By Kay Harms
Just as many Arizona families were wrapping up leftovers from Christmas dinner, members of First Southern Baptist Church, Avondale, started feeding and caring for a steady stream of refugees from Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had processed the immigrants and could either release them to a church or onto the streets. That’s when Pastor Jack Marslender’s congregation stepped in. First Southern, Avondale, cared for about 176 refugees over the two weeks following Christmas.
“Our agreement to help was not a political statement,” Marslender said. “It was an act of love to people in need.” He went on to state that his congregation worked in full cooperation with the immigration authorities and the laws governing the refugees’ entrance into the country.
Arizona Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams have been linking arms with other relief agencies and nonprofits to serve in various ways recently.
During the Christmas season, Arizona Southern Baptist Disaster Relief sent three teams on three separate trips to assist a California refugee shelter with the preparation of meals. The teams prepared 6,650 meals Dec. 11-Jan. 5, with a break just for Christmas day.
The San Diego refugee shelter, located in a Catholic church facility and run by a Jewish family services organization, had to close its kitchen temporarily while repairs were made to the stove hood by order of the fire marshal.
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Four students received diplomas during the graduation ceremony of Escuela Bíblica de Liderazgo Jan. 26 at First Southern Baptist Church, Phoenix.
Receiving the basic level diploma were Andres Botero, a member of Tempe Christian Church, Tempe; Salvador Pedrote, a member of Mercy Hill Church, Phoenix; and Carlos Meneses, who is planting Iglesia Vida Cristiana Practica, Phoenix. Yolanda Ramirez received the intermediate level diploma.
Arizona Southern Baptists demonstrated their love of evangelism and desire to be effective in evangelism by flocking to Engage 24 in record numbers.
The North American Mission Board has been holding Engage 24, a traveling evangelism workshop, several times a year in different settings around the country.
The event at North Phoenix Baptist Church Feb. 5-6 set records as the largest to date, with all 220 slots reserved in advance; additional hopeful attendees were on a waiting list, and others showed up at the door. Attendees came from all over the country, but the vast majority were pastors or staff members from Arizona churches.
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Tim sat in his pew and cringed. His pastor had just asked the congregation to turn to Malachi 3:8-10, the infamous tithing passage. Tim had seen the church’s latest budget report and knew right where the pastor was headed.
Tim could sympathize, but, unfortunately, he was not like 11 percent of the other members who were financially stable and confident about their financial futures. He was in the 59 percent who lived paycheck to paycheck, one crisis away from a complete financial upset.
Though he felt more secure than the 30 percent who were already feeling overwhelmed with their debt, he still wondered to himself, somewhat resentfully, “Which of my bills does the pastor not want me to pay in order to tithe like the Scriptures teach? If I tithe today, will I be overdrawn tomorrow?”
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One hundred forty-five college students from every corner of Arizona united at Emmanuel Pines Camp in Prescott Feb. 8-10 for Christian Challenge’s Surge discipleship retreat.
“For college students to be able to get away from the pressures of academic and campus life to focus on Christ is a tremendous opportunity for spiritual growth,” said Marc Hill, Christian Challenge campus missionary at Northern Arizona University and Surge lead coordinator.
DeWayne Hawkins, keynote speaker and pastor of Life Givers Church, Goodyear, brought messages built around the theme “Surrender.”
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AZSBC office, Gateway AZ move to Phoenix
The Arizona Southern Baptist Convention office and Gateway Seminary Arizona Campus began 2019 with a move from Scottsdale to Phoenix.
The $2.392 million sale of the Scottsdale property on Hayden Road closed Dec. 17, and the $1.2 million purchase of the Phoenix property was finalized days later.
“This relocation has been a great blessing to the convention and the seminary,” said David Johnson, AZSBC executive director. “We believe this facility will serve us well into the future.”
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State conference draws VBS directors
The Arizona Southern Baptist Vacation Bible School team welcomed about 70 VBS directors from 45 churches to the state’s first VBS Directors’ Conference on Saturday, Feb. 9.
“I discovered last spring that some churches were still scrambling to recruit their full slate of VBS workers just weeks before their scheduled Vacation Bible Schools,” said Kelcey Fry, state VBS team leader and family pastor at HiWay Baptist Church, Mesa. “This directors’ conference was our attempt to help directors effectively recruit volunteers far enough in advance to get them trained.”
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2018 Arizona Mission Offering exceeds goal
For the third year in a row, giving to the Arizona Mission Offering surpassed the goal in 2018.
Arizona Mission Offering gifts were $212,779, exceeding the $160,000 goal by $52,779. The total was also $39,123 (23 percent) above the previous year.
Offering receipts included a special gift of $32,241 from 22nd Street Baptist Church, Tucson, from the proceeds of the sale of property. Without the special gift, the Arizona Mission Offering was $6,882 (4 percent) above the previous year’s total and $20,538 above the 2018 goal.
With the theme “Fruitful,” the 2018 offering included support for ministering to pastors, Christian Challenge, Disaster Relief, Hispanic ministries, planting churches, revitalizing churches and student ministries.
2018 CP giving to SBC tops $1 million
Arizona Southern Baptists’ giving through the Cooperative Program to Southern Baptist Convention causes topped $1 million in 2018.
The $1 million mark was actually surpassed for the first time in 2017, but that was with the help of a large estate gift. In 2018, it was an increase in Cooperative Program giving by Arizona Southern Baptist churches, combined with an increased percentage allocated for SBC causes, that made the record-setting amount possible.
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