Month: August 2021

FIRST-PERSON: The ‘ugly cry’ of college goodbyes

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (BP) – My daughter just left for college, and I’ve mysteriously developed “ugly cry” syndrome. A friend tells me the correlation is not coincidental.

I should have seen it coming. Not too long ago I heard a pastor tell a young couple with a newborn to make the most of every opportunity because “the days are long, but the years are short.” I’ve learned over the past week the magnitude of that colossal understatement.

My wife and I just settled our only child at a university in Los Angeles. As she blended into the sea of people in her orientation group, all I could think about was walking her to the corner near our house wearing her little rubber boots to splash in puddles when she was 2. I’m not certain how fast light speed is but I’m pretty sure the past 18 years qualifies.

Seeing her turn and walk toward her future left me an emotional mess. I’m bordering on a meltdown just writing this. I felt the heavy weight of impending loss pressing on my soul the week leading up to our journey from Nashville to L.A. I couldn’t shake it. “Surely,” I thought, “Surely Scripture can offer a word of comfort.” The Lord must have led me to Ecclesiastes because that is certainly not the book I’d normally choose when seeking a spiritual lift.

Ecclesiastes didn’t change the reality of our daughter being 2,000 miles away, but it offered biblical truth that’s steered my soul toward stable ground and made me think of other biblical truths that have strengthened me for the journey. Here are my five takeaways. Hopefully they might help you if you’re paddling a similar boat at this stage of life.

The seasons change. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” As surely as summer drifts into fall, it was inevitable that our child would drift from our home and into a new season of life. That’s the way God designed it. Ecclesiastes 7:13 affirms it. “Accept the way God does things, for who can straighten what he has made crooked?” These two verses stabilized my shaky spirit. Since I can’t change the changing seasons, I will embrace them.
I must trust God’s sovereignty and not my parenting. I’m discovering it doesn’t matter how much I think I’ve invested in my child; I still feel there is more I should have done. God reminded me her future does not depend on me, it depends on Him. “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps” (Proverbs 16:9). God knew our child in eternity past, created her, and has a plan and a purpose for her present and future apart from her mom and me.
Wisdom is refined by the weight of individual choice. Jeremiah 6:16 was the dedication verse we chose for our daughter when she was a baby: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” She’s heard this verse her entire life. Wisdom comes from seeking God and following His direction. God promises there is a good ending to walking in His good way, but our daughter must walk that path herself (with our distant cheers of support and parental wisdom when sought).
I need to see her for who she is becoming and not for who she was when she left home. People change as well as seasons. If I don’t expect to see a more spiritually, mentally and emotionally matured person as the months pass, I’ve significantly underestimated my daughter and God working in her “both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
I need to continually celebrate God’s grace. The Bible reminds us to “remember the Lord our God” and all His favorable actions extended to His people. I have been thinking about so many specific instances of God’s grace over nearly 19 years with our daughter. Past grace gives me confidence that God’s grace will certainly continue into the future.

Seeing my child turn and walk toward her future without her mom and me is probably the most difficult experience I’ve had as a parent. But seeing my child turn and walk toward the future God has prepared for her is also one of my proudest moments as her daddy.

Students head back to campus for in-person learning

As college students head back to campus this fall throughout Texas and the U.S., many will again encounter the now familiar norms of social distancing and COVID protocols. Still, in-person learning is on the agenda for many schools, including the Texas Southern Baptist institutions featured here.

The TEXAN interviewed representatives of Criswell College, Jacksonville College, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and its undergraduate institution, Texas Baptist College, to see what’s new on campus for fall 2021.



The new Stanton-Ouellette residence hall will house Criswell students this fall. Photo submitted.
Criswell College: new residence hall and programs

The new campus year will mark the first fall semester and first academic year with the Mary L.A. Stanton-Lance Ouellette residence hall occupied by students, said Luis Juarez, Criswell dean of students.

“Having a residence hall on campus means students have a better opportunity to get to know one another and our faculty and staff,” Juárez said, adding that plans for students include “regular spiritual and social gatherings and community service projects” to “represent the gospel in the heart of Dallas.” An added bonus: community kitchens on each floor of the hall will provide opportunities for students to prepare and share meals.

This fall will also mark the second year of Criswell 360°, a curricular and non-curricular program that equips every student to be an “ambassador, cultivator, peacemaker, problem-solver and professional,” Juárez said. For example, the Sophomore Summit retreat at the beginning of the school year will culminate in a service and learning experience in the Middle East at year’s end.

The school’s student government is expected to remain active, Juárez said. Among academic societies, 2021-22 also marks the first full year on campus for Psi Chi, the national honor society for psychology and counseling students.

In addition to Juárez becoming dean of students, changes in academic leadership include the appointment of Sarah Spring to direct the Associate of Arts program, and Jeffery Campbell to direct the Master of Divinity program, said Kyle Hamby, head of admissions.

January 1 will mark the launch of a new campaign to reach students outside Texas, also, Hamby said

Meanwhile, COVID protocols remain at the ready.

“We have been intentional and safe about COVID since quarantine began, and after opening campus with no campus spread since,” Juárez said, adding that the college would monitor rising cases and act appropriately to ensure the safety of students and staff.

“At this time, since vaccines are readily available, we have asked our staff and students to take back the primary responsibility for their safety—meaning we foresee no requirement for masks or social distancing in the coming year. Of course, we encourage vaccines for everyone, and masks, good hygiene, and distance for anyone with concerns for themselves or others,” Juárez said.

“The pandemic taught us the value of online engagement,” Hamby said, noting that enrollment in Criswell’s online graduate programs has increased dramatically. Hamby described the success of the promotional video unveiled at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, adding that a virtual tour of the campus is in the works. Meanwhile, as admissions staff meets with prospective future students, they have practiced social distancing and careful interactions.

Juárez said he hopes the new academic year will bring about the “best” opportunity yet for Criswell students to “serve one another, the churches we support and the community in which we learn.”

“Post-COVID education is a real thing … and [will be] an ongoing process,” Hamby added. “My hope is to continue maximizing new ways to recruit this generation that has been through high school and middle school for a year now, learning remotely online.

Jacksonville College's Buckner Chapel was among the facilities renovated this summer in preparation for the new campus year. Photo submitted.
Jacksonville College: new president, renovated campus

Joe Lightner’s first day as president of Jacksonville College was July 16. The school’s former vice president for executive affairs, who succeeded retiring president Mike Smith, hit the ground running—or hammering—in his new role.

The summer proved to be a time for campus improvement through the college’s 52-Day Campaign: Rebuilding for Fall, the new president said.

Summers have long been the occasion of getting ready for fall, Lightner explained, as staff and volunteers have pitched in. But summer 2021 saw an increase of volunteer help as staff, alumni, community volunteers, churches and other partners sent teams to assist.

Lightner said about 150 people throughout the summer donated their time. The response to the college’s online posting of opportunities was both surprising and gratifying, he said, adding that future plans for more structured work camps that groups and churches can sign up for are in the works.

“This summer’s campaign was designed to renovate and prepare space for beds, classrooms and offices that will accommodate the highest projected fall residential enrollment in recent history,” Lightner said. “We are prepared to be at full occupancy.”

Lightner added that the “majority of the summer work was subsidized by the SBTC’s generous grant recently given to the college.”

With COVID-19 still a challenge, Lightner said the increased space created by the 52 Day Campaign will enable the college to make adjustments needed to manage the pandemic in the fall.

Students coming to Jacksonville College in the fall will find the Collins women’s residence hall completely renovated. Work has been done on Buckner Chapel and reno begun on Meadows Hall, traditionally a classroom space, but in the process of being converted for dual use for instruction and housing.

Lightner said the college will focus on its essential principles—the 5 Ps: programming, processes, people, partners and property, as Jacksonville prepares for the next two decades.

“Since 1899, God has drawn students to the college from all over our state, nation and world to receive a quality education and experience spiritual transformation,” Lightner said. “The immorality of today’s culture is a reminder of the relevance of our college’s vision to capture the mind and heart of students for Christ.”

Remaining the same will be JC’s “robust” participation in a dozen men’s and women’s NJCAA sports, where the Jaguars compete in the Region XIV against the likes of Tyler Junior College, Trinity Valley, and others. The school also offers several clubs and organizations for students.

Students gather in on the steps of the Robert E. Naylor Student Center at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Photo provided.
Southwestern and Texas Baptist College: new faculty, new degrees

“The Lord is doing a fresh and marvelous work here on Seminary Hill,” Adam Greenway, Southwestern president, told seminary trustees during their spring meeting.

According to information provided by the seminary, the new academic year brings a new budget for 2021-2022 of $34.4 million, an increase of 11.5 percent over the prior year and 5.3 percent more than 2019-2020.

New faculty coming to Southwestern this fall include Ian Buntain, associate professor of missions and director of the World Mission Center; Mark McClellan, professor of missions and director of Hispanic Programs; Ashley Allen, assistant professor of women’s ministries; Jonathan Okinaga, assistant professor of biblical counseling; Jacob Shatzer, associate professor of Christian ethics; and Travis Trawick, associate provost and assistant professor of theology.

Also new this fall will be a partnership between Southwestern and Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, which will permit participants in the Prestonwood Internship Program to earn up to 26 hours of academic credit toward three different degrees at the seminary.

This fall marks the first semester of Texas Baptist College as the new name of the undergraduate school of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. A new vision statement was also announced: “Texas Baptist College exists to glorify God by providing trustworthy Christian higher education for more faithful Kingdom service,” as well as three core distinctives: Christ-centered, Scripture-driven and student-focused.

About the new name, Greenway said, “When others run away from our Baptist identity and distinctives, we’re going to run toward and embrace these things because we believe being Baptist means something valuable.”

In January, educator and pastor Benjamin M. Skaug was named dean of the school. Four new TBC faculty recently appointed include M. Todd Bates, professor of philosophy and associate dean; Blake McKinney, assistant professor of history; Joshua M. Philpot, assistant professor of biblical studies; and Justin Wainscott, assistant professor of Christian ministry and director of discipleship and campus ministries.

Two new associate and bachelor’s degrees have been added to the college academic program: Associate of Arts in Christian Studies and Associate of Arts in Humanities; Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies and Bachelor of Arts in Humanities. Altogether, the college offers 10 different degree programs, including three combination bachelor and master’s degrees, which may be earned in five years.

The college recently awarded its first prize in the Christian Worldview Scholarship Essay Contest to Jack Hickman from Denton, who won the Presidential Scholarship, receiving full tuition, room and board, and books for his essay answering the question, “Why should a Christian study at a distinctively Christian college?”

The fall semester began Aug. 16. Semester events at Southwestern Seminary and Texas Baptist College will include a return to chapel worship two days each week; Global Missions Week, Sept. 13-17; Preaching and Teaching Galatians Conference, Sept. 27-28; Preview Days, Oct. 22-23; hosting events related to the Evangelical Theological Society annual meeting being held in Fort Worth, Nov. 16-18; and Fall Commencement, Dec. 3.

Concerning the pandemic, the seminary provided this statement to the TEXAN, “At press time, Southwestern Seminary is evaluating options in response to an increase in COVID-19 cases in Tarrant County, with an announcement expected before the beginning of the semester.”

Greenway has indicated there are no plans to require vaccinations for students, faculty, and staff, although he has strongly encouraged vaccination, unless personal medical reasons dictate otherwise. 

47 kidnapped Baptist students freed in Nigeria, but attacks on Christians continue

Nigeria Map Pin image

KADUNA, Nigeria (BP) – An additional 47 Nigerian Baptist school students kidnapped in July have been released, leaving captive 31 of the more than 120 originally taken, the Christian Association of Nigeria reported Saturday (Aug. 28).

Bandits previously described as Fulani herdsmen released 32 Bethel Baptist High School to their parents Friday, school administrator and pastor John Hayab told the News Agency of Nigeria in Kaduna, but the reason for the release was not stated.

“The parents were advised to immediately take their wards to the hospital for medical checkup, as they were very sick and exhausted,” Vanguard News quoted Hayab. “The children looked so weak, sick and tired.”

Earlier on Aug. 22, kidnappers returned 15 Bethel students to their parents who paid ransoms of perhaps $2,500 each, Hayab told Reuters.

Meanwhile, religious leaders have lamented ongoing violence in Nigeria, describing the country as under a “national emergency.”

Among the latest attacks, militant Fulani herdsmen killed an estimated 36 people Aug. 24 in an attack near the University of Jos in Plateau, south of Kaduna, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reported Friday (Aug. 27).

“Indigenous ethno-religious minorities are being targeted in a relentless campaign of violence which involves decimation, displacement and demographic alteration,” CSW spokesperson Kiri Kankhwende said, “and which accelerates during farming or harvesting seasons, indicating a deliberate effort to engineer starvation and complete economic disempowerment.”

In early August, Stephen Baba Panya, president of Evangelical Church Winning All, decried that militant Fulani herdsmen had killed at least 70 people over the previous two weeks in farming communities in Plateau state and southern Kaduna.

The killings include at least 19 people in the Batsari Local Government Area and 26 people in Zamfara state in early July, Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported. The killings appear to be in addition to at least 33 people killed in six days of attacks following the July 5 kidnapping at the Bethel Baptist school. In those attacks, terrorists have killed civilians and burned four churches and hundreds of nearby homes, witnesses told CSW.

In the Bethel kidnapping, the freed students comprise the second and third groups released after some 70 suspected Fulani herdsmen kidnapped as many as 179 children July 5 from the school in northern Nigeria. Many initially escaped their captors or were quickly recovered within hours of the kidnapping, but about 125 remained in bondage.

A month ago, kidnappers released 28 students to parents after demanding ransoms of about $1,200 per student, but the reason for the students’ release was not disclosed.

The Bethel kidnapping was at least the fourth such abduction in Kaduna schools in the last six months as security continues to deteriorate in the region. While kidnappings were originally the mark of Boko Haram terrorists, bandits and other terrorists are now following suit for ransoms.

“The rising levels (of) violence and instability being endured by Nigerian civilians constitute a national emergency,” Yunusa Nmadu, CEO of CSW Nigeria, has said. “However, we are yet to see a sense of urgency and the political will on the part of the authorities to formulate and enact the effective and comprehensive security strategy that is needed to stem the kidnappings and attacks on people who are simply trying to get on with normal life as best they can.

“This situation is an existential threat to Nigeria and risks the stability of the entire region. We continue to call on the Nigerian authorities, both state and federal, to equip and direct the security forces to rescue abductees in a timely manner, including the abducted students; to protect vulnerable communities, and to restore order in Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara and throughout the country.”

Southern Baptists prepare response to massive Hurricane Ida

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) – Sixteen years to the day after Katrina’s historic landfall, Hurricane Ida arrived in Port Fourchon, La., around noon Sunday (Aug. 29) as a Category 4 storm. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) teams will start assessing damage and preparing their response today.

Send Relief volunteers Mike and Dana Ellis delivered crisis response supplies so that they could be pre-staged for use by Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. Send Relief photo

With 150 mph winds, Ida is one of the strongest storms to hit the mainland United States. By Monday morning, the storm finally decreased to a tropical storm and is expected to track across the Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee before continuing its northeastern trajectory into New England and back out into the Atlantic.

“We hurt with the people of Louisiana and Mississippi, particularly Louisiana after they were hit so hard last year by hurricanes Laura and Delta,” said Coy Webb, disaster response director for Send Relief. “We pray for them and know how difficult it is for them.”

SBDR and Send Relief, the compassion ministry arm for Southern Baptists, anticipate a major crisis response. Already, SBDR volunteer teams from Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and North Carolina are on standby to serve in Louisiana. Some teams began driving and sheltered just outside of the storm’s path so they could respond more rapidly.

Louisiana SBDR teams began conducting their assessments as soon as they were able Monday to prepare to welcome in outside SBDR teams to assist with the response. Mississippi disaster relief teams anticipate working primarily in their state, at least initially, Webb said.

“We appreciate our great Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers who are preparing to roll in and the many who have already started rolling in,” Webb said. “We are grateful for the help and healing they are always ready to provide after disaster events.”

So far, SBDR expects to set up multiple kitchens across the affected areas, each with the capacity to prepare at least 10,000 meals a day. As assessments continue, those locations are still being determined. Those needs are expected to ramp up as those who have evacuated return to assess the damage done to their homes and property as widespread power outages persist.

Send Relief delivered initial supplies – temporary rolled roofing, meals and other supplies – on Friday (Aug. 27) ahead of the storm. An additional semi-truck was being loaded Monday from a Send Relief ministry center in Ashland, Ky., to send more temporary roofing, 175,000 meals, flood recovery supplies, chainsaw fuel and generators along with other resources.

The Send Relief truck should reach affected areas by Wednesday (Sept. 1), dropping supplies first in Mississippi on its way south to provide support to SBDR in Louisiana.

So far, damage has not been as widespread as initially projected, but that could mean those who did get hit were hit much harder, said Sam Porter, national director of SBDR with Send Relief. With multiple teams on standby, SBDR expects to assist with the recovery for several weeks.

“Southern Baptists served for two and a half months following Hurricanes Laura and Delta,” said Porter. “We were there right after it hit in August, and we did not close up shop until November. Once we get there, we will be there for the long haul.”

Stan Statham, Louisiana’s SBDR director, and Hubert Yates, SBDR director for Mississippi Baptists, requested prayer for their teams as they survey damage and plan to respond to those in need.

Those looking to support Send Relief and SBDR can give through the Send Relief website or give directly to Louisiana SBDR or Mississippi SBDR.

Houston’s First Baptist partners with IMB for ministry partnerships conference

IMB’s South Asia leadership and Houston’s First Baptist Church will host two free missions mobilization events, An Intro to South Asia and Becoming a Sending Church, Oct. 4-5, to highlight the lostness in South Asia and how local churches can partner in the “no place left” vision.

As an epicenter for lostness, South Asia’s need for laborers grows daily.  These mobilization events offer local churches the opportunity to see how they can get involved.

At Intro to South Asia, participants will learn about the biblical foundation for missions as a priority, South Asia field realities, the IMB’s Affinity of South Asian Peoples vision and strategy with stories from the field, and ways local churches can get involved through prayer, projects, partnerships, and pipelines for sending.  Intro to South Asia will be held Oct. 4 from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Houston’s First Baptist Church.

Becoming a Sending Church will focus on biblical missiology, a brief overview of the South Asia vision and strategy, team structure in South Asia, a brief report of the progress of the core missionary task, gaps and needs, priorities for goers and senders including a pipeline case study, and a job fair. Participants can meet South Asia affinity leadership to discuss specific jobs. Becoming a Sending Church will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. on October 4 and 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 5 at Houston’s First Baptist Church.

Preregistration is required for both An Intro to South Asia and Becoming a Sending Church, and seats are limited.  For information about how to register, email:

SBTC DR teams head to Louisiana as Hurricane Ida hits on Katrina anniversary

FOREST HILL, La.  Sixteen years ago to the day following Hurricane Katrina’s landfall in Louisiana, Hurricane Ida struck the Bayou State with a vengeance on Sunday, Aug. 29. Even before the storm hit, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief volunteers deployed while others prepared to do so, SBTC DR Director Scottie Stice told the TEXAN. A command post and incident management team left Texas on Aug. 29 for the Tall Timbers Baptist Conference Center at Forest Hill, La.  There they will assist Louisiana Baptist DR to coordinate statewide efforts. A mass feeding unit from the Unity Association is scheduled to leave Monday, Aug. 30 to support Salvation Army efforts at the Lamar Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, La.  The feeding volunteers will be joined by an SBTC DR shower and laundry unit.  Also departing Aug. 30 for Louisiana will be a chainsaw unit from Beaumont’s Calvary Baptist. The chainsaw volunteers will help clear downed trees. All other ministry areas are at alert status, Stice said. Teams will adhere to current COVID-19 protocols, he added. Stice asked for prayer for the following:
  • DR volunteers as they serve Louisiana and other affected states
  • SBTC DR volunteers and the Salvation Army personnel as they serve survivors in Gonzales
  • Protection for all from COVID-19
  • Opportunities to share the gospel
SBTC DR: a Louisiana legacy Sixteen years ago, the devastation of Katrina also marked the first major deployment of SBTC DR, the now familiar—and 6,000 strong—yellow hats and yellow shirts joining 41 other state Baptist DR teams to bring hope, help and healing in crisis. Gibbie McMillan—who later became Louisiana Baptist DR director—was the SBTC DR director during Katrina. Stice recalled being sent to Baton Rouge by McMillan with a recovery unit from Uvalde to do mud out and chainsaw work. “We built off his shoulders,” Stice said of McMillan who died earlier in August of COVID-19. “Now we will have another chance to assist our friends in Louisiana.”

SBTC Annual Meeting Nov. 8-9 will honor Richards, focus on God’s faithfulness

GRAPEVINE—The 2021 Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Annual Meeting Nov. 8-9 at Flint Baptist Church, just south of Tyler, will focus on a short yet powerful theme: “But God,” two words conveying the majesty and power of the heavenly Father in the midst of human struggle. 

While the phrase occurs at the beginning of Ephesians 2:4-10—the Scripture for the annual meeting—“But God” appears hundreds of times in the Bible, Jim Richards, SBTC executive director emeritus, told the TEXAN. “Many of these references point us to the assurance that God can change anything regardless of the circumstances. Even when the situation does not change, God can change us,” he added.

SBTC Executive Director Nathan Lorick echoed his predecessor’s thoughts: “Over the last few months there have been many moments when people felt hopeless and weary. However, as difficult as this season has been for so many, God has continued to show himself faithful.”

Indeed, “in the midst of our difficult moments, when all seemed chaotic and uncertain, there have been many ‘But God’ moments,” Lorick added. “This is our heart for this meeting, that we would be ever mindful that in our trials, God will be faithful,” he said.

For Richards and Lorick, the annual meeting will be a celebration of the many “But God” moments in the prior year: a reminder that, as Richards said, “when we face future challenges … God is in control.”

Monday dinner to honor Richards

Monday evening, Nov. 8, will kick off with a celebratory dinner honoring Richards and conclude with a reception welcoming Lorick, both held at Flint Baptist Church, along with the opening sessions of the annual meeting.

The dinner honoring the ministry of Richards will begin at 4:45 p.m. The outdoor event will take place under a tent erected for that purpose on the church property and feature special guests celebrating what God has done during Richards’ lifetime of ministry. The event is free, but space is limited. Those wishing to attend should register as soon as possible.

The welcome reception for Lorick will follow the evening’s program, which will feature messages from Richards and Lorick.

Tuesday highlights

In addition to the business of the convention, Tuesday will feature several special events.

The Tuesday morning schedule includes alumni breakfasts hosted by Criswell College, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. That morning will also feature a panel discussion on “Persecution of the Church in America.”

SBTC President Kie Bowman, pastor of Austin’s Hyde Park Baptist Church, will also deliver his address Tuesday morning.

Guests will grab boxed meals and attend breakout sessions at lunchtime. Bowman will moderate a panel entitled “Keeping the Basic: Evangelism and Prayer.” Tony Wolfe, SBTC associate executive director will moderate a panel discussing “After COVID: Rebuilding the Pastor and the Church.” Spencer Plumlee and Matt Boswell will lead a Young Pastors Network panel on worship.

Tuesday evening will include both a fellowship dinner and a dinner sponsored by Missional Ministries at which Jarrett Stephens will speak. A prayer service that night will feature Boswell leading in praise and worship.

Before the meeting

Prior to the annual meeting, a Spanish session will be held Sunday, Nov. 7, at Primera Iglesia Bautista in Pittsburg. Additionally, SBTC en Español will host a Spanish lunch panel at Flint Baptist prior to the annual meeting events on Monday, Nov. 8. 

Speakers for both Spanish-language events will be Rafael Rondón, Spanish associate pastor at Fielder Church in Arlington; George Levant, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida en Jesus in Laredo, and Joshua Del Risco, founder of The Rock Ministries.

IPE—Interim Pastors Equipping—training will also be offered Monday.

Childcare will be provided.

Register at 

Afghanistan refugee crisis offers opportunity for churches

GRAPEVINE  “Crisis equals opportunity for the gospel every time,” SBTC DR Director Scottie Stice told the TEXAN, quoting Abraham Shepherd of Send Relief.

The current Afghan evacuation crisis may be just such an occasion.

As Afghan refugees arrive in the U.S., they are going to settle in the U.S. This will create an opportunity for Southern Baptist churches to minister, Stice said.

Stice recalled a similar time of turmoil which occurred following the fall of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam conflict.

“Southeast Asians were airlifted by the U.S. military through the Philippines to be resettled in the states. Churches and Christian organizations helped in that resettlement, and today there are Vietnamese and Asian congregations throughout Texas and the U.S.,” Stice said.

“The Afghan resettlement may present a comparable opportunity,” he added.

Stice said he envisioned churches adopting Afghan families to help them resettle, providing many gospel opportunities. There may be chances to assist schools and teachers assimilate the refugees to life in a new country.

“Housing, school, language, American life…there are all kinds of things we can help with.”

“Housing, school, language, American life…there are all kinds of things we can help with,” Stice said of the prospects of meeting the physical, spiritual and emotional needs of the newcomers.

The following Send Relief links show churches know how to assist, Stice noted.

“The Church’s Guide to Ministering to Refugees” is a multi-page download from Send Relief that offers a sound introduction to refugee resettlement from a biblical perspective. The booklet discusses needs of refugees in the long and short term and suggests how pastors and churches can help. The download is available at

Stice said that churches had already contacted SBTC DR about how to help. While plans are in progress, he has directed those needing more information or wishing to donate to visit the following Send Relief page.

Stice confirmed that Josh Benton, vice president of North American Ministry, Send Relief, indicated that NAMB is working with World Relief, an evangelical resettlement agency that they frequently partner with. The biggest current need is for churches to assist the resettled families. 

NAMB will be adding to the resources available to churches, Stice added.

Benton also noted that World Relief does not have offices in every city, and churches may wish to contact other local relief agencies. A list of these may be obtained from the Refugee Council U.S.A. at

How might SBTC churches help? Tony Mathews, SBTC senior strategist for Missional Ministries, offered a few possibilities.

Congregations have teachers, counselors and other professionals who serve in school districts where Afghan students might be placed, Mathews told the TEXAN, adding, “This presents an opportunity to establish relationships with these kids and their parents who may have never been exposed to the love of Christ.”

Mathews admitted that “cultural distinctives” will be among the “major challenges,” but that churches can educate members on Afghani culture and begin providing help.

Mathews also suggested that churches can connect with Afghan Christians who have been in the U.S. for some time and “begin praying about planting Afghan churches.”

Prayer will be essential, whatever happens.

The Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, in partnership with Send Relief, has released a prayer guide for Southern Baptists to follow regarding the Afghani crisis.

“This crisis will result in another opportunity for the U.S. church to minister to the nations that are arriving on our shores,” Stice said.

Prayer guide on Afghanistan crisis made available for Southern Baptists

NASHVILLE (BP) – The SBC Executive Committee, in partnership with Send Relief, has released a prayer guide for Southern Baptists regarding the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan.

Prayer requests include praying for the physical needs and safety of the Afghan people, for Afghan believers to have courage through threats and persecution, for Afghans who have not yet heard the Gospel to hear it and for favor on those seeking to leave or currently leaving the country.

The prayer guide is one of the many resources Send Relief is providing for Southern Baptists related to the Afghanistan crisis. Send Relief released the following statement on their website in response to the crisis.

“In the aftermath of the political coup, a mass exodus is building as Afghans try to flee the country by the thousands. One group of Afghan refugees seeking escape are Christians fleeing immanent persecution, as well as other religious minorities, ethnic minorities and women and girls.

“Send Relief is strategically working with World Relief and our trusted global ministry partners to minister to Afghan refugee families around the world. As refugees flee persecution and resettle in communities around the globe, Send Relief can connect you and your church with opportunities to give, pray and volunteer to support our response.”

Other resources and updates regarding Afghanistan, including ways to give, are available on Send Relief’s website. The prayer guide is below and is downloadable here.

2021 M3 camps see 318 first-time professions of faith, 56 called to ministry

The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention held five weeks of M3 student ministry camps this summer, hosting 81 churches and over 2,800 students at facilities across Texas and the Southwest.

After having to cancel camps last year due to COVID-19, student associate Nathaniel Kuhns said the students were eager to gather again.

“It was a really good summer, seeing God move in the hearts of students. They were hungry for gathering together and really missed it in 2020,” Kuhns said. “For most of these students it was their first time at an M3 camp.”

According to Kuhns, the resurgence of COVID presented some challenges as the summer wore on, and attendance in 2021 was lower than in years past because of caps put in place due to the pandemic.

“It was hard, with more last-minute adjustments and pivots we had to make because of COVID,” he said. “But camp was great this summer.”

Overall, the five weeks of M3 saw 318 first-time professions of faith and 56 students called to full-time ministry, not to mention the countless others who walked the aisle asking for prayer or indicating that they wanted to renew their commitment to Christ.

This year’s camps were held at Highland Lakes in Spicewood, Camp Zephyr in Sandia, Riverbend in Glen Rose and on the campus of Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee. Speakers included Ryan Fontenot, Lance Shumake, Caleb Turner, Tyler Riley and Dillon Chase.

According to Fontenot, an evangelist who partners with the SBTC as a strategist and event planner, the two weeks of camp where he served as a speaker stood out particularly due to the fact that the pandemic had precluded these types of events and the ability of students to gather together.

“One thing we saw was just an excitement from day one from the students. I think being back together was just massive for them, to be with other students and be back together after missing an entire summer of camp, there was this energy in the room,” Fontenot said.

“The hunger of the students was real, and their response to the messages and to worship was like I hadn’t seen in a long time. There was just this desire to seek the Lord, and each week we had massive responses to the gospel.”

"One of our big prayers going into it would be that God would call students not only to salvation and life change, but specifically into ministry."

Jeremy Riddles is the student pastor at Rock Hill Baptist Church in Brownsboro, and this year he brought his junior high and high school students to two different camps.

“We didn’t get to go to camp last year because of COVID, and this year we had different plans and ended up having to change plans, but it was just a huge answer to prayer that we even got to go to camp again,” Riddles said. “We really believe in camp, and I really believe in Nathaniel [Kuhns] and what he does at camp. He tries really hard to get the right people there that love the Lord and want to make his name known and glorious.

“One of our big prayers going into it would be that God would call students not only to salvation and life change, but specifically into ministry. In the last few years we hadn’t seen that, and that was something that was our prayer going in,” Riddles added. “At junior high camp we had six students feel a call to ministry, and we had nine first-time professions of faith which was amazing as well, especially out of a group of 32 junior high students.”

M3 stands for “Moment, Mission, Movement,” and Riddles said that at both camps, the speakers “really owned that” to motivate the students.

“It was very challenging for our students, especially our high school students, who have been Christians for a long time and have been coming to church for a long time. They needed to be challenged that, now that they’ve had that moment, let’s be on mission and pray that this becomes a movement.”