Archive for April, 2010

College students are gross

April 29, 2010

But it seems to work for them. The Baptist Student Ministry at the University of Texas at Arlington recently held its annual Jar Wars and Slim Slide to raise money to send students on mission to various places. This year, they set a record in messiness and fundraising. As a result of this event, $15,000 was given to missions.

Still, that stuff they’re sliding in is gross.

Uncharted territory

April 29, 2010

Two years ago, Jon Meyer took a leap of faith and packed his bags for an unprecedented assignment in the former Soviet block nation of Moldova. With a Ph. D. in Social Work and as senior advisor for BCFS’ overseas division, Children’s Emergency Relief International (CERI), he would serve as a consultant to the Moldovan government, developing guidelines for supervising the country’s first group of professional social workers.

What led you to this project?

Years ago when I was in school, I attended a worship service where I committed my life to serving God as a foreign missionary. At the time, I thought I would go the traditional route by attending seminary and applying to some type of missions organization. Turns out, God had a different plan.

I guess I’ve always been an adventurous person. When this opportunity came about, the timing seemed to be right for me on a personal level and CERI was open to it, so I jumped in. We had a plan of what I would do in Moldova, but we also recognized that we were taking on uncharted territory working with a foreign, communist government. It was a total faith thing.

What did you set out to accomplish?

My role as a consultant to the Moldovan Ministry of Social Protection was to develop a model for supervising social workers throughout the country. This was a unique project because the profession of social work in Moldova is still in its infancy. I learned about the entrenched poverty of Moldavians as well as the difficult work environment for social workers by visiting numerous villages across the country.

I also got to make home visits to assess families as part of the government’s effort to decrease the number of children living in orphanages. I also did a lot of work with CERI’s national staff, developing standards based on U.S. models that will make our work with young adults transitioning out of orphanages and into life on their own more effective.

Were you successful in your mission?

Yes, in that I think my work laid a good foundation for social work supervision upon which the country can build. At the end of my project, I produced a comprehensive model that guides the supervision of social workers at the regional and village levels. Bringing about change in Moldova at a national level was difficult though due to a number of political and cultural barriers. Many of those barriers stemmed from the government’s communist mindset. Therefore, I think my model would be most effective implemented at the local level as a step-by-step, how-to guide. There are many children in Moldova living in troubled environments, so I pray this model will ultimately help give social workers the hands-on guidance they need to effectively address many social problems impacting children and families.

What did you find to be the biggest challenge during your assignment?

Without a doubt, communication was really challenging. Luckily, CERI helped me by providing a translator. This wasn’t a real silver bullet though, especially when we were trying to talk about industry-specific issues. Because the translators were not familiar with social work, there were some points that didn’t get delivered with their full impact. Purchasing food at a local grocery store was at times tough too; especially when products didn’t have pictures to show what they were. Fortunately, like I said before, I’m adventurous.

Did the various barriers prevent you from feeling settled in Moldova?

Not really. Our CERI national staff did a fantastic job finding me an ideal apartment to live in, close to everything I needed in downtown Chisinau. I also found a spiritual home through helping out at a rural Baptist church in Calarasi, and establishing a new church in the city. I grew very close to the pastor of the Chisinau church and spent every Sunday with him and his family. It was a real blessing.

Any final thoughts?

The two years I spent in Moldova were unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. I had my share of challenges, but at the end of the day, I am hopeful that my work will help the country’s first professional social workers provide safe, quality services for the thousands of children who need their help. The whole experience was a blessing.

Since returning home to the United States, Dr. Meyer has accepted the role as an evaluator for BCFS’ Community-Based Services Division. He is presently working on evaluation and research projects aimed at abstinence and teen pregnancy prevention.

Interview courtesy BCFS.

Putting it all on the line

April 29, 2010

It’s one thing to talk about the need to help hungry people. It’s better to give to an effort that helps them. The greatest commitment is the one many churches across Texas are making: directly helping the hungry through food outreaches.

First Baptist Church in Gatesville is one of the congregations that has stepped up to the plate to help the hungry. Roughly half the town’s kindergarteners and first graders are at or below the poverty line. Many students are on free or reduced lunch programs, finding their only meals at school.

In response, the church provides about half a ton of food assistance a year in the community. The church works so every child has something to eat. It’s clearly an issue close to Pastor Steve Dominy’s heart.

“It ticks me off that Texas is hungrier than any state in the nation. Texas is the greatest state in the nation, and there is no way that that should happen. And I am willing to bet that 99 percent of the population doesn’t know about that. So I hope they raise awareness about hunger issues in the state and mobilize some people to get off their butts and do something about it.”

Bike Out Hunger, some final thoughts

April 29, 2010

By John Hall

On this page, a lot has been said about the riders and why they are involved in Bike Out Hunger. The truth is, it takes a lot more people than a group of riders to pull something like this off.

Many thanks to Bobby Broyles and First Baptist Church in Ballinger; Kalie Lowrie and Katy Blackshear at Howard Payne University; Keith and Sharon Felton and First Baptist Church in Hamilton; Steve Dominy and his wonderful family at First Baptist Church in Gatesville; Mallory Homeyer of the Texas Hunger Initiative and the good folks at the World Hunger Farm; Carol Woodward and Shawn Shannon at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor; and The Fellowship of San Antonio. Your hospitality, spirit and generosity were overwhelming during these six days.

Carolyn Strickland and Joyce Gilbreath, you worked tirelessly behind the scenes coordinating places where we could rest for a bit and share about the hunger needs of Texas and around the globe. It has been a pleasure allowing you to use us to continue communicating ways people can help the hungry.

Kaitlin Chapman, Joshua Minatrea, Dennis Parrish, Brian Hurst and Rex Campbell, because of you, we were able to stay on the road and share our hearts through media efforts about needing to help the hungry. Thanks to you, Christ’s call to minister to the least of these has been magnified. Additionally, you were there for each rider with an encouraging word, a helping hand and a cool drink. You were essential.

Lastly, to each of you who prayed for us and supported us before, during and after the trip, thank you. Your support will provide food for hungry people in Texas and around the world. Your prayers were felt and made a drastic difference in our ability to ride. I have no doubt that because of your prayers, we stayed healthy and strong, riding beyond our abilities.

As I type this last post, I want to ask you to pray as our Lord taught us to pray. This time as you pray, think about the words as if they were being said by a person who does not know where their next meal will come from.

Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV)
“This, then is how you should pray:
’Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name,
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
As we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.’”

World hunger and Christ’s call

April 29, 2010

Ryan Musser, youth minister at First Baptist Church in Hewitt, shared this insight the other day. It’s stuck with me, so I want to share it here.

“I learned something today about mile 42 in the middle of a hill. I was reminded that the call to take up our cross is not an easy task, and it involves sacrifice. So many times we talk about world hunger and we say that task is just too big. The kingdom of God isn’t about doing easy things. It’s about doing right things. And we were given a way to live, and a sacrificial way to live. And if it hurts, we are supposed to continue pressing on because that is what our King has already done.”

Bike Out Hunger Day 6 in Video

April 28, 2010

An opportunity

April 27, 2010

By John Hall

As I think about Bike Out Hunger, it seems this is more than a ride from Ballinger to San Antonio.

It’s an opportunity.

For many people, hunger around the globe and even in our state is something too large for them to wrap their minds around. Everyone thinks the entire planet should have enough food to eat. Hearts grieve for children near and far who go without basic sustenance. But people seem to be at a loss of what to do.

Bike Out Hunger has given people an outlet to do something. We’ve seen it time and time again. As riders have asked people to give to the offering in honor of the ride, individuals have jumped at the chance without hesitation. During the ride, a lady in a convenience store gave one rider a few dollars to feed hungry people. A cyclist riding down the street stopped by me and gave me $20 to help the hungry.

People care about hungry people and want to help. Bike Out Hunger has helped some of those people express that compassion in a practical way.

Praise God for their actions and prayers.

Bike Out Hunger Day 5 in Video

April 26, 2010

Bike Out Hunger Day 4 in Video

April 22, 2010

A beautiful state

April 22, 2010

By John Hall

The last few days have only reinforced in my mind how beautiful this state is. The rolling hills. The wide expanses of green fields. And of course, the wildflowers. They dot our state in deep blues, oranges and yellows to create a mosaic as unique and wonderful as the state itself.

Yet as beautiful as this state is, it has one significant stain. Texas leads the nation in childhood insecurity. Roughly one in every five Texas children do not know where their next meal will come from. For many other children, the free lunch they receive at school is the only healthy meal they eat on a regular basis and are on their own to scavenge for food on weekends and during summers.

The problem is so large, I can’t even truly wrap my mind around the statistics.

But I can mourn over stories.

San Antonio children digging through church dumpsters in an effort to find food.

An East Texas child who stole another student’s lunch and ran down the hall. When teachers found him, he had all the lunch in his mouth. It was the first meal he’d had in several days.

Children in the Rio Grande Valley who come to a church early every Saturday because they know they can find a meal there. Without it, they won’t have one that day.

Empathy is good. Action is better. How can you help feed a hungry child? How can your church reach out to children? Giving to the Texas Baptist Offering for World Hunger will help you feed hungry children around the world. If you call 888-244-9400, Texas Baptists staff people can you and your congregation start or expand a feeding ministry.

Together, we can make this state more beautiful.