A publication of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship • www.cbf.net
Literacy Ministries CBF FIELD PERSONNEL IMPACT LIVES THROUGH THE OFFERING FOR GLOBAL MISSIONS
SUZII PAYNTER is Executive Coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Follow her on Twitter at @SuziiSYP.
Loving God’s World The following is an excerpt from Suzii Paynter’s address during the Coming Together on Faith and Climate Celebration at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., on September 24. WE ARE NOT loving God’s world if we are only talking about God’s world or viewing it as a commodity, however beautiful, to consume. Home begins at love. When you fall in love, you obsess on the details, you remember the moments, you provide gifts, you build life around the beloved, and you don’t think a thing of sacrificing for love. In his encyclical Ladauto Si, Pope Francis calls us first to love God’s world. He says that both the scriptures and life and words of Saint Francis call for us to be cultivating hearts of fraternity with the earth and its beauty. St. Francis of Assisi helps us to see that an integral ecology calls for openness to categories which transcend the language of mathematics and biology, and take us to the heart of what it is to be human. Just as what happens when we fall in love with someone, whenever he would gaze at the sun, the moon or the smallest of animals, he burst into song, drawing all other creatures into his praise. He communed with all creation, even preaching to the flowers, inviting them “to praise the Lord, just as if they were endowed with reason.” His response to the world around him was so much more than intellectual appreciation or economic calculus, for to him each and every creature was a sister united to him by bonds of affection. That is why he felt called to care for all that exists. St. Bonaventure, a follower of St. Francis, fell in love with God’s world. Bonaventure tells us that, “from a reflection on the primary source of all things, filled with even more abundant piety, he would call creatures, no matter how small, by the name of ‘brother’ or ‘sister.’” Such a conviction cannot be written off as naive romanticism, for it affects the choices which determine our behavior. If we approach nature and the environment without
this openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs. By contrast, if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously. Laudato Si and the visit of Pope Francis to the United States was and is a call to spiritually reawaken and deepen our actual love for God’s world. How can we cultivate love for God’s world? In daily practices. Visualize God as creator — read and recite psalms of creation. Psalm 19: God made a home in the sky for the sun; it comes out like a happy bridegroom, like an athlete eager to run a race. It starts at one end of the sky and goes across to the other.
We are not loving God’s world if we are only talking about God’s world or viewing it as a commodity, however beautiful, to consume. Home begins at love. Use your imagination to experience God as creator, invite God’s world into worship and pray by touching God’s world. Thus, we prepare ourselves for advocacy through acts of love.
Learn more about this event and other CBF news at
A publication of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
OR Psalm 104: You spread out the sky like a tent and built your home over the mighty ocean…the winds are your messengers. Lions roar as they hunt for the food you provide but when morning comes they return to their dens, then we go out to work until the end of the day. In worship. How close is a living plant to your worship space? To love God’s world means going beyond the potted plant or floral spray. Consider an offering of living flowers like an Easter cross or intentionally replace some of the sterile parts of your worship spaces with living plants. In our spiritual habits and practices. It is clear that Jesus often prayed outdoors. He went away to a place outside. I challenge you, for three months when you pray, take off your shoes and pray barefoot on the earth. Outdoors. Take a lesson from Thích Nhất Hạnh and pray while walking — a labyrinth, a path, a park trail. Pray while walking through your neighborhood or the neighborhood of your church.
Volume 25, Number 6
Fellowship! is published 6 times a year in Feb./March, April/May, June/July, Aug./Sept., Oct./Nov., Dec./Jan. by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Inc., 160 Clairemont Avenue, Suite 500, Decatur, GA 30030. Periodicals postage paid at Decatur, GA, and additional offices. USPS #015-625. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to: Fellowship! Cooperative Baptist Fellowship 160 Clairemont Avenue, Suite 500 Decatur, GA 30030. EXECUTIVE COORDINATOR Suzii Paynter ASSOCIATE COORDINATOR, FELLOWSHIP ADVANCEMENT Jeff Huett EDITOR Aaron Weaver GRAPHIC DESIGNER Travis Peterson ASSOCIATE EDITOR Carrie McGuffin ASSISTANT EDITOR Candice Young PHONE (770) 220-1600
LOVE GOD. TEACH NEIGHBOR. BE TRANSFORMED. CBF field personnel share Christ’s great love through literacy ministry at the U.S.-Mexico Border By Blake Tommey
FROM THE EDITOR ON THE COVER of this issue of fellowship! magazine is a little girl with a Curious George book. What you can’t see is that her mother, Dennisse, is the one reading this to her in English. Dennisse and her family came to the United States from Mexico four years ago, and she now attends GED and ESL classes at the Rio Grande Valley Literacy Center in Pharr, Texas, where CBF field personnel Diann Whisnand ministers. Through a commitment to empowering the Hispanic community along the U.S.-Mexico border through ESL, GED and family literacy classes, the RGVLC is spreading the hope of Christ and transforming lives. You can learn more about the work of the literacy center and Whisnand on pp. 8-11. This work exemplifies the focus of this year’s Offering for Global Missions Emphasis: Love God. Teach Neighbor. Be Transformed. — Sharing Christ’s great love for us through literacy ministries. Find resources to learn and share about CBF’s literacy ministries around the world at www.cbf.net/OGM. As we enter this season of giving and celebrating the birth of Christ, we also celebrate the missions and ministries of CBF around the world. Through the work of the Fellowship lives are being changed, voices are being heard, young leaders are being empowered and cycles of injustice are being broken. It is through generous gifts from Cooperative Baptists that these missions and ministries continue to change lives of people like Dennisse and her family. I hope that you find a gift in the stories in this issue — stories of hope, passion, commitment and courage. Join with CBF in giving these gifts today.
OVERCOMING DIFFERENCES CBF field personnel seek unity among body of Christ in Paris By Ashleigh Bugg
STUDENT.GO Refugee from war-torn Burma ministers to fellow Karen By Greg Warner
FORMING TOGETHER IN THE SHADOW OF WAR CBF field personnel respond to Syrian refugee crisis in Belgium By Ashleigh Bugg
12 CBF SYRIAN REFUGEE RESPONSE By Aaron Weaver and Carrie McGuffin Fellowship sends aid to help Syrian refugees in Middle East and Europe
14 BAPTIST VOICES DISCUSS IMPORTANCE OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY AT NEW ORLEANS EVENT By Aaron Weaver
20 ADVENT CONSPIRACY By Joshua Speight Resources for your Advent celebration
29 PARTNERING TOGETHER By Carrie McGuffin CBF celebrates renewed and strengthened partnership with Global Women
CARRIE MCGUFFIN is the Associate Editor of fellowship! Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org
30 AFFECT: DECEMBER 2015 Literacy Ministry
31 AFFECT: JANUARY 2016 Overcoming Differences
D E C E M B E R /J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 6
prayerspeople of the
Two Cents By Bo Prosser
ennies aren’t worth a whole lot anymore. But, people are always willing to share their “two cents worth” with us, whether it be through a blog post or a reply to an email. Sometimes, these “two cents” aren’t really worth two cents. This month, however, I invite you to try “two cents worth” with me. Find two pennies and place these in your prayer area. These two pennies will be the focus of your prayers for the next few weeks. As you come to prayer, think about the many people these pennies have touched before coming into your possession. Think about the many businesses these pennies have been in and the banks that they have traveled through before coming into your possession. Now, focus on two prayer requests these pennies represent. Think about the two people that you want to pray for or the two places where you want God to intervene. There is nothing really magical about two things. The point is to just focus on what you need, really need, from God. Now, sit still for two minutes; be quiet, try not to think, just be with God. If your mind starts to wander, just touch your pennies and come back to focus. Next, touch the pennies and push them, offer them to God. And as you do this, pray, “God, please take my two cents worth and let your goodness abound.” Pay attention to what God does over the next few weeks. Finally, pick two names from the prayer list and offer these two lives to God as well. Pray for these two people by name asking God’s blessings on them. Pray for the same two people the whole month or pick two different people each day. The more people you pray for, the more people will be impacted by your “two cents”! Now, here’s the final act. At the end of the month, give your two pennies away. Perhaps, give more than two cents away; make a donation to the Offering for Global Missions or some other worthy cause in your community. But, let these pennies go as freely as you have been praying.
BO PROSSER is the CBF Coordinator of Strategic Partnerships. Follow him on Twitter at @BoProsser.
CBF Ministries Prayer Calendar 4 |
CH = Chaplain FP = Field Personnel FPC = Child of Field Personnel GMP = Global Missions Partner PC = Pastoral Counselor CST = Church Starter S = CBF Staff
DECEMBER 2015 1 Joseph Farry, Greenville, SC (CH) Phil Miller-Evans, St. Petersburg, FL (FP) 2 Connie Madden, Kirkwood, MO (CH) 3 Rosemary Barfield, Jeffersonville, IN (CH) Ed Beddingfield, Fayetteville, NC (PC) James Heath, Dry Prong, LA (CH) Shane McNary, Slovakia (FP) Travis Peterson (S-Decatur) Gennady Podgaisky, Ukraine (FP) Rachel Gunter Shapard (S-Florida) Jim Tillman, Swansboro, NC (CST) David Wilson, Chapel Hill, NC (CH) 4 Jose Albovias, Louisville, KY (CH) Elizabeth Richards, Emeritus (FP) 5 Chuck Gass, Gainesville, FL (CH) Kenn Lowther, Columbus, OH (CH) Chris O’Rear, Nashville, TN (PC) 6 Joe Mills, Roswell, GA (CH) John Norwood, Houston, TX (CST) 7 Phil Hester, Emeritus (CST) Robert Wilder, Jacksonville, FL (CH) 8 Tommy Deal, Dalton, GA (CH) Edward Erwin, Pensacola, FL (CH) Shane Gaster, Deland, FL (CH) Virginia King, Columbia, SC (CH) Donald Kriner, Canton, GA (CH) Robert Pitts, Greenville, MS (CST) 9 Julie Brown, France (FP) Wayne Hyatt, Spartanburg, SC (PC) 10 Cecelia Beck, Shelby, NC (FP) Terri Byrd (S-Alabama) Beth Roberts, Chapel Hill, NC (CH) Gary Strickland, Sioux Falls, ID (PC) James Williams, Montgomery, AL (CH) 11 Zechariah Maas, 2008, Belize (FPC) 13 Rick Landon, Lexington, KY (PC) Scott Lee, Snellville, GA (CH) Jim R. Smith (S-Decatur) Frank Stillwell, Lexington, KY (PC) Robin Sullens, Dallas, TX (PC) 15 Anna Anderson, Scotland Neck, NC (FP) James Close, Louisville, KY (CH) Sheree Jones, Winston-Salem, NC (CH) 16 Cayden Norman, 2000, Spain (FPC) Lee Ann Rathbun, Austin, TX (CH) Ina Winstead, Emeritus (FP) 17 Maria-Grace Angel, 2014, Belgium (FPC) Craig Cantrall, Louisville, KY (CH) Buddy Presley, North Augusta, SC (CH) Josh Smith, South Africa (FP) Ronald Wilson, Northport, AL (CH) 18 Loris Adams, Indian Trail, NC (CH) Joel DeFehr, Oklahoma City, OK (CH) 19 Anna-Grace Acker, 2005, Uganda (FPC) Bernard Morris, Chester, VA (CH) James Palmer, Pensacola, FL (CH) 20 Robert Brasier, Queen Creek, AZ (CH) Melissa L. Dowling, Austin, TX (CH) Larry Glover-Wetherington, Durham, NC (PC) Kyle Kelley (S-Louisiana) Bruce Minett (S-Decatur) Alan Willard, Blacksburg, VA (PC) 21 Lynn Hutchinson, Togo (FP) Bethany McLemore, Roanoke, VA (PC) 22 William Thompson, Los Alamitos, CA (CH) Sarah Wofford, Mooresville, NC (CH) Candice Young (S-Decatur) 23 Frances Brown, Surfside Beach, SC (PC) Robert Elkowitz, Cumming, GA (CH) Steven Ivy, Indianapolis, IN (CH) Hal Lee, Clinton, MS (CH) Linda Strange, Denton, TX (CH) 24 Michael Carter, Dallas, TX (CH) Bogdan Podgaisky, 1997, Ukraine (FPC) 26 Freddy Hinson, Rocky River, OH (CH) Scottie Stamper, Charlotte, NC (CH) 27 Larry Austin, Fredericksburg, VA (CH) Juan Luís Barco, Raleigh, NC (CST) Steve Clark, Louisville, KY (FP) Michael Mills, Spokane, WS (CST) Solon Smith, Louisville, KY (CH) 28 Claudia Forrest, Cordova, TN (CH) John Halbrook, Pound Ridge, NY (PC) Thomas Holbrook, Berea, KY (PC) 29 Manner Tyson, Waterbury, CT (FP) Art Wiggins, Triangle, VA (CH)
30 Shay Crenshaw, Raleigh, NC (CH) Revonda Deal, Emeritus (FP) James Garrison, Arden, NC (CH) Kenneth Kelly, Black Mountain, NC (CH) Ramona Reynolds-Netto, Orlando, FL (CH) Lex Robertson, Oklahoma City, OK (CH) 31 Nathaniel Newell, 1998, San Antonio, TX (FPC) David “Tod” Smith, Farmington, NM (CH)
JANUARY 2016 1 Sam Bandela, Atlanta, GA (FP) Noy Peeler, Cambodia (FP) Christina Pittman, Summerville, SC (CH) 2 Misael Marriaga, Greenville, NC (CST) Gabriella Newell, 2002, San Antonio, TX (FPC) Jon Parks, Slovakia (FP) Daniel Sostaita, Rural Hall, NC (CST) Tammy Stocks, Romania (FP) 3 Christopher Bowers, Powhatan, VA (PC) William McCann, Madisonville, KY (CH) 4 Joshua Hickman, Newnan, GA (CH) 5 Richard Durham, Mount Pleasant, NC (CH) Charles Kirby, Hendersonville, NC (CH) Kevin Lynch, Spartanburg, SC (PC) Calvin McIver, Sacramento, CA (CH) Linda Serino, Memphis, TN (CH) 6 Larry Hardin, Topeka, KS (CH) 7 Denny Spear, Dunwoody, GA (CH) 8 Rachel Hill, Shelby, NC (CH) Ethan Lee, 2009, Macedonia (FPC) 9 Bill Cayard, China (FP) Paul Hamilton, Lodge, SC (CH) Patrick Moses, Mansfield, TX (CST) Jeffrey Perkins, Knoxville, TN (CH) Bella Smith, 2010, South Africa (FPC) 10 Melody Harrell, Kenya (FP) Kenny Sherin, Mitchell, SD (FP) 11 John Mark Boes (S-Decatur) Ed Waldrop, Augusta, GA (CH) 12 Neil Cochran, Greenville, SC (CH) Larry Connelly, Decatur, GA (CH) Scott Smallwood, Englewood, FL (CH) 13 Dianne McNary, Slovakia (FP) 14 Thomas Cantwell, Paducah, KY (CH) Steve Graham (S-Oklahoma/Kansas) 15 Keith Ethridge, Yorktown, VA (CH) John Foxworth, El Paso, TX (CH) 16 Merrie Grace Harding, 1995, Orlando, FL (FPC) Jerry Hendrix, Abilene, TX (CST) David Hormenoo, Durham, NC (CH) 17 Matthew Hanzelka, Round Rock, TX (CH) Donna Manning, Fort Worth, TX (CH) Aaron Norman, 2005, Spain (FPC) Glenn Norris, Sherwood, AR (CH) 18 William Beaver, Fort Benning, GA (CH) Jeanell Cox, Camden, NC (CH) Justin Nelson, Mount Airy, NC (CH) 19 Kaelah-Joy Acker, 2008, Uganda (FPC) Amoreena Jasper, 1997, Somerset, KY (FPC) Jackie Ward, Goshen, KY (CH) 20 Marcia Binkley, De Soto, KS (FP) Marshall Gupton, Smyrna, TN (CH) Kevin Morgan, Pisgah Forest, NC (CH) Paul Tolbert, Scott AFB, IL (CH) 21 Jim King, Newport News, VA (CH) 22 Jim Hylton (S-North Carolina) 23 Richard Atkinson, Bastrop, TX (CH) David Bass, Cambodia (FP) Brent Raitz, Cleveland, OH (CH) 24 Heather Kaye Lee, Austin, TX (CH) Judy Strawn (S-Decatur) Stephen Reeves (S-Decatur) 25 Mich, New Jersey (FP) Chris Nagel, Houston, TX (CH) 26 Sandy Hale, Lebanon, NH (CH) 27 Darrell Bare, Charleston, SC (CH) Ben Sandford, Hampton, VA (CH) Eric Smith, Willow Park, TX (CH) 28 Chuck Ahlemann, Des Moines, IA (CH) 29 Christopher Bowers, Powhatan, VA (CH) Glen Foster (S-West Region) Darryl Jefferson, Charlotte, NC (CH) 30 Hal Ritter, Waco, TX (PC) Nathan Rogers, Anchorage, AK (CH) 31 Rebecca Adrian, Irving, TX (CH) John Manuel, Fort Benning, GA (CH) Paul Smith, San Diego, CA (CH)
ellowship Bert and Deane Langdon live and give generously. Through their commitment to the Fellowship, they have served all over the world and continue to give back through stewardship opportunities with CBF and the CBF Foundation.
Oklahoma couple invests in a legacy of ministry through planned giving By Jeff Huett Bert and Deane Langdon take a lot of trips. They’ve traveled to 76 countries on six continents — but who’s counting. Around this time last year, the Langdons made the journey home from California to Oklahoma. Bert is originally from the Sooner State, and Deane is from Texas but moved to Oklahoma early in life. The lure of being a bit closer to family was an important consideration in returning to Oklahoma. Closer proximity to more of their three adult children, 10 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren has a way of playing a factor in such decisions. A 22-month stint as a soldier in World War II, much of that spent overseas, took Bert to lands far away from his native Oklahoma. After the Army came college, marriage and seminary, followed by service as a missionary in California, Germany, Thailand, Mexico and throughout Europe. In these years, Deane built a career writing curriculum related to early childhood education, and she edited a news journal. Both were and remain students of history. Maybe that’s what drove Deane to save the information packet from a meeting she and Bert attended in 1991 — a meeting that, looking back some 25 years, Deane admitted having little idea of how important it would be. The meeting was the first General Assembly, where the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship adopted its constitution and elected its first moderator. “We came home from Europe and the organizational meeting was that spring,” Bert said. “We haven’t missed but one [General Assembly] since then. When we came home from Europe, we needed a home.” For the Langdons, CBF is about “belonging, freedom and acceptance of all people,” Deane said. Bert continued, “As believers we try to follow Christ in all areas of our lives. We try to be Christ in our own setting.”
Steve Graham, the coordinator of CBF Oklahoma, expressed his appreciation for the Langdons’ connection and involvement with CBF in the state, but said it’s more than that. He appreciates the way they minister. “Bert and Deane have a long history of bringing energy and life to their involvement with the Fellowship,” Graham said. “The clarity of their commitment is contagious. Even visiting with them over the phone you can hear it.” An important part of this connection, Deane said, is that Christ’s love compels them “to use our resources responsibly and lovingly. And part of being a Christian is to support ministry.” Bert continued, “It goes back to responsibility to God for what we have — for the possessions that God has allowed us to have. It’s a matter of stewardship.” For years, Bert and Deane have supported the missions and ministries of CBF through generous giving. Most recently, the Langdons have joined the Fellowship Heritage Society by putting CBF in their estate plans through the CBF Foundation. “God has been good to us and the market has been good to us, too.” Deane said. “It’s great knowing that in addition to the legacy we will leave through our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, some part of us will continue to carry out God’s purposes over time through CBF. “We hope the younger generation coming along has the same fire for carrying on a denomi-network that has integrity, love, kindness, imagination, hope and the courage to try new things.”
JEFF HUETT is the CBF Associate Coordinator of Communications and Advancement. Follow him on Twitter at @JeffHuett.
For more information about making the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship part of your estate plans, please contact James R. Smith, president of the CBF Foundation (770-220-1622 or email@example.com), or Jennifer Graham, Vice President at 678-313-3999 or firstname.lastname@example.org. D E C E M B E R /J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 6
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B co eca m us pe e l s Ch us ris t 2 â€™s
20 Ge 16 ne CB ra F lA TW ss em EN TY bl y
25 years ago, Christâ€™s love compelled us to form together as the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
At the 2016 General Assembly, we will kick off this anniversary by celebrating the stories of our shared heritage and our shared future.
June 20-24, 2016 Sheraton Hotel and Koury Convention Center Greensboro, North Carolina
Register now at www.cbf.net/assembly
Compelled to worship Compelled to lead Compelled to impact Together. JOIN US IN GREENSBORO.
HURCH WORKS Letâ€™s Talk: Conversations that matter First Baptist Church, Asheville, N.C. February 22-24, 2016
As ministers, we are called to share in conversations, sometimes difficult ones. In those exchanges: HOW DO WE LEAD WHEN DISAGREEMENT ARISES?
WHERE DO WE GIVE SPACE FOR GOD IN HARD CONVERSATIONS?
HOW DO WE WORK TOGETHER, DESPITE OUR DISAGREEMENTS, TO DO THE WORK OF THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST?
CAN WE DISCERN WHAT CONVERSATIONS REALLY MATTER IN OUR CONTEXTS FOR TODAY?
2016 will be a year of hard conversations politically, socially and theologically for most of us. Join your colleagues in Asheville, N.C., for a time to reflect and consider why conversations matter and consider how we as ministers are compelled to lead, even when challenged. Featured Presenter Rev. Prince Rivers United Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church Winston-Salem, N.C. and trained facilitator for the Center for Courage and Renewal
Registration is now open! Register before February 1 for the earlybird $60 registration fee.
Love God. Teach Neighbor. Be Transformed.
CBF field personnel share Christâ€™s great love through literacy ministry at U.S.-Mexico Border By Blake Tommey
OFFERING FOR GLOBAL MISSIONS
The Rio Grande Valley Literacy Center hosts ESL and GED classes in classrooms and buildings throughout Hidalgo County, Texas, reaching the communities that it serves.
The Rio Grande Valley Literacy Center offers low-cost ESL classes, a GED program and a family literacy program to low-income adults and families along the United States-Mexico border in an effort to empower the Hispanic community and break the cycle of poverty.
ith the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10, Jesus forever redefined who our neighbor truly is. A neighbor is not merely the person next door. Neighbors are people who rely on and care for each other, even if they live on separate continents, speak different languages or hold different beliefs. Loving your neighbor as yourself means responding to brothers and sisters in Chile, Ghana, Romania or Japan, no matter what lengths are required. But sometimes, your neighbor really is the person next door — or maybe even across the border. “Jesus says you must love your neighbor as yourself, and I take that seriously,” said Diann Whisnand, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel and former CEO of the Rio Grande Valley Literacy Center in Pharr, Texas. Whisnand, who currently serves as an advisor to RGVLC, directed the literacy center before intentionally handing “JESUS SAYS YOU MUST LOVE the leadership off to its current director, Rocio Mata. “These are my neighbors here on the Texas-Mexico border and YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF, I try to love them through helping them receive an education,” AND I TAKE THAT SERIOUSLY. Whisnand said. “There is no quicker way to help somebody out of THESE ARE MY NEIGHBORS poverty than to give them a language skill, a skill in mathematics, a skill in anything so that they can actually become employable, get a HERE ON THE TEXAS-MEXICO job, try to step out of poverty themselves and extend that model on BORDER AND I TRY TO LOVE to their children.” For the Rio Grande Valley Literacy Center, loving neighbor THEM THROUGH HELPING means teaching neighbor. With support from the CBF Offering for THEM RECEIVE AN EDUCATION.” Global Missions, Whisnand and the RGVLC are sharing Christ’s great love through literacy ministry among adults and families living in poverty along the United States-Mexico border. The center offers ESL classes as well as a GED program to adults living in Hidalgo County, a county that is more than 90 percent Hispanic and consistently registers one of the highest poverty rates in the United States. Partially because of soaring poverty levels, nearly half of Hidalgo County residents are classified as illiterate and cannot afford to enroll in traditional English language classes or high school equivalency programs. To provide affordable opportunities, the center offers English as a Second Language (ESL) and GED classes in community centers, libraries,
D E C E M B E R /J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 6
The family literacy program at the RGVLC provides a year of education for the whole family, promoting reading and establishing home libraries with children. Adults and children benefit and are transformed through a focus on literacy skills.
churches, housing projects and college campuses across the county. Former RGVLC student Maria DeLeon began her life in the U.S. as a migrant worker and said the harsh realities of life as a Hispanic migrant make education nearly impossible. “Education is so difficult for migrants because they have to go the same route as their parents,” DeLeon explained. “You want to be at school, studying and learning with your friends, but you know you have to go to work. Being a student is hard enough without having to keep up with your work in the fields too. I dropped out of school because I also didn’t have any childcare or any transportation to help me keep on with my education. It is such a big challenge.” DeLeon grew up working in the fields picking onions, blueberries, tomatoes and anything else she could pick to help support her family. Years ago her parents had come to the U.S. from Mexico and taken jobs as migrant farmers — the only employment they could find. DeLeon worked tirelessly alongside her seven siblings to contribute to the family wages, but as a young girl, she always got stuck picking strawberries, one of the most backbreaking tasks, she said. In her torment, she would often pray and ask God to transform her from a donkey
expected to staff the center’s fundraising events to help support the annual operating budget. Laura Martinez oversees volunteer hours as the adult education supervisor at the center and recalls when it offered a single ESL class in the basement of Pharr United Methodist Church back in 2003. The RGVLC, then called the Pharr Literacy Center, offered childcare and transportation for a single morning English skills session and evening English skills session each week. As the movement grew, the center realized that only 40 percent of their students actually lived in Pharr and that they were beginning to impact adults across Hidalgo County, said Martinez. “I have seen a lot of people getting new jobs, better jobs, just by learning the basics of English.” “When I see them out at the store, they say, ‘Laura, I haven’t been going to classes because I started working,’ or, ‘My English is good enough for me to be in this new job,’ or, ‘I got my citizenship because of you and working in the fields to something better. because of the program,’ or, ‘I’m helping Moreover, she knew she wanted more for my children with their homework because I her young son and daughter than life in the learned English with you guys,’” Martinez fields. That’s when her sister told her about added. “I’ve always wanted to be a teacher the RGVLC, where DeLeon enrolled and and I think in a way I’m still teaching people began to learn English, eventually receiving — not children but adults.” her GED. One of those adults is Eugenio Cortez, a “I believe education can change the business owner from Reynosa, Mexico, who world,” DeLeon said. “If we’re better moved to the U.S. with his wife to explore educated, we can have a better future. There a new market for their embroidery and is always something that holds you back and promotional product business. won’t let you move forward, but I’ve always Cortez and his family always had plans to learned how to push out of that hole, to explore new opportunities in the U.S., but further my education and my life for my kids. three years ago their plans were accelerated The Rio Grande Valley Literacy Center was by the escalating violence and corruption a great experience. I had a wonderful teacher in Mexico, which led to theft, shootings and a wonderful family that and fires at their place of encouraged me to keep on. “FORMING TOGETHER business. Cortez says that And there’s more education MEANS TO GROW Reynosa used to be a peaceful in my future. I’ll never stop and beautiful place to live, WITH YOUR NEIGHBOR, but eventually immigrating learning.” TO GROW WITH In addition to learning to Hidalgo County was their English and acquiring only option for safety. Once in EACH OTHER.” her GED, DeLeon works the U.S., Cortez not only had full-time with the center as the receptionist to reestablish his business but also find the as well as an encourager for students, which means to learn English — a virtual necessity now number in the hundreds across Hidalgo for any business owner residing in the states. County. Alongside ESL and GED classes, So he enrolled in ESL classes at RGVLC. each student is required to fulfill 10 hours of Cortez emphasized that age should never volunteer service in exchange for discounted hold someone back from continuing to learn books and low-cost classes. Students are also and receive an education, especially if it
Order CBF Offering for Global Missions resources for FREE at www.cbf.net/OGMorder See the full complement of Offering resources, place your order and view videos and other materials online at www.cbf.net/OGM.
OFFERING FOR GLOBAL MISSIONS
CBF engages in three primary contexts: Global Poverty, Global Migration and the Global Church, and participates in God’s mission with and among the most marginalized and least evangelized people on Earth.
2015-2016 CBF Offering for Global Missions Sharing Christ’s great love for us through literacy ministry
Love God. Teach Neighbor. Be Transformed. www.cbf.net/OGM
OFFERING FOR GLOBAL MISSIONS Sharing Christ’s great love for us through literacy ministry
Love God. Teach Neighbor. Be Transformed.
in Offering resources
Turn over a new leaf
CBF OGM Bulletin Insert/ Poster Combo (Packs of 20)
Love God. Teach Neighbor. Be Transformed. Sharing Christ’s great love for us through literacy ministry
I will teach all your children, and they will enjoy great peace.
Much of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s global missions impact is funded by the Offering for Global Missions. The Offering is the foundational means of support for the CBF mission enterprise and provides access to a wide array of tools and resources to serve people to equip churches.
ISAIAH 54:13, NLT
Support CBF literacy ministries and field personnel worldwide.
OFFERING FOR GLOBAL MISSIONS
Foundation, the RGVLC also partners with the Salvation Army, the Rio Grande Valley Baptist Association, Calvary Baptist Church in McAllen, Texas, and other ministries and nonprofit organizations. But after years of support from the CBF Offering for Global Missions, Whisnand said it is the partnership of Cooperative Baptists forming together that helps make it possible for the center to combat systemic poverty through education. “Forming together means to grow with your neighbor, to grow with each other,” Whisnand said. “No matter where you are in the world, you have neighbors and you can form and develop together as you grow in a community. The CBF Offering for Global Missions is a way to do that and a way to apply Christ’s mandate out in the world — to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. It helps supply ESL classes. It helps provide scholarships for students who can’t afford the $25 tuition. It supplies GED classes. It pays for GED tests for those who can’t afford it. It offers education that transforms.”
When you support the Offering, you make ministry possible by supporting all CBF field personnel. Your gifts provide much-needed materials and support to enrich the lives of children and families through life-changing literacy ministries.
means a better life for your family. “Education is the main platform for development in any city of any country,” he said. “I would advise all adults who have not received an education that it’s never too late, and that they can do it. Education is the road toward a better life, financially and intellectually, as well as for a better family life. And I think it’s really beautiful to become part of a community that is improving itself. I feel proud.” As illiteracy rates approach 50 percent in Hidalgo County, CBF and the RGVLC are forming together not only to unlock economic opportunities for adults but for entire families too. Through a new partnership with the Barbara Bush Literacy Foundation, the center provides grant funding for family units to enroll in a one-year family literacy program. As part of the program, children and their parents learn English skills, take basic education classes and learn how to read and study at home together. In addition, families learn how to prioritize education and even create home libraries. Whisnand maintains that partnerships are ultimately the key to sharing Christ’s great love through literacy ministry. In addition to the Barbara Bush Literacy
Offering At A Glance Booklet (Packs of 20)
CBF 2015-16 OGM Bookmarks (Packs of 40)
CBF 2015-16 OGM Envelopes (Packs of 100)
BLAKE TOMMEY serves with the Baptist General Association of Virginia as a collegiate minister at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va.
In an area along the U.S.-Mexico border with a large Hispanic migrant worker population, the RGVLC reaches those who are confined to back-breaking work because of a lack of education in an effort to empower the community.
CBF 2015-16 OGM DVD Love God. Teach Neighbor. Be Transformed. Sharing Christ’s great love for us through literacy ministry
OFFERING FOR GLOBAL MISSIONS www.cbf.net/OGM
CBF 2015-16 OGM Flashdrive with video resources TIPS FROM FELLOW CBF CHURCHES
TIME-BASED PROMOTION STRATEGIES
Engaging your congregation in renewing God’s world through the CBF Offering for Global Missions
TALKING POINTS ABOUT CBF AND THE OFFERING FOR GLOBAL MISSIONS
OFFERING FOR GLOBAL MISSIONS
2015-16 CBF OGM Bible Study Curriculum for adults, youth and children along with Worship Resources available for download.
CBF Syrian Refugee Response Fellowship sends aid to help Syrian refugees in Macedonia, Lebanon and Belgium By Aaron Weaver and Carrie McGuffin The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is continuing long-term efforts to serve Syrian refugees through its field personnel and ministry partners in the Middle East and now Southeast Europe. CBF has sent $5,000 to field personnel Alicia and Jeff Lee in Macedonia to support their partnerships with local nongovernmental organizations meeting the immediate needs of refugees traveling across the country to Germany and other parts of Europe. CBF has also sent an additional $10,000 to support the ministries of field personnel Chaouki and Maha Boulos in Lebanon, who have been responding to the Syrian refugee crisis since 2011 through a variety of efforts in a country that is now home to 1.5 million refugees. The Bouloses are currently feeding nearly 500 Syrian refugee individuals and families in Lebanon, as well as providing emergency food support to families inside Syria through a ministry partner.
Along with funds sent to field personnel Alicia and Jeff Lee in Macedonia and the Bouloses in Lebanon, Janée Angel and her husband, Hary, have been given a grant for their work with Syrian refugees in Belgium. Cooperative Baptists are encouraged to support the Fellowship’s response to this global crisis which has been called “the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era.” Gifts can be made to the CBF Syrian Refugee Response at www.cbf.net/syria. CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter said the Fellowship remains well-positioned as it continues to address the Syrian refugee crisis. “In the wake of this crisis, CBF is positioned for global response through the leadership of our field personnel as well as trusted partnerships on the ground,” Paynter said. “The Fellowship is providing lifeline support to refugees making brave and dangerous journeys into foreign places. For
those of us who cannot be on the front line of response, we pray fervently for peace in broken places, for the safety of weary travelers and for their neighbors to welcome the stranger.” With the civil war in Syria now in its fifth year, more than 4 million refugees have fled the country and nearly 8 million have been internally displaced. As the violence in Syria escalates further and living conditions worsen in Syria, an increasing number of refugees are making the perilous journey by land and sea to Europe in search of a better future. In Macedonia, the number of refugees making their way through the country has tripled in the past three months after the government passed a law allowing refugees a 72-hour temporary pass to take trains, buses and taxis north to the Serbian border. An estimated 3,000 people per day are transiting through Macedonia, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and
With the civil war in Syria now in its fifth year, more than 4 million refugees have fled the country and nearly 8 million have been displaced. Many make the treacherous journey by land and sea in hopes of a better life in Europe.
a third of them are women and children. These families are enduring hot days, arriving with only the clothes they are wearing and suffering from extreme exhaustion. The Lees are working with local partners, Open Gate and the Food Bank of Macedonia, to meet the needs of these refugees. Open Gate is an NGO responsible for operating the women’s and children’s tent and reuniting unaccompanied children with their families. Open Gate is also providing refugees with rights information as well as essential hygiene items and bathing stations for mothers to bathe their babies. The Food Bank of Macedonia is assisting with food distribution to refugee camps in an area where humanitarian organizations are few. “Our local partners are stretched thin, working with limited resources, and the number of refugees entering the camp grows larger every day,” Alicia and Jeff Lee said. “We are positioned to help. With partnerships already in place, we are prepared to come alongside our local partners and respond to the refugee crisis together.” In addition to the ministry of field personnel in Lebanon, CBF also continues to serve refugees in another Middle Eastern country through the work of other field personnel who have distributed much-needed living supplies and clothing to Syrian refugees in their city over the past two years. Belgium, as with many European countries, is seeing a great influx of refugees in the midst of the Syrian refugee crisis, and
the country has found itself with inadequate resources to provide. In response, two makeshift camps have been built in Brussels in local parks and people are also sleeping in the streets. Angel expressed that the country is responding as quickly as possible, but there are specific needs for organization in the Arabic language. “Belgium is trying to meet needs as fast as they can, but it appears a bit like a body with many arms going in all directions,” said Angel. “There is a lack of order and direction in the Arabic language.” Angel and her husband, Hary, who is a native of Syria, live in Antwerp, where there has been an influx of refugees as well. Each week, Hary and another Syrian have been visiting in refugee camps to intentionally build relationships and meet physical and spiritual needs. “They come with basically nothing at all,” said Angel, explaining that with this grant they will have the ability to consistently have supplies on hand to welcome the weary travelers in the form of Backpacks for Life. Each is filled with toiletries and necessities, water bottles, snacks, gloves, scarves, hats and the Gospel of John in Arabic. “I want to do all we can to cover these children and their families for the winter,” Angel said. “They won’t all fit in my house, so our goal is to help them with these necessities before the cold weather hits.”
CBF Global Missions Coordinator Steven Porter highlighted the Fellowship’s commitment to long-term presence with field personnel and local partners in place and extending hope and hospitality to refugees from Syria. “Scripture admonishes us time and time again to welcome the stranger and show hospitality to friends and enemies alike,” Porter said. “As we consider our response to the suffering of Syrian refugees, we do well to remember that our Lord Jesus was once a child refugee fleeing the same region. “Your Cooperative Baptist field personnel have been serving these same families for years on the border between Lebanon and Syria, in other areas of the Middle East and in Europe as violence drives families away from their homes and support systems. One of the great benefits of CBF Global Missions’ commitment to long-term presence is that we have longstanding ministries and local partners already in place. Your sacrificial gifts will enable CBF field personnel to extend hope and hospitality to Syrian families in crisis. And in so doing, we welcome Jesus. For ‘truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me’ (Matthew 25:40).”
Donations to support the CBF Syrian Refugee Response may be made online at www.cbf.net/syria or by mailing a check payable to “CBF” with Acct. 17030 in the memo line to:
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship P.O. Box 102972 Atlanta, GA 30368-2972
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discuss importance of religious liberty at New Orleans event By Aaron Weaver NEW ORLEANS — Baptist leaders from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and the Southern Baptist Convention joined together September 29 to discuss the importance of religious liberty around the world at an event on the campus of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in New Orleans. CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter described her jarring encounter in 1978 with the famed atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair while a public school teacher in Texas. O’Hair’s adopted granddaughter was in Paynter’s class, and the elder O’Hair showed up on the first day of class and announced that she intended to make problems for the school, vowing to expose the ways in which she believed the rights of her granddaughter were being violated. Paynter said that her encounter with O’Hair, best known for her lawsuit that led to the Supreme Court’s landmark 1963 ruling
outlawing state-sponsored Bible reading in public schools, caused her to take religious liberty more seriously — despite her personal dislike of O’Hair. Prior to that encounter, religious liberty was the equivalent of a teacup to her, Paynter said. “Religious liberty was about the equivalent to an English china teacup in my life — respected as fine and valuable, but rarely thought of or used.” That teacup came off the shelf for daily use in 1978, she said. “I had to come face to face with the words ‘freedom of conscience’ and knew that that was not just for me,” Paynter said. “It is very hard to defend the most hated woman in America, but religious liberty is not sanitized and nice. …Thankfully, religious liberty is not as fragile as a teacup.” Paynter said she would like it if her beliefs were everywhere, but she would never request the government to make it so. “I will not ask for state support — direct or indirect,” she said. “Don’t shame me or try
The event, “Baptist Voices on Religious Liberty: Left, Right and Center,” highlighted diverse Baptist voices and was sponsored by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, the Institute for Faith and the Public Square, the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry, and the Baptist History & Heritage Society. NOBTS Photo.
to remove my right to religious expression. My faith expression does not coerce you.” Turning her presentation to the importance of global religious freedom, Paynter noted that many churches and faithbased organizations have abdicated their support for freedom abroad over the years. “If there is an area we have relegated to lawyers and experts, it is international religious liberty,” Paynter said, emphasizing CBF’s expanding partnership with the Baptist World Alliance to speak on behalf of global religious freedom in partnership with the worldwide fellowship of Baptists in 121 countries comprised of 42 million members. Focusing on global religious freedom will be a focus of the Fellowship for the foreseeable future, she said. “It is a great privilege to serve a Lord and savior whose freedom calls for our direct worship and the sacrifice of our lives to his calling to love one another that our joy may be full and, in this case, to be sure of our liberty and freedom in Christ by working toward that goal for all.”
Assessing the religious liberty landscape Brent Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, who heads the nearly 80-year-old education and advocacy organization for religious liberty and church-state separation in Washington, D.C., offered an assessment of the state of religious freedom in the United States. Walker applauded the Supreme Court’s 2012 Hosanna-Tabor ruling, which recognized that churches and other religious groups are free to choose their leaders without government interference. “I’m very optimistic about church autonomy. Churches that do not want to solemnize same-sex marriages are not going to have to under this doctrine. It is just not going to happen,” said Walker, who also noted that many critics of the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate fail to mention that churches have been exempt from the provision from its beginning out of a respect for the principle of church autonomy. While Walker stated that recent Supreme Court decisions relating to the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause “suggest that we are doing very well,” he emphasized that in terms of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, “we’re doing terribly and losing ground.” He cited the Supreme Court’s 5-4 Town of Greece decision that affirmed the small New York state town’s practice of beginning its municipal meetings with a sectarian prayer. Walker distinguished the town’s policy with that of prayers that open up sessions of the U.S. Congress. “The chaplains’ prayer [before the Congress] is for the body of the legislators,” Walker explained. “That’s completely different than in the [Town of] Greece — and at most local city council meetings — where the public is there not to just watch up in the galleries but to participate, to testify before the council…to get a zoning variance or business license. We took the position that — in that context — it was impermissibly coercive to require those folks to undergo or to experience and participate in a state-sponsored religious exercise as a ticket to exercise and perform their civic responsibilities.” Referencing recent controversial comments from Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson suggesting that a
Muslim could not be president because of his or her faith, Walker said he was glad to see the candidate widely criticized by his conservative peers. “I was heartened to see that several conservative commentators came out and roundly criticized Dr. Carson and his failure to [acknowledge] the importance of the ‘no religious test’ for public office,” Walker said. While noting that citizens are free to impose their own religious test on candidates, Walker said that he thinks this is a bad idea. “I think we ought to live by the spirit of ‘no religious test’ as well as the letter of the law and allow that to inform our thinking about our voting patterns and how we engage the government as citizens. Religion, of course, can be taken into account and our public leaders don’t have to check their religion at the door. We can get to know what they believe and how that affects their fitness for office, particularly if there is a close connection to their religious conviction and some public policy issue.” “We shouldn’t impose religious litmus tests on our candidates. I think we are doing pretty well on that ‘no religious test’ principle. We’ve made peace on it,” he said, noting that Governor Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith was not blamed for his defeat in the 2012 presidential election.
A people of the jailhouse Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, shared a story about his love for the late country singer Johnny Cash and his famous song “Folsom Prison Blues,” emphasizing that for Baptists to be faithful to their commitment to religious liberty, they must remember their own prison roots and blues in the jailhouses of England, Virginia and Massachusetts during past centuries. “For us to be the people who maintain a witness to religious liberty, we have to remember what it means to be people of the jailhouse,” Moore said. Speaking from Acts 16 and the story of the imprisoned Paul and Silas, Moore said that this New Testament scripture proposes us to give up our rights. “Paul and Silas stay [in prison]…and they stay because of the gospel and the advance of the mission,” he explained. “We see in this [text] the personal nature of the gospel. …This is why Baptists have
fundamentally been committed to religious liberty. It is not because of some political responsibility we have. It is because how we believe the gospel works,” Moore said. Moore emphasized that what many conservative Christians in the United States believe to be persecution is not always persecution. “Everything that offends us is not persecution,” Moore said. “We have not been promised life without offense. Often what we can easily do as Christians is to turn into an interest group that lashes out at any group that offends us or disagrees with us.” When companies and groups poke fun at Christians that’s not persecution, Moore said. He pointed to examples of conservative Christians who have opposed efforts to build mosques and Muslim cemeteries in their communities, and said the Christians who do so have “lost confidence in the gospel.” “What happens when the power of the sword is used to shut down mosques for our Muslim neighbors, all that happens is that our mission field goes underground, and they realize that the Christians around me, hate me and want to see me invisible.” Other presenters at the Sept. 29 event included William Brackney of Acadia Divinity College in Canada, Mike Edens of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Kenneth McDowell of Union Baptist & Theological Seminary in New Orleans and Gregory Komendant of Kiev Theological Seminary in the Ukraine. The event, titled “Baptist Voices on Religious Liberty: Left, Right and Center,” was hosted by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and sponsored by the Institute for Faith and the Public Square and the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry, as well as endorsed by the Baptist History & Heritage Society, a CBF partner.
AARON WEAVER is the Editor of fellowship! Connect with him at email@example.com
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G N I M O OVERC S E C N E R DIFFE
Mosaic, the ministry of CBF field personnel David and Julie Brown, seeks to unite French Protestant churches with immigrant and international churches around Paris, France.
(Pictured right) CBF field personnel Julie and David Brown sing and preach at a traditional French Protestant church, using their gifts in a congregational setting before traveling throughout Paris to visit international churches.
CBF field personnel seek unity among body of Christ in Paris By Ashleigh Bugg
ulie and David Brown hurry onto the crowded metro in Paris, France. They’ve finished singing and preaching at a traditional French Protestant church and are on their way to the outskirts of the city to worship with immigrants from Madagascar. “Do we have time to visit the Haitian church, too?” David asked. They check the metro map but realize they won’t be able to make the service. “Next time,” Julie said. “We usually visit two to three new churches every Sunday,” David explained. Since moving to Paris in February, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel David and Julie Brown are in charge of an initiative known as Mosaic. “Mosaic is a ministry of the French Protestant Federation that encourages contact between churches and believers from [different] countries of the world,” he said. After working with immigrants in Marseilles, France, the Browns were asked to direct Mosaic in Paris and moved their lives to a new city. “We didn’t think we would leave Marseilles, but God had other plans,” David said. The purpose of Mosaic is to create a ministry that connects French Protestant churches with the more than 400 immigrant churches in the Paris region. “Mosaic is a bridge between historic French churches and the more recently arrived immigrant churches,” David said. In art, a mosaic is formed by bringing smaller, multicolored pieces together to make a beautiful whole. This practice is seen in ancient pottery and stained glass cathedrals: a testament to an encompassing
story. For the Browns, when varied churches work together, this embodies the mission they want to share with others. “We try to do ministry like Jesus, responding to spiritual needs but also to the physical,” noted David, a pastor and musician who has served in Burkina Faso, North Africa, France and the United States. “In a world that is more and more divided, we can find common ground,” he said. The Browns also volunteer in other ways. Julie is a registered nurse and volunteers with Doctors of the World, an organization that provides health care for refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. “We often work with undocumented people, people who are denied access to health care,” Julie emphasized. Although they use their gifts of nursing and music, the Browns’ ultimate focus is Mosaic. “We’re still in the learning stages,” David admitted. “Right now we’re trying to connect with as many churches as possible.” The task can seem impossible with more than 400 immigrant churches consisting of congregations from a multitude of countries and ethnicities. The churches are spread out over the Paris region, which has a population of more than 12 million residents. The center of Paris is made up of 20 different neighborhoods. It can take over an hour to travel by metro from one part of the city to another. The Browns are working closely with local pastors and young people in their planning and are mapping the locations of the churches. “The idea is to eventually do things by four zones,” they explained. Although the project has found success with various churches, opposition still remains. D E C E M B E R /J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 6
“The biggest challenge is for the French churches to see the need,” David said. Many Protestant churches live with a persecuted mindset, stemming from religious wars dating from the 1500s. It can be hard for some French churches to overcome the past. As is the case in many countries, there is a fear of those that are different. “This leads to a strong anti-immigrant feeling in France,” Julie said. David agreed: “I had a French pastor tell me once, ‘we don’t want our church to have too many people of color because the French won’t come.’” Despite these challenges the Browns remain hopeful. “We often quote Ephesians 4:4 for our mission,” David said. “We believe in unity in the body of Christ.” This isn’t the first time the Browns have worked with immigrants and refugees. In 2008, they were honored as TIP Report Heroes Acting to End Modern Slavery by the U.S. Department of State for their work with human trafficking survivors in North Africa. In Marseilles, they also worked with migrants, often reaching out to Muslims. This included the creation of a women’s group. “It was a safe place for Muslim women to come and feel free to talk about women’s issues, life, faith, and just have fun and fellowship,” said Julie, who ran the group. “We are passionate about how Muslims and Christians can live together in peace,” David added. “We’ve learned so much from our Muslim friends. Interreligious friendship and discourse is important to us.”
There are more than 400 immigrant churches in the Paris region, and David and Julie Brown seek to connect with all of them. Many of the groups that the couple worships with have left their home countries for political, war-related and economic reasons.
Many of the groups David and Julie worship with have left their home countries for political, war-related and economic reasons. The Browns engage and welcome all. “Paris is truly an international city with people from all around the world,” David said. “We’ve encountered travelers from many of the most troubled countries of the world.” Some are refugees: a term that means they cannot return to their countries of origin due to factors like religious and political persecution. Others are asylum seekers or migrants who could be escaping persecution but haven’t been granted refugee status or who are moving because of economic disaster. Some are immigrants who moved to Paris to reunite with family or to seek a better life. Despite the various labels, the Browns maintain these groups are neighbors who deserve hospitality, dignity and respect. “All are seeking freedom and a better way of life,” David said. The Browns’ work in Paris centers on the idea of international cooperation. They want to help French churches and their immigrant counterparts work together to better their communities and share the love of Christ. “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel,” David said. He maintains the resources are already in the community. “We encourage meeting people, getting to know people and then moving towards unity and doing ministry together.”
David and Julie tell a story about visiting a Punjabi church in Paris. Punjab is an area of Pakistan that was divided between India and Pakistan in 1947. Today it is still a place of conflict and violence between Pakistanis and Indians. The Browns entered the church, unsure what they would find. Inside, Pakistanis and Indians embraced and shared tea. They were laughing and worshiping together. David was invited by the pastor to help with further theological studies and church administration. For the Browns this was a living example of the Mosaic initiative: overcoming differences to become whole. The Browns work in several ways to encourage Mosaic, including church visits, sermons, conferences, music lessons and even the creation of a Mosaic choir in Paris. They celebrated at a festival on June 21, the French national day of music. Throughout the afternoon until the evening choirs from 15 Mosaic and French churches sang on the steps of a reformed Lutheran church. “These groups literally come from the four corners of the earth,” David said. Another Mosaic activity is a monthly luncheon for French and immigrant pastors and leaders. “It is amazing to see pastors and church leaders from different cultures, with differing points of view on life and theology, sharing a meal together,” David said. As many cultures come together, the Browns hope to foster a culture of collaboration and reconciliation.
The Browns’ work in Paris centers on the idea of international cooperation. They want to assist French churches and their immigrant counterparts to work together to better their communities and share the love of Christ.
“Our Mosaic ministry can be a uniting force — a bridge between differing groups in a time where division is more and more the norm,” David wrote in the monthly newsletter he shares with friends and supporters. After spending the day worshiping with French and Malagasy congregations, the Browns make plans to meet people from a Haitian church and other groups the following week. They will continue to encourage and visit with French and immigrant churches hoping to bring a greater sense of community and cooperation to the Paris region. They believe unity is achievable and necessary to strengthen their long-term work in France. “We are committed, through Mosaic to encouraging unity in the body of Christ,” David added. “Truly, in Christ, we are one.”
ASHLEIGH BUGG works as a community content producer at the Center for News and Design in Austin, Texas.
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Advent Conspiracy by Joshua M. Speight, CBF Missional Congregations Resources Manager
dvent speaks to the mystery of God and the essence of the Christian faith — that grace is a person, the gift of God given to us in Jesus Christ. Advent reminds us that God altered the history of the world when “the Word became flesh and lived among us.” The birth of Jesus changed everything that night in Bethlehem, but do we still believe that Christmas has the power to change the world today? In 2006, five pastors charged their congregations with this very question: Can Christmas still change the world? From this question and their answer the Advent Conspiracy (www.adventconspiracy.org) was born. Now, their question challenges followers of Christ throughout the United States to decide if the story of the birth of Jesus is still the best story in the world.
“And the Word became flesh and lived among us…full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) 20 |
Advent Conspiracy is a resource CBF congregations can easily adopt as a way of celebrating Advent and Christmas. The four tenets of Advent Conspiracy are easily embraced by our Baptist distinctives. • Worship Fully: As a community of faith, worship Jesus this Advent as fully as possible, recognizing God’s gift of grace. • Spend Less: Americans spend $600 billion annually on Christmas! Can we spend wisely and in ways that honor God? • Give More: Give ourselves — our very lives to one another as gifts this Christmas. This is Christ-like and will be a more memorable way of giving. • Love All: As followers of Christ, we are called to love the world as Christ loves us. Advent is our reminder to truly love those on the margins of society, both in word and deed. Whether or not one chooses to follow these tenets as suggested by Advent Conspiracy, the central question these pastors raised in 2006 is an important one for us. Do we believe that Christmas can still change the world? The way we choose to celebrate this Advent and Christmas will show the world how we believe.
¢ d365 is an online devotional website produced by Passport, Inc. and sponsored by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Episcopal Church. Geared toward students, but visited daily by adults as well, d365 features an annual Advent devotional series called “Following the Star.” Starting in the first week of Advent, it will be available at www.d365.org. ¢ Seeds of Hope Publishers has a collection of Advent worship packets that aim to help congregations creatively engage the issues of poverty, hunger and justice with an attitude of hope in the Advent season. ¢ Cloth for the Cradle by John Bell and Wild Goose Worship Group. This rediscovery of the stories of Christ’s birth through adult eyes is for use in group and worship situations. The material is drawn from the work of the Wild Goose Worship Group, who have an innovative style of worship. ¢ Everlasting Light by Sandy Dixon. This collection of litanies, candle lighting services, a hanging of the greens service and more offers worship resources for the three years of lectionary reading for Advent, including the Sunday after Christmas. ¢ Celebrate Advent by John Hendrix, Susan Meadors and David Miller. With exciting original artwork, creative orders of worship and a wealth of educational material, including sermons and intergenerational activities, Celebrate Advent is a valuable resource for local church leaders, regardless of the size of the congregation or experience with the season. ¢ Textweek.com is the premier online worship preparation site (especially if your church follows the Christian calendar). For Advent resources, visit www.textweek.com/advent.htm. ¢ Watch For the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas by Dietrich Bonhoeffer ¢ Light Upon Light: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany by Sarah Arthur
Love God. Teach Neighbor. Be Transformed. Sharing Christ’s great love for us through literacy ministry
HEAR IMPACT STORIES FROM CBF FIELD PERSONNEL: “These are my neighbors here on the Texas-Mexico border. I love them through helping them receive an education. There is no quicker way to help somebody out of poverty than to give them a language skill, a skill in mathematics, a skill in anything so that they can actually become employable, get a job, try to step out of poverty themselves and extend that model on to their children.” – DIANN WHISNAND, CBF field personnel at Rio Grande Valley Literacy Center Pharr, Texas
I will teach all your children, and they will enjoy great peace. ISAIAH 54:13, NLT
Support CBF literacy ministries and field personnel worldwide.
OFFERING FOR GLOBAL MISSIONS
Refugee from war-torn Burma ministers to fellow Karen through Student.Go By Greg Warner
Mary Htoo (pictured left) and her cousins Moo Gay Say and Ke See Ha Moo pose together at Mary Htooâ€™s high school graduation. Mary Htoo is now the first in her family to attend college.
AT THE AGE of seven, Mary Htoo and her family fled civil war and persecution in their native Burma. They spent the next sevenplus years living amidst the poverty and confinement of a mountaintop refugee camp just across the Thailand border. Like Mary Htoo, most of the approximately 50,000 people in the Mae La refugee camp are members of the Karen ethnic group, a hill tribe that has been in conflict with the oppressive government of Burma (now known as Myanmar) since World War II. But even in those conditions, the young Christian kept alive a childhood dream to serve others. “One day I want to go back to my village and help my people there,” said Mary Htoo [pronounced “too”]. In a way, her dream is coming true — but not in the way she imagined. In March 2008, Mary Htoo, then 15, had a chance few other Karen people have — to leave the refugee camp and be resettled with her family in the United States. Since her arrival, she has graduated from high school and become the first in her family to attend college. Now 23 years old, Mary Htoo lives with her parents and two brothers in Louisville, Ky., while studying to become an ultrasound technician. Mary Htoo also served as an intern with Student.Go, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s student missions initiative, from January through August 2015 in Louisville, ministering alongside the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel Annette Ellard and Steve Clark. Her role was to help more-recent Karen refugees navigate the complexities of life in the U.S., like enrolling in school, translating a doctor’s instructions, and dealing with social-service agencies — the same kind of assistance Mary Htoo and her family received from Ellard and Clark when they arrived in Louisville. “I always thought I would help people in my village, but I never thought I would help my people here,” she said with surprise. Approximately 1,000 Karen people live in Louisville. Mary Htoo comes from a family of Karen pastors and has been a Christian since she was four years old. Although deprived of her homeland, culture and extended family, she sees God’s hand on her life.
“I know that God has a plan for me to let me help my people here. I am happy.” Happy is Mary Htoo’s natural state. Always polite and demur, as Karen culture dictates, she is also cheerful, optimistic and determined, especially for someone who lived more than half of her life surrounded by oppression and sadness, according Mary Htoo’s family arrived in the United States when she was just 15 to Ellard. years old, after they had been living in the Mae La refugee camp for Ironically, Ellard and husband, seven long years. Clark, who felt called to mission service while on a 2001 volunteer trip to When Ellard and Clark decided to request Thailand to paint a hostel for Karen youth, a Student.Go intern through CBF Global now work full-time assisting and building Missions, Mary Htoo immediately came relationships with the Karen in Louisville, to mind. Although other candidates might among other things. Like Mary Htoo, they have more missions training, “a student who have “returned” to the Karen without was Karen could help be a bridge for our traveling halfway around the globe. ministry,” Ellard reasoned. The couple, who were commissioned “Actually Mary Htoo shared with me in 2006 to minister among the Karen in a long time ago that she was interested in Louisville, were involved with Mary Htoo missions and helping her people,” Ellard and her family even before they arrived. The said. “In addition, we knew the Student.Go family was supposed to be sent to Louisville, experience would increase her exposure to the where some of their extended family had ways she could help her people.” already settled. Student.Go gives students the chance “to “But instead of Kentucky, their family experience firsthand the deep cries of the got sent to Kansas City by mistake,” Clark world and the response of God’s people in recalled. He and Ellard arranged to get service and love,” said Devita Parnell of CBF, the family transferred to Louisville and the who manages the Fellowship’s Young Baptist couple has been close to them ever since. Ecosystem. Ellard and Clark work up to 12 hours a The student missions initiative, day as advocates for the Karen. One day that which provides a stipend and networking could mean taking someone to a doctor or opportunities, is open to those who have leading a worship service in a Karen home. completed at least one year of college. The next day it could be going to court with Mary Htoo was receptive, and began someone who got a traffic ticket. volunteering even before applying for a When Mary Htoo arrived in Louisville Student.Go position. She served a semester at 15, she was immediately placed in high internship and then returned for a summer school, despite limited schooling and no term. Even though her terms have expired, knowledge of English. She had a lot of she continues to help Ellard and Clark. catching up to do and needed extra time to She served primarily as an interpreter get her diploma. But her progress has been for Karen residents, accompanying them remarkable, said Ellard. to doctor’s offices, government agencies, “She really has done well, and she is very hospitals and aid organizations. She helped determined,” Ellard added, noting that in them fill out job and aid applications and high school Mary Htoo was accepted into a other paperwork. very competitive magnet nursing program. “She did a lot of the same things Steve and Now she attends Jefferson Community I do,” Ellard said. and Technical College, where she is studying “I love working with Steve and Annette radiography. She hopes to become an and the Karen people,” Mary Htoo said. She ultrasound technician so she can deliver good and her parents saw the internship as a great news to expectant parents. way for her to augment her English skills and work experience. D E C E M B E R /J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 6
PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRISGEL RYAN CRUZ
The Mae La refugee camp sits along the border of Thailand and houses nearly 50,000 refugees. It is the largest refugee camp for Burmese in Thailand. More than 90 percent of those living in the camp are ethnic Karen.
Mary Htoo is one of the few international interns to participate in the Student.Go program and the first who came to the United States as a refugee, added Parnell. “Often Student.Go interns take on the role of learner, as they pay attention to a culture different from their own,” Parnell explained. “Mary Htoo, however, emerged from within her own culture to serve among her people in a unique way for which only she was prepared. What a beautiful picture of a modern-day Moses!” Mary Htoo said the most transformative experience of her internship was serving as an interpreter for a young pregnant Karen woman around her age. She worked with the young woman for about a year and became much more than an interpreter. “We got very close and she told me most all of the things she was feeling [about the pregnancy],” Mary Htoo said. “The night
before she delivered, she had contractions. She called me at 1 a.m. to drive her to the hospital,” while the woman’s husband stayed with their other children. Together, they waited nearly three hours for the baby to come but it was a false alarm. The doctors sent them home. The next day the contractions returned but much stronger. As they drove to the hospital, Mary Htoo said, she was afraid the woman was going to have the baby in the car. They made it to the hospital and waited through the night and next morning. Mary Htoo was there when the woman delivered that afternoon. In addition to interpreting, Mary Htoo helped Ellard and Clark determine what other services would be helpful and appropriate for the Karen, who are notoriously reluctant to ask for help.
She helped start a ministry to college students, which was crucial in encouraging them to stay in school. Given the financial strain on Karen families, “there’s a lot of temptation to go get a job after high school and not stay with college,” Ellard said. And when Ellard and Clark wanted to start a program to assist the Karen elders, Mary Htoo helped them understand that the elders didn’t want it. But because of their cultural value of extreme politeness, “they wouldn’t have told me,” Ellard recalled. The Karen are typically happy people who take life as it comes. But those who come to America, although relieved to escape violence and persecution, struggle with their new lives. “Life in an American city is very, very different from the mountain villages of the Karen State in Burma,” Clark explained. The language and cultural adjustments can be overwhelming.
“Most parents come here, not for themselves, but for their children,” he added. “They want their children to have an education and a future that they themselves did not have.” But many long for their former life and grow depressed as it sinks further into the past. “For them, life is not better here — just a different kind of difficult,” Ellard said. They have virtually no chance of returning to Burma and their lifestyles. The Karen opposed the military government that ruled Burma after the British left after World War II. The Karen State and other ethnic regions sought independent rule. For decades, armed Karen opposition groups have had skirmishes with government troops, while trapping civilians in the crossfire. A 2005 investigation by the New York Times documented abuse of the Karen by the Burmese army that included slave labor, systematic rape, the conscription of child soldiers, massacres and the deliberate destruction of villages, food sources and medical services. The result is the world’s longest-running civil war — and a perpetual, intractable refugee problem along the 1,500-mile border with Thailand. Although a civilian government recently assumed power and began instituting reforms, little has changed for Burma’s 6 million Karen, the country’s second largest ethnic group. The Thailand government allows the estimated 300,000 refugees to stay under constant threat of forced return to Burma. Even after 30 years of operating the “temporary” refugee camps, the Thai government still won’t allow permanent structures — only bamboo and leaves and plastic tarps can be used, and the huts have no running water or toilets. Refugees are not allowed to work outside the camps and there are very few jobs within
them. People live mostly on subsistence farming and handouts from aid groups, which also provide what limited health care is available. “Living there is pretty hard,” Mary Htoo said of the Mae La camp. “We didn’t have a lot of opportunity. My dad had to work very hard.” Despite the hardships, the camp was better than the danger Mary Htoo’s family left in Burma. Around 2001, a government soldier falsely accused her father of associating with the Karen rebels. He was arrested, interrogated and beaten, Mary Htoo said. “Our village leader talked the soldier into releasing my father, but he was scared that it would happen again.” So they left. Once in Thailand, the family sought third-country resettlement as refugees so they could leave for a better life elsewhere, yet they languished in Mae La for seven long years. Finally, one day in 2008 their chance came — approval to join relatives in the U.S. — but they had to leave immediately. “We did not know until that day,” Mary Htoo recalled. “We did not have time to prepare. We were at home. My brother was playing on the playground. They told me ‘we have to leave today.’ We were told, ‘Take everything that you can and leave, because the bus is waiting for you.’” “It was very scary and sad,” she said. “I left friends behind, and I will never see my relatives again.” Then she added quietly, “I didn’t get to say goodbye to my grandmother.” “My grandmother is like our mother,” she explained. “She took care of us when we were young because my mom was 15 when she was married.” Mary Htoo knows she probably will never see her grandmother again, who still remains in the Mae La camp waiting for resettlement approval. Her grandmaother is reluctant to
leave behind her other son — Mary Htoo’s uncle — who now lives in Bangkok, Thailand, and doesn’t qualify for refugee status. “Many Karen, especially those middleaged and older, would like to go back to their homeland and their traditional way of life, but they still do not have that choice,” said Clark. “Despite political progress in Burma, persecution and violence against the Karen and other ethnic minorities continues. They do not have hope to go home because they do not really see that as possible. The only folks we really hear talk about going back to stay usually mean going back to Thailand, not Burma,” he noted. For now, the 67,000 Karen refugees scattered worldwide bide their time and make the best life they can in strange lands. Karen Christians seek out places to worship with their American brethren. About 300 attend Crescent Hill Baptist Church in Louisville, where Ellard and Clark are members. Most attend a Karen-language service, but about 100 also join in the church’s traditional worship hour. Because of their presence, the church has adapted to become more eclectic and diverse. Crescent Hill Baptist provides Ellard and Clark with an office and space for some ministries. It also is an Encourager Church through CBF Global Missions and contributes support for Ellard and Clark’s ministries. The couple serves with the Karen throughout Louisville, working with a network of churches, agencies, medical facilities and other organizations. They also cooperate with refugee resettlement agencies, such as Catholic Charities and Kentucky Refugee Ministries, but play a different role. “The responsibility of the refugee agencies is resettlement,” Clark explained. “The responsibility of the church — and us as field personnel — is relationship.”
Mary Htoo and her father, Htoo Htoo participate in worship at Crescent Hill Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.
GREG WARNER is retired executive editor of Associated Baptist Press (now Baptist News Global) and a freelance writer living in Jacksonville, Fla.
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By Ashleigh Bugg n the winding stone streets of Antwerp, Belgium, children from more than 30 different ethnicities play. Some don religious head coverings while others wear their hair in intricate braids as they run through the fountains at a nearby park. Despite the violence they have witnessed, they laugh and dance alongside the sailing ships that sit in Europe’s second largest harbor. “Over 40 percent of school children in Antwerp are Muslim,” said Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel Janée Angel. “That’s not counting the other Arabic peoples who may be Christian or other faiths.” For the past 10 years, Janée has been in Belgium, living and working with Arabicspeaking people. Since the growing violence in Syria and ongoing violence in the Middle East, many immigrants have found refuge in countries like Belgium and Holland. However for many refugees, the horror is not over. “War has been a part of our life for the past four years,” Janée explained, motioning to her young daughter Phoebe who sits beside her. “For her entire life, war has been there. Phoebe hasn’t had a Christmas or holiday where her father wasn’t worried about his siblings in Syria.” Janée’s husband, Hary, is a native of Syria and currently serves in Antwerp, preaching and working alongside Janée as they plant churches. They lead the only Protestant Arabic church in Belgium outside the
metropolis of Brussels. Their church is one of just three Protestant Arabic churches in the entire country. Janée’s ministry has adjusted as the refugee situation worsens without signs of resolution. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, more than 320,000 people have died in the conflict since 2011. Nearly 12,000 of these deaths were children. “I’ve given up hope of ever visiting Hary’s family in Syria,” said Janée, whose husband still has family members trapped in the area. “Hary’s family can no longer afford bread to put on the table. Every day Hary’s sister-in-law walks four kilometers to gather a couple of buckets of drinking water. We’ve been working to get his family out of the country but the visa process is difficult,” Janée said. As the conflict heightens, Janée explained the war has become a part of her daily reality. “It’s different when you’re in the middle of it. It’s not just “those people” over there. When you have family in the heart of danger, war becomes much more personal.” Deaths and casualties aren’t the only effects of the constant violence. People are also forced from their homes. With more than half of Syrians displaced, many of the refugees have nowhere to go, seeking refuge in neighboring countries like Lebanon, where many face anti-immigrant sentiment and do not receive full rights and benefits. Others make the dangerous trek to Europe where the population is not always friendly.
In countries like France, resources for refugees can be scarce with the gap between immigrants and the majority population apparent. In some neighborhoods, migrants camp out on mattresses in the streets, less than 100 feet from young Parisians enjoying crepes at outdoor cafes. For Janée and Hary, reaching out to refugees and immigrants is a vital part of their work. She maintains the importance of understanding the Arabic-speaking world. “I think at this point it’s about awareness. There’s this idea about ‘those Muslims’ over there — that they’re terrible people. It’s very blind to the reality of the situation.” Janée and Hary do not just serve Syrians. Their small congregation includes people from Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia in addition to Syria. “When I first arrived here I struggled to understand the dynamics of the Muslim world. There are so many different groups and languages and sects,” Angel said. “I had to make a people chart.” Janée and Hary work with various groups including Arabs, Assyrians, Kurds, Chaldeans and Aramaic people. Some of these groups have been at odds with each other for centuries, and it can be a challenge to achieve harmony in the church. Some members are former Muslims, a fact that upsets some Christian members. Janée upholds the necessity for Christians to learn about the dynamics of the Middle East in order to help those being killed and persecuted.
in the Shadow of War “There’s a lack of understanding of the Arabic world,” Janée said. “The first step is education — this is not what some cable news programs tell you. These are real people.” There is no universal definition of the Arab world, but the 22 countries that make up the Arab League are generally acknowledged to be a part of this group. They include countries in the Middle East such as Iraq, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon along with North African countries like Egypt, Morocco, Somalia and Tunisia. Although some of the people groups that Janée and Hary serve come from the Arab League they may not see themselves as Arabs, including Kurds from Syria and Northern Iraq as well as Semitic minorities like Assyrians. Janée notes that not all Arabic people groups are Muslim and many who identify themselves as Christian or Islamic may not actively practice their religion, preferring to identify themselves from family history rather than personal faith. “Some may say they are Christian but they really don’t have an idea of what that means for them personally,” she explained. “Their ancestors were Christian so they say they’re Christian, too. It can be the same with Muslims.” A diverse group of faiths make up the Arabic-speaking world. Although about 90 percent of Arab League countries claim to be Muslim, there is a significant group of Christians and other religions represented.
For Janée and Hary, working in the shadow of war has been a challenge. They worry constantly about Hary’s family. However, even in the darkness, they have seen moments of resilience and hope. Janée told one particular story about a family member who was trying to enter Greece without proper documentation. She had a photo ID but it was apparent the picture was not of her. “It was a picture of her sister, but the picture looked nothing like her. They heard the Greek guards discussing her, saying ‘this is not the same woman,’” Janée said. Meanwhile, in Belgium, the family clustered around the phone waiting to hear if the family member would make it to safety. Janée was praying the entire time she would be able to reunite with her loved ones. “Suddenly the guard looked at her for a few moments and stamped her documents. He let her through even though it was obvious the visa wasn’t hers. Even my brother-in-law — who isn’t one to talk about God — said it was a miracle.” In the midst of war, Janée’s family and ministry have grown closer. She relies on her faith to continue despite the fear she has for her family still in Syria and Egypt. “All we can do is thank Jesus, even in this time,” Janée said. She emphasized the necessity of CBF churches in the United States to educate themselves on international issues and different faiths. Janée and Hary haven’t had an active relationship with an Encourager
Church for a few years but are hoping to enter in a partnership soon. The effects of not being understood by their supporters in the U.S. can be discouraging to their ministry, but they remain hopeful. “It’s hard since people don’t really see our faces or know who we are,” Janée said. “They have no idea how things really are.” Janée and Hary will continue their ministry among Arabic-speaking peoples in Belgium with optimism despite the challenges. “Stories are a good way to educate the church,” Janée said. “Even in war and sickness, there can be blessings.”
Janée Angel and her husband, Hary, are responding daily to the Syrian refugee crisis through a grant from CBF. You can learn more about CBF’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis on pp. 12-13. Donations to support the CBF Syrian Refugee Response may be made online at www.cbf.net/syria or by mailing a check payable to “CBF” with Acct. 17030 in the memo line to:
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship P.O. Box 102972 Atlanta, GA 30368-2972
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Partnering Together CBF celebrates renewed and strengthened partnership with Global Women Global Women Executive Director Stacy Blackmon and CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter met in Decatur, Ga., to sign the renewed partnership agreement between the organizations.
By Carrie McGuffin DECATUR, Ga. — With a recent signing ceremony, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Global Women have officially entered into a renewed partnership. With a like-minded vision and shared goals of empowering females across the globe, CBF and Global Women will strive together to build a more authentic and Christ-like community through shared work. The move toward strengthening ties between Global Women and CBF came in April, as CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter approached the organization with proposed steps to move from a “Networking” partnership to that of an “Identity Collaborative” model, which is multi-faceted and will relate to CBF across multiple departments and projects. Paynter emphasized that this new relationship is being forged at the most opportune time as both Global Women and CBF Global Missions are in transition. “For more than 10 years Global Women has been reaching out to women in congregations to connect them in meaningful and transformational ways to women around the world,” Paynter said in a memo to the Global Women Board of Directors. “Proudly and intentionally ecumenical, much of the work of Global Women has been supported by leaders and constituents in CBF churches. Global Women is experiencing a transition in leadership and acting on the opportunity for planning for the future. Likewise, there is also a re-visioning and strategic planning process for CBF Global Missions. The intersection of these two assessment processes in these two organizations has yielded an exploration of intentional steps for partnership between Global Women and CBF Global Missions” This transition in leadership for Global Women comes with the appointment of Executive Director Stacy Blackmon, who began serving in this role earlier in October. Blackmon is an accomplished strategist, communicator, partnership builder and transformational ministry leader dedicated to helping people thrive — especially women and children. She comes to Global Women from World Vision where she most recently served as a national director and organizational strategy project director.
With the tagline, “A catalyst for positive change on behalf of vulnerable women,” Global Women is a Christian nonprofit organization that envisions a world where every woman is empowered, valued and equipped to fulfill her unique purpose. Through global partnerships it seeks to walk alongside indigenous Christian women leading holistic ministries and support indigenous Christian organizations that address its five areas of initiatives. This partnership will draw on the alignment of values between the Fellowship and Global Women, seeking to provide a strategic approach to mission among women in neglected and marginalized communities around the world. This will also connect the CBF denomi-network with Global Women’s network of indigenous Christian women and like-minded organizations to address five initiative areas: clean water, maternal health, education, economic development and sex trafficking awareness and prevention. CBF Partnerships Manager Chris Boltin expressed his excitement for the future of these joint efforts, emphasizing the benefit to CBF congregations and field personnel through the partnership. “We are excited about what the future holds for our endeavors together, and we know that CBF congregations and field personnel will directly benefit from this collaboration. Building on a longstanding relationship, both organizations renewed a commitment to heighten awareness and response within the initiative areas.” Blackmon also expressed her excitement, speaking to the increased impact that collaboration will bring. “This renewed partnership between Global Women and CBF will enable greater stewardship of resources and ministry impact through strategic collaboration and prayer,” Blackmon said. “Global Women and CBF have a long history of providing mutual support for areas of shared vision. Through this partnership, we will continue to build relationships at all levels, leverage our collective strengths, and combine our passion and influence to become an even more powerful force for love in the world.”
To learn more about Global Women, visit their website at globalwomengo.org.
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CBF field personnel Diann Whisnand works with the Rio Grande Valley Literacy Center to help families along the United States-Mexico border break the cycle of poverty.
Visit cbf.net/affectonline for additional Opportunities to Affect, including: In Worship: A Litany At Home: With Children
LEARN Learn more about Diann Whisnand’s ministry at cbf.net/whisnand
PRAY Pray for Diann Whisnand and other CBF field personnel. Prayer requests from around the world are listed in Prayers of the People at cbf.net/pray
NETWORK Explore literacy ministries through videos, printed materials and Bible studies for all ages available at cbf.net/OGM
GIVE Your generous gifts to CBF’s Offering for Global Missions support field personnel worldwide. Find out more at cbf.net/give
Literacy Ministry IN SMALL GROUPS
Missions Education Resource The outline below is designed for adult mission groups, Bible study classes and other small groups. Share copies of fellowship! with group members prior to the meeting and have extra copies available. These suggestions are for a 45-minute time frame. 1. This session centers on the ministry of the Rio Grande Valley Literacy Center (RGVLC) and CBF field personnel Diann Whisnand. Read the article on pp. 8-11 in this issue of fellowship! magazine and gather copies for the participants. 2. On a flipchart or piece of paper, write the words “fought,” “rough,” “through,” “cough,” and “bough.” Invite the participants to read the words aloud together. 3. Say, “On paper, these words look similar. But as proficient English speakers, we know that they are each pronounced differently. No wonder they say English is a hard language to learn!” 4. Explain, “On the United States-Mexico border, the population of Hidalgo County is 90 percent Hispanic and nearly 50 percent of the residents are classified as illiterate. English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, as well as GED classes, cost money, which keeps many residents from being able to attend.” 5. Tell how the ministry, led by Diann Whisnand, began with ESL classes at Pharr United Methodist Church in 2003 and has since expanded across the county through
the RGVLC. Share how students are expected to invest in the ministry by giving 10 volunteer hours and staffing fundraising events so that others might be helped too. 6. Say, “Literacy classes change someone’s present and future.” Read aloud the paragraphs about Maria DeLeon on page 10. 7. Explain that hundreds of people in the area have taken classes at RGVLC, learning English and preparing for their GED, and are now passing the value of education down to their children. 8. Say, “Literacy and education classes are a concrete way to show the love of Jesus as we help our neighbor gain skills that set them up for new opportunities.” End with a prayer for the work of the RGVLC and Diann Whisnand.
David and Julie Brown serve in Paris, France, through Mosaic, a ministry that encourages contact between churches and believers from different countries around the world.
Visit cbf.net/affectonline for additional Opportunities to Affect, including: In Small Groups Around the Table: At Home
LEARN Learn more about the ministry of David and Julie Brown at cbf.net/brown
PRAY Enrich your prayer life and pray for CBF field personnel on their birthdays. Download CBF’s Prayers of the People resource at cbf.net/pray
NETWORK Explore opportunities to serve the Global Church at cbf.net/serve
GIVE Your generous gifts to the CBF Offering for Global Missions support field personnel worldwide. Find out more at cbf.net/give
Overcoming Differences AROUND THE TABLE: AT CHURCH Missions Education Resource
The outline below is designed to guide small group discussion around the tables during a mid-week study, prayer or fellowship time. Consider providing extra copies of fellowship! for individuals who want to learn more.
Before the session: Read the article “Overcoming Differences” on pp. 16-19 in this issue of fellowship! magazine. Have copies available for distribution. Be prepared to give a brief overview of the Mosaic ministry of David and Julie Brown in Paris.
Preparations for each table: Cut multiple colors of construction paper sheets into various straight-sided shapes (squares, rectangles, triangles, etc. — three to four pieces per sheet). Prepare enough for one or more per table, depending on the size of the group. Using a marker, write on each piece a word or phrase from the article that is descriptive of the Mosaic ministry. (David and Julie Brown, French Protestant churches, refugees, migrants, sermons, church visits, conferences, music, luncheons for pastors and leaders, festivals, reconciliation, spiritual needs, physical needs, interreligious friendship, hospitality, etc.) Place these pieces on the tables prior to the meeting. Prepare a large piece of poster board or butcher paper with the words from Ephesians 4:4 as a heading. Place this on a wall in the meeting room where it can be viewed by the group. On a small table place two to three glue sticks and copies of fellowship! magazine.
Begin the session by reading Ephesians 4:4. Explain that this is the mission statement for David and Julie Brown. Tell about the Mosaic ministry. In conclusion, say: “In art, a mosaic is formed by bringing together smaller, multicolored pieces to make a beautiful whole. The pieces of paper on your tables have words written on them. As I read a word, have someone from your table bring that word and place it on the poster board (butcher paper). We will be creating a mosaic of prayer for the Browns and their ministry.”(You may wish to have someone assist as needed.) Close with prayer for the Browns; the pastors, leaders and members of French Protestant churches; the various churches the Browns connect with; the immigrants and refugees in Paris, around the world and in your community, etc.
Option: If time permits, before the prayer, have table groups discuss opportunities in your congregation or community to overcome differences and build relationships with people from other countries.
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