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Alabama ministries change lives through informing, inspiring state Baptistscomment (0)

November 21, 2013

By Grace Thornton

Alabama ministries change lives through informing, inspiring state Baptists

The shoes were tiny, 3 or 4 inches long, about the size you’d expect for a doll or a small child.

The crowd noticeably reacted when Lonette Berg, executive director of the Alabama Baptist Historical Commission (ABHC), said the shoes were intended for adult women.

“In China, the smaller the foot, the higher the social status,” she said, telling the story of T.O. and Lizzie Hearn, Alabama Baptist medical missionaries to China in the days of foot binding.

T.O. Hearn was the doctor who put ailing missionary Lottie Moon on the boat to go back to America — a trip she died before completing.

Lizzie Hearn was known for something different.

“She was active in the anti-foot-binding ministry in China,” Berg said. “Back then, 3 to 4 inches was the ideal foot for a woman, and foot binding started when the little girls were 5 or 6 years old.”

The practice often caused infection and sometimes the little girls died. Lizzie Hearn was a champion for their cause, Berg said, and like other missionaries she helped the Chinese with both social and spiritual needs.

Lizzie Hearn’s story is one of many told during the ABHC’s historical tour at Samford University in Birmingham.

“It’s important for Alabama Baptists to preserve our written materials and our stories, because God uses our stories,” she said. “They inspire us, encourage us and motivate us to change our lives and better fulfill the plan God has for us.”

Berg was one of five Alabama Baptist entity heads who shared how their ministries change lives through informing people for ministry.

Bob Terry, editor of The Alabama Baptist, said the state Baptist newspaper has been a trusted voice for information for 170 years.

The paper provides resources for networking, information about persecuted Christians, ideas for ministry and local and world news from a Christian perspective.

“That reputation has made the paper a welcome friend in the home of Alabama Baptists,” Terry said, noting that The Alabama Baptist seeks to equip Christians in their walk with Christ and Christian ministry.

And Barry Bledsoe, president of The Baptist Foundation of Alabama (TBFA), said TBFA seeks to inform state Baptists on how to keep that ministry going.

“Every life-changing ministry you’ve heard about this week at the convention takes economic fuel to do its work and ministry assignment,” Bledsoe said.

Estate planning can provide that fuel, and the best place to teach estate planning is in the local church, he said. Most gifts to ministry are given from cash assets, but only .09 percent of people’s possessions are in their cash — most are in their estates, he said.

“We explain to believers this act of stewardship (estate planning) so that they can take care of both family and faith,” he said. “We encourage them to think about missions, benevolence, orphan ministry, scholarships — things outside the operating budget of the church, things that have a direct impact in changing lives.”

Collectively Alabama Baptists have “an unbelievable opportunity to fund life-changing ministries … if we will just take advantage of it,” Bledsoe said.

One of those ministries is Alabama Citizens Action Program (ALCAP), “Alabama’s moral compass.”

“We are your missionaries to the Alabama state Legislature,” said Joe Godfrey, ALCAP executive director. “We are not planting churches, but we are sowing the seed of God’s Word as we speak out on issues.”

ALCAP serves as an unofficial chaplaincy ministry at the Statehouse, as well as providing a voice on moral issues as they come up in the Legislature.

And through American Character Builders, its educational program for schools, ALCAP informs students about alcohol, drugs, bullying and other issues.

“American Character Builders allows us to get into the schools and then invite students and parents back to our churches for a follow up,” Godfrey said. “At that point, we can present the gospel. Our material can be used to get into the public schools in your community to touch lives for Christ.” 

Kenny Hatcher, chairperson of the Christian Life Commission, thanked Alabama Baptists for their stance on moral issues, such as world hunger and abortion.

“As we have gone through this vast cultural shift in our nation, the tendency of churches has been to shift with that,” Hatcher said. “May I simply say thank you, Alabama Baptists, for your giving — ‘in as much as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it unto Me.’”

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