FROM THE STATES: Tenn., Fla., Ill. evangelism/missions news; 'The greatest need I see out here is there is no hope'

Today's From the States features items from:

Baptist & Reflector (Tennessee)

Florida Baptist Convention

Illinois Baptist

Baptists offer

hope for homeless

By Chris Turner 

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (Baptist & Reflector) -- Jimmy Turner practically glides across the large, chunky quarry rock scattered under an overpass to prevent erosion. Navigating the rock isn't easy, but Turner navigated a lot harder in the Marine Corps. Of course in the Marine Corps Turner never approached an enemy camp with a bag of sausage biscuits in one hand and a jug of orange juice in the other.

Truth is, Turner has crossed these rocks so many times it's a wonder he hasn't already worn a path across them. And it isn't an enemy camp he's stalking, it's a homeless camp where a few guys huddle in obscurity with no hope, fight for survival, and remain unknown to most of the world.

But Turner knows them, loves them, and is determined that they are going to know that Jesus loves them more. His presence in their world is a shock to many of the homeless he encounters.

"The greatest need I see out here is there is no hope," Turner said. "They don't understand why we are here. The idea that there is anything beyond today is just lost to them. They don't comprehend that we are offering something for their future."

Turner founded Relevant Hope, a ministry focused on providing relevant needs and a future hope. Meeting needs is a practical ministry that offers tangible help. A future hope definitely includes sharing the gospel with a goal of planting churches. Turner works with the Tennessee Baptist Convention to incorporate the TBC's 1-5-1 church planting strategy. It may not be the average person's idea of church, but baptized believers gathering together in Jesus' name sometimes looks like sitting on an old upside down bucket under an interstate overpass.

"The most exciting thing about all this is that people are won to Christ," said Steve Pearson, a TBC evangelism specialist. "Because of our churches across the state giving through the Cooperative Program, we can come along beside Jimmy and Relevant Hope and resource and encourage them.

"But Relevant Hope is also a catalyst. We are working with a number of churches in the area, training them how to go out and start 1-5-1 groups. Several people from those churches get connected to the homeless community through Relevant Hope. It's amazing how a church in [Northwest Tennessee] giving through the Cooperative Program can have a positive impact on lives in Chattanooga. We are just trying to flood the community with as many gospel touches as we can and we are seeing God bring about an amazing result."

The 1-5-1 strategy trains church members to start one off-campus group with a goal of seeing at least five people accept Christ and become baptized. The strategy then challenges that group to then plant a group of its own, replicating the strategy.

Jeff Parton is one of those 1-5-1 church planters. Parton is a carpenter and member of Morris Hill Baptist Church in East Brainerd. Stumbling through the predawn darkness to crawl into a makeshift shelter made from blue tarpaulins to lead a Bible study lights Parton's fire.

"I got connected with Jimmy and he said, 'C'mon and go with me before sunrise through the bushes and under bridges to reach these homeless people,'" Parton said. "He kept going on and on [trying to sell me on it] and I said, 'Hey, you had me at before sunrise and under bridges.'"

Parton bounces from one homeless camp to another early on Friday mornings to lead the small congregations of a few people. It is intense discipleship as the group digs into Scripture. There are always a lot of questions that show evidence that people are rooting around in their Bibles between meetings. It was Parton's own study of the Bible that drove him to ministry among the homeless.

"I was a good church member, but I wasn't doing anything for the Lord," he said. "I got tired of playing church and I started studying who Christ really was. He is a supreme example of dealing with the homeless and the poor and that is something that just struck a chord with me."

Bill Mason, Morris Hill's pastor, said the church emphasizes being on mission every day, or as he calls it, "Live to Serve." He said the challenge to each member is to live in such a way that they look for opportunities to do something daily for other people so that they'll know that "Jesus Christ has been in their life."

"Jeff is definitely one of those people who have taken Live to Serve to heart," Mason said. "He really sensed working with Jimmy as a calling from God and saw this as a real opportunity."

The opportunity comes to life as Turner and Parton make their way across the rocks, turn left and walk along an old rail bed to the makeshift –- but elaborate –- shelter. The "camp" began as a tent and has expanded with the blue tarpaulins tied off overhead around the pylons of the overpass. Homeless people have lived here for a decade. Tree Man Smith has only lived here since November.

"I was run off from my other camp because I got my life right and was trying to tell people about Jesus," he said. "Wasn't none of them interested in hearing about it. They all wanted to keep doing that crack [cocaine]."

"Tree," as people call him, had a tree removal service in Florida but lost everything when his truck motor threw a rod and his tools were stolen. A number of people didn't pay him for services and he lost everything. He wound up homeless and relegated to a life of aimless wandering consumed with alcohol and crack. Then Turner appeared with sausage biscuits and orange juice.

"Jimmy came in and talked with us and asked if it was alright to hold church service in our camp once a week," Smith said. "He just kept showing up and sharing the Word with us. I was baptized in the river down here and that's when I really learned to trust in the Lord."

The people connection is the key, Pearson said.

"What we see through the 1-5-1 strategy and through working with people like Relevant Hope and churches like Morris Hill," he said, "is it comes down to people who are making disciples who are making disciples who are making disciples. We are seeing that among people who are homeless on the streets coming to faith in Christ. It is an exciting thing that's happening."


This article appeared in the Baptist & Reflector (tnbaptist.org/BRNews.asp), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Chris Turner is director of communications for the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

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Miami port ministry

reaches beyond its shores

By Barbara Denman

MIAMI (Florida Baptist Convention) -- With the majestic skyline of downtown Miami as a backdrop and the azure waters of Biscayne Bay surrounding its causeway, PortMiami's impressive lineup of cruise ships beckon worldwide travelers to the massive vessels containing a city within its walls.  

Each year, more than four million cruise ship passengers travel through PortMiami's terminals. And meeting the guests' every need on board -- while keeping the ships safely on course -- are battalions of crew members.

Also known as the Cargo Gateway of Americas, PortMiami hosts more than a dozen of the world's largest shipping lines, whose container ships head out to sea for months at a time before returning to the port.

Staffing these two varied ships are crew members from the world's nations, including Philippines, India, Indonesia, Peru, Ukraine, Russia, Croatia and Serbia. The crews work 12-16 hour days week after week doing the same mundane job. They live in tight quarters with no personal space or privacy and are unable to communicate to families except for the few hours they are in port.

Now when they debark in PortMiami, many seafarers are discovering a place to go for a refuge during those few precious hours on land--a place where they can email and Skype with families in faraway homelands. A place where internet, games, televisions, lounging areas and snacks are available throughout the day. A place for worship and a friendly face with the servant spirit of Christ.

A year ago, Dan Bailey left a productive ministry as director/chaplain of the Space Coast Seafarer ministry after 13 years. He returned to his hometown and began a similar ministry at PortMiami, starting from scratch with only a few contacts and financial resources.

He came at the request of a businessman who made available a suite of offices for Bailey and the seafarer ministry, directly across from Terminal F. The building houses a crew store, restaurant and recreational facilities that cater to Port employees and seafarers.

From the location sprung a new "International Seafarers Ministry," with the purpose of serving men and woman at sea with the love of Jesus Christ.

It's in a convenient location, where crewmembers can simply walk across the street to find a comfortable place to spend the few hours they have on land.

Many of the seafarers endure the grueling and lonely lifestyle to send their wages home to their families, making far more than they would in their own countries. Their wages allow their children to attend schools and provide family member with their daily sustenance.

To seafarer Tony Gomes from Goa, India, the hardships of living at sea away from his family for months on end are worthwhile, "You live a sacrificial life for your family back home," he said. And if living and working conditions are difficult, "it's not something you share when you call back." 

Gomes originally met Bailey in Port Canaveral. One day when he came to the ministry center to pray and worship in its chapel, to his delight he saw Chaplain Bailey.

Now every Saturday during his two hours off the ship, he stops by the center to pray and visit with his new friends.

Among those is Kathy Martin, the center's ministry assistant, who with a vivacious personality, befriends and engages every seafarer who walks through the door. After years of serving in a similar ministry in Alaska, Martin felt God calling her to minister in South Florida. She moved to the city and took a job with Carnival Cruise lines even before Bailey began the ministry, believing God would be faithful. 

Each day at the Center brings a different need to meet. Martin makes purchases for some of the seamen, like a computer she bought for Gomes to give his daughter when he returned home. In a course of a day, she will counsel men and women who break their marriage vows or discover their spouse back home have left them. With her desk located in the office that houses a bank of six computers, she learns about their families and takes time to demonstrate a personal interest.

Ministry to injured seafarers is a new door of ministry for the Center. After a young woman from Poland suffered a serious back injury, Martin befriended her and visited her during surgery and rehab. She ultimately led the young woman to a personal relationship with Christ.

At foremost of their work, the team shares their Christian faith. When a church donated pews for a chapel, Bailey began worship services. A library of Bibles in 27 languages and evangelistic materials, including the "Jesus" video in multiple languages, line the bookcases on the walls.

Many of the seafarers are more open to the gospel away from home, the chaplain reported. "Muslims will take Bibles here when I doubt they would be as receptive when they are home."

And those that receive Christ take their new found faith to their families back home, places where Christians can rarely go.

When a vessel is brought into port, Bailey takes his van to meet the ship. He is slowly developing personal relationships that allow him to go on board and greet crew members.

Once there, he requests permission to distribute Bibles and materials in the mess hall and tries to discover if prayer groups and Bible studies meet on board. "Not only is it our mission to plant churches on these ships, but also to strengthen those that are in place, equipping the church to obey the Lord's call wherever they are."

The ministry receives funding through the Miami Baptist Association and Florida Baptist Convention, which helps six port ministries in the state. But it has had a lifeline from the churches in the Brevard Association, and especially Bailey's former church, First Baptist Church of Merritt Island.

Gary Johnson, Miami Association's director of missions, regularly volunteers at the ministry center. "I see God moving in this ministry. When Dan moved here he did not have much to go on, except he felt God was in it. So the Lord drew him here and it has taken off," he stressed.

"This ministry has the opportunity to step into these people lives and offer support, prayer and friendship. So whether it was my Navy experience or the enjoyment of being on a cruise my hearts goes out to the PortMiami ministry. They are doing something for the Gospel, attempting to reach people no one else is attempting to reach."


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.

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Kids try hands-on

missions in nine cities

By Meredith Flynn

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Illinois Baptist) -- One by one, kids told their Children's Ministry Day stories in brief, honest sentences.

"We raked up gum balls, and not the kind you chew," said Gavin.

"It made me feel really happy, because I love cooking and I love helping people," said Elana, who helped cook a meal for families at Springfield's Ronald McDonald House.

Ella, a volunteer from Pittsfield, answered a question about whether her yard work crew had stayed positive during the day: "We mostly did it with a good attitude."

Kids and their leaders served across the state March 15 through Children's Ministry Day, a one-day missions experience that culminates with a celebration service at each project site. In Springfield, Gavin, Elana, Ella and others shared about the projects they did this year, which marked the fourth annual Children's Ministry Day in Illinois.

Created by national Woman's Missionary Union, the day of service for kids has taken on a life of its own in Illinois. Nearly 1,100 children, leaders and volunteers representing 75 churches served at nine locations around the state this year.

This year's theme, "Make a Splash," came from Matthew 10:42, where Jesus says, "And whoever gives just a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple -- I assure you: He will never lose his reward!"

Children's Ministry Day is now IBSA's most successful mission activity, said Mark Emerson, who leads the organization's missions team. The event has grown in number of locations and participants each year since 2011, when he organized the first set of projects in Springfield. Local associations began hosting the projects last year, and the service day expanded to nine cities in 2014, including first-time locations, including Bridgeport, Chicago, Decatur, Granite City and Peoria.

"I think more churches identify that this is a high impact project with an easy engagement possibility," Emerson said. "The logistics of the day are already complete, so all the church has to do is to figure out how to get the kids enlisted, and get the kids to the event."

Pastor David Brown has led kids from his church, Dow Southern Baptist to Children's Ministry Day each of the last four years. Standing outside an urban ministry center in Springfield, he recalled each of their projects: making baby blankets, baking cookies for police officers, visiting with nursing home residents, and this year, raking leaves and sorting donated supplies.

"This is one of the best events that we can do, because we're starting at a foundational age," Brown said. His fourth grade daughter, Cameryn, accompanied him to Springfield this year and has participated in every Children's Ministry Day.

"And if they fall in love with serving when they're kids," Brown said, "they're going to keep serving when they're teens, and hopefully when they're adults and grandparents. It's foundational; it's what the church is all about."

Helping people is a bonus, Brown said, but days like this are really about growing the church. The teenagers at Dow Southern are planning to go on their first World Changers mission trip this summer to Cincinnati.

"We've done a couple of just individual mission trips, but they've never been the big organized ones," Brown said. "It's coming out of the group that said, 'Well, we did Children's Ministry Day, what are we going to do now?'"

The day is certainly about expanding the kingdom through service, but it's also an opportunity to teach kids spiritual truth. Rob Gallion kicked off the Springfield location with a devotional about Jesus washing the disciples' feet. In simple terms, he explained that that's what the kids would be doing during the day.

The event can also serve as a jumping off point for churches that want to implement more missions involvement and awareness, Emerson said. "We will follow up with the churches that attend, and seek to connect them to mission education possibilities in their church."

Any church interested in starting a new missions organization can receive six months of curriculum free from national Woman's Missionary Union through IBSA. Contact MarkEmerson@ IBSA.org for more information.


This article appeared in the Illinois Baptist (ibonline.IBSA.org), newsjournal of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Meredith Flynn is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist.

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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.

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