Month: January 2005

Sister church in Cleveland, Ohio presses on despite robberies

Like the loaves and the fish, God has taken what has been offered in thanks and multiplied it, allowing the small, faithful band of believers of Victory Baptist Chapel in inner city Cleveland, Ohio to reach multitudes with the gospel.

But their efforts have brought assaults by Satan in the form of break-ins and burglaries?22 in the past nine months, according to Minister of Missions and Discipleship Lora Lee Smith. “We know that this particular church is at ground zero ? and Satan is not happy,” said Smith, who is also director of Church and Community Ministries for the Greater Cleveland Baptist Association.

Since 2003 the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has had a missions partnership with the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio. The goal of the partnership is to establish a network between the two states to match needs with resources and volunteers. For example, SBTC funds helped restock the food pantry at Victory Baptist Chapel after thieves twice cleared the shelves. Smith wondered at the senseless nature of the crimes, which only end up hurting the people in the neighborhood.

“It’s not like there’s gold chalices in there.”

She said thieves have stolen the public address system twice along with other electronics used for numerous church ministries. Having to pay for damage done to the kicked-in doors and broken windows drains money from vital ministries such as the fellowship meals served each Thursday and Sunday.

Sellers Johnson III, pastor of Victory Baptist Chapel, said the church has had to eliminate the Sunday meal due to the lack of funds. For each break-in and theft there is a $250 deductible paid to the insurance company. Multiply that by 22, Smith said, and you have a major drain on a virtually non-existent church budget.

But the members of Victory Baptist Chapel press on. There are 40 members on the rolls with about 85-100 people attending services each Sunday morning. The members and other worshippers, Smith said, represent the lower socio-economic rung of this urban neighborhood. They are recently-released convicts, the homeless, the working poor, single mothers living on government assistance. “On a good day, it’s a church filled with many problems,” she said.

But it is for those very people that the church exists, she said?to offer them a hand up, not a hand out; to teach them vocational and social skills to help them secure good paying jobs; and to teach literacy to students in a school district hard hit by teacher lay-offs and school closures. Smith said she has had to teach women how to do menial kitchen duties, such as chopping and slicing food for meal preparation.

The number of ministries offered by this small congregation is unusually high. Johnson said his heart and his passion is to win Cleveland for Jesus Christ. Only 6 months into the job as pastor, Johnson is familiar with the task at hand, having worked in church planting and city missions prior to coming to Victory Baptist Chapel in April 2004. He named at least 15 evangelistic and discipleship ministries the church currently offers. From Christian rap, to pantomime, to prayer walking, to praise dance teams, Johnson said the church is using a variety of means to communicate the gospel in order to get into as many venues as possible.

The longevity of Victory Baptist Chapel is a testimony to God’s work in inner city Cleveland, Johnson said. The church has existed for 20 years on the west side of town. Today it serves a culturally diverse neighborhood?a diversity Johnson said spills into the church, a mix of African-American, Irish, Hispanic, African, Italian, and Asian people.

That people of differing cultures and upbringings can worship and serve together for the kingdom of God is a testimony to what is possible through the power of God, he said. Johnson added that he hopes

SBTC presents grants for sonogram machines in Dallas and Austin

DALLAS?A $37,000 check for the purchase of a sonogram machine was presented to the Downtown Pregnancy Center, a ministry of First Baptist Church of Dallas, during the church’s Jan. 16 worship service.

SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards and SBTC Church Ministry Support Director Jim Wolfe presented the grant to Jane Jefferson, executive director of the Downtown Pregnancy Center, and obstetrician Hector Chapa.

Richards said the core values of the SBTC are demonstrated through the grants to churches that assist women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy.

“It is inconceivable to believe in biblical inerrancy and not be pro-life,” he said, referring to the theological agreement of member churches.

With evangelism and missions at the forefront of SBTC’s missiological activity, Richards said the state convention finds worthy ministry partners like the Downtown Pregnancy Center. The SBTC’s methodological approach is demonstrated as local churches combine resources to support the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program. Richards commended First Baptist Church of Dallas as a leader in CP giving while stating that SBTC churches are not lone rangers.

“Last week a check was presented to Great Hills Baptist Church [for a sonogram machine] and that check had money in it from First Baptist Church of Dallas, Sagemont of Houston, Metropolitan Baptist of Houston, Macedonia Baptist Church of Longview.” Similarly, Richards said, the $37,000 grant to the ministry of First Baptist Dallas represents joint support of the 1,600 SBTC churches.

Jefferson shared that 80 percent of the women contemplating abortion decide against the procedure after viewing the sonogram image of the unborn child.

The gift given to Great Hills will be used to purchase a sonogram machine at a crisis pregnancy center near the University of Texas campus in Austin and is a “whole needs” facility providing spiritual guidance and healthcare needs to mothers.

Registration deadline Feb. 15 for SBTC church staff retreat

For the third year, the SBTC is offering a retreat for associate church ministry staff. This year’s event, “Breathe Deep,” will be May 5-7 at the Marriott North at Round Rock near Austin and includes two-and a-half days of refreshment for ministry staff and spouses with lodging free of charge to participants.

“The success of the past retreats has been great” with more than 150 couples attending each year, said Ken Lasater, SBTC Church Ministry Support associate. The intent of the retreat is to provide a setting where church staff ministers can relay needs to the SBTC Church Ministry Support staff. “Requests might be for resources, training or special events that can, in turn, benefit the leadership and ministries in each church.”

Registration is open from 3-5 p.m. and 7-8 p.m. May 5.

Thursday night includes a 7 p.m. “Faith Book” class for spouses where they will learn to create a book chronicling God’s faithfulness in their lives through journaling and pictures.

On Friday participants may decide which area attractions to visit, including shopping at nearby Salado or La Fronteria, the Arboretum, Zilker Gardens, Inner Space Caverns, the State Capitol, Texas State History Museum, golfing, and the Lady Bird Wildflower Gardens.

The retreat program begins again at 3 p.m. Friday followed by a banquet from 7-9 p.m. Saturday begins with a general session at 9 a.m.

Interested associate ministry staff members must register by Feb. 15 with a retreat fee of $35 for singles and $40 for couples. Register by sending name, staff position, e-mail address, as well as the address, phone number and e-mail of the church. Also include names of spouses if they are attending.

Send registration to: Jim Wolfe, SBTC, P.O. Box 1988, Grapevine, Texas 76099-1988. For more information, call the SBTC at 817-552-2500 or toll free 877-953-SBTC.

Pro-life activists aiming at new laws during 79th Texas legislative session

As the 79th Texas legislative session gets underway, pro-life leaders are not content to rest with last year’s passage of a law guaranteeing a woman’s right to know factual information about abortion dangers.

Rep. Frank Corte Jr. of San Antonio filed House Bill 17 relating to statistical information concerning the number of times judges bypass parental notice of a minor’s abortion. Under current law a minor girl seeking an abortion can appeal to a local judge to allow her to have an abortion without informing her parents.

Texans for Life President Kyleen Wright, a member of Gateway Baptist Church of Mansfield, said Corte’s bill seeks to gather information on the number of times judges allow a teenager to access an abortion away from home without informing parents.

“We want to prevent abuse of the process,” Wright said, adding that abortion groups know which county judges are likely to grant a judicial bypass around parental notification laws. Believing judges should be accountable to the citizens who elect them, Wright and other pro-life leaders favor the restriction so teenage girls will not be transported across the state without their parents’ knowledge to conceal an abortion.

Corte is a deacon at University Baptist Church in San Antonio and authored last year’s Woman’s Right to Know legislation. The Bexar County Christian Coalition, the American Family Association of Texas, the Texas Eagle Forum and Texas Right to Life honored Corte for his pro-family legislative actions last year. He was recognized by the Texas Christian Coalition with its “Friend of the Family Award” for his legislative efforts.

Corte also introduced H.B. 16 which expands the right of medical personnel to object to participation in an abortion to include pharmacists asked to dispense emergency contraception drugs that contain an elevated dose of hormones used to prevent pregnancy.

“This will be one of the top targets for the pro-abortion crowd,” Wright predicted. “As they have increasingly been limited by public opinion against abortion, they have moved toward these early, chemical abortions, pushing them and trying to require them in hospitals where they still enjoy some public support.”

Wright said the 1979 law gave doctors and nurses the right to opt out of involvement in abortion procedures. The introduction of abortifacients?substances that cause pregnancy to end prematurely and results in an abortion?prompted the need to update the law to include pharmacists among the medical personnel given the right to opt out of abortion procedures.

House bills that remove some restrictions on abortion include proposals offered by Rep. Jessica Farrar of Houston. They are:

?H.B. 145 relating to an abortion when a fetal abnormality is detected and H.B. 146 relating to an abortion for a victim of incest or sexual assault. Both bills specify that the stated condition is grounds for an exception to requiring informed consent of the woman on whom the abortion is performed.

Also seeking to lift some restrictions on abortion is Rep. Eddie Rodriguez of Austin. His proposals include:

?H. B. 357 relating to the performance of certain abortions at a facility other than a hospital or ambulatory surgical center and H.B. 358 relating to information about certain agencies providing pregnancy assistance.

SBTC sponsoring state and regional VBS conventions

The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention will sponsor state and regional Vacation Bible School conventions in February and March.

A Regional VBS Convention for LifeWay’s “Ramblin’ Road Trip: Which Way Do I Go?” theme is planned from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Feb. 26 at Rainbow Hills Baptist Church, 2255 Horal Dr., in San Antonio.

State VBS Conventions are planned from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. March 5 at Memorial Baptist Church, 3000 William D. Tate in Grapevine (near DFW airport) and the Houston-area Spring Baptist Church, 1027 Spring Cypress in Spring.

The state and regional conventions will help VBS leaders map out opportunities to train VBS workers through associational and area LifeWay VBS clinics that follow in April.

Participants will experience this year’s VBS Opening Rally, witness a presentation of this year’s musical performed by the host church’s children’s choir, and be led through rotation sites covering Bible study, recreation/snacks, crafts and music.

To pre-register for the Regional Convention in San Antonio, call Rainbow Hills at 210-674-5613. Early registration of $5 is due by Feb. 18, and is $8 at the door.

To pre-register for the State Conventions at Grapevine and Spring, call Judy Van Hooser at the SBTC, 817-552-2500 or toll free 877-953-7282. Registration by Feb. 25 is $5 and registration at the door is $8.

The VBS conventions are made possible through CP Missions gifts of SBTC churches.

SBTC planning Beirut vision trip May 24-31

This trip is for pastors and church leaders interested in developing a partnership in the Middle East that has the potential of impacting an entire region, said Terry Coy, SBTC senior church planting strategist.

The trip will involve prayer walking and Bible distribution in Beirut with the IMB team and time with Lebanese pastors and churches.

The Baptist seminary in Beirut is strategic in reaching the Middle East with the gospel, and Lebanon is the only Arab country in the region where relative religious freedom exists.

Previous trips have involved promising witnessing and pre-evangelism opportunities with both Muslims and other non-believers, Coy noted.

The SBTC/IMB partnership with the Lebanese Baptists, called “Beirut & Beyond,” has been extended to 2008.

Although a final cost is yet to be determined, it should run around $1,600, Coy said. If interested, contact Terry Coy at 817.552-2500 or tcoy@sbtexas.com.

Big issues for Texas’ 79th legislature

The opening days of our state’s 79th legislative session were more hopeful than the session begun two years ago. Those lawmakers began their work with a $10 billion dollar deficit and at least one huge issue to address. This legislature begins with a half-billion dollar surplus. That’s not much money but it is an improvement of several billion dollars. I was privileged to visit on the opening day and noted among pro-family leaders several recurring themes.

Texas education: Of course this is number one. The last session went into extra innings without settling long-term needs of Texas public schools. This one item could easily bury our little surplus. For Texas Southern Baptists, the frequent suggestions that slot machines or casinos can solve our finance problems cause us great concern.

Baptists contend that this is not easy money. It’s a trap for any state that hawks a get-rich-quick mentality to the most gullible of us. These are the folks who need the jackpot because they can’t handle their household finances. The money they plug into slots will be recovered by crime, second mortgages, bankruptcies, and impoverishing their own children. The money comes from somewhere. Many states have found that the promises of the gambling (not gaming) industry are overblown?aimed at gullible political leaders.

There must be another way. Some have suggested that even modest efforts at greater efficiency in our educational bureaucracy could free up over a billion dollars for use in critical areas. Our legislature is responsible to superintend the priority use of state money, not just to allocate money. We have the model of other, better-funded and worse-performing, states to show us that money alone is not the answer here.

As for the lure of gambling money, kids would rather have outdated equipment at school than a family devastated by the results of a gambling addiction. Our lawmakers know this in their hearts. I doubt that many of them spend much at casinos or on lottery tickets.

Defining marriage: This should be a homerun. A couple of bills have already been written to define marriage as being between a man and a woman. This issue is rising from the states and hopefully will push the federal government to give us a constitutional remedy to our activist court system.

Although Texans overwhelmingly favor a traditional definition of marriage, we can’t take anything for granted. Sometimes our lawmakers do not represent the values of their constituents until six months before Election Day. If you are unwilling to live in a culture where marriage can mean anything (and thus nothing), pay attention to what your state representative is supporting. Call him/her and express your opinion about the holiness of traditional marriage. To a great degree they’ll listen to the voters that call. You can be sure that homosexual advocates will be calling. It’s a crucial matter to them. If we make it crucial to us, we’ll win.

Biotech development: Biotechnology is an industry. To our political leaders it is a growth industry that we should bring to Texas if there is anything we can do to provide a welcoming environment. Sounds good. The governor’s office seems to be interested in encouraging the growth of biotech industry in Texas for the sake of jobs, research, and the benefits to higher education that seem likely to follow.

The Texas Medical Association and the American Medical Association think biotech growth must include expanded public funding for embryonic stem cell research and “therapeutic” cloning. Remember that the U.S. government has not banned stem cell research, only federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. This currently unproductive research is now the focus of professional advocacy groups. What they want is public funding for research unfettered by the convictions of millions of taxpayers. Of course they do.

For biblical Christians, the notion is more than mildly threatening. We wonder if our state leaders have an adequate moral filter in the face of these pressures. Will we fund the cloning of embryos for research? Will we fund embryonic stem cell research? Will we do just anything to woo companies to come to Texas to set up research facilities? I suspect not but I need to hear that regularly if I am to trust my political leaders. I think they need to be reminded of what they believe also.

Gov. Perry has expressed agreement with President Bush on embryonic stem cell research (no public funding) and cloning (ban it). We should support him in that belief and do more than that if our legislators start pushing the state toward a lowered value on human life.

Abortion: It’s sad that we should be so jubilant to win even modest restrictions on abortion?even if we cast it as a minor medical procedure. The last session passed a law requiring parental notification for minors seeking an abortion. Who could stand against this? Lucrative abortion mills and their professional lobbyists at least.

In this session we should seek the next reasonable step, parental consent. Until we take a minor daughter’s decision to kill her baby as seriously as a wart removal or ear piercing, we are an absurdly barbaric people. Parental consent will save babies, and likely some 16-year-old daughters.

Missionary slayings 50 years ago probed in big screen documentary




DALLAS?The Waodani Indians of Ecuador were killing 6 of every 10 of their tribesmen when American missionaries entered their isolated camp in January 1956. Anthropologists say the tribe was one of the most violent cultures ever documented and headed toward extinction.

The missionaries?Nate Saint, Jim Elliott, Peter Fleming, Ed McCully and Roger Youderian?lowered buckets of gifts to the Waodani from an airplane that circled the Amazon basin jungle for 11 weeks in late 1955 before the Waodani returned the favor, sending a bird up in the bucket as a reciprocal gesture.

On Jan. 7, 1956, the men landed their plane on a sandbar near the Waodani and made friendly contact.

On Jan. 8, 1956, the tribesmen speared them to death.

The killings made worldwide news at the time. Life Magazine devoted a spread to the story on Jan. 30, 1956 and a 1957 book, “The Gates of Splendor,” brought the story to thousands of readers from a Christian perspective.

Almost 50 years later, the tale?with updated material?comes to the big-screen in a movie-length documentary drama.

“Beyond the Gates of Splendor” debuted in Houston Jan. 28 and is planned for other selected U.S. cities, including Dallas, in the coming weeks. It weaves a definitive story around the missionaries and their families, the Waodani tribesmen (thought to be “Auca” Indians in 1956) and the unlikely story of courage and redemption after two missionary widows, a sister of a slain missionary, and?years later?the son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren of Nate Saint settle among the tribe.

The documentary profiles the Waodani from the perspectives of two Darwinian anthropologists who studied the tribe. The film probes the backgrounds, motivations and dreams of the missionaries and their families before and after the killings through recovered 16 mm home movies, still photos and interviews with widows, family members and search crew.

Two of the killers, Mincaye and Kimo, became Christians and are featured in the documentary via interviews with translators, who relate Mincaye’s humorous observations about American culture after Mincaye visited the United States in the late 1990s with Steve Saint, whose father Mincaye murdered.

The home movies help document several of the missionaries’ time together at Wheaton College, their courtships, and a Christmas celebration just before the murders at the missionaries’ home base down river.

The film is intended to be “pre-evangelism,” said producer Kevin McAfee of Every Tribe Entertainment, the Oklahoma City film company that made it.

He described it as a film that aims to raise questions about the missionaries’ faith and their motivations in reaching the Waodani?something perhaps discussed over coffee at Starbucks afterward, he said.

McAfee was also musical director of the film, which includes dramatic orchestral sounds and even Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home, Alabama” during one of its lighter moments.

“Beyond the Gates of Splendor” debuted in Oklahoma City and Tulsa in November and December, drew second in box office receipts behind “The Incredibles” and ran three weeks longer than expected, McAfee said after a Dallas screening earlier this month.

It is scheduled to show in Houston, Dallas and Los Angeles in the first quarter of 2005. It received the Crystal Heart Award at the Heartland Film Festival and “Audience Favorite” at the Palm Beach Film Festival.

In producing its first full-length project for theaters, Every Tribe Entertainment hired McAfee along with Bill Ewing, a former vice president at Columbia Tri-Star and now president of Every Tribe, and Jim Hanon, a Cannes Film Festival award-winner, as a writer and director.

Mart Green, founder of Mardel, a Christian retail chain, is founder

Sloan named chancellor at Baylor

WACO, Texas–Baylor University President and CEO Robert B. Sloan Jr. and Board of Regents Chairman Will Davis jointly announced Sloan’s transition to serving as chancellor of the largest Baptist University in the world effective June 1. During the Jan. 21 news conference Davis said the Board of Regents had expressed unanimous support of the change and is expected to ratify the change at its Feb. 3-4 meeting.

“Baylor has been through a challenging period over the past 18 months, and the Board of Regents and the administration have been actively engaged in discussions over this time period about how best to address these challenges and do what is best for the University,” Davis said, noting that he and Sloan arrived at the decision by mutual agreement. He said aPAN class=default1>n interim president and a presidential search committee will be appointed later this spring.

Responding a reporter who questioned the president’s earlier pronouncement that he would not resign, Sloan said he and Davis had discussed “this possible change” as early as last November. “I would just say I have adamantly maintained I would stay committed to Baylor University and 2012. As you said, I said I will not quit. I am continuing to serve Baylor University in a different capacity.”

Sloan said the reason he wanted to continue as president as long as he did was because he was persuaded that was in the best interest of Baylor. “Now I’m persuaded it’s in the best interest of Baylor that the University have the opportunity for new leadership.”

Stating that the school, its purpose and its vision are more important than any one person, Sloan expressed confidence in Davis’ leadership and the Board of Regents in pursuing the vision of Baylor 2012. “It’s an opportunity for someone who has fresh political capital and a clean slate to take that forward.”

He declined to identify for a reporter the particular decisions that he might have made differently, stating, “Life is full of decisions. That’s what leaders have to do?take the best information you have at the moment and react out of the values you possess. Sometimes it’s intuitive and sometimes you work a long time before coming to a decision. There are always things you would do differently in retrospect,” Sloan said, adding, “I have absolutely no regrets about the core commitments and decisions over the years with respect to Baylor.”

Sloan said he is enthusiastic about his last 130 days as president and the opportunity to represent Baylor as chancellor. He outlined his new assignment as involving fund-raising, student recruitment, networking with higher education leaders on the state and national levels, cultivating Baylor’s relationships with denominational and Christian leaders and organizations, while continuing to promote the Baylor 2012 vision to constituents.

“It has been my privilege to launch the university upon the exciting journey we call Baylor 2012. Now that the voyage is well under way, it is time for someone new to navigate sometimes choppy waters, always aiming toward the fully charted destination ahead,”

SBTC endows Hispanic PhD. scholarship at Southwestern

The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has given $25,000 to endow the Rudy A. and Lucy L. Hernandez Scholarship for Hispanic PhD. students at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The scholarship, part of the SBTC’s Hispanic Initiative and its Hispanic Education Superhighway to encourage theological education among Hispanic Baptists, marks a milestone for the Hispanic Initiative, launched in full last summer with the hiring of Mike Gonzales to the SBTC staff as the Hispanic Initiative director.

“We believe this scholarship could help cultivate future state executive directors, denominational leaders, seminary professors and missionaries from Hispanic ranks,” Gonzales said. “This is the first tangible step for the Hispanic Initiative in furthering theological education among Hispanic Baptists.”

SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards said: “It is only appropriate that the SBTC scholarship for bilingual Hispanic PhD. students be named after Dr. and Mrs. Rudy Hernandez. Brother Rudy has been a powerful influence for evangelism and education. He has been a leader among all Southern Baptists, not just Hispanics. Being the first Hispanic president of a state convention in Texas shows the type of respect and admiration the people of God have for him. His legacy is a passion for souls that has been transferred to all of us who know him and love him.”

Hernandez is a San Antonio native and was the SBTC’s second president. He also served as SBC second vice president.

He began preaching at age 13, was licensed to preach at 15 and ordained at age 19. He was the first director of the SBTC’s Hispanic Initiative and served numerous Texas churches. Hernandez holds doctor of divinity degrees from Howard Payne University, where he earned his undergraduate degree, and Criswell College. He is also a Southwestern Seminary graduate.

The Hispanic Initiative also plans to partner with SBTC affiliates Criswell College and Jacksonville College in furthering theological education among Hispanics.