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December 2007 Issue

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...

I grew up during the Cold War era, when political tensions between the United States and the former Soviet Union dominated global diplomacy. Missile silos and bomb shelters reflected the paranoia of a massive military conflict between the communist bloc and the free world.

I remember praying for people behind the Iron Curtain, isolated and barred from religious freedom. We heard stories of persecution, secret believers, and accounts of Bible smuggling. No one living at the time can forget the amazement and elation when the Berlin Wall came down, and a short time later, the megalithic USSR disintegrated into fifteen autonomous republics.

The new openness to the West enabled Southern Baptists and other Christians to flood into this formerly restricted part of the world. We were delighted to find far more believers than we had dared to imagine. They persevered in their faith and welcomed Christians from abroad to partner with them in proclaiming the Gospel, training leaders, a...

Gordon Fort, vice president for overseas operations of the International Mission Board, presented to WMU the following original handwritten letter on June 10, 2007. It was penned by Lottie Moon on January 9, 1889, during a very cold winter in P'ingtu, China:

My dear Miss Armstrong,

I write to thank the Executive Committee for the hearty response they have made to my appeal for more workers for P'ingtu. I urge that the new missionaries be sent out immediately. I am holding on, after more than eleven years of work, at considerable risk of permanent injury to health. Yet I must not leave until others are here to take over the work. After the new missionaries arrive, there must be preparation on their part & delay on mine. Therefore, the sooner they come, the better. Please listen to no suggestion of delay. The two should be in Tungchow in June at the latest. Then they could come out with me in the autumn to P'ingtu & make acquaintance with their...

For Josh Russell,* training church planters is a lot like roasting coffee. Inside a narrow storefront in Central Asia, the Southern Baptist worker details the art of transforming green coffee beans into steaming cups of java. He grins mischievously as he remembers the first time he roasted — and nearly burned — an eight-pound batch of Mexican coffee beans.

"It was so dark — it was too done," he says. "The problem we had was how to know when to pull it out. ...The same thing happens as we're training and equipping leaders. When do you turn them loose? Are you waiting so long they're not fit for the needed purpose because you've skewed their thinking?"

It's a dilemma Russell continues to wrestle with in his role as strategy coordinator for Turkmenistan's Turkmen people. He's charged with sharing Christ and planting churches across a nation cut off from the Gospel by more than sixty-five years of communist rule. And...

Since the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board held its first commissioning service in 1846, more than twenty thousand missionaries have been appointed. Now known as the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, the board's main objective is presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ in order to lead individuals to saving faith in Him and result in church-planting movements among all the peoples of the world.

Lottie Moon — the namesake of Southern Baptists' international missions offering — has become something of a missionary legend. But in her time Lottie was anything but an untouchable hero. In fact, she was like today's missionaries. She was a hard-working, deep-loving Southern Baptist who labored tirelessly so people could know Jesus as Savior.

Her Start

Lottie Moon was born Charlotte Diggs Moon on December 12, 1840, in Albemarle County, Virginia. Lottie had rebelled ag...

When the offering plate is passed in a Southern Baptist church, the Cooperative Program gifts from those tithes and offerings support Southern Baptist missions from the front door of the local church to the ends of the earth.

Southern Baptists have become the largest evangelical mission-sending organization in history with more than ten thousand missionaries supported by more than forty-three thousand congregations.

The Cooperative Program is the financial foundation and backbone of Southern Baptist missions and ministries. Last year alone, Southern Baptists gave more than $500 million through the Cooperative Program.

But when funds from special offerings such as the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, and state missions offerings are included, the figure rises to more than $737 million. The work of Southern Baptists is a dually-funded endeavor.

Bob Shelton, stewardship and Cooperative Progr...

"Mom, my knees ache!" I can still remember what my mother called "growing pains." Like most early teens, my physical growth was not gradual and manageable, it was sudden and explosive. For mom and dad the pain of my rapid growth was felt in the wallet as I outgrew my clothes before I would break them in. Yet I can still recall with painful detail the physical pain that kept me from sleeping as my stretching joints and muscles cried out for relief. Dad's salve for my pain was the simple promise that I would be bigger in the morning. For an aspiring athlete this was sufficient and I naively marked the door jam to record my "overnight" growth.

Growth is always a two-sided coin. It is a sign of health and vitality, and thus desirable. Nonetheless, it is painful. The same is true a...

The Christmas Purpose
by Frank Page

What is Christmas? Dr. Robert G. Lee said, "Christmas is the joyous celebration of eternity's intersection with time." The apostle Paul said in Galatians 4:4: But when the completion of the time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.

Why do people refuse what Christmas offers? I read of an incident which no doubt occurs regularly. A sorrowful wife stood just outside a psychiatric ward in a large hospital. Her husband, a patient in the hospital, was with her. He looked vacantly into space as she pleaded, "John, here's a Christmas present for you. Take it, John, and look at it." John made no move. Again the...

Living Hope Baptist Church

It's not easy to grow a church in the metro Fargo area of North Dakota, but it is easy for pastor John Flowers to lead Living Hope Baptist Church to give through the Cooperative Program.

He's seen it work.

"When I was a new believer, looking for fellowship on my college campus, I walked into the BSU [Baptist Student Union] center, which the Cooperative Program helped fund, as it did my seminary education," Flowers said. "When we were planting a church in Redfield, South Dakota, the downtown portion of that town was destroyed by fire. I was able to pick up the phone to our state convention director and immediately — immediately! — had $5,000 to help peop...

The Apologetics Study Bible Real Questions. Straight Answers. Stronger Faith. The Apologetics Study Bible will help today's Christians better understand, defend, and proclaim their beliefs in this age of increasing moral and spiritual relativism. More than one hundred key questions and articles placed throughout the volume about faith and science prompt a rewarding study experience at every reading. Highlights of this new thinking person's edition of God's Word include the full text of the popular Holman Christian Standard Bible translation, two-color page layout, an introduction to each Bible book focusing on its inherent elements of apologetics, and profiles of historic Christian apologists from Justin Martyr to C. S. Lewis. (B&H Publishing Group, $39.99)

It is amazing what God will do when we simply make ourselves available to Him. Praise God with me as you read this testimony of God's faithfulness from Greg Davidson, Associate Pastor of Discipleship and Evangelism at First Baptist Church in Naples, Florida.

We are so very thankful to average well over two hundred each week in our FAITH Evangelism program. We have been involved in this program for fifteen months, and recently we had a high baptism emphasis. Our teams were intentional about seeking out people with whom they could share the Gospel. In one weekend we baptized sixty-eight people, which was an all-time high for us. A month later, we baptized twenty-four in one weekend! Those numbers reflect families that have been touched, lives that have been changed, and souls that have been delivered. Our people are excited and encouraged to see how many people respond to the Gospel if only we will tell them. And they prove it by faithfully going out each week to share the ...

OK, I admit it — I watch Dancing With The Stars. That makes me wonder if I need a support group. I did grow up a preacher's kid living in a parsonage. Even liturgical movements were suspect. I am often asked if Baptists can dance. I always respond that some can and some can't. I can't. I was intrigued by Dancing With The Stars. The aspect that hooked me was that the show takes guys — real guys — football players who by themselves had two left feet as dancers, and pairs them with professional dancers, which results in an electrifying dance routine. What I like about the show (promise you won't tell a soul; I tape them!) is that they show the practice sessions — the falling, the crying, and the total exhaustion in search of the right moves. My favorite, of course, was Dallas Cowboy Emmitt Smith — he won, and it's actually none of your business whether I voted or not. In one season he was transformed from a great football player int...

Planned Parenthood Under Investigation

More than sixty pro-family leaders have signed a letter to senators and representatives asking them to suspend federal funding for Planned Parenthood while a 107-count criminal complaint against the abortion provider's Kansas/Missouri chapter is investigated.

The complaint alleges illegal abortions in violation of either state or federal law by Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, which is located in Overland Park, Kansas. A judge ruled October 17 that there was "probable cause" for the case to proceed.

The case is receiving national attention because, some observers say, it could lead to a new and successful front in pro-lifers' nationwide battle against abortion. Even abortion rights supporters say the charges, if proven true, could have a dramatic impact.

The letter was signed by a num...