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.

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).

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)

Tornado Preparedness

Tornadoes are one of nature’s most destructive and violent weather events.  A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground.  The whirling wind of a tornado can reach wind speeds of 300 mph.  Most tornadoes move from Southwest to Northeast but can move in any direction.  They may strike quickly with little warning, and in a matter of seconds can cause devastation.  Because wind is not visible, you cannot always see a tornado.  Every year, around 60 people are killed by tornadoes, typically from flying debris.

Kentucky lies in Hoosier Alley and averages 21 tornado events per year.  Peak tornado season for Kentucky is from April through June, but tornadoes have struck in every month of the calendar year.

Tornado Signs:

  • Dark, often greenish sky
  • Large hail
  • A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
  • Loud roaring sound, like a freight train
  • Funnel cloud

Know the Terms:

  • Severe Thunderstorm Watch – severe thunderstorms are possible in your area
  • Severe Thunderstorm Warning – severe thunderstorms are occurring in your area
  • Tornado Watch – tornadoes are possible in your area
  • Tornado Warning – a tornado has been sighted or spotted by weather radar

Be Prepared:

  1. Preparedness increases our ability to survive disaster events.
  2. Develop a family disaster plan and discuss the plan.
  3. If a tornado watch is issued, remain alert, monitor weather, and be prepared to execute disaster plan.
  4. If your area is under tornado warning, you should seek safe shelter immediately.
  5. Avoid windows.
  6. Get as low as possible.  A basement or storm shelter is the safest place to be.
  7. If your home does not have a basement, seek a small interior windowless room, like a closet or interior hallway.  Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside.
  8. Get under a sturdy table and/or cover your head and neck with your arms and cover your body as best as you can with blankets, pillows, mattress, or heavy clothing.
  9. Do not open windows.
  10. Do not stay in a mobile home during a tornado.
  11. If you are in a long-span building (shopping malls, theaters, gymnasiums, airports), stay away from windows, and seek to get to the lowest level.  If there is no time to get to a lower level, try to get under a door-frame, table, desk if possible.  Remember to protect your head and neck.
  12. The worst place to be in a tornado is in a vehicle.  Always get out of the vehicle and seek the nearest sturdy shelter.  Do not try to flee from a tornado in your car, and never get under your vehicle.
  13. If you are outdoors, try to get to a sturdy structure for shelter. If you are unable to reach a safe place to shelter, lie down in a gully, ditch or low spot on the ground.  Protect your head and neck with your arms.  Avoid areas with trees.  Never shelter under or near vehicles.  Do not shelter under overpasses or bridges.  Find something to hang onto.  Be aware that lightning, flooding, and hail can accompany tornadoes.
  14. If you are trapped, do not panic.  Seek to attract attention to your location with loud noises or by calling for help on your cell phone.

“A sensible person sees danger and takes cover, but the inexperienced keep going and are punished.”   (Proverbs 22:3)

What the 2017 Hurricane Season Taught Us

The year 2017 will be remembered as one of the worst hurricane seasons in U.S. history. Three major hurricanes (Harvey, Irma, and Maria) caused almost 370 billion dollars in damage, and it was only the second time in history for two Category-5 storms to make landfall at that intensity.  Two areas received over 60 inches of rain, one island was left almost uninhabitable, and September 2017 became the most active Atlantic hurricane season on record.

This hyperactive hurricane season left thousands trying to recover, and stretched the capacities of every major disaster response entity.  What are the lessons to be learned from this active response season?

    • Disasters create opportunities for the church to demonstrate the love of God and to share the hope of Christ.  Closed doors open when we show up to offer His love in deed and in truth.
    • Partnerships are vital to effective response efforts.  Working in partnership increases effectiveness and broadens our ability to help more hurting people.  We can do more together than any of us can do alone.
    • Trained volunteers have the greatest impact in disaster response, and greatly increase response effectiveness.  The best way to help in times of disaster is to be trained and connected with a reputable disaster relief organization.  You can get connected and sign up for a 2018 Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief training by going to http://www.kybaptist.org/dr/ .
    • Untrained volunteers create challenges for effective response, but spontaneous volunteers are always going to show up in disaster events with extensive media coverage.  Though untrained volunteers often create response issues, they can fill a needed gap when channeled in a right direction.  God used Southern Baptist untrained volunteers from our churches in amazing ways in the midst of the suffering and devastation, but they were most effective when paired with trained Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers.  Send Relief through the North American Mission Board gives us a vehicle to effectively utilize untrained volunteers effectively, if we develop a strategy from our lessons learned this hurricane season.
    • Disaster sites were overwhelmed with spontaneous loads of collected resources, such as used clothing, bottled water, and other resources.  Before collecting items for disaster victims, we should make sure items are needed and wanted.  We were reminded in 2017 that the best way to help those affected is by giving monetary donations, which enables those affected to both maintain their dignity and to purchase what they really need.
    • Recovery takes time for those affected.  Recovery often takes years for those affected from the loss of disasters.

    • Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief is one of the best ways to donate to those affected by disaster.  100% of every dollar given goes directly to meet the needs of those affected.
    • Southern Baptist Disaster Relief remains as one of the most effective disaster relief entities in the world.  Southern Baptist volunteers prepared more than 3 million meals, served over 90,000 days and witnessed more than 700 people profess faith in Christ as they ministered to hurricane survivors in 2017.  Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers brought help, healing, and hope to thousands of people affected by this extremely active hurricane season in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

“And our people must also learn to devote themselves to good works for cases of urgent need, so that we may not be unfruitful.”  (Titus 3:14)

The Command to GO “Trumps” the Need

I am so thankful for the literally thousands of missionaries who serve the Lord in Kentucky each year through a variety of ministries.  Whether one serves as a long term career missionary or a short term volunteer, you are considered a missionary, “if in response to God’s call and gifting, you leave your comfort zone and cross cultural, geographic or other barriers to proclaim the Gospel and live out a Christian witness in obedience to the Great Commission” (North American Mission Board of the SBC).

Missionaries have met many of the physical, emotional and spiritual needs in Kentucky.  Through personal sacrifice and service you have fed hungry children, provided shelter for homeless families, offered accountability for a recovering addict, discipled prisoners in the jail, provided job training for the unemployed, built a wheelchair ramp for the physically handicapped, and cooked meals for the hungry following a disaster.

Why did you go on that mission trip?  What prompted you to leave your job and move your family in order to serve?  What motivates you as a missionary?  Perhaps it is your compassion for the outcast, sympathy for the poor, or simply an overwhelming desire to help those in need. Our primary motivation for serving as a missionary should be the command of Jesus to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19).  Our obedience to His call should trump any and every need that exist.

We must be aware of the needs around us and always looking for ways to meet them in the name of Jesus.  There’s nothing wrong with feeling compassion for the lost and hurting.  But His command to “go” should be our driving force, not the hungry faces, homeless families or children in need.

Why Get Trained?

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief offers several training opportunities every year for volunteers to become trained in disaster response and get connected with this Christ-centered ministry.

Why get trained?  Let me give you several reasons, why it is important to be trained if you want to respond in a positive and effective way in times of disaster:

  • People that are not connected with trained and self-sustaining organizations often rob resources from those suffering in the midst of a disaster.
  • Untrained people are much more likely to get injured, hurt, or expose themselves to health hazards, as they are typically unfamiliar with potential risks in a disaster zone.
  • Untrained volunteers are often unprepared to provide appropriate assistance and correct information to those affected.
  • Untrained volunteers lack expertise to genuinely help those who have suffered loss, and are unprepared to handle the emotional trauma of victims.
  • Untrained volunteers are unprepared to work long, stressful days in austere and rugged living conditions.  
  • Spontaneous volunteers typically lack familiarity with situation assessments and incident management. Because of this, they usually end up being in the way, rather than providing meaningful help.
  • Untrained volunteers create atmospheres where scam artists, who seek to prey on hurting and vulnerable people, can get access into disaster settings under the guise of being a volunteer.
  • The greatest reason to train is that God deserves our very best in all that we do.  In order to achieve this, discipline, effort, and knowledge are required.  Trainings are an opportunity to grow as believers, so that we are ready when God calls.

Disasters will come.  Therefore, let me encourage you, be prepared to serve by being trained.  Victims deserve that.  Other disaster relief workers deserve that.  But most of all, our God deserves that!  A little training goes a long way in making us more effective and prepared to serve with excellence for the glory of our Lord.

Check out these opportunities for training in 2017 and 2018:

January 13, 2018 – First Baptist Church of Grayson

February 10, 2018 – Mexico Baptist Church in Marion

March 10, 2018 – Shelbyville First Baptist Church

April 14, 2018 – Eastwood Baptist Church in Bowling Green

September 15, 2018 – Immanuel Baptist Church in Corbin

For more information, contact the Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief office by phone at (502) 489-3527 or (866) 489-3527, by email at [email protected], or register for training at www.kybaptist.org/dr/.

 

Tearing Down the Walls

In November of 1989, the East German government announced it would allow limited travel across the West German border.  within hours of this news, hundreds of thousands of East and West Germans gathered around the Berlin wall.  A massive celebration erupted and people began spontaneously tearing down the wall with hammers and chisels.  The rest is history, and in October 1990 Germany was reunified.  The wall that had divided the people was brought down.

May I ask, are there any walls in your life that divide you from others?  Walls that place you on one side and separate you from those other folks?  Perhaps the young adult with more tattoos and piercings than you find comfortable?  Maybe that Syrian family that just arrived at the airport?  Could it be the Latino family who moved to your neighborhood?  Or that homeless person standing on the street corner near your workplace?  And if you really want to get personal, how about those Samaritans?

In Jesus day, there was a huge invisible wall that stood between Samaritans and Jews.  The two cultures had hated each other for over a thousand years or so.  Jews believed that Samaritans were half-breeds, and those who had rejected the true faith by marrying pagans.  A Jew counted a Samaritan as a little less than a stray dog.

Jesus, however, broke all the rules.  Jesus had reached out to a Samaritan woman at a well and shared that God was more concerned with worshipping in spirit and in truth than whose family you were born in.  Jesus showed us that God loves the world…every person in the world.

That is why we read in Acts 8 that God sent Philip to preach Christ in the city of Samaria, and revival broke out.  God’s hammer was tearing down walls.

But God was not through.  He sent Philip on a second cross-cultural mission, and as he journeyed, his path intersected with an Ethiopian eunuch.  Philip shared with him the truth of the Gospel, and the Ethiopian became a baptized follower of Christ.  The walls of race were hammered to the ground, and the two became brothers in Christ.

Walls always divide us.  God desires to bring down the walls and to unite us as family in Christ.

We cannot experience the life that God wants to give us unless we are willing to lay aside our bias and prejudice. Who is the Samaritan in your world?  Who is the Ethiopian eunuch that God has brought across your path?   Will you take God’s hammer and help Him bring down the walls?

Kentucky Baptists have always been willing to go to the airport and travel to the farthest corners of the world for the sake of the Gospel.  God is asking us today; will we be just as willing to go to the airport to meet a refugee family for Christ’s sake?  Would we be willing to go down the street and offer a little hospitality to the family that looks a little different from us for Jesus?

Will we be those who tear down the walls?

Interested in becoming involved with a refugee family, contact the Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief office to learn more at (502) 489-3527 or by ewmail at [email protected]

 

 

Will Your Life Count?

Where does time go?  It seems only yesterday that I was playing right tackle for the Greenback Cherokees.  Just minutes ago, I was looking into the eyes of the most beautiful girl in the world as I said, “I Do.”  And our children, how could they all have grown up so fast?

Somewhere it hits us all.  Maybe it is at your grandmother’s funeral.  Perhaps it is when your older brother left for the Marines.  For some of us, it is when we make our first house payment, or at our daughter’s wedding.  But there comes a time when we realize that life is more than ballgames, pizza, and homework.  Time is marching on. The days of our life pass quickly.

The Bible tells us that God has ordained the days of every person’s life.  In Psalm 139:16, we read, “All the days ordained for me were recorded in Your scroll before one of them came into existence.”

Our life is a gift from God and a seed of our parents.  Every life is unique.  There is no one exactly like you in the universe.  No other person can live your life.  When your days are done, there is no recycling bin to recreate you for another round of use.  We only have one chance to make our life count.  So can I ask you, what are you doing with your one-and-only life?

When all is said and done, will your life have counted for something?   Will it have mattered for eternity’s sake?

Can I ask you a couple of questions?

  1. If you had lived in Nazi Germany as a believer in Christ, would you have taken a stand against Hitler?
  2.  If you had lived in Alabama in the 1960’s, would you have spoken out against racism?
  3. When your grandchildren discover that you lived among the wealthiest generation in the history during a time when someone dies of starvation every 2.5 seconds, and a child dies from unclean water every 20 seconds, how will they judge how you chose to live and what you did with the blessings that God has given you?
  4. In a time when 2/3 of our world still needs the Gospel, can you name one thing last year that identified you as being on mission for Jesus?
  5. At your funeral would there be enough evidence in your life to convict you as a Follower of Christ?

These first two questions are easier, aren’t they?  They are just hypothetical.  I want to believe that I would have had the courage to stand against evil and racism.

It is those last three questions that trouble me at times.  For they are not hypothetical.  These are about the choices that I am making today with my life.  We choose each day what we will invest our life.

You and I were created by God to make a difference for His sake in our allotted time.  To make our life count now and beyond the grave.  To do our part to fulfill the Great Commission of Christ.  In the end, nothing else will really matter.

Are you on mission for the sake of Christ?

Will your life count?  

Want to learn more about how to make your life count?  Contact the Missions Mobilization Team at the Kentucky Baptist Convention at (502) 489-3530 or [email protected]