Christian Byrd, Field Coordinator for CBF MS, and Dr. Mike Massar; recently selected Transitional Coordinator for CBF LA and Co-Pastor of University Baptist Church, Baton Rouge, LA; opened the CBF joint LA-MS state meeting by asking all of those in attendance to stand and introduce themselves to the group. An estimate of the headcount at the meeting is 56 people with a good representation from each state. People attended from as far away as Togo, AF, with Lynn Hutchinson, a Mississippian now serving as CBF Field Personnel in Togo, being the one who traveled the farthest to attend. Others in attendance were spread across LA-MS from MS cities such as Olive Branch, Gulfport, Shaw, Jackson, Hattiesburg, Leland, and Starkville; and LA cities such as Baton Rouge, Shreveport, Lake Providence, Vidalia, and New Orleans. Mike threw the group a little twist by asking that we give our name, church name, and the last sin we had committed in our introductions. All in good fun, as you would expect, there were some nervous, and boisterous, laughs as we went around the room. The exercise continued with people pairing off and telling each other about their churches. All in all, these were creative ice-breakers that got everyone into a pretty jovial mood from the git-go.
Next on the agenda, the Delta Hands for Hope (DHH) team gave an update to the group. Lane Riley, DHH Program Director, and Cora Jackson from DHH discussed activities at the DHH Center in Shaw, MS. Seventy percent of the children in Shaw live in families that are below the poverty line. The DHH summer feeding program has provided as many as 10,000 meals during the summer for the children around the area of Shaw, MS. The DHH update was followed by Jenny Hodge; Program Director, of the CBF Together for Hope program in Lake Providence, LA (right across the MS River from Shaw); sharing her activities report with the group. All of these folks are doing excellent work training students to be leaders, mentors, and servants of Christ as they mature in their Christian life. These programs are either a direct result or a spin-off of the Rural Poverty Initiative of CBF started several years ago to provide assistance to the poorest counties in the U.S. Today in the U.S., the MS Delta area has taken the place of Appalachia as the most financially challenging place to live.
Lynn Hutchinson was next to report to the group. She shared the journey Mike and she have taken since leaving their last mission field assignment in Africa in the summer of 2010. They returned to the U.S. and lived in Hattiesburg for a year or so while attending UBC, a CBF church in Hattiesburg. Mike soon became the State Coordinator of CBF MS. Part of his new responsibility was to start a CBF fellowship on the MS Gulf Coast. The couple moved to the coast and started a fellowship group in their home in Gulfport, MS, in November 2011. That fellowship continues today with Reverend Jay Lynn leading St Martin Baptist Fellowship. In March 2013, Mike and Lynn returned to the mission field as CBF Field Personnel to Togo, AF. Their ministry has been growing as Lynn and Mike have integrated themselves into the community of Lome, Togo, AF. One project that continues to grow very rapidly is the Togo House. Part of this ministry project is to rent a house where children can come and learn English words and also learn about the love of Jesus. A young man of the village, Komla, who lost a leg recently in an accident, receives a salary from the Togo House to teach the children. He is very good at disciplining the children while conveying the love of Jesus. Also, Lynn and Mike use the Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) approach to develop the assets of the people in their village in Lome, Togo, AF. One project they have started involves the people of the community gathering together on a regular schedule to sweep the streets of the village. The villagers are now taking great pride in how their community looks.
As a wrapup, Christian Byrd and Mike Massar also reported on some of the upcoming CBF activities in the states of MS and LA. Christian announced the Children's Minister Day to be held at FBC Meridian (FBCM) on July 18, which will include a time of sharing about various children's curriculum resources. It's open for anyone from MS, LA and AL. FBCM's curriculum for kids has been very effective helping children to learn the stories that God teaches them through His Word.
Mike Massar spoke of a lecture series CBF supports that has been going on for some time in LA and mentioned several of the past/future speakers at this forum. He also mentioned that the next event in this series will be held at the St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church, CBF church in New Orleans, November 7-8. This event is the Mabel Palmer Lectures in partnership with the Stagg-Tolbert Forum. Nationally recognized Christian author Rachel Held Evans will be coming to speak at this event. She will speak at the Forum and preach in the Sunday morning service at St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church.
All in all, this was a great, joint meeting between CBF LA and CBF MS. All came away from the meeting with renewed excitement for the future of CBF.