FROM THE STATES: Ala., Mo. and Ark. evangelism/missions news; '... [L]ove 'em like crazy and build strong relationships'

Today's From the States features items from:

The Alabama Baptist

The Pathway (Missouri)

Arkansas Baptist News

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Ala. church hosts, mentors

Ukrainian youth pastors

By Sammie Jo Barstow

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (The Alabama Baptist) -- "Y'all" and "Roll Tide" were not familiar words to the 10 Ukrainian youth pastors and leaders who came to Tuscaloosa in August -- but they learned quickly.

During their two-week visit, they came to appreciate Southern food, especially barbecued ribs and chicken casserole. They appreciated their host families and the local youth pastors who made their visit so beneficial.

Lasting impressions

But most importantly, they carried home some lasting impressions that will enable them to improve their outreach and ministry to young people in their churches and communities.

It's part of a partnership that's been going on for nearly 20 years.

In 1999, Rosalind and Jim Holloman and several other members of First Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, traveled to Ukraine's Odessa Oblast (province) on a short-term mission trip. While there they met faithful Christians, including 12-year-old Slavik Rimskyi.

In the years that followed, the Hollomans made numerous trips back to minister to Rimskyi's church, and in turn he visited Tuscaloosa several times. He used those visits to enhance his leadership and teaching skills.

While visiting Tuscaloosa with his wife Sasha two years ago, Rimskyi revealed an idea that God had given him about bringing other youth ministers to the U.S. for training. He and the Hollomans began to envision how far-reaching the results could be for the young people of Ukraine.

But, as Rimskyi said, "there were many giants in the way." Obtaining visas was a challenge but Alabama Congressman Robert Aderholt wrote letters to the U.S. embassy in Ukraine, as did Sam Day, then-director of missions for Tuscaloosa Baptist Association. When the Ukrainian group went to the embassy for interviews, "We were treated like VIPs," Rimskyi said. The visas were granted.

With that taken care of, perhaps the biggest challenge was language. It would not be possible to find or hire enough Russian translators in Tuscaloosa, so it was imperative that the Ukrainians have adequate language skills. A few of the young people knew some basic English but others knew none. They spent significant time being tutored in English then working as a group to improve.

Two years later, the group arrived with great enthusiasm and an overwhelming desire to learn all they could during their visit.

Recruiting youth pastors

Travis Seagle, minister of students/education for Coaling Baptist Church and student ministry consultant for Tuscaloosa Association, recruited youth pastors from several churches to work with the visitors. Seagle developed a schedule for the Ukrainians to rotate in teams of two among the churches, shadowing various local youth pastors.

They attended worship services in sanctuaries and in youth groups, discussed outreach methods with the pastors, participated in panel discussions and observed and participated in Bible studies.

Developing relationships

Lily Tsveklova was impressed by learning about the many ways the local youth pastors use activities such as sports to involve young people and draw them into church. "I liked seeing how they do ministry in so many different ways," Tsveklova said. "And I realize how important it is to develop relationships and let others know that you care about them as you are inviting them to church."

Vitalii Krohkmal echoed that observation, saying he learned an important lesson from Jerry Tyson, youth pastor at Bellview Baptist Church, McCalla -- "love 'em like crazy and build strong relationships."

One thing that impressed Krohkmal was the extent of the preparation he observed among the local pastors. He also was in awe of the number of books and the extent of print resources available to the pastors. He was ecstatic that he was given 15 new books to take home to help him prepare studies for the youth of his church. "I was honored that they presented some of their books to me," he said.

One principle they all agreed on is that they must take the church "beyond the walls of the church," Rimskyi said. Only 4 percent of Ukrainians are Protestant, so the challenge is great. Learning about outreach in the community through sports and other relationship-building activities will be the key to reaching young people, Rimskyi said.

Welcoming spirit

Once nonbelievers come to church, it's important that they feel loved and accepted, he said. "When Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, people exhibited a strict Russian mentality of keeping things to themselves, not socializing, being closed, not open, not transparent. Even people in church did this," he said. "So we must work on having a welcoming, kind, loving spirit. This is changing in all Ukraine but first it is changing in our churches."


This article appeared in The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Sammie Jo Barstow is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist.

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Mo. Baptists

cooperate in prayer

By Tim Howe

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (The Pathway) -- As autumn leaves begin to fall, prayers continue to rise across Missouri.

Throughout 2017 and 2018, the Missouri Baptist Convention's "Pray Across Missouri" initiative is challenging Missouri Baptist churches to cooperate not only in missional giving, but also in expectant prayer.

During this prayer initiative, MBC Executive Director John Yeats and other MBC representatives are joining Missouri Baptists on the steps of each county courthouse for prayer.

Most recently, stops included Clay, Ray, Jackson, Lawrence, Polk, Dallas, Morgan, Henry, Howard, Cooper and Moniteau counties. Pray Across Missouri focuses on prayer for elected officials, the need for spiritual revival and issues that impact overall community health.

At each stop, the local host for the county recognizes elected officials who are present, and Yeats gives a brief message imploring elected officials to exercise godly leadership. The service is based on Psalm 1:1-2, which highlights the blessings bestowed upon those who walk in the ways of the Lord.

Wally Long, pastor of Northside Baptist Church in Mount Vernon, helped to organize the stop for Lawrence County. Although meeting times vary from county to county, Long was pleased that 20 people showed up at the 8 a.m. event. Attendees included the county sheriff and the local state representative.

"We had the opportunity to pray for God's guidance and protection over the city and county leaders," Long said.

"We prayed for the families of the officials, and we also prayed specifically for the children in the community who are hurting due to abuse or dysfunctional family situations."

Pray Across Missouri comes at a time when cultural tensions are running high, yet Long sees it as an opportunity for the entire community to come together. While the movement is sponsored and led by the Missouri Baptist Convention, Long believes it can help believers cross denominational lines to pray for issues that affect Christians and non-Christians alike.

"This is not a Southern Baptist thing. It is a community thing. Believers, regardless of denominational affiliation, must band together in prayer for our communities," he said.

"We can disagree on doctrinal issues, but we can all agree that people need to experience the love of God."

Long's hope is that the event will spark a fire and encourage believers to continuously lift up the needs of the community in prayer.

"People are hurting and need our help. I pray that we would see a movement of God through His church to reach out to hurting families."

Pray Across Missouri will continue to swing through the state into November. Over 30 counties remain on the docket. To view the remaining schedule, visit https://mobaptist.org.


This article appeared in The Pathway, (mbcpathway.org), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Tim Howe writes for The Pathway.

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Thousands of Ark. Baptists turn

out for Acts 1:8 One Day event

By Staff

CENTRAL ARKANSAS (Arkansas Baptist News) -- More than 2,500 volunteers from 190 churches from across the state fanned out in north Pulaski County in central Arkansas for the seventh annual Acts 1:8 One Day Mission Trip Oct. 7.

The numerous outreach activities by volunteers of all ages were designed to impact the area in the most significant and life-changing ways possible -- all with the goal of sharing the love of Jesus Christ. Activities included street evangelism, prayerwalking, home repair and renovation, medical-dental clinics, food distribution, laundromat services, senior adult ministries, children's activities, fishing derbies, car washes and yard cleanup.

By day's end, 35 people had made professions of faith in Jesus Christ, said Breck Freeman, assistant team leader of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention mission team. In all, 19 block parties were held; 117 patients were seen at medical and dental clinics; and 15 home repair projects were conducted.

At a community park in the Baring Cross area of North Little Rock, Glenn Ballard of Summit Church in North Little Rock stood watch over an inflatable slide for children. Nearby, a "free" yard sale was held for area families, and school supplies were provided to children. Additionally, volunteers picked up trash in the neighborhood and helped renovate homes.

"The whole idea is to have the park where families feel like they can come and just feel loved on and cared for," said Ballard. "It's a total community effort."

Some Summit Church members have moved to the Baring Cross community where the church is involved in various ministries, including an after-school program for children, said Ballard.

"(I'm here) to share the Gospel if I have a chance," he smiled.

Kristen Walker, who leads the ministry, Urban Promise, in the Baring Cross community, looked across the park at all the activities.

"Everyone seems to be having a good time," she said.

"The best day ever!" yelled a boy named Tory standing next to Walker.

"One of my goals is to build relationships," Walker said. The Acts 1:8 One Day Mission Trip helped her connect with Baring Cross children and their families in a fun and casual setting.

The one-day mission event also helped provide volunteers with "a context of understanding of what is going on right here and how great the people are," Walker said, adding that she would "love to get the volunteers plugged in on a regular basis," helping mentor the children spiritually and academically.

"Jesus Christ is the answer," she said.

Thirty-one volunteers from New Hope Baptist Church in Pollard served in the Levy neighborhood of North Little Rock, painting and doing much-needed carpentry work on a local resident's home.

Mike Ward was among the New Hope Baptist volunteers who made the three-hour trip from the far northeast corner of the state to participate in the event.

The New Hope team worked in sync, with some volunteers scraping while others painted, renovated the home's porch and installed new corner poles on the home, Ward said.

"Yeah, these kids sure are good about helping," he said.

Thirty people from Ruddell Hill Baptist Church in Batesville served at Levy Baptist Church in North Little Rock during the mission effort.

"Everybody has their part to play," said Don Stewart, one of the Ruddell Hill Baptist Church volunteers.

"We want people to come to know Jesus. That's what we're here for," he said. He explained that block parties attract community residents to a festive atmosphere, giving volunteers an opportunity to ask participants about their spiritual relationship with Jesus and church involvement.

"We ... ask them what are they going to say when God asks, 'Why should I let you into My Kingdom?' Of course the answer is they have to know Jesus," he said.

View more photos of the Acts 1:8 One Day Mission Trip at arkansasbaptist.org/photo-gallery.


This article appeared in the Arkansas Baptist News (http://www.arkansasbaptist.org/), newsjournal of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention

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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.

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