Love Crosses All Barriers

When it comes to refugee resettlement in the U.S., this last year has been a difficult one with many ups and downs.  Presidential debates, travel bans, Supreme Court decisions, terrorist attacks by immigrants and passionate people on both sides of the argument have made refugee resettlement a very polarizing issue in America. There is a lot of discussion and division about how to respond to foreigners entering our country, even among some members of the Church.  I understand the issues are complex and I don’t pretend to know everything about immigration.  But I witnessed something this weekend that reminded me how important it is to simply love people, even foreigners and strangers.  

I am part of a host team at my church for an Ethiopian family that has just arrived in the U.S.  There are many responsibilities for our team, like setting up housing, enrolling kids in school, teaching the family how to shop at a “food store” and ride public transportation, or showing how and when to take the trash to the street for pick up.  Learning how to do the simplest of tasks can be overwhelming for a refugee who doesn’t speak the language or know the culture, but who has so many new things to learn and remember.

We spent most of the day Saturday doing many of these things with our new friends.  While we were busy helping Abdella and his family, my five-year-old grand-daughter was connecting with his five-year-old daughter.  His daughter doesn’t speak English and my grand-daughter doesn’t speak Swahili, but it only took a short time for them to cross cultural, racial and language barriers with a piece of chalk on a concrete driveway, because love knows no boundaries.  Very soon, they were laughing and playing as if they’d always known each other.  Love had crossed several barriers.  Our desire as a host team is to overcome the barriers of race, culture and language by loving this family so much that they will come to know the One who is love.

While there may be different opinions concerning how the government should administer immigration, the Bible has something to say about how we should love and treat others, including the foreigner living among us.  The following scriptures are only a few of the many, that give us wisdom about how we should love refugees.

  • Leviticus 19:33-34, love refugees as yourself.
  • Leviticus 19:9-10, leave food for the poor and the foreigner.
  • Deuteronomy 10:18-19, God loves the foreigner living among you.
  • Ezekiel 16:49, the sin of Sodom was that they did not help the poor and needy.
  • Exodus 23:9, do not oppress a foreigner.
  • Malachi 3:5, do not deprive foreigners around you of justice.
  • 1 Kings 8:41-44, do whatever the foreigner asks of you.

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief: Celebrating 33 Years of Ministry

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief began as a ministry outreach of the Kentucky Baptist Convention in 1984.  For 33 years, the trained volunteers of disaster relief have brought help, healing, and hope to those affected by disaster.

During this time, over 25,000 volunteers have been trained, and Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief has developed incredible resources that can be mobilized in times of disaster.

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief (KBDR) is a ministry of Kentucky Baptist churches that is supported by gifts to the Cooperative Program and the Eliza Broadus Offering for State Missions.  These gifts enable KBDR to mobilize the following mobile disaster relief units in times of disaster:

  • 4 Mobile Kitchens – capacity of 68,000 meals per day
  • 27 Chainsaw/Flood/Wildfire Recovery Trailers
  • 2 Mobile Communication Units
  • 7 Mobile Shower Units
  • 1 Mobile Laundry Unit
  • 2 Mobile Childcare Trailers
  • 3 Mobile Water Purification Units
  • 1 Roof-Tarping Trailer
  • 1 Kuboda Skid-steer, Mobile Lift, and 2 Fork-lifts

When Hurricane Andrew hit Florida in 1992, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief was there.

When 9-11 shook the core of our nation, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers were among the first responders to arrive in New York City.

When Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast of Mississippi and Louisiana, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief helped serve over 1.3 million meals the first week.

When the Kentucky ice storm paralyzed almost half of the Commonwealth in 2009, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief mobilized chainsaw teams, mobile kitchens, shower units, and response to 18 counties.

When the Haiti earthquake rocked this poverty-stricken island in 2010, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief sent 17 teams to minister in the midst of the rubble.

When a F-3 tornado leveled the small Kentucky town of West Liberty, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief had chainsaw teams, chaplains, childcare teams, shower units, a communication trailer, and a mobile kitchen on the ground in less than 24 hours.

When Hurricane Sandy unleashed its fury on New York City in 2012, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief was the first on the ground.

When floods destroyed over 1000 homes and took 23 lives in West Virginia in the summer of 2016, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief provided almost 40,000 meals, assisted in 214 flood clean-up jobs, and made almost 1000 Chaplain visits.

When famine gripped millions of people in Lesotho and Zimbabwe in 2016 and 2017, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief partnered with the International Mission Board and Baptist Global Response to provide over 1 million meals to starving people in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

And not only was Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief there serving faithfully in countless disasters for the last 33 years, every Kentucky Baptist church was there.

Every Kentucky Baptist church was there, because your gifts to the Cooperative Program make ministries like Disaster Relief possible through the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

Together by our support of the Cooperative Program, we are bringing help, healing, and hope to the hurting and hopeless.

Thank you Kentucky Baptists for your gifts to the Cooperative Program and for  supporting Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief!

 

 

 

The Importance of Prayer

Haiti - 3I have learned that there are some problems in the world that are bigger than us, and some tasks that are beyond our human ability of achieving.  There are some things in this world that only God can do.

One of those God-sized tasks is the Great Commission. Taking the Gospel to every people, tongue, and land is beyond any of our abilities, but with the Lord, all things are possible.  God has promised a coming time when he will gather people from every tribe, language, and corner of the globe around His throne of grace.

Our calling as the church is to “Go” and make disciples of all nations.  As we go, we need to remember that this is only possible by the power of God’s hand.  This is why prayer is vital.

Jesus commanded us, “But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6).

Power to change the world will come through prayer.  Power to reach the world will be released through prayer.  The Great Commission will be achieved through the prayers of God’s people.

How can you be a vital part of reaching our world for Christ?

  • Establish a daily time of prayer, and be serious about it.
  • Adopt a method of praying.  Change your routine from time to time.  Develop a prayer journal.  Try prayer walking.  Pray through scripture passages (the Psalms are one of the best tools for this method).  Meditate on Scripture.  Make a prayer list and faithfully pray for each of the requests.  Make sure that praise, thanks, and confession are part of your prayer time.
  • Pray for a specific people group and for missionaries by name.
  • Pray for the Lottie Moon International Mission Offering, the Annie Armstrong Mission Offering for North America, and the Eliza Broadus Offering for Kentucky State Missions. Pray for the Cooperative Program as it remains the lifeblood of Southern Baptist mission work across the globe.
  • Pray for God’s calling on your own life.  How does God want to use you to fulfill His Great Commission?
  • Pray fervently and with passion.  You are going before the throne of God, and spending time with the one who sits high and lifted up.
  • Seek to be known as a person of prayer.  What better way to be known by God and by others?

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” (Colossians 4:2)

Encouraging Leaders

Ministry is not for the faint of heart. One need only review the apostle Paul’s “resume” to realize such is the case. He describes his ministry experience:

“Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. . . . Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:24-25, 28).

Paul faced both external opposition to the gospel and internal pressure for the care of the church.

Skimming his apostolic resume in 2 Corinthians 11 reveals a man who suffered much for the gospel. If the external trials were not enough for Paul, then there was also the internal pressure of caring for the church. Bottom line: ministry is filled with both physically demanding and emotionally draining work. The stereotypical idea that ministers work only a couple of hours a week (on Sunday) could not be farther from the truth.

It is no wonder why Paul, in his prison letter to Timothy, reminds the young pastor, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). Ministry can be brutal both to the body and the mind. Timothy needed to be encouraged to continue in the work that God had called him to.

Today is no different. When it comes to the Great Commission, encouragement for ministers of the gospel is as vital as evangelism and church planting. There are at least five necessary components for a Great Commission strategy (praying, evangelizing, church planting, encouraging, and equipping). The first three provide foundation; the last two provide endurance. While I deal with the importance of all five elsewhere, encouragement is a slice of the Great Commission pie that more often than not is left out.

Evangelism and church planting, both domestically and internationally, seems to be on the rise within the SBC, as rightly it should. However, one area that needs equal attention when it comes to our Great Commission faithfulness is encouragement. Our church planters and missionaries, along with pastors of established churches, grow weary (quickly). While more recent study reveals that minsters are not leaving the ministry in droves like some may say (http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2015/october/that-stat-that-says-pastors-are-all-miserable-and-want-to-q.html), discouragement is all too real.

This is where the church can play a vital role. Discovering tangible ways to encourage pastors, church planters, and missionaries is an essential way to foster longevity in gospel advancement. While ministers of the gospel grow weary, churches that embrace a culture of encouragement among those on the frontlines provide real endurance for those struggling to run the race well.

As I meet with pastors, church planters, and missionaries all over North American and internationally, the common theme I hear is you have no idea what it means to us when we receive a card, message, package, phone call, or visit.

Paul knew this well.   After all, after planting churches, he would make his rounds back to those same churches “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith…” (Acts 14:22). You never know what a call, card, text, package, visit or just ongoing communication with a pastor, church planter, or missionary will do to help them “continue in the faith.”

Counsel for The Called

Lesotho-4God has called every believer to go into all the world and to make disciples.  Mission volunteers can be used by God to reach the nations, and to make tremendous impact on the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

Here are my top ten tips for believers who seek to serve internationally::

  1. Do not expect other cultures to be like your own.  Everyone has a tendency to think that  our own culture is the norm.  It is not always good or bad, it may just be different from your own.  Avoid being critical of other cultures, or comparing it to America.
  2. Be a learner.  Ask questions.  Learn about local customs.  Embrace new foods and new experiences.  Show genuine interest in the people that you will meet.  Knowledge of others and culture will always strengthen your witness.
  3. Learn some language.  Not all of us are gifted in language, but most of us can learn a few words.  Learn to say ‘Hello”, Goodbye”, and “Thank you”.  Nationals appreciate our effort in even small ways, and it demonstrates that we want to build relationships.
  4. Treat others with dignity and respect.  Put others before ourselves as the Scriptures teach us, whether they be nationals or fellow team members.
  5. Have a servant spirit..  Christ demonstrated the effectiveness of a servant spirit in His ministry, and calls us to do the same.  A servant spirit opens doors for the Gospel and makes us a better team member.
  6. Welcome others into your presence.  Be open to people.  Seek to engage others in culturally appropriate ways.  Kindness, smiles, and a gracious attitude are bridges for the Gospel. 
  7. Demonstrate a spiritual depth.  Prayer, Bible study, and worship  are foundations for maturity in Christ.  You cannot share what you do not possess.
  8. Be fluid.   Things will not always go as planned.  Trust that the Holy Spirit is working in the changes, and go with the flow.
  9. Demonstrate a passion for Christ.  Be ready to share your story and what He means to you.
  10. “GO”.  You will never be used by God until you say “yes” and go.  The Mission Mobilization Team at the Kentucky Baptist Convention has challenged every church to “Send One More” in the coming year in a missions cause.  Would you be that one or, even better, would you take someone with you?

A lost world is waiting.

“And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are  the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:15)

 

 

The Heart of Leadership

Perhaps no Biblical leader faced the questioning of his leadership like Moses.
The Book of Numbers shares that every time Moses turned around, someone was murmuring, grumbling, and questioning his direction and judgement.  It is not easy to lead any group of people, and the family of faith is no different.

Leadership is crucial for a pastor or spiritual leader within the church.  A charismatic Refugee DR Team - Ugandapersonality, natural gifts, and a seminary education are certainly important, but they are not the key to leadership.  In challenging moments, the ability to lead hinges on trust.  Very few will follow someone that they do not trust.

As I talk to church leaders today, I am amazed at their vision, passion, and knowledge.  Most are far more gifted than me, and I am excited about the future of the church.  Yet there is one area that concerns me as I talk with the next generation of leaders.  I am concerned that many do not seem to understand the importance of developing trust as they work with people.  It is my experience, that you cannot lead and influence people for the long haul without trust.  I fear that this is one of the reasons that results in so many short pastorates and church conflicts.

Here are crucial insights that I have learned about developing trust that will strengthen your ability to lead effectively:

  1. Trust must be earned.  Trust cannot be demanded or assumed.  In fact, if you have to demand spiritual authority, then you probably have no authority or influence.
  2. Trust takes time.  A congregation may love you and have even chose you to lead them, but it takes time for them to trust you.  I have found that the ability to lead effectively develops with time and often begins to mature after 4-5 years.  It was after 10 years that I saw my ability to lead move to new heights as I served as pastor in South Central Kentucky.  Longevity increases trust.  Hanging in there with people increases their trust in you.
  3. Trust comes with consistency.  People are always watching us as leaders. If they see consistency in our message, approach, ethics, and our dealings with people, then it will develop trust.
  4. Trust will rise from integrity.  Do you follow through with commitments?  Do you honor your word?  Do you keep promises?  Broken commitments destroy trust.
  5. Trust will grow when we are willing to be transparent.  Trust grows when we let folks see who we are, and admit our shortcomings and mistakes.  People are more likely to follow a sincere leader than a phony pretender.
  6. Trust is more likely, if folks see that we lean on Jesus.  Congregations do not need us to be the savior.  They need pastors who will lead them to know and walk with our Savior Jesus Christ.   People gain confidence in us when they see  that we walk with the Lord, and are seeking His direction.

Without trust, it is difficult to lead.  Trust matters.

” Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.  In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.”
(1 Corinthians 4:1-2)

 

 

 

Backpacks Provide Hope for Children at Christmas

17.3 million of the children in the U.S. live in poverty, trapped by circumstances beyond their control.  Almost 1 million of them live in Kentucky, where 26% of our children under the age of 18 live in poverty.  That means that for 1 out of 4 children, Christmas doesn’t always come with the promise of gifts—or even a Christmas meal. Every day is more about survival than celebration. But we can help change that.

One very practical way that Kentucky Baptists can reach compassionately the needy children in our state is through the Christmas Backpack Project. Last year, there were over 50,000 backpacks distributed in 13 states by missionaries and church planters, and 15,000 of those went to children in KY.  Each backpack is a tangible expression of God’s love – and is filled with gifts of clothing, toys and food items. But the greatest gift in each backpack is a copy of the true Christmas story.  It may hard to believe, but many children have never heard the Biblical account of the true Christmas story.

Last year, there were over 1,500 decisions for Christ as a result of the gospel message that is shared with each backpack.  An exciting thing about those decisions is that many of them were made by parents and grandparents of the children receiving the backpacks.  The backpacks don’t just provide hope to a needy child, they impact the whole family.

A little girl named Gracie received a backpack and sent the following thank you note:  Thank you for the backpacks. I’m so thankful for all the cool stuff I got. My friend and I both got some gloves and a Holy Bible. We are reading the Bible together. Thank you!”

When the backpacks are received by children living in difficult circumstances, not only are the children and their families affected, so are those who prepare and pack the backpacks.  Many churches report that their whole congregation was involved in this ministry, young and old, including those who can’t travel on a mission trip. Some churches reported that working together on the backpacks helped them to focus outwardly on the needs of others rather than upon internal church issues.

Evangelist Dwight L. Moody said, “If I could relive my life, I would devote my entire ministry to reaching children for God!”   How devoted are you to reaching children for God?

Let me challenge you and your church to commit to preparing and packing backpacks for children to receive this Christmas.  It all starts with you – but ends in someone coming to know Jesus Christ and the true Christmas story.

For more information, or to register your church’s participation in the Christmas Backpack Project, visit:  www.kybaptist.org/backpacks

A Deadly Temptation

“A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor’ (Proverbs 29:23).

Pride is a frequent topic within the Scriptures, and Proverbs 29:23 reminds us that pride will eventually lead one to fall.  Repeatedly, God warns us of the dangers of pride.  Pride breeds arrogance and self-glorification, and  blinds us to our shortcomings and sin.

Pride is deadly to spiritual leadership.  It is deadly because it deludes us into seeking after ourWest Liberty - 4 own kingdoms rather than seeking to build God’s Kingdom.  Our own little kingdoms built on charisma and our natural gifts will not last.  The Bible reminds us that God opposes the proud, but will give His grace to the humble.

As Spiritual leaders, may we learn from God’s wisdom by seeking to lead with humility as servant leaders.

Servant leaders are:

  1. Humble in Attitude..  Keep Christ first in all things.  A humble leader does not think of
    himself as lower than a worm’s belly, he just always recognizes that only Christ deserves the throne of people’s lives.  Keep the focus on Christ, not ourselves.  Seek after Christ’s way, not our own way.
  2. Humble in Actions.  We are called to serve.  Develop the Godly habit of serving others.  The best way to maintain a humble spirit is by putting others before yourself.  Be an example of Christlike service to others..
  3. Humble in Speech.  Seek to glorify God and not yourself when giving testimony.  Shift the focus to God and others when sharing.  Learn to listen to others.  Focus n praying for others rather than your own self interests.
  4. Humble in Vision.  Keeping our focus on the Great Commission and the Great Commandment of Christ keeps our focus on His Kingdom, rather than building our own little sand castles.  Our calling is to make His Name known among all the nations.  It will not matter if they remember our name, but it will matter if He knows our name as one of His faithful servants.

As C S Lewis once shared, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

 

 

 

Conflict Settlement

Teenagers hands playing tug-of-war with used ropeReligion has always been a touchy subject.  Discussions about God, faith, and the church can spark lively and refreshing dialogue; it can also unleash anger and bitter disputes.  As long as there is more than one human present in a place, conflict is possible and likely.

The early church was no exception.  In Acts 15, a dispute arose from among the body of faith, on whether or not circumcision was necessary for salvation.  This was a heated dispute with a great deal of passion and debate.

But, it is worth noting that it never got ugly.  We do not read about folks spreading gossip and slander in the community.  No one questioned anyone’s motives.  They did not attack each other personally.  Instead, they chose to honor one another, listen respectfully, engage with dignity, and maintain fellowship.  They demonstrated a Christ-like spirit, as they resolved the issue and settled the conflict within their family of faith.  Above all, they fervently sought the will of God, in this matter.

Yet, they did not seek to appease everyone.  They did not take a majority vote.  It appears that everyone was given a voice, but the most mature among them made the final decision.  They put God’s desire before their own desires and traditions.  In the end, the church stayed together and continued to grow,

As the family of faith, we can learn a great deal about handling conflict from this passage.  Believers met.  They talked.  They listened to one another.  They shared their respective positions.  They deferred to the most wise and mature believers.  They allowed their leaders to lead.  They realized that God’s work was far more important than any of their personal wants.  They made a decision that would enable them to be about the mission that they had received from their Lord.  They stuck together and moved forward.  That is what family does.

Conflicts will arise, but they should never define us.  Christ, Scripture, the Great Commission, and the Great Commandment should always be the hinges upon which the unity of our family of faith rests.

Reaching the Nations

Iraq-9It 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.

No longer safe to live in the place that they have called home, refugees are often forced to flee with little more than the clothes on their backs.  They have lost their culture, friends, security, sense of community, and often their dignity.

The flight usually brings more trauma.  Many do not survive the journey.  If they survive, they often are not welcomed in the place where they seek refuge.  Life in a refugee camp can be difficult, unstable, and a daily battle to survive.  The vulnerability of depending on total strangers for basic necessities such as food, water, and shelter can be humiliating and defeating.

These are people with names, dreams, and hopes.  These are people just like you and me.  These are people loved by God.  The Bible commands us to treat strangers and sojourners that come our way with love and grace:

He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner, giving him food and clothing.  You also must love the foreigner, since you were foreigners in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19).

What can we do as followers of Jesus Christ for the displaced?

One significant way is to partner with Refuge Louisville in life-changing ministry.  Refuge works alongside area churches to encourage and equip them to engage the refugees and immigrants in our communities.  They offer avenues through which the church can meet the various needs of our international population as they offer the help, healing, and hope of Christ.

Refuge continues to seek churches, small groups, Sunday school classes, and volunteers, who would serve on welcome teams.  These teams would commit to creating a positive welcoming space for the displaced families upon arrival, and they would be a helpful resource and loving influence for the first three months.  This allows Christians to be the first contacts for a refugee family as they come to America.  This is significant in helping a stranger to experience the real touch of God’s grace and saving Gospel message.

Team Expectations are as follows:

  1. Six to ten adults on a welcome team.
  2. Before arrival, set up the apartment for the incoming family using supporting agency donations.  Usually, this will not include transporting furniture to the apartment.
  3. Before arrival, purchase groceries and a welcome basket for the family.
  4. Before arrival, place a photo of the team in the apartment, so the family will know these are people who have committed to help them.
  5. Welcome the family at the airport and assist them with transportation to their new home.
  6. Provide as much transportation as possible the first few weeks.
  7. Share time with the family at least once a week for the first three months.
  8. At the end of three months, throw a milestone party to celebrate reaching this point.
  9. Teams are encouraged to stay connected with families, after the three months, as friends and continued support.

If your church is interested in making a difference in the life of a refugee family, contact Refuge Louisville to find out more information, to schedule them to share at your church, or to become part of God’s hands in reaching the nations.

Refuge Louisville, Inc
5007 Southside Drive
Louisville, KY 40214

(502) 785-9577

Kentucky Baptists have a missions heritage that has demonstrated itself in going to the airport to travel to distant lands for the sake of the Gospel.  The question facing us today as Kentucky Baptists is:  Will we journey to the airport in obedience to the Great Commission to welcome the nations to our homeland?

You may also contact the Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief office at www.kybaptist.org/dr or call us at (866) 489-3527 for information.