Missions

Why I am an American Baptist

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A Testimony From a Son of Missions, in Celebration of Baptist Heritage Sunday - May 17, 2015

The first question asked of anyone in the Philippines when they are introduced for the first time to others is invariably, “Where are you from? Who is your mother, your father? Whose grandson are you?”

I am a 4th generation Filipino Baptist, a product of American Baptist missions. Christianity had already been on Philippine soil for almost 400 years before the first missionary from the American Baptist missionary arrived. Christianity and its Roman Catholic expression were brought to the Philippines by Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century primarily as an instrument of imperial colonial policy. The three generations before me in my family were brought to the Baptist faith by the lives and witness of missionaries of the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society.

The very day after Pearl Harbor was attacked, the Japanese Imperial Army invaded the Philippines. They knew that the Philippines was the only Christian nation in Asia. They knew that one of its greatest strengths was its faith. Imperial oppressors share familiar ways. One of the things they all do to a people they intend to dominate and oppress is to first destroy their stories, eradicate their poetry and literature, erase their memory of who they are. And so one of the first things the Japanese Imperial Army did was they went house to house in towns and villages and confiscated every copy of the Bible that they could find. They then took these Bibles to the town plaza and burned them. But the nights that followed – dark as they were – were illuminated by the deep faith of the great women in my family. My grandmother and grandaunts would gather the children at night (my father and siblings and cousins) and recite to them scripture passages they had memorized. They required the children to memorize them as well in the belief that they were to never see nor read a copy of the Bible ever again. They thought that with the Bible burnings and the destruction of the war, a great famine of God’s word was to cover the land, and so they made sure the children’s spiritual storehouses were well-stocked! Whenever I remember them, they remind me of Ruth and Hannah who never lost their trust in God even in the midst of great tribulation.

When I remember them I am reminded of the power of story-telling in the sustenance of our spirituality, and how important it is for the vitality of our faith for today that it is nourished by the memory of our roots. This is especially crucial in our time, for we live in a materialistic and utilitarian culture that for the most part eschews stories.

My grandfather on my mother’s side was orphaned at a young age. He was mentored by American Baptist missionaries who established early on a vocational school for orphan boys. He later on became one of the first graduates of the seminary that grew out of that vocational school that ABC missionaries established in the Philippines. After he graduated he went back to the foothills of his birth and there founded a church. He had a fierce faith, like Gideon. When the Japanese Imperial Army overran that part of the country, 11 ABC missionaries fled towards the hills where my grandfather was pastoring. He helped them find a hiding place. They found a location at the bottom of a deep ravine surrounded by lush forests. They called the place Hopevale. There they built a chapel made of stones and adorned it with a make-shift wooden cross. They called it “The Cathedral in the Glen.” A replica of that cathedral can be found today at the American Baptist Assembly grounds in Green Lake, WI. He and his family and his congregation provided the missionaries companionship, protection, food, and fellowship for almost two years until the Japanese Imperial Army found them. The Japanese Imperial Army was on retreat at that time. They had orders to take no American prisoners. The order was issued to execute the missionaries.

The plaque listing the names of the martyred ABC missionaries, located at the Centennial Memorial on the campus of CPU.

One of the 11 was Dr. James Covell. He was an ABC missionary educator to Japan during the war years but later on was moved to the Philippines with his wife and family when he became a danger to himself and our Baptist partners in Japan in the way he openly and fiercely opposed the militarization of Japan. He and his wife spoke fluent Japanese. In beautiful Japanese, he begged the platoon commander to spare the group, indicating that they were missionaries and were not part of the war. He was almost successful in persuading the platoon commander but his orders from higher command were inflexible. When it became absolutely clear that death was to come, Dr. Covell asked for a time to pray. They were given all the time they needed and after almost an hour they came back to the soldiers hand in hand singing a hymn and then Dr. Covell said on behalf of the group, “We are ready.” Then they were led, two by two, to different spots around the top of the ravine and they were executed. To this day, it is this memory of sacrificial service that inspires many pastors of the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches to serve with passion even in the midst of daunting challenges and abject poverty!

My great grandfather on my father’s side was a carpenter. His name was Alejo Familiaran. He was an accomplished furniture maker. After he came into the Baptist faith he was commissioned to build the first Baptist church in his town. He was stricken with Glaucoma and became blind during the construction of the bamboo church but - with help of his apprentices - he finished the structure with the feel of his hands. And so whenever I hear the word, “church builder”, I think of my great grandfather Alejo. He “felt” the church, not as brick and mortar – or in his case, bamboo, timber, and coconut leaves – but a fellowship of Jesus people propelled by a fiery mission.

Baptists in general around the world share some fundamental convictions. Perhaps one of the most defining of these – and formative to its very identity - is Religious Freedom or, as it is sometimes known, Soul Liberty. Throughout history, the foundational belief that God has given every person the dignity and the gift of freedom has permitted Baptists of every persuasion to respond freely to the world around them, and appropriate their faith in light of their own understanding of Scriptures. It is this bedrock ‘Baptistic’ belief that has given rise to the variety of Baptist traditions today. The Baptist family has many “offspring” and, therefore, many expressions. And so the question, ‘Why am I an American Baptist?’ is best answered with the prior understanding that ‘Baptist’ and ‘American Baptist’ identities are not necessarily one and the same. It has been said that American Baptists have never been one thing, but many - and therein lies much of our distinctiveness. At the heart of the American Baptist self-consciousness are its powerful history, its passion for social justice and missions. Who American Baptists are today is, therefore, only the contemporary expression of a long history of particular persons who have responded to Christ’s call to missions in the world in peculiar ways.

And so my identity as an American Baptist is not rooted only in organizational structure, or confessional and propositional statements. Rather, beyond all of that, my identity as an American Baptist is grounded in the lives and ministry of particular people who have responded to God’s call in a particular way. It begins with my own family history, with three generations of Filipino Baptists before me who were brought to the Baptist faith by American Baptist missionaries. This faith produced in my family church builders and pioneers who formed my own Baptist faith. And then farther out into the vast panorama of that Baptist history I see Obadiah Holmes, Roger Williams, Benjamin Randall, Mary Webb, John Mason Peck, Lott Cary, Luther Rice, Charles Journeycake, Joanna Moore, Dong Gong, Adoniram & Ann Judson – to name a few pioneers who represent my wider American Baptist ancestry. In more modern memory more saints crystallize this identity for me - Walter Rauschenbusch, James and Charma Covell, Helen Barrett Montgomery, Martin Luther King, Jr., Orlando Costas, Jitsuo Morikawa, Delfin Dianala, Howard Thurman, Margaret Prine, George Peck, Moley Familiaran, Prathia Wynn – to name a few, but saints and all! Why am I an American Baptist? The answer lies in the mighty stories of faith embodied in these people. For me, their lives and ministries have carried forth the American Baptist ‘DNA’ through the generations, and it is their ‘genes’ that continue to stir in my soul.

To celebrate Baptist Heritage Sunday, may we seek to understand deeper who we are as American Baptists and "re-member" - reconnect, reintegrate, reclaim - into our journey the peculiar and powerful story of our Baptist heritage so that we may live with utmost clarity about the role we play in bringing to bear God's kingdom of love here on earth.

Tell your story!

What is a "Typical Missionary?"

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What do the following people have in common? Two lawyers, an interior designer, a musician, a nurse, a manager, two seminary professors, a couple of information technology consultants, a physiotherapist, and a speech therapist? All of them are cross-cultural mission workers serving with the National Baptist Convention of Brazil! (See photo taken at the closing ceremonies of the missionary training program at JAMI). Is there such a thing as a “typical missionary” in today’s world? [gallery type="slideshow" ids="10546,10545,10544"]

What a pleasure it was to be part of the instructional team that prepared these young women and men who will serve on four continents. We were moved by the pledge they recited at the closing worship service. Here is an excerpt,

God said, “I need someone willing to say no to the status quo, … to leave their families to fly to distant lands, learn a language they've never heard, to travel on crowded buses, … someone who will sleep anywhere, eat anything, tolerate the heat and fight against the cold, with a smile on their face ... just to bring the Gospel to a people that is not theirs … . I need someone who is a radical servant of all.” So God created the missionary.

Wishing you a blessed Christmas full of Jesus’ hope, love, peace, and joy.

 

A GoGlobal Mission Trip

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Three members of the ABCNJ GoGlobal Task Force recently returned from a 10-day mission trip to Rwanda, Africa. Rev. Dr. Michael Feicht, Rev. Wayne Hopkins and Rev. Sue Royle met with the Seira Community Church, an association of  eleven Baptist churches located throughout the country. Our purpose was to:

  • teach a Systematic Theology course to the local pastors
  • visit the rural churches and engage in dialogue and prayer with the women
  • continue to develop our newly formed relationship

In addition, we baptized over 50 people in 4 locations. Over the next few weeks we will be working on a formal presentation for our churches. There will also be information at the GoGlobal table at Annual Session in September.

Exciting things are happening in Rwanda and ABCNJ is excited to be part of it.

Coming together, a call to long-term recovery

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God has made us who we are. In Christ Jesus, God made us todo good works, which God planned in advance for us to live our lives doing.

– Ephesians 2:10 NCV

Summer recovery teams

  • July 12-19 – Manasquan , NJ area
  • August 9-16 – Atlantic City & Wildwood , NJ areas.

As we look together at 2014 and what recovery looks like at the Jersey Shore, let me share a few things with you.

Since Hurricane Sandy hit on October 29, 2012 the ranks of the homeless in N.J. have swelled. Many living on the streets , in homes without heat , on second floors with gutted ground floors.

Yes, the storm is over but Long Term Recovery goes on. We need your help!

Our partners we joined with last summer have been very busy doing case management, and are looking to partner again with ABCNJ/ABHMS.

How you can help

  • Pray for those families still displaced and suffering.
  • Continue to give financial support to Sandy Relief through One Great Hour of Sharing.
  • Plan to join us on either of our work weeks this summer , by registering through the  ABHMS website.
  • Pray for God to open opportunities not only for us to do physical labor, but  also for places where we can shine His light and spread His word.

Together we have and will continue to bring Hope while being the Hands and Feet of our Lord and Savior , Jesus Christ. We will come together once again to, "Rebuild, Restore and Renew" New Jersey!

Monday, Monday

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That hit song from 1966 floated through the back of my mind last night.  It was popular when I was a teenager, the only song by the Mamas & Papas to make it to #1. It came to mind because I was listening to Monday, on Tuesday.

"Monday," or more exactly, "son, born on Monday," is the meaning of the Ghanaian name, Kojo.  I was listening to Rev. Kojo Amo who, after providing leadership to the Ghana Baptist Convention for ten years, is now the Chairman for West Africa for the All Africa Baptist Fellowship.  Kojo is in town as part of a mission trip.  He is touring a Ghanaian Baptist mission field.  The U.S.A.

With Ghana Baptist Convention leaders and Francisco Litardo in 2001

As I listened to Brother Kojo last night, I had a complex experience.  As I said, the background soundtrack was Mamas & Papas.  The visuals were from a brilliant day in October of 2001, when I took these photos as Francisco Litardo and I spent a couple of hours in Accra with the leadership of the Ghana Baptist Convention.  The foreground soundtrack was a highly summarized report of Ghanaian Baptist mission work in Canada (Toronto and Montreal), New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, Georgia, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona, Colorado and now, New Jersey.

This is definitely not your great-grandmother's world of mission!

The smiling face of my friend Samuel Escobar also flashed through my mind as I listened.  For, Brother Kojo was describing a marvelous Ghanaian example of just the kind of thing Samuel has been speaking and writing about for years:  mission in our day is truly "from everywhere to everyone" (The New Global Mission, InterVarsity Press, 2003).

From everywhere to everyone.  Mission in our day moves in every conceivable direction.  And, if we're honest, we have to admit that many of today's mission directions are "conceivable" to us only after we've bumped into the fact that they are "actual"!  God's surprises just keep on coming!

So, Kojo Amo is visiting Ghanaian mission sites in the U.S.  They are places where Ghanaians who have joined the millennia-long stream of immigrants to North America are busily reaching out to their neighbors with the faith in Jesus that has sustained them on the journey.  It is an exuberant faith.  Contagious.  Their churches are growing.  And, in excellent missionary fashion, they are eager to partner with what God is already doing in the places where they are planting churches.  Are we equally eager to partner with them?

ABCNJ is!  We were sitting in the living room of Judy and Paul Hart, at a regularly-scheduled meeting of the American Baptist Churches of New Jersey's Go Global Mission Taskforce, which Judy chairs.  It was an exciting evening, as members of the group shared about the ways God is leading New Jersey Baptists into mission in Brazil, the Philippines, Rwanda, South Africa, Haiti, India... and... and... in partnership with Ghanaian Baptists, New Jersey!  At least 150 of the world's nations are represented in New Jersey.  Lee Spitzer, Senior Regional Pastor for ABCNJ says, "We can accomplish 2/3 of the Great Commission in our day, at least symbolically, without even leaving the state!"  Lord willing, there will soon be a new Ghanaian congregation growing in the heart of New Jersey, aided and abetted by their American Baptist neighbors.

So, Monday was speaking on Tuesday night.  He was describing mission from a former "receiving" country to a former "sending" country.  And we joyously celebrated the fact that the Lord invites us all to be both "senders" and "receivers" as we participate in what is truly God's mission, "from everywhere to everyone."

In 1966, "Monday, Monday" was (and for some of us, still is!) engaging--despite the fact that it was a wistful lament for a lost love.  This week, Monday/Kojo is engaging in a totally different way:  he is bursting with life and contagious enthusiasm for the good news of Jesus, bearing witness to the way God is at work in our world.

Thanks be to God!

May the Lord surprise and encourage you this week with glimpses of the surprising ways God is at work in your own neck of the woods.  Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

ABCNJ Council Update: Celebration, Planning and Mission

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The Council of the American Baptist Churches held its fall meeting at the Atrium in Red Bank on Saturday morning, November 9, 2013.  It was a memorable morning - and not just because of the awesome hospitality and breakfast provided by Springpoint Senior Living.  We celebrated God's blessings, planned for the future and focused on world-wide mission.

Celebration

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The Council heard from Mr. Gary Puma, CEO of Springpoint, who shared the story of how the Atrium was saved and re-established as a first rate Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC).  He presented two full color drawings of the original Navesink House to our Executive Minister and Senior Regional Pastor, Rev. Dr. Lee B. Spitzer, as a symbol of the partnership we share.

The Council also celebrated the successful launching of the Cedars of Lebanon 2020 campaign, which has now surpassed the $183,000 mark!  And it voted to accept the application for full ABCNJ membership from NextGen Church, as it graduates from our New Church Development program.  Rev. Dr. Mia Chang is the Lead Pastor, and she now represents NCD on the Council.

Planning for the Future

Annual Session 2014 is just around the corner (!) - September 27, 2014.  The Council engaged in small group discussions concerning themes for presentations, which will be added to the ABCNJ Ministry Team's deliberations and given to the 2014 Annual Session Planning Committee.  It is going to be a fantastic Annual Session!

How does the region come alongside struggling churches?  Council approved a new policy statement which outlines how the Regional Ministry Team will partner with Council and our Associations to assist churches that have come to the end of their journey, that which to invite the region to re-start their ministry, or that request counsel regarding healthy ministry decisions.

Mission

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ABCNJ churches and members are ministering all around the globe!  This past summer, young adults from several of our Latino churches engaged in an Extreme Team mission trip to the Czech Republic.  Four members of the team shared with Council details of their mission experience.

Dr. Spitzer noted that two other young adults have just returned this week from Brazil, where they represented ABCNJ at a Baptist Youth Gathering that attracted 1000 people from all across that country.  Special thanks to IM missionaries Ann and Bruce Borquist, for guiding our representatives through the week!

The Council also approved responding to the disaster in the Philippines by creating a designated fund for Philippine Disaster Response (like we did for Katrina in 2005 and Haiti in 2010).  An appeal will go out to our churches.  ABCNJ has a special direct relationship with the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches.

 

 

Join the ABCNJ Delegation at IM's 200th Anniversary!

NOTE:  This invitation is only for ABCNJ churches and members!

International Ministries is hosting a 200th anniversary conference at Green Lake on July 21-25, 2014.  All of our missionaries, 150 foreign partner dignitaries, and over 1,000 American Baptists will be in attendance.  It promises to be an inspiring and historic milestone in the history of ABC missions.  For details on the conference, see:

http://www.internationalministries.org/read/49675-2014-world-mission-conference

I have secured a block of 20 rooms at Green Lake for ABCNJ's use, with 16 still available.  We need to send in our confirmed reservations by the first week in October.

To secure your room, email Dr. Lee B. Spitzer as soon as possible - we will assign rooms on a first-come, first served basis.  For each room, a down payment of 2 nights is required by Green Lake to hold the room.  Your check for the deposit needs to be in by October 7.

If you and members of your family wish be part of the ABCNJ delegation, NOW is the time to secure your reservation through ABCNJ.  Green Lake is already totally sold out.

Room choices:  We are assuming a 7 night stay (arrive 7/19; leave 7/26).  It may be possible to arrive a day later; I am not sure yet.  But if we have a good group of folk, I will plan something special for the Sunday!  There are a variety of room options and sites.  When you reply to this email, please indicate your first and second choice.

Roger Williams Inn - $99 per night.  Bed options are: 1 Queen; 1 Queen & 1 Single; or 2 Singles.  Roger Williams is a "stately" older building, right on the lake.  2 NIGHT DEPOSIT: $198.

Kern Lodge - $116 per night.  Bed option: 2 Queens.  Hotel style rooms.  2 NIGHT DEPOSIT: $232.

In addition to the lodging, of course, you will have to pay for the conference registration ($119 per person) and transportation to and from Green Lake.  We are working on options for group travel to save everyone money.  Let's have a great time in Green Lake!

 

Ann Judson - Courageous with a Capital “C”!

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The first time I “met” Ann Judson was in 1987 when Bruce and I were preparing for service in the Philippines. We participated in the 175th Anniversary of the sailing of Ann and Adoniram, the first American missionaries sent to serve in Asia. After being commissioned in the same church as the Judsons almost two centuries earlier in Salem, MA, we and our two year old daughter Elena boarded a life-sized replica of the Caravan, the ship that Ann and her husband sailed on. Flash Forward: The Caravan I boarded last month was ‘harbored’ in the International Ministries booth at the ABC Mission Summit in Kansas City. I played Ann Judson in character, sharing stories of this remarkable woman with people from the U.S., the Philippines, Myanmar, Brazil, and Puerto Rico.

Holding on during the storm!

Ann and Adoniram sailed for India just a few days after their wedding(!) in 1812. Was this crazy? Unquestionably. But they were determined to follow the Lord’s lead no matter what it might cost. Through careful study of Scripture on the journey, they determined that baptism by immersion, not sprinkling, was the Biblical norm. This new theological position required them to radically change their support network and become “Baptists.” After a harrowing trip from India to Burma (present day Myanmar) in which she lost her first child, they finally set foot on Burmese soil in 1813.

An accomplished linguist and translator, Ann mastered the Burmese language quickly and translated the books of Daniel and Jonah after only four years of study (remember: there were no books or language schools in that day!). Two years later, she translated the book of Matthew into the Siamese (Thai) language. When war broke out between the British and the Burmese, Adoniram was imprisoned in unspeakably harsh conditions. Ann saved his life by courageously smuggling in small quantities of food and his precious manuscripts. These sustained both his body and his mind.

I was surprised to learn how crucial Ann’s letters were in opening the eyes of American Christians to peoples of other lands. The story of this committed, compassionate woman should cause us to reflect on our own spiritual journey. What are we willing to “leave behind” to faithfully respond to God’s call to serve others in the way of Jesus?

Com amor em Cristo (with love in Christ)

Bryant Currier (center) served in Burma with his wife Sara Jean until all foreigners were expelled in 1966 at the onset of military rule. 
Photo: Bryant’s son, Andy (left) and Ann

Join the 2013 World Day of Prayer

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Friday, March 1st is World Day of Prayer 2013. Services begin at sunrise in the Pacific and follow the sun across the globe. Women, men and children in more than 170 countries and regions will participate in this ecumenical movement of believers from many traditions who come together to observe a common day of prayer. It is founded on the idea that informed prayer and prayerful action are inseparable in the service of God’s kingdom. ABC International Ministries asked the missionaries for prayer requests from their fields of service. We invite you to share them with your friends and family, and in your communities of faith as you join with believers around the world on March 1st. Or choose another date that works for your community.

The host country for 2013 is France, on the topic, “I Was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me” encouraging welcome for migrant people worldwide. It strives for a Christian response to struggles concerning immigration and for ways to welcome “the stranger” and to identify with “the least of these” in Matthew 25. The focus this year draws on customs of hospitality found in Leviticus to paint a picture of welcoming the stranger, and to help us put ourselves in the shoes of “the stranger”. We will remember our own feeling of being on the outside, and the joy of the blessings of being welcomed.

Dan Buttry – Global Consultant for Peace, Justice and Conflict Transformation

  1. Pray for Kenya to have a peaceful election on March 4 and in the weeks before and after. I’ve been working with Central Baptist Theological Seminary’s Wilson Gathungu and others for the last two years in conflict transformation training. In April we will do follow-up trainings and strategy sessions to continue the work for peace. Pray for all of Africa, me and Wilson Gathungu of Central Baptist Theological Seminary, as we put together a 10-day Training of Conflict Transformation Trainers in September that will shape key Christian leaders in Bible-based peacemaking skills. Registrants so far are from Zimbabwe, Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, Uganda, and Kenya. Pray for the members of the IGNITE team who will be in the Republic of Georgia in May and June, exposing emerging Christian leaders from the U.S. and Georgia to the challenges and opportunities of mission. Lauran Bethell – Global Consultant for Anti-Human Trafficking
  2. Pray for those who are walking the streets of Europe, meeting victims of human trafficking/prostitution as they meet together in April in Waterloo, Belgium. Pray that they learn information that strengthens their ministries. Pray for me as I help plan the meeting and also speaks in one of the plenary sessions, that the Holy Spirit will speak words of truth and power through me. Pray for the European Baptist Federation’s Anti-Trafficking Network, as they meet together near Barcelona, Spain in April. Pray that the Holy Spirit will guide them to know more effective ways of ministering to victims of trafficking from Africa and Eastern Europe. Ingrid Roldán-Román missionary in Panama & Costa Rica:
  3. Pray for students of the School Tutoring Program in Changuinola, Bocas del Toro, Panama so they can continue to acquire skills that will help them in their learning process and that through me they will know God. Pray for the membership of the Baptist Church in Sixaola, Costa Rica that can remain faithful to God and sharing the gospel with others. Pray for my return to the mission field after my time at home for Puerto Rico & US visitations.

Dan and Sarah Chetti missionaries in Lebanon:

  1. After 7 years of ministry among imprisoned maids in Lebanon, I (Sarah) am launching INSAAF – an Integrated Center for the Ministry among the Maids. Please pray that the harassed, discriminated, suffering maids from several Asian and African countries will find a safe haven where someone listens to their stories and ministers to their needs. Please pray for people to help me, to convert the building creating counseling and work stations, and for money for the renovation work.
  2. Lebanon right now is over whelmed by more than 200,000 refugees due to conflicts in neighboring Syria and Iraq. Families are living in difficult situations including unfinished buildings open to the elements in this cold winter season. Many refugees are Christian minorities, and the students of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (where we work) identify with the refugees and are deeply disturbed by these changes in society. Join us and our students in praying that Lebanese churches will reach out to the refugees and minister among them, and for churches & donors in the US who would like to participate in this ministry.

Kit Ripley missionary in Thailand:

  1. Please pray for the ministry of the New Life Center Foundation. We work with tribal girls who have experienced labor exploitation, domestic violence, sexual abuse or human trafficking, and girls who are "at risk". We are in a period of structural change and staff transitions, and are seeking God's guidance as we consider how we can be best equipped to meet the changing needs of tribal girls in the upcoming years.
  2. Insufficient access to citizenship continues to be a challenge for minority people groups in Thailand. Please pray for the government to open up channels so that minority people can access legal Thai citizenship.

Wendy Bernhard missionary in the Democratic Republic of Congo:

  1. Pray for our seminaries and Bible institutes as they prepare pastors for ministry in today's turbulent world.
  2. Pray for the young people of Congo, that they would learn and follow Christ's way in their lives.

Deb Mulneix – development worker in India and Nepal:

  1. Making strangers into friends is the goal of all of all of our Partners in Ministry in India and Nepal. This week, I received news about the weddings of two new friends. Not long ago, these women were selling alcohol, drugs, and sometimes themselves. Then they were introduced to Christ. Today, they understand the difference between loving someone and using them. Their new husbands show them respect that they have never experienced before. Now that's a Welcome to a Stranger! Please keep these new families in your prayers, as well as the shelter and the women and staff who work there.
  2. Education in India is a very high priority. Our early missionaries were aware of the need and established many schools around the country. Today, Christian schools are well respected, and many non-Christian children are enrolled in them. The residents of a small, remote village approached their Christian neighbors to open a school. Even though they had no funds, no teachers, and no buildings, these believers began a school. The first year there were 75 students, and today, three years later, they number around 350, with less than 10 of these students from Christian homes. Like this one, many of our schools are in remote areas, and funding is not easily available. Please keep the students, faculty, staff, and parents of our Christian schools in your prayers.

Mike Mann – Global Consultant for Rural Development:

  1. Many villagers in China, Burma and Thailand live in extreme poverty and do not have access to clean water, proper sanitation and micro-loans. Pray for the mission projects that will address these challenges giving villagers hope for a healthier life and stronger economic future.

Madeline Flores-López missionary in the Dominican Republic:

  1. Pray for our economy which is directly affecting many families in the DR – a basket of basic supplies has gone up from 16% to 26%. Food and basic needs are now more prohibited and unaffordable for poor families.
  2. Pray for our college students who are the future in the DR. They face expensive transportation, no school supplies, and limited opportunities making an education nearly impossible. Please pray for more opportunities and scholarships for college students.

Chuck and Ruth Fox:

  1. Pray for children all over the world who are in need of education, and particularly for the children who receive STEP funds through IM. We have many Akha children who are receiving educational support because of the generosity of individuals and churches; we pray that others in need will receive the help they need, and that those in the program will see and understand the help they receive as God's provision in their lives.
  2. Pray for the Chiang Rai International Christian School, a school in Chiang Rai, Thailand, created to "serve the servant" families who come to minister in many capacities to the people of northern Thailand. Please pray for the development of the school as it grows, particularly for volunteer teachers who have a heart to serve in a setting like this. The school has served, and is served by, three IM missionary families, as well as 5 full-time IM volunteers this year. Many non-Christian Thai children are also coming to the school now, and we are excited to see them come to an understanding of Jesus and his love for them.
  3. Pray for the Akha people, that they might come to all know the saving power of Jesus Christ, but also discover what His love and the power of the Holy Spirit can mean in practical ways to achieve peace and unity...in their families, in their communities, in the church and in relationship to other Christian groups, as well.
  4. Pray for the projects we are involved with that are helping to provide self-sufficiency for the Akha people, namely the Akha Craft program, coffee production and drug rehabilitation efforts. May these programs be strengthened and may the people involved develop the leadership skills they need to carry these programs forward.

The Bonilla-Giovanettis move into new ministry

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Habemus casa! The Bonilla-Giovanettis will be moving in the next couple of days to our new home! The Lord helped us find the house He had chosen for us. He answered your prayers on our behalf. Thanks so much for keeping us in your prayers as we were in this search process. Today it is four weeks since we arrived to Nicaragua and we already have a place to move into. A big praise the Lord from the bottom of our hearts. In these four weeks much has happened and we’ve already visited many places

  • The Baptist Church of the Living God for their 12th anniversary
  • Nagarote for a pastors luncheon
  • Pochomil in the Pacific and Baptist Church El Crucero to share the Word
  • Diriamba to share with the youth for their Sunday School and their 94th anniversary
  • First Baptist Church of Managua for a retreat and to share the Word. Looking ahead.

March is already booking up with more visits to churches and places. Another praise the Lord for opening doors for us to minister.

We invite you to thank the Lord with us for His faithfulness. We also covet your prayers for don Juan, one of the two men who cares for the Seminary’s building. We just learned he was hit by a car on his way to work and is in ICU struggling for his life. Doctors already performed an emergency surgery in his head and are monitoring him closely. Currently, he remains unconscious. His wife and children are praying for don Juan’s recovery, knowing that don Juan’s life is in God’s hands. We have all seen God’s miracles and mercy before and we pray this be another opportunity to see God at work.

We are grateful for your company as we journey to the places God leads us. We are grateful for the many congregations that are already sending us your bulletins and newsletters. It is helping us pray for you as well. Those who haven’t done so, please remember to add us to your e-lists - it is a valuable tool for our prayer life.

We also invite our sisters and brother to use and share ABCOPAD/ABCNJ’s Lenten Devotionals by Dr. Richard Runsbuldt. This way we may journey together.

Music to My Ears

You've been busy!!  I have been inspired by the glimpses I have caught of God at work through New Jersey Baptists, and heartily thank God for you!  May the Lord continue to multiply the impact of your witness in work and word, as people continue to recover from Hurricane Sandy! I have prayed for, given to and tried to stay informed about your ministries from afar this last week, as I have been serving among our sisters and brothers in Nicaragua.  Here's a glimpse of what I've been up to:

"I thought I knew these stories in Acts, but I'm amazed at the new things I found." "What I really liked about this study was that the speaker did not come to tell us what to think, but helped us to discover the meaning for ourselves."

It was, as they say, music to my ears. The music was playing in CEPAD's Nehemiah Center in Managua, where I had just spent three days with pastors and congregational leaders (CEPAD is Nicaragua's Council of Evangelical Churches for Denominational Alliance). Gilberto Aguirre, affectionately known to all as El Profe ("the Prof"), was conducting an evaluation session at the end of our inductive study of the Book of Acts.

I appreciate positive feedback as much as anyone. It is a wonderful encouragement to be thanked for our efforts. It is very affirming to be both warmly welcomed and eagerly invited back. Feels great.

But the kind of response I both pray for and work for goes far beyond "getting strokes," as good as that feels. My desire is to be used by God to help people grow, not only in knowledge, but in capacity. I am especially eager to help people expand their capacity to discover the meaning of Scripture by working together as a learning community. I am no Paul of Tarsus, but I share his desire to work in a way that helps us all to grow into maturity in Christ (Colossians 1:28).

There is nothing I can do to force that outcome. Sometimes what I don't do is the most important thing. Waiting. Resisting the urge pour out my own views. Or, at least, resisting that urge long enough to allow others to do some creative thinking.

Of course, not everything is unprompted discovery. I share not only silence, but also the fruit of learning I've had the privilege to do previously. But, if I can couple that prior learning with careful listening to the observations and questions in the room, I can use it less to supplant and more to support the learning that others are doing. If I can affirm and encourage fellow learners to risk sharing their own observations, questions and hypotheses--even, or perhaps especially, when their ideas do not quite seem to me to be "on the mark," it builds confidence in the group and accelerates their rate of discovery. Delightfully, it can accelerate my own rate of discovery, too!

At the end of the evaluation session, Dámaris Albuquerque, CEPAD's executive director, spoke on behalf of the group and the whole organization: "Thank you for coming and for giving yourself to us again this week. Please express our gratitude to International Ministries for enabling you to come!'

I am, indeed, grateful to International Ministries for the opportunity to serve in Nicaragua this week. I am also deeply grateful to New Jersey Baptists for the prayer and financial support that makes this service possible!  It is great to be in the service of God's Reign together.

Reaching Out To Children in Costa Rica

In July, members of First Baptist Church of Westfield and First Baptist Church of Arlington participated in a mission trip to Costa Rica. The group of 14 adults, young adults and teenagers helped with a children's Christian camp geared towards unchurched children between the ages of 7-12. Local leaders ran the camp while financial support, supplies, transportation and scholarships were provided through fundraising efforts of the two ABCNJ churches. Health kits and other supplies were taken by the mission group and shared with the children and their parents. For the majority of the children this was their first Christian Camp experience. Parents were later invited to a meeting to discuss what their children learned at the camp and the importance of raising a child in the Christian faith. They were also encouraged to continue building their child's faith through church attendance and by tending to their own spiritual nurture.

If you would like more information or to view a video of the trip please contact First Baptist Church of Westfield or contact Rev. Sue Royle but using the form below.

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IGNITE: Nathan Kang in Haiti

NOTE:  The following testimony by Nathan Kang (FBC, Trenton) was published on the IM website.  We have added it to ours with permission.  ABCNJ provided nathan with a scholarship for this mission.

Before coming on the IGNITE trip to Haiti, I have always asked myself, “What do I want to do with my life?”  Before I entered college, I finally settled on studying medicine to hopefully become a doctor.  I figured that it was worth the extra effort in school to live a comfortable life with a steady income, plus I was always interested in health and the human body.  However, I was still not completely satisfied with my career choice.  Throughout my first year in college, I quickly found out that medicine is a not an area of study I can simply cruise through.  To reach medical school truly takes devotion and motivation.  Because I seemed to lack these two things, my first year in college proved to be a drag academically.  I always questioned myself if this hard work was worth the comfortable life I sought after.  To what end was I putting in all my effort?  This question was on my mind as applied for the IGNITE trip to Haiti.  I did not think too highly of the opportunity, but I applied nonetheless thinking that no harm could be done by sending in the application.  However, after the IGNITE experience, I can say with confidence that this trip was something not to be taken lightly, for it gave me a clear vision as to what my calling in life is.

During our trip in Haiti, we stayed at the UCNH (Universete Chretienne du Nord d'Haiti) in Limbe.  This was where we met Dr. Steven James and his wife Nancy.  Dr. Steven is a missionary doctor in Limbe where he travels around to different clinics in the area to treat simple illnesses and ailments or to direct patients to a more specialized doctor.  Our team was given the amazing privilege to travel to the different clinics with Dr. Steve and experience a glimpse of the life of a missionary doctor.  While visiting various clinics, one thing I noticed in was Dr. Steve's relationship with all the patients.  When Dr. Steve and his patients would meet, they would greet each other like old friends and he would continue to treat his patients like friends during the entire meeting.  God's love seemed to radiate out of him with every patient he met.

Dr. Steve's lifestyle reflected his commitment and love for people, and it was this love that allowed him to give himself up for the sake of others.  Dr. Steve has a doctorate degree in family medicine.  He could easily be working in the United States and be receiving a hefty pay while living a comfortable life.  Instead, he gave this up and came to Haiti where he receives money only through the donations of churches and organizations.  He spent all those hard years in school studying not so that he could fulfill his own aesthetic pleasures, but so that he could use his skills to help others in need.  Dr. Steve's sacrifice for the people of Haiti pulled me out of my own swamp of being unsure about what to do with my life.  It instilled me a new passion as to why I want to study medicine.  I want to study so I can be a servant and expand the Kingdom of God.  Many times, people have told me that I need to live for something bigger than myself, that I need to live for Christ.  However, before the trip to Haiti, I was never really able to comprehend what these words meant.  Now, after I have spent time with Dr. Steve, who truly showed me what it means to give up oneself for others, I understand a little bit more of my calling in life.  I want to become the servant that God called me to be.

A thought on iBooks

A window

I am writing my first book using iBooks author. It's nothing major, just about 50 pages on a presentation concept I call "Idea Painting." As I continue to research the concept, and do more reading on communication theory, I be adding to the book over time, and issue updates through the iBooks store. Yes, there will also be editions for the Nook and Kindle, but the multi-media aspects of iBooks Author make it idea for my subject.

It's the ability to update editions, and push them out to clients, which intrigues me. This morning I receive a FaceBook message from a friend who happens to be a missionary in Israel. Apparently the newsletter he mailed to us bounced back to him and he wanted me to confirm my mailing address. I provided it, but I also told him to save the cash and just email me a PDF of the newsletter to me (I hate paper, saving cash for him was a win-win). The newsletter is laid out pretty well, and has some good updates. My friend is a decent writer, and so you actually get to meet a little bit of his heart in his stories.

As I waited for my iPad to open up the PDF, I began to wonder if there might be an even better way for him to send out his updates. What if he could still write his stories - but include videos, sideshows, charts, and interactive maps with them? What if he could have his friends and supporters download his newsletter once, and have it updated automatically when he adds new content? If this were possible, his readers wouldn't have to dig through an in-box or rustle through papers to try to find the newsletter which was "on the counter somewhere." As an added bonus, the newsletter could grow over time, with each successive updated becoming a new chapter. Old reflections and highlights can be easily referenced and searched, and updates on previous stories can be linked back to their antecedent thoughts for better context.

I find this idea compelling. Of course, the drawback currently is that comparatively few people currently own an iPad, which would limit the field such an edition could reach. On the other hand, uploading this edition to the iBooks store would also make it discoverable by anyone, with a good description and some word of mouth it could have a wider audience than we might think. There other major eBook stores would also be remiss if they left something like iBooks Author to go unchallenged, and there are currently technologies for eInk type displays which can do both color and full motion video. In the next several years an edition similar to an iBooks Authored work should be available on all the major platforms, so why not begin to practice with the concept? It's certainly worth a shot.

I see two downsides to this concept.

First, it puts a third party between a missionary and supports which is outside the missionary's organization. The iBook stores are businesses, not missionary or philanthropic endeavors. Still, missionaries have been using government mail services for years so adding a third party intermediary does seem to be a huge obstacle.

Second, and more difficult to overcome, is a lack of subscriber data. I know magazines have negotiated with the major eBook stores to gain subscriber information. I have yet to see if such information is available to eBook authors. If this information is not available, then this might not be a path to take as missionaries really need to form something akin to an actual relationship with those who subscribe to their updates. Still, if updates could be submitted as a free magazine, subscriber information could be obtained. I have no problem with this as long as the authors let subscribers know their information will be shared!

Anyway, just a thought on yet another way for workers in the field to share their amazing stories.

 

"Ignite" takes off with 2 ABCNJ Young Adults

Haiti and American Baptists have a long history of partnership and service together.  And yet, due to internal conflicts in Haiti, the western half of Hispaniola has never been host to an Xtreme Team or Ignite team, until now.  After a year hiatus, the American Baptist International Ministries young adult program is back under the name IGNITE and is headed to Haiti.  A group of four young adults and one team leader will be serving, learning, and living mission and outreach in Haiti this summer. The orientation training, trip and debriefing of this first IGNITE experience will run from June 23 through July 28th. Upon completion, the team will share their stories at the Immerse Youth Event in Washington, DC from July 24-28th. IGNITE enables young adults to spark a connection, kindle spiritual and personal growth, and blaze with passion for Jesus Christ.  The month long adventure of cross-cultural mission service will push them out of their comfort zones into an extraordinary faith walk with God. During their travels, team members deepen their relationship with God while seeking a deeper understanding of how people of other faiths view God, Jesus, and followers of Jesus.  The IGNITE team will be blogging regularly on their website.   http://www.internationalministries.org/teams/Ignite_2012

“In Haiti the IGNITE Team will meet believers who have suffered great trauma from chronic poverty and the devastating 2010 earthquake yet have a vibrant witness to God’s blessing and peace,” says Reid Trulson, Executive Director, International Ministries. “This month-long experience with Haitian brothers and sisters may ignite profound changes in the Team members’ understanding of God’s presence, Jesus’ love and the Spirit’s power. We should not be surprised if it helps clarify their call and their unique participation in the mission of God in the world.”

Members of the 2012 Haiti team are: Tyrone Choate, Jr                    Red Bank, NJ

Catey Hobza                               Douglas, WY

Nathan Kang                             Monmouth Junction, NJ

Sarah Nunez                               Dearborn Heights, MI

Leaders are:

Ketly Pierre                                        Nicaragua

Dan Buttry                                           Hamtramack, MI, USA support

Deliris Carrion                                   Haiti

Nancy and Steve James                   Haiti

Monel Jules                                        Haiti

Team members regularly post journals and photos to highlight their Xperiences throughout the trip. Visit http://www.internationalministries.org/teams/Ignite_2012  to follow the adventures of this year’s team. Join the network to get regular updates by email.  We encourage you to be a part of their support team and spread the news of the IGNITE experience and post their journals to your own social media page.

Please keep these young adults and their mentors and leaders in your prayers!

The IGNITE team is open to young adults ages 19 - 29.  More information is available on the IGNITE team website www.ignitemissiononline.org.

On the move!

Vietnam-House-Church2.jpg

Almost daily we receive messages from friends and colleagues in Brazil saying, “Glória a Deus que vocês voltarão ao Brasil em maio - que saudade!” (“Praise God that you will return to Brazil in May - we miss you!”). But a lot still has to happen between now and May!

An Extraordinary opportunity to minister in Southeast Asia in March

We are excited about invitations from partners in Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam to lead week-long trainings for them in March: •    At Payap University in Chiang Mai, Thailand, we’ll teach an intensive course called “Social Entrepreneurship for Church and NGO Leaders.” •    For the Myanmar Baptist Convention in Yangon, Myanmar we’ll teach a seminar on “Mobilizing the Whole Church for the Whole Mission of God”

•    In Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam we’ll teach an intensive course on “World Religions” for pastors of the Vietnam Baptist Convention.

Do you have some good materials or a good syllabus on any of these topics (social entrepreneurship, mission mobilization or world religions)? We’d love to hear from you!

Back to Brazil in May? - Yes, with your help

We are preparing to return to Brazil in May - and that’s only a couple of months away! We have already been invited back by our partners in Brazil and have now received medical clearance to return. So at this point, only one piece of the puzzle is missing. We have yet to reach the financial support-raising goal set by International Ministries, and the rule is ‘no goal, no go.’

February and March are therefore key months for churches and individuals who want to be part of the team that keeps us serving in Brazil.

Thank you for all you do to support God’s work here, there and everywhere!