Reflections on Haiti

By Roger Driskill At CBF Heartland’s invitation, I have been invited to share comments and reflections on a trip I took with others to Grand Goave, Haiti, in July. You may stop here if you are expecting anything profound. Jenny Jenkins, the CBF field person in Grand Goave and our host, is amazing. Her daily routine is at least 14 hours at 6-7 days a week. Her personal story is unforgettable. Hearing her share about walking away from her dream job with a dream employer in her dream city was worth the trip by itself. She never stops. I don’t know how long the word missionary has been replaced by the term field personnel, but she is on a mission. Jesus has her undivided attention. She has a core team of Haitians consisting of about 12-13 persons, i.e. assistants, food preparation, maintenance and security—together with others. They also are engaged in ministry in their way as well. It is truly interesting to see the dynamic of these relationships at work. Her work is being multiplied. Fascinating. Haiti is poor or poorer than you can imagine. My friend Mark Buhlig once commented if you do nothing more than spend money in Haiti or send money to Haiti, you are still helping people in need. Adding Christ is even better. One of the people in the group commented on her initial impression of Haiti, “Where do you start?” It is an overwhelming situation, yet we are compelled to just take the next step. It is very easy and comfortable to be in the routine we create for ourselves. Being in a...

A Place at the Table

by Matthew Porter All my life, I have associated food with family. Growing up, Mom’s chili simmering on the stove signified that autumn had begun, Grandma’s German chocolate cake meant it was my birthday, and Aunt Connie’s taco dip at any family gathering was extra special—because I knew she made it with me in mind.  Nothing says “home” quite like sitting around the table with those you love. But for people far from loved ones, mealtimes can underscore a sense of loneliness. During my four years serving with the Baptist Student Center at Southeast Missouri State University, I saw the difference a hot meal and friendly conversation can make in the lives of people from distant places.  Twice a week, a team of community volunteers welcomed students to come together for a meal.  These students came from locales as diverse as Bangladesh, China, Germany, Sri Lanka, and small towns across Southeast Missouri. We would enjoy each other’s cuisine, (everything from fried chicken to French crepes to Indian biryani) and built relationships across cultural barriers.  Unlikely friendships were formed, and we learned from one another even after the meal was finished–visiting each other’s homes, traveling together, participating in service projects alongside one another, worshipping and studying scripture together.  Many of the acquaintances I met around the table have become family. My experience in Cape Girardeau made me a believer in hospitality ministry.  But it wasn’t until I was 800 miles away that I really understood its power.  Thanks in part to CBF Heartland, I served in Toronto, ON, Canada, this summer with CBF’s Student.Church program.  My hosts at Blythwood Road...

CBF Heartland announces partnership with local churches to provide alternative to payday loans

Liberty Mo. — “The payday lending industry in Missouri and the Heartland is a disaster for families and communities,” says Nancy Thompson, moderator of CBF Heartland and a consumer attorney. For Thompson, her legal work in Des Moines, Iowa, calls her to protect the rights of consumers and assist those trapped in a vicious cycle of debt. The lack of industry regulation at the state and federal levels allows small-dollar loans to be made with an annual percentage rate as high as 435 percent in Missouri, according to Thompson. “The payday loan industry preys on the poorest members of our communities,” Thompson said. At its June meeting, the CBF Heartland Coordinating Council approved a partnership with local churches that seeks to offer viable alternatives to the usurious practice of predatory payday lenders. This new partnership comes as the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship has placed a sustained emphasis in recent years on advocating for payday loan reform. Since 2013, CBF Advocacy has worked with national coalitions to advocate for “just lending” and encourage elected officials and people of faith to encourage the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to adopt a strong regulatory rule to curtail predatory loan practices. The CFPB, a federal agency responsible for protecting consumers in the financial sector, recently released an initial rule which advocates hope will soon help to rein in the worst practices of the payday and auto-title loan industry. The Heartland Council voted to allocate $9,000 from its Disaster Response Fund toward assisting a growing number of CBF churches in providing local assistance to the victims of predatory lenders. “We normally think of disaster response in...

Observing Lent

by Blake McKinney  Pastor of First Baptist Church, Lee’s Summit, Mo. I must confess that I’m pretty new to the practice of observing the season of Lent. My primary recollection of Lent from my childhood and teenage years is that it was the time of year that I was most thankful not to be Catholic. I would see my Catholic friends giving up chocolate for six weeks and having to eat fish every Friday, and I would feel sorry for them. When anyone asked me what I was giving up for Lent, I would give a snarky reply like “homework” or “Brussels sprouts.” Now that I’m older (and hopefully a little wiser), I’ve realized that Lent is more than a cruel papal scheme to make Catholic kids miserable. It is a season of the year that has been observed for centuries by Christians of all stripes. Lent gives us a chance to take some meaningful steps forward in our journey of faith. I have come to view Lent as an opportunity to pay attention to my relationship with Jesus as I prepare to celebrate his death and resurrection. The truths we commemorate on Good Friday and Easter Sunday deserve some buildup. I’m convinced that if I make some adjustments in my typical patterns during the weeks leading up to those days, I will be in a position to appreciate them more fully. I would encourage you to practice the discipline of letting something go during the season of Lent. In the six-plus weeks between Ash Wednesday (February 10 this year) and Easter Sunday, think of something that is part...

Hard Conversations at ChurchWorks

By Josh Speight Hard conversations are difficult, to be sure.  In the context of the congregation, they can be almost debilitating.  However, as ministers, we are called to share in conversations, even when the only thing we agree on is that we disagree. In the church, how do we lead when disagreement arises? How do we work together, despite our disagreements, to do the work of the Gospel of Christ? Where do we give space for God in hard conversations? 2016 will be a challenging year for most of us politically, socially, and theologically.  Ministers will be asked to preach, teach, and lead as our communities continue to understand our world. Join your colleagues in Asheville, NC at ChurchWorks February 22-24 for a time to reflect and consider why conversations matter.  Prince Rivers, a trained facilitator for the Center for Courage and Renewal (founded by Parker Palmer), will facilitate our time together. Prince will guide us to consider how having “courageous” conversations is what we as ministers are compelled to do, even when challenged.  During the three days in Asheville, Prince will lead us to “Confront our Fears: Follow God’s Call,” ask “What’s Going On?: How Mental Models Shape Our Conversations,” and  consider “Come Let us Reason Together: Tools for Talking About the Tough Issues.” In addition to Prince’s leadership, ChurchWorks will offer ten-minute presentations called “My Story.” These are an opportunity to hear from colleagues who have navigated hard conversations and want to share their own experience.  CBF networks will gather for peer-learning, resource sharing and fellowship as well as to debrief together the learnings from Prince. As...