Friday, March 14, 2008

Pray for Chris and Monica Woodall

NAMB’s Woodalls minister in Hawaii and see the state’s less exotic side
By Mickey Noah

HONOLULU, Hawaii – For most Americans and even for world travelers, Hawaii is the ultimate, exotic tourist destination. After all, it’s paradise.

But for Southern Baptist missionaries Chris and Monica Woodall, Hawaii is not just a paradise, but islands inhabited by the lost and hurting.

While visitors crowd Waikiki Beach in Honolulu for sunning and shopping, surfers invade Oahu’s North Shore for some of the world’s most dare-devil surfing, and tourists enjoy the green flora, dark-sand beaches and blue Pacific waters of Maui, the Woodalls see Hawaii’s underbelly.

“When you get behind the glitz of Waikiki, you find a lot of needs,” Chris says. “When you get away from there and get back into the communities, it’s just like anywhere else in the world. There are real people who have real problems, real hurts and needs. They just happen to live in a place that others like to come to on vacation.

“Yes, the beaches are beautiful. But Hawaii is home to many, many people. These people have names and souls and are in need of the Gospel,” said Woodall, director of prayer and evangelism since 2005 for the Hawaii-Pacific Baptist Convention, headquartered in Honolulu. He also heads up the convention’s disaster relief and chaplaincy teams.

The Woodalls are two of more than 5,000 missionaries in the United States, Canada and their territories supported by the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® for North American Missions. They will be featured as part of the annual Week of Prayer, March 2-9, 2008, the theme of which is “Live with Urgency: Seize Your Divine Moment.” The 2008 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering’s goal is $61 million, 100 percent of which is used for missionaries like the Woodalls.

Chris’ friend, Robert Wittekind, a pastor at Waianae Baptist Church in Honolulu County on Oahu, knows of the poor and illiterate in the Waianae community.

“There are a lot of broken homes here,” said Wittekind, who the locals call “Kahu,” the Hawaiian word for pastor. “According to statistics, six out of 10 prisoners have relatives in the Waianae area. We have a lot of drugs, a lot of homelessness – people just running the streets. We have a lot of broken families and marriages. Many are not married but just live together. One of the highest populations of teenage pregnancy is on this coast.”

Chris met Monica while they both served the International Mission Board in East Asia. After they returned from overseas, they married and a year later, became the parents of their first child, Moriah, now almost two years old. They’re currently expecting their second child.

“Because of what God has put on my heart,” said Monica, “we wanted to live our lives somewhere where the Gospel’s not being readily accepted or abundantly shared, and not where there’s a church on every corner.

“Although Hawaii is a hard place to live, we want to live where we can be salt and light, and Hawaii is definitely one of those places.”

Monica, who first served in Hawaii as a semester missionary after college, says her experience in Hawaii has taught her that people here are spiritually searching, and to get them to talk about spiritual things is fairly easy.

“But then when you start talking about Jesus and Jesus being the only way, that’s when it gets a little bit more complicated. While it’s easy to get into spiritual conversations, I was heartbroken by how that never meant Jesus.”

Woodall says his and Monica’s roles are to “support pastors in doing what they do.

“There are 115 churches in our convention, worshiping in 15 different languages,” he said. “Our convention is not made up of just Hawaii, but includes American Samoa, 1,000 miles away, and Guam, Okinawa and Saipan, more than 3,800 miles from Hawaii. Of course, we have churches on all of the Hawaiian Islands (Oahu, Hawaii or the Big Island, Maui, Kauai, Molokai and Lanai).”

As if the spiritual challenges were not enough, Woodall and Wittekind agree that Hawaii is very much a closed society among the state’s indigenous residents.

“This community is a tight, local Hawaiian community,” Woodall said. “We just don’t ease our way in after a few short years, or even 10, 15 or 20 years. This is a hard culture to get into. It’s tough. I’m a minority and so is everybody else who comes from the mainland.”

Another challenge is that Hawaii is a very expensive place to live. Usually, a husband and wife both must work because it may take one of their entire paychecks to pay the mortgage on their home. Honolulu, for instance, is one of the most expensive places for housing in the United States. A four-bedroom house worth $303,000 in Atlanta would cost $738,000 in Honolulu.

“In Hawaii, there are people working multiple jobs,” according to Woodall. “You have people working the night shifts, so it’s important to have churches that hold services when the night shift is over. That may be at 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning. Or you have worship services in the middle of the night when people have time to attend.”

Despite these cultural and economic challenges, Southern Baptists have also used the state’s natural disasters and disaster relief as a major way to demonstrate the love of Christ to the local population.

Woodall describes Hawaii as “just a little speck of dirt in the middle of a big ocean.” It’s a geological and meteorological time-bomb. One or more of the state’s six inhabited islands is constantly ripe for hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes, tsunamis or volcanoes.

“The next earthquake here is not ‘if’ but ‘when’,” says Karl Ragan, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Waimea, and another close friend of the Woodalls. Waimea is on the Big Island.

On Sunday, Dec. 15, 2006, an earthquake – measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale – hit Hawi and Kapaau, small towns on the north Kohala coast of the Big Island around 7:10 a.m. For 45 seconds that must have seemed like an hour, the earthquake rattled local homes. All of the 3,000 homes in the area suffered damage. Most of the homes were jilted off their post- and pier-foundations.

“Since last January, we have been working along side our partners in California to assist families whose homes were either heavily damaged or destroyed by the earthquake,” said Woodall. “This has provided many opportunities to minister to families who have never set foot into a church.”

“Most of the houses shifted about two inches off their foundations,” said Ragan. “We didn’t try to put a house back in its original position, but put in new piers and cement posts. We wanted to do that quickly before the next quake,” he explained, adding that Hawaii records hundreds of little quakes each month.

Ragan said the work was done by Baptist Builders who rushed in from California and Utah. Southern Baptists also have the only feeding unit on the island for assisting volunteers and victims of disasters.

“People were just amazed that Baptists would come over from the mainland, at their own expense, and help,” he said. Ragan said folks were also amazed that Southern Baptists would help anyone, not just other Baptists. It’s opened the doors wide open to share the Gospel.

“Chris has been really wonderful,” said Ragan. “He’s on Oahu, which is 200 miles away so we have to rely on airplanes. He’s been really great in facilitating and connecting with the North American Mission Board. He’s assured us that bills will be paid and has helped us get volunteers from the other islands.”

With such a significant list of challenges and needs, Woodall said the congregations in Hawaii must have the support and financial assistance that the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering brings.

“The Annie Armstrong offering provides a means by which we can help the churches do what God has called them to do – share the Gospel, equip leaders and start new churches all over the Pacific.”

Contact: Chris and Monica Woodall
Hawaii-Pacific Baptist Convention
2042 Vancouver Drive
Honolulu, Hawaii 96822-2491

Chris assists volunteer groups who come to Hawaii, American Samoa, and Guam with evangelism efforts. He also coordinates prayer emphases and disaster relief efforts.

Prayer Points

  • Pray that God would continue to provide opportunities for Christian families to befriend non-Christian families.

  • On January 24, our second child (Madalyn Ruth) was born. Pray for the spiritual battles that are underway regarding our children. May God keep them and protect them in this world.

  • Pray that God's Spirit would keep us united and passionate about the expansion of His Kingdom and the glory of His name.

  • Pray that Hawaii Baptists would continue to share Christ consistently.

  • Pray for some potential new church starts in Oahu, Guam, and the Big Island.

  • Pray for several revival/harvest events that will be going on this spring and summer.

  • Pray that God would raise up pastors and missionaries from within the churches in Hawaii.
  • Thursday, March 13, 2008

    Pray for Brad Lartigue

    Resort missionary Brad Lartigue holds big job in Big Sky
    By Mickey Noah

    BIG SKY, Mont. – Because his mission field is based in Big Sky, Mont., where Lone Mountain stretches 11,000 feet high, Brad Lartigue reports to work every day sky-high – geographically and spiritually.

    For 20 years, Lartigue has served as a North American Mission Board missionary -- the last 17 as a resort missionary in Big Sky during the ski season in winter and at Yellowstone National Park in summer. Big Sky is nestled near three interconnected mountains, high in Montana’s Gallatin National Forest.

    Lartigue is one of more than 5,000 missionaries in the United States, Canada and their territories supported by the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® for North American Missions. He is one of eight NAMB missionaries featured as part of the annual Week of Prayer, March 2-9, 2008. This year’s theme is “Live with Urgency: Seize Your Divine Moment.” The 2008 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering’s goal is $61 million, 100 percent of which is used for missionaries like Brad.

    “My place of work is basically the outdoors,” he says. “Our sanctuary is in the mountains that rise above us, among the trees and the animals that God has created. That’s where worship happens for us.

    “I believe that my area of special ministries in resort and leisure settings is a good place to present the Gospel to people,” he said. “After all, our Lord Jesus Christ gave us the example and foundation for ministering to people outside the walls of the church.

    “Jesus spoke to the multitudes from the bow of a boat, from the mountainsides, in the gardens, in the marketplaces. He met people where they were, in times of work and play. It’s a wonderful thing to have the opportunity of using God’s creation as a ministry tool to point people past that creation and toward the Creator.”

    Supported and commissioned by NAMB and the Montana Southern Baptist Convention, Lartigue leads worship services and campfire devotionals, marries couples, dedicates babies and even conducts funeral services on the powdery snow of Big Sky. He witnesses to tourists who wouldn’t be caught dead inside the walls of a brick-and-mortar church.

    During the peak ski season -- between Thanksgiving and Easter -- some 5,000-6,000 people a day come to Big Sky to challenge the world-class ski slopes, which get blanketed by 400 inches of new snow each year.

    “Every Sunday when I ride the chairlift going up the mountain to do my worship service, I meet people who have no intention of going to a worship service. They’re coming to find a place for recreation and to relax -- not for a place of worship or for a minister. But when I ride the chairlift, I never ride without speaking to someone about why they are here and what we are doing here.

    “I think it means a lot to people to see a minister snowboarding, skiing, or cross-country skiing, who takes the effort to hone these skills to meet people where they are,” he said.

    Citing the Apostle Paul’s admonition to “be all things to all people so that we might reach some,” Lartigue recently invited a couple of young men on college break to his worship service.

    “They saw me on my snowboard and said, ‘Oh, you’re the shred chaplain.’ Shredding is ski slang for snowboarding. I think God gives us passions in our lives that drive us to do the things we do. God has given me the passion to snowboard, cross-country ski and go backpacking in the wilderness.

    “And each of us can reach one because of the various passions He gives us,” Lartigue said. “People come here to relax, rest and be rejuvenated. And what better place to do ministry than a place where people can be inspired, because God and his creation are inspiring.”

    It’s a long way from the sultry summers of Lake Charles, La, where Brad was born and raised, to the crystal-blue skies and frosty air of Big Sky, Mont.

    He grew up in a Christian home in Lake Charles, a bayou town in the heart of southwest Louisiana’s Cajun country, where his father serves as pastor of a Southern Baptist church and with a devoted preacher’s wife for a mom. With a French surname and rich family bloodlines of black, Cherokee Indian and Italian lineage, Brad is proud of his heritage. One of five children, he accepted Christ at age 14.

    Always interested in adventure and public service, Lartigue was active in the Baptist Student Union at McNeese State University in Lake Charles. While at McNeese, he cut his missions “teeth” while serving as a summer missionary on Hawaii’s Big Island and as a US/C2 resort missionary at Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico.

    After graduating from McNeese State, he attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, where he earned a master’s degree in religious education and church recreation. In 1990, he accepted a career missionary position at Big Sky and Yellowstone National Park from NAMB and the Montana Southern Baptist Convention. He’s been there ever since.

    “When people think of Big Sky or Yellowstone National Park, they think of the beauty and what a pristine place it is,” said Lartigue. “But people don’t realize that behind the scenes, there are hurting people – people very much disillusioned about who God is. I come across alcoholics, those into drugs, the promiscuous, those whose lives need to change.”

    As with any Southern Baptist pastor, Sunday is a long and busy work day for Lartigue.

    “I am part of three worship services on Sundays,” he said. “I begin the day with an outdoor worship service at 9:30 a.m. at the Moonlight Basin Ski Resort. Then I drive back down to the Big Sky Christian Fellowship worship at 11 a.m., and back up to Mountain Village to conduct the skier/snowboarder worship service in the snow at 1:30 p.m.,” Brad said.

    After a few hours of skiing or snowboarding, he closes out the day by directing a youth ministry for junior high students on Sunday nights. He also is active in Yellowstone Innovator/park employee worship in campgrounds, hotel worship services and home Bible studies.

    During summer, he shifts the focus of his ministry to Yellowstone – about 50 miles away -- where he supervises college and seminary volunteers called “Innovators,” full-time summer missionaries appointed by NAMB and sponsored by the First Baptist Church of West Yellowstone, who work full-time alongside park employees in a secular environment. They intentionally share their faith in Christ through lifestyle evangelism, Bible studies, hiking, backpacking and “one-to-one” witnessing.

    In October, Brad is a swimming instructor and coach for the local elementary school in Big Sky, and a lifeguard instructor in Bozeman, about 45 miles north of Big Sky. With Thanksgiving comes the return of ski season.

    Year-round, Lartigue works as a firefighter and chaplain for the Big Sky Volunteer Fire Department. He also is a certified emergency medical technician (EMT), a CPR instructor and a volunteer for the Big Sky Ski Patrol. Regardless of the hat he wears, he ministers to all, all the time.

    Dean Hall of Helena, Mont., is a fellow EMT on the Big Sky Ski Patrol team.

    “I’ve known him (Lartigue) for five or six years now,” Hall said. “He’s a minister, a youth minister, a resort minister. He’s a very well trained EMT. He’s well-respected and a wonderful, kind, gentle man. The kids love him. He’s a great asset to the community here and to the Big Sky Ski Patrol, both as a chaplain and as a trained EMT.

    “I think all resorts need somebody like him,” continued Hall. “This is sort of a la-la land in many respects. There’s lots of alcohol, lots of drugs. Brad is an anchoring force and some of these young people need that.”

    What does the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering mean for Brad?

    “This offering does things in so many different ways, and offers so many different opportunities that we will never, ever see the results until we’re in heaven. I feel privileged to be able to minister in a place where I can focus on ministry and not worry about how I’m going to sustain myself.

    “I love what I do because it is making an eternal difference in people’s lives and I look forward to seeing these people in our heavenly home for all of eternity.”

    Contact: Brad Lartigue
    Resort Missionary
    PO Box 161111
    Big Sky, Montana 59716

    Ministry website:

    Brad is a resort missionary to Big Sky, Mont., and Yellowstone National Park. Brad leads the evangelism outreach in those resort communities. He is chaplain for the Big Sky community, leads mountain-top worship services for the ski area, and mobilizes students to serve as Christian Innovators in Yellowstone National Park.

    Prayer Points

  • Pray for the well-being of my family in Louisiana and Texas.

  • Pray for semester missionary Jordan Graham's family in Mississippi.

  • Pray for intentional opportunities to share God's truth in Big Sky and Yellowstone National Park areas so that many will come to know and follow Christ.

  • Pray for the recruitment of strong Christian college students for the ministry in Yellowstone National Park.

  • Pray for personal, spiritual accountability partners, the promotion of a godly life, strengthening of personal devotions, and safety from the evils of satan.

  • Pray with us about the future of Yellowstone Christian Innovators along with First Baptist Church, West Yellowstone. There is an empty lot next to the church that was once a bank and then a pharmacy which is now for sale. It would be nice to dream of one day owning this property to build a Yellowstone Ministry Center next to and part of the church in West Yellowstone.
  • Wednesday, March 12, 2008

    Pray for Jon and Linda Hodge

    Jon Hodge leads NAMB’s World Changers ministry in five states
    By Mickey Noah

    BARTLETT, Tenn. – For nine years now, Jon Hodge has been in the neighborhood-changing business, and while he’s changing neighborhoods, he’s also working -- with God’s help -- to change hearts, minds and souls.

    Based out of Bartlett, Tenn. just northeast of Memphis, Jon and Linda Hodge are national missionaries for the North American Mission Board (NAMB), an assignment that takes Jon to middle Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, southern Illinois and Alaska.

    Hodge manages a big chunk of NAMB’s nationwide World Changers ministry. Created in 1990, World Changers is a pre-packaged mission experience that enables students – middle schoolers to collegians – and adults to donate a week of their summers to rehabilitate substandard housing and share Christ.

    Last summer, some 25,000 World Changers participants partnered with 1,100 churches in 88 separate projects across the United States, which resulted in 900 decisions for Christ and the repair and renovation of 1,700 homes.

    The Hodges are two of more than 5,000 missionaries in the United States, Canada and their territories supported by the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® for North American Missions. They are one of eight NAMB missionary couples highlighted as part of the annual Week of Prayer, March 2-9, 2008. This year’s theme is “Live with Urgency: Seize Your Divine Moment.” The 2008 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering’s goal is $61 million, 100 percent of which is used for missionaries like the Hodges.

    Responsible for planning and coordinating 13-17 different World Changers projects in the five states he represents, Hodge spends many months – prior to the actual summer project months -- picking cities, meeting with city officials, school officials, city economic leaders and homeowners to choose the renovation projects. He also must ensure that his World Changers participants have a place to stay, get fed, serve and share.

    Hodge also selects and trains about 25 college students who serve as summer staff volunteers for four-five World Changers projects, traveling from site to site. The projects are in lower-income neighborhoods of cities large and small.

    Each volunteer has a different role – office manager, music leader, audio-visual (AV) person and even a missions communication specialist responsible for alerting local media to World Changers activities in a given city. They, in turn, work for World Changers’ experienced project coordinators, construction and ministry coordinators.

    “The college students must be strong people to serve on these teams,” Hodge said. “We need leaders who’ll take a group and lead it. We have to have people strong in computers and AV. Mainly, we need kids who are willing to go, serve and work hard because it’s long hours. You may go from 5:00 one morning to 1:00 the next morning. You have to be flexible, have a great personality and be willing to do whatever the Lord wants you to do that week.”

    Regardless of the project venue, Hodge says the first questions the World Changers always get from local residents are “why are you here?” or “why are you doing this?”

    “And we’re able to share with them that we’re doing this because we love Jesus, and Jesus called us to go, serve and help people,” Hodge says.

    Hodge recants the true story of a man in Gulfport, Miss., the victim of Hurricane Katrina. About 350 World Changers were on the scene in Gulfport to help local residents re-build.

    The 50-something man -- naturally suspicious of anyone claiming to want to help him for free -- had already run off others from another denomination who had volunteered to re-roof his wind-damaged home.

    “Then he met 12 teenagers and adults who had come from different Baptist churches in different places to help hurricane victims,” Hodge recalls. “He said he could see in them a love that he had never seen before. He said he had to have what this group had. He accepted Christ because of the witness of the World Changers.” He also got his new roof -- at no charge.

    Prior to his appointment as a NAMB national missionary, Hodge worked as a coach, truck driver and a Krispy Kreme Doughnut route salesman. Before his call to full-time missions work, he also served as a youth and recreation minister for 11 years in Tennessee and Illinois churches.

    “My call to missions came after I took a youth group to a World Changers project in Alabama. The more I became involved on the leadership side of World Changers as a project coordinator and speaker, the stronger the call I felt to be involved in missions.

    “I had taken the group to Alabama to rehab the homes of several low-income homeowners. I thought I was going to change their world by repairing their homes and sharing the love of Christ with them. But not only were their lives changed, my life was changed,” Hodge said.

    After a hard day of installing a new roof or scraping and painting a house in summer’s heat, the World Changers spend evenings after dinner in worship services, led by student ministers and music leaders, also volunteers.

    “World Changers makes my day, my summer,” Hodge says. “It’s exciting. I have one of the best jobs in the world. I thank the Lord everyday that I’m a Southern Baptist missionary.

    “There are times when it’s tough during the summer -- long hours and a lot of different things going on, and a lot of fires to put out. But it’s all worth it when you see these high school and college students, and hear the stories of how their lives were impacted and changed.”

    Because Hodge now has been working with World Changers for nine years, he’s seen high school and college students grow up, finish their educations, marry and have their own children.

    “I’ve seen many college students come in, thinking they’re going to be something else in life, but God gets a hold of them that summer and they realize they want to be in the ministry or go into missions. It’s exciting at the end of the summer when we compile everything and see 1,000 or more students who say ‘I want missions to be part of my life.’ That makes it all worth it right there,” said Hodge.

    Hodge said he wants to thank “those people who give Annie Armstrong Easter Offerings sacrificially.

    “Because of them, I don’t have to come back from the field worried about whether I have food on the table back at home or whether my family is being taken care of. I can go out and do the ministry I’ve been called to do.

    “Southern Baptists need to be involved in World Changers because it’s an opportunity for us to be out there and to touch people’s lives. I’ve seen this program open up doors that through other avenues, we couldn’t open up.”

    Hodge says back home in Bartlett, wife Linda “keeps the home fires burning bright when I am traveling,” which is much of the time. Married since 1983, they have three children – a college sophomore, an 11th grader and a third grader.

    Contact: Jon and Linda Hodge
    National Missionaries
    4418 Inniswood Cove
    Barlett, Tennessee 38135

    Jon and Linda serve as national missionaries with the Student Volunteer Mobilization Team at NAMB. Jon is responsible for logistics for more than 15 World Changer projects each year.

    Prayer Points

  • Pray for the safety of youth and adult participants serving through World Changers this summer.

  • Pray that the hearts of those being ministered to will be receptive to the gospel.

  • Pray for World Changers participants to be bold in their witness as they strive to meet physical and spiritual needs.
  • Tuesday, March 11, 2008

    Pray for David and Shirley Proffitt

    Campus church planting missionary David Proffitt says Virginia students understand life’s uncertainties
    By Mickey Noah

    HARRISONBURG, Va. – For North American missionaries David and Shirley Proffitt, their passion is winning the next generation to Christ by planting new churches near college campuses. And this passion has turned into a family affair.

    Seven years ago, the Proffitts left Southern California – where the couple and their grown son and daughter had been planting new churches for 25 years – for Virginia. In Virginia, they have been planting new collegiate churches as missionaries supported by the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia (SBCV).

    David and Shirley are two of more than 5,000 missionaries in the United States, Canada and their territories supported by the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® for North American Missions. The Proffitts will be featured as part of the annual Week of Prayer, March 2-9, 2008, the theme of which is “Live with Urgency: Seize Your Divine Moment.” The 2008 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering’s goal is $61 million, 100 percent of which is used for missionaries like the Proffitts.

    At James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., the Proffitts’ first Virginia church plant, Aletheia (Greek for “truth”) Church, has grown in six years from four members to the some 400 who regularly attend Sunday worship service.

    The Proffitts’ son, Aaron, 29, is Aletheia’s worship leader and pastor, a missionary for NAMB and a church planter for SBCV. Amy, their 30-year-old daughter, serves as a counselor for the church, which meets in a renovated warehouse in Harrisonburg. Aaron’s wife, Ashlee, is a semester missionary while Amy’s husband, Jon, also is on Aletheia’s leadership team.

    “Three-quarters of the 400 are students,” says David. “The rest of them were probably former students who have gotten married and now have their own children. This is a church that has leadership, supports the Cooperative Program, sends missionaries out, disciples, trains and teaches,” he said.

    James Madison University is located in scenic Shenandoah Valley, and has an enrollment of some 17,000 students, 4,000 of them freshman, the largest freshman class in the school’s history. Most of the students are from Fairfax County and northern Virginia.

    The 57-year-old Proffitt – who pulls up roots, relocates and plants new campus churches much like itinerant missionary Johnny Appleseed planted apple trees – says starting new churches on a college campus comes with its own special challenges.

    “The challenges come when the university is not friendly toward a Christian organization, Christian ministry, churches and Christian campus organizations,” he explained. “They’ve been pretty friendly here in Virginia.

    “We have to realize that each place is a unique setting. Even though they’re college and university students, they still are different no matter where.”

    Proffitt said one reason he enjoys working with college students is because of the varied demographics they represent.

    “College students are mobile. They are ready for risk-taking and challenges. They’re ready to pursue whatever might be next. They’re developing their values. They are in transition. Usually they’re more flexible. They usually don’t have much debt and don’t have to worry about a house to sell. They’re teachable and open. They love to get together, they love to study and they don’t want to be ‘dumbed’ down.

    “They love the Word. They’re not as hard to reach evangelistically as a lot of people think. As we train and teach them, and show them how to do hands-on ministry, the more interested they become. The more they are taught and the more they get equipped, the more focused they become, and the more loyal they become,” Proffitt said.

    When it became clear that Aletheia Church in Harrisonburg was in the good hands of son Aaron, daughter Amy and their spouses, Ashlee and Jon, David and Shirley next moved on to Richmond, home of Virginia Commonwealth University, the largest university in Virginia with 32,000 students. There, they launched yet another church, also called Aletheia, in downtown Richmond.

    When they first planted the Richmond church, the Proffitts began by holding a series of Bible studies. For each Bible study, Shirley would invite and feed up to 18 people in their campus apartment.

    “Shirley has been our hospitality leader and always prepares terrific meals for all the people we invite over. She uses hospitality to assist with the evangelism process,” said Proffitt.

    “Every day a team of US/C2 and semester missionaries are going out on the campus of VCU and to surrounding housing and talking to students, building relationships and doing intentional evangelism,” said Proffitt.

    “We’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of people become Christians,” Proffitt says. “We have even baptized new believers in the James River.”

    The VCU campus is multicultural, and includes more than 1,500 international students, many from second-generation, international homes.

    “At VCU, there are lots of Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus, and a lot of people who just haven’t made up their minds about God yet. Some of our greatest challenges involve seeing the many Muslim friends we’ve made come to an understanding that Jesus is God and loves them and desires to become connected through repentance and faith.”

    Because of the heavy international student population at VCU, Proffitt said his ministry, Richmond’s Grove Avenue Baptist Church, and some other SBC ministries combined efforts and resources to hold an international student Thanksgiving dinner last November. About 300 -- mostly international students stuck on campus with no place to go during the holidays -- attended and enjoyed the 11 roast turkeys Grove Avenue Church members prepared, along with all the trimmings.

    With Aletheia Church in Richmond now running about 200 people each Sunday, David and Shirley have since moved on to Norfolk to plant a third new church, the Old Dominion University branch of Aletheia Church.

    Proffitt feels strongly about the need for Southern Baptists to be involved in ministry on the college campus.

    “It’s important because it’s the future of the Southern Baptist Convention as a denomination. I grew up as a Southern Baptist. But the people who were the older people in the church I grew up in are gone now. They’re in heaven. So we have to continue to think about the next generation, preparing the next generation, getting the next generation ready.

    “The next generation can go in any direction,” Proffitt said. “We want to lead them in a spiritual direction – understanding who God is, understanding that He sent His son, Jesus Christ, and that they can have a personal relationship with Him.”

    The heart of Proffitt’s ministry, he said, is the dozen or so US/C2, summer and semester missionaries from NAMB who serve as his assistants and support staff during a school year.

    “These student missionaries are amazing,” he says. “They do everything from office work, pick up students, disciple, lead small groups and evangelize. They can organize, provide hospitality, connect, create PowerPoint presentations and graphic art, crunch numbers – anything we ask them to do.

    “The beauty of our cooperation with NAMB is that we train the students and NAMB helps fund them as interns and support staff for church planting.”

    Proffitt asks Southern Baptists to pray that God would continue to give him and his team open and amiable relationships with the college and university administrations with whom he works. He also prays that the students will be open to the message, so they come to Christ.

    When Proffitt is asked which part of his ministry brings him the greatest joy, he has a ready answer.

    “First of all, it’s really encouraging to see my own family – the son and daughter I’ve invested so much in over the years – doing their own ministry. They’re actually helping to plant new churches. My second joy, evangelistically, is to see a student, or anybody in the community, become a Christian – to see them get discipled, baptized, equipped, involved, experienced and confident in ministry. And the third thing that really encourages me is to see people going global, fulfilling the Great Commission.”

    “Live with Urgency,” the theme for the 2008 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, are not just empty words for those in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Proffitt said, because of the tragic mass killing of 32 students, faculty and staff at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg last spring.

    “Because of Virginia Tech, we know how short life can be. Because we work among young people, we realize that life can be short and can move on very, very quickly. Before you know it, students are in a phase of life where they’re not as flexible, not as willing to hear, to change, and to allow spiritual alterations in their lives.”

    Contact: David and Shirley Proffitt
    Church Planting Missionary
    475j Eastover Drive
    Harrisonburg, VA 22801-4409

    Ministry website:

    David and Shirley are collegiate church planting missionaries directing the Aletheia Campus/Student Organization at Virginia Commonwealth University with the intention of launching a new church plant.

    Prayer Points

  • Pray for God to call individuals to accept key leadership roles for new organizations that are ready to begin on college campuses.

  • Pray for the development of team members as we move to launch new campus organizations leading to new collegiate churches at George Washington University, George Mason University, Radford University, and Old Dominion University.
  • Monday, March 10, 2008

    Pray for Jon and Mindy Jamison

    Missionaries Jon, Mindy Jamison live in a missions ‘field of dreams’ in Iowa
    By Mickey Noah

    DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa conjures up images of a Midwestern state of green cornfields, big-time pig and dairy farming, small towns and the fictional setting for wonderful movies like “The Music Man” and “Field of Dreams.”

    “The Hawkeye State” certainly is all those positive things and more. But Des Moines -- Iowa’s state capital and largest city with 500,000 people -- also is plagued with the same neighborhood gangs, crime, violence, drugs and poverty of other American cities. Just ask Jon and Mindy Jamison.

    For almost nine years, Jon and Mindy, both 33, have been a husband-wife team of North American Mission Board (NAMB) missionaries, working as co-directors of Friendship Baptist Center in inner-city Des Moines. They are also state church and community ministries directors for the Baptist Convention of Iowa.

    The Jamisons are two of more than 5,000 missionaries in the United States, Canada and their territories supported by the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® for North American Missions, and are one of eight NAMB missionary couples highlighted as part of the annual Week of Prayer, March 2-9, 2008. This year’s theme is “Live with Urgency: Seize Your Divine Moment.” The 2008 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering’s goal is $61 million, 100 percent of which is used for missionaries like the Jamisons.

    The Friendship Baptist Center, a non-descript building, sits on the corner of Meek Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway in Des Moines.

    “The neighborhood surrounding the Friendship Baptist Center is a poverty-impacted community,” according to Jon. “Upwards of 30-35 percent of the households are in poverty. Many of the people are victims of crime. There’s a lot of violence, gang activity and drugs in the communities surrounding the center. So we have a challenge just outside our doors.

    “Many people struggle with having something to eat, having clothes to wear, shelter, heat in the winter. For kids in the area, there’s no one at home to take care of them. Kids must find a way to wake themselves up in the morning. If there’s food in the house, they have to make their own breakfast. They have to find a way to school, if they go. Many kids are sort of their own parents. That may sound like fun, but it also brings some struggles for the kids,” Jamison said.

    Mindy Jamison echoes her husband.

    “The kids get up and don’t take a bath because there’s no water. They don’t have a toothbrush or shampoo. They probably forget to take their books to school. They walk to school in the cold, and it gets very cold in Des Moines,” said Mindy. “They go hungry and without basic needs, much less encouragement and nourishment.

    “I think if that doesn’t break our heart, if that doesn’t concern us, then our heart isn’t lined up with the heart of Christ. He was so concerned for the least of these.”

    Mindy, who grew up doing urban missions work in her native Fort Myers, Fla., calls the neighborhood around the Friendship Center “great” and “horrible” at the same time. The center serves primarily African-Americans and Hispanics, and refugee families from Zaire, Sudan and Bosnia.

    The Friendship Center is multi-faceted. “Kids Club” is an after-school program in which children come in and get help with their homework, play board games or sports. They also learn about life skills, nutrition and even how to cook. And, of course, the Jamisons teach them about the Bible.

    “Once we get to know the kids better, we offer a Bible study and teach them what God says about their lives and how God wants to be a part of their lives,” said Jamison. “Many times, we tell them Bible stories, and it’s the first time they’ve ever heard Bible stories. It’s great to see the lights come on when they realize that God loves them and can provide for them.”

    Telling the center’s kids Bible stories is different from teaching children who’ve grown up in a Southern Baptist church, who can finish the story just by giving them the story’s character or topic.

    “Many of the neighborhood kids here are waiting on the edge of their seats to find out how the Bible story ends,” Mindy says, “because they haven’t heard it before.”

    Mindy credits the center’s 15 Kid’s Club volunteers, who come and “pour their lives into these kids every day.” In all, some 250 volunteers support Jon and Mindy with their myriad of ministries on an annual basis.

    “The kids get to meet volunteers from all over who may be Iowa State students, people from local churches, and others. The kids get to rub shoulders with them and be mentored by them. Our kids get help with their homework, hear the Gospel and get a snack. It’s so important . . . to get them here, off the streets and into a positive place.”

    Another huge project for the center is teaching English as a Second Language (ESL), conversational English and the ability to read.

    “It’s a great way for us to connect to the community,” says Jon. “Immigrants and refugees come to Des Moines and need to provide for their families. They need a job. And often they can find better jobs if they speak English. They may not have a hunger need or a clothing need, but it’s easy for them to know that they have a need to speak English.”

    The center also provides food to the hungry, clothes to the needy, adult Bible studies, GED tutoring and summer camps.

    “The Clothes Closet is an important ministry because it’s free, and because it’s meeting such a basic need. A lot of our ladies come to the Clothes Closet. They call it ‘The Mall.’ It’s fun for them to come and get new clothes for themselves and for their children, as well as free household items,” said Mindy.

    The Clothes Closet offers the Jamisons a chance to build personal relationships, share with the women “customers” and talk about spiritual things.

    “When they come in for clothes, we ask them about other needs in their lives,” Mindy says. “We ask them if we can pray for them. We ask them if they know about Christ. It’s an avenue for us to share the Gospel and build relationships.”

    “We have found that forming relationships is the way we’re going to introduce Christ in Des Moines,” said Jon, “not only to the children but to the adults. If we can connect with them on a level that is non-threatening – a level that says ‘I’m fun and I want to have fun with you’ – then we can relax. Once we get to know them, the spiritual conversations can take place. We can talk to them about the things that bother and worry them, and share the love of Christ with them.”

    One of the most challenging problems facing the Jamisons is ongoing gang activity in the area and preventing kids at the Friendship Center from joining the gangs that roam inner-city Des Moines.

    “Many of the kids join a gang because either they want power or protection,” says Jon. “Some people will join a gang because they know they can wield power. They can be a powerful person in the neighborhood. Or they fear that without the gang, they will be picked on. They feel like a gang gives them a ready-made group of people who are willing to stand up with them.

    “A lot of times the gang becomes their family. The gang provides immediate support, immediate family and immediate love.”

    Jon says gangs make it difficult for the children and youth who want to do what’s right, who want to follow Christ.

    “The kids still have to face the pressures of violence in the streets,” he said. “They have to decide ‘am I willing to stand alone and be a Christian and follow Christ and do what that means, or do I want to surround myself with gang members and let them become my family?’”

    Through the Friendship Baptist Center, the kids are taught that God loves them and that God has a plan for them, beyond violence and destructiveness.

    “Some people have not heard the name of Jesus. We share the Gospel and often it’s the first time someone’s ever heard of Jesus,” Mindy said.

    “This community also is, at times, devastated by violence,” said Jon. “Many people in the community have had violence affect them in some way. Family members have been affected. We have many people from the community who are in prison right now because of violence. Our goal is that as these people come to know Christ, the crimes will stop and the reliance on drugs will stop.”

    The stakes are high in inner-city Des Moines, Jon said.

    “While we know we’re attempting to reach this community for Christ, there are gang leaders who are attempting to reach the community, too. There are people of other faiths who are trying to reach this community,” said Jon, referring to Muslims, Buddhists and Mormons who are aggressive in the spreading of their religions locally.

    The Jamisons say they are “blessed” they are able to serve together as husband and wife and bring Maggie, their almost two-year-old daughter, to work with them every day.

    “When Jon and I first met, we both knew that God had called us to do inner-city missions work, and so we knew we would work together. “We can come to work together every day and can both be used of God,” said Mindy.

    Jon, a native of Elizabethton, Tenn., and Mindy both accepted Christ as children, graduated from Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tenn., and from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. They fell in love with missions because of mission trips they participated in during their youth.

    “The Annie Armstrong Easter Offering is such a blessing to us,” Mindy says. “We’re so thankful that we don’t have to stop our work and go and raise funds somewhere. Because of financial cooperation among Southern Baptists, we can focus on the ministry without worrying about where funds will come from or where our next paycheck will come from, or how to find money to feed hungry people.

    “Through the Annie Armstrong offering, we are able to offer the love of Christ to people out of a ministry center without closing the doors every couple of months to seek additional funding,” she said. “Annie Armstrong provides consistent, reliable ministry for those in need all year-round. We also know Baptists are praying for us as they give. It enables us to be here and the ministries to continue. It’s our lifeline here in Iowa.”

    Contact: Jon and Mindy Jamison
    Ministry Evangelism
    1526 Martin Luther King Parkway
    Des Moines, IA 50314

    Jon and Mindy serve as directors of the Friendship Baptist Center in inner-city Des Moines. The ministry center strives to meet needs in Jesus' name by offering after school, youth, and ESL programs; Bible studies; clothing and food closets; and summer camp.

    Prayer Points

  • Pray for a new youth Bible study meeting at the Friendship Center before school on Tuesday mornings.

  • Pray for a potential new Bible study for Spanish speakers to begin at the Center.

  • Pray for new and ongoing volunteers and ministry partners to invest themselves in the community surrounding the center.
  • Sunday, March 09, 2008

    Pray for Melanie Lawler

    Melanie Lawler: God’s ‘miracle missionary’ in northwest Nevada
    By Mickey Noah

    RENO, Nev. – North American Mission Board missionary Melanie Lawler is a real, talking, walking-around miracle.

    To follow Melanie around northwest Nevada where she serves the Sierra Baptist Association as a ministry evangelism specialist in Reno, you’d never guess she first suffered seizures as a fourth grader in Leland, Miss. Melanie first was diagnosed with epilepsy.

    Melanie’s seizures followed her family’s move to Carthage, Miss., where, during the 11th grade, doctors discovered a brain tumor. The tumor was removed but then 17-year-old Melanie suffered a stroke.

    Following the stroke, “they (doctors) said I would be a vegetable,” Melanie recalls. But the doctors forgot to consult God, who had other plans.

    Melanie remembers that as a teenager, her pastor at First Baptist Church, Carthage, Russ Barksdale, challenged her to memorize Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you. . . plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (HCSB)

    “And I memorized that verse and shortly after, God began speaking to my heart saying, ‘Melanie, I have plans for you.’ And I would say, ‘Oh yes God, I know. I’m going to be a pediatric neurologist. I’m going to be a good doctor for you Lord.’

    “And God would say, ‘No Melanie. I have plans for you.’

    “God brought me through the brain tumor and the stroke and today, I’m OK. I realized that if God could protect me in the midst of great problems, then I could trust Him to dictate the direction of my life.”

    Lawler is one of more than 5,000 missionaries in the United States, Canada and their territories supported by the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® for North American Missions. She is among the NAMB missionaries featured as part of the annual Week of Prayer, March 2-9, 2008. This year’s theme is “Live with Urgency: Seize Your Divine Moment.” The 2008 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering’s goal is $61 million, 100 percent of which is used for missionaries like Melanie.

    Lawler earned her bachelor’s degree at William Carey College, Hattiesburg, Miss. Her current assignment in Reno is actually her second stint in Nevada. She served as a US/C2 missionary in Las Vegas back in the late ’90s, after graduating from college and before receiving her master’s degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

    “After my time in Las Vegas ended in 1998, I told God I would never live in Nevada again,” laughs Lawler. “It was too hot, too dry, too brown and too ugly.

    “Following seminary, I was seeking where God would use me in ministry next. I got a call to come back to Nevada, and my immediate response was ‘No! It’s too hot, too dry, too brown and too ugly.’” But God had His plan and Melanie returned to Nevada in fall 2001.

    “Reno continues to grow on me and I’m even beginning to find beauty in the desert,” she says. “But I still go to Lake Tahoe at least once a month to get my tree fix. Now I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”

    Think of Reno, Nev. and one usually conjures up bright lights, casinos, gambling and other assorted sins and vices. Melanie, now 34, is ready to take them on.

    “My goal is to see our churches reach all our communities for Christ,” she said. “So that includes the people working at the casinos and the tourists visiting the casinos. We don’t have casino ministries in Reno at this point, but it’s a dream I hope to carry out in the future.”

    Assigned as a ministry evangelism specialist for the last six years, she serves cities in northwestern Nevada – Reno, Sparks and Carson City, the state’s capital – and smaller towns most have never heard of -- Gerlach, Empire, Silver Springs, Minden and Gardnerville.

    “Our association is a mixture of rural and metro communities,” Lawler explains. She said the Sierra Baptist Association extends from the California state line east 100 miles into the desert, and from the Nevada/Oregon border south to California. Lake Tahoe and Virginia City are also part of the Sierra association.

    Lawler said the people in her mission field are from all walks of life – from the middle class and inner-city neighborhoods of Reno to the “second home” owners at Lake Tahoe to the ranchers in the Nevada desert.

    “I help our churches develop and do ministries that reach beyond the walls of the church and into their communities to share Christ. They can be ministries like a food pantry, an ESL (English as Second Language) class, or a ministry presence at special events in our cities.”

    One ministry Lawler is especially excited about is a food ministry local Southern Baptists recently have been given responsibility for by the county government in Lyon County.

    “The county came to First Baptist Church in Fernley and asked if we would be willing to host a food bank,” she said. “So now, once a month the church receives all the food for the food bank and the church members go to the church and box it up. On Fridays, members of the community come into the church and get their allotment for the month.

    “It gives the church the opportunity to have people come in and see that the earth doesn’t break in two if they actually enter a church. It also allows the local people to see that the church’s members are normal people, too. I hope to begin to see these people coming to church as a result.”

    Another ministry Lawler helps run is ESL classes. She says many in northwestern Nevada don’t know how to read or speak English and in some communities, as many as 52 percent of the people speak a language other than English.

    “Our churches are beginning to say, ‘maybe we could do something to help with that.’ So we’re starting ESL ministries in different areas,” said Lawler, citing one for Koreans who speak some English but not well enough to communicate and get along in society.

    Lawler’s favorite ministry is the Kid’s Club, an initiative geared to kids in Nevada’s apartment community. Lawler herself became a Christian in Mississippi when she was only six.

    “It’s given an opportunity for many of those children -- who have never been inside of a church, never heard of God, never heard of Jesus and never heard of the Bible -- to be able to come and learn that God cares about them, loves them and desires to have a relationship with them.

    “So at the Kid’s Clubs we do games, songs and stories. Sometimes we do a craft. Of course the children’s favorite thing is the snack at the end,” said Lawler.

    Another ministry involves the “Nevada Day Carnival” each Oct. 31, which commemorates the day Nevada became a state. All the students get out of school for the day and although it coincides with Halloween, Lawler said the day has nothing to do with goblins or witches.

    “Before the actual carnival begins, we have a local church, First Baptist in Carson City, which cooks dinner for the carnival workers and shares Christ with them.”

    Similar ministries are carried out for area Fourth of July celebrations and even for “Burning Man,” a well-known counter-culture festival held in the middle of northwest Nevada’s Black Rock Desert each August. For Burning Man, Melanie and her team distribute gallon-jugs of water, each with a Gospel of John and a tract attached.

    What gives Melanie her greatest joy?

    “Two things. First, seeing people come to know the Lord and being able to share Christ with them. Second, resourcing a church and watching the church realize, ‘Hey, we can do that. We can reach past our walls. We can share Christ in our community. We may be a little church that meets in a school or in somebody’s home. But we can do something to share Christ with the community.’”

    She asks Southern Baptists to pray that churches in northern Nevada will realize and cultivate their harvest fields.

    “Ninety-five percent of the people here in northern Nevada don’t know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. On any given Sunday, only one person out of 10 here in Washoe County, where Reno and Sparks are, will to go any kind of church anywhere. That includes the Mormon and Catholic churches.

    “The Annie Armstrong Easter Offering is vital to our ministry here,” Lawler said. “We would not be able to be here at all if it weren’t for the Annie Armstrong offering. It allows me to be able to do my work without having to worry about how my bills are going to be paid. I know the money is there for me through our Southern Baptist churches.”

    Contact: Melanie Lawler
    Ministry Evangelism
    Sierra Baptist Association
    PO Box 20999
    Reno, Nevada 89515

    Ministry website:

    Melanie assists churches in developing ministries such as ESL, kids' clubs, food ministries, and special events in order to share the gospel while meeting needs of their communities.

    Prayer Points

  • Pray for a new ESL ministry beginning as a result of ESL ministry training this month. Pray for the church as they plan this ministry, and that they will continue to see ESL as a way to meet a need while sharing Christ with those in their community who do not speak English.

  • Pray for teams that are planning special event ministries later this summer and fall. Pray for direction and wisdom for effective ways to share Christ at these special events.

  • Praise the Lord for new opportunities for ministry that are opening up in the Sierra Baptist Association! Pray that our churches will continue to pursue ministry evangelism opportunities as ways to share Christ with the many people in our communities who need to know Him personally.
  • Saturday, March 08, 2008

    Pray for Dewey and Kathie Aiken

    Despite state’s native beauty, Aikens worry about lostness of Vermont
    By Mickey Noah

    WASHINGTON, VT. – When Dewey and Kathie Aiken survey the landscape of Vermont, they see much more than the beautiful red and yellow leaves of autumn, the traditional maple syrup-making in March, and 150-year-old churches with white steeples piercing the blue skies of summer.

    Instead, the couple is haunted – literally unable to sleep some nights – when they ponder the lostness of the majority of Vermonters and the urgency to reach the tiny New England state’s population of 623,000 with the Gospel. It’s estimated that only two percent are committed believers in Christ.

    “Vermont is a beautiful state and it’s full of beautiful people,” says Kathie. “But we know that beneath the facade there is a lostness. Something is missing in people’s lives. I see the sadness in so many of their faces.”

    The Aikens – a husband-wife team of Mission Service Corps missionaries commissioned by the North American Mission Board (NAMB) – say their passion for Vermont stems from the urgency of the state’s bleak spiritual condition.

    “There’s an urgency to go and get the Gospel out here. When I think about how so many people in this state do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior, it breaks my heart,” Dewey said.

    The Aikens are two of more than 5,000 missionaries in the United States, Canada and their territories supported by the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® for North American Missions. They are one of eight NAMB missionary couples highlighted as part of the annual Week of Prayer, March 2-9, 2008. This year’s theme is “Live with Urgency: Seize Your Divine Moment.” The 2008 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering’s goal is $61 million, 100 percent of which is used for missionaries’ needs and ministries.

    Hailing from Brevard, N.C., Dewey, 56, and Kathie, 54, were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary 10 years ago when they vacationed in Vermont. They fell in love with the Green Mountain State.

    Already active in missions and disaster relief back in North Carolina, the Aikens returned home and after several years, retired from their successful first careers – Kathie as a registered nurse and Dewey as a purchasing manager for Duke Energy.

    “When we came up here on our anniversary, we saw the need here in New England,” Kathie said. “We had careers that we were finishing up, and we knew it was time for a change. Our children were married, our family was changing, and it was a time in our lives when we could serve Christ in another area in a different way. And we were ready.”

    Their passion for Vermont grew even stronger. “We wanted to come here. We desired Vermont. We were at home in North Carolina, where we were raised and where we had good jobs and family,” Kathie said.

    “We just felt like God was calling us to Vermont, to share the Gospel here,” Dewey said. “I looked at Romans 10:14 which asks: ‘how will they know unless somebody comes and tells them?’ That’s why we’re here. We’re here to tell the people of Vermont about Jesus.”

    And since the Aikens did not leave their North Carolina drawl behind, they joke about how they use it to witness to Vermonters.

    “Folks up here grin when we talk but they’re polite about it,” says Kathie. “Our accent is actually a witnessing tool. Say we’re in a restaurant and we strike up a conversation. When they say ‘you’re not from around here,’ we make them guess where we’re from. That opens up doors and we can tell them why we’re here.”

    Coming from a strong Southern Baptist state like North Carolina, the Aikens initially faced some culture shock upon their arrival in Vermont, a state known for its liberal political and secular bent. Vermont also suffers from a pervasive influence of New Age thinking and even Wiccan practices.

    “God prepared our hearts and gave us a vision of what it was going to be like, even before we got here,” said Kathie. “We came up here with the mindset that nothing is going to shock us.”

    A hindrance to their ministry, according to the Aikens, is the fact that many in Vermont -- with its strong Catholic influence -- have “just enough religion in their pasts to think -- because they were baptized as infants -- that they’re going to heaven. Or they think they are ‘genetic Christians’ because their families attended church or were members of a certain faith.

    “It hurts your heart, and actually sometimes makes me somewhat angry at the way people up here have been deceived into thinking that everything is OK,” says Kathie.

    Kathie gets frustrated at times because she sees children and young people who don’t understand the Bible and, in fact, says the Bible has never been read to them, even in a church. “They don’t open the Bible in church, only the priest does.”

    So whether ministering to young people or conducting a Bible study for a group of 80-year-olds, Kathie tries to keep it basic and simple. Her strategy must work: she recently led an 82-year-old woman to Christ.

    Rather than ask a person if he or she is a Christian – since two-thirds of most Vermonters consider themselves Christians – Kathie instead asks “Was there ever a time in your life when you asked Christ to be your personal Savior?” Or “Do you have a personal relationship with Christ?”

    While Vermont is dotted with beautiful old churches built in the 1800s and before, many have closed their doors. People in some churches just quit coming; some churches died spiritually or financially; and yet others closed because entire families finally died out. Sadly, many of these churches have been converted into town halls, libraries, antique shops and senior centers.

    But Washington Baptist Church, the only Southern Baptist church around, is open for ministry. Located in the village of Washington (pop. 1,000), Washington Baptist has 90 members, including Dewey and Kathie Aiken.

    Right off Washington’s village square is The Calef House and Retreat Center, a 7,400-square-foot Victorian mansion built by the wealthy Ira Calef in the mid-1800s. Today, it’s managed and maintained by the Aikens for God’s work.

    Purchased from the local Catholic parish in the late 1990s by Washington Baptist Church and operated by the Green Mountain Baptist Association, the house was completely renovated by Southern Baptist volunteers who came from across the country.

    “The church had a vision of changing the facility into a parsonage for the pastor and his family, a mission apartment for us and a retreat center,” Kathie explains. “We were called here by God to be the managers of the retreat center.”

    Some 300 Southern Baptist “guests” -- as many as 21 at a time -- stayed at The Calef House from April to November 2007, most of whom were on mission trips to Vermont from throughout the United States.

    When he’s not helping Kathie run The Calef House, Dewey works as state disaster relief coordinator for Vermont under the auspices of the Baptist Convention of New England.

    Using his relationship to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, he also manages a partnership of volunteers among the two state conventions and the Green Mountain Baptist Association, the local association serving 33 churches in Vermont and two in New Hampshire.

    Dewey said the association only had 23 churches when he and Kathie came to Vermont. Today, the association’s largest Baptist church has some 400 members, while the smallest has as few as eight.

    “We’ve had a lot of mission construction teams to come in and help us do construction on our church buildings,” Dewey said. “The Calef House is an economical place where they can come, get a good night’s sleep, good food and a fresh shower. We’ve had about 80 teams come to Vermont this year, 50 just from North Carolina. God is using these teams to evangelize the state.

    “One of the main ways teams coming to Vermont have helped us is in the increase of salvations we’ve seen. More churches have been started and the number of ministries has increased. They have assisted our churches in our work and encouraged our pastors.”

    The Aikens also serve the Green Mountain association and its director of missions in the equipping and encouraging of the association’s churches and pastors. They also work as “church strengtheners” for Washington Baptist, which involves the training, mentoring and encouragement of new Christians.

    What do the Aikens feel like they’ve accomplished during their five years of service as MSCs in Vermont?

    “I want to know that the people of Washington, Vt., had an opportunity to know Jesus Christ as Savior,” says Kathie. “I want our churches in this state to grow and to reach people for Jesus. I want to teach and mentor young Christians and help them grow. I want to continue to be able to accommodate our mission teams at The Calef House. I want us to be able to encourage our pastors and their wives.”

    Dewey said he wants Southern Baptists to understand that “we are here because God, first of all, called us here. Southern Baptists need to understand that New England is an area that needs the Gospel. And we need workers.

    “I pray that Southern Baptists will continue to give, not only of their time but of their financial resources,” he added. “We still have so many towns and villages in Vermont that do not have a Gospel-preaching church at all.”

    Why should Southern Baptists give to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering?

    “The money that comes to Vermont under the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering supports our director of missions, our church planters, and our new church plants,” said Dewey. “It’s all about a compassion to win people to Jesus Christ and spreading the Gospel here in Vermont.”

    When will the Aikens return to their native North Carolina, their three grown children and five grandchildren?

    “We just signed up for two more years,” said Kathie. “After that, I’m not sure. We’ll return to North Carolina one day, probably to the Brevard area near Asheville. We’re mountain people.

    “But right now in our lives, I can’t imagine doing anything else,” she says. “It’s so absolutely fulfilling to know you’re right smack in the middle of what He wants you to be doing. We cherish that.

    “We have friends and family in North Carolina who still ask us, ‘when are you going to come to your senses and come home?’ Or they ask, ‘when are you going to get over this mid-life crisis?’ Dewey and I just look at them. They just don’t get it. We pray that one day they will. No matter. We’ve never had a satisfaction or a joy like we have here today. We are exactly where we’re supposed to be,” Kathie said.

    Contact: Dewey and Kathie Aiken
    Mission Service Corps
    PO Box 6
    Washington, Vermont 05675

    Ministry website:

    Dewey and Kathie serve as Mission Service Corps missionaries managing the Calef House and Retreat Center in Vermont. This center houses mission teams assisting Vermont churches and ministries.

    Prayer Points

  • Pray for youth in Vermont to desire to know Jesus as Savior.

  • Pray for more youth workers in our churches.

  • Pray for all the mission teams as they make plans to assist us in ministry this year.

  • Pray for upcoming Church Renewal events and prayerwalking training in many of our Green Mountain Baptist Association (GMBA) churches.

  • Pray for more New Englanders to be involved in Disaster Relief work.

  • Pray for Terry Dorsett, GMBA director of missions, our pastors, church planters, and missionaries as we work in a challenging area.
  • Friday, March 07, 2008

    Pray for Daniel and Marta Caceres

    Escaping death in El Salvador, Caceres ministers to Hispanics in Oklahoma
    By Mickey Noah

    NORMAN, Okla. – Why did communist guerillas in El Salvador put Daniel Caceres so high on their murder “hit list” in 1980?
    Was it because his brother was a top officer in El Salvador’s army battling the guerillas? Was it because Daniel had been a successful businessman, or because he was an evangelical Christian leader in the civil war-torn nation?

    Now, 27 years later, Caceres (pronounced “Ka-se_-res”) says he doesn’t care or want to know why he was targeted.
    “Back then, pastors and priests were being killed all the time,” he recalls. “A lot of people died in El Salvador, close to 100,000 people, especially the clergy, lawyers and businessmen.”

    Caceres, now 58, was born in El Salvador as was his wife, Marta, and their two sons. Educated as an accountant who also achieved national soccer star status, he fled the country when war erupted.

    Raised by a mother who was a “great lady of faith,” Caceres had already rejected two “calls” from God to become a full-time pastor by the time the civil war broke out.

    “God called me three times,” said Daniel. “The first time, I didn’t hear his voice very clearly. The second time, I heard his voice but I didn’t answer.”

    The third time – with civil war and certain death hanging over him – Daniel answered God’s call. “I said, ‘Lord, it’s OK. Now I surrender my life full-time to you,’ and I started preaching the Gospel.”

    So Caceres left his beloved but bloody El Salvador for the last time in 1980. He lost his heavy equipment business, his house, his cars and the church he loved so much.

    “I came to America only with my two kids, my wife and my Jesus Christ,” he says with a face that breaks into a warm smile when he mentions the name of “his” Jesus.

    Working in His typical mysterious way, God had used three communist guerillas – all stalking Daniel to kill him with their machine guns – to make him realize he needed to totally surrender his life to God.

    “I now recommend to people who receive a call from God to be obedient the first time. Don’t wait for those guerillas to come and get you,” he jokes, now able to laugh about it 27 years later.

    Daniel and Marta Caceres are two of more than 5,000 missionaries in the United States, Canada and their territories supported by the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® for North American Missions. They are one of eight NAMB missionary couples highlighted as part of the annual Week of Prayer, March 2-9, 2008. This year’s theme is “Live with Urgency: Seize Your Divine Moment.” The 2008 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering’s goal is $61 million, 100 percent of which is used for missionaries like Daniel Caceres.

    For the last five years, Caceres has served as state Hispanic church planting strategist in Oklahoma City, Okla., jointly supported by the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO). He’s worked as a NAMB missionary since 1988.

    When he first came to Oklahoma in 1981, the state had a relatively small Hispanic population and only a half-dozen Hispanic congregations. The 1990 census reported 179,000 Hispanics in the state. But today, 300,000 Hispanics call the Sooner State home, and there are more than 100 Hispanic churches.

    According to Caceres, 80 percent of Oklahoma’s 300,000 Hispanics are from Mexico. The remainder comes from Spain, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and other Central and South American nations.

    “The problem for us is that from Mexico, only the poor people are coming – from the mountains and the rural areas. The people who live in Mexico City, Monterey and the other big cities are staying. But the poor people from the rural areas of Mexico are coming here to survive,” he said.

    Caceres said Oklahoma City and its six surrounding counties are the Hispanic hot spots in Oklahoma, with about 200,000 living and working there. Tulsa has another 45,000 Hispanics.

    “They are people who are coming here to survive,” says Caceres. “We have the privilege that God is sending these people to Oklahoma so we can share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them.

    “My main role in Oklahoma is starting churches around the state. I’m coordinating the strategy and the plan to reach out to Hispanics for Jesus Christ,” he said.

    What’s a typical week like for a church planting strategist in Oklahoma?

    “First, we are always looking at the cities with the greatest Hispanic populations in the state. And then we are looking for sponsoring churches, partnering churches and primary churches to provide us with their facilities to start new churches in their towns.

    “We’re also looking for the right person, the right church planters,” Caceres said, “and to train them to lead the Hispanic people here in the Gospel. We don’t have a lot of people who would like to be church planters here. We struggle with that.”

    One of Caceres’ showcase Hispanic churches is Oklahoma City’s Rios de Agua, which is Spanish for “river of living water.” Supported with funds from NAMB and the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, the church was started in 1990 and runs about 300 each Sunday.

    With 35,000 Hispanics living within a six-mile radius around the church, Caceres said attracting only one percent of them would hike attendance by 350, while drawing 10 percent would mean 3,500 more in the church’s pews each Sunday.

    “Rios de Agua has a great attendance now, and has become the largest Hispanic church in Oklahoma. They baptized 26 people last year and this year, their goal is to baptize 50.”

    A missional church, Rios de Agua supports the Cooperative Program and is trying to start churches in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and other countries. The church also runs 15 Bible studies throughout Oklahoma City’s Hispanic neighborhoods.

    “It’s a great church with great projections,” Caceres said. “The pastor, Isaiah Vargas, is a great man who is very dedicated to the Lord. And we at NAMB and BGCO are supporting him with resources.”

    Despite the hardships he has faced, Caceres has never lost his love for soccer or “football” as he sometimes calls it. After all, he was good enough to be asked to join the national El Salvador soccer team. He could not play, however, because games were always on Sundays when he was teaching or preaching. Plus, he didn’t approve of the sport’s association with liquor, cigarettes and other vices.

    “I would tell them ‘I really don’t use that,’” he said, speaking of the alcohol and tobacco products advertised to sponsor soccer in El Salvador. “I was a Christian and it was difficult for me because there were not many Christians playing soccer at the time. And I was proud to be a Christian.

    “Now I’m still playing soccer and through that sport and the ability God gave me, I have reached some people, and some of them are pastors now. I have two here in Oklahoma that I reached through soccer.

    “I still enjoy soccer and the relationship it gives me with people. I can talk to them. I can share my feelings and show them that Jesus Christ is living in me. I’m almost 59, and still have the energy to go out there and play with them, and tell them that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer.”

    Ask Daniel what he’s most proud of and he’ll say his family. His wife, Marta, serves as director of Golden Gate Extension Seminary for the Metropolitan Hispanic Association. His two sons, Daniel Jr. and Carlos, are both full-time ministers. In fact, younger son Carlos also is a church planter and his parents’ pastor at bilingual Hispanic Emmanuel Baptist Church in Norman, Okla., about 20 miles south of Oklahoma City, and famous as the home of the University of Oklahoma.

    “But the greatest joy I have is seeing somebody come to know Jesus Christ when I share the Gospel with him or her and pray with them.”

    Caceres asks Southern Baptists to pray that God will provide the additional church planters and workers he needs because in 2008, his goal is to start 30 new Hispanic churches.

    “Through the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, we receive a lot of resources and support,” he says. “We now have more than 100 Hispanic churches, 10 Korean churches, a few Chinese churches, and some Russian and Japanese churches. We’re doing our job in Oklahoma.”

    Contact: Daniel and Marta Caceres
    Church Planting Missionary
    3800 N May Avenue
    Oklahoma City, OK 73112-6639

    Daniel serves as state Hispanic Church Planting Strategist. The 77 Hispanic churches he helped start in the past five years are a testament to his living out God's call on his life.

    Prayer Points
  • Pray for Daniel and Marta's continued good health as they continue to plant new Hispanic churches and train new leadership.
  • Pray for God to call new Hispanic leaders in Oklahoma to start new churches so that the growing population of Hispanics will hear and respond to the gospel.
  • Pray for Oklahoma Baptists to recognize and seize divine moments each day to share the gospel in their communities.
  • Thursday, March 06, 2008

    Who is Annie Armstrong?

    Each year, we honor the life and work of Annie Walker Armstrong (1850-1938) when we give to the annual offering for North American missions named after her. As a tireless servant of God and a contagious advocate and supporter of mission efforts throughout the world, Annie Armstrong led women to unite in mission endeavors that ultimately led to the formation of Woman's Missionary Union, for which she served as the first corresponding secretary.

    Annie believed in Christ with all her heart, but it was her hands that expressed that belief in tangible ways. She spent a great amount of time typing and handwriting letters in support of missions. Many of these letters were quite lengthy and all were filled with conviction that more could and should be done in our mission efforts. In 1893 alone, she wrote almost 18,000 letters! Annie also never hesitated to use her hands to reach out to hug a child or distribute food and clothing and the Word of God to those in need. Her hands held her own Bible as she studied to know how best to share Gods love with others. And, most important, Annie was a woman of prayer, folding her hands in prayer to intercede for the missionaries and for those they were helping discover Christ.

    Annie rallied churches to give more, pray more, and do more for reaching people for Christ. As we continue to unite to make her vision a reality in North America today, we can be confident that her legacy will also be ours.

    Wednesday, March 05, 2008

    Live with Urgency

    2008 North American Missions Emphasis
    Theme Interpretation
    John 9:4-5 (HCSV)

    "4We must do the works of Him who sent Me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."

    To create in Southern Baptists a renewed awareness of the urgent need to affirm, equip, and support those who are making a difference in people's lives on the North American mission field. To encourage Christians to be active in sharing the gospel with their families, friends, and communities. To increase awareness of and participation in giving to North American missions efforts through the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering®.

    Of the 332 million people living in North America, only one out of every four individuals has a personal relationship with Christ. That number indicates the urgent need for believers to take every opportunity to share Christ with those around us. The task may seem insurmountable and, as individuals, we cannot reach all. But each one of us can reach one, a dozen, a hundred. Together, we can reach a multitude by seizing every opportunity to share Christ with those in our sphere of influence, and by deliberately creating opportunities to share with those whose paths we cross.
    Our North American missionaries are models of people who seize divine moments every day, knowing the key to doing so is intentional obedience. Living out the call God has placed on their lives to move out of their comfort zone, they are serving Christ with a passionate and faithful heart to make Him known to all people.
    They recognize the importance of seizing every opportunity while it is still day. Thus, they live with urgency, and we can support them in their task even as we seek to do the same. Living with urgency means living with deliberate obedience to God’s call on our lives. It means seizing divine opportunities to do the work God has called us to do. By doing so, we make a significant impact on others and on the kingdom of God.

    During the Week of Prayer for North American Missions, consider how you can “Live with Urgency” and impact the Kingdom of God through your continued prayers, giving, and going in this urgent task God has called us to carry out. Pray for these missionaries who represent the dedicated work of thousands like them.

    National AAEO Goal: $61,000,000