Archive for March, 2009

Who volunteers for Spring Break?

March 23, 2009

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Carolyn Porterfield passes this note from Southeast Texas:

Who are the people who come to work rebuilding houses and church buildings?  It is hard to put them in categories because I’ve seen men and women, young and old, Texans and non-Texans, Baptists and those from other faith traditions all working together toward one end – to give people their lives back.  Catch two glimpses. 

In late September or early October Tim called my office and wanted to come to Southeast Texas to help.  He’d spent several years working in Louisiana and felt drawn to help with the recovery efforts after Ike.  He was referred to Nehemiah’s Vision and has spent the past five months working in the Vidor/Beaumont area.  He is currently working at Rose City Baptist Church in Vidor during the day and then repairing the parsonage at night. We asked him what kept him at this work. His words were simple yet profound.  “You’re not just helping people get back in their houses. You are giving them back their lives.”  He described what it was like to be with a family the first time they walked back into a home that was repaired.  He said it was a wonderful feeling that no amount of money could ever give. 

A contractor, a graduate student, a pastor, and a couple of retired men gave a week of their time to work in a parsonage. When they were asked what they would say to encourage people to get involved, one man replied, “What you are waiting for?” Yes, skilled labors are needed but there is much that the not so highly skilled folks can do. The graduate student who was probably in his 20s said he didn’t know much when he got there but he had certainly learned a lot which he could use for a lifetime. This church currently doesn’t have a pastor and will likely need a bivocational pastor to serve the congregation. This crew knew that by helping get the parsonage repaired they will help this church move forward in calling a pastor. 

The common thread in all these folks was the strong desire to serve others in Jesus’ name. One group coordinator was asked if we could come by and talk with them and take some pictures. His reply, “We’re not doing anything dynamic that would be worth a picture.” My reply, “We’re not looking for dynamic.  We’re looking for faithful.” I think families and churches were blessed last week because faithful followers of Jesus Christ came to serve. I also believe that God was blessed because the body of Christ was serving well in His name.  May that service continue for months to come.

Ministry of listening

March 23, 2009

natalieCarolyn sends this dispatch from Southeast Texas, where hundreds of students are serving during their Spring Break:

Driving along the Texas coast can be a mind-boggling experience. In one sense what you see is a serene picture of Spring bringing new life. But in another sense you realize there is much going on that you cannot see. A pastor’s wife said it well when she expressed it this way, “Ike is the ‘forgotten storm.’ Lots of folks come to Galveston and only see the outside of homes and think, ‘Where is the destruction?’  But the damage is on the inside of the buildings that you cannot see from the street.” 

A volunteer working on a parsonage said, “The disaster passes quickly, but the recovery is a long process.” It may take years for the Texas coast to recover and it will be easy to forget about it unless we keep the need before those who could help. This contractor from College Station said we must keep telling the story and asking people to get involved. Reminds me of the words of Jesus when he told his disciples to open their eyes and see the fields that are white unto harvest. 

And you quickly realize too, that there is much grief and emotional turmoil that is going on inside the hearts and minds of people that you don’t immediately pick up on until you spend some time listening to their stories.  Perhaps one of the best ministries offered is simply the gift of listening. Everyone has a story and they want to tell you about their experience. The words come pouring out and often tears are seen in the eyes of those sharing. There isn’t much you can say and they don’t expect you to say anything. But you can listen and then offer a prayer of hope and a hug of love.

Spring Break in Southeast Texas

March 19, 2009

Carolyn Porterfield and Natalie Price are in Southeast Texas this week with people doing mission work there during Spring Break. Carolyn sends this dispatch from their trip. As soon as we can, we’ll post some photos from their trip as well.

It is spring break and thousands of students are enjoying the cool, clear weather.  In Galveston this week I’ve seen two very different kinds of spring break experiences.  One is students enjoying the sand and surf on the beach.  The other is of students and adults who have chosen to come and help rebuild people’s homes and churches that were devastated by Hurricane Ike last September.  I’ve watched fences being built, sheetrock being hung, walls being painted, stories being told by puppets at a park, and all of it done in the love of Christ.  Ask them why they do it and you get different answers.

“It’s cool to change lives.”  “These people are our neighbors.”  “You can come and just do nothing or you can come and make a difference.”  One girl talked about losing her own home near Houston and how it felt to loose everything.  But then she said, “I remember how people came and helped us and it is good to give back.” 

Pastors whose homes and church buildings have been damaged are so appreciative of all the help.  Bro. Leonardo Diaz kept praising God for every person who has worked on Primera Iglesia Bautista, Hitchcock and for the money that has been donated.  This church didn’t have any insurance and they were committed to not go in debt to repair their building.  The repair is almost complete and done debt free.  With a big grin on his face Bro. Diaz says, “God built this building” and you it’s the truth.  

Bro. Ray Meador at First Baptist Church, Galveston also speaks of the help that so many have given.  They still cannot meet in their sanctuary but God is blessing the church as they rebuild and reach out to their community.  GraceMart provides clothing, household items, and love to people who are needing help.  Right after the storm attendance was small but now they are running around 200 in worship and really need a larger space to meet. 

Is it possible that Ike has been a blessing in disguise?  Several think so and I’m coming to believe that myself as I witness people working together from all over Texas and around the United States.  David from Ft. Worth said, “I’ve gotten to know people from my own church by doing this work that I never really knew and we went to church together all the time.  Three days ago I didn’t know the guys I’m working with today and now they are my good friends.”   

The last thing that strikes me is that I don’t hear grumbling and complaining.  Rather, it is words of gratitude and praise that flow from the hearts and lips of God’s people — those that need help and those who are obedient in their service.  I want to learn from these I’ve seen this week.  Can’t wait to get over to Beaumont tomorrow to hear those stories and see God at work.

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TwoGether in Texas marriage initiative in trouble

March 12, 2009

Keith Lowry, BGCT family specialist, shared this note with me a few moments ago. Apparently Texas legislators are considering dropping funding for the TwoGether in Texas premarital education program.

Urgent!  Your phone calls are needed to save the TwoGether in Texas Initiative! Calls needed within the next 48 hrs.

We need people to call/email their Senators in the next 48hrs.  What we are asking them to do is simply let the State Senators know that they are residents of Texas who support and understand the great value of marriage education, and ask/urge/request that they do what they can to make sure Texas continues to fund programs that support “Healthy Marriages” like the TwoGether in Texas program.

If they have any personal stories on the impact of marriage education, or if they have participated in the Twogether in Texas program by taking a class that would be great to share as well. In most cases, if you call you will leave a message with someone on the Senators staff, but that is OK.  They compile a list of daily calls on issues and report to the Senator. 

If you call, just ask for someone in the office to share your concerns for loss of funding for “Health and Human Services Healthy Marriage Programs.”

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New site for Hispanic Baptist leaders

March 10, 2009

A group of Hispanic Texas Baptists have launched a site specifically discussing issues related to third-generation Hispanics in the U.S. It appears the site will be a mixture of columns, testimonies and discussion. Looks like some good stuff. Check it out by clicking here.

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Celebrating the Lunar New Year with a new life

March 10, 2009

BGCT Vietnamese Specialist Jim Klassen pased this note to me the other day. It’s my pleasure to share it here:

The heartbeart of Hope 2010 is to have every person in Texas hear the Good News about Jesus in a cultural context that is relevant. Pastor Hongson Tran, associate pastor of the West Memorial Vietnamese Baptist Church in Houston, is one of the founds and key coordinators for an annual Houston Lunar New Year’s Festival, which uses the traditional time of celebration to help people meet Jesus.                                 

The Festival was held on February 7, 2009.  Pastor Hongson wrote, “Within a few hours, our booth [had] completely run out of everything….  thousands of people swept through our booth.  ….  The Holy Spirit set up spiritual appointments for us to share the gospel…  The evangelism team shared [the] gospel…[with] 147 people, and 60 people prayed, accepting Christ as Lord and Savior…(per final records with verifiable photo).”                

Even Mormons and Buddhist monks came to see what was attracting people.  They were surprised to because the focus was simply on sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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UT Pan Am embraces Texas Hope 2010

March 9, 2009

I guess this is collegiate ministry night here on the BGCT blog. This is a bit dated now, but the UT-Pan American Baptist Student ministries kicked off its Texas Hope 2010 efforts in January by setting up a table and handing out free New Testaments. It sounds like it went extremely well. Read all about it in a blog post from the BSM by clicking here.

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It’s not often we mention Alaska, but …

March 9, 2009

iditarod_outreachFor Spring Break, there is a team of volunteers from the Tarleton State University Baptist Student Ministries there this week working with the Iditarod snow dog race. The students are doing a variety of odds jobs as part of a servant evangelism effort and are looking for opportunities to share their faith.

Check out their cold-looking photos as well read their adventures via their blog by clicking here. Thanks, Brenda for passing this along.

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Hope

March 9, 2009

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A few weeks ago, Randel Everett went to First Baptist Church in Richardson, where he was to preach the early Sunday service. One of the things he was going to mention was Texas Hope 2010. When he walked in the door, the church showed him how they were involved in the initiative. 

That weekend the church held a Disciple Now, part of which was devoted to caring about people around them. The younger students went door-to-door collecting items that Buckner could distribute. They collected 1,000 pounds of food, 100 bags of clothes, 20 blankets, a teddy bear and a coffee maker. The older students spent part of the day with Cornerstone Baptist Church in Dallas feeding and visiting homeless people.

What a great way to care about others. This seems like a great thing other youth groups could do as well. What are other ways youth groups can participate in Texas Hope 2010?

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Hardin-Simmons names new president

March 5, 2009

Who is it? Click here to find out. What do you think of the choice?

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