Church of Christ News

Church of Christ News (150)

Houston Campaign for ChristIn Houston, black, white, Hispanic churches organize citywide campaign.
HOUSTON — For months, nearly a dozen billboards along busy thoroughfares have promoted the Churches of Christ Campaign for Christ.
After more than a year of planning, about 70 Houston-area congregations — black, white and Hispanic — joined together to serve the needy and seek the lost.
The recent five-day campaign featured the theme “Coming Together As One.” The message to residents of America’s most ethnically diverse metropolis: Christians can break down racial walls.
“We’re promoting one church and giving a statement to the community that we’re one in Jesus Christ,” said Cruz Hernandez, minister for the Hidden Valley Church of Christ, where he preaches in English and  Spanish.
More than 4,000 people worshiped God inside the George R. Brown Convention Center, just down the street from Minute Maid Park, home of baseball’s Astros.
In a massive “Day of Good Works” before the gospel meeting started,  hundreds of campaign volunteers distributed backpacks and school  supplies to 3,000 children and families who lined up hours before the  doors opened.
“There is no color boundary in heaven,” said Patricia Berry-Jones, a member of the Highland Heights Church of Christ.
Campaign volunteers gave away English and Spanish Bibles and provided free services such as vision and dental exams, sports physicals, diabetes screenings, immigrant legal advice and family portraits.
More than 500 church members signed up to donate blood.
Minister Gary Smith’s voice carried over a loudspeaker as he welcomed families to the Day of Good Works.
“Thank you! God bless you! Have a wonderful time!” urged Smith, who preaches for the Fifth Ward Church of Christ. “If you have any questions, just ask someone in the white T-shirts.”
‘A MASSIVE IMPACT FOR GOOD’
Teisha Johnson and her sons, Gahvyn, 12, and Triston, 9, decided to be baptized as a result of the campaign.
“I’ve always believed in Jesus and God, but I’ve struggled with living the Word and being faithful,” said the single mother, who began visiting the Sugar Land Church of Christ about six months ago.
“Since I’ve been at the Church of Christ ... it just makes everything so much clearer to me,” she added. “It made me realize, ‘Yes, I need to obey the Gospel and really make a true commitment to fully live by the Bible.’”
The campaign resulted in at least 16 baptisms and many ongoing studies, organizers said. Registration materials filled out by those helped will allow individual churches to follow up.
Dozens of congregations set up booths with colorful banners and pamphlets.
“We’ll give you a homecooked meal and everything else,” Brenda Carter, a member of the Fidelity Church of Christ, told a stranger who visited her booth. “Just look for me. I’ll be there.”
Sponsoring congregations and individual members contributed roughly $350,000 to cover the campaign’s costs.
“The Campaign for Christ is really the best effort we’ve had of getting churches together to make a real impact on Houston,” said Larry Keele, minister for the Champions Church of Christ. “We’re doing good works, we’re sharing the name of Jesus with the city, and it’s going to be a massive impact for good.”
‘I’D NEVER HEARD OF IT’
Two years ago, the Campaign for Christ involved primarily black churches.
Benton Baugh, a longtime member of the Memorial Church of Christ, recalls seeing a sign on the back of a taxicab advertising the 2010 campaign.
“I’d never heard of it,” said Baugh, who served as co-chairman for the 2012 Day of Good Works. “The reason is because I’m white. The black congregations are much more active in the community in area-wide cooperation than the white congregations are.”
Houston is the seat of Harris County, which has more Churches of Christ — 124 — than any other county in the nation. In all, the 10-county Houston metro area has roughly 200 congregations and 50,000 adherents of Churches of Christ.
But individual congregations often fail to reflect the makeup of Houston — an immigrant gateway more diverse than New York, Los Angeles or Miami, according to Rice University researchers.
Similarly, area-wide church events tend to involve a particular racial group and not Christians of all colors. “That’s one thing we noticed at the last Campaign for Christ,” said David Duncan, minister for the Memorial church. “There was a desire to preach Christ and to help others, but it didn’t feel like it was a brotherhood-wide event.”
For five years, the predominantly white Memorial church and the predominantly black Fifth Ward church have conducted joint worship assemblies twice a year. They cooperate on benevolence projects and marriage enrichment programs.
The two churches’ ministers swap pulpits and maintain a close friendship — to the extent that Duncan felt no hesitation in voicing his concern to Smith about the 2010 campaign’s lack of racial diversity.
This time, organizers worked harder to cross racial and ethnic boundaries and involve a wide diversity of church leaders and members, Smith said.
“The last campaign, some of the brothers reached out, but not as much as this campaign,” said Smith, who served as one of the 2012 campaign’s coordinators, along with Duncan and Hernandez. “This campaign, without a doubt, was groundbreaking because more churches were invited up front to come together and talk about what we could do.”
That dialogue sometimes resulted in stressful conversations as organizers worked through issues such as who would preach, what style of worship would prevail and how long assemblies would last.
“You have some who want to get the program over with real quick,” Smith said, “and some who want to stay here all night.”
The difference in approach was evident as Jack Evans Jr. of Southwestern Christian College in Terrell, Texas, followed Howard Norton of the Baxter Institute in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to the microphone on Sunday night. Both Norton, who is white, and Evans, who is black, praised the diverse nature of the crowd.
Norton said he was happy to be in a setting where neither color, language nor nationality mattered.
“What matters is Jesus Christ,” he said.
Evans agreed, saying, “This is what the ‘one body’ ought to look like.”
But Evans found it difficult to limit his remarks.
“I don’t think I’ve ever preached a sermon that fast,” he joked, wiping sweat from his brow after removing his jacket and loosening his tie. “I’m an hour-long preacher. At 30 minutes, I’m just getting started.”
He proceeded to prove that, repeatedly interrupting the invitation song — “Just As I Am” — to beg the lost to step forward.
That same night, the crowd sang hymns such as “When We All Get to Heaven” and “Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus” in English and Spanish.
Andres Trejo, a member of the Lawndale Church of Christ, voiced amazement at the four-part harmony that echoed off the rafters.
“We’re like one note the whole time,” he joked about his home congregation. “But here, they do voices — soprano, alto. I like to see that. I’ve never seen this much energy coming from one group.”
 
 
 
story.nookWhen I stepped to the pulpit of the Roswell Church of Christ in Kansas  City, Kan., on a recent Sunday, I made an, um, embarrassing miscue.
I left my Bible on the front pew.
I owe my personal blooper to two facts:
• I’m a writer, not a preacher, and standing in front of an audience to share God’s word always makes me a bit nervous.
• I’ve converted in recent years to digital Bible reading and study, so  I’ve become unaccustomed to carrying around a thick, printed version of  the Scriptures.
Much to my relief, the kind brothers and sisters of the Roswell church — where I had spent the weekend working on an upcoming feature for The  Christian Chronicle — forgave my lapse.
Three years ago, I wrote a column headlined “Texting during worship? No, just reading the text.” I reflected on the increasing number of  Christians using smartphones and other electronic devices to access the  Bible and take notes during worship assemblies.
Given my Roswell experience, I decided to revisit the subject. I asked  readers of the Chronicle’s blog: Do you use a printed Bible or digital  version at church services?
The 75 readers who responded by press time split almost evenly between print and digital — with a number of folks saying they use both.
“When I preach, I still carry my print Bible to the pulpit, but I have all of the Scriptures on the projector,” said Mike Miles, who preaches for the Westside Church of Christ in Ames, Iowa. “In my personal study, I use BibleGateway.com and YouVersion on my smartphone, though I still like flipping through my print Bibles for their handy, convenient commentaries.”
Theresa Gill, a member of the Nettleton Church of Christ in Jonesboro, Ark., met her future husband, Tim, on the online social networking site Facebook.
But when it comes to Bible study, she prefers the leather-bound King James Version that Tim gave her when they first met. “I just love the feel of my Bible and enjoy turning the delicate pages,” she said. “(There’s) nothing better to me than an old, marked-up Bible that says love.”
Jon Burnett, a member of the Waldorf Church of Christ in Maryland, said he considers his iPad a wonderful tool for Bible study and uses the tablet computer almost exclusively for sermon and Bible class preparation.
In worship assemblies, though, he fears his iPad could be a distraction.
“Otherwise, I have a tendency to go my own way — like following a personal tangent in the middle of a lesson,” he said. Moreover, he’s afraid his 3-year-old, Lizzie, might not understand why she can’t color or watch videos on the iPad during the service.
Angela Brown, a member of the Margaret Street Church of Christ in Milton, Fla., describes herself as a “Bible version jumper.”
That’s why she enjoys the ability to carry her printed New International Version of the Bible along with her iPad, which allows her to access other translations and make legible notes.
Her husband, Michael, leaves his Kindle Fire at home and takes his big New King James Version Bible to church, his wife said.
Brown said she’s planning to buy her children, Michael, 17, and Hannah, 14, electronic devices so they can get more out of their Bible studies. “I don’t worry about them getting sidetracked or surfing the net while in services because they have been raised to know why we are at worship,” she said. “Plus, they know Mama will do a search history if I think they have misused them.”
For some, however, digital Bibles still carry a stigma. “I prefer to have a printed Bible to use when I am teaching class, doing Bible studies with others or just my daily reading,” said Tom Henry, a member of the 47th Street Church of Christ in Wichita, Kan.
“I feel it adds reliability to what I say,” Henry added. “My source is the Bible and not an Android website somewhere. When teaching someone, which is more believable: Acts 2:38 read from a phone or a well-used printed Bible? I will use the printed page.”
Patrick Odum, minister for the Northwest Church of Christ in Chicago, uses an iPad when preaching.
“I have many different translations, the Greek and the Hebrew and commentaries available at my fingertips, and I find it as quick or sometimes quicker to flip between passages,” Odum said. “Not to mention the fact that I hate wearing my reading glasses in the pulpit, and I’m getting to the point where I need those!”
The iPad allows him to enlarge the text lettering as much as he likes.
“I did have a lady say once that she wished I still used the Bible when I preached,” Odum said. “I showed her the app and asked which Bible she wanted me to use.”
CONTACT . 
 
 
 
MillionDollarSurprise
PHOTO PROVIDED Big check - Donald Cathy, senior vice president of Chick-fil-A, speaks at the HIllcrest Church of Christ in Decatur, Ga. Contributors, including Chick-fil-A employees, gave a combined $1 million to the church's building fund in memory of Donald A. Perry, a church elder and vice president of public relations for Chick-fil-A who died July 27. At right are Cathy's wife, Cindy, Perry's widow, Marilyn, and the church's minister, Richard Barclay.  
Sunday contribution at the Hillcrest Church of Christ was higher than usual — $1 million higher, to be exact.

That’s the amount the Atlanta-area church received toward its $5.2 million renovation project, which will include a 1,500-seat sanctuary and new facilities for its education program and offices.

Much of the large donation came from the National Christian Foundation. Headquartered in nearby Alpharetta, the organization "is the largest Christian grant-making foundation in the world," according to its website.

The 700-member congregation in Decatur, Ga., received news of the donation from Donald “Bubba” M. Cathy, senior vice president of Chick-fil-A.

Contributors, including Chick-fil-A employees, gave funds in memory of Donald A. Perry, who served for 15 years as an elder of the Hillcrest church.

Perry, vice president of public relations for Chick-fil-A, died July 27 of a heart attack. He was 60.

“I’ve never seen anything like the cloud that settled over the congregation” after Perry’s sudden, unexpected death, said Ernest Holsendolph, a member of the Hillcrest church and editor of its newsletter.
The large donation, which places the church’s renovation project “on the brink of success,” was equally unexpected, Holsendolph said.
Cathy, one of the sons of Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy, had previously told the church’s leaders that they would receive a donation of $250,000 toward the project, Holsendolph told The Christian Chronicle. Church leaders invited Donald Cathy and his wife, Cindy, to the congregation’s Sept. 9 worship service to show their appreciation for the gift.
When the couple arrived, Donald Cathy told the congregation that the donation had quadrupled to $1 million.
The contribution was a welcome tribute to Perry, who had spearheaded the church’s renovation project, Holsendolph said.
“For all his business success, (Perry) said his most challenging work — and most satisfying — was in the church,” said Holsendolph.
Holsendolph once interviewed Perry about his ministry as a church elder, to which Perry replied, “I’m still learning … but the consuming challenge is to try to keep brothers and sisters on the same page, pulling together for Christ, in an environment that is so diverse in so many ways.”
Perry’s death received national media attention due to the public relations firestorm surrounding comments by Chick-fil-A’s president and Donald Cathy’s brother, Dan Cathy, who told a Baptist newspaper that he backs “the biblical definition of a family.”
Gay rights groups called for a boycott of Chick-fil-A. They also criticized the National Christian Foundation, which has received donations from the WinShape Foundation, the charitable arm of Chick-fil-A. Both foundations give grants to organizations that oppose gay marriage, according to gay rights groups.
Chick-fil-A representatives — including Perry — denied that organizations supported by WinShape harbor an “anti-gay” agenda. In a statement released to media, Perry said that the focus of Chick-fil-A’s corporate giving is “toward compassion, principally by serving youth and families.”
Despite the stresses of Perry’s career, “he didn’t bring his work over here,” said Richard Barclay, senior minister for the Hillcrest church. In his job, “he didn’t speak for the kingdom. He spoke for Chick-fil-A.”
After Sunday worship, Perry’s widow, Marilyn, thanked the Cathys for the generous donation and said she hopes that the gift will be a unifying force for church members as they reach out to their community.
“Let us all come together — even former members who have moved away,” Marilyn Perry said. “Come together because we have work to do in this community.”
“Let us keep faith with Don,” she added. “He really loved this church.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION on the Don Perry memorial fund, see www.hillcrestcoc.net.
 
Two and a half years ago, Felix Saint-Hubert and his church were among the lucky ones.
The minister, his family, and the 60 members of the Varreaux Church of Christ, where he preaches, were spared in the wake of a 7.0-magnitude earthquake that destroyed much of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince.
The disaster claimed more than claimed 230,000 lives and made millions homeless, including Saint-Hubert, who lived for months in a tent near the ruins of his church's meeting place.
Now, "once more nature has renewed the hurt of the Haitian people," the minister said after Hurricane Isaac ripped through his Caribbean homeland, still recovering from the devastation of “la tranble,” or “the shaking,” the Creole term many in Haiti use to refer to the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake.
Haiti's most recent disaster, Isaac, claimed at least 24 lives and  caused widespread flooding in the Port-au-Prince area. Twenty  families at the Varreaux church were affected, Saint-Hubert said, and  the storm ripped away the roof of a Christian school operated by the  church — a school rebuilt after the earthquake.
haiti
PHOTO PROVIDED
Haiti relief -       John Short and Harry Hames stand next to boxes of Healing Hands International relief supplies bound for Haiti.
Other  Haitian Christians, still living in tents after the earthquake, watched  their homes wash away in the flood waters, the minister said.
Homes in the impoverished neighborhood of Cite Soleil were damaged, said Ken Bever, president of Hope for Haiti's Children, a church-supported ministry that works with orphans and churches in the area.
"We have reports that we also had major damage to our two schools which are in the high mountains of Archaie — Robert and Brajirois," Bever said. "We are working now to assess the extent of this damage."
In  Cullman, Ala., Healing Hands International, a church-supported relief  ministry, loaded a plane with tents, tarps and personal care kits bound  for Haiti. Pilot Jon Short volunteered his time to fly the shipment,  accompanied by Harry Hames,  Haiti coordinator for Healing Hands.
Hames, a deacon of the Beltline Church of Christ in Decatur, Ala., has worked in Haiti for the  past 30 months. Churches of Christ in Haiti will receive the supplies,  he said.
Some of the relief will go to Sophia Martelly, the wife of Haiti's President Michel Martelly. Workers with Healing Hands recently donated an automated external defibrillator, or AED, to the First Lady, Hames said.
A few weeks after the delivery, Haiti hosted a three-day event called the "Carnival of Flowers." A person at the celebration had a heart attack and was revived by the AED.
Sophia Martelly will help distribute the latest shipment of aid donated by Healing Hands in tent camps.
"Water in some areas has been reported as deep as 6 feet, causing  mudslides and mosquito-infested pools," Hames said.
Burt Nowers, Healing Hands' president, said that, along with the tents and tarps, the ministry "will also be sending water filters and water purification tablets as requested by the Haitian government."
"This is just a drop in the bucket of help that is needed," Nowers said. TO CONTRIBUTE to relief, contact Healing Hands International at www.hhi.org. Contact Hope for Haiti's Children at hopeforhaitischildren.org.
 
from the Christian Chronicle Blog
NCI sign

A poster from 1946, showing staff and students at Nashville Christian Institute, stands next to the registration table for the NCI reunion. (Photo by Erik Tryggestad)

In 1935, after addressing a chapel audience at Abilene Christian College (now Abilene Christian University), African-American evangelist Marshall Keeble wrote:

The boys and girls are wonderfully trained for future service in the church. I hope some day to see a school for our colored boys and girls because it is badly needed. Our young preachers are doing fine when we consider that they have no place to be trained by such godly men as (E.H.) Ijams, (N.B) Hardeman, Cox and Armstrong. I pray that these men may live long.

Seventy-seven years later, former students have gathered to fellowship and reminisce about their years at the Nashville Christian Institute. From 1940 to 1968, “the house on 24th Avenue” in Nashville was the realization of Keeble’s dream — a place where black youths could receive a Christian education as they were equipped for ministry.

The NCI reunion happens every two years, rotating among the cities of the South, arriving back in the Nashville area about every six years, said Fred Gray. The civil rights attorney for Martin Luther King Jr., best known for representing Rosa Parks, is an NCI alum. In 1967 he filed a lawsuit that challenged the transfer of NCI’s assets to David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University), exposing a deep divide between black and white members of Churches of Christ.

Recently, Christian Chronicle managing editor Bobby Ross Jr. reported on the university’s efforts to heal old wounds as it awarded Gray an honorary doctorate.

I spoke with Gray and a few of the school’s alumni at a mixer in the lobby of the Embassy Suites in Franklin. Some came from as far away as Washington, D.C., and California.

Despite the school’s humble beginnings and financial challenges, it produced graduates who became physicians, lawyers, teachers and politicians.

Margaret Beamon, who was helping with registration, said that her mother, Louise Johnson, was the driving force behind her time at NCI. Johnson insisted that all eight of her children attend. Beamon worked for 40 years in the Milwaukee public school system. One of her brothers, Albert Johnson, was the mayor of Las Cruces, N.M. — the first black mayor in the state of New Mexico. Beamon is a member of the 40th Avenue Church of Christ in Nashville.

I also met Wendell Wilkie Gunn. After his time at NCI, he became the first black student to enroll at Florence State College in Alabama (now the University of North Alabama). His admission to the college was the result of another lawsuit filed by Gray in 1963.

After graduating with a degree in chemistry and mathematics, he went on to serve as special assistant to President Ronald Reagan for international trade from 1982-84. He concentrated on trade negotiations in Southeast Asia. Now he’s a semi-retired consultant and a member of the Stamford Church of Christ in Connecticut.

Gunn said he played only the tiniest of roles in America’s struggle for civil rights.

Speaking to his fellow NCI alum, Gray, he said, “You guys looked into the mouth of the beast every day, for years.”

 

 

from the Christian Chronicle Blog

As seen in The Cincinnati Herald:
grayroad

Children in the Freedom Schools program show their excitment. (Photo via www.thecincinnatiherald.com)

More than 50 students out for the past summer school break returned to school last week better prepared and inspired to tackle their assignments due to the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools program provided at Gray Road Church of Christ.

The program provides summer and after school enrichment that helps children fall in love with reading, increases self-esteem, and generates more positive attitudes toward learning.

Tracey Jasper, whose husband Craig Jasper is assistant pastor at Gray Road Church of Christ, directs the program there.

Jasper said the children developed such a strong desire to read that they want to read to other children in the program. Some parents report their children are requesting them to take them to the library often, she said. And the children are using the dictionary to learn new words.

Read the full story.
 henna1
 Cosmetology instructor Prabina Shiwakoti gives Linda Egle a henna tattoo at a safe house in southern Nepal. (Photo by Erik Tryggestad)

Now online, “A mission of hands and feet,” a report from my recent trip to Nepal with four members of the Highland Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas. Two of them work for Eternal Threads, an Abilene-based nonprofit that sells fair-trade items crafted by women in a dozen countries.

 pedicure1
 Jonathan Storment gets a pedicure at a safe house in southern Nepal. (Photo by Erik Tryggestad)</

In Nepal, Eternal Threads partners with a Nepali-operated nonprofit, Kingdom Investments Nepal, that fights the scourge of human trafficking — young girls lured from their villages, taken across the border into India, and sold into lives of slavery in brothels.

You’ll also find a gallery with photos not included in our print edition.

Though I’ve traveled internationally for The Christian Chronicle for a decade, the journey to Nepal was unique.

I’m used to covering gospel campaigns, medical mission trips and dedication ceremonies for new schools and clinics. I’ve shot photos in a mountain village in Ecuador, a crowded home Bible study in India and a thatch-roof church building in Sudan.

But this was my first beauty salon.

Our team took photos and videos of young women — rescued from human traffickers — as they practiced waxing each other’s arms. We also partook of the salon’s services. Linda Egle, Eternal Threads’ founder, got a henna tattoo while Jennifer Patterson, an Eternal Threads staffer, received an eyebrow plucking through a method called “threading.” It did not look fun. (The things women subject themselves to … amazing.)

haircut1

Jonathan Storment inspects Erik Tryggestad's haircut. (Photo by Linda Egle)

 

Jonathan Storment, the Highland church’s minister, boldly stepped forward to receive a pedicure. I made sure to get pictures. (A few weeks ago I posted on Facebook: “I’m processing close-up photos of Jonathan Storment’s feet … and wondering how my life came to this.”)

The girls asked if there was anything they could do for me. I actually had forgotten to get a haircut before I left the U.S., so they obliged, and did a great job.

If you’re interested in joining the fight against human trafficking, Eternal Threads is looking for volunteers to host “Gatherings” — retreats and get-togethers where people can share the nonprofit’s story and provide a marketplace for its products. Follow this link for more information on hosting a Gathering.

Is your congregation, ministry or school involved in the global fight against human trafficking? Please share the details.

Here’s a trailer for a film about Kingdom Investments Nepal, the Nepali nonprofit that partners with Eternal Threads. It will give you a feel for how workers with the nonprofit intercept potential human traffickers.

 

Border Girls – Trailer from Eternal Threads on Vimeo.

And here’s a video produced by Matt Pinson about Eternal Threads’ work in Nepal.

 

Eternal Threads from Highland Church on Vimeo.

 

 

from the Christian Chronicle Blog

JerryGivesThanks
PHOTO BY BOBBY ROSS JR.            
Jerry gives thanks for another hot meal at the River City Ministry. The North Little Rock, Ark., ministry is associated with Churches of Christ.   
NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark.Get right, church, and let’s go home ... You better get right, church, and let’s go home …
 
It’s a weekday morning, about 30 minutes before lunch, but the homeless men and women assembled in the River City Ministry dining room sing like it’s Sunday.
 
As the smell of donated fried chicken wafts from the kitchen, the ramshackle congregation turns from playing dominoes and flipping newspaper pages to praising the Lord.
 
During this daily devotional, these street people pray, read Scriptures, recite faith-based poetry, share personal testimonies and — of course — sing.
 
“You may fall. You may have some scars,” a transient tells his downtrodden peers, reflecting on Hebrews 12. “But get up and finish the race.”Physical needs draw upward of 200 clients a day to the River City Ministry,which grew out of a Vacation Bible School organized by the Little Rock-area Levy Church of Christ at a subsidized housing project in 1989.
 
The ministry operates a day shelter, a food pantry, a clothing closet and medical and dental clinics. It provides job and counseling referrals.
 
However, River City’s staff members and volunteers say the ministry fulfills a higher calling: serving spiritual needs of the poor, oppressed and hurting.
In the last five years, the ministry has celebrated more than 1,000 baptisms and restorations.
“We want every person who enters RCM’s doors to know they can have the abundant life Jesus offers because each is created in, and bears, God’s image,” said Anthony Wood, the ministry’s evangelist and assistant director. “God loves the poor and forgotten.”
Robert and Debby Millar were unemployed, unable to pay their bills and addicted to drugs and alcohol when they came to the River City Ministry for food. “The more I came around this place, the more I got to know God,” said Debby Millar, who has been sober for five years. “It’s by the grace of God and these people that I’m still here and still alcohol- and drug-free.” Since 2007, 450 clients — like the Millars — have been baptized for the forgiveness of sins, according to River City leaders. An additional 600 souls have been restored to God. “Our evangelism is a no-pressure, self-discovery effort using questions to help the person being reached to connect to God,” said Wood, who served 15 years with the Memphis Urban Ministry in Tennessee before joining the River City staff in 2007. “We look into their eyes long enough and listen to their hearts until we see a window back into our own souls. We are all connected in God as human beings.” Often, the converts go share the Good News among friends, Wood said — be it a full Bible study under a bridge or a few encouraging words at an overnight shelter. “My good friend J.C. has brought over 25 of his friends to us who were later immersed,” Wood said of one such convert. “J.C. always enjoys helping with the baptisms.”
 

INSIDE THE ‘RED ZONE’

 
The folks served by the River City Ministry may sleep in a makeshift camp by the Arkansas River or in an abandoned building with no utilities. Some stay in overnight shelters that provide van or bus transportation to River City during the day. “Whatever brings them to our door, there’s generally a problem,” said Paul Wilkerson, the ministry’s operations director. “People don’t come here to celebrate the great events of their life. They come … because they’re in trouble. “We just try to have a smile,” added Wilkerson, an elder for the 600-member Levy church, which pays his salary. “You can’t fix everything, and you can’t give everybody everything they need. But you can be Christ-like, and you can be kind, gentle and have a sweet spirit.” Church donations and government grants fund the River City Ministry, which has a motto of “Opening Doors to God by Serving the Poor.” The ministry shines the light of Jesus in a part of North Little Rock dubbed the “red zone” because of its high prevalence of drugs, gangs and prostitution. “I really believe this is where Jesus would come if he were to come back,” said Jim Woodell, who preached for 25 years before becoming River City’s director in 2004. “He wouldn’t go to the hilltops. He’d be down here in this valley … with these poor people. So that’s why I’m here.”
 

PROGRESS IN INCHES, NOT MILES

 
River City partners with other ministries that have followed in its footsteps. These include HopeWorks of Greater Little Rock, a personal and career development program, and Hand Up Housing, which helps the homeless transition into a stable residential environment. Like River City, both nonprofits maintain close ties with Churches of Christ. The River City Church of Christ, a short drive from the ministry office, averages Sunday attendance of about 90, said Keith Lape, a domestic missionary supported by the Pleasant Valley Church of Christ in Little Rock. Most of the attendees first connected with the church through the River City Ministry. “There’s a wide number we are interacting with and ministering to that rarely or sporadically connect with us in our formal gatherings,” Lape said. “The church is a lot bigger on the outside than it is on the inside of the building.” Another nearby congregation, the Silver City Church, focuses on mentoring at-risk youth in North Little Rock. The River City and Silver City congregations cooperate on joint projects such as a summer camp. “We measure progress not in miles per hour but inches per year,” Lape said of the inner-city work. “We’re just trying to be faithful, to plant the seeds, to cultivate the soil, to prune, to do whatever we know God’s called us to do and let him take care of how it all manifests itself.”
 

LOVE ON THE LUNCH MENU

 
Anthony B. Wright, a one-time state high school basketball champion, said he was on the street and focused on drinking and chasing women when he came to the River City Ministry in 2005. “I got baptized at a young age, but I didn’t know what it means or what it stands for,” Wright said. “Now, I know what it means.” Wright turned his life around and later joined the River City staff, providing manual labor in the food pantry, kitchen and yard as well as helping with security. “I’m not perfect, and I make mistakes, but I know that I got people out here who care for me,” he said. “These people are like family to me. I just got to give God all the praise and honor. Without this ministry, I wouldn’t be standing here. I’d probably be dead or something like that.” Leola Johnson, the River City Ministry’s head cook, started as a volunteer in 2005. “I’ve been here ever since and loving every minute of it,” said Johnson, who taught herself to cook as a 7-year-old while her mother worked in a cotton field. “I’m worshiping the Lord and just having a good time.” Her specialties include spaghetti and meatballs as well as beans and cornbread. No matter what she makes, nobody complains.
“They love everything I cook, and I just love them,” the River City church member said of the 100-plus guests who line up for lunch after the morning devotional.
Their souls — and stomachs — full, the poor can sing in hope of heaven.
 
I’m going home on the morning train …
I’m going home on the morning train …
 
 
Gilmore Church
Sun photo by Randi Shaffer A worker from Laracey House Movers props the Gilmore Church of Christ up on blocks to move it off its foundation July 31.

When most people think of buildings that can be moved, they think of mobile homes.  

Not century-old churches. Farwell’s Gilmore Church of Christ is in the middle of a multi-week moving process, during which the 111-year-old building will be picked up, moved a few yards backward and then slid over top of a new foundation. “The foundation was crumbling,” minister Kevin Smith said. “It’s going to be quite an elaborate project. I don’t think anybody’s ever moved a building of that size in this area, a church building especially.”  Smith said that originally, Gilmore Church of Christ was setting aside money to buy a new parcel of land and build a new building, but the land the church had hoped to obtain did not become available.  

While it would have cost $500,000 to build a new church, re-building the foundation of the current church and moving the church will only cost a fraction of that, he said. Ken Seymour, an elder and a deacon in the church, said the estimated cost of the project is less than $120,000 with the use of volunteers from the area.  

 

The project started in mid-June, when several members of the church’s congregation met and decided they had to do something about the building’s failing foundation. After checking with various construction companies in the area, Seymour got a hold of Mark GilmoreChurch2Rosebrock with Kalkawin-based Laracey House Movers.  “He looked at it and ... he thought it was well solid enough, built well enough,” Seymour said. “It was built by ... our past congregation, the men that built it — most of them were farmers and barn builders and I think you can see that from the way the building is built. That’s the way they built it and the barns stood, so the church should stand also.”  Seymour said the church was constructed with area stones and trees, and ax marks are still visible on full-length beams that were chopped and split by hand.

 

DonaldPerry
WWW.CHICK-FIL-A.COM
Chick-fil-A spokesman -       Donald A. Perry, vice president of public relations for Chick-fil-A, was an elder of the Hillcrest Church of Christ near Atlanta.
Donald A. Perry, a church elder in the Atlanta metro and vice president  of public relations for Chick-fil-A, died July 27 of a heart attack. He  was 60.
“Don was a member of our Chick-fil-A family for nearly 29 years,” representatives of the Georgia-based restaurant chain said in a news  release. “He was a well-respected and well-liked media executive in the  Atlanta and University of Georgia communities, and we will all miss him.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Perry’s family includes the 900-member Hillcrest Church of Christ in  Decatur, Ga., where he and his wife, Marilyn, have worshiped for 19  years. For 15 of those years Donald Perry served as a church elder.
“Our church is certainly devastated by this loss,” Richard Barclay, the church’s senior minister, told The Christian Chronicle.
Donald Perry shepherded the congregation’s marriage ministry, ladies’ ministry and adult education program. He also was active an integral part of the church’s current building project, designed to expand the congregation’s facilities as it grows.
“He was a visionary man, a dedicated man … a kingdom man,” Barclay said.
Perry’s death received national media attention due to the public relations firestorm surrounding comments by Chick-fil-A’s president, Dan Cathy.
Cathy, the son of the company’s founder, S. Truett Cathy, told a Baptist newspaper that he backs “the biblical definition of a family.” Gay rights groups called for a boycott of Chick-fil-A. Politicians in cities including Boston and Chicago told the chain it is not welcome there.
About a week before his death, Perry issued a statement that the restaurant chain intended “to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
As the Hillcrest church makes plans for Donald Perry’s memorial service, Barclay said he’s struggling with the decision of whether or not to allow media to attend.
“He didn’t bring his work over here,” Barclay said of the church elder. In his job, “he didn’t speak for the kingdom. He spoke for Chick-fil-A.”
A native of Claysville in south Georgia, Donald Perry was baptized in 1971 in Callaway Gardens, Ga.
He was one of the first African-Americans to study at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism, where he earned a degree in public relations, according to the Hillcrest church’s website. His wife is a graduate of the university’s business school. The couple attended the Simpson Street Church of Christ in Atlanta before moving to Hillcrest.
During a church conference seven years ago, Donald Perry shared a round of golf with Barclay, then a preacher in the Houston area. The church elder gave the minister his card and told him to come visit him in Atlanta, where he promised to treat Barclay to a chicken sandwich.
“Don was the one who was instrumental in coaxing me out of Texas,” Barclay said.
The suddenness of the elder’s death shocked the congregation, the minister added. In February the church lost another of its leaders, deacon Bob Smith, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Members still mourn that loss.
“With Bob, we had months,” Barclay said. “With Don, we had minutes.”
During Sunday worship, two days after Donald Perry’s death, Barclay preached from the Old Testament book of Joshua, which tells the story of the Israelites after the loss of Moses. “Moses was called home” before he could enter the Promised Land, Barclay said, “but God was the one who made the promise. And God will keep his promise.”
 
 
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