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!

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

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)

Together

“…Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression…”
(Isaiah 1:17)

My heart aches for the brokenness of our world, so evident in recent days.

Mr. George Floyd’s death at the knee of an officer sworn to serve and protect is at the same time personally tragic, and also embodies a larger standoff that has existed for too many years in our country. A standoff between those in power who sometimes misuse it, and those of diminutive voice calling for justice, but being ignored.

This is a brokenness at a foundational level, that goes to the core of what it means to be human.

I have not been quick to comment on racially charged events because I honestly feel inadequate and poorly positioned to do so. I cannot empathize with the frustration experienced by my African American friends because I have not experienced what it’s like to be marginalized in the way they have. I don’t know what it’s like to be instantly dismissed, or suspected, or mistreated simply because of the color of my skin.

But I want to say to my African American friends and call us as a community of faith to say: though we may not empathize with your pain, we can care about you, stand with you, listen to you.

We can listen to what is being said through the brokenness of both peaceful and violent protests. The violence causes our hearts to ache too, because in it we see pain masked by anger, more innocent people being hurt, and the condemnation of a governmental system that has failed to provide justice equitably.

Let us join together in an apology for the times when you have been ignored while speaking in a normal tone of voice. We are sorry that you sometimes have to shout to be heard.

So, may we listen as you speak in a normal tone of voice, in the context of personal friendship. Let us weep together as you share your pain. Let us speak out on your behalf where our voices can make a difference.

It would be easy for us to write off the polarization in our country as a lost cause, but then I see Jesus confronting it head on. He chose Matthew the tax collector and Simon the Zealot to be among His disciples. They epitomized the political polarization of their day: one pledged to overthrow the oppressive force of Rome, the other sold out to collect more revenue so that force could spread.

Jesus called these two men from polar opposite worldviews into a cadre that lived with Him in tight-knit community for three years. I wonder how many times Matthew and Simon snarled at each other, seethed at each other, avoided each other. But Jesus invited them to three years of walking together and eating together and serving together and learning together from the Master what it means to love one another.

And so, that is my prayer for our community, beginning with our church family. I want us to walk together and eat together and serve together with those who are different from us, learning from the Master what it means to love one another. THAT is what the church should look like, my friends.

Let’s lift our voices together then, first in praise to our God Who creates each and every human being in His image, with equal dignity, equal value. And then let us kneel in praise to Jesus on ground that is blessedly level at the foot of His cross – thanking Him for making His redemption from sin equally accessible to every one of us.

And after praise to our perfect God, let us join our voices in a plea for justice to Him and to our imperfect governmental leaders, on behalf of every imperfect yet valued human being. I confess I’m not entirely sure how to do that. But let us press forward in finding out, together.

Dave

Elder Prayer (3/29/20)

Father, we acknowledge that we owe our every breath to You, and by Your Spirit You sustain and encourage us (Job 12:10). We’re humbled to admit that we’re helpless without Jesus who holds all things in this world together (Colossians 1:17). But that’s where we are—helpless and vulnerable—and we’re especially aware of it in these days.

Our faith is in You, who delivered us out of sin’s dark night and transferred us to the kingdom of the Son You love, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14). We have so much in common in Christ that even this COVID-19 social distancing pales in comparison with what we share with all of our brothers and sisters in the LORD (Hebrews 3:1; Galatians 4:4-7).

But we do confess that we have not been as loving toward Your people as we could be. And maybe not as attuned to the opportunities to love. Please forgive us for thinking too much about ourselves, watching too much on our screens, and missing out on the relationships that count—with others and with You, our gracious Father (Matthew 22:37-40).  

Help us, in courage and with wisdom, to extend appropriate help and encouragement to those who are physically weak, emotionally strung out, or spiritually bruised. We see and hear lots of fear around us, and if we’re being honest, within us, as well. These are trying times. 

We know that a crisis is a turning point, the fulcrum at which the trend of future events is determined, so we humbly cry out to You, our Almighty Father. We cast the weight of these days from our shoulders to Yours (1 Peter 5:6-7). Turn the hearts of people everywhere, so that the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the biggest pivot point in history, would go forth to the whole world, bearing fruit and increasing (Colossians 1:6).

We think of the nation of Israel at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:1-14), and we implore You to do a mighty work…to heal our land (2 Chronicles 7:14)…and people throughout this world, to help those who have been infected to receive the help that they need, and to slow to a standstill the spread of the virus…while at the same time increasing the spread of the Gospel. 

Please help us by giving us wise thoughts inspired by Your Spirit within us, wise words that help others and heal relationships, and wise counsel that is consistent with Your word (James 1:5-8). Thank You for our pastors, staff, and leaders at Grace Point who serve with devotion to keep our eyes on You.

We pray for all missionaries serving You around the world. We ask that Your Spirit would be moving to encourage, protect, and defend Sam and Amy, as well as Abbey, who are faithfully sharing the light in Middle Eastern societies—where Your truth is often suppressed.  Please release doors for these and all of our missionaries as they must find new avenues to be Your ambassadors to people who are, like us, facing their own mortality and so are feeling unsure of the future.  

We pray Your mercy on Christians in places like North Korea who are under constant attack and many are imprisoned for nothing other than their faith in You. Help them to persevere in their devotion to You and in their trust that Your grace is sufficient for them, for Your power is made perfect in weakness (2 Chronicles 12:9). 

Spirit of God, may You miraculously and with power blow the doors open so that the ones who are positioned to step through them—those we have sent to the ends of the world, and all of us right here in this community—would be enabled and emboldened to step into the new opportunities spawned by this worldwide pandemic to share the reason for the hope within us, and always to do this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). Help us to turn questions about our swirling circumstances into questions that point to ultimate reality.

At a time when everything seems to be radically shifting, we want to remember together as we worship Jesus that He is always and will always be a sure and steadfast anchor for our souls (Hebrews 6:19), a hope that isn’t dependent on the shifting sands of material prosperity, or religiosity, or “positivity,” or social connectivity, but on the Rock of our hope in Your eternity.

Pour out Your Spirit so that—in our individual lives and as Your church—we will “rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, and be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12). We are confident that Jesus is with us—His Spirit is here right alongside us—and He has forever overcome the world (John 16:33).

And so, we thank You and praise You in the name of our Savior Jesus—AMEN!

(Keith Brown)

Elder Prayer (2/16/20)

Heavenly Father, You are a God who calls.

You called forth order out of chaos, and worlds were created and life began.

You called Abraham, to leave behind all that he knew, his comfort and safety, to go and follow You not knowing where he was going. And he obeyed.

You later called him to give up what he had hoped and waited for his entire life. And he obeyed.

You called Moses, from within the bush, to an assignment that he did not want or feel equipped to do, to a true mission impossible. And he obeyed.

You called Your prophets, to share Your truth with people who didn’t want to hear it, at the cost of their reputations, relationships and very lives. And they obeyed.

You called Jonah to share Your grace and truth with a people that he despised, and though he initially ran, he obeyed.

You called a young peasant girl named Mary out of utter obscurity to carry and care for the infant Savior of the world, and though she paid a high cost for doing so, she obeyed.

You called 12 to leave behind all they knew to follow You. It cost them their occupations. It cost them their dreams of what a new Kingdom might be. It cost them their peace and safety and eventually their lives. And they obeyed.

You called a man named Saul, to lay down his arms, and follow You and suffer for You immensely, so that the message of Your grace and truth would spread. It cost him everything.

You’ve called so many ordinary people in the past who heard, responded and obeyed, even though they very often did not see promises fulfilled in their lifetimes, but welcomed what You promised from a distance.

You are calling some of us here this morning Lord.

Some of us here this morning are being called by You to quietly and patiently trust You in the face of unsettling uncertainty, or relentless and intense pain and suffering. We’re going to need to leave behind our expectations of how we thought our lives would be, our frustrations, as well as our sense of hopelessness.

Some of us here this morning are being called by You to reconcile and restore what’s been broken and lost. We’re going to need to leave behind our sense of right and fairness, and the hurt we feel that is all too real.

Some of us here this morning are being called by You to reach out and get into the mess of the poor and hurting all around us. We’re going to need to leave behind our comfort, our time, our pride.

Some of us here this morning are being called by You to a spiritual assignment that we don’t feel ready for, to step out in faith and courage in You. We’re going to need to leave behind our sense of self-protection, maybe our hatreds, our sense of inadequacy and fear of what the future holds.

Some of us here this morning are being called by You, to lay down our arms, and follow You for the first time, knowing that we’re going to need to leave behind our doubts and self-righteousness.

Your call is not something we add to our lives. It’s never exactly what we expect it to be. It always requires that we leave something behind. Our expectations, our fears, our doubts, our comfort, our safety, our pride, our very wills. To lose what we think life is all about, in order to gain real, true life, the life we’ve really always wanted, in You.

We’re not being called to a creed, a cause, a condition, a solution, a promise, a place, a state of mind or even a victory. We’re being called to You.

You often don’t tell us what lies next Father. We only know that You are so incredibly glorious, that to run from Your call is pointless. You ask us to simply do what lies before us, to do the next thing. 

To obey is our objective, because You obeyed Jesus. To suffer, for You, is to be expected, because You suffered for us so that we would not have to eternally. Your glory is our reward.

Help each of us this morning Father to respond to Your call on our lives, no matter the difficulty, no matter what we may need to leave behind, knowing that the only real and lasting happiness we will ever experience on this earth comes through the doorway of quiet, humble submission and trustful obedience to and acceptance of Your will.

In acceptance of Your will there is Your peace.

In Your great name we pray,

(David Kneller)

Elder Prayer (Sunday 1/26/20)

Dear LORD, we thank You for being our great God, and for allowing Jesus to be our salvation—You have paid the huge debt that our sins had racked up for us by Your death on the cross. And You have made the way for us to inherit eternal life. 

Our loving Father, You allow us to grow through the questions that we ask of You, and of ourselves, and those that others ask of us. And like a sword that penetrates to the depths of our souls for healing purposes, You ask us questions in your Word [Hebrews 4:12-13].

So, we invite You through some prayerful questions to remind us of how great You are and how amazingly merciful You are to us.

You asked of Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” [Job 38:4a] and “Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like His?” [Job 40:9]”

And through the prophet Isaiah You asked: “To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with Him?” [Isaiah 40:18] and “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable.” [Isaiah 40:28]

Yet, despite being Almighty, You told us: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart [Jeremiah 29:13]”

Our Father, we are so prone to wander! You know every sinful thought we are harboring in our hearts, every wrong we have done, all the good we have withheld from others, and all the blame we have been shifting onto others, and so we fall on Your mercy and ask Your forgiveness. And we rest confident in the truth that You refuse to remember any of these [Hebrews 8:12; 10:17], choosing to remove them from us as far as the east is from the west [Psalm 103:12], and to hurl our sins into the depths of the sea [Micah 7:19]!

Jesus our Lord, while on earth You asked questions like: ”Who do you say that I am? [Matthew 16:15]” and “Why are you so afraid? [Matthew 8:26]” and “Are you also going to leave? [John 6:67]” and three times You asked Peter, “Do you love me? [John 21:15-17]”

Help us in this day and the days to come to answer these questions and to choose well—to trust You and to love you [Joshua 24:14-15]. May we follow You and not the world [Luke 16:13]—those things that would entice us away from our first love [Revelation 2:4]. Embolden us to help others to know the truth, believe the truth, grow in the truth and share the truth about You, Lord Jesus.

Why would frail and fallible people like Tim and Jacki Faulkner in Italy, or Abbie in the middle east, or Val and Cassie in east Asia, give of themselves by going to the ends of the world to tell about Jesus our Lord to people whose hearts are often hardened fields?

The answer is “because they are following You”—in Your love for this world, You generously gave Your Son so that whoever takes the one step of faith to believe in this truth will take a giant leap into Your eternal kingdom [John 3:16]. We pray for these missionaries that they would trust You and ask insightful questions as they share the Gospel. 

Please guide us, Spirit of God, in this worship service, to know more of You as we praise Your name together, as we bring our offerings, as we hear Your Word proclaimed, and as we go into Your world this week.

Whose very presence in a life gives freedom and release from anxiety and burdens of sin? [Psalm 55:22; Matthew 11:29-30; I Peter 5:6-7]] It’s Your Spirit within us! We ask You for the healing of hurts and diseases, of losses too deep for words, and of relationships broken or locked in bondage—please transform and deliver us. Your mercies are new every morning[Lamentations 3:22-23]—please bring us grace and peace [Philippians 1:2]!

Who is it that has purchased for us an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for each of us who have been born again through faith? [I Peter 1:4] He is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!  To You be all of the praise, honor and glory! [I Peter 1:7] 

We ask that these questions would stay with us, goad us into action, and bring us back for more of You.

And we pray all in Jesus’ matchless name—AMEN!

(Keith Brown)

Pastoral Prayer (Sunday 1/19/20)

“O Lord, You have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.” (Psalm 139:1-3)

God of the universe, You know us personally and care about what is on our hearts. Thank You for being completely trustworthy. Give us Your vision. Call us to bigger things beyond ourselves.

“For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:13-14)

Father, every soul is valuable to You; we are made in Your image. Give us Your heart of love for every people and every nation. Equip us to proclaim Your Gospel locally and throughout the world.

“How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with You.” (Psalm 139:17-18)

God, You care perfectly about every detail of our lives. Please comfort those who are experiencing grief or suffering. Thank You for those who are in a season of experiencing joy. Keep them close to You. Bless our junior high teens and leaders at retreat this weekend. Grow them in their walks with You. Guide the leaders of our country in Your ways. Give us all hearts to honor You in private and in public.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24)

Lord, as we continue in worship today, draw our hearts to You through Your Holy Spirit and Your Word. Reveal to us any sin interrupting our personal connection to You. Bring it to light and give us humility to repent and be led by You into repentance, holiness and obedience.

Faithfully lead us in the way everlasting.

We ask all of this in the name of Jesus our Lord.

(Dave Wolf, Lead Pastor)