“I’m Not Worthy!”

As pastor Wayne and his translator walked toward the homeless man in the street, the make-shift tents and people were everywhere.  This is the part of town most people avoid because of crime, drug use and homelessness.  No doubt for this KBC vision team to Brazil, the surroundings were a bit intimidating.  Yet, the team was determined to forego their comfort and share the love of Jesus with those whom society had already abandoned. 

The words out of Wayne’s mouth through the translator were simple, “We have come 3,000 miles from the United States to tell you that God loves you.”  The homeless man stood still and began to weep. He then spoke to the translator in Portuguese.  Shocked by the man’s response, Wayne asked for clarification with his translator.  “What’s wrong?” Wayne asked.

As the translator began to explain, Wayne knew that the Lord was at work.  “You see,” clarified the translator, “the man said, ‘I’m not worthy.’”  By God’s grace, Wayne shared with this man abandoned by society and enslaved to sinful devices that God sent His Son in order to take our sin and bare our shame. 

Indeed, Jesus is our substitute for sin as Isaiah the prophet foretold he would be, some 700 years before the Messiah is ever born.  “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.  But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening of our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed…. But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” (Isaiah 53:4-6). 

The truth is, none of us are worthy.  Our unworthiness is why Jesus came.  He is worthy and only a perfect sacrifice for sinners would “justify the many” because “He will bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11).  After hearing about Jesus’ love for sinners and that He alone is worthy and could be the sacrifice for our sins (no matter what we have done), the man in that Brazilian street of the largest city in South America, with tears streaming down his face, trusted in the One who bore his griefs, sorrows, and sins.   

Men and women all over Brazil, Central Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, North America, Kentucky and everywhere in between need to hear of the only One worthy who was the sacrifice for sinners.  People in high rises and low rises, addicted to drugs and addicted to money, on the “right side” of the tracks and the “wrong side” of the tracks all need to know that “He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities.” 

Kentucky Baptists, we know that we are not worthy.  That’s why Jesus came.  But countless others have no idea that He came, let alone of what He did.  By God’s grace, let’s lead our churches across the street and across the sea to say, “We have come to tell you that God loves you.” Perhaps we, too, will see tears stream down as the unworthy are made new.     

Introducing the 2019 Kentucky Missionary of the Year

As a child, Shirley Barlow attended World Missions Conferences with her parents.  Her mother would invite the missionaries to their house for dinner and, as Shirley sat and listened to their stories, she recalls praying, “Please, God, let me have this opportunity.”  However, Shirley says she never did hear the total call to be a missionary.

In 1955, after marrying and moving to Pennsylvania, Shirley was broken over the fact that there was little Southern Baptist work there.  She got connected with a local Pennsylvania Baptist Association and did pioneer work in that area for ten years. 

Shirley and her husband Tom moved back to Paducah, KY and in 1988 she became involved with River City Mission, a homeless shelter in Paducah that helps individuals overcome addictions, secure work, and get back on their feet so they can go back into society and resurrect their family situation.  Most importantly they hear the Gospel and are encouraged to commit or recommit their lives to Christ. 

Although working at the Mission for several years, it was not until 2013 that Ms. Shirley heard about Mission Service Corps and how her work fit the qualifications of a Kentucky MSC missionary. Shirley applied to serve as a Kentucky missionary and was approved in February 2013.  Her dream of becoming a missionary had become reality.  

Although River City Mission provides housing and food for the homeless, to Shirley it is more than just a shelter.  She helps the residents in all areas of their lives, showing respect for them as individuals, while also being firm.  She recently shared about going to the hospital to sit with one of the men through his surgery so that he would not be alone. 

On Friday evening, April 5th, during the KY-WMU Annual Meeting at First Baptist Church, Bowling Green, Ms. Shirley was recognized as the 2019 Kentucky Missionary of the Year.  This award is given annually to the missionary 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”.

Ms. Shirley certainly meets these qualifications.  Her whole life has been On Mission with Christ.  And, in her 80s, Ms. Shirley continues to serve God faithfully.  She has been a member of First Baptist Church Paducah for 22 years, where she sings in the church choir, serves as WMU director and on the Missions Committee.   

CONGRATULATIONS, Ms. Shirley.  You are most deserving.  And, God has certainly allowed you to have “this opportunity.”

Orphan Care and the Local Church

Every year in our country, more than 3.6 million referrals are made to child protection agencies involving more than 6.6 million children. On average, 4 to 7 children die every day because of abuse and neglect. On any given day, there are well over 400,000 children in foster care in the United States. Given the number of kids in and out of the system over the course of a year, far more children now require protection from the state. For example, in 2015, over 670,000 children spent time in U.S. foster care.

What does any of that have to do with your church?

The psalmist wrote, “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him” (Psalm 127:3)

Mark records that Jesus “took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me’” (Mark 9:36).

Matthew quotes Jesus as saying about children who were in his presence, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).

James stated, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” (James 1:27).

As Kentucky Baptists seek to live out the teachings of Scripture, we recognize that we have an obligation to acknowledge, welcome, and do all we can to protect children, especially those who are vulnerable or have already been victimized. We have been called to care for orphans of dead parents and orphans of the living, kids whose family has been declared unfit, even a severe risk to the child. One of the ways we meet that obligation is through our financial support of the ministry of our Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children, known today as Sunrise Children’s Services. Every church giving through the Cooperative Program and/or through the special Thanksgiving Offering, supports Sunrise.

What more can we do?

  • Raise our awareness to signs of abuse and neglect and being proactive about reporting anything that looks suspicious is a good place to start.
  • With 8,700 victimized kids in the state system in Kentucky, let’s consider adopting a child or training to be a foster parent.
  • Most of us could provide respite care for a foster family, which means you keep a child overnight or over the weekend.
  • Any of us could become a mentor and visit a girl or boy who lives in an institution without anyone in their lives who ever interacts with them except those who are paid to do so.
  • We could serve as a CASA volunteer—a “Court Appointed Special Advocate” who has volunteered to be assigned to kids in the court system to help them navigate the bureaucracy and trauma.
  • Maybe you could start an orphan care ministry in your church.

These are just some of the many ways we can help protect at risk children and seek to heal the hurts of those who have become victims.

Written by Dr. Paul Chitwood, President, International Mission Board