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BMA America Recognized by Best Christian Workplace Institute

BCI_Certified_2016_ClearBest Christian Workplace Institute (BCWI) has recognized the Baptist Missionary Association (BMA) of America Global Ministry Center (GMC) as a Certified Best Christian Workplace for 2016. Four BMA departments and agencies are housed at the GMC in Conway, Arkansas: BMA Foundation, BMA Missions, DiscipleGuide and Lifeword. The Certified status reflects a “healthy-to-flourishing” culture, meeting predetermined standards of excellence through a formal employee engagement survey.

The detailed, fifty-question survey model measures eight essential factors of a thriving, healthy culture including Life-Giving Work, Outstanding Talent, Uplifting Growth and Development, Rewarding Compensation, Inspirational Leadership, Fantastic Teams, Sustainable Strategy, and Healthy Communication. “Attaining BCWI Certification is not easy,” said BCWI President Al Lopus. “About half of the organizations we survey achieve Certification, and many organizations survey multiple years before receiving this distinction.”

The leadership team at the GMC uses the results of the annual survey to gain valuable input from employees to aid in their quest to model servant leadership and to strive for continuous improvement in the organizational culture. To see the institute’s complete list, use this link: http://www.bcwinstitute.org/bcwlists.html.

Lifeword Community Radio: Creating a Culturally-Relevant Swahili Broadcast

(If you’ve ever been curious about Lifeword’s broadcasts and what they sound like, the following article by Rick Russell will explain how different formats are used for different cultures. Continue to pray for the already-recorded Swahili broadcast, which should go live in April or May, making Swahili the 37th Lifeword language.)


“Bro. Rick, there has never been a Swahili radio program like this. I believe the people will like it a lot!” Those were the words of one of our Swahili broadcasters at the end of our first day of training in December 2015.

The idea for this format came from our Garifuna brethren in Central America. At their first opportunity to create a broadcast format all of their own in 2009, they did something that no American broadcaster would ever do, which may be exactly why it works so well in their culture. The Garifuna program has eight pastors sitting around a table, all talking at once! When Lifeword Program Director Luis Ortega questioned the advisability of so many voices talking at once, it was explained, “This is how the Garifuna always do!”

Since the Garifuna people group has its origins in Africa, Luis and I suspected that a similar format might work well in the Swahili culture. Sure enough, in our planning conversations last year with Renatus Kanunu, we discovered that there is a well-known Swahili custom for making village decisions. The chief calls together the heads of the various families and presents the issue. One by one, they offer possible solutions. If the group cannot come to a consensus, it falls to the chief, as the village’s ultimate authority, to render a decision.

In Lifeword’s new Swahili program NenoUzima (WordLife), the Bible is personified as the words of our “chief”. It is his directives and principles which we look to in order to make the proper decisions in all aspects of our lives.

The first thing we do on each week’s program is to have the discussion leader (personifying the chief) explain the issue or question under discussion. The pastors then take a couple of minutes to put forward “man’s answers”, prefacing each statement with things like, “My father used to say…”, or “It’s always been the Swahili custom to…”, or “Some religions say….” Then relevant Bible passages are introduced. In the last five minutes of the program, the “chief” correlates the instruction of those verses, allowing the Bible to interpret the Bible and bringing the group to agreement regarding the Bible’s instruction on that particular question. The program then culminates in a prayer thanking God for providing his Word as the trustworthy guide for our lives.

After BMA Productions puts the finishing touches on the broadcast, TWR will broadcast NenoUzima by shortwave and satellite and we will find local FM affiliates in as many cities as possible where the churches of the Taborah Baptist Association are located (widely dispersed across western Tanzania and into Burundi and Rhwanda).

Pray that NenoUzima will be used by God in a powerful way to touch the lives of Swahili believers and non-believers to bring his light to this still-unreached people group.

2013-2015: Two Years of Blessings

The following is a portion of Lifeword’s mission:world article, written by Steve Crawley with contributions from the Lifeword team. For the full report, see the March/April 2016 issue:

Since 2013, the cost savings associated with the integration of departments have enabled Lifeword to divert overhead costs to the funding of additional ministry opportunities. Tactical moves made by Lifeword and other BMA entities have certainly brought extensive change and required considerable effort, yet they have reduced overhead costs significantly, resulting in an increase in ministry funds. The following are just a few examples of new initiatives implemented in the past two years:

Community Radio (Low Power FM or LPFM): In the last two years, dozens of affiliate stations have been added in the United States and abroad. These efforts have resulted in many professions of faith, baptisms, and disciples being funneled into existing BMA missions and churches, some even resulting in new church plants.

Over the last two years, Lifeword has conducted training in Honduras, Guatemala, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Tanzania, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Africa, and the Philippines, which prepares believers effectively share the gospel with their communities using media. Additionally, Bible Institute classes in the Philippines and Guatemala have incorporated Community Radio training into their curriculum. Students learn broadcast/program production, recording, editing, and setting up and troubleshooting the stations.

Testimonies from around the globe offer an encouraging response:

Honduras: The Garifuna, who were among the first recipients of Community Radio, have set up five additional stations in their communities. In cooperation with BMA Honduras, they have also traveled outside the country to set up stations for other indigenous people groups and are training others to do the same.

Guatemala: The Garifuna have set up a station in the jungle. Consequently, a number of Kekchi villages are hearing the gospel in their language for the first time, resulting in many reported professions of faith. Pastors and leaders in other Kekchi villages are being trained in the use of Community Radio, which should yield even more results.

Peru: Because of the concerted efforts of BMA Missions, Lifeword, BMMI, and BMA Peru, the Lord blessed with professions of faith in the community of Picoy. One of these converts was the mayor, who is currently being discipled and has offered a place to set up Community Radio where a new mission/church is being launched this year by BMA Peru. Picoy, previously known to locals as the seat of paganism, will now have a church and a Christian radio station.

Eight hours from Picoy, in Mazamari, the Community Radio station opened the door to a hundred tribes, where BMA Peru leader and Lifeword representative Paul Tinoco has been following up. He reports many professions of faith, and both BMA Missions and Lifeword now have a presence in the communities of Shevoja, Bagua Grande, and Concepcion Huancayo.

Philippines: Open Door Baptist Church in Pandan (a small Filipino village) and Pastor Jonathan Arturo started its Community Radio station two years ago to share the gospel with nearby villagers. After a few months, station managers began receiving text messages from listeners in Melendrez, a place no one had ever heard of. It was only five miles away on the other side of a jungle so thick that no one had ever gone, but radio waves from Open Door Community Radio were able to penetrate! Melendrez now has a church with dozens of members. Since that time, Open Door has planted a mission church in the nearby village of Kalubihan and the people down the road in Hilonga have also begun to respond to the gospel.

Africa: Among the Swahili-speaking people of Tanzania, twenty-five pastors in a small association of Tanzanian Baptist churches are working with Lifeword and the following individuals and entities to spread the gospel: BMA pastors, BMA Seminary professors, Evangelistic International Ministries (EIM), and BMA Missions. Lifeword has the opportunity to step in and help with a new Swahili broadcast that should be airing in 2016.

Please join us as we praise the Lord for the following:

  • The integration process and the opportunities it has provided.
  • The expansion of Community Radio throughout the world.
  • Changed lives through gospel broadcasting.

Please join us as we pray for the following:

  • The training of broadcasters and production of gospel programming in Swahili-speaking Tanzania.
  • Discipleship of new converts throughout the world, especially those from the Islamic and Buddhist religions.
  • Radio waves to reach the ears of people who need Jesus as their Savior.

Top-Giving Churches for 2014 Walk

By Holly Meriweather
Lifeword National Walk for the World Coordinator

The 2014 WalkfortheWorld/Lifeword Sunday season (July 1 through June 30) officially ended June 30, 2015, and we’d like to thank the top-giving churches for their efforts on behalf of Lifeword. Here are the top five donating churches, in order, for 2014: Spring Creek in Springdale, Arkansas; Hall Summit in Hall Summit, Louisiana; Kewanee in Kewanee, Missouri; Antioch in Conway, Arkansas; Rosewood in Gilmer, Texas.

A few churches hold their Walk events as early as August, so we have been receiving 2015 Walk offerings since early September, and the mail brings more every day. If you need to send in your church’s Lifeword Sunday or Walk donation amount, the address is PO Box 6, Conway, AR 72033 and should be made out to Lifeword.

We appreciate all the churches who held 2015 Walks/Walk events or had special offerings on Lifeword Sunday. Mark your calendars now for 2016 Lifeword Sunday on October 23rd. (To receive Lifeword’s electronic newsletter, email holly@lifeword.org.)

Reaching out to the Sioux in South Dakota

Merrit Youngdeer, John Two Bulls, and Rick Russell listen to Spiritword CDs on the Pine Ridge Sioux reservation.

Merrit Youngdeer, John Two Bulls, and Rick Russell listen to Spiritword CDs on the Pine Ridge Sioux reservation.

By Rick Russell and Holly Meriweather

Rick Russell and Lifeword speakers Merritt Youngdeer and Eddie Swimmer had always wanted to visit Indian reservation radio stations to encourage more of them to air Spiritword. Beginning on October 25, Rick and Merritt and Lulie Youngdeer (Merritt’s wife) were finally able to make a week-long tour of some of the stations that serve the various Sioux Reservations.

Armed with a map, Spiritword CDs, and a list of radio stations and managers in South Dakota, they began the ambitious journey to get more broadcasts on the air. Their first stop was the Yankton Sioux Reservation station at Lake Andes. The station manager there was not easily convinced and, after listening to the CD and appreciating the humor and quality of Spiritword programs, commented that the name “Jesus” was offensive to her and to her listeners. However, since most of the programs refer to “God” instead of Jesus, at least they had an open door. (Merritt will be raising money for those spots, and money sent to Lifeword can be designated to Spiritword.)

Merritt Youngdeer and Rick Russell are guest announcers at a station of the Rosebud reservation.

Merritt Youngdeer and Rick Russell are guest announcers at a station of the Rosebud reservation.

Their next stop “was truly a God appointment, which was what Merritt and Lulie and I prayed for before we started,” said Rick Russell. Although they had encountered some hostility from the Lake Andes station manager, the first of many divine appointments began with her suggestion that they should visit a Christian radio station in Wagner, just down the road. A great conversation with the station engineer suggested the possibility that his employer would likely be interested in using Spiritword across its network of stations that can be heard by many Native Americans in South Dakota. At his suggestion, the Lifeword team contacted John Two Bulls, an effective evangelist among the gangs on the Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation. Pastor Two Bulls’ passion to use radio to glorify God matches Lifeword’s and he is very excited to have Spiritword as a tool to use in spreading the gospel there.

During a visit to the tribal station at the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, Merritt and Rick were pressed into service as guest announcers and Mary Fast Horse interviewed the “celebrities.” (Rosebud is a longtime Spiritword affiliate, so Merritt and Eddie are well known to the audience.) The next divine appointment was with the missionary/pastor of Eagle Butte’s First Baptist Church. Over lunch at the local Dairy Queen, God knit their hearts together and the Lifeword team found yet another group of believers that wants to use Spiritword to share the gospel by radio.

The tour ended with a visit with Jerome Renville, pastor of Eagle’s Wing Baptist Church on the Sioux Sisseton Wapeton Reservation. Jerome’s church sponsored Spiritword’s very first radio station and now he wants to lead the church to begin a new Community Radio station.

As for the next phase, Rick says, “Now that those relationships are established, we will be able to push them forward. An added bonus to our trip was that since Merritt heard me talk about Community Radio several times during our five days in South Dakota, he will be able to share the idea of Community Radio to other reservation churches across the country. It is critical to tie the broadcasts to local churches so they can provide follow-up to Spiritword broadcasts. There are so many positive things going on in Native American churches right now and the BMA’s involvement is helping to change lives.”

A Journey to a Changed Life

The following is an excerpt from Inside Report, the FIC (Faith Inner Circle) newsletter. FIC is a group of individuals who give regularly to support Lifeword Community Radio in areas where American missionary personnel cannot go. If you’re interested in receiving the monthly Inside Report, please call Ellen at 501-358-3843: 

Quebrada de Humahuaca (named by the Inca descendents of northern Argentina) is a narrow valley just south of the Bolivian border. Vicente has over ninety years of experience living in this area and its difficult terrain. As a shepherd he has experience with the snowy mountains which are home to pumas, lions, and snow leopards. It was this experience that prepared him for the trek that would change his life and his family tree forever. Like many men in his province, Vicente was a drunk, and one particular morning his wife awakened sorrowfully telling him that life could not continue on the same path.

In an effort to appease his wife and change their sad situation, Vicente struck out over the mountains for a full day of travel in search of a man who possessed information that changed lives, or so he had heard. On the second day of his journey he found the man who told him about the Son who has that power. In the years that followed, Vicente, his wife and their small children made the same journey over the hills and mountains, a day’s journey each way, to learn more about God’s Son and His Word. Today Vicente and his family travel two kilometers to Casa de Oración, House of Prayer BMA church, to worship the Son, where one of their sons, Alberto López, is the pastor.

It was last March during Carnival (a seven-day festival with dancing, drinking, worshipping, and offering sacrifices to idols, gods, goddesses, saints, the sun, and the devil himself) that Pastor Alberto, Bro. Vicente, his family and church dedicated House of Prayer, a lighthouse and beacon to the community. It is the tallest building in the area and there is a Lifeword Low Power FM radio transmitter attached to it. Though many Argentine Aborigines believe that Jesus is the European or white man’s God, many have received Him and He is their Savior.

Please join us as we pray with Bro. Alberto and Casa de Oración for the following:

*BMA Missions and Lifeword integrated efforts to draw many to the Son

*Community Radio to bring hope to the Aborigines in Argentina

*House Of Prayer Encampment to be a city of refuge to young people struggling with suicide, abortion, and    drugs, the three most common issues in their community

A Burden for the People of India

Prashant and Golda Prakash grew up in missionary families and have a burden for the people of India, especially in the area of education. They run two schools in India, and Prashant is the administrator of the BMA work there which also includes Lifeword radio programming, church planting, and training.

In the 1970s Prakash’s father started a tuition-free boarding school for older children that Prakash now operates. Currently there are 1,100 students from first to 10th grade and the academically-rigorous curriculum includes Bible teaching along with all subjects. In addition they also have a smaller school for children as young as three.

There are difficulties and dangers to operating the schools in a largely Islamic culture. Prashant explains that “there is a concern by authorities that the poor people are being given money by foreigners and that there is a ‘forced conversion’ by missionaries.” Although the school has a cross symbol displayed prominently on the outside, they must be careful about giving details of their location.

Another difficulty is the strict caste system which emphasizes a belief that people are born into a certain social and economic class from which they can never be removed. Some families who enroll their children in the school object to the uniforms that students must wear because it does not reflect a student’s lower or higher caste, so Prashant and Golda’s message to people about a God who loves all people equally is not easy to understand.

“That’s why Lifeword takes such care in selecting its broadcasters. Explains Rick Russell, Lifeword’s Chief Programming Officer. “Our Kannada language programs must express the gospel in ways that make sense in the Kannada culture. It’s far more than just speaking the right language. The Kannada Broadcast Team has to wrap the gospel in illustrations and music that help the Kannada-speaking people understand that the gospel was meant just for them—because it was!”

Lifeword radio programming is an important part of their ministry. Prashant says, “Lifeword plays a major role in the work in India and has impacted lives for twenty-three years. To Kannada-speaking people, it is one of the most important ministries we have, allowing us to impact a wider audience. A phone number is mentioned at the end of the radio program on Sunday nights, and the phones begin ringing immediately, too many to handle sometimes.”

Please pray for them and their ministry in India.

History of Lifeword – Part Six

By Bro. George Reddin,
former Lifeword Executive Director

When I retrace the twenty-five years of my stewardship at the Harvest Gleaner Hour/Lifeword, I have to say with the Psalmist, “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:23). What the Lord did for this ministry is truly marvelous.

The Board elected me as executive director on my forty-first birthday, January 25, 1986, just a few hours after my predecessor’s funeral. It was a day of extreme emotion as we said goodbye to a dear friend and a loving mentor and then trembled at the responsibility ahead. Terminally ill with colon cancer his last two years, Paul Bearfield faced death with courage and grace, grit and determination as he fought hard to the very end to leave the radio ministry in good shape financially. The foundation he laid was the secret of a smooth transition in leadership.

Our first major objective was to upgrade the recording studio. I asked Mike Jones, recording engineer, to bring me a figure of what it would cost. He came back with his answer: $90,000. A few days later two men walked into my office and laid a check on my desk for that exact amount. That reassured me that God was with us. With the new gear, “quality” became our watchword.

When elected, I told the Board that this ministry would not be a one-man show, but I would search out qualified personnel who were self-starters and would not require over-the-shoulder supervision. The Board gave positive affirmation. As in production, quality was our watchword in selecting the team. A good friend advised, “Hire the best, and you will get credit for what they do.” I sought out people whose talents exceeded mine, and I remained in awe of the co-workers God gave us.

A long-range objective was to locate some choice property for a future location to accommodate our future needs. The desired property became available much sooner than we expected when board member O’Neal Sims found 6.5 acres fronting on Interstate 40 for $48,000. The Board approved the location, and we organized a “Gideon’s Band” of 300 people who would each contribute $53.33 for the first payment of $16,000. Six months later Gideon’s Band II raised the second $16,000, and then another six months later Gideon’s Band III raised the final $16,000, and we purchased it interest-free. That acquisition would sky-rocket in value by the time we faced relocation.

By 1987, the name Harvest Gleaner Hour had become problematic. It was hard to enunciate clearly, and the word “gleaner” was unfamiliar to many. In 1987 we asked Bill and John Ward of Ward Advertising to lead a brain-storming session, and Kirk Shelton, Program Director, and I joined them at their farm. John asked the opening question, “Brother George, how would you define the purpose of Harvest Gleaner Hour?” I answered, “To preach the Word as it applies to life.” Out of that response the new name arose: Lifeword. One year later we unveiled it at the 1988 BMA of America, when it was adopted as our official name.

In the early 1990s response to the long-format broadcasts came mainly from believers. That was gratifying, but we wanted to target unsaved listeners, so we began experimenting with short formats. We settled on a one-minute dialogue that used current events and humor to attract listeners who would never tune in to a religious broadcast. Rick Russell was the straight guy, and Donny Parrish was the zany occupant of the fictitious office cubicle next to Rick. The program always closed with a spiritual challenge and an offer of evangelistic literature. Mail began arriving from unsaved listeners who wanted answers. We adapted the format to a variety of languages and cultures.

History of Lifeword – Part Five

By Holly Meriweather

In January of 1978, Harvest Gleaner Hour radio broadcasts were heard in three languages: Portugese, Illongo, and Mandarin. The much-anticipated Spanish and Arabic languages were added in 1979. Letters to HGH included requests for booklets and tracts mentioned on the broadcasts. Those listener responses came from the States and many countries including Africa, Cyprus, Panama, Sierra Leone, Virgin Islands, Mexico and Guam.

HGH radio programs never asked for money on the air (and still do not to this day), but listeners often sent checks “to cover the broadcast expenses in our area.” Builders, contractors and architects that helped with construction of the new building charged reduced rates or donated their materials, labor, appliances and fixtures. Church, auxiliary and individual offerings came in regularly. Broadcasts, studios and costly production equipment was often underwritten as well, enabling the Enterprise Avenue building to become debt-free in late 1978, just three years after it opened.

In 1979, the Radio-Television Department of the BMA, as HGH was often called, included seven on-site employees, two language coordinators (Travis Moore-Philippines and Paul Robinson-Spanish) and six speakers (Dr. E. Harold Henderson-English, Jack Bateman-Chinese, Yousef Costa-Arabic, Frank Rogue and Alfonso Quiroz-Spanish, Pete Etabag-Illongo). In 1980, a $20,000 computer was purchased to help employees “use our time more effectively.”

In June of 1980, Bro. Bearfield attended a conference during which he heard about a fundraiser called a “walk-a-thon,” which he adapted as the first HGH Walk-A-Thon. Bro. Bearfield had led the ministry for eight years and knew the broadcast could reach more people if it could be aired on more stations and in additional languages, particularly the “heart languages” of its listeners.

In October of that same year, churches throughout the BMA held twenty-mile walks for the first time and raised $82,000. During the next four years, income from the Walk steadily increased to $242,000 and the length of the Walk decreased to 20 kilometers (12.4 miles).

In 1985, the name of the event was changed to Walk of Faith. Bro. Paul Bearfield had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and, although he was physically not as strong, he walked nineteen kilometers earlier on the day of the Walk, then finished the last one with nine hundred well-wishers who had been invited to a special rally at Central Baptist College. Receipts for that walk were $373,822.

Bro. Bearfield passed away on January 23, 1986, and the Lifeword Board voted to change the name of the event to the Paul L. Bearfield Memorial Walk of Faith. He had served HGH as director for fourteen years, leaving behind his wife Johnie, a Harvest Gleaner Hour employee, and two children, Paul and Phyllis. Along with the two previous HGH directors, Bro. Bearfield was laid to rest in the Crestlawn cemetery.

History of Lifeword – Part Four

BurgessBy Holly Meriweather

According to the March 1972 edition of The Reaper (W.J. Burgess, editor), Bro. Paul Bearfield was “especially qualified for this work (director of the BMA’s radio ministry) since he now speaks the Chinese language which he learned in Taiwan.” At that time the English was the only broadcast language. There were radio stations in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. In addition, there were translated broadcasts in Puerto Rico, Haiti and Mexico. It would be three more years until HGH had its own native-language speakers.

To help finance the cost of the rapidly-multiplying American and foreign radio stations, possible television broadcasting, the high demand for print materials and cassettes, increases in postage, and a new building, July was named as an emphasis month for BMA churches. Bro. Bearfield traveled extensively to speak to churches and groups; in addition, a “tape/slide set” that “depicts by sight and sound the ministry of this department” was made available by “reel or cassette” in January of 1974.

In July 1973, “The Challenge of Television” was the headline article in The Reaper, and the Brotherhood adopted the HGH television ministry as their ’73-’74 project. Bro. Burgess wrote, “Television seems to be a favorite target for abuse among Christian people today. We complain loudly about degeneracy, foul language, and other evils that appear on the screen. But the best thing Christians can do about television is to ‘put Christ in the picture!’” Television broadcasting and its cost would continue to be an issue for years to come.

After being in various Conway locations and a year at Temple in Little Rock, the six employees of HGH moved into the newly-built Industrial Park building in Conway in June of 1975 with the intent to some day include television broadcasting. At the time of the building ‘s dedication, forty-four stations in thirteen states and three foreign countries aired HGH radio broadcasts, but 1976 and 1977 were the years of tremendous increase in foreign stations and languages.

It was during those years that Radio Nicosia in Cyprus brought HGH gospel programming to the Middle East in Israel, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and other Arabic-speaking countries. (See “History of Lifeword Part Four” in the June newsletter for details.) Stations in Sierra Leone, Panama and the Philippines were also added, and in all four of those countries, BMA missionaries played important roles in the establishment of those broadcasts.

After years of prayer, Taiwan missionary Jack Bateman preached the gospel in his native tongue (Mandarin) to the millions of people of mainland China on December 31, 1977. Five programs were produced at an undisclosed location and brought back from the “Far East” to HGH studios by Bro. Bearfield. They were then sent to a powerful radio station in Guam from which “almost ONE BILLION souls living under Communist rule”, an entire generation, heard “the Good News of the Lord Jesus” for the first time.