FROM THE STATES: Mo., N.C., Tenn. evangelism/missions news; 'Today is the day of my salvation'
Today's From the States features items from:
The Pathway (Missouri)
Biblical Recorder (North Carolina)
Baptist & Reflector (Tennessee)
Mo. church sows the
gospel in West Africa
By Ben Hawkins
NEOSHO, Mo. (The Pathway) -- During a mission trip at the end of April, a small team from Calvary Baptist Church in Neosho, Mo., witnessed the long-term impact of sowing the gospel among a people group spread across three West African nations.
The team included Calvary's Pastor Roger Brumley and Missions Minister Tracy Guppy, as well as Brumley's son, Berrik, who serves as a worship minister in Arkansas.
Although they spent much of their time in regions where the church had worked before, the team of three also entered a new village. On their first visit to the village, one family patriarch eagerly greeted them.
"As we were walking up to the family compound inside the village, this elderly man -- who was on a mat and on a raised platform -- lifted his head, looked at us, and began to get very excited," Roger Brumley recalled. "As we got closer, he said, 'I knew you would be here today. I saw you in a dream last night. Today is the day of my salvation.'"
When they heard this, the team told their translator to share the gospel, Brumley said. Then, "tears were streaming down this elderly man's face, and he gave his life to Christ."
As it turned out, this new believer had heard the gospel nearly 40 years earlier from a missionary who had long ago died. Somehow, however, the man heard "that the one who can give life is being talked about again, and he knew this was his time," Brumley said.
Although they were able to witness this long-awaited harvest of faith, the Neosho mission team labored during much of their trip to help native pastors learn how to use Bible storying for making disciples and planting churches.
After teaching these church leaders during a pastor's conference, the mission team sent them out to sow the gospel in the community. As a result, more than 70 people heard the gospel, and 14 professed faith in Christ.
"Several of the pastors said, 'We got to share but we didn't see anybody get saved,'" Brumley said. "And we reminded them that they planted seed.... They were thrilled in realizing that the seed had been sown, that those words were now truth in people's lives" and that eventually someone else could reap a harvest among those same people.
Since beginning its mission work in West Africa nearly 10 years ago, Calvary Baptist has desired to equip native Christian leaders in the area to make disciples and multiply churches.
"The exciting thing is that the churches we started are starting new churches now. We're seeing second and third generation churches. This is what God asked us to do. So that is the exciting part for me."
This article appeared in The Pathway (mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Ben Hawkins is associate editor of The Pathway.
'Kingdom' moves forward
in Moldova partnership
By K. Allan Blume
WENDELL, N.C. (Biblical Recorder) -- Aaron Wallace heard leaders of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) talking about the launch of a partnership between N.C. Baptists and the Baptist Union of Moldova in 2012, and it piqued his interest. Wallace, lead pastor of Hephzibah Baptist Church in Wendell, N.C., saw this as a great fit for his church.
A vision trip to the small Eastern European country convinced him to lead Hephzibah in a partnership with a northern region of Moldova on the Ukraine border. On the trip he met Moldova Baptist leaders, church planters, pastors and regional coordinators.
But when he met Peter Mikhalchuk the connection to Moldova came alive. Pastor Peter, as he is commonly called, is an enthusiastic, deeply committed pastor who has served the northern region for more than two decades. His testimony includes opposition to his ministry from communists.
When he began the work, there was only one evangelical church for every 25 villages in the north. Today there is one church for every five villages.
"One of the reasons we chose northern Moldova is that we wanted to work with a pastor who has a vision," said Wallace. "We wanted to work with churches that are willing to have 'some skin in the game.' We didn't want to carry the whole load financially, but work with people would be willing to sacrifice. They have faithfully done that."
He added, "We found Pastor Peter and other leaders in Moldova to be very well equipped. We're getting to join what God is doing, and we get to be part of the vision and direction of these pastors. Every time we go we see the kingdom moving forward."
Wallace understands that pastors in the states may be reluctant to commit to a partnership with leaders in another country. "For a lot of people the hesitation with missions is they get over there, the pastor is distant and things are not organized," he said. That is not what he has seen. "Our experience is that there seems to be such a passion for outreach and discipleship. We feel like everything we're investing in is productive."
Effective partnerships are not simply a relationship between two pastors. Lay leadership is a critical ingredient says Wallace. That's where Steve Johnson enters the picture.
Johnson, a member of Hephzibah, became a Christian after he retired from the Raleigh Police Department.
"When I was a police officer, I was one of those guys that people said, 'I hope he gets saved, but I just don't know,'" he said. Johnson had a dramatic conversion, and now wants his life to impact others for Christ.
"You never repay the Lord [for salvation] but you can always say 'thank you.' My hope is just to say 'thank you' every day to Him for what He has done for me," he said. "The Lord placed on my heart the need to be a witness for Christ."
He began to witness and to train others to be a witness. The desire to better understand the Bible led him to enroll in Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. "I got the MDiv in evangelism and biblical languages. So I've been teaching evangelism and going on mission trips," Johnson said.
When the potential for a partnership with Moldova surfaced, Wallace called Johnson, who had been on short term trips to Eastern Europe. "Aaron knew I had a heart for Eastern Europe so he invited me to go on the vision trip," said Johnson.
Now he coordinates the partnership that includes medical clinics, youth and sports camps for ages 16-22 and preaching events in churches. Johnson believes Hephzibah's work adds strength to the pastors in Moldova. "We're trying to help pastors have a better standing in the community in the face of the Orthodox Church. Pastors show the villagers the love of Christ. We help with medical missions and camps, then we leave, but [the pastor] stays and has better standing in the community."
A nine-day medical clinic is held each year covering 14 villages. The first year 550 Moldovan villagers were examined for a variety of medical needs including blood pressure and diabetes. Prescription medications that are not normally available are distributed by Ukrainian doctors who partner with the North Carolina team. During the 2014 clinics 650 people were served.
The greatest expense of the clinics is the medicines. The church works with medical professionals in Moldova, sending money ahead of the teams so the medicine can be purchased all year long and stored up for the clinic. "There are no medical doctors in the villages and even if they have a doctor, they don't have access to the medicines, so that makes the clinics important and effective," Wallace said.
Last year 115 people came to know Christ through the medical clinic and camps. Johnson said the local pastors are heavily invested in reaching teenagers. "The pastors bring the youth to the camp. Then they spend a week in the camp with the youth. Then they go back to their communities with a relationship with these kids that they built at the camp."
Pastor Peter reports that most of the decisions for Christ happen the week after the camp when they returned to the churches. "That shows that it's not about presenting Christ and walking way," Johnson added. "It's about that long term desire to have discipleship that continues on in relationship-building."
Wallace said, "Our goal is long term discipleship. We want to help pastors [reach] people but also lead those people to be disciple-makers."
When Hephzibah church got involved in the partnership, there were nine regions in Moldova that needed to be adopted by churches in North Carolina. Seven of those regions now have committed relationships in progress. Two regions are yet to be adopted. The church's goal is to help other churches build a partnership with a church in Moldova.
Wallace said the needs are great in Moldova. Realizing the limits of his church in reaching everyone, he has an offer for North Carolina Baptists. "If any pastors or church leaders in North Carolina want to see what missions looks like in Moldova, we would like to invite them to go with us," he said.
"We'll be glad to go a few days earlier and introduce them to the leaders and show them the needs. There are still two regions that have not been adopted in the partnership," Wallace added. "We'll be glad to show them what a medical clinic looks like. Please let us use our mission trips as a vision trip for you and your teams. There are other pastors across the state who are involved in Moldova and will be glad to help, also."
Partnership missions has strengthened Hephzibah church. "We have watched our church grow through partnerships over the last four years," said Wallace. "Last year we had more than 160 people who went on a partnership trip to Moldova or Canada. When you look at the giving of the church, I believe 80 percent of our people are financially involved in the mission of the church and praying for missions. That's been huge for us."
Chuck Register, BSC's executive leader for church planting and missions partnerships, said, "The church-to-church model that Hephzibah is exhibiting is at the very heart of what we are seeking to accomplish through the office of Great Commission partnerships. It's where a church in North Carolina develops a church-to-church partnership with a congregation of a different people group or a different country that the most is accomplished for the Kingdom."
The BSC-Moldova partnership was designed to establish relationships between churches and to see churches in the state adopt all nine regions of Moldova. Register added, "There are two regions left in Moldova where we are prayerfully trying to facilitate additional church-to-church partnerships. If there is any way that we can resource such a partnership, we would love to assist North Carolina Baptist churches."
The partnership will continue as long as churches in North Carolina are actively engaged with churches in Moldova.
This article appeared in the Biblical Recorder (brnow.org), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. K. Allan Blume is editor of the Biblical Recorder.
Young Tenn. church starts
apartment complex Bible studies
By Connie Bushey
WHITES CREEK, Tenn. (Baptist & Reflector) -- "I want people to realize that the church is outside these walls," said Dwayne Lewis, church planter/pastor of New Season Church here.
The statement is unusual when considering the fact that Lewis is standing outside the meeting room of an apartment complex where members of his church are leading Bible study groups for residents of the complex.
Most Christians would think New Season Church was outside its walls enough in the apartment complex. Then if they learned that New Season is normally outside traditional church walls — New Season meets in a public school and formerly met in a nursing home — they certainly would agree.
Yet, even this congregation needs to hear this, explained Lewis, and thankfully has responded.
New Season Church started the Bible studies or 1-5-1 Harvest Plants groups in this apartment complex in 2014. The church started preparation for them in 2013 when the congregation was just two years old and only drew about 55 to Sunday morning activities at the school.
1-5-1 Harvest Plants is an initiative of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Harvest Plants are off campus efforts (outside the walls of the church) geared toward people who don't know Christ as their Savior for the purpose of sharing the gospel, discipling people, and starting churches.
"You have all of these churches around here but nobody is really sharing the gospel inside these apartments," said Lewis, noting this complex, Parkwood Villa Apartments in Nashville, has 160 units. "We want to connect with the community."
It seems they have connected with folks in this complex and in other neighborhoods. Today, New Season Church includes five families from the apartment complex and draws about 130 people to Sunday morning activities. During 2014 four residents of the complex were baptized in the swimming pool here by Lewis.
A second 1-5-1 group
Lewis also believes in the 1-5-1 strategy because of what has happened recently through a young couple from Springfield who joined New Season. Then that couple invited several other families from Springfield to join them at the church.
Lewis asked the couple if, since they were traveling 19 miles to attend, they would begin a Bible study group or 1-5-1 group in their home. Lewis said he would lead it. They agreed and, amazingly, though it started the afternoon of the Super Bowl game, drew 25 people. The next meeting, which was held a month later, had to be moved to a local bank and drew about 40 people.
This was done with no advertising and no flyers being distributed, explained Lewis.
He plans for this group to become a new church and is mentoring someone to serve as pastor.
The pastor/church planter said he's thankful he learned about the 1-5-1 Harvest Plants strategy. He had planned to minister in apartment complexes before he learned about 1-5-1 through a Tennessee Baptist Convention contact, but the 1-5-1 information "boosted" him to start it, he commented.
In the apartment complex, attendance in the Bible study groups by adults may be low some weeks, but New Season continues the regular ministry here, said Lewis. The children's group is always well attended, he noted.
Lewis said New Season was started because of the support of First Baptist Church, Joelton, its mother church. Lewis serves as minister of missions of First, Joelton, and its pastor, David Royalty, is his mentor. New Season is the first church Lewis has started.
The church is young and its members are committed to God, said Lewis. All that the church has done couldn't have occurred without "the volunteers from the church who are so excited about serving," Lewis said of the congregation which is a mixture of races and cultures including African American, Anglo, and Hispanic.
Besides Parkwood Villa, New Season has prayerwalked and witnessed in four other apartment complexes and held summer outreach in them but its focus has been Parkwood Villa.
Just months after members of New Season had started canvassing and visiting with residents of Parkwood Villa, they learned that 36 units were flooded. Within hours, members of New Season had arrived and were helping victims. They served for about three days. Another way members have ministered has been by providing a summer lunch program for about 20 children with help from a government grant.
New Season also tries to reach out in other ways. It has drawn about 400 to its Sunday morning worship in a park followed by a cookout. The small church also does a lot of outreach and ministry in the school it rents space from. Additionally, church members prayerwalk neighborhoods and try to witness to residents.
Because of all of the outreach, their church bus (a former school bus), picks up many families from apartment complexes and other communities.
New Season often draws about 80 children on Sunday mornings, even though they only pick up children who have adults with them. For the children they hold a Children's Church every other week. Alexis Lewis, pastor's wife, leads Children's Church in her role as children's/youth director for New Season.
Alexis Lewis also is planning to hold the church's first Vacation Bible School in a few weeks.
Of course, the emphasis of these events is outreach, said Lewis.
"I said there's no sense in us doing this and not reaching out through it," said Lewis. To reach more people, the VBS will be held in the evenings.
"I want us not to be afraid to talk to people about Jesus, regardless of color, culture, or creed," said Lewis.
This article appeared in the Baptist & Reflector (http://tnbaptist.org/BRNews.asp), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Connie Davis Bushey is news editor of the Baptist & Reflector.
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.