Showing posts with label OUTREACH. Show all posts
Showing posts with label OUTREACH. Show all posts

Thursday 24 September 2020

Historically Black college welcomes white pastor with passion for racial justice

When Chris Caldwell thinks about student housing and food services, his pondering goes deeper than the mere campus amenities that concern administrators at most colleges.

“We have many students who are insecure in terms of their housing, and we have significant problems with food insecurity,” said Caldwell, vice president for academic affairs at Simmons College of Kentucky. At Simmons, a historically Black institution in Louisville, it is not uncommon to hear of students sleeping in their cars, he noted. “We try to do everything we can to try to help with those situations.”

Some students are single parents, so the housing situation for them is even more complex. Since Simmons has limited college-owned housing, it looks to various community resources to aid students in their search for a decent place to live.

Like most schools, Simmons stresses the importance of class attendance. Yet its leaders know students can be present but too hungry to pay attention. “We work hard at feeding our students during the day so they can focus on class,” Caldwell said.

While not all Simmons’ students come from dire circumstances, most come from impoverished backgrounds they are seeking to transcend. This is a key part of Simmons’ mission, and its leaders believe Historically Black Colleges and Universities, like Simmons, are uniquely positioned to empower all segments of the African American community.

From a tall-steeple white church to Simmons

Caldwell, who is white, came to Simmons as a part-time professor in 2015 and moved to full-time status in 2017. He had been pastor of Louisville’s Broadway Baptist Church, a congregation situated in an affluent neighborhood eight miles across town from Simmons. He assumed his vice-presidential role in 2018.

An academic vocation was not a novel idea for Caldwell. As he finished his doctorate in New Testament at Baylor University in 1997, he was considering a career in either the classroom or the pastorate. An address by former President Jimmy Carter at Baylor helped him choose parish ministry. “He talked about his post-presidential period and how he had been guided by a pretty simple concept,” Caldwell said. “He went where he was needed.

“I thought about that and prayed about that and at that point, there were a hundred people lined up for every job in the academic world,” he recalled. He sensed he could make a larger contribution by serving moderate Baptist congregations that were “seeking to navigate the waters of those times.”

It was an era when many moderate congregations had either recently left or loosened their ties to the Southern Baptist Convention because of its far rightward shift. Caldwell has no regrets serving in congregational ministry and would “absolutely do it all over again.”

Racial justice observed as a child

However, when he decided to follow his calling to Simmons, it was a step in a long journey of interest in racial justice that began when he was a child in the 1970s. Growing up in a northern suburb of Nashville, he frequently heard racist epithets and lived on a street where a cross was burned on the lawn of an African American family. He did not forget the anguish he felt, and it helped spur him to engage in interracial work as a pastor.

His energies became more focused in 2015 when pastors from predominantly white East Louisville started meeting weekly with pastors from predominantly Black West Louisville. The group, known as Empower West, “put some wheels on the vehicle when it came to the passion I had,” he explained.

“It gave me an opportunity to learn a lot,” he continued. “I had given thought to a lot of those issues but basically from a white perspective.” He and other white pastors began reading books written by Black intellectuals and learning more about the structural injustices encountered by Black people, such as the wide wealth gap that separates white and Black Americans. They began sharing their knowledge with their church members and inviting them to greater interracial involvement.

Through Empower West, Caldwell learned more about Simmons College, an institution founded in 1879 by former slaves. While it eventually became a comprehensive university, it ran into financial difficulties during the Great Depression and sold its property to the University of Louisville. The campus became the home of Louisville Municipal College, the arm of the university that served Black students during the days of segregation. Simmons continued to hold classes on the campus but limited its course offerings to theological studies. After U of L integrated in the 1950s, Simmons moved to a new location and became known as Simmons Bible College.

Season of growth at Simmons

Kevin Cosby, senior pastor of St. Stephen Baptist Church in Louisville, was elected president of the school in 2005 and began to greatly expand the curriculum. Simmons now offers bachelor’s degrees in business entrepreneurship, cross-cultural communication, music, sociology, and religious studies. It also reacquired and moved to the property it had sold to U of L. Under Cosby’s leadership, Simmons gained accreditation by the Association of Biblical Higher Education and recognition from the U.S. Department of Education as the nation’s 107th Historically Black College and University.

Asked why HBCUs remain important, Caldwell said they provide students “ethnic armor,” a term he said Cosby often uses. “We pass along the skills for students to be successful and thrive in the dominant white culture, but we also pass along the intellectual and academic traditions of the African American community,” he said.

Simmons students live in a city where feelings of anger and alienation now permeate the African American population due in part to the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, on March 13. For months, protesters have taken to the streets demanding the officers involved be charged.

The city’s housing patterns have helped inflame racial tensions, Caldwell said. “Louisville is a very segregated city. It is one of the most segregated cities in the United States, but it is not an outlier by any stretch.”

While much racial justice work needs to be done in Louisville a
nd elsewhere, Caldwell sees Simmons as an example of empowerment that can help society move toward racial equity.

Motivating students to be “agents of change” is a priority at Simmons, Caldwell said. “We are trying to help students make their life situations better, but also to remember they have a calling to reach back and bring others along.”

While some Simmons students are “academic rock stars,” most come to Simmons “woefully underprepared,” he said. Yet he emphasizes when a student demonstrates potential Simmons is determined to help them achieve. “We don’t lower the bar,” he said. “We show them where the bar is and help them get there.”

Colleges and universities typically gain prestige by touting the sterling academic credentials of the students they attract. Yet Caldwell measures academic quality by a different standard.

“The measure of excellence of a school is not what kind of students you attract but how far the student travels in four years under your tutelage,” he declared. “And by that measure, you can make a case that Simmons is the best college in the state.”

Thursday 17 September 2020

Church Cares for Pastor Family During Cancer Battle

Bless Your Pastor

Brian and Sandi felt called by God to pastoral ministry when they were both 45 years old. Brian left his leadership position with a national nonprofit and took a $70,000 pay cut to become a pastor.

Two years into accepting the call to become a pastor of a 250-person church, Sandi was diagnosed with terminal cancer and was told she would only live about another year. In addition to dealing with the tragic news and fighting cancer, they also were parents to three school-age children who were 9, 7, and 5 years old.

The cancer was taking its toll on Sandi and Brian in every way – physically, financially, and emotionally. Sandi went through surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, which left her feeling fatigued on a regular basis. Additionally, more than $100,000 in medical bills were beginning to pile up. They were having a hard time making ends meet with the medical bills, five mouths to feed, and Brian’s income. But, they were not alone.

Church families and others voluntarily rallied around them to provide financial support and free meals. They paid all of their medical bills and provided so much food that it left their refrigerator and freezer overflowing.

While much appreciated, Brian and Sandi realized that the food preparation, clean up and returning dishes were sometimes creating more work, not less. What was the solution? Church families started providing gift cards to all of the local restaurants and fast food establishments. All that Brian and Sandi had to do was pick up the kids after their school activities and ask, “Where do you want to eat tonight?” No food prep, clean up, or dishes to return. 

Instead, they were able to spend quality time as a family eating hot meals together and feeling loved and cared for by their church families and friends.

And, that’s not all. Miraculously, it turned out that the doctors were wrong. Sandi didn’t live just one year she lived eight years before God called her to heaven. And, they had a year’s supply of restaurant gift cards after Sandi passed away. As a widower and new single dad, Brian could ensure that his three hungry children, who were now teenagers, were fed.

Many churches have limited budgets and are not able to compensate for their pastors, or church staff very well. But the Bless Your Pastor's movement is mobilizing Christians and churches everywhere to show and share God’s love for their pastors and church staff. 

What can you do to bless your pastor with your time, skills, and resources? The Bless Your Pastor's website has free video training and a toolkit of resources that will encourage and empower you, your church board, and families to care for your pastor and church staff.

Corona Visas for Evangelical Volunteers Leave Catholics Frustrated

Courtesy: HaYovel

But Israel Today confirmed there is no conspiracy to favor Evangelicals over Catholics or Orthodox

Waves have been made in the Israeli media over an Evangelical Christian group managing to secure visas for its foreign volunteers at a time when the country’s borders are closed to non-citizens.

HaYovel is a US-based ministry (though the core staff resides in Israel much of the year) whose primary mission is aiding Israeli farmers in Judea and Samaria (the so-called “West Bank”) during the annual grape and olive harvest seasons. While here, the group’s volunteers are also educated and equipped to become ambassadors for what God is doing in Israel today.

Needless to say, the coronavirus policies that have shut Israel off to all but returning Israeli citizens were a devastating blow to HaYovel’s vision and mission. Or at least, they would have been. Instead, the closure produced what could be seen as a tremendous testimony.

“We were worried about having to shut down the operation since we only had eight of our staff members in the Land. Normally for a harvest season, we get 300 volunteers coming through in addition to staff,” HaYovel’s Executive Director, Zac Waller, told Israel Today. “So we talked to the vineyard owners to figure out a solution, and at one point even considered bringing in a mechanical harvester to complete the mission. We also reached out to our contacts in government, and finally started to see miracle after miracle. In the end, we were able to get 50 volunteers here.”

The use of the word “miracle” here is not an exaggeration. As noted, Israel has closed its borders to all non-citizens. The obvious victim of this policy has been the tourism industry. But no less impacted have been Israel’s small farmers, many of whom rely on foreign volunteers and laborers to tend and bring in seasonal crops. In the best of times, Israel’s government pays inadequate attention to these farmers. So for HaYovel’s petition to get before the right eyes, let alone be considered and approved, is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle.

Even with a Divine hand opening doors, everyone assumed to be shut and locked, this is still Israel. The bureaucracy is thick, and the feet are often dragged. And though the approval for HaYovel’s volunteers came in what many would consider record time for a visa matter, the mandatory quarantine for all incoming passengers still meant they wouldn’t quite get to the vines in time. But then another miracle occurred – the grapes waited for the volunteers.

“We always base the timing of the harvest on the biblical feasts,” explained Waller. “And every year we hit it spot on, but this year the grapes just weren’t ready. They were about three weeks later than normal. But it just so happened that the first day of the red grape harvest was the first day that our volunteers got out of their mandatory two-week quarantine after arriving in the Land. Thank God, it’s just all coming together.”

In addition to being the fulfillment of prophecy (see Isaiah 61:5), the work of HaYovel’s volunteers is crucial to the success of small farmers in the biblical heartland.

“We need volunteers, too!”

HaYovel’s incredible story did not go unnoticed. Sadly, the only bit that the secular Israeli media focused on was how these Christians had somehow sidestepped restrictions under which others have been left groaning.

And that caught the attention of other Christian institutions that likewise run volunteer programs, and who felt that in light of HaYovel’s success, they were being unfairly denied visas by Israel’s Interior Ministry.

“We need visas, too!” read the headline of a letter sent to the Israeli government by The Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land.

The Catholic officials said they were “astonished” to learn that American Evangelical volunteers had secured visas, while they have been unable to do the same for volunteers that normally serve at hospitals, schools, and elderly homes that are administered by the Catholic Church.

“We have been repeatedly told that visas cannot be given because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Catholics complained, seeming to suggest that the Israeli government was giving preferential treatment to more pro-Israel Christians.

Waller proposed a simpler answer.

“Agriculture is kind of a special category,” he noted. “Even in times of lockdown, agriculture has got to continue so that the stores can stay stocked. In addition to that, we are living and working in rural areas, aren’t doing tours, we aren’t around a lot of people or going into populated areas. Our risk of exposing or being exposed is minimal.”

Israel Today can indeed confirm that there is no special consideration being granted to Israel-supporting Evangelical ministries in regard to volunteer visas. Many of the Evangelical ministries based in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv have had to operate during this period with greatly reduced staff numbers due to the blanket ban on entry visas.

Wednesday 1 July 2020

License of Israeli Messianic TV channel suspended

Head of Israeli Satellite Council suspends license of Israeli Messianic TV channel

The head of Israel’s Communication and Satellite Council has accused Israeli Messianic channel Shelanu TV of violating its broadcasting agreement and has suspended its license, CBN News reported Sunday.  Council Chairman Asher Biton claimed Shelanu falsely stated an intention to appeal only to Christians when it actually intended to broadcast Christian content to Jewish viewers in Israel. Vigorously denying any attempt to deceive, Shelanu has published its original agreement to prove there was no contractual violation.

Shelanu (‘ours’ in Hebrew) was launched by GOD TV earlier this year, after signing a seven-year contract with HOT Cable, Israel’s main satellite network, CBN News reported. Shelanu was given permission to broadcast stories from the Messianic community to the general Israeli public, in Hebrew.

However, the channel came under fire when critics accused it of purposely evangelizing Jews. In particular, there was outrage over a promotional video in which GOD TV CEO Ward Simpson said the channel aimed “to take the gospel of Jesus into the homes and lives and hearts of the Jewish people.” This outrage was sparked although it is only illegal to proselytize minors or to offer material gain in exchange for conversion to Christianity.

Communications chairman Biton asserted Shelanu directors had been deceitful in applying for their license and ordered HOT to take Shelanu off the within seven days. Biton added that Shelanu could apply for a new broadcasting license with "a truthful and detailed" description of the channel, CBN reported.

Publishing Shelanu’s original agreement with HOT, Israel Regional Director for GOD TV, Ron Cantor, told CBN News: “Our license says very clearly that our target audience is the audience of Israeli viewers. We have not broken our agreement. HOT has not broken their agreement…We have not done anything wrong.”

Cred: Worthy News

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