ABW December Update

by Norma Gunter

The American Baptist Women’s Ministry Focus for January, 2017 is See…Poverty in America.  The scripture is Luke 16:19-31.  “When we walk down the street, we see poverty everywhere: homeless men and women asking for food or money, anything that can help; families have no home, the parents wondering how they will provide for their children.  But many of us glance over them as if they are part of the scenery.  January is Poverty in America Awareness month, and hopefully we all see it.”

Here at First Baptist Church we are helping through Helping Hand Ministry.  Many from FBC volunteer there handing out food & clothing.  Others of us give food, clothing, house hold goods, etc. to Helping Hands. We can’t help everyone but if everyone would help someone it would go a long way.  Maybe we could help more this month since it is Poverty in America Awareness month.

One group of people helping people in poverty around the world are our American Baptist USA International Missionaries.  Beckley First Baptist Church supports seven missionaries each month and some of them have children.  They need to know that we love and support them.  In this new year, 2017, let us do a better job supporting these missionaries and their children with birthday greetings. letters and gifts.

This year we will be supporting a first time missionary family, Juan and Denise Aragon.  Juan has been a part of the West Virginia Baptist Convention as Hispanic Ministries Strategist for several years.  They will be serving in Chiapas, Mexico.  “They will both work in training, prevention and education as they learn the community needs and look for ways to emotionally and economically empower leaders in their communities. Juan will focus on theological education and leadership training as he accompanies, coaches and disciples new church leaders. Denise’s ministry will seek to empower women, especially those who are victims of domestic abuse.” (from the ABCUSA web site) They have two small children, son Juancito and daughter Ziba. both born since they came to WV in 2008.  They are now USA citizens and Juan has graduated from college.  They are from Nicaragua and grew up with my friends there.  He and his family will be missed but we are gaining new missionaries.  They need help for they are only 37.6% supported.  Individuals can help support them as well as churches.

Another missionary family with children that we support each month is Keith and Debbie Myers our missionaries in Central Mexico.  They partner with the Council of Rural Indigenous Evangelical Churches to provide pastoral accompaniment to the indigenous churches.  They train pastors, church leaders, youth leaders and teachers of children.  They have two children:  Boyden who is 18 and Baillie who is l7.

Next month I’ll tell you about our other families with children and the other missionaries we support.  I’ll share ways we can let them know we love them.  I’ll give you their address and birthdays so you can communicate with them.

May all of the First Baptist families have a blessed and happy NEW YEAR.

See…God Around You

by Norma Gunter

The American Baptist Women’s Ministry Focus for December is See…God All Around You.  The scripture is Isaiah 53:1-3. “We see many things every day: a flower growing out of the ground, children playing at a park, criminals being put away in prison, and the media telling us about the most recent tragedy.  But what about God?  Do we see God at the park or on the news?  Do we see God’s love and beauty in the smallest of things, such as the only remaining dewdrop from last night’s mist?  Many of us don’t, or if we do see God’s love, we see it only in the things that bring us joy:  But God is everywhere, in both the good and the bad.”

One thing you can see God in is American Baptist Women’s Ministries.  The year 2016 is our 65th anniversary.  “ In 1953, the National Council of American Baptist Women was formed to create a national organization to which each American Baptist woman could belong, and to expand the ministry to include the total mission of the church, including missions with women in the United States, Puerto Rico and all over the world.  Women wanted to be able to elect their own officers and chairperson who could focus their energy on the needs of American Baptist women and all that these women could accomplish by working together.  They also wanted a focus on leadership development of women to develop a greater capacity for ministry and mission.” (Seasons Magazine, August 2016).

Some of the things our West Virginia AB women accomplished this year for White Cross was: 1,114 roller bandages, 16 adult quilts, 8 health kits, 1,750 cloth squares, 40 baby quilts, and 10 school kits.  We also did community service projects such as:  Helping Hands, cancer care centers, hospice, school backpacks, Christmas shoe boxes, food pantries and many more projects. We also support:  Love Gift, Personal Development Ministries. Mission Outreach Projects, Special Projects, Church and Community Ministries, Spiritual Growth Retreat and Weirton Christian Center.

As you can see there is a place to serve for every woman at First Baptist Church.   We are involved with many projects here at the church as well as supporting our International Missionaries around the world.

Have a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year.

ABW November Update

by Norma Gunter

The American Baptist Women’s Ministry Focus circle program for November is See…Violence against Women.  The scripture is Judges 19:11-30.  “The International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women is November 25, and November is also the month for the Baptist Women’s World Day of Prayer and, of course, Thanksgiving.  On November 7th, the day before the election, our ABW is observing the Baptist Women’s World Day of Prayer by having a Mug & Muffin meeting at 10AM, here at the church, followed by a time of individual prayer for our world, our country and the election.

In January 2014 we started a mission project ‘LET’S SAVE USED STAMPS FOR MISSIONS”  I get frequent questions about the project so I’m reprinting the BEAM article from March 2014 explaining how the project works.  I mail stamps three or four times a year thanks to all those who provide the stamps.  The following explains the project.

LET’S SAVE USED STAMPS FOR MISSIONS

Have you ever wanted to do something for missions but didn’t know what to do?  Well here is a project that just about anyone can do.  The project is to collect cancelled postage stamps.  We all get mail and a lot of junk mail and most have stamps.

After reading an article in the Guidepost magazine I remembered that the ABW used to collect used postage stamps.  I even remembered when I had this same job, Mission and Service, I received a box with left-over mission supplies and in this box was two plastic sandwich bags packed full of used postage stamps.  Everything in the box had been disposed of except for those two bags of postage stamps.  They had been moved around in the garage for years and last fall I started to throw them away but put them back on the shelf.  I went out to the garage and searched around until I found the stamps.  I went back and reread the Guideposts article and decided to write to the organization, Alliance Stamp Ministry, for more information on the project.  All of the old postage stamps met the criteria so I sorted them to mail.

It occurred to me that others might want to save used postage stamps for missions so I made a poster, which can be seen in the Welcome Center near the elevator, and I also put a box for the used postage stamps in the church office.

The Alliance Stamp Ministry in Ft. Myers, Florida was started in 1972.  A group of women in an assisted living facility trim, sort and pack the stamps.  The stamps are then sold to distributors who sells them to collectors.  The money from the sale of the stamps goes to writing, publishing and distribution of Spanish language Sunday School teaching material.  This material is used in churches of 40 different denominations in 19 different Spanish speaking countries in Spain, Latin  America,  an even in the USA.

One reason this project is close to my heart is Susan Hegarty, our American Baptist Missionary, wrote and taught others to write Spanish Sunday School  literature, where there was none, when she served in Cuba.

To save the used postage stamps tear or cut the stamps from the envelopes and leave at least l/4″ of paper around the stamps.  Do not remove the stamps from the paper.  All types of stamps are saved:  Christmas stamps, presorted stamps, nonprofit stamps, bulk rate stamps, commemorative stamps, love stamps. foreign stamps, etc.  Please put the saved stamps in the box in the church office where I will pick them up, sort and mail them to Florida.  Thank you

The last thank you I received from Alliance Stamp Ministry said, “as of September, 2016 we have received $28,000 toward preparation, publication and distribution of Spanish language curriculum for Sunday School.  Since the inception of the stamp ministry back in 1972 a grand total of $900,000 has been raised. TO GOD BE THE GLORY for allowing us to reach this milestone.”  Think!  we have had a small part in this ministry.

ABW October Update

by Norma Gunter

The American Baptist Women’s Ministry Focus circle program for October is See…My Neighbor.  The scripture is Luke 10:29-37.  “With the observances of the International Day of the Girl Child, Children’s Sabbath, and Bullying Prevention Month in October, there is ample inspiration to help women and girls consider how they might also be at work for peace and justice in the world neighborhood.”  We, AB women, can encourage children who are often forgotten by taking a few minutes to pray for them.

October is the month we receive the American Baptist World Mission Offering (WMO) and we have the opportunity to give to spread the gospel around the world.  The theme this year is “Celebrate New Life in Christ,” Matthew 6:10. “That is what IM is doing – through the support of the WMO -by praying, equipping, serving, producing, teaching, inviting, healing and encouraging in the name of Jesus.” (WMO literature)

“The good news is that our church’s support of the World Mission Offering (WMO) is helping to fuel the growth of the Eastern Cuba Baptist Convention through financial and global worker support and through International Ministries (IM)-sponsored pastor conferences.  A great and surprising spiritual awakening is happening in Baptist churches in Cuba right now!  Since 1990, the number of churches in Cuba has grown by 450%.  The number of baptisms has risen by over 500%.  And the number of prayer groups and total church memberships have climbed in equally high numbers.  After decades of harsh restrictions, “the church of God has risen from the ashes,” says a retired Cuban church leader who witnessed the remarkable change firsthand.  “In God’s time, the hearts of so many people have been opened up to the goodness of the gospel.” (WMO literature) Your gifts to the WMO also supports missionaries who haven’t met their support goals, help support global partners and recruit and train new workers.  It also opens up new global mission fields and respond to global disasters.

October is a very busy mission month for the ABW here at Beckley FBC.  We start off the month with the American Baptist Raleigh Women’s Association Fall Rally at the Beaver Baptist Church October 8th at 9:30 am.  Mr. John Jones, Public Relations Officer for Hospice, will be the speaker.  We are requested to bring wrapped snack type items for Hospice House.  The meeting ends with lunch.

Ladies don’t forget Women’s Day October 20th at the West Virginia Baptist Convention at the Gassaway Baptist Church.  The theme this year is “Lord Make Me an Instrument of Thy Peace.”

ABW September Update

by Norma Gunter

The American Baptist Women’s Ministry Focus circle program for September is See…the Peace of Christ.  The scripture is Isaiah 58:12, John 20: 19-23, 26.  “The International Day of Peace falls in September; this can serve as inspiration to explore the peace of Christ in our own lives (John) and to see how we are called to be repairers of the breach and restorers of the streets we live in (Isaiah).  We might name this month’s ministry experience ‘Seeing beyond Brokenness,’ for it offers activities that will help women and girls to look at peace in new ways and assist them in seeing areas for spiritual and personal growth.”

One way our ladies can see areas of spiritual and personal growth is through our West Virginia Baptist Women’s Ministries Spiritual Growth Retreat September 23-25, 2016 at the Parchment Valley Conference Center.  The theme, “Pattern of Living…Following God’s pattern for our lives by living according to His word.” The scripture, Romans 12:2, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Workshops planned are:

  • Puerto Rico
  • Philippine Mission Trip
  • Crafts (bring colorful seamless t-shirt and scissors)
  • Leadership Academy
  • Pattern of Prayer
  • Book Review (purchase book/read and be ready for  discussion)
  • “Renting Lacy: A Story of America’s Prostituted Children” by Linda Smith

Guest Speaker:  Kim Weaver, Executive Director, Weirton Christian Center.  Ladies most of you will remember Kim for she has spoken here at Beckley First Baptist and her ministry is supported by our women’s circles with Quarters for Grades, special projects, White Cross supplies, and gift cards.

Ladies you are also invited to sing in the retreat  choir.  Registration is due by September 2, 2016.

Another Spiritual Renewal event is the 133rd Annual Women’s Day, October 20, 2016 at the West Virginia Baptist Convention at the Gassaway Baptist Church.  The theme for the day is,  “Lord, Make Me An Instrument Of Thy Peace.”  The guest speaker is Vicki Eades.  Let’s get together and go for the day like we did last time.

ABW July and August Update

by Norma Gunter

The American Baptist Women’s Ministry Focus Resource circle program for July is See…Healthy Families.  The scripture is Hosea 11:1-4; Ephesians 6:4.  “God as a parent teaches, holds, and treats us with loving kindness.  We need to follow God’s model in our families and intergenerational relationships.  For many people the image of God as Father is disturbing.  Some people were abused or neglected or deserted by their fathers or mothers.  Some fathers or mothers  were absent from their lives.  In homes where two working parents, extra efforts need to be made to be there for the children. For some people, the image of the grandparent is the one that evokes the loving-kindness described in Hosea.”

One way our church can encourage  healthy families is by promoting programs of the West Virginia Baptist Convention like the Family Camp at Camp Cowen.  This Camp is July 29 to August 1, 2016.  More information, the cost and a registration form for the camp can be found at campcowen.org.

A healthy family mission experience can be had at Camp Global, a family mission camp, held at Camp Cowen September 2 to September 4, 2016.  Several years ago my family; daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter two sisters and me, spent the weekend at Camp Global.  We got to spend time with our missionaries, Bible study, vesper services, music, crafts, etc.  To see a schedule of events for Camp Global you can also go to campcowen.org.   All families need a camping experience and Camp Cowen is the perfect place to get that experience. Sign up today.

ABW Teddy Bear Celebration

The ladies of the church will be gathering in Fellowship Hall on Saturday, June 11th at noon for a Teddy Bear Celebration.  Anything and everything you always wanted to know about teddy bears will be talked about and even sung about during this celebration.  You are asked to bring a salad to share and any teddy bears you might have to help decorate.  The decorations are needed by June 10th.   There will be prizes given out for the oldest and largest teddy bear among other categories.

We will also be finishing stuffing some bears for our Operation Christmas Child teddy bear project.    So come and be prepared to have a great time with your FBC women.

ABW June Update

by Norma Gunter

The American Baptist Women’s Ministry Focus Resource circle program for June is See…Angles Among Us.  The scripture is Ephesians 2:19; Hebrews 12:1-2.  “What is the difference between an immigrant, refugee, and asylum seeker?  Often immigrants come for a better life.  Many ‘illegal immigrants’ are people who overstayed their tourist, work, or study visas.  Refugees come to escape persecution.  Asylum seekers fear for their lives.  How do we treat one another?  What are our moral and biblical obligations toward the stranger?”

Juan Aragon, Strategist with the West Virginia Baptist Convention is from Nicaragua.  He works with Hispanic Ministries and writes articles for “The West Virginia Baptist Newsletter”.  In the December/January 2016 issue he writes about Building Bridges to Share God’s Love.  He says, “The times and culture we live in require our commitment to be bridge builders to share God’s love.  We need followers of Jesus who are intentional about making real and meaningful connections with people from different languages, beliefs, values, behaviors, customs and attitudes.  God is the Master Bridge Builder.  Because of His unfailing love and grace, God sent His Son to die for us, and in doing so He bridged the gap separating us from Him (John 3:16).  As the Father, Jesus was a Master Bridge Builder.  He invested lots of time building relationships.  He overcame ethnic, social, gender, cultural, political and religious barriers separating us from each other and from God. (Galatians 3:28)  He connected to and transformed the lives of the unwanted of His time: lepers, prostitutes and tax collectors”.

Several years ago God led West Virginia Baptists to start a Hispanic Church, Iglesia Bautista Comunidad Nueva Esperanza.  Good Hope and Parkersburg Associations have partnered with the new church.   Many of the people of the new church are from southern Mexico and Guatemala.  Juan wrote in the April/May 2016 “West Virginia Baptist Newsletter”,  “They have come to the United States not only fleeing the dire conditions they face in their improvised communities, but also seeking opportunities that will allow them to give their families a more dignified life.”  He says they are some of the hardest working people, but “they are not seen, not heard and often forgotten.  In spite of their hard work, these families and their children usually live in poverty, making them one of the most disadvantaged and at-risk groups in the United States.”

These local churches work together to provide a meal each Saturday during June, July, and August for the migrant  workers.  They prepare the meal and then go to the fields where they are working long hours, in the hot sun, picking tomatoes on farms along the Ohio River.  They also pray for them and sometimes give them hygiene kits.   The churches are getting ready for the summer and ask for our prayers as they share God’s love with the migrant workers.  They also need churches to partner with them by donating  basic hygiene kits.  How can we help?

Jim Ramsey has been working with Spanish speaking prisoners at the Federal Prison for years.  He taught himself to speak Spanish.  Several of us drove to Lewisburg, to take Conversational Spanish classes, for two years when we were going on mission work tours.  I’ve forgotten most  of it.

Juan and his wife Denise have been endorsed as American Baptist missionaries to Chiapas, Mexico.  They will spend the next year raising money for their support.  Another place to help!

ABW May Update

by Norma Gunter

The American Baptist Women’s Ministry Focus Resource circle program for May is See…Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies.  The Scripture is Luke 2:1-7.  “While it may seem strange to feature a Christmas Scripture around Mother’s Day, the connection is strong.  Mary was, after all, a young mother.  And due to her status as an impoverished woman and migrant, she gave birth in a stall, in very unsanitary conditions.  This month’s theme gives us the opportunity to explore how we can support maternal and infant health.  Sunday  May 8th is Mothers Day.  Our own Edna Nasby is planning to give each family who comes to Helping Hands a Mothers Day gift for as she said, “Every family has a mother and we want to honor them.”  The ladies at Helping Hands made up 332 gift bags containing candy kisses to give out the week before Mothers Day.  They are tied with a ribbon and have a sticker saying, “HAPPY MOTHERS DAY.  GOD LOVES YOU”.

In the February BEAM I reported that our ABW gave $100 to a group of WV Baptist Women going to the Philippines to work with our missionary Debbie Mulneix who works with women caught in prostitution.  In the April SEASONS Magazine two of the women relate their experiences with these young women.  Liz Stewart, a member of the mission team said, “I am truly overwhelmed that God chose me to be His hands and feet to work with this ministry.  It was a true blessing.  Even though there were cultural and language barriers, we were all able to come together for the love of our Heavenly Father.  I have built lifetime relationships, and through the use of modern technology, I continue to have an open dialogue with many of the women.”

Zola Miller, another member of the mission team said,  “There were so many moments in our time with the women I could see God at work.  Our team and the women came together to have a time of worship before breaking out into small groups.”  One woman, “touched my heart and was an inspiration to me and the other women in our small group.”  Ladies I think this was $100 well spent.

In the March BEAM I shared about the new Women’s Camp at Camp Cowen April 1-3.  Younger ABW had asked for ways to learn from the more “experienced” ABW so the first-ever Women’s Camp came about.   There was 189 women ages 18 to 95 who attended.  Had I been able I would have been number 190.  Read more about this camp in the West Virginia American Baptist Women’s Ministries publication, Seasons Magazine.

Ladies our next opportunity to learn more about missions is the Women and Girls’ Conference at Parchment Valley Conference Center June 3-5, 2016.  Registration is open May 1-22, 2016.  Let’s get together and go.

 

ABW April Update

by Norma Gunter

April’s circle program from the new ABW Ministries Ministry Focus Resource is See…Conversations of Healing.  The scripture is Acts l0. “ We live in a society characterized by division and fear.  Rather than simply addressing different perspectives, media personalities engage in angry shouting matches and name calling.  We are encouraged to fear those from other places and other religions.  Many refuse to talk to people who think or act differently than they do, rather than trying to learn from others.  It seems that people are more inclined to find those things that divide rather than looking for areas of agreement.  This month gives us the opportunity to look at our relationships with those who are different from us, with a goal of building bridges rather than walls.”

Our ABW does this by building bridges to others by supporting American Baptist Women International’s White Cross Handwork around the world. In March we mailed 100 White Cross roller bandages.  You may ask why we tear these old worn out sheets into strips, sew them together and roll them up, pack them in boxes where they are shipped to hospitals in Africa.  Without our donations the 10 hospitals in the Congo would not be able to take care of the patients who come there for treatment.

A medical missionary doctor in the Congo wrote about the roller bandages, “I don’t think there is any place in the world where White Cross bandages are used or appreciated more than in the Congo.  We say this after working here for years, visiting dozens of hospitals and hundreds of health clinics where White Cross material is used for a myriad of needs.  Dressings for burns, slings for broken arms, wrapping a newborn baby—I can think of hundreds of applications for White Cross bandages.”

Some other needs the bandage fill are:  when dipped in plaster they make a handy cast, make a tourniquet when fastened with a stick, a sling to hold a shoulder fast, attached to a nail on the wall to hold up a liter of IV fluids and colored strips hanging from an open door or window, will let cool breeze in and keep flying insects away.

Other items we can make for the hospitals are wrappers for surgical tools that have to be sterilized, cotton 4” x 4” squares, surgical caps and masks, triangular bandages, infant gowns and baby blankets.  We also mailed a triangular bandage, one surgical wrapper, a baby blanket and a baby gown with the roller bandages.  Our Baptist Women from all over the US supply these items year after year.

First Baptist ABW are proud to be a part of White Cross Ministries whose mission is to glorify God in all the earth by crossing cultural boundaries to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

Thanks for everyone’s prayers.  I’m home from the surgery and doing good.