FROM THE STATES: N.C., Ala., Hawaii evangelism/missions news; 'You wake up every day on the mission field'
Today's From the States features items from:
Biblical Recorder (North Carolina)
The Alabama Baptist
Hawaii Pacific Baptist
N.C. church places
Gospel in global market
By Seth Brown
DURHAM, N.C. (Biblical Recorder) -- What do the Bible and a company employee manual have in common? For some, they both collect dust. For Waypoint Church in Durham, they're both important tools for taking the Gospel to the nations.
Waypoint wants Christians to put the gospel to work in the professional world; they believe doing so in a city with a swelling immigrant population is an effective missionary strategy for impacting the nations.
Waypoint began September 2014 in Durham, N.C., as a church plant from The Summit Church. Josh Benfield, associate pastor for formation at Waypoint, said the motivation to start a new church came from the high number of people immigrating to the area near Research Triangle Park (RTP), a commercial district between Raleigh and Durham that's one of the most prominent technology and research centers in the U.S.
They want to be a church "comprised of many nations." It's a vision shared by Benfield, who is a former international missionary, and Waypoint's lead pastor, Lawrence Yoo, a Korean-American.
"Being from an immigrant family, I have experienced firsthand the struggle of finding my own cultural identity. ... It is my desire to awaken people to their true identity that is found in the Gospel," Yoo said on the church's website.
Benfield sees lots of opportunities for reaching internationals with the Gospel in Durham -- and by extension, their friends and relatives overseas. "If you can reach Durham," he said, "you can reach the nations."
Many immigrants come to the area for political asylum. There are entire communities in Durham comprised of refugees. They often face cultural, linguistic and citizenship obstacles and are not able to find employment. Waypoint ministers to these groups. There are others working high-level jobs at technology companies or in the large healthcare system across RTP; still more are studying at one of the 15 major colleges and universities. Waypoint church members work and do business with many of these immigrants.
By integrating the Gospel into their vocational settings, Waypoint church members can express their faith in everyday life and reach the nations at the same time.
Benfield said engaging the workplace as a mission field is both a part of Waypoint's identity and a part of their evangelistic strategy. "Whatever your station in life ... we feel that God has placed you there for a purpose. You are a missionary in that place.
"You wake up every day on the mission field," said Benfield. Whether as a spouse or parent, everyone has a ministry in their own home.
That ministry extends out the front door too. "Going to work should not feel like, 'Oh, I've got to get to work so I can get my job done ... so that I can get to the church and do something significant for the Kingdom,' he said.
"If you're at RTP, if you work at Chick-fil-A or Panera Bread, or if you work for the city of Durham -- no matter what you do, you are a missionary to that place and that context."
Benfield said Waypoint values this vision for everyday missions, and wanted to know more about practical, ethical ways to share the Gospel in the workplace. So, they reached out to Marketplace Advance, a ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board, to conduct a training session at Waypoint.
On the job training
On Feb. 21, Waypoint invited the Marketplace Advance team to lead a portion of a weekend "Missions Marathon" at their church. "People were very interested in developing goals and strategies on how to effectively communicate the Gospel and reach people at their workplace."
In a breakfast session, the Marketplace Advance team gave practical advice and helpful training on starting Gospel conversations and Bible studies. They also talked about ethical questions related to sharing the gospel at work.
Jayson Georges, a missionary to Central Asia for nine years and writer behind honorshame.com, was the keynote speaker of the weekend. He offered Waypoint principles about evangelizing people from honor-shame and fear-based cultures.
The missions marathon was bookended by times of celebration and prayer for missions around the globe.
Attendees left the training with homework, said Benfield. The task was to find their company's employee manual and determine what kinds of discussion topics are acceptable at their workplace. Sometimes Christians feel like they can't share their faith at work when their company may actually allow it, according to Benfield. Others may in fact be restricted from doing so.
Either way, the veil of uncertainty lifts and Christians can be sure about what they can and cannot say at work. "Satan sometimes uses [uncertainty] as a strategy to put fear in our hearts," said Benfield.
Attendees will gather again in the near future to discuss what they've discovered about restrictions in their work environment.
Benfield said they've seen results from the training already. A software engineer in their church began meeting with junior colleagues regularly to pray, talk about the faith and fellowship. There are others in the church too that are using the strategies they learned to share the Gospel with their co-workers.
"Evangelism was at the heart of our people, but maybe it wasn't necessarily coming through their lips," said Benfield. "Some of the training taught them some easier practical strategies which has helped them say, 'Hey, I can share my faith. This has given me a way to do it that is easier than what I've done before.'"
This article appeared in the Biblical Recorder (brnow.org), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Seth Brown is content editor for the Biblical Recorder.
Alabama Baptist deaf ministries expanding
to reach important people group
By Carrie Brown McWhorter
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (The Alabama Baptist) -- In space provided by a local church, members of the Birmingham Community Deaf Church (BCDC) meet regularly to study the Bible, plan their next missions trip and worship together in their heart language, American Sign Language (ASL).
Though many churches throughout the state offer some kind of ministry for deaf congregants, there is something special about deaf-led worship and Bible study, which is why the North American Mission Board (NAMB) has set a goal to establish 100 new deaf congregations by 2022 as part of Send North America, NAMB's church-planting strategy.
"An important part of our strategy is to be sure we are starting churches where people feel at home," NAMB President Kevin Ezell wrote in a 2013 blog post. "Sometimes that might be a little different for others than it is for you and me. Again there is no changing or compromising of the gospel message but a recognition that God created all of us uniquely."
Currently there are four Alabama Baptist deaf churches in the state: Faith Baptist Deaf Mission, Oxford, hosted by First Baptist Church, Oxford; Deaf Church Bethel, Dothan, hosted by Bethel Baptist Church, Dothan; New Deaf Church, Hoover, hosted by Green Valley Baptist Church, Hoover; and BCDC, previously hosted by The Church at Brook Hills but now meeting at Briarwood Presbyterian Church.
Throughout the state Alabama Baptists are looking for ways to increase their ministry to this small but important people group. Ministry to the deaf brings its own special challenges, however.
One of the primary challenges is cultural, according to Stan Albright, pastor of First Baptist in Oxford in the Calhoun Baptist Association. The deaf often feel isolated from others even in the faith community, Albright said.
"The deaf are a silent people group, and it's more than that they cannot hear," Albright said. "They often feel like outsiders and feel misunderstood, which is why it is so important to help them find identity and hope in Christ."
Some studies estimate that as many as 98 percent of deaf people have never heard the Gospel, making them one of the most unreached people groups in the world, according to Kristy Kennedy, an associate in the office of associational missions and church planting at the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM) who works with deaf ministries.
Alabama Baptists are expanding outreach efforts to the deaf by partnering with deaf believers in several ways, Kennedy said. Two major events are the annual meeting of the Alabama Baptist Conference of the Deaf (ABCD), held each year in early March at Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center in Talladega, and Camp Shocco for the Deaf, held each year in July.
Camp Shocco is an especially exciting event because it focuses on young people, Kennedy said.
"At Camp Shocco for the Deaf, we seek to encourage and disciple deaf children and youth as they grow in their faith," she said.
Kennedy also works with Ricky Milford, a former pastor who is now a missionary with the Coosa River Baptist Association serving the state in deaf ministry. Together they assist with a deaf task force consisting of lay people from across the state and are planning a church planting basics conference for the deaf.
Financial support for deaf churches can be another obstacle to effective ministry which is why state and national partnerships are so important, said Albright, who is currently working with NAMB to find a person to lead the deaf congregation in Oxford.
A third challenge is identifying deaf people in the community who might be reached or engaged in service.
"In a lot of communities we don't even know how many people are deaf," Albright said.
Estimates on the number of deaf people in America vary widely. According to statistics compiled by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), the incidence of babies born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears is small -- 2 or 3 babies in every 1,000 births. One in 8 people in the United States age 12 or older has hearing loss in both ears, though hearing loss does not necessarily mean deafness. In Alabama, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 2.8 percent of people ages 18 to 64 and 10 to 15 percent of children live with some hearing loss.
In terms of deaf ministry the focus is primarily on those who are deaf from birth or a very young age and whose primary language is ASL. As a result, deaf churches, which are defined as a separate entity led and run by the deaf members, tend to be in metropolitan areas like Birmingham or in areas where a large deaf population exists like Oxford, which is near the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind in Talladega.
Most often, as is the case with the four Alabama Baptist deaf churches, a mother church supports or provides a place for the deaf to conduct church and ministry separate from the hearing church, said Jennifer Eggers, assistant secretary of the Alabama Baptist Conference of the Deaf, and a member of First Baptist Church, Fairhope, in Baldwin Baptist Association.
Throughout Alabama, however, many churches have some kind of ministry for the deaf working to meet the needs of specific members of their congregations, Eggers said. The most common type of ministry is an interpreting ministry where the worship service and possibly a Bible study class are interpreted for one or more deaf members. Sometimes a church might have a deaf ministry in which a deaf teacher leads service or a Bible study.
While interpreting ministries fill a need, deaf churches provide a unique opportunity for deaf pastors and teachers to lead, said Carmen Stewart, a leader in the Deaf Church at Bethel Baptist. Deaf churches also provide a more comfortable worship environment for reaching the lost in the deaf community, she said.
"As with any language, one's depth of understanding (in worship) increases when it is through one's native language," Stewart said.
Stewart said one unique characteristic of many deaf churches is the ability of members to ask questions and clarify information received during the preaching.
To enhance the teaching skills of deaf ministry leaders, BCDC holds workshops for Bible study teachers. Church members also mentor new interpreters, said Cherybe Thornton, a member of BCDC and co-founder of Deaf Online University, a faith-based learning community.
Though deaf ministry brings many challenges Kennedy said the opportunities for outreach are growing.
"We know there is still much to be done, but these are exciting days as we see God's hand at work bringing the deaf to know Him."
This article appeared in The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Carrie Brown McWhorter is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist.
begins in Honolulu
By Faith McFatridge
HONOLUL (Hawaii Pacific Baptist) -- Chris Evans and his wife Judy arrived in January to begin a new ministry to the ports in Honolulu.
They immediately set out to introduce themselves to the workers on the boats at Pier 38. Pastor Jerry Saludez of Waipio Community Church accompanied them since they found many of the fishermen were Filipino.
Pastor Saludez and his wife Stella had an instant connection with the fishermen. They have provided meals, clothes and other necessities for the workers.
Chris Evans is no stranger to the seafarer's ministry. He and Judy served at the Seafarer's Center in American Samoa for more than two years and his reports were filled with connecting with the fishermen from different countries and leading them to a faith in Jesus. His vision was to evangelize the men and help them to reach the other workers as they were on the boat.
As they visited Honolulu, Chris became burdened for the hundreds of ships and boats in Honolulu Harbor. After two years of wading through the visa process and North American Mission Board applications, the Evanses arrived ready to begin this new ministry
Preparation for this ministry began months before with Waikiki Baptist Church sponsoring the Seafarer's Ministry. Pastor Andrew Large and his staff also took on the responsibility of securing the visas for the Evanses to work in Hawaii. Waipio Community Church provided an apartment and a van for their use. The Hawaii Woman's Missionary Union asked churches to sew toiletry bags and collect items for the bags. The Oahu Baptist Network provided Tagalog English Bibles. The Hawaii Chinese Baptist Church provided a room to have Bible studies and a place for fellowship.
After the Evans' arrived, the boats were contacted and one of the first needs was a home-cooked meal. Many of the fishermen are Filipino so it was natural to provide Filipino dishes. Stella Saludez, wife of pastor Jerry Saludez, is well known for her Filipino cooking and the meals they served were met with great excitement. The men aren't allowed to leave the pier so everyone gathered around the cars parked close to the boats.
As the fellowship progressed, the men began to open up about other things that they could not get while on board the boats. They explained that while they are at sea and hauling in the fish, the lines sometimes bring up jellyfish and the tentacles stung their arms but because of the intense work, they could not stop to put medication on their arms. Long sleeved shirts were needed so that their arms could be protected from the jellyfish stings. Other things like lip balm, Band-Aids, beanie hats and small tools were put on the list.
Other church members from Waipio Community, Mililani and individuals have become involved in this ministry which has grown to more than 20 boats (as of March). Supplies purchased with funds from the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention's Hawaii Pacific Missions Offering have almost been depleted in the two months Chris Evans has been working with the fishermen. The ministry is looking for churches or individuals to help in providing basic necessities and meals whenever the boats dock in Honolulu.
A brochure produced for the Seafarer's Ministry asks about sponsoring one or more ships visiting the harbors of Honolulu and "Experience the joy of sharing God's blessings with our Seafarers." The brochure asks for prayer "for their safety and good catch. Remember their families far from them. Pay for some gifts that we bring to them like jackets, socks, long-sleeve t-shirts, Chap Stick, cookies, gum, etc. They don't earn much and they're not allowed to leave the pier. Play with a team that visits them whenever they arrive from their fishing expedition. Bring dinner and spend time fellowshipping with them, becoming their family away from home."
This article appeared in the Hawaii Pacific Baptist, newsjournal of the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention (hpbaptist.net). Faith McFatridge is associate editor of the Hawaii Pacific Baptist.
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.