Thursday
Oct092014

Harrison teenager achieves dream, ministers through love of music

Jessica Vanderpool
Arkansas Baptist News

HARRISON – “Ladies and gentlemen.”

My heart is racing.

“At this time we ask that you please rise and remove your caps.”

I cannot believe what’s about to happen.

“Please direct your attention to the field as we honor the United States of America and pay tribute to our
veterans in active duty and retired men and women of our armed forces.”

I get into position.

“The Arizona Diamondbacks and the Chicago Cubs invite you to join in the playing of our National Anthem. Performed by Jordan Whitmer.”

The stadium stood still, waiting for me to make the
next move.

It’s time.

These are the words penned by high school student Jordan Whitmer in a short story he wrote about his experience playing the national anthem for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2013. 

“I have a dream,” writes Whitmer, who attends Eagle Heights Baptist Church in Harrison. “This is a rather large dream. Something that not everybody gets to accomplish in their lifetime. I want to play in the big leagues.”

Whitmer goes on to chronicle how that dream came true on July 23, 2013, at Chase Field in Arizona as – for the first time ever – he played the national anthem on his trumpet for a major league baseball team.

Now 16 years old and a junior at Harrison High School, Whitmer has gone on to achieve this dream several times over, playing this year for the Kansas City Royals, the Cleveland Indians, the Texas Rangers and the Houston Astros.

His musical journey started at age 4, as he learned to play piano. He also sang in children’s choir and grew to love music. He eventually transitioned from piano to trumpet, playing at his first minor league game at age 11.

But his hopes go far beyond playing in the big leagues. He also seeks to use his music to glorify God, and one way he does this is through a music ministry he shares with his father, Rick Whitmer, who also attends Eagle Heights. Rick Whitmer is senior director of mobilization at Ron Hutchcraft Ministries in Harrison.

The father/son pair combines their musical skills – Jordan Whitmer on trumpet and his father on piano – as they play at local churches. They call their duo “Trumpiano.” 

Rick Whitmer has a Bachelor of Music in piano performance and said he has played piano his whole life. He and his wife, Lisa, have three children: Jordan, Blake and Jenna.

“As my oldest son began to get better and better on the trumpet, it didn’t take long to figure out that we could play together,” he said.

They began playing on occasion for the evening church offertory and morning church service when Jordan Whitmer was about 11 years old.

“Eventually, opportunities started to come for us to share our music at other churches in our area – and a music ministry was born!” Rick Whitmer said.

Vickie Green, church administrator at Eagle Heights, noted the duo “have a positive attitude and a desire to use their talent.”

“They seem to enjoy playing and using their gift/talent in this way,” she said.

“Playing with my dad is really fun right now,” said Jordan Whitmer. “Putting my trumpet talent and his piano gift together to form a team is such a fun experience!”

They have played at First Baptist Church, Yellville; Shiloh Baptist Church, Harrison, and First Baptist Church, Green Forest, among others.

“My favorite aspect from the Trumpiano ministry is just being able to be used by God to lead in worship,” said Jordan Whitmer. “I love the deep moving moments that our music can bring.”

Rick Whitmer said one of his favorite aspects of the Trumpiano ministry is his and his son’s ability to encourage people. 

“So often, adults are discouraged about the state of today’s young people,” Rick Whitmer said. “We love to be able to share with them that there are teenagers that have a passionate heart for God, who want to make a difference for Him. We love to hear the response when people find out that Jordan started a Bible study in his public school and that he is willing to stand strong for Jesus despite all the cultural pressure to do otherwise.”

“Plus,” he added. “We just enjoy music.”

He commented on what it means to him to be able to minister with his son. 

“I am passionate about raising kids with a heart for God,” he said. “Sharing music together is a powerful way to use our gifts to impact other people with the hope of Jesus.” 

But their ministry has not been without its challenges. In 2013, Jordan Whitmer experienced a setback. He began experiencing pain when playing his trumpet, which prevented him from performing for a time.

“We prayed, and released all of this to God – and He gave back Jordan his talent at an entirely new level of impact,” Rick Whitmer said. “We know we serve a big God, who is faithful to those whose hearts are fully devoted to Him.”

Through the years, Jordan Whitmer has not only played in church and at both major and minor league games, including an Arkansas Travelers game, but also he has played at school performances, on TV and at other events. In addition to playing trumpet, he sings in his school choir. Jordan Whitmer is a leader in nonmusical ways as well. Along with starting a school Bible study, he has helped lead See You at the Pole prayer gatherings since third grade. Recently, he spoke at the local Kiwanis International service club. 

He desires to continue using his music for God’s glory.

“I hope to continue developing my trumpet and vocal talents in high school, during college and throughout the rest of my life,” he explained, “not necessarily as a career, but as a tool that I can use to help do whatever God wants me to do in helping Him further the kingdom. In the meantime, I want to keep touching lives with this neat Trumpiano ministry that I share with my dad.”

For more information on the Trumpiano ministry, visit trumpiano.com.

Contact Jessica Vanderpool at jessica@arkansasabaptist.org.

Thursday
Oct092014

Despite ISIS, Baptist Global Response serving in tough places around world

KURDISTAN (BP) – When ISIS began shelling this family's northern Iraq neighborhood, they had to flee into the night like everyone else. But with four children with disabilities, their escape was more difficult than most.

A daughter who is blind, another with epilepsy and two sons with muscular dystrophy distinguished the family from others.
They left their cattle and chicken farm and walked three hours to the relative safety of a nearby city. Meanwhile, 70 of their townspeople were kidnapped by ISIS and their fate remained unknown.

Baptist Global Response is onsite to help families displaced by the terrorists.

"When I met this family, they had taken shelter with seven other families, 30 people in total," said Abraham Shepherd, who directs BGR work in the Middle East. "When you visit with these forcibly displaced families, you are struck that they come from different segments of society – a policeman, a working mother, a nun – yet they all shared the same story of pain and suffering. Escaping through the night, they left with nothing.

"When we met them, they had been displaced for one month, and only one food basket had been given to them."

BGR relief teams have found many families like these, pooling their resources to rent a house or apartment, Shepherd said. At times as many as 90 people are crammed into one space, and they generally have gone unnoticed by relief groups who focus their aid donations on the big refugee camps.

Yet even in the camps, conditions are difficult.

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Friday
Sep122014

The Cooperative Program: Learn about it, see what it does during October

NASHVILLE (BP) – October is "Cooperative Program Emphasis Month" on the Southern Baptist Convention's calendar when churches are challenged to study the Cooperative Program – to learn about it, see what it does, pray about their part – perhaps using the "1% Challenge" video (http://vimeo.com/68820362) as a catalyst.

The 1% CP Challenge "is a succinct way to do something more – an understandable way to say, 'Yeah, we can do that,'" said Frank S. Page, SBC Executive Committee president. "It is understandable, is easily acted upon, and can be done without shifting major sections of a church's finances."

In 2012, 7 percent of cooperating Southern Baptist churches reported they had accepted the 1% CP Challenge in support of missions and ministries led by their state conventions and the SBC, according to a study by LifeWay Research for the Executive Committee, called the 2012 Cooperative Program Omnibus Survey.

In their 2012 Annual Church Profile (ACP) reports, 3,192 churches – 6.93 percent of Southern Baptist churches – showed an increase in the percentage of their missions giving through the Cooperative Program by at least 1 percent, confirming the accuracy of the LifeWay Research survey.

One tangible result of this is that the average percentage of undesignated gifts given through the Cooperative Program by Southern Baptist moved up by an encouraging one-tenth of 1 percent from the previous year (5.41 to 5.50 percent).

After many years of decline in average CP gifts from churches of about 0.20 percentage points per year, the decline leveled off in 2011 and 2012 (5.407 percent and 5.414 percent, respectively), rising slightly to last year's 5.50 percent.

The Executive Committee commissioned another survey this spring, asking church leaders the same set of questions they were asked in 2012. An additional 8 percent of pastors indicated they plan to lead their churches to accept the 1% CP Challenge in the coming year. If this trend continues, millions of additional dollars will become available for missions and ministry entities to fulfill the tasks Southern Baptists have assigned to them.

"The Cooperative Program is not a reservoir that we hold; it's money that we send through the CP to missions and ministries," Page said. "It's exciting to see new pastors, younger pastors, older pastors, ethnic pastors, Anglo pastors, say, 'You know, it's time to put more emphasis on the Cooperative Program.'"

The Cooperative Program fuels Southern Baptists' global vision for reaching the nations with the Gospel while sustaining a strong home base of ministry, reflecting the driving passion of Southern Baptists since the SBC was formed.

If every cooperating Southern Baptist church raised its contributions through the Cooperative Program by 1 percent, the resultant CP gifts would increase by almost nearly $100 million.

This would unleash the state conventions to make a greater impact on lostness in their respective states. It would give the North American Mission Board greater flexibility in its Send North America church planting and evangelism initiatives. It would allow the International Mission Board to send and maintain a larger number of missionaries on the field. It would allow SBC seminaries to explore new delivery systems for ministerial training and graduate theological education to make an even greater impact on training pastors and church leaders for effective service. It would assist the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission in its continuing mission to engage the broader culture with the claims of Christ and a biblical worldview.

Since 1925, more than $5.75 billion has been contributed through the national portion of the Cooperative Program to help fuel Southern Baptist missions and ministry causes of international missions, North American missions, theological education and moral advocacy. This is more than the combined cumulative totals of the Lottie Moon Offering since 1888 and the Annie Armstrong Offering since 1933.

Simply put, the 1% CP Challenge has the potential to be the rising tide that raises all the causes that Southern Baptist cooperating churches support. 

The Cooperative Program, as Southern Baptists' unified plan of giving, remains the fuel that drives the missions and ministries of the convention.

Friday
Sep052014

Dixie Jackson Arkansas Missions Offering: Ark. Baptists give time, talent, treasure 

Disaster relief workers minister to those in crisis.EACH YEAR in September, Arkansas Baptist churches focus on Arkansas missions by giving to the Dixie Jackson Arkansas Missions Offering, which the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) oversees and uses to fund Arkansas missions efforts.

The Dixie Jackson offering funds many ministries in Arkansas, including community missions, disaster relief and church planting, among many others.

But along with making monetary donations, Arkansas Baptists can give both their time and their talents to the cause of Christ. This year’s theme – Whatever I Have, Whatever He Wants: My Time, My Treasure, My Talents – is indicative of this fact.

Community missions 

Every year, Arkansas youth join together for a weekend, in-state mission trip. 

Travis McCormick, ABSC missions team member, explained that many come from small churches and may not be able to afford to travel for a week or two across the country or around the world. But they still have something to give. For one weekend, they can offer just what this year’s theme suggests – whatever they have, whatever God wants: their time, their treasure, their talents. 

While those receiving the ministry are blessed, participants doing the ministry are impacted as well.

One participant was Savannah Breyfogle. As a teenager, Breyfogle moved with her family from San Diego to Springdale. Thrown out of her comfort zone, she was slow to settle in to her new home. 

A little more than a year after moving to Arkansas, Breyfogle began to feel the nudge toward missions. She joined her youth group a few months later for a Connect weekend in Camden. There, she learned about Kaleo, which in turn presented an opportunity for her to serve as a summer missions intern in Fort Smith. 

“I now realized that if I hadn’t had to give up my home, my family and everyone who had been so close to me, I don’t believe I would be able to fully serve my Lord as I do today. I am uprooted, and not held back, and am ready to go wherever God wants me to,” said Breyfogle.

Another community missions event is the Acts 1:8 One Day Mission Trip – and it’s through this event that 90-year-old Lucille Curnutte, of Morse Mill Baptist Church in Dittmer, Mo., was able to serve despite her age, physical disabilities and fixed income. 

When Curnutte’s church decided to participate in the event, which was taking place in Harrison, she stepped out in obedience and chose to go along. God used for His glory Curnutte’s obedience, photography skills and ability to pray. 

Curnutte said God used her willingness to go to open her eyes to a world of ministry possibilities. 

“Dixie Jackson is not just about Arkansans opening their wallets once a year to financially support state missions,” said Breck Freeman, ABSC missions team member. “It’s about crossing cultural boundaries to spread the gospel. It’s about hearts being drawn to missions. And it’s about God using His people, regardless of age, to accomplish his purposes.”

Disaster relief

In a time of crisis, the sight of yellow shirts and hats can bring immediate comfort. Arkansas Baptist disaster relief (DR) teams work around the state and across the country to assist other Southern Baptist disaster relief teams and the American Red Cross. Because of their faithfulness, the Salvation Army is now also asking for their assistance. 

Disaster relief crews are made up of trained volunteers equipped to handle a variety of needs during times of crisis. Disaster relief offers feeding, recovery, communications, shower and mud out units, sending teams into areas where typically only law enforcement or the Red Cross can enter. 

Freeman explained that the need is greater than just monetary gifts – though those are also needed.  

“The DR volunteer force has long been made up of retirees,” he said. “Unfortunately, as retirement age increases, the number of volunteers available to join the program decreases. In an effort to meet those changes, the disaster relief program is changing as well, seeking out ways to involve a younger generation who can’t always take a week off at a moment’s notice to help in a crisis. 

“Some can give their time and talents, volunteering to join a unit and offer their services to minister to hurting people. Others can give financially. But everyone can offer their greatest treasure, the treasure of Jesus Christ.”

Church Planting

“The Great Commission calls us to go to all peoples with the gospel, regardless of who they are, what they look like and where they might live,” said Tim Wicker, interim team leader for the ABSC church planting team. “Arkansas is incredibly diverse, with a great variety of cultures all across the state.”

He said Arkansas Baptists are seeking ways to meet these people where they are, within their own culture.

“Church planting is crucial to Arkansas missions efforts,” said Wicker. “As Arkansas Baptists work with the International Mission Board to map out the cultural structure of our state, evidence of diversity abounds. Forty languages are spoken in Little Rock alone, and language is only one marker of cultural division.”

He said that while not everyone is called to be a church planter, there are still many ways for people to reach out to the diverse people groups living in Arkansas. Not only can Arkansas Baptists give to the Dixie Jackson offering and pray for church planters, but also they can use their time, energy and talents to minister to those around them.

Wicker said established Arkansas Baptist churches can partner with church planters to offer resources and man power to aid in their ministry, and individual Baptists can willingly surrender their time to contribute to missions projects both around the state and just down the street.

“‘Whatever I have, whatever He wants: my time, my treasure, my talents’– What does that mean for you, today?” Wicker asked.

The suggested dates for churches to participate in the Dixie Jackson Arkansas Missions Offering and Week of Prayer this year are Sept. 14-21. Churches should have received Dixie Jackson offering materials in the mail by Aug. 22. For more information or to download materials, visit absc.org/dixiejackson.

Information provided by the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.

Friday
Jul182014

Arkansas Outdoor Church pastor leads by example in reaching sportsmen

Scottie Johnson (center), pastor and church planter of Outdoor Church of Arkansas in Conway, and wife Allyce, chat with members during a potluck supper held prior to their service. The church officially launched April 15. Photo by Caleb Yarbrough. Caleb Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News 

CONWAY – An Arkansas Baptist church plant, led by a pastor who could pass for a cast member on the hit reality show "Duck Dynasty," is seeking to reach people for Jesus Christ by appealing to their love of hunting and fishing.

A 2011 survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported 1.3 million people hunted, fished or participated in wildlife watching in 2011 -– spending nearly $2 billion on wildlife recreation in Arkansas.

The 1.3 million individuals mentioned in the survey included both residents of Arkansas and non-residents, with the vast majority being residents of the state.

All of these statistics point out that in Arkansas –- a mostly rural state with a population of just under 3 million -– easily more than half of the state's population either hunts, fishes or spends time participating in wildlife-related activities. 

JohnsonFor Scottie Johnson, Arkansas Baptist State Convention church planter and pastor of Outdoor Church of Arkansas in Conway, the need for a church to reach one of the state's largest demographics is obvious.

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