FROM THE STATES: Md., Mo., N.C evangelism/missions news; 'They're never too young to die or to think about the reality of hell'

Today's From the States features items from:

BaptistLIFE (Maryland)

The Pathway (Missouri)

Biblical Recorder (North Carolina)

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Md. middle school camp explores

being made in God's image

By Sharon Mager

MIDDLETOWN, Md. (BaptistLIFE) -- Middle school students from Christian Liberty Church and The Garden Church in Baltimore, and First Baptist Church of Capitol Heights, in Maryland, got an opportunity to take a step out of their current environment and enjoy a 3-day camp at Skycroft Conference Center in Middletown, Maryland, on Aug. 18-21.

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Sponsored by the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, the students had a blast playing basketball and bazooka ball, swimming, and sitting around a campfire. Church leaders led the kids in singing and praying and taught them about' God's plan of redemption. They also focused on academic responsibilities and God's design for human sexuality.

"Our focus was to go through creation, fall and restoration and what it means to be made in the image of God, what happened in the fall, and restoration where Jesus will everything right," explained Stephanie Laferriere, who serves with ONE HOPE, a ministry of The Garden Church as a life coach. "Also, we wanted to have them discover what those three things mean personally in their lives right now."

The teaching was bold -- not sugar-coated. Laferriere said, "Montrel (Haygood, assistant pastor of the Garden Church) was discussing the fall and sharing that we are all in need of God's grace. None are innocent. They're never too young to die or to think about the reality of hell. He asked them, 'What is the reality of you hearing gunshots every day?' All the kids raised their hands."

Joel Kurz, the lead pastor of The Garden Church, discussed restoration, using the book of Hosea. "Joel showed how God pursues us when we were not pursuable. God has sought us out. The kids can identify that God created the world -- we ruined it and that God sent Christ to restore it."

Reflecting on the creation, each student drew one of the most beautiful things they've ever seen. In the discussions, Laferriere said students responded that they learned that God doesn't make mistakes. They weren't mistakes; they were part of God's plan.

Taking what they learned and applying it to their imminent return to school, Laferriere said they focused on issues such as peer pressure, drinking, sexuality and making good choices. They also emphasized mutual respect and discipline.

Christian Liberty Church member and Baltimore City School Teacher Wanda Parks, "One thing I really like is that we got to take kids out of Baltimore City and bring them to a new setting and show them the love of Jesus."

Parks said most middle schoolers do not know who they are or who they were created to be. "As a result, they make poor choices. When we can teach them about God and ... how they are created in the image of God, it will help them to think differently about themselves, about how they treat others. It will help them think differently about what their goals and dreams can be."

As part of the back to school preparation, Parks said they hoped to encourage proper attitudes and skills, and help them understand how to act in a learning environment. "We talked about how to be responsible and be proud, and something as simple as making sure you bring your supplies every day and do your homework. We also discussed being respectful to one another.' We're hoping that' they'll remember that in two weeks," she chuckled.

Laferriere said, "Teachers are excited and ready to teach. We wanted to create a platform where students are ready to listen."

First Baptist Church of Capitol Heights church member and chaperone Joyce Segura said she enjoyed seeing how the kids interacted together. "They had great questions. They asked if God knew that Adam was going to eat the fruit, why did he put the tree in the garden? They had friends who got killed, and wanted to know if they would see them again, and would they know who they are? They asked questions some adults want to ask, but the kids are more honest and open and speak what they feel," she said.

"It was good to get them out of the city and enjoy the outdoors. Many have issues going on at home, and there they didn't have to think about those issues. It was a time to relax," Segura said.

Students said they had fun. One tween girl, when asked about her favorite part of the camp said it was the macaroni and cheese. Another, Kayla, said, "I liked working together in groups." Charlie said, "I like that we can have fun with each other and socialize more and that we have our phones put away." Parks laughed and said, "She's right; she brought me her phone."

Laferriere enjoyed the unity, how the students from the three churches blended so easily. "They loved interacting, role-playing, the campfire, going for walks, and being outside. A lot of them had not been to a camp like that -- an hour and a half away. Nature really worked well. We were talking about creation, and we could see the thunder at night. It was fun."


This article appeared in BaptistLIFE (baptistlifeonline.org), newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. Sharon Mager serves with the convention as a communications specialist and correspondent for its BaptistLIFE newsjournal.

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Mo. Baptists partner to reach

Hispanics in Minn., Wisc.

By Ben Hawkins

AUSTIN, Minn. (The Pathway) -- The Primera Iglesia Bautista here is the only Spanish-speaking Baptist church in a town with between 5,000-10,000 Hispanic people.

The church had its beginnings through the efforts of Spanish-speaking lay people, some of whom moved to Minnesota from Missouri. At first, they desired to worship with God's people each Sunday. So, even though they didn't understand English well, they attended the English service at the town's First Baptist Church for four years. Meanwhile, they met in homes during the week for Bible study. Then, when the First Baptist Church closed its doors, they called a pastor, began meeting in the vacated church building and became the Spanish-speaking Primera Iglesia Bautista.

This Austin church's situation isn't unique in Minnesota. The city of St. Paul claims a Hispanic population of roughly 250,000, but it also has only one Baptist church -- namely, Iglesia Hispana Betel.

"This is definitely a pioneer work," said Omar Segovia, ethnic church planting strategist for the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC). In fact, Napoleon Meynard, the pastor of Iglesia Hispana Betel, was for many years the only Spanish-speaking Baptist pastor in Minnesota.

Last month, Segovia led a dozen Spanish-speaking Missouri Baptists to Austin to help these churches with evangelism, Vacation Bible School, a children's soccer camp, and local promotion of church services and events.

The churches, Segovia said, "were greatly encouraged. They would love for us to come back." Indeed, Segovia is planning another trip in August -- this time, not simply to serve and deepen relationships with the congregations, but also to train them for Kingdom growth. "They don't just want to do evangelism," he said. "They want to start new churches."

In fact, Pastor Victor Ordoñez of Primera Iglesia Bautista hopes to start two new churches -- one in northern Minnesota and another in western Wisconsin. And, according to Segovia, this church is uniquely equipped to multiply, since it started not through the efforts of pastors or church planters, but through the efforts of lay people. As a result, Segovia said, "there's a great potential to mobilize" church members to start new churches. "In many ways, it's how missionaries overseas work."

These churches, Segovia added, are looking for partners in the work. Messengers to the MBC annual meeting in 2017 voted to begin a missionary partnership with the Minnesota Wisconsin Baptist Convention. Since that time, the MBC has facilitated the building of partnerships between churches in these regions. To learn more about Missouri Baptist partnership missions in Minnesota and Wisconsin, visit https://mobaptist.org/partnership-missions/samaria/.


This article appeared in The Pathway (mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Ben Hawkins is associate editor of The Pathway.

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N.C. Hispanic church leaders

focus on 'Leadership for His Glory'

By Mike Creswell

HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. (Biblical Recorder) -- Church planters and leaders must depend steadfastly on the Bible as God's Word, on Jesus Christ and the Gospel if they want to give glory to God as they lead.

That was the essence of eight sermons delivered to more than 300 Hispanic church leaders who attended a Hispanic Congress held July 19-20 at Fruitland Baptist Bible College in Hendersonville, N.C., with the theme, "Leadership for His Glory."

The gathering was coordinated by William Ortega, Hispanic church planting consultant with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina's (BSC) Church Planting Team; Marco Hernandez, pastor of Agua Viva Baptist Church in Hendersonville; and Alberto Berrio, a member of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Hendersonville.

Ortega coaches and encourages Hispanic church planters across North Carolina, including many in western North Carolina. Hernandez and Berrio have been active in Baptist state convention life for years.

Music and most messages were presented in Spanish, and English speakers were translated into Spanish. Speakers delivered strong messages with thoughtful lessons from Scripture and from life -- messages were repeatedly punctuated by applause and "amens."

Pastor Joselo Mercado told how many people in Indonesia escaped drowning in typhoon-driven floods by holding onto solid things that saved them.

"Like that, believers must hold onto the Word of God," Mercado said, "from childhood to the end (of life)."

He said Scriptures can lead to wisdom by giving you the realization of lostness and can lead you to Jesus Christ. The Bible without Christ is not the Word of God, Mercado said.

"At the end of a sermon, if you say, 'Where is Christ?' then the Gospel was not preached," he said.

In a message on Christian marriage, Mercado said God designed marriage for His glory.

"It's not for my happiness, and it's not for my satisfaction," he said.

Following the Bible should result in a marriage that is a sign of the miracle of salvation, Mercado said. When he travels, sometimes pastors want to talk about how many books they have read: "I say, 'How do you relate to your wife?'"

Mercado, who presented three messages, is a native of Puerto Rico who is now serving as senior pastor of Grace Sovereign Church in Gaithersburg, Md. He is a graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Chuck Register, the BSC's executive leader for church planting and missions partnerships, commended the gathering for their partnership in reaching North Carolina's estimated 1 million Hispanics with the Gospel.

In a brief message, Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer, built on the concept of partnership.

"I am very delighted and thankful that you are living here in North Carolina," Hollifield said.

Citing Acts 17, he said God has made from one blood every nation of man to live on the earth and pre-appointed the times and the boundaries of their habitation.

"So I believe, because of what the Word of God says, it is not by accident that you are living here in North Carolina," Hollifield said. "I believe God led you to be here."

Referring to the state's 1 million Hispanics, Hollifield said, "I am thrilled that many of them are coming to faith in Christ the Savior. Some of you represent that today."

Referring to the great unrest in the nation over immigrants coming to this country, Hollifield said his heart is saddened because of this.

"But today I give you the good news -- that God is still on His throne, and He is in charge of your lives," Hollifield said. "I want you to pray to Him and trust in Him for your future. Continue to pray for your children, for God's safety and protection for them."

Hollifield said he could see the faces of many Hispanics who are serving in leadership roles with the Baptist state convention. "I want that number to grow," he said. "I want you to be an active part of the Baptist state convention."

Others cast a vision for a reproducing church planting movement throughout the state.

"Our heart for you is that you would plant reproducing churches," Mike Pittman told the assembly. Pittman leads the Baptist state convention's church planting team that includes Ortega.

"We pray that you will start churches that will start churches that will start churches." Pittman said. "We pray that you will raise up church planting pastors who our Father will use to extinguish the darkness. We pray that you will reach your children and your grandchildren with the Gospel and that we will multiply God's kingdom here in North Carolina."

Pittman praised Ortega as one of the world's greatest church planting strategists.

"I'm proud of our team, and we're just getting started," Pittman said. "God is doing amazing things, and we believe the future will be incredible. Our state needs Jesus."

Speaker Otto Sánchez presented several messages on leadership. He challenged leaders to take time to withdraw and retreat from ministry so they can meditate and focus on God.

"When was the last time in our service we stopped hearing ourselves to hear a word from the Lord?" he asked. "For that is essential to have a relationship with God."

Sánchez is pastor of Ozama Baptist Church in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, where he is also director of the Dominican Baptist Theological Seminary.

Sánchez told how Jesus took time from His preaching and healing to retreat and pray and rest.

"We live in a world where even pulpits are filled with noise and there is no silence for meditation," he said, "And so it is necessary to retreat."

He urged leaders to handle with integrity information they receive in confidence by keeping that information private.

"Gossip does not edify," Sánchez warned.

In another message, Sánchez described the stages of ministry and said leaders must be aware of the stage they are in. Pastors who are in a stage of decline can take steps to move out of it, he said.

Preaching from Nehemiah 5, Steven Blanton described how the prophet modeled good leadership traits as he led the people to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Blanton is senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Hendersonville and teaches at Fruitland.

He told how Nehemiah refused to burden the suffering people and refused to take the salary to which he was entitled: Over 12 years he earned but declined to take shekels that today would be worth about $1 million.

"Let us consider this as we serve God's people," Blanton said. "You and I may never see $1 million in our lifetimes, but we can give our people a $1 million effort."

Blanton warned pastors against developing a sense of entitlement, telling how a pastor friend of his had embezzled money from his church and eventually was caught and served more than 10 years in prison. If you are facing criticism in your ministry, "and you feel in your heart a sense of entitlement rise up inside you, be careful my brothers and sisters. This will not end well!"

Primary sponsors of the conference were the Baptist state convention and Fruitland, but Hendersonville area churches also provided volunteers, funds and other help. Volunteers were provided by Agua Viva Baptist Church, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Biltmore Church and Mud Creek Baptist Church. First Baptist Church of Hendersonville provided food for one of the meals.

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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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