Month: November 2009

Southern Baptist DR volunteers brought hope to Philippines disaster amid mud and disorder

Editor’s note: The following is an account by SBTC Disaster Relief task force leader Larry Shine, pastor of Pine Forest Baptist Church in Onalaska and a veteran responder to international disasters, including the 2008 effort following the deadly Cyclone Nargis in Burma.

Beyond the devastating mudslides, rancid floodwaters, the thousands displaced in shelters, and the mountains of wet, muddy debris that filled the air with a lingering stench, a higher motive stirred in the hearts of Southern Baptist volunteers. Thirty of them, including a team from the SBTC that led the way, made a 22-hour flight to the Philippines capital city of Manila early last month to share the hope of Jesus Christ after the worst flooding there in 40 years.

Mobilizing on short notice, Southern Baptists from the Kentucky and Oklahoma disaster relief ministries, Texas Baptist Men and the SBTC teamed with Baptist Global Response to assess damage and locate and purchase equipment while training Filipino Baptists to continue the work long term.
The advance team, led by this writer, was comprised of veteran DR volunteers and leaders from various churches in Texas. SBTC volunteers Jim Howard, Doug Scott, Bill Jones, Paul Easter and Jim Fuller landed in Manila only two weeks after Typhoon Ketsana parked her massive vortex on central Luzon Island and dumped torrential showers.

Panic-stricken engineers released water from a major dam so quickly that earthen dams, levees and dikes were swept downstream. Hours after arrival the team learned that Typhoon Peping was unleashing her fury on the northern part of the same island. The International Mission Board compound provided a safe haven for the team who quickly began gathering information and equipment for mud-out teams soon to arrive.

A conference was held with the leadership of the Luzon Baptist Convention to build a network of communication between affected churches. Several pastors attending the meeting expressed a need for the mud-out teams but said it would be several weeks or months before the water was expected to recede from their churches. The decision was made by the convention leadership, local pastors and the lead team to try to develop local DR teams within non-affected churches to minister to those who were going to have long-term needs.

“It is best to train Philippines Baptists to minister to Filipinos in need,” one member of the DR team remarked.

RELIEF CENTRAL

The teams began work in a section of Manila where a 25-foot wall of water washed through a residential district. The work focused on the Love Community Church so that subsequent ministry could be launched from that site. Pastor Richo of the church, and his wife, shared the testimony of the 23 individuals, many of whom came to the church during the storm for shelter, who found themselves climbing a nylon rope to access the second-story ladder while the raging water continued to rise. Those same 23 eventually made their way to the roof of the church where they remained for a day until the floodwaters receded.

When asked what they did while on the roof, the pastor’s wife did not hesitate to declare, “We had church!” Similar stories were heard as the team began to minister in the garbage- and mud-filled streets.

“One thing that stands out in this disaster is the resilience of the people,” said Pastor Jim Howard of First Baptist Church of Atlanta, Texas. “Everyone is busy cleaning and doing what they can to restore their life to some degree of normalcy. They are not waiting for the government to come and take care of their needs.”

Another team member, Doug Scott, added, “They are certainly upbeat for having such devastation brought upon them. It is easy to solicit a smile when a kind word is offered.”

As the team completed its work with the Love Community Church, their activity was redirected to another area of greater damage. Between projects each volunteer was directed to a local church on Sunday. The 30 volunteers separated to 10 different churches to preach, share testimonies and bring special music. Many decisions were made to accept Christ as Savior or to renew commitments to walk with Christ daily.

Amid several instances of illness from the dirty conditions surrounding the mudout work, the DR team endured.

As each day began at 5 a.m. with a devotion, information update and prayer, the members found themselves praying in small groups throughout the day. While walking through crowded streets where the team was working, the local citizens would come out of their homes and shops and shout thanks and expressions of appreciation.

Associate Pastor Matt of the International Baptist Church of Manila, while working with the DR team, said a 70-year-old woman asked if he was a pastor. When he responded that he was a Southern Baptist pastor, she replied, “I knew you were a group of born-again believers by the way you work!”

When the roads cleared in the north, some members of the team traveled to meet with other Filipino pastors, including Pastor Arnold of the Awesome God Baptist Church, as well as a local mayor, school administrator and the medical director of the local hospital. When asked what his greatest concern was, the doctor didn’t hesitate: “Cholera. The floodwaters have polluted our wells and we have a very limited supply of purified water. I am not sure the information is getting to the people in our rural areas not to drink well water but seek the purified water in town.”

That statement led to an immediate recommendation to BGR to get water-testing equipment into the rural communities and train church members to test their local water supplies.

Since the October visit by Southern Baptist DR teams, the Filipinos have taken over the relief work.

Pastor reaches out to Killeen mosque members with hope

KILLEEN?Jerry Jewell had visited there before, conveying a heartfelt message: “Jesus Christ loves you and he desires to save you, and that is why I am here.” Most of the Muslims at the Islamic Community Center of Greater Killeen had been friendly, even eager, for dialogue, said Jewell, pastor of Living Hope: The Church in the Field in the nearby town of Copperas Cove.

It had been a year since Jewell last visited the mosque, but he said he felt the Holy Spirit nudge him the day following the shooting massacre Nov. 5 on nearby Fort Hood: “You should go visit.”

Then a phone call?from a Christian friend who had accompanied the Southern Baptist pastor to the mosque to engage his Muslim neighbors?confirmed it. “You might want to check in to see how they are doing,” the friend told Jewell in an unsolicited call.

News reports said alleged Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan had visited the mosque the morning of the attack. “I figure the best way to keep someone from going out and doing other people harm is to bring them to Christ,” Jewell said. “If we hate them, then we are denying Christ.”

So a day after Hasan allegedly gunned down 12 of his fellow American soldiers and one civilian, caused the death of an unborn baby and wounded dozens of others, Jewell said he somewhat reluctantly drove to the Muslim mosque housed in a red one-story building in Killeen. Once there, he saw that news reporters had filled the lawn and a police officer was screening those wishing to enter the building.

“Are you a member?” the policeman inquired as Jewell approached the mosque entrance. “No,” Jewell answered. “I am a Baptist pastor. But I visit with these guys and wanted to come in and see how they are doing.”

The policeman opened the door and Jewell discovered even more press inside. Shoe-shod journalists, male and female, apparently unfamiliar with Muslim worship practices, roamed freely inside, with some of the women in areas reserved for men.

Jewell said he gave his regards to several mosque members he had previously talked with.

“I met one young man who was new there and he asked as we were talking if I was a member of the mosque. I told him, ‘I am not a Muslim; I am a Baptist pastor.’ He asked for my card and said, ‘I want to come and visit your church.'”

Jewell said the man called that weekend and told him he wouldn’t be able to attend church services that evening but said he still planned to come. “It will be interesting to see if he shows up.”

Jewell said he witnessed the mosque president reading a press statement condemning the shootings at Fort Hood while the imam spoke about “how God likes people who do right, not people who do evil.”

Even though most of the people he has met there have been polite and even charitable, Jewell said he knows such bold outreach has some risk. Yet many more people die in traffic accidents than are killed by Muslim terrorists, he noted.

“None of them has shown up at Living Hope thus far,” the pastor said. “My major concern is not whether they show up at Living Hope, but whether they show up in heaven.”

Inner-city VBS raises funds for suburban church plant

SAN ANTONIO?It was last July when Pastor Edward Beltran of Genesis Hot Wells Baptist Church, a south San Antonio church plant of the Bluebonnet Baptist Association (BBA) and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, convinced his church to earmark 2.5 percent of their undesignated receipts to an account designated for local missions through BBA.

“This is an amazing story of God’s providence and his perfect timing, and we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose,” Beltran said, quoting from Romans 8:28.

Last month Genesis Hot Wells celebrated their two-year anniversary. In the process of searching for a local ministry to designate the 2.5 percent toward, Beltran ran across the blog of Pastor Zak White, who was in the process of planting Revolution Church in the northeast San Antonio suburb of Schertz.

“It was the latter part of this past spring that I heard of Zak White and the possibility of Genesis joining other partners in an effort to support the calling and vision of this new church plant,” Beltran said. “By the grace of God we began along with other partners to contribute financially to support Revolution Church’s vision.”

It was toward the end of July when Genesis Hot Wells conducted their Vacation Bible School (VBS). The children were encouraged by the leaders to contribute to missions. Revolution Church was the recipient of the gifts collected from the VBS children, plus the church’s 2.5 percent of undesignated receipted given through the local Baptist association.

With many other expenses that came with the planting of Revolution Church, it still lacked the funding for the design of a logo?an important facet of distinguishing itself in a media-saturated culture. “We didn’t have the money for a logo design and in our area, a slick logo is pretty important,” White said, “so we came up with a logo design contest.”

Waiting on God to provide, White posted on his blog: “We have some absolutely incredible and dedicated churches from our area partnering with us as we launch Revolution Church. A few days ago I got a phone call that the kiddos from the Genesis Church Vacation Bible School had raised $171 to go towards our logo (which we had no money for.) INCREDIBLE! And yes, I said the VBS kiddos are the ones who raised the money. Crazy! It FLOORED me! I cried after I got off of the phone.”

It was only after their conversation that Beltran sent White some pictures of the kids who gave the money, which left White more blown away than he was initially. “No doubt, God at Work!” he wrote. “We could all learn a lot from the children in our lives if we would just stop and watch them. I know God has taught me more through Couper (my 2-year-old son) than just about anybody on this Earth.”

“The kids raised $170 of the $250 we needed. But realize this … these kids are on the southside of San Antonio. They are FAR FROM being kids with money to spare for something like this. As far as I’m concerned, they raised $170,000,” White wrote.

Revolution Church is now in the launch phase. They held their first preview service on Oct. 4.

Lottie Moon: 2009 ‘Who’s Missing? Whose Mission?’

RICHMOND, Va.?The International Mission Board’s 2009 theme for its annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO) is “Who’s Missing? Whose Mission?” focusing on those still missing from God’s family and Jesus’ Great Commission call to reach them.

Who’s Missing?

Even after 2,000 years of Christian influence, more than 1.5 billion people don’t have a gospel witness among them. They are hidden behind cultural, physical, political and language barriers.

Many of the world’s people missing from God’s family live in concentrated pockets of lostness. The pockets Southern Baptists are focusing on in 2009 comprise:

?About 40 nations and 700 languages

?34 percent Muslim

?32 percent Hindu

?13.5 percent Animist

?6 percent Buddhist

?6 percent unknown religion

?4 percent nonreligious/other

Although there is a small percentage of Christians, the rest are a mix of ancestor worshippers, shamanists, and Jewish, Taoist and Sikhist adherents. About 80 unreached people groups still have no contact with the outside world.

The LMCO Week of Prayer, Nov. 29-Dec. 6, will feature people groups who represent these pockets of lostness.

Every penny given to Lottie Moon is used to support Southern Baptist missionaries as they share the gospel overseas. The offering represents 54 percent of the International Mission Board’s total income, with another 35 percent of the IMB’s income is received from the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program.

Lineup runs the spectrum at annual SBTC event

The speakers and musicians at the SBTC Empower Evangelism Conference Feb. 15-17 at the Arlington Convention Center will cover the spectrum from comedian Tim Hawkins to the sobering inspiration of missionary Carrie McDonnall, who survived brutal captivity in Iraq while serving as a missionary with her late husband, who died from injuries sustained in an ambush by Iraqi militants.

The annual conference will feature two days of preaching, speakers, and music from recording artists such as David Phelps and Charles Billingsley, dramatist Clyde Annandale and preachers such as Mac Brunson and Junior Hill, among others.

This year’s theme is “Awakened by His Glory,” based on Exodus 33:18: “Then Moses said, ‘Now show me your glory.'”

TIM HAWKINS

Hawkins has been accused of being equally gifted and twisted. His parodies, musical and otherwise, are making him a household name as they receive thousands of hits on the online video site YouTube.com.

His arsenal is unique: high-energy stand up, physical comedy, slick guitar skills, myriad impersonations, improvisational chops, and a singing voice that adapts from hair band shrieking to country songster to a parody of the generic music minister.

“People think I live a rock-star life,” quipped Hawkins. “Believe me, Mick Jagger never gets lost in a Hertz parking lot looking for his Ford Focus.”

A former college All-American baseball player, he traded the sports stage for the comedy stage and never looked back. The St. Louis native taught himself to play guitar and tested the waters at area comedy clubs, launching a full-time comedic career in 2002.

His art form was honed primarily in churches, with a brief 6-month stint performing in prisons as part of Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship. Since his audience ranged from small children to married adults, he developed material to hit a wide age range.

Hawkins even pokes fun at himself, his four kids and his wife in a video called “A Homeschool Family” set to the theme music for the 1960s TV series “The Munsters.”

“Clean comedy is easy,” Hawkins said. “Funny comedy is hard.”

CARRIE MCDONNALL

Carrie McDonnall and her husband David served together as missionaries in Iraq. In 2004, the couple, along with three coworkers, was ambushed in the northern city of Mosul. The attackers killed her three friends instantly.

The McDonnalls were able to get to medical help, but David eventually succumbed to his injuries. Due to the physical trauma of the attack, Carrie McDonnall would not find out about her husband’s death until many days later. Once awakened from her coma, she began a journey she never dreamed she would have to endure.

Her testimony expands beyond the events of that day and beyond the boundaries of missions to remind believers to live out their faith intentionally in every area of life.

In her book “Facing Terror,” Carrie tells her story in detail.

She lives in Rowlett and is the founder

Chaplains meet wide-ranging needs on Fort Hood

FORT HOOD?Army chaplains working on Fort Hood have been in near perpetual motion since Thursday’s deadly shootings, providing immediate support to the wounded at area hospitals and to first responders, to emergency medical teams, to victims’ families and to teams charged with notifying the families of the dead, Army Chaplain (Col.) Frank Jackson said.

“We support the notification officer and then support the families through pastoral care once the notification is made,” Jackson, a Southern Baptist-endorsed chaplain who as the garrison chaplain oversees all religious services and programs on the Army base, told the Southern Baptist TEXAN.

Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasanis the alleged gunmaninThursday’s killings,which claimed 14 lives, including the unborn baby of a pregnant soldier, and wounded 29 others.

Jackson said 55 chaplains, some from other bases, are on Fort Hood but are spread thin as families of victims arrive and as chaplains partner with behavioral health teams to help those who witnessed the tragedy in what Jackson termed “psychological first-aid meetings.”

“The chaplains are there to support those involved and to provide pastoral care as those persons require it,” Jackson explained. “We have great chaplains who have done an amazing amount of work in the last four days in making sure that families and soldiers and support personnel and those involved in the incident are treated with dignity and respect and encouraged and bring some healing and reconciliation. That’s what we do.”

The chaplains are also heavily involved in the planning of a base memorial service planned for 1 p.m. Tuesday, with reports that the president and first lady plan to attend.

Jackson said there was a mood of anticipation on the base Monday about Tuesday’s memorial service, which he said would hopefully “give those involved a point of reference to look back to as a transition time in the grieving process. It should be very, very powerful.

“And then, the people who have been the caregivers at this point have gotten a little tired. And so we’re trying to adjust schedules to make sure they are getting the rest cycle they need so that they can provide care when it needs to be provided later on down the road.”

Jackson said Southern Baptists can pray that God would grant the chaplains the grace to continue the mission long term, and to identify people who need encouragement or who didn’t process their grief adequately.

“This obviously has been a pretty traumatic experience,” Jackson said. “You don’t have this happen every day. The old adage is true that you don’t want to deal with feelings dead; deal with them alive.”

Jackson said the motto of his office is found in the Apostle Paul’s exhortations to “remain steadfast” and to “not grow weary on well doing.”

“We have to take care of one another so that we may take care of others,” he said.

After Fort Hood massacre, Killeen churches, chaplains consoled community

KILLEEN?A couple of Southern Baptist congregations near Fort Hood served as rallying places for the community and offered messages of hope the Sunday following the shooting Nov. 5 that left 12 soldiers and one civilian and an unborn child dead. In the days following, Army chaplains, Southern Baptists among them, consoled the grieving and the injured.

“[W]e just tried to present a message of hope. We are people of hope because of the resurrection of Christ,” said Ken Cavey, pastor of Memorial Baptist Church, located just three miles from the main gate of Fort Hood in Killeen.

“I approached it (during services Nov. 8) as this being a storm. When Jesus sent the disciples across the lake in Matthew 14, the storm came up suddenly. Not only did we address the storm of the Fort Hood situation, but there were some folks there that have storms in their marriage, storms in their finances. The storms will never end, but God has given us provision for how to operate within the storm,” Cavey said.

Memorial Baptist was one of the first churches to respond to the tragedy, hosting a prayer vigil and a session addressing spiritual questions just a few hours after the shooting. The question people have asked most, Cavey said, is “Why would God let this happen?”

Cavey said about 75 percent of Memorial Baptist’s active members are connected in some way to the military, and he estimated that 2 or 3 percent of those who attended the church on Sunday were first-time visitors who came because of the Fort Hood shooting.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry spoke at a community memorial service at First Baptist Church in Killeen, exhorting mourners to embrace their faith community during the trial. He reminded them that the tendency during tragedy is to recoil from fellowship with others, but the author of the book of Hebrews says not to give up meeting together.

After the service, Cavey said, a Southern Baptist chaplain approached him to express gratitude for the support he and his colleagues are receiving from pastors and church members as the chaplains minister to soldiers and their families.

As of Nov. 13, the alleged gunman, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, was stable after being shot four times in the abdomen, according to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. He was charged with 13 counts of murder with a decision pending on further charges related to the unborn baby of a slain soldier three months pregnant.

The tragedy began Nov. 5 when Hasan, an Army psychiatrist scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan, walked into a Soldier Readiness Center and opened fire, killing 14 people, including the unborn baby of a pregnant soldier, and injuring dozens more.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, I.-Conn., said on Nov. 8 he would begin an investigation into what the Army should have known about Hasan before the shooting, the Associated Press reported. Among other reports, former classmates of Hasan complained to faculty about what they considered to be Hasan’s anti-American views, including a presentation that justified suicide bombings as well as his remarks that Islamic law trumped the U.S. Constitution.

Hasan reportedly cried out “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greatest!”) as he fired rounds from two semi-automatic pistols.

Meanwhile, Army Chief of Staff George Case

First Person: Getting over our love for Darwin

Charles Darwin published his “Origin of Species” in 1859. There he presented the classic formulation of his theory of evolution. Lady Ashley, reacting to the theory at the time, remarked, “Let’s hope that it’s not true; but if it is true, let’s hope that it doesn’t become widely known.” Lady Ashley’s second hope has failed: Darwin’s theory is everywhere and has now become textbook orthodoxy. This year, universities around the globe are celebrating the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s “Origin of Species” as well as the 200th anniversary of his birth.

But what about Lady Ashley’s hope that Darwin’s theory is false? Darwin presented a bleak picture of ourselves: we are mere modified apes; we are the “winners” in a brutal competitive evolutionary process, most of whose players are “losers,” wiped off the evolutionary scene before they could leave a legacy; the traditional Christian view that we are made in God’s image is simply a story we tell to convince ourselves that we’re special.

Intelligent design supporters like me view Darwin’s theory as untrue and even as laughable: The theory purports to give a materialistic account of life’s development once life is already here, but it has a gaping hole at the start since matter gives no evidence of being able to organize itself from non-life into life. The fossil record, especially the sudden emergence of most animal body plans in the Cambrian explosion, sharply violates Darwinian expectations about the historical pattern of evolutionary change. The nano-engineering found in the DNA, RNA, and proteins of the cell far exceeds human engineering and remains completely unexplained in Darwinian terms.

Darwin lovers are quick to reject such complaints. After all, as novelist Barbara Kingsolver declares, Darwin’s idea of natural selection is “the greatest, simplest, most elegant logical construct ever to dawn across our curiosity about the workings of natural life. It is inarguable, and it explains everything.” Kingsolver is no fan of Christianity. Yet many Darwin lovers are Christian. Francis Collins, who directs the National Institutes of Health, is a Christian Darwinist. Leaving aside a healthy skepticism that regards every scientific theory as refutable in light of new evidence, Collins exempts Darwinian evolution from such skepticism: “evolution, as a mechanism, can be and must be true.”

Any theory that explains everything and that can and must be true is either the greatest thing since sliced bread or the greatest swindle ever foisted on gullible intellectuals. The intelligent design community takes the latter view, siding here with Malcolm Muggeridge, who wrote: “I myself am convinced that the theory of evolution, especially the extent to which it’s been applied, will be one of the great jokes in the history books in the future. Posterity will marvel that so very flimsy and dubious an hypothesis could be accepted with the incredible credulity that it has.”

Still, it’s easy to understand why so flimsily a supported theory garners such vast support. It provides the creation story for an atheistic worldview. If atheism is true, then something like Darwinian evolution must follow. Hence, any attack on Darwin becomes an attack on the atheistic secularism that pervades our culture.

Nonetheless, even though atheism implies Darwinism, the reverse is not true: Darwinism does not imply atheism. Indeed, Christian theists who embrace Darwin abound.

The wedding between Darwinism and Christianity, however, is an uneasy one. To be sure, plenty of marriages are uneasy, and uneasy marriages are often endured because divorce can entail more difficulties than endurance. Thus, when I got involved with the evolution controversy 20 years ago, I naively thought that any Christian, given sufficient evidence against Darwinism, would immediately jump ship. Darwinian evolution, according to Cornell historian of biology Will Provine, is “the greatest engine of atheism ever invented.” Why should Christians stick with such an engine when it’s no longer needed?

Little did I realize how infatuated many Christians are with Darwin. Having convinced themselves that design is an outdated religious dogma, they embraced Darwinism as a form of enlightenment. And having accommodated their faith to Darwin, they became loath to reexamine whether Darwinism is true at all. Unlike Lady Ashley, Christian Darwinists hope that Darwinism is true. But is it really? In this year of Darwinian bacchanalias, let us soberly reassess whether Darwin’s theory is indeed true. And if the evidence goes against it, as the intelligent design community is successfully demonstrating, then let’s be done with it. In that case, reconciling Christianity with Darwinism becomes a vain exercise, solving a problem that no longer exists.

?William A. Dembski is research professor in philosophy at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of prominent books in the field of intelligent design, including his latest, “The Design of Life: Discovering Signs of Intelligence in Biological Systems,” written with biologist Jonathan Wells.