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Focus on state missions starts September 11

Wrap cover artOver the course of almost five years, I have traveled to the far corners of Illinois looking for stories. Mostly they’re stories to support the Mission Illinois Offering & Week of Prayer, stories of God’s people whose work is made possible by the missions commitment of Baptists in our state. My partner in this venture, videographer Paul Wynn, and I joke that we’ve spent the last five Mother’s Days together. His kids are grown now, so his wife doesn’t mind if he’s away from home on her holiday. Maybe having a quiet house is what makes it a holiday for her.

On those May weekends and many others, we have visited new churches and compassion ministries. We’ve been from Elgin to East St. Louis, Davis Junction to Iuka, Plainfield to Metropolis, and many points in between. We’ve talked with pastors and joyful believers they’ve led to Christ. We’ve followed teenagers who braved city streets, sharing the gospel with strangers for the first time. And we’ve heard story after story from IBSA missionaries whose life-changing work brings them—and sometimes all of us—to tears.

I suppose the numbers should be compelling enough: There are 13 million people in Illinois, and at least 8 million of them do not have a faith relationship with Jesus Christ. I lived in Chicagoland 15 years, and there the “numbers” are ever before you. So many people. So few believers. I learned what it means to be in the minority, because Christians are so far outnumbered.

The biblical command should be convicting: Jesus said, “Go.” Isn’t that enough?

But what is most convincing is the stories. The stories and the people who share them convince me afresh every year that our mission work in Illinois is vitally important, worth our personal service and our prayer and our giving and our going.

Calling all churches

Hart Family

Hart Family, church planters in Breese, IL

I admit I felt out of place at a bar in Breese, Illinois, but it was Sunday morning and technically the bar wasn’t open. They were having church, and I knew the songs. I’m still smiling about how the young church planter and his wife started a church—in a bar—in his hometown—which, as most hometowns do, knew too much about him. I celebrated when he sent word a couple of weeks later that the church baptized its first new believers in a horse trough.

Their story is featured in our collection for the 2016 Mission Illinois Offering & Week of Prayer.
• Plus, there’s the story of a pastor’s wife we met in Casey soon after her international mission trip to aid oppressed women in South Asia.
• And the student group making its second trip from Sherman to the big city streets during ChicaGO Week.
• And the pastor planting another church nearby his downtrodden neighborhood, hoping to reach unreached people with another chance at hope in Christ.

These stories will all be featured in the Illinois Baptist. And they are included in the Mission Illinois Offering prayer guide for September 11-18, which will be distributed in participating churches. A week of devotions also is included in the special supplement that wrapped this edition of the newspaper. And all the materials are on our new website: missionillinois.org.

Our statewide goal this year is $475,000. The offering supports IBSA’s missions work, including the areas we’re highlighting this year: church planting in rural Illinois, students reaching Chicago, mobilizing Illinois volunteers for missions worldwide, and sharing Christ with unreached people. Yes, there are people in Illinois who have never heard.

Please encourage your church to participate in the Mission Illinois Offering & Week of Prayer. And please pray about your own gift for state missions. If you’re like me, the stories will convince you.

See all videos and mission study materials at missionillinois.org. Contact MIO@IBSA.org if we can help your church observe the Week of Prayer for state missions.

When God calls, you go

Meredith Flynn —  February 16, 2015

HEARTLAND | “I think for most people when God really calls you out in faith to something deep, you know in your soul it’s going to cost you everything,” says church planter Nathan Brown.

“But when God calls you on his mission, you go because you love him.”

Brown came to Illinois from California to plant Real Church Chicago. Hear more about the challenging call to start a new work in the city in this video clip:

NEWS | From Baptist Press

A Southern Baptist church planting resident at a Boston-area church found himself, along with his wife, in the crossfire of a police shootout early Friday morning, April 19, with one of the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing.

Stephen McAlpin, who is nearing the end of a one-year North American Mission Board church planting internship with Hope Fellowship Church in Cambridge, Mass., had just gone to bed around 12:40 a.m. when he and his wife heard something that sounded like fireworks.

By then officials had identified two brothers believed to be responsible for the double bombings that killed three and injured more than 170 people April 15, and Thursday night the suspects hijacked a car in Cambridge and drove to Watertown, where McAlpin lives, while being pursued by police.

A dramatic shootout commenced outside McAlpin’s home, resulting in the death of one of the suspects. The other remained on the loose Friday, causing the entire city of Boston and surrounding communities to be placed on lockdown as police searched for him door to door.

“The gunshots were continuing. We heard glass break. We started crawling into the kitchen of our home — me, Emily and our dog,” McAlpin recounted to NBC’s Brian Williams Friday afternoon. “As we were crawling, we saw a large flash like an explosion. We got underneath our kitchen table and continued to hear gunshots. They were much louder and felt closer.”

The couple could hear yelling and what sounded like another explosion.

“I’m a grown man, but at that point I was terrified and I was holding my wife there under the table and holding my dog, and it got real for us,” McAlpin said. “We realized that we could die.”

McAlpin told Williams via telephone that he and his wife are Christians and they prayed in those most dangerous moments that God would keep them safe.

“We prayed for God’s grace to protect us and protect our neighbors and just sat there,” he said.

They moved into their bathroom and huddled in the bathtub with their dog, and after about 30 minutes, police knocked on their door and showed them what had happened. Bullets had entered their living room. One was lodged in their television, which kept it from entering their bedroom on the other side of the wall. Another had hit a picture frame. Outside their SUV had sustained damage from a bullet.

Police were marking the evidence in and around their home, which included “many bullets and shells around the side of our house and also in the front,” McAlpin said.

“Since then we’ve just been staying in our kitchen, trying to stay safe. It’s overwhelming to us that all of this happened, but we just feel blessed to be safe,” the church planter said.

“We know how easily things could have gone poorly for us and we’re just thankful for God’s grace in protecting us. I don’t really know. It doesn’t feel real. You never think in your home when you’re safe and trying to sleep that bullets are going to come through and that explosions are going to happen.”

McAlpin also told Williams, “We’re in shock. I haven’t been able to go to sleep. We’re exhausted. But we’ve just been trying to share about what happened and even just tell people about the kind of hope that we’ve found in God during this really dark time.”

The couple has plans to move to Los Angeles to plant a church when the internship in Boston is over. McAlpin said they’re trying to process what happened overnight and react as they should as Christians.

“[We’re trying to] love our own neighbors here and look at this as an opportunity to speak out of our experience to them,” he said, adding that as they sit in lockdown at home, he and his wife are praying for law enforcement officials and for Boston.

“We just want this to end. We want life to return to peace as best as it can, but I think a lot of people are going to be struggling with, ‘How do we go from this back to what we call normal life?'” McAlpin told Williams.

Stephen and Emily are from St. Louis, and he said on NBC that he moved to Boston to study at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he recently graduated with an M.Div.

“[I] have been working at a local church here called Hope Fellowship and they’re training me to learn how to start a church and to share God’s love with people,” McAlpin said.

“So that’s what we’re doing in the area for the year, and we’re just trying to — we love the city here and we love to be a part of the area,” he said. “Boston is normally such a strong and vibrant place to live and I think moving forward we hope that we can just keep loving people here and challenging people to share in our hope.”

As he closed the interview, Williams told McAlpin, “My hat’s off to you for the generosity of spirit that I’m hearing in your reaction after what you’ve been through last night.”

At one point Friday, McAlpin tweeted, “Thank you Jesus for giving us hope greater than the measly things of this world that we lost today.”