Month: June 2013

Calvinism team addresses work in forum

HOUSTON (BP)—Members of an advisory committee on Calvinism say that with their report now issued, the “next step” in cooperation and unity is up to individual Southern Baptists.

Twelve of the 19 members of the committee appeared together June 10 in the exhibit hall’s Cooperative Program booth, answering questions from messengers. The 3,200-word report, which urged Southern Baptists to “grant one another liberty” and “stand together” for the Great Commission, was unanimously approved and released in late May.

“It’s really up to all of you as to what happens with this,” committee member Tammi Ledbetter told an audience gathered around the CP booth. “We can talk it to death, and I think we probably have. What matters is what you do with your life in the way you relate to other people. And every time you have a conversation about this document or you have a conversation about a fellow believer … how you handle yourself will make the whole difference.”

The hope is that both sides will put the focus “back on winning people to Jesus,” added Ledbetter, managing editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN and a member of Inglewood Baptist Church in Grand Prairie.

Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and a committee member, agreed.

“So much of this comes back to what Tammi said — our own personal attitudes and dispositions,” Akin said, adding that Southern Baptists need to be “men and women of honesty and integrity.”

“If we will pursue those types of agendas in the days ahead, I believe we can come together for the very purpose on which we fought the conservative resurgence — that is, standing on an inerrant Bible to get the gospel to every person on the planet.”

The advisory team — not an official committee of the convention — was assembled by Executive Committee President Frank Page in August 2012 to advise him on developing “a strategy whereby people of various theological persuasions can purposely work together in missions and evangelism.” The committee was composed of Calvinists and non-Calvinists from different walks of life in the convention.

“There has been a lot of talking about one another, and I decided it was time to talk to each other,” Page said during the panel discussion, acknowledging he “had doubts” about whether the committee could come to an agreement on a report.

“I am not naive. I know there are still differences,” Page said. “There are people on this group that have strong wills, strong opinions. I am among that group. But I just want to see us work together so men, women, boys and girls can be won to Jesus.”

The writing committee consisted of Eric Hankins, pastor of First Baptist Church in Oxford, Miss., and R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Mohler is a Calvinist; Hankins is not.

There were “several drafts” written before the final report was released, said Union University President David Dockery, the committee chair.

“Everyone had an opportunity to participate in the final document,” Dockery said. “Everyone had an opportunity to make suggestions.”

Hankins said he wants Southern Baptists to “grant one another liberty” and “cut out the meanness.”

“We sought to have something that would call all Southern Baptists together around the gospel,” Hankins said. “We sought to have something that would clearly express that there were real differences [while recognizing] we still want to partner together for the cause of Christ and the announcement of the gospel all around the world.

“We hoped to have a document that would … return us to a time period that we were in not so long ago in which we shared theological differences, but the rhetoric wasn’t so harsh,” Hankins said.

Said Mohler, referencing the year of the Southern Baptist Convention’s formation, “If you go back to 1845, there were people like me in the room, and there were people like Eric Hankins in the room. And they wanted to be in the same room together, because they wanted to send missionaries together, and they wanted to do great things for the Great Commission together.”

Page said he sees a level of “anti-Calvinism” in the convention “that frightens me.” On the flip side, he said, a Calvinist friend recently told him that the “extreme Calvinists” were driving the friend “crazy.” There is “vitriol” on both sides, Page said.

“It was my opinion that we need to deal with this because I think we’ve come to the point where trust is hitting a new low,” Page said. “We need to act on this to say, ‘We’ve co-existed for a long time, but it will only work when we do what we’ve said [we should do] — talk to [one another], not at, not about.'”

Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth and a committee member, said, going in, he wanted to see the document reflect the strong belief that both sides are responsible for and “involved in winning people to Christ.” He also wanted it to urge “honesty” on the part of potential pastors for church leadership roles. The report met his goals, he said.

“Just be honest. Be forthright, up front,” Patterson said, speaking to those who submit resumes for church positions. “The document calls for that. All of us agree to that. We have tried to model that to the best of our ability.”

David Allen, dean of Southwestern’s school of theology and a member of the committee, said that when discussing the subject of Calvinism, it’s important that neither side “misrepresent one another’s positions.”

“It’s very important that we respect what someone says they believe and allow them to define what they say they believe,” Allen said.

Mark Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and a committee member, said one way to have dialogue with “someone you disagree with” is to get together and “try to state things [you think] the other person agrees with you on.”

“You come around to having to understand what the other person says,” Dever said.

During a question-and-answer time, the panel was asked if both strands of theology can exist in the same church or whether a church needs to take a stand on one particular side.

Steve Lemke, provost and director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, noted that both Calvinists and non-Calvinists teach at NOBTS. Lemke served on the committee.

“There is a natural tendency for people who are likeminded to share together,” Lemke said. “So probably the direction and interest and theology of the pastor is going to affect the sort of persons that join that church.”

But there are churches that have a “great deal” of theological diversity, Lemke added, and who have Calvinists and non-Calvinists among their staff and congregation.

“I think it’s possible [for both sides to exist] within the same fellowship,” Lemke said. “That may cause some tensions. But I think it’s a good thing within the body of Christ to be able to disagree without being disagreeable.”

Stephen Rummage, pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., and a committee member, said the report “can really serve as a model for local churches” to “navigate through how we think about these issues and how we relate to one another.”

“We’re not going to treat one another as though we have deficiencies or as though we are somehow less because we have this position or that position,” Rummage said.


Texan Bart Barber elected SBC 1st VP

HOUSTON—Pastor Bart Barber of First Baptist Church of Farmersville was elected first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention on Tuesday following a nominating speech that praised him as a “Bible-believing, Jesus-loving, soul winning pastor-theologian.”

Registration Secretary Jim Wells cast the vote for Barber on behalf of messengers after he drew no opponents.

Memphis pastor Steve Gaines told how Barber, 43, was converted and baptized in 1975 and ordained to preach the gospel in 1991 at First Baptist Church in Lake City, Ark. Gaines said Barber preached his first sermon at age 11 and continued preaching throughout his teenage years.

Barber is a Baylor University graduate with a master of divinity degree and a Ph.D in church history from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.

He has been a pastor for 23 years, the last 14 at First Baptist Farmersville. Barber has taught adjunctly at Southwestern, served on the SBC Committee on Committees, and currently serves on the boards of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and Southwestern Seminary, where he is trustee vice chairman.

Gaines told messengers that First Baptist Farmersville averages 292 in Sunday School and gives 10 percent of undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program. It also gave $33,000 through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.

FBC Farmersville is also working with a previously unengaged, unreached people group (UUPG) in Senegal, Gaines said.


Criswell evangelism practicum takes classroom theory into real world

NEW CANEY—“I want to be forgiven, but I don’t think I can,” said a young homeless man at the Open Door Mission in Houston.  He was only in his thirties, but looked much older due to a lifestyle of excess and addiction.

Professor Bobby Worthington and five students from Criswell College ministered to the man, sharing that forgiveness is possible, no matter what a person has done. “I shared scripture with him,” said Worthington. “He thought God couldn’t forgive him because he had done too much. We prayed around him and he accepted Christ.  You could see the Holy Spirit helping him to understand.”

The annual Crossover evangelism practicum at Criswell College takes students out of the classroom and brings them to the Southern Baptist Convention host city to give them practical evangelistic experiences, helping them take classroom theory into the real world.

This year Worthington, who serves as director of Applied Ministry Projects, director of Urban Ministry and adjunct professor of evangelism, brought five students to Houston for the practicum.  The group worked with Pastor Ron Rogers at Forestwood Baptist Church in New Caney. “We try to work with alumni of Criswell,” said Worthington.

The group began its work by going door-to-door.  “We canvassed 160 homes in two days, helping the church reach out,” said Worthington.

In addition, the team ministered at the Open Door Mission in Houston where they saw five professions of faith.  “I wanted the students to experience ministry to the middle class as well as to the poor.” Students led worship and preached at two different services at Open Door.  “They led. I guided them,” said Worthington.

Trey Holmes was one of the Criswell students who preached at Open Door and had the opportunity to lead a man to Christ.  Holmes shared The Parable of the Wedding Banquet from Matthew 22. “I read the Word and preached the Word,” said Holmes. The man, who was at Open Door for rehab, approached a Criswell team member. “He said, ‘I realized I am the guy who is going to be kicked out of the banquet.’”

Holmes shared the plan of salvation with the man and asked if he was ready to repent.  The man said yes and gave his life to Christ.

“All the glory goes to the one who really does it,” said Holmes. “You get excited, but it is a serious thing. I have hope and he grasped hope tonight. It was exciting to see a new creature birthed right in front of us.  That’s what I’m here for.”

Brice Johnson, another Criswell team member, also had the opportunity to lead a man to faith in Christ. Using his own testimony, Johnson shared how God radically changed his life. He was approached by a young man in need. “He was in a place where he was really broken,” said Johnson.  The man struggled with alcohol, drugs and criminal activity.  “I shared my story and he prayed to accept Christ.”

Johnson was touched by the encounter. “It’s encouraging in the sense of seeing these guys – the idea of rock bottom.  They have nowhere else to go. They are pointed to Jesus.” Johnson was also challenged by the heart of Christ. “I was reminded that Jesus spent the bulk of his time with the poor and outcast. It’s easy to be around people who know the right things to say. It’s refreshing to see the humility and eagerness to hear what we have to say. It helped me develop a deeper heart for the lost and broken.”

Worthington believes the Crossover Evangelism Practicum provides a valuable opportunity for his students to see ministry in different contexts, preparing them for their futures. “They learn theory in class and then have practical ministry experience,” said Worthington. “It’s one thing to talk about it in the classroom. It’s another to do it in the field.”

CROSSOVER HOUSTON: Prayer lays groundwork for professions of faith in Houston suburb¨

HOUSTON—As David Mills made his way from one Houston neighborhood to another, he noticed a father and son riding through the area on their bikes and felt led to pray for them. “I just asked God to get the gospel to them,” Mills recounted after arriving in the Waters Edge community near Humble, where neighbors were attending a block party on Saturday hosted at the home of a member of Northeast Houston Baptist Church.¨¨

For the past week Mills has been guiding a group of students from several campuses of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and The College at Southwestern to share their faith door to door and on the streets of Houston.¨¨

Students Benjamin Smith and Harrison Chow were ready to welcome Jose Fernando and his son after they followed signs leading to another block party hosted by Northeast Houston Baptist.

“One student led that same dad I had prayed for to the Lord while the other student led the son,” Mills said, noting his awe in the way God had directed them to the home that wasn’t even near the neighborhood where he had seen them riding earlier.¨¨

Over the course of the week the SWBTS evangelism professor encouraged the students to make prayer a priority as they set out across the city, sharing their faith in very diverse settings.¨¨

“This church prepared with prayer,” Mills said, praising the groundwork laid by Pastor Nathan Lino, a Southwestern alum who is finishing service as first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention. “We went into the Fifth Ward of Houston where the median income is $11,000 to northeast Houston where it’s $90,000,” Mills explained, describing the people in both areas as “wildly responsive.”

By mid-week, Mills said he sensed “the Lord wanted to break through even more” as the students prayed more intensely for conversions. “The number of professions of faith nearly tripled the next day,” he reported.¨¨

“We have found where there has been intense and fervent prayer there is an openness to the Holy Spirit with humility and repentance,” Mills said. “Otherwise, it’s almost a hostility to the gospel.”

“God has been moving in amazing ways,” added James Jordan, a member of Northeast Houston Baptist who coordinated the four block parties and the participation of the Southwestern students. “Our pastor’s focus in 2013 has been on prayer,” he explained, describing hour-long sessions on Sunday evening and corporate prayer during morning worship.¨¨

In the week leading up to the block parties, the Southwestern team reported more than 190 professions of faith among the people they encountered on the streets of Houston and in door-to-door neighborhood visits.¨¨

Mills said he has no doubt that door-to-door visitation remains an effective way to share the gospel and enjoys equipping students to discover that for themselves. 

“And it doesn’t hurt that we have a president at our seminary who is an evangelist,” he added, alluding to Paige Patterson.

Bart Barber to be 1st vice-president nominee

FORT WORTH—Bart Barber, lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas, will be nominated for 1st vice-president of the Southern Baptist Convention at next week’s annual gathering in Houston.

Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, announced the nomination and his endorsement of Barber earlier today on Twitter.

“It is an honor and privilege to nominate my fellow pastor, Bart Barber, as the 1st Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Gaines said after his announcement on Twitter. “He has faithfully served our Lord, local churches, and our Convention for many years in various capacities. His church is committed to the Cooperative Program and to SBC missions. He is well qualified to help our president, Dr. Fred Luter, as we all seek a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit and revival on our churches and our institutions. I pray that others will join in support of Pastor Barber’s nomination.” 

Barber, 43, has served as pastor in Farmersville since 1999, after serving pastorates across Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

According to ACP statistics, last year FBC Farmersville had an average Sunday School attendance of 292, with 10% of their undesignated giving directed to the Cooperative Program annually. They also gave over $33,000 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

FBC Farmersville has also developed a presence among an Unengaged, Unreached People Group in Senegal. Over the course of three visits, the church has seen 17 professions of faith in a collection of tribes that had no evangelical presence only a year ago.

Barber earned his M.Div. from Southwestern Seminary in 1996, and continued there to earn a Ph.D. in church history in 2006. He served as an adjunct professor at Southwestern from 2006 to 2009.

Currently, Barber serves as a trustee of Southwestern Seminary and was selected last year to chair the Academic Administration Committee. He also serves as Vice-Chairman of the Executive Board of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

In 2007, Barber was selected by former convention president Frank Page to serve on the Southern Baptist Convention Committee on Committees.

Born and raised in Lake City, Arkansas, Barber came to Christ at the age of five and was called to preach when he was 11. He was ordained to preach and graduated from Baylor University in 1991 and married his wife, Tracy, a few months later. They have two children: Jim, age 10, and Sarah, age 6.

“I’m deeply moved by the confidence placed in me by Steve Gaines and, should they concur with him, by the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Barber said in response to the announcement by Gaines. “Any role I can play in carrying our cooperative mission work into the coming decades is something I can get excited about.”

Barber is on Twitter @bartbarber and blogs at

Planter challenges peers to value CP funding

ROCKWALL—“We are a community of faith that is much greater than the city that you are in, the town you are in, the neighborhood you are in,” said church planter Millard South. “We have been called to something that is global and there is nothing better to achieve that goal than the Cooperative Program.”

“South,” whose name has been changed for protection in his current role overseas, challenged church planters to focus on the world beyond the front door of the local church during his address at the recent SENT Conference. Sharing his journey from a traditional Southern Baptist upbringing, to his tenure as an executive pastor and then to his experiences as a church planter, South traced his change of mindset throughout his ministry.

“I grew up in Southern Baptist church with old-school Cooperative Program thinking,” South said. “But we live in a different day and age as church planters. We have to somehow allow our people to understand that there is something much greater that we are connected to than just our local church.”

South says God radically changed his thinking about the local church. He was serving as the executive pastor of a church in the Dallas area, seeing many people being baptized and getting awards, but living in what he calls a “Christian bubble.” “There was a day when I sat down and realized I knew no lost people. None at all. I thought, ‘how can this be?’ so my wife and I started to pray for a heart for the lost.”

“That was a dangerous prayer to pray,” South said, “because God would now take us on a journey over the next six years—to plant a church.”

South and his family moved to Martindale to start a church. “It was not awesome at first.” He experienced many struggles as he realized that the world hates Jesus.

“Then God began to work. We started a Bible study and it grew and grew and it was great listening to the crazy questions that lost people would ask,” South added. “What was amazing was that if you reach just a few lost people, all they know are lost people. They didn’t know any Christians. The excitement of Jesus hadn’t worn off of them yet. It was intoxicating as a planter. I absolutely loved it.”
The church plant quickly grew to 200 people in worship and South felt good about that. “One morning I woke up and realized that it had all become about us again. How quickly that snuck in. Our enemy does not want you to think outside. Our enemy wants you to concentrate on yourself first and then your church. Forget the rest of the kingdom work. Forget that there are millions and billions of people dying right now apart from Christ. Only worry about yourself.”

This realization drove South and his church leadership team to wrestle and pray through what it means to be part of a global cause. “I remember thinking, ‘Am I convinced there is no hope apart from Christ? If I am convinced, then I will live my life differently. I will forget about the things of the world. I will no longer be entangled in things that do not matter. And I will lead a church that understands that.”
To make his point, South challenged the church planters to look at how local churches allocate funds to mission causes. “We have been called, especially as church planters and families that are on the frontlines of furthering the gospel, to reach Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the very ends of the earth. Yet, 99 cents of every dollar we take into our churches stays in our local church.

“Yet, we have a passion for the other three. I don’t think anyone in this room would say, ‘I’m not passionate about reaching the ends of the earth.’ I want to do those things. I want to reach my Jerusalem. I want to reach my Judea. I want to see the state of Texas reached. I want to see North America reached. I want to see the world reached.’ There is no better vehicle to do it than the Cooperative Program.”

As a young man, South saw the benefits of the Cooperative Program as he did mission work in the Middle East with a non-Southern Baptist organization. “I had to raise my own funds. I was underfunded and undertrained.” He met a Southern Baptist missionary couple there and was impressed with what he saw. “They were well-funded, well-trained. They weren’t concerned about their support. They were doing the work of the gospel with no other concerns.”

Although the task of doing the work of the gospel is great, South believes that God’s power is greater. “The task is overwhelming. It is too great for us to accomplish. The beauty is that God has called us to the impossible. God has called us to something much greater than our local area of ministry. If our heart really is for Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the very ends of the earth, you’ve got four little areas. Forget the 1 percent. Look at breaking up your church budget 25 percent each. Now that would be radically different. If we are convinced that we are the only agent God uses to reach the lost, which we should be, then our lives should look different.”

Befriending church planters helps overcome isolation

It can be lonely out there. When a new church is begun, the church planting pastor may sometimes feel isolated, especially during the initial months.

Planting new churches is a high priority for Southern Baptists. As a member of a Southern Baptist Church, you’re already involved in church planting. Your church’s contributions through the Cooperative Program and Annie Armstrong Offering helped support 750 new church plants in North America just last year. Would you go a step further, and personally encourage one church planter?

Find one
Be intentional about knowing and befriending a church planter and his family. If your church sponsors a new church, get to know that planting pastor. Otherwise, ask your pastor or a denominational leader to recommend a church planter you can encourage. You can meet planters face-to-face at your state or national Baptist convention. Click “mobilize me” or study the online church planter map at Then prayerfully select one and initiate a friendship by email.

Be an encourager
Whether that new church is across town or across the country, faithfully demonstrate your personal interest and support. Follow their newsletter, blog or website.

Give relational support. Let the church planter and his family know that you care. Send email encouragements. Take him to lunch. Ask how things are going and how you can pray for him. Listen well to discover needs and opportunities. Offer practical advice when asked. Be available if he needs you. Brainstorm with him. Enthusiastically praise God for blessings and pray with the planter about challenges.
Give prayer support. Pray for the planter weekly at a specific time, e.g. Tuesdays at 8 a.m. Inform him of your prayer commitment. Send a note to remind him that you pray. Your personal encouragement may be the fire that reignites a church planter’s joy.

Share your resources
Has God gifted you with things that could be shared to help the church? Could they use your home for a Bible study, your pool for a fellowship, or your lake home for a planning retreat or pastor getaway? Loan your tent or trailer for an event. Connect Christian friends who might offer aid, such as a banker, carpenter or CPA.

Share monetarily. Your tithe, of course, is given to your local church, but God may prompt you to give an additional monthly offering to the church plant, such as $20 or $200. Consider a one-time offering for a specific item, like a coffee pot, advertisement, or a down payment for land. Do they need Bibles, audiovisual equipment or furniture? Could you organize a garage sale to fund a church sign or musical equipment?

Encourage the planter pastor with a bookstore gift certificate or scholarship to attend a conference, SBC convention or seminary class. Do something for his family.

Share yourself
Show your personal support by visiting their worship service occasionally. Make a special effort to attend their constitution service or groundbreaking event.

Offer your skills and talents. Can you design a website, build a wall, make outreach visits, repair a toilet? Are you a gifted musician or an experienced Vacation Bible School teacher? Can you clean, organize, paint or type? If the church is in another state, can you organize a mission trip for an outreach event, survey or building project? Could your vocation or hobby be used to help the church?

A new church needs a quality core group. If God leads, would you relocate to the church plant area to help for a few years or months? If your employment can be done from any location, could you serve as a Bible teacher or greeter or technical support person? Could you invest retirement years there? If God calls you, he’ll provide a way. n

—Diana Davis is an author, speaker and wife of NAMB’s vice president for the Southern region. She and her husband helped plant several churches.

SBTC volunteers endured second wave of Oklahoma tornadoes

MOORE, Okla.—Wayne and Ann Barber didn’t start out to be storm chasers but it seems to have worked out that way.

The SBTC Disaster Relief volunteers deployed to Moore, Okla., from their East Texas home in Jasper on May 26. Last Friday (May 31), they found themselves “hunkered down in the hallway” of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, riding out the second wave of tornadoes to strike the Oklahoma City area in two weeks, Wayne Barber told the TEXAN.

Five tornadoes were confirmed in the Oklahoma City area on Friday, NBC News reported. At last count, nine adults and five children died in that day’s storms. One of Friday’s tornadoes turned south and swept through Moore, the area ravaged 11 days earlier by a massive EF-5 tornado that killed 24 people.

One of Friday’s tornadoes passed over Southern Hills Baptist Church, just a couple of miles north of west Moore, Wayne Barber said. Southern Hills was hosting the SBTC DR volunteers.

The clouds Friday afternoon seemed threatening, prompting DR workers and others to seek shelter, Wayne Barber said.

“One of the tornadoes went right over the church. It destroyed a little bit of the steeple. People started banging on the church doors. A lot of people were caught in this. We let people in,” he said.

Some 75-80 people sought refuge in the church, including DR workers, people from the neighborhood and stranded motorists, Wayne Barber explained.

“We heard there were four tornadoes within a 10-mile radius of the church,” he added.

One of the tornadoes crisscrossed the area where SBTC DR workers had cleared debris through the week. The tornado scattered much of the debris, which had been stacked up.

“We got home [to Jasper] on Saturday. We decided we had had all the tornadoes we wanted and we were coming home,” he quipped. The couple approached Dallas only to find tornado warnings in effect. They continued south to Jasper, where early Sunday morning a storm hit, knocking out electricity.

“It’s been a rough week,” Wayne Barber said. 

But it was a fruitful week as well.

On Monday, two people accepted Christ. Ann Barber led a 15-year-old girl to Christ and later that afternoon Wayne Barber led a man to Christ who lived across the street from the girl.

The 54-year-old man’s wife had died two years before. “He said that his life was just empty. He had nothing,” Wayne Barber related.

“If the Lord had taken you home during this storm, do you know where you would spend eternity?” Wayne asked the man, whose name was Tracy.

“I’ve been thinking a bunch. No, I wouldn’t,” Tracy replied.

“Would you like to know?” Wayne Barber asked.

“Yes, I’ve been thinking a bunch about that, too,” Tracy answered.

“He was just ready. He was ready to be picked. The Lord just sent us there. We just shared with him. He went with us to share with his neighbor. He was so empty and exhausted; now he was full. He was totally different,” Wayne Barber related.

The Barbers gave Tracy a Bible supplied by their home church, Hillcrest Baptist of Jasper. He confirmed that he had begun reading it enthusiastically, according to the Barbers.

Stories of faith that was confirmed and even rekindled abound as well.

Another man told the Barbers he hadn’t prayed in 42 years. The man, Tracy’s neighbor, told DR volunteers he had accepted Christ at age 7 but an unfortunate experience with his parents on the mission field left him bitter towards God, he said.

When the tornado struck, the man and his wife got in their bathtub. The storm damaged the tub but spared the couple. During the tornado, the man who hadn’t prayed in four decades asked the Lord to forgive him. “He told us he said, ‘Lord, if you want to take me, please take me fast and easy. But if you don’t, I’ll turn to you from now on,’” Wayne Barber stated.

“He was ready to share the Lord. He was so glad we had come by. He could not wait to share his story with us.”

Wayne said he also got to pray with an 83-year-old biker known for being cantankerous. The biker and his wife sought refuge in a closet during the May 20 tornado. “Their home was totally destroyed and they were under all of the debris,” Wayne Barber said. A neighbor rescued the couple.

He asked the crusty gentleman about his faith.

“He said that when he was 21 years old, he had accepted Christ as his savior but he never read his Bible and had never gone to church. He had never worshiped God or served him until now. We gave him a Bible and he was excited about that,” Wayne Barber said.

“He may have already been a Christian, but he is a stronger Christian today,” Wayne remarked. “He was proud of his new Bible; he was protecting that.”

The words of one tornado victim, a middle-aged believer who had also survived the 1999 tornado that devastated Moore, inspired Ann Barber, who said the couple lost everything then and again this time.

The two-time victim’s response of faith was simply this: “I feel fresh and renewed. It’s like being saved. The past is washed away and we are going to start afresh and anew and not worry about all the things we have lost,” Ann Barber explained in quoting the woman.

“We also prayed with a lot of the policemen who were there,” Ann Barber said. “Quite a few told us they were Christians. They said, ‘I couldn’t do this job if I didn’t know Christ.’”

The Barbers haven’t been home much lately. They volunteered after the fertilizer plant explosion in West, assisting SBTC efforts to aid victims there. They spent a week at DR training before deploying to Oklahoma.

The couple even celebrated their 48th wedding anniversary in Moore on May 28.

“Two people had accepted Christ that Monday.  We thought that was the greatest anniversary present we’d ever had,” Wayne Barber said.

SBTC DR teams were continuing their work with Baptist groups in the Moore area this week. Chaplains, clean-up/recovery and chainsaw teams have rotated in and out.

Meanwhile, the lights were back on at Southern Hills Baptist Church following Friday’s storm. The church held only one service on Sunday, but VBS began on Monday.

Veteran messenger and local writer offer advice on enjoying Houston

Editor’s Note: Tracy Barber of Farmersville was 11 when she flew with her parents from Ft. Lauderdale to Dallas to attend her first Southern Baptist Convention meeting. Now she and husband Bart continue to take their two children every year without fail. We asked Tracy to pose questions for which she seeks answers as she anticipates preparing the family for an enjoyable SBC travel experience. TEXAN writer Bonnie Pritchett of Nassau Bay fills in the gaps with answers from her time in Houston and tips of a local hotel concierge Tim Hess.

Tracy: As the hotel door closes I’m thinking about taking a nap, but the kids have a different idea. The questions come non-stop from my daughter. When can we go eat? Is it time to go to the children’s museum? Are our friends here yet? Can we please ride with them to go to the aquarium? All my son wants to know is when he can go swimming.

Bonnie: Before I get to all of those important questions, consider hiring a teenager who will be in town with another Southern Baptist family to be on call as needed if you forgot to take advantage of childcare and day camps available by reservation.

Tracy:  Where is the closest restaurant with kid friendly food?

Bonnie: This part of the metropolis has been redeveloped for folks—single or couples with small well-groomed pets, not children—who can’t get enough concrete and car exhaust in their diet. The conspicuous absence of restaurants with children’s playscapes is, I’m guessing here, by design. There is a McDonald’s with a playplace in the next zip code over two miles away. Your best bet may be Hubcap Grill about 10 blocks away at 1111 Prairie.

No problem. Tracy already has Jason’s Deli mapped out at McKinney and Travis.

Tracy:  While I’m in Houston how do I know where to find the best Tex-Mex or barbeque?

Bonnie: This is an important question so I’m wondering why you listed it so far down in your query. The original Ninfa’s  (2704 Navigation Blvd) is about a mile and a half away. Houston’s First Pastor Gregg Matte adds that it is the birthplace of fajitas. Tracy is partial to Pappasito’s, (2536 Richmond Avenue). Chuy’s 2706 Westheimer Road) is Bonnie’s preference and Lupe Tortilla (2414 Southwest Freeway) is another popular pick.

For barbecue, Bonnie’s concierge friend from the Triple A 5 Diamond St. Regis Hotel recommends Pappa’s BBQ and Goode Company scattered throughout Houston. Tracy has Luling City Market on her radar at 4726 Richmond Street near the Galleria area. While in that same area, Gregg Matte recommends seeing the Williams Tower Water Wall at 2800 Post Oak Blvd.  Gary and Tammi Ledbetter are more interested in Pappa’s Seafood House (11301 I-45 N) since good Tex-Mex is abundantly available on the ride down and Rudy’s is already a Sunday ritual for lunch.

Tracy:  I really don’t like driving in city traffic so can I get around downtown without driving my car?

Bonnie: A cab should cost only about $6 to get from one point to another in downtown Houston according to Hess. There is parking-lot-turned-green space right across the street from the convention center called Discovery Green covering 12 acres. Take the kiddos there and cue Andy Williams singing “Born Free.” Check out

Tracy found additional resources at and for travel to the zoo and museum. There are rail stops downtown and at the zoo, but it’s an easy drive as long as you avoid rush hour timeframe. But keep in mind the humidity level in the summer in Houston. Tunnel and skywalk information along with trolley details are accessed at

Bonnie adds that this is also a good resource for what to do with a passel of squirming little ones or adventuresome teenagers:

Tracy: How do the trolleys, tunnels, and trains work here?

Tracy already has found additional resources at and MetroRail schedules at for travel to the zoo and museums. Tunnel and skywalk information along with trolley details are accessed at

Tracy: Are there any museums, aquariums, zoos, or historical sites that we need to see while we are in this part of the country?

Bonnie: I recommend the free water play space at the Downtown Aquarium restaurant (beneath the Pierce elevated bridge) which is part of the Landry’s chain. Finding the zoo requires knowledge of the bus route or the courage to drive in Houston traffic. The zoo boasts a wide variety of attractions, some free, some not. Adjacent to the park is Miller Outdoor Theater (Saturday’s production is Jacques Offenbach’s La Vie Parisienne. Hillside seating is free. Check for details.) If an operetta about life in Paris isn’t your idea of fun, then let the kids roll down the hillside adjacent to the theater. It’s free and good for a laugh … until the kids collide and require medical attention. Not to worry! You’re only blocks from the world renowned Houston Medical Center.

Tours of Minute Maid Park, home of the working-on-the-great-fairy-tale-comeback Astros are available during the weekdays. Go to for details. The team plays out of town during the convention otherwise you could score some really cheap seats.

Pick up LifeWay’s Facts&Trends in the exhibit area for a long list of recommendations for enjoying Houston, adding a free view of the downtown skyline from the tallest building west of the Mississippi on the JP Morgan Chase Tower Observation Deck. For history buffs Facts&Trends Managing Editor Polly House steers folks to the historic district of 1800’s-era architecture, tree-lined streets and an eclectic mix of sidewalk cafes and shops. Allen’s Landing is the Plymouth Rock of Houston where August C. and John K. Allen stepped ashore in 1836 to claim Houston as their own. It’s where Buffalo and White Oak bayous come together as Houston’s first port.

Tracy: I don’t want to get home and find out we missed the best children’s museum.

Bonnie: Houston’s Children Museum (, 1500 Binz, 713.522.1138) has been rated number one by Parent Magazine and it has recently expanded.

Tracy also is considering side trips to a few of these: the Space Center Houston (, 1601 NASA Pkwy, Houston, 281.244.2100), San Jacinto Monument (, One Monument Circle, La Porte, 281.479.2421), Battleship Texas (, 3523 Independence Pkwy. South, La Porte, 281.479.2431), and the Holocaust Museum (, 5401 Caroline St., Houson, 713.942.800). The Cockrell Butterfly Center is situated next to the Houston Museum of Natural Science (, 5555 Hermann Park Drive, Houston, 713.639.4629) and features a simulated rainforest, thousands of colorful butterflies and a dramatic 50-foot waterfall.

Tracy: Of course we have to fit all these extras around the pastor’s conference and annual meeting so how long do I need to plan for each site? After paying for lodging, travel, and meals this week we need to save money where we can.

Bonnie: Go to for discount deals, including a “two for Tuesday” special at the aquarium. And don’t forget to take advantage of the Exhibit Hall where many displays cater to kids and candy dishes are overflowing.

Tracy: The questions are still coming from the kids as all these questions run through my mind. Is it time to eat yet? When do we get to go to childcare at the convention? Will my friends from last year be there? Can we get in the pool yet? Mom, did you pack my swimsuit?

Tracy knows it’s time to find the closest Wal-Mart to solve that swimsuit issue. While not necessarily the closest, locals recommend the Wal-Mart at 9555 South Post Oak Road to the southwest off Loop 610. And it’s not too early to enter the dates for next year’s SBC in Baltimore, Md., June 10-11 and for 2015 in Columbus, Ohio, June 16-17.