FROM THE STATES: S.C., Texas, Md. evangelism/missions news; '... [F]ree food and car washes ... with absolutely no catch'
Today's From the States features items from:
The Baptist Courier (South Carolina)
Southern Baptist TEXAN
S.C. churches unite
to 'love their city'
By Julia Bell
CHESNEE, S.C. (Baptist Courier) -- Earlier this year, 16 churches from across the Chesnee community participated in creative service projects and outreach opportunities on the first "Love Your City" day. Several revivals occurred in the weeks that followed, and some projects have become ongoing ministries.
Pastor Daniel Godfrey of Arrowwood Baptist Church imagined a ministry day like this over a decade ago after participating in smaller-scale servant evangelism activities. Then last year, while engaging with an evangelism team and other pastors in his association, the city-wide idea became more concrete.
Brandon Lewis, pastor of Piedmont Baptist Church, shared an evangelist's idea to host revivals and community outreach simultaneously. "I believed a number of my Chesnee pastor friends would join forces on an idea like this," he says. They did, including a small group of them who prayed weekly for revival nine months leading up to the event.
Basic data research revealed that there were roughly 15,000 people living in the Chesnee zip code and surrounding areas, and that 12,000 of them were unchurched. The planning team decided to focus efforts on a 10-mile radius of the community. A "Chesnee LYC" Facebook page was created, along with a billboard announcing the event. Postcards were mailed to area homes, provided through a grant from the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
Participating churches planned the ministries they each would provide during Love Your City day. All lay leaders were invited to attend three joint worship and evangelism training services leading up to the project date.
"The pastors were also unified working together on this. The desire to see God work in our community resonated with them," Godfrey says.
On the morning of Love Your City day, 30 participants were positioned around Chesnee holding inspirational signs with messages like "We're praying for you" and "Jesus loves you." In 13 different ministry locations, there were free car washes, a prayer drive-through, a diaper and wipes distribution, free meals, and inflatable play areas for children.
Church members talked about their faith as they interacted in the community. People began responding to the simple acts of service almost immediately.
"Several folks allowed us to pray for them and were overwhelmingly grateful. People were shocked to realize the free food and car washes were given with absolutely no catch," Lewis says.
One young mother heard that Arrowwood Baptist Church was giving out free diapers and wipes and walked from another part of town to get some. At the time, her daughter was wearing the last diaper the young mother had. After hearing about free diapers, another mother came to Arrowwood Baptist the next day to ask for some. Godfrey said this same woman's brothers had prayed to receive Christ at the church's free lunch on Love Your City day, and that Godfrey had prayed for this woman with the brothers.
Nine of the churches planned revival services to coincide with the event. New Vision Baptist Church joined Arrowwood Baptist Church to host services led by a guest evangelist, where 29 people were reported to have made professions of faith. Other churches also reported salvations.
Lewis says he is most excited to see that pastors from across the community are drawing closer together as a result of the event. "We still meet every Wednesday morning at First Baptist, Chesnee, to fellowship and pray for one another. This has helped each of us as pastors, but I think it also helps our respective churches; healthier pastors make for healthier churches," he says.
According to Godfrey, next year's event planning is already underway, and he hopes the idea spreads. "Churches have been asking to be a part of this going forward, including other denominations," Godfrey says.
This article appeared in the Baptist Courier, newsmagazine of the South Carlina Baptist Convention. Julia Bell writes for the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
Texas congregation brings
hope to violent region in Mexico
By Jane Rodgers
EL PASO, Texas (Southern Baptist TEXAN) -- "When we arrived, several vehicles surrounded us and lowered the windows, [the men inside] displaying their firearms," Zulma Molina said, describing the greeting her group received this July at the village of Huajumar, nestled in the Sierra Tarahumara mountain range of Chihuahua, Mexico, a region plagued by drug violence.
Molina led 36 volunteers from Ministerios de Compasion El Paso, an organization associated with El Paso's Immanuel Baptist Church, to the village of Huajumar July 23-31 to repair a church known locally as the "abandoned church." They also brought Vacation Bible School to Huajumar and Yepáchic, a village an hour's drive northwest.
Both villages have fewer than 1,000 residents, Molina said, adding that the area contains many illegal landing strips and is controlled by the drug cartel.
"The main businesses are the drug plantation and trafficking," she said.
The mountains are "heavily patrolled by hit men," Molina added. Police and army avoid the region, with its narrow, ill-maintained, single-lane roads.
The area has a history of both Christianity and violence.
"Years ago, when the [drug] violence was at its worst, the church in Huajumar was abandoned by pastors and missionaries," Molina explained. "On the other hand, Yepáchic has an established little church, but people are terrified since the violence continues and killings happen on a daily basis."
Even getting to the remote villages proved a harrowing experience involving flat tires, burned out brakes and vehicles stuck in mud. About 30 minutes from their destination, a trailer axle broke, stranding part of the group in the mountainous woods.
"It was about 7 p.m. and dark clouds were gathering in the sky. We realized the real danger we were in. We could hear the noises of wild animals; phones did not work; and we only had a couple of flashlights, light jackets and a blanket," Molina recalled.
"Our only hope was in the Lord, so we prayed and sang praises. Right there in the middle of nowhere, we lifted up our voices to praise God. Suddenly, a flash of light filled the sky and … hit the ground right next to us. We felt the ground tremble."
After three hours in the woods, help arrived and the group entered Huajumar late that evening, greeted by machine guns as they unloaded vehicles and entered the mold-ridden, leaky, foul-smelling church.
"We could feel a very dark presence," Molina said. "Although no one said anything, we all knew we were stepping into the enemy's territory and war was declared." The night was spent in some measure of unease and doubt, Molina admitted.
"In the morning, the Lord renewed our spirits, and we got up ready to work. People looked at us with curiosity. … Little by little the church was filled with light," as the group labored to scrub mold and repair the structure that Sunday, even holding a small celebratory service before preparing to start VBS the next day in Yepáchic, despite warnings of violence there.
"We were told that it was not a good idea to visit there because the previous day [the cartel] had killed 23 people. But we could not cancel VBS in Yepáchic," Molina said. "The local church invited the community, and children were waiting for us. So a group of brave warriors went to Yepáchic early Monday to conduct VBS," while others remained in Huajumar to continue work on the church and to do door-to-door evangelism. The group also held VBS in the afternoons and church services in the evenings at Huajumar.
The danger was ever-present, but God was glorified.
"While all of this happened, we had what we called 'personal security.' Everywhere we went, armed men were watching us," Molina said. By week's end, "we were exhausted but our spirit was filled with joy to see the abandoned church in Huajumar being transformed. More children and adults came to hear the Word of God. The last day, the church was packed, and it was beautiful to hear loud voices singing praises to the creator of the universe."
Members from a church in Juarez, Mexico, accompanied the group from Immanuel Baptist to Huajumar and Yepáchic, Immanuel associate pastor J.C. Rico said.
Mission trips to Mexico have become a mainstay of Immanuel Baptist. In July, some 33 members also trekked through the Sonoran desert on the church's second annual family mission trip to Peñasco, Mexico, a coastal city of about 100,000, at the request of a local church to conduct Vacation Bible School.
Immanuel's involvement with the Peñasco church began when Rico was on vacation, attending a family wedding in the city in 2014. Rico had spotted the church on his way into town and decided to attend that Sunday. The pastor spoke on service and mission, ideas that Rico had been considering for Immanuel as well.
Rico introduced himself to the pastor's wife and inquired about mission opportunities in Peñasco.
"We need help with VBS!" she exclaimed. "We have 200 kids and not enough workers."
The following July, more than 30 volunteers from seven Immanuel families spent summer vacation in Peñasco, helping with VBS in the mornings and enjoying time in the city or at the beach in the afternoons.
In 2016, families from Immanuel led the VBS in Peñasco using LifeWay curriculum, Rico said.
"After 1:30 p.m. each day, we were free to go back to the hotel, eat, have family time," Rico added, calling the family aspect of the mission trip "just as important" as the VBS.
Evangelistic opportunities came during down times, too. Last year, Rico presented the Gospel to a local youth as the boy braided a souvenir bracelet for the pastor. The young man, Rogelio, prayed to receive Christ. "I got sunburned standing there, but it was worth it," Rico laughed.
This year, Rico's wife led a local woman named Elena to Christ while the lady braided the hair of Rico's daughter. Removing sunglasses to reveal two black eyes inflicted by an abusive husband, Elena shared her story with the Ricos, who ministered to her.
A third Immanuel family mission trip to Peñasco is scheduled for July 2017.
This article appeared in the Southern Baptist TEXAN (texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Jane Rodgers is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN.
Md. churches support their
communities through local schools
By Sharon Mager
MARYLAND (BaptistLIFE) -- In an effort to build relationships and be engaged in their communities, Mid-Atlantic Network Baptist churches are loving their local schools, stepping up to provide needed volunteers, hosting fundraisers and providing encouragement to teachers and staff. This is just a small sample of what churches are doing in partnership with their local schools.
Sonrise Church in Berlin, Md., uses the sale of tacos each year to raise between $7,000 to $8,000 for Stephen Decatur High School. The church has "$1 Taco Night" at the school, and it's so successful the church doesn't have to promote it, says Darryl McCready, pastor of SonRise. The school puts it on their electronic sign, and thousands of people show up making four food lines around the cafeteria.
"It's a massive event," said McCready. About 150 volunteers cook up 800-900 pounds of meat to make the tacos. They also prepare and sell desserts and sno-cones.
SonRise meets at the school, but the rent they pay goes to the school board, McCready said. The funds from the "$1 Taco Night" go directly to the school and the principal uses it for a slush fund that provides non-budgeted school supplies for the teachers.
"The school appreciates it," McCready said.
SonRise Church's partnership with Stephen Decatur High School as well as other local schools began with McCready and nine other local pastors from various denominations, who meet regularly together, approached the local school superintendent and asked, "How can we help you?"
The superintendent was amazed at the request, but responded that schools needed mentors. McCready and the others went to work and provided volunteers above and beyond what was requested.
In addition to the "$1 Taco Nights," Sonrise provides "back-to-school" lunches for teachers with homemade food and gifts, barbecue picnics for seniors, backpacks, food for 60-70 children a week, multiple block parties a year, a huge community harvest fair, and other events working in partnership with the schools.
In Western Maryland, Grace Baptist Church, Cumberland, serves free monthly dinners to the community. Twice a year, the church partners with a local school to have the dinner in the school cafeteria. Church members provide, prepare and serve the food and the school promotes it to staff, students and families. The community is also invited to attend.
Now, some of the school staff and even some families from the school, show up at the church to help with the dinners throughout the year.
"Dressed in Love," a ministry birthed out of Ashton Baptist Church, and led by Jennifer Williams, provides free dresses for girls attending prom and homecoming dances. Individuals and other churches donate the dresses to the ministry.
Williams gets the word out to the schools, and many young women respond.
"The moms know the amount they would have to pay for their daughters to go to the prom, or the homecoming dances," Williams said. They're very thankful and sometimes emotional.
Williams also meets with girls who are living with foster care families and they arrive with their social workers.
In addition to the dresses, girls are invited back the day of the prom or homecoming dance for makeup and manicures.
Summit Trace Church, Frederick, provides an appreciation lunch for teachers the week that school begins.
"We provide all the food, and we play hostess," Summit Trace Pastor Pastor Dan Housam said.
The church also brings muffins and thank you cards to teachers on the first day of school, and at Christmas they take cookies to the school.
In addition, the church hosts a chili cookoff event for one school, with face painting and a moonbounce.
Joe Giles, pastor of student ministry, First Baptist Church of Easton, discovered a unique need at a local school. They needed someone to sweep floors and clean up after basketball games. "I can do that!" Giles told them. And he did. That simple, humble gesture brought some fabulous opportunities to engage the community. Giles has since built relationships with the school staff and with students and their families.
The church is now hosting block parties in partnership with the school, and they're even leading Bible study for some of the students.
"God is just opening the doors and moving on the heart of our people," Giles said.
Bethel Baptist Church, Ellicott City, has been building a relationship with a local elementary school. Church members have given coffee to parents dropping children off at school, invited the third grade children to present a musical program to the church's seniors group, and the church has given backpacks with non-perishable food for kids in need. The school is also helping with a food drive to help the church provide for the needy.
This article appeared in BaptistLIFE (baptistlifeonline.org), newsjournal of the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network. Sharon Mager is a correspondent for the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network.
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.