by Julie McGowan
RICHMOND, Va. — International Mission Board trustees approved the appointment of 27 new missionaries, welcomed 11 new board members, and announced a vice president of mobilization during their board meeting Aug. 23-24 near Richmond, Va.
Trustees also welcomed a visit from Steve Gaines, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, who serves as an ex-officio member of the board in his SBC role. Gaines is pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn.
IMB President David Platt addressed trustees during the entity’s Aug. 24 plenary session.
“Two years ago at this trustee meeting, by God’s grace alone, this body elected me to lead this IMB family,” he said. “Now, two years later, I find myself standing here at the end of a deeply encouraging two days with trustees during which we have discussed where the IMB is now, and we have dreamed about where God is leading the IMB in the days ahead.
“Standing on the shoulders of faithful brothers and sisters who’ve gone before us, we find ourselves looking to the future where we have a unique opportunity to mobilize multitudes more faithful brothers and sisters to go to the nations with us in the days to come,” Platt continued, drawing from Hebrews 12:1-2.
Platt said IMB leaders are hard at work considering, “How do we mobilize this entire Southern Baptist ecosystem of tens of thousands of churches, local associations, state conventions, seminaries and other entities for the spread of the Gospel to billions of people who’ve never heard it?” Leaders are meeting with state and national entities and local churches of all sizes to explore how IMB can best serve them and send multitudes more missionaries with them. IMB also is launching a new website this fall, and the board is collaborating with the North American Mission Board to organize 2017 SEND conferences in Southern California (Feb. 3-4), Dallas (May 19-20) and Orlando (July 25-26) to cast a vision for multitudes more men and women taking the Gospel from North America to the nations.
“All of this is aimed at connecting more closely with this entire coalition of churches and entities across the IMB, maximizing the cooperative praying, giving, going and sending potential of Southern Baptists for the spread of the Gospel in missions,” Platt said.
“Keep in mind, though, that the goal is not merely more missionaries,” he noted. “The goal is not even multitudes more missionaries. The goal is more men and women in their sin hearing the news of the King who has conquered sin, believing this good news and giving glory to our God. We’re not mobilizing for the sake of numbers; we’re mobilizing for the sake of our God’s glory among the nations. This is the bottom line of what we do, why we do it, and it’s worth giving our lives for it.”
Edgar Aponte, who currently serves as director of Hispanic leadership development and instructor of theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., was affirmed by trustees as vice president of mobilization. He and his wife Sara are members of Christ Covenant Church in Raleigh, N.C.
“Over the course of prayerful conversations with Edgar, we believe that he is the right person to serve IMB as vice president of mobilization,” Platt told trustees, noting Aponte’s desire to mobilize the church in the U.S. for the spread of the Gospel to the nations.
The vice president of mobilization leads in three significant ways:
— He works with other executive leaders in the overall strategy of the IMB with particular emphasis on the board’s mobilization efforts.
— He leads teams and networks to mobilize churches in sending limitless missionary teams who are making disciples and multiplying churches among unreached people and places for the glory of God.
— He leads at the denominational level in developing relationships and communicating who IMB is to Southern Baptists, while at the same time representing those diverse audiences back to IMB. This involves leading IMB to serve alongside state conventions, associations, SBC entities and other stateside partners.
“Edgar Aponte is an incredibly gifted man of God,” said Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. “The Lord has blessed him with a wide range of abilities and talents. He excels at whatever he does. This is a sad day for Southeastern and me personally. However, it is a great day for the IMB and the advancement of the Kingdom of King Jesus among the nations. He goes to our very close sister entity with my blessing and prayers. This is a great thing for Southern Baptists.”
Prior to his work at SEBTS, Aponte served at the ministry of foreign affairs in Washington, D.C., on behalf of his home nation, the Dominican Republic. His role of minister counselor in the political section involved coordinating the political relations between the embassy and the State Department, Department of Labor, U.S. Congress and Department of Defense; advising the ambassador and authorities on a broad range of policy issues from the bilateral agenda; and engaging in meetings with other embassies and interest groups about specific regional issues such as human trafficking and drug trafficking. Prior to that, he worked in banking for five years.
Aponte earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration; a graduate degree in corporate finance; and a master’s degree in business administration (management). He also earned a master’s degree in Christian ministry from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and is expected to complete a doctorate in theological studies with a concentration in systematic theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary this fall.
In a recent visit with IMB mobilization team leaders, Aponte expressed that he sees the team leading IMB in engaging in strategic partnerships with Southern Baptist churches.
“We are Southern Baptists because of missions,” he said. “That is why the SBC started in 1845. Missions is the heart of who we are as a denomination, … taking the Gospel to where Christ has not been preached. Working together, we can do more than working by ourselves.
“As IMB we have to emphasize the centrality of the CP [Cooperative Program, Southern Baptist’s channel for supporting missions and ministry] in our work of cooperation; the CP has shaped Southern Baptist life for almost 100 years, and God has used it as a means to bless our churches and the nations.”
In other business:
— Rodney Freeman, vice president of support services and IMB treasurer, gave a brief update of the board’s 2015 audited financials.
“I am happy to announce that once again we, the IMB, received an unmodified opinion from our external auditors, RSM, which is the highest level of assurance available,” Freeman said.
In addition to requesting an audit annually by an external auditing firm, IMB applies annually for accreditation from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. ECFA provides accreditation to Christian nonprofit organizations that faithfully demonstrate compliance with established standards for financial accountability, transparency, fundraising and board governance. Freeman reported IMB recently received accreditation for the 2015 financial year.
— Trustees viewed the documentary film “The Insanity of God,” which will be shown in select theatres nationwide Aug. 30. The film dramatically conveys stories IMB missionary, Nik Ripken* and his wife Ruth,* gleaned through visiting 72 countries to interview more than 600 believers who had suffered persecution for their faith in Jesus. The film is based on Ripken’s best-selling book, “The Insanity of God” (B&H Publishing Group, 2013).
The Aug. 30 showing will feature a question-and-answer time with the Ripkens and Platt, as well as an exclusive performance of the movie soundtrack feature “Dimitri’s Song” by recording artist Todd Smith. More information is available at www.insanityofgodmovie.com.
— Twenty-seven new missionaries were appointed by the IMB during a special “Sending Celebration,” which recognized both the new personnel and the churches partnering with them to take the Gospel to the nations. The celebration featured testimonies from each of the appointees and a Scriptural charge from Platt. The service highlighted the integral role local churches play in assessing and sending Southern Baptist missionaries.
Julie McGowan is public relations leader for IMB.
Reprinted from Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.
NASHVILLE (BP) — Baptist Global Response has received accreditation from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.
According to the council, ECFA accreditation is based on the organization’s Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship and its “model of biblical accountability.” In bestowing its seal, ECFA certifies that BGR has demonstrated financial accountability, transparency, sound board governance and ethical fundraising in its daily operation.
Established in 2006, BGR is a nonprofit disaster relief and humanitarian aid organization that responds to critical needs arising from both chronic conditions and natural disasters. It strives to connect people in need with people who care as a way of demonstrating God’s love to the world’s most vulnerable.
“It is important to us and our donors to be able to show that BGR is a trustworthy and well-run organization,” Executive Director Jeff Palmer said. “This accreditation by ECFA is a great affirmation of our organization, practices and policies,” and BGR is “honored to have it.”
Palmer, recapping the scope of BGR’s work, reported, “BGR works with Southern Baptist churches to rapidly respond to international disasters as well as address long-term issues of poverty and hunger with well-planned mercy ministries. In 2015, BGR helped implement 282 relief and development projects in 64 countries. This impacted 4,192 communities, with 173,000 people in need receiving food assistance through BGR programs, 252,000 gaining access to clean drinking water and 105,000 receiving compassionate health care. All of this was done in a way that helped people both physically and spiritually.”
Those interested in partnering with or donating to BGR can find out more through ServantMatch, a new feature on the ECFA website that matches people looking for giving opportunities with ECFA-approved nonprofit organizations that might interest them.
Established in 1979, the ECFA evaluates Christian nonprofits, churches and ministries and endorses those that meet its Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship. For more information about the ECFA accreditation process or for a list of accredited members, visit www.ECFA.org.
By Carmen K. Sisson
BATON ROUGE, La. – Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers continue flood recovery efforts across south Louisiana, coping with intermittent rain as they tear out insulation, sweep mud from houses and carry buckets of sodden clothing to curbs.
Few areas were left unscathed last week when nearly 7 trillion gallons of rain fell, killing 13 people and damaging more than 60,000 homes in 20 parishes. State officials estimate the damages will exceed $20 billion, making the 500-year flood event one of the worst disasters to strike the United States since Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
The damage begins in Hammond, La., and extends 160 miles west toward the Texas border. Along Interstate 12, once lush foliage is withered and gray. Trash flanks fences. Advertisements for home guttings become more numerous with every mile.
Neighborhoods and side streets tell a heartbreaking story. Clothes, mattresses and household furniture lay strewn across wet lawns in hopes that the sun will shine long enough to dry them. Everything that was not salvageable is piled high along the roadways, transforming shady lanes to narrow pathways, children’s toys providing the occasional jolt of color.
Even some of the most seasoned volunteers were surprised by both the scope and intensity of the damage. A few weeks ago, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) chaplain Roy Christy, a member of Northern Hills Baptist Church in Holt, Mo., was tearing out walls in flood-damaged Texas. This week, he is assessing homes and offering emotional support to flood survivors in Baton Rouge, where more than 19 inches of rain fell in 15 hours. In Watson, La., northeast of Baton Rouge, more than 31 inches of rain fell.
“The damage is impressive, very extensive,” Christy said. “But the people here help each other out a lot. They’re very focused on the community, not just themselves.” Christy and his team are working out of Zoar Baptist Church while assisting local homeowners.
Flood survivor Fay McDowell, 82, has been a member of Zoar since 1962. Her home, located on a busy inland highway, has never flooded, but when the water began rising, she knew she had to leave. She had just enough time to pack a few clothes and place her terrified cat, Mimi, in her attic. Then she grabbed her suitcase and her dog, Honey, and opened the door. Water poured into her kitchen, and it was continuing to rise. So she fled to the only place she knew she would be safe—her beloved church.
When she was finally able to return home, the sight brought her to her knees. Everything in the house below waist-level was ruined.
“Oh, God, how do people make it that don’t have God’s help,” she said Monday morning, crying as she recalled how bleak things looked. Her husband died three years ago, and she wasn’t sure how she would get the help she needed to begin piecing her home—and her life—back together. Hope arrived wearing gold shirts and carrying shovels.
“God brought me to my knees, and I want to tell you, y’all made me stand back up,” McDowell said as she stood in a prayer circle with Christy and the other SBDR volunteers. “God sent me angels.”
Their work is a race against time. They have already removed most of the sheetrock, baseboards and flooring, but mold is beginning to appear, and they are scrambling to get the house gutted and sprayed with Shockwave, a disinfectant designed to kill and prevent mold.
McDowell is currently living in her 12-by-18-foot sunroom with her dog and cat but hopes she will soon be back in her three-bedroom house. She is appreciative for the little things. While one group of volunteers set up a dog kennel in her back yard, filling it with cushions and a bucket of fresh water, others struggled to get her air conditioner running.
“Thank the Lord,” she said, when the first wafts of cool air began flowing from the vents. “I’ll never again doubt God and His miraculous work. These people are like angels. God has some special people doing this work.”
But the blessings go both ways, said volunteer Sheila Gatlin. She and her husband, Roger Gatlin, attend Pisgah Baptist Church in Excelsior Springs, Mo., and they began volunteering with SBDR several years ago.
“We feel very blessed as a couple that we can serve the Lord and communities in need,” Sheila Gatlin said. “Fay has such a spirit of knowing that the Lord is in control and He’s going to provide.”
Emotions after the flood run from one extreme to the other, Christy said. Some, like McDowell, draw comfort from their faith. Others are struggling. Christy carries orange pens bearing the words, “Jesus loves you.” When he said those words to a flood survivor during Sunday services at Zoar, she wrapped her arms around his neck and began crying. Minutes passed as he held her, absorbing her pain as she sobbed. She never spoke.
“She needed to get that out,” Christy said. “We are here to give people hope and help. We always feel when we go home that we were the ones who were blessed.”
Disaster relief efforts are ongoing as assessors traverse the state, looking for people in need. So far, more than 96,000 individuals and households have registered for assistance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
As for McDowell, she said she knows now that she will be okay. She renewed her flood insurance, just in time. And SBDR is on the scene to provide not only labor but also the emotional and spiritual support she needed.
“My faith was strengthened beyond belief when I saw those yellow shirts,” McDowell said. “They gave me hope the minute they came in and said, ‘Jesus is with us. We came to help.’”
Those wishing to donate to SBDR relief can contact the Baptist convention in their state or visit donations.namb.net/dr-donations.
For phone donations, call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”
Carmen K. Sisson is a freelance writer reporting for the North American Mission Board.
by Steve McNeil & Art Toalston
MARTINSVILLE, Ind. (BP) — Cecil W. Seagle will end five years of service as executive director of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana on Dec. 16.
Seagle, 76, made the announcement during the opening session of the SCBI Executive Board’s Aug. 15-16 meeting at the Indiana convention’s Highland Lakes Baptist Camp in Martinsville.
Seagle was elected as SCBI executive director on Nov. 1, 2011, after serving eight months as interim executive director, a role he assumed after 22 years as the Florida Baptist Convention’s missions division director.
Seagle succeeded Stephen Davis who accepted a vice president position with the North American Mission Board.
Seagle’s relationship with Indiana began in 2003 with a Florida missions partnership. In 2007, the partnership began to focus on how to impact Indiana’s urban centers, culminating in Indianapolis being designated as a “Send City” in the North American Mission Board’s emerging Send North America strategy. In that process, he became increasingly aware of the opportunities and challenges for reaching Indiana with the Gospel as he worked with the SCBI and the Indianapolis-area Crossroads Baptist Association in developing a vision for statewide outreach.
“Those visits and meetings turned into warm friendships and relationships based on trust and a common purpose and mission,” an SCBI news release stated Aug. 16.
SCBI President Darin Garton, founding pastor of Oak Creek Community Church in Mishawaka, said Seagle has been “a respected and faithful servant of the Lord and has led us well. His passionate and godly leadership has been felt across Indiana and he will be sorely missed. Dr. Seagle has been diligent to help our state convention put a transitional leadership plan in place and our executive team has already met and is praying about several options for the future leadership of our state convention.”
Seagle, in his final report to the board, challenged the leaders to “stay razor-focused on biblical priorities, to renew their commitment to Christ-centered evangelism and to remember that God chose SCBI to be part of the process to impact Indiana with the Gospel.”
“You have honored us, and Peggie and I have done our best to honor, serve and love you,” Seagle said. “We will never forget your support, trust and friendship. You are simply an amazing board of Jesus-honoring people — and I can look you in the eye and say we love you deeply, we respect you fully and will pray for you in this time of transition.”
The SCBI news release noted that Seagle led the convention through “several transitions with NAMB, current marriage issues (Supreme Court decisions), how the church should respond to our current culture, the need for evangelism, increased emphasis in church planting and leadership development, needed changes to the convention finances and the physical relocation of the offices.” The sale of the SCBI office building in Indianapolis, which needed $300,000 in repairs, was completed last year, with a new convention office facility being opened debt-free at Highland Lakes Baptist Camp.
The news release additionally noted:
— Over the past five years, SCBI churches have given $4.5 million through the Cooperative Program channel of Southern Baptist missions and ministry support, $2 million to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, $1.5 million to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, $350,000-plus through the Indiana State Missions Offering, for a total of $8,350,000 for missions causes. Meanwhile, SCBI churches have participated in mission trips to a number of countries, including China, Mexico, Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Philippines and Macedonia.
— In a strengthened church planting process, 100-plus plants have been initiated in the past five years, with a high of 30 plants one year, along with improved assessments, the development of Planting Equipping Centers and more effective use of the SCBI’s Church Planter Basic Training.
— In a more focused emphasis on leader development, the convention has added Associational Leader Labs and HILL: High Impact Leader Lab in addition to the development of a coaching process for church pastors, church planters and leader development participants.
— Improvements at Highland Lakes Baptist Camp have included the near-completion of a 450-seat auditorium, a new conference and storage building, a new log cabin and improvements to the recreation facilities, including more than two miles of hiking trails.
— Seagle provided assistance to the Indiana Baptist Foundation in moving toward a greater place of growth and transitioning to a new foundation president.
In returning to Florida, the Seagles plan to live in Jacksonville to be closer to family and their “grandkids.” Their two sons are pastors, Mark at Mandarin Baptist Church in Jacksonville and Donnie at Holly Springs Baptist Church in Franklin, N.C.
The search committee for a new executive director, according to SCBI bylaws, will be the Executive Board’s administrative committee, chaired by David Cullison, senior pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Evansville.
Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.
By World Watch Monitor
It’s five years this month since Muammar Gaddafi’s government in Libya was overthrown when rebels stormed his compound and he went into hiding. However, despite high hopes, the ongoing anarchy there now makes it “one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a Christian”, according to a new report by Open Doors International, whose World Watch Research team monitors such developments.
The Church in Libya, made up almost entirely of foreign nationals, was never entirely free to worship during Gaddafi’s reign, notes Libya: Freedom of religion in the land of anarchy, but it says the situation for Christians is now much worse.
“The anarchic political and security condition in contemporary Libya has created [an] environment conducive for radical Islamic groups to persecute Christians blatantly and violently with absolute impunity,” says the report, authored by World Watch Research analyst Yonas Dembele.
Open Doors estimates that of an estimated 25,000 Christians in Libya, only 150 are Libyan nationals, who belong to underground “house” churches, due to the difficulties of practising Christianity when being ethnically Libyan is considered synonymous with being Muslim. Many of the rest include migrants from other African countries on their way north, many of those hoping to eventually cross into Europe.
The dangers of being a Christian – native or otherwise – are exacerbated by a growing climate of intolerance of other faiths than Islam, the report notes.
“The persecution against Christians is not only being perpetrated by organized Islamic militant groups. Christians face harassment and persecution in their everyday life from ordinary Libyans as well,” it states.
A 29-year-old Nigerian Christian is quoted as saying: “I’ve had some scary interactions with men on the street.… One day I was attacked because I was wearing a cross. The men said I should have covered it.”
An Egyptian Copt is also quoted. Amgad Zaki, 26, describing his ordeal at the hands of one Islamist group, Libyan Shield, says: “They shaved our heads. They threatened to sever our heads in implementation of Islamic Sharia, while showing us swords…. They dealt with us in a very brutal way, including forcing us to insult our [former] Pope Shenouda…. I was taken to clean a bathroom, and the man pushed my head inside the toilet and sat on me…. I was dying every day, and at one point I thought death is better than this…. [We were] flogged, forced to take off [our] clothes in cold weather and stand at 3 a.m. outdoors on floor covered with stones.”
Dembele adds that in a single incident, around 100 Egyptian Christians were arrested for allegedly proselytizing, leading “some to argue that there is intent to ‘fully eliminate the presence of Christians’.”
After the three mass summary killings of Christians in Libya last year, during which at least 49 Christians from Egypt and Ethiopia were beheaded and shot, Amnesty International quoted a Nigerian Christian as saying Libya was a country where Christians “shouldn’t come”.
Amnesty’s report said: “Christian migrants and refugees in Libya are at particular risk of abuse from armed groups aiming to impose their own interpretation of Islamic law. People from Nigeria, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Egypt have been abducted, tortured, unlawfully killed and harassed because of their religion.”
A ‘ray of hope’
The report ends on a positive note, suggesting the formation in January of a “Unity Government”, backed by the UN, provides a “ray of hope” that “at least a semblance of law and order” can be restored.
However, Dembele says it is “important to be cautious as to whether any form of government in Libya will take up the issue of protecting Christians seriously”, warning that “a policy of appeasement may well be employed by the new government, tacitly if not explicitly, in order to gain the support of some radical groups”.
In conclusion, Dembele says: “While the current trend seems to indicate that the second Libyan civil war is almost over, it could take years for Libya to emerge from its current state of chaos. In all likelihood, the most ardent jihadists will continue some form of insurgency and attempt to derail the peace and transition process.
“With the end of hostilities among the major armed factions and a decline in the intensity of the conflict, there is a cause to be optimistic and to expect that atrocities perpetrated against Christians in Libya will come to an end or, at least, become increasingly less likely to happen.
“At the same time, there is reason for caution: Islamic militant groups will no doubt have much influence in the young Unity Government and in the process of creating a new and more permanent political order. That brings with it the risk that a more permanent, institutionalized and state orchestrated form of persecution against Christians could become the new norm. The nature and content of the constitution that will be adopted in the transitional process could be very decisive in this regard.
“Any hope for an improvement for Christians is contingent upon the political and security condition in the country improving. Hopefully, the Unity Government formed in January 2016 will be able to assert more and more authority and restore law and order in the country. If this happens – even though it would not necessarily guarantee freedom of religion for Christians in Libya – such a state of affairs could help Christians become less vulnerable to the most egregious forms of persecution. However, in the long run, it will be the nature of the permanent political and constitutional order emerging from the current peace and transition process that will be the most decisive factor for the freedom of religion of Christians in Libya.”
©2016 World Watch Monitor. Reprinted with permission.