FROM THE STATES: Northwest, Ariz., Ga. evangelism/missions news; 'God's blessing is both the fuel and the resource we need ...'

Today's From the States features items from:

Northwest Baptist Convention

Portraits (Arizona)

Christian Index (Georgia)

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IMB, Northwest

partnership affirmed

By Cameron Crabtree

VANCOUVER, Wash. (Northwest Baptist Witness) -- The new president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board affirmed the partnership between the Northwest Baptist Convention and the IMB's largest group of workers in Asia, noting the "significant, hands-on investment" NWBC churches are making.

"We continue to see tremendous impact in [the region] and praise God for those who, like our partnering convention of churches, are multiplying impact as they work alongside, pray and give," Paul Chitwood told Randy Adams, NWBC executive director, after reviewing a 10-page report highlighting results of the partnership on IMB work in Asia.

Chitwood became IMB president last November and is the 13th president of the entity which sends and supports about 3,600 global workers worldwide. More than 100 of those are from NWBC-affiliated congregations, estimates Adams.

The NWBC's formal partnership with IMB workers began in early 2015. The convention has record of about 300-400 volunteers from 70 Northwest Baptist churches participating in various efforts in Asia, according to Adams.

They have assisted IMB workers with multiple projects in various countries and among people groups with little access to the Gospel message or among groups previously "unengaged" by it. Some projects involve small groups of volunteers from individual churches, while others require more significant numbers from numerous churches working cooperatively.

Providing opportunities for individual churches to build long-term partnerships is part of the strength of a formal NWBC-IMB partnership, noted Adams. He estimated at least 30 teams from local churches have traveled to Asia to assist various IMB efforts. Most of those teams have either "adopted" and city, a team of IMB workers or a people group needing to be reached, Adams said.

"We have NWBC churches engaged with workers to reach groups who come from a variety of belief systems and religious traditions," he noted. "At least two churches have focused on areas in (an undisclosed nation) where no workers live."

A major component in partnership projects is providing logistical and staff support for the large conferences for IMB workers. Those periodic retreats are opportunities for IMB personnel in the affinity group to gather from the dozens of locales in which they work -- some of them isolated from other personnel -- for training, strategic planning, support, encouragement and fellowship.

In 2016, more than 160 volunteers from 32 churches played key roles in the first major affinity group conference in several years. In 2018, 50 volunteers from 10 churches helped staff a leadership retreat for IMB workers in Asia.

Another 100-plus Northwest Baptist volunteers have participated in training for the affinity conference this summer. "God's blessing is both the fuel and the resource we need to get this job done," said Adams during a mid-March orientation for the group.

In addition to supporting the conferences for IMB workers, the partnership helps organize vision trips for pastors and church leaders that foster specific partnerships between local NWBC churches and workers in various locales. More than 40 Northwest pastors have taken part in those ventures abroad.

"Dozens of churches have gotten directly involved in international missions with IMB personnel that had never before been engaged," said Adams. "The partnership has provided a focus and a common missions experience for our churches."

Adams believes connecting churches to such uniting global purpose strengthens both the local churches and the larger convention.

"The partnership has demonstrated the importance of the NWBC to our churches, and the entire cooperative system of the Southern Baptist Convention, because they have seen that without convention leadership, they could never have done international missions in the way they have," he said.

That plays out in various scenarios.

Chong Kim, who works with the NWBC as an evangelism and church health catalyst for Asian churches, helped lead a team of Korean pastors from the Northwest on a vision trip to Japan in order to survey opportunities for partnership with IMB personnel and Baptist churches throughout the country.

"Along with the key leadership of NWBC Korean churches, we are seeking a way to be in continuing partnership with the churches in Japan," said Kim. "As of now, we are seeking pastors who want to visit Japan for leadership training this fall."

Japanese International Baptist Church of Tigard, OR, has built relationships with various churches and organizations to provide assistance there. It established a local ministry initiative within the church to assist in relief efforts when the island nation faces consequences of natural disasters.

Jason*, an IMB worker in Japan, highlighted the role of Reata Springs Baptist Church in supporting his work. "They faithfully pray for us and keep contact with us," he said. The church sends about two teams annually for prayer walking, work on university campuses, discipleship workshops for local believers and other projects.

Lance Johnson*, the student ministry leader for the IMB group, is working with Ken Harmon and Northwest Collegiate Ministries to establish a long-term relationship that involved college students in projects throughout the year.

He also credited the work of teams from CrossPointe Church in Bothell, WA, with "gaining access to two college campuses" in Nagoya for ongoing work.

One of the newer efforts in the partnership is a training experience to involve church leaders in cross-cultural training labs overseas.

"They would receive training in different areas of service in a classroom setting – trained by our personnel -- and in hands-on, practical service," said Hector.* "The goal is they would commit to send a team back or to team with another church and combine to come together." A lab is planned for later this year.

Several IMB workers on the field credited other NWBC churches listed in the report with important prayer support and involvement in other partnership endeavors.

Having participated in multiple short-term trips abroad throughout his life, Adams suggested involvement in the partnership positively influences giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, which provides more than half of the IMB's annual budget ($264.4 million for 2018-19).

In 2013, NWBC churches gave $403,745 through the LMCO. For 2015, the year the partnership was adopted, the offering increased to nearly $505,000. The high was in 2017 at more than $627,000 and in 2018 the tally was more than $517,000. "Without question, the Asia partnership has caused an increase in the Lottie Moon offering," said Adams.

In addition to teams from the Northwest traveling to support the work overseas, IMB field personnel in Asia also play a role in strengthening global concerns here at home. While on stateside assignments, they have promoted various projects and offered multi-day training events for interested volunteers from NWBC churches over the last four years.

At the NWBC's annual meeting they report on their work and are feature speakers at auxiliary events.

As Northwest Baptists plan and identify specific workers or areas to target for partnership projects, they have to take changing landscapes of access and security into consideration. Many IMB workers serve where the political and social conditions allow for open expressions of faith and church activity -- Japan, for example -- but others work in countries or among population groups where they face severe restrictions or hostility to such endeavors.

Northwest Baptists are encouraged to pray for the advance of the Gospel message both through the partnership efforts and among IMB work around the world.

*Name changed


This article appeared in the Northwest Baptist Witness (gonbw.org), newsjournal of the Northwest Baptist Convention. Cameron Crabtree is editor of the Northwest Baptist Witness

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Reaching deaf

& hearing in Ariz.

By Noah Jaeger

MESA, Ariz. (Portraits) -- Many view deafness as a disability. For Silent Hope Church, however, deafness is how God is forming godly relationships in Mesa.

Silent Hope, which meets for Sunday School and worship on Sunday afternoons at Heart of Mesa Church, is the first Deaf-led church in the East Valley.

Jeremy Fass, Deaf pastor of Silent Hope, strives to unify the Deaf and hearing through services in American Sign Language with English translation.

"Instead of being disabled, we're differently abled," Fass says.

Silent Hope offers a rare opportunity for the Deaf community to hear the Gospel.

"How would Deaf people ever come to know Jesus if they always have to go hear it second-handedly? English is like a foreign language to them," says Nancy Boothe, Fass' mother-in-law and member of HiWay Baptist Church, Mesa, where Silent Hope began. "This way they get to hear it in their own language. They understand it directly from [Jeremy]."

Natural divides such as race, gender and age are not as prominent within the Deaf community as within the hearing.

"In the Deaf community, color lines don't really exist. Male-female doesn't really exist," says Denise Trimble Smith, Silent Hope member and former ASL-English interpreter for Fass. "So, being children of God and being Deaf is a gift that comes first. Then, you see if you're male or female, or if you're black, white or Hispanic."

Unfortunately, due to their adversity, many in the Deaf community search for relief from their pain in self-destructive ways. Phillip Mathews, recently ordained deacon at Silent Hope, once lived such a lifestyle.

"Phillip was an addict to meth for 27 years, and I never thought people addicted to meth could actually become clean," Fass says.

But God redeemed Mathews, and gave him hope to overcome his addiction.

"When Phillip surrendered his life to Christ, he really had to surrender his whole lifestyle to Christ," Fass says.

Many in the Deaf community struggle with finding acceptance, employment and residence due to the limitations placed upon them. Silent Hope serves their community by filling these needs and empowering their community.

"So, here I have to develop their spiritual life, and I have to fill them up as a person," Fass says. "[When] I go to different businesses, I go to the same person every time, so they understand who I am. And that's how I get people jobs, because they know who I am. One of my biggest things is I want people to find jobs and find places to live."

Silent Hope reaches a people group who have limited access to the Gospel. Through meeting their needs and providing a worship service in their language, the Deaf community has a greater understanding of God's love and godly relationships.


This article appeared in Portraits (portraits.azsbc.org), newsjournal of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention. Noah Jaeger is a freelance writer and photographer, a member of Mercy Hill Church in Phoenix and serves on the Christian Challenge staff at Arizona State University's Downtown Phoenix campus.

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Ga.'s 'Unholy Tour' to

again show trafficking's toll

By Scott Barkley

DULUTH, Ga. (Christian Index) -- On average, more than 100 juvenile girls are exploited each night.

Every month, approximately 12,400 men pay for sex with a young woman.

Leading up to the 2019 Super Bowl, 169 individuals were arrested on sex trafficking charges.

The city you visit for a show at the Fox Theatre or to see beluga whales at the aquarium brings in $290 million annually in sex trafficking.

Human trafficking is second only to drugs in terms of criminal enterprise in Atlanta, with Georgia's capital ranked as the top city for commercial sexual exploitation of children in the U.S. Opening the eyes of legislators and the public to the issue has become a priority for Tim Echols of the Georgia Public Service Commission. His primary method for doing so is the Unholy Tour.

Each year Echols sponsors several of the outings where attendees board a bus and travel to the areas of Atlanta known for human trafficking. Speakers from various organizations share how they help combat the problem. Many of them have a personal connection and even been rescued themselves from being trafficked.

A free seat, but reservation needed

On the evening of May 23 Echols and the Georgia Baptist Mission Board's Public Affairs department will co-host the Unholy Tour to educate pastors, ministers, and church leaders on the reality of human sex trafficking in our communities.

"Atlanta has become known to being among the worst, if not the worst, city in America when it comes to human trafficking," Georgia Baptist Public Affairs Representative Mike Griffin told The Index before last year's Unholy Tour. "It's important for churches to be knowledgeable. They should be able to educate their congregation on warning signs and dangers involved. Churches need to be able to minister to these victims.

"Overall, the tour helps show the need for better public policy regarding human trafficking and support for better law enforcement. Because of the internet and social media, it's become a problem that really knows no boundaries."

Those perceptions have only intensified for Griffin, recently addressing this year's Tour.

"I think this will be my sixth Unholy Tour and all of them have been some of the most eye opening events of my life. Never would I have seen how real the problem of Human Trafficking is in the Atlanta metro area without having attended one of these tours.

"I am thankful for so many individuals, churches, and organizations that are helping law enforcement combat this problem. We simply cannot have too much help!"

Seats on the bus are free, but must be reserved. To do so click here to register and then choose "General RSVP" to attend.


This article appeared in the Christian Index (christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Scott Barkley is editor of the Christian Index.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: From the States, typically 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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