Archives For Lottie Moon

‘Why we do what we do’

ib2newseditor —  December 8, 2016

Week of Prayer missionaries take gospel light to dark places

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Rodney and Helen Cregg’s work in a large city helps rescue women from prostitution.

The Indian bride wore blue silk, trimmed with gold. Rich fabrics in brilliant hues are traditional for wedding saris in this megacity.

But the guest list was anything but typical. Among those celebrating this day were 20 prostitutes—women who were like family to Shanti.* She knew them from the years she shared their heartbreaking lifestyle as a prostitute. That was before the ministry of a Christian activity center rescued Shanti from her former life. She is now a believer and has a good job to support herself. And on this day, she even married a Christian man.

International Mission Board missionaries Rodney and Helen Cregg* have partnered in establishing the activity center that offers prostitutes a place to learn basic skills in the middle of a notorious red-light district.

The Creggs are supported by the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, an annual offering facilitated by the International Mission Board and Woman’s Missionary Union in partnership with Baptist state conventions. Many churches will mark the Week of Prayer Dec. 4-11.

“This is why we do what we do, to see these ladies—and other people in [this city]—realize the hope in the gospel and then find victory in freedom,” Rodney says.

Another woman at the center agrees: “Being involved at the center, I am finding the love I didn’t get from my family from people who know the Lord. Through Jesus I am experiencing love. I am blessed.”

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Young men in Southeast Asia meet to study the Bible.

Finding home again
Missionary Layla Murphy* was shopping in a vegetable market in Southeast Asia when she heard phrases she understood. Two women were speaking the language of the Buddhist country from which she had just been expelled, after laboring for years to share the gospel.

Soon Layla learned that hundreds of thousands of migrant workers and refugees from her former country lived in this sprawling urban center. God’s providence had set her right in the middle of the gospel-hungry people that she’d felt called to serve. Then, a national pastor asked her to stay right there to teach, train, and disciple new believers from the country that she can’t live in but calls “home.”

On the first day of class, she planned for 15 students but 50 showed up. “God had put hunger for his Word deep in their hearts and this was the first time that they’d ever had the chance to learn [the Bible].” Though she would rather serve in the country she loves, “this deepened my trust in God.” Her students tease her that she is also a refugee—the American refugee, Layla says.

“That sort of binds our hearts together.”

For more Lottie Moon and Week of Prayer resources, go to IMB.org/lottie-moon-christmas-offering.

*Names changed.

– From IMB.org

Week of Prayer is December 4-11

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Trey Haun, 10, lives with his parents in Ghana, where they serve as missionaries with the International Mission Board

It was near midnight when IMB missionary Dr. Heidi Haun had finished up an abdominal surgery and returned home. Her baby, Karen Jane, and son, Trey, 10, had long been in bed under the watchful eye of her husband, William.

The Hauns serve in Nalerigu, Ghana, and her patient was a woman who sells cabbages under a mango tree on market days in town. Heidi had planned to perform surgery earlier in the day, but the operation was delayed by an emergency cesarean section. Still, after surgery that night, Heidi said the woman reached out to grasp her hand and thank her.

“I think that’s the neatest thing about having patients that live here in town…it leads to opportunities for relationship and gospel sharing,” Heidi explained. “I look forward to the opportunity to share Christ with her—more than just a patient-doctor relationship.”

The Hauns are two of the thousands of Southern Baptist missionaries supported by the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, an annual offering established in 1888. After more than a century, Lottie Moon giving continues its steady growth, including its largest-ever offering last year—$165.8 million.

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Trey’s mom, Heidi, is a physician and his dad, William, works in media.

The goal for the 2016 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is $155 million. During the week of Dec. 4-11, many Southern Baptist churches will focus on international missions in a Week of Prayer highlighting eight missionaries and missionary families, including the Hauns in Ghana and Zack and Jennifer Dove, who serve in Norway.

Sharing the gospel isn’t a one-time deal for the Doves, who work as church planters. It’s an everyday part of their lives as they deepen relationships and bridge conversations toward gospel truths in Sandefjord, Norway.

“Zack will say often…We don’t need to let cultural norms be the filter,” Jennifer explains. “We need to let the gospel be the filter and so just share a little bit and see where it lands and plant that seed.”

Though Norway has been a Christian nation for a thousand years, in recent decades spiritual life has withered and church buildings often stand empty. Only 2% of Norwegians regularly attend services—one of the lowest attendance figures in Europe. The Doves encourage existing believers and share with others who live without hope. Southern Baptists can join their work through prayer.

“Just knowing that people are praying is such an awesome thing, and then just knowing that people are giving to the Lottie Moon [Christmas Offering], that’s such an encouragement.”

For more on this year’s Offering and Week of Prayer, go to IMB.org/lottie-moon-christmas-offering.

– IMB.org

Taking the risk

ib2newseditor —  November 17, 2016

Serving Christ has always been dangerous. He said it would be. Now, even telling the stories of missionaries puts them in danger.

London | We can’t tell you their names. We can’t tell you where they live. We can’t really even tell you where they work. They are missionaries.

Times have changed. We all know social and cultural values have recently experienced massive upheavals in western nations. Religion has played a major role in these changes. Missions work is no longer tolerated in places it once was. Working to fulfill the Great Commission can no longer be done so openly.

We can’t tell you their names. We can’t tell you where they live. We can’t really even tell you where they work. They are missionaries.

Coinciding with these cultural shifts are changes within the Southern Baptist Convention’s largest missions sending agency. The International Mission Board (IMB) is adapting the way it does missions. When IMB President David Platt stepped into the role in 2014 he soon discovered the agency was facing a budget overspend of more than $200 million. Personnel costs would have to be greatly reduced with action being taken quickly. With a major and largely voluntary staff reduction in 2015, going from nearly 5,000 missionaries and staff to 3,800, IMB expects have a balanced budget in 2017.

The changes included cutting most of the communications team serving in Richmond, and replacing them with a small team of young communication specialists stationed at points all around the world. With them comes new strategies for engaging Southern Baptists with missionaries that take into account the risky business of gospel witness.

Not your mother’s mission magazine
You may have noticed the stories about IMB missionaries have changed. Remember Commission magazine, with its glossy photos and National Geographic style? Today’s mission stories are not written in a long, detailed format anymore. We don’t often see photographs of missionaries’ faces. The name of the countries where they serve may not be reported. There is a good reason for this. A very good reason.

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SHADOW AND LIGHT – This photo from IMB’s
Instagram account shows their new communication strategy: show the missions concept, but protect the identity of the missionary. Posted with the photo is a brief message from the missionary: “Pray for God to provide me with a teammate willing to work in rough, remote places so we can reach the mountain shepherd people.”

Almost a dozen state Baptist convention newspaper editors met with members of the Board’s media network in London recently. The chief topic was security concerns.

“There’s spiritual warfare on the front lines,” a member of the media team shared. “A battle is going on against the spread of the gospel.”

For example, one missionary took all the necessary precautions. But when a photo that had been taken years earlier was found online it led to his undoing. Somehow a person in the country where the missionary was serving connected it with some other information online to learn the missionary’s true identity. It almost cost him his life.

He walked, unsuspecting, into a meeting and found the atmosphere was charged with anger. People once friendly were now menacing as they kept him there for hours shouting, “Is this you? Did you say this?” When he was finally allowed to leave, he gathered his family and they fled the country. His identity had been compromised and it was no longer safe for them to continue to spread the gospel message in that country.

The missionary life can require living in countries where it’s dangerous to be a Christian. But it can also be risky living in “safe” countries among those same people groups that are hostile to Christians. There are parts of Africa and Asia that have always been high risk and high security for missionaries. With the increased mobilization of people, now it’s not just there, it’s everywhere.

“There’s spiritual warfare on the front lines. A battle is going on against the spread of the gospel.”

In other cases, the country may feel it is already a Christian nation and therefore does not need to admit anyone into the country for the express purpose of doing mission work. In those places, missionaries enter as workers who are in the country to do charity work or other vocations.

Tell the old, old story—differently
If you visit the International Mission Board’s website, IMB.org, you can read its mission statement, “Our mission is evangelizing, discipling, and planting reproducing churches among all peoples in fulfillment of the Great Commission.”

In today’s world, technological advance has produced security issues, so can the missions stories be told to the people back home in the pews? It’s becoming more and more challenging. Things aren’t as simple as when Lottie Moon would write about her work in China and send the letter to Annie Armstrong to be copied (and recopied) by hand or typewriter, and distributed across the United States.

For years the National Woman’s Missionary Union’s prayer calendar in Missions Mosaic magazine has contained a birthday prayer calendar for missionaries. It listed their names and the countries where they served. In recent years, fewer real names or locations can be shared. Quite often a pseudonym will be used along with a region of the world, “South Asia,” for instance.

While the IMB remains committed to telling the story back home, they are having to become more and more creative in doing so. Lengthy articles are now less common and story vignettes are better vehicles not only due to safety concerns, but also for ever shrinking attention spans.

“The missionary life, missions sending, it’s always changing.”

This has caused the IMB to shift the way it creates the content of a story, looking more at the concept that describes the missions work. As a member of the media team said, “There are avenues of telling the story without focusing on people in specific locations. We’ve had to shift the way we’re doing content altogether.”

The use of social media including Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter is proving to be a good way for Southern Baptists to stay informed about missions. It connects with younger generations who need also to learn the importance of giving to missions through the Cooperative Program.

The IMB website has undergone a complete retooling and now sports a fresh look that supports this challenging new media world.

Another change is in the reporting on the safety of missionaries after breaking news events. Southern Baptists often express interest in how an event affects missions efforts in those areas. According to their website, “Due to security considerations for IMB personnel and the national believers with whom they work, we usually don’t discuss their locations. However, with any breaking news event, we are in contact with anyone who might be affected, due to travel or other reasons, to confirm their safety and security.”

A media team member summed it up: “The missionary life, missions sending, it’s always changing. There are always new security challenges necessitating a new way of telling their stories. Most of our missionaries, we can’t print their names.”

Lisa Misner Sergent will focus on London, a world city with many people groups, in her next report.

The 2012 nativity scene at the Illinois Capitol.

The 2012 nativity scene at the Illinois Capitol.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The nativity scene in the Illinois Capitol’s rotunda will be unveiled today, likely near a “winter solstice” sign placed there over the weekend by the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

The sign reads: “At this season of THE WINTER SOLSTICE may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

Atheist blogger Hemant Mehta said “viewpoint equality” is the key issue in the dueling displays. “If Christian groups are allowed to put displays up in the Capitol building, then atheist groups can as well…” he wrote about the sign.

The nativity scene, now in its sixth year, is privately funded and organized by the Springfield Nativity Scene Committee. Thomas More Society, a law firm that specializes in religious liberty matters, calls the scene “classic free speech” in a release on its website.

“The SNSC’s primary goal is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  But its secondary mission is to proclaim and demonstrate to the public and to the media alike (statewide and nationwide) that such private expressions of religious belief in the public squares of our nation are not merely tolerated but fully deserving of robust legal protection.”

Read more at thomasmoresociety.org and christianpost.com.

Other news:

Tornado relief efforts continue
Disaster Relief chainsaw teams currently are serving in Washington, Ill., and surrounding areas, but are expected to complete their work by the end of this week, said Illinois Disaster Relief coordinator Rex Alexander. Since the outbreak of tornadoes Nov. 17, volunteers have helped with clean-up, provided childcare, and met emotional and spiritual needs as chaplains. A feeding team served for nearly two weeks in Peoria, preparing meals for storm responders and victims. Click here to donate to Illinois Disaster Relief.

Supreme Court to consider Hobby Lobby case
Baptist Press reports the U.S. Supreme Court will consider next year whether business owners can exercise religious freedom by objecting to the abortion/contraceptive mandate in President Obama’s healthcare reform package. The mandate requires employers to cover abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health care plans.

Craft retailer Hobby Lobby and its sister corporation Mardel found favor in an appeals court, but Mennonite-owned Pennsylvania business Conestoga Wood Specialties was ruled against in a similar case. The Supreme Court consolidated the cases and will hear oral arguments next year, with a decision expected by he court’s summer adjournment, according to Baptist Press.

“This legal challenge has always remained about one thing and one thing only: the right of our family businesses to live out our sincere and deeply held religious convictions as guaranteed by the law and the Constitution,” Hobby Lobby founder David Green said in a written release. “Business owners should not have to choose between violating their faith and violating the law.”

Read the full story at BPNews.net.

Americans weigh in on end-of-life issues
A new poll by Pew Research found 66% of Americans say there are circumstances where a patient should be allowed to die, but a growing number of people believe medical staff should do everything possible to save the life of a patient in all circumstances.

Religious beliefs play a role in what people think about the issues, Pew found. 42% of white evangelical Protestants and black Protestants say a person has a moral right to suicide if he or she is in a great deal of pain with no hope of improvement, compared to 62% of all adults surveyed.

Read more about the survey at PewForum.org, and check out Religion News Service’s analysis by Cathy Lynn Grossman here.

Week of Prayer for International Missions is Dec. 1-8Go to IMB.org for daily prayer guides, missionary stories, and creative ways to mark the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering in your church.

Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter was re-elected to a second term during the denomination's annual meeting in Houston last week. Luter is the SBC's first African American president.

Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter was re-elected to a second term during the denomination’s annual meeting in Houston last week. Luter is the SBC’s first African American president.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Southern Baptists arrived at the 2013 Annual Meeting in Houston expecting lively conversations about Calvinism and the Boy Scouts. But those issues took a back seat to a report released by LifeWay Christian Resources just before the convention, showing declines in baptisms, average attendance and membership in SBC churches across the country.

Concerns about the report and the denomination’s future were compounded by a low number of registered messengers in Houston – just 5,103 by the time the final total was tallied.

Just before the convention convened, LifeWay released the 2012 Annual Church Profile, which showed declines in baptisms, church membership, average attendance and total giving.

Almost every leader that stepped to a microphone or sat in on a panel discussion in Houston offered input on how to reverse decline in the Southern Baptist Convention. But their solutions didn’t necessarily offer hope that the downturned numbers will rebound. Rather, they encouraged Southern Baptists to look at the effectiveness of their own local churches.

“This is not a convention problem; this is a local church problem,” said David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, at a luncheon for young leaders. “To bring it a little closer to home, this is a pastor problem.”

Are we making disciples, are we multiplying the Gospel, Platt asked. “I want to lead out in this by example.”

Fred Luter’s president’s message rang out across the convention hall with a similar theme: Lord, send a revival, and let it begin with me! And, let us be unified.

“Lord, revive us and make us one like the early believers in Acts 2 where the Scripture says that the believers and Jesus Christ were all together in one accord, in one place,” preached Luter, who was re-elected in Houston to a second term as SBC president.

“Let me say that again, that the believers were all together in one accord, in one place and as a consequence, because they were all together in one accord, in one place, the Bible says they turned the world upside down.”

Do Baptists have the opportunity to change the world, even a world that may not recognize them for the cultural force they once were? In his report, SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page offered an optimistic outlook:

“Some have said that doing denominational work and being a part of a denomination in the 21st century is like the Titanic, it’s headed for disaster. And the best you can do is rearrange the deck chairs,” Page said.

“I choose to believe that kind of analogy is not appropriate. I believe that we together can see victory moving forward and applying Christ-like selflessness, can see days of cooperation and days of victory ahead.”

Read all of the Illinois Baptist’s 2013 SBC Annual Meeting coverage in the current issue, online at ibonline.IBSA.org.

Other news:

Lottie Moon offering tops $149M
Southern Baptists did get a piece of very good denominational news: They gave the third-largest ever Lottie Moon Christmas Offering in 2012, sending more than $149 million to support International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries serving across the globe. The offering, more than $2.4 million more than the previous year, “is a reminder that missions is the stack pole around which Southern Baptists place their hearts, afire for the Gospel,” said IMB President Tom Elliff. Read more at BPNews.net.

Atheist group plans 1-800 hotline
Recovering from Religion, an atheist group in the U.S. and Britain, plans to launch a telephone hotline to offer advice and answers to spiritual doubters, CNN reports. In response to criticism that the 24-hour hotline is devised as a way to convert people to atheism, Recovering from Religion executive director Sarah Morehead said, “Most of the people who contact us are working their way towards disbelief, so of course we are very equipped to handle that. That is not the goal, though, or the job of the facilitators.” Read the full story on CNN’s Belief blog.

Majority says gay marriage ‘inevitable’
A Pew Research survey released this month found 72% of Americans say it’s “inevitable” that same-sex marriage will be legally recognized, compared to 59% who thought so in 2004. Of those in the nearly three-fourths majority, 85% are same-sex marriage supporters, and 59% oppose it. Read more at PewForum.org.

Book explores faith on the field

“Intentional Walk”, a new book by sports writer Rob Rains, explores the Christian faith of several members of the St. Louis Cardinals, including manager Mike Matheny and stars Adam Wainwright, Carlos Beltran and David Freese. The book, subtitled “An inside look at the faith that drives the St. Louis Cardinals,” chronicles the 2012 season. “These players realize how lucky and fortunate they are to play for the Cardinals and to play Major League Baseball in general,” Rains said, “but they also realize how lucky they are to have such a strong faith in God. Read the full story at BPSports.net.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Russia’s ban penalizes orphans
(Baptist Press) Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to ban adoptions between his country and the United States was a political move, thought by many to be retaliation for U.S. sanctions against Russians accused of human rights violations. But adoption advocates say of all the parties involved, the ban is most harmful to the most vulnerable: Russia’s orphans. Christians are called to take up their cause by praying, speaking truth, and creating a culture of orphan care, said pastor and adoptive father Tony Merida. “We must be a voice for the voiceless.” More

Adoption credit made permanent
(Baptist Press) The adoption community received better news earlier this month, when a tax credit for adoptive families set to expire at the end of 2012 was made a permanent part of the U.S. tax code. The credit makes adoption more affordable for families. “Every child deserves a protective, loving family, and I hope that a permanent Adoption Tax Credit will enable many more families to open their hearts and homes to a child in need,” said Sen. Mary Landrieu (D.-La.), who sponsored the act to permanently establish the credit. More

Hobby Lobby defies mandate
(Baptist Press) Craft retailer Hobby Lobby will face up to $1.3 million in fines every day it refuses to comply with a federal mandate that requires employee health care plans to cover contraceptives that cause chemical abortions. “To remain true to their faith, it is not their intention, as a company, to pay for abortion-inducing drugs,” said attorney Kyle Duncan. Hobby Lobby sued the federal government in September over the mandate, but a judge ruled the corporation isn’t a religious organization and doesn’t qualify for the exemption that covers churches and ministries. More

Thumbs-up for Cooperative Program
(LifeWay Research) A vast majority of Southern Baptist pastors have a high opinion of the Convention’s Cooperative Program, according to a recent study by LifeWay Research. The survey of 1,066 pastors found 81% believe CP “fuels an aggressive enterprise of reaching unreached people groups around the world,” and 73% say it supports ministries valued by their churches. Smaller majorities believe the entities supported through CP are moving in the right direction (55%) and using their contributions effectively (52%). More

‘Flat Lottie’ travels the globe
(IMB) The International Mission Board introduced a new teaching tool in “Flat Lottie,” a two-dimensional version of famed missionary Lottie Moon. IMB tracked Lottie across Asia on their Facebook and Pinterest pages, sharing how giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering makes missions and ministry possible around the world. Her stops included a well-digging project on the grasslands of Mongolia and a slum in Bangladesh where missionaries and ministering to women and children. Follow Lottie’s journey here.