September 16, 2014
2013: Annie Armstrong Easter Offering
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WEEK OF PRAYER: Reaching 'poverty I've called you to'
BURNABY, British Columbia (BP) -- Victor and Candice Thomas landed in Vancouver, British Columbia, promising they'd never stay. Five years later, they're still in town.
The South African entrepreneurs arrived in 2007, allowing Victor Thomas to start a four-month stint as a researcher at Simon Fraser University, an adventure he called an extended honeymoon for the newlyweds. His study focused on environmental science and poverty, but the couple found a new calling in Burnaby, a quick train-ride from downtown Vancouver.
Three weeks before they were to return to Cape Town, Thomas walked the Burnaby campus of Simon Fraser, his eyes seeming to open for the first time. "I saw these students with blank looks on their faces, and I started to tear up. For a South African male that's not cool," Thomas said. "It was as if God was saying, 'Isn't this the poverty I've called you to?'" From a family with seven generations of pastors, Thomas told his friends he'd never follow suit. And indeed he'd stayed true to his proclamation for more than two decades, though he always served the poor alongside his dad. He also started a company consulting on construction projects in environmentally sensitive areas. "Life was good back in Africa," Thomas said. "I'd just hired a friend and we had several big contracts. We'd never intended to stay in Canada." As God began to draw the Thomases to the work of The Point Church, a long drive with then-planter of The Point, Kelly Manire, sealed the decision. "He told us he was moving on," Thomas said, "and that he wanted me and Candice to take over." The Point, a Canadian National Baptist Convention church, had started years earlier, but had dwindled to a small Bible study. Taking over The Point would amount to relaunching the church. As Thomas saw it, this also meant launching additional campuses in suburban Coquitlam and downtown Vancouver. Victor Thomas is just one of several church planters serving in the greater Vancouver area, and is helping to achieve the vision of Send North America: Vancouver. ...
Church revitalization 'has to be intentional'
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) -- Randal Lyle knew almost nothing about church revitalization when he joined the staff of Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth. His education would be by immersion when a nearby church -- Meadowridge Community Baptist -- came seeking help.
WEEK OF PRAYER; 'Life-changing' mission trip to Africa motivates S.F. church plant
SAN FRANCISCO(BP) -- Living in an environment as affluent as San Francisco can numb people to others' needs, but Ben Pilgreen knows God is able to increase a person's sensitivity.
Human trafficking issue captured her heart
HIGH POINT, N.C. (BP) -- Sandra Johnson refuses to turn her back on the problem. And she believes other Baptists shouldn't either.       For Johnson, a North American Mission Board (NAMB) missionary based in North Carolina, the issue of human trafficking is personal, and it's a problem that is right in our "own backyard."
WEEK OF PRAYER: Vulnerable women in New Orleans find hope
NEW ORLEANS (BP) -- Homeless, pregnant and struggling with substance abuse, Melanie's life seemed hopeless as she slept under a bridge in Oklahoma City several years ago.       Then a newspaper article caught Melanie's eye about the city of New Orleans' struggle to rebuild after
Hurricane Katrina. Desperate to rebuild her life as well, she set out for New Orleans and on the path to a divine appointment with LoveLoud missionary Kay Bennett.
Greater Mercy lifts Miami neighborhood
MIAMI (BP) -- A lonely soul slips into the back row during worship at Miami's Greater Mercy Missionary Baptist Church as pastor Willie Williams proclaims how to manage when "life turns bitter instead of better."
WEEK OF PRAYER: He knows the impact of church planting
HAVERTOWN, Pa. (BP) -- If anyone understands the life-changing impact that church planting and evangelism can have on someone, it's Peter Yanes.
Born and raised in the islands of the Philippines, Yanes grew up in a predominantly Roman Catholic nation with a family deeply devoted to the church. Yanes himself spent much of his youth serving as an altar boy with aspirations of one day becoming a priest. All that changed with an invitation. "I was in high school and a friend invited me to a Bible study," Yanes recalls. "That's where I came to know Jesus Christ in a personal way. Since then, there's been no turning back."
The church that hosted this Bible study was a church plant started by a Filipino planter. "Church planting is very special and important to me because without it, I wouldn't be where I am," Yanes explains. This heart for church planting makes Yanes the perfect fit for his role as a mobilization missionary for the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey. Based in Philadelphia, Yanes' work as a mobilizer for the area allows him to identify and support planters and partners as they start and grow new churches. With only 400 SBC congregations serving a population of more than 15 million in the convention, the area needs new churches. For his part, Yanes is working specifically to catalyze ethnic church planters to reach the growing number of people groups in the area. "My ministry allows me to build great relationships with our ethnic pastors," Yanes says. "Having relationships and support can be such an asset because their position can be very lonely and very tough at times." This is a feeling Yanes knows firsthand. After pastoring a church in the Philippines, he and his wife Irene made the move to the United States in 1998 and began the work of church planting in Philadelphia. He has spent the better part of the last 14 years serving the growing ethnic population in Philadelphia. He supported the now-thriving Philadelphia Bible Church International in its early years in an effort to provide a place of worship for Filipino transplants living in the city. By taking on his current role, Yanes can share his experiences in ethnic church planting with others like him looking to reach their own diverse communities.
Evangelism-themed Bibles en route to churches
ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) -- Every Southern Baptist and Canadian National Baptist church in North America will receive a case of New Testaments from the North American Mission Board by early April.
WEEK OF PRAYER: Childhood memory awakens
DENVER (BP) -- A new home, new position, new ministry and new outlook came to Lorna Bius in the summer of 2012. But a childhood memory --forgotten for years -- helped her realize something oddly familiar about it all.
      "I'm discovering that sometimes people need to experience LoveLoud ministry for a while before they recognize it," said Bius, one of this year's North American Mission Board Week of Prayer missionaries. "It was true in my life."
Chaplain helps veterans look toward eternity
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (BP) -- Bill Andrews* has spent his entire life serving others -- his family, friends and his country. Now the Korean War veteran lies in a hospital bed waiting on death, often feeling like a burden to friends, family and the hospital staff surrounding him.
WEEK OF PRAYER: The world comes to Chicago's Wicker Park
CHICAGO (BP) -- Looking around Chicago's Wicker Park, just about every kind of person is there. Maurice Burr, 44, is a one-time high school football star who spends his days in a wheelchair because of gang violence. Charlie the drifter is a homeless man who wanders through the neighborhood warning people of government conspiracies.
A young highly educated well-dressed couple come to the park to walk their dog and let their young son play. There's also the senior citizen couple who sit at the park to get some fresh air before heading back to the nearby assisted living center. And thanks to the generosity of Southern Baptists, there's a North American Mission Board church planter there as well. "It's the most eclectic place you can imagine," NAMB church planter Scott Venable says. "It has drug dealers and businesspeople. When we prayerwalked as we were looking for a place to start the church and we got to Wicker Park, we just knew it was it." Wicker Park is both a large park off of Chicago's North Damen Avenue and one of the most famous neighborhoods in the Windy City. Called by Forbes the fourth coolest neighborhood in the country, it's the kind of place where government housing is just a few blocks down from million-dollar homes. It's also a place that needs churches. Chicagoland -- the 10 Illinois counties that surround the city -- has one Southern Baptist church for every 31,791 people. Evangelicals make up just 10 percent of the population. The Wicker Park neighborhood itself had just four small evangelical churches for about 23,000 people before Venable's arrival. And, for Venable, it was just the right place. The inner city had long been within his sights. He remembers serving in the Dallas inner city as a young person and feeling a kinship to the culture, music and speed of urban life. With a vision for starting a church that would change its city, Venable and his then-fiancé Ashley began praying about where God might want to use them before they even married. When the couple visited Chicago around Easter of 2009 -- and Wicker Park specifically -- it seemed that God was speaking clearly to them. Before the two said "I do" that May, they decided Chicago would be their new home. After arriving in Chicago, the Venables went first to a local school in the Wicker Park area and offered to serve. The offer first took the principal by surprise. She was accustomed to having church plants want to use their facility to host church services -- not offer free help. "We're a new church here and really small," Venable told the principal. "We want to help this school become what you want it to be. We want to invest in the community. I like your vision. I like your dream. We want to help pour into the life of these kids."


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