Thoughts, insights and observations from the ABN staff


5-years ago today: Gunman kills Democratic Party chairman, threatens ABSC staffer 

From the archives of the Arkansas Baptist News:

LITTLE ROCK – A gunman shot Arkansas Democratic Party Chairman Bill Gwatney three times at the State Democratic Party Headquarters in Little Rock at about 11:50 a.m. Aug. 13. Gwatney later died in a local hospital.

Fleeing the scene, the suspect went to the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) building just a few blocks east of Democratic Headquarters.

“A middle-aged white man in a white shirt entered our building at 525 W. Capitol with a gun,” Dan Jordan, ABSC business manager, told news media. “The operator recognized immediately there was a threat. We have a process in place where she called the building manager immediately to respond.”

The gunman ran up the stairwell to the second floor of the Baptist building, according to Jordan. When Kirby Martin, ABSC building manager, confronted him, the man cocked the gun and pointed it at Martin.

Martin was able to flee the threat, but a few minutes later found the man again and asked him what was wrong. The man said he had lost his job.

The gunman and Martin took the elevator down to the first floor and the gunman left through the front door of the building.

“He left with a gun stuck in behind his back belt,” Jordan said.

The building operator had called the police, who arrived soon after the man left the building. The gunman jumped into a blue pickup truck on Arch St., across from the side entrance of the building, and sped away. Jordan said the police were in hot pursuit of him as soon as he drove off.

The man did not fire a shot while in the Baptist building.

The police chase ended in gunfire near Sheridan, south of Little Rock, during which the suspect was shot and killed. The gunman later was identified as Timothy Dale Johnson, 50, of Searcy. News reports indicated he had been fired from his job at a Target store in Conway.

Gwatney, 48, was transported to a local hospital, where he died just before 4 p.m.

News reports indicated Johnson walked into the state Democratic headquarters and fired three shots into Gwatney’s chest.

“The details and stories will be told for days to come through the local and national media, but the greater story involves the emotional and spiritual needs of those directly affected by these events,” said Emil Turner, ABSC executive director. “Their lives will be marked by painful memories and unresolved questions.”

Turner urged prayer for the Gwatney family and Johnson’s family.


4,200-plus attend NAMB Send Conference

FloydPLANO, Texas – Few could have imagined just a few years ago that a church-planting event hosted by the North America Mission Board (NAMB) would attract more than 4,200 participants, but that’s exactly what happened July 29-30 at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano.

It’s a good thing those planning the Send: North America Conference decided to host it at the massive Prestonwood facility, otherwise, there would not have been enough room to put everyone during plenary worship and breakout sessions. Even so, many of the breakout sessions were filled with capacity. 

Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas,led a breakout session titled, A Strategic Hope for Revitalization. He told conferees church revitalization starts with the question, “What do you see?” Floyd said God asked this question to four different prophets in the Bible.

Read the entire article in the August 8 edition of the Arkansas Baptist News. NAMB has posted stories, photos and videos from the conference at


Stories we are working on for ABN Link and the May 2 ABN print edition

  • April 20 was a big day for Central Arkansas, as a number of churches and other ministries reached out to their communities through Impact Little Rock. The Arkansas Baptist News (ABN) was there and will have a full report, including photos and videos of the festivities.
  • Watch for the second edition of our brand-new ABN Link e-publication that comes out later this week! It's different and is your source of news and information in-between our regular publications.
  • Watch for our special Travel Hot Springs section in the May 2 edition, as well as the announcement of the winner of our annual Mother of the Year contest!
  • Finally, Arkansas Baptist churches throughout the state will receive ABN Day of Prayer bulletin inserts in the mail soon. Be sure to encourage your leadership to use them to promote the Day of Prayer and the Cooperative Program!



National Day of Prayer set for May 2

Prayer for our nation and our government is a vital part of our heritage as citizens. Churches across the United States are making plans to join with their communities to pray onThursday, May 2, during the National Day of Prayer. According to the website of the National Day of Prayer, the first call to prayer was issued in 1775 when the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom as a nation was being formed. In 1863, President Lincoln issued a proclamation for a day of prayer. In 1952, Congress established a day of prayer and President Truman signed it into law. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed an amended law that set the first Thursday of May as an annual day of prayer. 

Click for more information and resources for your church ...


Sandy Blog: Arkansas mud out teams help restore flooded New York houses

Debris removed from flooded house is stacked on the street. Photo by Caleb YarbroughEditor's Note: Caleb Yarbrough, media specialist for the Arkansas Baptist News, is working alongside Arkansas Baptist volunteers serving in New York in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. He is blogging his experiences as the team travels to the Empire State to help those in need.

DEER PARK, N.Y. – When driving through the areas of Long Island affected by Sandy at first glance many of the homes appear to be unharmed. That is because much of the destruction was caused by rising floodwaters and sewage as opposed to a violent storm or funnel cloud.

Caleb YarbroughMany homes were completely flooded, and in some cases, as high as the second floor. The mixture of salt water and sewage destroyed everything it touched and caused many homes to be condemned and without gas and electricity for the foreseeable future.

The first step to rebuilding these houses damaged by floodwaters is completely gutting them.

This is the job of disaster relief “mud out” units. Mud out units go into homes with substantial damage and clear them so that they can be cleaned and made fit to rebuild. 

Today I had the opportunity to go out with a mud out unit composed of members of five different churches from northwest Arkansas. The house that they were working on was 800 feet from the ocean and was the home of a local Church of God pastor and his family.

The basement and first floor of the home had been under several feet of water and had to be completely gutted. The mud out unit worked throughout the day stripping sheet rock, ripping up flooring and pulling out insulation. By the end of the day the basement and first floor had been completely cleared and was ready to be inspected and sanitized.

As the mud out team left the home residents told them how grateful they were that their brothers and sisters in Christ would take the time to travel halfway across the country to help them in their time of need. It was a beautiful picture of the community and fellowship that is alive between followers of Christ, even those separated by hundreds of miles.

Today was the last day I am going to be in New York. The feeding team that I traveled here with are heading back tomorrow morning and are being replaced by other volunteers from Arkansas. It has been an amazing trip. God has truly worked through His people this week and I believe he will continue to do so as the next groups take over in our absence.

Whether they were cooking meals, washing cambros, clearing trees with chainsaws or gutting homes, each volunteer has worked toward the same goal up in New York – to bring glory to the Lord Jesus Christ!

Seeds were planted and people were loved this week. I would ask that you would continue to pray as the next groups take our place in New York. While we may be leaving the work here is by no means finished. Continue to pray that God would use the devastation Sandy as a means for many to be transformed by the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

Caleb Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News