FROM THE STATES: Ala., N.C., La. evangelism/missions news; '... [W]e started praying and God really began to work.'

Today's From the States features items from:

The Alabama Baptist

Biblical Recorder (North Carolina)

Baptist Message (Louisiana)

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Small Ala. church helps college

students dream, minister

By Grace Thornton

LIVINGSTON, Ala. (The Alabama Baptist) -- Thomas Fletcher said he knew something was different about First Baptist Churc in Livingston, Ala., from the Sunday he preached in view of a call.

"They told me I was going to meet with the deacons, the staff and the search committee -- and also the college students," Fletcher said.

It was then he learned that the small church, in Bigbee Baptist Association, located about a mile from the University of West Alabama (UWA), gets about a third of its congregation from college students.

Rebuilding

"We average 100 on Sundays, and probably 30 of those are college students," said Fletcher, who became the church's pastor in September 2017. "We lean heavily on them to help lead the church."

It hasn't always been that way though, Fletcher said. The church doesn't have a college minister, and the year before Fletcher arrived, a lot of the college ministry's leaders graduated.

That's what it was like when Stephanie Metzler came back for her sophomore year at UWA.

"It was a rebuilding year for us," said Metzler, now a senior.

Brady Gaither agreed. When he first showed up at First, Livingston, only five college students were attending. Metzler was one of them.

"We knew we needed a revival around here," he said. "So we started praying and God really began to work."

The church's college committee gave Metzler, Gaither and other student leaders the keys to the church and offered them the freedom to dream.

"That committee has had such great dedication to the college ministry and really believed in what they do," Fletcher said.

And with the committee's support and blessing the students prayed for weeks about what to do.

They changed the name of their college ministry to The Awakening, named after the Great Awakening, the revival that swept through the country in the 1730s and 1740s.

Metzler said they wanted to see that kind of fresh wind sweep their town.

"We see our generation at the point where it's got head knowledge of the gospel but not heart knowledge," she said. "We feel like there's a lot of people in our generation who are asleep to the power of the gospel. We want to see our small town wake up."

So they prayed some more.

And the first Wednesday they kicked off The Awakening, 80 students showed up. Now they run about 100 on Wednesday nights for a meal cooked by church members followed by worship.

They also host an English class for international students. Gaither said he loves the diversity of the group.

"We have college students from all denominations and ethnicities," he said. "We tell them, 'We're just here to tell you what Jesus is all about.' We just want people to know the gospel, understand what they believe and back those beliefs up by reading the Bible."

Gaither and others sometimes preach on Sundays. They help with worship and they teach the church's Sunday School classes. And they help with missions projects, both around Livingston and overseas.

"They headed up our Operation Christmas Child this year and packed 700 boxes and took them to the collection site," Fletcher said. "They're integral to our church."

And Fletcher said he doesn't mind giving those students a place to grow, then sending them out.

"We don't anticipate more than 3 out of 100 to stay after they graduate, but you can really impact a lot of different places by how they become hungry for the Word and ministry and reaching lost souls for Christ," Fletcher said.

Try new things

Metzler said if a church is looking to grow its college ministry, it should be willing to try new things -- but not be discouraged as they continue to be faithful where they are.

"There are seasons of growth and seasons of digging before the planting even comes, or before a harvest ever comes," she said. "At First Baptist we had people who were faithful when there were only a few of us. That's just how ministry is. Stay faithful."

For more information visit facebook.com/TheAwakeningLivingston.


This article appeared in the Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Grace Thornton writes for the Alabama Baptist Convention.

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N.C. outreach center

to aid struggling families

By Blake Ragsdale

THOMASVILLE, N.C. (Biblical Recorder) -- The vision to establish a dynamic new ministry to aid families throughout the state came into focus with the Jan. 15 dedication of the Bob and Carolyn Tucker Greater Vision Outreach Center.

Donors, dignitaries, staff and community friends gathered at Baptist Children's Homes of North Carolina's (BCH) Mills Home campus in Thomasville to celebrate the official opening of the 10,000-square-foot center.

"This is the fulfillment of a dream, of a vision that some of us had and simply wouldn't let go of," BCH president Michael C. Blackwell said at the dedication program.

"For those of you who have truly been gripped by a vision that you feel came from God, you know you have no choice but to do what God is asking you to do."

The dedication program consisted of a catered luncheon in the center's warehouse.

The area was adorned with elaborate tables and beautiful place settings. Around them, guests could see areas reserved for donated clothing, school supplies, furniture, food and other supplies that can meet the immediate needs of community families.

"God plainly asks us to follow a vision of outreach in the community," Blackwell explained, "and when we feel God has opened a door, we are very quick to go through that door."

The door opened wide in 2016 when Bob and Carolyn Tucker of Concord pledged $1.5 million for the establishment of the new ministry. The center is named in their honor.

Carolyn's smile beamed brightly as she stood at Blackwell's side and spoke to the capacity crowd. "Bob and I are pleased to be a part of the giving towards such a great organization as the Baptist Children's Homes."

The Tuckers are longtime friends of BCH and members of North Kannapolis Baptist Church.

They are the founders of Shoe Show, Inc., which has retail locations in 47 states. Bob and Carolyn's son, Bobby, is a member of BCH's Board of Trustees.

"The real journey began when we heard of the real work and the lives that are changed. We were moved by the spirit, and we are just carrying on a great tradition," Carolyn continued.

"When you give to an organization like this, you see it, it is not just on a piece of paper.

"We are all so glad to be a part of this work."

The "work" is the expansion of BCH's array of services to children and families. The goal of the Greater Vision Outreach Ministry is to provide assistance to working families who struggle financially and can benefit from one-on-one mentoring on a path to self-sufficiency.

The center assists them by providing direct services, referrals to community resources, and education opportunities that help them on their journey. The ministry also serves the community by being a clearinghouse, channeling large donations to non-profit partners for distributions.

"This is a holistic approach that provides help, hope and healing for the economically depressed, spiritually discouraged and economically distressed," Blackwell said to the crowd.

To express his gratitude, Blackwell presented Carolyn with a framed copy of the Greater Vision article that appeared as a center spread in the January/February 2019 edition of Charity & Children, BCH's long-running news publication.

Many donors and volunteers came together to be a part of the new ministry including the Harris family who owns Furnitureland South in High Point. They provided the furnishings for the center as well as Stokes Cottage.

The renovated children's cottage was also unveiled and dedicated as a part of the celebratory day. North Carolina Baptist volunteers were vital to preparing the cottage to be a safe, family-style home to hurting children.

Even though the Greater Vision Outreach Center has just been officially dedicated, Greater Vision Outreach Center manager Sara Becker, her staff, volunteers and community partners have been meeting the various needs of families and individuals for months.

To date, Greater Vision has provided 48,314 meals and distributed 14,471 items of clothing and 10 pieces of furniture to children and families, both in the Triad and across the state.

"What sets Greater Vision apart is our commitment to help families move to greater financial independence -- where they rely less on assistance," Becker said.

With the new center fully operational, Blackwell is looking forward with expectation as the vision for BCH's newest ministry widens.

"The creation of the Bob and Carolyn Tucker Greater Vision Outreach Center is historic for Baptist Children's Homes," Blackwell said.

"It is an opportunity to take our organizational vision of 'sharing hope … changing lives' to the next level -- a greater level."


This article appeared in the Biblical Recorder (brnow.org) newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Blake Ragsdale is director of communications for Baptist Children's Homes of North Carolina.

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New believers

abound at La. church

By Brian Blackwell

DRY PRONG, La. (Baptist Message) -- Jackson Cooper was devastated after his mother, Laura, died in an automobile crash last October.

However, instead of dwelling in grief and anger about the sudden loss, Cooper, 32, went on a spiritual journey that led him to find hope in Christ.

Trust in Him

"Even though my mom and I were very close, her death didn't make me angry at God or anyone else, but just got me to thinking about God's plan for my life," Cooper said. "When the pastor at New Prospect Baptist Church asked me, during a visit to our home, if I was a Christian, I told him I had my doubts.

"Once I understood that I needed to move from knowing Him in my head to accepting Him in my heart, my life was reborn."

Led by Him

Cooper asked his wife, children, sisters and father to witness his November baptism at his childhood church. Since then, Cooper's faith has grown to new heights as he daily testifies how Christ forever changed his life.

"It felt great to show my faith and show that I do believe in Christ," Cooper said. "I've learned to embrace the Lord more often and keep Him close to me. Also, I've learned to let God handle everyday problems. My stress and everyday life have improved and I feel like I don't have a burden each day – that I can embrace His plan.

Joined by others

Cooper is one of 26 people baptized since September.

Pastor Trey Lewis attributes the wave of baptisms to his congregation, which averages 170 in its Sunday morning worship service, seeking humbleness in prayer. For the past two years, the men in his church have gathered every Monday morning to pray together and God has answered them.

Also, the people have embraced a vision to constantly engage the community with the Gospel, he said.

Last summer, 16 children professed faith in Christ either during Vacation Bible School or summer camp.

More decisions followed in the fall after a two-month Upward Soccer season and then the Hope4U GO TELL Crusade which was held at the Rapides Parish Coliseum in Alexandria.

Others surrendered their lives to Christ from among about 165 people who received Christmas gifts and heard the Christmas story during a special event in December.

"It's a great response to a simple Gospel message," Lewis said. "It's not any one thing we are doing but it's all God. I'm grateful the Lord is stirring the hearts. This is a small community outside of Pineville and we are one of the churches faithfully serving it. We wanted to reach our Jerusalem and have committed to go beyond our personal space to reach our Judea, Samaria and the rest of the world."


This article appeared in the Baptist Message (baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Brian Blackwell is a staff writer for the Baptist Message.

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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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