When the Southern Baptist Convention family came to Phoenix in early June, Arizona Southern Baptists were program participants at the annual meeting, as well as at related meetings.

Below, we chronicle some of the action with news briefs and photos.

SBC Annual Meeting

Noe Garcia, senior pastor of North Phoenix Baptist Church, greets messengers.

In the opening session, Noe Garcia, senior pastor of North Phoenix Baptist Church, Phoenix, formally welcomed messengers and guests to Phoenix.

He recalled statistics about Phoenix that he read on the North American Mission Board website when he first began talking with North Phoenix about becoming pastor. Only an estimated 12 percent of Arizonans are evangelical, he said, and Phoenix ranks 89th out of 96 as one of the least Bible-minded cities in the U.S.

“You can read these stats and really get discouraged … but as you and I both know, we serve a King of Kings who can take any valley of dead bones and breath life into it,” he said.

“We covet your prayers for the city,” he said. “God has brought incredible church planters here, incredible young pastors.”


Eddy Pearson, AZSBC evangelism/discipleship facilitator, prepares to give the Crossover report.

Eddy Pearson, AZSBC evangelism/discipleship facilitator, joined Joel Southerland, North American Mission Board evangelism executive director, on stage to present the Crossover/Harvest America report.

“On behalf of Dr. David Johnson and Arizona Southern Baptists, thank you, SBC family, for your support in helping us with Crossover and Harvest America,” he said. Pearson also Southerland for his “courage to bring a fresh approach to Crossover and really the largest block party I’ve ever been to.”


David Johnson, AZSBC executive director, prays for newly commissioned missionaries and their families.

During the International Mission Board’s missionary sending service — one of the highlights of the annual meeting — IMB President David Platt called on AZSBC Executive Director David Johnson to pray for the new missionaries and their families. Platt noted that David and his wife, Diana, sent their son, Jeremiah, to serve in Mozambique and that he died on the mission field.

As messengers and guests gathered around the missionaries throughout the auditorium, Johnson prayed that “Your grace would sustain them, because Your grace is sufficient for every need. Lord, whatever comes, I pray in those moments that you would strengthen them and that You would be glorified in them and through them so that the nations might know You.”


Choirs from several valley SBC churches sing during the SBC annual meeting.

Choirs from North Phoenix Baptist Church, First Southern Baptist Church of Avondale, First Southern Baptist Church at Sahuaro Ranch in Glendale, and Apollo Baptist Church in Glendale sang with the praise team from Bellevue Baptist Church, Cordova, Tenn., at the Tuesday evening session.


Arizona Christian Challenge staff members helped with SBC registration Sunday and Monday and served as ushers Tuesday morning. A number of other Arizona Southern Baptists also served as ushers. Students and others related to Gateway Seminary’s Arizona Campus served as pages and microphone monitors during the annual meeting.

Arizona Christian Challenge staff serve at the SBC Annual Meeting.

Arizona Southern Baptists appointed by SBC President Steve Gaines to serve as tellers were Andrew Bailey, Phoenix campus pastor, Palm Vista Baptist Church, Surprise; Martin Lizarraga, Morningside Baptist Church, Tucson; and Richie Stanley, minister of education, Victory Baptist Church, Buckeye. Appointed by Gaines to serve on the Credentials Committee were Dewayne Gamez, senior pastor, Morningside Baptist Church, Tucson, and Charlie Scheffe, church planter, Palm Vista Baptist Church, Surprise.


Kids participated in their own activities during the SBC meeting.

Children attending the SBC annual meeting participated in their own activities, which included meeting staff from Arizona Baptist Children’s Services and making items to help ABCS minister to those in need as they share God’s love.


Rio Vista Center in Phoenix hosted teens participating in Youth on Mission while their parents attend the annual meeting. The teens helped with the farmer’s market, put together diaper verse tags for New Life Pregnancy Center, sorted clothes to be handed out to the community and prayed with clients.


Arizona Southern Baptists appeared several times on the CP Stage in the exhibit hall.

Monty Patton, NAMB Send City missionary in Phoenix; Brian Bowman, lead pastor of Valley Life — Tramonto; and Nate Millican, lead pastor of Foothills Baptist Church, Ahwatukee, talked about Send Phoenix and church planting with interviewer Micah Fries, senior pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church, Chattanooga, Tenn.

Brian Bowman speaks about Send Phoenix on the CP stage in the SBC exhibit hall.

David Johnson spoke about the state convention’s role in missions during a panel discussion on “Churches Send, Southern Baptists We Send Together.” Also on the panel were Southern Seminary Professor Hershael York, David Platt and Vance Pitman, senior pastor of Hope Church, Las Vegas, with Jon Akin, NAMB director of young leader engagement, interviewing participants.

During a panel on “Your Church and Global Hunger Crisis,” Ed Eddingfield, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church, Tucson, told how his church supports Global Hunger Relief. Nathan Lino, lead pastor of Northeast Baptist Church, Houston; Jeff Palmer, executive director of Baptist Global Response; Susie Hawkins, member of the BGR board of directors; and Tommy Green, executive director treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention. Because of the Cooperative Program covering administrative expenses, ever dollar given to Global Hunger Relief is used to alleviate hunger in the U.S. and around the world.


Chris Stull, senior pastor of Wellspring Church, Goodyear, and Darwyn Harp, a member of North Phoenix Baptist Church, were elected to serve on the 2017-18 SBC Committee on Nominations.

Brian Bowman, lead pastor of Valley Life — Tramonto, was elected as a trustee of the North American Mission Board. He replaces Billy Van Camp, who was ineligible to be re-elected.

“Come Over … and Help Us”

David Johnson interviews Josh and Shannon Jennings, who moved to Arizona to plant a church in Sedona.

During the Monday afternoon session of the SBC Pastors’ Conference June 12, Arizona Southern Baptists showed a video telling the story of Josh and Shannon Jennings, who felt God calling them to plant a church in Sedona after coming to Arizona for the SBC annual meeting in 2011. The new church they started is Aletheia Church in Sedona.

Following the video, which can be seen on Vimeo, David Johnson interviewed Josh and Shannon on stage. He invited listeners to “Come over … and help us” by planting churches, partnering and praying.

It was a message Arizona Southern Baptists shared throughout the annual meeting with exhibits outside the Pastors’ Conference and in the exhibit hall, with imprinted folding flyers/fans and through copies of Portraits magazine.


Missionary Cheryl Derbyshire speaks during the WMU annual meeting.

Related Meetings

Arizona native and long-time IMB missionary Cheryl Derbyshire shared an inspiring message during the national WMU annual meeting in Phoenix June 12.

Derbyshire has overseen the Thai Country Trim ministry in Thailand for the past 15 years. Thai Country Trim, a handcraft ministry, serves to provide viable employment and spiritual hope for the uneducated women of Thailand. Through their 25-year partnership with Worldcrafts, Thai Country Trim has grown from 20 women to now over 30 full-time workers and over 200 working from home — all of whom hear clearly and regularly the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Derbyshire shared the story of Em, a woman in desperate need of honorable employment, who learned to sew and began to work for Thai Country Trim. Em, whose husband was severely anti-Christian, soon came to faith and is sharing with her husband as well as other women how they, too, can find freedom through Jesus.

Cheryl and her husband, Dr. Doug Derbyshire, who call North Phoenix Baptist Church their home church, recently celebrated 25 years of service with the IMB and are looking forward to many more years of ministry in Thailand.


The Congolese choir from Silverbell Baptist Church, Tucson.

At the same session of the WMU annual meeting, the Congolese choir from Silverbell Baptist Church in Tucson had the audience on their feet with vibrant worship music.


Gateway Seminary President Jeff Iorg presented a Distinguished Alumni Award to Chad Garrison during the seminary’s Alumni and Friends Luncheon at the SBC annual meeting.

Garrison, a 2001 graduate, has been pastor of Calvary

Gateway Seminary President Jeff Iorg presented a Distinguished Alumni Award to Chad Garrison.

Baptist Church in Lake Havasu City, for 25 years. During that time, the church has baptized more than 1,200 people, averages a worship attendance of 1,700 and has contributed $3.8 million to the Cooperative Program. Most recently, Garrison opened his church as a teaching center for Gateway Seminary.


Tim Pruit, Gila Valley Association director of missions, was elected chairman of the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders during the group’s meeting at the Westin Phoenix Downtown hotel. He served as vice chairman this year. Lori Pruit, Portraits writer and wife of Tim, led music for meeting.


Nearly 200 people participated in the first Global Relief Run, held at Indian School Park.

Arizona Southern Baptists were among the nine sponsors of the first Global Hunger Relief Run, which included a 5K and a one-mile fun run at Steele Indian School Park on the second day of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The 189 entrants contributed nearly $4,000 toward feeding the hungry in the United States and throughout the world. Because of the sponsors’ contributions, all money contributed by the entrants went to Global Hunger Relief (GHR).

GHR is a partnership of seven Southern Baptist entities that collaborate to address hunger needs in the world. The Cooperative Program’s support of SBC entities enables 100 percent of the gifts received by GHR to be used in hunger projects implemented by Southern Baptist missionaries and partners.

Many churches give attention to the work of GHR, formerly known as the World Hunger Fund, on Global Hunger Sunday in October each year. More information about GHR is available at globalhungerrelief.com.


A choir from First Indian Baptist Church sings during a conference for Fellowship of Native American Christians.

First Indian Baptist Church, Phoenix, hosted a conference entitled “Dimensions to Native Ministry” for the Fellowship of Native American Christians, June 10-11.

Pastor Shaun Whitey welcomed the group. The church choir, musicians from All Nations Church, Phoenix, and Native Praise from Oklahoma brought the music. Also on the program was Emerson Falls, former First Indian pastor and now Native American ministries specialist with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.


Josue and Carolina Castro receive an award for their work in Vacation Bible School.

Josue Castro, pastor of Tierra Fértil in Yuma and AZSBC Hispanic ministries facilitator, led worship during the National Hispanic Fellowship meeting June 12 at the Phoenix Convention Center. Other members of the church also participated in the meeting.

Castro, accompanied by his wife, Carolina, received an award noting Tierra Fértil’s work in Vacation Bible School.


Fil-Am International Baptist Church in Mesa hosted the annual meeting of the Filipino Southern Baptist Fellowship June 13.

Speaking to a full house, Allan Gayongala, pastor of Valley International Christian Church in Peoria, urged Filipino Baptists to be faithful to their ministries.

Fil-Am International Baptist Church in Mesa hosted the annual meeting of the Filipino Southern Baptist Fellowship June 13.

Gayongala preached from Psalm 78, which references King David’s call to lead Israel. David remained faithful to the Lord, Gayongala said, even when he was engaged in tasks that might have seemed unimportant.

“David was chosen because he was faithful to little things,” Gayongala said. “Sometimes you are tempted to think that if we are serving the Lord, we must be serving big time. God is not calling us to bigness. He has chosen us for faithfulness. When we are faithful to little things, big things happen.”

Gayongala recounted his own struggles with planting churches and encouraged others to remain patient and faithful in planting new congregations. The message complemented the fellowship’s “20/20” initiative, aimed at planting 100 new churches between 2015 and 2020.


The praise team from World Church.

The praise team from Word Church in Mesa led worship during the National African American Fellowship dinner at the Phoenix Convention Center June 12.