FROM THE STATES: Mo., Okla., Texas evangelism/missions news; '... [A]n amazing encounter with God ...'
Today's From the States features items from:
The Pathway (Missouri)
The Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma)
Southern Baptist TEXAN
Mo. youth make an impact
through Global Encounter
By Kayla Rinker
ST. LOUIS (The Pathway) -- Before their week with Global Encounter Ministries, Brett Blair spent months in prayer for revival to come to his student ministry.
"We didn't know exactly what we had been praying for but we could identify underlying spiritual warfare," said Blair, associate pastor of students and families at Faith Baptist Church in Festus. "We felt like there were some strongholds in their lives holding them back from turning our student ministry from not just a string of fun events, but opportunities to share Christ with their friends."
But even Blair was not prepared for how God would use Global Encounter to break down those strongholds and change the hearts of his students.
"Revival started last week," he said. "It's hard to articulate how my students became the hands and feet of Jesus, but they did. It was amazing to witness the things they did and their attitudes perpetuated by their hearts being in the right place. I took 16 students and each of them had an amazing encounter with God that caused them to truly yield their heart to Him."
The youth group at Faith Baptist Church was one of 25 youth groups that included 550 youth across the Midwest who participated in Global Encounter in St. Louis July 8-15.
Global Encounter exists to partner and help equip the local church, particularly the next generation, to effectively and biblically take the Gospel around the world. During the week, participants are trained and equipped in evangelism and are encouraged and given opportunities to serve churches that are working to reach their communities for Christ. St. Louis teams helped with Vacation Bible School, Backyard Bible Clubs and block parties.
Matt Kearns, the Making Disciples Catalyst for the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), has a longstanding relationship with Global Encounter that goes back to its beginning days 25 years ago. He said he would like to see more Missouri Baptist youth groups take advantage of the unique experience Global Encounter provides in the discipleship of students for kingdom work.
"From its inception, Global Encounter has provided entry level mission experience that marries together training, equipping and mobilizing students and leaders," Kearns said. "The fact is that it's easier for students to get away from their normal surroundings and do missions, but the ultimate purpose is that when they are armed with the knowledge and experience Global Encounter provides, it will translate to their real mission field: their neighborhood, their friends at school, their sphere of influence."
Blair said their time in St. Louis was also rewarding as a youth pastor. Not only did the Global Encounter team encourage him in youth ministry, they reinforced the message he had been trying to get to his students.
"The intentional investment they provide stretched my youth of their comfort zone in a wonderful way," he said. "Sometimes you can take your youth to a weekend retreat or camp setting and it will either undermine or accelerate what you're trying to do at home. I definitely felt the love they have for youth pastors and their families. They communicated well that they want to help us be the best youth ministers we can be and I genuinely appreciate that."
For more information about Global Encounter Ministries visit their website, globalencounter.org or call 417. 883.2068.?
This article appeared in the Illinois Baptist (ibsa.org/illinoisbaptist), newsjournal of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Kayla Rinker is a reporter living in southwest Missouri.
Okla. chaplain fulfills
God's calling in Canada
By Bob Nigh
FORT MCMURRAY, Alberta, Canada (The Baptist Messenger) -- Attention, Walmart shoppers! Chaplains are available on aisle three!
Well, that wasn't exactly the announcement shoppers at the Walmart in this wildfire-devastated city in the far northern reaches of Alberta heard a few weeks ago, but the open arms, hearts and just as important -- listening and empathetic ears -- of chaplains from Oklahoma roamed the aisles of the store for a few days recently.
And one with a familiar name -- a name sure to bring a smile to just about anyone's face -- was among them: Charlie Brown.
No, not that Charlie Brown! Not the lovable loser of "Peanuts" fame created by cartoonist Charles M. Schulz.
Tulsa native Charzetta Brown, who admitted she shared some of her namesake's characteristics of being nervous and lacking self-confidence when she traveled to Canada.
"It was a good experience for me to go," said Brown, who got her nickname from classmates in school. "But, it was my very first call out as a chaplain," she added quietly, "and it really helped me ...," her voice fading into silence.
That's the way it often is with those who make themselves available for service to God. They volunteer to help heal the wounds of others and find their own wounds bound up by the experience. Satan hates a servant heart, and most often creates a wall of impediments to keep a willing heart from following through on a commitment.
And the obstacle course he put in front of Brown, a member of Tulsa, New Joy Fellowship, seemed impassable. But, she remained faithful to her commitment to go, in spite of the fact that just before she was scheduled to leave for Canada, her mother passed away, and her home had a water leak under the floors.
"The Canada trip was coming up, and so it (The trip) was something I really needed," Brown related. "Going to a place where others were experiencing loss; not knowing exactly how I would handle that, but just the thought of taking my mind off of my circumstance and focusing on others. There's a healing process in doing that.
"Then, when I was sitting in the bus at the border waiting to get through, I got a call that my brother had died of a heart attack. I decided right then that I would just stay on the bus and turn around and go back home. But, then, I thought, No, the Lord knew these things were about to happen, and yet He sent me. So, I went ahead, because I believed there was something there for me, even though there were all of these unknowns because I had never served as a chaplain before.
"To begin with, I knew no one in our group, other than (Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma Chaplaincy Specialist) Don Williams, who I had seen at chaplaincy classes, but didn't really know well personally. So, I stepped out on faith, and we got to the welcome center, got our instructions, and I just felt like that was what I was supposed to do -- help people as they came in, listen to them talk, and give them a helping hand with whatever they needed to pick up, such as clothing or water.
"It gave me the opportunity as I was walking out to their car with them to see how they felt and to know where they were emotionally and spiritually. A lot of them were so positive in the face of losing everything, and that was helping me get through my losses, too. I knew then, that, with the Lord's help, I will make it."
The chaplains at first accompanied ash out teams cleaning home sites, but that didn't last long.
"When we went to a site with the team, I asked for the Lord to help me," admitted Brown, who has worked as secretary/registrar at Tulsa MET Jr. High & High School for 15 years. "I asked Him to open my eyes, my ears, and my heart to see and feel whatever it was I needed to do.
"To be able to see the need, to hear, to have it in my heart to know what to say and then when it comes to praying -- even though the homeowners had charts of their home site of where there might be valuables in the ashes, I always asked the Lord for the treasures of their heart to be found. Things that they didn't think of.
"We did find such things, and I always thanked the Lord when that happened. It was a tremendous blessing to them and to me, too!"
When the ash out opportunities ceased, Williams had to get creative.
"We said, 'God called us here, what is He calling us to do?'" he said. "So, I thought, where are people going to be? All of their belongings are gone. People had to get food and other stuff, so they had to go to Walmart.
"The chaplains were very skeptical when I dropped them off -- I had other things to do -- but they made connections with security and the clerks and other people, listened to their stories and prayed with people."
"I was excited when we got to go to Walmart because, first, I needed some things, too, and that worked into a way for us to share with people," Brown added. "When I go to the store, I'm usually focused on what I need to get, and I thought that would be the way those people would be, too.
"I wasn't too sure how us being there would work, because Don told us to just start talking to people. I said, OK, Lord, You're going to have to help me with this. As far as casual conversation, I'm a quiet person. I don't talk much. I heard the other chaplains, and they were just getting after it, but I said, 'Lord, are You sure I'm supposed to be a chaplain because I don't talk like this?'
"I know chaplaincy is a ministry of presence, and I can sit and observe. I sit and watch; that's how I learned all of my life. Observing how others do things. But, I had some great experiences at Walmart.
"I was looking at spray air fresheners, and a lady came in and grabbed a can. Turns out her house had burned down. I asked how this one freshener smelled, and she sprayed a little. We got to grabbing other scents and spraying a little in the air and running under the mist and laughing together and having a great time.
"She said, it was so nice to find someone like me. We visited for a while, and I waited for the chance to share my faith with her."
Williams said Brown is a great example of a faithful chaplain-servant.
"That's the way it is with any disaster. We always tell the chaplains, it's never convenient to respond to a disaster. If you are led to respond, that means God is calling you to respond. That's the kind of volunteers we have; Charlie used all of her annual leave to minister to people in Canada she doesn't know through all of that stuff that was thrown at her in her life."
Still, Brown had concerns for her home while she was away.
"I was worried about it all the time I was gone, but I trusted in the Lord, and when I got back, I could feel some bumps in the floor, but a plumber had fixed the clog, and there was no major damage," she said. "I had my mother's funeral service just before I left. They had my brother's service while I was away. But, you know what makes it OK? They were children of God."
While Canada was Brown's first call-out as a disaster relief chaplain, she is a seasoned mud-out volunteer, with extensive work in Oklahoma last year through the summer months; not bad for a first-year volunteer.
She also is trained in feeding, chain saw, skid steer, inventory, and child care and is a member of the BGCO's Medical Reserve Corps.
"I don't want to be limited," she said, humbly. "I don't want to be asked to do something and have to say, I'm not trained to do that."
This article appeared in The Baptist Messenger (baptistmessenger.com), newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Bob Nigh is managing editor of The Baptist Messenger.
Despite language and distance,
Texas church looks like heaven
By Bonnie Pritchett
HOUSTON (Southern Baptist TEXAN) -- Within the increasingly diverse congregation that makes up Champion Forest Baptist Church is a family that could be the poster children for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention's annual "Look Like Heaven" emphasis. The Orellana family represents three continents, four languages and one Lord.
Ivan Orellana, a native of El Salvador is the worship leader for the CFBC Spanish-language services. His wife Samiko is from Japan. Their daughters Micha, 6, and Aska, 4, are Texas born and bred. The girls are homeschooled in English. Afternoons are for conversations in Japanese. Talks with Dad in the evenings are in Spanish with a little Portuguese mixed in for good measure.
"The Orellana family is representative of our church and community; we live in a multicultural world," pastor David Fleming told the TEXAN. "They are an example of how we can achieve unity in the midst of diversity, when it's family. We are the family of God."
Each year the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention promotes "Looks Like Heaven," encouraging churches once a year to combine worship services with a church of a different culture, race or language.
"It starts with the spiritual realization of the unity that comes through the Holy Spirit," said Fleming.
On any given Sunday at CFBC one can hear English, Spanish, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Farsi and Japanese. For the hearing impaired, there is American Sign Language. Of course more languages are likely represented since Houston is one of the nation's most international cities.
But 10 years ago, CFBC was predominantly white and English-speaking.
"We could have stayed a wealthy, white church … and declining," said Brent Dyer, lead worship pastor for the English-language services.
Dyer said a desire to "reach the people who live in the shadow of the steeple" sent CFBC out into their neighborhoods to draw in new believers regardless of their race, culture or language. And then those people began bringing their friends and families.
The largest growth has been in the Spanish-speaking members. On any given Sunday, 7,000 people worship on three campuses in 16 distinct yet similar worship services. About 2,000 of those attend the three Spanish-language worship services on two of the three CFBC campuses.
But the Spanish-speaking population is not monolithic; there are distinctions of dialect and semantics to interpret. Orellana has learned to negotiate the nuances. Growing up in El Salvador, Spanish is his first language. But as he learned to master a second and arguably more universal language -- music -- his ministry took him to Portugal, Guatemala, El Salvador and Spain between 2002 and 2005 before landing in Houston.
His first experience in an English-speaking church left him feeling lost during the preaching. But when the music started all that changed.
"It's not easy when you are in the process of learning a language because sometimes it makes it harder to connect with the others," Orellana said. "So what we try to do is create a place where people can feel like they are part of it without being able to speak the language fluently."
As CFBC grew so did its complexion, its voices. The church began to reflect the community in which it was planted. And the new people brought more people like themselves. Fleming knew continuity between the pastors was crucial for them to be one church and one family rather than a loosely affiliated church in name only.
"CFBC is very intentional about maintaining unity, and it starts by having unity among the staff," Orellana said. "It's not just about the worship services but how we Spanish speakers and English speakers work together as one church in different ministries."
If all the church members couldn't be in the same worship service at the same time, they could at least be on the same page. During weekly meetings, CFBC pastors and worship leaders review the next Sunday's sermon. There will be 16 sermons, all same yet different.
Each pastor teaches from the same verses, so each member of CFBC, regardless of age or language, will hear the same passage taught. They are currently teaching through the Old Testament.
Dyer said from the weekly discussions a "big idea" emerges that will shape each sermon and worship service. The "big idea" may present itself differently in each service, but it creates unity among the people separated by time and distance.
Fleming said the goal is uniformity without denying individuality.
"They're not all preaching my sermon," Fleming said.
Continuity flows from familiarity. And while a church member can go from campus to campus or children's worship service to the adult service and hear the same Bible passage taught, a sense of unity is strengthened as the pastors reinforce the notion that they shepherd the whole church, not just one segment. To that end they regularly take turns filling the pulpits on each of the three campuses.
Dyer and Orellana develop worship services through the filter of the "big idea" going so far as to create a familiar musical genre that flows from service to service. Songs are translated from English to Spanish or vice versa.
Cultural differences, even more than language, affect the dynamics of how a musical selection is interpreted, Dyer said. The worship team tries to make the differences as minimal as possible while allowing for cultural expressions in the context of any congregation. Just as in the creation of 16 sermons on the same passage, worship cannot be forced or generic.
All of that comes into play when the church -- the whole church -- gathers for a joint worship service each year on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year. What may appear to some as barriers, the CFBC worship and pastoral teams see it as expressions of the body of Christ.
"It's a concerted effort all year," Fleming said. "It wouldn't work one service a year if we weren't doing it all year long."
This article appeared in the Southern Baptist TEXAN (texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Bonnie Pritchett is a correspondent for the TEXAN.
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.