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February 2009 Issue

There's an unglitzy side to Miami you'll never see depicted on CSI Miami. Sure, there's the flaunted wealth, the big beach-front homes, the flashy cars, the fast boats, and glamorous life in the fast lane for the celebrities and superstar athletes who live here.

But Miami is a city of paradoxical extremes. While the city has been ranked the third richest in the United States, it also has more citizens — about a third of the population — below the federal poverty line than any other U.S. city except Detroit and El Paso, Texas. Miami is the seventh largest metro area in the U.S., with over 5.4 million people.

The son of Cuban immigrants, Southern Baptist missionary Al Fernandez, 50, loves Miami like only a man born and raised there could. As a native, he actually witnessed the s...

"Absurd."

That one word is how Southern Baptist missionary Paul Biswas sums up Hinduism — the religion in which he was born and indoctrinated as a boy growing up in a conservative, higher-caste, ultra-religious family in his native Bangladesh. While still in elementary school, he learned the religion at his grandfather's knee.

"It is only by the grace of God I was able to overcome all the hardships and persecutions of my life," says Biswas, now 56, the oldest son in his family. Among Hindus, being the oldest son brings extra respect and responsibilities. Rejecting Hinduism as the oldest son brings absolute family rejection, legal disownment, and persecution.

Biswas — twenty-one-years-old at the time — could no longer believe in a religion based on r...

Daniel Goombi is a full-blooded Native American, a member of the Kiowa-Apache Indian tribe, originally nomads who left Canada to settle in Oklahoma. Daniel is proud of his heritage, culture, and tradition.

"I am a Kiowa-Apache, and I do live in a tepee," admits Goombi with a tongue-in-cheek grin. "It's just that it's a two-story brick tepee with central air conditioning, just a couple blocks from Walmart. We wear plain clothes as you can see — no buckskin loin cloths. I eat meals that weren't just running in front of me, and I don't hunt with a bow and arrow. I don't whoop and holler or attack white men, wear feathers or ride a horse."

Despite his self-deprecating humor, Daniel views his job as a missionary as serious business.

As directors of K...

What a person believes about Jesus and His work on the cross makes all the difference in the world now and for all eternity.

I grew up near Randleman, North Carolina. That location may not ring any bells with you if you aren't a NASCAR fan, but for those who follow stock car racing, they may recognize it as the original location of Petty Enterprises — which it was during my childhood. In those days, before racing became such a big business, it was possible to go by the Petty garage and see what was going on.

If you were there at the right moment, you might see them unload a crate containing one of the powerful "hemi" engines that powered the Plymouth's that Richard Petty drove. That engine was unloaded from the crate, dismantled, tested, tweaked, and mounted in one of the Petty blue racing machines.

During his prime, Petty was the most dominating driver on the circuit. One year he created quite a sti...

North American Mission Board
Abdul, one of our Southern Baptist missionaries, has answered God's call on his life to point Muslims to the truth of Christ. As you can imagine, it is a very challenging and dangerous mission field. But with God's blessings, he has seen more than a dozen Muslims come to a saving knowledge of Christ in the last three years. But in carrying out his ministry, Abdul has placed his safety and that of his children at risk. One morning they awoke to dead birds on their doorstep. The birds' throats had been slit — a threat that the same could happen to him if he continued sharing Christ. He has had to relocate his apartment several times after landlords discovered his ministry and told him to leave.

The horrors of racism stormed through my heart as I listened to my mother recount stories of her youth. These were stories I had never heard, piercing dramas that I could hardly fathom. You can imagine that my dark brown eyes became as wide as saucers as I heard the stories of human pride which led to the devaluation of so many lives.

Raised in the deep-south, in Mississippi, my mom was victim to the racist manifestations of this pride. When she went to the grocery store, white people were allowed to cut in line and shove her to the back. A trip to the movie theater meant she could expect that the white people in the balcony would pour coke and popcorn on her head. Most shocking of all perhaps, is the fact that the first conversation my mom ever had with a white person didn't take place until she was in her mid-twenties.

Although I've never experienced racism like my mom did, I have experienced some of the effects of this kind of hatred. As a young child, I couldn&#...

Idlewild Baptist Church

Ministering in Haiti Through Medical Missions
As they treated the sick by day and led soul-winning crusades by night, the medical mission teams of Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, laid the groundwork in September for more expansive missions efforts in 2009.

The first medical team, consisting of fourteen medical professionals and four lay persons, returned from Haiti in September having made the first of what the church hopes will be lasting "connections with the people," said Ray Sanabria, missions minister at Idlewild.

Idlewild plans to return to Haiti this year.

...
Southside Baptist Church

Reaching Beyond the Church Walls

Last fall, Southside Baptist Church in Spartanburg, South Carolina, spent a Saturday being the hands and feet of Jesus. From children through senior adults, 173 members of the church organized ministry teams through Sunday schools and went out to model the love of Christ in the community.

Wearing bright yellow T-shirts with the question, "Are You Connected?" on the back, church members did a variety of ministries. Projects ranged from delivering food boxes to needy people in an apartment complex, to prayerwalking in a local public school wh...

Bartlett Baptist Church

Touching a Remote African Tribe

No one in the remote West African village wanted to be the first to follow Jesus. The choice could mean losing family, home, job, friends, children — everything the Vigue hold dear.

More than eight thousand Vigue (vee-gay) live in southern Burkina Faso scattered among twelve villages. Poor by Western standards, they live without electricity or running water, surviving as farmers. A mixture of Islam, spiritism, and ignorance shields their hearts from the Gospel. Until recently, there were no known Christians among them.

That chang...

Southern Baptist Compassion

Southern Baptists have brought badly needed relief to an isolated region of Zimbabwe, where a national political impasse — compounded by hyperinflation, a cholera epidemic, and a burgeoning food crisis — have brought the country near the point of collapse.

Zimbabwe's government declared a national emergency December 4 because of the cholera epidemic, which has spread across the entire country, claiming at least 565 lives, according to news reports. The inflation rate has been estimated at 231 million percent, and United Nations food analysts believe the hunger crisis will grow worse in the spring because many families have eaten seeds needed for planting.

People in Zimbabwe are growing more desperate by the day, said Susan Hatfield, who with her husband, Mark, directs work in Sub-Saharan Africa for Baptist Global Response, an international relief and development organization.

"Grocery store shelves are almost completely empty, except for the U...

Southern Baptist Compassion
About 2,100 Christian families driven from their homes in India's Orissa state are receiving badly needed relief supplies from Southern Baptists' world hunger and general relief funds. Tens of thousands of Christians have been forced from their homes since a Hindu swami and four of his followers were murdered in late August, 2008. Though Maoist insurgents took credit for the killing, Hindu extremists blamed Christians and mounted mob attacks on churches, as well as homes and villages populated by Christians. Dozens of people have been killed, hundreds injured, and thousands of homes, churches, and businesses have been burned.
Nurturing Abstinence Till Marriage

The True Love Waits abstinence-until-marriage movement has recorded numerous milestones since its launch by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The first True Love Waits national celebration took place in July 1994, when more than 210,000 covenant cards signed by teens were displayed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. More than fourteen years later, an estimated 2.5 to 3 million youth have signed commitment cards pledging sexual purity until their wedding day, and that number continues to grow worldwide. Hundreds of thousands of commitment cards from youth throughout the world have been displayed at several events, including the 2004 Olympics in Athens. And more than one hundred organizations have adopted the use of True Love Waits to promote sexual abstinence.

Despite the progress, much work remains to be done, cofounder Jimmy Hester said. True Love Waits is a youth-based international...

The large majority of Southern Baptist pastors believe strongly in the Cooperative Program (CP) — the Southern Baptist Convention's unified approach to missions support — because it allows congregations to accomplish more together than they could achieve by themselves. Yet, new data from LifeWay Research indicates that one in four pastors see room for improvement in how CP dollars are allocated and how efficiently they are being used.

A census of all Southern Baptist congregations, conducted by LifeWay Research between November 2007 and February 2008 on behalf of the SBC's Executive Committee, revealed that 87 percent of pastors generally are satisfied with the Cooperative Program compared to 13 percent who generally are dissatisfied. One out of three pastors strongly agree that state conventions and SBC entities supported by the CP use the contributions efficiently.

According to Bob Rodgers, the Executive Committee's vice president for Cooperativ...

Subprime housing crisis. Dramatic shifts in the global economy. Bankruptcies. Bailouts. They all are economic terms to which few of us paid much attention — until now. Today we are experiencing the brunt of a financial blow that has impacted our total economy. As the economic downturn expands, many businesses are going under. Tens of thousands of individuals and families all across our nation are suffering from job loss, or at least the possibility of job loss. Perhaps you are, too.

Joblessness is a stress-maker of huge proportions. The emotional upheaval of losing a job is a major life change that can leave a person feeling totally out of control — and angry.

Obviously, reduced income significantly increases the need to make sound financial choices, and economic downswings like the one we're experiencing amplify that need. Any personal financial crisis today places you in the middle of a global crisis. It's not easy to know just what to do.

Or...

Right now is a perfect time to show our neighbors how much we care. They all have needs, especially now. A great way to approach these friends is just to be concerned enough to ask each if there is anything you can pray with them about. This caring concern can often open an opportunity to share what the Lord has meant to you during difficult circumstances, which may lead to sharing the Gospel with them. This is a great time to show His love, which is what we see in these accounts from Greg Davidson, the evangelism pastor at First Baptist Church in Naples, Florida.

One of our evangelism team leaders decided that he wanted to take his team to visit the neighbors on his own street. The team arrived in the subdivision, and they first visited the team leader's next door neighbors. The neighbors were delighted with the visit and asked if the team could return the next week when all the family could be there to hear the Gospel. The team then walked across the street and knocked ...

It has finally happened. The world has gone crazy. As a psychologist I now have a job for life. News reporters are correct. They are always talking about breaking news, and now everything is breaking. We know that kids fresh out of business school and employed at Wall Street investment banks have been advising grown-ups on Main Street to buy nothing with nothing down. They can then leverage to pay themselves fees so that they can pay nothing for something else and collect more fees. Of course that's risky, so you have to involve an insurance company just in case nothing becomes something.

It seems like giving permission for someone to bet your money on a race horse that will never run a race. The horse will be sold so many times that by the time the race occurs, it will be impossible to determine who owns the horse. And if the horse wins the race, then everyone will have enough money to go to court. At any rate, the fees charged for selling the horse over and over added up to m...

A Multi-ethnic Congregation Sharing the Gospel Worldwide
by Norm Miller

Bible Church International (BCI) lives up to its name. The Randolph, New Jersey, congregation, started as a house church with thirty people in 1982, now draws nearly 350 regular attenders from China, Nigeria, Ireland, India, and the Philippines. But it's also involved with thirty church plants in Thailand, Cambodia, Dubai, and the Philippines, as well as North America.

Pastor Jerry Lepasana, himself a Filipino, says the multi-ethnic Southern Baptist congregation is a "glocal" church — a church with a global "Great Commission" vision fueled by a passion for local ministry.

Thos...