The group left well before the ‘crack of dawn’ on January 11, on the heels of the latest winter storm which left the roads (and parking lots) coated with a sheen of ice. Packed into two vehicles, eight folks set out on a week long trip to Oklahoma to respond to the ongoing needs in the wake of a devastating series of tornadoes that struck the area in the late spring of 2013. Christine and Cal Popp, Rick and Kathy Behlke, Matt Duley and Pastor Brian Hastings participated from Memorial Baptist Church, and RoseMary Buelow and Mary Miller-Wenzel from Whiting Community Church.
The team stayed at one of the campuses of the Church of the Harvest in OK city, which has hosted and coordinated large numbers of volunteers from around the country and even internationally. Much of our work over the week was at Immanuel Baptist Church just south of Shawnee, OK. This congregation had been praying for direction on how to serve when the first series of tornadoes hit the area, one of them less than a mile from the church building. The church immediately responded by offering free food and water to residents and relief workers, and before long they had found themselves one of the major focal points for relief efforts in the area. To this day, they continue to operate a food bank specifically for persons affected by the tornado, as part of an effort to help residents get back on their feet. Our work was largely to help organize, consolidate and relocate some of the massive amounts of food, hygiene items and cleaning supplies that they are disbursing.
One of the ‘secrets’ of these kind of mission trips is that while participants paid to take their own time to travel halfway across the country, the real blessing is how God uses the experience to change and bless us. We heard so many stories of faith and examples of God’s provision that we were reminded of God’s mercy and miracles even in the midst of very difficult times. While we were glad to be able to serve and share our time and energy, we also received abundantly more in the process.
We were even featured in the local paper! Check out the article, a video with Christine, our team leader, and other pictures here
You can find more pictures on our church Facebook Page here as well
We know little with certainty about the man Valentinius, other than that he was martyred under the rule of Claudius II on February 14, 270 AD, during a time when Christians were experiencing persecution. There are many versions of St. Valentine’s story, but one of the common threads is that he was caught by the authorities while marrying Christian couples and was condemned for this and for helping other Christians who were being persecuted.
Over time of course, his name and the day commemorating his martyrdom became associated with the celebration of romantic love, which is fine and wonderful – as far as it goes.
Christians use the word “love” a lot – or at least we should – yet the reality of love is always more difficult and challenging than the ideal. Love encompasses the heart and the mind and the hand; it is emotion and intellect and action together.
We can see that in Paul’s words in his letter to the church in Corinth about love – love is patient, love is kind, love is not envious or boastful or rude – and we grasp that love is more than just how we feel about someone, it is also about how we treat each other. That’s easy at first, but it doesn’t take long to get challenged in the everyday realities of life. Continue reading “From the Pastor’s Desk: Continuing St. Valentine’s Work”
The preschool and elementary classes will continue use We Are Baptists by Jeffrey Jones and Debra Sutton, designed to help children learn more about Baptist identity and beliefs. In February we will explore topics such as “Free to be Baptists!”, “My Church!”, “Our Church!”, “I’ve Got a Gift to Share!” and “Growing Like Jesus”.
The memory verse for February will be, “We must obey God rather than any human authority” (Acts 5:29).
The youth class will continue Talk Sheets.
The adult class will continue the study of Acts with the book Deepening Life Together. The final topic is “To Rome and Beyond: The Gospel to the Ends of the Earth”. Upon completion of that in mid-February, the group will begin the studying Promises of God, with a DVD and study guide. Continue reading “Christian Education Update”
As I write this, we still have a few weeks yet in 2013 – but speeding quickly on is the new year, and with it a sense of opportunity and excitement for new possibilities in mission and ministry together as part of the body of Christ gathered here as Memorial Baptist Church. On January 31st, we will begin a congregation-wide process of seeking God’s vision for Memorial by offering a visioning retreat at Camp Tamarack. It will be a time of reflecting on where God has brought us and what God has done among us over the years. We will spend time getting centered in what Jesus was talking about when He preached and taught about the coming Kingdom of God, and to see how that speaks to the mission of the church. And we will begin dreaming forward, seeking to listen and look for where God is calling us into deeper ministry in our community.
But one question I’d like us to ponder ahead of time is: why? Why do we want to serve? Why do we want to grow as a church? It might seem like a silly thing to ask, but in fact the motive matters. Continue reading “From the Pastor’s Desk”
They are living in one of the most unique regions of the world! Sadly, some of the wonderful attributes contributing to that uniqueness are also sources of ongoing conflict in the region. Again this summer, Assam experienced eruptions of violent protests with loss of life and property.
On a happier note, this summer they launched the project “Kids For Missions,” feeling it would be a great opportunity for VBS and Sunday School groups to realize that each one of us, even kids, can make a difference in peoples’ lives with even just a one-time gift of $50. That amount is enough to purchase a “kid,” a young goat that will provide milk for a family. As it matures and reproduces, the first new “kid” will be passed on to another family to bring the nutritional and economic benefits of its milk and sale of future offspring to others in the community. They have been surprised with the promising results of that venture. Anyone wishing to contribute to this project is encouraged to do so.
Please pray that peace will prevail and for the church leaders of these peoples to be a voice of peace and healing in the midst of the conflict; that all parties would seek resolution through non-violent dialogue rather than through destructive demonstrations. Please also pray for the “Kids for Missions” project. Thanks!
This past week, one of our young adults shared a “light bulb” moment. As this person had been reading through the book of Acts, they suddenly came to the realization that this was the story of the early church – that instead of just a bunch of rules that talked about “do this” or “don’t do this”, Acts was describing how God was working in the midst of history.
This was a critical realization, one of those “aha” moments similar to what happened in my mind when I started reading the Old Testament and putting together what happened when – a timeline or chronology of the story, the history of Israel.
Things started to click together, to snap into place. The story of God’s purposes in creation and for humanity, the alienation and violence that resulted from our sin, God’s patient steps in starting to undo the effects of the Fall through the most unlikely people and the most tenuous of situations. All of it leading up to the Gospels, the heart of the Bible – God literally entering into our story (no pun intended). The story of Acts and the letters of Paul and James and John then became not more important than the Gospels, but the reflection back on the central Gospel message of Jesus – how it gets lived out in real life, the story of the first century Christians. Continue reading “From the Pastor: “God’s Story””
Nefarious follows a team of people who travel across the globe, interviewing former prostitutes, pimps and those involved in combatting the sex trade industry. The interviews give insight into the emotional, spiritual and physical damage inflicted by what some have called “a victimless crime”. Nefarious is profoundly disturbing (particularly in some dramatized scenes) and not for young viewers, but it tells a truth we need to hear. One critique I have is that it does not say much about how human trafficking connects to the wider problem of pornography. One thing the documentary does well is to illustrate the power of the Gospel to transforming and heal both victims and perpetrators. Nothing is simple or quick – but we see hope in Jesus in the midst of darkness.
Dan and Sarah Chetti, International Ministries’ first missionaries in the Arab World, have been serving in Lebanon for over a decade. Dan is an adjunct professor at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, Beirut – an institution preparing leaders for ministry primarily across nine countries in the Middle East and North Africa. He teaches History of Christianity and Historical Theology. He is a member of the Faculty Council, mentors students, and does research and writing on contemporary Christianity. Dan is currently promoting a strategic ministry concept called Arab World Initiative.
Sarah worked as the Librarian at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, reviving and reorganizing it after the long Lebanese Civil War. She expanded the holdings, classified and computerizing the entire library. She then trained and turned over the management of the library to a Lebanese lady. Continue reading “Missionary Profile: Dan and Sarah Chetti”
This culture of gratitude — where spiritual leaders give thanks for the church’s fellowship and God’s followers give thanks for ministers’ and missionaries’ spiritual guidance — is deeply ingrained in the Christian faith.
The Retired Ministers and Missionaries Offering (RMMO) commemorates the anonymous gift in 1981 of a Vietnamese refugee woman worshipping with the First Chinese Baptist Church of Fresno, California. Not knowing the full intent of the offering, but understanding the words “thank you” printed on the offering envelope, she slipped off her wristwatch, her only possession of value, and placed it in the envelope. Continue reading “Retired Ministers and Missionaries Offering”
Hurricane Haiyan Relief information:
American Baptists responding to the needs through our missionaries on the ground: Read More
Other Response Opportunities:
Feed My Starving Children