FROM THE STATES: Md., Tenn. and Wash. evangelism/missions news; 'Thank you! This is the best meal I ever had!'
Today's From the States features items from:
Baptist and Reflector (Tennessee)
Northwest Baptist Witness
minister to fair workers
By Sharon Mager
CUMBERLAND, Md. (BaptistLIFE) -- It's a sweltering day at the Allegany County Fair in Western Maryland. Director of Missions Kenny Heath, along with volunteers Walter and Darla Lewis, Abbie Ridgeley and others, are literally wiping sweat from their brows as they serve fried chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans to exhausted fair workers who labor for long hours, day after day, in the hot sun, travelling from show to show. The venue is unique -- colorful funhouses, rides and food stands against a mountain backdrop.
One carnival worker, aka "carnie," easily in his mid-to-late 50s, tosses a piece of chicken meat to his dog scurrying around his leg. He grins wide, patting the dog's head and says he loves God and he loves the yearly dinners.
While the folks ate, John Wyrick, pastor of Rush Baptist Church, led worship, and Ron Yost, pastor of Cumberland Community Church, preached a sermon in English and then for the many Hispanic workers, in Spanish. Afterwards, volunteers provided hygiene kits and Bibles.
Kenny Heath says this annual dinner is one of the few homemade meals these folks get for weeks at a time. Some fair workers bring their families with them as they travel. Jim Jeffries, pastor of LaVale Baptist Church, shares about a little girl who came to him one year balancing a full plate of food. "She looked up and said, 'Thank you! This is the best meal I ever had!' It broke my heart," said Jefferies. "I thought, 'Thank you, Lord!'"
Western Association churches are among the many in the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware that join together and use fair ministry to love their neighbors, build relationships, and share Christ as the Holy Spirit leads. They man baby comfort stations, give away free homemade crafts, children's books, Bibles and other literature along with the constant flow of cold water. Some churches offer face painting, braid hair, do evangelistic surveys, and this year, the WBA had a "selfie station" where fairgoers could take pictures with silly backdrops. Many churches provide music and preaching at the fair's vesper services. They impact thousands of people throughout the two states.
Boyd Bucher, who coordinated the fair ministry in Delaware, said there were many meaningful conversations that have included Muslims and Mormons.
Back in Western Maryland, Kenny Heath explains that all of the giveaways and activities are to provide opportunities to chat with people and to plant spiritual seeds. Heath is also quick to add that the value is for both the fair workers and attendees, as well as the church members who get the evangelism experience.
Second Baptist Church member Abbie Ridgeley agrees. "Our church members enjoy working together and talking to people. It has really opened them up to a lot of boldness and confidence in their witnessing...," she said.
Ridgeley, who has served for many years, said their relationships with visitors have deepened after seeing them year after year. "We see some of the same people come to the baby stations, and we've seen some of those babies grow up," she says. "Those 'kids' are bringing their babies in now."
Jeffries says the fair ministry is also a chance to fellowship with local churches. "It unites us," he said.
This article appeared in BaptistLIFE (baptistlife.com), newsmagazine of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. Sharon Mager is communications specialist for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.
sees strong beginning
By David Dawson
HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (Baptist and Reflector) -- The Tennessee Baptist Convention's partnership with the Guatemala Baptist Convention is off to a strong start. And Garry Eudy, the ministry's field coordinator, believes it will only get stronger in the years ahead.
"We can't see this partnership ending in the foreseeable future because of the way it is growing," Eudy said while taking a short break from the booth he was manning during The Summit at First Baptist Church, in Hendersonville, in mid-November. "We are very grateful for all those who have gone, and we're looking for more Tennessee Baptists to go."
During the partnership, Tennessee Baptists have been sending volunteers to Guatemala to serve in a variety of ministry roles. Kim Margrave, volunteer missions specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, noted that the list of roles has included "leadership training, pastors conferences, ladies conferences, teaching at the seminary, medical, Bible clubs in local schools, food box distribution, sport clinics and construction projects in homes, churches and schools."
Also, this past summer, a group of students from Tennessee spent roughly a month in Guatemala, working as interns.
And the most important element of all these services? "Every activity includes evangelism," said Margrave.
The work being done by Tennessee Baptists has enabled Eudy and his teams to develop numerous key relationships with influential individuals in Guatemala.
"Because of how it is going, it has gained the attention of the highest levels of government, all the way to the president of Guatemala, Jimmy Morales and his wife (Hilda Patricia Morales)," Eudy said. "They learned of some of the things that Tennessee Baptists and other Baptists are doing in these communities, and they've ask us to do more."
Eudy said he has been excited to see Patricia Morales open many doors for the Tennessee Baptists.
"The office of the First Lady has given us a list of 10 places that they'd like for us to do special projects in the public schools in Guatemala," said Eudy. "This year, in 2017, we've been able to start and/or complete three of those projects."
Eudy has had a heart for missions in Central America for much of his adult life.
"I pastored out of seminary as a young man, and then God called my wife, Kathy, and I into missions with the Foreign Mission Board (now the International Mission Board)," he said.
"We were assigned to the country of Panama and we served there for 10 years. Then we went to Guatemala to serve as the associate area director for seven countries."
After nearly 20 years in that role, Eudy returned to the States in the late 1990s, and served as a pastor for roughly 15 years until his retirement in 2011. Then the Lord opened a new chapter in his life.
"What I felt led to do was to combine the two major ministries of my life — pastoring in the States and being a missionary in Central America," he said. "I felt like I could help pastors here, stateside, connect to, and partner with, pastors in Guatemala, Panama and Coasta Rica, and perhaps some other countries.
"We started in Guatemala, which was the first place that I took some pastors and their churches to," he said. "That was so productive, and we had so many more requests for teams to come, that we just stayed in Guatemala. And that's where we've been since 2011."
Eudy's ministry began with four U.S. churches partnering with four Guatemalan churches. That number has now swelled to 32 churches, thanks in a large part to Tennessee Baptists, he said. "Of those 32 churches, 22 are Tennessee Baptist churches," said Eudy, noting the other 10 churches were from Alabama and Georgia. "So, the vast majority are from Tennessee and are connected to the partnership."
Eudy said the partnership has been effective and impactful.
"Volunteer missions is going great guns," he said. "We're seeing a lot of good evangelism being done with great responsiveness from the Guatemalan people. We're seeing church leadership trained and seeing people saved."
Margrave, the TBMB volunteer missions specialist, said she is excited to see the continued support being given to the partnership.
"Our churches have responded with great enthusiasm and love for the people of Guatemala," she said. "(We) are thrilled with how God is using this partnership."
This article appeared in the Baptist and Reflector (baptistandreflector.org), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. David Dawson writes for the Baptist and Reflector.
Refugee becomes Northwest
Baptist church planter
By Sheila Allen
SEATTLE (Northwest Baptist Witness) -- The commitment to Christ and God's calling on his life came with great cost to Pastor Cing Sawm Sang.
Born and raised in Myanmar, Sang grew up with loving Christian parents.
"Since before I was born, my parents were praying for me and during my childhood, they dedicated me unto the Lord to do his ministry with my life," said Sang." Afterwards, when I grew up, my parents told me about all these things. So I couldn't neglect God's plan as well as my parents' vision of my calling."
As his parents encouraged and loved him, God also spoke to him through many Bible passages after he professed faith in Jesus 20 years ago.
"Portions of the Scripture challenged me very much to preach the Gospel and to feed His lambs and take care of His sheep, which means to do His ministry," Sang stated. "Therefore, I began God's ministry in our church and in our village, Thimang, in the Chin State of Burma. Also I preached the Gospel in different churches and to different peoples as well."
Sang and his family eventually fled to Yangon after being persecuted by the government army in their home state. His brother is now a pastor there.
"The army tore down our church and also raided our house after we started meeting there for church," Sang said. "As I was called to a Christian ministry, even my parents or my family wouldn't be able to stop me, although there were many temptations. Sometimes it came from my relatives. Sometimes it came from different kinds of worldly things and there were many kinds of temptations and difficulties, as well as hardships."
Because Sang sensed God's call on his life, he could not reject his Master's plan. His parents and extended relatives supported his ministry, and other believers and churches prayed for him. He feels significant burden to evangelize and also care for believers.
Before coming to the United States, Sang managed to escape the Myanmar army and take a perilous trip across the country without being caught, finally swimming across a river into Thailand.
"I lived in a refugee camp in Thailand for two years," Sang noted. "We built a church and called it Zion Christian Church. I also interpreted for the Burmese refugees in Thailand. There were 200 people in our church and all were Burmese. At the same time I led praise and worship songs."
During his time in Thailand, Sang lived in a hut made of bamboo and leaves.
"When the rain came in the hut, we wore raincoats," Sang said. "We had a lot of mosquitoes and also some people dug under the house to make a restroom. Sometimes the smells from the camp were terrible. There was no school and no electricity. Most of the refugees had lived in the refugee camp for more than 10 years and experienced malnutrition and even I had to go into the jungle and eat bamboo just to survive."
When Sang departed Thailand, his 24-hour flight took him first to Japan, then on to Los Angeles, Chicago and St. Louis. The U.S. government provided him with three months' rent and utilities to start a new life in the U.S.
"One morning, a group called Oasis Ministry visited his apartment and brought rice, bread and furniture," Sang added. "I was so happy. But sometimes I was also very sad, especially during Christmas and New Year's. I saw a lot of people live with their family and having fun, but I have no family here."
Sang left behind his wife, as well as his parents and a sister, but has great hope that they will all arrive in the U.S. in the near future. Meanwhile, Sang has continued in ministry, now as the church planting pastor of Zomi Baptist Church in Tukwila, Wash.
Cing moved to the Seattle area and immediately began connecting with Zomi people in the area," said Tim Howe, Northwest Baptist Convention church planting catalyst. "He grew a group from nothing to about 30 to 40 people who were meeting in homes in less than a year and then started meeting at Riverton Heights Baptist Church in Tukwila. He pastors the people and also serves to ease their transition into the USA."
Sang worked through the NWBC and North American Mission Board assessment processes and was approved in August as a church planter.
"He is one of the kindest people, pastoring the people but also helping them to learn to navigate this new culture," Howe said. "He has a heart to reach the Zomi people, but also to share the Gospel with people outside of his people group. Cing Sangpi has an incredible passion, cares deeply for the people he pastors and for Christ, is extremely sacrificial for those around him and regularly demonstrates joy."
"We recently had 46 people in our church, but there are many sheep crying for spiritual food," Sang said. "I was called to Christian ministry, so please pray for my future ministry."
This article appeared in the Northwest Baptist Witness (nwbaptist.org), newsjournal of the Northwest Baptist Convention. Sheila Allen is managing editor of the Northwest 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 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, security issues, formatting and grammatical changes, the items appear in Baptist Press as originally published.