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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.

Lindsey Yoder 3

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.

The Briefing

Immigration raids target Iraqi-American Christians
Chicago’s Iraqi immigrant community is bracing for raids by U.S. immigration officers after witnessing a sweep in Detroit, where federal agents rounded up more than 100 Iraqis, most of them Christians, and sent them to a detention center in Ohio, pending deportation. Federal agents took Detroit’s Iraqi-American community by surprise, showing up at a Chaldean church during Mass, at restaurants frequented by the Iraqi Chaldean community, and at homes bearing orders to arrest and deport residents.

Baptists deny CSB translation is ‘gender neutral’
Conservative Christian groups and intellectuals are rejecting a recent claim that the latest version of the Christian Standard Bible has been edited to be more “gender neutral.” The Atlantic published a piece on Sunday that claimed that the theologically conservative Southern Baptist Convention was embracing a more gender-neutral version of the Bible.

SBC Phoenix wrap-up: Alt-right resolution & evangelism draw focus
Appointment of a task force to study how Southern Baptists can be more effective in evangelism and a resolution decrying “alt-right white supremacy” were among highlights of the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 13-14 in Phoenix. Attendees of the SBC Pastors’ Conference preceding the annual meeting elected Florida pastor H.B. Charles as the conference’s first black president.

Chicago records 300th homicide
Chicago recorded its 300th homicide over the Father’s Day weekend, just like it did last year. The somber milestone was reached around 2:30 a.m. Monday when a 33-year-old man was gunned down during a burst of violence that saw four people killed and 13 others wounded over just five hours Sunday evening through early Monday, according to data kept by the Tribune.

Catholics launch conversation about female deacons
Several progressive Catholic groups are launching an initiative aimed at giving lay Catholics and clergy across the U.S. a direct say on whether the church should ordain women deacons. Their actions follow the appointment of a panel of experts set up by Pope Francis to consider the controversial question.

Sources: World Magazine, Christian Post, Illinois Baptist, Religion News, Chicago Tribune

Phoenix map 1

It’s going to be hot enough in Phoenix without a squabble. Maybe we won’t see motions from the floor at the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention to defund the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission or dismiss its president, Russell Moore.

There are several reasons for this new hope. First, both sides in the election-year dust up have offered conciliatory statements. Jack Graham, pastor of Dallas-area megachurch Prestonwood, announced his congregation would restore their Cooperative Program giving in April. The church had “escrowed” its SBC missions contributions while they examined complaints that Moore had criticized presidential candidate Donald Trump and those who planned to vote for him.

The complaints from the Texas church and others exposed some theological and political distance between ERLC leadership responsible for articulating Southern Baptist views in Washington and those Southern Baptists back home who fund them.

Similarly, the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s Executive Board studied “issues of concern” related to the ERLC. But recently, the board said “it has evaluated the complaints lodged against the ERLC, that its leadership has met with Dr. Moore and has sent a letter to the trustees of the ERLC and encourages the churches to continue their generous financial support for all our convention work.”

And there’s the action by Moore himself.

His tone toward Graham and Prestonwood Church may have helped. Moore explained that his comments about the election were never aimed at the Southern Baptist rank-and-file; and in explaining his actions, Moore never sought to defend himself.

More important, there’s word to this editorial team and others that the ERLC staff is making new efforts to connect with the grassroots. For example, Vice President for Communications Dan Darling appeared at the Illinois Baptist Women’s Priority Conference. (He addressed family issues in a declining culture.) The ERLC, fond of sending videos to state and regional events, is more likely to appear in person in the future. Now three years into their tenure, the ERLC leadership is learning that it should not get too far ahead of the people who sent them.

And, with the placement of the ERLC’s report last on the convention agenda, rather than on the first day as in years past, there may only be time to accept their mea culpa and move forward.

Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist.

HB Charles

Phoenix | Florida pastor H.B. Charles will be nominated to lead the 2018 SBC Pastors’ Conference in Dallas. Charles, pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., preached at the 2016 Illinois Baptist Pastors’ Conference.

Oklahoma pastor Brad Graves had previously been announced as a candidate for Pastors’ Conference president, but he withdrew his candidacy to clear the way for Charles. Graves told Baptist Press “it’s never a loss when you can join God in his work.”

The decision to nominate Charles stemmed from an informal gathering of past Pastors’ Conference presidents May 2 at which the group expressed a desire to nominate someone representing the numerous qualified pastors from ethnic minority groups, said former Pastors’ Conference President Ken Whitten. Charles would be the first African American to serve as Pastors’ Conference president.

Graves, whose candidacy was announced April 17, told BP the decision to withdraw from the election was “a big God moment,” adding no one pressured him to withdraw—except the Holy Spirit after a season of prayer. “I don’t want to be anything divisive” in the SBC, said Graves, pastor of First Baptist Church in Ada, Okla. “I think it’s time to show the culture that there is something that unites [Southern Baptists] more than just a Cooperative Program or a mission statement, but that we really do care for one another.”

Graves added, “Our convention is very diverse,” and Charles’ nomination “will help show how diverse we really are.”

Charles has served as pastor of Shiloh since 2008. The church, formerly a vastly African American congregation, became more racially diverse when it merged in 2015 with the predominantly white Ridgewood Baptist Church in Orange Park, Fla. While the Jacksonville campus remains predominantly African American, as much as 40% of Shiloh’s campus in Orange Park is Anglo, with a smattering of other ethnicities.

– From Baptist Press

The Briefing

Pro-LGBT group plans protest at SBC 2017
The advocacy group Faith in America (FIA) has announced plans to “politely disrupt” the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting June 13-14 in Phoenix. The group hopes to persuade the nation’s largest Protestant denomination to change its interpretation of Scripture, FIA said in a press release accusing the SBC of marginalizing and harming lesbian, gay, homosexual and transgender (LGBT) children in particular by discouraging sexual sin.

Illinois forces foster parents to support gender transition
The state of Illinois’ social services policies now bar social workers from employment and foster families from caring for children if they refuse to facilitate a child’s gender transition. The director of the Department of Children and Family Services approved “enhanced department procedures” that established “mandatory minimum standards for LGBTQ children under its authority.” These state standards, reportedly drafted with the assistance of the ACLU, “will not tolerate exposing LGBTQ children and youth to staff/providers who are not supportive of children and youths’ right to self-determination of sexual/gender identity.”

Planned Parenthood reports abortion increase
Despite a significant decrease in clients, decrease in contraceptive services, and increase in the number of abortions it performs, Planned Parenthood still claims abortions make up only 3% of its overall business. According to the abortion giant’s annual report, released last week, it performed 328,348 abortions and 9,494,977 total services. The report came out about six months later than normal, prompting speculation about what it might contain.

Christian hospitals win Supreme Court case
In a decision that has religiously affiliated hospitals cheering, the Supreme Court ruled federal pension rules don’t apply to them. The 8-0 ruling reverses lower court decisions that sided with hospital workers who argued that the exemption from pension laws should not extend to hospitals affiliated with churches.

DoD wants fewer generic Christians
The general categories of “Protestant, no denominational preference” and “Protestant, other churches” have been removed from the Department of Defense (DoD) list of recognized religions as the US military seeks out more detailed designations for its 1.3 million service members. This spring, the DoD doubled the religious identities that military personnel can declare on official paperwork and dog tags. The list now totals 216 different affiliations, including 30 types of Baptists.

Sources: Baptist Press, Christian Post, World Magazine, Religion News Service, Christianity Today

SBC candidates

The slate of nominees for Southern Baptist Convention offices to be elected in Phoenix represent a push toward greater diversity in SBC leadership.

Walter Strickland, special advisor to the president for diversity at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, will be nominated for the role of first vice president (currently filled by Illinois pastor Doug Munton). Strickland also teaches theology and operates a consulting agency to assist churches and organizations with diversity-related issues.

“As our nation and our convention become more diverse, it is imperative that our leadership reflect the diversity that marks the Kingdom of God and Heaven itself,” said Georgia pastor James Merritt, who will nominate Strickland. “Beyond that we need people in leadership that reflect the best of Southern Baptists theologically, spiritually, and personally.

“Walter Strickland meets both of these needs perfectly and I am excited about nominating him for the position of first vice president at our upcoming annual meeting in Phoenix.”

Also to be nominated in Phoenix is Jose Abella, pastor of Providence Road Baptist Church in Miami, Florida. Abella, one of the preachers at this year’s SBC Pastors’ Conference, planted the bilingual congregation in 2010.

“Jose is a loving picture of what Southern Baptists are working to become,” said Georgia pastor Michael Lewis in a news release about the nomination, “effective in an urban context, multiplying churches, reaching different generations, ethnicities and socioeconomic groups, all while being faithful to Scripture.”

A third SBC leader, John Yeats, will be nominated for office in Phoenix. Yeats is executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention and will be nominated for his 21st term as SBC recording secretary.

First elected to the post in 1997, Yeats designed the process currently used to get information from the convention floor to the platform at the Committee on Order of Business, Baptist Press reported.

Yeats said he and his wife, Sharon, who serves beside him on the convention platform “are deeply honored by Southern Baptists to serve our Lord in this role.”

Steve GainesSteve Gaines, pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church, will be nominated for a second one-year term as SBC president by his son Grant Gaines, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn. Gaines was elected last year after North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear pulled out of the race before a second run-off election.

For more information about the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix, go to sbcannualmeeting.net.

– From Baptist Press reports

The Briefing

Trump to Liberty grads: Follow Christian convictions
In front of a record-setting crowd of about 50,000 attendees, the newly minted politician winked to his support from evangelicals—repeatedly bringing up religious freedom and identifying with their position as Washington outsiders. “In America we do not worship government, we worship God. We do not need a lecture from Washington on how to lead our lives,” he said to the graduates.

La. Executive Board concludes study of ERLC
The Louisiana Baptist Convention’s Executive Board has concluded a study of “issues of concern” related to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and issued a letter commending ERLC President Russell Moore for “confessing his failings.” The letter, addressed to the ERLC president and trustees, also urged Moore “to listen carefully and respectfully to Southern Baptists even as we listen to him.”

Graham calls persecution of Christians ‘genocide’
Franklin Graham, son of the famed evangelical preacher Billy Graham, urged fellow Christians to struggle against a “Christian genocide” that he says has killed in greater numbers than most believers can fathom. Graham spoke May 10 at a conference aimed at highlighting an issue many feel is ignored by politicians and the media.

Court sides with Christian print shop
The owner of Hands on Originals, a Lexington, Ky., print shop, did not violate a local nondiscrimination ordinance when he refused to create T-shirts for an annual gay pride festival, the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled. The 2-1 decision is the second to uphold Blaine Adamson’s right to engage in “viewpoint or message censorship.” A local gay and lesbian advocacy organization asked Adamson to create T-shirts promoting the organization’s 2012 Pride Festival. Adamson declined, saying he could not promote that message as a Christian.

Majority of Protestants support gay marriage
Sixty-four percent of U.S. adults say same-sex marriages should be recognized by the law as valid. Although not meaningfully different from the 61% last year, this is the highest percentage to date and continues the generally steady rise since Gallup’s trend began in 1996. However, U.S. Protestants, including all non-Catholic Christians, are now about twice as likely to support gay marriage as they were in 1996 (55% vs. 27%). This year’s poll is the first-time Protestant support has reached the majority level.

Sources: Christianity Today, Baptist Press, Religion News, World Magazine, Gallup