FROM THE STATES: Wash., Tenn., Fla. evangelism/missions news; 'Seeing God work is the biggest benefit'

Today's From the States features items from:

Northwest Baptist Witness (Washington)

Baptist and Reflector (Tennessee)

Florida Baptist Convention

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Wash. church's auction

pivotal for missions

By Sheila Allen

PUYALLUP, Wash. (Northwest Baptist Witness) -- Even in the midst of a building campaign, members of High Pointe Community Church in Puyallup, Wash., raised an all-time-high figure during a recent missions auction. The annual event, which has grown substantially since its 2003 inception, is considered a must-attend event for many regulars at High Pointe and other local residents who gather to celebrate various mission causes.

"What began in 2003 as a means to raise money for a mission trip to Guatemala has turned into a highlight for our church and supports mission causes in several places," said Melinda Reed, pastor of spiritual formation at High Pointe. "We rent pavilion space at the fairgrounds because we have so many items to display."

This year's theme, "Mission Auction Gala," provided 230 silent auction items for bidding and also gave attendees the option of attire ranging from formal to camouflage. The 2017 auction gathered people with a sports theme. Another 25 items were sold via a live auction with the assistance an upbeat auctioneer.

"There were around 300 people this year and we raised $55,000 in our self-sustaining event," Reed noted. "The funds are specifically for international missions and we are always looking for new opportunities.

"Part of the proceeds goes to supplement people's expenses that are going on our mission trips, but we fund ministry needs first for those we go to serve," she said. "We never give participants more than 20 percent of their travel expenses and people raise the remainder themselves."

High Pointe regularly sends teams to Guatemala, Ethiopia or South Africa supported with money raised from donated items and services. Groups band together to provide items for the auction, which helps build a sense of community and provide resources.

"We had household items, Coach purses, corn hole games and gift baskets that included such items as movies and restaurant gift cards," Reed said. "A certificate for house painting raised $3,800, a brisket and steak dinner brought in $900. There were tickets auctioned for Sounders, Mariners and Seahawks games. The services get better each year with groups providing yard work and handyman services. A dessert dash allowing table groups to bid on scrumptious treats raised $10,000 that night. We sell tickets to the auction individually, but others purchase entire tables and bring guests. God asks us to go somewhere and then provides, so it generates so much enthusiasm among our people, but also creates mission awareness."

At the auction, sample information is provided on what one dollar will provide in each country slated for a mission trip. A promotional video produced for the event also encourages people to go.

"We have different ones giving, praying, going and some do all of the above," Reed stated. "It just gets people excited about missions and we commend people for their obedience and faithfulness. This is what Jesus told us to do -- go. We are hopefully creating passion and High Pointe is a very generous church. We have never had less than 250 attend and there were a lot of new people there this year. We also have other events to support missions, including a clothing drive that raised over $1,000."

Mission team participants are required to volunteer time at the auction, but 70 people joined to pull the event together. The planning team included decorators, greeters, registration, banking, set-up and tear-down. Anticipation builds throughout the night and the amount raised is announced the following Sunday morning at the church's worship service.

"Seeing God work is the biggest benefit and it takes us outside our church," Reed said. "It spurs conversation and participation and so much more than just about ourselves. The auction is pivotal and more effective than written word or a Sunday morning talk. I love seeing the volunteers and it all coming together."

Those interested in more information may contact Reed at melinda@highpointechurch.org.


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.

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Mission trip without the mileage:

Tenn. Youth Evangelism Project

By David Dawson

BOLIVAR, Tenn. (Baptist and Reflector) -- Sitting in her car with the window rolled down on a steamy morning in West Tennessee, Ella Hayes had a peaceful smile on her face. She was feeling a refreshing mist of water on her arm, but that wasn't the reason she was smiling.

Her joy came from watching the youth who were enthusiastically scrubbing the car in front of her. The students were washing cars, free of charge to the customers, as part of the Youth Evangelism Project.

"This lets you know there is still some love in the world today," said Hayes. "With so much prejudice and racism and all that stuff going on, it puts a damper on your heart. But to see this right here -- these kids out here working for Jesus -- it's nothing but love."

The Youth Evangelism Project is a program that allows students to experience all the elements of a mission trip, including service projects and witnessing, without ever leaving town.

This year, 101 youth, representing four churches in the Bolivar area, participated in the Youth Evangelism Project, commonly referred to as "YEP."

Dixie Hills Baptist was the host church, and the other participating churches were Parrans Chapel Baptist, Hornsby Baptist and First Baptist Bolivar.

Josh Clark, pastor of Parrans Chapel Baptist, served as YEP coordinator.

During the week, the youth are divided into groups of five, along with two adult leaders, to perform assignments on a rotating basis each day. The list of projects included: door-to-door outreach, visiting shut-ins, prayerwalking, construction work, picking up trash, grilling hot dogs and hamburgers, cleaning churches and church buildings, hosting Backyard Bible Clubs and washing cars.

"We do a little bit of everything," said Wes Depew, youth minister at Dixie Hills Baptist. "It's a blast."

All of the YEP services are provided at no charge. Even the items at the "yard sale" are free.

Those involved with YEP say they are compensated for their work in ways that have nothing to do with money. The Gospel conversations that take place at each of the stations is the best payment.

"Just seeing the joy on people's faces when you walk in and have something to offer -- like Jesus -- is the best part," said Emma Gibson, a rising junior at Bolivar Central High and a member of the Dixie Hills Baptist.

"A mission trip without the bus ride"

YEP has been an annual event in the Bolivar area since 2013. The event was first envisioned by Dixie Hills Baptist Church pastor Jimmy Garrett after a member of the community asked him why the church sent the youth on missions trips to other parts of the state when there was so much that could be done in the Bolivar area.

Garrett soon came up with the idea for an "in-town missions trip" -- a concept that would not only help local churches establish connections with the community, but would also provide youth in the area with an opportunity to engage in missions work at an affordable price.

The cost for this year's YEP was $50 per youth for the four-day event.

"There are a lot of the kids who might not be able to afford to pay $200 or $300 to go on a missions trip," said Depew, "but they are able to do this."

Depew said Dixie Hills Baptist puts in $25 for each youth who participates, thereby cutting the cost from $75 to $50. The money comes out of the church's youth ministry budget, he said.

Aside from a long bus ride or perhaps even an airplane flight, YEP includes virtually all of the other staples of a missions trip, including suitcases.

During the week, the youth are housed at Dixie Hills Baptist, with the boys sleeping in the church's gym and the girls sleeping in the fellowship hall.

The church has two showers that the "campers" can use, and this year, Tennessee Disaster Relief teams from Beulah Baptist Association and Fayette County Baptist Association each supplied a "shower truck" for the youth to use.

Depew noted the number of participants in YEP has grown each year since its inception. It started with about 30 youth, representing two churches, in 2013.

Out and About

Main Street in downtown Bolivar was a hot spot for this year's YEP activities.

On one side of the road, a YEP team was assigned to a gas station, where hamburgers and hot dogs were grilled and given away to anyone who was interested.

Across the street, the free yard sale was taking place. Shoes, pants, toys, sports equipment and electronics were among the items on the "gift tables."

"This is for people to come by and really just let us show them our love and show them Jesus," said Tina Hickey, a member of Parrans Chapel who was overseeing the youth team at the yard sale. "We also pray with them if they have prayer requests. We've had a lot of people and they've been really receptive."

Up the street was the car-washing station, where a steady flow of "customers" was streaming in.

Hayes said she was prepared to pay $10 or $15 to have her car washed, and said she could hardly believe it when she was told that it was free. She was also surprised to find out that she could receive a free snow cone, to boot.

"I am truly amazed to see so many young people out here working for Jesus," said Hayes, a member of St. Paul Skipper Spring Baptist in nearby Grand Junction. "And they are doing it for free -- which is what Jesus would have us be all about."

Cayleb Richardson, a rising sophomore and a member at Dixie Hills Church, was one of the members of the team who was assigned to the mid-morning shift at the carwash.

When asked if it was his top choice among the YEP projects, Richardson was candid.

"No, I wouldn't say this is my favorite part," he said with a smile, before adding: "My favorite part is spreading the word about God and going out and helping people."

Richardson said he enjoys a unique form of witnessing.

"I like running around and yelling, 'do you know Jesus?' -- that's probably my favorite part," he said.

Across town, two YEP teams were assigned to Truth and Life Church. One team was hosting a Backyard Bible Club, while another team was inside the building doing repair work on the ceiling.

Wayne Webster, who has been involved in YEP in each of the past six years, was in charge of the "construction" crew.

"The kids get excited about the projects," he said. "And sometimes, when we are done, they will say, 'Wow, Mr. Wayne, I didn't think we were going to be able to do that.' I try to make sure that I am not doing the work myself -- I want them to put their hands on it. It's exciting to watch what God is doing in their lives."

Perhaps the most "unique" project -- which is new this year -- is a "foot-washing" station. At the same gas station where the hamburgers and hot dogs were being given away, there was a tent set up where customers could have their feet washed by one of the YEP youth.

"It blew our minds when we heard that the kids were doing that," said Depew.

Beyond the Work

At the end of each day, the "campers" meet for a time of worship, fellowship and prayer. It is often an emotional time for many of the youth, Depew said, and for the adult leaders, too.

"Just hearing how God is working in the lives of these youth, sometimes the hairs on my arm will stand up and I will start to tear up and cry," he said. "It's just phenomenal."

The evening worship was led by Drew Murphy, the pastor at Fayette Baptist Church, who has served as "camp pastor" at YEP for the past two years.

"It's probably the best worship I've ever been to," said Ella Richardson, a first-time YEP participant. "It hit me hard.... I will definitely be back (at YEP) next year."

Although YEP lasts less than a week, Depew said the spirit of the event doesn't end on the last day.

"One thing I've noticed is that (YEP) has a carry-over effect," he said. "A lot of times, kids will go to camp or go on a mission trip, and the excitement and the emotion of the trip will only last a couple of weeks and then begin to die out.

"But with (YEP), for whatever reason, the spirit just seems to keep going," Depew added. "It really carries over all year long. And for me, that is what is so exciting about it."


This article appeared in Baptist and Reflector (baptistandreflector.org), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. David Dawson writes for the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

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Fla. church helps deaf

children experience VBS

By Keila Diaz

BRANDON, Fla. (Florida Baptist Convention) -- First Baptist Church Brandon hosted its Vacation Bible School last week and it did so in English as well as American Sign Language.

Suzanne Austin-Hill, director of FBC Brandon's Deaf Ministry, taught a VBS class along with Laura Simpson who interpreted the class in sign language for the 16 students who attended. For the last few years, Simpson, a member of the church's in-house interpreter team, and Austin-Hill have served as VBS co-teachers for students who are deaf, hard of hearing and/or who have special needs.

"God has used our current Senior Pastor, Tim Keith, and our Pastor of Music, David Shenning, to encourage, support and promote our growth," Austin-Hill said.

The Deaf Ministry at FBC Brandon started more than 10 years ago when the Smith family visited the church while visiting friends and family one Christmas. The Smiths' son, Ryan, is deaf and mom Chrysta asked if she could interpret the service for him. The pastor at the time was Tommy Green, now executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, and during that time, he said, the church had been praying and talking about a new focus in ministry.

"It's an amazing ministry that tends to a very real need in the community," said Green.

In addition to the VBS class, the ministry runs year-round interpreting the worship service and the pastor's sermon each Sunday. With the help of LifeWay curriculum designed specifically for the deaf, they have also been able to start a Sunday school class in sign language.

Austin-Hill said ministry leaders in this kind of ministry need two key qualities: "Someone who can interpret and a shepherd who can recognize the importance of that ministry. We have some great teachers," she added.

FBC Brandon's deaf ministry is also crossing city limits by connecting with deaf ministry leaders at Idlewild Baptist Church in nearby Lutz. Through FaceTime, leaders from both ministries are able to share knowledge and ideas.

The International Mission Board reports that most of the 35 million deaf people around the world have never seen Jesus's name signed in their language and are some of the least evangelized people on earth.

The deaf ministry at FBC Brandon is striving to push back that lostness and give people access to the Gospel.

"An interpreter is a bridge and our charge from God is to give the clearest translation that we can give," Austin-Hill said.


This article appeared on the website of the Florida Baptist Convention (flbaptist.org). Keila Diaz writes for the Florida Baptist 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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