FROM THE STATES: Calif., Ark., Fla. evangelism/missions news; 'When churches give, God yields a harvest'
Today's From the States features items from:
California Southern Baptist
Arkansas Baptist News
Florida Baptist Witness
Calif. church plant
"meets people where they are"
By Margaret Colson
OAKLAND, Calif. (California Southern Baptist) -- As a college student, Michael was a resilient critic of the church, and he had a distorted view of Jesus Christ. When he found the woman he wanted to marry, however, he contacted one of his former college friends, asking the young church-planting pastor to officiate the wedding ceremony.
That pastor, Darnell Hammock, who planted New Life Community Church in Oakland, agreed, with one condition — that the couple go through premarital counseling with him.
"For eight weeks I met with the couple. I shared Christ with them and highlighted the teachings of the Bible concerning marriage. During this time, I began to symbolically see a lightbulb turn on for Michael. He began to see God's love for him and understood that the love of Christ was unconditional," Hammock explained.
Michael made a profession of faith, and today he serves as men's ministry leader at the church launched by his college friend.
"We meet people where they are," Hammock declared.
"As we penetrate the darkness, we're talking about so many people's lives being changed and souls being saved and our community being strengthened."
The church began in January 2013 with 17 people and today has an average attendance of 130. Approximately 150 have made professions of faith in Christ, and about 90 have been baptized. On Easter Sunday this year, New Life, meeting in a Masonic center, had the highest attendance since its start: 383 people.
"The beauty of New Life is that, on any given Sunday, a young professional can be in a new members' class or worshiping on the same row with a formerly incarcerated brother or sister. This is a testament to the unifying impact of the Gospel of Jesus Christ," Hammock said.
North American Mission Board church planting catalyst Linda Bergquist has experienced that unity.
"Whenever I walk in the door at New Life, every single person there hugs me. You go there, and you know you are cared for," she said.
New Life is one of about 120 congregations planted annually by California Southern Baptist Convention. The effort is supported by 11 church planting catalysts, like Bergquist, throughout the state, said Anthony Ahaev, leader of the California Southern Baptist Convention church starting group. The new congregations are strategically launched in communities that do not have an established California Baptist witness, and they are supported through financial gifts to the California Mission Offering.
Because new church plants often have "great, unorthodox plans on reaching the lost in their communities" but may "lack the resources to execute their plans," Hammock said, the support offered through CSBC "has been refreshing. To know that you have people praying for you and who are available is pivotal, especially for a new church plant."
"The assistance with resources, training and pastoral support has proven to be a great asset to our ministry."
New Life was intentionally launched "to build a strong church culture where our members love God, love people, and are positioning ourselves financially and structurally to give birth to and support future church plants," Hammock said.
Already the young congregation is helping two other church plants: Fresh Start Church in Vallejo and one just getting off the ground in Grand Prairie, Texas. Hammock coaches the church planters; New Life members pray for the church plants; and the young congregation shares resources. Hammock's wife, Lady Jenn, also reaches out to other church planters' wives, offering encouragement and understanding.
Bergquist believes such a giving spirit, exemplified by Hammock and his wife, is a key to New Life's growth.
Recalling that a mentor once taught her that "both corporately and individually, it's more blessed to give than to receive," Bergquist said, "When churches give, God yields a harvest."
While all church plants experience both challenges and victories, Hammock turns his focus to the victories.
"In a short amount of time, we have established ourselves as stakeholders in the uplifting and enriching of individual lives and communities within the Bay Area," Hammock said.
Still, there is more to be done.
"I want to see more souls saved, more lives changed. That's what we're here to do."
This article appeared in the California Southern Baptist (http://www.csbc.com/news), newsjournal of the California Southern Baptist Convention. Margaret Colson is a writer in Marietta, Ga., and executive director of Baptist Communicators Association.
Ark. church sees 218 saved
on mission to Neb., Wyo.
By Margaret Colson
TERRYTOWN, Neb. (Arkansas Baptist News) -- He told the visitors from Arkansas that doctors had only given him a year to live.
There, at a public park in Terrytown, Neb., Michael, as they later learned his name, revealed to them what appeared to be a tumor on his abdomen. Several of the Arkansans -- mission volunteers from First Baptist Church in Beebe -- shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ with him as they hosted a block party at the park. Michael said he wasn't ready to make a decision.
Later, Bob Hall, pastor of the Beebe church, preached the good news to the crowd. As the pastor was saying, "If anyone here would like to invite Jesus into your heart …" he heard audible cries and then a shout coming from Michael, "Would someone please show me how right now?"
One of the Arkansas volunteers led Michael to make a profession of faith. Michael, along with 82 other people, "prayed to receive Jesus that night," said Hall.
This summer, on the church's third annual mission trip to Terrytown, Neb., which also included one evening in Torrington, Wyo., 218 people made professions of faith.
"God is definitely on the move in western Nebraska and eastern Wyoming," said Hall.
While on a mission trip with Calvary Baptist Association to Scottsbluff, Neb., in 2013, the pastor was first introduced to Terrytown, a town of about 1,600 with no church.
"As I was going door-to-door in evangelistic visitation, God spoke to my heart about Beebe First Baptist Church starting a church there," said Hall.
Returning home, he asked his church to pray. "After about three months, our church voted to take this on as a mission opportunity."
In 2014, the church's first mission trip to Terrytown, volunteers led vacation Bible school (VBS) in the mornings and held three block parties in the evening.
During the block parties, attendees registered for door prizes. When registering, they were asked to take a short survey, with the final question asking if they had ever professed faith in Jesus Christ. If not, counselors were available to share the gospel message. Also during the block party, volunteers circulated through the crowds to "visit with people and witness to people," said C.W. Blood, a vocational evangelist and member of First Baptist, Beebe.
During the church's first mission trip to Terrytown, 52 people made professions of faith.
In 2015, First Baptist returned to Terrytown for a second year of VBS and block parties. That year, 96 people made professions of faith.
"Volunteers went back to Terrytown this summer, and God expanded our mission," said Hall. The 31-member team worked with Beautiful Temple Baptist Church, a Spanish-speaking congregation less than a year old in Scottsbluff, Neb., leading VBS, hosting a block party and also offering a mini Celebrate Recovery training session.
While there, volunteers discovered that Beautiful Temple Baptist Church had "a vision to start a church in Torrington, Wyoming," said Hall. So, one evening during the week, the Arkansas Baptists traveled to Wyoming to host a block party. Thirty-four people made professions of faith at the block party.
After meeting a church planter in Wyoming and also learning that a missions-minded church there wants to plant a church, Hall said, "I will not be surprised if there is not a church started there by the end of this year." A building has already been donated for the church plant.
Such experiences invigorate Blood and the other volunteers involved. In a Facebook post on his way home from Nebraska this year, Blood wrote: "As I sit on the bus traveling back, I can't help but think about the 218 souls saved. I think about the eternities and lives changed."
He wrote that it's time for churches to stop saying that non-Christians should come to them but rather say, "'We are the church; we are coming to you.' What if we went out every day and made every day of life a mission trip?"
This article appeared in the Arkansas Baptist News (arkansasbaptist.org), newsjournal of the Arkansas Baptist Convention. Margaret Colson is a writer in Marietta, Ga., and executive director of Baptist Communicators Association.
Orphan's Heart, Florida Baptists making
huge impact in the Dominican Republic
BY Keila Diaz
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC (Florida Baptist Witness) -- There is a valley in the southwestern part of the Dominican Republic called El Carrizal, where most children and their families live in homes with dirt floors and tin roofs in spaces no bigger than the size of an average master bedroom in an American home.
But Orphan's Heart -- the international arm of Florida Baptist Children's Homes -- has been partnering with the Dominican Republic's government and several Florida Baptist churches to bring change to the impoverished region.
The effort started in 2013, after Orphan's Heart had built a presence in the country by working with children, churches, schools and other organizations that help children. Through those relationships, says Jerry Haag, president of Florida Baptist Children's Homes, the name Orphan's Heart reached the ears of the country's president, Danilo Medina.
Haag says that Medina met with him personally and even showed him the area of El Carrizal that he identified as one of the most impoverished areas in the country.
It was then that the Florida Baptist Children's Homes decided to undertake the project of building 100 homes. Florida Baptist churches have been generous with their time and other resources in helping to make the project happen. Land for the project was made available by the government, and eligibility requirements were decided by the government in partnership with Orphan's Heart and its local partner church.
And in the midst of these 100 planned homes is a community transformation center that, among other things, is serving as a church that ministers to the spiritual lives of the children and their families, said Haag.
The pastor who is leading this church plant is Jose De Oleo, and he was sent from Orphan's Heart partner church Iglesia Fundamento Biblico, pastored by Miguel Angel Castillo.
Cesar Chahin, director of international childcare for Orphan's Heart, says that the work being done is threefold.
"We are building homes, we are building relationships, and we are building the Kingdom of God," he said.
While the homes are being built, Orphan's Heart also has been helping the children through a sponsorship program launched in January that allows a child to receive much-needed educational, nutritional and spiritual support for a donation of $35 a month in their name to Orphan's Heart.
Fourteen children are currently being sponsored through the program, and a total of 62 are in need of a sponsor, according to the Orphan's Heart website.
With the help of mission teams from several Florida Baptist churches, Orphan's Heart has been able to complete 50 of the 100 homes, which are just waiting on electricity and water to be turned on in order for families to begin moving in.
The homes are set in blocks of 15, and families will be moved in block by block, says Chahin. That way, the Orphan's Heart team that is working with Chahin can help the first few adjust and then have those families help the next block of families, and so on and so forth until all the homes are occupied.
There are another 50 houses -- the cost of each estimated at $12,500 -- yet to be built and more lives to be saved. Ron Gunter, Orphan's Heart chief operating officer, says that about $500,000 is still needed to complete the project.
"Most of these families are coming from extreme poverty to a home with walls, rooms, gas cooking stoves, plumbing and electricity," said Gunter, and they need someone to show them what to do.
He adds that there is a contract for families to sign, where they agree not to run a business out of the home, rent out the home, or have people who are not family live in the home, among other things.
However, the homes are what Chahin calls a generational project, meaning that the parents will be able to pass on the homes to their children, and the children to their children and so on.
Some of the people who will be moving into the homes are local men who have worked on building the homes, have children and also live in need.
Chahin says that these men have been assigned a house in every block and hired as maintenance men for the homes in their block.
"They worked on these homes and they know [them] better than anyone, so who better to fix something when it breaks?" Chahin asked rhetorically.
Dulce Diaz also will be benefiting from one of the new homes, said Chahin. She lived with and cared for her grandson until their house went up in flames, says Chahin.
A family who was in no better condition offered Diaz and her grandson a place to stay after the tragedy struck.
Now each of those families will be living side by side in two new homes.
In addition to the homes, there is the community transformation center, which opened in November 2014. It is equipped with a sanctuary, classrooms, a kitchen and bathrooms. The entire building is 122 feet long and 30 feet wide and sits in the middle of the development.
The kitchen soon will be equipped to start a feeding program for the children in the community, and in the future Gunter says Orphan's Heart in partnership with local professionals plan to host training for everything from sewing to electricity in order to help the future inhabitants of the homes pick up a trade and be able to provide for their families.
In addition to building homes, the mission teams from Florida Baptist churches also work in the afternoons with the children at the community transformation center in a Sunday school-type program. This is the relationship-building and Kingdombuilding aspect of the project. Chahin believes that the good that will be done within this new 100-home community will spill out in to the surrounding communities, and that way the Gospel can reach even further.
While the project has been in progress, Orphan's Heart has:
-- Partnered with medical professionals and local schools to impact the children and the community in the name of Jesus and;
-- Scheduled quarterly medical mission trips while local medical professionals provide follow-up and continuity of care. Orphan's Heart is currently developing:
-- A sports ministry that includes baseball, volleyball, basketball and soccer while partnering with schools and medical professionals to require participants to be current medically and have grades of a C average or better in order to compete and;
-- A tutoring program for those students who need it.
Pastor Ronny Raines of First Baptist Church of Bradfordville says that his mission teams have ministered to approximately 200 children.
His church has been involved in the project for about two years and is getting ready to send a fifth missions team there in less than a month.
"It's a holistic ministry," he says of the project. "We're excited to build homes, but we're also excited about sharing the Gospel with the children and their families."
Colleen Anderson, ministry assistant at Calvary Church in Clearwater, has been to the Dominican Republic to help with this project five times.
Calvary mission teams have been involved in the project since its beginning, and they have seen everything from the laying of the homes' foundations to the dedication of the homes, one of which was built in memory of former First Baptist Church of Lake City Pastor Robert Davis.
The church also funded the re-construction of a baseball field that sits behind the community transformation center and sent gifts that went toward the construction of the center.
Amber Sheffield, a missionary from Hillcrest Baptist Church in Pensacola, says that the most exciting part of working with the El Carrizal community is seeing the locals accept Jesus and begin to share the Gospel with their peers.
Raines says this is a mission project that churches of any size can participate in. One way he suggests doing so is by partnering with other churches to make the trip and/or send gifts.
"Never let finances or number people discourage your church from doing missions," he said.
This article appeared in the Florida Baptist Witness (gofbw.com), newsjournal of the Florida Baptist Convention. Keila Diaz is a reporter for the Florida Baptist Witness.
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.