Sixteen years ago, as a young seminary graduate with a gift for working with
urban kids, Chet Cantrell accepted a job as director of the Christian Activity
Center (CAC) in East St. Louis, Missouri°™a safe haven for hundreds of children
and teenagers growing up in a rough-and-tumble town.
"I came here with the idea that God cares about this city and the people who
live here and that these neighborhoods can be transformed."
Over the years Chet has seen God transform lives and an entire community.
When he first arrived, East St. Louis had the highest homicide rate of any
urban community in the nation. "All of our kids had seen or experienced violent
crime," says Chet. Ninety-five percent of the kids were affiliated with a gang,
and the high school drop-out rate was 60 percent.
Today less than 5 percent of
the kids who attend CAC are affiliated with a gang and 90 percent graduate from
high school. Chet and the CAC are turning out some extraordinary young people,
including lawyers, MBAs, computer analysts, bankers, teachers, military
leaders, preachers, politicians and chaplains. Chet says watching the
transformation of individual lives is the most meaningful part of his job.
In a community where 57 percent of children live in extreme poverty and 70
percent live in single-parent households, Chet says, "We are trying to create a
place to help raise kids in a community where the family structure is
He calls CAC a ministry of place°™a place where kids can come in off the
streets into an environment in which they will be welcomed and loved and feel
safe. The idea is to show these kids what it's like to grow up safely in the
arms of the Heavenly Father.
Recreation is CAC's calling card. Studies show that activity is necessary
for normal physical, mental and emotional development. CAC tries to provide
this through supervised play.
CAC also incorporates educational accountability into its sports programs.
The kids are not allowed to play if they have failing grades or unexcused
absences at school. And to help keep their grades up, the center offers a time
for the kids to do their homework and get help if they need it. "We expect the
kids to succeed and more often than not they do."
Health and wellness also are part of CAC's ministry. Many of the children
are uninsured so they provide a free clinic where the children and their
parents can get the medical care they need. Volunteers from local medical care
providers come in to do examinations, immunizations, wellness clinics,
preventive care and dental exams.
But, Chet's primary focus is relationships. Relationships among the kids and
relationships with God are developed through devotional times with each age
group. "The purpose of our program is to develop relationships whereby
discipleship can happen," Chet says. "We do a lot of creative things to help
introduce the kids to a God who loves and cares about them."
Prayer Request: Pray for the community of East St. Louis.
Pray that the staff and volunteers of the Christian Activity center will have
vision and be energized and helpful. And most of all pray for the kids. Pray
that they will find hope, vision, love and a relationship with God.
Kevin and Alicia Madden always hoped God would place a joint call on their
lives so they could share in the work He had for them to accomplish. Little did
they know that this call would require them to leave their home in the Bible
Belt of Georgia to plant Potter's House Community Church in Westbank, British
"I never thought of serving anywhere other than the U.S. and particularly
the south," says Kevin. "God helped us see there is a tremendous spiritual need
In the community of 30,000 where the Maddens serve, only 5 to 8 percent of
the population has a personal relationship with Christ. Church is not a big
part of Canadian culture, but the people long to be loved and accepted and are
open to spiritual things. "There is a great openness and a hunger for God. So
the real opportunity is to let people see the authentic Christian life, to
speak about Christ and to model His love and His message," says Kevin.
Kevin and Alicia began by telling God's story through a home Bible study.
Potter's House Community Church was born out of that Bible study.
Creating relationships is the key to impacting the Canadian culture with the
gospel. The Maddens model Christ's love by serving their community without
expecting anything in return. "We try to be out in the community investing in
people's lives," Kevin says. "Developing relationships is how we can build
trust and have the opportunity to tell people about our faith."
The Lord placed the idea on
Kevin's heart that they needed to gain favor with the community. So, they began
looking for opportunities to share God's love in practical ways. In the summer
they pass out water bottles at the beach and local events. They also have a
ministry giving geraniums in clay pots to local businesses. These are just
simple acts of kindness designed to build bridges within the community and get
the word out about the church.
One of the primary outreach events hosted by Potter's House each year is the
Father's Day Carnival. The event is designed as an afternoon of fun for
families including booths and games, door prizes and free food. Each family
gets its photo taken and is sent home with a picture magnet. Kevin says many
families have ended up coming to the church as a result of this event.
Cindy and Rob Clements and their two daughters were a part of the very first
Father's Day Carnival. As a result they began attending Potter's House and the
whole family accepted Christ. Cindy now leads the church's children's ministry,
and Rob serves in a variety of ways wherever he's needed.
"The Clements typify the kind of people that we're trying to reach," Kevin
says. "They are an example of how God is using simple things to make a profound
difference in the lives of families in this community."
Mary Gore grew up in a family that loved to spend time outdoors hunting and
fishing, so it seemed only natural for her to become an angler for souls as a
resort missionary at Toledo Bend State Park, just outside Zwolle,
Fishermen don't just wait for the fish to jump into the net; they actively
seek them out. And this is Mary's philosophy for sharing Christ with tourists
on Toledo Bend. She is a firm believer in taking church to the people. "The
vast majority of Jesus' ministry was conducted where the people were out doing
what came naturally. In North America that means fishing, boating, climbing
mountains and going to the marketplace."
Mary's vision for reaching the lost came as a call to North American missions
when she was a teenager. She felt an overwhelming desire to see that all people
were given the opportunity to make an intelligent decision regarding their
relationship with Jesus Christ. "I love seeing people come to the point of
asking Him to forgive them of their sin and giving their lives to Him."
Mary's passion extends to
those who wouldn't darken the doors of a church to hear about Jesus or how to
have a relationship with him. "As a resort missionary, I try to get the gospel
outside the four walls of the church building," she says. "Whether people are
camping at the lake, fishing in a tournament, attending one of the local
fairs or whether they are just passing through, I try to tell them about
Jesus°™that He loves them and has a good plan for their lives."
As many as 30,000 people may come through Toledo Bend in one weekend,
according to Mary. "Now, I can't talk to all 30,000 of them in one weekend, but
I'm going to talk to as many as I can." On Saturdays, Mary walks from campsite
to campsite, inviting campers to be her guest at an 8:30 a.m. worship service
the next day.
Each 30-minute service includes singing, a devotional and a chance for
people to ask questions and respond to the gospel. Some Sundays, Mary may lead
worship services in as many as five different campgrounds. Mary says, "When
people come to the lake they're more relaxed, their defenses are down. So we
can come and share the plan of salvation with them through a campground worship
service, and they're much more receptive than if they were back home."
In addition to Sunday services, Mary puts together a children's day camp
program called Fun in the Son, which includes puppets, clowns, face painting,
balloon sculpting, etc. "It has all the ingredients of a church's Vacation
Bible School°™Bible lessons, music, crafts, recreation and snacks. We just do
it outside," says Mary.
"Letting people know that God loves them and has a great plan for their
lives is the most fun anybody can have. And it just amazes me everyday that
Southern Baptists will let me do this and even pay me to do it."
"My heart has always been for people in the city," says Randy Chestnut who
serves as an associational missionary for the Greater Cleveland Baptist
Asso-ciation. "It's as if God hardwired me from birth for this job." Randy was
raised a Roman Catholic in Dayton, Ohio. He came to know God's story and was
saved at age 19 after attending a Baptist church there. He then went on to
pastor that same Baptist church in the city of Dayton for 10 years. Little did
Randy know that his story and childhood experience would one day help him share
Christ in a predominantly Catholic, urban area.
Randy and his wife, Denise, were called to be missionaries by the Greater
Cleveland Baptist Association in August 2003. When the Chestnuts came to
Cleveland the city was already in the Embrace stage of the Strategic Focus
Cities Initiative. Randy's background prepared him well to participate in this
time of intense evangelism and church planting.
Cleveland Hope, the title of
the SFC initiative, is fitting for a city that seems to have a spirit of
despair. "Businesses pulling out and a weak economy have left the people of
Cleveland searching for hope," says Randy. "And we want folks to know that
there is hope in Jesus Christ."
Cleveland also is known as "The City of Bridges." Randy hopes to build on
this theme to show the people that God is the greatest bridge builder and that
Jesus is the only bridge to salvation and a hopeful future.
He'll use this theme to inspire the established churches in Cleveland to
reach out to the unchurched. He believes God is calling Christians to be bridge
builders within their communities.
Randy says the greatest challenge for the churches is being culturally
relevant. Cleveland is a very diverse city; people from 117 different countries
call the area home. Many citizens have an Eastern European heritage and the
Asian population is the fastest growing in the city. However, the greatest
strength of the churches is their willingness to stretch themselves to reach
The Greater Cleveland Association currently includes 37 churches--that's
only one Southern Baptist church for every 43,000 people. "Many of them feel
like their day has come and gone," says Randy, whose goal is to encourage the
churches to look beyond their walls and beyond their communities to start new
churches. He hopes they'll be inspired to accomplish the SFC goal of starting
37 new congregations and baptizing 3,000 by December 2007.
According to Randy the key to reaching Cleveland for Jesus is sharing the
hope of the gospel. "It's very important that the people of Cleveland hear how
the story of Jesus intersects with their lives," he says. "They need to see how
His story can become their story."
Born in Hong Kong, Andrew Chan looks and feels at home as he strolls down
the busy streets of Chinatown Los Angeles. His heart is broken for the people
he sees who have never heard the story of Christ and are blinded by tradition
and family religion. Andrew understands the challenge of reaching the Chinese.
His family, like many Chinese families, worshipped their ancestors until a
missionary shared Christ with his mother. As a result the Chan family began
attending church, and Andrew gave his life to Christ at youth camp. As Andrew
grew in his relationship with the Lord he felt called to be a pastor.
Now Andrew and his wife, Edith, serve as Asian church planters and language
strategists. Their goal is to plant Chinese churches in order to reach more
than 1 million unchurched Chinese living in California.
When he's not planting new churches, Andrew is busy translating, preaching,
training and mentoring throughout California. His primary focus is Chinese
churches, but he also offers expertise and support to other ethnic groups.
A major part of Andrew's role
as "language strategist" requires the complicated translation of educational
materials into Chinese. According to Andrew, the contributions of Southern
Baptists help cover the costs of translating and printing various types of
training and Bible study materials in the two Chinese dialects--Mandarin and
"The Chinese people of California come from all parts of China. If I want to
minister to them, I must be able to communicate with them in both languages.
That's the key to reach and nurture my people," says Andrew.
One of the challenges for Chinese pastors is that they need to be bilingual.
They are ministering to multiple generations who are in different phases of
embracing western language and culture. Therefore, they need to be able to
speak English, as well as, at least one of the Chinese dialects. "In the future
we're planning to start a multi-language, multi-culture Chinese church, where
English-speaking, Mandarin-speaking, Cantonese-speaking and Hispanic- speaking
Christians will be able to worship together," says Andrew.
Chinese Churches are no longer just a mission field; they are strong
partners in the California Southern Baptist Convention. "We are
partnering together to reach people locally, globally and even cross
Currently there are 62 Chinese Baptist Churches throughout California. Many
are reaching out to the unchurched outside their own culture. One of the
churches has even started a new Hispanic church.
However, their primary focus is reaching Chinese living in California with
the gospel. Right now the Chinese population is growing so rapidly that more
churches are needed all the time.
Larry Wood committed his life to Christ as a sophomore at the University of
Oklahoma, where he was very active in the Baptist Student Union. He spent a lot
of time with the director there who was heavily burdened by the fact that, at
that time, a majority of campus ministers were south of the Mason-Dixon line
while most college students were elsewhere in the country. Larry says, "I
caught that vision, I felt a real burden for ministering to college students in
a place where there weren't many opportunities for them to come to know the
He and his wife, Joanne, currently serve as MSC missionaries in Lansing,
Michigan. Larry is the state director for Christian Challenge. Together they
minister to 80,000 students on various college campuses in the Lansing
Larry says because college students are more teachable and more available to
respond to God's call than any other group in our culture this is an important
opportunity for shaping the future church. Students are in a stage of life when
they have the time and the learning skills to develop meaningful relationships
with Christ that they may not have later on. "We have an opportunity to help
these students avoid some of the mistakes that churches are trying to help
people recover from," he says.
According to Larry, students
are the best recruiters of students, but because of a lack of spiritual
background in the north, it takes a long time for students to develop a
relationship with Christ to the point where they can become leaders. Often by
the time they are ready, they graduate and leave. So, Larry has developed a new
strategy for reaching students and developing them to lead others to
The new program is called the GAP (Get it, Apply it, Pass it on). Students
are challenged to participate in a mentoring relationship with another student
who will share with them what it means to know God personally and walk with him
on a daily basis. The mentor will also encourage them to minister to others.
Students must make a commitment to learn, participate at Christian Challenge
and be willing for the Lord to bring at least two other students into their
lives to be discipled.
One of the greatest assets and challenges of Larry's ministry is that he is
legally blind. It's an obstacle in that Larry has to rely on others to get
things done, but it's a benefit because it allows Larry to develop deeper
relationships with the students. He says, "Being blind provides a lot of
opportunities for ministry, because you're with people, doing real life kinds
of things. You begin to see them react to relationships and circumstances that
give you some idea of where they need help growing."
Stephen, a student at Michigan State University, was reluctant to attend
Bible study at first but as Larry developed a relationship with him he began to
come and eventually gave his life to Christ. Stephen is now part of the
leadership at Christian Challenge.
"I know my life would not be the same without the contributions of Larry and
the ministry," Stephen says. "Without it so many people on this campus wouldn't
be found. Christian Challenge gives the Lord another arm to reach out and find
some of his children."
The people of Montana are tough, independent, self-sufficient folk, who put
their trust mainly in themselves. Dave Howeth, a native of Missoula, has a
heart for these pioneer-spirited people because he is one of them.
Dave is the director of missions and church planter strategist for Treasure
State Association, based in Helena. The association consists of 28 churches in
11 counties covering almost 40,000 square miles. The ministry includes three
campus ministries, two resort ministries and an institutional ministry.
Dave uses his experience as a pastor and church planter to help facilitate
church starts in the association and development through pastor networks.
"As a church planter strategist for the North American Mission Board, I'm a
catalyst in getting new churches started," says Dave. "In the last 16 months,
we've started five new churches, one on the campus of Montana State
Because of the great distance
between churches, developing relationships among pastors is difficult. To keep
the pastors in contact with each other the association has put together four
Pastor Encouragement Networks, called PENs. Pastors come together from up to 50
miles away to share in a time of fellowship. They share prayer requests, a meal
and grow in ministry together. "My greatest joys are being able to encourage
and work with pastors and to help churches rediscover their mission and return
to the harvest field," says Dave. He spends much of his time mentoring and
coaching pastors and church planters.
Seeing a healthy church out in the community lead people to Christ and then
assimilate them into the life of the church is what being an associational
missionary is all about for Dave. His heart's desire is to see the people of
Montana lead each other to Christ.
"It's been my dream to see God raise up men out of our churches and call
them into the ministry," says Dave. In the past the churches in the association
have had to look to the South to find their pastors, but that is changing.
Forty percent of the men pastoring in the association right now have come from
within Montana. This is important because a key to reaching the people of
Montana is understanding the spiritual climate there. Who better to understand
and respond to this lostness than those born and raised in those wide open
According to Dave, 80 percent of the 240,000 people living in southwest
Montana don't know the Lord. He says that reaching out into the community is
essential. People in Montana are interested in Jesus and the Bible and
spiritual things, but they are not likely to come to church. They view the
church as a place for religious people and they do not see themselves as
religious. "Out here we're dealing with people who are very independent and
self-sufficient," Dave says. "Getting them to entertain the idea of putting
their trust in Jesus as the one true Savior is a huge issue of surrender for
Great revivals have broken out in different places in North America and
throughout the world, and Dave would like to see revival spread across the
western plains. "Prayer is the key to bringing revival to a place where it has
never had any roots."
As a seminary student working at Stewart Baptist Center, Reggie Robbins felt
a burden, love and a call to inner city missions. Twenty-six years later he is
pastor and director of Set Free Memorial Drive Ministries and Sanctuary Shelter
in Atlanta. Through his servant leadership and accountability Reggie is being
used by God to change hearts and rebuild lives in the inner city.
When Reggie and his wife, Anna, arrived at Set Free, the ministry provided a
shelter and a worship service for the homeless. Drug addicts, alcoholics,
prostitutes and families who had fallen on hard times were all invited to come
just as they were for a hot meal and a time of worship. But these were only
remedies to a larger problem.
Reggie felt that just meeting
their immediate need wasn't enough. He wanted to do more than provide temporary
relief. He wanted to see these people set free permanently through the power of
"I tell everyone who comes through here that once you cross the threshold
into this place, I no longer look at you like you are or like you were," says
Reggie. "I look at you with aspirations and hope that you will become what God
intends for you to be."
So, Reggie began to focus the shelter's ministry on drug and alcohol
rehabilitation, and helping homeless families get back on their feet, in
addition to community outreach.
Reggie found that God was working through the worship services and hearts
were being changed. However, often the people could not overcome their
addictions. They were going back out to the streets and slipping right back
into their old lifestyles. Reggie knew that something more had to happen.
That's when he heard about a rehabilitation program called Set Free. "It was
like God tapped me on the shoulder and said 'this is it,'" says Reggie. Set
Free is a three-phase program in which addicts rely on discipline,
accountability and the power of God to overcome their addictions.
Another long-term ministry is provided through Sanctuary Shelter. Homeless
families are given the time (usually three months) and the tools they need to
get back on their feet and rebuild their relationships.
"Our desire is to keep families together and also to present Christ to them
so they might have an opportunity to stay together," says Reggie.
Parents receive job training and go out each day in search of work. Children go
to school and receive tutoring from volunteers. Everyone participates in the
One of the shelter's success stories is Marcus and Pam. When they and their
four children came to live at the shelter Marcus was an intimidating NFL
hopeful who had given up his dream to sell drugs on the streets of Atlanta.
Reggie began to pray for Marcus and love him and engage him in conversation.
Then one Sunday Pam gave her heart to the Lord and three weeks later so did
Today Marcus and Pam are serving at Set Free as NAMB appointed Mission
Service Corps missionaries. Pam is the community coordinator of the outreach
ministry and Marcus serves as youth pastor.
Reggie says the best part of his job is seeing people like Marcus and Pam
allow the love of God to change and mold their lives.
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC