FROM THE STATES: Miss., Mo., N.C. evangelism/missions news
Today's From the States features items from:
The Baptist Record (Mississippi)
The Pathway (Missouri)
Biblical Recorder (North Carolina)
Learning to serve:
Youth train hands-on in south Jackson area
By Tony Martin
JACKSON, Miss. (The Baptist Record) -- Hundreds of students from across Mississippi participated in MissionsNow, a Jackson-area project sponsored by the youth team of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board March 23-24, and hosted by Country Woods Church in Byram.
According to Tammy Anderson, consultant with Woman's Missionary Union, m,ore than 200 participants from 15 churches took part in the missions event. The group worked on eighteen projects across the Byram, South Jackson, Florence, and Clinton area.
"We designed MissionsNow to give youth in our state an opportunity to learn how to serve their local communities," Anderson said. "We create a lab environment in a local setting, and when they go home they can repeat and imitate what they have experienced. One of our goals is that during our event the community the students serve would be touched and the community would be impacted.
"This particular time we served in communities in transition," Anderson continued, "and we felt like our youth could have a real impact in the South Jackson area. Byram is a brand new community, so we thought that would give us a good opportunity."
The event began Friday night at Country Woods with a general session and breakout conferences. It resumed Saturday morning with a brief morning session before the students went to serve in their ministry projects. Some groups returned to the church for lunch before resuming their projects, while other groups ate at their service sites. The event concluded with one final group session at the church.
Student groups were assigned specific tasks in specific locations. Projects included patient visits at Briar Hill Rest Home in Florence; landscaping and cleaning at Byram Library; landscaping and playing with children at the Christians in Action – Emergency Children's Shelter in South Jackson; cleaning inside and outside at the Clinton Community Christian Corps in Clinton; Backyard Bible Club and kid's fun day at the Country Oaks Mobile Home park in Raymond; landscaping and helping residents at the Falcon Crest Elderly & Disabled Retirement Community in Florence; water distribution, clean up, and "acts of kindness" at the Florence soccer fields; car washes at two different sites; paint and patient visits at the Forest Hill Nursing Home in South Jackson; surveying, cleaning, and a garage sale at My Father's House, Jackson; spring cleaning and landscaping at the Richard Wright Branch Library in Jackson; a Backyard Bible Club at Southside Terrace Apartments in South Jackson; interacting with patients at the Trinity Mission Health & Rehab in Clinton; patient visits and landscaping at the Willow Creek Retirement Center in Byram, among others.
Marly Perkins, from Mt. Horeb Church in Collins was with the group that ministered at the Country Oaks Mobile Home Park. "We just want to help people in need," she said. "We enjoy coming out and helping people less fortunate."
"Our Acteens group at church wanted to come and help out today," said Michaela Welford, a 7th grader from Rocky Creek Church, George-Green Association. "This is my first year doing something like this."
"We decided to come help this year to tell people about Christ and how serving the Lord can be fun," said Kennedy Hudson, an 8th grader from Wellman Church, Bogue Chitto. "I want the kids in our church to know from my experience that we can make a difference."
One mission project was to be a free car wash offered at the Mazzio's in Byram. When the team showed up, there was an inner city of young boys already set up there offering a car wash to raise money for a basketball camp. The store manager, realizing he had "double booked" the parking lot, suggested the two groups do the car wash together. The mission group offered to help the basketball group raise money, and the leader of the basketball group readily agreed. The mission group realized that they had a group of thirty kids from the inner city that they were going to have the opportunity to spend the day with.
One group ministered to a couple by helping with landscaping and cleaning up at their home. The husband had been diagnosed with a degenerative brain disease and wasn't able to work in his yard as he once had. "It was great for the couple to be reminded that God hadn't forgotten about them in the midst of all the suffering they'd been going through," Anderson said.
Working at the car wash at Mazzio's, Jackson Lott, from Central Church in Carriere, said, "God called me to do this, so I just did what He asked me to do."
Tony Martin is the associate editor for The Baptist Record, newsjournal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention.
CP helps further God's work
in the African nation of Malawi
By Kayla Rinker
MALAWI, Africa (The Pathway) -- In 1998, when International Mission Board Missionary Gary Robertson left the United States to serve the Tumbuku people of Malawi, Africa, he had a strong sense that he was representing Missouri Baptist churches.
"Before I left I remember meeting with the WMU of the Gasconade Valley Baptist Association and realizing that they were the churches that were sending me," said Robertson, a native of Linn. "None of them could send a missionary on their own but together they, and many more Missouri Baptist churches, were promising to support me and my family through their gifts to the Cooperative Program (CP)."
Now it is 13 years later and Robertson, along with his wife, Michelle, and children, Samuel, 9, and Lydia, 7, is still helping to plant churches in Malawi, specifically by training Tumbuku leaders.
"One of the limiting factors in starting churches in Malawi is trained leadership," Robertson said. "This is where I put a large part of my efforts, preparing lessons and translating them into Tumbuku. We do training on the local church level, associational training events, as well as a two-year Bible school. We rejoice to see men and women hungering to learn God's word and growing in their faith and service."
Robertson also serves with the churches in the Mzimba and Kumzi Baptist Associations to spread the gospel "the old fashion way."
"When we have days to witness in the village, we go house to house," he said. "The Malawi people are warm-hearted and are honored that we come to their houses. We sit in chairs under trees or in the shade of a house while they gather nearby people. Most have never heard of receiving forgiveness of sin or how to have a saving relationship with Jesus. Walking in the African sun can be very draining but we rejoice in the new believers and the seeds that are sown in the hearts of those who have not yet received Him."
Robertson has also been involved in several physical-needs ministry projects. Most recently, he joined his association in facilitating the drilling of deep wells in locations with bad water sources.
"Addressing these human needs has been important as we try to show that Jesus cares about the spiritual and physical needs of all people," he said.
Robertson said the Cooperative Program is an integral part of every facet of their ministry in Malawi. He said giving through the CP conveys a testimony of Missouri Baptists' love for the lost and that they are united in obedience to the Great Commission.
"When the first church in Jerusalem came together with one heart, God worked mightily in their midst," Robertson said. "When churches, big and small, work together to advance the kingdom of God through the Cooperative Program it shows their one heartedness and I am certain God will continue to do mighty things among Missouri Baptist churches. We are humbled to know that people are making sacrifices to keep us on the field. We never take that for granted."
Kayla Rinker is a contributing writer for The Pathway (www.mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.
Moldova mission team encounters
lostness, spiritual darkness
By Melissa Lilley
UNGHENI, Moldova (Baptist State Convention of North Carolina) -- Wrinkles lined her face and wisps of gray hair poked out from underneath the blue and yellow scarf wrapped around her head. She stood in the doorway bundled up in a long gray coat. A smile never left her face.
The woman was glad to meet the team from the United States. She thought their religion was better than hers and said they were better people. The team shared the gospel with her. They explained that they were not better than her, and that only the grace of Jesus Christ can save sinners.
She listened and then spoke with such kindness. She said she just couldn't do it. All her life she was taught to go through a priest to reach God. No one could ever have assurance of eternal life, she said.
The team prayed with her and with the young woman with her, perhaps a granddaughter. During the prayer the younger woman began to weep. After the prayer, she continued wiping tears from her eyes.
She appeared to be so close to responding in faith to Jesus Christ.
"We met one person after another who was so ingrained in orthodoxy that there's this blindness over their eyes that they can't see Jesus – because they think they already know Jesus," said Kenny Lamm, worship and music consultant for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC). "It will take God's power to lift that fog from their eyes."
Lamm was one of 11 staff from the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina who participated in a mission trip to Moldova March 9-19 coordinated by the Convention's Office of Great Commission Partnerships.
Lamm saw hope represented in the young woman.
"The younger generation could be so pivotal in Moldova because they are not as steeped in the religious traditions," he said.
Throughout Moldova are icons, or constant reminders that teachings from the Moldovan Orthodox Church are firmly rooted in minds and hearts of its people.
An icon is known as a blue, cross-shaped box mounted to a wooden pole that holds images of saints, Mary, or Jesus on the cross.
Icons are everywhere, from a roadside to a hilltop overlooking a village. Driving into the city of Ungheni, an icon sits just off the left side of the road, near the railroad tracks before arriving at the house of culture. During the former Soviet Union days, buildings called the "house of culture" were used to teach Communist ideals.
Evangelicals would label the icons as graven images. Moldovans who follow the Orthodox tradition believe they are a sign of blessing and one way to point people to God.
John Miron, president of the Baptist Union of Moldova, knows the challenges that come with trying to penetrate spiritual darkness. Miron and other pastors were chased out of a village when they tried to start a church there. Tires on their cars were slashed and the priests told them they were not to assemble in the village boundaries.
In the village of Parlita, where the mission team served the first day, they met a woman with young children who had never heard the name of Jesus.
"When I asked her if she knew of Jesus, she said no," said Iana Fincher, BSC church planting ministry assistant. "I asked a couple other times to make sure she understood me – but she had no concept of Jesus."
Fincher was born and raised in Chisinau, Moldova's capital city, and moved to the United States with her family as a teenager. Her ability to speak English, Russian and Romanian allowed her to serve the team well as a translator.
Fincher's family learned about the gospel when a Gideon from the United States was in Moldova handing out Bibles on the street. Fincher's mom received one of the Bibles. She soon began attending a Bible study so she could understand more of what she was reading.
Fincher's mom prayed to receive Jesus Christ and so did her dad. Her dad did not learn about Jesus until he was about 40 years old. Her grandmother and uncle prayed to receive Christ shortly before they died, but the rest of her family in Moldova does not believe in Jesus.
The village where Fincher's parents grew up is still without a church.
"The people we visited in the villages were completely hopeless. They had been lied to about God and about Jesus. And these people are the rule; not the exception," Fincher said. "I saw how raw lostness is and how sad it is."
Merrie Johnson, BSC senior consultant for student evangelism and ministry, met a woman in the villages who had never owned a Bible.
"She told us that the priest reads the Bible to them. They don't read the Bible for themselves," Johnson said. "We gave her a Bible and she couldn't believe it. She was beside herself with joy."
Johnson also met an 82-year-old man who was not saved. His wife, a believer, wanted her husband to hear what Johnson and the team had to say about the gospel.
"He stood there the entire gospel presentation and listened. But he said, 'I can't do it.' He kept saying, 'This doesn't equal what I've heard in my church.'"
The spiritual darkness is overwhelming, but the Convention's mission team saw the power of God at work while in Moldova.
The woman in Parlita, who had never heard of Jesus, prayed to receive Christ as her personal Lord and Savior. Several team members had opportunity to share their faith and then watch as God worked and people responded to the gospel. On the Sunday before the team left Moldova some team members preached in churches throughout Chisinau.
One of the churches, Gethsemane Baptist, meets in a Russian public elementary school that was once used as a meeting location for Communist leaders.
One of the church members is a woman who before she was saved used to teach, as she described, atheist propaganda in the school. The Sunday the team was at the church, a teenager someone who described himself as an atheist – prayed to receive Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior.
The team saw up close the hopelessness that comes without Jesus Christ and the need for God to work in hearts. Before the trip, Fincher prayed for God to show her lostness and to break her heart for the Moldovan people.
"I am so glad to know that through faith I have assurance of salvation," she said.
"I have never been so thankful for that. I remember thinking during the trip how I never wanted to take that assurance for granted."
Melissa is research and communications coordinator for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.