Middle East FOCUS Team Update

By Denise Nichols, Middle East FOCUS Team Leader

It seems like little has gone according to plan in 2020…at least in our minds. That certainly has been true for Grace Point’s Middle East FOCUS (our 3 to 5-year mission partnership) as well. But we have an amazing God and nothing, not even a pandemic, can thwart His plans! It is such a comfort to know that God is always in control!

A few members of the FOCUS Implementation Team were scheduled to travel to Lebanon this spring for a ministry development trip. The purpose of this trip was to explore the various ministry opportunities that might be a good fit for Grace Point and to identify one or more opportunities for our first Lebanon mission trip this summer.  We also were planning on in-depth meetings with Amchit Baptist Church, our potential church partner, to determine how we could come alongside each other in ministry and, hopefully, solidify an official partnership. We were disappointed and, quite honestly, rather discouraged that the COVID-19 travel restrictions prevented us from going on either of these trips.

God had other plans. Romans 8:28 reminds us, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” We knew that we could trust in God’s perfect plan, not letting discouragement win. We knew that we needed to keep the FOCUS moving forward even though it was going to look very different than we had anticipated.     

The FOCUS Implementation Team has continued to meet regularly. Relying on God’s leading and direction, we began to explore some important questions. What does an effective Lebanon mission initiative look like when we can’t travel? How do we engage the congregation? How do we stay excited ourselves, not losing our momentum?

In June we held a Taste of Lebanon drive-thru event as a way to introduce Lebanese culture and delicious Lebanese food. A total of 152 meals were ordered from King of Falafel in Newtown, and $3,000 was raised for the ministry at Amchit Baptist Church. The event was quite a success and received very positive feedback. Be on the lookout for our next event! 

In July we held our first joint prayer meeting over Zoom with a few members of our team, Dave Wolf and leaders of Amchit Baptist. It was a sweet and powerful time of unity which strengthened the connection between our two churches. We have also been able to deepen our relationship with Amchit through regular communication, sharing prayer requests and becoming more invested in each other’s lives. We were very encouraged to know that they have been attending our online Sunday morning services! That would have been something we never would have imagined, but it has been an exciting part of God’s plan. 

A joint prayer time with Amchit Baptist Church.

In August, we established the Lebanon Relief Fund because of the deepening crisis in Lebanon.  Their economy has totally collapsed, prices have skyrocketed, unemployment has soared and those fortunate to keep their jobs have found their salaries cut drastically. In a country known for its hospitality, people are struggling to feed themselves and their families, let alone celebrate and share with others. The pandemic exacerbated this crisis and the recent explosion in Beirut took it to even more desperate levels.

Our ministry partner in Lebanon, Horizons International, has a vibrant and powerful ministry network, as well as a trustworthy reputation. They have been working hard to address the needs of the people, providing humanitarian aid for churches to distribute to those in need (up to 3,000 lunches per day!) In addition, their teams have been spending their days assisting in the clean up after the explosion and taping plastic over some of the millions of blown out windows. God has opened up the door to even more service and outreach opportunities as they share the Gospel with those they are helping.

Also, the owner of King of Falafel (from our Taste of Lebanon event) wanted to raise money for Lebanon relief and asked if she could donate it through Grace Point because she knew we were a trustworthy organization. This connection with our local Middle Eastern community was beyond what we could have planned, but it was part of God’s plan.

In just two short weeks since establishing the Lebanon Relief Fund, thanks to the generosity of the Grace Point family, we have been able to send over $34,000 to assist Horizons in their work, with a portion going to meet the needs of the members of Amchit Baptist Church and their community. If you have already given to the Lebanon Relief fund, thank you! Because the needs are great and on-going, we will continue to receive and forward funds. If you would like to make a contribution, go to: http://giving.gracepointpa.org and select the “Lebanon Relief” fund. 

Ephesians 3:20 reminds us that our God is a God “who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.” He has given us so many examples of this during these past few months, and we know that there are many more to come!  We are humbled to be part of God’s plan, serving the people of Lebanon and sharing His love.

We can’t wait to see what God has planned next!

New Community Resources

Where the Word of Christ dwells, the peace of Christ rules.

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
-Colossians 3:15-16

DEVOTIONALS

For families with young children:

Lauren Golis attends Grace Point!

For teens, adults, and families:

Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

THE WORD OF CHRIST IN SONG:

New Colossians 3:1-3 song by Darrell Benjamin!

Tell Alexa to play “Christian Worship”

An example of a Psalm in contemporary setting:

VBS 2020 Highlights!

Over the last three weeks, families have been enjoying FOCUS VBS – REFOCUSED with YOU in mind. Each week, families were provided with a gift box with activities, games, lessons and special items to guide them through VBS-at-Home. The gift boxes have served to encourage families in their faith and bring FUN into their homes in a new way.

We’ve heard that this unique approach to VBS has been extremely positive for families to learn together! We are grateful that we could serve our families in different and meaningful ways.

Here are a few things to celebrate and praise God for!

  • We had about 43 families participating representing about 84 children! 
  • We had 11 of those families were guests of Grace Point or new to our church. We welcome them and hope that VBS-at-Home has been a special first experience for them with us. 
  • Because of your generous donations, we have been able to bless families using half of our usual VBS budget and include more gifts than we could have previously. We praise God for your generosity making this possible. Thank you!

How you can continue to pray for VBS:

  • Pray that families would continue to be encouraged to have faith-centered conversations in their homes.
  • Pray that the seeds of faith that were planted would grow and that many kids would come to know and trust Jesus.
  • Pray that our guests might seek to know more about Grace Point so they can meet Jesus and be encouraged to grow in their faith!

Update from Lebanon – August 24

Grace Point,

Last week, we received the update below from one of our partners working on the ground in Lebanon. Please continue to pray for the people of Lebanon and our ministry partners. You can give to support our Lebanon Relief Offering by going here and selecting the “Lebanon Relief” fund: http://giving.gracepointpa.org

Here’s the update:

People are still very traumatized. The psychological shock seems to just be setting in. Many are injured and/or have lost so much.

The four most important hospitals in Beirut were destroyed.

The Horizons International teams have shifted to doing primarily building restoration. They are going to apartments and offering to replace glass and doors, mostly with plastic. While/after they do repairs, they share the Gospel and pray with the people.

Five people recently accepted Christ in one neighborhood.

Meanwhile, the churches are still focused on distributing sandwiches—approximately 2,500-3,000 per day! Horizons is providing some of the ingredients or money to buy the ingredients. The church members and their volunteers are making and distributing them.

Horizons also is distributing 100 food portion packages to each church.

Prayer requests: The teams really need rest. They are working long days in hard places. They are facing much pain and tears as they go from apartment to apartment, so it is psychologically very draining. It is hard to keep going.

Horizons Ministry Partner

Source: Horizons International Facebook Page

GP Responds – Lebanon Relief

The situation in Lebanon has reached catastrophic levels. The economy has totally collapsed in recent months, leaving many without jobs while prices have skyrocketed. There is widespread desperation as many, many are going hungry, either unable to find or unable to afford food for themselves and their families. The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified these issues and the devastation caused by the recent port explosion in Beirut has further compounded the magnitude of the desperation they are facing.  

In recent days, we have had many conversations focused on the burning question of “What can we do to help?” in the midst of such the desperate situation that Lebanon is currently facing.  Prayer and generosity are needed as never before.

The consistent answer from our ministry partners is that humanitarian aid is the highest priority at the moment.

Join us in supporting disaster relief efforts in Lebanon. Since last week’s explosion in Beirut, the country of Lebanon has plunged even deeper into turmoil, crisis and desperation with many people struggling to find food, receive medical care and rebuild their homes.

In an effort to help meet practical needs, we have established a Lebanon Relief Offering, to which you can give to financially support the relief efforts in Beirut. All funds collected through this offering will be sent to one of our ministry partners, Horizons International, who will provide food and supplies to help families in Beirut. You can give online and select “Lebanon Relief” and all funds will be sent to Horizons International. Grace Point’s online giving link: http://giving.gracepointpa.org

Middle East FOCUS Team Commitment

Additionally, through the gutsy generosity already demonstrated by a donor in our church, our Middle East FOCUS Team will be immediately sending a significant donation to assist with humanitarian aid through Horizons International. Together we hope to make an impact for God’s kingdom while also meeting practical needs for many who are hurting in the midst of this disaster.

We will designate a portion of the funds towards relief work and humanitarian aid. In Beirut, Horizons is now mobilizing teams that each day make sandwiches, hand out food and water, and go from apartment to apartment with rolls of plastic and tape to help residents cover some of the millions of windows that were blown out in the explosion. The long hours of work are exhausting, and desperate people can explode in anger when food runs out. But there are also many opportunities to pray with people and God’s love is shining at this dark time.

The remaining amount will be sent via Horizons International to our intended partner church, Amchit Baptist Church. These funds will provide humanitarian aid for those suffering in their congregation as well as those in the surrounding area. It may also provide assistance for the church’s operating needs as their bi-vocational pastor (fully un-paid volunteer) was just let go from his “day job.”

Continue to pray for the people of Lebanon and for our ministry partners working around the clock to help their community in this terrible situation.

To see our ministry partner in action, be sure to follow Horizons International on Facebook.

Thank you!

If you have any questions, please contact our Middle East FOCUS Team Leader, Denise Nichols at focus@gracepointpa.org.

Image sources: https://www.facebook.com/HorizonsPDE

Resources: Putting Sexual Sin to Death

holding handsSome Scriptures on enjoying sex in marriage:

Proverbs 5:15-19

Song of Solomon

Covenant Eyes – accountability software for computers and phones

Mingling of Souls book and other formats, by Matt Chandler

Love, Sex, and Lasting Relationships on RightNow Media, by Chip Ingram

The Purity Principle by Randy Alcorn

Every Man’s Battle by Stephen Arterburn (with other versions: Every Woman’s Battle and Every Young Man’s Battle)

Upward: One Hour Together

Man praying in dark room with ray of light on himJoin together with other Grace Pointers in committing to one hour per week of focused prayer for our church and our world. This is an important way to set our hearts and minds upward (Colossians 3:1-2).

Email us at prayer@gracepointpa.org and let us know when during the week you are planning to pray!

 

Ideas to P-R-A-Y:

PRAISE:

  • Worship God for who He is and what He has done. (Psalms 37, 100, 136, 145)

REPENT:

  • Confess your own sin, and confess on behalf of our community and country. (Psalm 51, Daniel 9)

ASK:

  • That Grace Point will be a bright light for Christ in a dark world. That our church will keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. That our country will turn back to God and honor Him. That our leaders will have wisdom to lead during this challenging season.

YIELD:

  • Pray that God’s Kingdom will come and His will be done. Pray that our hearts will be humble and obedient. (Isaiah 40, Matthew 6:10, 1 Peter 5:6-7)

Unity Takes Work

Community takes unity, and unity takes work!

Here are a few resources to support you as you “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3).

Grace Point Relational Commitments – Attachment to our Constitution

Resolving Everyday Conflict from Peacemaker Ministries (to request a RightNow Media account, click here.)

Biblical Peacemaking, from Relational Wisdom 360 Ministries

The JOY of Face Masks

As you seek to put into practice putting Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last (the path to JOY!) with regard to face masks, here is some further reading that captures the heart of our leadership on this topic.

This follows our July 5, 2020, message on “What Would Love Do” specifically relating to Face Masks!

4 Reasons to Wear a Face Mask, Even if You Hate It from The Gospel Coalition

While Some Try to Politicize Wearing Face Masks, for Me it’s a Spiritual Practice from Baptist News Global

Church, Don’t Let Coronavirus Divide You from The Gospel Coalition

June 14 Business Meeting Recap!

Our first ever “virtual” Grace Point Business Meeting was held via Zoom with over 90 devices connected! Here are the highlights:

Staff Recognition: Laura Schlenker
Dave Wolf recognized Laura for her milestone 30 years on staff! Laura is appreciated for her commitment to excellence, care for people, love for the Lord, and last but not least – sense of humor. We are grateful to have Laura as part of our staff team.

Annual Report, Ministry Year 2019-20
Ministry Staff summarized in writing the highlights of the current ministry year in this document. A full color print version with testimonies and photos will be produced as well.

Head Teller Vote
Scott Leuz explained that Dave Hefty is stepping down after serving the maximum term allowed as Head Teller. (Many thanks for your faithful service Dave!) The Head Teller is responsible to recruit and oversee the counters of the weekly offering. Andy Nichols has agreed to serve for up to one year while a candidate is determined who will then fill a full 3-year term.

Director of Student Ministry Vote
Dave Wolf summarized the work the Director of Student Ministry Search Team has performed over the previous 6 months:

  • Reaffirmation of top three skills important in a candidate: relate well to students, parents and volunteer leaders
  • Thorough evaluation of previous search process identified seven improvements for the current process
  • Prayed and reached out to personal connections, asking the Lord for a candidate with a trusted personal reference
  • Met Jeremy Davis near end of April – have seen God’s fingerprints all over our conversations
  • Jeremy participated in more than ten Zoom calls, followed by a full candidating weekend of meetings and skill demonstrations, and culminating with a public Q&A

Believing that Jeremy is an excellent candidate for the position, the elders presented Jeremy Davis for approval by vote to be our new Director of Student Ministry.

Financial Update and Budget Vote
Bill Wright provided a summary of recent months’ giving and expenses, and where we stand year-to-date. We are grateful for strong giving in May, which puts our income-to-expense in a surplus of $3,863 year-to-date. We are projecting to be close to breaking even with income-to-expense this fiscal year (ending June 30) but giving is projected to be below the budgeted need by $52,000. Bill also gave an update on the amount of the loan for the Payroll Protection Plan, and the amount that has been used to date.

Bill presented the proposed budget for the 2020-21 ministry year, which reflects a $16,500 or 1.0% decrease over the current ministry year. This budget does include a full-time salary for the Director of Student Ministry to begin immediately. Also, included is a part-time salary to fill the Ministry Administrative Assistant position, which will not be filled right away but will be considered over the coming months based on giving trends.

Resumption Plans
Dave Wolf gave a brief update on plans to reopen Grace Point for Sunday morning in-person worship. The Resumption Team, comprised of two elders and three staff, are working hard to balance safety with the desire to be back together again. The church-wide survey sent out a few weeks ago revealed 200 responses split down the middle between those who are ready to resume in-person worship regardless of mitigation, and others who prefer heavy mitigation.

For the next several Sundays, we will be conducting “test runs” with selected serving teams so that we may experiment with mitigation practices and gain real-life experience that will be helpful in developing our parameters for reopening. We want to make the return to in-person worship as positive as possible. Livestream worship will continue as part of our online ministry.

Closing
At the end of the meeting, Scott Leuz gave clear instructions for how to vote using the ballot that was e-mailed to members by returning the ballot via e-mail by 2:00 p.m. Also, members who do not have e-mail or wish to remain anonymous may use the two-envelope system to mail in their ballot or drop off their ballot in the designated box at church by Friday, June 19. The results of the vote will be announced during the service on June 21. The meeting was then closed in prayer.