Month: March 2023

What’s your story? With God, everything is going to be alright!

I was four years old when Jesus saved me. Our church, St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church in Bakersfield, Calif., was a bigger version of my current church [Creekstone Church in North Richland Hills]. Tyree Toliver was our pastor. I came down the aisle one day and told him I wanted to know Jesus during an altar call—and I knew what that meant. I remember going up the stairs at the front and I remember being baptized. My family was very involved in church—my dad was a deacon and my mom was in the women’s ministry. They helped me come to the Lord. 

I grew up and raised a family, and we moved to DFW about 11 years ago. I now have two grown daughters and our household is multigenerational—my girls, me, my mom and dad, and my grandmother. My husband is currently living in another country, but we’re doing OK, taking care of each other as families should do. 

I’m currently a teacher in Arlington. I teach English to 9th through 12th graders. Since I started teaching, I’ve earned two master’s degrees. As I got up one morning about the time I was finishing my second master’s … something wasn’t right. My ear was kind of numb and my face was weird, and it ran down the right side of my body down to my knee.

“I had been having pain that I now learned was from the tumor pressing against the nerves. ... They were able to remove the tumor. There’s none left on my brain, on my spine—nothing there.”

I was like, “Hmm, that’s not right.” I called my mom to ask her about it. She told me to call 911, but I just asked my dad to take me to the hospital. … It turns out I was having a little stroke. As they were doing the MRIs and the CAT scans and stuff, they saw that I had a tumor at the base of my brain and they told me the tumor was pressing on my spinal cord, where the cord connects to my brain. I had been having pain that I now learned was from the tumor pressing against the nerves. I had been going to physical therapy for years to manage that pain. 

They were able to remove the tumor. There’s none left on my brain, on my spine—nothing there. It was malignant, but now there’s no cancer in my body.

I really do love our church. I was pretty new to Creekstone [when this happened], but the hugs that I get and the genuine love, and just the realness from everyone checking up on me and asking how I’m feeling has meant a lot. My pastor [Kason Branch] came and told me everybody was praying for me. He brought me this really nice devotional book. I needed that because … the devotional just spoke to me each day that I was in the hospital. The words for each day were very specific and they were very much needed. We just prayed that pain away. Even though it was kind of scary, I just really wasn’t worried.

I actually finished my master’s in the hospital. I was nearly done and couldn’t see waiting another semester. I’m still recovering, doing physical therapy to restore movement as the nerves wake back up. I’ve been able to kind of get back to being myself. I’m back at work and starting to work out again. I haven’t started dancing yet, but I’m going to get back to it. God is good.

As I recover from this, and an earlier Achilles tendon injury, I’m asking God for discernment, wisdom, peace—just reminders to get in bed on time and get enough rest. Sometimes I struggle to sleep. I’ve found Psalm 4:8 to be of help: “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” It’s what I do when I’m anxious in the middle of the night. More than anything, I am asking the Lord to help me heal. I’m asking the Lord to help me heal inside and out. I’ve been through quite a lot, not just with these surgeries, but some other things in my life. 

So, what’s my story? While I’ve been through big and little crises over the past few years—and I do get anxious sometimes—with God, I just feel like it’s no big deal. It’s going to be alright.

“While I’ve been through big and little crises over the past few years—and I do get anxious sometimes—with God, I just feel like it’s no big deal. It’s going to be alright.”

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SWBTS hosts inaugural World Missions Center Sending Church Conference

FORT WORTH—Ian Buntain, director of the World Missions Center and associate professor of missions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), said the idea behind the inaugural Sending Church Conference was sparked by a conversation he had with his grandson.

During a discussion about Romans 10:14-15, which says, in part, “How then are they to call on Him in whom they have not believed? How are they to believe in Him whom they have not heard?” the grandson asked a simple, yet convicting question: Why doesn’t everybody know about Jesus?

That question, and those verses, provided the inspiration for the conference, held March 16 at the seminary’s Riley Center.

“The purpose for this conference is to be a bit subversive, a bit disruptive, to reverse the current flow of church culture, and to remind us again that we began as a people of God, as Southern Baptists, for the sake of sending missionaries,” said Buntain, a former missionary to Asia who organized the conference and served as its keynote speaker. “I want to offer this conference to encourage believers to become full-time missionaries and to offer resources to those interested in missions.”

Stu Cocanougher, who serves as the share strategy pastor at Southcliff Baptist Church in Fort Worth— spoke at the conference and said most Christians Americans do not regularly engage in cross-cultural ministry even though all Christians are called to engage in such efforts. “As Christians, we love global missions, but we don’t practice it,” he said. “We are great fans of missionaries, but we think that we can never be that.

“For every one Southern Baptist that goes to the nations as [a missionary], 3,879 choose to stay. Going and sending is in the very nature of God,” Cocanougher added. In addition to speaking, he taught a workshop called “Leading Your Church to Create Effective Cross-Cultural Ministries” and gave participants numerous ideas about how to minister to their communities through their church.

Barry Calhoun, a church mobilization strategist for the International Mission Board (IMB) and missions director at North Garland Baptist Fellowship in Garland, spoke on the topic of “Creating a Mission Culture Within the Church.” He said his desire is to help churches prioritize missions “because missions is part of the fabric of the church, not just an activity of the church.”

April Ott, who has been serving with IMB for the last 17 years, taught on the topic of “Leading Your Church in Short-Term Missions.” On of the workshop attendants told her his church was “a going church, but not a sending church.” In response, Ott said, “Short-term missions lead people to become full time missionaries, because they can see the need first-hand. We need to help those who go on short-term missions to discover their calling to full-time mission work.”

Bruno Molina, language and interfaith evangelism associate for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and CEO of the National Hispanic Baptist Network, taught a workshop on “Sharing Christ Among Cultures and Religions.”

“My focus is to enable churches to develop cross-cultural interfaith knowledge and discernment, to be able to share the gospel effectively,” he said. Molina, who is of Hispanic descent, knows first-hand the importance of cross-cultural evangelism and diversity.

SWBTS celebra la primera conferencia de la iglesia de envío del centro de misiones mundiales

El 16 de marzo, el Director del Centro Mundial de Misiones y Profesor Asociado de Misiones en el Seminario Teológico Bautista del Suroeste (SWBTS), Dr. Ian Buntain, llevó a cabo la primera Conferencia de la Iglesia que envía en el Centro Riley del seminario. El evento comenzó con alabanza y adoración dirigida por estudiantes de la escuela de música y adoración de la iglesia de SWBTS, oración y una bienvenida del Dr. Buntain.

El Dr. Buntain basó la conferencia en Romanos 10:14-15, ¿Cómo, pues, invocarán a aquel en el cual no han creído? ¿Y cómo creerán en aquel de quien no han oído? ¿Y cómo oirán sin haber quien les predique?¿Y cómo predicarán si no fueren enviados? Como está escrito: ¡Cuán hermosos son los pies de los que anuncian la paz, de los que anuncian buenas nuevas! (RVR 1960) Buntain decidió usar estos versículos después de compartirlos con su nieto, quien quería saber por qué todas las personas no conocen a Jesús.

“El propósito de esta conferencia es ser un poco subversivo, un poco perturbador, para revertir el flujo actual de la cultura de la iglesia; y para recordarnos nuevamente que comenzamos como un pueblo de Dios, como bautistas del sur, por el bien de enviar misioneros”, compartió Buntain. Como ex misionero en Asia y nativo de Canadá, entiende el evangelismo transcultural, dijo: “Quiero ofrecer esta conferencia para alentar a los creyentes a convertirse en misioneros de tiempo completo y ofrecer recursos a aquellos interesados ​​en las misiones”, agregó Buntain.

Como organizador del evento y uno de los oradores principales, Buntain dijo: “Mi deseo es revertir el flujo de nuestra cultura bautista, a la que se le ha dado la plataforma a los pastores que son mejores para reunir, y luego moverlos de regreso a siendo una cultura emisora”, agregó el Dr. Buntain. También impartió un taller titulado,Misiones en casa e incluyó un tiempo de oración como parte de la conferencia.

El Dr. Stu Cocanougher, quien se desempeña como pastor de Share Strategy en la Iglesia Bautista de Southcliff, liderando los ministerios de alcance, evangelismo, misiones e interculturales de Southcliff y uno de los oradores en la conferencia dijo que, “La mayoría de los cristianos estadounidenses no se involucran regularmente en el ministerio transcultural y los ministerios transculturales son para todos los cristianos, no solo para los misioneros. Como cristianos, amamos las misiones globales, pero no las practicamos… Somos grandes admiradores de los misioneros, pero pensamos que nunca podremos serlo”. Cocanougher agregó que “la mayoría de los cristianos ven las misiones como algo que podemos elegir hacer pero no ser parte de ellas.

“Por cada bautista del sur que va a las naciones como misionero, 3.879 eligen quedarse en casa. Ir y enviar está en la naturaleza misma de Dios”, agregó Cocanougher. También impartió un taller llamado Dirigiendo a su iglesia para crear ministerios transculturales efectivos y les dio a los participantes en su taller numerosas ideas de cómo ministrar a sus comunidades a través de su iglesia. “Creo que este es el mejor momento para estar vivo en la historia del cristianismo”, dijo Cocanougher, autor de Reaching the World Across the Street (Llegar al mundo al otro lado de la calle).

Barry Calhoun, un estratega de movilización de iglesias para la IMB y director de misiones de North Garland Baptist Fellowship en Texas, fue el tercer orador principal y habló sobre Creando una cultura misionera dentro de la iglesia. Dijo que quiere que los participantes sepan, “cómo mover la misión de un segundo plano a un primer plano de la iglesia porque las misiones son parte de la estructura de la iglesia, no sólo una actividad de la iglesia”. Calhoun también proporcionó formas prácticas de cómo se vería eso dentro del contexto de la iglesia local.

April Ott, quien ha estado sirviendo en la IMB durante los últimos 17 años, impartió el taller Dirigiendo su iglesia en misiones a corto plazo, donde uno de los participantes compartió la razón por la que decidió asistir al taller: “Mi iglesia es una iglesia que va, pero no una iglesia que envía, quiero que seamos una iglesia que envía”. Ott lo animó cuando dijo: “Las misiones a corto plazo llevan a las personas a convertirse en misioneros de tiempo completo, porque pueden ver la necesidad de primera mano y necesitamos ayudar a aquellos que van a misiones de corto plazo a descubrir su llamado al trabajo misionero de tiempo completo”.

El Dr. Bruno Molina, Asociado de Lenguaje y Evangelismo Interreligioso para los Ministerios Misionales de la Convención de los Bautistas del Sur de Texas, y director ejecutivo de la Red Nacional Bautista Hispana, impartió un taller sobre Compartir a Cristo entre culturas y religiones. “Mi enfoque es permitir que las iglesias desarrollen conocimiento interreligioso transcultural y discernimiento para poder compartir el evangelio de manera efectiva”, agregó Molina. Molina, de ascendencia hispana, conoce de primera mano la importancia del evangelismo y la diversidad intercultural.

La conferencia también incluyó a otros oradores y líderes de talleres como Ron Bunyard, quien enseñó Ministerio de Estudiantes Internacionales; Garrett Pearson, quien enseñó Los desplazados y cómo se puede responder y dijo, “No puedes cambiar el mundo entero, pero puedes ayudar a cambiar a una persona”; el Dr. y la Sra. Ford quienes enseñaron Necesidades de atención de los miembros para nuestros misioneros; y el Dr. David Pagel, quien Misiones Interculturales. Varios ministerios apoyaron el evento con casetas ofreciendo información misional a los participantes: El Director de Admisiones del SWBTS, Armando Hernández y parte de su equipo de admisiones, SBTC Missions y SEND Network, IMB, el equipo de Deaf Catalyst de Converge International Ministries, World Relief , estudiante internacional de SWBTS, equipo de estudiantes de SWBTS, Texas Baptist College, Hope Literacy para enseñar ESL como una forma de compartir el evangelio, etc.

Dude Perfect star shares testimony of redemption in latest ‘I Am Second’ video

NASHVILLE (BP)—With more than 50 million subscribers, YouTube sensation Dude Perfect is one of the most notable names in social media entertainment.

Yet, for group member Tyler Toney and his wife Bethany, the success of the Dude Perfect subsequently led to the feelings of jealousy, bitterness and heartbreak within in their marriage.

It was only within the last couple years that Tyler found redemption, healed his marriage and began to see Dude Perfect as a gospel platform.

“Tyler just puts Christ at the center of everything in our family now, whereas before he didn’t do that” Bethany Toney said.

“He’s just a whole new person. I remember telling my Mom, ‘I feel like I’m married to a new person, and it’s weird, and I’m having to get used to it. Every decision he makes now, it’s a prayerful one. He’s leading our family, talking to our kids about Christ and just little things that make me go ‘ok this is worth the fight.’”

The couple shares their full story in the latest “I Am Second” video—a series featuring interviews with a variety of Christian celebrities about their personal testimony.

The Toneys were married in 2011, around the time Dude Perfect’s success began to take off.

Things began for the group of five former Texas A&M roommates when they simply uploaded a video of themselves making basketball trick shots to YouTube for other friends to see. The video went viral, and was shown on Good Morning America. Brands deals and opportunities started pouring in.

“That was unbelievable exciting for us, and at the same we just had absolutely no idea what we were getting into,” Tyler said.

After some initial hesitation from Bethany, Tyler and the group decided to all quit their jobs and pursue making video content as Dude Perfect full-time.

Dude Perfect’s success skyrocketed over the next several years. To date, the group has more than 50 million YouTube subscribers, putting them in the top 25 creators on the platform.

They have filmed videos with athletes and celebrities such as Aaron Rodgers, Paul Rudd, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Drew Brees and Serena Williams. Brands deals and sponsorships for the group include GMC, Bass Pro Shops and Nike.

One of their latest ventures featured a streaming broadcast of Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime.

But as Dude Perfect began to experience its success more than a decade ago, Bethany was back at home struggling with jealousy and infertility.

“His (Tyler’s) success really took off at a time when I felt God was calling us to start a family,” Bethany said. “We started trying for a baby, and I miscarried several times. It was just devastating to me, and heartbreaking.”

“I’m watching my husband be on top of the world doing all these really cool things, where I’m at home in pain, and just heartbroken and confused and angry. I was just so angry at God during that season of our life because I just felt like God was ignoring me, and that he wasn’t hearing my requests for things.”

Looking back, Tyler acknowledges his missteps as a husband and father.

“I very much had the attitude of, ‘ok we’ve got to make hay while the sun’s shining’ because there’s no telling how long these opportunities are going to last,” Tyler Toney said.

“I’m not sure that I managed it the best as far as a family perspective of making Bethany a priority. I think early on I put more emphasis on and more weight on these Dude Perfect opportunities. I think early on our families kind of got put on the backburner.”

The Toneys eventually had three children, but that did not stop the growing division and bitterness between them.

It was during the COVID-19 pandemic that the couple reached a boiling point.

After this particularly difficult season, Bethany said her husband approached her saying “I don’t think I’ve really ever had a relationship with Jesus Christ.”

“Hearing him say that kind of put everything in perspective for me because that was kind of the one thing we had been missing in our marriage was him being that spiritual leader and to put Christ first in our marriage. That shift alone kind of was the pivot for us moving forward.”

Toney began hosting a men’s bible study every week at his house, which he called “irreplaceable” in his Christian walk.

The next step in his journey was beginning to see Dude Perfect as a platform for not the group’s individual success, but for Gospel ministry.

Tyler describes a clear call from the Lord to preach the full gospel message to thousands on each stop of Dude Perfect’s next countrywide tour.

“I kind of wrestled with that for a couple days, and was like ‘are you sure that’s what you’re telling me?,’” Tyler said.

“I remember the very first show it was so uncomfortable and so outside my comfort zone. I got off stage and I just broke down crying because it was just that overwhelming sense of like ‘this is what you’re supposed to be doing. This is why I gave you this platform … this is why I’ve given you the talents and abilities and the success that you’ve had is for this.’”

With a renewed marriage and mission, Toney said moving forward the group wants to continue to spiritually influence the massive audience.

“I think at this point in Dude Perfect, we see it as just that—an incredible opportunity to reach a group of people, especially families, especially young boys who may not have a lot to look up to, or may not get a sense of community from anything else in their lives. We feel this immense amount of responsibility to them to kind of keep doing this and kind of take this as long as God’s allows us to have this platform.”

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

SBTC’s Wolfe called to lead South Carolina Baptists

COLUMBIA, S.C. (BP)—South Carolina Baptist Convention messengers unanimously elected Tony Wolfe as the new executive director-treasurer (EDT) Monday afternoon (March 20) in a special called meeting at Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia.

Wolfe begins work April 1 and will replace Gary Hollingsworth, who is retiring after serving in the office for eight years.

Search Committee Chairman Ian Geimer said the process of finding God’s man to lead South Carolina Baptists required months of interviews, research, prayer, and discussion, but in the end, Wolfe emerged as the clear choice as EDT-elect.

“Our committee was thoroughly impressed and pleased with the candidates brought before us,” Geimer said. “Through a very competitive interview process, Dr. Tony Wolfe emerged as the frontrunner for South Carolina’s next executive director-treasurer.

“We believe Dr. Tony Wolfe’s qualifications begin with his love for Jesus. Ever since his salvation, he has dedicated his life to loving, following, and trusting the Lord. This love for God is best exemplified in his being a godly husband to Vanessa, a godly father to Ethan and Aaron. It was also recognized by our committee his humble nature, the numerous testimonies to his godly character, and his unrelenting desire to go only where God calls him.”

Wolfe, a Louisiana native, comes to South Carolina after having served as associate executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention since 2017. The 40-year-old Wolfe is the son of a Baptist pastor, came to a saving relationship with Christ at a young age and began in ministry at a relatively young age. He has served in Texas and Louisiana in various ministry positions, including pastor, worship leader, counselor, educator, and denominational leader, with 23 years of ministry experience.

Wolfe said it became clear to him early in the process that God was calling him to serve Baptist churches of South Carolina.

“After my first interview with the search committee, I was convicted and convinced that there was something special happening here,” Wolfe said. “It was actually at dinner; we sat around, and we talked, and I asked questions, and they asked questions.

“They asked everything you hoped they’d ask. Then over dinner, I felt there was something special that happened, so much so that on the way back to the hotel, I called my bride and said, ‘Babe, I don’t know how to put this into words right now, but something special just happened.’”

Wolfe outlined three priorities that will occupy the first six months of his work: meeting Baptists of South Carolina, asking them questions and building trust.

Wolfe also listed five priorities for his life and ministry, priorities to which Wolfe pledged to give his full attention:

Fervent prayer

“Because I am at my best with people when I am on my knees before God,” he said. “South Carolina Baptists, prayer is not a really good part of our program, prayer is the program. We can have all the staff and resources, but if the Holy Spirit doesn’t breathe on them, nothing happens.”

Biblical integrity

“Because I live and lead in wisdom when I am faithful to God’s Word,” he said. “The Bible is the perfect treasure of divine instruction, we’ve commonly confessed. It is our supreme standard. … We don’t have to agree on every little interpretation of Scripture, but we do have to stand together on the inerrancy, inspiration, infallibility, sufficiency and authority of God’s great Word.”

Missional priority

“Because my message is urgent and my time is short,” Wolfe said. “I’m committed to investing every minute for the rest of my life for God’s global glory through the advancement of the Gospel. The message of the Gospel is not complicated, but it is urgent. God has entrusted to us 5.3 million South Carolinians, 8 billion image bearers — citizens of the planet earth, for us to reach with the Gospel before it is everlastingly too late. … Let’s stay laser-focused on the mission.”

Everyday excellence

“Because how I do anything is how I will do everything,” he said. “I want to brush my teeth to the glory of God. At my home church, I want to set up tables and chairs to the glory of God. … Christ is worthy of excellence.”

Cooperative disposition

“Because I am better when we are together,” Wolfe said. “I’m sure you’re aware that much threatens to divide us. Southern Baptists are at one of our most delicate seasons in recent history. I firmly believe South Carolina Baptists can show our larger faith family and the rest of the watching world what it looks like to love one another with the peculiar love of Christ.

“That means to stick together, to work together, to advance the Great  Commission together. Our general disposition should always be toward cooperation, not away from it.”

Wolfe and his wife, Vanessa, married in 2001 and have two sons: Ethan, who serves as a youth pastor in Oklahoma and is engaged to be married in the summer, and Aaron, a high school junior.

Wolfe holds degrees from Lamar University, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He will complete a Ph.D. in evangelism and missions from Southwestern Seminary next year.

Said Wolfe, “Vanessa and I are prepared to invest the best years of our lives in united, vigorous exertion with you around one common cause.”

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

Iglesia centenaria experimenta un resurgir al alcanzar a una comunidad cambiante

Cambio de enfoque los lleva a la revitalización

Los cristianos vivimos en un mundo cambiante, pero con un evangelio inconmovible. Teniendo en cuenta esa realidad, muchas iglesias se encuentran adaptando sus estrategias evangelísticas para llegar a las nuevas generaciones y culturas que las rodean.

La Primera Iglesia Bautista (PIB) de Galena Park, situada en una ciudad en la que, a lo largo de los años, ha visto cambiar drásticamente la población, ha aceptado estos cambios. 

Esta iglesia, de 105 años de antigüedad, comenzó como una congregación anglosajona en el 1918. Unos 90 años más tarde, el número de miembros de la iglesia empezó a disminuir considerablemente, pasando de ser más de 800 en su momento álgido a menos de 100.
A medida que la iglesia experimentaba cambios, también lo hacía su población. En el 2002, la población de Galena Park se había convertido en un 85% hispana.

La iglesia decidió abrazar ese cambio y tratar de llegar a otras culturas. Lo que sucedió luego sólo puede describirse como una revitalización de la iglesia. Parte del plan de la iglesia para adaptarse a su nueva realidad incluía traer a un pastor hispano bilingüe para así poder proveer servicios en inglés y español con el fin de alcanzar a los hispanos de la comunidad. 

Ese pastor bilingüe era Marcos Ramos, quien, junto con su esposa Irma y sus tres hijos, respondió al llamado de dirigir la iglesia hacia un nuevo futuro. Según Ramos, la iglesia se fortaleció y adquirió solidez financiera cuando comenzaron a alcanzar activamente a los hispanos. Hoy en día, Ramos ha sido el pastor de esta congregación bilingüe durante casi 21 años. 

La PIB de Galena Park celebra tres cultos dominicales: en español a las 9:30 a.m., en inglés a las 11 a.m. y un servicio bilingüe a las 6 p.m.

“No queríamos ser sólo un departamento o misión hispana de Galena Park.Queríamos ser una iglesia [en varios idiomas].”

“No queríamos ser sólo un departamento o misión hispana de Galena Park,” dijo Ramos. “Queríamos ser una iglesia [en varios idiomas].” 

Ramos sintió el llamado al ministerio a los 16 años, cuando vio la necesidad de más pastores hispanos. Más tarde, decidió prepararse para su llamado obteniendo un diploma en teología de la Universidad Bautista de las Américas (antes Instituto Bíblico Bautista Mexicano) y un bachillerato en estudios teológicos de la Universidad Bautista de Dallas. También realizó cursos de posgrado en el Criswell College y en el Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

A lo largo de su extenso ministerio pastoral de 46 años, Dios ha sido fiel al darle a Ramos la oportunidad de pastorear tanto iglesias anglosajonas como hispanas. A sus 67 años, sigue predicando el evangelio de Cristo, guiando a su rebaño en Galena Park y disfrutando de sus 10 nietos. Ramos sirvió dos términos consecutivos en la Junta Directiva de la Convención de los Bautistas del Sur de Texas (SBTC), del 2003 al 2012, y fue presidente del Comité de Credenciales en el 2007.

La Primera Iglesia Bautista de Galena Park ha recibido tres veces el premio “Look Like Heaven” de la SBTC, otorgado a iglesias multiculturales que se encuentran entre las que más aportan financieramente al Programa Cooperativo en todo el estado. La iglesia ha estado afiliada a la SBTC desde sus comienzos. 

“El año pasado, dimos $11,998 al Programa Cooperativo para la gloria de Dios,” dijo Ramos, “y también apoyamos financieramente otras obras misioneras, como nuestra asociación bautista local, la Asociación Bautista de San Jacinto.” Durante la Reunión Anual 2022 de la SBTC, Ramos y su esposa, Irma, recibieron el Reconocimiento de Legado Ministerial Michael Gonzáles, debido su trayectoria ministerial de 46 años.  

(Left) Ramos and his wife, Irma, were honored for their years of ministry service at the 2022 SBTC Annual Meeting. (Right) Ramos is pictured with his family. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

Durante todo el año, la iglesia organiza eventos y programas para evangelizar y alcanzar a la comunidad. El Día de Acción de Gracias organizan una comida en dónde se comparte la Palabra de Dios. La iglesia también tiene una despensa de alimentos para aquellos en la comunidad que solicitan ayuda, empacan cajas de regalo para el proyecto Operación Niño de la Navidad, y organiza fiestas en la cuadra para proporcionar cortes de pelo, alimentos, útiles escolares y actividades para los niños. La PIB de Galena Park también es sede de AWANA, un programa de discipulado y recreación para niños. Además, la iglesia ha participado en varios viajes misioneros a varios países hispanos.  

La PIB de Galena Park tiene la misión de ser “un organismo espiritual dinámico, empoderado por el Espíritu Santo para compartir a Jesucristo y alcanzar a la mayor cantidad de personas posible en nuestra comunidad y en alrededor el mundo.” La iglesia cree que lo que dice la Biblia es verdad: que un día, personas de todas las naciones, tribus, pueblos y lenguas adorarán ante el trono de Dios.

Hasta entonces, seguirán cumpliendo su misión alcanzando a todas las naciones, tribus, pueblos y lenguas que Dios ha puesto al cruzar la calle.

Century-old church experiences new life by reaching out to changing community

From refocused to revitalized

Christians live in an ever-changing world with a never-changing gospel. Considering that reality, many find themselves adapting their evangelistic strategies to reach new generations and cultures around them.

First Baptist Church of Galena Park, located in a city that has seen its population demographic shift dramatically over the years, has embraced these changes. 

The 105-year-old church began as an Anglo congregation in 1918. About 90 years later, the church began to experience a significant decline in membership, dropping from more than 800 members at its high point to less than 100. As the church experienced change, so did the population around it. By 2002, Galena Park’s population had become 85% Hispanic.

FBC Galena Park decided to embrace that change and begin reaching out to other cultures. What followed can only be described as a revitalization of the church. Part of the church’s plan to adapt to its new reality included calling a bilingual Hispanic pastor to lead services in English and Spanish to reach the growing number of Hispanics in the community. 

That bilingual pastor was Marcos Ramos, who, along with his wife Irma and their three children, answered the call to lead the church into the future. According to Ramos, the church gained strength and became financially sound as it began reaching out to Hispanics.

FBC Galena Park hosts three Sunday worship services: in Spanish at 9:30 a.m., in English at 11 a.m., and a bilingual service at 6 p.m.

“We didn’t want to be just the Hispanic department or mission of Galena Park. We wanted to be one church [in multiple languages].”

“We didn’t want to be just the Hispanic department or mission of Galena Park,” said Ramos, who has pastored the church for 21 years. “We wanted to be one church [in multiple languages].” 

Ramos felt a call to ministry at age 16, when he saw a need for more Hispanic pastors. Later, he decided to prepare for his calling by earning a diploma in theology from the Baptist University of the Américas and a bachelor’s degree in theological studies from Dallas Baptist University. He also took graduate courses at Criswell College and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Throughout his 46-year pastoral career, God has been faithful to give Ramos the opportunity to pastor Anglo and Hispanic churches. At 67, he is still preaching the gospel of Christ, leading his flock in Galena Park, and enjoying his 10 grandchildren. Ramos served two consecutive terms on the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) Executive Board from 2003-2012 and was chairman of the Credentials Committee in 2007.

FBC Galena Park is a three-time recipient of the SBTC’s “Look Like Heaven” award, given to multicultural churches that are among the state’s top givers to the Cooperative Program.  

“Last year, we gave $11,998 to the Cooperative Program for the glory of God,” Ramos said, “and we also financially support other mission work, such as our local Baptist association, the San Jacinto Baptist Association.” During the 2022 SBTC Annual Meeting, Ramos and his wife received the Michael Gonzales Ministerial Legacy Award for their many years of ministry. 

(Left) Ramos and his wife, Irma, were honored for their years of ministry service at the 2022 SBTC Annual Meeting. (Right) Ramos is pictured with his family. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

That faithful ministry has included leading the church to host events and programs throughout the year to evangelize and reach out to the community. During Thanksgiving, FBC Galena Park hosts a meal where the Word of God is shared. The church also has a food pantry for those in the community who need help, members pack gift boxes for Operation Christmas Child, and it hosts block parties to provide haircuts, food, school supplies, and activities for the children. FBC Galena Park also hosts AWANA, a discipleship and recreation program for children. Additionally, the church has participated in several mission trips to various Hispanic countries.  

FBC Galena Park has a mission to be “a dynamic spiritual organism empowered by the Holy Spirit to share Jesus Christ and reach as many people as possible in our community and around the world.” The church believes what the Bible says is true—that one day, those from every nation, tribe, people, and tongue will worship before the throne of God. 

Until that time, they will continue to fulfill the mission by reaching every nation, tribe, and tongue God has placed right in their own backyard.

Pastoring in an active war zone

Iwill never forget the day Craig Miller and I drove through the Jordanian desert at 95 miles per hour to deliver cash and encouragement to embedded missionaries in Baghdad. These heroic Southern Baptist Convention missionaries were working alongside the equally heroic U.S. military to replace water pumps in the immediate aftermath of the Iraqi War. 

Except the war wasn’t over. Not even close. 

Craig and I only heard the part of President George W. Bush’s speech that we wanted to hear on May 2, 2003: “In the battle of Iraq, the major phase of combat is over. The United States and our allies have prevailed,” Bush said, while standing on the enormous flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln.

If we had listened carefully to the rest of his speech, Craig and I would have heard Bush say there is still “difficult work to do. Parts of that country remain dangerous … The al-Qaida terrorist organization is wounded, not destroyed…”

Once we arrived two months later, it became obvious that Baghdad was still a very active war zone. We saw firefights almost every day—the most active one at the United Nations building, which was soon after destroyed by a suicide bomber. In a separate attack a few months after we left, three of the brave International Mission Board missionaries we worked with were ambushed in traffic and killed. 

"Although our ultimate war has already been won through Jesus’ finished work on the cross, our wounded enemy is shrewdly taking aim at the commissioned officers of the church."

Pastors, missionaries, and other ministry leaders live and fight daily in an active war zone that is just as real as what we experienced in Baghdad. In some ways, pastors are dealing with even more insidious enemies because their battle is, for the most part, invisible. The world, Satan, and even our own flesh conspire against us every day, which makes it hard to win.  

Sometimes our worst enemy is the person in the mirror. No right-minded minister ever woke up thinking, “How can I blow up my ministry today?” Yet the recent epidemic of messy ministry exits ranges from slow-fading burnouts to epic moral meltdowns. 

God has a much better plan for our lives and ministries. He has called us to start well, serve well, and finish well. On the Apostle Paul’s last ministry lap, he shared his resolve with Timothy and his team: “My purpose is to finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:24). His follow-up letter to Timothy from death row was a legacy statement: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

Although our ultimate war has already been won through Jesus’ finished work on the cross, our wounded enemy is shrewdly taking aim at the commissioned officers of the church. Jesus warned us of our enemy’s schemes to strike the shepherd so that the sheep of the flock will be scattered (Matthew 26:31).

Our legacy will be determined more on how we finish our race than how we started it. When we win, others in our family and ministry win. When we lose, the collateral damage is often bigger than we will ever see in our lifetimes.

SBTF adds products aimed at impacting kingdom

Several opportunities local Southern Baptists of Texas Convention congregations utilize to maximize investments are now available to individuals in SBTC churches—certificate investments that currently yield between 2.00% and 3.75% annually, as well as daily certificate accounts and donor advised funds (DAF). SBTF Executive Director Bart McDonald and Investment Services Director Terry Jeffries answered questions for the Texan about the new products. 

Q: Why should individuals invest through the foundation instead of a secular institution? 

Jeffries: Since opening certificate investments to individuals on Jan. 1, we have had dozens of people reach out for information and several have already opened accounts. For example, a couple from Houston invested $100,000 in an 11-month certificate that provides 2.70% APY. During this investment term, they will earn $2,475 in interest. The same $100,000 invested in a 30-month certificate would yield 3.30% APY and earn $8,250 during its term. 

While banks pay similar rates, investing with the foundation has the added benefit of making a kingdom impact, as those dollars fund loans to plant new churches and expand existing church campuses. Setting up a certificate account at the foundation is easy, and nearly anyone can participate because our minimum investment is only $2,500. 

Q: How does a daily certificate account offer immediate access to funds? 

Jeffries: This option works similarly to a savings account at a bank. A daily certificate account is an excellent way for individuals to earn 2.00% APY on emergency funds that might otherwise be in a savings account, often earning little interest. These funds are available for withdrawal without penalty, and there are no associated fees for investment. Our online member portal allows clients to make deposits and withdrawals quickly and conveniently. 

Q: Why should ministries and individuals invest with the foundation if banks offer similar rates? 

Jeffries: First, banks invest in many different types of institutions and organizations, some of which likely do not align with Christian values. The foundation utilizes certificate investments to fund loans to gospel-proclaiming ministries. Dozens of churches across Texas have built new facilities or planted churches with loans from the SBTF. 

When Jason Collins first arrived at CrossRoads Baptist Church in Rowlett, 80 members worshiped in a 5,400-square-foot building. The church experienced explosive growth from 2015 to 2018, baptized 248 people, and grew to over 500 in attendance. The foundation loaned CrossRoads $3 million in 2018 to build a 25,000-square-foot facility. They now worship with over 1,000 on Sundays and baptize around 100 people annually. Certificate clients are the ones who make kingdom growth like this possible through their investments. The foundation has loaned more than $100 million to churches and ministries that are committed to reaching Texas communities. 

“While banks pay similar rates, investing with the foundation has the added benefit of making a kingdom impact, as those dollars fund loans to plant new churches and expand existing church campuses.”

Q: What exactly is a donor advised fund? 

Jeffries: DAFs are charitable giving tools growing in popularity because they simplify the giving process, multiply the impact of giving, and maximize tax benefits. Individuals can contribute to their DAF and receive an immediate tax deduction, allow those invested funds to grow tax-free, and take time to decide what ministries to support and how often. The DAF can send a one-time check or recurring checks on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis to your designated charities on your behalf. 

Funding a DAF by donating stock or other appreciated value assets provides an immediate tax-deductible contribution of the present value of the asset and also allows the donor to avoid capital gains taxes on the appreciated value. Donors can choose to contribute stock to a DAF when its share price is high rather than [tying] the donation to a specific ministry need, then allow these funds to grow over time and make a more significant kingdom impact. DAFs can make regular title payments to a local church and support other vital ministries or missions like disaster relief, Criswell College, Jacksonville College, or the Texas Baptist Home for Children

Q: How do DAFs avoid tax liability? 

McDonald: DAFs are great vehicles to avoid capital gains taxes on capital appreciated non-cash assets, thereby maximizing resources available to direct toward kingdom causes. The avoidance of capital gains issues related to the sale or liquidation of capital appreciated assets may be another element worthy of disclosure. 

Two of the foundation’s DAF clients had investments in several pieces of real property. Their cost basis in those properties was incredibly low in comparison to current market valuations. Having decided it was time to sell, they donated those properties into their family-styled DAF accounts. At the point of donation, they receive a tax deduction based on the appraised value of the properties. The added benefit of the avoidance of capital gains taxes on the liquidation was significant in their choice of the DAF as a giving platform. 

After receipt, the foundation liquidates the assets with proceeds going into the DAF (less a minor asset handling fee to cover the foundation’s costs and efforts of converting the asset to cash). The foundation is a 501c3 entity and not subject to taxation—in other words, no capital gains levied by the IRS. 

Current 2022 capital gains are 15% on households whose income exceeds $41,676. On several of these properties, the gains would have been well in the high six- to low seven-figure range. Instead of the related capital gains ending up in the IRS coffers, those amounts were preserved and end up in the DAF cash balances, which can in turn be directed by the donors to benefit their church and other kingdom charities. DAF accounts are excellent ways to direct capital appreciated assets to fund kingdom endeavors, with stocks, investments, and non-cash real property assets being the most common. 

SBTF is available by calling 844-351-8804, online at, and in person for churches and individuals at 2331 Brookhollow Plaza Drive, Arlington, TX 76006. SBTF staff are also available to make presentations to local churches by request.

Panhandle church finds unexpected blessing from God—and uses it to bless others

Kelley Fennell has attended First Baptist Church in Springlake all her life. In addition to serving as church treasurer, she is the vacation Bible school director and ladies Bible study teacher. 

According to Pastor Rob Norris, she also spearheaded the church’s Bless Your Socks Off campaign—which has not only impacted its members, but the local community, tornado victims in Kentucky and Tennessee, missionaries in India and Pakistan, and so much more.

Not that Fennell wants any of that light shined on her.

“It’s not about the church. It’s not about what we have done, but it’s about how God has blessed us,” she said.

FBC Springlake is a small church in a really small panhandle town, located about 45 miles from the New Mexico border. There’s a post office, a cotton gin, and the church. The population is approximately 120, with about 50 people attending the church on Sunday mornings. 

In 2020, the COVID pandemic presented the church with a surplus through continued faithful giving. Fennell and the finance committee met on numerous occasions to determine how they could use those extra funds to help others. Through those meetings, God provided opportunities.

Fennell said Norris loves to remind church members that the Hebrew word for “cheerful” in 2 Corinthians 9:7 (“God loves a cheerful giver”) is hilaros—from which the English word hilarious is derived.

(Left) Part of FBC Springlake’s Bless Your Socks Off campaign helped a Ukrainian student attend college in the U.S. Though small, the church has had a major impact on its community and beyond. Submitted photos

“And so we did,” Fennell said. “We’ve just had a hilariously fun time doing this.” 

And thus, FBC Springlake’s Bless Your Socks Off campaign was born, with Luke 6:38 becoming its driving force: “Give and it will be given to you, good measure pressed down, shaken together and running over.”  

Soon, the Lord began to do something abundantly more than anyone in the church could really imagine—and something Fennell had never seen in her 25-plus years as treasurer. Namely, the monthly reconciled bank balance registered at more than $100,000.

“So many churches we would hear from during this time, and from friends and families, were struggling to meet their budgets during COVID,” Fennell said, “and because of God’s grace, here we were with an abundance of finances.”

At the church’s December 2021 business meeting, Fennell challenged committee members to look for ways they could bless others with the monetary blessings they had received from God. “We just wanted to bless their socks off,” she said. 

Those blessings came in the form of helping people in Springlake with medical expenses and unexpected repairs to vehicles and homes. Then the blessings expanded to the southeast U.S., where tornados had devastated entire communities. The church also supported a young man on a mission trip, instituting vacation Bible schools throughout New Mexico. The blessings even went global, as the church assisted ministries in India and Pakistan.

“It’s not about the church. It’s not about what we have done, but it’s about how God has blessed us.”

FBC Springlake members wanted the blessings to be more than just monetary; the church also desired to make new connections and cultivate relationships. In August 2022, a young girl whose dad pastors in war-torn Ukraine went through the long process of coming to America to attend Wayland Baptist University in nearby Plainview. She arrived with nothing more than a suitcase. Through what Fennell describes as “a lot of God connections,” the church was able to bless her with money to purchase items she needed to attend school. The church has committed to support her throughout her college career. The student even came to the church to share her testimony, report on her progress in school, and share her talent of playing the violin.

Fennell says through Bless Your Socks Off, FBC Springlake has truly learned that it is more blessed to give than receive. “It’s opened our eyes to the needs of those around us as we seek out those to minister to, and not just wait on them to come to us. We’ve experienced the joy of giving, and we continue to be blessed by God in ways that we can’t even comprehend.”

Since implementing Bless Your Socks Off, the account from which the church blesses others has never dropped below $90,000. In fact, the balance has steadily increased—leaving the church more resources to continue blessing its community and beyond.

“It has been exciting to see how our people have responded,” Norris, the church’s pastor, said. “They have caught a vision and [started thinking about] where we can help people in a way that honors God and helps folks out.” Norris said the next round of blessings may include helping provide resources for earthquake relief in Turkey and Syria.

Added Fennell: “We pray that we will continue to be faithful to bless others as God has so abundantly blessed us.”