Month: September 2003

Sharing the truth with Muslim women

I’m running out of magnets to keep my collection of Southern Baptist missionary cards posted on the refrigerator. Years spent in several different states and varied denominational work provided opportunities to watch young adults and not so young adults prepare to serve around the world. I’ve learned to listen to news broadcasts with thoughts of their whereabouts. Whether it’s the heat wave in Paris, the president’s visit to Nairobi, the overthrow of another president in Argentina, flooding in Mozambique, an earthquake in Istanbul, or the proliferation of AIDS in Johannesburg, each event reminds me of the faces of my friends who daily risk their lives to share the gospel.

When my television showed images of planes crashing into the twin towers, it wasn’t long before the link to Muslim extremists turned my attention to a friend in the Middle East. We kept in contact by email, reassuring each other of God’s sovereignty. This time it was she who worried about friends in America, particularly a missionary working amidst the United Nations community. “Eyes glued to the TV, but thoughts a million miles away,” she wrote, “sickened with the idea that what I see is real. The call to prayer begins coming through our window, the sound of the Qur’an. My friends, my neighbors, the people I pass every day on the way to school, to the store, and to the post office are lost?they are going to hell. The pictures in front of me and the sounds of the Qur’an echoing around me drive me to a sustained time of prayer and searching God’s Word for strength and hope?for answers, but most of all for comfort.”

She remembered Jonah questioning how he could go to a place that is so evil, to proclaim God’s message to a people who have harmed her people. And yet, in the midst of “the evil that seems to press down like a dense mist that clings to you,” she found Muslim acquaintances inquiring about her family’s safety. “They expressed their great sadness over what has happened in the U.S. The matter of blame was left unmentioned?as it should have been.” The thought that she could be pulled out of the country at a moment’s notice remained in the back of her mind.

Over the coming months I provided her with a sense of how her homeland had changed. Although spiritual renewal had occurred in many hearts, a distrust of Muslims had also begun. In the midst of those electronic chats, she made some suggestions. “When you come across a Muslim woman in the traditional veil, smile,” she said. She assumed correctly that Muslims in America were sensing the hostility and blame that many people conveyed. That simple act will start to open doors, she said. It was the least I could do.

A year ago I sat at a table in the Missionary Learning Center, enjoying conversation with an IMB leader who had served in a Muslim country. We were comparing notes on the impact of security concerns in Muslim countries where he’d served and others where my friends were ministering. “Did you see this coming?” I asked, wondering whether he had been aware of the influence of Islamic militants during his years overseas. His answer admitted an ineffective strategy in earlier years. Missionaries did not attempt to engage a Muslim culture, he said. Instead, they looked for open doors among responsive people groups. Only recently have we been more creative in finding ways to open the closed doors.

In “Voices Behind the Veil” which you’ll find reviewed on page 11, Ergun Caner observes, “When we were unwilling to go as his ambassadors into the uttermost parts of the world, God brought the uttermost parts of the world to us.” Now that they’re here, will we take offense at the intrusion or introduce them to our Savior?

Too often we focus on the outward appearance, failing to see the person behind the religious garb. Little do we realize it is they who find our culture offensive. In her contribution to the essays, Susie Hawkins says Christians will do well to recognize the virtue that lies behind veiling. “Because Western culture is characterized overseas by television programs that depict a low view of morality, Western Christians can see why Muslims sometimes come to consider Western society as the epitome of evil.” She admitted a slight resentment toward veiled women prior to researching the matter, and wondered why they insisted on dressing in that manner when they lived in the USA. “Now I admire their commitment and desire to identify their faith. I feel drawn to them now, and I fervently pray that this book will do that for all who read it!” She asks God for the grace and opportunities to speak his truth with unveiled love.

Jill Caner identifies with the desire of Muslim mothers to raise children that adhere to their religion and to live productive, meaningful lives. Fourteen years ago God directed Debbie Brunson to pray for Muslim women. She’s seen God call families from each of the churches her husband has pastor

Missionary Couple finds opportunity

BROWNSVILLE, Texas?Assisting youth groups on summer missions in the Rio Grande Valley is just an extension of the work conducted daily by Dwight and Connie Hendrick. But it brings some of the greatest rewards.

“I’m doing this for the kids,” said Dwight Hendrick of his work with the Mission Outreach Center (MOC), a ministry of First Baptist Church, Brownsville. Yes, souls are being saved. And, yes, needs are being met in an impoverished region. But what gets 75-year-old Hendrick excited about his job as a missionary is seeing teenagers get excited about sharing the gospel.

He told of one teenage boy approaching him after a morning of street evangelism in Mexico’s colonias?squatter towns of ramshackle tin and cardboard buildings with no electricity or running water. The youth had led someone in prayer after an evangelistic encounter. Hendrick said the boy went away so happy about what he had done.

In the 1950s Hendrick could have never seen himself being a missionary, especially one living in a remote part of Varacruz, Mexico. But he was saved during a youth Bible study?a Bible study that he was leading. The lesson was on Eph. 2:8-9. “One person responded to that message, and that was me.” It was like a light went off in his head, he recalled. By 1956 he and his family were in Mexico City witnessing in the streets and behind any door that would open to them. Shortly thereafter, Hendrick was sent to Varacruz.

But by 1965 it became evident that the Hendrick teenagers needed Christian fellowship with peers and a quality high school education to get into college in the States. So the family left for Brownsville. One year later Hendrick’s wife died of cancer.

It was a common tragedy that brought Dwight and Connie together just four years later. Halfway across the ocean in Hawaii, Connie had lost her first husband to the same illness. “I saw my husband die when I was 26,” she said, adding “Life is so short.” That life lesson instilled in her the urgency of sharing Christ.

Connie and Dwight were friends before their spouses died and in 1970 they married. It was a marriage of mutual passion?a passion for seeing the lost of Mexico and the Rio Grande Valley come to know the Lord.

The couple has served the Lord as independent missionaries, receiving regular financial support from churches in California and New York and from individuals. Their church home, First Baptist Church, Brownsville, also contributes to the Hendrick ministry.

Every day they cross the border into Mexico. “The people’s needs are so great,” Connie said. So much of her time is spent delivering food, clothing, school supplies, and uniforms. During the summer, Connie prepares three meals a day with help from FBC teens, feeding 30-75 teenagers per meal.

Their work is not glamorous and it often takes them into the lives of people who are desperately impoverished, but it’s what they do. “We’re missionaries,” Connie said matter-of-factly.

But the couple’s first priority, according to FBC Pastor Steve Dorman, is evangelism and starting Bible studies. Once study groups are formed, the Hendricks recruit area pastors to continue the work.

Dorman referred to the missionaries as “the pastors’ friends” because of the assistance and encouragement they give to church leaders south of the border. “They just have a huge heart,” he said.

Their work goes far beyond meeting the simple physical needs of the poorest Mexican people. One woman, whom Hendrick described as being “on fire for the Lord”?will be receiving surgical care paid for by their ministry. Hendrick said they are helping with the financial costs, because he could not bear to lose such a dynamic witness for God.

But it is during the summer months that the Hendricks, along with numerous volunteers from FBC Brownsville, are kept the busiest. Together they operate the church’s Mission Operation Center, a staging area for mission groups who come to evangelize the valley and Mexico.

The couple facilitates FBC Missions and Education Pastor Ricardo Rivera. Hendrick’s main contribution to the MOC program is selecting sites within the Mexican colonias for door-to-door evangelism. Using an English/ Spanish Bible tract created by Hendrick almost 20 years ago, the mission youth groups fan out every Monday morning sharing the gospel in simple Spanish terms taught to them by Hendrick the day before.

The first day his new Bible tract was used almost 20 years ago, Hendrick said he was nervous. A youth group was sent into the streets of Mexico.

Hurricane Season takes toll on Encampment

PALACIOS, Texas?The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention recently donated $30,000 to the Texas Baptist Encampment to help the Gulf Coast camp with rebuilding costs after the forces of Hurricane Claudette ripped through the campgrounds earlier this summer.

Claudette’s 85-mph winds began pounding the Texas coast on July 15 with the center of the storm touching down near Port Lavaca. Just a few miles up the coast, campers at the encampment in Palacios were packing their belongings a few days early to head for safer ground near Houston.

According to Rob Nessler, interim executive director of TBE, very little of the campground was left unscathed. “Almost every roof in the camp will have to be replaced,” Nessler said.

The storm destroyed the open-air tabernacle and a 264-bed dorm. The dormitory housed about 40 percent of the camp’s students each week during the summer season according to Nessler. Two staff families were displaced because the storm leveled the duplex apartments on the camp grounds.

The damaged roofs left building interiors exposed to an additional five inches of rain that poured down the next day.

As the skies cleared, crews from area churches started the cleanup process. The storm left limbs and debris scattered all across the grounds, taking crews almost two weeks to clean up the mess.

The board of directors for the camp began meeting to discuss a recovery plan. Several churches and other organizations offered monetary assistance. Donald Hintze, director of missions for the Gulf Coast Association, suggested assistance from the SBTC and met with convention staff. Later, SBTC representatives Gibbie McMillan, mission services associate, and Deron Biles, minister/church relations associate, visited the campus and recommended that the money be donated to the camp.

Nessler, who had only been on the job as interim director for a few days when the storm hit, said the camp had already begun plans to build an air-conditioned tabernacle. Now the plans have been advanced to replace the tabernacle and other buildings before next summer.

Although most of the structures were covered by insurance, Nessler said a fishing pier would cost about $25,000 to $30,000 to repair.

The damage will be between $500,000 to $750,000. “Maybe in excess of that,” Nessler said. “We’re just not sure yet.” A final settlement will be completed in coming weeks.

Nessler said the donation from the SBTC could be used to cover income losses sustained by the encampment after two week’s worth of camps were cancelled during the cleanup process. Some of the money may go toward buying new items like generators and trash dumpsters that would not be covered by insurance.

Nessler said he was very appreciative of the SBTC and other groups and individuals across the state that gave money and time to the camp.

“I would like to express my thanks to the SBTC for [making the donation],” he said. “We have a great Baptist network taking care of people in need. And we were certainly in need.”

Biles said the SBTC was able to assist TBE due to Texas Baptists giving to the Cooperative Program.

“The SBTC is proud of the work at our Texas Baptist Encampments. Because the churches of the SBTC have given so faithfully to the Cooperative Program, we are able to help worthy projects such as the camp in Palacios,” he said. “We will pray that God will continue to bless the staff and the workers at all of our encampments and that many young people will be brought to faith in Jesus Christ through their efforts.”

Church Growth Conference

HOUSTON?Using the story “The Three Little Pigs” as an analogy, Fred Luter Jr. told those gathered for the fourth Annual Church Growth Conference that Satan is doing his best to blow down churches and their ministries. For a church to stand up to the enemy’s assaults, “It must be a church that Christ builds,” said the New Orleans pastor.

The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention-sponsored conference is held every year to equip pastors, staff and lay leaders with the knowledge and tools for growing their churches, planting churches, building up new and established ministries, and reaching out to their communities with the gospel of Christ. The conference, held alternately between Houston and Dallas, met at Sagemont Church in Houston, Saturday, Aug. 23. SBTC church members from as far away as the Rio Grande Valley and Pflugerville traveled to Houston to participate.

Luter’s address?often interrupted with applause and shouts of “Amen!”?was drawn from Matthew 16:13-19. The pastor of the 8,000-member Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans said there are three things that must happen for a church to withstand the onslaughts of Satan.

First, Luter said, a church must be built on the foundation of Jesus Christ. It was Peter’s confession of faith in Jesus’ identity as the Son of God that became the foundation for the modern-day church, he explained.

Second, referencing verse 18b, Luter said, “A church must be victorious in spiritual warfare.” He added that just because a church claims Christ’s name doesn’t mean it will be exempt from Satan’s attacks. He urged the church to “put on the armor and keep it on.”

And lastly, Luter said, “The church must have the right keys for locked doors.” The enemy, he said, is successful in closing doors to Christians, often resulting in discouragement and anger toward God. But, Luter added, “You can’t give up until you find the keys.”

For the purpose of giving churches the keys to successful church growth, 23 workshops were offered at the conference in areas ranging from “Focusing Preschoolers on the Kingdom” to “Senior Adult Ministry in a Kingdom-Focused Church.” Other sessions included arenas for: music ministries, collegiate ministries, financial freedom, and recreational and sports ministry. SBTC staff members, LifeWay Christian Resources consultants and lay leaders led all workshops.

Three workshops were conducted in Spanish accommodating the growing Hispanic church population in Texas. Terry Coy, SBTC ethnic church planting strategist, led a group of pastors and lay leaders in the area of “Creative Ideas to Grow and Multiply Your Church.” Growing churches are changing churches, he said. The pastor of a 30-member church must be a different kind of pastor for a church of 100, he added. And, beginning with the church leaders, the concept of change must be accepted and dealt with proactively.

Many Spanish-speaking congregants, said Coy, are comfortable with small, familial churches; but change is coming. By the year 2025, he said, 50 percent of the Texas population will be Hispanic, reinforcing the need for churches with strong leadership.

Two other Spanish-speaking workshops dealt with bringing people into the church?a discipleship training course led by Pastor Pedro Escobar of Clovis, New Mexico and a Sunday School workshop directed by Miami Baptist Association staff member Mirian Lopez. Both out-of-state speakers were invited by LifeWay to share their expertise in their respective areas.

Escobar, pastor of Inglesia Baptista Belen, said his goal was to teach church members to reach out to the Spanish-speaking population?an area of great need in Houston, he added. The program focused on reaching entire families and bringing them into the church. Once there, the emphasis is on discipleship, Escobar said.

Lopez, director of the “Sunday School Growth Strategies” workshop, quizzed her group of 20-plus attendants on their motives for attending the conference. “What are your needs? Why are you here?” Most of those attending Lopez’s class come from small churches with Sunday School departments of no more than five teachers and two to three assistants.

The problem for many Spanish-speaking churches in Texas, Lopez said, is not the lack of Sunday School materials, but the lack of leadership. “They are a humble people,” she said of her class, made up mostly of individuals whose families emigrated from Mexico. To volunteer for a leadership position as a teacher would seem pretentious, she said.

But, she added, there was good discussion in her class and all were introduced to the LifeWay resources to be used in their churches.

Kevin Ueckert, SBTC collegiate ministry consultant, said there was “great dialogue” among those attending his workshop, “Church-based Collegiate Ministry.” Ueckert emphasized the need to create other ministries beyond Sunday School for college students. Beginning with the pastor, churches should create an atmosphere that attracts students, “involving them in the life of the body,” he said.

Children’s Choir Conference Equips Leaders

PORTER, Texas?The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention held its first Children’s Choir Workers Leadership Conference on Aug. 16.

Conference participants learned from children’s music leaders from Southern Baptist churches around the nation such as Neva Hayley of First Baptist Church, Broken Arrow, Okla., who led in the preschool workshop. The Music Maker (Grades 1-3) workshop was led by Kathy Langworthy of Morrison Heights Baptist Church, Clinton, Miss., and the Young Musician (Grades 4-6) workshop was under the leadership of Carol Mills from East Bayou Baptist Church, Lafayette, La.

Each clinician presented creative ideas to help children learn to praise the Lord through song, instruments and creative movement. Those who attended went away with a notebook of ideas to aid them in preparing for the task of leading children’s choirs.

There were two learning sessions in the morning and a round table discussion that helped each person with specific questions about his or her choir situation.

Ken Lasater, SBTC church ministry support associate said “it was truly an inspiring and encouraging day.”

“Some of the responses received regarding the conference were ‘Thanks for a great conference,’ ‘It was top notch!!’ ‘Very positive and informative?everyone greeted us with a smile and made us feel very welcome’,” Lasater said, reporting 41 in attendance from 13 churches.

First Baptist Church, Porter, hosted the event under the leadership of Troy Cates, music minister, and Terri Hathcock, children’s choir coordinator.

First Baptist Church, Porter, will also host next year’s SBTC Children’s Choir Workers Leadership Conference. It will be held on Saturday, Aug. 7, 2004. For more information contact Troy Cates at (281) 354-3339.

“Next year’s conference will be an excellent opportunity for any workers with children’s choirs, whether they are seasoned veterans with years of experience and tons of resources or whether they are just starting out in their first attempt at leading a children’s choir,” Lasater said. “Skills will be taught and teaching tools will be given that will benefit immeasurably everyone who attends.”

An invitation to our annual Hispanic rally

At the recommendation of a Hispanic Task Force composed of leaders among Hispanics from throughout the state of Texas four years ago, a fellowship and inspirational rally was established for all Hispanics in Texas interested in the ministries of the SBTC. We have conducted an annual rally each year since then. Last year at Houston we had more than 450 present. Both Hispanics and Anglos enjoyed a beautiful program and fellowship.

This year the Hispanic Rally will be conducted in the Omni Bayfront Tower Hotel Nueces A Ballroom starting with refreshments at 6 p.m. The program will follow and consists of a mini-concert by Julio Arriola, originally from Guadalajara and presently living in Houston. His Steve Green similarity is awesome and will be enjoyed by all who attend. Additionally, a praise group from El Shadai Baptist Church in San Juan, Texas, will lead us in praise unto our Lord. We will hear from several local pastors in various parts of the program as well as from SBTC President George Harris, SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards, Kevy Rojas from the Southern Baptist Convention’s Annuity Board, and others.

We will also present the Special Service Award to a leading Texas Baptist Hispanic pastor for meritorious service to the Lord and the state through the SBTC. The public is invited. Several churches have informed us that they will dismiss their services to join us in that celebration. A number of English-Speaking brethren who will be in the area in advance of the annual meeting of the SBTC will be welcome at the rally.