New Year, New Hope
"God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble."
Psalm 46:1, ESV

New Beginnings
"The only way to get rid of your past is to make a future out of it.
God will waste nothing."
Phillips Brooks

The prophet Jeremiah wrote, in the midst of the destruction of Jerusalem and an entire way of life, "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:22-23). We began this new year with bright hope and promise and within days we were horrified by the happenings in our nation's capitol. I have no words to describe what I saw on television and on various media platforms. Our nation and the world witnessed lawlessness, disregard for our sacred institutions, and violence. We at the Center decry such actions and the attitudes that fueled the deadly protests. I awoke the next morning, and I was reminded again of the steadfast love and mercy shown by our Heavenly Father. While we lament the events that took place, and we long for God's healing, we are also bearers of hope.

Our January E-News has a new look, a new section entitled "Center Global Spotlight," and a fresh vision for ways to engage our world with the peace of Christ in this new year. The Center has long been engaged quietly and strategically with world partners to address global moral concerns in key areas that fall beneath our organization's purpose. Now, we feel the importance of inviting you to become aware of specific regions and needs around our world. We hope that you will become actively involved in praying, giving, and serving alongside of us.

I hated what transpired in Washington last week, but I am most concerned that we not lose our focus and momentum in overcoming a deadly pandemic. A number of you have called or written to ask me specific ethics questions about the coronavirus. I have written an article on Myths and Musts for Christians with regard to the new COVID-19 vaccines. There are calls to action that I hope you will consider. Karen Bullock's timely article on Muriel Lester issues us a powerful challenge to engage the despair all around us with the peace of Christ. Miss Lester's life humbles me. She modeled the life of service that calls me to reengage our world in ways beyond what I am presently doing. Bill O'Dell has written a timely word about what we may do while we wait for God's fresh direction in our lives.

Amanda Crane also provides us with important areas for Center prayer. You also will find news and updates on our various ministries, like Mary's Table, and current information on COVID-19. We have included an important update on the Forward by Prayer steps toward our new ministry facility. So, come join us in spreading Christ's peace in this new year!

Larry Ashlock

Myths and Musts for the New COVID-19 Vaccines

One would never think that a door delivery of blueberries, raspberries, chicken breasts, and healthy coffee creamer would look so good, but this was my joyful experience during the pandemic lockdown! The delivery person brought the package to the door, rang the doorbell, then left the scene. I could have dubbed him my “messenger RNA!” (mRNA). You know, of course, for what purpose I have used this analogy. Two COVID-19 vaccines that make use of mRNA technology have been given emergency use clearance by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are now being distributed here in the United States and around the world.

The vaccines are much publicized as miraculous, but many people are anxious about the safety of these inoculations considering the new technology and “warp speed” with which they were produced. I am not surprised that conspiracy theories and bad information have been manufactured and broadcast at similar speeds! Therefore, I want to debunk several myths today and offer a few musts for Christians!

Myth #1: The COVID-19 Vaccines are unsafe

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, like my door delivery person, include numerous safety precautions. Some people have expressed concern that the vaccine development was rushed, hence risky, and they are deciding to wait until it is proven to be safe. Such concern is a double-edged one—rushed production, suggesting skipped steps in the process, which leads to design flaws as a result. Let me address these concerns.

All COVID-19 vaccines, like all vaccines in the United States, must pass rigorous “safety and effectiveness” standards. The FDA states these guidelines clearly and the COVID-19 vaccines have met these standards. Furthermore, like product delivery to our front doors, the technology used to develop the vaccines has been around for more than three decades. It was first used in 1989 and transferred to a vaccine platform two years later. The use of a mRNA gene has been utilized in previous SARS-related coronaviruses. A key reason that researchers slowed its development then was that the virus was isolated and ceased to spread. The urgency had passed; however, the research was valuable for a new pandemic. It provided a head start on developing a vaccine for this new variety of coronavirus.

Secondly, the injected molecule in these new vaccines harbors only the elements directly required for expression of an encoded protein. Unlike a normal vaccine, RNA vaccines make use of a molecule that will tell certain cells what to build. No COVID-19 virus, like the current vaccines, is injected into your body. These COVID-19 vaccines are are coded for a specific disease antigen. You may recall that antigens induce an immune response in our bodies, thus generating antibodies. Once injected, the antigen is recognized by our immune systems and begins to fight the real thing; in this case, COVID-19.

Fact: The two FDA-approved emergency use vaccines are safe. Refer to reputable websites when conducting research. See Johns Hopkins.

Myth #2: The COVID-19 vaccines interfere with our DNA

The mRNA used in the new vaccines does not interact with a person’s DNA. Unlike traditional vaccines that are produced using infectious elements, RNA vaccines do not do this. They are produced in a laboratory which allows for faster responses to large outbreaks and epidemics. The vaccine does not replicate and decays within days of being injected into a person’s system. Like your door-delivery person, it goes away once the job is complete. RNA vaccines, additionally, are faster and less costly to produce than traditional vaccines. This medical advance is groundbreaking and signals a new wave of treatments.

Fact: The two FDA-approved emergency use vaccines do not interfere with or alter our DNA.

Myth #3: The COVID-19 vaccines are produced using cells from aborted babies

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are NOT produced from aborted babies. The mRNA technology is produced in a laboratory and does not require the use of "fetal cells." On the other hand, vaccines like those for mumps and rubella, from which you and I have benefited greatly, were early on (the 1960s) developed from two cell lines that originated from aborted babies. I will take up this complex moral issue in a forthcoming Pathway Ethics article to be released at the end of this month. Until then, we may be confident that we are showing respect for life's sacredness when we receive these vaccines.

Fact: The two FDA-approved emergency use vaccines are not manufactured using cells from aborted babies.

“Musts” for Christians in this Pandemic

In "church-speak," there are several ethical “musts” to consider when being neighborly (Luke 10:36-37). First, Christians must remain vigilant to ensure that the vaccine is distributed quickly and equitably to our most vulnerable populations. Frontline workers, the elderly, and those who are disabled and face mobility challenges, need to receive the vaccine. We must not overlook rural areas where the need is great and access to the vaccine is more difficult.

The drug was produced in record time, but the roll out has not been as fast as the production of the life-saving vaccine. The Federal Government led the charge in producing a COVID-19 vaccine; however, individual states are tasked with its distribution. Reports are surfacing of vaccines that are not being administered or nursing facilities that have yet to receive a supply. Churches do well to unite and raise their voices for just and swift care for the helpless; including those who are not church members. Accessibility to distribution sites may be a challenge to many within our poorer communities.

Action step: Offer to help those with limited access and mobility to follow the steps to secure an appointment to receive the vaccine and provide transportation when needed. Many people will need registration assistance. Familiarize yourself with the registration steps in your area, then facilitate the process for people [The link above is for the State of Texas].

Secondly, and this is important, Christians must not fall prey to conspiracy theories, nor should they spread them. The COVID-19 vaccine does not contain a microchip so that the government can track the movements of its citizens. Conspiracy theorists have flooded social media with half-truths about a comment that Bill Gates made on a separate topic. Please disregard such falsehood. Innocent and vulnerable lives are at risk of opting not to take the vaccine based upon erroneous ideas.

Action step: Refer people to sound medical advice regarding COVID-19. Refuse to politicize the issue, even when public officials, leaders in your community, and friends do so.

Thirdly, dear friends, Christians must be sensible and practice integrity. The virus is real and not a hoax. Christians must tell the truth about this virus. The death toll in the United States, and globally, continues to soar. We place the lives of the innocent and vulnerable at risk when we disseminate falsehood. I have elderly family members, like you do, who ask me whether some of these outrageous theories are true. They have been isolated for months waiting for some relief, so we should be extra careful not to add emotional distress to their burdens.

Action step: Check carefully the sources of information that claim COVID-19 is a hoax. Spread the truth, and you will help to save lives.

Christians are to be salt and light in our dark age. Ask God to use you as a positive influence and help in this critical hour of global need.

Larry C. Ashlock

Sometimes, when we least suspect it, remarkable people will cross our paths and change our lives from that point forward. Such a spirit was Muriel Lester, whose peacemaking impacted her nation and spilled beautifully into the world. A long-time friend of Gandhi and effective advocate of justice, she still shows us how the Kingdom of God may yet be realized in our own times.

Muriel Lester: England’s “Mother of World Peace”

Muriel Lester was born in Leytonstone, Essex (now in east London), on 9 December 1883 into a prosperous Victorian shipbuilding family. Her father Henry owned a shipyard in Blackwall Docks to the south on the Thames River, on the Isle of Dogs. It was her family's company that built the barge that carried Cleopatra’s Needle, an ancient Egyptian obelisk, dated 1450 BC, to London when it was given as a gift to Queen Victoria in 1819.

In 1902, the parents and five children moved seven miles further northeast to Loughton, where they lived in a large and lovely home called “The Grange.” Both Henry and Rachel were devout Baptists, and Henry served as president of the Essex Baptist Union. Muriel and her siblings were brought up to love Christ and to give back to the communities in which they lived. Muriel was converted and baptized in 1898 at age fifteen and joined the Union Church of Laughton. Her sister Doris and brother Kingsley soon followed. The forward-thinking Lesters provided their daughters Muriel and Doris, with a rare gift when they sent them to St. Andrews, Aberdeen, Scotland, to attend St Leonard's College.

The two sisters were traveling to London one day to shop when the train on which they were riding stopped for a time in “The Bow,” an area of slums, poverty, and despair. Looking out of the train windows, these privileged young ladies realized for the first time that not everyone lived with the luxury they had enjoyed each day. In 1902, an invitation to a dance at a club in Bow Road, for women workers at a match factory, changed their lives. The sisters had a wonderful time, became regular visitors to Bow, and made many friends with the poor and working class people who lived there.
Muriel began to question why Christians seemed not to connect Jesus’s radical call to discipleship with their everyday lives. She noted that wealthy Christians often gave funds to help charitable causes, but usually chose not to involve themselves with the poor or to cross class lines to change underlying causes of social ills. Muriel became troubled. She wanted to do something about it.
To learn better how to help those who lived in such dire conditions, Muriel and Doris asked their father for a small terraced cottage in Bromley by Bow from which they could begin to minister with and live among their new friends. To his credit, Henry was glad to do so. In 1912, they moved to Bruce Road in Bow, which they called Rose Cottage, and later Rachel Cottage, where they lived for the next forty years. They first began to listen and observe, then to do small, “overdue acts of justice.”
They encouraged local people in this overcrowded and polluted area to believe that they deserved, and had the potential to achieve, as much in life as the rich and powerful. They saw education, healthcare, clean air, nutritious food, and access to nature, music and the arts, as rights of which Bow people were being unjustly deprived. They aimed to prove that "ordinary men and women were quite capable of running their own affairs." They believed that neighborhood buildings could be owned and run democratically by the community. The hope was that the experience of cooperation and self-government, especially if it began in early childhood, would produce citizens capable of bringing peace and social equality to the nation and the world.
When their brother died unexpectedly in 1914, he left a sum of money to help the community of Bow. Together, Bow residents decided to purchase a disused Chapel, which they refurbished and named “Kingsley Hall” in his honor. From this community center, Muriel and Doris and Christians who lived in the area began ministries to bless the community. They met for church services, started Sunday School classes for age groups, fellowshipped with and took care of each other. They started a nursery for small children on Bruce Street and a women’s Bible study group and, in 1912, founded an orphanage called the Children’s House. Infant mortality rates then dropped from the highest to one of the lowest of any area of London. A new Kingsley Hall was built in 1928 to accommodate the large numbers of community members being served each day.

News of this work swelled beyond the boundaries of England. Muriel and Doris became pacifists, and Kingsley Hall became a retreat center, where many people from around the world came to learn how this community lived and worked together so effectively. Gandhi was a visitor in 1931, spending twelve weeks at Kingsley Hall. He took his daily morning walk about the Bow, visited its residents, and received governmental officials from his tiny room there.

Muriel became known as a leader for reconciliation, accompanying Gandhi on his tour of the earthquake-shaken regions in Bihar on his anti-untouchability tour during 1934. That same year, Muriel became Ambassador-At-Large and, afterwards, Traveling Secretary for the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, speaking in many nations, particularly after World War II.

Muriel retired in 1958 and moved to 49 Baldwinn’s Hill in Loughton to take care of her sister Doris, who was ill. In 1963, Muriel was honored by the “Freedman” award, which celebrates persons of distinction who have rendered eminent services to a Borough. When she died in 1968, three years after her sister, Muriel was famous, particularly in the US and in India. In Japan she was given the title, ‘Mother of World Peace.’ Today the Children’s House is still a nursery school, and two Kingsley Halls serve their communities in Bow and Dagenham. This month, we celebrate Muriel Lester’s courage and vision for the work of the Kingdom, right where she lived.
“How ridiculous we often are in our negations, our strutting self-importance,
our penchant for making labels and sticking them on people.
As though labeling a person disposed of him!
                                                                                                                — Muriel Lester

Karen O’Dell Bullock

“Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long.”
Psalm 25:4-5

One of the hardest things for me during this pandemic has been the act of waiting. Since our plane was turned around, just before entering African air space in late February 2020, it seems I have been waiting for something.
I do not necessarily know what I am waiting for, or why, and yet I wait. For most of us, 2020 was rife with waiting: waiting to see family and friends, waiting for things to return to “normal,” even waiting for toilet paper to return to grocery store shelves.

As the scripture above mentions, during times of waiting we are wise to seek knowledge of the Lord, learn how He moves, and increase our understanding of His truth. But this will not happen without effort. Reading our Bibles daily sets the foundation of the day. Even after reading a passage many times, God’s word is new and alive and speaks straight to our hearts. Devoting more time to prayer helps ensure clear lines of communication, and allows us to seek God’s will concerning the here and now, as well as what is to come. Taking a more global perspective reminds us of the struggles of brothers and sisters in Christ around the world and people-groups that have yet to hear His name. Lastly, waiting should lead us to watch more intently for where we see the Lord working and to listen more closely for God’s call. We can consider what the Lord has for us to learn, or see, or say, or do, in every event as we reflect on what we have read, prayed, and discussed.

I know that in these days we will not just sit and wait. Instead, we will be actively waiting, seeking God, praying, observing, and sharing, so that we are ready when He releases us for what He holds next. Staying focused on these principles has helped me to grow, given me encouragement, and prayerfully, prepared me further for when it is time to move forward. I’m excited for “what is next” but want to be prepared.

“…waiting on our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ…..” Titus 2

Let us press on to take hold of that which God is calling us to,

Bill O'Dell

With this month’s newsletter, the Center is beginning to include a new article each month, called “Global Concerns Spotlight.” In each brief news clip, you will find information about a specific country, some major concerns facing its citizens, and the latest data about the state of the Church and religious freedom there.

Each month, it is our prayer that we will learn together about our world in greater detail, join to pray intentionally for specific concerns and their causes, and intercede for our Christian sisters and brothers around the world. Join us in using the weblinks at the end of each article to explore more about the country and its concerns.

Asia Pacific Region: Myanmar (Burma)

o  The Republic of the Union of Myanmar is a country in Southeast Asia. Its neighbors are Bangladesh, India, China, Laos, and Thailand. The Andaman Sea is to its south, and the Bay of Bengal to its southwest.

o  Myanmar’s population stands at 54.5 million, with about 8.2% of its citizens identifying as Christians in this mostly Buddhist country. Christians are primarily among the Karen, Kachin, Chin, Karenni, Lahu and Naga people groups, who have been persecuted for decades. Just since 2018, some 150,000 Kachin, more than 90% of whom are Christian, have been displaced within their state.

o  Baptists in Myanmar number about 1.6 million in 4,929 churches. The Myanmar Baptist Convention has 18 affiliated conventions and two directly affiliated local churches under its umbrella, and is a member of the Baptist World Alliance. Today, they are engaged in evangelizing unreached people groups in their country and trying to plant 1200 new churches between 2014 and 2025. The Convention also operates the Myanmar Institute of Theology, the leading Christian seminary in the country, founded in 1927. This vibrant growth is taking place despite harsh persecution. But Baptists are not alone in their suffering.
o  Numbering well over a million in 2017, living mainly in Rakhine State, the Rohingya Muslim people have also been the target of ethnic cleansing by the Buddhist-dominated Burmese Army. An international outcry of horror has resulted in sanctions against the government. In August of that year, the attacks began. At least 6,700 Rohingya, including at least 730 children under the age of five, were killed in the month after the violence broke out, according to medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières. Almost all Rohingyas fled across the border where today, more than 860,000 are still living in the world's largest refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, in Bangladesh.

o  Christian converts from Islam or Buddhism face strong pressure from their family, friends and neighbors to recant their faith. Pray for increased religious freedom. Pray that believers would have courage and endurance in the face of persecution.

o  Pray for persecuted Christian minorities, that they would lovingly minister to persecuted Rohingya Muslims, especially those choosing to return from exile in Bangladesh. Pray that many hearts would be opened to the truth of Christ. Pray for Baptists as they start new churches.

o  Pray for peace in the land. Pray that the war would cease and people could return to their homes. Pray for the safety and security of displaced believers. Ask God to use His Church to bring provision and care for all of those who have physical, medical, and spiritual needs.

o  Intentionally go out of your way to meet someone from Myanmar you can befriend.

o  Volunteer with a Christian or community ministry that helps refugees.

I waited patiently for the Lord; and He reached down to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the mud; and He set my feet on a rock, making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord. 
Psalm 40:1-3 (NASB) 
Mary’s Table. We have several Mary’s Table events on the calendar for 2021, and we are so grateful for your faithful prayers for this ministry. The first Mary’s Table event of the new year is scheduled for Saturday, February 13, at the Baptist Center in Arlington. Pray for the Center leadership team as we prepare for this important time of ministry. Please also join us in praying for each woman who will be in attendance.
Expanded Global Ministries. Pray with us this year as we consider further expansion of our global ministry work. Pray that we would continue to follow His lead as we consider opportunities to engage in new global ministry partnerships.
Forward by Prayer Building Emphasis. Thank you for continuing to pray with us about the possible purchase of a 14,000 sq. ft. building and 2.13 acres of land just outside of Granbury, Texas. We have set a goal of March 1, 2021 to have the purchase price of $250,000 in hand.
Educational Institutions. Pray with us for God’s protection over administrators, teachers, students, and their families this month. Many educational institutions ,from pre-school through graduate school, are resuming classes this month. Myriad challenges abound, wherever and however learning is taking place, and these precious ones need our continued support and prayer!
Nation and Government. Just as Paul urged believers to do in I Timothy 2:1-2, let us continue to pray faithfully for our nation’s leaders and our country during these days of transitions in power. Ask God to convict hearts and draw us to Himself. May we look to Him to be our Guide, pray for those in leadership over us, and do all we can to live with a spirit of gentleness and peace toward our neighbors.

Amanda Crane

Year-End Gifts Gratitude!

We thank all of you for your prayers throughout the challenges of the last year. The Center flourished despite all of the obstacles in the year, and we feel confident that it was your prayers that sustained us.

We also thank you, our many donors, who gave sacrificially throughout the year, as well as for your extra gifts at year's end! We literally thanked God for prompting you to give in extraordinary ways. We thank you, too, for thinking of us and supporting us in this way.

Your 2020 Giving Statements will be placed in the mail tomorrow. Several of our donors will receive their giving statements via email because we do not have your home mailing addresses. Please watch your inbox for an email from the Center. Some of you have donated through the North Texas Giving Day Platform. You should have received an email confirmation of that gift when you made the contribution. Please check your email records for this donation confirmation. If we may be of service to you, please contact us.

Larry Ashlock
Forward by Prayer
January Update

We continue to plan for the future that the Lord has for us as it relates to the new property acquisition outside of Granbury, Texas.

We signed a commitment to purchase a 14,000 sq. ft. building and 2.13 acres of land for $250,000. Our goal is to have the money in hand by March 1, 2021. Many friends of the Center have begun donating to the Forward by Prayer fund, which humbles and encourages us. Thank you!

We see in this property the fulfillment of several promises that God has laid upon our hearts. In fact, we believe strongly that our education, Mary's Table work with women and children, and local and global training ministries will flourish in and from this facility. We ask you to partner with us in prayer and giving as we seek God's direction with the acquisition of this new home for the Center.

We presently are receiving estimates of costs for updating parts of the property. We appreciate your prayers as we work diligently to prepare the facility and grounds for the ministry that will take place there.

We also appreciate your consideration as you decide to support worthy ministries with your gifts. If you choose to support the purchase of the property, simply use the online giving option (click below), or send your donation to the Center. Write "Forward by Prayer" on the memo line. Or, if you wish to give toward the ongoing ministries of the Center, then simply contribute as the Lord directs you to give. Either way, we thank you for your support.

Important 2021 News Below

"Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us." 2 Timothy 3:16-17, The Message

2021 Pathway Devotional Ministry

Our Pathway Devotional community continues to grow, but there is always room for you to join us! This year is filled with fresh hope and promise, and I pray that you will make the study and application of God's word a vital part of your daily life. It will lead to great flourishing (Psalm 1:3).

I have added several new features to the 2021 Pathway devotionals. The daily devotionals will continue to offer a concise interpretation of a focal passage from each Life Journal Daily Bible Reading assignment as we read through the Bible in a year. Here is what is new in 2021:

  1. We will continue to apply Bible passages to our current daily lives but with a fresh focus on spiritual growth.
  2. A new family focus will help parents and children to study the same passages. The children's material will focus on a key life principle from one of the verses covered in the overall devotional. This approach will enable parents to become directly involved in the spiritual growth of their children.
  3. New .pdf files added to the website will help you to download and use them in your Bible Study note-taking and journaling. "Pathway Kids" is a page that your children may use to begin learning how to journal. These materials are free and may be accessed on the Center website inside the Pathway Devotional Ministry page.

The serious study and application of the Scriptures enables Christian disciples to flourish as our Lord intended. If you are already receiving the devotionals via email or accessing them on the App, then all you need to do is to continue to click on the devotionals each day.

If you choose to join us on this journey, simply send an email request to the Center at, or download the Center App to access the devotionals each day.

Larry C. Ashlock

Caring for Those Who are Hungry

"Jesus said, 'Have the people sit down.' Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” 
John 6:10-12, ESV

Ways that You May Help Mary's Table
*Please pray regularly for this ministry.
*Provide financial support for this ministry.
*Send Walmart gift cards, which enable us to purchase groceries and supplies for Mary's Table.
Mark Your Calendar for these Important
Mary's Table 2021 Dates

February 13, 2021 at the Center

June 5, 20201 at the Center

August 14, 2021 at the Center

October 9, 2021 at the Center

Give Now to Support

COVID-19 Resource Page 

We choose never to overwhelm you with health information, but we do offer quick access to all of the recent updates on the coronavirus.

The COVID-19 page on the Center's website provides you with a "one-stop" location to get much needed updates on the disease and ways to protect you and your family during the Christmas and New Year season. Please check the Pathway Perspectives article above for important information on COVID-19 vaccines and weblinks on vaccine registration and inoculation.

Please be aware that even though the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have been approved for emergency use, and the Johnson and Johnson, and AstraZeneca vaccines are forthcoming, we all still need to practice the big three: wear a mask, maintain good physical distance, and wash our hands.

Baptist Center for Global Concerns| |