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president from the
Volume 5 n Number 2 Editor Bob Putman
Designer, Production Manager Pam Nelsen
Contributing Editor Fran Anderson Point (issn/1546-3257, usps#517-620) is published quarterly (with a special edition in December) by the Baptist General Conference, 2002 S. Arlington Heights Rd., Arlington Heights, IL 60005. Printed in U.S.A. Periodical postage paid at Arlington Heights, Ill., and at additional mailing offices. © Baptist General Conference 2013.
Picture a movie theater in a multilevel shopping mall situated in the heart of Panama City, Panama, a metropolis of 1.3 million people. Visualize the scene as launch team members clad in black “ask me” T-shirts scurry in preparation for their first public church service. A Panamanian worship team warms up as the theater is being transformed into a church site. Greeters are positioned as people begin to arrive and check out this new international, English-language church. More than 150 people from 16 nations fill the room, hoping to find a home away from home where they can make new friends who speak their native or adopted language, English. This is the moment our church planters Glenn and Sue Herschberger have been working towards for almost 500 days since they arrived in Panama. Dee expressed our excitement over the launch of LifeBridge International Church: “This is the first time I’ve witnessed the birth of a church. It is such a meaningful experience.” Those of us who were there to support the Herschbergers and their launch team all felt a similar sense of awe. We were present to officially celebrate our first church plant in a growing partnership with the International Baptist Convention. We joined together to see international churches like LifeBridge raised up in cities around the world. It is a Great Commission strategy that makes so much sense. International cities attract English-speaking residents by the thousands. One factor that allowed the gospel to spread so rapidly in the first century was the ability to use a common trade language — Greek. In a very similar way, English is the most commonly used language for business, education and military transactions in our world today. It provides a relational highway for the expansion of Christ’s church. Two weeks after the Panama church start, Bob and Carol Marsh led the launch of Converge International Fellowship in Darmstadt, Germany. Please join us in praying that many more international churches can be birthed by Converge church planters in partnership with the ibc in the months to come.
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2 n point | winter 2013
Jerry Sheveland President Converge Worldwide (bgc)
Panama City and beyond
Panama City: Building a bridge to Christ BY bob putman; photos by matt stephens
12 A life remodeled 18 Why Joy must sing
BY mike gorr
by john stocks
14 Churches in collaboration
16 Congratulations. ‘It’s a church!’
on the cover
n 4 Converge churches among fastest-growing
On September 23, Glenn and Susan Herschberger’s dream came true, the grand opening of LifeBridge International Church in Panama City, Panama. Named after the Bridge of the Americas that spans the Panama Canal, LIC is reaching Englishspeaking internationals with the gospel, their bridge to life in Christ
n Chaplain receives prestigious award
PHOTO: MATT STEPHENS
n 6 new missionaries n New seminary VP/dean
n Who leads Converge Heartland? n New books
How to reach us n To add/remove your name from our mailing list, call 800.323.4215, M-F, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. EST n E mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org @convergeww Converge Worldwide convergeworldwide.org
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Panama City Building a bridge to Christ
‘One city. One language. Many nations.’ A riddle? Or a new ‘old way’ to reach the world? By Bob Putman Photos by Matt Stephens
4 n point | winter 2013
Thirty-thousand feet below lay the azure Caribbean Sea and a
white shoreline with tiny outcroppings of civilization butted up against the thick green canopy of Parque Nacional Portobelo. As our 737 crossed the northern shoreline of Panama, I looked ahead toward the mountainous rainforest of Parque Nacional Chagres. About 20 minutes later the beauty of Panama City’s gleaming skyscrapers and the Pacific Ocean, dotted with cargo ships, opened before me. The city’s breadth and modernity surprised me.
A decade ago the tallest building in Panama City stood 10 stories high. Since then, a relentless construction boom has brought international banks, 43 embassies or consulates, tech companies and many other corporations that have relocated their regional hubs. The taco-shaped building at left is the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower.
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After paying a Frenchman $40 million for property rights, the U.S. began construction of the Panama Canal in 1904 and opened it for business October 10, 1913. President Teddy Roosevelt had visited his “Big Ditch” in November 1906. Today the Miraflores Locks are a tight squeeze for even midsize cargo ships. Larger locks are under construction parallel to the century-old wonders.
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We flew over the Canal, Teddy Roosevelt’s “Big Ditch,” with its famous Bridge of the Americas. Our landing pattern took us out over the Pacific, then banked left over the flotilla awaiting entry to the canal and headed east across the full skyline of the waterfront city. Matt and I landed at Aeropuerto Internacional de Tocumen and were met by church planters Glenn and Susan Herschberger. We were eager to explore and to experience the grand opening of LifeBridge International Church.
Metropolis in an awkward adolescence As we drove in from the northeast — amid constantly blaring horns, oncoming vehicles in our lane, exhaust fumes and the smell of fried foods — the Herschbergers described the city to us. Panama City was founded in 1519 by a Spanish conquistador, sacked and burned in 1671 by British pirate Henry Morgan and rebuilt on a western peninsula two years later. Today’s sprawling metropolis absorbed both early sites and continues its rapid growth — now in an awkward adolescence. The beautiful skyline, waterfront parks, malls, ethnic restaurants and other urban pleasures belie the aggressive traffic, dangerous broken sidewalks, rough and impoverished neighborhoods and lack of postal service or adequate street names. You find your bearings by proximity to landmarks and the guidance of locals. The metro region of 1.3 million includes at least 70,000 expatriates from many nations, sent by their employers or the military, posted at embassies or drawn by generous retirement benefits.
“He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him….” — Acts 17:26b-27a
Most will stay two to five years, won’t learn the Spanish language, stay indoors in secure apartments and suffer isolation and loneliness. But they speak English, the global language of business, education and technology. And that’s what drew the Herschbergers here.
‘Dying because I was too comfortable’ March 13, 2009, was a snowy, sleety, cold day in southern Wisconsin. Glenn and Susan Herschberger, church planters/pastor for 11 years at Real Hope Community Church in Lake Mills, visited friends Tom and Lori Nebel. Tom had been appointed Converge Church Planting director, and the Herschbergers had come to discuss the possibility of Glenn applying for Tom’s former role as Great Lakes church planting director. In Glenn’s words, “Tom was very cryptic. He didn’t answer any of our questions.” At the end of the conversation Nebel said, “Oh yeah, we’re looking at planting in Panama.” The Herschbergers had read about the new Converge partnership with the International Baptist Convention to start English-speaking churches for expatriates in world-class cities. They commented it would be nice to be someplace warm. As they left, Panama vanished from their thoughts. The next morning the Herschbergers’ phone rang. Gene Selander, Converge director of international English-speaking church planting, announced, “Hey, I hear you’re interested in Panama.” Selander and ibc missionary Tom Hill had visited Panama City the prior September to conduct a church planting feasibility study. They found it perfectly matched their primary criteria: a large
Ethnic, racial and religious diversity are pronounced in this international city of 1.3 million. While many expatriates huddle within cultural enclaves, Englishlanguage events present a remarkable opportunity to reach many nations with the gospel.
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Glenn and Susan Herschberger (l.) left a thriving church in Wisconsin to relocate to Panama City in May 2011. Sixteen months later LifeBridge International Church held its grand opening service. Jon and Sue Wiziarde (r.) are raising support to join the Herschbergers and plant a second church across town.
university population, a sizeable military complex and a major trade center composed of finance, technology, medical centers and foreign embassies. Selander’s call launched the Herschbergers on a journey to become church planters with the new Converge/ibc partnership. That meant leaving a healthy church they started and loved, a nice home, great friends, Glenn’s pastorate, Susan’s job, two of their kids in Bethel University and a new grandbaby. God was stirring Glenn to step out in faith. “I was dying because I was so comfortable,” he told us. “It seemed as if every book I read — the Bible, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, Chasing Daylight — was pointing us to step out in big faith.”
Postmodern mind-set In May 2009 the Herschbergers flew to Panama to investigate the city. Their guide, Cleide (pronounced clay day) Cooper, was a native Panamanian and corporate coach. Years earlier she had come to the U.S. to earn a seminary degree in counseling and youth ministry. Upon returning to Panama she was told, “We can’t use women in ministry.” Cooper watched as Panama City grew from 300,000 to 1.3 million, flooding with internationals from many nations. International church planting piqued her interest, and she connected with the ibc. In time she met Paul and Dina Dreessen, Converge/ibc missionaries in Costa Rica, and assisted Selander and Hill with their feasibility study. We asked Cooper to describe some of the spiritual challenges to reaching expatriates. “The way we coexist is that everybody is parallel. People think, ‘Oh, you’re Catholic. I’m not. And it’s OK. We can be friends. You don’t need to convert me for us to work together, live together or intermarry.’ “The cultural response to Christians can be, ‘Why do you want to change who I am?’ People coming from different parts of the world connect through their culture, tied to their religion and family. Staying within your culture is expected, respected and unchallenged. “They have no idea what legitimate Christianity is all about. They have no idea why you would invite them to try something different. They don’t see why they need to.”
‘This isn’t for us’ After the first day of their visit, Glenn found the enormity of Panama City overwhelming and concluded, “This isn’t for us.” The next day he and Susan attended services at two churches. At the first, a bilingual congregation, a visiting missions pastor declared, “You need to send the right people to
8 n point | winter 2013
the right people,” and “you’re going to encounter pain and suffering.” Glenn thought, God’s saying we’re supposed to do this. At the second church, Glenn read Luke 14:26 on the screen (unless you leave your father, mother, wife, children, brothers and sisters behind to follow Christ/be my disciple) and was so overwhelmed with conviction he began to cry. He realized he and Susan would have to say good-bye to their church family. The two services confirmed that God was calling them to Panama City. On returning to the States, the Herschbergers participated in a Missionary Assessment Center and were approved. They sought the godly counsel of pastor friends, lead Team members and family. All confirmed, “We see you doing this.” They were interviewed and approved by the Converge board of overseers, appointed as Converge missionaries and raised prayer and financial support. On May 15, 2011 — two years after the weekend of their first visit to Panama City — Glenn and Susan arrived with the ambitious goal of starting LifeBridge church by October. God had a different schedule. For the first two months they lived with Leighton and Sharon Duley from New Zealand, while they gained their bearings and looked for an apartment. The Duleys — who had previously served in international churches in Hong Kong, New Zealand, Canada and Mexico — helped the Herschbergers understand the expatriate mind-set.
The Multiplaza Mall serves the Punta Pacifica neighborhood and high-end customers from throughout the city. Forty-seven restaurants, the Cinepolis eighttheater venue, 13 luxury stores and 250 commercial stores wrap around three levels and several attractive terraces.
Losing hope, gaining traction Glenn and Susan had hoped to connect with a group of expatriates who wanted to be part of a new church plant. That didn’t materialize. “So two months living here and I’m angry,” Glenn told us. “Frustrated. Disappointed.” Selander counseled: “If it takes two years, it’s God’s deal. You’re not doing this.” Glenn got the message: God has to build the church. The Herschbergers set about participating in whatever they could to make English-speaking contacts. Finally, about a year ago their efforts gained traction. A core group of 25 coalesced and began praying and planning for the church’s grand opening. God gave them favor with the manager of the Cinepolis Movie Theater in the upscale Multiplaza Mall. On July 22, 2012, they held the first of four preview services, anticipating a September 23 “world premiere” of LifeBridge. The four services gave them time to train greeters, recruit a band and work out the bugs in the sound and projection systems. “Most of the people on our launch team have no concept of church planting,” Glenn explained. “Many have never served [a church] in any great capacity.”
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Attendees from 16 nations On September 23 it all came together when people from 16 nations gathered for the “world premiere” service of LifeBridge International Church, nearly filling Cinepolis Theater 5.
n Belize n Brazil n Canada n Colombia n Costa Rica n Ecuador n Honduras n Ireland n Nicaragua n Panama n Peru n South Africa n The Dominican Republic n The United Kingdom n Trinidad n United States
Meet the launch team 1 , Matt and I interviewed six other They are interesting people. In addition to Cleide Cooper n launch team members: 2 . Chris is a special agent with the U.S. State Department’s Security Christopher and Denise Stitt n Office. Panama is the Stitts’ fifth country assignment. They live in the beautiful new embassy grounds. Chris runs the media for LifeBridge. Denise, a special education instructor at Balboa Academy, directs lbic’s children’s ministry. 3 is also assigned to the U.S. Embassy. She had never heard of church planting Renee Finch n until the Herschbergers made a presentation at Crossroads Bible Church (bilingual English-Panamanian), which they attended. Her husband Mike, also assigned to the embassy, was eager to join the lbic launch team, and Renee joined in support. She was impressed by the church’s compelling mission, and she found Glenn and Susan genuine, warm and highly motivated. 4 works as a financial lawyer for a Brazilian construction company. He hasn’t Ronald Cross n been home to Lima, Peru, for two years, having been transferred first to Brazil, next to the Caribbean and then to Panama. “I was very close to my family, my sisters, my dad, my mom, my friends, my church, my environment in Lima…. Those quotes in the Bible about being a foreigner in a foreign land get a different meaning when you live in a foreign land,” he told us. 5 were attending a Spanish-language church in Ronald (above) and his fiancée Rosa Tolmos n Panama City but couldn’t find opportunities to minister. When he saw a LifeBridge ad on Facebook, and checked lbic’s doctrinal statement on its website, he said, “It looked like a perfect fit for us.” They knew they could serve and could help spread the gospel. Rosa had been transferred to Panama City by a Lima-based cosmetic company establishing its new regional hub. 6 from her home in Santo Domingo, The The same company also transferred Patricia Madera n Dominican Republic. She and Rosa are coworkers and roommates. Patricia was deeply involved at her home church, serving in prayer and worship ministries, communications and media. “Spiritually, [coming to Panama] was really a big change for me,” she said. “I was all alone. It was pretty bad.” She joined Ronald and Rosa in attending lbic’s first preview service. She loved the music and message and was impressed with the Herschbergers’ passion for reaching expatriates like herself. The informal greeting time after the service answered her hunger for fellowship.
World Premiere, September 23
LifeBridge Church, Panama City, Panama Check out the video and photo gallery. http://cvrg.us/Zk7
On Sunday morning the setup team arrived at the theater early, toting tubs of educational materials and sound equipment from a storage room. The Shake the World band practiced, while the Wiziardes set up stage lighting. Several Converge personnel joined us for LifeBridge’s grand opening: president Jerry Sheveland and his wife Dee, missionary Dina Dreessen from International Baptist Church in San Jose, Costa Rica, and missionary appointees Jon and Sue Wiziarde, raising support to join the Herschbergers and plant a second English-speaking international congregation in Panama City. At 9:30 the service began. The band led worship, rocking through “Salvation Is Here,” “Shout for Joy,” “All the World Will Sing Your Praises” and “Revelation Song.” A video provided a high-energy lbic introduction before Glenn’s message on Mark 1:1-11: Jesus’ power and authority to teach; power over sickness, nature and death; power to forgive sins. Sheveland closed in prayer, and Glenn outlined LBIC’s next steps. The Herschbergers had prayed for 100 attendees. God sent 152 from 16 nations, nearly filling the theater. After its 496-day gestation, LifeBridge became Converge/ibc’s firstborn English-speaking church in Panama. Although only a visitor, I couldn’t help feeling like a proud relative celebrating the joyful news. Christ is building his church. In new places. In a new “old way.” Using the Converge/ibc partnership for his glory and the joy of many nations. n Bob Putman is editor of Point. Matt Stephens is media producer on Converge staff.
10 n point | winter 2013
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A life remodeled When pastor Mike Gorr (l.) launched Mercy Road Church in Redford Township, Mich.,
two years ago, it was with a strong conviction that the congregation spend themselves on behalf of people in need. In late 2011 Gorr met with other pastors and with an organization called Life Remodeled. Last January, he committed to lead a dozen local churches in a project to build a home in six days for a Redford family. Gorr, along with key leaders at his church, oversaw eight teams: project lead, general contractor, donations, interior design, security, community beautification projects, meals and hospitality. mrc, a church of 120, took the lead on most teams and contributed more than $47,000 of the $76,000 total cost. Gorr and two other pastors selected the recipient family from among 100 applicants. Tanya, the future owner, received training in managing personal finances as well as Christian family counseling. Starting on Monday, August 20, teams from six of the churches donned work clothes and set to work. â€œOur interior design team pulled an all-nighter on Saturday [to complete the house],â€? Gorr reported. On Sunday, mrcâ€™s band led worship, and the Township deputy supervisor and others spoke. Gorr preached on 2 Corinthians 8:9, and donations team leader Tom Rayburn of South Redford Christian Church prayed in dedication and handed the keys to Tanya.
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Life Remodeled Project Check out the video. http://cvrg.us/Zkn
Participating churches n Aldersgate United Methodist Church
n Christ Church Redford
n Detroit World Outreach
n Lighthouse Community Church
n Mercy Road Church n New Beginnings Methodist Church
n Our Lady of Loretto
n South Redford Christian Church
n St. Robert Bellarmine Catholic Church
n Prayer Temple Baptist
n Living Bread Church n Merciful Ministries
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collaboration churches in
Something big is happening when eight churches in two districts collaborate to accomplish one mission.
By Ivan Veldhuizen, John and Elaine Mehn
Eight churches on mission together Bethany Baptist Church, Moline, Ill. Community Fellowship Church, Blue Grass, Iowa Cornerstone Baptist Church, Eldridge, Iowa Grandview Baptist Church, Davenport, Iowa Immanuel Baptist Church, Monmouth, Ill. Vietnamese American New Life Church, Davenport, Iowa Pleasant View Baptist Church, Bettendorf, Iowa Village Baptist Church, Alexis, Ill.
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Last summer, we three participated in the Quad Cities Missions Conference, hosted by
Cornerstone Baptist Church, Eldridge, Iowa. What we saw in Eldridge were eight churches with arms locked, unified by a vision to send out more local people as missionaries to the nations and to begin aligning eight missions budgets. It was a fantastic example of church-driven missions. This unique strategy developed out of longstanding relationships. About 15 years ago a Quad Cities pastor dreamed of a unified approach to missions for area Converge churches. He began pulling together the missions committees from five churches to achieve cooperative projects. About three years later they worked together to plant the Converge Vietnamese congregation in Davenport, Iowa. Their intent was to plant additional churches together. About the same time, the Quad Cities lead Team began meeting, made up of Converge pastors who meet six times a year. According to Grandview Baptist Church pastor Brian Spitzer, lead Team participation “helped eliminate competition between the churches” and resulted in the leaders trusting one another to a far greater degree. From these beginnings emerged a collective of Minnesota Iowa and MidAmerica churches — spanning the Mississippi River — determined to work together in missions. Now back to last August’s missions conference. On Sunday morning five of the collective pastors traveled to five different churches to preach on the same missions text, Psalm 67. In the afternoon, 400 members of the five churches could choose to attend one of three seminars. Afterwards they volunteered to pack more than 23,000 meals for the Kids Against Hunger ministry to children. An evening worship service concluded the conference. In a message based on Isaiah 54, Veldhuizen challenged attendees to “go and make disciples.” Steve Valentine, Converge mobilization director, led the prayer of commissioning for Drew and Sarah R., new Converge missionaries to the Middle East and members of Immanuel Baptist Church, Monmouth, Ill. On Monday morning, the Quad Cities lead Team invited the Veldhuizens and Valentine to join their debriefing meeting (the Mehns had another commitment). The pastors communicated their missions vision. They intend to send and support primarily “homegrown” (from the eight-church collective) and Converge Worldwide missionaries. Not only that, but when one church supports a missionary, many will give primary consideration to whether their budget dollars can include them. This helps missionaries on home assignment concentrate within a limited region, and churches and missionaries get to know each other more fully. The Quad Cities team is developing a collaborative church-driven missions model that is good for their churches, fantastic for the missionaries and a great honor to Christ. n Ivan Veldhuizen is executive director, Converge International Ministries. John and Elaine are Converge missionaries to Japan.
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Congratulations. ‘It’s a church!’
Following LifeBridge International Church’s grand opening in Panama, another international Englishspeaking church came into the world – on Germany’s Thanksgiving Day. By Bob and Carol Marsh
On Sunday, October 7, 2012, the miracle of birth took place in Darmstadt, Germany, and, “It’s a church!” During the week just prior to the birth of Converge International Fellowship, Judith1 (Germany), one of our newest international friends, wrote: “We feel this is the church we have been searching for, for years.”
‘Something unexpected will happen’
First, the back story. cif is the result of a multiyear commitment to partner with the International Baptist Convention to plant English-speaking churches in major world cities. We arrived in Darmstadt on September 8, 2011, and in January 2012 we launched Life Groups — home Bible studies — on the north and south sides of the city. Once a month the groups combined for study, worship and fellowship. Those joint meetings eventually grew into preview worship services. We also began launch team meetings for those who wanted to join us in the effort to see the new church planted. The Life Groups and preview services saw steady growth over the summer months, gradually expanding to three weekly Bible studies and a weekly worship service. Three weeks prior to our public launch service, we began placing fliers, signs and posters around the city, particularly in strategic areas with large international populations: universities, the European space agency, the European meteorological satellite operations center, dagger (a U.S. military outpost in our area) and, of course, Burger King, kfc and McDonald’s. The week leading up to cif’s birth was filled with exciting developments. A Malaysian couple, newly arrived in Germany, contacted us by email on Tuesday to inquire about the church and were excited to come on Sunday. On Thursday a graduate student at the Technische Universität came to our door. He had arrived from India just two days earlier and had seen one of our fliers in the Student Services Center. Relying on a small map of the city, he walked until he found our apartment. These encounters give a glimpse of how amazing international ministry can be. Members of the cif congregation met on Saturday night for a prelaunch evening of prayer — surrendering ourselves, our efforts and the results to the Lord. Just before that meeting ended, Judith Lynn (U. S.) said, “Let’s understand that something unexpected will happen and be prepared to adapt and work it out.” We all nodded, agreed that “God is able!”
Let’s have a party
Sunday, October 7, our launch day, happened to be Thanksgiving Day in Germany. Our host congregation had decorated the worship center beautifully with a display of bountiful harvest. Admiring it, suddenly we realized the black backdrop and display would prevent us from using the projection system we had relied on at preview services. It was time to “adapt and work it out!” We decided that white tablecloths draped above the harvest display would allow us to use our usual projection system. Our tech crew leader David (Germany) made the necessary adjustments, while the praise team, its members from Scotland, Romania, Germany, Kenya and the United States, prepared for worship. In the foyer, people were busily preparing. Balloons and banners decorated the hall, placed carefully by members from Romania, India, Germany, Indonesia and the U.S. For the festivities,
16 n point | winter 2013
people from Switzerland, Lebanon and the U.S. provided refreshments, including birthday cakes, cookies and international foods.
New Baby, New Church, New Spiritual Lives! One highlight of the service was a prayer of dedication of the church and its commissioning by Dr. Jimmy Martin, International Baptist Convention general secretary. Another was the dedication to the Lord of the children of Jasper (Netherlands) and Becca (Canada): 8-day-old daughter Eleonora and 2-year-old son Luca. The message came from John, chapter 4. Jesus “needed” to go to a divine appointment in the Samaritan village of Sychar. He chose a broken, sinful, racially-oppressed woman for his unique focus and to reach her community. In the same way, God has compelled his people, through unworthy and unlikely servants, to reach the city of Darmstadt. The excitement of a new little girl born into our community and a new church born into the city were eclipsed by the celebration of nearly a dozen people who expressed a desire to be born into the family of God that night. We praise God for his incredible faithfulness and amazing grace. Please pray for: n Follow-up with these new believers, helping them to grow and mature in their new life in Christ. n Unity and love in our church family, made up of people from 18 nations (and counting). nO ur continuing outreach to the Darmstadt region — international students, business people, the scientific community and the local German population. English-language international ministries are an amazing new component of the Converge Worldwide commitment to Great Commission fulfillment. Through the language of international commerce, education and diplomacy, the world is here for us to reach. n Bob and Carol Marsh are Converge church planters in Darmstadt, Germany, working in partnership with the International Baptist Convention. Reprinted by permission from November 2012 IBC Highlights. 1
We have included the nationality of individuals as a celebration of the diversity God has gathered in our church family.
Darmstadt: ‘The city of science’
Home of: n 147,000 inhabitants (2011) n The European Space Operations Centre n The European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites n Merck Pharmaceuticals, Wella/Proctor & Gamble, Evonik n Technische Universität Darmstadt n U.S. 66th Military Intelligence Group n Jugendstil-era (Art Nouveau) architecture
A church of many nations
Countries currently represented in Converge International Fellowship: Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Germany, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Lebanon, Malaysia, The Netherlands, Romania, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland, South Korea, Ukraine, the United States
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Why Joy must sing
A short-term missionary’s debilitating stroke. A young Thai woman’s English classes with the missionary’s husband. A praying church in Mansfield, Ohio. God directs people and events in unusual ways to bring glory to his name. By John Stocks
18 n point | winter 2013
“My name is Joy. I work as a Creative Arts Media Producer in a company in Bangkok.
Although my name is Joy, my life was not joyful as my name implies. “I was born into a Chinese Buddhist family. Chinese people usually love boys more than girls. My parents loved my brother more than me. Mom spoiled him even when he did very bad things such as skipping classes and gambling or stealing. They treated me very badly. My brother always got the best things. I got his leftovers. I tried to make my parents pay attention to me by being a good girl and doing everything better than my brother. All I wanted was a compliment from my mom. But she didn’t care about what I did. “My life went on this way until my parents passed away. My brother had his own family, and he moved to another province and never contacted me. I lived by myself. I felt very lonely without a family. Sometimes I wanted to die.
“About that time my boss wanted me to improve my English because it was terrible. I decided to study at Santisuk English School because it was close to my work. I learned about God from the classes, activities and foreign teachers. The teachers for my Level 2 class were John and Bette Stocks. “On the morning of the second day of class, Bette had a stroke. She was confined to the hospital the rest of the month. But her husband John faithfully taught my class, then returned to take care of Bette in the hospital. Soon after this I joined a cell group, where I had a chance to share about my life. The people in the group prayed for me a lot, and then I started to pray by myself. God showed me his love through the prayers and his Scripture verses. Finally I accepted Christ into my life. I was not lonely anymore because I had a real family that loves me and I mean something to.”
‘The Lord had a different plan’ Joy spoke the words above at Berean Baptist Church, Mansfield, Ohio, on April 29 last year. She was there as part of the team of Santisuk English School students and staff brought to the States by ses founder and Converge missionary Steve Cable. But there’s more to this story than Joy’s summary above. In 2005 our missions pastor at Berean (Bill Heaton) offered a new short-term opportunity: teaching English at ses in Bangkok, Thailand, with Converge missionaries Steve and Nopaluck Cable. Newly retired, we taught for four weeks in January 2007, and it captured our hearts. The lessons were well-organized and easy to teach, especially the story passages, which introduced the students to the Man, Jesus Christ. We eagerly looked forward to the January 2008 session. On the second trip we were slated to teach Level 2 courses. Our morning and evening classes were college and professional people eager to speak English. The Lord had a different plan for us. At 8:40 a.m. on the second day, Bette experienced a severe stroke. The Thai hospital staff placed her in the competent hands of highly trained doctors, who put her on life-saving equipment. We prayed and filled out paperwork. In a brief time emails were moving around the globe asking for prayer on her behalf. For two days there was no response. Bette’s heart was in fibrillation and her consciousness questionable. The Berean team and the Thai team from ses were vigilant and very supportive throughout those days. Gradually Bette’s consciousness returned, but there was no expression or any movement on her right side. Many prayers rose before the Throne on her behalf. Two, two-hour classes is a normal load for every teacher at ses. Due to Bette’s stroke, I decided to teach one class. One of the Thai team taught my other class for the three weeks Bette was in the intensive care unit. A Berean sister offered frequent flier miles to our children to fly to Bangkok to be with their mother for eight days. Bette showed expression for the first time when she saw her son and daughter at her side. In the fourth week she was moved to a private room.
Suffering ‘not in vain’ The pain of seeing my precious wife struck with the debilitating effects of the stroke was eased somewhat by teaching those students in my class. I remember so well the last Thursday when some class members came to visit Bette in the hospital. One of the students, Joy, volunteered to sing a worship song she had learned at Peace Fellowship Church. Even now tears fill my eyes as I recall Joy singing in a clear, beautiful voice the praise of this Jesus whom she had just learned about. At that moment the Lord impressed upon my heart that our journey to Bangkok and what had happened to Bette were not in vain. God used it for his purposes. I found out that Joy later surrendered her heart to the Lord Jesus. Six months later she sent me a photo of pastor Cable baptizing her. Here’s the rest of the story. On the Friday before the ses team spoke at Berean Baptist Church, a surprised Joy walked through the door of our home. (We knew she was coming to visit.) What a reunion! On Sunday she gave her testimony at the worship service. The congregation spontaneously gave the Lord a standing ovation for what he did in Joy’s life. Tears of emotion flowed on Joy’s face as she realized the love of her American brothers and sisters. That is why Joy must sing. n
Bette Stocks with Joy (top) and the author with Joy in 2008, the year of Bette’s stroke. (Left) Santisuk English School director Mariquit Gido and missionary Steve Cable baptize Joy in 2008.
John Stocks is a member of Berean Baptist Church, Mansfield, Ohio. Bette, his wife, has partially recovered and is filled with the joy of the Lord. 1 Joy’s real name is Narisara Paophan. Thai people usually go by their nicknames. There are so many people named “Joy” at the Santisuk church that the Cables nicknamed her “Joy-full” so that they can tell all the Joys apart. 2
Joy considers John and Bette her parents. Christians everywhere are her extended family.
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Do you speak
Last October and November two Converge congregations teamed with NFL greats to reach their communities for Christ. By Anne Williams
At any social event where people are making small talk it’s nearly impossible to avoid the
subject of sports. Sport has become the common language of the culture. Lakeshore Community Church, Rochester, N.Y., agrees with this maxim. Last fall pastor Vince DiPaola launched a four-Sunday series titled Making a Comeback, featuring local star athletes and a family member. Included were the Buffalo Bill’s starting wide receiver Donald Jones and former running back Thurman Thomas; Jill Kelly, wife of former Billsquarterback Jim Kelly, and Super Bowl champion and former N.Y. Giant David Tyree. This roster of nfl guest speakers told stories of game-day comebacks and how their relationship with Christ impacted their ability to make comebacks over some of life’s most challenging setbacks. The genesis of this idea came when DiPaola was challenged to begin thinking like a church planter again. Lakeshore was planted in 1995 and is a successful church averaging 700 attendees on Sundays. DiPaola said, “I wanted to return to that mentality when we would do anything to reach our community — no matter how risky or crazy it seemed.” During the series lcc attendance averaged 950-1000 people. At least 72 new families visited the church. DiPaolo said the series rallied the church. “It expanded people’s heart for others. There’s nothing like seeing [new] people here, serving them and loving them.” (You can listen to Lakeshore’s Making a Comeback series at lakeshorechurch.org). Other Converge churches have experienced success from similar sports outreach campaigns. On October 14, 2011, First Baptist Church of New Castle, Pa., hosted Pittsburgh Steelers star safety Ryan Clark and radio color commentator Tunch Ilkin for a weekend titled “The Hunger Blitz.” First Baptist saw a 40 percent increase in attendance and 120 new people as a result of their outreach campaign. Additionally, they raised $18,000 to combat local hunger. Former Converge church planters Damian and Anne Williams were instrumental in both campaigns as well as others across the country. They combine relationships they have forged in the world of sports with their passion for lost people to provide this unique service to churches. The Williams founded Leadership League, a company that works with professional sports teams and midsized and family-owned enterprises to “Do Good Through Business and Sport.” Learn more at LeadershipLeague.com. Corporate leverages sports to grow their business every day. Leadership League believes the church can use a similar strategy to reach lost people. After all, isn’t sport the common language of our culture? n Anne Williams is cofounder of Leadership League and director of its marketing division.
H ER HE AT
Christy, Olivia and Ken Stewart hang with Steelers safety Ryan Clark.
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New missionaries recently sent by Converge Worldwide: n Darren and Alicia Knapp, associate/church planting pastor assisting Paul Dreessen, Converge church planter in Costa Rica.
n Michael and Jennifer Walk (short-term) assisting Bob and Carol Marsh, church planting in Darmstadt, Germany. n Mike and Nicole Zins (shortterm) working in Southeast Asia.
Number of junior and senior high students who attended Bethel Universityâ€™s November 4 MegaRally, with Nashville-based Remedy Drive band and speaker Laurel Bunker, BU campus dean.
130/27 Number of Converge career missionaries and workers and number of countries in which they serve.
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Amount Converge church and individuals had contributed to Converge World Relief by December 5 to assist victims of Superstorm Sandy.
Clark new seminary VP and dean
4 Converge churches among 25 fastestgrowing In Outreach Magazine’s annual report of the largest and fastestgrowing churches in America, four Converge churches placed in the top 25 fastest-growing congregations:
Sun Valley Community Church, Gilbert, Ariz.
Mission Community Church, Gilbert, Ariz.
Eagle Brook Church, Centerville, Minn.
Mission Hills Church, Littleton, Colo.
Eagle Brook ranked 7th in greatest numerical gain (+2751), and Sun Valley ranked sixth in greatest percentage gain (47%).
Converge assumes Vision360 ownership In November the Converge board of overseers voted unanimously to accept the invitation of Vision360 to bring its organization and the Collaboration Center under Converge oversight and ownership. President Sheveland and the vice presidents have begun a process to reclaim the original vision of accelerating church planting within each partnering denomination and church planting network. Initially, Converge will create an advisory board and conduct summit gatherings to recreate a renewed vision and a strategic plan.
David K. Clark began ministry as Bethel Seminary vice president and dean January 1, 2013. Clark has served at Bethel University since 2009, first as professor of theology and later as executive vice president and provost. Recently the BU board of trustees unanimously recommended him for the new role. “I’m excited about the opportunity to move into this new leadership position at Bethel Seminary,” says Clark. “The seminary has amazing strengths.” BU president Jay Barnes commented: “In his years as provost, David has demonstrated skills that are critically needed at the seminary. His vision and passion for the seminary, and his ability to communicate Bethel’s vision, will serve him well.” Clark began teaching at Bethel Seminary in 1988 and served as dean of the Center for Biblical and Theological Foundations 1995- 2003. After a pastorate in Burnsville, Minn., he returned to BU in 2009. He has authored or co-authored 10 books. With reporting by Suzanne McInroy
Chaplain receives Witherspoon Award The National Bible Association presented the Witherspoon Award to Converge chaplain Lt. Paul Armstrong, U.S. Navy, on November 15. The award is given annually to three chaplains (one each from the Army, Air Force and Navy) who display creative, unique and effective methods to encourage soldiers and families to read the Bible. Armstrong was honored at an awards dinner hosted by the nba. Converge chaplain endorser U.S. Navy Capt. George Paul attended the event.
more online... New books from Converge authors
Read summaries of Strong, by Chris Vitarelli; Ten Essential Words, by David Gwartney; Trashed or Treasured, by Glenn Havumaki; and Turnaround, by Dwight Perry, online at cvrg.us/winter2013.
Who leads Converge Heartland?
Larry and Kay Odle serve the Converge Heartland district, which includes Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota. Larry has been the executive minister since November 2003. Larry and Kay met at a Campus Crusade for Christ meeting at Northern State University in Aberdeen, S.D. — at least that’s where Kay met Larry. Larry says he met Kay during a Campus Crusade retreat at Richmond Lake in Aberdeen. Regardless of who has the story right, they married on June 16, 1973. This past year marked their 39th wedding anniversary. Kay came to know Jesus as her Savior in September 1970 through the witness of a college classmate who shared The Four Spiritual Laws. She had been a self-acclaimed atheist and had never owned or read a Bible. Kay said, “I will never forget what it feels like to think this world is all there is. Thank you, Lord, that it is not so!” Larry was led to Christ as a young child by his Sunday school teacher. He grew up in a Christian family, who attended church faithfully. Says Larry, “We want our district pastors to know they are not alone in striving to bring the gospel to the Heartland. We come alongside them to enable them to effectively do what God has called them to do.” The Odles have two children. Daughter Beth is married to Neil Tweed, and they live in Burnsville, Minn., with their children Asher and Elin. Son Jesse lives in Sioux Falls, S.D. Read the rest of the Odles’ story at cvrg.us/winter 2013. By Donna Fagerstrom, staff writer
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