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Sale of Fla.'s Baptist Building announced

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP) – A sacrificial investment made by Florida Baptists decades ago could make a far-reaching global missions impact this year as the State Board of Missions approved a multi-million dollar contract to sell the Baptist Building property in Jacksonville.

Fifty-one percent of the proceeds of the Baptist Building property sale will be directed to the Southern Baptist Convention's Cooperative Program for worldwide mission causes, pledged Tommy Green, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, during the State Board's April 1 meeting at Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center in Leesburg, Fla.

"Florida Baptists and their churches sacrificially gave their Cooperative Program gifts and private dollars from their churches to construct the Baptist Building many years ago," Green said. "We owe it to Florida Baptists to use this as missions money.

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Church makes its home among the homeless


CONROE, Texas (BP) – Jeff Foshee was at the end of his rope. Haunted by depression, fear, and his own misfortunes, he felt he could not hold on any longer.

Thanks to a friend's guidance, Foshee's next step landed him at the Houston-area Under Over Fellowship in Conroe.

"When I first came to a Sunday service with Under Over, something clicked. It just felt like home," Foshee says. "I have been here ever since."

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Miss. adopts religious freedom bill

JACKSON, Miss. (BP) – Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has signed into law a bill safeguarding the religious liberty of individuals and organizations who refuse to participate in same-sex weddings or gender identity transitions.

Bryant, a Republican, announced today (April 5) via Twitter that he signed House Bill 1523 – the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act.

"I am signing HB 1523 into law to protect sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions of individuals, organizations and private associations from discriminatory action by state government or its political subdivisions, which would include counties, cities and institutions of higher learning," Bryant said in a statement. "This bill merely reinforces the rights which currently exist to the exercise of religious freedom as stated in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution."

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North Carolina’s transgender law could cost it billions in federal funds

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is considering whether North Carolina’s new law on gay and transgender rights makes the state ineligible for billions of dollars in federal aid for schools, highways and housing, officials said Friday.

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Viola church’s heart breaks for community at Easter 

A scene from First Baptist Church, Viola's 2015 Easter celebration in the gym of Viola High School.Caleb Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News

VIOLA – “When you preach, sometimes you don’t know what is going to happen,” said Dennis Wilkins, interim associational missionary for the North Pulaski Baptist Association.

On Feb. 28, Wilkins preached First Baptist Church, Viola’s “Seek His Face Day of Prayer” Sunday morning service. The event was intended to prepare the hearts of First Baptist’s congregation to prayer walk and prayer drive throughout their community.

Wilkins said there was a special time during the service in which church members came forward and picked up maps of different areas located around the church. In all, 28 maps were claimed, and they represented all of the homes located within a seven-mile radius of First Baptist.

“I charged them and got them to agree with what they were about to go do, and then I turned around to the congregation and had the congregation stand and they also agreed to pray for these people while they were out,” said Wilkins. “We had a wonderful prayer to commission those that were going out.”

RingAccording to First Baptist Pastor Larry Ring, who also serves as associational missionary for the Big Creek Baptist Association (BCBA), the church began prayer walking prior to their Easter celebration a few years ago in part to cooperate with an Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC)-wide prayer initiative.

Ring said the Easter celebration, held on the Saturday prior to Easter Sunday, has grown and is now held at Viola High School and includes an Easter egg hunt with thousands of eggs; BCBA’s block party trailer, which features games for children; free food; drawings for bicycles; door prizes; live entertainment, and a gospel presentation.

Ring said that the church begins prayer walking and prayer driving about four weeks before Easter Sunday as an outreach to their community and in order to invite community members to their Easter celebration and Easter Sunday service.

“During our special day of prayer, all of the children in our children’s department participated; they prayer walked the entire church plant, facilities and property. All of our youth were taken by our youth director by bus to the school, and they prayer walked the entire school property and all the city streets,” said Ring.

“So our youth, our children and senior adults all participated. It was totally comprehensive. We had everything from women carrying babies to those that couldn’t drive but could ride in a vehicle. We made it available to everybody, and we had participation by every age that you could think of,” he said.

This year, moved by the call to prayer issued by Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas and president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Ring led First Baptist to further emphasize the prayer aspect of their outreach during the Easter season.

“As my heart started moving in that direction, I started thinking about having a special prayer Sunday,” said Ring. “Bro. Dennis led us in a commissioning service, not unlike a missionary commissioning service, where the church commissioned the prayer walkers and prayer drivers to go out.”

“We had decided to come back that Sunday with kind of a praise time, a time of celebration for the special day of prayer. … As we went through this special fellowship service, their was a brokenness, weeping and testimony,” said Ring.

“It was just an amazing thing to be there that night, and I was so glad that it wasn’t a celebration time but more of a broken heart for the community and broken heart for the people of the church that might be out of fellowship or out of church or the lostness of our community,” said Ring. “That really just set us ablaze here, and we just thank God for that.”

“I wish I was there for that 6 o’clock service that evening. It would have been good to see that. … He (Ring) said he had three men reading Scripture and that they couldn’t get through their Scripture without breaking down,” said Wilkins.

“I said (to Ring), ‘The Holy Spirit must have showed up, huh?’” said Wilkins.

“I think pastor Ring showed extraordinary leadership in leading his church to do this. I’m not part of the story.

He is, the church is and God is, but I was happy to be along for the ride,” said Wilkins.

“I just hope and pray that we have more pastors that would take that type of leadership – leading their churches to pray for their community,” he said.

Contact Caleb Yarbrough at caleb@arkansasbaptist.org.