FROM THE STATES: Mich., La., Okla. evangelism/missions news; 'The only way to transform a city is through the salvation of its residents'
Today's From the States features items from:
Baptist Beacon (Michigan)
Baptist Message (Louisiana)
Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma)
Detroit-area church uses door-to-door
evangelism to reach neighbors
By David B. Smith
HARPER WOODS, Mich. (Baptist Beacon) -- Remember the bygone days of Monday night visitation? A group would arrive at church, receive a visitation assignment, have a prayer, and then proceed to make personal visits in the neighborhood.
Those days are back at Eastside Community Church in Harper Woods. Since becoming the pastor over three years ago, Matthew Vroman has been going door-to-door in his Detroit neighborhood. He visits at least once during the week and once on Saturday.
"The scriptures are clear: we are accountable for our Jerusalem," Vroman said. "From the first day at the first door, our goal was to simply share the gospel."
Since starting the ministry, over 20,000 gospel tracts have been distributed.
His neighborhood is comprised mainly of single-family homes. Vroman and others in the church go house to house and share the gospel. They don't ask for prayer requests, but realize prayer will come later as they build relationships.
He says the greatest obstacle to this kind of evangelism is a cold heart and unwillingness to go.
"Once you get over that, it's easy," he said.
The church uses literature free from the Fellowship Tract League so there is no expense involved.
Very seldom is there a problem. Vroman said even if people refuse to talk at the door, they almost always take the tract.
Eastside Community knew Vroman was intentional about sharing the gospel when they called him. He had served for over nine years in Turnkey as a faith missionary and came to Detroit with a hunger for the lost.
He says the greatest blessing is the satisfaction of obedience. Reaching our Jerusalem is our responsibility. Then, of course, there's the wonder of seeing people trust Christ as Savior.
After that, Vroman says watching the people who have been transformed experience God working through them is beautiful. Sixty percent of those who participate on Saturdays were saved because of this ministry.
"Seeing the city of Detroit change because people are being saved is very cool," Vroman said. "The only way to transform a city is through the salvation of its residents."
He said the elements for this kind of ministry are simple. First, the pastor must be convinced it is necessary. If the pastor isn't on board, pray the Lord will move his heart.
Next, a church needs a good map of the area and a good, solid gospel tract to which a flier about your church is attached. The final need is a door and the willingness to knock on it.
For those interested in starting this kind of evangelism effort, Vroman says he's willing to come and bring some of his folks and do training.
"Start slow and train your people, Vroman said. "Have them watch a few times and make sure they know what scriptures to use."
This effort leads to conversions. Eastside Community has not seen an overwhelming response, but they are baptizing approximately one new believer per month. He attributes that directly to the door-to-door evangelism.
"We need to be who God called us to be," Vroman said. "Our neighbors are so open to real rather than weird. It's our job to connect with them."
This article appeared in the Baptist Beacon (baptistbeacon.net), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan.
Brazil Mission trip produces
record number of Salvations
By Brian Blackwell
MONTES CLAROS, Brazil (Baptist Message) -- A record number of decisions made for Christ in the 30th year of an annual mission trip to Brazil saw the group of 115 do more with less.
"Only one other time when we had had almost 200 go on the trip did we see right at 5,000 saved," said Wayne Jenkins, evangelism and church growth director for the Louisiana Baptist Convention. "This year our theme was do more with less. God did more with less this time."
The majority of the work for one of the largest Louisiana Baptist-led partnership evangelism efforts took place in Montes Claros, a city of 450,000 people in the state of Minas Gerias. While there, the team participated in street evangelism, Vacation Bible Schools, drama, medical, dental and eye clinics, cooking demonstration classes, sports clinics, deaf work and construction of three chapels.
By the end of the group's 11-day missions experience, 5,024 people accepted Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. That's more than the 4,500 who accepted Christ during last year's trip to the country, with 150 going on the trip.
The majority of those ministering in Brazil were from Louisiana, though a handful came from states including Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
Among those participating in the trip was Lisa Breaux and her husband, Leonard. A member of First Baptist Lafayette, Breaux served on the cooking team.
In the past, the team has cooked for women at a halfway house, staff at the hotel where they stay and professionals who come to a church as a mean of outreach. For the second consecutive year, the team cooked in the home of the mayor of Montes Claros and his guests. Breaux said cooking at his home last year opened doors for an evangelism team to gain access to prisons, which until now had been denied.
The hotel staff allowed the team use of its kitchen to cook the Louisiana foods that included beignets, bread pudding and chicken and sausage gumbo. What seemed to be a perfect set-up actually turned into a near-disaster – with a happy ending.
Breaux's team finished cooking the gumbo on a Thursday afternoon and the hotel offered for its night shift staff to place the food in the refrigerator to allow the dish to cool overnight in order to achieve the highest possible flavor. The next day, the team prepared rice for the gumbo along with bread pudding and transported those dishes along with the gumbo to the mayor's home.
However, upon tasting the gumbo while it was heating on the hotel stove, the team discovered the dish had spoiled.
Without time to cook another pot of gumbo, the team was devastated and prayed for a miracle. The mayor's public relations secretary ordered pizza.
Instead, the evening turned into a blessing, Breaux said. The guests were captivated by the hurt of the cooking team due to the gumbo spoiling and that grabbed the guests' attention, she added.
Breaux said she believes God allowed the gumbo to spoil so the guests would see how heart-broken and humble the cooking team's attitude was there.
"Because we were broken, we couldn't help but cry," Breaux said. "And because we cried, sincere tears, coming from sincere hearts, all language barriers were broken, all pretenses were shattered, and they realized how much we deeply wanted to serve them and to share with them the love of God. God used our tears to melt their hearts and make them open to His message."
For his part, John Galey saw 85 people accept Christ while he was a member of a two-person evangelism team. Most of Galey's time on the team was home-to-home visits.
Galey, who is pastor of Poydras Baptist Church near New Orleans, said people he encountered were very spiritually receptive.
"It was very spiritually rewarding too to go to a place internationally who not only needed to hear the gospel but had a people hungering for it and hanging on to every word you have to say," Galey said.
Before he left his hotel to begin his day in the field, Galey picked up a gospel tract in the English language to distribute. Though he assumed most people would not speak English, he took the tract with him.
"Next thing I know I come to a house for a visit that a little kid is so excited that an American who speaks English is there," Galey said. "He is learning English. Finally I gave he and his mom a tract in both the Portuguese and English language and you would have thought he received gold. He was so excited he was going to take the English tracts to school and his teacher likely will use the tract in his English classes."
For Martha Jenkins, knowing the group was prayed for before they sat foot on Brazilian soil was comforting. She said the churches there prayed that 5,000 would come to know Christ while the Louisiana team was there on the mission trip.
"To know they prayed for 5,000 and we had 5,024 shows you the power of prayer and the commitment that people here have to what God calls them to," said Jenkins, a member of Philadelphia Baptist in Deville.
A member of the drama team for the past 20 years, Jenkins said her group of five performers and two leaders saw more than 700 people accept Christ. They performed a drama that set to music in such locations as schools, prisons, rehab centers, parks, plazas, festivals and the slums.
"The most awesome part of each year is the fact that we present the gospel through an interpreter and people understand the message in a different language," she said. "Each year we are able to see people flock to the invitation."
Looking back on the trips Jenkins has led every year to Brazil since 10 participated in the first trip to the country in 1984, he never would have imagined that thousands upon thousands would accept Christ and 56 chapels would be constructed.
"It's one of those things where God has provided every year," Jenkins said. "We have had over 1000 different people go on this trip since we began going who were exposed to international missions and our Southern Baptist missionaries.
"Our desire is when people come back home, they not only have a life-changing experience but they also become advocates of Southern Baptist missions and the Cooperative Program," he continued. "The resident missionaries and cooperative giving is the backbone of our mission work. Volunteers assist, but cannot replace, what our missionaries on the field do."
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.
OBU students see
God work in Spain
By Kenny Day
SHAWNEE, Okla. (Baptist Messenger) -- A team of four Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) student and one faculty sponsor spent may 25-June 12 in Spain teaching English to local high school students and praying for opportunities to share the gospel. Despite the language barrier, the OBU team was able to form relationships with the locals and saw God work in the hearts of Spanish students.
OBU adjunct Spanish professor Janet Burns served as the team's mentor. Students Tristan Campbell, Kristen Sidler, Autumn Eads, Courtney King and Ashley Snow all traveled on the team.
The team worked in two suburbs of Seville, Bormujos and Mairena. Seville is one of eight provinces that make up the Andalusia community and is the largest province with a population of more than 1 million citizens.
Located in south Spain Seville is the hottest area in Europe. Even with temperatures in the 100s, heat didn't stop the team From immediately falling in love with the culture.
"Spain is a beautiful, sunny, urban, relational place," said Sidler, a senior English education major from Argyle, Texas."It was incredible to me that every restaurant had a patio outside with umbrellas to shade customers from the sun. Seville gets hot, so shade is a necessity."
The students found that sharing the hope of Christ in Spain was a challenge. In the past, Spanish leaders used religion as a tool to control the people. They now have religious freedom, but their hearts have become hardened toward the Gospel. Burns found this to be the most challenging aspect of their trip.
"This mentality was difficult to combat, so we worked on building relationships with the people," she said. "In doing so, we prayed that they would see we loved them because Jesus loves them. Hopefully through this process, they would Ask us why our lives were different, and then we could share our faith in Christ."
During their first week in Spain, the students supported The teams already working in the schools. They spent the next two weeks teaching and building relationships with the local students.
The team members also built friendships with the locals by joining English clubs in the area and hosting a Vacation Bible School for children. These English clubs allowed Spanish adults and students the opportunity to converse with English speakers each week.
As the days passed, the OBU team diligently showed love To every Spanish local they came into contact with, praying that the Lord would change their hearts and open their eyes to His love.
One Friday evening, the students threw a party for the community attended by 130 local students. The team was overjoyed to see that the Lord was hearing their prayers and Changing the hearts of the locals. That night, the team was able to plant seeds of hope in the hearts of the locals through the Gospel story.
The Sunday before the team left, they attended one last service at a local evangelical church in the area. The OBU group was excited that 13 students attended the service. For some of Them, it was their first time to attend a non-Catholic service.
Sidler said that seeing the local students come to church was the most rewarding part of her trip.
"Even though some said they only came for us, they still Came and were able to hear the word of the Lord in church That day. One student said he really enjoyed it. That gave me so much joy and hope for the other students."
The team was amazed how God answered their prayers and softened the local students' hearts to hear His message. One Of the students was so intrigued by what he heard that he plans on visiting the church again.
"We were so blessed to know that at least one student wants to learn more about what the Gospel means," said King, a junior vocal music education major from Oklahoma City.
The students traveled to Spain by way of OBU's Avery T. Willis Center for Clobal Out-reach, which mobilizes, trains and oversees Global Outreach GO Trips which align with OBU's mission to transform lives by equipping students to pursue academic excellence, integrate faith with all areas of knowledge, engage a diverse world and live worthy of the high calling of god in Jesus Christ.
King, who has been looking for opportunities to travel to a Spanish-speaking country, was overwhelmed by how much God worked while on their trip.
"Sometimes, we are so stuck in our own world, we forget to think about how big this planet is, and how big our God is," said King. "There are ministries all over the world sharing the good news of Jesus and getting to see that and participate In that is life changing."
"For me, trips like this are a way to serve others in the short Term, but allows practice for living in the long term at home," Sidler said. "It forces you to take your relationship with the Lord Seriously, be aware of others outside of yourself, as well as get out of your comfort zone and share the Gospel with others."
This article appeared in the Baptist Messenger (baptistmessenger.com), newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Kenny Day is marketing communications director for Oklahoma Baptist University.
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.