Embracing the Stranger Next Door

It was estimated that last year over 50 million people were displaced from their homes, with around 19.5 million forced to live as refugees. These people have been driven from their homes by war, violence, persecution, and disasters.  They have lost their culture, friends, security, sense of community, and often their dignity.

These are people with names, dreams, and hopes. These are people just like you and me. These are people loved by God. And they are coming to our communities.  Every year refugees, students, and other internationals are coming to our communities.  They are becoming our neighbors.  God is bringing the nations to us, and the church has been called to take the Gospel to all peoples.

How can we embrace the nations and reach out to those from other cultures that God is bringing to our communities?

  • Smile and welcome them.  Grace and kindness work in any culture.
  • Open your eyes to those that God has brought to your community.  Take time to see the server at the restaurant, the cashier at the convenience store, the nurse at the hospital, the new person in your office, or the neighbor across the street who may look, dress, and speak a little different from you.
  • Consider adopting a refugee family through your small group or church family.  The Kentucky Baptist Convention Missions Mobilization Team can help you connect to families through partnering ministries.
  • Start a conversation.  It can be as simple as asking someone their name and where they are from.  Ask them about their family or homeland.  Inquire about religious beliefs in their country.
  • Be a good listener.  Seek to be a learner.  People tend to listen to others who really listen to them.
  • Pursue genuine friendship.  Many internationals would love a real friend in a new land.  You are called to share with folks in a relationship, not sell the Gospel.
  • Be an ambassador for Christ.  Let them see Christ in you.  A good ambassador knows when to talk and when to listen.
  • Practice hospitality.  Share your phone number if they need a friend’s help or guidance. Invite them over for tea or coffee.  Drive them to the doctor or help them at a grocery store.  Have them over for a meal at your home.
  • Pray for them.
  • Share your faith story.  Tell them what your life was like before Christ, how you came to Christ, and what Jesus means to your life now.  Try to work on being able to share this in two to four minutes.  Avoid church words like lost or saved, as unbelievers often do not understand the internal language of Christians.
  • Remember the goal is not to win debates, but to passionately share your faith.  Stand strong on what you believe in a loving manner.
  • Finally, be ready for the day when your new friend wants to know how they can have a relationship with God through Christ.  Be prepared to share in everyday language what sin is, who Jesus is, and what the Gospel is.

 “Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time.  Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person” (Colossians 4:5-6).

How to Uniquely Involve the Uninvolved

Have you ever felt that only a small number of church members were doing the majority of the work?  It’s pretty common in churches, at least the ones I’ve been a part of, for us to depend upon the same few individuals to teach Sunday School, sing on the praise team, lead the men’s ministry, serve as deacons and coordinate the discipleship ministry.  When this happens, we are observing what is called the 80-20 rule or Pareto principle.

The Pareto principle, named after Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian mathematician and economist,  states that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the inputs or causes.  What if we’re observing the 80-20 rule in our churches because we don’t provide opportunities for the uninvolved 80% to be involved in ministry that utilizes their gifting, skills and experience?  Ephesians 4 teaches that believers have been gifted and should be equipped for the work of the ministry.  Ephesians 2 reminds us that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  So, what if we’re not seeing more believers involved in ministry and missions because we’ve limited the ministry opportunities made available to them?

An example of this was recently seen when one of the international missionaries with whom we partner needed someone to come alongside them to help with the artificial insemination of dairy cattle on a Muslim island where a plaque had killed most all of the cattle population.   Several Kentucky farmers with the experience and knowledge stepped up to meet the need, and provided a Christian witness too! These farmers may not have volunteered to lead a VBS class or sing in the choir, but God had gifted them uniquely for “such a time as this”.

There are many unique missions opportunities that allow believers to find joy and fulfillment in serving because they’re using the talents and gifts God has equipped them with.  Christ followers want and need to serve – but not all are given the chance if ministry opportunities ONLY exist within a very narrow window of mission experiences.

Here are just a few of the many ways that Christ followers can use their passion, skills, talents and experience to be uniquely on mission.

  1. Athletes are needed to help with sports camps (football, basketball, archery, etc). 
  2. Help is needed with literacy classes or after school tutoring
  3. Farmers are needed to help with artificial insemination of cattle & crop production
  4. Business and leadership classes for professionals in other countries
  5. Cooking and food service help is needed in disaster relief work
  6. Business owners can help with the development of micro-businesses that provide income for indigenous church planters and missionaries
  7. Volunteers can learn how to install and repair wells that provide remote villages with fresh water
  8. Those with construction experience are needed to provide ramps or make repairs for the handicapped and elderly
  9. Plumbers and electricians have skills that can be utilized internationally or here at home as a witness
  10. Skilled chainsaw and heavy equipment operators are needed in disaster relief work
  11. Car mechanics could provide assistance to single mothers and the elderly
  12. Medical professionals can serve through clinics in remote villages or in areas of poverty here in the U.S.
  13. Small motor repair courses can be used as a ministry in many cities throughout the world
  14. Woodworking, leather or metal work may provide income for church planters in many places if they are trained and provided start-up resources
  15. Retirees have years of experience to offer and should prayerfully consider using their unique skills and gifts for an extended period of time
  16. Students should consider giving a month or a summer to serve in a mission opportunity related to their major or degree program

Every skill or talent can be used for God’s honor if we give it to Him through missions opportunities.  The next time you observe the Pareto principle happening in your church, let me challenge you to consider how a unique missions opportunity would involve that unengaged believer to use his passion, gifts and talents.

Kentucky Missionaries Impacting their Community for Christ

Nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, on the southern edge of the Daniel Boone National Forest and the northern end of the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, is scenic McCreary County, Kentucky, a county with numerous gorges, waterfalls, rock shelters, and natural stone arches.

Kentucky missionaries Grant & Gina Hasty serve in this beautiful area.  Grant is the founding pastor of Crossroads Community Baptist Church and, along with wife Gina, they direct a “free” restaurant called The Lord’s Café.

Crossroads CBC began when a small group of individuals met in the Hasty’s living room on September 5, 2010 for Bible study.  From this small group, the church was birthed.  Today they meet at the former “Blue Heron Restaurant” building, where they gather on Sunday mornings for coffee, Bible study, and worship, and on Wednesday evenings for Bible study and dinner.

Although rich in beauty, McCreary County is poor economically, and poor spiritually.  Considered by some statistics to be the poorest county in Kentucky and in the United States, McCreary County has a 41% poverty rate, which is more than double the 15.5% national poverty rate.  23.8% of the people affiliate with a religion, while only 5% are reported as actual attenders.

Grant & Gina, along with new self-funded staff members Josh & Bobbi Chesser, are helping to make a difference in the physical and spiritual lives of families in this area.  Less than a year after the church was planted, The Lord’s Café was begun, and the first lunch was served on June 6, 2011.  Each year over 17,000 free hot lunches are served, every “customer” is prayed with, and the gospel is continually spoken and lived out.  On Wednesday of each week they also have a Grocery Giveaway Day, with over 100 families receiving free groceries.

In May 2017, Crossroads secured 13 acres of land to develop into a new area of ministry called The Light Community.  Their God-sized vision is to build 20 tiny homes that will be a safe-haven for individuals and small families to regain traction in life.  These may include individuals that have gone through rehab and need a place to get traction, families that need a safe home environment, or families that have experienced burn-out.

The goal for The Light Community is to demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ, and to not be a “shelter” but a place to live and to care for1`.  The desire is for the families to work, either on the farm or to find jobs where they can make a living for themselves.  The farm currently has horses, goats, a mini-pony, a mini-donkey, and chickens.  They hope to have a crafting center, a blacksmith shop, and other items as resale for artisans.

A chapel, made from reclaimed lumber, has been erected on the property and, when finished, will be used for a place of serenity and prayer, and small group Bible studies.

What can I do?

Life on mission at Crossroads depends on volunteers and mission teams.  Over the past seven and a half years, God has allowed this ministry to impact lives in the area.  They have on-going ministries throughout the year, and are seeking individuals, churches, or businesses to come alongside.  Whatever gift, skill, or talent you have, more than likely Crossroads has a place for you to serve.  For more information to http://www.crossroadscommunitybc.org/.

Supporting the Sent

Missions is at the forefront of who we are and what we do as Southern Baptists.  By God’s grace, we support thousands of missionaries across the globe.  However, if we aren’t careful and intentional, it would be easy for us simply to give our money as a denomination and detach ourselves from the reality that our missionaries are real people with real needs.  How can we not only support our missionaries financially, but make certain we are also supporting them beyond simply our dollars?  The apostle John helps us see the important role churches and individuals play in the ongoing support of missionaries from 3 John.

John writes to a believer named Gaius.  John rejoices in the growth of Gaius’ life and prays for his health to prosper as much as his spiritual life apparently prospers (v 2).  I wonder how much our physical health would prosper if it were to prosper in comparison to our spiritual health?  It seems that John’s connection to careful and intentional mission support is tied to one’s own spiritual health.  When word got back to John about Gaius “walking in the truth,” he was ecstatic (vv 3-4).

For John, walking in the truth, or “acting faithfully,” involves a care for furthering the gospel and supporting those who do so (v 5).  John hears of Gaius’ love for missionaries (traveling teachers) (v 6a).  John commends Gaius for supporting the sent in a manner worthy of God (v 6b).  John reminds us that those who travel to further the gospel go “for the sake of the Name” (v 7a).  Their support comes not from the “Gentiles” (outside financial support), but from within the church(es) (v 7b).

John’s word of encouragement to Gaius is to “support such men,” in order to be “fellow workers with the truth” (v 8).  Gaius and the church supported these traveling missionaries with lodging, food, money, encouragement, and prayer (Danny Akin, Christ-Centered Exposition, 3 John).  In other words, cooperative missions is a cooperative effort.  Some send. Some are sent.  All are involved.  We accomplish more for the gospel not on our own, but together.  We send the sent, but we support the sent.  How might we tangibly support our sent?

  • Provide salaries so that gospel work can be the primary focus of the missionaries. As Southern Baptists, the Cooperative Program allows us to unite our resources for maximum impact and support missionaries who can give full attention to reaching the unreached.

  • Provide lodging both on the field and when “home” for rest. For Gaius, it seems he both received and provided lodging for these traveling missionaries.  A place to call home away from “home” is an essential component for missionaries living in another culture.  Further, when able to travel back to the states for “rest,” missionaries need an oasis to recoup and recharge.

  • Provide meaningful care packages. On occasion, perhaps every other month, churches can send gift cards or care packages filled with favorite snacks and thoughtful gifts.  This builds a personal connection with church members and missionaries.

  • Provide continual encouragement through texts, emails, skype calls, etc. Loneliness is a reality for those living overseas for the gospel.  New cultures, new languages, and often extreme isolation can lead to battles with discouragement.  A simple message of encouragement from a passage of Scripture or just checking on the missionary’s family goes a long way in building them up.

  • Provide intentional prayer (and let them know it). Regularly praying for missionaries by name not only provides the spiritual support they need, but also gives the church a tangible connection to those serving on the field.  This puts a face to “Lottie” and “Annie” when we pray by name for our missionaries.  So, pray for them but then let them know you are praying for them.

Supporting those we send as missionaries involves more than our dollars.  It requires our personal time and investment in their lives.  In do so, John informs us that we are “fellow workers with the truth” (3 John 8).  Some send. Some are sent.  All are involved cooperatively as workers with the truth.

Are You Prepared for a Disaster?

Studies indicate that those who are prepared for disasters have a greater chance of survival than those who are not prepared.

So how can your family be prepared for a disaster?

  1. Be Informed.  What are the most likely disasters that could occur in your community?  What are the best safety practices that our family should enact if disaster threats happen in our community?  What risks do they impose on my family?   How can I mitigate the risks?
  2. Make a Disaster Plan with your Family.  How will we respond in an emergency? Does everyone know what to do if a tornado siren is heard, if flash flooding is occurring, or what to do in an earthquake?   How will my family get to a safe area?  How will we get in touch after the disaster to ensure everyone is safe and accounted for, or where will we meet if phones or computers are not working? And remember, practice insures everyone understands how to implement the plan.
  3. Put Together an Emergency Kit.  An emergency kit should include:
  • 3-5-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day).
  • 3-5 days of ready-to-eat food supplies
  • a first aid kit
  • paper plates, cups, and utensils
  • toilet paper
  • garbage bags
  • flashlight with extra batteries
  • plastic bucket with tight lid
  • disinfectant
  • household bleach
  • battery operated radio with extra batteries
  • 3-5 days of cash
  • essential medications
  • non-electric can opener
  • pliers
  • duct tape
  • matches in waterproof container
  • aluminum foil
  • pencil and paper
  • signal flare
  • wrench to turn off gas and water
  • water hose for siphoning
  • candles
  • good, sturdy shoes
  • rain gear
  • blankets or sleeping bags
  • warm clothing
  • box for important papers
  • whistle for signaling

No one knows when a disaster will strike.  However, we can and should be prepared in the event a crisis happens. Being prepared, may save you and your loved ones.

One last note, even secular disaster entities concur that those with a spiritual foundation, survive better and recover in healthier ways during disaster events than those lacking a spiritual refuge.  So, the greatest way to be prepared for a disaster is to rest your life on the Solid Rock of Jesus Christ!

“A shrewd person sees danger and hides himself,
but the naive keep right on going and suffer for it” (Proverbs 27:12).

To BE or Not to Be

BEing a witness to our community, state, nation and world is something we are, not something we do.  Being a witness is a mandate given to us by Christ himself.  Acts 1:8 tells us that after receiving power, we will BE His witnesses.  Yes, we do things to witness, but most importantly, we are to BE a witness.  You don’t have to be creative, educated, innovative or make it up as you go.  You simply tell what Christ has done for you, what you know of Him and what you have learned from Him.

Opportunities to BE a witness exist everywhere.  You can BE a witness in your “Jerusalem” as you go to the grocery, bank, school, park, work or for a walk in your neighborhood.  God has gifted and equipped you to BE His witness and very close to you are pregnancy care centers, homeless shelters, clothing and hunger relief ministries, after school programs, nursing homes, hospitals and community events.

Will you BE a witness in your Judea (Kentucky) or Samaria (North America)?  Missionaries and ministry leaders need help from people like yourself who are willing to go and meet needs related to church planting, evangelism, construction, church strengthening and community outreach.  The witness of trained Disaster Relief workers are needed following a tornado, flood, hurricane, or ice storm.  For a complete list of current opportunities, visit www.kybaptist.org/GO or www.kybaptist.org/DR.

Will you BE a witness across the pond to or to the utter most part of the world?  Missionaries in Greece and Europe are needing people to come a BE a witness by prayerwalking, evangelizing boroughs, planting churches or ministering to refugees.  Villages in sub-Saharan Africa need volunteers to BE a witness by drilling wells for drinking water, delivering hospice buckets for AIDS patients and caring for orphans.

These are only a few of the many opportunities to BE a witness that I’m aware of.  To quote William Shakespeare, “to BE or not to be”, that is the question.  If His power is upon you, it’s not a choice you make.  The command is to BE.  If we’re not BEing a witness, one must ask, “is His power upon me?”

It’s Not Too Late

As the school year comes to a close and minds are turned toward summer vacations, let me remind you that it is not too late to include missions as a part of your summer.  There are many opportunities to serve the Lord during these months ahead, and what a blessing it will be.  Whatever gift, skill, at talent you may have, there is a place for you.  Whatever your team makeup (individual, children, youth, women, men, or a family group), there is a place for you to serve.  However long you would like to serve, there are opportunities for you.

Our Kentucky Baptist Convention mission opportunities webpage has been updated and there are lots of places and ways to serve.  Go to www.kybaptist.org/go and check out the many opportunities in our state (as well as a few out of state).  You can search the projects by type of project, location, and length of assignment.  Once there, you can view some detail about each project, along with contact information for each ministry.  Feel free to contact the church, association, and/or ministry directly for additional information and/or for scheduling your mission trip.

If you have questions, or if none of these projects seem to fit your team, don’t worry.  There is still a place for you to serve.  Contact Teresa Parrett, Kentucky Missions Mobilization Coordinator, at [email protected], for assistance.

One great way to serve the Lord this summer is right in your own church through Vacation Bible School. Whether transportation, food service, decorating, craft and recreation leaders, photography, mission and Bible study leaders, or cleanup crew, there is a place for everyone.  What a joy it is to see the smiling faces of the children and they meet together to learn about Jesus.

Let me suggest also the Christmas Backpack Project as a mission project for your Vacation Bible School.  For information on this project go to www.kybaptsit.org/backpacks to learn more.  We can also suggest some  “real live” missionaries to visit your VBS to share and interact with the children.

Summer is a great time for ministry.  Don’t let yours pass without getting involved.  Contact us if we can assist.

HAPPY SUMMERING!!

Praying for a Fresh Wind in Chicago

Chicago is known for its many names: The Windy City, Second City, Chi-town, Heart of America.  Chicago is also known for many things: deep-dish pizza, hot dogs, Chicago Cubs, and Lake Michigan. The list goes on.

Amidst Chicago’s various names and iconic sites, there is something much less known about this great city.  What is less known, you ask?  Jesus.  The metro population of Chicago makes it the third largest city in the United States at 9.5 million people.  However, only 9.1% of the population is affiliated with an evangelical church.  Furthermore, there is only 1 SBC church for every 34,348 people in metro Chicago.

The KBC is entering a new partnership with NAMB in Send Chicago.  In conjunction with the lead Chicago Send City Church, Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, the KBC is beginning this partnership with the prayer and intention that many KBC churches will make the short trip up to the Windy City for gospel engagement.

With only about 25 church plants in metro Chicago, more work is needed to impact this great city with the gospel.  Coming alongside a church planter and new plant is a tremendous way in which KBC churches can have tangible gospel presence in a city only about 300 miles away.

While NAMB has selected Chicago among 31 other cities in North America as a strategic place for gospel advancement, the KBC is joining efforts here and praying that God will bring a fresh wind of gospel engagement to the 3rd largest city in the US.

Why is the KBC choosing to partner in Chicago?  Because we believe in cooperative missions, not just our dollars but our efforts as well.  Our mission as a convention is simple: created by churches, for churches, to help churches reach Kentucky and the world for Christ.

Created by churches

We exist as the Kentucky Baptist Convention because Baptist churches throughout Kentucky desired to cooperate for the furthering of the gospel.  The KBC owes its existence to Baptist churches.

For churches

Baptist churches created the KBC for churches.  In other words, the KBC was created not to be served by the churches, but to serve the churches.

To help churches

Thus, the KBC exists to help churches do what God has called the church to do—the Great Commission.  Because the KBC was created by churches, for churches, the convention exists to help churches.  Helping mobilize churches for the Great Commission is the mission of the KBC.

Reach Kentucky and the world for Christ

God did not give the Great Commission to a denomination or mission boards; He gave it to the church.  Denominations and mission boards are helpful insomuch as they help churches reach those across the street and across the sea with the gospel.

We desire to connect KBC churches to gospel partnerships in Kentucky, North America, and the nations.  We want to resource, train, and introduce KBC churches to missionaries, church planters, established churches, and ministries in order to develop relationships that will further the gospel around the world.

We believe one such needed place to connect KBC churches in making Jesus known in the US is Chicago.  With well over 90% of the city not connected to a gospel-centered church, Chicago needs some wind, a fresh gospel wind that blows throughout the city.  Will your church be part of seeing this wind blow?  Learn more about partnering in this city or other KBC partnerships at www.kybaptist.org/vision.

Being Prepared for a Flood

Flooding is the most frequent disaster that impacts Kentucky.  Kentucky averages about 56 flooding events a year with an average yearly loss of 30.4 million dollars.

Sometimes, floods develop slowly, and forecasters can anticipate where a flood will happen days or weeks before it occurs.  However, flash floods can occur within minutes and without any sign of rain.  Floods can happen anytime and anyplace.  Being prepared can save your life and give you peace of mind.

How can you be ready?

  • Talk to your insurance agent and make sure that you have proper coverage, particularly if you live in an area prone to flooding.
  • Copy important documents.  Keep a copy at home but store additional copies in a secure place outside the home.
  • Take photos of your possessions and store them in a secure place with documents.
  • Have an emergency plan that includes best contact phone numbers and an evacuation plan.  Have an emergency kit that includes a flashlight, matches, batteries, candles, blankets, and a three-day supply of food and water.
  • Monitor weather warnings in your area and heed official instructions.
  • Always follow evacuation orders.
  • Seek higher ground.
  • Never walk or drive through a flooded area.  Turn around; don’t drown!  Six inches of water can cause control issues and stalling.  A foot of water will cause many cars to float.
  • Stay away from downed power lines or other electrical wires.
  • After a flood, check for structural damage before entering your home.  Remove wet and damaged contents and dispose of them properly.  Sanitize affected areas to prevent mold growth and contamination.  Mud and water from flooding can contain chemicals and raw sewage.

“A shrewd person sees danger and hides himself,
but the naive keep right on going and suffer for it.” 
(Proverbs 27:12)

“Pulling Teeth” at Show and Tell

Perhaps you remember as I do, participating in “show and tell” as a child in elementary school. In case you’re not familiar with show and tell, it’s an informative presentation involving the demonstration of an object.  While the class may not always need the demonstration of the object to understand the information presented, together, they communicate much more effectively.

Jesus used show and tell as a means of sharing the gospel with those He encountered.  He demonstrated the Father’s love and preached the message of salvation.  He was always showing and telling, healing and preaching.   

1 John 3:18-19 says, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him;”

The Scriptures emphasize the importance of using actions and deeds when sharing the gospel.  It doesn’t say stop using words altogether when sharing the gospel.  But it does say stop “just” using words.  In other words, show and tell the love of God.  One of God’s frustrations with His people is that we sometimes honor Him with our lips, but our hearts are often far from Him.

I witnessed a show and tell of the gospel in an effective way on a recent Saturday in Bowling Green when Rich Pond Baptist Church assisted Christ Fellowship Church in conducting a dental clinic. The Kentucky Baptist Convention partnered to provide training, dental supplies and use of the North American Mission Board’s mobile dental unit. Brent Fields, Minister of Missions and Outreach at Rich Pond shared that “this opportunity to meet physical needs served as a bridge for sharing the gospel”.

Preparation for the clinic began months in advance with training, enlistment of professionals and canvassing of the neighborhood.  On the day of the clinic, over 35 volunteers worked together to shepherd almost 100 refugees through registration and dental screening, cleaning and pulling teeth, filling cavities and ending pain.  While waiting to be treated, patients heard volunteers share stories of salvation and life transformation.  All day long it was a show and tell of the gospel.

The churches intentionally targeted a refugee population from Africa because of their desire to develop an on-going ministry to their new to Bowling Green friends.  Brent shared that he overheard one volunteer tell a patient from the Congo, “we do this because Christ loves us … and He loves you too!”  Every person coming to the clinic was part of a show and tell as they were shown love in a practical way and told about the gospel of Christ.  Brent also commented that “the dental clinic provided professionals an opportunity to use their skills to demonstrate the love of Christ”.

Churches of any size can show and tell the gospel in their own community and a dental clinic is not the only way to do it.  Other ways to show and tell include after school ministries with children, pregnancy care, small group ministry to recovering addicts or ex-offenders, food and clothing distributing, foster parenting or adoption, rent or utility assistance, parenting courses, home repair, ESL classes, tutoring, etc.  There is no limit to the many ways we can show and tell about the love of Christ.

We must open our mouths to fully express the gospel, but using only words doesn’t fully demonstrate His love. Live the gospel and share the gospel.  Words and deeds.  Lips and life.  Walk and talk. Show and tell!