Five Years After Church Shooting, Sutherland Springs Pastor Retires

Now at a new location, the rural Texas church continues on in memory of the 26 members killed, including the pastor’s teenage daughter.

Frank Pomeroy was hunting in the wet and cold Alaskan bush when the Lord gave him his final sermon as senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs.

Considering the grizzlies, black bear, wolves, and rain, Pomeroy suspected the message would somehow encompass creation.

“But God kept bringing me back to, this was an opportunity for me to share what’s important for the church to continue on,” Pomeroy told Baptist Press, “and that’s when He … led me to Paul’s letter to Ephesus (Acts 20) and we just went from there.”

The tragedy First Sutherland Springs weathered when a gunman killed 26 worshipers and wounded 22 others on November 5, 2017, is perhaps the memory the church’s name most readily provokes. But First Sutherland Springs has ministered since 1926 in the small community of less than 1,000 people, 20 years under the leadership of Pomeroy.

“What really brings Sutherland Springs together over these 20 years is that there really is a true sense of relationship and family,” he said. “And therefore, we have always been very inclusive of the community, and that the church would be the center of the community, whether it was during a tragedy or in the good times.

“High on the mountain or low in the valley, there’s always been a true sense of family with those in the community. And that’s the thing I think I cherish the most, is that love never fails, as Paul said, and that love will extend to everyone who will come and listen to the Word.

“I think again, if we can be remembered as promoting and making sure everyone knew that that pulpit was never my pulpit, it’s always God’s pulpit,” he said, “and …

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The Woman Who Gave the World a Thousand Names for God

How a British linguist and a failed Nigerian coup changed everything about Bible translation.

In July of 2007, Bible translators from a dozen Nigerian languages came together in the rural town of Bayara, Nigeria, for a three-week workshop to begin translating the Gospel of Luke. They gathered in a steel-roofed school building with a number of outside consultants—some Nigerian, others American and British.

At the end of Friday, July 27, they had wrapped up their first week of work and made plans to unwind. Multilingual collaboration is taxing, and everyone was eager to eat dinner and watch a movie.

The translators gathered their papers, books, and laptops into bags and slung them over their shoulders. One of them grabbed a USB thumb drive attached to a lanyard, which they used to pass files back and forth and store backups of their work.

They walked half a kilometer through the warm evening air to a guest house where they were staying near the local hospital. The cooler rainy season had just begun, but this day had been neither cool nor rainy.

The group finished eating around 7:30, and Veronica Gambo, the wife of one of the translation consultants, made popcorn. She filled a bowl and was carrying it out to join the others in front of the television when men with automatic rifles burst through a door into the kitchen.

Gambo froze. A man put a gun barrel between her shoulder blades and marched her, still bearing the popcorn, into the living room.

“Get down!” Danjuma Gambo, Veronica’s husband, remembers the men yelling. They fired shots into the walls and ceiling. They forced everybody to the ground, including the translation project’s leader, a silver-haired British woman in her late 60s.

Andy Kellogg, an American working as a Bible translation consultant, was lying on the floor and wondering: …

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From the Archives: When Disaster Strikes

Five articles about control and God’s providence amidst natural disasters.

With a hurricane hitting the coast of Florida as well as the aftermath of a hurricane in Puerto Rico, a typhoon in Alaska, and a 6.4 earthquake in Taiwan, September has been a busy month of natural disasters around the world.

It can be overwhelming to think about the inevitability of earthquakes and storms. There is possibly nothing more unsettling than natural disasters to remind us of our smallness compared to nature’s great power.

These five articles remind us to put creation into the perspective of God’s providence. As Douglas Estes’s 2018 article states, “We grieve over the devastation wrought by storms … we do [what] we all can to help storm victims in Christ’s name, yet we still acknowledge even in our grief that ‘his way is in the whirlwind and the storm’ (Nahum 1:3).”

Click here for more from the CT archives.

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Brother Andrew Changed Me. His Approach Can Change India.

Gandhi wanted Christians to live more like Jesus. “God’s smuggler” showed me how.

“You must change your thinking,” Brother Andrew told me when we first met.

He was responding to my “rockstar” reaction as I finally encountered one of my heroes, at a lunch buffet in South Asia in 2000. Like a super-fan, I had blurted out, “I never thought I would meet you.” His response was swift, on point, and left me pondering.

That was the man: simple, straight-forward, and leaving a large impression. Dressed in a T-shirt and shorts, Brother Andrew listened intently as I recounted my story of how his life had inspired my own journey into Christian ministry.

It was the first of many meetings I was privileged to have with him over the following 15 years. Each committed to my journal and fresh in my memory, even as I process the news that this mighty man of God has gone to be with his maker whom he loved and served, never wavering from the call to “strengthen what remains and is about to die” (Rev. 3:2).

Brother Andrew was called by God as a young man to go into closed countries and to minister to the church where it was oppressed and lacked resources—especially Bibles. I remember hearing from him that anyone could do what he did, because the power of God was the same. He often said that God has called us to go with his gospel, and that all doors are open to the good news of Jesus Christ. He enshrined this in the name of the organization he founded: Open Doors.

What began as a Scripture distribution agency has now transformed into a massive international organization also involved in training, socioeconomic development, research, and advocacy across 60 nations. But its focus continues to be the persecuted Church.

I remember Brother Andrew asking us if there was any region …

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Worship Can Sound Like Silence and Feel Like Rest

The Liturgy Collective Gathering aims to offer a reprieve to the leaders responsible for filling the soundtracks of our services.

It’s easy to find songs and hymns on the theme of rest and stillness. There’s Anna L. Waring’s “My Heart Is Resting, O My God,” Kari Jobe’s “Rest,” and Fanny Crosby’s “Jesus Will Give You Rest,” which beckons us:

Will you come, will you come?
How He pleads with you now!
Fly to His loving breast;
And whatever your sin or your sorrow may be,
Jesus will give you rest.

Even with musical selections like these, it can be a challenge to bring rest itself into liturgy and corporate worship. And worship leaders, whose Sabbath Sundays are filled with the work of preparing and facilitating services, aren’t always good models of rest in worship.

Leaders at the second annual Liturgy Collective Gathering are exploring how to find rest together through liturgy, art, and community, a topic inspired in part by the sense of burnout that has plagued church staff during the pandemic.

Initially, Tim Nicholson, music director at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Nashville, envisioned the Liturgy Collective as a culture-renewal project as part of his participation in the Gotham Fellowship program at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. He wanted to design a retreat or conference that would increase cooperation and fellowship between the worship directors at the 30-or-so PCA churches currently based in Nashville.

“That project fell on its face,” said Nicholson, who had hoped for a gathering in 2020. The pandemic abruptly put his plans on hold.

As gathering and travel became safer, he and fellow leaders were eager to come together for worship and encouragement after a difficult two years.

“Coming off of COVID-19, there was this need to get together,” …

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Don’t Leave Migrant Ministry to the Border

Q&A with Sami DiPasquale, head of an El Paso nonprofit, on what the surge of asylum seekers is like on the ground and how the church all over the country can help.

Sami DiPasquale runs Abara, a ministry that works on both sides of the border in El Paso, Texas, and Juárez, Mexico. The ministry has served the surge of asylum seekers, a fraction of whom are now being bused and flown to New York; Washington, DC; Chicago; and Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. Some migrants are glad for the free ticket; others allege they were deceived about their destination. About 11,000 migrants have arrived in New York City since May, with the mayor saying that the city’s shelter system is reaching a “breaking point.” But for ministries at the border, this is business as usual.

Thousands of migrants cross the southwestern border each day, and the surge in crossings has led to a record number of arrests this year. About half of migrants arriving are allowed to stay in the United States and pursue asylum claims. The surges in crossings go up and down. Most of those seeking asylum now are Venezuelans, among the millions fleeing a socialist regime. Christian immigration experts and lawmakers from both parties have said that the border shows a need for more judicial resources to process migrants’ cases.

How should Christians think about the thousands of migrants at the border?

Through media and social media, it gets painted like most people are at one crazy extreme or another on immigration, when I think most people are trying to grapple with what they feel is ethically right and compassionate.

What’s our posture? It’s easy for us in the US, at least for those that have been in a stable environment for a few generations, to be thinking about it as “How does God tell us what we do for people that are arriving?” But in so much of the Bible, especially …

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The Light Force of God’s Smuggler: Arab Christians Mourn Brother Andrew

Leaders gathered at Middle East evangelical meeting recall his conversations and books that shaped their ministries.

When “God’s smuggler” came to the Middle East, he went through the front door. Once known for hiding Bibles in the back of his Volkswagen when crossing behind the Iron Curtain, Brother Andrew instead simply handed them to terrorists. Coupled with his devotion to the Palestinian church, the founder of Open Doors shook the Western Christian status quo.

Arab evangelicals loved him for it.

“He had a soft heart for those in pain, the persecuted, and those usually considered on the other side, the enemy,” said Jack Sara, general coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Evangelical Alliance. “He was willing to step into a difficult place and talk with difficult people, but never compromise the message of the gospel.”

The news of Anne van der Bijl’s death Tuesday at age 94 shook participants during the second general assembly of the World Evangelical Alliance’s (WEA) Arab world region. David Rihani, president of the Jordan Evangelical Council, recalled the words of his father who received the Dutch evangelical frequently.

“This man is an example of a real Christian leader,” the first Jordanian evangelical pastor told his son. “He writes books, he shares knowledge, and he cares about everyone without discrimination.”

Rihani praised Brother Andrew’s ecumenical cooperation. Developing relationships with traditional Catholic and Orthodox leaders in the region, for decades Open Doors has chronicled persecution against all Christian denominations. And as the group’s advocacy across 60 countries grew to include the plight of believers in other religious traditions, the Bible smuggler won respect in the wider human rights community as well.

“He …

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Died: Dan Busby, Accountant Who Set Standards for Ministry Finances

He believed “Christians should set an example of the utmost integrity.”

Dan Busby fixed his father’s tax returns when he was a junior in college. In the process of correcting some mistakes and figuring out the proper deductions for the Wesleyan pastor and evangelist, he discovered his life’s calling.

“The Lord planted a seed in my heart,” Busby said in a 2018 interview, “that someday I should help fill the void.”

Busby, a certified public accountant who helped professionalize the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), died Wednesday at age 81.

Busby served as senior vice president of the accreditation agency from 1999 to 2008 and as president from 2008 to 2020. During his presidency, the number of ministries maintaining a membership with the EFCA nearly doubled, reaching a total of more than 2,400, including 50 of the 100 largest churches in the United States.

The NonProfit Times named Busby one of the top 50 nonprofit leaders six times between 2010 and 2015. When his retirement was announced in 2019, ECFA board chair Danny de Armas described him as loved, admired, and respected.

“Dan is an incredible leader who has grown ECFA’s membership and influence,” de Armas said. “Dan’s legacy will linger in the valuable resources he developed that serve ministry leaders and pastors in their efforts to operate above reproach.”

Busby was born to Howard and Bertha Orr Busby in 1941. The family lived in Lamont, Kansas, a farming community of about 30 people, located halfway between Topeka and Wichita. Bertha taught public school, and Howard pastored a small Wesleyan church when he wasn’t traveling the country holding camp meetings.

The young Busby went forward at one of those camp meetings when he was 14. The aisle wasn’t …

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Died: Brother Andrew, Who Smuggled Bibles into Communist Countries

Founder of Open Doors said he wasn’t an “evangelical stuntman” but a faithful Christian following the leading of the Spirit.

Anne van der Bijl, a Dutch evangelical known to Christians worldwide as Brother Andrew, the man who smuggled Bibles into closed Communist countries, has died at the age of 94.

Van der Bijl became famous as “God’s smuggler” when the first-person account of his missionary adventures—slipping past border guards with Bibles hidden in his blue Volkswagen Beetle—was published in 1967. God’s Smuggler was written with evangelical journalists John and Elizabeth Sherrill and published under his code name “Brother Andrew.” It sold more than 10 million copies and was translated into 35 languages.

The book inspired numerous other missionary smugglers, provided funding to van der Bilj’s ministry Open Doors, and drew evangelical attention to the plight of believers in countries where Christian belief and practice were illegal. Van der Bijl protested that people missed the point, however, when they held him up as heroic and extraordinary.

“I am not an evangelical stuntman,” he said. “I am just an ordinary guy. What I did, anyone can do.”

No one knows how many Bibles van der Bijl took into Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, East Germany, Bulgaria, and other Soviet-bloc countries in the decade before the success of God’s Smuggler forced him into the role of figurehead and fundraiser for Open Doors. Estimates have ranged into the millions. A Dutch joke popular in the late 1960s said, “What will the Russians find if they arrive first at the moon? Brother Andrew with a load of Bibles.”

Van der Bijl, for his part, did not keep track and did not think the exact number was important.

“I don’t care about statistics,” he said in a 2005 interview. …

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Missionary Group Buys Luxury Yacht

And other news briefs from Christians around the world.

The first modern cruise line to focus on Asia has closed down following the financial difficulty brought by COVID-19 and has sold the last of its fleet of luxury yachts to a German missionary organization. Genting Hong Kong’s Star Cruises’ other ships were sold for scrap. But The Taipan, docked in Malaysia, was acquired by GBA Ships (formerly Gute Bücher für Alle), which works in partnership with Operation Mobilisation. GBA Ships visit 15 to 18 port cities per year, providing aid and access to Christian books. Restoration of the 31-year-old, 85.5-meter yacht is expected to take 12 to 18 months. It will be renamed Doulos Hope.

China: Christian man escapes internment

A 43-year-old Christian man who was detained in the Xinjiang internment camps alongside two dozen Muslim Uyghurs has escaped the country and come to the US with his wife and son. Ovalbek Turdakun, an ethnic Kyrgyz who worked as a Kyrgyz-Mandarin translator, became a target of the Chinese government’s brutal assimilation program after he married a Kyrgyzstan native. He was detained for 10 months then suddenly released. The family fled to the US with the help of a research fellow at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, a Canadian surveillance expert, a McKinsey Group analyst, a family of American Christians, and China Aid founder Bob Fu. Human rights lawyers will submit his firsthand account of Chinese government repression to the International Criminal Court.

Australia: Many baptized at cross raising

A record of 130 aboriginal people were baptized by family elders and tribal leaders at a cross-raising ceremony on West Arnhem Land, in the northeast corner of Australia’s Northern Territory. Cross raisings have become significant …

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