Archives For Philippines

The_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Christian leaders are engaged in debate over an Arizona bill that would allow businesses to deny services to same-sex couples for religious reasons.

As the bill awaits signature by Gov. Jan Brewer, writers Kirsten Powers and Jonathan Merritt have written an article for The Daily Beast taking issue with the bill and with Christians who say they should be allowed to refuse services – such as wedding photography or cake baking – because they adhere to a biblical definition of marriage.

Powers and Merritt said the logic behind the Arizona bill only works if Christian photographers or bakers or florists examine every wedding they provide services for to make sure that it meets biblical qualifications. They also called into question advice given by Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, to a Christian photographer who didn’t want to affirm a same-sex wedding by agreeing to film the ceremony.

In a post on his website, Moore responded to Powers and Merritt: “…The question at hand was one of pastoral counsel. How should a Christian think about his own decision about whether to use his creative gifts in a way that might, he believes, celebrate something he believes will result in eternal harm to others.

“…It’s of no harm to anyone else if Kirsten Powers and Jonathan Merritt (both of whom I love) think me to be a hypocrite. It’s fine for the Daily Beast to ridicule the sexual ethic of the historic Christian church, represented confessionally across the divide of Catholicism, Protestantism, and Orthodoxy. It’s quite another thing for the state to coerce persons through fines and penalties and licenses to use their creative gifts to support weddings they believe to be sinful.”

Read Moore’s full response at

Other news:

Shoring up hope in the Philippines
A team of six Illinois volunteers spent a week on Gibitngil Island in the Philippines this month, helping repair a school damaged during Typhoon Haiyan. Read about their trip here.

Parents jailed for son’s death
A Philadelphia couple was sentenced to at least three years in prison after their son died from a treatable condition, Christianity Today online reports. Herbert and Catherine Schaible, who believe in faith healing, had already lost their son, Kent, to bacterial pneumonia in 2009. His younger brother, Brandon, died last year with the same ailment. “You’ve killed two of your children,” Judge Benjamin Lerner told the Schaibles. “…Not God. Not your church. Not religious devotion. You.” Read the full story at

Barna: Americans link violent behavior with violent entertainment
Recent research says 57% of all adults (and 69% of practicing Christians) believe violent action is connected to playing violent videogames, according to Barna. The percentages are slightly lower for movies (51% and 67%) and song lyrics (47% and 61%). Read more at

Worship and hockey: ‘Only in Canada’
The Olympic gold medal hockey game was broadcast on a Sunday morning in Canada. But that didn’t stop one church in Nova Scotia from cheering on the home team, The Christian Post reported. Bedford United Church streamed the game, a 3-0 victory for Canada, in its sanctuary, causing one Twitter user to post: “That’s an ‘only in Canada’ moment!” Read the full story at


Illinois volunteers took a 20-minute boat ride every morning to Gibitngil Island, where they helped repair a school damaged by Typhoon Haiyan.

Gibitngil Island, Philippines | Father Abraham had many sons. Many sons had Father Abraham.

On a remote island in the Pacific, school children march in place to a familiar song. Grouped around a flagpole, they sing and spin along with their leader, a man wearing a bright yellow T-shirt.

It’s the morning exercise routine at Gibitngil Integrated School, and the final day in the Philippines for a group of Illinois volunteers. The team of six Disaster Relief leaders spent a week here to help repair the school, damaged during last fall’s typhoon.

With so much destruction in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, this tiny island likely isn’t high on the government’s lengthy to-do list. But Baptist Global Response saw a need they could meet here, and have mobilized a string of volunteer teams from the U.S. to fix roofs, construct a classroom building almost from scratch, and reinstate the school’s rainwater collection system.

“We were told that for this little island, it might take the government two to three years just to get there to start the work,” said Rex Alexander, IBSA’s Disaster Relief coordinator. “We were working in what would be considered a forgotten area.”

Now, the island and some of its 4,000 residents are well documented on Facebook. They smile brightly in photographs alongside the American volunteers. They sing in cell phone videos. Gibitngil Island isn’t forgotten anymore.

During their week in the Philippines, the Illinois volunteers stayed in Medellin on the much larger island of Cebu. They took a 20-minute boat ride to work every morning. “Just enough to be fun,” Alexander said.

Once they arrived at Gibitngil’s shore, they got off the boat and waded to the beach, carrying the supplies they would need for the day. Volunteer teams have been working at the school here since December under the direction of Baptist Global Response (BGR) and Southern Baptist missionaries in the area. BGR is a partner of the International Mission Board, offering immediate relief and long-term response after disasters.

The Illinois volunteers worked mostly with Filipino nationals under contract with BGR for the school project, Alexander said. And as they worked, they had the audience of several hundred kids, from kindergarten to 12th grade.

“I expected school to be in session and I expected us to be able to communicate with kids, but I had no idea how much of a highlight that would be,” Alexander said.

Don Kragness played a special role during the week. The 35-year veteran music teacher went around from classroom to classroom, working with several grade levels on songs like “Jesus Loves Me” and “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” And “Father Abraham,” of course.

“When I came into their class, they all stood at attention and said, ‘Good morning, Sir Don. We’re glad that you’re here.’ In unison!” Kragness said, laughing at the memory.

Gibitngil Island is largely Catholic, but some of the kids are involved in a house church on the island. The freedom to talk about Jesus at school amazed the American volunteers. “…In our own country, here in Johnson City, Illinois, I could not speak Jesus in class,” Kragness said.

“Over there, I had free reign. The principal of the school is a believer, and there are religious quotations and scriptures posted on the walls and on the trees outside, and you can say anything you want to.”

Kids on the island may be familiar with Jesus, but many don’t know how to have a personal relationship with Him. George Meese was sorting lumber one day when he noticed a little boy watching him from the doorway. “…The Holy Spirit just talked to me and told me I needed to talk to him,” said the pastor of New Hope Baptist in Robinson, Ill.

Meese found out the boy’s name and age – 11. “I asked him if he knew Jesus, and he said yes, I believe in Jesus. And I said, well, have you accepted Jesus in your heart?
“And he said, well, no one’s asked.”

They got down on their knees and the boy prayed to receive Christ, then and there.

Worship by flashlight
Alexander estimates that the house was about twice the size of his office in Springfield. But around 30 people crowded in for the Thursday evening meeting of Gibitngil’s house church, run mostly by older students from the school.

Everything about the gathering would have been completely unacceptable to American Christians, Alexander said.

“First of all, there’s no electricity, so everything had to be done by flashlight. Instead of PowerPoint screens, the kids had handwritten songs and taped them on the walls.” They shone the flashlight on the walls to illuminate the songs and Scripture passages.

Light rain fell outside and in part of the house. The room was crowded. Students were in charge. But Alexander had told the group beforehand, “We need to do everything we can to get to that little meeting.”

The students aren’t alone on their island in adhering to Christian principles, Alexander said, but their belief in Jesus as Savior sets them apart.

“Part of what we do on a trip like this is to encourage Christians,”

Alexander said. “…When a group from the outside comes to their area and shows them God’s love personally, and sits down in their homes and worships with them, in the back of their minds, that helps a young person or adult say, ‘I’ve chosen correctly.’ It helps solidify decisions that they make.”

There will be opportunities for teams to serve in the Philippines for at least another year, Alexander said, and previous Disaster Relief training isn’t required. For more information, contact him at (217) 391-3134 or

By Meredith Flynn

Kurt Crail, a volunteer from Ashmore Baptist Church, visits with school kids on Gibitngil Island in the Philippines.

Kurt Crail, a volunteer from Ashmore Baptist Church, visits with school kids on Gibitngil Island in the Philippines.

Editor’s note: Rex Alexander is in the Philippines this week with an Illinois Disaster Relief team, helping to rebuild a school damaged by Typhoon Haiyan. This is excerpted from an email update he sent today.

Friday, Feb. 14 | Today was Valentine’s Day in the Philippines. This was an exciting day for the kids because they wrote Valentines to each other and to our team members as well.

In the afternoon the entire school had a special assembly for Valentines and then some free time for games, etc. The principal of the school (who is a Christian) asked if I would bring a message to the school children about the difference between Valentine love and God’s love. So I gave a brief presentation about how we celebrate Valentine’s Day in America. Then I talked about God’s love which is greater than all other kinds of love.

I was able to give a clear gospel presentation and explained how everyone can accept God’s love by receiving his Son, Jesus. I was hoping that I was not “overstepping” my bounds in this public school setting. Then afterwards the principal received a Valentine from the school children and then she brought a message which was similar to mine. She quoted several scriptures and told that children that only God’s love will ever bring satisfaction to them. It was unexpected and pretty cool especially because we got to speak to the whole school! She is a bold Christian woman who loves her children and teachers.

Read more about the team’s work in the Philippines in the next issue of the Illinois Baptist, online at

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Lily Eddington and Three Rivers Disaster Relief leader Ken Cummins picked up a new chainsaw after Lily wrote a story that raised more than $2,000 in donations.

Lily Eddington and Three Rivers Disaster Relief leader Ken Cummins picked up a new chainsaw after Lily wrote a story that raised more than $2,000 in donations.

The newest piece of equipment in Three Rivers Association’s disaster relief trailer came from an unlikely source: 10-year-old Lily Eddington.

The Shorewood fifth grader wanted to help the association purchase a new, bigger chainsaw for the team to use after disasters like the November tornadoes that affected many communities across Illinois. She wrote a story that has garnered just over $2,000 in donations, enough to purchase the new chainsaw, another smaller saw, and other needed safety equipment.

Lily has the inside track to knowing about such a specific need – her grandfather is Dan Eddington, Three Rivers’ director of missions. “She knew through my father that they needed help raising money for that,” said Lily’s dad, Matt. “And she came up with the idea of writing a story, and he took the idea and kind of ran with it. And it worked out really well.”

Her grandfather helped Lily publish the story in booklet form, with her own illustrations. The story centers on a family trapped in their home after a tornado. Sisters Megan and Brianna take shelter in the basement with their parents (plus their cat and hamster), but a large tree keeps them trapped inside after the storm passes.

“Then they heard a truck pull up,” Lily wrote. “On the side of the trailer they saw the words, ‘Three Rivers Baptist Association Disaster Relief.’

“Suddenly they heard, ‘Come on guys, we need to get this tree off the house.’”

Read the full story at

Illinois workers join typhoon response
A team of Illinois volunteers is hard at work in the Philippines this week, helping rebuild a school damaged during Typhoon Haiyan last fall. The Disaster Relief leaders also are repairing rain water collection sites on Gibitngil Island, where there is no natural water source. The team starts each day with a boat ride from Cebu Island, where they’re staying, to Gibitngil. “People in small shack houses greet us all along the way and some have even posted signs on their homes thanking our team for helping to rebuild their school,” said Rex Alexander, state director of Disaster Relief for the Illinois Baptist State Association. Go to IBSA’s Facebook page for updates on the team’s work.

Barna: Majority of Christians unclear on calling
Less than half (40%) of practicing Christians have a clear sense of God’s calling on their lives, according to the Barna Group. And 48% of Christian Millenials (generally thought of as those born in the 80s and 90s) say they believe God is calling them to different work. That lack of clarity is the foundation for Barna’s three vocational trends for 2014.

Blog post puts church attendance under the microscope
Author Donald Miller blogged recently that he doesn’t attend church often. “…I don’t learn much about God hearing a sermon and I don’t connect with him by singing songs to him,” wrote Miller, who has chronicled his faith journey in “Blue Like Jazz” and several other books. “So, like most men, a traditional church service can be somewhat long and difficult to get through.” Miller added that he experiences intimacy with God through his work.

Southern Baptist professor and blogger Denny Burk was one of many who responded to Miller’s post, calling his decision “a recipe for spiritual suicide.” Miller responded, and Burk has posted the exchange on his blog.

Christianity Today lists 8 Olympians to watch
Check out CT’s list of Christian athletes competing in Sochi. “We don’t root for them because they’re on ‘Team Jesus,'” writes Laura Leonard, “but all the same it’s nice to see people at the peak of their field, on the world’s biggest athletic stage, turn the credit back to the One who gave us bodies to run and jump and spin on ice and imaginations to push the limits of those bodies to run faster, jump higher, and spin faster than we ever thought possible.”

Six Illinois volunteers, arriving in the Philippines this week, will help rebuild this school on Gibitngil Island.

Six Illinois volunteers, arriving in the Philippines this week, will help rebuild this school on Gibitngil Island. Photo is from the project’s Facebook page.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

A team of six Illinois Disaster Relief volunteers will travel to the Philippines this week to help rebuild after last fall’s Typhoon Haiyan.

The group, composed of “blue cap” leaders from around the state, is part of a multi-week, multi-crew project to rebuild a school on Gibitngil Island. The team is the first from Illinois to join the long-term relief effort in the Philippines coordinated by Baptist Global Response. Keep up with their project here.

Other news:

Forum to focus on biblical sexuality
“The Gospel and Human Sexuality” is the theme of a Nashville summit planned for pastors and leaders this spring. The Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission will host the April 21-23 meeting on marriage, family, purity, morality and culture.

“So many of the questions pastors grapple with today deal with situations that would not even have been possible a generation ago,” said ERLC President Russell Moore. “…We’ll talk about these questions, and how we can be faithful in ministry, Gospel-focused in engagement and Christ-shaped spiritual warriors in the ways we seek to wrestle with the principalities and powers of this age.” Read more at

Blessed are the … athletic?
Just before the Super Bowl and Winter Olympics took over our TV screens, Americans weighed in on whether God rewards faithful athletes with health and success. Opinion is evenly split, according to the Public Religion Research Institute, with 48% saying yes and 47% disagreeing. But among white evangelicals, 62% believe God rewards faithful athletes. Read more at

Military’s religious climate questioned
The U.S. military has long been serious about protecting the religious freedom of its troops, said retired Gen. Doug Carver in submitted testimony before a House subcommittee last month. But Carver, who directs the North American Mission Board’s chaplaincy ministry, noted a climate within the military that could restrict religious liberty. Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R.-Ohio) summarized the prevailing concern: “There is a fine line between accommodation and respecting all religions and restricting religious freedom and that’s the line we are walking on here.”

Subcommittee chairman Joe Wilson (R.-S.C.) called for another hearing on the issue in the next 60 days. Read more at

Bible-themed movies coming soon
2014 may well be the “Year of the Bible,” says culture writer Jonathan Merritt. At the movies, at least. Merritt lists five movies that will have the Bible front and center in the country’s consciousness, beginning with this month’s “Son of God.” Biblical biopics “Noah” and “Mary, Mother of Christ” are due late this year, along with “Exodus.” And although “Heaven is for Real” (April) isn’t based on the Bible, Merritt includes it on his list because “it will likely riff on popular Bible themes such as heaven, Jesus, and salvation.” Read more at

Disaster relief volunteers from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention visited families whose homes and livelihoods were disrupted by Typhoon Haiyan. The volunteers listened to the families’ heartbreaking stories and prayed with them, then distributed badly needed food and building supplies.  BGR photo, via BP

Disaster relief volunteers from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention visited families whose homes and livelihoods were disrupted by Typhoon Haiyan. The volunteers listened to the families’ heartbreaking stories and prayed with them, then distributed badly needed food and building supplies. BGR photo, via BP

THE BRIEFING | Posted by Meredith Flynn

Nearly three months after Typhoon Haiyan, some aid organizations have completed their work in the Philippines. But Baptists are gearing up for a long-term relief effort, led by Baptist Global Response.

“…The need is massive,” BGR Executive Director Jeff Palmer told Baptist Press. “We are initiating large-scale work with communities, local believers and volunteers and will be constantly assessing and gauging the effectiveness of our choices.

“Please continue to pray for our team members and volunteers as they help in the face of overwhelming needs. Pray that we choose the most strategic and effective places to work that truly help people physically and spiritually.”

The biggest repair needs are for water systems, homes and schools, Baptist Press reported. BGR has created a housing kit that will construct a small home on stilts for about $250. The goal is for the construction projects to breathe life into the local job market, Palmer said.

“The community has a labor force needing work, and capable, skilled men will be contracted to work alongside [a] U.S. disaster response team and local volunteer labor when available.”

Disaster Relief chapters from five state conventions – Missouri, California, Tennessee, Kansas-Nebraska, and the Southern Baptists of Texas – have adopted different areas of the Philippines. Read the full story at

Other news:

Frank Page addresses denominational fault lines in ‘State of the SBC’ speech
The president of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee began a Jan. 15 speech with an analogy about earthquakes. “Fault lines happen even in organizations,” said Frank Page during a “State of the SBC” address at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. “And like on the earth, where the fault lines and tectonic plates come together, pressure builds. If that pressure is not alleviated, then deep damage occurs.”

Page addressed some of the denomination’s current and past fault lines, including the debate over Reformed theology. He also spoke about the task force he appointed to study how Baptists with theological differences can work together. “Do I think that fault line is fixed forever? Hardly. But I said to them in all honesty, ‘I want us to work together so that we can at least win some people to Christ for now. Can we do that?'”

Read the full report by Midwestern’s Tim Sweetman at, and click here for a link to Page’s address.

Church ministers through abortion recovery class
Dr. Chris Midkiff likely didn’t know what kind of bombshell she had just dropped during a women’s leadership meeting at Bethel Baptist Church in Troy. The OB/GYN mentioned an abortion recovery Bible study she’d read about called Surrendering the Secret. Some of the women in the meeting personally understood the need for such a study. Read the story here.

One Baptist prof’s take on the Grammy’s
You’ve probably heard about the 33 couples, including some same-sex pairs, married by Queen Latifah during Sunday’s Grammy awards show. The song performed by Macklemore during the ceremony “took aim at Christians and their views on marriage,” blogged Denny Burk, an associate professor at Boyce College in Louisville, Ky. But the lyrics got one thing right, Burk said: We all come from one creator God. Read his post here.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Joining Filipino Baptists at work, IMB representative Mark Moses handed out packs of rice, noodles, canned sardines and water to Typhoon Haiyan victims on Panay island Monday, Nov. 11. “We listened to their horrifying stories of pounding winds and walls of sea water sweeping away their earthly belongings,” Moses said. “We prayed and grieved with the people. We made assessments of priority needs.” (IMB Photo by Mark Moses)

Joining Filipino Baptists at work, IMB representative Mark Moses handed out food and water to Typhoon Haiyan victims on Panay island Monday, Nov. 11. “We prayed and grieved with the people,” Moses said. “We made assessments of priority needs.” IMB photo by Mark Moses; from

As officials assess the damage from Typhoon Haiyan, Southern Baptist workers in the Philippines are distributing food and evaluating how best to meet immediate and long-term needs. Officials estimate 10,000 people could have died in the storm. International Mission Board representative Dottie Smith said, “Pray for strength for those who are still stranded, low on food and water and are feeling helpless.” Read more at

LifeWay apologizes for stereotypes in ‘Rickshaw Rally’

The Southern Baptist Convention’s publishing arm, LifeWay Christian Resources, apologized last week for the use of racial stereotypes in “Rickshaw Rally,” its 10-year-old Vacation Bible School curriculum.

“I agree with those who have helped us understand the offensive nature of that material,” LifeWay President Thom Rainer said in the video apology presented at the Mosaix conference in California. “And I agree evangelical church and ministry leaders — particularly those of us who are white — need to commit to assuring, as best we can, these offenses stop.”

Rainer became LifeWay’s president in 2006.

Coming soon to a theater near you
The producers behind History Channel’s “The Bible” miniseries are repackaging the parts of the story that focus on Jesus for a new feature film. “Son of God” will be released February 28, 2014 by 20th Century Fox. “This is a big story. It deserves a big presentation,” Roma Downey told The Christian Post. The star of “Touched by an Angel” produced “The BIble” with her husband, Mark Burnett, and also starred as Mary, the mother of Jesus. “The stand-alone opportunity of two hours and 15 minutes to follow the birth, the life, the mission, the miracles, the death, the resurrection, the ascension, the Great Commission, the entire Jesus narrative.” Read more at

IBSA Annual Meeting starts Nov. 13
Follow along here and at or The IBSA Pastors’ Conference starts today, with panel discussions and messages by Bobby Boyles, Jerry Cain, Micah Fries, Chuck Kelley, Eric Mason and Jason Strother. For more information, go to

Writer lists five phrases that are too ‘churchy’ for Millenials
Blogger and author Addie Zierman once left the church, and now she’s back. She shares on The Washington Post’s On Faith blog five church cliches that are “maddening and alienating” to Millenials like her. Read the list here and then tell us how you agree or disagree.