A publication of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship • www.cbf.net
Heeds God’s Call to Serve Along the Border
CBF GENERAL ASSEMBLY COVERAGE
PAUL BAXLEY is Executive Coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
Because Presence Matters Why, when we are 30 years into our Fellowship’s life and ministry, are we still in the practice of commissioning and supporting long-term field personnel to serve in the United States and in 19 countries around the world? Why, even as I write this message, is our CBF Global Missions team in the process of considering several new field personnel appointments? Why do we celebrate the fact that seven of our field personnel units have served with CBF Global Missions for 25 years as of this fall? Why are we inviting congregations into closer relationships with field personnel for the mutual benefit of ministry around the world and in our communities? The answer? Because presence matters. The conviction that presence matters is central to the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The good news is not that God took notice of the plight of human beings and the depth of our sin and considered us at a distance. The good news is that in Jesus Christ, God has entered into human space and time. In Jesus, God is with us in our struggles, healing our diseases, forgiving our sins and redeeming the brokenness in the world around us. The good news is that God’s love for us is steadfast. It is not fleeting. The only way to bear faithful witness to that steadfast love of God is through presence. Our commitment to presence is lived out as we commission and sustain field personnel to serve around the world to cultivate beloved community, bear witness to Jesus and seek transformational development in response to the call of Jesus Christ. Our commitment to presence is lived out because we approach the ministries of our field personnel around the world with a commitment not only to be present while those field personnel are present, but to build ministries in partnership with local Christians and the Global Church that can last long after our field personnel are gone. It is increasingly rare in today’s world for denominational communities to make a commitment to long-term presence. More and more mission-sending organizations are focused on short-term placements because those are more affordable. Sometimes that
allows the commissioning of larger numbers of people because people come and go more frequently. More and more, it is the case that missionary personnel are asked not only to raise funds to support ministry programs, but also their salaries and benefits. Our Fellowship is different. Because presence matters, we send field personnel to serve for the long-term and to build ministries that will outlast them. Because presence matters, we invite our congregations into ministry alongside our field personnel, for the mutual equipping of congregations and field ministries, and for the transformation of congregations and communities around the world. The lifeline of our commitment to long-term presence is the Offering for Global Missions. Every dollar contributed to that Offering pays salaries, benefits and other “presence” costs for our field personnel. Most of our congregations support this Offering through special initiatives rather than through their regular budgets. During this persistent pandemic, the promotion and performance of special offerings have particularly suffered. And the Offering for Global Missions is no exception. At this moment, it is absolutely necessary that we renew and strengthen our support for the Offering for Global Missions. Our current field personnel are coordinating beautiful ministries around the world in simultaneous partnership with the Global Church and our congregations. We are prayerfully considering commissioning new field personnel next summer in Dallas. Our ability to make those commitments and the others God will call us to make will require that gifts to this Offering increase. So today I ask you to prayerfully consider increased support for the Offering for Global Missions. Join us in a more robust promotion of the Offering in your congregation this year. Invite someone on the CBF staff or one of our field personnel to visit your congregation. Give to support the long-term presence of field personnel. Why? Because presence matters.
Learn more about the CBF Offering for Global Missions and order resources to promote the Offering in your church at www.cbf.net/ogm.
A Publication Of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Volume 31, Number 3 Fall 2021
Fellowship! is published 4 times a year in September (Fall), December (Winter), March (Spring), June (Summer) 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.
Executive Coordinator Paul Baxley Associate Coordinator for Identity & Communications Jeff Huett Editor Aaron Weaver Associate Editor Carrie Harris Graphic Designer Jeff Langford
E-Mail email@example.com Phone (770) 220-1600 Postmaster: Send address changes to: Fellowship! Cooperative Baptist Fellowship 160 Clairemont Avenue, Suite 500 Decatur, GA 30030.
ROSALÍO SOSA HEEDS GOD’S CALL Ministers to migrants, fights racial injustice, advocates for the vulnerable By Elket Rodríguez
10 BEARING WITNESS TO
Remembering CBF field personnel Hunter Huff By Grayson Hester
COOPERATIVE BAPTISTS ARE RENEWED FROM THE INSIDE OUT Highlights from the 2021 CBF General Assembly By Carrie Harris and Aaron Weaver
22 CBF ENCOURAGER
CHURCH INITIATIVE A NATURAL FIT FOR CRESCENT HILL BAPTIST By Grayson Hester
26 DIRECTING CHANGE How Mission Oak Cliff’s Kevin Pranoto pushes through the pandemic By Jennifer Colosimo
FROM THE EDITORS Because Presence Matters. This is the theme that resonates throughout the pages of this fellowship! magazine and that drives the Offering for Global Missions for 2021-22. In these pages, join us in remembering CBF field personnel Hunter Huff, who served in Thailand alongside his wife, Mary, for 25 years. You can learn about his ministry of community and connection, as well as his great heart and humor on pp. 10-12. Like Hunter and Mary, we celebrate the gift of long-term presence through the work of CBF field personnel serving around the world including Karen Alford, who ministers in Togo through medical clinics. You can learn about her life-changing work on pp. 24-25. We invite you to pray for these and all of our other field personnel during our first annual Offering for Global Missions Week of Prayer, October 17-23. Learn more about the Week of Prayer on page 4 and order bulletin inserts to be used during this week in your congregation and find other downloadable resources to promote the Offering throughout the week and throughout the year at www.cbf.net/ogm. As you celebrate with us and pray with us this fall, we invite you to explore the impact of CBF missions and ministries. Through the breath of the Spirit, communities, lives and hearts are being transformed. Because presence matters.
18 CBF PODCAST INTERVIEW WITH DR. KRISTIN KOBES DU MEZ By Andy Hale
24 WHEN THINGS GO SOUTH CBF field personnel Karen Alford brings medical expertise and love for people to West Africa
AARON WEAVER is the Editor of fellowship! Connect with him at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Melody Harrell
30 AFFECT: OCTOBER 2021 Immigrant Relief Opportunities to
31 AFFECT: NOVEMBER 2021 The Road to Emmaus
CARRIE HARRIS is the Associate Editor of fellowship! Connect with her at email@example.com
Join us for the first annual Week of Prayer for the CBF Offering for Global Missions: Because Presence Matters.
October 17–22, 2021
Together, we will pray for CBF field personnel, missions work being done around the world and our Offering goal of $4 million. Prayer guides for use with your congregation, family, Sunday school class, or small group are available to download for free at www.cbf.net/ogm. We encourage you to host a CBF missions speaker in your church during the week of prayer! Learn more about available speakers and make a request at www.cbf.net/speakers.
CBF Book Club www.cbf.net/books
Brown Church: Five Centuries of Latina/o Social Justice, Theology and Identity
Featuring new subjects, great authors, more comprehensive reading guides and Fellowship-wide virtual events.
NOVEMBER 2021 Refugee
By Alan Gratz
By Robert Chao Romero Interest in and awareness of the demand for advocacy as an outworking of the Christian faith is growing. But it is not new. For 500 years, Latina/o culture and identity have been shaped by their challenges to the religious, socio-economic and political status quo, whether in opposition to Spanish colonialism, Latin American dictatorships, militarism in Central America, the oppression of farmworkers, or the current exploitation of undocumented immigrants. Christianity has played a significant role in that movement at every stage.
Josef is a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany. With the threat of concentration camps looming, he and his family board a ship bound for the other side of the world. Isabel is a Cuban girl in 1994. With riots and unrest plaguing her country, she and her family set out on a raft, hoping to find safety in America. Mahmoud is a Syrian boy in 2015. With his homeland torn apart by violence and destruction, he and his family begin a long trek toward Europe. All three kids go on harrowing journeys in search of refuge. All will face unimaginable dangers—from drownings to bombings to betrayals. But there is always the hope of tomorrow.
heeds God’s call
to minister to migrants, fight racial injustice, advocate for the vulnerable
Rosalío Sosa sat
ringside when boxing legends Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield battled for the world heavyweight title in 1997. As millions watched the sluggers, Sosa waged his own fight, struggling with God’s call to ministry. Holyfield defeated Tyson, and Sosa surrendered to God, although he felt like the winner. Twenty-four years later, Sosa is pastor of Iglesia Bautista Tierra de Oro in El Paso, Texas, and the 2021 recipient of CBF’s Emmanuel McCall Racial Justice Trailblazer Award. He also coordinates Red de Albergues para Migrantes—the Migrant Shelter Network—in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, providing leadership to Fellowship Southwest’s immigrant relief network. Sosa, who was one of six siblings, grew up in poverty. When he was nine years of age, he started selling lollipops at the bus station in Cuauhtémoc, Chihuahua, to support his family. At age 17, he moved to the United States dreaming of building a home for his mother, María del Socorro Martínez. At age
22, he accepted Christ as his Savior, only to later turn his back on God. On her deathbed, when he was 27, his mother made him promise he would never reject God again. Soon, he returned to Westway Baptist Church in El Paso as the outreach director. But God’s call in 1997 required a deeper commitment. So, there was Sosa, cornerman to Holyfield, a Christian who proclaimed God would help him defeat Tyson. Sosa doubted God would intervene, and that worried him. “I thought to myself, ‘If Holyfield loses, Christians will be ridiculed,’” he acknowledged. But Holyfield won after officials disqualified Tyson for biting Holyfield’s ear. It was then that Sosa surrendered to God’s call
By Elket Rodríguez
to become a pastor. “Here I am,” he told God. “That day, I lost all of my fear.” Since that time, Sosa hasn’t doubted God’s voice. And he has remained fearless in ministering to migrants, fighting racial injustice and advocating for the vulnerable. Following the fight, Sosa launched his first ministry to migrants. “I was preparing to be a pastor when I started ‘border ministries’ in the El Paso detention center,” he said. “We used to preach to detained migrants every Sunday.” After his ordination in 2004, he planted churches for the El Paso Baptist Association and started seven congregations, including Tierra de Oro—which he has led since 2007. Sosa says his passion for helping others came from his mother, who fed the needy in Cuauhtémoc. “My house in Mexico was known as Socorro’s house,” he said. Ironically, Socorro—which means help—is the name of the Texas town where he opened his first migrant shelter. “I am one of them,” he said of his love for immigrants. When he crossed into the United States in the 1980s, migration from Mexico was much easier than it is today. Still, like most immigrants, he suffered. “I know what it’s like to be hungry and to not have a home,” he said. “Migrants come to the U.S. because they are hungry, and they are desperate for help for their families, who are hungry and suffering abuses.”
Pastor Rosalío Sosa provides secure shelter in Northern Mexico for immigrant children from many parts of the globe, making sure they know they are loved and feel safe.
Jesus’ earthly parents were immigrants who fled persecution and sought refuge in another country, he recalled. “If it was fair for Mary and Joseph to seek refuge, it’s fair and logical for me to flee to another country,” Sosa explained. “I would not mind losing everything I have to save my family. So, who am I to judge them?” In August 2018, Sosa received a lifealtering phone call. Jorge Zapata, associate coordinator of CBF of Texas and founder of Hearts4Kids, a nonprofit serving the poorest communities in the Rio Grande Valley, asked Sosa to shelter 162 migrants in the next 30 minutes. Sosa called several Baptist pastors in El Paso to no avail. But a Pentecostal church, Camino de Vida, agreed to house the 162 migrants. “I cannot conceive that a pastor would prefer to have a cat or a dog in his air-conditioned building rather than sheltering people who don’t have a roof, especially women and children,” Sosa said. That experience led Sosa to encourage churches to shelter immigrants in El Paso and neighboring Juarez. In early 2019, the Trump Administration implemented its Migrant Protection Protocols—known as MPP. The policy forced thousands of asylum seekers to wait in northern Mexico for their cases to proceed through the U.S. immigration system. MPP prompted the birth of Red de Albergues para Migrantes—RAM—which
Relief workers, government leaders, law-enforcement officers and other pastors across the Mexican state of Chihuahua respect Sosa for his focus on collaborating to shelter immigrants in their midst. He’s a natural entrepreneur, and he finds solutions to logistical challenges that could block effective care. He even helps immigrants find work, which infuses them with dignity.
shelters 2,600 migrants. “We ran out of immigrants in El Paso,” he explained. “We started distributing food to the shelter-churches opening in Mexico, and that’s how RAM was born.” RAM’s shelter network coordinates with the Mexican government and other non-governmental organizations to serve migrants across Chihuahua. RAM also is a key partner in Fellowship Southwest’s immigrant relief ministry on the U.S.-Mexico border. “The network Rosalío has built is an incredible model for migrant ministry,” noted Fellowship Southwest Executive Director
Stephen Reeves. “The strength of his passionate personality and his commitment to serving the most vulnerable in the face of adversity has drawn others to this work, including government agencies. He’s done so while proudly waving the banner for Fellowship Southwest and CBF, and we’re equally proud to support his innovative, faithful service.” The shelter that requires most of Sosa’s energy is in Palomas, 100 miles west of Juarez, deep in the Chihuahuan desert. It sits astride one of the Western Hemisphere’s busiest drug-trafficking and
human-trafficking routes. Every day, border patrol expels dozens of immigrants caught entering the United States into Palomas. The little town doesn’t have a hospital; so Sosa transports injured immigrants—such as those who fall off the border wall—to Juarez for medical treatment. In that environment, Sosa has been a light in the darkness, protecting minors and women who are victims of human trafficking and criminal organizations. “Rosalío’s huge, fearless heart propels him to places most folks wouldn’t venture,” observed Marv Knox, founder of Fellowship Southwest. “He embodies the love of Jesus for folks who feel unloved. He’s the safety of the Spirit for people who feel completely vulnerable. He’s the power of God for the utterly powerless.” RAM’s shelters serve migrants from all over the world—predominantly Central Americans, but also Haitians, Nigerians, Cubans and Venezuelans. Despite differences between U.S. and Mexican immigration systems, Sosa has witnessed a dispiriting constant—Black and indigenous people suffer disproportionate discrimination. “With Blacks, U.S. and Mexican immigration officials are less impartial, and
they are more restrictive when applying the laws,” he said. In April 2019, Sosa helped free 800 Black immigrants illegally arrested in Tapachula, Chiapas, Mexico’s southernmost city and one of the world’s most important migration corridors. Local authorities are being investigated for torturing immigrants and violating their human rights. Sosa and others traveled to Tapachula to observe the migrant caravan and to assist local pastors willing to use their churches to shelter immigrants. When they arrived, they witnessed more than 4,000 immigrants, predominantly Black immigrants, gathered around the detention center. Some told Sosa that Mexican immigration officers had imprisoned their relatives for no apparent reason. “I tried to get inside the station, but I was not allowed in,” he said. So, the next day, he returned, accompanied by a Mexican senator. “The immigration officials gave us a tour of what they wanted us to see—the empty cells,” he said. “But I insisted on seeing the yard, where I could hear people screaming.” Sosa saw more than 800 hungry Black migrants in the overcrowded yard. “The officers told us the migrants were not
arrested or detained, but ‘sheltered’ to avoid disturbing the community,” he said. “But they were kidnapped, and all were Black.” Since the immigration officers had admitted that the immigrants were not detained, Sosa broke the lock and let the migrants out. “Some hadn’t eaten in days,” he reported. RAM partners with attorney Florentina Jurado to denounce human right violations to the Mexican government. “I work making sure the Mexican government doesn’t infringe upon the human rights of migrants,” said Jurado, who helps Sosa file complaints against Mexican immigration officers when migrants are mistreated, injured or abused. “I help migrants out of love for Christ. He sacrificed for me. He pulled me out of the miry clay. He got his hands dirty for me,” Sosa said. “I do what God tells me to do, and that’s it.” In 1997, boxer Holyfield wrote the words of Philippians 4:13 in his trunks. Today, Sosa is convinced he can do everything in Christ who strengthens him. “No dudo nunca más,” he concluded. “I never doubt again.”
Whether he’s meeting with a shelter director (left) or sharing the gospel with immigrants (right), Sosa exudes empathy and compassion. “I am one of them,” he says, explaining his love for immigrants. “I know what it’s like to be hungry and not have a home.”
IMMIGRANT RELIEF MINISTRY
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW AND HOW YOU CAN RESPOND Watch the CBF Gathering documentary episode on Immigrant Relief Ministry at the U.S.-Mexico border. Hear from migrants describing their journey to the border and the perils that confront them. Fellowship Southwest pastors share about their ministry and what is needed to care for migrants and learn how you can pray for this vital work and support policies that ensure migrants’ well-being.
CBF field personnel Hunter Huff served for 25 years alongside his wife, Mary, in Thailand. Together, they ministered through the provision of secondary education scholarships and supporting outreach to homeless undocumented child immigrants.
Bearing Witness to Jesus Christ Remembering CBF field personnel Hunter Huff (1960 – 2021) By Grayson Hester 10 |
(Left) Members from First Baptist Church of Abilene, Texas, joined Hunter and Mary in Thailand to minister alongside them and Thailand Baptist Convention partners. (Right) Hunter Huff was known for his zeal for life and belief that sharing the love of Christ meant meeting people where they are.
decades of kingdom building work, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel Hunter Huff made his way home to God following an extended battle with cancer. A life of service, faith, humor, devotion, and good, holy work drew to a close on July 29, 2021. Surviving him and continuing his legacy are his wife, Mary, and his children, Caleb and Hannah. His days on this earth ended much as they began—surrounded by loving family in the U.S. American South, bookends to an adventurous, illustrious life of service centered primarily in Thailand. Born in 1960 in Monroe, Louisiana, but spending most of his upbringing in Mississippi, Hunter seemed destined, even from an early age, not only to engage in ministry, but to do it in sauna-like climates. As a student at Mississippi State University (MSU), he traveled to Israel as a summer and semester minister utilizing his God-given gift to “go.” After graduation from MSU, Hunter earned a degree
from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and met Mary Byrd who would become his wife and partner in ministry. They began their CBF journey together in 1996 after four years of church service in Hampton, Virginia. In keeping with his philosophy of ministry—“It’s not just what we do but how we do it”—Hunter brought immense passion, humor, humility and intelligence to each of the diverse tables at which he sat. “Hunter wasn’t only my colleague but a dear friend. Hunter’s love for life, his sense of humor, and his desire to follow God’s calling was contagious, and I enjoyed spending time with him,” said Becky Hall, Associate Coordinator of Operations for CBF. “Over the 25 years we worked together, I looked forward to our visits, whether it be a team meeting in Asia, or when Hunter and Mary were passing through Georgia on the way to visit family. He will be missed.” This desire to follow God’s calling led the Huff family to Thailand. So integral is Hunter’s story to the CBF story that the two even share a common beginning in which work was focused on connection with ethnic minorities providing a variety of theological and social services. According to Hunter and Mary’s CBF bio, “In a country where less than one percent of the population is Christian and Christian resources are written from a different perspective, much of the FALL 2021
Hunter Huff lived, breathed and embodied ministry—fulfilling his calling with excellence and leaving a lasting legacy after 25 years of work.
ministry is outreach and creating and providing resources with the appropriate terminology.” By translating the Bible into terminology more conducive to these ethnic groups for use in print and virtually, Hunter and Mary were opening the door to the kingdom of God for the people with whom they served. Sharing the love of Christ inevitably involves meeting people at their various points of need. For Hunter and Mary this has included provision of secondary educational scholarships, supporting outreach to homeless undocumented child immigrants, assisting in the process of securing land rights, securing grant money for community development projects, and more. It bears repeating, though, that it’s not just that Hunter and Mary have provided services; it’s how they have gone about it. It is in this way that Hunter was truly uncommon. “From evangelism to Bible translation, Hunter employed a big heart, self-deprecating humor, and a keen mind to build bridges across cultures and conflicts,” said CBF GM Coordinator Steven Porter. “He was, in a word, a peacemaker.”
“FROM EVANGELISM TO BIBLE TRANSLATION, HUNTER EMPLOYED A BIG HEART, SELF-DEPRECATING HUMOR, AND A KEEN MIND TO BUILD BRIDGES ACROSS CULTURES AND CONFLICTS.” Hunter, as a peacemaker, was certainly a son of God. He was held in high earthly esteem, too, cultivating trust and rapport with every organization, people group and church with which he did work. “Hunter’s easy-going nature, humility, and genuine love for Jesus and others established him as a natural leader within CBF Global work and the Thailand Baptist Fellowship,” Porter said. In addition to the Thailand Baptist Fellowship, Hunter partnered alongside the Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT), the United Bible Society, the Thailand Bible Society, the Social Development and Service Unit of the CCT, and the governing board of the Peace Community Foundation. Hunter believed, “Our witness is a natural overflow of our relationship with Christ and thus is simply a part of who we are.” Others saw the way he lived out this belief and desired partnership with him. Ministry in this context was as much a part of Hunter’s DNA as blood, as integral to his being as spirit. It wasn’t something he did; it’s something he lived, breathed and embodied. It was this heart that enabled Hunter to fulfill his calling with such excellence. “It’s a rare honor for a field person to be so trusted by national colleagues that he’s repeatedly asked to be the ‘go-to’ in
communication between ministry and national agencies,” said CBF Associate Coordinator Sam Harrell. “That honor comes only through long, trusted association and friendship and was accorded to Hunter in his relationship with the Thailand Baptist Fellowship so much so that they wouldn’t let him rotate off! He held the position for years past his initial term!” It is no small feat to end a career of 25 years, to finish a life of 61 years, and leave behind a legacy as luminous as it is loving, as full of humor as it is devotion, as teeming with devotion as it is excellence. But that’s Hunter—no small feats in a larger-than-life life. “Hunter was a connector. His skill, wit, sensitivity and disarming style will be sorely missed,” Harrell shared. CBF field personnel colleagues Cindy and Eddy Ruble remembered Hunter for his humor and wisdom. “Hunter’s life was the consummate articulation of the Gospel lived out,” Eddy said. “He was loved by many across the world and will be missed dearly.” “We remember Hunter as the kind, funny, caring and disarming man he was,” Cindy added. “He left his mark on all of our hearts and will be greatly missed.” Hunter’s life lives on in heaven as surely as his legacy will endure on earth. From Monroe, La., to Mississippi, to Israel, to Kentucky, to Thailand, and back to Georgia, everywhere Hunter walked, the footprints of Christ were imprinted in his wake. “Believers need to work out of the gifts and talents that the Lord has given them. I believe one of the most important elements of ministry is that Christians should love one another, and our ministry should reflect that love and grace,” Hunter once observed. “He did,” Porter said. “In life and death, Hunter Huff bore witness to Jesus Christ.”
COOPERATIVE BAPTISTS ARE
RENEWED FROM THE INSIDE OUT DURING VIRTUAL 2021 ASSEMBLY By Carrie Harris and Aaron Weaver
CBF General Assembly officially kicked off Wednesday, August 25, with a slate of four workshop opportunities in both English and Spanish. Two Spanish-language workshops, hosted by Familia, CBF’s Latino Network, focused on opportunities for Latino/as in theological education and preaching in the Latino/a context. In a second session, Tito Madrazo of the Lilly Endowment gave an overview of the richness of Hispanic church preaching based on his latest book, Predicadores, with CBF Ministries Council member Jesús Garcia as moderator. During a two-hour live Zoom session, four CBF pastors shared the challenges they have faced by preaching in the pandemics of COVID-19, racial injustice and toxic politics. They also spoke to where they are experiencing renewal. A second live Zoom session focused on expanding engagement in the local church. Following the opening worship, Cooperative Baptists attended two workshop
sessions featuring 12 engaging discussions on diverse topics including investment solutions for local churches, responding to Christian nationalism, welcoming immigrants and refugees, decolonizing Jesus (en Español), how migration molds our faith, rethinking religious experience and conversion, women answering the call to serve in missions and more. The second day of the 2021 General Assembly also included the meetings of 10 different CBF networks, as well as two hour-long sessions for small groups of attendees to gather for a time of fellowship and debriefing. During the third day of the Assembly, Cooperative Baptists celebrated the 2021 recipients of the McCall Racial Justice Trailblazer Award, the 20th Anniversary of CBF’s rural development coalition, Together
for Hope, Missions Excellence Award winners, the Carl Hart Award winner for excellence in chaplaincy and pastoral ministry and the upcoming partnership with the Association for Hispanic Theological Education to host the Justo and Catherine González Resource Center at the CBF Global offices in Decatur, Ga. During the final worship service, the Fellowship lifted newly-commissioned CBF chaplains and pastoral counselors in prayer.
In bilingual sermon at CBF General Assembly, Martino and Vargas issue challenge to rebuild the table, make bold dreams a reality Daniel Martino and Antonio Vargas Jr., senior pastor and associate pastor respectively of Church of the City in New London, Conn., offered bilingual preaching and reflection for Assembly attendees, encouraging Cooperative Baptists with the words of Paul: “Do not lose heart.” “The Apostle Paul emphasizes that this renewal has to do with what is not tangible,”
Catch up on all the things you may have missed, including all worship and workshop videos at www.cbf.net/assembly2021. Cooperative Baptists had the opportunity to worship together, hearing a bilingual sermon from Antonio Vargas and Daniel Martino (left), music from pianist Daniel Solberg (center) and a reading from Margie Rivera (right).
Leaders from across the country and around the world came together virtually for times of worship including (left to right) chaplain Paul Byrd, Student.Go intern Yamilla Mateo, singers from Amani Sasa ministries in Kampala, Uganda, pastor Wendy Peacock and musician Jon Chacko.
they said. “These things that we cannot control often cause uncertainty. But it is right there in that uncertainty where we find restoration, revival and renewal.” While the Word and the wind of the Spirit are what guide and lead us, they said, the Holy Spirit transcends the limits of reason to renew our minds and facilitate our going into uncharted territory. “New territory toward justice,” said Vargas and Martino, “Of a clear identity. Of growth. New territories toward holistic diversity— racial, ethnic, ideological, theological, socio-economic, gender and age.” With this new territory of diversity, they added, we can realize the mission field in our own backyards and recognize that the Spirit will lead us where we need to go. The preachers asked Cooperative Baptists to look around them in this moment and ask who is missing here—who from the family of God has not received an invitation to the Fellowship? “While we often talk about expanding the table or even resetting the table, as a Fellowship, let us aspire in this new season to rebuild the table with integrity and respect,” said Martino and Vargas. “It is the Word that has given us the foundational raw materials for this table, and yet it is the wind that gives us new directions to rebuild. New grooves, new shapes and new colors.” Vargas and Martino spoke not only of invitation, but of rebuilding—even when it may be uncomfortable. And as we invite and rebuild, we also celebrate how far we have come in CBF’s 30 years.
“Our hope for CBF is that we can remember what God has shown us and make these bold dreams a reality,” they said. “We don’t lose heart because we are being renewed by the wind and the Word. With us or without us, God is doing a new thing. And let us be mindful of this: Bold dreams are given to bold people who have the grace, the endurance, the willingness to deliver on these dreams.” To make these bold dreams a reality, the pastors offered a challenge: “God is counting on you, and God is counting on me.”
“Do not lose heart,” Baxley tells Cooperative Baptists during Friday plenary “Do not lose heart.” Citing the Apostle Paul, CBF Executive Coordinator Paul Baxley delivered this message to attendees during the Friday morning plenary session of the 2021 General Assembly as he focused his remarks on the challenges of the past 18 months. In his Executive Coordinator Report, Baxley encouraged Cooperative Baptists to be honest about the exhaustion they feel while seeking to create and find spaces of healing and restoration in the midst of a public health crisis, hyper-partisanship and systemic racism. “I want you to know today that even in the midst of this difficult and challenging journey, and even in this Assembly that isn’t everything we first imagined it would be, I believe we can also declare: ‘So we do not lose heart,’” Baxley said. “Sisters and brothers in Christ, I believe in the depth of my being
that in the midst of these deeply challenging days, we have seen signs of the Spirit’s work of renewal all across our Cooperative Baptist Fellowship most generously defined. Because we are already experiencing God’s renewing power, we do not lose heart!” Baxley affirmed the work of CBF congregations, ministers, lay leaders, CBF field personnel, chaplains and pastoral counselors, young Baptists, CBF partner organizations, theological schools, state and regional leaders and the CBF Global staff.
Reflections of Outgoing CBF Moderator CBF Moderator Carol McEntyre shared her reflections leading the Fellowship during the 2020-2021 year, emphasizing the “unique and challenging time” it has been as both Moderator and a pastor. “I want to begin with a word to CBF pastors and congregational ministers,” she said. “We never dreamed we would be managing COVID-19 task forces in our churches or ministering to so many virtual worshipers who may not live in our communities. We have been doing these things while preaching and offering a word of hope and providing pastoral care when many people in our congregations feel overwhelmed and angry about the state of the world. This has been a heavy pastoral load to bear. But somehow CBF pastors and other ministers have found the energy to be creative. You have gone to great lengths to minister to people. You have been brave in our polarized culture, and it has cost some of you.”
“Like our churches, the Fellowship has also adapted to these unprecedented times,” McEntyre continued. “This has been a year of creativity as we have learned to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ in creative ways and I’m proud of how our staff and field personnel have ministered in these difficult times.”
Dreams of the Incoming CBF Moderator Incoming CBF Moderator Patricia Wilson reflected on her experiences serving on the Collaborative Response Team of the Toward Bold Faithfulness process. “I believe we have developed a plan that positions the Fellowship well for the challenges of the future, both those that are known and hopefully for those we cannot anticipate,” Wilson said. “If there is one thing we have learned from the pandemic, it is the need to be agile and adaptive.” “I believe that our plan maintains and strengthens the core values of the Fellowship while setting the stage for CBF to adapt to the challenges of a changing world,” she added. “My hope this year is that we will truly act boldly and faithfully in our plans.”
Alabama lay leader Debbie McDaniel named CBF Moderator-Elect for 2021-22 A lay leader deeply involved in CBF and member of First Baptist Church, Huntsville,
Ala., became the next Moderator-Elect for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship at the 2021 General Assembly. The CBF Nominating Committee has selected Debbie McDaniel to serve as Moderator-Elect in 2021-2022 and Moderator in 2022-2023. For the past five years, McDaniel has served on the CBF Ministries Council and was its chair in 2020-2021. She has also served on CBF’s A New Covenant Commission as well as on the coordinating councils of Alabama CBF and Oklahoma CBF. She is currently a member of the Strategic Advisory Board of CBF-partner Good Faith Media, and served on the board of directors of Baptists Today/ Nurturing Faith from 2018-2020.
General Assembly concludes with commissioning, call to lean into ‘holy invitation of renewal’ “Lean into the holy invitation of renewal” was the encouraging word of the Rev. Emily Hull McGee to attendees gathered virtually for the concluding worship and commissioning service of the 2021 CBF General Assembly. Hull McGee, who serves as senior pastor of First Baptist Church on Fifth in WinstonSalem, N.C., urged Cooperative Baptists to think about the twin parables of the sower and the mustard seed—that in these there is no promise of success, but rather a reminder that God’s kingdom comes in due time, deep
within the soil—even when we may not see it. But this is where the possibility of renewal and transformation comes alive. “Every church is vulnerable right now,” she explained. “How easy it would be for our churches to respond to those feelings of vulnerability with activity.” How easy it would be to be led by anxiety instead, she said, holding on to what we have in scarcity rather than trusting the mystery of our soil and how God is at work. “I wonder what gift might a vulnerable church offer to our communities and our cities,” Hull McGee asked. “A church that is vulnerable, honest and humble. One that tells the truth and loves in a big and bold way. A church that tends the soil and nurtures the ground. A church that trusts the fertile mystery of what God does beyond our efforting. A church that holds space for death and life, beginnings and endings, to become fertile ground for renewal. “That is the kind of church this world needs. That’s the kind of church I want to be a part of. That’s the kind of church that would bring renewal to its members and its friends and any around them. That’s the kind of church that seeds black ash trees and watches as mustard seeds become shady places of safety and resurrection. That is the kind of church that like the soil beneath our feet, contains multitudes. That’s the kind of church that has come alive.”
The Assembly concluded with a worship service of commissioning, with leadership from (left to right) Emily Hull McGee, Paul Baxley, Steven Porter, Michelle Norman, Fredricc Brock and Renée Owen. FALL 2021
of your gifts to the Offering
will support CBF field personnel serving in the U.S. and around the world.
Learn more and find resources to promote the Offering in your church at www.cbf.net/OGM.
CBF Podcast Interview with Dr. Kristin Kobes Du Mez By Andy Hale
Kristin Kobes Du Mez is professor of history at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and is the author of Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation.
children were younger, I thoroughly enjoyed their age-appropriate puzzles. It was so easy to fit those pieces into the preexisting shape on the puzzle board. Now that they are getting older, we are attempting to tackle the 1,000-piece Star Wars puzzle sets. Occasionally, in the jumbled mess of a playroom, we would come across a wayward puzzle piece without a board. No matter how hard we would try, that piece was not going to fit into the preexisting shapes on the board. Have you ever felt this way about American evangelicalism? You’ve got this piece for politics, this other piece for economics, another piece for foreign policy, yet another piece for domestic issues, and still one more piece for gender and sexuality. The problem is not the piece one has complied. No, it’s the fact that these pieces do not fit together with the Jesus of Nazareth presented in the Gospels. I recently sat down with Dr. Kristin Kobes Du Mez, professor of history at Calvin University and author of the popular new book, Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, to discuss the historical account of why these seemingly contradictory perspectives of White evangelicals do not fit in with the Gospel narrative. Read an excerpt below from our conversation and listen to the full episode of the CBF Podcast at www.cbf.net/dumez.
Recent CBF Podcast guests include Jen Hatmaker, Jemar Tisby, Tod Bolsinger, Sarah Bessey and Tish Harrison Warren. Listen at www.cbf.net/podcast 18 |
REV. ANDY HALE: Your book, Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, unpacks a 75-year period of the reshaping of culture, politics, gender roles and marriage by evangelicalism. For those who grew up in the evangelical tradition, the definition of marriage and gender roles was just as predictable as churches singing the latest Michael W. Smith or Chris Tomlin song in a contemporary worship service on Sunday morning. There’s a whole cottage industry of warrior motifs for Christian masculinity which you’ve thoroughly outlined in the book. However, if we set aside the problematic views of evangelical writers on marriage and gender roles and we pick up Scripture instead, we find that the Bible itself is full of some pretty toxic masculine figures. So how can post-evangelicals, who hold Scripture to be sacred, use the Bible as a source for understanding these subjects in a healthy way? DR. KRISTIN KOBES DU MEZ: Instead of talking about biblical marriage, we really need to talk about a Christ-centered marriage. And I think that gets to something essential here. The Bible is filled with all kinds of stories. And in the Bible, these stories take place against a very patriarchal backdrop. I mean, talk about good guys and bad guys! There are very few purely good guys in the Bible; but we do have Christ himself. Christ is the center of our faith. And so, all of these stories in the Bible really do need to be interpreted in light of the central gospel message, in light of the life and work of the Christ and Jesus model. What’s interesting is that evangelicals love their heroes. They need to have somebody after whom they can model their masculinity. Therefore, you see the elevation of John Wayne and Braveheart’s William Wallace. But why isn’t Jesus enough? Of course, we can’t all be as Christ; but we are called to take up our cross and follow Jesus. When I look at the gospels, what is so revolutionary about Christianity is the figure of Christ and how he absolutely disrupts human notions of what he should be as the Messiah. He absolutely disrupts human understandings of power, right? He divests himself of power and offers himself for the salvation of the world. Jesus washes his disciples’ feet and he continually messes with their understanding of power and hierarchy. To me, that’s what’s so radical about Christianity. That is what draws me to the faith. And that is what really resonates with me spiritually as being good and true. And that really needs to be our starting point. And then all of the other biblical narratives need to be interpreted in that light. HALE: There is a fascinating shift happening among the evangelical culture, where many of the big-name pastors and organizational leaders have been silenced by the conservative political narrative. What does it tell you about the current religious political landscape that evangelicals would rather remain faithful to a political figure and his ideals rather than to faith leaders? DU MEZ: This is where the significance of this evangelicalism as a culture rather than a doctrinal statement comes into play. Many
evangelicals are far more deeply formed by the media they consume then they are by the words that their local pastor preaches on a Sunday morning. They are being influenced by “Christian” radio and publishing. But overwhelmingly, they are turning to news sources and secular talk radio. And so these are the influences that really disciple generations of evangelicals. And some pastors may themselves be deeply influenced by these sources. HALE: So, most of evangelicals are more likely to get their truth from Tucker Carlson than from the pulpit on a Sunday morning? DU MEZ: Absolutely. Yep. HALE: How do evangelicals justify their belief in Jesus, but then neglect his call to peace and love? DU MEZ: So, what I have come to see is that for all of their talk of being “Bible-believing Christians,” there are many passages and many words of Christ that they are willing to kind of bracket to dismiss or to explain away. Many of the writers who are promoting this militant vision of masculinity and militant consumption of Christianity simply say, “You can’t teach a boy to become a man if you tell him to turn the other cheek. You can’t uphold the fruits of the Spirit because that road leads to emasculation.” Therefore, you see Jesus presented as a warrior with tattoos down his leg, wielding a bloody sword and charging into battle. HALE: As much as former and current evangelicals want to ignore it, the movement cannot be separated from a dense history of racism. DU MEZ: I set out to write a book about gender and I ended up writing a book about race as well, because the ideal Christian man was portrayed to be a white man in the current literature, and a white man who would use violence to bring order. I just wanted to make that visible, since so often in evangelical spaces, race is invisible. Evangelicals have embraced and perpetuated this notion of colorblindness. And this was something that came out of the 1960s after it became less palatable to hold explicitly racist views. The thought of many evangelicals was, “Okay, there, you civil rights folks. You got your civil rights, your Voting Rights Act, your Civil Rights Act. So, we’re good. Now let’s just get on with things.” And anybody who said, “No, there’s still more to be done,” was seen as a troublemaker, was disruptive. And many evangelicals really deeply believe that they are not racist, that they do not hold any personal animosity towards people of other races. There’s this unwillingness to understand structural racism. And it’s really hard to examine critically if the policies and allegiances of conservative white evangelicals today actually do align with biblical values and the biblical call for love of neighbor and the call to do justice and love kindness. And we need to know what we’re dealing with in order to know how we should respond obediently to God.
Keep Shaping the Future of Our Fellowship! Take the Aspirational Diversity Survey We want to hear from you!
In September 2019, CBF began a one-year journey Toward Bold Faithfulness, seeking first to discover and then to respond to God’s call for our Fellowship in this fourth decade of ministry. That journey discovered that “aspirational diversity” is one of the most powerful gifts of CBF congregations. CBF is excited to launch a new and important survey exploring missions, advocacy and justice issues in partnership with the Public Religion Research Institute as a follow-up to the Toward Bold Faithfulness survey to gauge the opinions of Cooperative Baptists on “aspirational diversity.” This survey will be available through the end of November.
CBF Encourager Church initiative a natural fit for
Crescent Hill Baptist
rescent Hill Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., officially joined CBF’s Encourager Church initiative in 2019. But it had been doing the work of field personnel encouragement years before that.
Crescent Hill apart from most Baptist churches is their longstanding relationship with Karen members and the broader Karen community in Louisville, who have lived there since 2007. The U. S. State Department, at the time, made a concerted effort to resettle the Karen community, in light of their home country, Burma—more commonly known as Myanmar—refusing to grant them citizenship. Due to favorable job conditions, Louisville suddenly found itself a hub of Karen life in the United States. The Karen population there numbers roughly 500, a not insignificant chunk of the 10,000 who live in the country as a whole. And due to ties that had “Our Encourager Church program came about naturally. It wasn’t previously been established with the Karen people, a shared Baptist something we sought out particularly,” said Andrea Woolley, co-pastor identity and, most crucially, the availability of an interpreter, Crescent and minister of spiritual formation, families, and community. “We were Hill suddenly became a main artery of Karen religious life in the city. already doing that, so we simply made it official.” “One Sunday in February 2007, about a dozen Karen folks showed The basic idea of the Encourager Church initiative is to give up. The next Sunday, it was 24, and then 48! It was doubling each CBF field personnel, both here and abroad, a partner church on whom week,” Crosby said. “Now we have 100 Karen folks coming every they can rely for prayer, community and various kinds of material Sunday.” support—donations, supplies and the like. The ethos of CBF Global Missions and its Encourager Church For those spending their lives away from where they grew up, initiative intersected and manifested in Crescent Hill’s serendipitous Encourager Churches can be something like home. identity, as the church sprang into action caring for its new members “This has opened up great opportunities to partner with these by providing services like interpretation, homework help, and folks on the ground to really engage and assist them in their good assistance in navigating the minefield of bureaucracy associated with work,” said Jason Crosby, co-pastor and minister of preaching, citizenship, housing and other key features of American life. pastoral care, and administration. “Without that intentionality, we But it was not merely a one-sided, paternalistic effort. If Crescent would not be as knowledgeable and aware of the good work they’re Hill provided the Karen people services, the Karen people provided doing.” Crescent Hill with something more inestimable in its value. “Rather Currently, Crescent Hill encourages three CBF field personnel than the gospel going forth from the U.S. to Burma, in many respects, ministries across the country: Rick and Ellen Burnette with Cultivate the Karen brought the gospel we needed,” Crosby said. “It’s not their Abundance in South Florida; Scarlette Jasper with Olive Branch theological perspective. It’s their way of being, their faithfulness. That Ministries in McCreary County, Ky.; and Steve Clark and Annette kind of experience and faithfulness was the good news that they Ellard in Louisville. brought to us.” Doing this work “made perfect sense,” according to Crosby. Crosby goes so far to say that, if not for the Karen people, “We were already doing it with Steve and Annette, so it was really Crescent Hill likely wouldn’t exist. When nearby Southern Baptist low-hanging fruit. We said, ‘Sign us up! We’ve got those bases Theological Seminary cut ties—a result of the SBC’s fundamentalist covered.’” takeover—the church experienced nothing short of an existential Clark and Ellard are long-time members of Crescent Hill whose crisis. The Karen people helped provide a resolution. They helped ministry focuses on the Karen people of Burma. It is their ministry, provide, in short, an identity. and the broader ministry of Crescent Hill, that made the church’s “This whole event makes me believe in God. I don’t think there’s transition to the Encourager Church initiative so seamless. What sets an identity that could have been manufactured by any individual
By Grayson Hester
Crescent Hill Baptist pastor Jason Crosby said the Karen people helped the congregation discover a new identity defined by radical hospitality. (Top Left) Crescent Hill 1st-5th grade choir sings pre-pandemic during Sunday morning service. (Top right) Karen students Zaw Lay Wee (left) and Htee Thaw (right), pictured with pastor Andrea Woolley, offer the benediction during Children’s Sunday in 2018.
within the church that could have filled the void,” Crosby said. “It was a divine, providential power sweeping in and putting it in our lap for that new identity to be made manifest.” Crosby described the new identity as being defined by “radical hospitality” and instilled by people from thousands of miles away, that lent itself so easily to the Encourager Church right here in the Southeastern U.S. “A natural part of being church is encouraging field personnel in that capacity,” Woolley said. “We can’t be everywhere, and that’s why we have CBF field personnel. If we can walk alongside them, even at great distances, if we can support them, that’s the natural response of a church.”
Interested in learning how your congregation can become an Encourager Church with CBF field personnel? Learn more at www.cbf.net/encourager-church. FALL 2021
WHEN THINGS GO SOUTH CBF field personnel Karen Alford brings medical expertise, love for people to West Africa By Melody Harrell
CBF field personnel Karen Alford (top) ministers in Vogan, Togo, West Africa, through medical clinics in partnership with the Christian Mission for the Community Development of Togo.
Karen Alford makes people well. As Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel in Vogan, West Africa, Karen’s training as a nurse practitioner is not only a credential, it is a calling. As she dispenses medication, she also dispenses education about how our bodies work, how recovery happens, how patients can bring their own initiative to bear on their healing with good nutrition, good hygiene and best health practices. Karen’s favorite tool is relationship. And she does that well, engaging patients about their life circumstances, listening to their stories and providing compassionate care in good measure. But every now and then, Karen faces challenges that severely limit her options. That was the case recently with Bayi, a patient in her late 70s. Bayi had come to the clinic in Vogan with a wound on her ankle which had occurred after a fall and, as Karen put it, “really wasn’t that bad.” Still, she was unable to walk as evidenced by the fact the family had to carry her in. Karen recognized right away that the ankle wasn’t straight and advised they go to the local hospital for an x-ray to rule out a fracture, something her own clinic could not provide. A month later, Bayi returned to the clinic. Upon her examination, Karen was immediately alarmed. “At this point”, Karen said, “the ankle had necrosed (tissue had died) until the shattered ankle bone was sticking out on both sides and the entire foot was black.” The family said the hospital had not investigated a fracture, but had only wrapped the foot and told her to return in a few weeks. During that time, the infection had taken hold so deeply that, upon their follow up visit, it was evident to the hospital staff the infection was out of control. They advised her to go back to the wound clinic, have the wound treated, and then return to them once more to set the fracture. Karen was appalled.
“That was misguided and terribly dangerous advice,” she said. Karen could not clean the wound as it was now encompassing the whole foot and spreading up the lower leg. Bayi was in distress and any manipulation of the ankle caused excruciating pain. Karen suspected it was going to require amputation. The only option for the next course of care was to send her to a larger missionary hospital almost five hours to the north for assessment and surgery. At this point, there was little hope for a way forward in which the leg could be saved. Bayi had her leg amputated above the knee. It was a devastating result from the inattention given to what should have been a fairly straight forward plan for care. Bayi returned to the wound clinic once again post-surgery for wound care management. Although Karen expected the family to be furious upon their return to the clinic, she was greeted with gratitude to her for helping them and grateful to the clinic for its care. They were also thankful that the circumstance had resulted in reuniting with Bayi’s eldest daughter who was now caring for her. Karen had learned of their Christian faith during the process and was moved by their warm and spacious hearts. It was evident that rather than gathering their energy around blame and retribution, which they had every reason to do, their hearts overflowed instead with thanksgiving that Bayi was alive and still with them. They felt that Karen and the clinic staff had done the best they could under the circumstances and had been truly attentive to their needs. Karen shares often that she is glad to be where she is. Bringing her medical expertise and love for people together gives her long (and very hot) days filled with meaning and purpose. And even where there is so much need and sometimes deep heartache, being a point of her work as CBF field personnel is something to which she can joyfully give her life.
RATHER THAN GATHERING THEIR ENERGY AROUND BLAME AND RETRIBUTION, THEIR HEARTS OVERFLOWED INSTEAD WITH THANKSGIVING THAT BAYI WAS ALIVE AND STILL WITH THEM. FALL 2021 |
Kevin Pranoto (right) helping client, Natividad Cruz (left), carry boxes of food during MOC’s annual Thanksgiving event.
Directing Change How Mission Oak Cliff’s Kevin Pranoto Pushes through the Pandemic By Jennifer Colosimo
when COVID-19 changed most of the world as we knew it, it was the end of many businesses, not to mention careers. But while tragedy of all shapes and severity ensued, many nonprofit organizations actually grew. As the world’s economic system struggled, it seemed that a new spirit arose within humanity—one with a penchant for helping others and wanting to make it through this pandemic together.
Mission Oak Cliff is one of those organizations. Led by its new executive director, Kevin Pranoto, they helped more men, women and families than ever—and they’re still growing. When Pranoto, a Houston native and former CBF staffer, was in his 20s, he had one important professional goal: He wanted to be an executive director by the time he turned 30. In pursuit of that goal, he earned a Master of Social Work at Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work and his Master of Divinity from Baylor’s Truett Theological Seminary. He spent the next few years molding his skillset and experience into something that could put both degrees to work for greater good. A chance meeting with the former senior pastor of Cliff Temple Baptist Church in Dallas set him up for making his goal a reality. Shortly after, in late 2019, he accepted the position of executive director of Mission Oak Cliff in Dallas, Texas, a branch of Cliff Temple Baptist Church serving its community through a food pantry, a clothing closet, homeless services, a counseling center and more. He was 29. “I started working at Mission Oak Cliff
only five months before the pandemic hit; but during those five months I was really intentional about meeting and collaborating with other nonprofit agencies, seeing how we could work together,” said Pranoto. “That really did sustain us throughout the pandemic. Not only did we purchase more food from the North Texas Food Bank, but we were also able to partner with other nonprofit agencies in the area and help each other. If we had excess food donations or if another retail partner had inventory to share, we did. We got to see how we could really collaborate with each other and utilize the opportunity that existed to grow a greater relationship.” In addition, Mission Oak Cliff received a Ministries Council grant from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship to help with their work serving satellite food pantries. They also received donations raised by local churches to help fund other needs. As a result, they never shut down. They quadrupled the amount of time their clients could access the food pantry. They also quadrupled the amount of food on the shelves. They launched a virtual counseling program to help students and families
suffering from the stress and anxiety of school and work during the pandemic, including launching a support group for parents of children struggling with the transition to new habits and routines. Partnerships with three local public schools increased to six, where they provided goods for those schools to operate their own food pantries on site. They started Food2Families, a referral program with local schools to get meals delivered to food-insecure families who were without transportation. They also received a grant to be able to donate new technology to families who couldn’t otherwise participate in virtual school, search for jobs, etc. Things did look a little different. New safety procedures meant their in-house food distribution had to relocate to a line of clients outside. Clothing was still available, but no new donations could be accepted. The English as a Second Language program—their largest adult education program—was put on hold. And, of course, plenty of masks, gloves and sanitizing solutions were used. The exciting part, however, is that Mission Oak Cliff planned to slowly reopen their
(Top left) Mark Blaker, Food Pantry Manager, assists Loraine Walson, Cliff Temple Baptist Church member, to deliver groceries to a family after the February winter storms. (Bottom) Volunteers from UNT Dallas Kappa Delta Chi sorority help assemble grocery kits for MOC clients. (Bottom left) MOC clients waiting in line for food pantry services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
facilities in September, with the first phase allowing some people to come back into the building. Clothing donations are already being accepted again, and the ESL program will re-launch alongside in-person counseling sessions. “We are super grateful for the way that the community has stepped up and offered help,” said Pranoto. “It was so incredible to see the collaboration with CBF and how they supported us through the Ministries Council grant, and with other CBF churches wanting to help us out. We couldn’t have accomplished what we did without the help we received.” That included Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, which raised more than $17,000 that will go toward a refrigerated box truck Mission Oak Cliff uses to distribute food, and Cliff Temple Baptist Church members, who donated $16,000 for the new counseling center in 2021. “Being able to rely on that network of people for encouragement and support was huge,” he said. “Coming out of the pandemic, I would hope that the collaboration and camaraderie among everyone—locally, nationally and globally—will continue, because we were able to get a lot of stuff done. All of the silos were broken. We realized how much we needed each other and how connected we are.” Connections were key, as Mission Oak Cliff has a modest staff of five serving more
than 16,000 individuals. That is more than 60 families a day, and more than 300 people a day. It also required an unexpected amount of physical labor as the team was responsible for hauling 5,000 to 7,000 pounds of food a week, or more. “People were checking up on us all the time, and encouraging us to stay with it, because they knew we were working hard, and working overtime,” said Pranoto, adding that they never stopped getting calls from people wanting to volunteer. “I am most proud that we never had to turn anyone away. No one ever left empty-handed. We provided help for everyone who came to us seeking assistance. “The thing we missed the most were the conversations we could have as we listened to people’s stories,” he added. “It’s been cool to see some of the clients who have transitioned out of homelessness, finding jobs and coming back to report that they’ve secured a house or an apartment. For them to actually check in is bittersweet, because we never got to celebrate with them; but we’re so excited for them anyway. It’s heartwarming that they would want to share with us, and we can’t wait to have those kinds of relationships again.” He’s also hopeful that other organizations will be inspired by what they were able to accomplish on a very small budget, but with a vast sense of community. “The culture that we’ve cultivated here
with the staff is rooted in our compassion for people,” said Pranoto. “One thing that I have stressed since day one of working here is that we’re going to treat people with dignity and worth, and we are going to make mutually transformative relationships a core value. We are here to be transformed by them as much as they are transformed by us. We have as much to learn from them as they do from us. It’s not just a transaction, but an opportunity to build trust and community.” As society’s new normal continues to evolve, Mission Oak Cliff braces for a continual increase in numbers. They’re still seeing new families coming through the doors, and know that the economic ramifications of the past year are going to last for awhile. It’s a future filled with unknowns, but Pranoto and his team know that they can face it. “There’s some great synergy right now, especially in the City of Dallas,” he says. “I think it’s a really interesting God-thing, that God was able to hear my desires and fulfill them in this way. I love sharing that with people. We’re seeing a lot of faith-based groups stepping up and wanting to dream up solutions with us. People are concerned about the different social issues that are affecting people in poverty, and everybody is passionate about creating permanent solutions, not just putting a Band-Aid on a problem. I’m excited about what that means for the future.”
“WE ARE HERE TO BE TRANSFORMED BY THEM AS MUCH AS THEY ARE TRANSFORMED BY US.”
MOC staff and volunteers distribute turkeys and boxes of food for families in the Oak Cliff community.
MISSI NS EDUCATION RESOURCES www.cbf.net/missions-education
Rosalío Sosa (left) is the pastor of Iglesia Bautista Tierra de Oro in El Paso, Texas. He also coordinates the Migrants Shelter Network, providing leadership to Fellowship Southwest’s immigrant relief network.
In Small Groups MISSIONS EDUCATION RESOURCE: The following outline is designed for small groups or Bible studies to engage Scripture and missional action. Photocopy permission granted. 1. Prepare for the session by reading the article about Rosalío Sosa on pp. 6-9 in this issue of fellowship! 2. Say: Rosalío Sosa is the pastor of Iglesia Bautista Tierra de Oro in El Paso, Texas. He also coordinates the Migrants Shelter Network in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, providing leadership to Fellowship Southwest’s immigrant relief network. He helps migrants because he, too, was an immigrant. His passion for helping others came from his mother, who fed the needy in Cuauhtémoc. Their home was known as Socorro’s house, which means help. In 2018, he was asked to find a place to shelter 162 migrants quickly. He approached several Baptist churches, but it was a Pentecostal church who finally agreed to shelter them. This experience changed Sosa’s journey and call. He realized that someone needed to encourage churches to shelter immigrants and to help immigrants have food and shelter. 3. Ask: What are some excuses other churches may have given for why they were unable to shelter those migrants? Why do you think they might have been hesitant to shelter them? What do you think our church’s response would be with a request to shelter others? 4. Read Luke 10:25-37. Say: In this familiar parable, the people that we expect to help, the Levite and the Priest, instead walk away. Perhaps they
were busy or they didn’t want to be considered unclean after helping a hurt man. But then, a person who no Jewish person would have expected to help, does. The Samaritan, who the Jews considered beneath them, stopped to help. 5. Say: Think about times in your own life when you have been the Levite or the Priest and walked away instead of helping. Ask: Would you do things differently now? Say: Think about a time when you have been the Samaritan, the perhaps unexpected helper. Ask: What prompted you to help? 6. Say: Due to the Migrant Protection Protocols in 2019, Sosa and his colleagues worked together to develop RAM (Red de Albergues para Migrantes), a shelter network that coordinates with the Mexican government and other nongovernmental organizations to serve migrants across Chihuahua, Mexico. Since there were no more immigrants in El Paso, Sosa and his team went to where the migrants were, sheltering migrants in churches in Mexico and distributing food to them. The founder of Fellowship Southwest, Marv Knox, says that Sosa “embodies the love of Jesus for folks who feel unloved. He’s the safety of the Spirit for people who feel completely vulnerable. He’s the power of God for the utterly powerless.” 7. Ask: How do you embody the love of Jesus for others? How does our church embody the love of Jesus for others? What are some ways we are
helping those who are vulnerable and powerless? Are there other ways we could be helping? 8. Say: Think about the people in our community who are vulnerable. Ask: What are some concrete ways we can help? 9. Say: Think about the immigrants coming to America. Ask: What are some of your preconceived notions about who they are? 10. Say: In this article, we learned that Sosa helped free 800 Black migrants in 2019 who had been illegally arrested in Tapachula, Chiapas, Mexico’s southernmost city. When Sosa investigated, he discovered that officials said they weren’t arrested or detained, but were being “sheltered” there to avoid disturbing the community. Essentially, these 800 people had been kidnapped. Some hadn’t eaten in days, and they were not being treated well. Since they were not legally detained, Sosa broke the lock and let the migrants out, and then filed a complaint against the Mexican immigration officers who had detained them. 11. Say: That takes a lot of courage to do that. Sosa said that he “helps migrants out of love for Christ. He sacrificed for me. He pulled me out of the miry clay. He got his hands dirty for me. I do what God tells me to do, and that’s it.” 12. Ask: Would you have the courage to do what Sosa did? How can our church be more courageous in helping the unloved, the vulnerable and the powerless? What is God calling us to do?
Offering for Global Missions Resources Bible Studies The Road to Emmaus
Access resources for worship as well as free adult, youth and children’s Bible studies.
One of Luke’s unique contributions to the Gospels is the Emmaus Road story in Luke 24. Set on the first Easter, this beautiful story tells of Jesus’ coming alongside two travelers as they make their way home from the crucifixion. In the story, he not only joins the two travelers, but Jesus also engages them in dialogue, is attentive to the grief they are experiencing, accepts their invitation to come in and stay with them and finally reveals himself to them in the breaking of the bread. Today, CBF field personnel follow Jesus’ example by coming alongside fellow travelers in 19 countries around the world. As they share the journey, they accompany the hurting and engage in dialogue with fellow travelers.
Learn more at www.cbf.net/ogm
A final powerful element of the Emmaus story is that, after their experience with Jesus, the two Emmaus travelers immediately go back to Jerusalem to bear witness to what they have learned and experienced. Having met Jesus, the Holy Spirit writes them into God’s story, and the travelers become the teachers of the disciples. In a marvelous way, field personnel often receive the same blessing. Not only are they able to share their own experiences with the risen Lord, but they also, at times, are changed by the witness of others. On the road together, CBF’s field personnel, the communities they serve, churches and individuals who support the work of global mission, we all learn from one another and experience more fully the presence of Christ.
160 Clairemont Avenue, Suite 500 Decatur, GA 30030 www.cbf.net (800) 352-8741
CBF donors and pastors of CBF partner churches are invited to an in-person event held in locations across the Fellowship to hear from CBF Executive Coordinator Paul Baxley about the year of impact you supported with your gifts. Monday, November 29 | Atlanta
Monday, December 13 | Houston
Smoke Rise Baptist Church
South Main Baptist Church
Tuesday, November 30 | Raleigh
Tuesday, December 14 | San Antonio
Trinity Baptist Church
Trinity Baptist Church
Sunday, December 12 | Dallas
All events start at 6:30 p.m.
Wilshire Baptist Church
For more information or to RSVP Contact Leslie Brogdon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 770.235.3523 For safety, we will adhere to the COVID protocols of each host church as well as follow CDC guidelines for safe gathering.