Archives For Missions

By Andrew Woodrow

The death of missionary John Allen Chau has sparked arguments among Christians. Some call the young man impulsive, while others admire his commitment to reach unreached people with the gospel. Many are comparing Chau to another missionary killed in South America more than 60 years ago.

On Nov. 17, Chau was reportedly struck and killed by arrows from a Sentinelese tribe living on a remote island off the Bay of Bengal. Born in Washington state, he had been intrigued by the tribe since his teenage years. He chose his college degree to prepare him for his mission. He underwent linguistic training, participated in global missions, refrained from romantic relationships, and later joined the mission-sending agency All Nations.

After arriving in the region in early November, Chau paid fishermen to take him on trips where he attempted to befriend the Sentinelese with gifts, songs, and declarations of Jesus’s love. Chau wrote of his fear in returning to the island for his third visit (and his first overnight one), but reassured himself that the tribe’s eternal lives mattered more. The next morning, when Chau’s companions sailed near the island, they saw his body being dragged on the beach.

For its striking similarity, Chau’s death has been compared to that of five missionary martyrs in 1956, among them the well-known Jim Elliot. Elliot also devoted his early years to preparing for missions. He and his team sought to evangelize the Huaorani tribespeople in Ecuador. They were killed by warriors’ arrows soon after first contact. Elliot journaled extensively of his desire to reach the lost tribe, and his work was continued successfully after his death by his wife, Elisabeth.

But Jim Elliot was celebrated, while Chau has been criticized.

Wheaton College’s Ed Stetzer said he imagines Elliot would receive very different treatment today. “People are much more negative about missions, partly because of mistakes missionaries have made, such as colonialism, a lack of cultural awareness, and more.”

But, “As Elliot wrote (and Chau experienced), ‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose,’” Stetzer wrote. “Here at Elliot’s alma mater, we still believe and train missionaries. To some, that makes us the fools. But…if that makes us fools, we will be ‘fools for Christ.’”

– IBSA’s Andrew Woodrow was a missionary kid, living with his family in Mozambique

Puerto Rico Convention’s annual meeting highlights new churches
Southern Baptists in Puerto Rico celebrated nine new churches gained in the year since Hurricane Maria at their annual meeting in November. The meeting of the Convención de Iglesias Bautistas del Sur de Puerto Rico (Convention of Southern Baptist Churches in Puerto Rico) was the first since 2016. Last year, Hurricane Maria and its aftermath cut church attendance in Puerto Rico by one-third, Baptist Press reported.

With the new churches, there are now about 80 Southern Baptist congregations in Puerto Rico. Illinois Baptists will work with church planters in the U.S. territory through two mission trips planned for 2019.

SBC President issues Lottie Moon challenge
Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear pledged to perform a stunt if the 2018 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions reaches $170 million. So far, suggestions on social media include wearing a mullet at the 2019 SBC annual meeting, or arm wrestling newly elected International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood.

At Liberty University, First Lady addresses opioid crisis
First Lady Melania Trump spoke at Liberty University in Virginia Nov. 28 about the country’s opioid crisis. “I know college is a time to build your independence, experience things on your own terms and make decisions on your own behalf,” Trump told students at the Baptist university. “I am here to remind you that some of those decisions, though they may seem minor at the time, could negatively impact you for the rest of your lives.”

Chau assisted by American evangelicals, officials say
New details have emerged in the death of John Allen Chau, the missionary who died last month while trying to share the gospel with people on North Sentinel island in the Bay of Bengal. The Christian Post reports Indian police now say they believe two American evangelicals helped Chau reach the island, where he is believed to have been shot to death by arrows Nov. 17.

Majority of Protestant churchgoers don’t drink, but the number who do is rising
LifeWay Research found 41% of Protestant churchgoers drink alcohol, up from 39% in 2007. And while the vast majority say the Bible teaches against drunkenness, more than half also say Scripture indicates all beverages, including alcohol, can be consumed without sin.

Sources: Baptist Press, Christian Post, LifeWay Research

Resolution calls for eradication of racism
At their annual meeting this month, the churches of the Missouri Baptist Convention approved a resolution denouncing the 1857 Supreme Court ruling that Dred Scott, a slave living in a free state, was not an American citizen and therefore couldn’t file suit in a court of law. (Scott was appealing to the court for his freedom.)

The resolution at the Missouri Baptist Convention meeting called on the state’s legislature to denounce the ruling and urged “our churches to continue to reach out to all persons regardless of ethnicity showing mercy to all for whom Christ died, and look forward to the day that we will gather as a diverse assembly in heaven.”

Related: At the Annual Meeting of the Illinois Baptist State Association, IBSA President Adron Robinson called for an end to divisions in the church. Watch his message here.

Chitwood unanimously elected to lead IMB
New International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood said Southern Baptists’ global missions force can grow in number again, but it will require “greater generosity and a greater willingness to sacrifice.”

ERLC, other religious agencies oppose tax law
Opponents to a provision in federal tax laws say it “will hopelessly entangle the [Internal Revenue Service] with houses of worship.” Plus, churches will face a 21% tax on employee benefits like parking and transportation.

Offerings up in 2018, pastors say
A new LifeWay Research survey found 42% of Protestant pastors say their church’s offerings are up over the previous year, and 45% say the current economy is positively impacting their church.

‘An opportunity to be human’: Seminary training transforms life in prison
Religion News Service reports on Christian education programs inside prisons, and how they’re training students to be “field ministers” to fellow inmates.

Sources: The Pathway, Baptist Press (2), LifeWay Research, Religion News Service

Our journey together

Lisa Misner —  September 13, 2018

MIO Logo 500pxBy Nate Adams

I suppose the most self-indulgent car I’ve ever owned was one we purchased just after Beth and I were married. It was a sporty little Honda Prelude, with barely any back seat and just enough trunk space for the two of us.

Then, as our family grew, we found we needed cars with bigger back seats and more trunk space. The arrival of our third son pushed us into a mini-van, and longer trips even required a cartop carrier for all the stuff that tended to go with us. Last spring, with two daughters-in-law now in our family troupe, our family vacation required the rental of something called a “people mover,” with nine seats plus cargo space.

Yes, it costs more and more and takes extra effort for a growing family to travel together. But it’s worth it. Sure, things like your destination and everyone’s comfort are important. But just as important are the relationships that grow, and the experiences you share, as you travel together.

Our journey

That’s also how I feel about our journey and mission together as churches, here in Illinois. Sure, where we are going together is important: We want to reach people with the gospel, and to develop disciples and leaders who can help our churches grow, and start new churches, and go to the mission fields of the world.

But the relationship between and among churches and leaders is important too, and somewhat unique to state and local missions. Here we are close enough, not just to do missions together, but to grow together, and sometimes hurt together, as family.

State missions isn’t only about evangelism and church planting and training leaders, though we certainly invest a lot in those priorities. It’s also helping one another through pastoral transitions, or church conflict, or legal issues. It’s doing camps together. It’s planning mission trips or experiences for multiple leaders, or kids, or students, or churches, when one church can’t do that alone.

It’s answering the phone when a church has a need, and sometimes jumping in the car to bring some help or encouragement or resources. It’s celebrating big church anniversaries together, or the long tenure of a devoted pastor. Sometimes it’s crying together at a funeral.

When churches throughout a state decide not to travel alone, but to band together, and work together, and put a state staff and ministries in place, they are doing more than giving money to send missionaries, as important as that is. They are deciding to journey together in a shared mission field, and to do life together, for better or worse, in a way that isn’t really practical in North American missions or international missions.

I would never take anything away from the challenges that our sister, southern state conventions face. But I will say that when a few hundred Southern Baptist churches that average 75 in attendance take on a northern state like Illinois, with mammoth cities like Chicago and St. Louis, and with a population that is 175 times the total worship attendance of our churches, our journey together is a little more uphill than most.

But this is our mission field. This is where we journey together. It’s not always easy or comfortable. But it’s worth it.

This week, churches across our state will receive a special offering, the Mission Illinois Offering. It helps provide what we need for the journey together. Please consider a generous gift, through your church or through the IBSA.org website, if your church isn’t receiving the offering. Every year we travel together brings new challenges. But, for the sake of the lost here, and the glory of our God, our journey together is worth it.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.

Leading women 2

Halsey (at the mic) leads at panel discussion at the 2018 Priority Conference.

Carmen Halsey has a passion for educating and empowering godly women. As IBSA’s director of women’s ministry, she organizes leadership training cohorts, large equipping events, and mission trips in Illinois and abroad. Her desire is to help women find their God-given gifts, and to bring those gifts to build up the local church and carry the gospel to the marketplace. “We’re investing in you,” she tells women as they grow into leaders, “so you be ready to invest in others.”

 

Halsey (second from left in photo above) said she tends to see where “God has women versus where he doesn’t have women.” According to the U.S. Department of Labor, almost 47% of the country’s workers are women and 70% of mothers with children under the age of 18 are in the workforce.

One of those women is Andrea Cruse. “When I met her, she was already a young mother, she was already a pastor’s wife, but one of the things that intrigued me about Andrea was re-engaging the workforce, and wondering where she was going to fit,” shared Halsey.

Cruse, who is married to Adam Cruse, pastor of Living Faith Baptist Church in Sherman and has three young children, has been the recipient of Halsey’s leadership through Illinois Baptist Women (IBW).

Andrea Cruse

Cruse

“Carmen has taught me to be a leader in the marketplace and my church by just allowing me the opportunity and inviting me to participate in the cohorts that are available,” Cruse said. “I’ve just gained valuable knowledge on those foundational leadership skills that have proved significant in my own personal marketplace.”

 

Cruse began sharing the leadership skills she was learning with her supervisors at work, and when an opportunity for advancement came up, she was tapped for the position.

She credits Halsey and IBW, saying when she expressed doubts about accepting the new management role, her supervisor told her, “Andrea, we can teach you what you don’t know, what we need is your leadership skills.”

“And it was at that moment,” Cruse said, “I was just so thankful that IBW and Carmen were willing to invest in me and provided me with the resources to develop those skills.”

Halsey’s work is possible, in part, because of support from the Mission Illinois Offering & Week of Prayer. Collected annually in September by IBSA churches and designated exclusively for ministry in Illinois, this offering supports IBSA missionaries and staff in missions especially needed within the state. That includes Illinois Baptist Women, the group within the IBSA Church Resources Team that focuses on growing women in their roles as disciples, missions mobilizers, and leaders. Under Halsey’s guidance, that has grown to include leadership at home, church, mission field, and in the marketplace.

That’s one main theme of the annual Priority Conference Halsey organizes for Illinois women. “Priority provides a safe environment for us to come and learn together. We can ask questions. We don’t have to feel foolish; we don’t have to shy away from some hard conversations,” Halsey said.

Her conferences have approached hard topics such as assisting refugees, human trafficking, and sexuality. And leadership. “Women are influential folks, and sometimes they just need someone to tell them that.”

Growing influence
Another woman who has benefited from Halsey’s leadership is Becki McNeely. She is a member of Lakeland Baptist Church with a rich heritage.

McNeely is the wife of Brandon McNeely, Baptist Collegiate Ministries director at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. She is also the daughter of Lakeland’s pastor Phil Nelson and the granddaughter of International Mission Board missionaries Jack and Ava Shelby. Even with that pedigree, taking on leadership roles in her church could be intimidating. Until she met Halsey.

“I felt like I was thrown into being a leader until I met Carmen,” NcNeeley said. “She poured so much into me personally through leadership cohort groups. If it had not been for Carmen, I wouldn’t have had the tools I needed to lead.

“I couldn’t put a price tag on how much I learned from her.”

Jacqueline Scott

Scott

Jacqueline Scott, a member of Dorrisville Baptist Church in Harrisburg, may be retired, but the natural born leader isn’t about to slow down. Since becoming active in Illinois Baptist Women, Scott said, “Carmen increased in me a sense of urgency to be serious about the Great Commission. The world is going so fast, we’ve got to catch up, get into the game.”

 

Last summer Scott joined Halsey on a mission trip at the southern tip of the state in Cairo. Scott said the experience taught her, “We need to be ready, better equipped. The Cairo mission trip was a learning curve for me.” She described how many of the people they met while going door-to-door said they practiced other religions. They “challenged” her.

Halsey noticed.

“Jacqueline just saw oppression that her eyes had never seen before,” she said. “And what I loved is that her inner leader just came out. There was a boldness, there was a confidence there that can only come from God.”

Scott agreed. “When I went to Cairo, it was good for me to be there.”

Halsey’s work includes encouraging women in missions mobilization. Her team has led mission trips to Chicago and New Orleans, Europe and South Asia, and has urged Illinois Baptist Women to engage their own neighbors and communities with the gospel.

“It does make me proud—you know, godly proud—when I see somebody succeeding,” Halsey said. And that encourages her in her work with Illinois Baptist Women all the more.

A call to prayer
Please encourage your church to pray for state missions during the Mission Illinois Offering & Week of Prayer, September 9-16. Pray especially for women’s ministry and missions across the state, and the development of leaders through Illinois Baptist Women. Pray for Carmen Halsey and all the members of the IBSA Church Resources Team as they equip churches and leaders for ministry.

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering.

Families take an all-in approach to community transformation

Rodriguez Family

In one of their city’s most dangerous neighborhoods, the Rodriguez family is advancing the gospel by building relationships and trusting God to work.

On a family prayer walk, Edgar Rodriguez helped his children see their neighborhood in a new light. The pastor of New City Fellowship in Chicago’s Humboldt Park asked his kids what they saw as they walked.

“Our oldest said, ‘I see children,’” Edgar said. His response: “This is your mission right here.”

In the second-deadliest neighborhood in Chicago, Edgar and his wife, Sonia, are raising their seven children to play an integral role in transforming their community by sharing—and living— the gospel.

They’ve heard the questions about living in a dangerous place, Edgar said. “Why don’t you move out of there?”

“We believe that we have the solution to change their hearts, which is Jesus. Everything else is going to fall short,” said the church planter who launched New City Fellowship three years ago.

“We can’t leave.”

Sonia says, “If I’m giving my children the gospel, and they can give the gospel to another child, why wouldn’t I train them up for other people in the neighborhood to possibly know Christ?”

Life together
Edgar didn’t want to go back to his old neighborhood to plant a church. He was frustrated with the people—“his own people,” he said. Humboldt Park is undergoing gentrification, meaning coffee shops are popping up, along with more expensive housing. And a new demographic—hipsters—are joining large African-American and Hispanic populations.

Spiritually, though, religious tradition still had more influence than culture-impacting gospel ministry. But the couple sensed God was moving them back to the neighborhood where they both spent at least part of their childhoods.

“God, forgive me for being like Jonah,” Edgar remembers praying.

“We knew the mess that existed, but through prayer and counsel and things of that nature, we just kept telling one another that it makes sense. If the darkness in this neighborhood is what it is, and we’re light, it’s actually kind of foolish and cowardice to leave it like it is.”

Three years ago, the Rodriguezes started New City Fellowship in their apartment. Once they outgrew the space, they moved into the Humboldt Park headquarters of the Chicago Metro Baptist Association.

Planting a church in a tough neighborhood has its challenges, especially when you open your own home like the Rodriguezes have tried to do. They’ve invited drug addicts and dealers to share meals at their table. When a former friend reached out for help and a place to stay, they let him live with them for a while. That particular encounter resulted in Edgar sustaining a blow to the head when the man threw his phone at him in anger.

Months later, Edgar saw the man again. He walked up to him and reached out his arms. “Who would I be if I would not extend to you what Jesus extended to me?” the pastor explains now.

As they engage their neighbors, the couple exercises wisdom when it comes to protecting their children, but they say total security is an unreachable goal. They move forward holding out the gospel, and trusting God to work.

“Even at my best as a husband, as a father, as a protector, I can’t bullet-proof my family,” Edgar says. “When you look at Scripture, God didn’t avoid putting his people in the world. He gave his son knowing what he was going to face.”

New City Fellowship meets on Sunday for worship, but the church also gathers several times during the week for Bible study and meals together. It’s an approach they call “life on life,” which Edgar admits sounds a little cliché, even to them. But it’s a way to describe how they’re trying to integrate gospel-centered community into the everyday rhythms of life—eating, shopping, laundry, etc. What can their small group of Christians do together, so that the gospel goes forward as they disciple each other?

Some people would say it’s too much, Edgar says, and it could be, if you’re going out of your way. But the things their church does together, they’re already doing.
“It’s not a burden for us, and it’s not too much for us. And other families are starting to realize, ‘I need this.’”

The Marshes

The Marshes of Macon are renovating an old church building to create a gathering space for their neighbors.

Opening their doors
Marsh church renovationIn a small community three hours from Humboldt Park, Alan and Marie Marsh are creating a permanent space to welcome their neighbors. When the Marshes moved to Macon, just south of Decatur, they didn’t settle in a traditional house. Instead, they purchased a century-old church building they plan to transform into a community center.

“We believe that wherever the Lord puts us is where we need to reach out,” said Marie, who, as a baker and artist, has big plans for the former Presbyterian church that sits in a neighborhood of quaint homes.

The Marshes live in an office/classroom wing that was added to the original sanctuary, and the family uses the sanctuary to host a “life group” of people from their church, Tabernacle Baptist in Decatur. Eventually, the space could include a library, coffee shop, and other spaces for people in Macon to come together and, as Marie put it, take a little break from their world.

“One thing that I feel like I’ve learned throughout the years is that there are hurting people everywhere,” she says. People might not want to walk into a church they’re new to, but her family can offer their neighbors a place to sit and read and relax. “I look at that as kind of our ministry,” Marie says. “They can walk in the door and they’re going to be loved.”

The Marshes share the space with daughters Grace, 12, and KatieAnn, 22, both of whom are invested in their parents’ outreach to the community. KatieAnn “is the one that goes all in when there’s an outreach that I’m a part of,” Marie says, “like helping with Grace or making, decorating, and packaging 600 cupcakes for our church’s Easter outreach. She has a giving heart that doesn’t stop.”

Sixth grader Grace also plays a key role in building relationships. She was the Marshes first foster child placement, and the couple adopted her when she was three. “To her, there’s no such thing as a stranger,” Marie says of her daughter.

Because the Marshes have fostered several children during her lifetime, Grace is accustomed to people coming and going. “And now when children come into her life, they’re her immediate friends. She welcomes them,” Marie says. “Her role is just to be herself.”

Macon is a small community, and quiet—except on the school bus Marie drives, she jokes. When the Marshes moved to Illinois, she homeschooled Grace. Once she enrolled in public school last fall, Marie got her bus license and a job as a route driver. The job has given her an opportunity to meet families in town.

It’s Marie’s own history as a child in need of a home that motivates her and her family to reach out to others with similar needs.

“I looked at it as people opening up their home for me,” she says of her years as a foster kid, “so opening up my home to someone else is a way for me to give back to God.” Her voice breaks when she acknowledges, “You can’t repay, except to do unto others as it was done unto you in that sense.”

The Marshes are taking the long view of renovating their new home and future community gathering place. They envision family movie nights, craft sessions, and maybe a place for a church to hold a worship service again. For now, their mission is to be open to the possibilities.

“We invest in people’s lives,” Marie says. “And how we do that is just by opening up our lives and our doors to them.”

-Meredith Flynn

Growing up, letting go

ib2newseditor —  April 5, 2018

Growing up“I have to go to work.”

The 2-year-old in our house pushes her hair away from her face, shoulders a miniature pink backpack, and starts trudging to the back door.

“Don’t go!” we say. “Stay here with us. It’s almost time for dinner.”

She replies, dutifully, “No. I have to go.”

She’s growing up—fast. And she’s not the only one. Everywhere you look, young people are taking on big responsibilities previously reserved for people older than they are. High schoolers take college courses. Tweens have detailed social calendars, and the mobile devices to manage them. There is a 6-year-old who made $11 million last year marketing toys on YouTube.

Some kids are tackling the most pressing issues of our day, the most recent example being the Florida teens campaigning for an end to school violence like the shooting that devastated their community earlier this year.

As an adult, especially as a parent, it’s easy to want to lock the doors, pull down the shades, and resolve to just make life work inside our house for the next 15 years.

At Children’s Missions Day this month, I saw evidence that many parents aren’t parenting like that. Hundreds of mini-missionaries worked in 16 locations across Illinois, baking cookies, tending yards, delivering care packages, and visiting nursing homes—all in the name of sharing God’s love with people who might need to hear about it.

My 2-year-old went with me to take photos at one of the sites that day, and I watched her watch the older kids. On the way home, I heard her voice from the backseat: “When I get older and bigger, can I do projects?”

Her question begs an answer—and a commitment—from her parents. To let her grow up and exercise the faith we pray she’ll make her own one day. To trust that God has a plan for her life that may include going somewhere we’ve not been, and can’t go along.
In a scary world, it’s a heavy commitment. We have time to get used to the idea, but not as much as we once did. They’re growing up fast.