July 2013


Texas Baptists give more than $230,000 for hungry through Mother's Day offering


Texas Baptists gave more than $230,000 to help the hungry through last Spring's Mother's Day offering.

Congregations donated $234,164 through the Mother's Day emphasis for the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering, which feeds and assists hungry people through 210 projects including 115 in Texas.

Texas Baptists' Executive Director David Hardage thanked Texas Baptists for their generosity, believing this was a great first step toward the convention's goal of eventually raising $1 million for the hungry on Mother's Day.

Texas Baptists willingness to give throughout the Spring shone brightly as churches not only gave to the Mother's Day... [continue]

Go Now Missions: Seeing past the labels


Special needs boy, disabled boy, different boy...so many labels are attached to him by society confusing what he has with who he is. When I look at him I see him and his name is who he is. The limitations he has do not define who he is.

Of all the ministries I knew I would be apart of in Missions Centers of Houston, I would have never guessed that God would use me to minister to special needs individuals in a community where they are being ignored.

These past few weeks one of the focuses of our prayers has been God showing us how to minister to the special needs individuals in our community. God has definitely been hearing our pleads... [continue]

Texas Baptists set to help tornado victims by


Texas Baptists are preparing to help people affected by last Spring's tornados through "Loving Oklahoma," five-day concentrated service effort to assist those around Oklahoma City.

Volunteers and teams will be working Aug. 5-10 on projects identified through local long-term disaster recovery officials. The ministry will vary from cleaning up debris to working distribution centers to light construction.

The mission opportunity is made possible by Texas Baptists' Disaster Recovery, through a partnership with Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Disaster Response. Officials aim to bring aid, encouragement and the hope of Christ to tornado... [continue]

Texas cooking draws people in - even in Italy


The smell of Texas barbecue tickles noses, makes mouths water and attracts a crowd.

Even in Italy.

A mission team from Coastal Bend Fellowship in Kingsville discovered Texas barbecue is an ideal way to bring Italians together. Partnering with Southern Baptist Convention International Mission Board missionaries Charlie and Shannon Worthy, the Texans held two barbecues during a June 7-17 trip.

The team held a barbecue for the missionaries in their neighborhood, where as many as 150 curious people - at least half of whom were non-Christians - came to experience a taste of Texas. The missionaries were in the process of relocating from... [continue]

CLC 83rd Session Report


Christian Life Commission Final Report: 83rd Regular Legislative Session

During each legislative session, the Christian Life Commission (CLC) works to promote sound public policy on a variety of fronts important to Texas residents. The following is a list of bills the CLC actively followed, supported and, in some cases, opposed during the 83rd Session of the Texas Legislature.

In this edition: Predatory Lending Food Policy Gambling/Texas Lottery Human Trafficking Public Education Adult Education Immigration Advanced Directives Stay Informed

PREDATORY LENDING 

In the 83rd Legislative Session, the CLC... [continue]

Go Now Missions: What am I doing with my life?


This is a question that I often use in jest, but that I also often ask myself and ask God. And from each I often get no answer; why should I worry myself with the future, when the present has enough problems of its own that request my attention?

But at the same time, whenever I ask this question, I always get the same response about the present: I am letting God use my life for His purposes.

I felt the call to go to Russia for about a year before I was connected by crazy circumstance to a team going from Texas A&M. It has been almost two years since I first felt that call, and now I am here, in Russia, letting God use my life for His... [continue]

Pray. Just pray.


Have you ever felt like a catalyst? A catalyst is "an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action". So put simply, a catalyst is something that helps the bigger something happen faster.

I feel as if I've been that for the past 6 weeks. I say this not to boast, but to share how God has humbled me. Here in East Asia, there are already people working to make God's name known and I feel that God just picked me up and placed me in the middle of it all and said "Pray. That is all. Just Pray."

"Pray Continually" - 1 Thessalonians 5: 17

There were many times when I would sit down and pray for God to allow us to share with those... [continue]

Hispanic Baptists in Texas Looking Toward Future


SAN ANTONIO - Hispanic Baptists are well-positioned to focus on what God has laid on their hearts for the convention's future, said Jesse Rincones, Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas executive director.

"I thank God I've had the opportunity to serve for the last three years," Rincones said of serving as president and more recently executive director. "It's been a historic time, a time of transition."

Since signing the unification agreement with the Baptist General Convention of Texas in 2010, Hispanic Baptists have celebrated their centennial, made changes to some of their bylaws, established the volunteer position of executive... [continue]

Texas Baptist Camps: Made to glorify Him


After leaving my work at Camp Chaparral last summer, I knew I wanted to return to work there again. I loved the atmosphere and the fulfillment of serving God there.

This year as a returning staffer I was so excited to start work and my expectations were set high. I was nervous at first because I learned that most of my friends that I worked with last year weren't returning but God has definitely exceeded my expectations this year. So far I've gotten to celebrate with two kids that gave their hearts to Christ. One of them is the child of a good friend!I've made several new life long friends in my coworkers.

Working here has also... [continue]

Hospitality House comforts during loss


People face decisions every day. Some have little affect. Others impact every aspect of life, friends and family.

Almost 20 years ago, he pled guilty to a crime that the state of Texas deems worthy of the death penalty. And it's set for 6:00 tonight.

In the meantime, some siblings and relatives sit around a game table playing Monopoly next to a large fish tank. Just before lunch, other family members come out of their rooms. One is wearing a t-shirt with the printed image of another relative who died recently due to illness. She looks as if she's ready for all of this to be over but hopeful nonetheless for a stay of execution. She... [continue]

Go Now Missions: Planting the seed


All morning we spent setting up for our community wide block party with help from the three hundred strong Prestonwood youth choir. The morning turned to noon and things became frustrating as the large bounce house inflatable failed to blow up. As I walked away feeling frustrated, God reminded me why we were setting up bounce houses and giving away five hundred hot dogs in the first place - to engage the community of Richmond, BC with the truth and life of Jesus Christ.

I redirected my heart and steps and introduced myself to a Chinese family enjoying hotdogs in the shade. They were inviting and had questioned why so many students... [continue]

Family Gathering volunteers help bring new look to San Antonio church


SAN ANTONIO - Volunteers ripped out paneling and combined their handiwork skills to assist a church during the Texas Baptist Family Gathering.

The 91-year-old Harlandale Baptist Church building has been in need of an updated interior and exterior for some time, said Dan Trevino, who has been the church's pastor for 10 years.

Texas Baptists teamed up with San Antonio Baptist Association to provide a group of volunteers who signed up for the mission opportunity in the exhibit hall of the Family Gathering.

The volunteers prepped the worship area for a new paint job, which Trevino said will bring openness to the room. He hopes the remodel... [continue]

Unified, Texas Baptists seek to carry out Great Commission


SAN ANTONIO - Fulfilling the Great Commission requires Texas Baptists to work united for the cause of Christ, according to presenters in the final worship service of the Texas Baptist Family Gathering.

The Great Commission is Christ's command to His followers, said Michael Evans, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Mansfield. They are to be doctors for the sick, people who bring the ill to a place of healing.

"I believe that's our mandate," he said, preaching from Romans 12:3-4. "I believe that's our call. I believe we must be passionate about bringing men and women into the kingdom of the most high God."

There are people in every... [continue]

African American Fellowship visions future, studies new age statistics


SAN ANTONIO - African American Baptists were challenged to look into the future with a new set of lenses as they gathered together at this year's Culp Banquet, celebrated during the Texas Baptists Family Gathering.

Photo: From left to right: Oscar Epps, President; Ponce L. Brown, Vice President; Glen J. Samuels, Secretary; Elmo Johnson, Treasurer; Michael Evans, Former President

Nat Irvin II, professor of management at the University of Louisville, recalled a childhood memory when an unfortunate incident with glass caused blindness in one of his eyes.

"Just because you have eyesight doesn't mean you aren't blind," he said as he walked... [continue]

God has called Texas Baptists to a mission


SAN ANTONIO - Texas Baptists have been called to reach the state for Christ - a task that must be completed.

Featured speakers from the second evening worship service of the Family Gathering, reminded meeting participants that God has called Christians to reach their communities, their state and beyond.

To do that requires believers to have an intense focus on the mission at hand, said Bedilu Yirga, pastor of Ethiopian Evangelical Baptist Church in Garland. Each action they take, every work of ministry they perform must help expand God's kingdom. To maximize their impact, Christians must work together in a spirit of unity.

"Even... [continue]

The sweatiest job I ever loved


From standing over the steam table to serve chicken-fried-whatever with gravy to running around with day campers to life-guarding to cleaning the entire camp in a few hours for the next group that was coming, they are some of the hottest, hardest but most treasured memories that I have.

But more than the heat, I remember who I served with and how God used these people and their examples in their faith, their work, their growth and their love to mold parts of me and who I am today.

We were a team of college students and high school volunteers that spent hours doing hard, dirty and hot work. Our sun up to way past sun down routine... [continue]

Breaking the chains of darkness, revisited


This summer, I have reverently been praying for divine appointments in South Asia. Honestly, my heart hurts deeply for this place. My biggest prayer is for His truth to be shared and embraced in the darkest corners of South Asia.

Last week, we were prayer walking around a Hindu temple in the city. These temples are incredibly dark places. Imagine yourself walking into a temple where people are convulsing and chanting to the daily animal sacrifices.

Darkness is heavy on your chest as you walk barefoot on the "holy", blood, and dirt stained floor. Hundreds of people are shoving you to make their daily sacrifices to their idols as they... [continue]

2013-2014 Officers Elected to the Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas


Hispanic Baptists elected the first female convention president in their 103-year history this morning.

The announcement came after two rounds of voting. The first - a race between Daniel 'Tiny' Dominguez, current president of the Hispanic Baptist Convention; Bea Mesquias, member of United Baptist Church in Harlingen; and Manuel Rios, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Monte Calvario in San Antonio - did not result in a clear majority.

The runoff was a close race; Mesquias won with 100 votes, versus Rios' 97.

Mesquias has a long resume of accomplishments in Baptist life. She has served on the boards of the Woman's Missionary Union of Texas... [continue]

Hardage: Thank you, Texas Baptists


SAN ANTONIO - The breadth of Texas Baptists' ministry is wide, and its commitment to sharing the gospel is deep.

For all that they are doing, Texas Baptists' Executive Director David Hardage gives thanks. Because congregations are generous with their resources in their communities and through Texas Baptists, ministry is possible.

"You make a difference, Texas Baptists," he said. "On behalf of the lives you touched and the lives you helped, let me just say 'Thank you.'"

Speaking during the Baptist General Convention of Texas business session of the Family Gathering, Hardage shared glimpses of what Texas Baptists are doing throughout... [continue]

Messengers grant board authority to consider building sale


SAN ANTONIO -- Messengers to the Baptist General Convention of Texas annual meeting elected officers and granted the BGCT Executive Board and an ad hoc committee authority to consider sale of the Baptist Building in Dallas.

In the second day of the Texas Baptist Family Gathering and during the first BGCT business session, messengers re-elected Jeff Johnson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Commerce, to a second term as president by acclamation.

Messengers also elected by acclamation Kathy Hillman of Waco as first vice president, René Maciel of San Antonio as second vice president, Bernie Spooner of Coppell as secretary of the... [continue]

Go Now Missions: The nations in New York


"From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and find him through he is not far from any one of us." Act 17:26-27

This bible verse is the driving force of the kind of perspective that I have as I take a look of New York, because the nations are here. I have interacted with people from India, Ecuador, Columbia, Mexico, and Dominican Republic on a daily basis. This has become my norm. It's amazing to see how a state within the U.S. serves as a home to the nations!

By Erika... [continue]

Guarneri: Bible calls Christians to embrace diversity


SAN ANTONIO - The bible calls believers to embrace diversity, not just tolerate it, according to Julio Guarneri, who presented the Baptist General Convention of Texas Annual Meeting sermon July 14. Using Acts 1:8 and Revelation 7:9 as his guiding texts, Guarneri, pastor for Calvary Baptist Church in McAllen, preached that God's heart and vision for the church is inclusivity. Acts 1:8 delivers Jesus' stated purpose for the church: to reach "the ends of the earth," Guarneri said. This can - and often does - mean crossing geographic boundaries, but it also means crossing cultural boundaries close to home. Samaria was not a... [continue]

Common Ground at the Cross of Christ


SAN ANTONIO - Christians should seek unity because of their desire for and delight in the Lord, Earl Grant, pastor of Covenant Church in San Antonio, shared in the opening session of the Texas Baptist Family Gathering.

"Diversity is a given because diversity is the inherent mix," he said. "It is the inclusion or intentional integration that makes the mix work well."

"You need to know you are saved, and because of your salvation you can handle it," Grant explained. "You have been called and cleansed by God. You have been washed in the blood."

He went on to share that as Texas Baptists, "we come to a common ground at the cross of... [continue]

Johnson discusses Dr. Seuss and diversity


SAN ANTONIO -- With children gathered around and a Dr. Seuss book in hand, Baptist General Convention of Texas President Jeff Johnson added a metaphorical twist to this year's presidential message.

Johnson began his message at the Texas Baptists Family Gathering, an event that brought together the diverse Texas Baptist family, by reading The Sneetches, a Dr. Seuss story where the sneetches learn a valuable lesson about peaceful coexistence between one another regardless of their diverse appearance. Johnson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Commerce, grasped the children's attention on the stage as the screens displayed picture-book... [continue]

God's power shown through His church, people


SAN ANTONIO - God's plan for expanding His kingdom entails working through the lives of people in His church in such a way that they testify about Him, according to Victor Rodriguez, pastor of Life Church of San Antonio.

The former Baptist General Convention of Texas president was the featured preacher during the Hispanic rally that kicked off the Family Gathering, a bringing together of the diverse body of Texas Baptists.

The rally was filled with energetic worship and Rodriguez's poignant preaching, which encouraged Texas Baptists to share the gospel in their communities. God desires a relationship with every person. To do that, He... [continue]

Senator cites BGCT letter in arguing for stronger abortion restrictions


AUSTIN - A senator cited a letter from Baptist General Convention of Texas Executive Director David Hardage as lawmakers passed stronger restrictions on abortions across the state.

Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, shared three paragraphs of a letter that Hardage wrote to every Texas legislator that presented Texas Baptists' affirmation of life. The Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission staff delivered the letter early in the Texas legislature's discussion of bills that would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The Senate passed the provision July 12 by a vote of 19-11, with Lucio as the sole Democrat to vote for the bill... [continue]

Go Now Missions: Divine appointment


From the moment I stepped foot through the doors I knew this place was different from any that I had been in all summer. I have been doing missions work everyday for three weeks but when I entered this portable building I knew the presence of the Lord was at work there stronger than I had felt it anywhere else. I looked out the window and saw a crowd of people in a line the wrapped around the building and into the parking lot of First Baptist Church Orlando.

Each face was a face that was in desperate need of help. They were here as a last resort. They had found their way to this church on this rainy Wednesday morning to ask for... [continue]

Jespersen named urban missions director


DALLAS -- Texas Baptists has named Ryan Jespersen director of urban missions.

With a majority of the population living in urban, inner-city areas, Jespersen believes these communities need more outreach, which he plans to encourage through his new position.

"You're typically not going to have as strong of churches in the inner-city," he said. "My goal is to eventually 'call out the called' of young people who want to pastor and work in urban churches."

In his new role, Jespersen will provide leadership and guidance for short-term, mid-term and long-term volunteers who can help strengthen existing urban churches and plant new ones.

As... [continue]

Go Now Missions: Breaking the chains of darkness


Earlier this month, I was sobbing because I was so overwhelmed by the deep chains of darkness here in South Asia. I struggled because I wanted desperately for these people to come to know and embrace our sweet savior Jesus Christ. I wondered why the Holy Spirit was not working faster.

Later that day, my partner and I grabbed coffee with a girl we had met on the metro. We shared the gospel and our stories and I was amazed to see how Jesus stirred her heart in mighty ways.

When we met with her just two days later, she said she was overwhelmed by our message and it had completely changed her heart. She keep saying, "I am a completely... [continue]

The same roots


Sitting on couches overlaid with colorful quilts, university students from Dallas Baptist University and the University of Sao Paulo each sang to the tune of "Amazing Grace" in their own language. I was one of the individuals in the room who identified with the Brazilian students, being from Spanish descent; however, I differed in the language in which I sang. To hear voices raised singing in English, Spanish and Portuguese was a beautiful picture of God's glory in both the unity and diversity in the Kingdom of God. The same beauty is reflected in Texas Baptist congregations across our state.

When I entered college, I began... [continue]

Opposing abortion in a world of vulnerable people


The Christian Life Commission has received a couple of questions about why it honored Texas Sen. Wendy Davis with its Horizon Award in 2012. As virtually everyone knows, Davis was thrust into the national political spotlight in June with her filibuster in opposition to a bill supported by many Texas Baptists, including me.

The CLC honored Sen. Davis last year for her support of various issues that are important to Texas Baptists, including opposition to predatory lending practices. The senator from Fort Worth has been vital to the legislative effort to limit immoral payday and auto title lending practices, which are devastating... [continue]

Continue on with the challenge


At the age of 21 sitting in a room filled with about 6,000 Hispanic youth and young adults at Congreso, my heart pumped quickly, my lungs needed to inhale deeply and a non-stop stream of tears came down my face. It didn't take long before realizing the altar call was for me! Right then and there, it could not be clearer; I needed to answer the call as a bilingual Hispanic pastor in Texas and to respond with being on mission for God along with encouraging others to do the same.

You either are living on mission or you are not. Please keep in mind there is no in-between. If we are to change the future of this world, let alone this... [continue]

Go Now Missions: Trust and Obey


When we arrived in North Africa, we were told by our host missionaries that the next day we would be going to an area on the outskirts of town to spend the night.They told us that they had never taken a team here and they really were not sure why we were going. All they knew is that as they prayed about the schedule for our team, the Lord had said to go here. They told us that this area had lots of worship of Satan and that Wednesday was a day to "celebrate" Satan with alters, sacrifices and worship. Trusting and obeying, we all loaded up on Sunday and headed out! Our only plan was to have some good team time in preparation for the... [continue]

A beautiful mosaic


Diverse...We all would love to use this word to describe our worship experience. But is that the true depiction of what we see on Sunday morning?

Texas Baptists is no doubt an ultra diverse association of Baptist churches, but what about each church individually? If we ALL were to assemble in one place, we would resemble a beautiful and grand mosaic art piece. But, this is not what I see in my neck of the woods.

In my city and in most of Texas, Sunday morning worship still is the most segregated hour. We publicly endorse social progression, but then we allow our services to travel back in time to the 1950s. Just being part of Texas... [continue]

Depression in a world of faith


Across this state, ministers are smiling on the outside while withering inside. Many don't know what to call what they're experiencing. They struggle even to put it into words.

Related articles: Symptoms of depression | Minister burnout and depression: Proactive steps

Counseling professionals know precisely what to call it: depression. Research indicates as much as 68 percent of ministers are dealing with symptoms related to depression.

Ministers and depression has been the topic of increased discussion in recent months following the suicide of the son of Rick Warren, possibly the nation's most prominent evangelical leader. Warren... [continue]

Symptoms of depression


Related articles: Depression in a world of faith | Minister burnout and depression: Proactive steps

Wondering if your suffering from depression? If you're feeling several of these symptoms, you may be fighting depression, according to the Mayo Clinic.

  • Feelings of sadness or unhappiness
  • Irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Changes in appetite -- depression often causes decreased appetite and weight loss, but in some people it causes increased cravings for food and weight gain
  • Agitation or restlessness -- for
... [continue]

Minister burnout and depression: Proactive steps


Related articles: Depression in a world of faith | Symptoms of depression

Burnout or depression can happen to any minister under certain circumstances. Katie Swafford, director of Texas Baptists Counseling Services, suggest ministers and churches look at the following proactive steps to ensure ministry - and ministers - remain strong.

  1. Set boundaries. Ministers believe they must be accessible at all times, but it simply isn't realistic. Rotate who is on call between staff members. In smaller churches where the pastor is the only staff member, encourage deacons to pick up evening calls several days a week. Rotation patterns enable
... [continue]

Go Now Missions: The Power of Puzzles


Fridays are busy nights at the Hospitality House. I stepped out of the main room to video chat with one of my best friends who is also on a summer mission trip. Just as I finished talking to her, my partner Myriam charged into our room. "I love puzzles!" she exclaimed. She began to tell me about the conversation she had just shared with a young boy staying at the House tonight.

Months before this trip, I found Bible story puzzles at the dollar store and picked them up to bring to Huntsville. Tonight, Myriam and four or five boys stretched out on the floor to work on the puzzles. As they worked, she asked one of them what he knew... [continue]

A safe place in the storm


Moore, Oklahoma is a town we will not soon forget. The nation looked on in stunned silence at the devastation from the violent tornadoes that visited this community. Too many realized too late that a truly safe place was all that stood between life and death.

Storms often come without warning. Some are more severe than others. Some storms threaten our physical safety while others wreak havoc on our emotional wellbeing. Preparation is key for storms not to be too costly. As the people of Moore discovered, everyone needs a safe place.

As a pastor's wife of 24 years, finding a safe place in the midst of ministry was my greatest... [continue]

A little bottle of


Change, whether good or bad, is difficult. The Kennedy clan has just moved from the shores of Alabama to the mountains of Colorado. Are our new vistas awesome? Yes! Has the move been exciting? Yes! Am I grieving? You bet!

One of the last things I did was make that final hair appointment with my hair dresser and dear friend of 15 years. When it came time to get that last "Everything-I-can-get-done-to-my-hair-that-will-last-me-for-as-long-as-possible," she fixed me up, including giving me a little bottle of "Fixes Everything." Really? Everything?

I can think of some broken areas of my life that could use some fixing, some empty... [continue]