FROM THE STATES: Md., N.M. and Ark. evangelism/missions news; 'It's been a miracle, I tell you'

Today's From the States features items from:

BaptistLIFE (Maryland)

Baptist New Mexican

Arkansas Baptist News

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International missions

touches home in Md.

By Sharon Mager and Shannon Baker

SYKESVILLE, Md. (BaptistLIFE) -- Friendship Baptist Church's commitment to missions, which is huge, began with the church's founder and current pastor, Mark Massey. As an Arkansas State University student attending a missions conference at Southwestern Seminary in 1978, Massey said, "I felt the call of God to missions. My first trip was in 1990 with John Faris (then BCM/D's Chief Financial Officer) for 21 days in Rwanda -- the hardest 21 days of my life!" He grins widely. But it was a life-changing trip, and he surrendered his life.

Massey started Friendship in Sykesville, Md., in 1984, while still a seminary student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. The church met in many different places in the first few years: a Sunday School room at a local Presbyterian church, a mental institution (Springfield Hospital Center), various area schools and an old hardware store in Sykesville. From the beginning, the church fully embraced an Acts 1:8 strategy, ministering in Mexico, Jamaica, Rwanda, Uganda, and San Francisco, and locally at homeless shelters and in schools.

In February 2018, the church returned from their 18th trip to Puebla, Mexico, where they've been helping Hananeel Baptist Church transition from a taco stand-type building, where people stood outside for worship, to a facility that accommodates 300 people, plus a three-story educational building. Now almost two decades later, with the larger sanctuary, there are still people standing outside, and the church is moving to two services. It also has several church plants.

Massey believes strongly in long-term partnership missions, to build foundations physically, emotionally and spiritually. The friendships forged have been strong and now, the Friendship team not only does work for the Puebla church, but with the church.

"We've gone with people in Puebla to Southern Mexico and taught other churches to do Vacation Bible School. We've been on the Honduran border, and we've done theological education in Veracruz," Massey said, adding that hundreds have been saved in Puebla.

Puebla is their connection to Friendship's San Francisco work. For years they worked with Puebla's International Mission Board Missionaries Andrew and Connie Flagg. The Flaggs retired from the IMB two years ago, but have continued helping Friendship with their trips. Now the Flaggs are starting a Spanish-speaking church in San Francisco, and Friendship is lending a hand with help in VBS, construction and visitation.

John Hevey, associate pastor of membership and missions, and Layman Pat Collins, who serves as volunteer missions coordinator, lead annual trips to Rwanda and Uganda. In Rwanda, they support an IMB missionary who has served for 25 years and adopted several orphans whose parents were victims of the 90's genocide in the country. In both countries, they're helping to reach indigenous people groups and get the Gospel into their languages.

"We use SIM cards that go into telephones with the embedded 'Jesus film' (for adults and children) ... and hygiene videos" in various languages, Hevey said.

"People come from all over Rwanda. They'll go sit on a bus and play the videos. They watch the whole thing and show their friends. We're throwing out (spiritual) seeds," Hevey said.

Neville Johnson, associate pastor overseeing student ministry, leads the church's mission trips to Jamaica. Johnson grew up in Jamaica going to Bible summer camps. Now he goes back working with children and teens, exposing them to the Gospel and the love of Jesus.

Close to home, Mark Klimovitz, associate pastor of outreach and education, leads the church in school partnership missions outreaches that include a mentoring program, backpack giveaway, school property enhancements, and financial help for school field trips and meals for families who need some extra help.

The church supports all of their missions projects through their prayer, their giving, and their time and energy in going. Massey encourages churches to support Southern Baptist missionaries in every way available.

"Missionaries are in hard places and need help," he said.

"Most churches look at mission as secondary instead of primary," Pat Collins said. "Most will miss their real calling."

Senior Pastor Steve Fehrman also understands the importance of missions. For the past three years, he has led Southern Calvert Baptist Church to do missions in Los Mocios, the capital city of Sinaloa, Mexico.

This town is famous, he says, because the Mexico drug warlord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán lives there. Teams drive by his house every time they go to help grow Laroka Baptist Mission through construction projects, evangelism, and Vacation Bible School.

The first team to go found the church plant only had a small 16-by-20-foot concrete block building, where "everyone packed in" to hang out. The team jumped in and installed bathrooms with running water, painted the exterior of the building, and laid out a 70-by-25-foot concrete slab for recreational activities, like basketball.

It's on this concrete slab that VBS occurs, Fehrman said, explaining just last year, the team worked with over 200 kids on that block.

"It's been a miracle, I tell you," he exclaimed.

When the church needed a sanctuary, Southern Calvert partnered with another church, a Russian church, in Denver. "The Russians put in the walls and roof, and Southern Calvert went recently to pour the floor."

Fehrman said church members are excited to see such progress. They got especially excited when Laroka's Pastor Julio," a seminary grad and a good solid Baptist man who has started the mission church," came to the United States and spoke at Southern Calvert.

"It helped make the mission even more personal," Fehrman said.

Southern Calvert's mission team members have worked in Julio's home in Mexico, converting his upstairs to four bedrooms with bunk beds and air conditioning, preparing it as a missions headquarters for team members to stay.

Southern Calvert also allows people to designate money directly to support the Mexican pastor so he doesn't have to work a secular job and can give his full attention to church-planting.

Recently, the church also reached out to do VBS at Verayes (which means "viceroy") in the slums nearby.

"I tell you, it's so rough out there," Fehrman said. "We host VBS right out in the street, blocking off the street with tables at each end. We pull out our materials and lead VBS right under the shade trees." Even still, local guys sell drugs right in front of the teams and the kids.

"But they don't mind us being there because we keep the kids busy," Fehrman noted. "We've never felt in danger. There is a lot of prostitution and drug activity but no church. We're hoping to establish [another] church."

When Fehrman arrived at Calvert 11 years ago, the church's only missions experience was giving to the annual Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. But he knew that if, as pastor, he set the example, the people would follow.

During his second year there, he went on an associational trip to Mexico. The next year, he offered for others to go. Four people decided to go.

"When those four people came back and shared their stories, there was a buzz throughout the church," Fehrman said.

Fehrman had led missions in Africa – but it was cost prohibitive and many church members who work with the U.S. government couldn't get clearances to go.

Since then, the church has gone twice a year, once in the spring to work on the church building and its property, and a second time to lead the children's programs.

"We typically have about 12 to 14 people participate in the VBS trips, and around eight people doing construction," he said, adding, "And it's never been the same team twice!"

The church also goes on mission trips to West Virginia and to Graffiti Church in Baltimore.

And all along, "our missions budget has never decreased," he added. "Giving is even better, and more people are involved than ever before."

He added, "Pastors have to step out in faith and set the example, and a lot of people will respond. Even going on one mission trip and doing one thing really ignites the desire to do more!"


This article appeared in BaptistLIFE (baptistlife.com), newsmagazine of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. Sharon Mager is communications specialist and Shannon Baker is director of communications for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.

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N.M. Hispanic churches find

evangelism training that works

By Linda Prescott

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (Baptist New Mexican) -- One Hispanic congregation tried out its evangelistic training one week after receiving it. Four teams from the church knocked on 200 doors. Now, they have six appointments to return and share the Gospel.

Several Hispanic churches prepared for their Simultaneous Revivals evangelistic events by attending a Four Fields evangelism workshop. The training took place March 16-17 in at Anhelo Iglesia Christiana in Albuquerque. At least 25 Hispanic churches were participating in the Simultaneous Revivals campaign. Forty members and leaders, representing nine Hispanic churches, attended the Four Fields training.

The workshop trained participants in how to enter their community. Teams learned how, on a first visit, to pray for people and ask for an opportunity to return and tell a Bible story. Teams were trained how to tell, on a second visit, the story of the sinful woman. Trainees also learned how to share their personal testimony and the Gospel.

The process included a disciple making process for individuals who choose to trust and follow Jesus as their Savior. During the Four Fields class sessions, participants practiced different presentations. After the sessions, the training became practical. Teams followed experienced trainers into the community where they modeled the visits at real homes. The training teams visited 79 homes, prayed for 25 individuals, received 23 invitations to return and tell a Bible story, told a Bible story at two homes, and led one individual to choose to follow Jesus.

Kristean Alcocer, pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista, Rio Rancho, said that when he heard about the Four Fields training coming to New Mexico, he became excited about the opportunity to learn about and become trained in the program.

He said the efforts his church has made to reach people in its community have consisted of reaching people in church on Sundays and giving visitors cards that list basic church information, service times, services offered and such. The church also makes the information cards available for church members to give away, hoping they will share cards with family members, friends and other people they know and can invite to church. The congregation has also hosted community events, like "Fiesta Corporal," to attract people from the community and to provide a chance for church members to connect with them.

"The way this Four Fields works ... is just a great concept ... knowing that there are people out there who may not come to your church, that God is already at work in their lives," Alcocer said, after attending the Four Fields workshop and going out into the neighborhood to put it into practice. "To go from house to house, searching for someone willing to talk, share a prayer need ... that opens the door to asking if they would be willing for a return visit to tell a Bible story."

One man, who received a Four Fields training team visit, said that his sister had just passed away. "I'm heartbroken and I need somebody to pray for me," he told the team. After the team prayed for him, he agreed to its offer of a return visit.

Alcocer said his church has begun training church members on Thursday nights. Then, they go into the community on Saturday to visit people. "We're just really excited, because [we're] sending people out with the hope that there are people out there waiting for them to come knock on their door," he said.

Alcocer admitted that the workshop presenters impressed him, saying that they were very well prepared. He said he became excited when workshop participants went out into the community. He said, "It actually worked!"

When the Baptist New Mexican asked Alcocer what he would say to someone thinking about attending a Four Fields training, he said he would tell them, "You need to hurry up and do it, because it's going to encourage your church and give people hope that something is going to happen."

The Primera congregation put its new training to work one week later. On a Saturday, the congregation sent out four teams. They knocked on the doors of 200 homes. From those they have six appointments to return and tell the Bible story.

Rosario Dávila, a member of the workshop's host church, attended the workshop with her family. The Four Fields approach is not new to her. She and her family have been going out knocking on doors before this year's training, something they have been doing for seven years. The training encouraged her to keep knocking on doors. She says it is something "God wants her to do." She also wants to share the ideas. "I want more people to do it," she said. She and her family, she claimed, are ready to train others to go out and share the Gospel.

Dávila expressed excitement about program's simplicity. "Come and experience it, she said. "You will feel that God is calling you." She also described how seeing others share the Gospel makes believers think, "If they can do it, I can do it."


This article appeared in the Baptist New Mexican (gobnm.com). Linda Prescott is assistant editor of the Baptist New Mexican.

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Ark. Baptists get

strategic about unity

By Staff

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Arkansas Baptist News) -- Unity. At present, this word is the rallying cry of politicians and reporters, celebrities and athletes, and many other people of influence. Our culture is longing for understanding, despite differences, within a community.

What a testimony it would be for a community established by God -- the church -- to model the true meaning of the word; what an example it would be if the church were to model unity even when there is disagreement or conflict.

A new Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) ministry is serving churches with the end goal of "putting unity back in the church community."

Consisting of a team of Arkansas pastors, church staff, and associational missionaries with years of experience in ministry, the Conflict Reconciliation Ministry (CRM) is designed to help churches discover some proactive principles for unity and help churches in conflict work through their unique situations.

"Jesus told us, 'By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another,'" said Scott Miller, CRM team member and Associational Missionary for the Faulkner Baptist Association. "If we [the church] can't live that, we don't have authority or influence to impact and reach out to the community around us…and I think unity is the foundation of who we are."

Working alongside churches and their leaders, CRM team members serve as consultants in conflict mediation. This model allows the church to take responsibility for working through the conflict with the guidance of two trained CRM team members.

"Every church, situation, and pastor is different, and you can't come in with a pre-plan," said CRM team member Ricky Lee, pastor of Sherwood First Baptist Church. "We have some proactive steps that we teach from Blake Coffee's book '5 Principles of Unity' to help a church be unified, and we also have reactive training to listen and evaluate."

"We are not trying to solve their problem for them," Lee added, "but helping them reconcile their situation by seeking God and the path He has for them." All CRM team members have received approximately 60 hours of conflict resolution training and participate in a monthly conference call for ongoing training.

In May 2017, associations around the state co-hosted training events with the ABSC to be proactive by "promoting unity and preventing conflict." The Church Unified training events were based on Coffee's book. Coffee serves as the Founder and Executive Director of Christian Unity Ministries and is also the author of "One Body: Experiencing Unity in the Church" and "Trusting God's People Again."

"The purpose [of this ministry] is to be facilitators: to try to bring two or more sides together in a way that they hear one another and value one another and come to the conclusion that God has for them," Miller said. "Having a method to have those conversations in a way that was not threatening and promises the value of being heard would have been valuable in every church that I've pastored."


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, security, formatting and grammatical changes, the items appear in Baptist Press as originally published.

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