FROM THE STATES: Fla., Mo., Ky. evangelism/missions news; '... [T]hey are battling against a very present force'
Today's From the States features items from:
Florida Baptist Witness
The Pathway (Missouri)
Western Recorder (Kentucky)
Fla. Baptists celebrate with
186 graduating Haitian pastors
By Barbara Denman
TITANYEN, Haiti (Florida Baptist Convention) -- They entered through the door with poise and dignity, carrying well-worn Bibles, wearing matching blazers and ties, marching to the song "Pomp and Circumstance."
The academic road they had traveled had been long -- an arduous two years of theological training culminated that day in a graduation ceremony to receive their diplomas.
Many of the 186 graduates receiving their diplomas at the Confraternite Missionaire Baptist de'Haiti (CMBH) graduation held this past fall in Titanyen had walked for hours to participate in theological classes. Others had ridden public transportation along a dangerous maze of rutted paved and dirt roads.
During the two years of classes, Reginal Moise from Cayes rode a bus all night to the site of the training, sleeping in the vehicle along the way. Yet, it was all worth it, he said. "I am excited to get my diploma."
"Today's a great day for us as students," said Junior Charles from Bethanie Church in Delmar in his stilted English. "We have trained for two years by New Orleans seminary. And now we can serve God and be able to reach other people for Him. By being trained, we will be able to do that in a better way."
The theological education program attended by the Haitian pastors is provided by the Florida Baptist Convention in partnership with New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Florida Baptists have been partnering with CMBH churches in Haiti for the past two decades as the primary support of the organization. Together, Florida Baptists and the Haitian pastors have planted new churches until the original 36 congregations have grown to 1,654 across the nation.
The work is supported through the Convention's Maguire State Mission Offering.
Prior to the commencement, the 20-year relationship was marked in a separate worship celebration with pastors and a delegation of Florida Baptists leaders.
"For us this is a great day," said Pastor DeLouis Labranche, CMBH's director of ministry, his excitement shining in his eyes and brimming in his voice. "It is the 20th anniversary of the CMBH, formed in 1995, and then we will graduate 186 students from NOBTS."
For Labranche, the day's activities were a testimony to the rest of the country, he said, that the Gospel is more powerful than the satanic voodoo religion that holds the hearts of the majority of the 9.9 million Haitians.
"The spiritual warfare in Haiti is very real," added Tommy Green, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, who traveled to Haiti for the anniversary celebration and graduation. "Indeed, there is voodoo, and there is spiritual darkness found around the country in Haiti."
"As these pastors take their stands for Christ in their community, they are battling against a very present force," he added.
Haitian pastors have no other opportunities "to find quality theological education," Green explained. "So through the regimen of classes they have acquired elements of pastoral ministry to better equip them, to better equip their churches and other pastors and become more effective in ministering to their communities and cities."
Green, who spoke during the anniversary celebration and graduation, was accompanied by a delegation of Florida Baptists, including James Peoples, president of the Florida Baptist State Convention and pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Keystone Heights, and Michael Tatem, president of the State Board of Missions and pastor of Parkview Baptist Church in Lake City.
"I'm a big fan of theological education," said Tatem. "Florida Baptists investing their money in theological education for pastors who are serving in churches -- whether in Florida or here in Haiti -- is a very wise investment of these resources." "Haiti is too close for us to ignore," said Peoples. "It is just 700 miles from the shores of Florida, and God has opened the door for us to come and make a difference bringing the light of Jesus Christ in this dark place."
"I want to say thank you to the Christians in Florida," said Pastor Elius Michel of Port-au-Prince, adding the CMBH's often-repeated watchword. "Haiti for Christ. And Christ for Haiti."
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.
Ferguson, Mo., area churches
merge for ministry
By Vicki Stamps
FERGUSON, Mo. (The Pathway) -- "Double" has an impact on the future for the First Baptist Church of Ferguson/Passage Community Church replants. "Both congregations have joined together," Joe Costephens, lead pastor, said, "to bring the most glory to God and to do what we were created to do as the body of Christ, to represent Him."
Stoney Shaw, former pastor of FBC Ferguson, described a new attitude in the unified church. "It gives the church new life and it sets the people free to reach out even more to the community."
Shaw described the foundation of the two churches coming together as beginning two years ago. "Ron Beckner (former associate pastor) and I met with some of the church leadership," he said, "and we identified a need to attract younger people to the congregation. After much prayer, Ron and I decided that we would step down, but stay until a new pastor came on board."
According to Costephens, several people encouraged him to contact the pastor search committee. "I submitted my resume," he said, "but, I also told them that I didn't feel God was leading me away from Passage Community Church."
Shaw said the Search Committee explored many resumes. "The committee decided not to bring a man," he said, "but, to bring a process which would include bringing in the other church."
Costephens is quick to point out that this is not a merger. "It is not a big fish swallowing a little fish," he said. "We are replanting and growing together," he said. "We are a group of brothers and sisters agreeing to move forward together for others to meet Jesus and to grow in faith."
A transition team of 6 members of Ferguson and 5 from Passage is working out many of the details of joining the two churches into one. In a recent "family" meeting, Costephens said the team was examining the bylaws. "The transition team is examining the bylaws in connection with Scripture," he said. "We are looking to put together a bare bones plan to balance biblical with state requirements."
Costephens highlighted some of the strengths of each of the congregations. "Ferguson's strength is in many of the programs like Bible Study and AWANA," Costephens said. "We want to enhance some with a more missionary focus like the senior luncheon. We've got the space to do a luncheon and a senior adult worship during the week to reach out to retired Christians and non-Christians."
According to Costephens, worship is a strength for Passage. "We worshipped well corporately and privately," he said. "Also, we are loving in community groups with accountability."
Shaw agreed that relationships were strong at Ferguson. "Unity and love help us reach out to the community. We used the building to serve more than 1,000 children during Trunk Treats."
Having a building does open new doors Costephens said. "More people drop by, there is a constant flow," he said. "We want to realize the building is a tool and not the prize. It is a resource and not the kingdom."
Shaw and Costephens agreed that getting the church out into the community is the most important goal. "Several stories lately by church members have been so encouraging," Costephens said. "They have tried to share their faith with more people. That's what we need to be about."
The new mission statement for the congregation is to "Love God, Love Others and Serve the Community."
"By serving the community," Costephens said, "we show we care about people and we build credibility to share the Gospel."
This story appeared in The Pathway (mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Vicki Stamps is a contributing writer for The Pathway.
Rural Ky. church sees baptisms
as a result of bus ministry
By Myriah Snyder
WAYNESBURG, Ky. (Western Recorder) -- Pleasant View Baptist Church in Waynesburg baptized 16 children, one adult and a teenager on Dec. 11. The majority of these came by way of the church's children's/bus ministry, GLOW.
Each Wednesday, Pleasant View runs two vans and a bus, making multiple trips, to bring in around 70 children and teenagers. There, they are fed a meal and taught the Gospel.
"Our church is in a rural context in a poor area of our county, and on Wednesday nights, bus ministry is something that still really works," Kyle Page, pastor of Pleasant View, shared.
"These children, a lot of them, only have a Christian atmosphere one hour a week, and that's on Wednesday night. They're coming, getting filled with the Gospel and the Holy Spirit, going back home to their parents and being missionaries in their own community," Chuck Jacobs, a bus driver for the ministry, said.
"It's a major opportunity for our church not only to reach out to these kids and youth, but also through them to their parents," Page added.
Jacobs shared how he and another worker had the opportunity to share the Gospel with and see a little girl accept Christ in her driveway one evening while being dropped off. "It is good for us and good for them also," he said.
"It's not that we've done anything necessarily different here lately, it's just that God has blessed. His Spirit moved. In the midst of this, our church in general has seen a lot of spiritual growth," Page said.
In November, Pleasant View hosted an "Awakening Weekend" through One Cry, "a movement of believers who are urgently crying out to God to revive the church and transform the culture. It's a movement of like-minded people, churches, and organizations who agree that our nation needs a dramatic turnaround," according to their website.
As a result, the church not only was "spiritually renewed and reinvigorated," said Page, but they began to focus "on training people and encouraging people to have personal quiet times with God."
Page said that the children's ministry has also been focused on teaching the children how to have a quiet time. Additionally, they have concentrated efforts on small groups.
He explained, "These salvations came in the context of their small groups. They all have small group leaders and the younger ones who can't read have leaders who sit down with them and help them learn how to have a quiet time with God. The Gospel was shared in that context.
"Our Wednesday night has really become more of an outreach night for our whole church," Page said, explaining the church's vision to reach their poverty-stricken community.
Page believes the bus ministry is "that open door that we have to reach out to these kids and these youth." (WR)
This article appeared in the Western Recorder (westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Myriah Snyder is a news writer for the Western Recorder.
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 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.