Thursday, November 21, 2013

Carol Bercian's visit

I had a very enjoyable time this past weekend with the visit of Carol Bercian, the director of the Tabitha Ministry in Guatemala City.  I've shared on numerous occasions about this remarkable ministry among the most impoverished who live in or near the city dump in Guatemala City.  Carol has been in the States for a few weeks, visiting a sister in Seattle as well as sharing about the Tabitha Ministry with some Baptist churches in Alabama.  Alabama Baptists had an ongoing partnership with Guatemalan Baptists for a number of years and many of those churches continue to send mission teams to Guatemala.  Carol has assisted them as she has our teams with all of the logistical arrangements.

We had a potluck dinner on Saturday evening at one of our member's home, attended by several who had gone to Guatemala on one of the 6 mission trips our church has made there.  Then on Sunday, Carol shared during the message time in all 3 of our morning services.  I was slated to preach in Blake's absence as he was leading a marriage enrichment retreat for a number of our couples down in Branson over the weekend.  I had prepared a message but anticipated that there wouldn't be too much time to share it after interviewing Carol about how the Tabitha Ministry began, hearing the testimonies of some of the lives that have been radically changed through the ministry, and then learning of some of the ongoing challenges and prayer requests for the ministry.  Carol had also brought numerous crafts that the ladies of the Tabitha Ministry had made--the sale of which provides them with a source of income and an alternative to their former lifestyle.

Following the morning services, we hopped in my car for a four and a half hour drive to Farmington, MO where Carol was able to share with more than 300 who had gathered in their Family Life Center for a Thanksgiving celebration that included thanks for the church's multiple missions efforts.  We enjoyed a delicious meal and then heard reports about efforts in the church's "Jerusalem," featuring outreach ministries enabled by the new gymnasium.  Reports about efforts in "Judea and Samaria" included a focus on the church's outreach to the Filipino community in Farmington and featured a song by a trio of Filipino women and a testimony by the leader of a Bible study group working with this community.  Carol then shared about the Tabitha Ministry as I translated for her. It was great to re-connect with several friends at Farmington and see their new facilities. 

I'm grateful for the time I was able to share with Carol, her sister, and her son who also accompanied her on the trip.  I'm looking forward as well to the next round of leadership training conferences in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala in mid-January.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Together for Hope Arkansas

Last Thursday and Friday, Aaron Huffmann (our youth minister) and I drove with Harold Phillips of CBF Heartland to Helena/West Helena, Arkansas to check out the ministry of Together for Hope Arkansas.  Together for Hope is the name of an initiative launched several years ago by CBF to positively impact poverty in the 20 poorest counties in the U.S.  Some of these counties are found in South Dakota on reservations where the Lakota and other Native Americans live.  Several of these counties are on the Texas/Mexican border, while still others are found along the Mississippi River delta region.

Helena, Arkansas is the county seat of Phillips County, one of those poorest 20 counties in the U.S.  Together for Hope Arkansas is focusing their ministry efforts on making a difference in the next generation of children and young people through literacy and leadership development.  The high school graduation rate for Phillips County has historically been abysmally low, so TFH Arkansas is striving to turn that statistic around by encouraging children from their preschool years to love books and learn to read early.  Another program called Delta Jewels encourages teenage and adolescent girls to design and make jewelry which is then sold with half of the profits going to the girl and the other half being used to purchase additional materials for the program.

The two young women who are co-directors of TFH Arkansas are a true testament to the life-changing power of the gospel as it's lived out among the poorest of the poor.  Mollie and Kat (short for Katherine) have networked well with civic leaders, school teachers and administrators, local pastors and church leaders, and others to promote the vision to impact Helena's next generation in a positive way.  We're looking at a family missions trip there next June to try and assist their vision to become a reality.

One of the things that can be done in the meantime is to help purchase new and gently used preschool books for their ministry.  They have a converted bus that serves as a mobile library on wheels that goes out to outlying rural towns in Phillips County to carry out the same strategy of promoting literacy.  They also give away books to young children involved in the program and are seeking to acquire 500 books by Christmas.  If you're interested in donating books for this ministry, here's a website to check out.

If you cannot donate books at this time, let me encourage you to pray for the ministry of Together for Hope Arkansas and like their page on Facebook.  That's the main tool they use for sharing ministry needs and updates.