about it.
Just one year ago, as Karla Hammit ran through a sound check with a Lottie Moon Christmas Offering video to be played in a Sunday morning church service, God pricked her heart with a stinging burden for the lost around the world and her duty to share the saving knowledge of Christ with them.
"That clip and the message portrayed broke my heart, and I could not get away from the conviction of the Holy Spirit and God's call to get busy about his work," she said.
That burden continued to grow, though Karla had not yet shared it with her husband Denis. When Karla joined the rest of the church staff on a retreat, the burden turned into a clear call from the Lord—one so distinct that she could not deny its presence. As she shared aloud about the burden on her heart for the first time, she asked the staff to join her in prayer for what God would have her do and for how she should broach the subject with Denis, not wanting to interfere with the Holy Spirit's work or timing in his heart.
A few months later, Karla attended the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention's SENT Conference in Euless in order to gather travel safety information for their church's short-term missions teams. Denis came along to see what the conference was all about and to spend a few days with his wife. God, though, had bigger plans.
Karla said that Brad Womble, International Mission Board missionary and mobilization strategist, captivated them with his story and message that all Christians are called to go and to tell of Christ's redemptive work.
"Again we heard, 'True followers of Christ don't sit in the safety of the church building. They go,'" Karla recalled.
For the Hammits, "going" began with a walk to the altar to pray and surrender to a call from the Lord that was now clear to both husband and wife, though the details remained completely obscured.
"At the end of the last sermon, the altar was open for people to come and pray or make commitments," Karla said. "Denis took me by the hand and we knelt there before the Lord and surrendered our lives to his service, wherever that might be."
They took seriously the surrender they offered that day at the conference and did not let it become an emotionally charged or passing moment. Instead, they got busy, selling their home, paring down their possessions and preparing to "go" by preparing a will.
"We sold everything," Karla said. "We were homeless and happy about being homeless."
In keeping with God's continually clear direction for them, preparing their will led them to what the Lord would have as their next step. As they met with Johnathan Gray, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation, to begin the process of preparing the will, they shared what the Lord was doing in their lives and the call to missions they believed he laid on their hearts. Gray encouraged Denis to look into attending seminary, which Karla said was in line with other godly counsel they had received. Within the next few weeks, Denis enrolled in classes at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, the foundation hired Karla and then Denis to work at its Grapevine office and the seminary approved the couple's application to move into campus housing.
The student housing situation could have sent the two into a frenzy, the rental being unfurnished and the couple having just sold all their furniture, but the Hammits by then had come to expect God's faithfulness and provision. They soon found a solution to their predicament, literally, on the side of the road.
"As we drove through a neighborhood to visit family, we saw a round, wooden kitchen table sitting on the curb with a sign taped to the front: 'FREE,'" Karla recalled. "Our hearts were beating fast when we walked to the door of the house to be sure this was for real. The man said the table had been there for two days and was ours for the taking."
And those are the sorts of things the Lord has just continued to do over and over for the couple who has now returned from the first of several vision trips to France—a place to which they feel the Lord drawing them.
"Day after day after day, we've seen God do these things and provide."
The simpler life they now live in their campus tri-plex with no TV, preparing to go share the gospel with the lost people of France—a population which providentially includes some of Denis' family whom he had never met—has given them more time for the things that matter.
"We now have more of a dependent focus on what God's going to do next," Karla said. "I'm a planner. This has totally taken the planning out of things. There's such a sense of freedom. We own very little. It's our culture to be like, 'Everybody has this, and I want one just like it.' We're not having that and not really even missing it.
"That's part of what God's done in our life—shown us that all of the excess and waste we have in our country is not going to be needed on the mission field."
During their first vision trip to France, Karla and Denis, whose French name was given to him by his mother—a native French woman who married an American during World War II—had the opportunity to connect with Denis' French family members, who, like many in France, do not know the Lord.
"There were seeds planted there," Karla said. "They were curious about what we were doing and why we're doing it. If we don't ever touch another life, we can start there."
This article appeared in the Southern Baptist TEXAN. Sharayah Colter is a newswriter for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
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.