FROM THE STATES: Ala., Ky. and Tenn. evangelism/missions news; Church's new deaf ministry is 'love in action'
Today's From the States features items from:
The Alabama Baptist
Western Recorder (Kentucky)
Baptist and Reflector (Tennessee)
Ala. church sets out to learn sign
language, welcome deaf community
By Grace Thornton
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (The Alabama Baptist) -- One Sunday as pastor Paul Gourdine was preaching at Engaged Christian Church in Montgomery, Ala., he looked out and saw a touching sight -- a lady in the congregation was translating the sermon into sign language for someone there who was hearing impaired.
"I had two thoughts -- the first was that we needed to make sure that the deaf person felt comfortable and welcomed," Paul Gourdine said. "The second was that we needed to make sure the person doing the sign language didn't burn out."
So he did something big -- he challenged the whole church to learn some of the young man's heart language.
Involving the church
"On Sunday mornings, we've been teaching the church to say 'how are you doing,' 'I'm fine,' 'you're welcome' and other phrases," he said. "Most of the kids who attend children's church can sign the alphabet. We want to at least be able to greet them. We're doing that so that these individuals don't feel bypassed."
And he didn't stop there -- he challenged the congregation to dig deeper and take some classes.
His wife, Mecco, was one of six who did.
"Our instructor, Loretta Hatchett, has a heart for this," Mecco Gourdine said. "This is her ministry, this is her gift -- she cares for hard-of-hearing individuals."
That showed up in how Hatchett led the classes offered by the church -- "she was tough on us," Mecco Gourdine said with a laugh. "She walked in and just started talking with us in sign language from the beginning -- there was no speaking."
And as time went on, Hatchett challenged them with another project -- to have a Christmas program that included the deaf community.
"She said, 'I know some individuals who don't even attend church because they don't feel included or accepted,'" Mecco Gourdine said. "She suggested that maybe we could invite them for a silent dinner."
So Engaged Christian Church did. On Dec. 17, 2017, they had a Christmas program with a sensitivity toward the hearing impaired. While the choir sang, a group of six stood up in front and signed the song. When the children sang, they incorporated sign language into their music.
And one of those songs -- "Behold the Lamb" -- was led by Scout, the hearing-impaired young man who had sparked Paul Gourdine's vision in the first place.
"All of this would've been worth it just for Scout," Mecco Gourdine said.
But on that morning, 35 hearing impaired people came, all invited by Hatchett.
"We were grateful for their presence," Mecco Gourdine said. "We were just as excited as they were to have them there."
And after the morning service, the church held a silent dinner for its 35 guests.
"We wanted to demonstrate love in action," Paul Gourdine said. That's been their goal ever since the church was planted in 2016 -- they've engaged the community in a variety of ways. They ran an eye clinic that helped 1,000 patients. They provided the local high school with refrigerators to keep students' medications cool. They regularly feed the homeless.
"Our purpose is to share the message of Jesus Christ, so we're excited about this new way to do that," Mecco Gourdine said of the dinner. "It was worth it just to hear them say when they were walking out the door that they had a good time and would be coming back."
Neal Hughes, director of missions for the Montgomery Baptist Association, said he's seen it demonstrated over and over again that the word "engaged" is intentional for the church.
"They absolutely from the get-go engaged the community, and they have constantly looked for new ways to do that," Hughes said of the church, which now meets in the former McGehee Road Baptist Church building. "Paul Gourdine is a visionary leader and he leads the church to meet human needs and plant gospel seeds."
The deaf in the area have a place to call home now, he said. "It is a much-needed ministry and God has blessed it."
This article appeared in The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Grace Thornton is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist.
Ky. church reaches
Hispanics using 'Spanglish'
By Myriah Snyder
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Western Recorder) -- As a "one-and-a-half generation Hispanic American" -- one neither identifying as a first generation Hispanic American or a second generation Hispanic American -- Anibal Figueroa feels called to reach out to those much like himself: Hispanic Americans who, although they may have been born overseas and immigrated young, feel a connection to their Hispanic heritage while being brought up largely culturally American.
Thus, he planted Nuevo Amanecer (New Dawn) Church, or NA Church, a church dedicated to being bilingual and multicultural in east Louisville. The church started about four years ago, but in October 2017, it rebranded and relocated to the Kentucky Baptist Building. It meets on Sundays at 5 p.m.
The services are bilingual, sometimes even "Spanglish," as Figueroa described. While the sermons are spoken from the pulpit in Spanish, earpieces are offered to the congregation with real-time translation in English. Worship and videos are presented in English and Spanish. Because many couples attending are mixed English-speaking and Spanish-speaking, and because many of the those in his church identify with both cultures, he felt this was the direction to take the congregation.
The church makes the point to be bilingual, even changing their name from Iglesia Nuevo Amanecer to Nuevo Amanecer Church. Their social media as well is done in both English and Spanish. Even their signage is dual language. For example, upon exiting, attendees see a sign that says "Gracias, see you next week."
"We have embraced our identity as being bilingual, and we have embraced our Spanglish," Figueroa said. "There's nothing like worshiping God in your native tongue, and for a lot of us, we have two of them." Some songs are completely in Spanish, some are completely in English, and some are "Spanglish." Although he is still preaching completely in Spanish with a translator, their vision is to have a second service with an English sermon and Spanish translation.
"Although we are multicultural now," Figueroa said, the goal is to eventually start being not just multicultural "within the Hispanic community but to start seeing other cultures in the area and demographic come together."
The church also is taking on a home group approach to Bible study. Separate groups meet in homes throughout the week, some in English and some in Spanish, with some even in a mixed language, for a Bible or book study with discussion and fellowship. This ministers uniquely to students and couples of mixed heritages.
And although the church "started because of necessity," because of the people who were attending the church, this bilingual and "Spanglish" approach to ministry is part of NA Church "embracing our personal identity," Figueroa added.
"He is the first pastor in the history of the Kentucky Baptist Convention to work with the second generation," Eddie Torres, church planting and development associate, shared in expressing appreciation for the work that Figueroa and NA Church is doing.
In their former location in LaGrange, the church started with about 30 people. It grew in a few years to an average attendance of 80-100. But since most of the people were coming to the church from east Louisville, "God laid it on our heart and we started praying and exploring the possibility of moving to east Louisville," he recounted.
"There aren't many Hispanic churches, period, but there's really not anybody doing what we're doing and embracing this dual language type-church," he said.
Their official launch in the new location was Oct. 8. Though the transition has been tough on the church, Figueroa is trusting the Lord that it was the right decision.
"Every Sunday, it doesn't matter the size of our group, every single Sunday we've been there, we're seeing new faces. We're seeing new people," he said. "We are very enthusiastic and have a good core team that are dedicated and determined to keep pushing and working to see people far from God find life in Christ."
This article appeared in the Western Recorder (westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Myriah Snyder is assistant editor for the Western Recorder.
Tenn. pastor preaches through
the Bible in one night
By David Dawson
EASTANALLEE, Tenn. (Baptist and Reflector) -- Instead of ringing in the new year, Tony Crisp was bringing the Word of God.
All 66 chapters of the Bible. In one night.
Crisp, the lead pastor of Eastanallee Baptist Church, led a five-hour service on New Year's Eve in which he guided attendees down the "Crimson River of Redemption" -- from Genesis to Revelation -- in a brisk, but detailed, journey through the Scriptures. Crisp used a systematic method of preaching that he used several times in the past while leading similar sessions and seminars.
"In the five hours, I take people on a panoramic journey through the Bible," Crisp said, "and I build the entire Bible, in a historical network, over the 6,000 years of biblical history. Then, I come back and start again at the Garden of Eden and I go all the way through the Book of Revelation."
Crisp said several hundred attendees were at the service, which included only one 15-minute break.
"People were free to come and go as they pleased," he said, "but I'd say that only about 5 percent of the people left during the night."
The service was intentionally designated for New Year's Eve in order to set the tone for the coming year, Crisp said.
"This year, 2018, is going to be The Year of the Bible at Eastanallee Church," he said, "and I wanted to kick the year off in Bible study, teaching the people to study the Word of God in a manner in which they could have a handle on it."
During his message, Crisp used over 200 pages of sermon notes, which includes biblical time-lines and other graphics. (The notes can be downloaded, for free, at CrimsonRiver.org).
Crisp, who spent roughly four decades preaching and teaching in Africa, said he uses a style in which he first tells the entire story of the Bible, and then circles back around to begin breaking down the details.
"It's summary than specifics; panoramic than particular," he said. "It's the teaching method of the ancient Jews. They first give a general overview, and then they get down into specifics.
"So, what I do, is give people a way to study the Bible that they can understand," he said. "And for many people, it's the first time that they realize that they really can understand the Word of God."
Crisp said the New Year's Eve service started at 7 p.m. sharp, and he said he jumped right into the Word -- no singing, no offering, no hand-shake visitation. He then preached until just before midnight, breaking only for the brief intermission.
He said he did not get tired, nor did his voice get raspy, during the service.
"I have done this before," he said. "When I am overseas, I will sometimes preach four-to-eight hours at a time, with just a break for lunch."
Near the conclusion of the service, just before midnight, the entire congregation knelt at the front of the church. "We got on our knees and our faces before God, and we 'prayed in' the new year," Crisp said.
Crisp's church has experienced steady growth in the past few years, and Crisp said he believes there is one primary reason behind the increase: "People are hungry to hear the Word of God," he said, "and we have people who drive from five counties to be here to hear it."
Crisp said that same hunger is also the reason the New Year's Eve service was so well attended.
"The Bible is not just an ancient book, a history book, a dead book," he said. "When it speaks historically, it is accurate. When it speaks scientifically, it's accurate. It is the living Word of God.
"He has something to say to us that is relevant to where we are today," said Crisp. "This is a book for our day."
This article appeared in the Baptist and Reflector (baptistandreflector.org), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. David Dawson writes for the Baptist and Reflector.
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.