2015 Kentucky Missionary of the Year

Whitetrees

Thirty-two years ago, after serving in Hawaii, Iowa, and Louisville Greg & Alice Whitetree came to the Lookout Community of Pike County, KY to become the Directors of the Freeda Harris Baptist Center.  They planted themselves deeply in the community and today call that place “home.”  Greg & Alice not only minister to children, but the entire family through the various ministries of the Center.  It is estimated from their monthly reports that over 1,200 professions of faith have been made as a direct result of their ministry.  Of the forty-eight years they have been married, forty-five of those have been spent in ministry.

Last week, during the KY-WMU Annual Meeting at Sand Spring Baptist Church in Lawenceburg, Greg and Alice were presented with the 2015 Kentucky Missionary of the Year award.  This award is given each year to a missionary or missionary couple that demonstrates:

  • Commitment to and effectiveness in evangelism, church planting, or ministry.
  • Demonstration of “going the second mile”.
  • Outstanding performance in achieving assigned tasks.
  • Tenure.
  • Unusual commitment to our Lord’s service.
  • Positive representation of Kentucky Baptist Convention and the North American Mission Board.
  • True reflection of being an “On Mission Christian”.

Greg and Alice meet all of these requirements and more.  In 2011 the Whitetrees retired but agreed to remain as volunteer directors so that this ministry would continue in the place they love and serve.

Alice shared a story about Debbie, a lady she has been friends with and has witnessed to for the thirty-two years they have been at the Freeda Harris Baptist Center.  Time after time she had asked Debbie to give her heart to the Lord and Debbie kept saying no.  Just a few weeks ago, when a new volunteer was sharing with her, Debbie asked Christ into her heart.  “Thirty-two years,” Alice said.  “It was worth it all.”  Then, to the new missionaries being commissioned, Alice said, “Don’t give up,”

Thank you Greg and Alice for your love for the Lord and for your faithfulness in service.  CONGRATULATIONS on being chosen as the 2015 Missionary of the Year.

 

Why?

Nellie was laid to rest one, October afternoon.  She was eight years of age when complications from HIV/AIDS robbed her life.

Nelly on Left

Nellie on Left

Nellie contracted HIV/AIDS from her mother’s breast-milk.  When her mother died of this terrible disease, someone left her in a box outside an orphanage.  She was a beautiful, vibrant, active little girl.  She loved to hear Bible stories at bedtime.  While serving with a team assisting in AIDS/orphans ministry, she sat on my lap as I told her stories from the Bible.  When the email informed me of her passing, it stabbed my heart and caused me to implore “why?”

Why does God allow such suffering?

I witnessed first-hand the devastation of the Haiti earthquake that rocked thousands of lives. Last March, I walked among tens of thousands displaced by tribal war in South Sudan. Perhaps one man summed up the despair best when he told me, “The only thing that is trampled when two bull elephants fight is the grass between them.”  I can picture today the face of the woman in New York after Hurricane Sandy, who screamed at me, “Have they forgotten us?”  I am still haunted by a question asked of me by a survivor of the Japan tsunami that swept countless victims out to sea.  And, I confess that each of these drove me to look upwards as I cried for God to give me answers.

Why does a good God allow such suffering?

I confess to you today that I have no answer to this deep question.  The Bible dares to be honest, as it teaches us that life is not always easy and painless.  God chooses not to give a definitive answer for the question of suffering.  Rather than answer the question of “Why,” the Bible chooses to focus on the “Where.”

Where is God in the suffering?

God is on the side of those who suffer.  We live in a fallen, sin-plagued world where disasters strike and evil lurks, but God has not abandoned us.  God sent Jesus Christ into the muck of this world and declared Him to be, “Immanuel, which is translated God is with us”(Matthew 1:23).  Scripture further declares of Jesus, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15).  God demonstrated His love and compassion for us by sending Jesus Christ, who declares, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).  God has not promised a world without hardship and trials, but He has promised to be with us.

Secondly, I would encourage you that God comes to those who suffer through His church.  Perhaps, our light of the church never shines brighter than when we come to those who suffer or minister to the “least of these.”  If the church does its job, then people do not wonder where God is.  They see him in the hands of Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief workers.  They see him in the feet of those who go to care for widows and orphans.  They hear His voice as we offer compassion to the broken and discouraged.  Demonstrating a Christ-like presence brings relief to broken hearts, healing for open wounds, and resurrected hope to those wrapped in despair.

Finally, I would encourage you that God is preparing a new home for those who are His.  The suffering and evil of this world may wound us, but they do not have the final word.  Someday, our great God will usher us into a home that He is preparing  that will be safe from the enemy’s terrible hand.  The Bible offers the only real hope for our suffering when it declares emphatically about a coming day when:

“God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

Meet Our Newest Kentucky Missionaries

MSC logo
Each year we learn of individuals and couples that sense God’s call and leading to serve in ministries across Kentucky.  On Friday, April 10
th, twelve of these new missionaries will be commissioned by the Kentucky Baptist Convention, in conjunction with Kentucky WMU, during the WMU annual meeting at the Sand Spring Baptist Church in Lawrenceburg.  

These missionaries range in age from 20s to 70s, and serve in a variety of ministries.  Some have come to us from other states, while others are serving within their own home state or even their hometown.

Prior to the commissioning service, the missionaries will spend their morning and afternoon in orientation to learn more about the Kentucky Baptist Convention, Cooperative Program, and resources available to them.  This time of networking with each other is most valuable.

The new missionaries are:

  • Frank & Judy Caulder (from Lugoff, SC), serving as Directors of Sacks of Love Ministry in Harlan County.
  • Lillian Cottingham (from Jackson, GA), serving as an Evangelism Catalyst with Crossroads Community Baptist Church & Learning Center in Whitley City.
  • Holly Decker (from Barbourville), serving as a Mission Support Catalyst with Cedaridge Ministries in Williamsburg.
  • Joyce Flaugher (from Falmouth), serving as Mobilization Consultant with the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
  • David & Susan Hampton (from Corbin), serving as Disaster Relief Childcare Specialists with the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
  • Jonathan Herald (from Manchester), serving as Missionary to Vulnerable Children & Families with Manchester Baptist Church and God’s Closet in Manchester.
  • Katheryn Pope (from Mt. Vernon), serving as Director of the Rockcastle Baptist Association’s Community Mission Team.
  • Paul & Mary Jo Radosevich (from Decatur, AL), serving as Directors of Calvary Campus in Blackey.
  • Madison Sawyers (from Corbin), serving as Disaster Relief Childcare Specialist with the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
  • Lorie Wells (from Corbin), serving as a Mission Support Catalyst with Cedaridge Ministries in Williamsburg.

You will not want to miss this special service and meet our newest Kentucky missionaries.  Perhaps you can connect with them and learn of ways to be a support to them in these ministries.

The 2015 Kentucky Missionary of the Year will also be recognized during this service.

For more information on the activities of the WMU meeting go to www.kywmu.org/annualmeeting.

Hope to see you there.

Missions Strategy: Encourage Leaders

The call of the Great Commission (GC) is tremendous indeed.  It is a privilege to be an ambassador of our King, and yet it is a daunting responsibility.  The Lord never promised that making disciples of all nations would be easy; He did promise, however, that He would be with us.  Yet, the nature of such a task can become rather overwhelming without proper encouragement.

In recent months, I have discussed three components of GC faithfulness: empowering through prayer, evangelizing the unreached, and establishing churches.  A fourth necessary component of GC faithfulness is encouraging leaders.  Let’s face it.  Gospel work is people work and when working with people we can easily become weary.  We weary for lack of conversions or spiritual growth.  We grow weary from internal conflict or even outside conflict.  The number of reasons for our weariness is vast.

EncouragementEvery minister of the gospel, every church of the Lord Jesus, every follower of Christ needs to be encouraged that the race they are running is worth the struggle.  Paul understood the need to encourage believers in the gospel.  We are told in Acts 14 that Paul, upon planting churches, went back to those churches in order to “strengthen the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God’” (Acts 14:22).

I find it fascinating and also encouraging that these fledging churches needed encouragement so quickly.  I find it fascinating and encouraging because I know the same is true in my own life.  Life is hard.  Trials of life related specifically to the gospel and related generally to a fallen world mean that we are prone to become weary.

In fact, Paul says in Acts 14:22 that we will enter the kingdom of God through many tribulations.  We fight until the very end.  Now, Paul is not saying that we fight our way to heaven in the sense that we earn it.  Rather, he is saying that life is filled with fighting the good fight of faith—taking hold of the eternal life to which we are called (1 Tim 6:12).  We continual pursue after Jesus; we persevere (by His grace).

In order to continually pursue after Jesus, we need people in our lives to help us in this pursuit.  This is why Paul made an intentional effort to travel back to the churches he had already planted to strengthen them in the faith.  They needed it then; we need it now.

Churches seeking to be faithful and effective in the Great Commission will intentionally strategize about ways to not only strengthen and encourage their own people in the faith, but other churches and leaders as well.  If these early believers needed it then, surely we need it now.  May we pray for power, evangelize the lost, plant churches, but not neglect to continually build up one another to fight the good fight until the end.

A Coming Disaster

New york ChaplaincyThe Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a disaster as, “a sudden calamitous event bringing great damage, loss, or destruction.”  As these events come raging into our lives, people need someone to come alongside them, if they are to survive and recover.

What comes to mind when you hear:

Katrina
West Liberty Tornado

Moore, Oklahoma Tornadoes

Colorado Wildfires

Hurricane Sandy

9-11

All of these provoke pictures in our minds of damage, destruction, loss, and tragedy.  The images of these events moved our hearts to reach out and respond as the people of God. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief rightly responded to the adversity caused by these calamitous events, and made a difference for the sake of Christ.

Let the warning sirens sound, as a greater disaster looms on the horizon.  According to the North American Mission Board, the church-to-population ratio in the United States peaked during the first World War with one church for every 430 people.  Today in the U.S., the ratio is one church for every 6,194 people, and some areas of our nation have as few as one church for every 60,000 people.  Even though Kentucky ranks much higher with one church for every 1,708 people, the somber reality is that barely 2 out of 10 individuals, who live in our state, choose to attend any of our existing churches on a given Sunday.  This is a looming spiritual disaster as many areas of our nation are living with little to no Gospel presence.  Nowadays, even areas of the Bible Belt are experiencing a rapid decline in church attendance.

Fortunately, Southern Baptists have developed a disaster strategy for recovery, as our nation suffers the loss created by this immense spiritual void.  Southern Baptists are engaging in a disaster relief program called “Send North America” that is seeking to plant churches across our nation.  The Kentucky Baptist Convention is also responding to this looming crisis by seeking to plant fifty new churches a year to reach our state with the Gospel.

You and your church could be part of the relief team by helping to start a new church in your community, or by seeking to join strategic partnerships to plant churches in another area of our nation.  Will you be part of a recovery strategy in Kentucky, Louisville, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Utah, New York, or another area of of our nation?

I would further encourage us to not miss the strategic opportunities that natural or man-made disasters give us to share the help, healing, and hope of Christ.  The tragedy and loss of those affected often opens doors and hearts to the hope of Christ.  But, it is critical that we step through these doors while they remain open.  Churches often miss the momentum provided by disaster relief by not connecting with disaster relief ministry, and by not utilizing the opportunities for outreach and church planting provided by Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.  As God’s people, we must seek to capture this momentum for the sake of the Kingdom.  Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief would love to assist you in establishing a response strategy and have developed an initiative called “Ready Church” to assist you. Please contact our office for more information about “Ready Church” or go to http://www.kybaptist.org/dr  to learn more about disaster relief ministries.

Jesus teaches us in Matthew 9:36-38:

“When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them because they were bewildered and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.’”

God has only one recovery plan for our nation and the world.  This looming disaster will not be abated without the followers of Christ stepping into the fray.  Would you join me in becoming part of one of the most critical disaster response teams in history?

Growing Churches Engage Their Communities

In Autopsy of a Deceased Church, Thom Rainer explores consistent themes among churches that have died. Then, in response to those themes, and most importantly, he walks the reader through the “radical paths necessary to keep the church alive to the glory of God.” One of the consistent themes he discovered was that dying churches refused to look like or minister to their community. He found that people in the pew were more concerned about protecting the way they did church than reaching residents of their community.

KY InAsMuch LogoChuck Lawless reports from his findings that one common denominator among “healthy growing churches in America” was that they were externally focused on the needs of others rather than themselves. If churches are going to grow and their message be heard by the community – most are going to have to re-establish trust. They are going to have to first show their ability to love their community and meet them at their point of need.

I’ve consulted with churches that were dying – and stubbornly, many have refused to be involved in their community and were only concerned about maintaining their “fort”. In these situations, it’s only a matter of time before death comes because the church no longer has a heart for ministry in their own community. It’s not enough that the church building sits in the community. Buildings and property don’t change lives, restore families and transform communities – Jesus does. And He is present in the church body which is supposed to be present and active in the community! Vibrant and growing churches are interested in their communities and consider the needs of others above their own (Phil 2:1-4).

Churches that wish to be growing and healthy will discover ways to reach outward into their communities. One effective way to do this is through an “Operation Inasmuch Day”. Inasmuch Kentucky is a one day mission blitz by the church in their local community. It is an inter-generational event mobilizing Christians to heal some of the hurts of a neighborhood or an entire community.

Churches can choose to do an Operation Inasmuch day at any time. However, as part of a statewide initiative, Kentucky Baptist Convention churches are challenged to choose a day in September of 2015 to participate.  Training opportunities are being provided throughout the state during March and April to equip churches for Inasmuch Kentucky.

How exciting it would be if churches across the Commonwealth decided to show their faith by their works. Imagine what an impact it would make for the Kingdom if the community saw the church leaving the seats and going to the streets to serve “the least of these”.

Not only is Inasmuch Kentucky a day of helping people at their need, it also…
• encourages sharing the love of Christ with the community
• strengthens fellowship and builds relationships in the church
• gives believers an opportunity to use one’s personal gifts in missions

For more information, training opportunities or resources on Inasmuch Kentucky, visit www.kybaptist.org/inasmuch    www.operationinasmuch.org

Remembering Harold

Harold Scroggs Photo

In 2003 a special missionary couple came to serve in Kentucky.  Harold & Joyce Scroggs attended an Appalachian Regional Ministry Summit at Berea Baptist Church in search of an assignment where God might be leading them.  The rest is history.  For the past 11 ½ years, other than a brief stint back to their home state, this South Carolina couple has served the people of eastern Kentucky through 3 different ministries, Meridzo and United for Jesus Ministries in Harlan County, and Haven of Rest Family Ministries in Inez.  In August 2012 they became the new Directors of Haven of Rest, when founder Eileen Mullins stepped down for health reasons.  Haven of Rest is a ministry to families of federal prisoners at the Big Sandy penitentiary in Inez.

Harold & Joyce became true Kentuckians and special friends to our Kentucky missionary family.  We were all shocked and saddened to learn of Harold’s massive heart attack and his passing on February 16th.  Fellow missionary Jamie Reynolds shared, “Harold was a wonderful friend and a great example of trusting in the Lord and walking with Him in ministry. I appreciate his sense of humor and wit, his good nature and the perseverance he displayed while walking (literally) through great physical, spiritual and emotional difficulties. He always just “kept going”. You cannot hardly say Harold without saying “Harold and Joyce”, because they are such a wonderful pair. They experienced the joy of serving the Lord and His kingdom together 24/7, and JOY is the operative word. So many, like us, will miss Harold’s physical presence with us, but we shall certainly see him again on that great Day. Until then our thoughts and prayers are with Joyce and the family, and we look forward to joining him at the throne of God forever. May all who come behind us find us as faithful as Harold was.”

Thank you, Harold, for your service in eastern Kentucky. We loved you and will miss you.

A “celebration of life” service will be held at a later time in Kentucky.

“…to help churches reach KY and the world for Christ”

What is our mission?  In short, it’s to make disciples of Jesus in all nations (Matt 28:16-20; Acts 1:8).  The call to make Jesus known among the nations is a call for the church.  The Great Commission was not given to a national or state denomination; it was given to the church.  The church of our Lord is called to multiply herself to the far corners of the world.  As a state convention, the KBC was created by churches, for churches, to help churches reach Kentucky and the world for Christ.  Plain and simple.  All we do as a state convention is meant to strengthen the church and equip her to reach others for Christ.

In order to help your church reach KY and the world for Christ several opportunities are available to be equipped for Great Commission impact this Spring.  Each opportunity is designed to help you think biblically, strategically and practically about missions in your neighborhoods and nations.

ITLT1)      International Team Leader Training- March 13-14.  Leading an international mission team can be quite intimidating and overwhelming.  We want to help prepare you to lead others who will take the gospel across the globe.  From team preparation to logistics, come learn how to lead your next overseas mission team.  To learn more or register for this free training, visit www.kybaptist.org/tlt.

EngageKY_600_3002)      Engage KY Vision Tours- March 20-21 (Northern KY) and May 18-19 (Lexington).  Two Spring tours are planned to awaken KY Baptists to the multiple opportunities to engage your own Judea with the gospel. Find out how your church can partner for gospel impact with existing churches and ministries in these two areas.  To learn more or register for this free vision tour, visit www.kybaptist.org/engage.

one-day-600_3003)      Mission: One Day- April 16 (Elkton, KY) and April 17 (Berea, KY).  This one event, two location training is designed to equip pastors, mission leaders, and DOMs to think biblically, strategically, and practically about mobilizing the church for Great Commission impact.  Learn from experienced pastors, IMB missionaries, and NAMB church planters.  You may attend the location nearest to you.  For more information or registration for this free training, visit www.kybaptist.org/missiononeday.

Because of the generosity of Kentucky Baptists through the Cooperative Program we are able to offer these Great Commission equipping opportunities.  Please take advantage of these trainings to further equip your church to make a global impact for the sake of God’s glory.  After all, the KBC was created by churches, for churches, to help churches reach KY and the world for Christ.  So, what are we waiting for?  Let’s reach our state and world for Christ together!

Hope for the Brokenhearted

When disasters come roaring into our lives, loss follows.  The loss can be material possessions: our home, vehicles, household belongings, income, photos, and keepsakes.  Even more devastating, the loss can involve loved ones.  West Liberty -6

Those who have been affected by these disasters are left to cope with feelings of:

  • Loss
  • Intrusion
  • Vulnerability
  • Escape

We must have an understanding of these inner responses, if we are to minister to those seeking to recover from the devastation of disasters.

Loss:  It is vital that the relief volunteer understands that the sense of hurt won’t be magically wiped away.  A spiritual experience will not take away the loss that victims have experienced.

Intrusion:  Devastated by disasters, victims are often forced to trust strangers for the most basic of necessities such as food, water, shelter, and medical care.  It is important to offer love and support that enables the person to feel valued and respected as a person.

Vulnerability:  Often victims of disaster feel abandoned, forgotten, overwhelmed, angry, depressed, and hopeless.  Survivors feel extremely vulnerable, and it is important for a volunteer to avoid any behavior that even hints at manipulation.

Escape:  Recovery after disasters can take months and years.  The pain of survivors is very real and should not be glossed over.  We must always avoid offering the Gospel as a magic cure for the loss suffered by victims, or as a panacea that overlooks the real concerns that they are facing.

Here are some bits of wisdom in sharing the hope of Christ with those devastated by crisis events:

• Listen to their story.
• Assist them in any capacity that you are competent in or that you have been trained to respond.
• Assure the victims that you are there to help without any expectation of compensation.
• Demonstrate genuine concern for the person.
• Be cautious in promises and be sure to fulfill all promises made.
• Avoid using manipulative actions or words.
• Realize that unbelievers may not act or behave like followers of Christ.  Our witness needs to be positive and avoid actions or words that seem judgmental or condemning.
• Share openly the reason why you seek to help.
• Be prepared to share your faith story.
• Be ready to walk them through plan of salvation, if God’s Holy Spirit opens the opportunity.
• Allow time for questions, conversation, and the possibility of follow-up by you or someone else in your church.
• Pray with them.  This is always appropriate!
May we always remember that often the greatest source of strength and healing that enables people to recover is hope; and the greatest source of hope is found in a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  As the prophet reminds:
“But those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.”  (Isaiah 40:31)

 

Mercy Will Expect Change

ReThink Postcard FrontWe’re all familiar with churches that minister to the hungry by providing a bag of groceries, hot meal or sack lunch. Some churches provide financial assistance to individuals and families needing help with their rent or utilities. Others provide clothing, household items,  job training, pregnancy resources or shelter to those in need. Each of these acts of mercy are good and the church should be involved in many different forms of ministry to those in need.

Scriptures instruct us to care for those who are orphaned, widowed, naked, homeless, hungry and imprisoned (James 1:27, Matt 25). But what does that look like and should the church just give without any expectation of the recipient? Some people deserve mercy because they are working and show gratefulness for what they receive from the church. But do the wicked and ungrateful deserve mercy as well? The answer is yes … initially.

We can only understand our responsibility to others by looking at the grace and mercy God shows to us. His mercy is unconditional and He loved us while we were still in our sin (Romans 3:9-18). God’s mercy comes to us without any conditions, but it demands a response from us. God loves us so much that He can’t leave us in the same condition He finds us. We must actively pursue Christlikeness through prayer, worship, Bible study and service to others. Otherwise, our condition will not change.

In this same way, we should show mercy to those in need just as Christ did to us. The church shouldn’t judge those needing mercy as underserving, even if they are in this condition because of their own sin. We should give a witness to the free grace and mercy of God. But mercy doesn’t stop there. It isn’t only about meeting a felt need or stopping the current suffering. Our goal in showing mercy is to see those we help come to know God as their Lord. Total restoration and self-sufficiency of the person in need requires active pursuit and cooperation on their part. So, while we show mercy and offer help to all regardless of their condition, we won’t be satisfied to only band aid the situation. Eventually, Mercy will expect change of the individual or we’re not really showing the love of Christ. We offer mercy so that people will grow in Christ, not so that they will continue to rebel against Him.

So, if your church has a mercy ministry of some kind, how effective is it in total restoration of the individual in need? Is it very intentional and gospel-centered? Mercy ministries must do more than just meet a felt need. They must lead to total restoration of the individual in need. Perhaps your church is considering starting a mercy ministry in order to engage the lost. Whether you’re starting a new ministry or refining an existing one, the Missions Mobilization Team is ready to assist you. Contact our office for help with your mercy ministry.

Ministry training is provided through ReThink Mercy workshops scheduled for next week, February 12 or 13, in Louisville or Bowling Green. For more information or to register: www.kybaptist.org/rethink.