Friendship International – Reaching the World in Kentucky

“More Than Ever, Make a Difference” is the Eliza Broadus Offering theme for the year.  More than ever, our gifts are needed to support ministries across Kentucky in sharing Christ.  At this time of year when Southern Baptists focus on international missions, let me share some of the international impact of EBO right here in Kentucky through three Friendship International sites in Lexington, Louisville and Paducah.

Friendship International of Elkhorn Baptist Association reaches out to international women in the Lexington area. Through a ministry of cross-cultural friendships where 80% of the participants are not Christians, American ladies are sharing Christ one-on-one. The ministry provides food and fellowship each week and various classes such as English as a Second Language, crafts, exercise and cooking. The ministry has also been able to distribute left over bread from a local restaurant to Chinese and Muslim families. One Muslim lady said, “My husband was without a pay check for three months this summer, but we have always had wonderful, delicious bread. It was a gift from God and we are so grateful.”

The Lexington area Friendship International usually meets only during the school year, but this past summer continued with a Bible study taught in Mandarin. About 50 men, women and children attended each week.  Probably about one-third were Christians, one-third were seekers, and one-third came out of curiosity.  The Chinese Christians found great encouragement. Several of the seekers became Chrisians.  Others are closer to the Kingdom.  One man, visiting his family here explained that since he is a government official in China, he is not a Christian but said, “I have experienced a special love in this place.”

Friendship International of Long Run Association meets on Wednesdays during the school year at Walnut Street Baptist Church in Louisville. Through this ministry, internationals from every part of the world have learned English, Bible, citizenship, and participated in creative activities such as scrapbooking, crafts, quilting, crocheting, knitting and sewing.  Mary Lou Crutcher of Hurstbourne Baptist Church is this year’s director and said on the accountability form for last year’s grant that “Through ‘Friendship’ our Baptist women and men volunteers reach out in love to all who participate, building relationships which allow us to share our Christian faith. Each session begins with Scripture and prayer.” The EBO grant was used to provide child care, English as a Second Language materials, and other supplies. 

Friendship International of West Union Association provides a witness to internationals in the Paducah area, offering English classes and provides students with free textbooks, Bibles, videos, childcare and transportation if needed.  The Paducah area Friendship International has classes using the Bible as the textbook. At break time they provide refreshments and a devotional from the Bible, sing, and pray.  This they have had students from Peru, Nigeria, Columbia, Thailand, Russia, South Korea, Honduras, Lithuania, Spain and Mexico.

More than Ever, EBO is making a difference to people around the world right here in Kentucky!

International Missions – Up close and personal

I have just returned from a mission trip to South Africa. We saw missions up close and found that it was a deeply significant personal experience for each of us on the team.

There is some disagreement about whether to call a trip of this nature a “missions trip” or a “mission trip.”  Those who add the “s” do so because the definition of missions refers to what we do to carry out the mission of God.  But I lean towards “mission trip” because the journey was taken to carry out the mission of God, even if it did include our efforts.  Thus I prefer to call it a mission trip, not missions trip.

My first international mission trip was in 1992.  I was part of a team of six women who were asked to come and lead training with women.  On the first Sunday, we drove out to a small church and the missionary told us about the congregation as we drove.  When we arrived at a mud brick building, built by the congregation themselves, the missionary said “And oh by the way, the roof on this building was a provided by the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.”  I cried all the way through that service.

In the ensuing years, I have participated in trips to Kyrgyzstan, Romania, Poland, Brazil, South Korea, Tanzania, Indonesia, Malawi and now South Africa.  Each one has been a learning experience and meant a great deal to me personally. Each trip has been unique and provided different opportunities to participate in the mission of God. 

Bucket delivery Joy Sweetwaters lunch crowdSweetwaters food distribution bagsDuring the trip to South Africa, we participated in the mission of God as we shared the gospel through Holiday Bible Clubs at the Hope Centre Orphanage and in Sweetwaters.  We participated in the mission of God as we talked with several children individually about their relationship to the Lord and what it means to follow Jesus.  We participated in the mission of God as we shared food with those who are hungry. And we participated in the mission of God as we delivered Hospice Care Buckets to people who are very sick with AIDS and shared the gospel as we delivered each bucket.

DSCN1441In one home, the recipient was asked if she knew where she will be when she dies.  Using her hands, she pointed thumbs down.  Lisa Crenshaw shared the gospel and asked the lady if she would like to believe and receive Christ. The lady said yes and Lisa prayed with her.  After the prayer, Lisa asked again where she would be when she dies. This time the lady pointed thumbs up, smiled and hugged Lisa. Later another worker told Lisa that others have witnessed to this lady and she has always refused to receive the gospel.  The worker was thrilled that Lisa had come, clearly shared the gospel, and that this time, the lady believed.

Sweetwaters coloringDSCF1853Our missions experience was meaningful as we held hands and hugged the children, played games, sang songs, and did Bible story crafts.  It was touching to watch children who have very little share markers so that they could all color.  To appreciate this, it is important to know that on the last day, we had taken all of the crayons we had available and divided them up and put a few in each bag for the children to take home. So that day, when it was time to color, we had markers to use instead of crayons, and did not have enough for everyone to have a marker.  The kids had to wait their turn to use a marker.  Because we had even more children on the last day, we also did not have enough of the coloring sheets.  We had some white paper plates left and passed those out. Children who had received a coloring sheet tried to draw the picture on the plate for those who did not get the picture.

DSC_0464Missions is what we did. The mission of God is what the trip was all about.  We pray that the missions activities of our team will continue to have an impact in the minds and hearts of those we met and that we will one day meet again in heaven.

The Least of These

image imageThe Kentucky WMU team serving in South Africa is serving among those that Jesus referenced when he said that ministry to “the least of these” was ministry unto Himself. We are working among children with AIDS, some who live in an orphanage and others who live in child headed households.

AIDS strikes fear in most of us. We are afraid of somehow contracting this virus which is deadly to so many. Yet the WMU team of twelve is teaching, hugging, feeding, and loving these children in the Name of Jesus.  We are here in partnership with Baptist Global Response to spend a week working with Tabitha Ministries which operates an orphanage, the Hope Center, and reaches out to children in Sweetwaters Township near Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.

Like much of America, this area includes extremes. There are well-to-do homes as well as middle-class and poor homes.  There are followers of Jesus here as well as those who follow other religions or none at all.  But those with AIDS in the poorest communities are among those who many avoid.

In addition to leading Holiday Bible Club in the township and Hope Center, the team is spending time leading other activities with the children at the orphanage and will be delivering Buckets of Hope to AIDS victims in Sweetwaters.  We are blessed to be serving with BGR personnel who have a passion for ministry and have paved the way for our team.

During orientation at Tabitha, we learned from Gail Trollip, the founder and director of Tabitha, that her prayer is that each of us on the team would go home changed.  One cannot be here seeing the great need and not be profoundly touched.  On the one hand, the children here are like children anywhere – constantly moving, playful, and eager for attention.  On the other hand, these children have experienced in their young lives more heartache than most of us can imagine. One child here was buried alive by his mother who suffered from dementia because of AIDS. Only the action of neighbors to save the child and the tremendous care given at Tabitha Ministries has helped this child live and grow.

Kentucky will be a lead state in the BGR Bucket Project in 2014.  The items in each bucket are things that most of us take for granted.  But to those in extreme poverty and too weak to work, the items are a treasure.  Above all, the items communicate that God loves each person, even those with AIDS and that His people are showing His love with a bucket of items to make their last days a bit more comfortable.

Please pray for Tabitha Ministries and Baptist Global Response in outreach to those with AIDS.  Please learn more about the Bucket Project and pack a bucket in 2014. You can bring filled buckets or the items for buckets to the 2014 Kentucky WMU Annual Meeting.  Let’s show our love and concern through this tangible means which will be delivered with a gospel witness. The least of these need our help and love.

Without a doubt this is a significant time for the Kentucky WMU team to be in South Africa as the attention of the world is focused on remembering and honoring the work of Nelson Mandela. Pray for this nation and all of its people. South Africa is a beautiful nation with great resources. This nation was blessed with a peaceful transition of government unlike so many other places in the world. Pray that the ideals of democracy and forgiveness will continue here and be a role model to many other nations.