FROM THE STATES: Ariz., Fla., Ky. evangelism/missions news; TN church reaches out to 'largely lost population' in AZ
Today's From the States features items from:
Florida Baptist Convention
Western Recorder (Kentucky)
A Cross-country partnership
with double the blessings
By Kay Harms
TUCSON, Ariz. (Portraits) -- When church planter Gary Monroe leads Lifework Church's first preview service on Easter morning, he'll know there is a church full of people in Jackson, Tenn., praying for his new congregation in Tucson. In fact, they've done more than pray.
Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson has mobilized multiple mission teams to Arizona in the past two years to come alongside existing ministries and to help facilitate church planting efforts. According to the congregation's outreach pastor, David Taylor, the people of Englewood have developed a passion and burden for assisting Christians who are trying to reach the lost in Arizona.
The connection between Englewood Church and Arizona Southern Baptists began when David Holmes, an Englewood church member who also coordinates Arizona Southern Baptists' mission partnership in the Caribbean, introduced the idea to Taylor. Previously the missions-minded congregation focused most of its North American outreach efforts and resources on Montana. With their goals in that state accomplished, the church began to pray for God to open another door for ministry in a pioneer state.
"We wanted a place where we could reach out to a largely lost population and introduce them to God's kingdom," Taylor says. "We also wanted a place where we could get multiple groups of people in our church involved from different areas and ages."
And they have done just that. Thus far, missionaries from Englewood have included groups of adults, teenagers, senior adults and men. Teams of senior adults, college students, ninth and tenth graders, and adults will come to Arizona in 2014 to help Monroe launch Lifework Church in the Star Valley community of Tucson.
Brian Hedstrom, a trucking company administrator in Jackson, participated in the church's first mission trip to Arizona in July 2012. Besides helping with a VBS and canvassing neighborhoods for several church plants, Hedstrom and the other missionaries became aware of some of the physical plant needs at Rio Vista Center in Phoenix. The group painted, repaired holes in the walls and did some rewiring, but they realized there was much more to do.
So in March 2013, Hedstrom helped lead a construction team of seven men, returning to Rio Vista with the financing and manpower to replace the building's plumbing and to connect it to a sewage system, retiring the insufficient septic tank that had required monthly flushing.
Asked why he was willing to use his vacation weeks to labor in the Arizona heat, Hedstrom says he sees it as an opportunity for his family to fulfill the Great Commission, noting that his wife, Lanae, sacrificed by staying home with their children while he served.
"We've lived in the upper Midwest and now we live in the Bible Belt," says Hedstrom,"and I know that most of the West is unchurched. It's a different type of sharing your faith than here in the Bible Belt."
Hedstrom isn't the only Englewood missionary to receive a blessing from serving in Arizona. Outreach pastor Taylor says members of the church have gained every bit as much as they've given by resourcing, praying for and serving alongside Arizona Southern Baptists.
Englewood plans to continue its partnership with Arizona Southern Baptists for at least three more years, potentially five.
"Serving in Arizona has been a huge blessing to our people, because believers in Arizona have really impacted our church," insists Taylor. "We see people in Arizona reaching out to a people who are harder to reach, and we admire that. And their passion and hard work inspires us to do the same here in Tennessee."
This article appeared in Portraits, newsmagazine of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention (http://www.azsobaptist.org/). Kay Harms is a writer in Sierra Vista, Ariz., and a member of First Baptist Church there.
Missionary calling leads
to new Orlando church
By Barbara Denman
ORLANDO (Florida Baptist Witness) -- Pastor Andrew Oates believes if the Apostle Paul were to start a church today, Orlando -- one of the world's most visited cities -- would be a destination of his church-planting missionary journeys.
"If God calls us to reach the world and the world is here, then God is calling us to plant churches in Orlando," said the pastor of Redeemer Church.
With more than 50 million visitors each year and with the second highest population growth in Florida, the region composed of two million people is desperately in need of churches, Oates contends.
Following God's call, he moved to the region specifically to plant a church.
Located in an affluent Winter Garden suburb, the three-year old church plant is surrounded by more than 60,000 homes.
"Redeemer was started in Horizon West, a 23,000 acre special planning area of Orange County," explained Mark Weible, director of church planting for the Greater Orlando Baptist Association. "The population of the area was estimated at just over 4,000 people in 2005 and is expected to grow to as many as 63,000 people by 2030. The area is in need of several new multiplying churches in order to keep up with population growth."
"We could plant 20 churches here and it is still not enough," concurred Oates.
The church was planted in 2010 with a mission to have members actively involved "in sharing Christ with our neighbors, our friends, Orlando and the world," he explained. "It is not the church's purpose to make disciples. It's the people's responsibility to make disciples. We are on this journey together."
"Andrew thinks like a missionary," said Weible, "He is skilled in community exegesis. As any pastor knows, proper Biblical exegesis is needed to effectively teach the Bible. Likewise, missionaries understand that they need to research their communities to discover how to present the never changing message of the Gospel to an ever changing culture."
Redeemer began with a small nucleus of Baptists meeting together in living rooms and praying. Six months later, the group numbered between 50-60 members, had outgrown the homes where they met and began to search for a more permanent meeting space.
The gregarious pastor recalled that the church had $6 in the bank, but church members were challenged to give sacrificially. They eventually began renting a store front facility on Winter Garden-Vineland Road which snakes behind the Disney world resort properties.
The facility was originally retrofitted as a church for another denomination. Redeemer remodeled the facility with a warm and inviting charm and large areas for members to gather.
During the first year, the Florida Baptist Convention provided the congregation with $2,000 a month to underwrite the new church start. That amount was expected to decrease to $1,000 the next year, but the church determined they did not need the financial subsidy continued and believed it would better benefit another church plant.
In three years, the church grew to 200 in attendance, but a conflict developed within the congregation that resulted in 60 members leaving. In one Sunday attendance dropped from 200 to 140.
The church split was painful, said Oates, but helped the congregation better "define who we are and what we are about." Ultimately, he said, the church became healthier as a result of the parting of ways.
Attendance has nearly grown back to the level it was before the split.
The church, with its contemporary worship style, conversational style preaching, and warm glow of candles, offers members a Lord's Supper observance each week as a means of recommitting their lives to Christ.
"We believe in a huge God who wants to move supernaturally among His people," Oates said. "We are not here to consume but to be consumed."
The multicultural and multigenerational congregation includes members from England, India and Puerto Rico, resembling the Orlando community where members live, the pastor said.
David and Gerrie Osbourne were looking for a church that would also appeal to their grandson, "teach the Bible as the inspired word of God and that God is the center of our lives. This church is doing this," he said.
"Redeemer has given us a church family," David Osbourne observed.
The church, he continued, is reaching people who are "looking for something to hold on to and must decide if they are building their house on rock or sand—broken people who now want to reconstruct their lives on rock."
Al Delara said he had a deep emptiness in his life, when he and his family found the Redeemer church while walking in their neighborhood. He now defines that void as the "need of Jesus in our lives. We needed to be filled."
He was spiritually saved and baptized at the church. The pastor and staff demonstrated their care and concern for him. "This is an amazing place. Everyone treats you as family."
"I am a regular person and I fall at times, but this church catches me," he said. "This place has changed our lives."
Redeemer Church is partnering with the North American Mission Board to provide on-the-job training for future church planters. In this collaboration, Mike Bard who serves as the church's children minister is applying real-life experiences to church planting principles.
When it starts the new church, Weible said it will come from a strong lineage of multiplying churches. "We soon see a third generation church plant in the area."
As church members follow the course set by the apostle Paul, the missionary journey in Orlando -- the destination of the world—continues.
This article appeared in the Florida Baptist Witness (gofbw.com), newsjournal of the Florida Baptist Convention. Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention.
Kentucky WMU hopes to fill 5,000
buckets; bring comfort to dying
By Robin Cornetet Bass
LOUISIVILLE, Ky. (Western Recorder) -- Christopher tried to be polite. He tried to sit on the edge of the bed when visitors entered his small, mud home, but after a few moments his efforts proved too exhausting and he lay back down.
Like nearly 23 million other people living in Sub Saharan Africa, Christopher has been infected with HIV -- and he now is showing the advanced stages of AIDS.
"He looked weary, just weary," said Joy Bolton, the executive director of Kentucky Woman's Missionary Union.
Bolton recently took a 12-member team to South Africa to work with Tabitha Ministries who, along with Baptist Global Response, is reaching out to meet the needs of those infected by HIV/AIDS. Team members from Kentucky had the opportunity to deliver the few remaining hospice kits to bedridden individuals in Sweetwaters Township near Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
Each BGR hospice kit consists of a five-gallon bucket packed with items intended to make life a little more comfortable, such as clean linens, towels, gentle soap and new socks. Also included is lip balm for chapped lips -- a common sign of infection -- and bendable straws, so the infirmed can more easily ingest medicines and vitamins with water. For caregivers, each bucket contains a box of latex gloves, fingernail clippers and a cleaning brush.
While the items in each bucket are "things that most of us take for granted," Bolton said, "to those in extreme poverty and too weak to work, the items are a treasure."
Kentucky WMU has set a goal of collecting 5,000 buckets this year and plans to kick off the effort at their annual meeting April 4-5 at Central Baptist Church in Winchester. Bolton said participants are encouraged to bring completed buckets or items for buckets and help fill two shipping containers with 1,500 completed buckets. Before heading to Houston for shipment, Bolton said there will be a blessing prayed over the buckets at the conclusion of the meeting.
'I was sick and you visited'
As Bolton sat on the bucket she and others on the team brought to Christopher, she presented him with the gospel using an EvageCube. Christopher silently watched from his bed as Bolton flipped through the images of Jesus hanging on a cross and His defeat over death.
"We have an obligation to minister to people in need," Bolton said. Then paraphrasing Matthew 25:35-40, she added, "'I was sick and you visited me.' That's what happened that day. Jesus was in that room."
Lisa Crenshaw, WMU director of Nelson Baptist Association, had a similarly moving experience when she delivered a hospice bucket to Mavis, a 39-year-old mother with two young daughters.
Mavis had spent the last three years of her life in bed suffering from the advanced stages of AIDS. A year ago, she had a stroke and lost her ability to speak.
As Crenshaw watched Mavis's wounds being cleaned, the Sunday School teacher from Vine Hill Baptist Church in Shepherdsville, began to talk.
"God brought me all the way from Shepherdsville—all the way from the United States -- to bring you the good news," said Crenshaw. "If you died today, do you know where you would go?"
Mavis gestured down with her thumb.
Crenshaw told Mavis that she also has two daughters and somehow, Crenshaw said, that resonated with the dying woman. As Crenshaw shared the gospel, she said, "You could feel God's presence was so strong. She had been witnessed to many times, but this time she got radically saved."
When asked where she would go after accepting Christ, Mavis this time pointed up with her thumb and mumbled something Crenshaw said sounded like "hallelujah" as a tear fell down the woman's cheek.
"We were so excited about her accepting Christ we almost forgot to give her the bucket," Crenshaw said. "You think you are going to be the blessing (when you are faithful to God's call), but it's you that really receives the blessing."
Herb and Wanda Edminster are coordinating the BGR Bucket Project in Kentucky and said the effort is part of a five-year commitment by the Kentucky Baptist Convention to partner with BGR in Sub Sahara Africa.
"These buckets will not end the HIV epidemic in Africa, but they will give patients and their families the realization that someone cares enough for their suffering to make this contribution," said Herb Edminster.
This article appeared in the Western Recorder (westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Robin Cornetet Bass is partnership editions director of the Western Recorder.
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.