FROM THE STATES: Ga., La., Va. evangelism/missions news; 'This is the happiest group of people I've ever been around in my life'
Today's From the States features items from:
The Christian Index (Georgia)
Baptist Message (Louisiana)
Georgians bring resources,
Christ to crime-weary McElderry Park
By Joe Westbury
BALTIMORE (The Christian Index) -- The ABC television affiliate in Baltimore describes the McElderry Park neighborhood as "an infected wound" full of violent street crime; the federal government calls it one of the nation's 15 most dangerous neighborhoods – so dangerous that it is investing nearly $1 million to shore up the struggling middle class.
For Southern Baptist church planter Tally Wilgis, who grew up on the streets and remembers standing in line for free milk and cheese, it's a great place to start a church. And that's why Georgia Baptists swelled the ranks of 425 volunteers to host a Community Day event in the neighborhood.
A welcome return
For five hours on June 7 the section of east Baltimore – synonymous with stray bullets flying through living rooms in the early evening and late nights – was transformed into the sounds of children playing, families eating hot dogs under shade trees, and parents receiving free medical/dental/vision care for themselves and their children.
It was a momentary return to the Good Old Days – an oasis of safety that brought back memories of when the neighborhood was a desirable place to live rather than a place to be shunned.
Community Day – a block party on steroids – was envisioned by Jay Watkins, pastor of Redland Baptist Church in Valdosta, back in 2009 and implemented in south Georgia through churches in Valdosta Baptist Association. One such gathering attracted 15,000 needy families in a day-long event.
Community Day being rolled out nationwide
The North American Mission Board was so impressed with the outreach that early this year it opted to roll out the ministry nationwide to show other churches how they can impact their communities through the creative approach. Earlier this year the Georgia Baptist Convention donated an 18-wheel trailer to help transport materials to the five sites in the U.S. and Canada.
Richard and Carola Jones of Central Baptist Church in Waycross volunteered to see how the ministry worked so they can use the concept back home. With only one evangelical church for every 96,000 residents, Baltimore is ready for some Good News, they added.
They were two of nearly 50 from the church to serve in the Community Day event.
One woman, who asked not to be identified, could not say enough kind words about the volunteers and the difference they were making in her neighborhood. It may just be for a day, but it's a worthwhile start that gives a glimmer of hope, she stated.
"This is the happiest group of people I've ever been around in my life," she said as she received a bag of groceries.
"We are a very low income neighborhood and these free groceries will help my kids eat a little better. And you know what? All these folks are giving it away happily, even the summer clothes for my kids.
"I'm putting this on Facebook in a few minutes so all my friends can come down and see this for themselves."
At the nail salon set up under a small white tent, Dixie Cameron of Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church in Macon gently applied polish on the nails of nine-year-old Sa'mauri Fortune. Sitting next to her, Keturah Rogers of Lighthouse Baptist Church in Macon did the same to eleven-year-old Amauri Rome.
Nearby Patricia Beltran, a member of First Hispanic Baptist Church of Atlanta, engaged a Spanish-speaking family in conversation under the shade of a large maple tree.
Not far away the scent of grilling hot dogs wafted in the air as Jesse Bush of Redlands Baptist Church and Bubba Emrich of Gospel Baptist Church in Adel, with others, kept the wieners coming in a steady procession.
Wilgis, the NAMB church planter who was conceived by a 16-year-old unwed teenager who was advised to abort him, was glad to see the response of Georgia Baptists coming to help redeem his old neighborhood.
"I was led to Christ by a Southern Baptist and I'm grateful for the role they played in my life. I can't tell you how good it feels to see the Baptists bringing the church back to some of Baltimore's most economically depressed neighborhoods.
"I was raised in the government housing projects and know firsthand what these few hours mean to people living on the edge. You may be bringing them material items like clothes and shoes and healthcare, but most importantly you are bringing them hope – hope through a new life in Jesus Christ.
"Georgia Baptists have been the backbone of our planting a church here, both Captivate Christian Church in the suburbs and East Baltimore in this community. With the help of churches like Johnny Hunt's at Woodstock, Michael Catt's at Sherwood in Albany, and dozens of smaller churches across Georgia, lives are being changed."
The oldest known attendee at the Crossover events – either at the other locations or the Community Day event – was 92-year-old Jeanette Coody of First Baptist Church of Valdosta, who helped staff the registration desk.
This article appeared in The Christian Index (christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Joe Westbury is managing editor of The Christian Index.
Horn calls for day
of prayer, awakening
By Brian Blackwell
LAFAYETTE, La. (Baptist Message) -- Louisiana Baptist Convention President Steve Horn has called for a day of prayer and spiritual awakening on June 24 at First Baptist Church Lafayette.
Horn called the meeting because of what he sees as a growing hunger for a movement of prayer throughout the state, nation and world.
"It is my personal prayer this is a day that launches revival and spiritual awakening in our state and takes us off status quo," said Horn, who serves as pastor of First Baptist Lafayette, where the event will take place. "If that does happen, we will look back at this day as a day that began a mighty movement of God. And we will thank the Lord if it happens. I can't think of anything bad that can come about when people come to pray together."
Horn emphasized this will be a day for a variety of prayer and not a day for preaching or worship through music. The event will feature times of individual prayer as well as corporate prayer led by various Louisiana Baptists from throughout the state.
Some prayers will be unique to the state, such as prayer for the search for a new Louisiana College president, emphasizing the Cooperative Program and an increase in baptisms. Other prayers will be more generic and apply to Southern Baptists as a whole.
Horn is asking that those attending the event make a commitment to stay throughout the entire time, which will begin at 9 am and end at 3 pm.
"It's going to be a movement of prayer," Horn said. "We will start with a period of worship, repentance, thanksgiving and recession.
"Not to participate in the first half may disrupt what would happen in the second half, and vice versa," he continued. "Unlike an event where you slip in and slip out, it's important to come and stay and not come and go."
The genesis of the prayer event can be traced back to a similar prayer event last year that Horn and a few other Louisiana Baptist pastors attended in Dallas. The Call to Pray for Revival and Awakening on Sept. 30-Oct. 1 drew more than 175 pastors from 27 states to a gathering at a hotel near the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, organized the gathering.
At the event, pastors focused on personal revival and for revival in their church and nation.
"Those were holy moments, as well as when men confessed their need to repent and make restitution," Floyd said in an Oct. 4 Baptist Press report. "We were broken before God, crying out to Him personally and collectively. God's hand was on so many moments. He answered our prayers."
Horn said that after the meeting he discussed the possibility of bringing a similar event for Louisiana Baptist pastors to the state. After the most recent LBC Executive Board meeting, Horn felt that now was the time to hold such an event.
"Realizing there would be excuses about why some people couldn't attend because of summertime events, we felt like we didn't want to wait until the fall," Horn said. "There is an urgency now and if we just waited until later in the year, we might regret that."
Though the event is three weeks away, Horn is urging anyone planning to attend to prepare now.
"I would encourage you to prepare your heart to be ready to pray, however you do it," he said. "When I attended the prayer event in Dallas last year, it was a positive and a negative feeling all at the same while.
"The positive feeling was I've never been to anything like that before," he said. "The negative feeling was I've never been to anything like that before. Here I am 43 and a pastor for 20-something years and had never been spiritually moved in that way before. It was that powerful of an event for me.
Registration is free and includes a continental breakfast and lunch. Pre-registration is not required by requested so the event organizers can adequately prepare for how many will eat the complimentary meals.
This article appeared in the Baptist Message (baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Brian Blackwell is a staff writer for the Baptist Message.
Church hopes ‘Servolution’ will
cultivate heart of servanthood
By Eric Ashley
GLOUCESTER, Va. (Proclaimer) -- It's 5:30 a.m. and a team arrives at a local hospital to serve breakfast to the nurses, doctors, and employees. Hours later, different teams scatter throughout the community in order to serve in various ways. One team works to build a wheelchair ramp for a widow in need, while another team begins working on a new playground for families in an apartment complex. Throughout the day, different LifeGroups deliver to a local food bank the food they've collected/donated. Then in the evening, a group of ladies provides a night of pampering for women in a local shelter.
What do these various happenings have in common? They are all a part of Servolution, a week-long community service initiative led by BridgePoint Church in Gloucester, VA. Yet, according to Eric Ashley, lead pastor of BridgePoint, Servolution is about much more than a single week of projects.
"Servolution was never meant simply to be an isolated event. Instead, we see it as a way to help the heart of servanthood become a part of the culture of our church. Ultimately, it's about cultivating a heart to serve others in Jesus' name. Jesus was the greatest servant the world has ever known. He not only met the physical needs, but He met our greatest spiritual need by dying in our place for our sins. We want to reflect that same servant heart to our community."
The initial idea for Servolution came after Pastor Eric and his wife, Amy, read a book by the same name, Servolution: Starting a Church Revolution Through Serving by Dino Rizzo. "From the start of the church plant, we already knew that serving our community would be an essential part of our strategy to reach Gloucester for Jesus. As Amy and I read through the book, we were inspired and equipped with practical insights about how we could start our own revolution of serving through our local church."
"It is so rewarding to see how our people are always on the lookout for ways to serve those outside and inside of the church," says Pastor Eric. "The love of Jesus is being broadcast through their lives each day."
In Matthew 5:16, Jesus calls for each of us to "let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven" (HCSB). Here are some steps you can take in order to lead your church to start a Servolution in your church and community:
1. Identify Needs
Look around your community to see needs your church can help meet. Ask your congregation and community leaders for ideas. It won't take much time before you realize that there are many ways you can serve your community.
2. Share the Vision
Help your church understand why serving is so important. Preach a sermon series about serving and outreach. Have your leadership team read a book about community service. Lead a small group study. Write a newsletter article. Use whatever means you have in order to communicate the heart behind serving others.
3. Take a Step
Servolution does not have to begin with a week-long initiative filled with hundreds of service opportunities. Instead, it can begin with a single church-wide service project or by encouraging each of your small groups or Sunday School classes to participate in a service project. No matter where you start, the important thing is that you take a take a step.
This article appeared in the Proclaimer (sbcv.org/articles/category/proclaimer), newsjournal of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia. Eric Ashley is ead pastor of BridgePoint Church in Gloucester, Va.
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.