Headlines from First Thoughts

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Turning the World Upside Down #baptistsatwh

In the book of Acts, the church of Thessalonica made such an impact, that the local leaders said they "turned the world upside down." We don't have to look far for examples today.

Jeanette Barnes lived in public housing her entire life; but when a tornado devastated her home in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, one year ago in April, the city did not have enough housing for everyone. What was a city the size of Tuscaloosa, with FEMA and HUD resources at its disposal, to do? They did what governments, neighborhoods, and people have done for centuries. They turned to the church for support.

On March 7, I gathered with Pastor Tim Lovett of Calvary Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa; Robert Parham of Ethicsdaily.com; Ricky Creech of the D.C. Baptist Convention, and 60 other Baptist pastors. They came from every denomination in the Baptist alphabet- SBC, CBF, ABC, Progressive Baptist, you name it. We attended a "White House Briefing for Baptist Clergy," focusing on areas where the federal government works with local congregations and other faith-based groups to deliver aid where it is needed most. The Office of Public Engagement hosted us in the Executive Office Building of the White House. We dialogued about the issues of human trafficking, disaster relief, clean air and water, predatory lending, and immigration. We heard the concerns of the administration, and we shared our concerns as Baptists with the President's staff. It was a healthy, pointed, vibrant, non-partisan, civil dialogue as people working together for the common good.

As I listened, I realized there is so much that churches and government agencies are doing for people in times of crisis. First Baptist has several examples. With immigration, First Baptist has been on the border and with our Latino congregation; in education, we serve through KidsHope USA. In local disaster relief and recovery , we have worked in Macon County and with the Katrina evacuees.

Churches like ours are leading the way in these issues, and we can learn from each other how to impact lives and serve with best practices. Calvary Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa has been at the center of disaster recovery for over a year now. In partnership with the department of Housing and Urban Development, Calvary and the city of Tuscaloosa have repaired or rebuilt 80 homes. Jeanette Barnes was the first recipient of a home. Calvary was recently recognized by HUD for leading the way in disaster relief. Even more significantly, they have found their mission among the residents of the community. A tornado devastated lives; but through the power of the resurrection, they've turned the world upside down.

Picture info: A picture of Jeanette Barnes' community of Rosedale, Jeanette Barnes and the team of Calvary Baptist, Jeanette's home today

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