Part five of five parts; click here to read part four.

84. Nout Thipphavong, Friend of Refugees
In a moving address to several hundred junior highers at a Baptist church conference in Kansas City last April, Nout Thipphavong, pastor and former refugee, shared snippets of her life's journey: She grew up in a privileged child-hood in Laos but became an impoverished political refugee in two foreign countries. She was reared in the animistic Buddhism of popular Lao religion but became a follower of Christ. And she has grown from a novice Christian to an internationally respected religious leader and pastor.

Nout (rhymes with "root") arrived in the United States in the mid-1980s when she was just slightly older than those in that teenage audience. Like millions of other Southeast Asians, her family fled their home and country due to oppression and economic hardship fostered by the political upheaval of the post-Vietnam War era.

They settled in California, where other family members had preceded them. Nout remembers the "neighbor love" of a Laotian church in San Diego: "They sent people every night to read the Bible and pray and ask us if we needed help to go to the market or government offices."

She soon re-established contact with a young man whom she had grown to love in a Thai refugee detention center, and they married in 1986. The young couple moved from California to Pennsylvania where her husband, Phokham Thipphavong, had been sponsored by a Brethren in Christ congregation. "The church took care of everything for us: a car, how to shop for groceries, and teaching us English and the Bible," she recalls. "We had nobody else. Just the people from the church."

"At first we didn't understand them. But I was given a Thai Bible that I could understand. I saw how the Christian people cared for us truly from their hearts. I thought, The Christian way is the right and true way." Nout and Phokham embraced Christianity and were baptized in December 1987.

Shortly thereafter, they joined relatives in Kansas City and associated themselves with a small group of Lao-American Christians, most of whom had been sponsored by Prairie Baptist Church, a suburban congregation in Kansas City, affiliated with the American Baptist Churches, U.S.A. (ABC). In 1991, Prairie Baptist, in conjunction with the ABC's program of new church development, sponsored a daughter congregation, the Lao American Church (LAC). There Laotian is the "first" language, and "sticky rice" is served during the Lord's Supper. Nout and Phokham quickly blossomed and assumed leadership roles in the LAC. They received theological training through Midwestern Baptist Seminary's certificate-level program and were installed as licensed copastors in January 1992. Five years later, in March 1997, the congregation ordained Nout to serve as pastor (possibly the first and only Laotian woman to be ordained to Christian ministry) while Phokham continued in a part-time capacity.

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In the summer of 1996, a refugee camp along the Thai-Lao border was being closed down, consigning thousands to be numbered potentially among the internationally "homeless." Don Bosco Community Services of Kansas City looked to area churches for sponsorship assistance for Lao families. Whereas Prairie Baptist had resettled hundreds of Laotian refugees between 1975 and 1992, this time, the daughter congregation was asked and answered the call for help.

In September 1996 the first two families arrived in Kansas City; two other families have arrived since.

Pastor Nout, in addition to her normal ministerial tasks, engages in resettlement services. On a "typical" day she may accompany a young mother, new baby, and other young children to get immunizations and checkups at the health clinic; help fill out intake forms; and accompany frightened and uncomprehending patients into an examination room, serving as interpreter and comforter. On another day, she may drive one of them to the immigration office (an hour away). She and other LAC members serve as advocates with landlords, school officials, and ESL (English as a Second Language) classes. She helps secure jobs for employable adults and teaches how to write checks and mail payments on monthly bills. She arranges transportation to just about everywhere—including Sunday services. But, she says, "Even if they do not come to church, we help."

Mr. and Mrs. Phongsavanh joined the Lao American Church, choosing "God's way." They were baptized at the sixth-anniversary celebration of the LAC last June. "Without God's help," they said, "we might still be in the refugee camp."

85. When the former Soviet Union broke up, a group of Yupik Eskimos in Alaska learned of the existence of numerous villages of Yupiks in Siberia—just across the Bering Strait. With freedom to visit their long-separated kin, the Alaskan Yupiks shared the gospel and began to see conversions. So the Presbytery of Yukon (PCUSA) established "Bering Witness," a ministry that pays the travel costs of Siberian Yupiks who come to Alaska for encouragement and an annual leadership conference.

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86.The Village Church, located in New York City's Greenwich Village, founded the International Arts Movement (IAM), a part of the congregation's strategy to be a church for the creative community. Pastor Scot Sherman says IAM activities include a monthly fellowship where Christian artists meet to discuss how Christian values affect their work, dance recitals, art exhibitions, and concerts of sacred jazz.

87. Men from Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in Bethesda, Maryland, and The Friends Meeting (Quakers) in Washington, D.C., are among the volunteers who help out at various chapters of The Friends Club, which supports men in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. Patients are encouraged to participate in field trips, engage in discussions, listen to speakers, and sing and dance.

88. More than 240,000 needy children in 20 Third World countries are being sponsored through Compassion International. The program allows children to grow up healthy, well-educated, and aware of Jesus.

89.Eastern College in Saint Davids, Pennsylvania, requires entering freshmen to undertake a semester of community service. About half adopted Barry Elementary School, a public inner-city school, to serve as tutors and teaching assistants.

90.The Institute for East-West Christian Studies at Wheaton College recently sponsored its first inter-denominational gathering on women and evangelism. Sixty-four leaders, representing 12 denominations from every region of the former Soviet Union, shared experiences in women's evangelistic ministries in the troubled post-Soviet society.

91. With 116 chaplains working in prisons and jails in 25 states, Good News Mission of Richmond, Virginia, saw 16,039 inmates make first-time commitments to Christ in 1996.

92. The 120-year-old Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago recently opened a new dormitory to house 130 homeless women and children per night. It also provides beds for 420 men each night, serves 2,300 meals a day, and enrolls 185 students in its Bible institute/rehabilitation program.

93.Christian Business & Professional Women of Kansas City, Missouri, coordinates clubs of businesswomen in 1,844 cities and towns. Their once-a-month meetings, which feature Christian speakers, allow for professional networking and provide a venue for introducing other businesswomen to the gospel.

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94. The Carrollton, Texas-based Gospel for Asia supports in 10 Asian countries over 6,000 native missionaries who concentrate on evangelizing people groups most unreached by the gospel.

95. While Pro Basketball Fellowship maintains volunteer chaplains for each of the National Basketball Association's 29 teams, this June the ministry organized an exhibition game in formerly atheist Romania that was nationally televised and included a half-time presentation of the gospel. Using retired NBA players and members of the Continental Basketball Association, the Christian team also raised awareness of Children Relief Networks' care for abandoned children in Bucharest.

96. The fifth annual Moscow campaign by Jews for Jesus saw Russian Jewish Christians hand out 1,217,485 gospel tracts they had designed and printed in Moscow. As a result, 140 Jews and 160 Gentiles immediately became Christians, and an additional 6,576 Muscovites asked for home visits to discuss Christianity further.

97. A campaign by the American Leprosy Mission to raise $5.6 million that will cure 28,000 people of Hansen's disease (leprosy) in 1997 remains on target.

98.Paxton Ministries in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, provides long-term housing and mental-health services for 93 adults, is staffed by Christians, offers optional Bible studies, and organizes a group of intercessors who pray for the residents.

99.Campus Crusade for Christ estimates more than 71 million viewers worldwide saw the JESUS film last year from television broadcasts alone. The film has been translated into 410 languages.

100. In May, 141,000 people attended Luis Palau Evangelistic Association crusades in El Paso (Texas)/Ciudad Juarez (Mexico); 8,000 people made faith commitments.

CONTRIBUTORS:Denise George is the author of 13 books, including The Christlike Woman: God's Heart, God's Hands, due out in January. Edward Gilbreath is associate editor of New Man magazine. Keith Hinson, who also compiled the short profiles, is a pastor, freelance writer, and public-relations consultant. Frederica Mathewes-Green is the author of Facing East: A Pilgrim's Journey into the Mysteries of Orthodoxy. Joe Maxwell is the editor of re:generation quarterly and national correspondent for World magazine. Tarris D. Rosell is a doctoral student at Vanderbilt University. Amy Sherman is the author of Restorer of Hope: Reaching the Poor in Your Community with Church-based Ministries That Work and director of urban ministry at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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