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Array of Baptists embrace presidential contenders

NASHVILLE (BP) – The campaign trail is cutting an ever-widening swath through Southern Baptist notables.

In short:

– Paige Patterson is among the Southern Baptists on a Ted Cruz religious liberty advisory board; R. Albert Mohler Jr. is on a Marco Rubio pro-life advisory board; and Rick Warren is on a Rubio religious liberty advisory board.

– Cruz has been endorsed by Jerry Johnson, president of National Religious Broadcasters, and by his Houston pastor, Gregg Matte of First Baptist Church.

– Donald Trump now has former candidate Mike Huckabee's daughter as one of his senior advisers.

– Ohio Gov. John Kasich has garnered endorsements from former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi and from Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley.

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Orphan finds God, serves in Arkansas

Anitha Kobusingye (left), who attends Grand Avenue Baptist Church, Fort Smith, was born in Africa and as a child lived for a time on the streets of Kampala, Uganda. Kobusingye was abused emotionally, physically and sexually before coming to the United States to attend college. She recently shared her story at Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock in honor of Black History Month. During the event, Kobusingye held a book signing for her autobiography “Born Anonymous.” Photo by Jessica Vanderpool

Jessica Vanderpool
Arkansas Baptist News

LITTLE ROCK – She was born with no name. She doesn’t know her own birthday. She was emotionally and physically abused, even raped. She lived, for a time, as a street child in Kampala, Uganda, her heart filling with hatred.

Anitha Kobusingye says her story is not unique among children in Africa. In fact, it wasn’t until coming to America for college that she discovered her story was different.

But Kobusingye, who now attends Grand Avenue Baptist Church, Fort Smith, refuses to be considered just another African sob story. Her story, she insists, is about God’s love, power and provision. It is about how He intervened in her life to use her for His glory.

Kobusingye shared her testimony at Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock in honor of February being Black History Month. The College was started in 1883 in Little Rock with the goal of training African-American ministers and received direct support from the convention. Arkansas Baptist College is not affiliated with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.

Kobusingye’s speaking engagement at the college also served as a book release for her autobiography “Born Anonymous,” written with Grand Avenue member Larry Bone, whom she met when she was a student at Arkansas Baptist College.

When he introduced Kobusingye to the group gathered in the college’s gymnasium, Arkansas Baptist College President Fitz Hill explained that even the story of how she came to Little Rock is nothing short of a miracle. He said he met her while he was on a mission trip in 2009.

Kobusingye shared with the crowd that they had met at her high school, and Hill had given her his business card and offered to help her if she ever made it to the United States. Although she did email Hill after his visit, she didn’t know how to fully explain herself via email.

Then, in 2010, Arkansan Lynda Weir visited the school. Weir found out about Hill’s offer to help Kobusingye and further discovered Hill lived in her own Little Rock neighborhood and was president of Arkansas Baptist College. With the help of Weir and Hill, Kobusingye made it to America and received a full scholarship to the college.

“I’m not really here to entertain you guys and to be another sad African story. That is not the point. The point is that I am here to glorify God and to just remind us what God is capable of doing in our lives,” Kobusingye said, noting that regardless of where a person comes from, everyone has a story and has gone through difficult things in life.

“So it’s not about really about where I come from, but it’s about, How does God intervene in those stories to make them successful … miracles?”

She described what it was like to live as a street child. Her mother had died giving birth to her in Uganda, and she did not know her father, though she later discovered he was a soldier who was killed in the Rwandan Genocide.

She was taken to Sanyu Babies’ Home in Kampala and was adopted, but her adopted family treated her as a maid and abused her, so she ran away to live on the streets of Kampala.

“(These are) toxic, overcrowded, noisy, dirty streets where nobody cares about you,” she said, noting she ate from trash cans, begged and stole in order to have food.

She admitted to the audience that she doesn’t know how she survived.

“But this is the thing – when God chooses you to put you through something, He knows how you’re going to survive through it. It’s not my job to know,” she said.

“And sometimes God makes us pass through difficult times so that we may become the best witnesses of that exact thing.”

She said now she can connect with street children due to their common experiences.

According to her autobiography, through a series of events, Kobusingye’s grandparents were located and she went to live with them in Rwanda. She was accepted into a Christ-centered high school called Cornerstone Leadership Academy, where she would eventually meet Hill. It was here that she became a Christian and sought Jesus as her heavenly Father.

“My story to you this morning is that, yes, I’ve been there. I’ve been at the worst. But I’ve been at the best … because Jesus became my Father,” she told the audience.

Right after graduating high school, she started Lighthouse Children’s Home for street children, according to her autobiography. Though she started with nothing, God kept sending provisions, some of which came from Arkansans.

But her journey was only beginning. Before long, she was on a plane to America to attend Arkansas Baptist College.

In an interview with the Arkansas Baptist News (ABN), she expressed that in Arkansas she has connected with many Baptists and found them to be supportive and a blessing.

She eventually transferred to Harding University to pursue her desired degree. Now she attends Grand Avenue Baptist Church and works at a public elementary school. The children she works with have special needs.

She shared with the ABN that when she went to Fort Smith, she was once again in an unfamiliar place. She had no idea where to go to church – until she plugged into Grand Avenue Baptist.

“It’s another home,” Kobusingye said.

“It has helped me personally to be stable and to be settled.”

“Anitha is a leader and her love, determination and passion is something we should all seek to emulate,” said Brad Lewter, lead pastor at Grand Avenue.

As Kobusingye concluded her talk at Arkansas Baptist College, she noted that her autobiography is about Christ and about the people He has brought into her life and how people of all nations with all kinds of gifts can work together as the kingdom of God.

“I may be coming from Africa. There is someone coming from Asia or someone coming from America, but we all have stories that actually come together to create the kingdom of God – because it’s my story and your story that bring us together to share. That is why we are sitting here,” she said.

She told the audience that although they had gathered to celebrate Black History Month, the accomplishments of their ancestors and the achievements of black young people, she also wanted to remind them about their forefathers’ commitment to excellence.

“Let’s just do our best and let God intervene,” she said.

Contact Jessica Vanderpool at jessica@arkansasbaptist.org.


‘Apologetic Cafe’ opens Bible dialogue over radio airwaves

Members of Bethel Baptist Church, Jacksonville, participate in “Apologetic Cafe,” a weekly 30-minute radio program with the goal of creating an open dialogue regarding questions about God and the Bible. Photo by Caleb Yarbrough

Caleb Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News

SHERWOOD – Arkansas Baptists love hearing God’s Word preached on Sunday mornings. But what if it feels like the sermon raises more questions than answers?

Joe Manning, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church, Jacksonville, a self-proclaimed apologetics junkie who holds a doctorate in the field from Trinity Theological Seminary in Newburgh, Ind., first recognized the need for a time of open conversational dialogue  about God and the Bible when he was pastoring a church in Hawaii.

“One of the things that (I) heard from a lot of people, especially from students when I was teaching Bible classes, was that, ‘We never have a chance to ask pastors questions. We leave the services sometimes more confused than when we came,’” said Manning.

Manning said that the comments led him to begin meeting with folks at Starbucks. They called the group “Theology Cafe.”

“They would come with their questions from the Sunday message. Or they may have heard something on the radio or on television and they may have a question about it,” said Manning. “We would sit and discuss this for a couple hours.”

Manning said that upon becoming pastor of Bethel Baptist, members of the church began a similar group in Jacksonville. The group eventually evolved last August from a Bible study and discussion into a 30-minute radio program called “Apologetic Cafe,” which airs at 7 p.m. each Tuesday on FaithTalk 99.5 FM.

Manning, along with members of Bethel Baptist and guests, now meet each Tuesday evening at Ropers Restaurant in the Gravel Ridge neighborhood of Sherwood to produce and stream “Apologetic Cafe.” The program’s structure consists of a Bible study led by Manning interspersed with questions and interactions with the other individuals in attendance.

“We have been able to connect with some folks,” said Manning. “A lot of emails I get ask, ‘Can you go for an hour? A half-hour isn’t long enough.’”

“We have a 30-minute slot now because it was all that was available and all we could afford when we started. But now we have been doing it for six months, and we have talked about going to an hour,” said Ede King, a member of Bethel Baptist.

“The Lord has blessed the church with enough money to finance that. So if people are listening and they want to continue on with it, we will,” said King.

King said that the program is now live, which was a little difficult to get used to.

“It’s a little unnerving at first, but then you pick the mic up and I’m looking at the pastor and he’s going, ‘What’s your question?’ And then I’m not talking to the mic anymore; I’m talking to him,” said King. “That’s the way we do it at church. He (Manning) leaves it open-form like that.”

“I’d love to get some pastors to come in and do this and work with us in this. It’s not something that we are doing just as Bethel Baptist Church. We just want to get the word out,” said Manning.

“I would love to have more of them (pastors) involved so that we could get different perspectives out there,” he said.

For more information about “Apologetic Cafe,” visit bbcjville.org or twitter.com/apologeticcafe.

Contact Caleb Yarbrough at caleb@arkansasbaptist.org.


EC considers pioneer region representation, then drops idea; withdraws fellowship from SC church

Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), speaks at the SBC Executive Committee gathered Feb. 22-23 for their meeting in Nashville. Photo by Morris AbernathyNASHVILLE (BP) – After nearly an hour of discussion, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee's officers withdrew a recommendation to propose granting representation on three key SBC committees to Baptists in pioneer regions. Executive Committee (EC) leadership promised, however, to make an alternate proposal with the same goal but addressing logistical concerns raised by its members.

In other business during the EC's Feb. 22-23 meeting Nashville, the committee recommended a change in the method for asking questions of entity leaders during SBC annual meetings; approved a one-time transfer of funds from the North American Mission Board (NAMB) to the International Mission Board (IMB) to assist missionary personnel leaving the board during its "organizational reset"; and withdrew the convention's fellowship from a South Carolina church whose pastor performed a same-sex wedding ceremony with the deacons' approval.

The initial recommendation on "representation from new states and territories" would have asked the SBC's legal counsel to present a recommendation to the EC's Bylaws Workgroup for consideration in June on providing "representation on the Executive Committee, the Committee on Nominations, and the Committee on Committees for the following states or defined territories: The Dakotas, Iowa, Minnesota-Wisconsin, Montana, and Puerto Rico-U.S. Virgin Islands."

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How U.S. religious groups vote

87 percent of members of the National Baptist Convention vote Democrat, most Mormons vote Republican, and Catholics are politically divided. Those are some of the insights gleaned from a survey of U.S. religious groups and their political affiliations conducted by the Pew Research Center.



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