News Articles – Baptist Press Great Commission News for a Great Commission People Sat, 19 Mar 2022 00:34:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 News Articles | Baptist Press 32 32 Proof of vaccine or negative COVID-19 test no longer required for SBC22 Fri, 18 Mar 2022 22:48:31 +0000 ANAHEIM, Calif. (BP) — The State of California announced Friday (March 17) that COVID-19 guidelines for indoor mega events will be relaxed effective April 1, and attendees will no longer be required to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative test prior to admission. ]]>

ANAHEIM, Calif. (BP) — The State of California announced Friday (March 17) that COVID-19 guidelines for indoor mega-events will be relaxed effective April 1, and attendees will no longer be required to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative test prior to admission.

The announcement comes less than 90 days prior to the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting held at the Anaheim Convention Center June 12-15.

“The relaxation of the COVID-19 requirements for the SBC Annual Meeting eliminates what could have been a barrier for many messengers interested in joining us in Anaheim this summer,” said SBC Executive Committee Vice President Jonathan Howe. “While we are thankful there are no COVID-19 mandates currently in place for messengers, we recommend all who plan to attend to exercise caution and responsibility when it comes to health-related matters.”

Previous guidelines for mega-events, those with more than 1,000 in attendance, required all attendees to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or proof of a negative test taken within 48 hours. Under the new guidelines, those requirements are recommended, not required. While the guidelines could still change between April 1 and the event in June, the SBC Executive Committee currently does not plan to enforce those recommendations at the meeting.

Messenger pre-registration for the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting opened Feb. 1 at, and will remain open until the event June 14-15.

Russian radio station continuing to broadcast Gospel message Fri, 18 Mar 2022 21:14:57 +0000 LASI, Romania (BP) – Despite a variety of challenges resulting from the ongoing war, a Christian radio station broadcasting to Slavic nations has continued its Gospel ministry, this time from Romania. Although New Life Radio is the first and only FM Christian radio station in Russia, the station relocated from Russia to Odessa, Ukraine, several […]]]>

LASI, Romania (BP) – Despite a variety of challenges resulting from the ongoing war, a Christian radio station broadcasting to Slavic nations has continued its Gospel ministry, this time from Romania.

New Life Radio station manager Ivan Zhurakovski (blue shirt) and his family share a meal with Dan Maftei and his wife upon the Zhurakovskis arrival in Romania.

Although New Life Radio is the first and only FM Christian radio station in Russia, the station relocated from Russia to Odessa, Ukraine, several years ago because of increasingly restrictive media laws.

Now the violence and uncertainty of the war has forced the station to relocate from Odessa two times in the last several weeks. Although the station representatives had plans in place in case of a Russian invasion, they never envisioned what has unfolded over the last few weeks.

During February, station manager Ivan Zhurakovski was making preparations for a potential move of the station, including purchasing a vehicle to assist with the relocation efforts. Although the station had never purchased a vehicle before, it was able to purchase an SUV the evening of Wednesday, Feb. 23. The invasion began the next morning.

Daniel Johnson is the founder and organizer of New Life Radio. Despite relocating to the United States several years ago, Johnson continues to assist New Life Radio remotely, as well as its sponsor organization, Christian Radio for Russia.

He said Zhurakovski called him the morning of Feb. 24 with the solemn announcement “it’s war.”

Johnson explained the city of Odessa went into a panic as Russian forces attacked Ukraine across multiple fronts. Many in the city entered bomb shelters, and Johnson said station workers could see rockets flying outside past their own windows.

Zhurakovski and other station workers were forced to make a decision to stay or go.

Several decided to stay in Ukraine to assist their local churches during the crisis, while one worker – a young single man named Yuri – decided to stay behind in Odessa to operate the station.

The station’s equipment allowed for it to continue broadcasting via the internet and on satellite radio despite the conflict going on around it. In fact, there was no point during the crisis in which New Life was off the air, as Yuri was able to automate the equipment to play programming while live broadcasting was not an option.

Despite this, station leadership still wanted to seek out a safe location where they could return to live broadcasting.

Zhurakovski decided to flee with his family in hopes of reaching Chisinau, Moldova, to again set up for live broadcasting. A few days after the war started, violence ceased for a brief time for discussions between the nations.

It was during this brief pause in fighting that Zhurakovski fled with the family, along with the much of station’s radio equipment, in the newly purchased SUV.

After a long and complicated time of waiting in line at the border, the family finally was able to cross into Moldova, but that was not the end of their journey.

Immediately upon entering the country, one of the pastors of the local church informed the family it would be too dangerous for them to stay, as Russian forces were operating very close to the border and there was fear that an invasion could be imminent.

“We had absolutely no other contacts in Moldova or Romania,” Johnson told Baptist Press, “and so when they called me to tell me the update it was like ‘where do we go or what do we do?’”

Returning to Ukraine was not an option, so Johnson said he “scrambled” around on the internet trying to find a safe place for Zhurakovski and his family to take refuge.

“As soon as I got off the phone with Ivan I just prayed, ‘OK Lord, what’s next? Please help me figure something out.’ And I just knew that God would provide,” Johnson said.

Johnson determined Romania would be the next best option and began searching for evangelical churches in the country within a drivable distance. After much searching, he found two local evangelical leaders near Lasi (pronounced Yash) who reached out to him.

The two men were a pastor of a local evangelical church named Paul Schneider, and another man named Dan Maftei, who operates a Romanian Christian media ministry based in Lasi.

Despite the similar missions of the two organizations, Johnson said New Life had had no previous contact with this Romanian Christian news station. Maftei just happened to be one of the people to contact him.

When Zhurakovski and his family crossed the border into Romania, the two men helped them find safe housing with plenty of space where they could both stay and set up the radio broadcast.

“Everything they needed, they got,” Johnson said. “It was like God just stepped in and provided the right people and gave them exactly what they needed.”

In the coming days, Zhurakovski would set up the station’s equipment and began live broadcasting for several hours during the day, and then switching the signal back to the automatic programming still being run out of Odessa.

Johnson said even if Russia were to cut out internet or communications (Russia has already blocked Facebook, Instagram and other social media), New Life would still be able to broadcast via satellite signal.

The station has experienced a noticeable increase in Russian listeners since the war started, he said, and he believes this signals the spiritual desperation of people involved in the war.

“This is a really critical time and people are really searching for answers,” Johnson said. “As people face war, destruction and death at any moment they are much more open to hearing from the Lord.

“We are not completely sure of the reason that people end up finding us, but we just know we are getting new listeners. However they find us, our challenge is to give them what they need know, which is the Gospel and the assurance that the Scriptures give us.”

Johnson said the station has increased its Bible teaching programming, prioritizing that over music in order to clearly articulate the Gospel message to listeners.

“We’re going to trust God that he will allow us to have the technological means to put the Scripture on air and teach people,” Johnson said. “The need for proclaiming the Gospel will never end, and we’re going to keep finding a way to do it. Nothing is going to stop us until God takes it away from us.”

Daily updates on the station can be found here.

‘Very chaotic’ for perhaps 180,000 ‘traumatized’ orphans in Ukraine Fri, 18 Mar 2022 20:07:34 +0000 BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) – The nearly 200,000 orphans in Ukraine are especially traumatized by Russia’s invasion that has displaced millions of civilians, according to a Southern Baptist adoption and orphan care minister who has adopted three children from Ukraine.]]>

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) – The nearly 200,000 orphans in Ukraine are especially traumatized by Russia’s invasion that has displaced millions of civilians, according to a Southern Baptist adoption and orphan care minister who has adopted three children from Ukraine.

“The thing that we know most fully is that everyone in Ukraine has now become vulnerable, and that means that orphans who are already vulnerable and marginalized in their society, in most cases their vulnerability has only increased,” Rick Morton, vice president of engagement for Lifeline Children’s Services, told Baptist Press.

“The challenges are great because you have children who have experienced abuse and neglect and all matter of trauma, that are now being uprooted from what they know and from the familiarity and the relative safety of the circumstances that they’re in,” he said. “Even if they’ve not been in good circumstances, they’ve been in consistent circumstances. Now they’re being uprooted, they’re being taken to another part of the country, they’re being taken out of the country. And so their trauma is just being compounded.”

Lifeline, which has worked to help Ukrainian orphans and facilitate adoptions there nearly 20 years, partners with many Southern Baptist churches and Send Relief, as well as ministries and churches in Ukraine and Romania. Lifeline is helping Ukrainian refugees in Romania, providing food, clothing and shelter, and is preparing to provide trauma-care training with the help of various partners, including Heritage Ukraine and missionaries Madison and Yuriy Perekoity. The Perekoitys, currently stateside, will return to Europe in April. Other partners include the Romania Without Orphans Alliance.

“Part of the next phase of our work is helping to support Madison Perekoity and others,” Morton said, “in taking those trauma-informed care resources and using them to train people in the surrounding countries how to respond to the unique needs of people … that have been traumatized as a result of the war.

“We’re actively adapting that work now and will in the next couple of weeks begin to be on the ground in teaching that and helping to build capacity for ministry leaders there” in trauma-informed care.

International humanitarian group Save the Children counts 100,000 orphans still in Ukraine, housed in close to 700 children’s homes there, Forbes reported. But Morton’s sources put the number at about 180,000. As Russia bombs Ukraine in various places including civilian targets such as hospitals, schools and residential buildings, Morton said orphans are assured of no safe place to hide.

“The number we hear floated around is about 180,000 kids that are in Ukrainian orphanages. Around 90 percent of those kids are not adoptable; they’re not true orphans. So a lot of them are social orphans that still have family ties and there’s at least the possibility for reunification (with their families.),” Morton said. “And then, frankly, one of the things that’s kind of misunderstood is in the child welfare system in Ukraine, a lot of the children in orphanages have special needs that this is how they receive their schooling.”

Lifeline Services is frequently communicating with partners in Ukraine during Russia’s attacks, particularly in Odessa in southwest Ukraine, and sending resources to refugees served by the Regen Foundation at an orphanage in Fagaras, Romania, that was temporarily closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Baptist churches in Romania are helping those efforts, Morton said.

“We’re staying in close contact with quite a few (partners). It’s very chaotic. The number of displaced people within Ukraine is epic. I heard a statistic from one of them that there are as many as 8 million people that are either internally displaced in Ukraine or have fled the country and become refugees.

“Just the shear strain of people picking up and moving, the response that’s needed on the ground in the places people have fled to, and then I think the other thing is just the uncertainty,” Morton said. “They don’t know where the attacks are going to come. … Immediately they need food, clothing and shelter, but beyond that, they’re very much craving stability.”

Lifeline began its ministry in Ukraine as an international adoption agency, but expanded it to include orphan care because of the unique orphan population there. The ministry is particularly dear to Morton, as he is the adoptive father to three Ukrainian children, now adults.

“I think we need to anticipate that the effects of this war are going to continue for a long time. There are going to be a lot of kids that are going to need safety and security and stability and they need churches, they need the body of Christ to rise up to help them meet those needs,” Morton said. “And we know that the true hope of Ukraine is not the end to the conflict. The true hope of Ukraine is the Gospel, and it’s Jesus. And so we’re both praying and actively working to bring the Gospel to bear in the lives of vulnerable children and as we’re trying to help them experience safety and security right here and right now.”

Morton encourages Southern Baptists to pray for Ukrainian churches and pastors who are remaining at their posts there, to give financially through reputable ministries including Send Relief and Lifeline, and to advocate for the U.S. government to aid the people of Ukraine.

“Ukraine’s like a second home to us,” he said of his family. “This has been a hugely challenging time for our family just because if we’re watching these things on television, these are people that we know and places that we’ve been, and are tied up in memories with just dear friends who, many of them, are still on the ground and serving and faithfully trying to walk out ministry to people who are in great need now, both great physical need but also in need of Christ.”

UN: 6.5 million people displaced inside Ukraine due to war Fri, 18 Mar 2022 19:59:40 +0000 GENEVA (AP) – The U.N. migration agency said Friday that nearly 6.5 million people have been displaced inside Ukraine, on top of the 3.2 million who have already fled the country.]]>

GENEVA (AP) – The U.N. migration agency said Friday that nearly 6.5 million people have been displaced inside Ukraine, on top of the 3.2 million who have already fled the country.

That means that around a quarter of Ukraine’s 44 million people have been forced from their homes.

The estimates from the International Organization for Migration suggests Ukraine is fast on course in just three weeks toward the levels of displacement from Syria’s devastating war, which has driven about 13 million people from their homes both in the country and abroad.

The findings come in a paper issued Friday by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The projections also found that “over 12 million people are estimated to be stranded in affected areas or unable to leave due to heightened security risks, destruction of bridges and roads, as well as lack of resources or information on where to find safety and accommodation.”

The paper cited the IOM figures as “a good representation of the scale of internal displacement in Ukraine – calculated to stand at 6.48 million internally displaced persons in Ukraine as of March 16.”

UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, has said fighting that has followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 has sparked Europe’s gravest refugee crisis since World War II.

“By these estimates, roughly half the country is either internally displaced, stranded in affected areas or unable to leave, or has already fled to neighboring countries,” he said, alluding to Ukraine’s population of about 44 million before the war began.

The paper said that 9.56 million people have been displaced by the war so far, as of Wednesday, and another 2.2 million people were considering leaving. IOM estimates that more than 3 million people had fled abroad as of Wednesday.

UNHCR, in its latest figures released Friday, said more than 3.2 million people have fled Ukraine.

Baptists have been among those helping Ukrainians who have fled to other countries, like nearby Poland and Romania. To give toward Southern Baptists’ efforts to help these refugees, go here.

From The Associated Press. May not be republished.

FIRST-PERSON: How you can help the overlooked children affected by substance abuse Fri, 18 Mar 2022 17:53:34 +0000 The turning point for me occurred at a funeral. I was holding a 4-year-old child I did not know. His mother had passed away after overdosing on a dangerous mix of fentanyl and cocaine. The family reached out to our church and asked for a pastor to officiate the funeral. I’ll never forget the young boy’s words.]]>

The turning point for me occurred at a funeral. I was holding a 4-year-old child I did not know. His mother had passed away after overdosing on a dangerous mix of fentanyl and cocaine. The family reached out to our church and asked for a pastor to officiate the funeral. I’ll never forget the young boy’s words.

“Are you going to help bring my mommy back?”

I didn’t have words for him. Only tears.

He was placed in a foster home. Thankfully, it was one full of love and support. At about the same time as the funeral, a local newspaper headline caught my attention: “Bradenton is opioid overdose capital of Florida. And still no one knows why.”

Every year, hundreds of children are removed from their homes in our county. More than half of these cases are directly attributed to the substance abuse of parents and guardians. Most of the children removed are under the age of 5. I did not have the right words for the 4-year-old, but his question prompted me to act. I could not bring his mom back, but my wife and I could be foster parents for children in situations like his. So we got our license and began our foster journey.

The foster system in our area is stretched thin. When licensed as a foster parent, you receive a child placement immediately. My wife and I recently cared for an infant struggling with the effects of cocaine addiction. Every drug a pregnant mother consumes passes in her bloodstream through the placenta and to the child. Babies are born addicted, and it can be a horrible experience for them as the central nervous system tries to recover.

Church members and foster care

Foster children are one of the most overlooked and underserved groups in our nation. Most communities struggle to find placements for these children. Local churches in the United States have more than enough homes to solve the problem, but few Christian families are pursuing fostering. But what happens when people in your congregation start fostering children?

Your church is woven into the fabric of the community. In my role at Church Answers (a resource site for ministry leaders), I’m often asked, “How can my church better serve and reach the community?” There are many ways to answer the question, but one answer is obvious: start a fostering movement in your congregation. Caring for foster children forces you to be an active part of your community. You interact with social workers, struggling parents judges, and police officers. Fostering weaves you tightly into the community and allows your church to be a thread pulling everyone together.

Your church is recognized as a solution to community problems. The issues that produce foster children are often the core sins plaguing a community. When people in your church foster, the neighborhood tends to view you as helpful. Foster children are the result of the worst problems in the community. Inviting them into your church homes makes you one of the best solutions for your neighbors.

Your church is pushed outward with God’s mission. The church is not designed to be a shield protecting the Christian bubble of safety. Rather, the church is a vehicle engineered by God to send people into the darkest corners of the neighborhood. Fill your church with foster children, and your people will be filled with a desire to do Gospel work.

Your church is compelled into a posture of selflessness. I hear the excuse all the time, “I couldn’t foster because it would be hard to give the child back.” I understand the sentiment. Indeed, my wife and I live this paradox. The purpose of fostering is more than raising a child. It’s about reuniting a family. You care for children and encourage moms and dads. Fostering is a weighty burden that will bend you hard in the direction of selflessness. Is it painful? Yes, sometimes. Is it worth the stretch? Always.

Taking a risk and doing what’s right

We see the risk and reward of caring for a child in need in the book of Exodus. When Pharaoh’s daughter opened the basket floating on the Nile, she saw a baby and said, “This must be one of the Hebrew children” (Exodus 2:6, NLT). This must be one. One child saved. Imagine the desperation of Moses’ mom, placing him in the papyrus basket and letting him drift away from the safety of her arms.

Imagine the courage of Moses’ sister, Miriam. At significant risk, she keeps watching over the basket. She is an advocate. She stays close to the crisis to help. She risks everything when she reaches out to Pharaoh’s daughter.

Imagine the audacity of Pharaoh’s daughter. She is part of the family committing genocide, but she becomes a person of power who uses her position to do what is right. The child in the basket moves her. A child in need should move us all to action.

There was a tremendous risk to all the women in this story, but it did not stop them from doing the right thing. What if the church looked at the foster system as a floating papyrus basket? What if the people of the church opened the basket and had the same response as Pharaoh’s daughter? Let’s not let these children continue to drift. Your home might be a promised land of sorts for them. A movement of God within your community and your church could start with just one child. How is he calling your church to step out in faith and care for the most vulnerable ones in your community?

Sam Rainer serves as president of Church Answers and is a cofounder of Rainer Publishing. He is also lead pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church in Bradenton, Florida.

EXPLAINER: Alcohol abuse and drug overdoses rose during the COVID-19 pandemic Fri, 18 Mar 2022 17:49:54 +0000 The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every family in America. Some are still dealing with the aftermath of the disease. But the problem of substance abuse exacerbated by the pandemic might be a problem that lasts longer than the coronavirus.]]>

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every family in America. Some are still dealing with the aftermath of the disease. But the problem of substance abuse exacerbated by the pandemic might be a problem that lasts longer than the coronavirus.

The pandemic – as well as related policies to mitigate the spread of the virus – aggravated a host of factors that tend to increase the risk of substance abuse. For example, many people experienced sudden loss of employment and an increase in time spent at home alone or with dependents, leading to increased levels of stress. The result, as the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports, is that researchers have observed increases in substance use and drug overdoses in the United States since the pandemic was declared a national emergency in March 2020.

Increased abuse of alcohol

The National Institute on Drug Abuse looked at the monthly per capita sales of alcoholic beverages in 14 states and compared sales in 2020 or 2021 with the three-year average between 2017–2019. It found that the percentage change in sales for all alcoholic beverages peaked with a 15 percent increase, and sales of spirits peaked with a 30 percent increase.

This increase in sales is reflected in the surveys on consumption. A survey sponsored by RTI International conducted in May 2020 showed overall increases in alcohol consumption, with women, people with minor children in the home and Black Americans disproportionately increasing their drinking in the short term after the pandemic began. Compared with February 2020, average monthly consumption in April and November 2020 increased by 36 percent and 39 percent, respectively. Corresponding increases for the proportion exceeding drinking guidelines were 27 percent and 39 percent, and increases for binge drinking were 26 percent and 30 percent.

Using the estimated 166,052,940 people aged 21 or older nationally who drank in 2019, this translates to an increase from February to November 2020 of 1 billion more drinks per month, with 14.6 million more people exceeding drinking guidelines, and 9 million more people binge drinking in November 2020 compared with February 2020.

The percentage of respondents with mental health issues who reported drinking to cope increased from 5 percent in February to 15 percent in November, and the percentage of those who drank for enhancement increased from 6 percent in February to 16.5 percent in November.

Increase in drug overdoses

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), a reporting system called ODMAP found that the early months of the pandemic brought an 18 percent increase nationwide in overdoses compared with those same months in 2019. The trend continued throughout 2020, and more than 40 U.S. states saw increases in opioid-related mortality.

In an interview with the APA, Mandy Owens, a researcher at the University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, says she’s observed a spike in substance use that includes an increase in both quantity and frequency of drug use during the pandemic. There also appears to be a substitution effect as the quarantines, lockdowns and other restrictions made access to certain substances such as heroin more difficult. For example, Owens says Washington state has seen an uptick in the use of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that’s increasingly produced illicitly, due to a shift in drug availability.

According to the American Medical Association (AMA), the “nation’s drug overdose epidemic continues to change and become worse.” The AMA finds the epidemic now is driven by illicit fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, methamphetamine and cocaine, often in combination or in adulterated forms.

A survey published in the International Journal of Drug Policy found that 47 percent of respondents indicated their substance use had increased during COVID-19, and 38 percent said they believed they were at higher risk of overdose due to supply disruptions that made drugs more expensive, harder to get and of unknown origin. Seven percent of survey respondents also indicated they had relapsed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How to find help

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a National Helpline that is free, confidential, and provides treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders. The helpline can be reached by calling 1-800-662-HELP (4357), via text message at 435748 (HELP4U), or TTY at 1-800-487-4889.

As Christians, we should be ready and willing to care for those who come to us with a substance abuse problem. We can point them to the forgiveness and hope found in Christ while walking with them along the hard road to sobriety. Let’s pray that those who are struggling would get the help they need, find community in the body of Christ, and find freedom in the Savior.

Hannibal LaGrange University board addresses $690,000 debt Fri, 18 Mar 2022 17:47:36 +0000 HANNIBAL, Mo. (BP) – Steps taken during a March 11 board of trustees meeting will keep Hannibal LaGrange University operational through the end of the fiscal year, Chairman Mark Anderson told Baptist Press March 16, and address a $690,000 debt while preparing the Missouri Baptist Convention-affiliated school for the future.]]>

HANNIBAL, Mo. (BP) – Steps taken during a March 11 board of trustees meeting will keep Hannibal LaGrange University operational through the end of the fiscal year, Chairman Mark Anderson told Baptist Press March 16, and address a $690,000 debt while preparing the Missouri Baptist Convention-affiliated school for the future.

The debt reduction was labeled as “highest priority” in a statement released by the university’s interim president, Rodney Harrison. According to the statement, raising an additional $1,510,000 by June 30, the end of the current fiscal year, will be necessary to begin the new academic year without incurring more debt.

The revamped budget approved by the board will begin July 1 and “is balanced and achievable and will restore HLGU to strength,” the statement said.

In an interview with Baptist Press, Anderson said several factors coalesced that brought HLGU to its current financial condition.

“There’s been a changing landscape of higher education,” said Anderson, senior pastor of Lynwood Baptist Church in Cape Girardeau. “A lot of small, Christian colleges, in particular, have been affected.”

HLGU, which currently has 780 students, joined other institutions of higher learning that have experienced a decline in enrollment, he added. Plus, the school’s discount rates were too high “and the financial situation was aggravated by the pandemic for several reasons.”

The result, Anderson stated, “was an unsustainable financial model.”

On March 5 the board announced that Harrison, president of the Baptist Homes & Healthcare Ministries, would also serve as HLGU’s transitional president in a dual role.

“We met with our accreditation liaison with the Higher Learning Commission and they confirmed that we are right on track,” Harrison said March 17. “We have a very tangible plan and a path forward … a plan that results in a balanced budget and adjustments so that we can weather this year. We’re moving forward with trying to re-engage our network by leaning into our mission.”

HLGU, founded in 1858, is setting a goal of $2.2 million for donors. Four “giving areas” of greatest needs are immediate debt reduction, student aid and scholarships, faculty retention and operating expenses.

Early last year Judson College in Marion, Ala., faced a similar financial crisis. Its board called on donors to provide $5 million in pledges in order to remain solvent. However, they came up $3.7 million shy and voted to close the college that had been in existence for 183 years.

Crawford named executive director of BCM/D Thu, 17 Mar 2022 21:31:41 +0000 COLUMBIA, Md. – The General Mission Board of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCM/D) unanimously named Michael Crawford as the convention’s executive director Thursday (March 17).]]>

COLUMBIA, Md. – The General Mission Board of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCM/D) unanimously named Michael Crawford as the convention’s executive director Thursday (March 17).

Crawford, who has served with the BCM/D for eight years, succeeds Kevin Smith, who, feeling a call to pastoral ministry, resigned in 2021. BCM/D State Director of Evangelism Mark Dooley became the interim executive director following Smith’s resignation, working with an interim leadership team that included Crawford and Associate Executive Director Tom Stolle.

Previously, Crawford served as SEND Network Director for Maryland/Delaware and planted and served at Freedom Church in Baltimore. He co-founded The Banquet Network, a non-profit interdenominational entity designed to assess and equip churches with resources to start and strengthen special needs ministries. He also founded The Subversive Institute, an organization designed to serve the marginalized in Baltimore. Additionally, Crawford is the author of “100 Meditations: An Everyday Book for Everyday People” and “Don’t Plant, be Planted: Observations About Starting a Church.”

“Crawford is a phenomenal leader,” Stolle said. “He is uniquely gifted in the areas of vision and strategy, combined with a pastor’s heart. He not only knows Scripture; he lives it out. He is a man of great passion. He cares deeply about the pastors, local associations and the churches affiliated with the BCM/D. His love, care and concern for the convention staff are obvious. He’s the right leader at the right time. I truly believe God has called him to serve in this capacity.”

Tim Simpson, pastor of congregational care at Greenridge Baptist Church in Boyds and chair of the executive director search committee thanked those who have been praying for the committee the past six months.

“The Lord was gracious and gave us a strong sense of His leadership and teamwork,” Simpson said, adding that after interviewing a group of candidates in January and February, the search team was in agreement.

“We were united that Crawford was the man uniquely gifted to lead our two-state convention,” he said. “Crawford is a passionate follower of Jesus Christ, loves the mission of the local church and cares deeply for our pastors, church planters, directors of missions and our BCM/D staff members. He is a rare mix of visionary leadership and collaborative strategy-building wrapped in a shepherd’s heart.”

Other committee members were Co-Chair Van-Kim Lin, of Village Church in Baltimore; Lynn Davis of High Tide Church in Dagsboro, Del.; Tammy Lashey, wife of Mark Lashey, pastor of LifeHouse Church in Townsend, Del.; Harold Phillips, senior pastor of Pleasant View Baptist Church in Port Deposit, Md.; Wanda Minter, wife of Pastor Anthony Minter of First Rock Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.; Fred Caudle, senior pastor of The Church @ St. Charles in Waldorf, Md.; Frank Duncan, senior pastor of Paramount Baptist Church in Hagerstown, Md.; Greg Kame, senior pastor of Glen Burnie Baptist Church in Glen Burnie, Md.; and Tim Byer, senior pastor of Faith Baptist Church, also in Glen Burnie.

Collaboration and strategy

“I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t have all the gifts,” Crawford told staff members during a Q&A time before the mission board’s vote. “This has to be a collaborative team effort. I hope to bring a sense of a renewed culture of oneness and unity and purpose and calling and a kind of solidification.”

Crawford looked ahead and smiled, saying, “The possibilities are what excite me the most. The people in this room with amazing gift sets and experience excite me. It excites me to think about all the pastors all over the region that have a heart for Jesus who are laboring. It excites me to think about what we could do if we had a clear, articulated vision married with strategy and then resourced – what could actually happen! Those things excite me.”

Crawford added that he’s also excited about the future of Skycroft Conference Center – a 300-acre, BCM/D-owned retreat center in Middletown, Md. He emphasized the need for increased Skycroft promotion and said he envisions a new multi-purpose room at the facility and the possibility of using Skycroft to host the convention’s annual meeting.

“It’s a phenomenal place,” he said. “I think it should be the premiere ministry conference center in the Northeast.”

Asked about some of the concerns in the Southern Baptist Convention, such as “wokeism” and hyper-Calvinism, Crawford responded: “They are just distractions. That’s not a hard question for me.” Crawford emphasized the need to focus on the BCM/D’s mission of starting and strengthening churches.

Spiritual journey

Crawford was born in California in 1968, the youngest of eight children. His mother accepted a new job when he was 9 years old, and the family moved from the San Fernando Valley to the affluent Malibu Hills. Following his 1986 graduation from Crossroads High School in Santa Monica, he briefly attended UCLA before God reached into his heart and changed his life forever. During a difficult period, while dealing with severe mental health challenges, Crawford remembered his brother’s testimony, read the “red letters” in a Bible and gave his life to Jesus. He transferred to The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science, with an emphasis in philosophy in 1991. In 1997, he earned a Master of Divinity from The Master’s Seminary in Los Angeles.

Personal life

Crawford is an avid athlete who has completed seven triathlons, including three sprints, two Olympics, one Eagle and one Iron Man.

He and his wife, Dani, have been married for 28 years and have five young adult children: Claudia, Tabitha, Nehemiah, Keturah and Ezra.

Why there is a shortage of student ministers and what can be done about it Thu, 17 Mar 2022 21:27:37 +0000 NASHVILLE (BP) – Richard Ross has decades of experience when it comes to student ministry. And today, he’s observing a troubling trend.]]>

NASHVILLE (BP) – Richard Ross has decades of experience when it comes to student ministry. And today, he’s observing a troubling trend.

“My church celebrated and supported me in that decision” to enter student ministry, said Richard Ross. “I see that same dynamic happen rarely today.”

“I often hear from churches searching for student pastors,” said Ross, senior professor of student ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. “It would be a joy to provide them with names of potential candidates. But the vast percentage of the time, I have no name to share.

“From my perspective, there are far more churches searching for student pastors than there are leaders available to serve. At any given moment, I expect that the total number of churches with funded positions exceeds the total number of student pastors by several thousand.”

Shane Pruitt speaks to thousands of students and their leaders in his role as National Next Gen director for the North American Mission Board. He agrees with Ross and went so far as to address it in a video in August.

“Almost every week I get phone calls from three to five local churches looking for youth pastors or college pastors,” he said. It’s always followed by asking if there is a shortage.

“I think the easy answer is ‘yes,’” he said.

The subject isn’t relegated to the United States. “Churches are desperate for youth workers. So why can’t they find any?” asked a headline in Premiere Christianity magazine, based in the United Kingdom.

Various reasons arise. They aren’t paid nor appreciated enough. They don’t receive adequate training. They get tired of being asked when they’re going to move up to “real ministry.”

A common one is that there simply aren’t enough in the pipeline.

The church-planting emphasis over the last 12 years or so almost certainly led many young pastors to pursue that avenue who otherwise would have entered student ministry. Ross believes many seasoned student ministers remain in their calling, but in the role of next generation or family pastor. Those titles typically expand responsibilities beyond middle and high school to include children and college students.

“Student pastors entering midlife may see family ministry or next-gen ministry as a better fit for them.” Ross said.

Russell Jackson is family pastor at Holly Creek Baptist Church in Chatsworth, Ga., transitioning to that position two years ago after serving as student pastor. He and others recently responded to questions on the topic in a private Facebook group for the Georgia Student Ministry Network. All gave permission for their comments to be used.

Jackson oversees kindergarten through college ministries at Holly Creek. Teams of volunteers work the children’s and student ministries, with Jackson focusing on collegians.

“Yes, it is a lot of areas to oversee, but I have great help and wonderful families,” he said.

Several factors could lead to student ministers moving to other roles, said Jonathan Brantley, a veteran student minister who has served in Virginia and Georgia.

Salaries can make it difficult to provide for your family, he said, “especially if they are moving into an area where houses are 60 percent more than what the average church member paid 30 years ago.”

Ross agreed. “We need to recognize that student pastors taking on new and even more important roles will need salary support,” he said. “They should not have to change jobs only because they cannot afford braces and trombones for their growing families.”

A perspective that student ministry is the “junior league” can also wear you down, Brantley said.

“Well-meaning people asked me all the time when I was going to be a ‘real’ pastor or made comments like it must be the life to play video games and go to schools and themes parks for a living,” he said. “Guys and other staff often got forgotten during pastor appreciation month, staff anniversaries, etc. It’s usually the senior pastor who’s remembered.”

Southern Baptist seminaries offer instruction that, even if it doesn’t explicitly say “student,” nevertheless includes training in church leadership or other areas that can be extended to student ministry. Ross still sees a problem, though.

“A growing number of SBC colleges no longer offer degrees or even specific courses in student ministry,” he said. “The majority of SBC seminaries no longer have fulltime faculty teaching student ministry. Almost all state conventions have reduced the number of staff that are out training future and current student pastors. The same is true in the SBC agencies.”

He also pointed to “a muted focus” on calling teens and collegians to vocational ministry, citing what he admitted was anecdotal evidence of fewer sermons, altar calls and Bible sessions dedicated to such callings. “My church celebrated and supported me in that decision,” he said. “I see that same dynamic happen rarely today.”

There is evidence for a return to identifying and training the next crop of student pastors.

“I am so thankful that the messengers to the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting affirmed a Vision 2025 goal in this direction,” Ross said. Strategic Action 3 in Vision 2025 specifies “calling out the called” and increasing the total number of workers in the field.

“We need senior pastors to articulate from the pulpit how strategic and valuable the calling to be a student pastor is today,” Ross said. “We need parents sensing pride when a child of theirs hears God’s leadership in that direction.”

That responsibility also rests on those who should have the strongest clarity on the need for student ministers.

“Those leading our seminaries, colleges, state conventions and agencies are becoming aware that the future of our churches, and even the denomination, depends on our ability to evangelize, baptize, disciple and send out the next generation,” he said.

“That sobering realization should lead to increasing, rather than decreasing, those who are training and supporting student pastors.”

FIRST-PERSON: Let’s charge ahead with confidence Thu, 17 Mar 2022 21:04:31 +0000 As a former athlete and coach, I have competed in games that demanded a strategic plan to win. At times, this required multiple options – a Plan A and a Plan B – while at other times we needed to be committed to a singular strategy to bring us victory. When it comes to fulfilling […]]]>

As a former athlete and coach, I have competed in games that demanded a strategic plan to win. At times, this required multiple options – a Plan A and a Plan B – while at other times we needed to be committed to a singular strategy to bring us victory.

When it comes to fulfilling Jesus’ mission of redemption, we have been given one clear game plan: become disciples who make disciples. This is his Plan A. There is no Plan B! Jesus has commissioned us to go and proclaim the Gospel, inviting people into relationship with him. We see this in the Great Commission in Matthew 28.

Jesus’ final words to his disciples before ascending was a call to go and tell the world His story. Jesus is the hope of the world and has sent his followers to be His Plan A to take Him to the world! In this announcement, there is one clear and emphatic imperative: “make disciples.” Our primary calling is connecting people to Jesus and His ever-restoring life, teaching them to obey, and sending them out! So, all our going, baptizing, and teaching is about making disciples who make disciples. This is overwhelming when you recognize the responsibility with which the church has been entrusted. However, there are two truths that give us confidence to pursue His mission. 

First, we have been sent by His power. In verse 18, He says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Jesus declares that ALL authority has been given to Him. Jesus is Lord of the universe! In His earthly ministry, Jesus shows power over disease and sickness, wind and waves, and demonic powers. But most importantly, through His death and resurrection, Jesus has power over sin, death and hell! There is nothing in all the universe He doesn’t have authority and power over, and this includes every nation. And with His power and authority, we are sent. This is our confidence as we engage the world. We do not have to be afraid, worried, or intimidated. Our confidence does not rest in our abilities, accomplishments, or aptitudes but in His authority! We have been sent by the one who is in complete control of the universe!

Second, we are sent with His presence. In verse 20, He says “… And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” How is Jesus with us? Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, God’s presence is with us. He is Immanuel, God with us! This is where our confidence is found. Just as the Lord comforted Moses and Joshua with His presence when He sent them to conquer the land, Jesus is sending us to conquer the land and usher people out of bondage. All authority has been given to Him and He is with us!

This is why prayer is so essential to the Great Commission. It is vital for us both individually and corporately. We are called to a task beyond our capability; therefore, we need the power of God that is only found in the presence of God. We must be a people who seek His presence through prayer and ask His Spirit to fill us. We don’t have to be afraid; He is with us!

Todd Kaunizt is lead pastor of New Beginnings Church in Longview, Texas. This article appeared in the Southern Baptist TEXAN.

Romanian Baptists stepping up to help those fleeing Ukraine Thu, 17 Mar 2022 19:35:00 +0000 Romanian Baptists and International Mission Board missionaries are responding to the influx of refugees from Ukraine into Romania.]]>

Editor’s note: Compiled from International Mission Board and Southern Baptist TEXAN reports.

Romanian Baptists and International Mission Board missionaries are responding to the influx of refugees from Ukraine into Romania.

Pastor C. is one of many Romanian believers who are taking Ukrainian families into their homes when they first cross the border, IMB reported. Churches in this part of Romania are not large, and though some churches are using their buildings as shelters, many families have also opened their homes to welcome Ukrainians for the night.

The process takes patience and intentionality. Only registered officials can go all the way to the border crossing. Two men from churches near Suceava have permission to enter the area, where they wait in the freezing weather to greet families and direct them to believers who wait down the road.

“Romania is considered the second destination of choice for those fleeing Ukraine,” Scottie Stice told the Southern Baptist TEXAN. Stice is the director of Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief.

SBTC DR volunteers were among those on the ground in Poland March 4-14 to assist in the refugee crisis and plan for the Southern Baptist response going forward, the TEXAN reported. Under the coordination of Send Relief, SBTC DR’s role will shift from Poland to Moldova and Romania, Stice said.

IMB missionary Mick Stockwell is among those assisting refugees in Romania, where Southern Baptists have had a presence for more than 100 years.

“We’re talking to some Christians who are here greeting these refugees as they come across the border,” Stockwell said in a video for IMB. The volunteers help them find food and water and then “try to help them find where they’re going from here, how they can get to those places, how we can minister to them.”

Stockwell said the IMB is organizing now to field teams from the U.S. to come serve refugees.

On Monday, March 21, leaders from SBTC, Missouri Baptist and California Baptist disaster relief will travel to Romania to assess the needs and begin to plan the response.

“They will be fact-finding and setting up support for Romanian churches helping refugees,” Stice told the TEXAN. The Romanian border outreach will provide refreshments, charging stations, and otherwise assist the refugees as they prepare to move to their next destinations.

In another video, IMB President Paul Chitwood talks with Kyle, an IMB missionary in Ukraine. Kyle and his family, who have served in Ukraine 13 years, were forced to evacuate their home due to the conflict.

“We’re hearing news reports every day of millions being displaced by the war in Ukraine,” Chitwood said in the video. “When we hear about displaced peoples, we often don’t think about our missionaries.”

The situation has been “very tough,” Kyle said. “We had a very short window of time. We had one suitcase per person. We packed our van, and we had to leave.

“We’re overwhelmed at times, but at the same time, we’re also trying to serve, and carry on the missionary task to reach people and make disciples.”

Ukraine would face ‘significant religious oppression’ under Russia, USCIRF warns Thu, 17 Mar 2022 19:05:45 +0000 WASHINGTON (BP) – Religious communities including Christians in Ukraine would “likely be targeted with violence and oppression under any Russian influence,” the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said March 16.]]>

WASHINGTON (BP) – Religious communities including Christians in Ukraine would “likely be targeted with violence and oppression under any Russian influence,” the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said March 16.

USCIRF is appalled by Russia’s “brutal invasion of Ukraine,” the commission said in its press release.

“We are horrified by Russia’s attacks on Ukraine, the senseless loss of life, and the lack of respect for human rights. There is a direct relationship between religious freedom violations and the dismantling of civil society in and by Russia,” USCIRF said, quoting Commissioner James W. Carr. “The Russian government uses distortions of religious history to support its claim that Ukrainians have no independent ethno-religious identity or state tradition.

“In 2019, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople recognized an independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine, allowing many parishes previously under the jurisdiction of Moscow to sever those ties in a move that infuriated Russian nationalist sentiments. These parishes and their leadership are in jeopardy if Russian control expands.”

Among Baptists, about 2,000 churches are members of the Ukrainian Baptist Union, comprising about 100,000 believers, estimates Yarsolav “Slavik” Pyzh, president of Ukrainian Baptist Theological Seminary in Lviv.

“The church will go underground,” he has said in reference to any Russian control of Ukraine. “You have to understand that historically we had that experience before under the Soviet Union. So the church did not forget what does it mean to be persecuted, and I think that we will rearrange, reorganize, and still do what we always do, still preach the Gospel.”

USCIRF’s warning came as the United Nations International Court of Justice ruled 13-2 on March 16 that Russia “shall immediately suspend the military operations that it commenced on 24 February.” Only Vice-President Kirill Gevorgian of Russia and Judge Xue Hanqin of China dissented, but the court has no direct means of enforcing its ruling.

Russia has expanded its invasion of Ukraine, assaulting widespread military and civilian targets with casualty counts varying widely. The Ukrainian government said 3,000 civilians have died in Mariupol & Kharkiv alone, while the UN puts civilian deaths at approximately 700. Military death counts of Ukrainian forces vary between 1,300 and 4,000. Three million civilians have fled Ukraine, the UN said.

“Civilians continue to bear the brunt of the war in Ukraine where intense fighting is reported in the north, east, and south of the country,” UN representative Farhan Haq said in a March 15 briefing. press statement. “Airstrikes and shelling have continued with significant damage reported in cities including Donetsk, Luhansk, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Sumy, Kyiv, Mykolaiv and Zhytomyr oblast.”

USCIRF said it has documented Russia’s religious oppression for years and warned of its implications for Russia and beyond.

“In the areas of Ukraine already occupied by Russia in 2014, we have seen the Russian government use baseless charges of religious extremism and terrorism to silence dissent, justify endless raids and mass arrests, and close religious institutions that do not conform to its narrow interpretation of ‘traditional’ religion,” USCIRF Commissioner Khizr Khan said in the press statement. “The Russian government’s aggression toward religious freedom is an indicator that much worse will follow, as we certainly see a risk of this pattern being repeated as Russia expands into Ukraine.”

Russian shelling has damaged “numerous religious buildings,” USCIRF said, noting that while some Russian Orthodox clergy oppose the war, “Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill has publicly blessed it and provided supposed religious justification.”

USCIRF provides links here to several reports and podcasts it has written on Russian religious oppression.

Bible Study: Steadfast evangelism Thu, 17 Mar 2022 19:03:32 +0000 Reaching people with the Gospel brings great joy and reward in both the present and the future, sowing relationships on earth that reap a harvest of souls in heaven.]]>

NASHVILLE (BP) – This weekly Bible study appears in Baptist Press in a partnership with Lifeway Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Through its Leadership and Adult Publishing team, Lifeway publishes Sunday School curricula and additional resources for all age groups.

This week’s Bible study is adapted from the Explore the Bible curriculum.

Bible Passage: 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20

Discussion Questions:

  • What causes the greater reaction, gaining $100 or losing it? Why might a person give more weight to a loss than to a win?
  • To what extent should seeing another person come to Christ be a believer’s greatest reward and joy?

Food for thought:

The fear of losing may be stronger than we admit. Researchers Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky propose that people experience twice as much angst over losing something as they do joy over gaining the same amount as lost. Most of us see this in other areas of our lives. We may be successful in the work we do but can’t enjoy it because of a small failure in one area of our work. Our fear of losing gets in the way of winning, so we look at the glass as half empty and stop trying.

In Chapter 2 of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, we find him celebrating the faith of the Thessalonians but also noting the opposition faced. That opposition came from his own people, fellow Jews who not only rejected Paul’s message but tried to silence him. These are some of the same people for whom Paul said he would have given up his own place in heaven if by doing so they would accept Christ (see Romans 8:1-5).

Paul could have easily been discouraged because of the opposition he faced, but instead he focused on those who accepted Christ, which encouraged him. They had a shared faith and were looking forward to the coming of Jesus (1 Thessalonians 2:19). The embracing of the Gospel by some motivated Paul to keep moving forward, staying focused on his mission.

Reaching people with the Gospel brings great joy and reward in both the present and the future. For the present, we gain relationships with people who share our faith and spur us on to be more Christ-like in our lives. For the future, we gain the commendation of our Savior welcoming us as His faithful servants, standing before Him with others who stand there because of us. We can focus on the opposition and miss out on the joy that awaits us.

The Thessalonians were also facing opposition and could have been easily discouraged. But Paul set an example, reminding us to move past our fear of failure (a form of loss) and focus on the wins. We can learn from the losses, but the wins move us forward in obedience to our Savior.

Explore the Bible

Explore the Bible is an ongoing Bible study curriculum that helps groups dig into the key truths of each Bible book, while keeping the group on pace to study through the Bible books in a systematic way. More information can be found at

Ultrasound unit assists mother, unborn child prior to dedication event Thu, 17 Mar 2022 16:45:15 +0000 FRANKLIN, N.C. – A brand new mobile ultrasound machine that will serve several western North Carolina counties has already played an instrumental role in helping at least one expectant mother and her unborn child.]]>

FRANKLIN, N.C. – A brand new mobile ultrasound machine that will serve several western North Carolina counties has already played an instrumental role in helping at least one expectant mother and her unborn child.

As staff members at the Smoky Mountain Pregnancy Care Center (SMPCC) were preparing for a dedication ceremony for the new machine on Friday, March 11, they encountered a young woman who was 23 weeks pregnant and had come to the center looking to place her baby up for adoption.

SMPCC nurse Carol Tucker and director Jenny Golding were able to provide the woman with encouragement, counsel, resources and maternity clothes, but the fact that they were even at the center that day was a matter of providence.

“We’re usually not open on Fridays,” Golding said. “We love stories like these where God’s timing is obvious.”

God’s timing was also evident in the SMPCC receiving the new ultrasound machine, which was donated through a partnership between the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and the Psalm 139 Project, a pro-life ministry of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).

Late last year, SMPCC staff members reached out to representatives at the Psalm 139 Project to inquire about the prospects of receiving a mobile ultrasound machine. At the same time, officials at the Baptist state convention had also inquired about the possibility of placing a machine in western North Carolina.

Thanks to the generous giving of N.C. Baptists through the Cooperative Program in 2021, state convention officials worked with the Psalm 139 Project to purchase and place the machine. One hundred percent of financial contributions designated to the Psalm 139 Project go toward purchasing ultrasound machines and providing training for workers.

“Pregnancy resource centers do incredible work ministering to parents in need and advocating for preborn children made in the image of God,” said Todd Unzicker, executive director of the Baptist state convention. “Because of the generosity of North Carolina Baptists and our partners with the Psalm 139 Project, we are able to place a life-saving tool in capable hands at Smoky Mountain Pregnancy Care Center. We pray God will continue to use the staff at SMPCC and local churches as they continue to live on mission together.”

Unzicker joined SMPCC staff and board members, ERLC representatives, local church pastors and other state convention staff at the dedication ceremony.

“SMPCC has been ministering to and caring for vulnerable women and children for over 20 years,” said Elizabeth Graham, ERLC vice president of operations and life initiatives. “We are so grateful to partner with them as they work to serve their community and the surrounding areas. We know the ultrasound machine, the window to the womb, is such a powerful tool the Lord uses to show men and women the life the woman is carrying.

“We are praying this machine will be a vessel in which the Lord saves even more vulnerable lives. What a joy it is to be used as the hands and feet of Jesus as we hope and pray that abortion becomes unthinkable and unnecessary in the coming days.”

The SMPCC began when a baby was found in a local landfill in 1999. Today, in addition to two permanent locations that provide medical services, the SMPCC has a mobile medical unit. The unit travels to Asheville, N.C., and Bryson City, N.C., numerous times per month. The clinic offers free pregnancy testing, limited ultrasounds, a parenting program and more.

“Our mission is to educate, encourage and empower women and men to make life-affirming choices,” Golding said. “We are grateful for this wonderful gift of a new ultrasound machine, as well as the prayers and partnership of everyone who has come together and joined with us to help save lives.”

Southern Baptist volunteers mobilizing to serve ‘ocean of people’ fleeing Ukraine Wed, 16 Mar 2022 21:15:23 +0000 POLAND (BP) – A Disaster Assistance & Response Team (DART) of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) and volunteers returned from Poland last week to survey ways volunteers from the United States might engage and serve Ukrainian refugees fleeing the invasion of their homeland.]]>

POLAND (BP) – A Disaster Assistance & Response Team (DART) of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) and volunteers returned from Poland last week to survey ways volunteers from the United States might engage and serve Ukrainian refugees fleeing the invasion of their homeland.

A Disaster Assistance & Response Team (DART) of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) staff and volunteers returned from Poland last week after being sent by Send Relief to survey how trained volunteers from the U.S. can serve. From left to right: Wanda Temple, Bobby Temple, Tom Beam and Dan Phillips from North Carolina; John Heading, SBDR director for Ohio Baptists; and Linda Mitter with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Photo submitted by Tom Beam

“We were the initial team to go in and assess how volunteers from the U.S., specifically DR volunteers, can be involved in helping with the refugee crisis in Poland,” said Tom Beam, state director for SBDR with North Carolina Baptists. “There are many Polish churches and International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries who are working with refugees, and our task was to assess how we could best assist them going forward.”

So far, Send Relief and SBDR have identified four different sites – in the Polish cities of Warsaw, Chelm and Gdansk and in Suseava, Romania – where small teams of no more than 10 volunteers will be able to serve local churches who are ministering to refugees by cooking meals, hosting activities for children, doing laundry and cleaning showers among other projects as necessary.

“It’s a great picture of partnership,” said Jason Cox, Send Relief vice president of international ministry. “Southern Baptists didn’t just show up at the moment of crisis – they have been working for decades since the fall of the USSR to plant churches and disciple Christians all over the nation. Now the local church is stepping up and stepping in. So we’re really coming alongside them in a support role.”

Many of the people who were among the first wave of refugees fleeing the invasion by Russian forces likely came from those with greater means and resources to leave Ukraine, Beam said.

“From here on out, it is our understanding that the majority of refugees who come across the border are those who do not have the means, who do not have family in other places,” Beam said. “That changes the dynamic of the type of refugee and what the types of needs are.”

John Heading (right), Southern Baptist Disaster Relief director for Ohio Baptists, discusses the ongoing Ukrainian refugee crisis and the ways Poland is serving refugees with a local representative. Photo submitted by Tom Beam

Beam led the DART team made up of SBDR volunteers from his home state of North Carolina as well as Texas and Ohio. In their travels to visit the different sites where future volunteers will serve, the DART team also spent time at the border where they saw , cars and trains full of people moving across the border.

“What we noticed the most was every minute, about six to eight people would walk across the border,” Beam said. “That’s when you saw some of them trying to find someone who could assist them with whatever they needed, whether that was finding a hot meal or asking where they could go to find shelter.”

Bobby and Wanda Temple, a pair of North Carolina Baptists who were on the initial DART team, have been participating in overseas volunteer work for 35 years and will be the site leaders in Warsaw. They will serve for a month as other volunteer teams rotate in, serving one week at a time.

Wanda described the wave of refugees as an “ocean of people.” Many were women and children leaving behind fathers, husbands and brothers who are fighting to protect their nation.

She and her husband are members of Fellowship Baptist Church in Creedmoor, N.C., which they described as a small, country church.

A group of Ukrainian refugees eat a hot meal in Romania provided through Send Relief’s efforts to meet needs in the aftermath Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Photo submitted by an International Mission Board missionary

“It was humbling to see these churches in Poland that are even smaller than ours opening up their buildings and doing the best they can to provide warmth and food and encouragement even though they have so little budget to go on,” Wanda said. “They’re willing to give it all. It’s so humbling.”

The immense need left them feeling helpless, Bobby said, but the eagerness of Polish Baptists and the Polish people to serve those in need also inspired them to return and make a difference by ministering both to refugees and the Polish volunteers who are serving.

“The pastors and volunteers are overwhelmed with all that they have in front of them, but they will continue to be there for the refugees,” Bobby said. “Many (SBDR volunteers) are going to support those who are serving the refugees, to let them know that we care and that God cares for them.”

A team of volunteers with Texas Baptist Men will be leaving this week to serve in Chelm, working with the Chelm Baptist Church. Other SBDR teams will be departing for Eastern Europe before the end of March.

The North Carolina team will serve in Warsaw with Polish Baptist Union churches and IMB missionaries. A combination of Ohio and Louisiana SBDR volunteers will serve in Gdansk to serve the First Baptist Church there that has been serving refugees.

“The pastors there told us to continue to ask your people to pray because that’s what motivates us and keeps us,” said Wanda.

Walter (Wally) Leyerle, a disaster relief associate with the SBTC, will be leading a team of SBDR volunteers from the SBTC, Missouri and California to Romania where they will be working with IMB missionary Mick Stockwell and local Romanian Baptists to serve Ukrainian refugees who have fled to Romania.

“Our expectations literally are to be God’s hands and feet to everybody we encounter,” said Leyerle. “We are going to share the Gospel whenever we have the opportunity, but we will also be sensitive to the needs and openness of the people we meet.”

Send Relief has, field personnel and Polish Baptists, been serving refugees since the start of the conflict as local churches and missionaries in Poland have been ministering to and providing necessities and sanctuary to those fleeing the war in Ukraine.

The groups SBDR will be sending are trained volunteers who have been specifically requested by Send Relief, IMB and local ministry partners. To learn more about how to become a trained SBDR volunteer and be able to respond in times of crisis, local Southern Baptist state conventions provide various training opportunities throughout the year.

To give to support the efforts of Send Relief and meet the needs of refugees as they flee Ukraine, donate through

Formerly incarcerated man finds Christ through outdoor kids’ ministry Wed, 16 Mar 2022 21:10:08 +0000 FINCASTLE, Va. (BP) – Jason Gravely, a formerly incarcerated man now a part of Fincastle Baptist Church, said his skeptical search for God concluded with his involvement in the outdoor kids’ ministry program at the church, where he found spiritual answers and discipleship.]]>

FINCASTLE, Va. (BP) – Jason Gravely, a formerly incarcerated man now a part of Fincastle Baptist Church, said his skeptical search for God concluded with his involvement in the outdoor kids’ ministry program at the church, where he found spiritual answers and discipleship.

Gravely began attending the ministry’s activities with his two step-sons last year. Through these events he began a friendship with the ministry’s leader Seth Thompson, who would engage in consistent spiritual conversations with him.

Jason Gravely is baptized at Fincastle Baptist Church.

This culminated with Gravely eventually making a decision to follow Christ last fall, and he has noticed a difference in his personal life.

“It now feels like I’ve got somebody watching over me and this sort of helping hand on me,” Gravely said. “I can see the Holy Spirit working in my life.”

Gravely explained his search for spiritual answers began long before his attendance at kids’ ministry activities. In fact, it began during the more than five years he spent in prison.

He spent a lot of time in prison learning and researching various topics, including religion. And though he studied Christianity quite a bit, he said it “never really connected” with him.

This began to change when he finished his time in prison and married his wife. His wife’s parents are devoted Christians, and Gravely said his father-in-law would often take him to church events. His father-in-law then began taking his sons to Fincastle’s outdoor ministry.

Gravely began attending the events too, where he met Thompson.

Soon, he would begin attending Fincastle’s men’s ministry events, where he would connect frequently with Thompson. At one of the men’s events, Gravely ended up meeting someone who recognized him from their time serving in the same prison. The man encouraged Gravely to listen to what Thompson had to say regarding spiritual matters.

After several months of conversations with Thompson, Gravely said he again encountered troubled times, including the loss of a job.

“I remember praying to God, ‘If you’re real I need you to show me,’” Gravely said. “I said ‘God, I’ve been looking for you, so if you’re out there show yourself and that you’re real. Because I don’t believe. You have to show me.’

“After that I just kept on seeing different signs here and there and I felt like I was getting answers. I was on the edge after several months of looking for God, and then my job loss really pushed me over the edge. I was scared to death and didn’t know what I was going to do. I thought if God could really help, then I really needed it, and that’s when I decided to call Seth about asking Christ into my heart. I thought if God could really help, then I really needed it.”

Since Gravely’s conversion, Thompson and Gravely talk weekly in a discipling relationship where they pray and read the Bible together. Thompson said he has already noticed a positive change in his friend.

“I’ve noticed he’s now always asking questions about God, and he’s eager to learn more about Him,” Thompson said. “I noticed he’s getting involved with serving in the church and started making a lot of changes in the way that he’s seeing things.

The ministry Thompson helps lead that was influential in Gravely’s conversion is Kids Outdoor Zone (KOZ).

KOZ is a boys-only ministry organization designed to equip men in local churches to mentor young boys into godly men by using outdoor activities such as hiking and fishing.

Thompson leads the group at Fincastle and said the ministry has been incredibly influential in the lives of many young men.

“Being able to instill in them at an early age what it means to be a godly man, have good values and serve is makes a huge difference in their lives,” Thompson said.

Rich Magee is the Chief Operating Officer and East Coast Director for KOZ.

He told Baptist Press that although KOZ works with several different evangelical denominations, Southern Baptist churches have the largest representation.

“A boy needs a man to become a man,” Magee said. “We think the men of the Church are the answer to this dilemma and mentoring changes everything.

“The men of the Church are this army, and they can show young boys there is somebody out there who cares. Watching men come alive in Kingdom work is the highlight for me.”

Mitch Turner is the Next Gen pastor at Fincastle, and echoed Magee’s thoughts about the KOZ’s impact at Fincastle not just for boys, but also for the men of the congregation.

“It’s making an impact on our men who are a part of it and helping lead it,” Turner said. “It’s helping our men understand what discipleship is a little bit better. In Jason’s life it has definitely allowed for discipleship and encouragement.

“Part of the Great Commission is discipling everyone, and without discipling the next generation it would die. We need to be focused on the next generation and training up leaders.”

Gravely was baptized in the months after his conversion, and his entire family, including his in-laws now attend Fincastle.

“God knew that I needed Him,” Gravely said. “God knew that I was looking for Him and this kids’ ministry may have been his way of stepping into showing me that He was there. I feel that God has blessed me tremendously.”

Extreme poverty grows by 97 million globally in COVID-19, new report says Wed, 16 Mar 2022 20:58:43 +0000 BALTIMORE, Md. (BP) – At least 97 million more people have fallen into extreme poverty globally since the COVID-19 pandemic began two years ago, World Relief said in a study released March 15 on the second anniversary of the declaration of the pandemic.]]>

BALTIMORE, Md. (BP) – At least 97 million more people have fallen into extreme poverty globally since the COVID-19 pandemic began two years ago, World Relief said in a study released March 15 on the second anniversary of the declaration of the pandemic.

Setbacks during the COVID-19 pandemic have reversed about three or four years of progress in the fight against global hunger, with the worst outcomes seen in the poorest countries and among women and children, World Relief said in its report.

“COVID-19 has hit the world’s most vulnerable … in ways that are really ferocious and in a level of devastation that we’ve not seen in our lifetime,” World Relief President and CEO Myal Greene said in releasing the report. “As a report the pandemic has resulted in one of the greatest humanitarian issues in recorded history.

“It’s the first time in my lifetime, really, that we’ve seen a rise globally in the number of people living in extreme poverty. So this is really a devastating and heartbreaking issue that we face.”

World Relief compiled its report using data and findings from various sources including the United Nations, the World Health Organization and other groups. No numbers specific to the U.S. are included in the report.

“Pockets of the United States have experienced tremendous pain and setbacks because of COVID-19. As we have seen in both the United States and abroad, those living in vulnerability have suffered significantly from the social and economic consequences of the pandemic,” Greene said. “In this report, it’s our desire to share that story with people in western countries about how our global neighbors have suffered during the pandemic.”

At least 265 million people are facing “acute food insecurity” globally, with numbers increasing in at least 20 African countries, World Relief said. Direst outcomes were seen in Gabon, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia, Mali and Madagascar.

Southern Baptists’ compassion ministry, Send Relief, has seen similar effects from the pandemic, a Send Relief spokesperson told Baptist Press, including an escalation in food security and health issues.

In the last two years, Send Relief has participated in 593 ministry projects, served 1.5 million people, saw 5,259 churches serve their communities and provided more than 2 million meals.

“Not only across North America but around the world, we have seen the devastating impacts of COVID on families and communities,” said Send Relief President Bryant Wright. “Send Relief’s response has been focused on ensuring people in need have enough food and basic resources to get them through the crisis. The needs have been great, but it has been encouraging to see how churches and individual Christians have worked together with us to help serve the many people who have been struggling, feeling isolated and without hope.”

World Relief referenced UNICEF’s finding that the pandemic created the biggest crisis for children in UNICEF’s 75-year history. Also noted was The Lancet Report’s finding that the number of children orphaned due to COVID-19 related deaths rose to 5.2 million in a seven-month period ending Oct. 31, 2021, increasing the number of orphans by 90 percent worldwide.

Women suffered more poverty and domestic abuse.

The pandemic exacerbated problems already pronounced in many countries, including HIV, malaria, food insecurity, poor health care and weak educational systems. In many areas, officials have not been able to overcome barriers to distributing and administering COVID-19 vaccines.

In releasing its report, World Relief included updates from its leaders in Malawi and Kenya, where World Relief is partnering with trusted pastors to distribute vaccines to hard-to-reach communities, partnering with government officials to operate mobile clinics and advocating COVID-19 prevention measures.

“Our end goal with this report is not simply education. It’s a push toward compassionate, thoughtful action that recognizes we are part of a global community,” Greene said. “We are more than just U.S. citizens – we are citizens of the world, and right now, our world needs open hands and open hearts.”

Jenny Yang, World Relief senior vice president for advocacy and policy, expressed hope that the report would encourage prayer and humanitarian outreaches.

“It is really our hope at World Relief that this report not only stirs the hearts of our readers, but also ignites” Yang said. She encouraged people to pray and to partner with World Relief and the government in fighting COVID-19, advocating for continuing education around COVID-19 and encouraging vaccinations globally.

World Relief, a global Christian humanitarian organization, has partnered with churches and community leaders for more than 75 years to combat disasters, extreme poverty, violence, oppression and mass displacement.

The full report is available here.

FIRST-PERSON: Is it ministry failure to see a counselor? Wed, 16 Mar 2022 20:45:00 +0000 Attending to our mental health is essential to overall wellbeing. Unfortunately, there is still somewhat of a silent stigma around mental illness and the need for treatment among Christians –especially among church leaders.  ]]>

Attending to our mental health is essential to overall wellbeing. Unfortunately, there is still somewhat of a silent stigma around mental illness and the need for treatment among Christians –especially among church leaders.  

As I sit with ministry workers and church staff in my office, I hear common objections and concerns that therapy indicates one’s inability to handle their ministry tasks or their being inadequate or incapable. Some even see mental health as a “sin” issue or simply not trusting Jesus sufficiently. This would make sense if we were in control of what thoughts and feelings we have on any given day. But that would be the equivalent of choosing the physical pain level we subscribe to when getting into a car accident.

So instead of protesting the “rights and wrongs” of counseling, let’s start from a point of agreement that our health contains aspects – physical, spiritual, intellectual and emotional– that God created and that are thus worthy of our care. This means we must be able to understand factors that take away from our health, how to care for our mental and emotional health, and finally how to be aware of symptoms that indicate our need for care. 

Helping others takes a toll

It is inevitable that as soon as you step into a role of service or ministry, you will be a target for other people needing support, help, guidance, a listening ear or even counseling for their heartaches. This has the potential to suck your energy along with your time. It’s not that you don’t care about others, but you realize the clock only allows so much time.

In the bestselling book Boundaries, Christian counselors Henry Cloud and John Townsend concisely remind the reader that whatever is allowed to take up your time is really denying the attention you could give to something else. Sometimes that means a person must choose where the time and attention is most needed and willing to be given. In other words, helping others will take a toll on your own wellbeing.

Getting help for mental health is not a weakness

Does your need for mental health discredit your leadership? Does this make you a bad leader? No, it actually confirms your humanity – just the way God designed you. Did you know your limited-ness is actually a good thing?

In the Bible, Jesus often exemplified self-care by retreating to renew and refresh Himself in prayer and rest from others. Indeed, limitations actually point you in the direction of the One who can help – the One who knows how to navigate troubling storms of the holistic self. It is truly by design that limitations are in place, and there is an appropriate response when feeling anguish. So why would anyone think they are without limits or that limitations are a mark of poor leadership? 

Assessing mental and emotional health

The ability to recognize a need or limitation in oneself is a healthy quality that far too few leaders possess. Too often, I see leaders trying to play the role of Superman or Wonder Woman, believing that the world rests on his or her shoulders alone. This actually causes burnout and sets a poor leadership example for others to follow. If this is your precedent, then your ministry is set up for failure.

Here are a few signs to consider whether you or the ministry you care about is struggling:

  1. You no longer enjoy the tasks or dynamics that previously brought you joy or were energizing.
  2. Your other priorities are not being cared for well (e.g., family, friends, personal goals, etc.)
  3. People around you act reserved or unengaged (could be you are perceived as too stressed and not as approachable).
  4. Praying “harder” hasn’t relieved the symptoms. (God cares but is not a genie to grant your wishes.) God does allow others in your community to help you (i.e. professional therapists), just like a dentist or doctor would be sought out when seeking physical care.
  5. Are there feelings of restlessness or helplessness? It may be an indicator that you need help navigating your feelings more than you would like to admit. 

God requires you to be a good steward of what He gives you, which includes your own life and health. Counseling is a valid form of self-care, and seeing a counselor is a priority for improved health. It is a subtle strength that allows vulnerability.

As I like to remind my clients: We are only as vulnerable to the degree we are courageous. Be courageous enough to be vulnerable. Invest in your ministry by seeking mental and emotional health counseling.  

Jesse Masson lives in Kansas City with his wife, Julie, and their three children. In 2020, he started Connected Counseling, LLC, a Christian counseling practice that offers professional in-office and teletherapy sessions. This article first appeared at

‘Bones,’ basketball and N.C. Baptists Wed, 16 Mar 2022 18:20:47 +0000 CARY, N.C. (BP) -- Here in North Carolina, it’s been said that college basketball is its own form of religion. If that’s true, no one has personified that statement like Horace Albert “Bones” McKinney.]]>

CARY, N.C. (BP) — Here in North Carolina, it’s been said that college basketball is its own form of religion. If that’s true, no one has personified that statement like Horace Albert “Bones” McKinney.

McKinney, a championship-winning coach at Wake Forest in the early 1960s, was also an ordained Baptist minister. Even while leading the Demon Deacons on the hardwood, McKinney was a popular and in-demand preacher in local churches across the state.

“You might think that coachin’ and preachin’ don’t mix,” McKinney wrote in his 1988 autobiography Bones: Honk Your Horn If You Love Basketball. “But all coaches have to do a little preachin’ to their players from time to time and most preachers have to coach the members of their congregation, especially before the collection.”

Known for his larger-than-life personality and antics on the sidelines, one former player described McKinney as a blend of evangelist Billy Graham, comedian Bob Hope and boxer Muhammad Ali. And McKinney’s life story is one that could easily have been taken from the pages of a Hollywood script.

Hoop dreams

McKinney was born in 1919 in the tiny community of Lowland in eastern North Carolina near the Pamlico Sound. His family moved to Durham when McKinney was five, and he quickly fell in love with basketball. McKinney starred on legendary Durham high school teams that won 69 consecutive games and three straight state titles.

Although primarily associated with Wake Forest, McKinney actually played for both N.C. State and North Carolina. After graduating from high school in 1940, McKinney played two seasons at N.C. State before being drafted into the U.S. Army and serving in World War II. Following his discharge from the Army, McKinney played one season at North Carolina, leading UNC to the national championship game before falling to Oklahoma A&M.

McKinney also played for legendary coach Red Auerbach during a six-year professional basketball career that included stints with the now defunct Washington Capitols and the Boston Celtics. Near the end of his pro career McKinney’s life took another direction.

“I became a little more serious with my life my last year in the pros,” McKinney wrote. “I had gotten interested in church work and my life was changing. Whatever it meant to be ‘called’ into church work, I was called.”

Coachin’ and preachin’

McKinney enrolled at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1952. Now married and with a growing family, McKinney wondered (and prayed about) how he would make ends meet since professional athletes didn’t make the kind of money then that they do now. McKinney wrote that the Lord must have heard his prayers, because He provided an answer on Nov. 8, 1952.

While sitting in class that morning, Wake Forest basketball coach Murray Greason walked in and asked the professor if he could speak with McKinney. Greason offered McKinney a position as an assistant coach, a role McKinney held for five years until he was promoted to head coach when Greason became Wake’s athletic director.

As head coach, McKinney’s colorful personality was on full display. He became known for his animated sideline antics and exchanges with referees. McKinney even installed a seat belt at his seat on the Wake Forest bench to avoid drawing technical fouls.

McKinney was more than just a showman, however. He took the Wake Forest program to new heights, guiding the Demon Deacons to ACC Tournament titles in 1961 and 1962 and the NCAA Final Four in 1962.

While building Wake Forest into a championship program, McKinney also served as assistant chaplain at the school and continued preaching throughout the state.

“Bones’ reputation around the state was the same as what Billy Graham’s was nationally,” said Billy Packer, a star guard on Wake’s 1962 Final Four team. “Bones was in incredible demand to preach.”

Packer said he would often drive McKinney to his preaching engagements on Sundays, sit in the back of the church and be “riveted” by McKinney’s messages.

“He was a phenomenal minister,” Packer said.

Meaningful ministry

The Biblical Recorder, the long-standing N.C. Baptist news journal, highlighted numerous speaking engagements by McKinney at revivals, missions conferences, youth rallies, Baptist associations and state convention meetings throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s.

From August 1959 to August 1960, which coincided with his third season as Wake Forest’s head coach, McKinney served as the interim pastor at Forbush Baptist Church in Yadkinville, about 20 miles west of Winston-Salem. Lifelong Forbush members Kaye Smith and Nancy Carter were teenagers at the time and rooted for the Demon Deacons.

“We were big Wake Forest fans, so it was really exciting for us to have Bones McKinney as pastor of our little country church,” said Carter, who currently serves as church clerk and a member of the historical team.

Smith, who attended several Wake Forest basketball games, said McKinney preached a lot like he coached.

“I remember him waving his arms around a lot like he did on the basketball court,” Smith said. “He was really tall and would often lay over the pulpit to get his points across.”

During his time at Forbush, Life magazine introduced McKinney to a national audience as part of a four-page spread in its Feb. 22, 1960, issue. The photos and accompanying article highlighted McKinney’s roles as a coach, preacher and family man, noting that in the pulpit, “McKinney is more restrained than on the court.”

The article went on to say that “In the pulpit, he dispenses the gospel without ado: just ‘the message’ clear and simple. After listening to his sermons, one parishioner described him as a ‘homely Billy Graham.’”

One of the photos in the Life magazine spread shows a tall, lanky, bespectacled McKinney looming large over the Forbush Baptist Church pulpit with his right arm raised to drive home a point from his message.

Forbush member Maclyn Powell was a little younger than Smith and Carter, but she also remembers McKinney’s time at the church. McKinney baptized Powell, and she joined the church under his ministry.

“My short association with him was a very meaningful part of my life,” Powell said.

Despite McKinney’s competitiveness as a coach and eccentric style, parishioners and former players alike describe him as caring and compassionate.

“Bones was one good human being,” said Alley Hart, a team captain on Wake Forest’s 1961 ACC championship team. “I don’t know of anybody who didn’t like him, except for maybe another coach or two because he used to beat them. He was just a very lovable person.”

When Hart’s father died midway through his junior season in December 1959, McKinney officiated part of the funeral service. Hart says he doesn’t remember much about the service, but he remembers McKinney being there for him.

“After the funeral was over and we came out of the tent, he put his arm around me and walked me to the car,” Hart said. “That’s about all I remember about the funeral, Bones walking me to the car with his arm around me.”

‘Great at two things’

Observers of McKinney’s career at Wake Forest say the dual demands on his time as both a coach and a minister eventually took a toll on him. That fact was foreshadowed in an editorial in the Biblical Recorder after the Demon Deacons qualified for the 1962 Final Four.

“One thing worries us as we watch Wake Forest Coach Bones McKinney agonize his way through a basketball game: How long can he last at this pace?” the editorial read. “On second thought, he probably will last a long time if the Deacons keep winning as they did last week on their way to the NCAA finals. Best of luck to Bones and his fine team at Louisville, Ky., this weekend.”

In the next game after that editorial was penned, Wake Forest fell to Ohio State in the 1962 national semifinals in Louisville. Back then, a consolation game was played at the Final Four. In that contest, McKinney’s Demon Deacons defeated a UCLA team coached by John Wooden, who two years later would win the first of 10 national championships with the Bruins. McKinney’s 1962 squad remains the only Wake Forest team to reach the Final Four.

McKinney retired as Wake Forest’s coach three years later following the 1965 season. He compiled an overall record of 122-94 in eight seasons at the school. He returned to the sidelines to coach the Carolina Cougars of the American Basketball Association from 1969 to 1971 and later served as an analyst on ACC basketball television broadcasts.

McKinney was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1970. He died in 1997 following complications from a stroke.

“What was unfortunate is that he was so great at two things that it just wore him out completely,” Packer said. “The demands on his time were so unbelievable, and the demands were coming from two different directions.”

Had he focused on one thing, Packer said McKinney could have been a long-tenured successful coach like UNC’s Dean Smith or Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, or he could have been an esteemed minister like Billy Graham.

“He could have been a coach for 20 years had he not been a minister,” Packer said. “And he probably could have been a minister for 40 years had he not been a basketball coach.”

And McKinney’s impact in both arenas is still remembered all across North Carolina.

Former Christianity Today editor Mark Galli accused of sexual harassment Wed, 16 Mar 2022 18:17:27 +0000 CAROL STREAM, Ill. (RNS) – The former editor of a prominent evangelical magazine who made national headlines for criticizing Donald Trump’s failed character has been accused of sexual harassment during his tenure as editor.]]>

CAROL STREAM, Ill. (RNS) – The former editor of a prominent evangelical magazine who made national headlines for criticizing Donald Trump’s failed character has been accused of sexual harassment during his tenure as editor.

A new report from Christianity Today magazine, published Tuesday (March 15), claims the ministry failed to hold former editor-in-chief Mark Galli and former CT advertising director Olatokunbo Olawoye accountable for sexual harassment for more than a decade.

That harassment included “demeaning, inappropriate, and offensive behavior,” according to the report from CT’s news editor Daniel Silliman, which was edited by senior news editor Kate Shellnutt and published without review from the ministry’s executive leadership.

Silliman reported finding a dozen firsthand accounts of harassment.

“Women at CT were touched at work in ways that made them uncomfortable,” according to the CT news story. “They heard men with authority over their careers make comments about the sexual desirability of their bodies. And in at least two cases, they heard department heads hint at openness to an affair.”

Eight women alleged that Galli touched them inappropriately, including one former employee who said Galli caressed her bare shoulder during an event in the early 2000s, while another said Galli’s hand got “stuck under her bra” when he rubbed her back.

According to the report, Galli was reprimanded in 2019 after three women in three days reported to human resources that he’d inappropriately touched them – allegedly hugging a woman from behind, grabbing another woman by the shoulders and shaking her and putting a hand on another woman’s backside.

However, the article said, 2019 was not the first time Galli had been reported to HR for inappropriate behavior toward female colleagues – it was just the first time a record was kept. According to the report, more than half a dozen employees reported harassment from Galli or Olawoye between the mid-2000s and 2019. But none of those reports resulted in a formal write-up, warning or reprimand.

Reporting a case of harassment could also lead to backlash, according to the Christianity Today report.

Dan Darling, an evangelical author and director of the Land Center for Cultural Engagement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the magazine’s account showed how badly Christian institutions have handled issues of sexual harassment.

“A lot of our institutions did not have good policies,” he said.

The report was sad, he said, but also a step forward for Christian groups. He hopes that other ministries will learn from Christianity Today’s example and adopt better policies.

“We need these protections in place,” he said.

Galli told CT’s news editors that he likely “crossed lines” during his three decades at the magazine but said he never had “any romantic or sexual interest in anyone at Christianity Today.”

In a phone interview with Religion News Service, Galli said he was deeply troubled by the allegations in the story, which he denied. Several of the incidents in the story were taken out of context, he said, or were simply false.

“My initial reaction is that I am shocked at how many of the statements made in the article were simply not true,” he said.

Galli also said he was “deeply troubled” if he did anything that offended or intimidated other people and would be open to meeting with people he had offended and apologizing.

In 2019, not long before he retired, Galli called for then-President Trump to be removed from office, saying Trump’s character flaws made him unfit for his office. The editorial caused a national uproar among evangelical Christians. Galli then left CT – which was founded by the famed evangelist Billy Graham – in early 2020 and has since converted to Catholicism.

In an editorial, also published Tuesday, Tim Dalrymple, the current president and CEO of Christianity Today, said he first became aware in 2019 that a CT senior editorial leader – whom he did not name – had “treated his female reports unprofessionally, engaging in unwanted touch despite repeated communications that such behavior was wrong, unwelcome, and needed to stop.”

Dalrymple, who had only been at CT for three months at the time, said he found out from HR that the editorial leader’s conduct had been addressed verbally but no written warnings were in place about past conduct.

That leader was then disciplined and warned they would be suspended or fired if any additional harassment occurred. According to Dalrymple, “no further allegations of unwanted touch or other inappropriate conduct arose” between then and the former leader’s retirement in 2020.

However, in 2021, two current employees came forward with additional details about alleged harassment by this senior editorial leader.

“They described highly inappropriate comments and unwanted touch that left them feeling disrespected, objectified, and unsafe,” Dalrymple wrote. “Our immediate response was to grieve with them, thank them for their courage, and commit to a process that rigorously examines what we got wrong as a ministry and what we must do differently going forward.”

As a result, Christianity Today hired Guidepost Solutions, which has become a go-to consultant for evangelical groups facing allegations of sexual harassment, misconduct and abuse, to assess its response to issues of harassment and misconduct.

That report, made public Tuesday, found allegations of harassment against two employees at Christianity Today, neither of whom were named in the report. The report also found that CT’s culture and work environment can feel “inhospitable to women at times.”

“While many believe that this aspect of CT’s culture has improved under its current leadership, others believe that women are still discounted and treated as ‘less than’ in the CT workplace,” according to the Guidepost report.

The Guidepost report also found that women employees at the ministry felt CT failed to hold employees accused of harassment accountable.

“These female employees felt that CT had not held Former Employee 1 accountable for his actions and that the organization’s policies and procedures were insufficient to address and prevent future incidents of harassment and abuse,” according to Guidepost.

Dalrymple told RNS in a statement that CT’s leadership supported the reporting done by Silliman.

“We invited the report because we wanted to know the truth of the matter,” he said. “We cannot be truth-tellers if we refuse to tell the truth about ourselves. I appreciate Daniel’s report and stand behind it fully.”

The Christianity Today article also detailed allegations of repeated harassment by Olawoye, who was fired by Christianity Today after being arrested in a 2017 sting operation. He later pleaded guilty to traveling to meet a minor for sex and was sentenced to three years in prison.

From Religion News Service. May not be republished.

Dickard to be nominated for Pastors’ Conference president Wed, 16 Mar 2022 18:12:41 +0000 CLEVELAND, Tenn. (BP) – Daniel Dickard, pastor of Friendly Avenue Baptist Church in Greensboro, N.C., will be nominated for president of the 2023 SBC Pastors’ Conference]]>

CLEVELAND, Tenn. (BP) – Daniel Dickard, pastor of Friendly Avenue Baptist Church in Greensboro, N.C., will be nominated for president of the 2023 SBC Pastors’ Conference. Jordan Easley, senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Cleveland, Tenn., announced his intention to nominated Dickard in a video shared on social media Wednesday (March 16), saying his primary reason for the nomination is that Dickard “loves the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Official nominations and voting for the 2023 conference president will take place June 13, 2022, during the second day of the 2022 SBC Pastors’ Conference, which precedes the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim, Calif. The 2023 SBC Pastors’ Conference is scheduled to be held in Charlotte, N.C., June 11-12, 2023, immediately preceding the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting.

“Daniel has a passion for the Gospel, a desire to make disciples, and I believe he has a calling on his life to equip and encourage pastors,” Easley said in the video.

“He believes, like so many of us believe, that the SBC Pastor’s Conference should highlight the best of what it means to be a Southern Baptist. It should spotlight diversity in church size, style, shape and geographical scope … but it should also be centered on our common mission and shared cooperative effort.”

Easley pointed to Dickard’s lifetime of involvement in SBC life as a key qualification for the role, including his childhood and call to ministry in a Southern Baptist church and his education at Southern Baptist schools.

Dickard graduated from North Greenville University, which is affiliated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention, before going on to receive his M.Div. and Ph.D. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

“Daniel loves the SBC,” Easley said. “And not only does he love the SBC, he admires the work of pastors in the SBC and wants to lead a conference that blesses them, equips them, and also encourages and motivates them in their ministries.”

During and after his studies at Southwestern, Dickard also served at the seminary in several capacities, including as instructor of preaching and dean of students from June 2017 until he joined Friendly Avenue in May 2018.

According to Annual Church Profile reports, Friendly Avenue counted 601 members in 2021 and gave $162,630 – 11.1 percent of undesignated receipts – through the Cooperative Program.

“There is no greater calling, in my opinion, than pastoring God’s people and there is no weightier duty within that great calling than stewarding God’s Word faithfully,” Dickard said in written comments for Baptist Press. “It is not the size of a church that matters; it is the health and faithfulness of a church that matters. The SBC Pastors’ Conference is one venue where pastors are edified, equipped and encouraged to be faithful to the Word and challenged in our mission to the world.

“My vision for the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors Conference would be to highlight a wide swath of faithful SBC pastors, regardless of church size, age, shape, and geographical scope, as we focus on the idea that character matters in ministry.”

Easley said in addition to character, Dickard plans to focus on “strong biblical preaching.”

“We, as Southern Baptists, share the belief that the Bible is authoritative, inspired, inerrant, sufficient, and totally trustworthy,” Easley said. “Our pastors conference should reflect that same high view of Scripture from all its selected preachers.”

Dickard said his goal for the conference will be to “feed and encourage pastors and preachers through the faithful exposition of the Word,” adding: “Biblical preaching has never been about a particular style or preference. Rather, biblical preaching emerges from a theological conviction that all Scripture is inspired by God. We, as Southern Baptists, all share the belief that the Bible is authoritative, inspired, inerrant, sufficient, and totally trustworthy. Our pastors conference should reflect that same high view of Scripture from all its selected preachers.”

Dickard is married to Cassie, and they have three children – Conrad, Kesyd, Carolina.

Beloved UK big man makes surprise appearance at Kentucky church Tue, 15 Mar 2022 21:12:53 +0000 LEXINGTON, Ky. (BP) – Oscar Tshiebwe shares his faith with the same passion he plays basketball.]]>

LEXINGTON, Ky. (BP) – Oscar Tshiebwe shares his faith with the same passion he plays basketball.

Being an incredible basketball player is what he does. But being a devoted Christian is far more important to Kentucky’s beloved big man who is the frontrunner for national player of the year and a unifying force behind a team with national championship aspirations.

About a month ago, at the urging of his children’s ministry director, Pastor Daniel Ausbun invited Tshiebwe to speak at a special African service on Sunday night at Lexington’s Broadway Baptist Church. To no one’s surprise, he was a big hit.

He was humble and heartfelt sharing his story of faith with the congregation of about 200. Basketball may be how everyone knows him, but it wasn’t part of what he talked about in only the second sermon he’s ever delivered.

“I thought the young man did a fantastic job,” Ausbun said. “He spoke probably more like 15 (minutes). He also came up and welcomed himself and he had to sign autographs for one hour (after). He is a godly man. He told me he was called to preach and wants to fulfill his father’s footsteps.”

Tshiewebe’s father, Mbuyi Tshiebwe, was the head pastor at a New Apostolic church in the commune of Kana prior to his death from poisoning in July 2012. He hopes to bring his mother here from the Democratic Republic of Congo in time to watch him play in the NCAA tournament.

“He’s real passionate,” Ausbun said. “When he spoke to me afterwards, he didn’t even talk about basketball. He wanted to talk to me about my call to preach. He wanted feedback on his sermon.”

Sherry Lyons, who works as the children’s ministry director, mentioned trying to get Tshiebwe to speak at a staff meeting. Ausbun reached out to him and Tshiebwe gave him an “I don’t know” answer, not because he didn’t want to come, but because he didn’t know if or when his coach, John Calipari, was going to call an extra practice. If so, he couldn’t make it.

Ausbun had texted him about a month ago but hadn’t heard back until Sunday morning when Tshiebwe texted and said he was coming, as long as a surprise practice wasn’t called.

“He wanted to come; he really did,’ Ausbun said. “It was one of those things with his schedule being so tight, we couldn’t hardly promote it. We mentioned it in the second service, but I didn’t text the entire church because Coach Cal could call a practice. I didn’t want to overpromise and underdeliver. I was hesitant to even say anything.”

For those who did make it to the African service, Tshiwebe’s appearance was a bonus.

“It was a powerful service,” the pastor said. “We had two people get saved. It was a lengthy service. The guy wants to be there. The poor man, we couldn’t even start on time because of the photos. He told me it was like that everywhere he went. He said at one place he signed a thousand autographs. Everybody with a phone in their pocket wanted a picture. He’s a wonderful basketball player and might win player of the year. The timing, everything, fell into place. I don’t know if I could reproduce it again. I told the staff there’s a 40 percent chance of this happening.”

Lyons said she follows UK basketball intently and saw Tshiwebe sharing his faith whenever anyone put a microphone in front of him. She thought his country of origin made him the perfect guest for the event.

“You can tell it’s in his heart,” she said of his faith story. “I don’t know if he came prepared or not. He used his phone for a Bible verse and the rest came from his heart. Very genuine. He barely even touched on basketball. He talked about his family, his dad was a pastor, and that’s what he feels he’s supposed to do. He can influence so many people. God can use him. I hope he stays genuine.”

She said it worked out perfectly that the church couldn’t advertise his coming to keep the crowd more intimate. “It really was perfect. I’m sure everywhere he goes, there’s just a mob. They did mob him, but it was a small enough crowd that he didn’t feel overwhelmed.”

Broadway Baptist welcomed him with open arms.

“I think he’s probably looking for a Christian home to be able to worship or so he can have some mentors anyway,” Lyons said. “He’s young and needs someone who he can ask questions.”

Ausbun, who is from Alabama, said UK has won him over this year. Tshiebwe may have had something to do with it.

“He is the unifying force on that team and that man is pure muscle,” Ausbun said of the 6-foot-9 center. “I touched his shoulder … goodness! He’s passing through Kentucky, and this was one of those services that really worked. He said it was just like being back at home for him. I hope they win it all, I really do.”

Guidepost begins drafting final sex abuse study report Tue, 15 Mar 2022 20:59:48 +0000 NASHVILLE (BP) – Guidepost Solutions is drafting its final report based on an investigation of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee’s handling of sexual abuse complaints, the Sexual Abuse Task Force said in its latest update.]]>

NASHVILLE (BP) – Guidepost Solutions is drafting its final report based on an investigation of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee’s handling of sexual abuse complaints, the Sexual Abuse Task Force said in its latest update.

“Of note, Guidepost has begun drafting its final report, including its independent recommendations, in preparation for the publication of the full report and recommendations prior to the SBC Convention in Anaheim in June 2022,” the task force said in the March 11 update.

Guidepost investigators have met with Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission leaders and are reviewing archived ERLC documents, the task force said.

The ERLC interviews and document reviews were “within the scope of the EC investigation process,” Task Force Chairman Bruce Frank, pastor of Asheville, N.C.-area Biltmore Church, told Baptist Press.

An additional 12 interviews are scheduled with Executive Committee current or former trustees, and Guidepost is in the process of contacting 22 additional trustees, according to the update. The research will add to information received in 133 interviews already conducted with trustees.

Guidepost had already interviewed about 170 current and former Executive Committee trustees and employees.

“These interviews are essential in conducting a full, fair, and comprehensive investigation and assessment,” the task force said. “The interviews also provide an opportunity for interviewees to offer recommendations and provide feedback as to how the SBC EC can create a safer community going forward.”

With more than five terabytes of data collected, Guidepost has continued to meet with survivors who contacted Guidepost to provide information, has received remaining documents requested from former Executive Committee external legal counsel Guenther, Jordan & Price law firm and has reviewed Executive Committee presidential papers and ERLC documents on file at the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, the task force reported.

Guidepost had received approximately 4,230 documents from Guenther, Jordan & Price as of its Feb. 8 update. The law firm, which held a long-term role as legal counsel for the SBC EC, severed its relationship with Southern Baptists shortly after the EC voted to waive attorney-client privilege in the investigation.

“Additional updates will be forthcoming as the investigation proceeds,” the task force said in its update.

As messengers to the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting voted, Guidepost must submit its report to the task force at least a month before the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting. The task force will review it and release it publicly in advance of the 2022 meeting in June.

SBC DIGEST: Record attendance at church planter orientation; Diaspora missions collaborative meets Tue, 15 Mar 2022 20:58:29 +0000 Send Network sets record attendance at church planter orientation; SEBTS hosts in-person meeting of the diaspora missions collaborative.]]>

Send Network sets record attendance at church planter orientation

By NAMB Staff

ALPHARETTA (BP) – One hundred sixty-five new church planters attended Send Network’s Orientation March 7-9 at the North American Mission Board’s headquarters, setting a record for the in-person event since it was first offered in January 2016.

The three-day equipping and training experience, which occurs two to three times a year, is a critical first step in the church planting journey for newly endorsed Send Network church planters.

“It was so cool to see that we’re not the only ones doing this,” said Chris Cope, who is planting in a Philadelphia suburb and attended the orientation with his Sending Church pastor. “There’s a diversity of people, backgrounds, and planting contexts represented here.”

Church planters from 37 states and Puerto Rico attended, including more than 60 Hispanic planters. In addition, church planters from a new partnership between Send Network and the National African American Fellowship will make their way from orientation to plant churches in underserved African American communities across North America.

New Send Network church planters from Canada were unable to attend, as they await changes in travel regulations and logistics affecting cross-border travel.

“I thought it was going to be just a class and giving information,” said Luis Rodríguez Santiago, who is planting Iglesia Bautista Raham de Aibonito in Puerto Rico. “But I felt cared for – and the bonding, the family that I found here was amazing.”

Santiago’s father, the former president of the Southern Baptist Convention of Puerto Rico, was also supported by the North American Mission Board, and texted his son to reminisce about seeing the Puerto Rican flag fly at the building’s headquarters.

“He texted me and said, ‘I was there when they raised the flag.’ It was kind of an emotional thing,” Santiago said. “As NAMB served my dad, they serve me – so they can serve others.”

Planters attend a series of sessions and workshops, hear messages of encouragement, and worship God together over the course of their time at orientation.

“It was a grace from the Lord to see a lot of workers being prepared to go into the fields,” said Roy Vidal, who is planting Iglesia Bautista Camino de Gracia, also in Puerto Rico. “I’m very excited to see there’s a family that loves church planters.”

Mark White, pastor of the church that is sending Cope and a team of planters, said he attended Send Network Orientation to spend dedicated time with his planter, but also to better equip his church as they grow.

“As we build church planting into our culture, I wanted to experience Orientation firsthand,” White said.

Cope and White also connected with other church planters from the Philadelphia area they had never met before.

“That’s what this is about: a brotherhood, a family of planters – from so many backgrounds, and reaching such diverse communities with the Gospel,” said Noah Oldham, who leads Send Network’s Care team that organized the orientation. “We are here to energize and equip these new church planters, and then serve and support them for the first five years of their church planting journey, in order to see them become church planting churches.”

SEBTS hosts in-person meeting of the diaspora missions collaborative

By SEBTS Staff

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP) – On Feb. 24, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) held its first in-person meeting for the Diaspora Missions Collaborative, a steering committee for an initiative that entity leaders will formally announce at the 2022 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Anaheim, Calif. The committee exists to highlight the unity and emphasis of SBC entities on diaspora missions engagement across the Convention’s 40,000-plus churches.

“It is without question that Southern Baptists can do more together than they can alone,” said SEBTS President Danny Akin. “This does not just include our giving. It also includes coming together to collaborate and plan. Reaching the world and reaching North America requires strategic partnerships, and this is exactly what the Diaspora Missions Collaborative is. Only as we work together can we reach diaspora people in our nation with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. SEBTS is honored to work alongside these brothers and sisters.” 

Along with SEBTS, steering committee partners included leaders from the following entities, state conventions, and associations: 

  • North American Mission Board (NAMB) and Send Relief 
  • International Mission Board (IMB) 
  • Executive Committee (SBC) 
  • National Women’s Missionary Union (WMU) 
  • Arkansas Baptist Convention 
  • Kentucky Baptist Convention 
  • Louisville Regional Baptist Association 
  • Metropolitan New York Baptist Association 
  • Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary 

Steering committee leaders echoed the theme of cooperation in their efforts to reach more refugees, immigrants, and international students with the Gospel. They expressed how coming together to reach diaspora peoples is more effective together than any one entity or church can do alone.

“Cooperation is at the core of who we are as Southern Baptists, and by bringing the entities together, we can be much stronger,” said John Barnett, missions strategist with the Kentucky Baptist Convention and ambassador with Send Relief. “Working together shows a more unified vision to cast as a convention to be able to engage.” Barnett explained that this collective effort would result in strategic partnerships, pathways, and pipelines to aid diaspora missions.

Likewise, Sandy Wisdom-Martin, executive director-treasurer of the Woman’s Missionary Union said, “When you combine the breadth and depth of all the partnering entities, collectively we are in a unique position to make an incredible impact for the Kingdom through diaspora missions.”

After a full day of planning and discussion, the steering committee agreed to several objectives that included ways to equip, educate, and encourage members of Southern Baptist churches toward diaspora mission work. Some of the agreed upon objectives included the goal to: 

  • Encourage churches engaging people groups globally to engage locally, and those engaging locally to engage the same people group globally. 
  • Encourage missionary sending pipelines to engage diaspora people groups as part of their training. 

“Pursuing this opportunity makes strategic missiological sense when it comes to getting the gospel to all peoples,” said Terry Sharp, convention and network relations leader for the IMB. “As immigrants, international students, and refugees in the U.S. come to know Christ and are discipled, they will take the Gospel, virtually or in person, back to their communities which could be some of the least-reached nations of the world. Missionaries must continue to go to unreached peoples and places globally, but Christians in North America shouldn’t miss the opportunities that God is orchestrating to reach the nations at their doorstep.”

FIRST-PERSON: How the social internet is making our teenagers anxious Tue, 15 Mar 2022 20:55:29 +0000 Do you remember what it felt like to walk the hallways of high school between classes or sit at the lunch table?]]>

Do you remember what it felt like to walk the hallways of high school between classes or sit at the lunch table? Hallways and lunch rooms were the primary stages for social engagement in high school in years past. Sure, you talked with your peers in class, but most of the time you were paying attention to lectures or doing work. It was that time in between classes or while eating lunch that the social dynamics were most active.

Everyone, even the kids who say they aren’t, is performing in some way. High school hallways and lunch rooms are like little stages on which teenagers craft their personas and identities among their peers. It’s exciting and stressful, just like performing on any stage. In the 20th century, teenagers left the social stages when they went home. Unless they had plans to attend a social function in the evening or hit up the mall, the social dynamics of high school were left for phone calls with trusted friends until the next school day.

Today, as Derek Thompson says in his book Hit Makers, teenagers are always in the high school hallways. There is no escaping the social stages on which teenagers perform, because instead of walking the runway of the high school hallways for a couple hours a day, five days a week, teenagers have their personal stages in their pockets, calling them to perform every hour of every day with no opportunity to retreat to a social backstage for rest from their ever-present performance.

If you remember the social stressors of the high school hallways and lunch rooms, you can empathize with the feelings today’s teens have as they carry those performance arenas around in their pockets all the time. Is there any wonder, then, why teenagers are more anxious and depressed than before?

The relationship between social media and depression

Mountains of data have been collected in the last few years that point to a clear relationship between increased social media use and increased experiences of anxiety and depression. Perhaps the most dramatic example of the correlation between social media use and symptoms of anxiety and depression come from the current teenagers that make up Gen Z or “iGen,” as they have been called by researcher and author Jean Twenge. Authors Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff cite one particularly troubling study in their book The Coddling of the American Mind. Research shows that, in the early 2000s, just more than 1 in 10 girls aged 12-17 had a “major depressive episode” in the previous year. But, by 2016, nearly 1 in 5 girls aged 12-17 had a major depressive episode in the previous year. The rate of major depressive episodes among adolescent girls nearly doubled in less than a decade. Haidt and Lukianoff note that adolescent boys also experienced an increase in depressive episodes, but not as dramatic as that of girls.

Girls are more likely to become anxious or depressed because of increased social media use than boys because the root of anxiety and depression in girls tends to lie more in social dynamics than it does for boys. Whereas boys often deal with social conflict through direct, physical confrontation, girls are more likely to deal with social conflict in ways exacerbated by social media, which is one explanation for their increased anxiety and depression.

Being a viewer in your own life

Bo Burnham is a comedian, actor, and director. His career began when he started posting off-color comedic songs to a YouTube channel when he was in high school and YouTube was a relatively new platform. Burnham and I are roughly the same age, and I remember watching his videos in high school ashamed at how hard I was laughing because of how inappropriate they were (and are). Burnham’s 2021 Netflix special Inside is a comedy and a tragedy all wrapped into one hour-long program, and I could write pages about it here, as it is full of masterful commentary on the absurdity of the social internet. But instead, I want to call attention to a quote he gave when he was interviewed following the release of a movie he wrote and directed, Eighth Grade.

The movie, which accurately depicts the most awkward aspects of the modern eighth grade experience, naturally features social media heavily. The film’s main character is an aspiring YouTuber, much like Burnham was when he was in high school. Burnham says regarding the social pressures young people face today that no one has ever had to face before:

“What is the feeling of walking through your life and not just living your life, not just living your life—which is already [hard] and impossible—but also taking inventory of your life, being a viewer of your own life, living an experience and at the same time hovering behind yourself and watching yourself live that experience? Being nostalgic for moments that haven’t happened yet. Planning your future to look back on it.”

Those are really weird, dissociative things that are, I think, new because of the specific structure of social media and how it dissociates ourselves from ourselves.

We find ourselves in a spot in which we feel we have to live our lives and create a documentary of our lives at the same time. We, as Burnham says, hover behind ourselves and watch ourselves live our lives while living our lives. Is it any wonder mental health crises are on the rise?

Another unfortunate reality is that this is not limited to teenagers. Data shows that social media use is adversely affecting the mental health of adults just as it is with teens. Sure, it’s safe to say that adults may feel less peer pressure to be as active on social media as teens are, but we’re all performing in the same way. With constant performance comes constant pressure. With constant pressure comes the gnawing anxiety that you’re going to fail in the spotlight at some point. How long can you really perform before you need to take a break? What if you feel like you can never take a break and log off?

Navigating the current technology and social media landscape as a parent, let alone as a Christian parent, is daunting. On one hand, outright banning all social media activity can unintentionally ostracize your child from his or her peers. On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence to show that social media can easily hurt young people. In the face of the fear and difficulty that comes with parenting amid such tension, we parents must run to the Scriptures and cling to our God, who says in Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” God is with us as we love our children and do all we can to lead them in the ways they should go. We must lean on him for our strength and our hope.

This article has been adapted from “Terms of Service” from B&H Publishing (2022).

Vermont police chaplain loses position after outside pressure Tue, 15 Mar 2022 19:41:58 +0000 MONTPELIER, VT. (BP) – Pete “Chap” Taraski’s first six months in Vermont’s state capital has included challenges, both as pastor of Resurrection Baptist Church and a conservative Christian leader in one of the country’s most progressive enclaves.]]>

MONTPELIER, VT. (BP) – Pete “Chap” Taraski’s first six months in Vermont’s state capital has included challenges, both as pastor of Resurrection Baptist Church and a conservative Christian leader in one of the country’s most progressive enclaves.

Not long after arriving last fall, Taraski reached out to community leaders to see if there was need for a chaplain. It’s a role he has filled in communities across the nation and a skill set the Montpelier Police Department coveted. Emboldened by the Defund the Police movement, locals had called for the MPD to focus more on de-escalation tactics.

Pete “Chap” Taraski dishes out food during a fundraiser for the family of a local log truck driver who died in a collision with another truck. Photo courtesy of The New Era/Lebanon Local, Sweet Home, Ore.

“Chaplaincy gets in your blood. You want to be a part of it,” Taraski said. “When I moved here, I wanted to get plugged in so I contacted various agencies. The police department and sheriff’s department both responded quickly. I decided to go with the police department. The chief is from Chicago and was familiar with the chaplain program. He was excited about it.”

In a March 9 Facebook post that included an announcement about using a less-lethal version of pepper spray, the MPD named Taraski as its new chaplain.

“Chaplains play a vital role in providing spiritual guidance to department members and their families as well as to those in the community who may wish for such services,” it read. “Chaplain Programs are secular in purpose and do not promote nor inhibit religion: they provide impartial comfort, support, and assurance during crisis events.

“The program is simply another resource or option where the department can provide care and services to those who may want it. MPD is looking forward to working with our new ‘Chap!’”

Chap Taraski gives a bottle of water during a fire department call. Photo courtesy of The New Era/Lebanon Local, Sweet Home, Ore.

Three days later, another announcement said Taraski would not be in the role “to avoid any further distractions or conflict within the community.”

In serving communities for 15 years, “distraction” and “conflict” had never been associated with Taraski. Not when he counseled grieving family members at a house fire. Not when standing with traumatized parents whose child had been run over by a truck.

“I’m usually the one trying to remind them how to breathe,” he said. “It’s no time for a Bible study.”

That comes from years of experience, but also the nearly 2,000 hours of training he’s received.

Never once has a grievance been filed against him. He’s used to compliments, thank you cards and appreciation letters from first responders and the community. He is certified through Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, the Federation of Fire Chaplains, the International Conference of Police Chaplains as well as other groups.

So why were his services no longer needed in Montpelier? An official reason hasn’t been made public.

Genesis Taraski gets some instruction on chaplaincy from her father, Pete “Chap” Taraski when the family lived in Sweet Home, Ore. Taraski family photo

Some in the community took issue with Taraski’s being a pastor, specifically a Baptist pastor. They said his own Facebook posts were evidence of his being homophobic, racist and anti-immigrant. Those last two charges came as a surprise to his wife of 27 years, Nelia, who was born in Mexico. It would also surprise their 16-year-old daughter, who is Mexican American.

Opponents were most vocal that Taraski, a chaplain, posted too much Scripture. They claimed it violated the separation of church and state.

“I was also labeled as a ‘Republican,’” he said. “I have no idea where that came from. I don’t claim either party.”

Taraski is a pastor, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that he would share Bible passages to his personal Facebook page. But his two roles are different and separate.

“The only time the pastoral side of me comes out is, at times, days after that dreadful 911 call and only if a family can’t afford to do a funeral … I’ll offer my services for free. I believe everyone should have a proper funeral, and I’ve done many.”

Vermont’s suicide rate exceeds that of the national average. Last fall the Center for Disease Control said the state has seen the highest percentage increase in the nation of drug overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Montpelier PD has been seeking assistance with interactions between officers and mentally ill people ever since August 2019, when … a local man known to have mental illness, was shot and killed by a police officer,” read an announcement in the Vermont Daily Chronicle about Taraski’s arrival to the chaplain role.

Resurrection Baptist Church, where Taraski is pastor, hasn’t gone unscathed. Its previous pastor committed suicide in his home a little more than a year before Taraski arrived. One week before his family moved from Oregon, a church member killed himself inside the church.

Montpelier wasn’t an escape for Taraski. He didn’t leave a bad situation in Oregon as chaplain with the Sweet Home Police Department, then with Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance.

He trained his replacement. Taraski worked with the Linn County Sheriff’s Department. He partnered with the state police, going along to car wreck scenes, to deliver death notices and debrief firefighters and EMTs after traumatic calls.

Taraski holds no ill will toward the MPD police chief. “He’s a great man in a difficult position,” he said. “We parted on good terms and I have a lot of respect for him. He’s in my heart.”

The pastor is more concerned with how the publicity can affect the church as well as his daughter, who is a student at the local high school but has attended remotely since the news became public.

“When Jesus calls you to something, you do it,” he said of moving his family across the country. He asked for others to pray for him and his family, for Resurrection Baptist Church and other conservative evangelical congregations facing similar judgement.

“A chaplain helps people in their time of need,” Taraski said. “The city did not come to me and ask my side of the story. They did not do any research or check any facts. They just made a quick decision.”

Maryland church in ‘unique situation’ to minister amid European crisis Tue, 15 Mar 2022 19:22:26 +0000 KINGSVILLE, Md. (BP) – Andrew Goins, pastor of Kingsville Baptist Church, is the spiritual advisor for two groups of people who could easily be at odds. But he and his members are looking to fight spiritual battles, not political ones.]]>

KINGSVILLE, Md. (BP) – Andrew Goins, pastor of Kingsville Baptist Church, is the spiritual advisor for two groups of people who could easily be at odds. But he and his members are looking to fight spiritual battles, not political ones.

“We know tensions are on the rise between Russia and Ukraine,” he told his congregation last month. “A war is going on. This is not news to anyone here. But what’s unique about our culture and our church is that we have people from Ukraine and Russia.

“Here’s what I want you to know: We are citizens of heaven before we are citizens of any country, whether it’s Ukraine, Russia, or the United States, so we have to keep our citizenship of heaven at the forefront. There may be a war in eastern Europe, but there is not a war in our church. We have brothers and sisters in Christ that we have grown together with regardless of their nationality, and so we have to maintain the unity of our church at this time and exalt the light of Jesus Christ. As we move forward, we’re moving forward together, asking Jesus how to impact and be a light to the world around us.”

Goins told BaptistLife most people in his church are still getting over the shock of the invasion. They are all compassionate and hurting for their families. “On the Ukrainian side (of the church), there is a feeling of pride as people in their country are standing up to defend themselves,” he said. “Overall (in the church), there’s a somber tone as they realize the gravity of what is taking place.”

Kingsville Baptist Church, a merger of the non-denominational Slavic Church of Christ in Baltimore and First Baptist Church of Kingsville, comprises three generations of immigrants primarily from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Before immigrating to Baltimore, about half of the first-generation members attended government-registered or secret churches and faced persecution. Pastor Alexsander Slonevski, who ministers to Slavic-speaking members, had a great job in Russia, Goins said. But when officials found a Bible in his pocket, he lost his position. Goins said some of his people recall taking new believers out at night in a car, jumping out quickly and baptizing them in a river.

Many of the church members immigrated together, and their families have grown. Some only speak Russian. Goins explained that Ukrainians can speak Russian, but many Russians can’t speak Ukrainian. Music is varied, with an orchestra and choir, and they sing different verses of the song in three languages. They also have translating equipment available. Second- and third-generation members speak English. Goins said he’s thankful for a mixture of young and older members who not only attend, but also serve and lead.

The church meets at its location in the city on Sundays, but at a smaller building for Bible studies. It’s outgrown its city building, and parking is very difficult. Members plan to level the building in Kingsville later this year to build a new facility for a permanent worship center and sell the downtown building for funding.

The prayer requests from Ukraine are now pouring in as church members’ families and friends are fleeing their homes, trying to get to Poland, or at least to the west side of the country, out of firing range.

Goins contacted Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCM/D) Interim Executive Director Mark Dooley to discuss ways the church could help. The result is a task force made up of Goins; Ellen Udovich, BCM/D’s community engagement consultant; Rosalie Chesley, BCM/D’s assistant to the executive director and managing editor of BaptistLIFE; and Brad Horne, director of missions for Keystone Baptist Association in Pennsylvania.

The task force does not anticipate that refugees will come to the Maryland/Delaware area immediately, but preparations are in place. The primary needs currently include prayer and financial assistance.

“The situation is fluid and will be long-lasting,” Udovich said. “We do need to keep in mind the potential for refugee resettlement in Maryland/Delaware. In the meantime, millions of Ukrainians, including brothers and sisters in Christ, are being deeply affected by the invasion. We plan to continue to monitor that and seek to be ready to meet those opportunities with the gospel when they arise.”

Goins said he is praying God will use KBC to help other churches. “I hope we can take our people to churches who have no Russian or Ukrainian culture and educate them on how they can reach out to our people as well. God has put us in a very unique situation right now to give Him glory at a time many people see as dark and gloomy. We can use this as a light for Jesus.”

He emphasized that the Russians and Ukrainians are both suffering. “We are all praying for people to make it out safely,” he said. “Our church wants to care, love and share the Gospel.”

Hannibal-LaGrange University faces severe budget shortfall Tue, 15 Mar 2022 19:19:00 +0000 HANNIBAL, Mo. (BP) – Hannibal LaGrange University (HLGU) held a 10-hour prayer meeting March 10 to intercede for the university’s financial shortfall, which is reportedly between one-half million and $1 million.]]>

HANNIBAL, Mo. (BP) – Hannibal LaGrange University (HLGU) held a 10-hour prayer meeting March 10 to intercede for the university’s financial shortfall, which is reportedly between one-half million and $1 million.

“This Solemn Assembly is in an environment of deep challenge at Hannibal LaGrange University,” John Yeats told the Illinois Baptist. Yeats is the executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention, with which HLGU is affiliated.

Yeats urged calm and issued reassurance about the university’s future. “The Lord is fully aware of the HLGU situation. He did not call an emergency session of the heavenly hosts,” he said. “He has already promised an open ear to His children calling out to the Father with intercession for faculty, staff, students, administration of HLGU.”

More than 100 people participated in the day-long prayer meeting, which was led by “Experiencing God” co-author Claude King. He urged the gathering to focus on the Kingdom of God.

“I anticipate HLGU to emerge from this present situation as a healthier, stronger and greater institution than it has been,” said Tom Rains, pastor of Quincy (Ill.) First Southern Baptist Church. Rains served on the HLGU Board of Trustees from 2010-2020. He currently serves on its strategic planning committee. “I do not believe that God is finished with the school,” Rains said. “He still has plans to touch the world for His glory through HLGU.”

The school, situated near the Mississippi River, draws from Illinois as well as Missouri for enrollment, which was 746 in fall 2019, according to U.S News & World Report. That figure was down from 1,191 in 2011. The school offers 30 majors, with degrees in ministry, education and nursing among the most popular.

HLGU Vice President Ray Carty remains positive despite the current crisis.

“(HLGU) has been and continues to be focus on making a Kingdom Impact,” Carty said. “That is what we always have done and will continue to do through our students. We will continue to teach our students how to have a ‘biblical world view’ so they can make a Kingdom impact wherever God has them.”

Rodney A. Harrison, head of Baptist Homes & Healthcare Ministries in Missouri, began serving as transitional president of the school March 7. The former president, Anthony Allen, resigned Jan. 21 citing health reasons.

It is expected that HLGU will appeal for financial gifts from alumni and Midwest supporters to cover the immediate shortfall. University trustees met Friday to discuss the situation.

“When individuals and institutions come against an impassable issue, there are usually three initial responses: denial, humanistic manipulation to kick the can down the road with hope for a silver bullet or start with humble repentance and confession,” Yeats said. “Gratefully, the participants recognized the value of turning our hearts toward our Lord.”

Hyde, other pro-life measures survive in spending bill Tue, 15 Mar 2022 19:15:25 +0000 WASHINGTON (BP) – The Hyde Amendment and other bans on federal funding of abortion survived months of Democratic attempts to eliminate them and gained enactment in an omnibus spending bill signed by President Biden Tuesday (March 15).]]>

WASHINGTON (BP) – The Hyde Amendment and other bans on federal funding of abortion survived months of Democratic attempts to eliminate them and gained enactment in an omnibus spending bill signed by President Biden Tuesday (March 15).

In a White House ceremony, Biden signed into law a $1.5 trillion package that will fund federal government agencies through the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. The House of Representatives and Senate approved the legislation March 9 and 10, respectively.

The survival of the Hyde Amendment and other pro-life “riders,” as they are known, in the spending bill came after leaders in both chambers of the Democratic-controlled Congress sought to remove them.

The House approved spending measures in July 2021 without Hyde and other pro-life measures. Spending proposals offered by the Senate’s Democratic leadership also excluded long-standing pro-life policies. In addition, Biden’s budget proposal also failed to include the abortion funding bans.

The Democrats’ efforts faltered, however, when it came time to pass a long-term spending measure, especially in an evenly divided Senate.

“The omnibus spending bill rightly includes long-standing life amendments like the Hyde Amendment that protect precious preborn babies and American consciences,” said Chelsea Sobolik, director of public policy for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).

“Every person is made in the image of God, and the United States has a responsibility to reflect that truth in its laws,” she said in written comments.

In the last year, pro-life organizations, including the ERLC, had urged Congress to protect the riders in spending legislation.

The ERLC sent multiple letters to members of Congress during this session that called for retention of the Hyde Amendment and other pro-life measures. The commission, which has worked for a comprehensive ban on federal funding of abortion, included the protection of pro-life riders in appropriations bills as one of its public-policy priorities in both 2021 and 2022.

The Hyde Amendment is the best known of the pro-life riders that must gain approval each year in spending bills. It is estimated Hyde, which has prohibited federal funds in Medicaid and other programs from paying for abortions in every year since 1976, has saved the lives of about 2½ million unborn children.

Messengers to the SBC’s annual meeting in June 2021 approved a resolution that denounced any attempt to rescind the Hyde Amendment and urged the adoption of all pro-life riders.

In addition to Hyde, other pro-life policies included in the omnibus spending package signed into law included the:

  • Weldon Amendment, which has barred since 2004 funding for government programs that discriminate against health care workers or institutions that object to abortion.
  • Helms Amendment, a rider first approved in 1973 that prohibits foreign aid funds from being used for abortion as a method of family planning.
  • Dornan Amendment, which was first adopted in 1988 and has barred in most of the years since federal and congressionally approved local funds from paying for abortions in the District of Columbia.
  • Smith Amendment, which has barred in nearly every year since 1984 federal employee health plans from paying for abortions.
  • Kemp-Kasten Amendment, a 1985 measure that bans overseas family planning money from going to any organization that is involved in a program of forced abortion or sterilization.

In a written statement, the Susan B. Anthony List thanked pro-life allies in Congress “who fought to preserve vital Hyde protections and made then non-negotiable while exposing the radical [Democratic leaders’] abortion agenda over the last year.”

Abortion-rights advocates criticized the inclusion of the pro-life riders in the spending package, as well as its failure to increase spending for international and domestic family planning. They also decried the new law’s refusal to codify revocation of what is commonly referred to as the Mexico City Policy, which bars organizations from receiving federal funds unless they agree not to perform or promote abortions internationally.

“[A] spending package that includes the Hyde Amendment and fails to permanently repeal the [Mexico City Policy] in yet another federal budget … is deeply disappointing,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a written release.

Democratic opposition to the Hyde Amendment has grown in recent years. Biden supported the amendment during his 36 years in the U.S. Senate, but he reversed his position in 2019 while running for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Russia steps up bombardment of Kyiv, civilians flee Mariupol Tue, 15 Mar 2022 16:43:03 +0000 KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – Russia stepped up its bombardment of Kyiv on Tuesday, devastating an apartment house and other buildings, while civilians in 2,000 cars fled Mariupol along a humanitarian corridor in what was believed to the biggest evacuation yet from the desperately besieged seaport.]]>

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – Russia stepped up its bombardment of Kyiv on Tuesday, devastating an apartment house and other buildings, while civilians in 2,000 cars fled Mariupol along a humanitarian corridor in what was believed to the biggest evacuation yet from the desperately besieged seaport.

On the diplomatic front, another round of talks began between Russia and Ukraine via video, and the leaders of three European Union countries – including Poland, a NATO member on Ukraine’s doorstep – planned a visit to the embattled capital in a bold show of support.

Firefighters work in an apartment building damaged by shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday (March 15). (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

As the number of people driven from the country by war eclipsed 3 million, large explosions thundered across Kyiv before dawn from what Ukrainian authorities said were artillery strikes, as Russia’s assault on the capital appeared to become more systematic and edged toward the city center.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said barrages hit four multi-story buildings in the city, killing dozens of people. The shelling ignited a huge fire in a 15-story apartment building and spurred a frantic rescue effort.

The strikes, carried out of the 20th day of Russia’s invasion, targeted a western district of Kyiv, disrupting a relative calm that returned after an initial advance by Moscow’s forces was stopped in the early days of the war.

The leaders of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia set out for Kyiv by train despite the security risks, in a visit that that EU officials said was not sanctioned by other members of the 27-nation bloc.

“The aim of the visit is to express the European Union’s unequivocal support for Ukraine and its freedom and independence,” Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said in a tweet. He was joined by fellow Prime Ministers Janez Jansa of Slovenia and Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland, as well as Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Poland’s de-facto leader.

The U.N. said at least 636 civilians have been killed and 1,125 wounded in the conflict, with the true figure probably much higher.

The Ukrainian government said new aid and evacuation efforts would take place Tuesday along nine corridors around the country, including the Kyiv region. Past attempts have repeatedly failed amid continued fighting.

One of the most desperate situations is in Mariupol, the port city of 430,000 where local officials estimate a weekslong siege has killed more than 2,300 people and left residents desperate for food, water, heat and medicine.

The Mariupol city council reported that 2,000 civilian cars had managed to leave along a humanitarian corridor that runs for more than 160 miles west to the city of Zaporizhzhia.

The city council said another 2,000 cars were waiting to leave along the route. It was not immediately clear if the number of departed vehicles given Tuesday included 160 cars that left the day before.

As for the latest round of talks, Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak said discussions revolved around a cease-fire and Russian troops’ withdrawal from Ukraine. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Moscow was pressing its demands for Ukraine to drop its bid to join NATO, adopt a neutral status and “demilitarize.”

When Russia launched the war three weeks ago, fear of an imminent invasion gripped the Ukrainian capital, and residents slept in subway stations or crammed onto trains to flee. But as the Russian offensive bogged down, Kyiv saw a relative lull. U.S. officials said Russian forces were about 9 miles from the center of the city as of Monday.

Fighting has intensified on Kyiv’s outskirts in recent days, and air raid sirens wailed inside the capital.

Mayor Vitali Klitschko announced a 35-hour curfew extending through Thursday morning.

Tuesday’s artillery strikes hit the Svyatoshynskyi district of western Kyiv, adjacent to the suburb of Irpin, which has seen some of the worst battles of the war.

Flames shot out of the 15-story apartment building and smoke choked the air as firefighters climbed ladders to rescue people. The assault blackened several floors of the building, ripped a hole in the ground outside and blew out windows in neighboring apartment blocks.

Rescue workers said one person died and several were rescued, but others remained inside.

“Yesterday we extinguished one fire, today another, it is very difficult,” said one young firefighter as he took a brief break outside the building, tears falling from his eyes.

“People are dying, and the worst thing is that children are dying. They haven’t lived their lives and they have already seen this, this is the worst,” said the rescuer, who gave only his first name, Andriy.

Shockwaves from an explosion also damaged the entry to a downtown subway station that has been used as a bomb shelter. City authorities tweeted an image of the blown-out facade, saying trains would no longer stop at the station.

A 10-story apartment building in the Podilsky district of Kyiv, north of the government quarter, was damaged. Russian forces also stepped up strikes overnight on Irpin and the northwest Kyiv suburbs of Hostomel and Bucha, said the head of the capital region, Oleksiy Kuleba.

“Many streets have been turned into a mush of steel and concrete. People have been hiding for weeks in basements, and are afraid to go out even for evacuations,” Kuleba said on Ukrainian television.

In the country’s east, Russian forces launched more than 60 strikes overnight on Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, according to regional administration chief Oleh Sinehubov. The strikes hit the city’s historical center, including the main marketplace.

Sinehubov said fires were raging and rescuers had pulled dozens of bodies of civilians from the ruins of destroyed apartment buildings.

Ukraine’s parliament on Tuesday voted to extend martial law for another month, until April 24. Under the measure, requested by Zelenskyy, men between 18 and 60 are barred from leaving the country so they can be called up to fight.

In Mykolaiv, a strategic southern city near the Black Sea where airstrikes killed nine people Sunday, residents braced for more attacks. Volunteers prepared food and sorted donated clothes at an abandoned naval yard that was turned into a support center for troops. Molotov cocktails were on hand to take on invaders.

“We are bombed during the day and during the night,” said Svetlana Gryshchenko, whose soldier son was killed in the fighting. “It’s a nightmare what Russia is doing on the territory of Ukraine.”

From The Associated Press. May not be republished. AP writers Raf Casert in Brussels, Lolita C. Baldor in Washington and AP journalists from around the world contributed to this report.


Follow the AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at