FROM THE STATES: La., Texas and Okla. evangelism/missions news; 'We are trying to get this town back to God'
Today's From the States features items from:
Baptist Message (Louisiana)
Southern Baptist TEXAN
Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma)
For these La. churches,
two are better than one
By Holly Jo Linzay
SIMMESPORT, La. (Baptist Message) -- First Baptist Church and Grace Point Church have partnered together to reach the lost in their hometown of Simmesport, founded on the west bank of the Atchafalaya River which runs through Louisiana’s Avoyelles Parish.
"We are trying to get this town back to God," said Presley Bordelon, pastor of Grace Point.
Simmesport, according to Bordelon, has a reputation of being the "gateway to drug trafficking" into the parish. "The poverty rate is high in Simmesport and there are very few jobs," he said, adding the crime rate was high but that the new mayor and police force are "cleaning up" the community.
Ken Austin, pastor of FBC Simmesport, agreed with Bordelon. "We are 100 percent committed to reach Simmesport for the Lord. We want to reach out to the community and show people the love of Christ."
The two churches share a vision, a mission and a purpose, and both pastors believe that partnering together in the Lord makes reaching the lost in their community much less of a formidable task than being on their own.
To that end, the churches have led prayerwalks through the town handing out pamphlets and tracts on salvation.
But the two churches are trying other approaches as well to try to reach every resident in the town, which is a predominately Catholic community.
In the last few months, they have organized a block party where items were offered free at a garage sale as well as an event featuring free food, free back-to-school supplies and a musical concert.
"Simmesport has been a tough town, but we want to be visible and love one family at a time. The prayer walks through town is something we will definitely keep up," Austin said.
FBC Simmesport was constituted 144 years ago, with Austin the pastor for the last year and a half. He said the historic congregation had dwindled to about three families, having "no children, no youth group, no Vacation Bible School. It was just hanging on."
"But we started praying and asking God to give us more time to build up His church," Austin shared, and worship attendance has been increasing steadily, reaching a high of 20 in recent weeks.
The current facility, on the campus just off Highway 1, seats about 200. However, Austin said the congregation hopes to finance a new building on another 2-acre plot of land the church owns in town.
Grace Point Church, which was started as a church plant by Life Point Church in Mansura, was established three years ago, at first meeting in the Simmesport Community Center.
After working for 25 years, Presley Bordelon retired from his state job and began fulltime ministry with Life Point in 2016 as the youth pastor, a position he continues to hold while serving as the full-time pastor of Grace Point Church.
The congregation was able to obtain a $30,000 Georgia Barnette mission fund grant to help fund the purchase of a 2,000-square-foot building located at 948 Main Street, where a worship service and Bible study is held Thursday nights at 6 p.m. Additionally, twice a month, the multicultural church gets together to share a meal together.
On the joint prayer walks with FBC Simmesport, Bordelon said they pass out Bibles to children and talk with anyone they meet, seeking to meet the spiritual needs of their community.
But, he said, they also try to serve as the hands and feet of Christ in meeting the physical needs of people in town, and already the congregation has created a clothes closet, with plans to establish a food pantry in the near future. They also want to be a source of information to refer people to resources to help with utilities, food, clothing and how to apply for government-assistance programs.
"The main thing is to get them saved. We seek to share the grace of Jesus with those who are hurting and broken, and see our community transformed," Bordelon said.
Jacob Crawford, the pastor of Life Point Church in Mansura, echoed his sentiments. "Simmesport is very impoverished. It's been one of the most difficult church plants to establish. There is a lot of spiritual warfare going on," Crawford said, adding it was exciting to see how Grace Point is impacting the lostness in the parish.
This article appeared in the Baptist Message (baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Holly Jo Linzay is a regional reporter for the Baptist Message.
Texas church stays
on mission in Peru
By Jane Rodgers
ODESSA, Texas (Southern Baptist TEXAN) -- The Amazon rain forest boasts two seasons -- rainy and dry -- and one temperature: hot. Villagers barter plantains, dried fish and tapioca or sell them to brokers docked along lush riverbanks.
Despite this commonality of economy and climate, the people of Nuevo Jardin, Peru, are different from many living along the giant river flowing into Brazil.
They have been changed forever through a work begun by two Odessa churches and continued by Sherwood Baptist Church.
In 2012, a sermon at the SBTC annual meeting challenged then Sherwood pastor Ivy Shelton to encourage his church to adopt an unengaged people group.
On a vision trip in January 2013, men from Sherwood and Odessa Bible Church traveled up the Amazon with IMB missionary Jake Glover.
A joint effort was born from that journey when the village of Nuevo Jardin welcomed the Texans, who led two men to Christ.
For the next two years, groups from Odessa Bible and Sherwood traveled to Nuevo Jardin on alternating months. Following two years of the combined venture, Odessa Bible's commitment period ended, but Sherwood continued going to Peru, initially six times a year.
Three trips have been planned for 2017 -- one occurred in March; a second departed Sept. 17, and a final trip is anticipated before year's end, said Sherwood's Pat Wenger, who has gone 15 times and coordinates the trips.
Groups fly into Lima and then Iquitos before boarding chartered speedboats piloted by hired men who know the river. Ketty, a Christian who worked for Glover, has accompanied and cooked for groups on every trip.
Part of Wenger's job is to ensure funds reach Peru to cover food, bottled water, translators and transportation costs. Participants pay their own way although the church covers some expenses.
Wenger's first trip was in March 2013. She heard of a nearby village that "worshiped the cross," and was later stunned to discover the religion had been started by a man named Cross who had come to the area earlier, evidence of the area's prevailing superstition.
Trips transitioned to a pattern of holding church services, Bible studies, youth and children's programs.
"We live life with them," said Sherwood's Andrew Mailey, who has gone twice to Peru, including an August 2016 trip with Wenger, Jo Ann Bell, and seven teenagers, including his two sons.
Wenger estimated village population at 110, and to date, half the villagers have trusted Christ, she said.
When villagers decided they wanted a church building, Sherwood supplied saws, nails and roofing tin. Village men cut and hand-milled the lumber and erected the chapel.
Today, villagers hold church services several times a week, including twice on Sundays, Wenger said. Most preaching is done by a villager named Mier. Wenger and Bell, an 11-trip veteran, went once by themselves and were the first Texans to worship in the new church.
Mailey preached multiple times on his two visits, admitting he likes being "part of the village": enjoying fellowship, quiet times, prayer and Bible studies with the families.
Sherwood has also contributed to the education of villagers. The church would like to help Mier gain biblical training, thus far impossible because of his family commitments. Meanwhile, they are helping three youngsters obtain secondary education, since free public education is only provided through grade six.
This started with Jorge, a young man whose zeal for the Lord was unmistakable after he trusted Christ.
Calling Jorge "a man after God's own heart," Wenger said Sherwood pays for school fees, uniforms and books, and contributes to his room and board in a village closer to Iquitos with a secondary school. Sherwood is similarly financing the education of another boy and girl.
Recently, after a mission trip to Panama where she observed the benefits of water filtration, Wenger arranged for filters to be distributed to every home in Nuevo Jardin. The villagers refused to drink from the government-drilled well, preferring the Amazon with its questionable purity. The filters have made the village healthier, Wenger said.
Despite potable water, conditions are primitive but have improved for the visitors. The church purchased a two-story open-air house vacated by a departing family. When the house started sinking, the village men rebuilt it on higher ground, using supplies provided by the church and rain forest lumber. The church paid for the labor, Bell said.
Wenger said she has a special plan for September: to encourage the people of Nuevo Jardin to pray about which nearby village they want to evangelize.
Bell, who like Wenger is in her 70s, said she hopes others will be encouraged to go on mission. "Just go where God wants you to go. You are never too old or too young."
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.
Okla. church sees 63 baptisms
during revival meeting
ADA, Okla. (Baptist Messenger) -- Trinity Baptist Church in Ada, Okla., experienced a banner day of baptisms three years ago. Pastor Rusty Fuller and his staff decided that Sunday morning that they would invite people to observe baptism that day. The result was 26 people, including longtime members, demonstrated obedience to the Lord and were baptized.
During a revival meeting this year, Trinity witnessed the baptisms of 63 people, and approximately 140 people made professions of faith in Christ during the four-day revival, Aug. 27-30.
Leading up to the revival, Fuller led the church to observe 40 days of fasting and prayer. Different church members would sign up to fast different days during this period. Fuller said this experience caused a great movement among the church members.
"Our desire was to see people saved," Fuller said. "As we moved through that 40 days, church members would tell me how meaningful it was to pray and fast. Many told me that had never done that before. I think it was more of a revival for our church, coming together to fast and pray for 40 days."
As the 40-day experience moved many church members, Fuller said it caused them to be more than "hopeful" for the revival meetings in late August.
"It moved more from 'I hope this is a great week (of revival)' and 'I hope we see a lot of people saved' to becoming more of a spirit of expectancy," Fuller said.
They expected to see many people saved and expected many people to come be baptized, and from the church's observance of 40 days of prayer and fasting, they were able to see God move among many people in the Ada community.
The evangelist for the revival meetings was Ronnie Hill. He was able to speak at different school assemblies during the day on the topic of bullying, but Fuller and others were present to invite students to attend the revival meetings at night.
Fuller also said the church observed a steak night. Members would buy dinner tickets for themselves and also for others to attend. More than 600 people were served that night.
"We were overflowing every night of the revival," Fuller said.
And the church was packed each night, leading up to the final night when 63 people observed believer's baptism. Fuller said they had people line up in the church's regular baptistery, where he baptized followers, while also having others line up in a portable baptistery in the worship center, where Chris Snowden, minister of university and missions, performed baptisms.
Fuller said Ada, Trinity continues to follow up that revival meeting, as there have been baptisms every Sunday since that last week in August.
"For our church, for them to see the fruit of a focus on prayer and fasting and to see how the Lord works, we need to continue to be before the Lord in prayer," Fuller said. "This (revival) wasn't just to be an event we check off the list. I want our church to continue to pray and fast and seek the Lord. We want to see God continue to work beyond those four days in August, not just rest in that. It was amazing, but I want that spirit of revival to continue on and see people saved."
This article appeared in the Baptist Messenger (baptistmessenger.com), newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
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.