A publication of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship • www.cbf.net
A DIFFERENT KIND OF SAME How one Virginia church is leveling the playing field for good
PAUL BAXLEY is Executive Coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
Come & See It has been two years since our congregations, our families, our Fellowship and the world entered the coronavirus pandemic. Twenty-four months and nearly 700 days later, there is undeniably exhaustion all around us and deep within us. As I have visited congregations and met with ministers and lay leaders both virtually and in person, as I have interacted with our field personnel, chaplains, partner ministry leaders and others, I have seen exhaustion all around. Nearly a year ago, I was already concerned that we were all struggling with exhaustion—so much so, that when a journalist asked what most troubled me a year into the pandemic, I suggested then that I was keenly aware that the innovation required to respond to the pandemic and the challenges posed by all the other pandemics gripping our culture were bringing many of us to a place of exhaustion. That’s why we set renewal as a theme for last summer’s General Assembly, without even realizing that the most challenging days of this pandemic season were still ahead of us as the virus, with its variants, continued to surge. Because we are a Fellowship, we are called to bear one another’s burden in love, to cultivate a holy kind of friendship that holds one another in beloved community even when, especially when, we feel exhausted. It might be tempting to believe that we are alone in our exhaustion, but the exhaustion is widespread. The Toward Bold Faithfulness discovery process affirmed that one of the most powerful gifts present in CBF congregations was deep, loving relationships. Our field personnel are working creatively, faithfully and relentlessly in the midst of extraordinary challenge to cultivate beloved community. Our chaplains and pastoral counselors are committed to offering compassionate presence. This moment in our lives, our congregations and our larger culture invites us to use those gifts and live out those commitments as never before. When we are together in our congregations, when we come together for state/ regional assemblies and our General Assembly in Dallas this summer, when we meet one another in other spaces, we can give a powerful gift if we listen to each other deeply, if we encourage one another absolutely until we hold one another in a beloved community that can be sheer grace in a time of deep seeded exhaustion. If there was ever a time for a genuine Fellowship, that time is now.
A Publication Of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Volume 32, Number 1 Spring 2022
I want you to know, though, that in these days I see more than exhaustion. I see signs of renewal all around us. I see the Spirit at work among us. I have seen renewal in visits to congregations that have found ways to grow stronger during these difficult days. I’ve had the holy privilege of listening to lay leaders and pastors talk about lessons they are learning, grace they are experiencing, growth they are discovering while at the same time being vulnerably honest about challenges that still exist and questions that are not yet answered. In each of these conversations, I come away in awe of bold faithfulness and remarkable resilience. Not insignificantly, we are seeing encouraging signs in the financial support our Fellowship is receiving from congregations and individuals. We closed our fiscal year September 30, 2021 with contributions at 97 percent of the goal for unrestricted gifts and 95 percent of the goal for the Offering for Global Missions. When our first quarter closed at the end of December, the Offering for Global Missions was ahead of budget and our unrestricted gifts were right on target. In the difficult season we’ve all been facing, this strong financial support is a sign of our shared commitment to our life together. It is a sign that our Fellowship has found a sustainable place from which we can grow and in which we are poised to grow in faith, hope and love. We have not yet reached our capacity, and as our giving continues to grow, we will be able to dream even greater dreams. This financial news is further evidence of renewal in our midst. I shared with our Governing Board in late January that our staff, in collaboration with partners and states and regions, have been hard at work building new ministries and resources in response to what we know about urgent needs in our congregations and communities. In the days ahead, we look forward to introducing new resources and new ministries. In the same meeting, we authorized a transition process that will lead to a search for a new coordinator of Global Missions and authorized a search for a Coordinator of Congregational Ministries. All of these are also evidence of renewal and growth in our life together. This summer we will be in Dallas. I hope you will come. I hope you will come and see all the ways God is at work among us. I hope you will come and share the ways the Holy Spirit is healing and strengthening you amid these exhausting days. Come and See!
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.
BECAUSE WE’RE THE SAME How Hampton Baptist Church helps level the playing field for good By Jennifer Colosimo
PERSEVERANCE, PRAYER AND A PROJECT Lucien’s story By Grayson Hester
18 STILL HERE, STILL
Nabeha and Hanin’s Story By Grayson Hester
20 BLAZING NEW TRAILS
ON WELL-TRAVELED GROUND Arkansas pastor recognized with McCall Racial Justice Trailblazer award By Grayson Hester
26 DEEP & WIDE Missouri church honored for ‘mission excellence’ By Meg Lacy Vega
30 WHEN A PLACE IS SO
CBF field personnel assimilates in a new place amid instability and pandemic
FROM THE EDITORS As we look back on two years of life during a pandemic, we see the amazing resilience and innovation that exists throughout the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. In this issue, you’ll see examples of ministries across the United States and around the world that highlight some of the ways that Cooperative Baptists are transforming communities and being transformed through those they serve. Join us as we celebrate the ways the Holy Spirit is moving among Cooperative Baptists, and we invite you to engage further through opportunities you can find throughout this issue. “Come & See” during the 2022 CBF General Assembly in Dallas this June; apply to serve through Student.Go or Student.Church; participate in the Offering for Global Missions Week of Prayer; read alongside the CBF Book Club; use new resources like Growing Generous Followers and our Mission Distinctives Bible studies in your Sunday school or small groups. We are excited about all the ways that we can be equipped for ministry together, sharing the love of Christ across the globe.
By Melody Harrell
10 IMAGES OF PRESENCE CBF field personnel cultivate relationships around the world
FOR JEFF LEE, BEING PRESENT SOMETIMES MEANS STAYING AWAY By Grayson Hester
24 IDENTIFYING YOUR CHURCH’S VALUES AND USING THEM TO PLAN By Laura Stephens-Reed
AARON WEAVER is the Editor of fellowship! Connect with him at firstname.lastname@example.org CARRIE HARRIS is the Associate Editor of fellowship! Connect with her at email@example.com
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Back in the 1960s, Hampton Baptist Church started a soup kitchen to serve the local Hampton, Va., community in need. As more than 50 years have passed and mindsets have evolved, organizers wanted to show that the program had done the same. Volunteers were doing much more than serving a meal. They were also doing things in a way that was a whole lot different, a way that was empowering for the people it served, and surprisingly, for the people who serve, too.
How Hampton Baptist Church helps level the playing field for good
In 2015, the soup kitchen became SAME, an acronym meaning So All May Eat. It was now a new organization concerned with much more than one hot meal every week. Yes, that complimentary Monday meal is still the meat and potatoes of what they do; but it laid the foundation for a place where people could visit to feel welcome, cared for and lifted up on both sides of the buffet line. It now includes a clothing closet that invites community members to shop, boutique-style, for clothing and accessories. Clients make their own style choices, and can solicit help or express their own opinions. A monthly mobile food pantry lets families pick out the groceries they want and, in that partnership with the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank, they include a delivery service for those who don’t have transportation.
By Jennifer Colosimo SAME partners with many community organizations to deepen its impact, including the local food bank; once a month, the food bank drops off thousands of pounds of groceries which SAME delivers directly to households.
On Mondays, many of SAME’s activities moved outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Guests visit the clothing closet outside, and dinner is sometimes held on the grounds.
“When we rebranded, we wanted to try to be more inclusive of people, and help them feel less patronized,” said Amy Witcover-Sandford, coordinator for SAME. “We wanted to step away from the idea that you visit a soup kitchen and get whatever they put on your plate to more of a welcoming place, a place where people could sit down with family and talk and relax. We want them to feel comfortable, and want them to enjoy coming here.” She remembers her first time at the clothing closet as something akin to Black Friday at Walmart. This meant they were doing their guests a major disservice, putting them in a position to perceive scarcity and that they would have to fight for what they could get. That’s exactly the experience they wanted to counter and the mindset they wanted to shift. “We have created a place where people are accepted and loved,” Witcover-Sandford said. “We don’t look down on people because they’re hungry, or because they’re addicted, have mental issues or
because they’re out of a job, or because they just got out of jail, or because they’re working three jobs. We want to take ourselves out of the dualist view of people who are in need and people who have, because in God’s eyes we’re all the same.” “We care about sharing Jesus with people,” added Andrew Garnett, pastor of Hampton Baptist Church. “But we have an understanding that the Gospel is about more than that. It’s about the whole person. We’re doers, and we’ve got a diverse congregation, theologically and socio-economically. It makes us willing to open our doors and be welcoming of people when we see in ourselves how different we are from each other.” The handful of volunteers from which SAME originated has grown well into double digits, and continues to inflate several times a year to welcome part-time volunteers from the community. On Mondays, around 20 volunteers help run the lunch service and additional volunteers work throughout the week with the clothing closet, the SPRING 2022
“IT MAKES US WILLING TO OPEN OUR DOORS AND BE WELCOMING OF PEOPLE WHEN WE SEE IN OURSELVES HOW DIFFERENT WE ARE FROM EACH OTHER.”
SAME provides a chance for people of all ages to be involved in God’s mission in the world. Last summer, the children of Hampton Baptist prepared a meal for the guests.
food pantry, and stocking trucks for the food delivery service, among other tasks. “As our program has grown, so has our volunteer base,” WitcoverSandford said. “Our Hampton Baptist group has welcomed youth groups from the area, local businesses who want to pitch in, and other organizations to make an even bigger impact for the people in this community. We’re all over the place with our belief systems, but we’re all there to love our neighbors. We all agree that people need to eat and people need to be treated with dignity, respect and love. Together, we experience God in a way that you can’t do just sitting in a pew.” “This is really one of the most powerful aspects of the program— that we can be here and be doing the kinds of things we think Jesus would do,” Garnett added. “To be loving people and caring for people in Jesus’ name, and to be doing it with a much larger group of people who maybe don’t have a church or don’t go to our church. The fact that we can partner on something that we all agree on can be very powerful.” Not only is it a place for people to come for lunch, shop for clothes and sign up for groceries, but it’s also a location to register to vote, meet with the health department or social services, get help with transportation issues and more. In 2021, they met nearly 1,000 different people, serving more than 4,000 lunches, giving away more than 6,000 articles of clothing and delivering enough groceries for families to cook 16,000 meals.
According to Garnett, its impact goes even further, making a difference not only in the guests but also in the church members, giving them something that challenges them and stretches their mindset and something to be proud of and rally around together. It’s transformative for both sides, he said. “Monday is my favorite day of the week,” Witcover-Sandford added. “I don’t go in there thinking that we’re going to teach people about God or tell them about Jesus. I go in there realizing that God is present. Jesus is present. And I have as much to learn from the people who come and get food as they have to learn from me. In fact, I think I learn a lot more about God’s love and grace from our guests than they probably learn from me.” “In the bigger picture, something like this is really important right now,because we seem to be more polarized and more tribal as a society. We stick with our people,” Garnett said. “To me, church is one of the few opportunities we have in our country today to go and sit by somebody who is a different socioeconomic class than you or a different political party than you. We just don’t have that too much anymore; and if we don’t have that, then we can’t have really good, honest conversations anymore. This is a place where we are mixing different ethnicities, backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, trying to put everyone on something of the same playing field, treating them as equals—like I think Jesus would have wanted us to do. To be able to offer that right now is a powerful witness to what society could be.”
Hampton Baptist youth and other community volunteers regularly serve through SAME.
CBF field personnel are serving around the world in communities of all shapes and sizes. Through holistic ministries of presence, field personnel make connections and share the love of Christ. We invite you to take a look into their lives, work, families and friends.
By Aaron Weaver
“I feel like a celebrity today, at least how I think it feels,” a friend told CBF field personnel Shane McNary at a Bible study in Jelsava, Slovakia. Shane was working to improve his photography skills and convinced his friends to let him take their photos. “What was unexpected was how many showed up in their Sunday best,” Shane said. “Image matters— both the image we bear and the image we and others see in us.” 2 In Southeast Asia, CBF field personnel Brooke and Mike, in partnership with a local Christian university, installed a solar-powered installation to provide lighting for a school and church without electricity. “Here, the church and the school, they are one,” the pastor said. “This light means that the church can worship in the evening 1
and the students can come and learn and do their homework after dark.” 3 Students at the Center of Hope celebrate their graduation in Kampala, Uganda, after months of recurring lockdowns. CBF field personnel Jade and Shelah Acker founded and operate Refuge and Hope International to serve the urban refugee community in Kampala. Each year, Refuge and Hope serves more than 1,000 refugees through the Center of Hope. 4 Volunteers from First Baptist Church, Kingston, Tenn., serve alongside CBF field personnel Anna Anderson at the Conetoe Family Life Center with a shelter addition for farm equipment. Anna and her husband, LaCount, focus on providing poverty relief as part of CBF’s rural development coalition, Together for Hope.
5 CBF field personnel Mary Van Rheenen (center) poses with friends in the Republic of Moldova. Mary and her husband, Keith Holmes, develop culturally appropriate Christian media and educational resources so that the Romany may hear the Gospel in their own language. 6 Messan is a tailor who earns income through sewing school uniforms for Togo House Ministries in Togo, West Africa, led by CBF field personnel Lynn and Mike Hutchison. 7 “Boys are boys no matter where they are from,” said Karen Morrow, a Fort Worth, Texas-based CBF field personnel ministering alongside refugees. Zayed, an Afghan refugee, smiles big and laughs as he drives his new front-end loader around the apartment. 8 CBF field personnel Gennady and Mina Podgaisky pose with a newlywed couple. As part of their ministry, the Podgaiskys, who were forced to return to U.S. from Ukraine, conducted pre-martial counseling for the cross-cultural couple.
8 9 Elementary students in the San Francisco-area show their Back-to-School excitement with new backpacks filled with supplies via the ministry of CBF field personnel Lita and Rick Sample. 10 Kindergarten students eating a meal in Togo. CBF field personnel Karen Alford operates a clinic in Togo that sees 50-plus patients per week for wound care and primary health. 11 CBF field personnel and disaster response director Eddy Ruble shares a photo of Steph and his family in front of what remains of their home in Haiti following the deadly earthquake in August 2021. The family, members of a local Baptist church, are now living in a tent shelter in anticipation of one day being able to rebuild their home. 12 Janée Angel (bottom right) smiles for a photo during a retreat with her Arabic Church. Janée and her husband, Hary, serve in Antwerp, Belgium, and minister among the Arabic-speaking community.
9 SPRING 2022
TRANSFORM Watch a video about Gazmend and the Aya Farm at www.cbf.net/ogm#videos
For Jeff Lee,
By Grayson Hester
Macedonia (commonly referred to as simply “Macedonia”) doesn’t loom large on the radars of many Americans. In the shadow of much larger and more influential European countries, this small nation near Albania tends to get overlooked.
CBF field personnel Jeff Lee (right) pictured with Gazmend Muharemi. LuEllabore ritatiunt. Sequunte plibus eos aut ut arum imus etustiis nam, quo est, susti omnis dolum est, sum, quis corrum adi dolorernam, omnihilit velectium illa di optata dus, excepudandem il isquatur moluta nos sum explibu sandisitecus inturenim sit volliqui doluptae volor rem quas autessi num quam nostibus
Whereas France and Germany, for example, contain internationally renowned metropolises, Macedonia by and large, features green mountains and gently rolling hills. Think of it as, say, Vermont—minus Ben & Jerry’s. This predominantly agricultural, generally rural setting lends itself to a way of life Americans might think of as lethargic. Coffee dates can last for hours; bicycling and walking are the preferred methods of travel; and simply being present with people is held in high cultural esteem. So, the COVID-19 pandemic hit this little country of nearly two million people especially hard. And even though Jeff Lee grew up in the United States—Texas, to be exact—his nine-and-one-half years of living in North Macedonia led him to feel this cultural sting acutely. “I live in the center of Skopje, North Macedonia’s capital, on a busy street with thousands of people walking up and down every day,” Lee said. “To go on lockdown and to see that street empty with no cars, no people walking or riding their bikes was eerie. It was weird. Not being able to see my friends for such a long time was really hard for me, and really hard for them. That was ingrained in their culture.” Lee and his family—wife, Alicia, and son, Ethan—have been commissioned as Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel in Skopje for almost a decade, helping locals establish, grow, and manage Aya Farm on the outskirts of the city. (For more on the farm and its unique “cow bank” model, read “More Than a Cow” at www.cbf.net/cowbank.) Aya—which means “miracle”—is a community farm that is, within itself, a thriving community. The Lees have made friends there that they consider family, a sentiment wholeheartedly reciprocated. One such friend is Gazmend Muharemi, who initially conceived of the farm years ago and is now in charge of many of its operations. Since CBF’s 2018 feature article, the farm has expanded to retail, selling its dairy products in local stores to lucrative returns. This expansion has allowed the farm to grow, even in the midst of a pandemic. This growth, along with COVID-19, has also shifted the nature of Lee’s ministry. “Before COVID, I was there, maybe two or three times a week, working at the farm,” Lee said. “I loved it. It was great.” But with lockdowns came isolation, and with isolation came increased demand for food bank services. So, Lee had to attend to the Food Bank of Macedonia, with whom he partners, to meet the abrupt uptick. And, with any business expansion comes bundles of red tape and bureaucratic headaches. It is these which now occupy most of Lee’s attention. Ironically, in order for Lee to be present with the people alongside whom he was commissioned to minister, he often must stay away.
“The most difficult obstacle is just the legal and the financial things that I have to do,” he said. “There’s not a week that goes by that I don’t have to go to my lawyer, just because they say, ‘Jeff, you need to come and do this; there’s a new legal requirement that you have to fill.’” It’s not unusual for a trip to the lawyer to turn into an all-day affair. Going to the lawyer inevitably means going next to the accountant, which then means going to the bank, and on and on. It’s necessary work, and it’s work for which Lee is grateful, all the same. But it’s not where his heart is. His heart is with Gazmend and his family, on the farm, getting his hands dirty and having his face wrinkle with laughter. “Being on the farm is what I love to do. Being part of that makes me feel great, like I’m actually doing something and am part of something bigger,” he said. “But I’m just a part of Aya Farm. It could keep going if I’m not there, which it has. I don’t show up some days. But I enjoy being a part of it, being available, just to be out there.” Therein lies a hard truth about the kind of asset-based community development CBF field personnel like Lee practice. At some point, that which they work so hard to grow must be released. For a program or a business or a building to truly benefit the community, it has to belong to the community. The softer side of this is that, when done well—as it has been by Lee’s family—that community becomes their community. Differences delineated by border or, in the specific case of North Macedonia, religion, perforate and connections solidify. “Gazmend and I have grown in deep relationship together. We’re very open, and our families do a lot of things together,” Lee said. “His wife and kids hang out with Alicia and Ethan a lot. We have celebrated holidays together—both Christian and Muslim holidays, including Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s with all our friends.” There’s a grief in being separated because there’s joy in being present. It’s a paradox of living and loving together: Sometimes one leads to, or necessitates, the other. And even though the pandemic still rages and the lawyer never stops calling, the community of the Aya family and others continues to make itself evident in the unlikeliest of places. The farm’s annual pumpkin patch, for example, became a healing ground for two families in Lee’s orbit who had been feuding for years. “It was so emotional for me to see when these two families, that were part of this group and had a conflict, had come back together,” he said. “I felt that emotion: We wanted this to work. These were important relationships here.” And although Lee’s presence, at this moment, might require him to stay away, it will hopefully never require him to leave. “We love being in Macedonia,” he said. “It’s a wonderful place; the people are amazing. We just love it.”
Gazmend Muharemi co-founded the Aya Farm alongside CBF field personnel Jeff Lee. “I would like to be very thankful to all of you from CBF, that you were supporting us and helping us, especially in this period of a pandemic. From the last interview in 2018 till now, we were growing all the time and we would like to see you again, visiting us,” Gazmend said.
Read Lucien’s story from 2019 at www.cbf.net/lucien-then
Perseverance, Prayer and a Project
Lucien is a deacon at Mount Sinai Baptist Church in Grand Goave, Haiti, where he ministers alongside CBF field personnel Jenny Jenkins. Lucien and Jenkins, a nurse, have worked together to make healthcare more accessible to the community.
By Grayson Hester
better known by his church community as Dyak (“deacon” in Haitian Creole) has witnessed enormous change in the three years since his story was featured on the CBFblog.
For one, Lucien’s home of Haiti has endured crisis after crisis in the last year alone—from the assassination of its president, Jovenel Moïse, to a magnitude 7.2 earthquake, to the ongoing pandemic and the ever-present threat, felt most acutely by island nations in the Global South, of climate change. Personally, Lucien lost his father, who had himself spent much of his life as a dyak and lived to nearly 95 years of age. As if in cosmic balance, he gained a daughter, thus bringing his kid-count to a bountiful six. Through it all, his community, the Commune of Grand Goâve, continues to persevere. “Since we have life, we can say life goes on,” Lucien said. Grand Goâve’s location high atop a
mountain has insulated it from the most direct effects of the earthquake, COVID-19 spread and political unrest. But even it has not escaped unscathed. Lucien shared that the earthquake did impact extended family not particularly close to the community, for instance. And, even in this remote place, regular hand-washing and mask-wearing, rituals of COVID-19 caution, have become normal. Yet, this dyak of Mount Sinai Baptist Church remains prayerful to a God whom he says has protected them. “The impact was not so big because, with the earthquake, we didn’t lose people close to us. In our family, God protected us,” he said. “We do not have any victims of the COVID-19, but we know there are other places in Haiti that have people who are
victims of it. But God helps us to be safe with precautions during the pandemic.” And, at the end of the day, it’s not these big, global changes that have exacted the greatest impact on this community. It’s the little ones—like the building of a church, or the construction of a clinic, or something as simple as checking someone’s blood pressure. Nurse Jenny Jenkins, a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel serving in Haiti, continues to do her monthly blood pressure clinics, bringing much-needed care to these folks who would otherwise have to travel—usually by foot for 30-45 minutes— down a mountain for it. That presence hasn’t changed, even as it has engendered great change within the community. “Well, there has been much change, because people once had to go to another
Explore Offering for Global Missions resources and videos at www.cbf.net/ogm-resources health center to learn how to control their blood pressure,” Lucien said. “But, thanks to God, with Nurse Jenny, it is every month, no matter if it is raining or sunny. Every single month, she comes. It has a huge impact on the community; they have the benefit of it.” This work has been Jenkins’ call for nearly 12 years. She arrived in Haiti around the same time of the historic catastrophic earthquake which struck in 2010, and she hasn’t budged since. Through all the aforementioned challenges and upheavals, Jenkins has stayed. And it is this kind of relationship which she says isn’t just an accessory to global missions work; it is necessary. “Relationships, which your presence requires, are the key,” she said. “Our God is a relational God. He expects us to be in relationship with one another. To walk in that community requires being present and available.” Nowhere is this more important than Global South nations like Haiti, where a history of European colonialism and a present reality of Western exploitation cause relationships to be fraught with wariness and trust understandably hard to cultivate. For any American to swoop into a community in another country, claim to know its needs better than it does, throw money at a problem, offer a quick fix, and then leave it, doesn’t just fail to remediate harm. It can, in many cases, actually worsen it. This is why Jenkins takes a completely different approach that is ethical. “In the beginning, there are a lot of people who say on the surface, something that sounds really good: ‘We’re gonna’ be partners!’” she said. “But to develop a trusting relationship takes time. That’s where presence becomes so important. It’s a matter of building trust and friendships, waiting on that to-do list until it’s the right time.”
And what a “to-do list” it is! For years, Jenkins and Lucien have spearheaded an effort to build a clinic in Grand Goâve, making concrete (literally) their efforts to provide its people with the best and most accessible healthcare. It’s taken quite a lot of time. The political upheaval, while not nearly as hot for this community as it has been in cities like Port-au-Prince, has nonetheless disrupted supply chains and made acquiring necessary materials and labor even more difficult. But, in Jenkins’ view, it’s not the timing that matters, anyway. “They are the inspiration. This is a dream they’ve had for 60-75 years,” she said. “In talking with different elder members of the community, I can remember these guys would say, ‘When I was little, my dad would talk about its being a dream.’ When I think about how long they’ve been dreaming about this clinic, our time seems small. They still have the belief, the willingness to continue to work towards it.” It’s this community-centered approach that has made the project progress slowly, yet equitably; inefficiently, yet justly. An American sensibility, fixated on timetables and milestones, might see it as a failure. A Christ-oriented sensibility, however, sees it as the only way. “We wanted it to be their clinic, their center, as part of the process of waiting on them to do their parts, to put their efforts into it, and take ownership,” she said. “That’s the important part of building relationships. It’s not a fast thing you can do.” And so, the community perseveres. And they work, methodically, toward the realization of a nearly centuries-old dream, none of which could have been achieved without intentional, abiding presence. And it is the combined and continued presence of Nurse Jenny and Lucien—who is widely
seen as an organizer and leader of this community—which makes it all possible. “Presence means to us, that when we see someone even if we do not have things to give, we can share ideas. And when you can see that person, we can talk about things,” Lucien said. “It is happiness when you can see that person and talk to that person. I see that presence is important.” And although the project is proceeding more slowly than either of them would have liked, it is, by God’s grace, nonetheless making progress. It is their hope to have the major buildings of the clinic completed in 2022. This would help anchor the community and springboard other transformational developments. When a community need not worry about its health, it can focus on other endeavors. The road has been long, and it will continue to be difficult. But this community, as with the whole of Haiti, will continue to live each day with abundance and joy, pain and perseverance, and unbroken presence. “I’ve learned that it really is a matter of letting God’s timing be in control, that our desire, our relationships, be built through the presence,” Jenkins said. “Take the time to seek where God is leading; when God works things out, they are lasting. It’s the better way. It’s a matter of taking the time and letting God guide the process versus what we think it should be.” And if Dyak Lucien has anything to say about it, whenever that time comes, it will, indeed come. “The same God that allowed us to start, we are praying to Him to keep Nurse Jenny well, and as He allows us to continue, He will help us to get to the end of it,” Lucien said. “As there is an ‘amen’ to each prayer, we hope for an end for this project, too. The project that was started one day will be completed another day.” SPRING 2022
JOIN US this spring for a Week of Prayer for the CBF OFFERING FOR GLOBAL MISSIONS: BECAUSE PRESENCE MATTERS.
MARCH 13-18, 2022
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.
Read Nabeha’s story from 2019 at www.cbf.net/nabeha-then
Nabeha is a Iraqi refugee who befriended CBF field personnel Karen Morrow and was featured in CBF’s “Abundant Life” global missions emphasis in 2019. The past two years have been a period of upheaval for Nabeha and her daughter. Yet, in midst of uncertainty, the mother-daughter duo holds onto hope.
Still Abundant. By Grayson Hester
CBF Communications first featured Nabeha and her daughter Hanin as part of the Offering for Global Missions campaign in 2019, the headline read as follows: “The Impact of Abundant Life.” Not easy life, or luxurious life. Not even good life. Abundant life. The kind of life Jesus promises for us, and the kind of life Nabeha and Hanin have, difficulties and all. In the two years since the sharing of this mother-daughter duo’s story of fleeing Iraq for Fort Worth, Texas, the two have endured COVID diagnoses, surgeries, and the kind of pandemic upheaval that has hit vulnerable populations, including refugees, particularly hard. “It’s been rough. We’ve had our challenges, but we’re still here today,” Hanin said. “We’re still here to tell people our stories.” Their resilience infuses this year’s Offering for Global Missions theme—“Because Presence Matters”—with fresh meaning. Sometimes, the greatest victory we can claim is simply having survived. Sometimes, it is enough just to still be here, present to life in all its complexities. And sometimes it is enough merely to be present with other people through difficult times. Soon after the initial interview in 2019, Hanin underwent brain surgery. A year later, she had to do it again—this time, in the middle of a pandemic. “I was hospitalized for over a month at Cook’s Children’s Hospital. I had to do physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy to regain my motor skills and my speech,” Hanin said. “It was a really hard time. It took a toll on me and my family.” Not only did she lose motor skills and speech, Hanin, throughout the process of surgery and recovery, also lost an ear. But what she gained amid it all was a renewed appreciation for that most simple, yet potent, of concepts—presence. Presence manifested itself, primarily, in the Spirit. During the early days of COVID-19, in which physical presence was closely monitored and widely discouraged, this Holy Presence was imbued with ever more importance. “God is there always for us. He loves us. And he always, when we pray, answers our prayers,” said Nabeha. “We thank God, always be beside us and all the other people when they need him.” In the spare moments when human contact was allowed, the presence of God was embodied, often by Hanin’s school friends or by their close friend, Karen Morrow, who serves as a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel. Morrow, who has worked alongside immigrants and refugees in the Fort Worth area for more than a decade, has remained a steadfast source of support to Nabeha and Hanin ever since they arrived in the
U.S. In an era in which so much has changed, Morrow’s presence, her mission, has not. “She was with us from the morning, the surgery taking 12 hours, and she stayed with us in the hospital,” Nabeha said. “And there were other friends, but Karen is number one. She always is there for us.” Even through the brain surgery, the ensuing recovery, three (thankfully mild) COVID diagnoses, and Hanin starting college remotely, presence, whether spiritual, digital or physical, remained. She started her first year at the Tarrant County College like scores of students across the world did—amid uncertainty, and, for better or worse, on Zoom. But although she might have been isolated, she was not alone. “For me, presence has been a big part of my life with my friends being there for me physically and mentally,” Hanin said. “Especially after coming out of the hospital, I really appreciated them being there for me and being there for me and my family as well.” In 2022—what some are calling, rather cheekily, the junior year of the pandemic—this uncertainty persists. But so too does the presence of others and the enduring importance of relationship. So, too, does hope. Even after all Hanin and Nabeha have been through, this hope burns as brightly as ever, stoked by Karen Morrow, tended by friends, and continuously set alight by an abundant-life-promising God. “I wish for all the refugees—because Karen, she doesn’t help us, just us. She helped many families,” said Nabeha. “So I hope for all the families, that they depend on their selves. And when they need advice—like there is many nice friends in United States like Karen—they can help them if they need any advice. So right now, I’m depending on myself and just when I need advice, Karen is there. When I have a hard situation, Karen is there.” As for Hanin, she’s looking forward to a return to campus, a fresh start and a continuous commitment to being present to whatever life may have yet to offer her, a lesson she learned during a most unusual high school graduation. We had a little ceremony at our school’s local football field, and my mom was able to come, as well as my dad, two family friends, here and there,” she said. “It wasn’t a really big, crazy thing, but we were still able to celebrate our achievements.” She couldn’t have known what was to come. Who among us can? But she knows one thing for sure now, as she did then—gratitude. This is abundant life. To present love and care when we, or others need it most; to be present with those about whom we care; to be present to the ups and downs, and everything in between. “It’s crazy to see time pass by and all these changes happening in the world, but I’m still very grateful,” Hanin said. “I can experience it all and be a part of it all.”
Blazing new trails on well-traveled ground By Grayson Hester
Clegg, pastor of Second Baptist Church in downtown Little Rock, Ark., doesn’t like the idea of missing out on joy.
Second Baptist Church called him as pastor in 2013, but neither his nor the church’s respective journeys with racial justice began there. Second Baptist has garnered a reputation as a predominantly and historically white church that views racial In January 2019, Clegg joined scores justice as “intrinsic to its identity.” of Little Rock residents in celebrating the “I very rarely have to convince inauguration of the city’s first democratically- congregants that addressing public issues is elected Black mayor, Frank Scott. Having been also of gospel concern,” he said. “The Gospel friends with Scott long before the ceremony, of Jesus has to do with kingdoms and public Clegg, a white pastor of a predominantly white allegiances as much as private and personal church, was invited to lead the closing prayer. identities.” Despite its being a political event, the Six decades before Clegg stepped inauguration, to Clegg, felt “high and holy.” into the Second Baptist pulpit, the church And his inclusion in it was nothing short of an advocated for the desegregation of Little honor. Rock’s Central High School in 1957, an event “It was the sort of honor that doesn’t make known to many by its shorthand, “The Little your chest poke out or your head expand; it Rock Nine.” was the sort of honor that makes your knees What the church lost in membership tremble at the glory of it,” Clegg said. “I felt like during that time, it gained in scars—the it was the dawn of a new day in Little Rock; kind that are a testimony, not unlike the maybe that is a little utopian. But there was ones which graced Jesus’ post-resurrection an energy in that room. It was a public, city hands—and in identity. government gathering, but it felt like—there In a country where virtually every white was enough spirit in the room that day that it church in America would say racism is wrong, felt like church broke out.” Second Baptist actually pairs the declaration The word Clegg kept reiterating was with action. It is a trail blazed with sparks “joy”—joy at the celebration, joy at the that Clegg now walks and hopes to fan into invitation, joy at witnessing history being flames. made. “The flame has matured. This is the He chose the word “joy”—and not mere massive and challenging and yet vitally happiness or excitement or even optimism necessary next step that many white —because the feeling came as the result of churches need to take today,” he said. “If intense spiritual work, an intrinsic component every church in America is against racism, of the work to which he has devoted his life. why do we keep doing it? Why do we keep Clegg is one of CBF’s three 2021 recipients of supporting the policies and systems that the Emmanuel McCall Racial Justice Trailblazer keep doing it?” Award. Of course, no flame can burn without
oxygen. And for Clegg personally, the realities of racism have been, for his whole life, as ubiquitous as the very air. He grew up in the Arkansas Delta, a region similar to the Mississippi Delta in its geography, its demography, and, not by accident, in its history of anti-Black racism. “I came to Second with the full knowledge of that history,” he said. “I grew up in the Delta of Arkansas; racism is part of the oxygen there. As such, I’ve cared about racial justice for a long, long time. It’s one of the reasons I’m here; and it’s one reason, amongst others, that the church called me.” And although passion for racial justice predates his 2013 arrival to downtown Little Rock, the corresponding societal and systemic awareness, requisite counterparts to passion, did not fully fan out until the 2016 presidential election. As with many white people in the U.S., this election ushered in for Clegg what some call the “Great Awokening,” a moment when any preconceived notion of a post-racial society, or even one making inexorable racial progress, was abruptly shattered. “It was a seminal moment,” he said. “We have to do discipleship differently in the church, especially in terms of racial justice. We have a hard time spotting [racism] as white people. We don’t disciple people well to think systemically.” Moving beyond mere interpersonal animus into more abstract territory—the systems undergirding education, health care, criminal justice, etc.— is difficult work. But it is necessary. Clegg reoriented both himself and his ministry to this more systemic-focused
approach. This led him, in 2018, to take a sabbatical wherein he studied systemic racism in New York and Washington, D.C., and embarked upon a Civil Rights tour of the South. “I immersed myself in specific ways that racism has morphed in this country, specific ways I as a white pastor can teach people to spot it and hopefully redeem it,” he said. Since then, the church has specifically engaged in intensive internal and external work to do just that. Clegg, who typically sees himself as a more narrative pastor who guides people into
drawing their own conclusions on Scripture, has preached more frequently and less ambiguously on the realities of systemic racism. And when he’s not behind the pulpit, the church will invite Black preachers from Little Rock and beyond to share similar (if more experiential) messages. These preachers are some of many Black teachers Clegg and the church turn to. One of these is Jemar Tisby, the author of The Color of Compromise, a New York Times bestseller. It is impossible to do antiracist work without hearing the voices of those who have suffered from it most.
Preston Clegg was honored with CBF’s Emmanuel McCall Racial Justice Trailblazer Award in 2021 for his efforts on behalf of racial justice in Little Rock, Ark. “How do I teach my people that justice work is not an addendum to the Gospel, it’s not an add on, it’s not like the gravy on top but it’s part of the biscuit,” Clegg said during a recent episode of CBF Conversations. “Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly. You know, that’s not a woke talking head on television. That was Micah,” he added.
As many white people have done since 2016, the church has studied several books on antiracism by both white and Black authors alike, including Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman. And Wednesday night services, a time churches typically reserve for choir practices or dinners, have been retooled for racial (de)education. “We’ve tried to educate our people on why these issues have a disparate impact on people of color and why we can’t in good conscience be quiet about it,” Clegg said. And quiet Second Baptist certainly is not. Externally, the church is striving to match its internal discipleship and study with advocacy and action. Clegg frequently contributes op-eds to Little Rock’s newspaper, most recently on Arkansas’ lack of hate crime legislation and
the pressing need for it. It is one of two states not to have such legislation on the books. The church can be seen praying with its feet at protests or rallies, calling for reform on issues as diverse as Arkansas’ capital punishment record, voter registration, and, most visibly, the state takeover of Little Rock’s school system. Clegg is often the only white voice on panels called to address systemic racism, a position he fills with much grace and responsibility. This is, of course, because Second Baptist stands all but alone as a downtown church, predominantly white, that sees racial justice work not as an accessory to the Gospel, but the very Gospel of Jesus Christ itself. “I believe that the social gospel is Gospel. It’s not an addendum,” Clegg said. “If you want to care for the people in your pews, if you have one Black person, if you have one person of color, if you, as a church, know and love one person of color, then the issue is not abstract politics. It has a real-life impact upon people we know and love and call sister and brother. We share the communion table with them. What does that demand of us?” To hear Clegg tell it, it demands complete spiritual transformation. It demands, not simply a vote or a book club or a social media post, but a whole reorientation of a white person’s life from racism to justice, from
whiteness to Christlikeness. It is, in short, a road littered with crosses. “When I hear white pastors and churches say, ‘That road is a hard road for us to take; it would come at a cost for us,’ that is true. It absolutely would,” he said. “If you go into this thinking, ‘This will help me grow my church,’ I bet it doesn’t. If the fruit expected is immediate ecclesial and pastoral benefit, you’ll be disappointed because you’re misguided.” Growth and transformation are meant to be painful. Ask any teenager who has hit his or her growth spurt. And it requires a pastor as much as a prophet and a counselor as much as a community. It also requires humility and confession, repentance and reparation, thus making churches an ideal setting for this kind of deconstructive work to occur. But on the other side of it is, as mentioned earlier, it brings profound joy and glimpses of communion and growth that would never have been possible otherwise. “We’ve had families join our church in the pandemic,” he said. “After the murder of George Floyd, that red-hot summer of racial justice, people came to me and said, ‘My church had nothing to say; the silence was so loud, and I could not in good conscience stay there anymore.’ They saw us speaking out and thought, ‘That smells like Jesus to me.’”
Preston Clegg’s racial justice journey took him on sabbatical study of system racism, which included a civil rights tour of the South. He is pictured below at the site where Homer Plessy, a Creole man of African descent, was arrested for sitting in the “whites only” section of a train in 1892. This event led to the infamous Supreme Court decision, the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling that upheld racial segregation.
More importantly, the people of color in Second Baptist’s congregation know that the church will advocate on their behalf and love them as much with a prayer as with a protest. That, to Clegg, is a gift. And at the end of the day, Clegg is not one to miss out on joy. Had he not been called to Second Baptist in 2013, had he not breathed the oxygen of racism in the Arkansas Delta and decided to breathe back out antiracism, had he not decentered his own experience in favor of those of people of color, had the church not stood for desegregation in 1957 and continued that work to this day, he likely would not have been closing out the inauguration of a Black mayor with prayer. “I don’t think I would have been in the room. I would have missed the joy of that,” he said. “Maybe that’s the grace and light of all this: Even though this way is laced with crosses, it’s also laced with joy and dancing and the God who redeems even the worst of us.” And as for the church he pastors and the people and the history he carries with him every time he speaks, he receives any award on their behalf and with deep humility. “There are people who have been doing this work longer and better than I have,” he said. “I only receive the McCall Trailblazer award while making this confession: I can’t answer the ‘why.’ I’m honored by the award; it’s one of the great honors of my life for this award to be given to the white pastor of a predominantly white church. I think racial justice work is Gospel work. And it’s worth it.”
CBF’s Rev. Kasey Jones discusses in-depth with Clegg about his and Second Baptist’s racial justice journey in the January 25 episode of CBF Conversations. Watch this conversation with Clegg as well as conversations with 2021 McCall Trailblazer Award recipients Cheryl Adamson and Rosalío Sosa at www.cbf.net/conversations
RESOURCES FOR YOUR CHURCH GROWING GENEROUS FOLLOWERS Stewardship is a spiritual discipline. Just as we grow believers who read Scripture, pray, worship and serve, we are called to develop Christ followers who view generosity as a key element of the life of faith. To this end, these lessons for adults, youth and children have been made available to you and your church to be used for a focused time of study on what it means to be good stewards.
MISSION DISTINCTIVES BIBLE STUDIES This study invites you to ask where the Holy Spirit is calling you to participate in the mission of the triune God in the world today. By exploring the biblical commitments and urgent contexts of CBF’s Mission Distinctives, you will discover a compelling case to place your gifts in the service of God’s mission.
Free downloads at www.cbf.net/resources
IDENTIFYING YOUR CHURCH’S VALUES AND USING THEM TO PLAN By Rev. Laura Stephens-Reed
I recently interviewed
several pastors about their experiences leading congregations during the pandemic. Specifically, I wanted to know how they handled the initial turn to online worship and the million mini-ministry pivots they’ve had to make in the two years since. Unsurprisingly, all these pastors are exhausted. But not all are discouraged. A significant difference between the ministers who are hopeful and the ones who are not is that the former group serves congregations that were clear about their values pre-pandemic.
Why is an understanding of these values so important? In a church that has consensus on its values, everyone starts from the same place. We might have different ideas about what it looks like to embody our principles, but we have commonly-held commitments and Core values are those aspects of bodies and souls,” or “focusing on making the a shared language for discussing all the your church on which you would never world a more just place.” options. compromise. They could include principles Though the ways your congregation lives A church that fully owns its values has like “welcoming children’s joyful noises,” into these values might change over time, the trust among its members. We can assume “inclusion of all people,” “being prayerful in all values themselves stay constant. That’s why positive intent in one another because we circumstances,” “being innovative in the ways they are, in my estimation, more helpful than are bound to the same ideals. If there are we serve our city,” “feeding our community’s vision or mission statements that need to be disagreements, we can give one another revisited regularly. grace because we hold similar values, and
Here are some questions to start the conversation: What brought me to this church, and what keeps me here? Try to think beyond such realities as “My family goes here” or “This is the closest church to my house.” Consider when you feel most engaged with your faith or with other congregants. What bubbles up might not necessarily be values that everyone shares, but this exercise can start to get you thinking in the right direction. What does our history reveal to be important to who we are as a congregation? What doesn’t make this list, and what surprises you about that? Values, even if we haven’t named them, tend to be running themes through most of a church’s history. Making a timeline of key moments, such as pastor tenures, physical plant changes, major conflicts, the beginning and/or end of significant ministries, and responses to world events can make these runners more apparent. Who are the church people, now gone on to the cloud of witnesses, whose legacies shape us the most? What did they ingrain in us? How did they invest in us? What is essential for us to carry forward? Focus on lessons from the departed could tie in well with dates in the liturgical calendar, such as All Saints’ Day, Lent or the Anna and Simeon Scripture text at Christmas.
these tenets in turn serve as touchstones to reset the relationship between the involved parties. And a church that has done the work to define its values knows what it is about. It doesn’t have to try to be all things to all people. It lives its beliefs, and those whose priorities align with those of the congregation become part of or partner to the church. Congregations that didn’t have this baseline, this trust, this sense of identity, have struggled the past two years. The pandemic kept (and in many ways, continues to keep) us from being in close proximity to one another in familiar ways. That reality has made it difficult for us to have complex conversations. So, when leaders had to make quick or hard decisions, on what values were they basing them? Where did the trust come from that all the options were explored and that choices were made based on the fullest expression of the congregation’s values and the best available information? What kept pastors and churches from overextending themselves by trying to do all the things to reach all the people? I invite you to mull what you consider your congregation’s top three values, then check them out with others in your church. If you’re surprised by the discrepancies, don’t panic! It is not too late for you and your fellow congregants to do the good work of naming these touchstones.
To what are we most committed as a church? What’s important to us about these commitments? Here, you’re not really looking for stances on political or theological issues, but you can dig underneath those to get at the values that provide the scaffolding for those stances. What can we not imagine stopping? By contrast, what is something we can never imagine doing? Our strong reactions point to values that underpin our doing or not doing. What do we offer our community, defined as both those who attend our church and those we minister alongside in a broader sense? You don’t have to be a larger, well-resourced church to show the love of Christ in impactful ways. So, what do you provide that others would miss if your church disappeared tomorrow? The responses might get at value more than values, but they can also give clues about what your congregation is doing when it is most authentically and faithfully itself. Wrestling with these questions can be an energizing exercise for your church. They are also a great way to get back on the same page with fellow church members after long spans apart and to jumpstart your ministry in this new season. Have fun with them, and watch what God will do. Laura Stephens-Reed is a clergy and congregational coach based in Alabama.
What’s Normal Now? Discerning Next Steps for Your Church’s Future Born out of the experience of Second Baptist Church, Memphis, Tenn., What’s Normal Now is a six-session resource for congregational leaders as they navigate questions arising from the pandemic.
www.cbf.net/whats-normal-now SPRING 2022
DEEP&WIDE Since 2001, Second Baptist has engaged with families in Bridger, South Dakota, and built trust though long-term relationships and respect for the Lakota culture.
Missouri church honored for ‘mission excellence’ By Meg Lacy Vega
of us remember singing the refrain of the hymn “Deep and Wide” at the top of our kid-sized lungs, in Sunday school or at Vacation Bible School. The 20th century hymn by Sidney Cox is about living water that flows from the wounds of Christ, becoming “a fountain flowing deep and wide, deep and wide!” But these words could also be used to describe the mission efforts of Second Baptist Church in Liberty, Missouri. The church’s commitment to sharing God’s love with the world is both intensely relational and strategically vast—it is deep, and it is wide, a fountain of God’s liberating love flowing through the world.
Top: Second Baptist’s annual Missions Market features booths from missions partners, including the Karen Grace Baptist Church. Bottom: Members of Second Baptist talk with CBF field personnel Rick Burnette on a mission trip to the Upland Holistic Development Project (UHDP) in Thailand.
Second Baptist Church was a 2021 recipient of CBF’s Mission Excellence Award. Watch a video at www.cbf.net/missions-excellence.
Each December, Second Baptist members donate thousands of gifts to its Christmas Store, so families can shop at very low prices. The experience of choosing gifts, rather than receiving a handout, restores dignity.
The Many Hands Fair Trade store, which is run by church volunteers, is located across the street from the church building. The store sells goods from around the world and introduces community members to fair trade practices.
THE MINISTRY OF PRESENCE IN BRIDGER, SOUTH DAKOTA
the members of Second Baptist tell it, the most significant impact of their ministry in Bridger is the friendships they have built which have transformed both communities. “Our church’s mission statement begins with a commitment to “We’ve learned a ton over the years,” Lassiter said. “We didn’t foster meaningful Christ-centered community,” said pastor Jason always know exactly what we would do when we visited; so we Edwards. “That is not just community within the walls of the church. learned to slow down, submit ourselves to the culture, and surrender It is very much our approach to mission as well.” to their process and needs. We realized we needed be good listeners Nothing demonstrates this more clearly than the long-term and to accept the give-and-take that is a part of the Lakota culture. relationships Second Baptist has built with the people of Bridger, Anytime we did something for them, they would find a way to do South Dakota. This partnership began in 2001 as a part of CBF’s something for us.” Together for Hope initiative, to serve the financially poorest counties These experiences, along with reflection and study, eventually in the nation. In 2021, Second Baptist celebrated 20 years of faithful grew into what the Second Baptist calls the “Four Rs” of ministry with the people of Bridger and recommitted to an additional mission: Relationship, Reciprocity, Respect and Reconciliation. five years. The congregation has learned that it is only through a deep Mike Lassiter was the associate pastor at Second Baptist when commitment to relationships marked by respect and reciprocity that the partnership began, and he was among the first group of church reconciliation can occur. members that traveled to Bridger to meet with a group of local Over two decades of ministry together, the relationships formed Lakota ministers. “Even that meeting was a huge step,” Mike recalled, in this place have changed both the people of Bridger and the people “because of the complex history of white Christian missionaries of Second Baptist. As church members have gained trust with the among native communities. These pastors took a chance on us, a Lakota, they have been invited into sacred tribal moments: talking chance to trust again.” circles and pow-wows, sweat lodge ceremonies and intentional One pastor they met that day was Byron Buffalo, and his wife advocacy for the land and its people. Toni. Byron and Toni were receptive to the members of Second “There is a deep well of spirituality in Bridger,” Lassiter explained. Baptist and a ministry friendship began to form. Second Baptist “And it has enlarged the spiritual practices of Second Baptist.” He started sending church groups each summer to serve alongside recalled a “Wiping the Tears” ceremony Pastor Byron performed for a Pastor Byron’s ministry of “church outdoors” in which he worked with visiting church group from Georgia, having just lost a beloved church youth and young adults on the reservation, teaching life skills and the member. It was a sacred moment of blessing and healing for all love of Jesus through horseback riding. involved—and a powerful symbol of how relationships of reciprocity Through these trips, Second Baptist learned of other needs, and a and respect can contribute to the ongoing work of reconciliation number of community development initiatives took shape, including among us. construction projects, rummage sales, teaching assistant roles at the local school, and helping to furnish a community center. But to hear SPRING 2022
IN JERUSALEM…AND TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH
of the earth.” For Second Baptist, this means a commitment to their local context, in Liberty, Mo., and Greater Kansas City (Jerusalem), their partnership in Bridger, S.D. (Judea), and two international The remarkable length of Second Baptist’s partnership with partnerships, one in Haiti (Samaria) and the other with the Upland Bridger may be unique, but the church’s commitment to relationallyHolistic Development Project in Thailand (ends of the earth). Many focused, long-term ministry is not. Karen Rogers, a decades-long of these partnerships have looked different during the pandemic, but member of Second Baptist and interim missions coordinator, the church has worked hard to keep members connected through described the church’s process of discernment as thoughtful and blogs and video updates from partners near and far. intentional. Second Baptist works to make local connections which “We prayerfully pay attention to where people are investing their complement each of its international partnerships. For years in the time and resources, and we have a path for missional partnerships to past, the church has shared some activities with the people of the follow,” Rogers said. Haitian Baptist Church of Kansas City, and with the Karen Grace Over a series of years, partnerships move from the initial Baptist Church, most of whose members came to the U.S. as emigres phases of “listening” and “blessing” to the more advanced stages from Thailand and Myanmar. Although the pandemic has prevented of “missions funding” and “ongoing support.” One example is the recent travel to Haiti and Thailand and has made local connection church’s partnership in Haiti. Second Baptist first sent a team to with other churches more difficult, Second Baptist still looks for Haiti to help with relief efforts and medical needs in various locations opportunities to renew and expand these connections. across the island nation in the years following the 2010 earthquake. During summer 2021, the congregation gathered for a picnic Some years later, after the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship called “Haiti at the Lake,” an opportunity to learn about Haitian commissioned field personnel Jenny Jenkins to serve in the country culture through games and play. The church’s annual Christmas long-term, Second Baptist began working closely with her on special Store, a major local event, shifted to a drive-through approach to projects and occasional trips, and the partnership began moving keep everyone safe. And the Many Hands Fair Trade store, which through the stages of discernment. Second Baptist opened in 2016, continues to sell goods from artisans In 2017, the church’s commitment to Haiti was formalized as a around the world to the local community in Liberty, even expanding partnership with “ongoing support.” While visits have been impossible their hours this year with the recent purchase of an HVAC unit for during the pandemic, Second Baptist is walking alongside Jenkins in the store. the creation of the Magandou Medical Clinic, which will serve remote It is clear that “missions” is not something Second Baptist does— villages that currently have little access to medical care. it is a way of life for the congregation. The church’s commitment to Rogers also speaks to the breadth of Second Baptist’s long-term, sustainable investment allows their impact to have both partnerships: “As a church, we seek to reflect the diversity of mission depth and breadth. It is centered in transformational relationships, present in Acts 1:8.” In this verse, Jesus tells the disciples, “You will be and expands around the globe, as they embody the love of Christ, “to my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends the ends of the earth,” like a fountain flowing…deep and wide.
Left: Former missions minister Mike Lassiter (left) is still involved with the work in Bridger, maintaining contact with tribal leaders throughout the pandemic. Right: The four Rs of relationship, reciprocity, respect and reconciliation are central to all of Second Baptist’s mission efforts.
“OUR CHURCH’S MISSION STATEMENT BEGINS WITH A COMMITMENT TO FOSTER MEANINGFUL CHRIST-CENTERED COMMUNITY.”
When a Place Is So Much More By Melody Harrell
“The Danger of a Single Story” is a must-see TED Talk, captivatingly presented by Chimamande Ngozi Adichie of Nigeria. In her talk, she describes the trap we all fall into of making assumptions about people we haven’t met and places we haven’t been—limited thinking that shrinks our own world rather than nurturing an aptitude for curiosity, openheartedness and real relationship.
Christine was appointed to serve as CBF field personnel at the 2020 General Assembly as part of the Africa/Middle East Team. She was appointed to social work ministry, trauma therapy and capacity building with refugee and migrant populations in Lebanon.
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel all around the world are wellschooled in not making judgments too soon. They recognize they are guests in any given country and that serving others in the name of Christ requires complex cultural understanding, humble admissions when they get things wrong, and a deep commitment to the time it takes to find acceptance among those they serve. When Christine moved to Lebanon in June 2021 to begin her service as CBF field personnel, she already knew some things about it. She had previously lived in Lebanon during an assignment with CBF’s student missions program, Student.Go, but now was coming to serve permanently. She has learned along the way the value of receptivity and, with her first task being language acquisition, took on a posture of learner right from the start. “Learning Arabic is like being back in preschool,” Christine told me. “It’s all such a big overwhelm. You start out by learning the dialect phonetically, word by word. The teacher uses materials specifically created for teaching foreigners how to speak. The alphabet is a non-Latin-based alphabet with some sounds not found in other languages. It’s a little humiliating but then, before you know it, you’re speaking some Arabic!” With differences in dialect from Syria to Lebanon to Palestine to Jordan, the challenge of proficiency is real and it is unlikely one would master all the variations.
A local acquaintance of Christine’s recently went around the table at a meal, citing where each person had learned their Arabic and even identifying the ethnicity of the teachers each had learned from. They all shared a laugh that their accents were such dead giveaways. “It was challenging arriving as new field personnel to a new assignment in the middle of a pandemic. Things were shut down for a while as they were everywhere and moving around was restricted,” she said. In addition to all the limitations from a global pandemic, Christine has had to assimilate in a new place fraught with political and economic instability. “The government is in a constant state of stalemate and the lack of functioning plays out in the day-to-day lives of local people. Protests occur regularly. When I arrived six months ago, the Lebanese lira was 13,000 to the dollar. Today it is almost 27,000 to one. It has basically doubled in the last six months. When you’re paid in dollars, you can manage. But for the local person, basic commodities are so exorbitant, many are constrained to go without. And this has been going on a very long time.” Critical fuel shortages this summer forced car owners to wait in line for hours at petrol stations, hoping that once they reached the head of the queue, they wouldn’t be turned away with the end of the
supply. That shortage has since abated for those who can afford the fuel. Electricity is currently rationed by the government, available often for only two to four hours a day. Those who can manage by using private generators. But many constantly navigate irregular supplies and schedules, mastering the nimble dance of doing what can be done when the electricity is on, and giving in to the realities of darkness when it’s not. “I have become skilled at cooking on my gas stove with a flashlight and even showering in the dark,” laughed Christine. “And just when I start to let the small inconveniences get to me, I learn of a housekeeper who has been going without food at lunch so that her children can eat. Or I hear about doctors riding their bicycles to work at the hospital because that’s the only way to get there. I gain proper perspective of where I am in the scheme of things. It’s hard to imagine what each person is dealing with in their daily lives. And in this context, the trauma people have endured from the fallout of years of conflict is deeply
Christine relocated to Lebanon in June 2021 to begin her assignment, where she is focusing on language acquisition. “Learning Arabic is like being back in preschool,” she said. As Christine is acclimating to her new home, she navigates the challenges and limitations of the pandemic as well as the political and economic instability in Lebanon.
embedded in people’s psyche.” Still people are brave, creative and resilient. This past summer, as the humid evening fell into darkness with yet another electricity blackout, those living around Christine gathered at the top of the hill in the neighborhood to catch the breeze, talk and share dessert under the stars. When Christine considers her future ministry, she sees herself participating in work that focuses on bringing about healing and wholeness in the lives of people. She believes everyone deserves support in recovery from the wounds of war and trauma and, with her training in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), she can be a part of helping people who are stuck in traumatic patterns they can’t let go of. “I want to be a place where people tell their stories and I want to be in the position of responding with hope and healing,” she said. “I want to be a co-creator in the kingdom of God on earth where peace and justice reign and where people realize their dignity and worth.”
As Christine sat around a Thanksgiving table last year, joined by Lebanese, Syrians, British and American friends, she felt the gift of a full heart. Some had never experienced an American-type Thanksgiving and were delighted by this practice of gratitude celebrated with delicious food and meaningful fellowship. “My life here is always so much more than just one thing,” she said. “There is hardship and heartbreak, but also breathtaking beauty and resilience. There is local culture and tradition, but also outside influence and diversity. When I draw near to people, open my heart to the whole of their story, and pay attention to what is mine to do, God’s love flows through me, and I see more clearly the way the world as it’s meant to be.” Learn more about Christine and her work at www.cbf.net/christine. The CBF Offering for Global Missions makes possible the long-term presence of CBF field personnel like Christine. Visit www.cbf.net/ogm to find resources and make a financial gift.
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By Brenda Salter McNeil
By Bishop Michael Curry
Reconciliation is not true reconciliation without justice! Brenda Salter McNeil has come to this conviction as she has led the church in pursuing reconciliation efforts over the past three decades. McNeil calls the church to repair the old reconciliation paradigm by moving beyond individual racism to address systemic injustice, both historical and present. It’s time for the church to go beyond individual reconciliation and “heart change” and to boldly mature in its response to racial division. Becoming Brave offers a distinctly Christian framework for addressing systemic injustice.
As the descendant of slaves and the son of a civil rights activist, Bishop Michael Curry’s life illustrates massive changes in our times. Much of the world met Bishop Curry when he delivered his sermon on the redemptive power of love at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at Windsor Castle. Here, he expands on his message of hope in an inspirational road map for living the way of love, illuminated with moving lessons from his own life. Through the prism of his faith, ancestry, and personal journey, Love Is the Way shows us how America came this far and, more important, how to go a whole lot further.
Becoming Brave: finding the Courage to Pursue Racial Justice Now
Love is the Way: Holding on to Hope in Troubling Times