Archives For Missions

Lindsey Yoder

Photos courtesy Walk4Freedom via Facebook

“Sometimes putting one foot in front of another is a lot harder than it sounds.”

That’s especially true for 14-year-old Lindsey Yoder who is walking 15 miles a day along the dusty back roads of Illinois—from her home in Arthur to Nashville, Tennessee—in a quest to raise awareness about human trafficking. She hopes to complete the trek in four weeks.

It might be said that the journey began in Springfield in November 2015, when young Yoder attended AWSOM, the Illinois Baptist Women’s annual event for teen girls. “Human trafficking was the focus,” her mother, Regina, said, “and that fueled her interest in the issue.” When a movie about the international sale and trade of vulnerable young women was shown near her town, Lindsey knew she was ready to make a difference.

“My heart was broken at the thought of all the girls who are in this horrible situation, and I asked God specifically to tell me how I can help,” the teen said in an interview from the road with the Illinois Baptist. “Priceless” is a 2016 film about a man who realizes the young women he’s being paid to drive cross country are actually being sold into the sex trade.

About 57,000 people in the U.S. are victims of human trafficking. According to Shared Hope International, “the common age a child enters sex trafficking is 14-16, when they’re too young and naïve to realize what’s happening.” Most victims are girls, but boys are trafficked and sold to pimps as well.

Lindsey is walking to Tennessee because Nashville is the U.S. home of Hope for Justice, an organization that works internationally to stop human trafficking through its offices in Cambodia, England, and Norway. Her eventual goal is to raise enough money to support 30 rescue operations–$195,000.

Why not do a car wash or some other typical student ministry fundraiser? “Because God asked me to walk, so I’m doing it out of obedience. It wasn’t my idea. My faith was the main reason I decided to do step out and do this event that is bigger than me.”

“God has her attention,” said Carmen Halsey, director of IBSA’s Women’s Missions. “She sees the people through his eyes. Lindsey’s not just sitting in a pew. She’s put feet to the vision—literally!”

Lindsey’s biggest challenge walking so far has been the unusually early summer heat. The bugs are are a problem too, but “I’d rather have the heat than the bugs,” she said.

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Awesome family project
As a homeschooling family, the Yoders lead a missional lifestyle. Last year Lindsey went to Honduras on what she called a “class field trip” with her grandfather. She has travelled to Haiti with her mother and sister to work in an orphanage. And she wants to become a teacher in India, working as a full-time missionary.

For this trip, her family is, again, all in. “My mom planned all the routes, and we took two pilot trips to make sure all the roads are safe for walking. My dad is at home working hard at his job and is super supportive of my walk. My three older brothers each drove all the way from Ohio to walk the first two miles with me. My younger siblings are along for the ride, even though they’d rather be home. They haven’t bit each other’s heads off yet.”

And the support extends to her church family. “My church has been incredibly supportive…even more than I expected,” Lindsey said of Arthur Southern Baptist Church. “My youth group sold candy bars in the Walmart parking lot to help cover expenses for lodging and gas as we travel. Our church also gave me funds to cover more of our expenses.”

Lindsey started her walk after the May 28 Sunday morning service where several in the congregation gathered to lay on hands and pray for her. When it was time to start the walk, “about 80 people joined me for the first two miles of the walk,” she said. “It was so fun to be supported and surrounded by the people in my church.”

And her request of fellow Baptists in Illinois? “I really need people praying that I can see this through to the end, for those who have no voice and need to be set free.”

Editor’s note: Lindsey’s made it to Nashville, Tennessee. She will reach the 300-mile mark and celebrate at Bicentennial Park at 2 p.m. (eastern) Saturday, June 24. Follow her on Facebook and learn how you can donate.

Welcome to our mission field

Elizabeth Young

Elizabeth Young

For the third time in 14 years, Arizona Southern Baptists will welcome the larger Southern Baptist family to Phoenix in June.

When Phoenix was chosen to host the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting the first time in 2003, we were more than a little surprised, given our reputation for high summertime temperatures. But with Baptists’ repeated visits, we figured the word must have gotten out that, given our low humidity, our average 102-106 degree June temperature isn’t as bad as “back home” for a lot of folks.

We’re delighted when the family comes to town. We hope, for many, it’s a reminder that Southern Baptist work does exist outside of the Deep South and west of the Continental Divide. Illinois Baptists may feel the same way about recognition of Southern Baptists north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

While we want to offer a warm welcome to the family, we sincerely pray that our guests will remember they are on a mission field. We pray for a quiet, peaceful annual meeting so that we don’t have to explain to our lost neighbors why feuding Baptists, or Baptists engaged in culture wars, made the local news. When you’re up to your eyeballs in lost people, it puts a different perspective on priorities of concern.

Illinois Baptists probably understand this, too. Although we have some differences, we seem to have a lot in common.

You have more people—almost 13 million to our 6.9 million—but we have more land—nearly 114,000 square miles to your almost 58,000. You have more churches—nearly 1,000 to our about 450—but we have similar church-to-population ratios—one church for every 13,000 people in Illinois and one for every 15,000 in Arizona.

Both of our states have one large metropolitan area that encompasses two-thirds or more of the state’s population. And whether it’s Chicagoland or greater Phoenix, also known as the Valley of the Sun, the city is a massive sea of people who don’t know Jesus as savior.

Whether on not you make the trek to the Grand Canyon State this summer, our message to you is the same. We’re drawing from Paul’s Macedonian Call in Acts 16:9 and inviting you to “Come over…and help us.”

Consider what God is calling you to do:
• Pray for God’s work in our vast state.
• Partner with an Arizona church.
• Plant a church in Arizona.

May God give all of us a “Macedonian” vision for Arizona—and beyond!

Elizabeth Young is director of communications for the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention and the editor of Portraits magazine.

The Briefing

Christian nation no more?
Most Americans do not believe America is a Christian nation today, even if many say it was in the past. About one-third (35%) of the American public believes the U.S. was a Christian nation in the past and is still a Christian nation today; close to half (45%) say the U.S. was once a Christian nation but no longer remains so; and 14% say the U.S. has never been a Christian nation.

SWBTS apologizes for photo
Paige Patterson, the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, apologized for a photo of white professors posing as rappers that appeared on Twitter and was instantly deemed racist. The photo featured senior School of Preaching faculty members gesturing and wearing bandannas and chains and was labeled “Notorious S.O.P.” One of them appears to hold a handgun.

Cedarville’s Philippians 4:8 rule
This spring, Cedarville University enacted new curriculum guidelines inspired by Philippians 4:8 and aimed at purifying coursework of erotic and graphic content. The university has spelled out new guidelines officially barring any materials that “may be considered ‘adult’ in nature, that represent immorality, or that may be a stumbling block to students.”

Religious freedom dying in Russia
Russia’s nationwide outlaw of Jehovah’s Witnesses will likely ricochet and strike other religions outside of Russian Orthodoxy there, said Donald Ossewaarde, an independent Baptist missionary forced to shut down his church in that country. He has exhausted his appeals on an August 2016 conviction of operating a church without a permit under the 2016 anti-religion Yarovaya Law. Ossewaarde, who is making plans to return May 8 to his home in Elgin, Ill., said every religion outside Russian Orthodoxy is considered a cult.

Students: Biblical views on sex ‘unChrist-like’
A student club at Seattle Pacific University recently protested against the Christian university because it adheres to biblical views on human sexuality and gender identity.  The club, called SPU Haven, which advocates for gay students, claims that the university’s “Statement on Human Sexuality” is “unethical, unscientific and unChrist-like,” according to College Fix.

Sources: Facts and Trends, Religion News, Christianity Today, Baptist Press, The Christian Post

The BriefingChurches are open for Christmas
Nearly 9 out of 10 Protestant senior pastors say their churches plan to hold services on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, as both fall on a Sunday, according to LifeWay Research. Small churches and large churches are slightly less likely to be open for Christmas. Pastors in the Midwest (92%) and South (89%) are more likely to say their church will be open on Christmas.

Hark! The herald hipster sings
For those that have wondered what it would be like if Jesus was born in 2016 or what a modern day wise man would look like — hint: he wears skinny jeans — the folks at Modern Nativity have the answer. The company has created a hipster version of the classic nativity scene featuring a young Mary and Joseph taking a selfie with baby Jesus in a solar-paneled stable.

Macy’s ends Planned Parenthood gifts
Macy’s Inc.’s latest 990 tax form verifies that the retail giant no longer includes the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in its community contributions, the research group 2ndVote said, describing the news as the latest “miracle on 34th Street.”

Compassion International out of India
Compassion International, a Christian nongovernmental organization (NGO) that aids 145,000 impoverished Indian children, has three weeks left in the country unless officials give it a reprieve. It is the largest humanitarian presence in the second most populated country in the world—providing $50 million in annual relief funds. But India is cracking down on foreign NGOs based on fears that groups are using humanitarian work to mask evangelization efforts.

Graffiti welcomes Muslims in MO
At a time when reports of anti-Muslim sentiment are rising, an Islamic Center in Missouri has received a different message. Kamel Ghozzi, imam at the Islamic Center of Warrensburg, says “Welcome” and “Thank you for choosing our community” were written in chalk on the center’s sidewalk during the weekend.

Sources: Facts and Trends, CNBC, Baptist Press, World Magazine, Fox News

‘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

New IMB strategy targets cities and self-funded volunteers

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This model of London fills a room at the New London Architecture Museum. The areas marked by white circles are near Underground (subway) stations. They are the focal points of church planting, making participation in worship and Bible study groups easily accessible to the city’s highly mobile population.

(Editor’s Note: The Week of Prayer for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and International Missions is Dec. 4-11.) Tourists from around the world flock to Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, The Tower Bridge, and other iconic English landmarks. Getting around via the Tube, red doubledecker buses, or those famous London black cabs is simple, and very British. It’s very easy to lose oneself in the surroundings. But the world is moving to London, and sharing its culture with it.

Across the street from the Royal London Hospital are rows of shops featuring Middle Eastern goods including halal meats, and just a few blocks away is the largest mosque in London. Other parts of the city are home to large Indian populations and curry has become a staple of the British diet.

Some 300 languages are spoken by its 8.3 million people within its 607 square miles. According to the International Mission Board, 37% of its residents come from outside the United Kingdom and one-quarter of its population arrived within the last five years. Forbes magazine named it “#1 City of Influence.”

London by the numbers

300 languages spoken

37% of population from outside the UK

¼ population arrived within the last 5 years

50 non-indigenous communities with populations of 10,000+

34 average age in London

44.7% profess no religion, “nones”

20 average church attendance

This diversity is why London was chosen as one of five cities the International Mission Board (IMB) has selected to be part of its Global Cities Initiative (GCI). In previous centuries most of the world’s population lived in rural areas. In this century, 54% of world’s population lives in urban areas and the Southern Baptist Convention’s missions sending agency has taken notice. The cities represent life-altering, world-changing, gospel-planting opportunities that can’t be missed.

The four other GCI cities are Dubai, where 80% of the population is foreign-born with more than 2 million residents from more than 200 nationalities; Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, home to 8 million people with 62% following Islam and 20% Buddhism; Shanghai, the largest city in China with a population of more than 24 million people, most of whom claim to be nonreligious or atheist; and an unnamed Southeast Asian city that’s home to nearly 17 million people with large populations of Hindus and Muslims and very few Christians.

“Every people group is represented in London. This is what heaven will look like,” said James Roberts, the IMB London city manager.

He described the economic conditions of the people living in the city, “There’s a wide gap financially, the poorest of the poor and the super wealthy, very little middle class. We’re trying to work together more across affinity groups.”

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Exit signs in the London subway system read “Way Out.” For Southern Baptists sharing Christ in this bustling multi-cultural melting pot, the phrase speaks of opportunity the gospel offers for more than half of Londoners who claim a non-Christian religion or no religion at all.

Where do you even begin to start in such a large city?

Victoria. Paddington. White Chapel. They’re all stations in the London Underground subway system where up to 4.8 million passenger journeys take place each day, according to Transport for London. There are 280 stations along the 11 lines of the Tube, as it’s commonly called. The stations are the key to IMB’s outreach here.

“The goal is to have a missional community in each area,” Roberts said, describing a map-driven analysis of the entire city. “A missional community is a group that discerns how God is moving and tries to gather to share community—mom’s groups, small groups, men’s groups.”

The team in London knows it won’t be easy. “It’s a lot of networking, coffee, work, limitless streams of people coming in,” Roberts said. “We try to connect, catch people as they come with the goal of starting new groups and church work. It takes a village to pull this thing off and courage to pull this together.”

Shane Mikeska is a student mobilizer on the London team. Before coming to England, he and his family lived in Asia, but illness forced a move from the tropics. “Western Europe is the hardest place to engage the population. In Asia it’s easier to have a spirited conversation. Here in this context most (people) are apathetic.”

On campuses, he said, “the students most open to new things are internationals. There are opportunities to connect to hold worship and Bible study.” Reaching them is a focal point in the cities initiative. “They can go home and go into their culture and share boldly.”

About 50,000 Americans study abroad each year and many are Christians. “We want them to come and plug into the local church and ministry, not just travel and experience things.”

You are here
The Global Cities Initiative allows people who feel called to go—but not in the traditional career-missionary way.

D. Ray Davis is part of the IMB mobilization team. “We used to say God is calling and people aren’t listening. Now we’re saying God is calling and more people are listening than we can send.”

IMB President David Platt uses the word “limitless” to describe his vision for reaching the world: limitless numbers of missionaries utilizing “multiple pathways” to the mission field. GCI is one of those pathways to “send limitless missionaries to engage lostness all over the world,” Roberts said. “Business professionals, students, retirees—a GCI person raises their own support.” Groups and individuals are also invited to come serve on short-term projects. “There’s no language barrier to overcome,” Roberts said of his London mission field.

After getting to know the city, Mikeska has grown to love London and thinks others will too. “Now, I look at this vast city and wail over it and cry over it, like in the Bible. God’s done a transformational work in my heart,” the young missionary said. Even as he weeps for the lost, Mikeska concludes, “We’re excited about the future, being part of this team.”

To learn more, visit IMB.org. All statistics, unless otherwise noted, are from the International Mission Board.

– Lisa Sergent recently traveled to London to meet with members of the International Mission Board’s communications team. With staffing changes abroad and at the Richmond, Virginia headquarters, IMB is implementing new mission strategies. The goal is to multiply the number of missionaries on the field, especially short-term and volunteer workers who will practice their professions and their faith among the world’s lost people. Targeting huge cities in five regions of the world is one of those strategies.

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