Month: January 2010

Training to mentor next generation, Feb. 12-13

A training event to equip churches to mentor the next generation is planned for Friday and Saturday, Feb. 12-13 at the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention offices, 4500 State Highway 360 in Grapevine.

“Mentor Ministry Training” will be facilitated by the Christian Association of Youth Mentoring (CAYM) and is sponsored by Texas Life Connections, a ministry partner of the SBTC.

The training from CAYM’s Christian Mentoring Institute will cover the best practices of safe and effective mentoring ministry, recruiting, screening, training, supervision and evaluation of mentors, help in beginning a mentoring ministry, pre- and post-training consulting, materials and ongoing support.

A brochure for the event says mentored youth are : 27 percent less likely to use alcohol, 46 percent less likely to use illegal drugs, and 50 percent less likely to skip school.

The Friday portion will be from 8:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. and Saturday from 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. The tuition is $200; group discounts are available, however.

Registration and more details are available at CAYM.org.

INTERSECT collegiate leaders retreat






Afshin Ziafat speaks to collegiate and young adult leaders at the INTERSECT Conference.

Afshin Ziafat challenged collegiate leaders to pursue Christ in every aspect of their lives during the INTERSECT collegiate leaders retreat Jan. 14-16 at the Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine. More than 400 collegiate and young adult ministry leaders gathered at the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention event to plan and prepare for 2010 and beyond. The attendees were given leadership development sessions with Aubrey Malphurs and spiritual challenges from Ziafat.

Lance Crowell director of collegiate and young adult ministries said, “It was a great success. We want to connect and build with this first INTERSECT and I believe we really were able to help our leaders. Our events are geared to be catalytic, in the sense that we want this to stir some things up in these leaders and focus them in a direction for 2010 and beyond.” Crowell also said “there is such a need for reaching young adults for the gospel across the state with over 1.3 million college students in Texas alone. This is one small step in developing leaders to make a real difference with collegiate and young adults in Texas.”

During the event the young adult leadership took up an offering to help with the tragedy in Haiti, raising nearly $2,100 to benefit the work with which the SBC and the SBTC are helping.

WANTED: SBTC Disaster Relief volunteers

Putting your best foot forward in disaster relief means being prepared before disaster strikes. Beginning in March, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention is offering three disaster relief training sessions. Also, the convention is planning three seminars to help families prepare for life’s “what if” situations.

The SBTC disaster relief training prepares volunteers to go to places like Haiti, reeling from the Jan. 10 earthquake, or to help in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Ike or the 2007 California wildfires.

“We go in to help them return to some form of normalcy,” said Jim Howard, pastor of Westside Baptist Church in Atlanta, Texas, a disaster relief volunteer and the task force director for the SBTC. Howard has participated in disaster relief in Lebanon, the Philippines, California, Kentucky, Louisiana, and south Texas. He also did ministry in Haiti in 1985.

Howard said his main reason for becoming a disaster relief volunteer was to share the gospel.

“Some of these people probably wouldn’t have help, they wouldn’t have insurance. And I saw that as a mission area that was not being really tapped into by the church,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity and a great mission field.”

Two training phases are offered: Phase one consists of basic, hands-on training as well as instruction in one of the following ministries: feeding, childcare, communications, chaplaincy, laundry and showers, and initial clean-up and recovery. Phase two provides advanced training in a selected ministry as well as basic CPR and first-aid.

Phase one training dates and locations:

?March 6 at Inglewood Baptist Church in Grand Prairie.

?April 16 at Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston.

?May15 at First Baptist Church in Vidor.

Phase two training will be offered May 3-8 at Riverbend Baptist Encampment in Glen Rose.

In addition to disaster relief training, the SBTC offers three seminars to prepare families and churches for disasters. These include: family disaster preparation, church and/or association disaster preparation, and disaster awareness. The seminars range from 30 minutes to four hours.

“It’s just another part of the outreach of Westside Baptist Church that has been a great help in the ministry of the local church,” Howard said, noting that disaster relief training has widened the church’s mission reach from the Atlanta area to the international setting.

To register for any of the trainings, visit sbtexas.com/dr or contact Amber Nygaard toll-free at 877-953-7282 (SBTC).

Southwestern Seminary announces acquisition of Dead Sea Scrolls fragments

FORT WORTH?Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth is now home to portions of the Dead Sea Scrolls, thanks to a lead gift from a trustee that made their purchase possible, SWBTS President Paige Patterson announced Jan. 20 during a press conference.

In acquiring the scroll fragments, Southwestern becomes the third American institution to own pieces of the scrolls, joining the University of Chicago and Azusa Pacific University. The three scrolls now in the seminary’s possession are the world’s oldest copies of portions of Exodus 23, Leviticus 18 and Daniel 6.

Trustee Gary Loveless, founder and chief executive of Houston-based Square Mile Energy, presented the tiny artifacts, mounted and framed for preservation, to Patterson in Southwestern’s chapel service on Jan. 20.






Southwestern Seminary archaeology professor Steven Ortiz holds a pen made from a palm tree found in a cave along with the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Along with the scrolls, SWBTS obtained a rare stylus made of palm frond, believed to be one of several in the world that were discovered with the scrolls and which may have been used in producing the scrolls.

20TH CENTURY’S GREATEST FIND
These scrolls are part of a larger body of biblical texts and other writings discovered in 1947 in a cave at Qumran on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea in Israel. Portions of every Old Testament book but Esther have been found at Qumran.

Since their discovery, scholars have studied the Dead Sea Scrolls extensively with some calling them the greatest archaeological find of the 20th century.

Peter Flint, co-director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Institute at Trinity Western University in British Columbia, underscored the importance of the find, stating, “We are dealing today with the greatest find of our times…. the Dead Sea Scrolls are the oldest copies of the Bible in the world. They are more than 1,000 years older than anything we had before,” said Flint, alluding to the later-copied Masoretic text of the Hebrew scriptures.

Not only do the Dead Sea Scrolls include the oldest extant copies of the Old Testament, Flint said they are the only surviving Hebrew scriptures from the Second Temple Period (536 B.C.-70 A.D.).

Nearly 10 years of excavation in the Qumran caves produced fragments from approximately 825 to 870 separate scrolls containing biblical manuscripts, biblical manuscripts with commentary, apocryphal manuscripts and extra-biblical literature.

The Dead Sea Scrolls have made a profound impact on biblical studies, especially in the area of scribal transmission.

“Any piece of the Dead Sea Scrolls is significant because it shows us what the state of the Hebrew text of the Bible was 2,000 years ago, which gives us a way to measure whether or not they’ve been faithfully transmitted over the last 2,000 years,” Weston Fields, executive director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation, said in a phone interview with the seminary. The Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation is an organization dedicated to the publication, conservation and preservation of the scrolls.

“And what they do tell us is that there has been very little change,” Fields said. “They show how faithfully the Bible has been transmitted.”

A SCHOLAR’S DREAM
The acquisition of these rare scrolls is a particular boon to Southwestern’s archaeology program.

Steven Ortiz, associate professor of biblical backgrounds and archaeology and director of SWBTS’ Charles Tandy Museum, said: “I couldn’t dream as an archaeologist of being able to handle these or even having access to them. As a young graduate student, you read about the Dead Sea Scrolls in all your textbooks, you dream about them, you recount the discoveries of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Students in our program will also have that same type of discovery of not just reading about them in a textbook, but we have the actual scrolls.”

Ortiz said that in addition to serving as a teaching tool, he expects the scrolls will attract many scholars to Southwestern.

“There will be a flood of scholars coming here that will create a synergy for our students to sit at the feet of scholars in biblical studies, in Dead Sea Scrolls research, in biblical archaeology, and I’m looking forward to that time of engagement for our students and also for our faculty,” Ortiz said.

Amid all the excitement, Patterson showed particular enthusiasm over the acquisition of the Daniel scroll, which he said corroborates the book of Daniel’s claims about its authorship and date of writing?claims long discounted by secular scholars.

“It was clear that these were copies of copies of copies so that it established the certainty that Daniel was written when it claims to have been written,” Patterson said of the fragments of Daniel found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.

FOR THE GLORY OF GOD
Loveless and Patterson declined to reveal the price paid for the scrolls except to say that it was very large.

“This is the doing, primarily, of Mr. and Mrs. Loveless and their generosity and their interest in the project. The actual figures involved?I can just tell you that you could buy a suit or two with it,” Patterson said.

In explaining the rationale for his decision to help obtain the scrolls for Southwestern, Loveless expressed a desire to see the scrolls stored in a place where he was assured that their sacred nature would be respected.

“Although we can’t deny or ignore the historical or archaeological value of these fragments, it is most important to me and Stephanie that they are in the hands of those who will acknowledge and honor their Christian and Jewish heritage and significance. It is for that reason that there is no better institution than Southwestern in our opinion to secure these for the glory of God.”

The scrolls will be housed in a new library to be named for Loveless’ grandmother. The scrolls will be available for public viewing upon its completion, scheduled for May 2011.

?Keith Collier of Southwestern Seminary contributed to this report.

Children catch Lottie Moon’s vision

RAs from Inglewood Baptist Church in Grand Prairie begin a “lap-a-thon” to raise money to give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. Youngsters from Inglewood and from Eylau Hills Baptist Church in Texarkana were among those who gave sacrificially for the missions offering, inspiring adult members of their churches in the process.

TEXARKANA  Jars and jugs of pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters earned or found by the children at Eylau Hills Baptist in Texarkana made for a surprising outcome of the church’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. The children out-gave the adults and came within cents of reaching the church’s entire goal all by themselves.

Bill Wilson, pastor of the 40-member congregation, said the children challenged themselves, which challenged the adults. Donna Fowler, the church’s children’s leader and a grandmother raising grandchildren, showed her students the Lottie Moon story on video. She was amazed at how they began giving their allowances, earning money by doing extra chores, and picking up every spare coin they’d spot on the ground to give through the Lottie Moon offering.

Wilson said, “We’d set a church goal of $250. It was amazing to us when the final tally came in. When our adults’ offering totaled $244.69, I thought ‘We’ll make it.’ Then they counted the children’s separately, and they had $249. We were real proud of them.”

Wilson’s wife Mary said, “I think the adults were kind of shocked at what the kids had done. The enthusiasm of the children kind of fired up the older people. They were just so used to ‘every Christmas, Lottie Moon.’ It kind of got boring to them.”

One member found the recipe for Lottie Moon cookies and made them for a church luncheon. Mary Wilson believes the video and the cookies helped make Lottie Moon more real for the children and helped them better understand who she was and what she did.

Matthew, a second-grader, was on his way to church with his container full of change the Sunday of the final offering, but never made it to church because they were involved in a collision. Bill Wilson recounted, “Everyone was fine, there were no injuries, just some bruises. But Matthew was so upset. He came in the next week and said he was so sorry he couldn’t get his money in on time.”

Mary Wilson added, “It was so cute when we announced the results and how proud we were of them. One little boy?a kindergartener named Logan?was busy when Pastor Bill started talking about the offering. Then he sat right up and listened. Bill said, ‘We are so proud of you.’ And Logan said out loud, ‘Thank you, Brother Bill!'”

Similarly, children at Inglewood Baptist Church in Grand Prairie caught the Lottie Moon vision and helped their church in reaching the highest amount ever collected for a missions offering. Girls in Action spent a Sunday in December distributing moon pies to remind members to give to Lottie Moon.

Royal Ambassadors (RAs) enthusiastically met an unusual challenge, and collected over $700 for the Christmas offering. Kameron Barnard, Nathan Brown, Christian Foster, Sunny Gutierrez, and Aiden Pelkie, under the encouragement and supervision of their leaders Dawn Foster and Gordon Ensley, collected pledges for laps walked or jogged around a middle school running track.

Foster, who considers herself to be young in her own spiritual growth, was brand new to the RA program in the fall of 2009. Having served over 20 years in the Boy Scout program, she was no stranger to teaching boys about service, and jumped into the program wholeheartedly.

“I just started this year and have tried to come up with some creative ways to inspire these kids,” she said. “This door opened and I just figure God is going to take care of it. Me being in charge of these kids spiritual teaching is kind of overwhelming.”

Foster had heard the Lottie Moon Offering mentioned at a previous church every Christmas, and she knew it had something to do with missions. But as she read the Crusader materials to prepare to teach the RAs about Lottie Moon, she became interested in knowing more and researched more of Lottie’s story on the Internet.

About an hour before her RA meeting, Foster felt compelled that her boys could contribute in a big way. Focusing on the theme of perseverance from their lessons, Foster remembered participating years ago in the 20-mile March of Dimes walk-a-thons, but knew that might be a bit much for her 7-year-olds. About that time she drove by a middle school running track and thought “lap-a-thon.”

That night in the RA meeting, Foster shared an example from her life of her sadness over a childhood friend she knows is lost, and who has distanced herself because of Foster’s faith. Then she asked the boys: “How would you feel if someone you loved didn’t know the real story of Jesus?” She asked two of the boys who are best friends, “How would you feel if you knew you were going to heaven and your best friend was going to hell?”

The boys shared with Foster about people they knew who made fun of them for being Christians. Foster said, “It hit home for them. That’s when I told them about Lottie Moon and all she’s done, and how maybe as a group we could help by earing money to send to these people.”

Foster shared her idea about the lap-a-thon, and the boys became excited. The Saturday before Christmas they met at the middle school track with their parents and their pledge sheets. With each lap, Foster would encourage them and let them know how many they had completed. They had 2 hours to do as many laps as they wanted to do, and could stop at any time.

Two of the second-grade boys and their dads turned it into a competition, and in the end both pairs completed 22 laps, five and a half miles, with Ensley completing 20 laps. Wanting to make their presentation the next day, the boys had less than one day to collect on their pledges.

In the worship service on Sunday they presented about $700 for Lottie Moon. The Inglewood congregation gave them a standing ovation.

In a church that averages about 400 in worship attendance, Inglewood members place missions as a high priority, Miller said, noting that staff members lead the way in giving and going. After serving 31 years as a missionary to Zambia, Miller returned to Texas where he serves as minister of missions and pastoral care at Inglewood.

The church’s world missions offering far exceeded their goal and expectations, raising $59,943.67, nearly $10,000 above the goal set by the church. The involvement of over a dozen retired and furloughing missionaries as speakers in Sunday School classes over a three-week period contributed to the successful effort. Seventy percent of receipts go to the international missions offering with the remainder designated for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions.

Miller said, “If a church has missions as a focus, it will not be afraid to challenge its members to give and to go.”

Perry adds sonogram bill to emergency items for 82nd Texas Legislature

AUSTIN?Gov. Perry on Jan. 24 added to a list of emergency items in the state House a bill requiring women in Texas to undergo a sonogram prior to having an abortion, placing it on a fast-track for early consideration in the 82nd Texas Legislature.

Perry announced his intention to hasten the bill’s consideration on Jan. 22 at the annual Texas Rally for Life in Austin commemorating the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion nationally.

Emergency status allows the House and Senate to consider the bill within the first 30 days of the session, which began Jan. 11.

“Under this legislation, introduced by Sen. (Dan) Patrick (R-Houston) and supported by House members like Rep. (Geanie) Morrison (R-Victoria) and Rep. (Kelly) Hancock (R-Fort Worth), a woman seeking an abortion must be given a sonogram ensuring she understands the full impact of her decision,” Perry told the rally, according to a news release on the governor’s website. “A decision that can scar her, physically and otherwise, for the rest of her life. When you consider the magnitude of that decision, ensuring someone understands what’s truly at stake seems a small step to take.

“Those of us here know that when someone has all the information, the right choice, the only choice, life becomes clear.”

In his speech, Perry lamented the estimated 81,000 Texas children aborted annually. “That’s a staggering statistic and it’s simply unacceptable,” he said.

Kyleen Wright, president of the Texans for Life Coalition, predicted the bill’s passage after a similar bill passed the Senate in 2009 but failed in the House.

“We will pass a comprehensive sonogram bill this session because of its strong support from the leadership and the members of both the Senate and the House. We are thankful for Gov. Perry’s emergency declaration because it helps ensure its passage before budget and redistricting issues overwhelm the legislature.”

“Abortion advocates are always urging us to trust women on this issue. Well, it’s high time we trusted them to have all the information before they make this forever decision affecting themselves and their babies,” Wright added.

Other emergency items announced by the governor are protecting private property rights and addressing eminent domain, abolishing Texas “sanctuary cities,” requiring voters to present proof of identification, and legislation to provide for a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Pro-lifers pray, protest at mega-clinic in Houston

HOUSTON  As two African-American organizations gathered Jan. 18 on separate parade routes in Houston to honor and celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., a diverse gathering in a third location called attention to what they said was the new issue of the civil rights movement — the sanctity of human life — a cause they declared would have been championed by the late civil rights leader.

Organized by Lou Engle’s The Call to Conscience and the Bound4Life ministries, the two-day event included speakers such as Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Abby Johnson, a former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic; Harry Jackson, pastor of Hope Christian Church in Washington, D.C. and a leader in the black conservative movement; and many others from across the nation.

To commemorate the King holiday, the event featured leaders of the African-American and Hispanic Christian communities, who charged Planned Parenthood with targeting minority populations. Planned Parenthood Federation is nearing completion on what organizers said would be the largest abortion-providing clinic in the nation.

Attempts to contact Planned Parenthood Houston/Southeast Texas for a response went unanswered.

Land called the new facility a “monstrosity” and others said the site of the clinic is no coincidence but merely representative of the racist ideals held by the organization’s founder Margaret Sanger. At the very least, Land said, the location is “making the taking of human life more convenient.”

The new clinic is located just blocks from the University of Houston campus, the historically black Texas Southern University, and within walking distance of predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

Other speakers pulled no punches in their accusations against the leading abortion provider in the nation.

Samuel Rodriguez said the “spirit of Herod” is alive and well, referencing the desperate king’s attempts to kill the baby Christ. Rodriguez said the building’s location specifically targets minorities and begs the question, “Why is the devil so afraid of black babies and brown babies? It’s time to turn the tide. Abortion is anti-Latino, anti-black and anti-life,” he declared to the cheers of estimated 8,000-9,000 people gathered for the worship and prayer rally at the Catholic Charismatic Center, a few blocks from the 78,000 square foot Planned Parenthood facility.

According to pro-life organizations in Houston, the clinic will be outfitted to perform late-term abortions, something Planned Parenthood Houston hasn’t been legally equipped to do since legislation restricting the practice was passed in 2003.

Arnold Culbreath of Protecting Black Life in Cincinnati, Ohio, told the crowd that 62.5 percent of all Planned Parenthood clinics are located in predominantly black neighborhoods. When the number of clinics operating in Hispanic communities is added, Culbreath said the number of clinics located among minority populations rises to 76 percent.

Citing a National Vital Statistics report dated October 2009, Culbreath reported the number of live births to black women was 587,000 and the number of abortions was 452,000.

“These numbers are dangerously close together,” he said, adding that for the first time in American history the black population is not keeping up with the birth-to-death replacement rate.

CALL TO RENEWAL
Engle said the movement is primarily not a protest but a call to prayer and fasting. Monday’s rally and silent march to the clinic began Sunday evening with a five-hour prayer vigil drawing pro-lifers from across the nation.

The Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in American began in Texas, Engle noted; the end of abortion can begin here as well, he said.

Engle began Sunday’s prayer service with a call to repentance.

“Revival will not come if we don’t begin to deal with our secret sins. America has to get real. The church has to get real,” he said.

“What do you do, God,” Engle asked, “when your pastors do not speak up? As pastors we have sinned against you.”

Several black pastors drew attention to the link between Darwinism, the eugenics movement of the early 20th century, and the racist agenda of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger.

Pastor Stephen Broden of Fair Park Bible Fellowship in Dallas said the acceptance of Darwinism escalated racist ideals as blacks were seen as below par on the evolutionary scale. As blacks were dehumanized?as Jews were in Germany?there was little to no moral outcry within the circles of the intellectual elite who supported and promoted the practice of eugenics, the theory of improving humanity through selective breeding and discouraging breeding among those consider less fit.

Broden said Sanger supported the practice by promoting the use of birth control among the black populations in America.

“To the community of death,” Broden added, “no more eugenics. We will push back.”

Harry Jackson, who led opposition to the same-sex marriage proposal in Washington, D.C. said, “We are in danger of the civil rights movement selling us out. This is about the rights of the unborn.”

Jackson said he understood, intimately, the struggles of blacks in America. He told of how his father’s life was threatened when he tried to vote, and of seeing lynchings and the burned body of a black man drug through town.

Referencing that brutal history, Jackson said, “I’m here to tell you, right now is the same kind of lynching, the same kind of burning. But you are seeing us come together. I believe Dr. King would say, ‘Save the unborn.’ The ultimate civil right is the right of life.”

Since 1973, there have been 50 million abortions in the U.S. Land said God had a plan for those lives.

“We are not going to rest,” Land said. “Hear us, pro-abortion forces. Hear us, liberals. This is our country too and we will never rest until we turn back Roe vs. Wade,” he said to cheers.

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Haitian seminarians know stress of waiting

FORT WORTH  Perhaps it’s the helpless feeling of looking at a frail, premature baby through the clear, plastic shell of an incubator or the unease of getting an unexpected call from overseas when a loved one is serving his country in harm’s way.

It’s that tight feeling that vacuums all the air from a pair of lungs and grips the heart like a vice.

That same desperation accompanies waiting for word of survivors in the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that shook Haiti’s capital to the ground on Jan. 12.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary doctoral student Precois Norcilus knows that feeling all too well.

When the Haiti native first heard of the quake, he was focused on a homework assignment. He said the magnitude of what had happened in his home country, where much of his family still lives, didn’t hit him right away. Norcilus said he thought, “Are my parents OK? Yes.”

“I didn’t check,” he admitted.

Norcilus said he realized how devastating the quake was after speaking with fellow student and Haitian Azer Lilite on campus. The two turned on the television and found what everyone else in the world watching televisions had begun to see.

Utter destruction.

“When I looked, I was very, very devastated,” Norcilus said. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. How is my family? How are they right now?'”

With communication impossible for several days, it wasn’t until Jan. 14 that Norcilus was finally able to speak with his father, Francois Norcilus.

Francois Norcilus bore good news, and sorrowful news. While his immediate family survived the earthquake, one of the younger Norcilus’ aunts and her grandchild did not. Two cousins had broken limbs and two were still unaccounted for, as of the Jan. 14 phone call.

Lilite, also a doctoral student at Southwestern, said he received similar news.

“My youngest sister still lives in Haiti. She’s married and has three boys. I haven’t spoke to them since the quake, but my younger brother spoke to them right after the quake. Last night somebody called us from Haiti and told me they are all fine,” Lilite said.

While Lilite said his sister did suffer two broken legs in the disaster, the news of other family members may be grim.

“There is one cousin we are grieving. There is more possibility for him to be dead than alive. He was a professor and was teaching when the school collapsed,” Lilite said.

No news, he added, is the hardest thing.

Lilite’s family is still waiting to hear from some other cousins with whom no one has spoken since before the quake.

“No news is scary. We only want to hear good news or bad news,” Lilite said. “No news is painful.”

The grievous news both men received would have been far worse, they said, had all their siblings been living in Haiti.

Instead, the men said all but two of the brothers and sisters have come to America to study and learn so that they can one day return to Haiti to teach and care for their people, and in turn share the gospel with them.

“Most of my family [is] here going to school,” said Norcilus, who is working on his Ph.D. in Christian education. “One of my youngest brothers, his dream is to be in the medical field. Another brother is in the Baptist Missionary Association seminary in Jacksonville, Texas.

Norcilus said he hopes that by his coming to study in America, he will not only further his own knowledge, but will be able to take what he learns back to his country and invest in other Haitians.

“The passion of those people back home, they want to learn, but they do not have the resources. My dream is by 2020, even half the kids in my father’s school can go to university or trade school,” Norcilus said.

Lilite agreed, saying Haitians like himself and Norcilus have come here to further their education and get jobs so they may help fund the work back home, improve the lives and opportunities of their fellow countrymen, and to share the gift of Christ with them as well.

“There is an unknown side of Haitians: The courage and the will of Haitians to live well. As our motto says, ‘union makes strength.’ We want to be able to live. Not survive. Live,” said Lilite, who will soon complete his Ph.D. in music.

By coming to America to invest in his education, Lilite said he hopes he can be one link in unifying his nation and showing them real life in Christ.

“Part of what brings me here is that I want someday to have Haitians who can sing well, who know things of the world, who can worship and be fruitful. It will take not just the dream, not just the will, but it requires action. It requires protection. It requires the providence of God, because mostly, all the things that we have done from 1986 to today, in one day, it’s gone. Even our national palace,” Lilite said.

TEXAS CHURCH CONNECTIONS

Dale Norris, pastor of Faith Community Baptist Church in Mabank, Texas, has taken members of his church to Norcilus’ father’s schools and churches several times to build buildings, see to medical needs, and preach the gospel.

“We’ve been involved in maybe five trips now,” Norris said.

The Texas pastor explained how Francois runs two schools, two churches and one health clinic in Creve, Haiti, a sewing school for women, and a mission church, which is now destroyed, in Port-au-Prince.

“He has 1,000 students from first grade up to 12th. We support maybe 10 of those kids. We pay for a particular student, $15 a month,” Norris said. “It is an oasis in the desert. They get a good meal when they come. If they don’t go to school, they don’t get a good meal.”

And once physical needs such as hunger are met, said the younger Norcilus, they can then begin to minister to the spiritual needs of their community.

“We have a saying back home that ‘a hungry man doesn’t have an ear.’ It’s really a good thing that people can see to their physical needs and with that they can share with them the gospel,” said Norcilus, who still travels back to Haiti to preach crusades with 2,000-plus Haitians in attendance each night.

Though the earthquake that took the lives of countless thousands of people is a tragedy in the highest regard, Norcilus said he is confident that God, the sovereign ruler of the universe, will use it to his glory.

“The best way we can help is pray for those who are hurting because even though the situation is tragic and painful, I believe something good will come out of it.”

Byron Jones, pastor of First Baptist Church of Gun Barrel City, Texas, has taken groups from his church to Haiti to work with Norcilus and his ministries several times since 2006.

Jones said each time he and his mission teams go to Haiti, they find people eager to know more about Jesus.

“We’ve seen probably hundreds saved in the Vacation Bible School programs down there. I’ve never seen so many people hungry for the Word. They’ll sit 20 people to a bench and are so receptive,” Jones said.

Norcilus said he also plans to make a trip to Haiti in July, if not one sooner, as well.

With the destruction of Haiti’s capital, the loss of so many lives and the ravaging effects of such a disaster, Norcilus said the opportunity to share Christ’s love and salvation is just waiting for bold and willing takers.

The trip is tentatively set for July 30-Aug. 9. Norcilus said anyone interested in going may reach him at <A href=”mailto:nprec

Churches in Tyler latest in string of suspected arsons

TYLER–Authorities responded to two additional church fires in East Texas on Jan. 20, bringing to nine the number of suspected arsons to churches in the region since Jan. 1.

Investigators from the National Response Team (NRT) of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), along with ATF special agents from Tyler, are working with state and local authorities in seeking clues to the string of blazes in Van Zandt, Henderson, and Smith counties. An ATF news release said the team has experience working the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, and the 9/11 Pentagon attack.

James Suggs (left), deputy fire marshal in Tyler, and Pastor David Mahfood discuss the Jan. 16 burning of Tyland Baptist Church in Tyler. A $10,000 reward has been offered by federal investigators for information leading to the arrest and conviction of persons responsible for the recent church burnings. Although the burning of Tyland Baptist has not been officially ruled arson, another church in Tyler also burned on the same night. A total of nine East Texas churches have burned since Jan. 1.

According to the Associated Press, a fire at the Bethesda House of Prayer in Lindale, north of Tyler, Texas, was contained early on Jan. 20. The same morning, firefighters fought a blaze inside the chapel of the Fellowship of Prairie Creek Church in rural Smith County near Lindale, news reports said. Smith County is about 100 miles east of Dallas.

Also, federal investigators have upped their reward from $5,000 to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the fires. Anyone with information may contact the Tyler, Texas ATF office at 903-590-1475.

The weekend of Jan. 16-17, arsonists apparently struck the Tyland Baptist Church and the First Church of Christ, Scientist, both in Tyler. Tyland was the third Southern Baptist church to burn in the rash of fires.

On Jan. 12, Lake Athens Baptist Church in Athens, about 65 miles southeast of Dallas, was one of two churches in that town heavily damaged by what investigators believe were arson fires set in the early morning hours. The week before that, another church near Athens was apparently torched.

In Van Zandt County, located between Athens and Tyler, arson is also suspected in two fires set in early January, one at the Little Hope Baptist Church in Canton on New Year’s Day and another at nearby Martin’s Mill.

Authorities first suspected burglary as a motive at the Athens churches, said Athens Assistant Police Chief Rodney Williams, but the investigation is ongoing.

Tyland Baptist Church Pastor David E. Mahfood told the Southern Baptist TEXAN: “I was sick when I heard about it. I was up here with several church members, watching it burn. I never thought it would happen to us. I am frustrated, angry, sad, but hopeful, very hopeful, that this will turn out for good for our church.

“Thankfully no one was injured, but we lost records, all of my files, journals, books. I had just put my diploma from Southwestern on the wall five days ago after graduating in December. We had worship service the next day at Asbury Methodist Church, right across the street. We’ve had dozens of offers to hold church at their facilities, but we have just made an agreement with Willowbrook Baptist Church to meet there.”

In the fire’s aftermath, Mahfood preached from 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, which states, “We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed,” and Psalm 136, which has the recurring refrain of “His mercy endures forever.” They also sang “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” and “It is Well with My Soul,” he said.

“This has taught us that all you need is God’s Word, all this is good and helpful,” he said, pointing to the burned remains of the church, but all we need is God and His Word. But still, we have some charter members here at the church, memories of those who have been married, baptized, funeral services held here, a lot of memories in this building.”

Tyland Baptist Church began in the early 1960s and has 140 members on the roll, and about 120 attend service.

The Tyler religious community offered condolences and support as congregational leaders met to discuss security and other issues.

“We’ve always had good security at Marvin,” John Robbins, pastor of Marvin United Methodist Church in Tyler, whose church just recently completed a remodeling project, told the Tyler Morning Telegraph. “But we’ve hired more security already to keep (the church building) safe 24 hours until this perpetrator is caught.”

Rabbi Neal Katz of Tyler’s Congregation Beth El told the paper the Jewish community has been “a target” for centuries.

“That gives us certain empathy for others being victimized,” Katz said. “When people are violated in one place, that affects all of us.”

John Green, pastor of Lake Athens Baptist Church in Athens, said that despite an estimated $500,000 damage to its auditorium in the Jan. 12 fire. “Our hearts are full and our spirits are encouraged. We believe God is going to bring something good out of this.”

An ATF news release said the NRT team has experience working the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, and 9/11 Pentagon attack.

NEWS ON HAITI: In Haiti, Baptists confront the challenge

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti–There is a desperation here among the Haitians that they are not going to make it through this,” said Dennis Wilbanks of the Florida Baptist Convention after arriving in Port-au-Prince Sunday, Jan. 17.

“No one wants to sleep inside a building for fear they won’t come out of it alive the next morning,” said Wilbanks, a staff member in the convention’s partnership missions department.

Wilbanks and Joseph Gaston, director of the convention’s language Haitian church development department, are in Port-au-Prince to begin the process of determining how Florida Baptists and Southern Baptists across the country can meet needs and provide assistance to the residents of the city devastated by the 7.0-magnitude earthquake and aftershocks Jan. 12.

For Gaston, a native of Port-au-Prince, it began with leading a Haitian woman to faith in Christ while in the airport.

Wilbanks, who directed the Florida convention’s disaster response in Haiti after five previous hurricanes, will be working with seven Haitian employees of the convention who survived the earthquake. Together they have begun assessing damage within their churches and communities.

“These men have been trained in disaster relief by the Florida Baptist Convention,” said John Sullivan, executive director-treasurer. “They know their country, their people and have experience responding in the aftermath of hurricanes. We are grateful to God that they are safe and are there to minister to the Haitian people.”

Wilbanks reported that the convention-owned mission house is severely damaged but may be useable.

“This will be among our first rebuild priority,” Sullivan said, because it will enable volunteer teams for construction and clean-up to deploy more quickly.

The house, located in Port-au-Prince between the airport and city, will be the base of operations for the convention’s relief efforts. The mission house sleeps nearly 50 volunteers at a time and provides food and safety for mission teams traveling into Haiti.

“We anticipate having a word this week about our churches in Port-au-Prince as well as our pastors’ homes,” Sullivan added. “These are our brothers and sisters serving Christ in this difficult nation.” Florida Baptists’ 15-year partnership with Haiti Baptists has resulted in the starting of 892 congregations across the nation.

Two other Florida convention staff members and a five-member Southern Baptist Disaster Relief team are scheduled to travel to Haiti on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

The other Floridians are Craig Culbreth, director of the partnership missions department, who has traveled to Haiti 60 times in the past 11 years, and Fritz Wilson, director of the disaster relief department.

The SBC DR assessment team encompasses Bruce Poss, the North American Mission Board’s national disaster relief coordinator; Jim Brown, director of Baptist Global Response; Coy Webb and Don Gann, disaster relief directors for the Kentucky and Mississippi Baptist conventions, respectively; and Ralph Shealy, a South Carolina doctor.

The SBC disaster relief team plans to fly into Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and charter a small plane into Port-au-Prince, which currently has only one operational landing strip open for the large number of military and private aircraft flying in daily with manpower and supplies.

Mickey Caison, NAMB’s adult volunteer mobilization team leader in Alpharetta, Ga., said that if the SBC team cannot arrange for a connecting flight to Port-au-Prince, they would make the arduous, 150-mile road trip from Santo Domingo through the mountains to Port-au-Prince.

In Haiti, the SBC team will link up with the Florida convention staff members.

Poss, who’s just completed his first year with the NAMB disaster relief team, said he’s “a little nervous but I know I’m where God wants me to be and doing what God wants me to do. And that’s a good place to be. I don’t go there alone, but with God’s purpose.

“I realize it’s dangerous there,” said Poss, referring to security concerns in Haiti, as evidenced by reported roaming mobs of looters with machetes and those simply frustrated by the lack of food, water and medical care — plus the inability to recover and bury the thousands of dead.

“Right now, it’s very chaotic,” Poss said, “and violence is still on the increase. While more and more military are arriving by the day, we don’t want to send our volunteers into a place that’s not secure.”

Poss, who worked at Ground Zero in New York City and remembers the unforgettable stench of death following 9/11, is sure he’ll witness firsthand similar horrors in Haiti.

“You have to be careful where you allow your eyes to focus,” he said from experience. “We know there will be some bad scenes but if we can avoid looking at those, we can focus on the mission and keep those images out of our minds.”

The assessment teams are scheduled to spend this week in Haiti. Returning to Miami, they will be joined by Caison and others to report their findings and begin mapping out a long-term strategy for a comprehensive Southern Baptist response to the earthquake.

“Even still in Miami, we hope to set some stuff into motion with the state disaster relief teams,” Poss said.