|EDITOR'S NOTE: From the States, published weekly by Baptist Press, relays news and feature stories from state Baptist papers and other publications on initiatives by Baptist churches, associations and state conventions in evangelism, church planting and Great Commission outreach, including partnership missions. Reports about churches, associations and state conventions responding to the International Mission Board's call to embrace the world's 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups also are included in From the States, along with reports about church, associational and state convention initiatives in conjunction with the North American Mission Board's call to Southern Baptist churches to broaden their efforts in starting new churches and satellite campuses. The items appear in Baptist Press as originally published.
Today's From the States features items from:
The Alabama Baptist -- two stories
The Baptist Courier (South Carolina)
The Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma)
FBC Montgomery adopts Ejamat
people in Senegal, Africa
By Debby Faught
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (The Alabama Baptist) -- Clapping and cheering erupt from the crowd gathered as an elderly woman with gray hair emerges from the muddy waters of the Casamance River, displaying to the Ejamat people her new identity as a believer in Jesus Christ. "I am old, but I too will follow Jesus," she said.
First Baptist Church, Montgomery, has "embraced the Ejamat people in Senegal, Africa, and are committed to be the missionaries to them," said Brian Gay, the church's minister of missions.
A total of "19 precious people turned their backs on centuries of dark animism to boldly proclaim their faith in Christ," said Senior Pastor Jay Wolf.
"When stood publicly and unashamedly to declare they were following the 'Jesus Way,' our hearts flooded with joy and heaven must have erupted with fireworks. Each new Christ-follower shared their testimony. It was electrifying to see Christ's Kingdom expanding and the darkness shattering by God's liberating love and light."
Members of First, Montgomery, have taken two trips since their initial prayer meeting in February 2011.
"We felt God leading us to embrace the Ejamat people group," remarked Gay, noting First, Montgomery, partners with Southern Baptist representatives in the Senegal area and has embraced the Ejamat group through the International Mission Board's Unengaged, Unreached People Groups emphasis. "We plan to send teams as often as we can, every six to eight weeks. multiply churches where they can continue to grow through oral chronological Bible stories, and slowly but surely we can aid them in reaching out into their community as we move on to more unreached, unengaged people groups."
However, members of First, Montgomery, were not the first to start praying for the Ejamat people. Karfar became a believer in a neighboring village prior to the arrival of the First, Montgomery, teams; he then moved back home and prayed fervently for 15 years for his people group. Gay described him as a modern-day Andrew. "He is a main leader among the Ejamats and opens up his home for Bible studies."
When asked how Alabama Baptist churches could pray for this mission Gay simply responded, "Pray for the Ejamat people." He also encouraged all churches to engage an unengaged people group. According to Operation World, there are 57 people groups in Senegal and 47 percent of them remain unreached.
"Prayer is our strategy. cannot go, pray," Gay said. Out of about 3,000 Ejamat people, 35 have received Christ and 21 have been baptized.
This article originally appeared in The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org) newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention State Board of Missions. Debby Faught is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist.
FBC Cullman adopts Northern
Conchucos Quechua people in Peru
By Maggie Walsh
CULLMAN, Ala. (The Alabama Baptist) -- When International Mission Board (IMB) President Tom Elliff challenged churches to adopt an unreached and unengaged people group at the 2011 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, First Baptist Church, Cullman, took the message to heart.
Since that time, Pastor Edwin Hayes has been urging the First, Cullman, congregation to pray about which of the 3,500 people groups to adopt. Its decision to adopt the Northern Conchucos Quechua people in the Yanama Valley of Ancash, Peru, is a direct result of that prayer.
Members of First, Cullman, voted unanimously to adopt this group in a church conference June 24. The church also reached out to First Baptist Church, Athens, and Crosshaven Baptist Church, Hanceville, to partner in this ministry.
Crosshaven Baptist's congregation has approved the adoption and partnership. First, Athens, will bring the pending partnership before its congregation in August. Edwin Jenkins, pastor of First, Athens, said the church is "definitely planning on lending a hand and giving support," but that it was too early to determine the depth of its involvement.
"It's just thrilling," said Jim O'Dillon, minister of education and outreach at First, Cullman, on adopting the Northern Conchucos Quechua people group. "God has opened our eyes. Our people have seen the need."
On its own, First, Cullman, could not adopt a people group, O'Dillon said. By partnering together, the West Cullman Baptist Association churches will be able to make this ministry to one of the poorest areas in Peru tangible.
Crosshaven Baptist Pastor Jason Murphree said the partnership was a "natural fit" since he and his brother, Josh, have connections to both churches. First, Cullman, is the men's home church and Josh Murphree was a staff intern at First, Athens, before becoming a Southern Baptist representative in Peru.
Jason Murphree said Crosshaven's decision to adopt a people group was simultaneous with Elliff's challenge. The church, which was formed in 2004, determined it was time to stop focusing inward and start reaching outward. Crosshaven has sent many teams to Peru in past years because of its change in focus.
In addition to adopting this people group, O'Dillon said First, Cullman, will have one of its own, Taylor Novara, serving in the Yanama Valley as a journeyman with IMB in this area for two years after he completes eight months of training and language school.
Novara was a member of the vision team sent to Peru on April 27 to May 6 to "get a sense of God's purpose" for the ministry, said Phillip McAfee, deacon and chairman of the missions committee at First, Cullman. McAfee, Brian Witcher and Lee Underwood, all of First, Cullman, were also members of the vision team. Witcher is the minister of music and Underwood is a deacon.
The trip was educational, McAfee said, but he noted it was also difficult because of Yanama Valley's altitude of 13,000 feet. Despite the rough conditions, the team was able to travel across the valley and see the natives' needs.
"We felt an immediate connection with the people in that area," McAfee said. "I felt a great desire to minister to them and lead them to the Lord."
Less than 2 percent of the Yanama Valley population — estimated to be about 60,000 to 100,000 people — are Christians.
McAfee said the team was well received despite their status as outsiders. "We found everyone to be friendly and hospitable," he said. "It's hard not to fall in love with them."
The network of churches plans to send a team to Peru every six to eight weeks once the paperwork and training have been completed, O'Dillon said. When asked about funding this ministry, O'Dillon recited the old hymn "Trust and Obey."
"God will provide the funding," he said.
"I don't need to worry -- He's taking care of it."
This article originally appeared in The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org) newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention State Board of Missions. Maggie Walsh in an intern at The Alabama Baptist.
Church will seek
to 'Awaken' Charleston
By Butch Blume
CHARLESON, S.C. (The Baptist Courier) -- In 2000, while a student at the College of Charleston, Brandon Bowers experienced Christ for the first time and committed himself to serving wherever God might use him.
Church planters Brandon and Ashley Bowers (with Brailey, 6, Brinkley, 2, and Bryson, 4) hope to reach young adult couples in the growing West Ashley area of Charleston.
"My story in Christ starts in Charleston," said Bowers, and his story will soon continue in Charleston. Drawn back to "the very place where God changed life forever," Bowers, on Aug. 1, will leave behind a thriving ministry at an established church in Spartanburg to plant a new church in Charleston's West Ashley area.
Along with his wife, Ashley, and their three young children, plus nine young adults from Spartanburg's First Baptist Church, Bowers will lay the groundwork this fall for the launch of Awaken Church early next year.
Bowers, 33, said the need is "immense" for a stronger evangelical presence in Charleston. There are 650,000 people in the metropolitan area, yet 84 percent of them claim no church affiliation, he said. Also, in a five-mile circle surrounding Roper St. Francis Hospital in West Ashley, there are upwards of 140,000 residents, only 3,000-4,000 of whom are in a Southern Baptist church on any given Sunday, he said.
"It is an area that is incredibly lost and disconnected from most of the spiritual activity that happens in our state," he said. Continued...