FROM THE STATES: S.C., Ark. and N.M. evangelism/missions news; 'We've got guys paying to come hear the Gospel'
Today's From the States features items from:
Baptist Courier (South Carolina)
Arkansas Baptist News
Baptist New Mexican
S.C. ministry connects
men to Christ in outdoors
By Kathy Vass
COLUMBIA, S.C. (Baptist Courier) -- Patrick Tyndall keeps a flash drive containing photos of men being baptized while wearing their Ironman Outdoors T-shirts.
"I remember the first picture I received from a guy who had been on one of our retreats," Tyndall said. "I thanked him for sending it, and I asked him why he wore that shirt to be baptized in. He told me that's where his relationship with Christ started -- during that weekend in the woods."
Ironman Outdoors Ministries celebrated its 10-year anniversary in April of this year. To date, that weekend in the woods and its manhood discussions have reached about 4,000 men over the age of 18. But the organization really began five years prior, when Tyndall was teaching Sunday school at North Trenholm Baptist Church in Columbia.
"We had a lot of women in the class, but I rarely saw their husbands," Tyndall recalls. "Men of my father's generation were largely in church, but men of my generation and the generation younger than me aren't. They're in a tree stand or at the lake on Sunday. Many of them believe in God, but we needed a way to get them plugged in."
Looking for a way to connect with the men in their church, Tyndall and a few friends who owned boats planned a weekend fishing trip. They were intentional about who would be invited. They wanted it to be more spiritual than simply blessing the food before they ate, so they developed the idea of having a "manhood discussion" to talk about the things that men struggle with, like what it really means to be a godly husband and father.
"Those guys had never experienced something as authentic and real," Tyndall said. "There was no three-point sermon, and we didn't tell stories of our successes; rather, there were stories of our failures. Older men began to caution the younger men not to make the same mistakes they had made by putting work or hunting or other things ahead of their families and not being home with their wives and young children." Guys "took off their camo" and talked about real-life struggles.
Men accepted Christ on those early retreats. Husbands learned how to pray with their wives. Marriages and other relationships were restored. And word of those weekends in the woods with manhood discussions began to spread.
The first Ironman Outdoors board of directors meeting was held at Sticky Fingers restaurant in Columbia, with six men from Tyndall's Sunday school class in attendance. Doors really began to open for the organization when a landowner in Summerton agreed to donate the use of 2,000 acres one weekend each fall for an Ironman Outdoors retreat. The organization today has a network of Christian landowners who donate or lease property in 13 states to stage a total of 40 weekend retreats each year for deer and hog hunts.
The organization's all-volunteer retreat leaders now number 65. Those donating their time and talent to the organization include everyone from contractors to accountants to social media specialists. Donations have included a cabin in Alabama that was repaired and remodeled by volunteers, gas grills, utility vehicles, and trailers for hauling tree stands, food and other retreat supplies.
A contact list of 150 names has grown to more than 7,000 men across the country interested in participating in an Ironman Outdoors retreat, getting involved as a retreat leader, or becoming a donor or sponsor.
For Todd Steen, a businessman and avid outdoorsman from Greenville, Ironman Outdoors retreats are his mission trips. Steen said he knew he wanted to be more involved in the ministry after attending his first retreat in 2008, and he has been leading two to three retreats each year since 2010.
"I had never been around a group of men who so openly, transparently and candidly talked about the things they struggle with," Steen said. "To see a grown man who is broken and in tears take a step of faith and ask Christ into his heart, there's nothing better than that."
With very few ministries designed to reach adult men, Tyndall said Ironman Outdoors will always be laser-focused on reaching men. "We've got guys paying to come hear the Gospel," Tyndall said. "I believe the Holy Spirit is working on them before they come to a retreat, and being in God's great outdoors gets them to really think about spiritual things."
For Tyndall, the photos on that flash drive are a continuing expression of the Ironman Outdoors mission from Proverbs 27:17: "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." But the story of a father and his grown son who attended a retreat a few years back is a stark reminder of why the married father of four continues to devote many weekends each year to this ministry in the woods.
The father, a men's ministry leader from Gaffney, brought his 25-year-old son, who had strayed from the church in young adulthood, to an Ironman retreat. On the drive home after the manhood discussion the night before, the son admitted that he had gotten a long way from God but that he was a Christian who put his faith in God. The son returned to church the two weeks following the retreat.
"Three weeks after the retreat, the pastor of that family's church in Gaffney called to tell me that the young man had been killed in a car accident the previous night," Tyndall said. "The pastor said the young man's father wanted me to know how thankful he was that he and his son had come on that retreat, and that their conversation on the way home made him know that his son is in heaven."
For more information on Ironman Outdoors, a 501c3 nonprofit organization, visit www.ironmanoutdoors.org.
This article appeared in the Baptist Courier (baptistcourier.com), newsjournal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Kathy Vass works for Jackson Marketing Group in Greenville, S.C.
Five languages in
one Ark. Church
By Lisa Falknor
SPRINGDALE, Ark. (Arkansas Baptist News) -- In the book of Revelation, every tribe, nation, language and culture worship God in heaven together. Elmdale Baptist Church in Springdale looks a lot like John's heavenly vision. Five ethnic groups who speak five different languages attend worship there every Sunday: the Karen people group (from Burma), Chuukese (from the Micronesian Islands), Hispanics, Laotians and Caucasians.
Senior Pastor Billy Chidester explained, "Since Jesus prayed in the Lord's Prayer, 'On earth as it is in heaven,' it made sense to me if His will in heaven is that all believers worship together –- no matter the nationality, tribe or language –- we should do the same. That's the community God has put our church in."
Twenty-five Karen members, 30 Chuukese and 45 Laotians meet inside various annex buildings on the church property. Laotian Pastor Max Kongmany, Chuukese Pastor Elvis Rechim and Karen Pastor Sho Lo preach in their native tongues. Chidester pastors Hispanics and 225 Caucasians in the sanctuary. Every Sunday, Chidester's wife, Evangelina, translates via headphones for the 15 Spanish speakers attending services.
Assimilating five people groups on one church property hasn't always been easy. "It's hard enough connecting people of different generations," Chidester said. "We're throwing in another layer of challenges like miscommunication."
But, in this racially tense world, Christian multi-ethnic groups should obey Christ's biblical command, Chidester said. "Jesus said, 'They'll know you are my disciples by your love for one another.'"
Another scriptural model Chidester wants to lead the church to follow is Revelation 7:9-10. It's a picture of people who set aside language, racial and cultural barriers to worship collectively. "The ultimate goal is to bring people to catch the vision: to all meet for worship," Chidester said. "It may be awhile until they're going to see that vision."
He's waiting on God to change hearts. "It will be a long process," he said. "We're just in the beginning stages."
Tom Hodges, 63, leader of the missions committee and an Elmdale church member since 1993, said God put together the Elmdale church family, and God will continue to unite them. "Someday we'll be that church where we have five different languages all worship in one place," he said. "Not everyone has the opportunity to be a church of nations."
"Why is Elmdale going down that road? It's the neighborhood we're in. Start walking around the church. You have a mix of Marshallese, Asians, Hispanic, English. That's our Jerusalem. That's where we're planted."
When neighborhood demographics change, a church has two options, said Jamie Naramore, international church strategist for the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. The church can either move to wherever its own demographics are or, as Elmdale has done, the church can adapt and assimilate the other cultures. Naramore said the state convention created his job position two months ago because of a surge in interest in internationals coming to Arkansas, especially to the central and northwest hub areas.
Naramore has asked Elmdale Baptist Church to host a northwest Arkansas gathering of ministers and lay leaders on Oct. 10 to "help fill in the gap" by taking an informal census of the area. He wants to find out who all of the people groups are, what areas they live in, and how many live among us.
Elmdale church members do know their Jerusalem. The church cancels its Sunday evening services to evangelize door-to-door. They call it "Love Our City Community Outreach." Participants are surprised by the different people groups, Hodges said. "You really see it," he said, speaking of the diversity. "It's an eye-opener for a lot of people."
For more information on how churches can reach internationals, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared in the Arkansas Baptist News (arkansasbaptist.org), newsjournal of the Arkansas Baptist Convention. Lisa Falknor is a northwest regional correspondent for the Arkansas Baptist News.
N.M. church reaches
By Joy Pittman
MAYHILL, N.M. (Baptist New Mexican) -- Members of Mayhill Baptist Church recently participated in a mission outreach project to aid children in Mexico through Crossing Borders Ministries. The church has been involved actively with CBM by supporting two missionaries, Elfie Register and Joan Wilson, for several years. Gathering supplies for the mission outreach project is an annual event for the church.
According to the Crossing Borders Ministries website, Register and Wilson were commissioned in 2001 by First Baptist Church, Fabens, Texas, to serve as North American Mission Board Mission Service Corps missionaries. The two created and operate Crossing the Border ministries through the church. MSC missionaries raise their own support. FBC, Fabens, and other churches support the pair. Together, with partnering churches' support and participation, they "use the gifts of music, teaching, and relationship evangelism to reach out to Christians and non-Christians alike with the love of Jesus Christ." Their work involves efforts on both sides of the Rio Grande.
Crossing Borders Ministries collects and distributes school supplies each year to children in Mexico, one of the most impactful ways it ministers. Without school supplies, parents are often forced to choose which of their children can go to school. Or, they cannot send them at all. In Mexico, without proper school supplies, children are not allowed to go to school.
Mayhill members who attend the Wednesday night prayer meeting and members who serve on the church's missions committee filled 169 bags with school supplies this year. Missions committee members delivered the bags—including 98 bags for grades 1-6 (primaria), 28 bags for grades 7-9 (secundaria) and 43 bags for grades 10-12 (preparatoria) and 169 Spanish New Testament Bibles, provided by an anonymous donor, to the Crossing Borders' headquarters in Faben, Texas. In turn, CBM delivers the bags to pastors from Mexican congregations in Mexico. The actual school supplies and monetary donations were given by Vacation Bible School students, visitors and members of the church.
This article appeared in the Baptist New Mexican, newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico (bcnm.com). Joy Pittman is a ministry/editorial assistant for the Baptist Convention of New Mexico.
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. Except for minor style, formatting and grammatical changes, the items appear in Baptist Press as originally published.