Month: September 2022

Hurricane Fiona lands in Puerto Rico as Send Relief begins assessment, response

PONCE, Puerto Rico—The entire island of Puerto Rico lost power over the weekend as Hurricane Fiona brought havoc on Sunday, Sept. 18. Send Relief pre-positioned its response ahead of the storm’s landfall and has begun assessing the need.

“Fiona whipped across southwest Puerto Rico and knocked out the fragile electrical system,” said Coy Webb, Send Relief’s crisis response director. “This has created an island-wide crisis. The good news is projections have most electricity returning over the next three to five days for most of the island.”

The bad news, however, is that intense rain, up to 25 inches over the last fourteen hours in some parts of the island has caused widespread flooding and generated mudslides. By the time the storm exits Puerto Rico, the rainfall total will likely hit 30 inches in the southern portion of the island.

The storm made landfall Sunday afternoon with the strongest wind gust measuring 103 mph in Ponce, a city on the island’s southern coast that is the second-most populated city in Puerto Rico. Those winds cut the power of the island’s fragile power grid, but the torrential rainfall and flash flooding is likely to do the most long-term harm.

So far, the reported damage has not been nearly as widespread as 2017’s Hurricane Maria, which swept over the entire island as a Category 4 storm. Still, the southwestern part of Puerto Rico was hit hardest, and the impact has been significant. And Fiona comes after the island has been dealt serious blows in recent years following Maria, including earthquakes and the devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The North American Mission Board (NAMB) has intentionally focused resources in Puerto Rico through Send Relief and Send Network, NAMB’s church planting arm. Numerous native-born Puerto Rican missionaries heeded a call from God to return to Puerto Rico from the U.S. mainland to minister to and serve the island, especially after Maria.

Those leaders and church planters have strengthened a core of Southern Baptist ministry on the island. Send Relief’s team in Puerto Rico will be leading the immediate Southern Baptist response as volunteers from churches in Puerto Rico rise to begin meeting needs.

“Send Relief was able to train 400 Puerto Rican church volunteers this summer,” Webb said. “This investment gives us a strong base for response to Hurricane Fiona.”

Send Relief anticipates their response will include providing meals, mudding out flooded homes and repairing houses, but as of Monday morning, it was still too soon following Fiona’s landfall to determine specific next steps.

“Send Relief is on the ground bringing help and the hope of Christ in the aftermath of this damaging storm,” said Webb.

Volunteers from the mainland U.S. will most probably be used in long-term rebuilding and recovery efforts as Send Relief volunteer teams have still been assisting residents recover from Hurricane Maria even five years after that storm’s landfall.

To give to Puerto Rico’s hurricane recovery efforts, visit Funds given through that page will go directly to support Send Relief’s response in Puerto Rico, as well as subsequent hurricanes in the 2022 season.

Send Relief provides the “one-stop shop” for Southern Baptist compassion ministry around the globe as a partnership between the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board.

AM22: Resolution submissions to be received from Sept. 21 to Oct. 19

Editor’s note: The annual meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention is November 14-15 at American Bank Center in Corpus Christi. For more information, visit

Resolutions give convention messengers an opportunity to discuss, refine, and express a consensus voice on a current issue. While resolutions are non-binding on convention churches, they do add substance to current conversations in Baptist life and the culture at large. Any member of an SBTC church may submit a resolution to the resolutions committee for consideration. The committee considers these suggestions and prepares a slate of resolutions for messengers to consider at the annual meeting.

Submitters are encouraged to view previous SBTC resolutions for style and recent content at The 2022 resolutions committee will receive resolutions for consideration from Wednesday, September 21, to Wednesday, Oct 19. All submissions must include the name, church membership, phone number, and email address of the submitter. Email proposed resolutions to Jenna Griffis at

REACH TEXAS 2022: Houston church sees God moving as it reaches out

Editor’s note: The Reach Texas Week of Prayer is Sept. 18-25. This week, the Texan will highlight brief stories of how God is using the Reach Texas offering to impact the kingdom across Texas.

HOUSTON—Since its first service last fall, Cross Community Church in Houston has aimed to take the gospel to the doorsteps of every household within its reach.

God is blessing those efforts. Cross Community, a church plant sent out of Northeast Houston Baptist Church, has baptized 16 people since its first service on Sept. 12, 2021, according to its pastor, Del Traffanstedt. Seventy-five percent of those baptisms are directly related to the church’s door-to-door outreach.

Shortly after opening its doors, Cross Community executed a six-week push to reach every home within a three-mile radius of its church campus. Through that effort, someone at each of those homes received a gospel tract or had a face-to-face gospel conversation. Traffanstedt said money given through
Reach Texas is used to buy tracts and other materials used in
Cross Community’s outreach efforts such as these.

“It is a vital component of our funding,” Traffanstedt said. “Without the faithful giving of SBTC churches, it  would be much harder to do what we do. We are thankful for those who pray, give, and go.”

In addition to door-to-door outreach, Cross Community has worked to cultivate partnerships within the community to build a bridge to the gospel. The church provides needed school supplies through a partnership with a local elementary school and recently began an English as a Second Language program to minister to one of the most diverse areas in the U.S.

“It is crazy to think that God took me from Odessa to Houston in seven short months to plant Cross Community Church,” Traffanstedt said. “God’s hand has been on every part of the process from the call to plant, to confirmation, to assessment, to gathering a core team, to launch, to the baptisms and growth we have seen. We are excited to see what God is going to do next.”

Lifeway study reveals Americans’ theological beliefs continue to shift post-pandemic

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Americans experienced seismic changes over the past two years, including, for many, how they attend church. The shift in behavior coincides with a shift in theology.

The biennial State of Theology study conducted by Lifeway Research found relative stability in some of the religious and cultural beliefs U.S. adults hold. After months of quarantines and social distancing, however, Americans increasingly believe worshiping apart from a church is as good as attending church services.

In March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic was just beginning in the United States, 58% of Americans said worshipping alone or with one’s family was a valid replacement for regularly attending church, with 26% strongly agreeing. In 2022, 66% believe worshiping apart from a local congregation is as valid as worshiping with one, with 35% strongly agreeing.

Additionally, most Americans (56%) don’t believe every Christian has an obligation to join a local church. Fewer than 2 in 5 (36%) say this is something all Christians should do.

Tracking surveys from Lifeway Research throughout the pandemic found U.S. Protestant churches were open at pre-pandemic levels by summer of 2021 and into 2022, but early this year few churches had reached pre-pandemic attendance levels.

“Religious identity, beliefs and behavior are interrelated,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “When in-person church attendance behaviors were interrupted and habits were broken, it affected some Americans’ beliefs about the need to gather with other believers to worship.”

With many theological beliefs remaining stable, those that did shift point to areas where a changing U.S. culture may be impacting Americans’ religious perspectives.

The 2022 State of Theology study, sponsored by Ligonier Ministries, surveyed more than 3,000 Americans and follows previous versions in 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020.

God-sized confusion

Most Americans believe in God, but they’re a little confused about who the divine is.

While 66% of U.S. adults say God is a perfect being and cannot make mistakes, half (51%) say God learns and adapts to different circumstances.

Almost 7 in 10 Americans (67%) say God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam. A similar percentage (71%) say there is one true God in three persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

Despite a majority of Americans affirming a trinitarian God with three divine persons, most still aren’t sure about how that applies to Jesus or the Holy Spirit. Slightly more than half (55%) believe Jesus is the first and greatest created being. Another 53% say He was a great teacher but not God. Close to 3 in 5 (59%) believe the Holy Spirit is a force but not a personal being.

When thinking about these theological convictions, most Americans classify them as opinions, not facts. For 60% of U.S. adults, religious belief is a matter of personal opinion; it’s not objective truth.

“Many Americans think about God as if He had only revealed himself in a vague, nondescript way. They seem to fill in the gaps with whatever they want to believe,” said McConnell. “This creates sharp contrasts between what Americans believe about God and how He revealed Himself in great detail in the Bible.”

Social issues and sin

Hot button cultural issues often intersect with theological beliefs, and Americans often aren’t sure how to balance the two. A growing number says Christians should stay out of the discussion.

While 3 in 4 Americans (78%) say God created male and female, they’re more split on whether gender identity depends on personal preference. More than 2 in 5 (42%) say gender identity is a matter of choice, the highest in the history of the State of Theology. Half (51%) disagree. The American public is more divided than American pastors. A 2020 study of U.S. Protestant pastors found 72% believe it is morally wrong for an individual to identify with a gender different than the sex they were born.

Half of U.S. adults (53%) say sex outside of traditional marriage is a sin, while 42% disagree. Those who view non-marital sex as sinful has increased slightly but steadily since 49% said the same in 2016.

Americans are also split on whether the Bible’s condemnation of homosexual behavior is still applicable. Slightly less than half (46%) say it doesn’t apply today, and 42% disagree.

Additionally, Americans are closely divided over the issue of abortion. While 53% say abortion is a sin, 39% disagree. Still, a previous Lifeway Research study specifically on abortion found 12% of U.S. adults say abortion shouldn’t be legal in any situation. When asked specifically what time period they believe abortion should be a legal option assuming there are no health issues for the woman or the fetus, half of Americans say no later than 12 weeks.

Three in 10 Americans (30%) say Christians should stay silent on political issues, an increase from 24% in 2020 and the highest percentage recorded in any previous State of Theology study. Around 3 in 5 Americans (61%) disagree.

“Discussions of sin are inherently theological, because they explore whether God set standards and what behaviors miss this mark,” said McConnell. “So, those who acknowledge certain behaviors as sin are acknowledging a deity’s standards. This is a different discussion than whether society agrees on an ethical standard of conduct that we determine.”

Eternal destinations

Americans believe God cares about what we do each day, most people are generally good, but hell is a real place where some people will spend eternity in punishment.

While 58% of U.S. adults disagree, a growing number believe God is unconcerned with their day-to-day decisions. Around a third of Americans (32%) say God isn’t concerned with what they do on a daily basis, up from 25% in 2020 and the highest since the State of Theology first asked the question in 2014.

As people consider their actions and their nature, most believe they’re naturally good and start off innocent before God. Two in 3 Americans (66%) say everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature. Seven in 10 (71%) say everyone is born innocent in the eyes of God.

Still, 3 in 5 Americans (59%) say hell is a real place where certain people will be punished forever, up from 56% in 2020 and 54% in 2018. A quarter (25%) also believe even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation, consistent with the 26% from 2020 after climbing up in each State of Theology study starting at 18% in 2014.

“An interesting paradox exists regarding Americans’ views of sin and punishment,” said McConnell. “More than two-thirds of Americans believe everyone is inherently good, yet almost as many believe divine judgement will occur in the future.”

Biblical balance

Americans tend to trust the Bible, especially what it teaches about Jesus, but may have some doubts in other areas.

Two in 3 U.S. adults (66%) say biblical accounts of the physical or bodily resurrection of Jesus are completely accurate. They believe the event actually occurred.

And Americans do not believe the Holy Spirit will contradict Scripture. More than 3 in 5 (62%) don’t believe the Holy Spirit can tell them to do something that is forbidden in the Bible.

In many ways, Americans are split on the trustworthiness of the Bible. Around half say the Bible is 100% accurate in all that it teaches (51%) and the Bible has the authority to tell us what to do (52%); however, 53% of Americans say the Bible, like all sacred writings, contains helpful accounts of ancient myths but is not literally true. And 40% say modern science disproves the Bible.

“As a society, views on the Bible probably best summarize how split Americans are when it comes to theology,” said McConnell. “Half see Scripture as dependable and authoritative while half see it as fiction. Higher numbers acknowledge the story it tells, but more than half also give weight to their personal opinions.”


REACH TEXAS 2022: Church spreading gospel through continuous community connections

Editor’s note: The Reach Texas Week of Prayer is Sept. 18-25. This week, the Texan will highlight brief stories of how God is using the Reach Texas offering to impact the kingdom across Texas.

WEST COLUMBIA—When Colby Wallace was sent by First Baptist Church of West Columbia to plant West Oaks Church, he knew he had a mandate to mobilize the new congregation to actively reach out to the community.

West Oaks officially launched and began meeting in a high school at the beginning of 2020 with a mission of reaching “the unchurched, the de-churched, and the skeptic.” Seven families were sent out from FBC West Columbia with Wallace and his family.

Only five services into their new launch, COVID struck and, as Wallace says, “the whole world shut down.” The church’s first Easter was celebrated remotely. By July, the church began to gather once again and resume its mission of connecting with people in the community. On one occasion, church members went to a local laundromat and handed out quarters and washing pods. Another time, they went into town and washed the windows of local businesses as a way of saying “thank you” for their service to the community.

All this happened while Wallace continually urged his congregation to connect with the people in their neighborhoods and workplaces.

“We didn’t really do anything spectacular,” he said. “We really just were involved in our community and became a part of the every day lives of the people around us.”

The fruit of the church’s labor was apparent this past Easter, when around 400 adults and 100 children were in attendance. Even more exciting, Wallace said, is the fact many of those new faces made it back in the weeks that followed after hearing the life-changing message of the gospel.

“It’s because of Reach Texas and the Cooperative Program that our church is here,” Wallace said. “It’s because of [cooperative giving] … that churches like ours are having an eternal impact, not just in building a church, but in building the kingdom of God. We’re grateful.”

Christians likely minority in U.S. by 2050, Pew says

WASHINGTON (BP)—Christians are projected to comprise less than half of the U.S. population by 2070 in a Pew Research study of how current trends might play out among believers and non-believers in the coming decades.

In the best-case scenario of how trends might continue to unfold, which Pew presents as the most unlikely and most optimistic possibility, Pew projects the Christian share of the U.S. population to shrink from a current 64 percent to between 54 percent and 35 percent by 2070.

In the scenario Pew described as most likely, Christians would comprise 39 percent of Americans by 2070, losing their majority status as early as 2050 at 47 percent of the national population.

“Nones,” or the religiously unaffiliated, would constitute the largest share of Americans at 47 percent in 2050, under the scenario Pew said is the most likely of four considered.

Among factual trends Pew considered in its hypothetical scenarios of the future of religion in America are the pace at which adults switch to a religion other than that of their childhood, and various demographic trends including migration, births and deaths.

“None of the scenarios in this report demonstrate what would happen if switching into Christianity increased. This is not because a religious revival in the U.S. is impossible,” Pew postured in the study released Sept. 13. “New patterns of religious change could emerge at any time. Armed conflicts, social movements, rising authoritarianism, natural disasters or worsening economic conditions are just a few of the circumstances that sometimes trigger sudden social – and religious – upheavals.

“However, our projections are not designed to model the consequences of dramatic events, which might affect various facets of life as we know it, including religious identity and practice. Instead, these projections describe the potential consequences of dynamics currently shaping the religious landscape.”

The trend-based scenarios Pew hypothesized are:

  1. What if the rate of switching remains steady among 15- to 29-year-olds, the ages most susceptible? Based on trends, in each new generation 31 percent of people raised Christian would become religiously unaffiliated while 21 percent of those who grew up with no religion would become Christian. The result? Christians would retain their plurality but lose their majority, first dipping below 50 percent in 2060 and sitting at 46 percent by 2070. “Nones” would register at 41 percent or below by 2070.
  2. What if switching became more common, seeing progressively larger shares of Christians leave the faith by age 30, but leveled off to prevent the share of Christianity from falling below the neighborhood of 50 percent? This scenario, which Pew deemed most plausible, would result in Christians falling to 47 percent of the population by 2050, compared to 42 percent of the population that would describe themselves as unaffiliated. By 2070, “nones” would constitute a plurality of the population at 48 percent. The plausibility is based on how switching has played out in 79 other countries where, amid switching, the percentage of Christians “has not been known to fall below about 50 percent,” Pew said.
  3. What if switching continues to increase unabated in popularity, pushing Christianity below the neighborhood of 50 percent? If so, Pew said, Christians would fall from the majority by 2045. By 2055, Christians would comprise 43 percent of the population, ranking behind “nones” at 46 percent. By 2070, 52 percent of Americans would be considered “nones,” while 35 percent would be Christian.
  4. Finally, in the scenario Pew describes as most unrealistic among the four considered, what if switching ceases altogether? Only in this case would Christians retain their majority as late as 2070, ranking at 54 percent of the population. Still, the majority ranking would represent a 10 percentage point decrease from today.

“While the change in affiliation rates in the United States is largely due to people voluntarily leaving religion behind, switching is not the only driver of religious composition change worldwide,” Pew said. “For example, differences in fertility rates explain most of the recent religious change in India, while migration has altered the religious composition of many European countries in the last century. Forced conversions, mass expulsions, wars and genocides also have caused changes in religious composition throughout history.

“Moreover, the scenarios in this report are limited to religious identity and do not project how religious beliefs and practices might change in the coming decades.”

Progressively since 1990, a larger share of adults who were raised Christian no longer describe themselves as such. In the early 1990s, nearly 90 percent of U.S. adults described themselves as Christian, a percentage that has fallen to 64 percent. About 30 percent of U.S. adults said they have no religion today. The remaining six percent of the population reflects several faiths including Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus.

Scenario 2 “best illustrates what would happen if recent generational trends in the U.S. continue, but only until they reach the boundary of what has been observed around the world, including in Western Europe,” Pew said of the possibilities. “Overall, this scenario seems to most closely fit the patterns observed in recent years.”

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

Matt Carter of Houston’s Sagemont Church named mobilization VP of Send Network

HOUSTON—Matt Carter, pastor of Sagemont Church in Houston, announced to his congregation Sunday (Sept. 11) that he will retire as senior pastor and join the North American Mission Board’s Send Network team as vice president of mobilization on Oct. 1.

“I am thrilled to take what I’ve learned through planting one church, as well as pastoring an established church in the next phase of its history, to pour into the next generation of pastors and church planters,” Carter said Monday.

In his new role, Carter will focus on mobilizing churches and church-planting missionaries across North America to help Send Network engage more local churches in the process of discovering, developing and deploying more church planters throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.

“I could not be more thankful to have my friend Matt Carter joining the team at Send Network,” said Vance Pitman, Send Network president. “He’s a seasoned church planter with a shared passion for God’s glory among the nations. I’m excited to co-labor with him in the expansion of God’s kingdom through a movement of churches planting churches everywhere for everyone.”

Pitman said Send Network also plans to announce other new initiatives and leaders in the coming months.

Carter arrived at Sagemont in May of 2020 after serving 18 years as the pastor of preaching and vision at the Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas, a church he planted in 2002, which grew into a congregation with more than 8,000 regular attenders.

During his announcement this week, Carter described how recent health issues played a role in his decision to retire as pastor. Transitioning out of the pastorate allows him to continue serving in ministry in a role that involves less stress than the day-to-day responsibilities of pastoring.

“Over the years, I’ve been thankful for Matt’s friendship and input as an experienced church planter and pastor as NAMB shifted more of its focus to church planting,” said NAMB President Kevin Ezell. “Now, Matt will be leading in this new capacity to engage Southern Baptists in the mission of reaching North America with the Gospel as he and Vance take Send Network church planting to the next level.”

The role with Send Network will not require Carter to move, so he told Sagemont of his plans to remain a resident of Houston and a member of the church where his family serves. In his announcement, he reminded church members that they do not follow a messenger but the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“And so, it does not matter who is in this pulpit, who has the title. It doesn’t matter. We don’t follow a pastor,” Carter said. “We don’t follow a shepherd. We follow the Great Shepherd, and he will never leave you. He will never forsake you as long as you live.”

Kevin Henson, senior executive pastor of Sagemont, along with other church leaders joined Carter on stage to pray over him and his wife, Jennifer.

“As Matt moves on to NAMB, what a great and exciting opportunity for our church to be a part of raising up the next generation of church planters and mobilizers,” Henson said before his prayer. “That’s an exciting opportunity for us … We’re going to be a church that’s on the front lines of raising up the next generation of church planters and pastors.”

The church gave Carter a standing ovation as he rejoined the congregation.

Galveston church mourns teen killed in crash near high school

GALVESTON—Aaron Sanders, pastor of Coastal Community Church in Galveston, intended to kick off a new sermon series on Acts on Sunday, Sept. 4. Those plans were put on hold after Galveston ISD student Mason Nelson was killed in a crash the Friday before.

Nelson, a 14-year-old freshman at Galveston Ball High School, was traveling in a Jeep that was struck by a speeding SUV. Three other students survived the Sept. 2 crash, which occurred directly across the street from the high school, according to news outlets, including KHOU-11.

Nelson had just left baseball practice at the school.

The 28-year-old male driver of the SUV was arrested. He had been released from prison—where he had served a sentence for his third DUI conviction—only a few hours before the crash.

Nelson was described by friends as funny, with a love of baseball and a deep faith. A Sept. 6 candlelight vigil for students and the community was organized by Ball’s student council.

Coastal Community, where Nelson’s family attends, also held a prayer vigil at the church on the afternoon of Sept. 3. “Our hearts are broken. Come and pray for teenagers and families involved in yesterday’s crash,” the church announced on its Facebook page.

Sanders told KHOU-11 that Nelson’s family started attending the church three years ago, and that he had met the young man five years before that while coaching Little League.

Sanders rushed to the crash scene when he heard the news. He was there with Nelson’s father, whom he described as the boy’s best friend. Sanders said Mr. Nelson was overwhelmed by the messages from his son’s friends about the difference Mason had made in their lives.

At church on Sept. 4, in the wake of the tragedy, Sanders instead preached on the topic, “How Do We Mourn with Those Who Mourn?”

“This world is broken,” Sanders said. “People have the ability to choose sin, to make sinful choices, and sometimes those sinful choices that other people make affect us.”

The pastor continued with a reminder of hope: “But it’s also true that God is good, that His very nature is goodness. It’s holiness. It’s righteousness … it’s love.”

Cautioning against speculation, the pastor noted that many might ask, “Why did God allow this to happen?”

“I don’t know why this happened. But I do trust that He is good,” Sanders said, reminding his flock that “Even in the darkest valleys, God shows up.”

This also features reporting from KHOU-11.

Pastor recounts day at Flight 93 crash site

DUNCANSVILLE, Pa. (BP)—Doug Pilot remembers the crater. He remembers the blackened trees and hearing that there was nothing left bigger than a phone book.

Pilot, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church, was serving as the director of missions for Conemaugh Valley Baptist Association on Sept. 11, 2001. He was about to leave for a meeting with church planters in Harrisburg when his wife, Jeanne, called him back to the house.

A plane had just hit the World Trade Center. Pilot went back inside the watch the coverage. That’s when both saw the second plane hit the South Tower.

“I told her we were being attacked, so she decided to go with me to Harrisburg,” he said.

On the way, news came that another plane had crashed, this one in a field near Somerset.

“We had church planters down there and I immediately wanted to check on them,” Pilot said. “I tried calling them, but the lines were tied up. So I called Harrisburg and told them we were going to Somerset.”

On the way, they learned the plane actually went down in Shanksville, about 5 miles from Somerset. News also broke over the radio that yet another plane had hit the Pentagon.

“We got to Somerset and found out they were OK. That’s also around the time Baptist Press called and asked if I could be eyes and ears for them on the scene,” he said.

Pilot would be on the scene as a reporter, but also for his expertise in crisis management. At the time, he was a chaplain for local emergency management personnel as well as The Laurel Highlands Critical Incident Stress Management Team.

The crash site was in a reclaimed coal mining area and only about three miles from where he stood.

Nearing the site, Pilot identified himself to state troopers related to his training, gaining access both in that role and as a reporter. Eventually he was sent with others to the local fire department that was serving as a staging area. Soon thereafter he was directed back to the work site near the crater.

“It smoked for days,” he said. “The trees on the far side of the crater were blackened from the fire. They were saying they couldn’t find a piece of the plane bigger than a phone book.”

FBI investigators testified that the initial crater only went about 15 feet deep, though the black boxes would later be found at 25 feet. A misty smoke hung in the air from the jet fuel that had set the woods on fire.

Pilot stood on a slight rise that went above the crater, but not high enough where he could see the bottom of it. The day was clear and warm, he said. A Pennsylvania state trooper helicopter patrolled above, tasked with identifying onlookers trying to get near the site.

“When you drove in there were state troopers posted about every 75 feet. They were trying to keep people out of the crash area, but some still slipped in and they were using the helicopter to help find them and get them out of there.”

A sense of shock and disbelief permeated the scene. It came from asking how an entire passenger jet could hit the ground with such force that no identifiable part of it remained. It came knowing that similar states of incredulity prevailed in New York and Washington, D.C.

Pilot would spend about seven hours there that day, leaving close to sundown.

“We all talked about who could have done it,” he said. “We talked about the other places that got hit. We heard about the passengers on 93 revolting and the guy (Todd Beamer) saying ‘Let’s roll.’”

He also remembers the full churches in the weeks afterward. All of it – the shock of the moment and temporary seeking of God’s face – reminded him of something else. It was when, as a high school senior, he was going to lunch and heard President John F. Kennedy had been shot.

“We reassured people that God was still on the throne,” he said on the days after 9/11. “There was a time for grieving and shock. We had been attacked on our own soil.”

He also remembers how rumors flew of other attacks. On the way to Somerset, he and Jeanne had been directed around Johnstown, Pa., because of rumors that attackers were to hit it next.

Pilot has visited the Flight 93 Memorial, dedicated one day before the 10th anniversary on Sept. 10, 2011, several times.

He encourages others to stop by it for fear that lessons learned in the aftermath of 9/11 have been forgotten.

You have to work to remember, sometimes. His personal connection notwithstanding, the upcoming anniversary had slipped up on Pilot. Life commands your attention and in his case, it was caring for Jeanne after she recently had a cyst removed from her back.

“I’ll bring it up now,” he said. “This thing is kind of reliving itself for me.”

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

‘Called to Care’: Southern Baptist nursing school addresses nursing shortage

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (BP)—Addressing the shortage of nurses that has worsened in the U.S. since the COVID-19 pandemic is a mission and ministry of William Carey University (WCU), a Southern Baptist-supported school based in Mississippi.

For Janet Williams, WCU vice president for health programs, healthcare and ministry are naturally complementary.

“Who better to witness than the nurse who’s with you as you’re critically ill? Who better to help make sure that they take your hand and pray with you?” Williams posed to Baptist Press. “It’s in everything we do and everything we teach.”

In the two states WCU’s three campuses are located, Mississippi and Louisiana, there are 13.88 nurses per 1,000 people and 11.6 nurses per 1,000 people, respectively, according to a 2021 study from the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences. To address the shortage, an additional 1.2 million nurses will be needed by 2030, the study said, a number more difficult to reach as nurses retire or leave the field for more prosperous careers, and nursing programs turn away students because of the lack of faculty.

“It’s bad enough now,” Williams said, “that if we don’t do something about the supply of nurses out there, that you’re going to start seeing hospitals close because of it. We’re already seeing hospitals that are shutting beds down. That’s a big deal.

“The key to the nursing shortage is supply has to equal demand. There’s no doubt that that’s the only way to fix it,” Williams said. “And the way we’re doing it, we’re also trying to find other pots of students that would like to be nurses but who had never really considered it because of the finances or because of opportunities that were not there.”

WCU created a new scholarship this summer for students with bachelor’s degrees in other fields to attract them to nursing, and operates an advanced placement program to enable licenses practical nurses (LPNs) to become registered nurses (RNs) and thereby earn larger salaries.

A year ago, WCU opened a new 67,000-square-foot facility to house the William K. Ray College of Health Sciences on its Hattiesburg campus, allowing the university to increase its annual admission of incoming nursing students from 75 to 124, Williams said. She puts annual nursing enrollment, encompassing pre-nursing through doctoral programs, at 525-550, including campuses in Hattiesburg, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and in Baton Rouge, La. In WCU’s last graduating class, nurses numbered 72, but that number is expected to grow with the new facility, Williams said.

WCU increases its nursing outreach through memorandum of understanding agreements with seven of Mississippi’s 15 junior colleges, helping students transition to WCU health programs, transfer credits and provide academic advisors and support. And the university places as much emphasis on the quality of education received as the number of students enrolled.

In February, WCU’s nursing graduates earned a 100 percent pass rate on the National Council Licensure Examination, which Williams said is the only bachelor’s degree nursing program in the state to earn the distinction.

“Healthcare in Mississippi has always been ranked so low. We look at it and we say, if somebody’s going to change healthcare in Mississippi, it has to be us,” Williams said. “We’re the ones that have to do it. We have to educate the students in a way that they’ll be excellent practitioners.”

Williams expresses WCU’s commitment to its mission as a Baptist institution, evidenced in its community mission requirement in the nursing curriculum. It’s part of WCU’s emphasis on care.

“There’s a certain level of empathy you have to have as a nurse. You have to feel the need. We call it ‘called to care.’ If you come to nursing at William Carey you’re called to care,” she said. “You have to care about your patients. It has to make a difference to you that you have helped someone.

“Mission is one part of that, working with missions and doing the community service and all of those types of things. And it goes along very well with the mission of William Carey, the fact that William Carey is a Baptist university and … we try to be very much appropriate in our approach.”

Students complete missions at local facilities and in foreign countries.

“Because we also have a medical school, we can join together with our medical school and do a medical mission where you have physicians and nurses, and then physician students and nursing students go,” Williams said. “And that’s huge. To take that to a country that needs the healthcare so desperately, you can see an awful lot of patients and do an awful lot of good that way.”

Williams expresses appreciation for the support of Southern Baptists, and encourages prayer and contributions to endowed scholarships.

“Southern Baptist churches are doing a good thing for us. The Mississippi Baptist Convention gives us funding. We thank them very much for that.”

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.