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Articles by Erich Bridges

Found 26 Articles by Erich Bridges

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Reaching the Masses in America’s Urban Centers


When Tom Billings looks at Houston today, he sees a very different city than the Houston of a generation ago.

It’s bigger, to be sure. The Texas urban giant counts more than 6 million people within its metropolitan area, now the fifth-largest metro region in the United States. But it also has become a coat of many colors—and cultures and languages.

“In 1980, Houston was a biracial southern city: black and white, mostly white,” says Billings, executive director of the Union Baptist Association, which serves some 600 Southern Baptist churches in greater Houston.

Today, it is a major immigration portal and one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse urban centers in North America. One in four Houston residents was born overseas. Billings and his ministry team have identified some 350 different ethnolinguistic people groups. More than 150 languages are spoken by the families of students in the public schools.

“I remind [churches] that we are responsible for reaching all of the peop...

You're lying on a thin, foam mattress in the suffocating stillness of a hut. You know it's going to be a long, hot night.

Someone has just shut the only door to your hut, and you're hoping for any bit of breeze to come through the one small window. You lie awake, listening to the faint sound of a battery-operated radio spouting off in some foreign language, and suddenly the sound of a donkey braying right outside startles you. Not too far away, you can hear the sound of several dogs in a territorial match. There's no relief to be found, no rest. You know if you can just make it 'til the cool air comes in the early morning, you might be able to sleep an hour or two.

But what makes your discomfort totally worth it is knowing that just a few hours earlier, you were sitting around a campfire, telling stories from the Word of God. And you saw the locals begin to understa...

Spiritual darkness pervades many places — not just isolated or "closed" regions, but some of the most crowded cities on earth.

I found two pockets of darkness — one relatively small, the other enormous — while exploring the challenge of global urbanization over the last two years. They represent many others.

The municipal dump at Dandora, just south of Nairobi, Kenya, stretches thirty acres. Thirty acres of smoking, untreated garbage, snaking like a miniature mountain range through shantytowns where some 600,000 people live. Every day trucks dump another 2,000 tons onto the stinking pile.

The dump symbolizes how the more affluent precincts of Nairobi deal with places like Dandora — out of sight (or smell), out of mind.

"Around here, people get a raw deal," says Billy Oyugi, associate pastor of Dandora Baptist Church.

The typical Dandora family consists of a mother, a father (often absent), and fiv...

Penetrating Moscow's Vast Mosaic

Editor's Note: This year's Week of Prayer for International Missions, December 2-9, focuses on missionaries who serve in the former Soviet Union as well as churches partnering with them, exemplifying the global outreach supported by Southern Baptists' gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

How do you reach the fifteen million souls of Moscow? One at a time.

The Metro, Moscow's renowned underground rail network, mirrors the city itself. It is huge, with untold miles of tunnels buried deep in the earth and escalators stretching out of sight. It's crowded; an estimated nine million people ride daily, from homeless immigrants to high-powered executives. It's elegant and cultured, with chandeliers, marbled mosaics, and works of art adorning more than one hundred and fifty station platforms.

And it's dark. The people you see there seem achingly alone despite the pushing crowds around them.


Lottie Moon Christmas Offering

When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the Soviet Union collapsed two years later, the world changed. Southern Baptists responded rapidly, sending hundreds of missionaries and thousands of volunteers to spread the Good News and help local Baptists.

Hundreds of millions in the former Soviet Union search for God but are ignorant of His love and mercy. Their hearts have been brutalized and corrupted, first by communism and later by the free-for-all greed that swept post-Soviet Russia and its satellite nations. Hearts literally are starving for the story of Jesus and the liberation that faith in Him can bring.

Fifteen years after its fall, many doors remain open. But they could close at any moment. Some doors already are shutting as governments in the region restrict ministries, deny visas, and send foreign workers home. Yet more than two hundred and eighty million people in three hundred and fifty unreached people groups — more than 90 percent of all people groups in th...

Could West Africa be won to Christ over a glass of sweet tea?

Maybe, if you drink it with the right people: village chiefs, religious leaders, heads of family clans, young trailblazers of the future.

That's exactly what some Southern Baptist missionaries in West Africa are doing. Several people groups in the region savor an elaborate tea ceremony: The host brews and serves progressive rounds of strong, hot tea to guests. Each glass gets sweeter, symbolizing the growth of friendship. Friendship opens ears — and hearts.

They Yearn for Living Water

But the 287 million people of West Africa thirst for something far sweeter than tea. They yearn for Living Water.

God desires for the people here to worship Him, according to...

Day of Prayer and Fasting for World Evangelization

Editor's Note: God loves the Egyptians — all 76 million of them. You can love them too during this year's Day of Prayer and Fasting for World Evangelization, June 4. On that day, Southern Baptists and other Christians will unite their voices in prayer for the peoples of Egypt.

Next time you think of Egypt, don't think about King Tut and the pyramids. Instead, imagine you are:

• A university student, one of more than 2 million in Cairo alone. You're intelligent and ambitious, but what's the point of studying hard with so many graduates competing for so few career opportunities? So you hang out late in coffee shops with your friends. Last year you saw The Passion of the Christ when it played in local theaters. You've also heard about Jesus on satellite TV and the Internet. You want to know more, but who d...

Sunset paints a glorious reddish glow across the placid water lapping the beach at Khao Lak, Thailand.

The view calms the mind, quiets the heart — and packs in the tourists at posh resorts.

Used to pack them in, that is, before the tsunami roared ashore last December.

"It's hard to believe an ocean that beautiful could cause so much destruction," says missionary Mark Caldwell, gazing wistfully toward the horizon.

But destroy it did. Caldwell turns around and looks inland. He stands within walking distance of the places where at least one thousand bodies were recovered after the Indian Ocean tsunami thundered north into the Andaman Sea — and laid waste to this stretch of Thailand's southern coastline.

Rebuilding continues to move ahead in the b...

Tsunami Disaster Relief: Compassion in Crisis

For days, maybe even weeks, many Christians will focus on the staggering human suffering in southern Asia.

You may be one of them. You've been moved by the heartrending stories of death and survival. You've shed some tears. Perhaps you've already contributed to relief efforts or plan to do so. You've prayed for the families who have lost loved ones.

But soon you'll grow weary of the avalanche of stories of sadness and loss. Your daily life will crowd back in with its many demands. The new year will bring new crises. The news inevitably will return to Iraq, the economy, and other matters — and your attention will shift away from the people of southern Asia.

Please, don't let that happen this time.

Throughout their annual Christmas season of giving to international missions, Southern Baptists focused specifically on South Asia. They have prayed for the hundreds of millions of people in the region. They have given to the Lot...

During the 2004 Week of Prayer for International Missions, November 28-December 5, Southern Baptists will focus on God's promise of power that transforms even the most ordinary believer into a bold and effective witness. This year's theme — "That All Peoples May Know Him" — emphasizes the wave of divine power that is drawing unprecedented numbers of Southern Baptists into overseas service and sweeping multitudes into the Kingdom of God.

The national goal for this year's Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® is $150 million — every penny of which will be used to send missionaries and support their ministries. The International Mission Board relies on the Lottie Moon offering for 51 percent of its annual income.

Dawn came almost unnoticed to the sacre...