Week of Prayer for Annie Armstrong Easter Offering


Campus Church Planting Missionary David Proffitt


Says Virginia Students Understand Life’s Uncertainties


By Mickey Noah

HARRISONBURG, Va. – For North American missionaries David and Shirley Proffitt, their passion is winning the next generation to Christ by planting new churches near college campuses. And this passion has turned into a family affair.

Seven years ago, the Proffitts left Southern California – where the couple and their grown son and daughter had been planting new churches for 25 years – for Virginia. In Virginia, they have been planting new collegiate churches as missionaries supported by the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia (SBCV).

David and Shirley are two of more than 5,000 missionaries in the United States, Canada and their territories supported by the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® for North American Missions. The Proffitts will be featured as part of the annual Week of Prayer, March 2-9, 2008, the theme of which is “Live with Urgency: Seize Your Divine Moment.” The 2008 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering’s goal is $61 million, 100 percent of which is used for missionaries like the Proffitts.

At James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., the Proffitts’ first Virginia church plant, Aletheia (Greek for “truth”) Church, has grown in six years from four members to the some 400 who regularly attend Sunday worship service.

The Proffitts’ son, Aaron, 29, is Aletheia’s worship leader and pastor, a missionary for NAMB and a church planter for SBCV. Amy, their 30-year-old daughter, serves as a counselor for the church, which meets in a renovated warehouse in Harrisonburg. Aaron’s wife, Ashlee, is a semester missionary while Amy’s husband, Jon, also is on Aletheia’s leadership team.

“Three-quarters of the 400 are students,” says David. “The rest of them were probably former students who have gotten married and now have their own children. This is a church that has leadership, supports the Cooperative Program, sends missionaries out, disciples, trains and teaches,” he said.

James Madison University is located in scenic Shenandoah Valley, and has an enrollment of some 17,000 students, 4,000 of them freshman, the largest freshman class in the school’s history. Most of the students are from Fairfax County and northern Virginia.

The 57-year-old Proffitt – who pulls up roots, relocates and plants new campus churches much like itinerant missionary Johnny Appleseed planted apple trees – says starting new churches on a college campus comes with its own special challenges.

“The challenges come when the university is not friendly toward a Christian organization, Christian ministry, churches and Christian campus organizations,” he explained. “They’ve been pretty friendly here in Virginia.

“We have to realize that each place is a unique setting. Even though they’re college and university students, they still are different no matter where.”

Proffitt said one reason he enjoys working with college students is because of the varied demographics they represent.

“College students are mobile. They are ready for risk-taking and challenges. They’re ready to pursue whatever might be next. They’re developing their values. They are in transition. Usually they’re more flexible. They usually don’t have much debt and don’t have to worry about a house to sell. They’re teachable and open. They love to get together, they love to study and they don’t want to be ‘dumbed’ down.

“They love the Word. They’re not as hard to reach evangelistically as a lot of people think. As we train and teach them, and show them how to do hands-on ministry, the more interested they become. The more they are taught and the more they get equipped, the more focused they become, and the more loyal they become,” Proffitt said.

When it became clear that Aletheia Church in Harrisonburg was in the good hands of son Aaron, daughter Amy and their spouses, Ashlee and Jon, David and Shirley next moved on to Richmond, home of Virginia Commonwealth University, the largest university in Virginia with 32,000 students. There, they launched yet another church, also called Aletheia, in downtown Richmond.

When they first planted the Richmond church, the Proffitts began by holding a series of Bible studies. For each Bible study, Shirley would invite and feed up to 18 people in their campus apartment.

“Shirley has been our hospitality leader and always prepares terrific meals for all the people we invite over. She uses hospitality to assist with the evangelism process,” said Proffitt.

“Every day a team of US/C2 and semester missionaries are going out on the campus of VCU and to surrounding housing and talking to students, building relationships and doing intentional evangelism,” said Proffitt.

“We’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of people become Christians,” Proffitt says. “We have even baptized new believers in the James River.”

The VCU campus is multicultural, and includes more than 1,500 international students, many from second-generation, international homes.

“At VCU, there are lots of Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus, and a lot of people who just haven’t made up their minds about God yet. Some of our greatest challenges involve seeing the many Muslim friends we’ve made come to an understanding that Jesus is God and loves them and desires to become connected through repentance and faith.”

Because of the heavy international student population at VCU, Proffitt said his ministry, Richmond’s Grove Avenue Baptist Church, and some other SBC ministries combined efforts and resources to hold an international student Thanksgiving dinner last November. About 300 — mostly international students stuck on campus with no place to go during the holidays — attended and enjoyed the 11 roast turkeys Grove Avenue Church members prepared, along with all the trimmings.

With Aletheia Church in Richmond now running about 200 people each Sunday, David and Shirley have since moved on to Norfolk to plant a third new church, the Old Dominion University branch of Aletheia Church.

Proffitt feels strongly about the need for Southern Baptists to be involved in ministry on the college campus.

“It’s important because it’s the future of the Southern Baptist Convention as a denomination. I grew up as a Southern Baptist. But the people who were the older people in the church I grew up in are gone now. They’re in heaven. So we have to continue to think about the next generation, preparing the next generation, getting the next generation ready.

“The next generation can go in any direction,” Proffitt said. “We want to lead them in a spiritual direction – understanding who God is, understanding that He sent His son, Jesus Christ, and that they can have a personal relationship with Him.”

The heart of Proffitt’s ministry, he said, is the dozen or so US/C2, summer and semester missionaries from NAMB who serve as his assistants and support staff during a school year.

“These student missionaries are amazing,” he says. “They do everything from office work, pick up students, disciple, lead small groups and evangelize. They can organize, provide hospitality, connect, create PowerPoint presentations and graphic art, crunch numbers – anything we ask them to do.

“The beauty of our cooperation with NAMB is that we train the students and NAMB helps fund them as interns and support staff for church planting.”

Proffitt asks Southern Baptists to pray that God would continue to give him and his team open and amiable relationships with the college and university administrations with whom he works. He also prays that the students will be open to the message, so they come to Christ.

When Proffitt is asked which part of his ministry brings him the greatest joy, he has a ready answer.

“First of all, it’s really encouraging to see my own family – the son and daughter I’ve invested so much in over the years – doing their own ministry. They’re actually helping to plant new churches. My second joy, evangelistically, is to see a student, or anybody in the community, become a Christian – to see them get discipled, baptized, equipped, involved, experienced and confident in ministry. And the third thing that really encourages me is to see people going global, fulfilling the Great Commission.”

“Live with Urgency,” the theme for the 2008 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, are not just empty words for those in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Proffitt said, because of the tragic mass killing of 32 students, faculty and staff at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg last spring.

“Because of Virginia Tech, we know how short life can be. Because we work among young people, we realize that life can be short and can move on very, very quickly. Before you know it, students are in a phase of life where they’re not as flexible, not as willing to hear, to change, and to allow spiritual alterations in their lives.”

Tuesday’s Devotional



“At the name of Jesus every knee should bow…” (Philippians 2:10).

Mike Benson, Editor


“MENSA” IS AN exclusive organization composed of those who are deemed to be geniuses…

Only the truly intelligent need apply. They have meetings where they express their erudition, I suppose, and a newsletter of the same name that is, presumably, full of intelligent and brilliant insights. Doctors and scientists and members of “think tanks” join this group.

They are undeniably smart, but they are not wise.

Albert Einstein was perhaps the most brilliant mind of this century, perhaps the most intelligent man who ever lived. He proposed the Theory of Relativity, and played a part in discovering how to split the atom. He wrote many insightful things.

He was undeniably intelligent, but he may not have been wise.

When the Bible speaks of “wisdom,” or “foolishness,” you must understand that it is not talking about IQ, or the amount of “gray matter” one possess. The Bible does not mean to be insulting when it calls someone a “fool.” Such a person is not a buffoon, or a moron. He is simply not wise by God’s definition.

James helps us to see “wisdom” the way God does. The truly wise person does not “harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition” in his heart. Wise people are “peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”

Wisdom has to do with our behavior. A wise person displays the sweet spirit of Jesus. He does not love a “good fight,” he loves peace between brethren. He does not have ambition that by its selfishness steps on others.

Hannah the mother of Samuel may not have been a genius, but she was wise.

Nathaniel the skeptic from Bethsaida may not have been a member of Mensa, but he was wise.

You remember the story of the wise and foolish builders? It was one of the earliest Bible stories you ever learned. You have probably sung the song a million times, mimicking the action of the “rains” and the “floods.” Jesus defines the wise man as the one who “hears my words, and does them” ( Matthew 7:24-27). He similarly describes a “fool” as one who “hears” his words, but “does not do them.”

So wisdom is not what you know, because both people knew what Christ wanted. The wise person lived by it.

So I say it, not proudly, but gratefully; I belong to an inclusive organization. It’s called the church. Those who live by the organization’s charter are wise. Not geniuses, necessarily, but wise.

Would you care to join? (Stan Mitchell)

“Who is wise and understanding among you?

Let him show it by his good life”

( James 3:13).


Annie Armstrong Week of Prayer

Melanie Lawler:

God’s ‘Miracle Missionary’ in Northwest Nevada
By Mickey Noah

RENO, Nev. – North American Mission Board missionary Melanie Lawler is a real, talking, walking-around miracle.

To follow Melanie around northwest Nevada where she serves the Sierra Baptist Association as a ministry evangelism specialist in Reno, you’d never guess she first suffered seizures as a fourth grader in Leland, Miss. Melanie first was diagnosed with epilepsy.

Melanie’s seizures followed her family’s move to Carthage, Miss., where, during the 11th grade, doctors discovered a brain tumor. The tumor was removed but then 17-year-old Melanie suffered a stroke.

Following the stroke, “they (doctors) said I would be a vegetable,” Melanie recalls. But the doctors forgot to consult God, who had other plans.

Melanie remembers that as a teenager, her pastor at First Baptist Church, Carthage, Russ Barksdale, challenged her to memorize Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you. . . plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (HCSB)

“And I memorized that verse and shortly after, God began speaking to my heart saying, ‘Melanie, I have plans for you.’ And I would say, ‘Oh yes God, I know. I’m going to be a pediatric neurologist. I’m going to be a good doctor for you Lord.’

“And God would say, ‘No Melanie. I have plans for you.’

“God brought me through the brain tumor and the stroke and today, I’m OK. I realized that if God could protect me in the midst of great problems, then I could trust Him to dictate the direction of my life.”

Lawler is one of more than 5,000 missionaries in the United States, Canada and their territories supported by the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® for North American Missions. She is among the NAMB missionaries featured as part of the annual Week of Prayer, March 2-9, 2008. This year’s theme is “Live with Urgency: Seize Your Divine Moment.” The 2008 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering’s goal is $61 million, 100 percent of which is used for missionaries like Melanie.

Lawler earned her bachelor’s degree at William Carey College, Hattiesburg, Miss. Her current assignment in Reno is actually her second stint in Nevada. She served as a US/C2 missionary in Las Vegas back in the late ’90s, after graduating from college and before receiving her master’s degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

“After my time in Las Vegas ended in 1998, I told God I would never live in Nevada again,” laughs Lawler. “It was too hot, too dry, too brown and too ugly.

“Following seminary, I was seeking where God would use me in ministry next. I got a call to come back to Nevada, and my immediate response was ‘No! It’s too hot, too dry, too brown and too ugly.’” But God had His plan and Melanie returned to Nevada in fall 2001.

“Reno continues to grow on me and I’m even beginning to find beauty in the desert,” she says. “But I still go to Lake Tahoe at least once a month to get my tree fix. Now I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”

Think of Reno, Nev. and one usually conjures up bright lights, casinos, gambling and other assorted sins and vices. Melanie, now 34, is ready to take them on.

“My goal is to see our churches reach all our communities for Christ,” she said. “So that includes the people working at the casinos and the tourists visiting the casinos. We don’t have casino ministries in Reno at this point, but it’s a dream I hope to carry out in the future.”

Assigned as a ministry evangelism specialist for the last six years, she serves cities in northwestern Nevada – Reno, Sparks and Carson City, the state’s capital – and smaller towns most have never heard of — Gerlach, Empire, Silver Springs, Minden and Gardnerville.

“Our association is a mixture of rural and metro communities,” Lawler explains. She said the Sierra Baptist Association extends from the California state line east 100 miles into the desert, and from the Nevada/Oregon border south to California. Lake Tahoe and Virginia City are also part of the Sierra association.

Lawler said the people in her mission field are from all walks of life – from the middle class and inner-city neighborhoods of Reno to the “second home” owners at Lake Tahoe to the ranchers in the Nevada desert.

“I help our churches develop and do ministries that reach beyond the walls of the church and into their communities to share Christ. They can be ministries like a food pantry, an ESL (English as Second Language) class, or a ministry presence at special events in our cities.”

One ministry Lawler is especially excited about is a food ministry local Southern Baptists recently have been given responsibility for by the county government in Lyon County.

“The county came to First Baptist Church in Fernley and asked if we would be willing to host a food bank,” she said. “So now, once a month the church receives all the food for the food bank and the church members go to the church and box it up. On Fridays, members of the community come into the church and get their allotment for the month.

“It gives the church the opportunity to have people come in and see that the earth doesn’t break in two if they actually enter a church. It also allows the local people to see that the church’s members are normal people, too. I hope to begin to see these people coming to church as a result.”

Another ministry Lawler helps run is ESL classes. She says many in northwestern Nevada don’t know how to read or speak English and in some communities, as many as 52 percent of the people speak a language other than English.

“Our churches are beginning to say, ‘maybe we could do something to help with that.’ So we’re starting ESL ministries in different areas,” said Lawler, citing one for Koreans who speak some English but not well enough to communicate and get along in society.

Lawler’s favorite ministry is the Kid’s Club, an initiative geared to kids in Nevada’s apartment community. Lawler herself became a Christian in Mississippi when she was only six.

“It’s given an opportunity for many of those children — who have never been inside of a church, never heard of God, never heard of Jesus and never heard of the Bible — to be able to come and learn that God cares about them, loves them and desires to have a relationship with them.

“So at the Kid’s Clubs we do games, songs and stories. Sometimes we do a craft. Of course the children’s favorite thing is the snack at the end,” said Lawler.

Another ministry involves the “Nevada Day Carnival” each Oct. 31, which commemorates the day Nevada became a state. All the students get out of school for the day and although it coincides with Halloween, Lawler said the day has nothing to do with goblins or witches.

“Before the actual carnival begins, we have a local church, First Baptist in Carson City, which cooks dinner for the carnival workers and shares Christ with them.”

Similar ministries are carried out for area Fourth of July celebrations and even for“Burning Man,” a well-known counter-culture festival held in the middle of northwest Nevada’s Black Rock Desert each August. For Burning Man, Melanie and her team distribute gallon-jugs of water, each with a Gospel of John and a tract attached.

What gives Melanie her greatest joy?

“Two things. First, seeing people come to know the Lord and being able to share Christ with them. Second, resourcing a church and watching the church realize, ‘Hey, we can do that. We can reach past our walls. We can share Christ in our community. We may be a little church that meets in a school or in somebody’s home. But we can do something to share Christ with the community.’”

She asks Southern Baptists to pray that churches in northern Nevada will realize and cultivate their harvest fields.

“Ninety-five percent of the people here in northern Nevada don’t know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. On any given Sunday, only one person out of 10 here in Washoe County, where Reno and Sparks are, will to go any kind of church anywhere. That includes the Mormon and Catholic churches.

“The Annie Armstrong Easter Offering is vital to our ministry here,” Lawler said. “We would not be able to be here at all if it weren’t for the Annie Armstrong offering. It allows me to be able to do my work without having to worry about how my bills are going to be paid. I know the money is there for me through our Southern Baptist churches.”

Tuesday – Obituary

Billy Truitt Bankston, 75, a native of Kentwood and a 30-year resident of Covington, died Monday, March 3, 2008. He was the beloved husband of the late Bernice Bankston, loving companion of the late Kathleen Willis, father of Perry Bankston and spouse Brenna, of Picayune, Miss., and brother of Hollis Bankston, of Roseland, Doris Sweat, of Hammond, Brenda Bankston, of Kentwood, and the late Harold, Johnny, Curtis and Sidney Bankston and Ester Ruth Pettitt. He is also survived by five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He was a longtime volunteer at St. Tammany Parish Hospital. Relatives and friends of the family are invited to attend the funeral service on Thursday, March 6, at 1 p.m. at Shepherd’s Care Ministries, 20115 La. 1081, Covington, LA 70435. Visitation at the church on Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and on Thursday from 11 a.m. until service. Interment in Shepherd’s Fold Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Billy’s name to Shepherd’s Care Ministries. Arrangements by entrusted to E.J. Fielding Funeral Home Inc., 2260 W. 21st. Ave., Covington, LA 70433.

Monday – Obituaries

Douglas Arnold Schneider
(August 30, 1931 – March 1, 2008)

Died at 7:58 p.m. on Saturday, March 1, 2008 at his residence in Kentwood. He was a native and former resident of New Orleans, LA and later retired to Kentwood. Age 76 years. He retired as owner of Crescent Gun and Repair in New Orleans, was Past Master of Trinity Lodge #375 of New Orleans and two time Past Master of Lodge #184 of Spring Creek. Visitation at McKneely Funeral Home, Kentwood, from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. on Tuesday and at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, 1908 Short St., Kenner, from 10 a.m. until religious services at 12 Noon on Wednesday. Services conducted by Fr. Richard Miles. Interment Garden of Memories, Metairie. He is survived by his wife, Elsie Hall Schneider, Kentwood; 3 daughters, Mrs. Gloria Gaines and husband, Edward, Raceland, Mrs. Orna Mumphrey and husband, Clarence, Prairieville and Elsie Jo Schneider, Abita Springs; brother, Gerald Schneider, New Orleans; sister, Mrs. Elaine Laurence and husband, Tommy, Auburn, AL; 8 grandchildren; 8 1/2 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, Joseph V. and Mabel Boudreaux Schneider.

Louise Ardillo Marabelli
(October 25, 1924 – March 1, 2008)

Died at 11:12 a.m. on Saturday, March 1, 2008 at North Oaks Medical Center in Hammond. She was a native of Kenosha, WI and a resident of Independence. Age 83 years. Visitation at Mater Dolorosa Catholic Church, Independence, from 9:30 a.m. until religious services at 11 a.m. Wednesday. Services conducted by Fr. Chris Romaine. Interment Colonial Cemetery, Independence, LA. She is survived by her 3 daughters, Diana Ardillo, Indpendence, Sandy McAlister and husband, Donald, Independence and Marianna Miller and husband, Jim, Knob Noster, MO; brother, Johnny Marabelli, Kenosha, WI; 6 grandchildren; 7 great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her first husband, Sam Ardillo; parents, John and Ida Marabelli; sister, Olivia Harvey; brother, Anthony Marabelli.

Jason Phillip Smith
(July 11, 1986 – March 1, 2008)

Died at 11:25 p.m. on Saturday, March 1, 2008 at St. Helena Parish Hospital in Greensburg. He was a native of Belle Chasse and a resident of Montpelier, LA. Age 21 years. Visitation at Montpelier Baptist Church, Montpelier, from 9 a.m. on Thursday, March 6, 2008 until religious services at 12 Noon. Services conducted by Rev. Rusty Durant and Rev. David Theriot. Interment Montpelier Cemetery, Montpelier. He is survived by his mother, Pamela Morris Smith; two sisters, Jessica Lynne Smith, Montpelier and fiance’, Joseph Wall, Springfield and Jennifer Lynne Futrell, Montpelier; grandparents, James E. Morris and Kathryn Crouch Morris, Belle Chasse; step-grandmother, Mary Smith, Derby, MS; aunts and uncles, Mitchell and Vickie Futrell, Montpelier, James Phillip Morris, Belle Chasse, Kenny and Ruby Smith, Picayune, MS, Karen and Mike Anderson, Pearl River, Kathy Louise Smith, Long Beach, MS, Tori Smith, Derby, MS; 8 cousins, Ken, Cher, Victoria, Nolan, Brandy, Jeremy, Joshua and Jacob. He was preceded in death by his loving father, Kerry Vireece Smith, who died in a car crash on November 21, 2007; grandparents, Nolan Ray Smith and Shirley Meitzler Biehl. Special thanks goes to St. Helena Parish Nursing Home where Jason resided from December 2006 with love and excellent care. Also to Occupational Therapist, Linda Charleville for not only the therapy but the love and devotion she had for Jason. As an employee of the hospital, I think of St. Helena Parish Nursing Home and St. Helena Parish Hospital as one. I thank everyone and every department for the love they showed Jason. Jason’s mother, Pamela Smith.

Monday – Update on Hill Family

Just received a posting on Aaron. We need to pray for Faith as she is now alone with Aaron at RMH. Waiting for March 12 time with doctors. She is so unselfish & has requested prayer for Marshall who is there. God Bless You

This weekend was nice with Scott here visiting. We had some nice weather and had some good family time. Aaron and I are a little sad, though, as mom, Scott and Levi left this morning heading home. It is lonely already… Aaron and I will need each other for support until we see our family again.

Please remember our new friend Marshall Sanders in your prayers today. Marshall’s mom is a teacher at NWR and his daddy is a fireman in Flowood. Marshall was having his second surgery for hypoplastic left heart syndrome on Thursday and there was more damage to his heart than doctors anticipated. He has been on bypass since Thursday. Although they anticipate taking him off bypass today, there is a possibility that he may need a heart transplant asap. He and his family need our prayers.

Love to everyone.