Bolivia Team Closing Thoughts

Over the course of eight days our team experienced something truly miraculous. Twenty-six of us boarded a bus in the wee hours in Newtown, PA to travel to one of the poorest communities in Cochabamba, Bolivia. We left with a singular purpose – to bless the children and families of two Child Development Centers (Unidos en Cristo and Iglesia Cristiana Evangelica Marquina).

You can find summaries of our trip in our two-part series here and here.

Little did we know that it would be us who would be blessed beyond measure. Words cannot describe the feelings and love that we have for the Bolivian people. They possess a joy and a contentment that is not based on material possessions, luxuries, Starbucks, or everyday stuff. The joy these people have is based in the Lord and His divine provision for their needs.

Over the course of the week we saw God “show up” more times than we could count. From little unplanned encounters to a few encouraging words that were perfectly timed by God, our team has been forever changed by this trip.

My heart is forever changed

Each evening we would have a “debrief meeting” at which time I would ask each of our team members to reflect on something that God taught them that day or something they experienced. But, they had to do it in 3-5 words. Some words that were shared included, “My heart is forever changed”, “God bless the translators”, “You guys get it”, “Miraculous divine appointments.”

Early Tuesday morning we caught a fight from our beloved city of Cochabamba to the busy city life of Santa Cruz. The two cities are like night and day, but both still lovely. Once we arrived to our hotel, we enjoyed lunch with some special guests. One of our teammates, Stacey, had an opportunity to meet her 4 year-old sponsor child in addition to his 17 year-old mother. They joined us for lunch and a sight-seeing tour in Santa Cruz. Having had a full schedule all week of work at the Centers, church, VBS, home visits, and all the emotions with it, it was nice to have a bit of a “slow day” – even if it would end up being the longest day with travel.

It was clear that despite having a good night’s rest into Tuesday, our team was tired. Tired from ministry. Tired from the emotional rollercoasters of meeting new beloved friends and then saying goodbye. Tired from the wear and tear of a full schedule. But, it was good tired. The opportunity to see firsthand the impact that our love and sponsorship has for these children was incredible.

The journey home was to be a long one. Our 2:30 AM flight from Santa Cruz to Panama City was smooth, or at least it seemed that way – most of us were able to get some sleep, even if it wasn’t restful. With a three-hour layover in Panama, we were reminded of God’s work in our lives and our team. Many of us, again, shared stories and pictures from our phones about our experiences and the various “God sightings.”

What seemed like the longest day ever, Tuesday/Wednesday (whatever day it was) was a day of reflection and contemplation. What will we do differently once we return home?

Will we continue with life “as is?” Or will we see our worlds differently? Some have already said that we “live with too much in Pennsylvania.” Some have shared that they will get more involved in missions or global endeavors, whether at church or elsewhere. Some have shared that they will start now to train and educate their own children about life in another culture, how blessed we are, and how much we take for granted.

What will we do differently once we return home?

Some have already made an impact as a result of our trip. At least four additional children have been sponsored by our team alone. I can tell you that this team is passionate about what they experienced. Informal recruitment for future trips has already begun. Regardless of whether or not you sponsor a child through Compassion, this trip and trips like this one are life-changing and God can/will use these trips to open your eyes to what life outside of our bubbles is really like.

We’ve all seen that sponsoring a child is one simple step, though an important one. It is the building and nurturing of a relationship with your child and their family that can last a lifetime.

Silly Faces!

My experience this week, and I’ve been to Bolivia before, was such that I came away with a bigger heart for God’s work and what He’s doing. Bolivia has become like my home away from home.

One of our fantastic translators, Jacob, made an endearing observation on Saturday when spending time with me and my sponsored kiddos. He said, “You have two boys in America, and you now have two daughters in Bolivia.” While I hadn’t made that realization myself, I knew instantly that it was true. Our Dayana is so special to us, she has become like a daughter to me and our family. Visiting her home, having fun together on Saturday, seeing her at church on Sunday, then VBS on Sunday, this guy’s heart is full.

Me and the Girls

Then to meet Deysi, a young teenager who is sponsored by the Grace Point staff. Joan, Chuck and I got to meet Deysi at her home, spend fun day with her on Saturday, worship with her on Sunday, and then party at VBS. I quickly learned that there was more genuine love to go around. Being the Missions Pastor, and most likely the guy who will write most of the letters to her, I found that Deysi, just as Jacob observed, quickly became like a daughter to me. I don’t know that I’ll be able to easily share the letter writing responsibility with the other staff. Deysi is a dear young lady who I’m certain will grow to be a strong woman of God.

At that evening’s debrief meeting, my 3-5 words were simply, “two sons and two daughters” – a phrase that even now causes my eyes to tear up.

Is there more to share? Absolutely. Is there more work to be done in Cochabamba? Absolutely. Do we have an opportunity to make a difference in the life of a child, in a church, in the surrounding community, and in the country of Bolivia? Absolutely. And it is humbling.

It is our turn to step forward and answer the call of Jesus. To minister and love the poor, to step out of our comfort zones and make an impact in the life of a child. How will you respond and what will be your 3-5 words?

Bolivia Team Update – Part 2

This is Part Two of our Bolivia Team Blog update. To catch up, read Part One.

Day 4 – Saturday

Today was our fun day and it lived up to its name. We woke up (a little later than the past few days!) to rain and a forecast that did not permit us to go to the amusement park we had planned, but in God’s grace, Plan B was even better!

Fun Day!

Through connections of one of our Compassion Staff, we were able to go to a retreat center that was much more intimate and because of this we could all see and even interact with each other throughout the day. It was very cool here today but the rains stayed away (Praise God) and we could be outdoors playing volleyball, parachute games, soccer, frisbee, and just hanging out.

Parachute Games!

Each of us who had a sponsor child were able to spend the day together with the total purpose of having fun and building bonds. The children’s tutors were with them and many of our children brought along members of their family as well. It was really special!

We received a bagged lunch from Chicken Kingdom with french fries and yummy sauces. All of this is such a treat to many of these families and the atmosphere was very relaxed.

Later this afternoon we had a few hours before dinner to rest or shop and then we walked to a local steak restaurant called Paprika where we were served an awesome dinner and dessert. It was a nice treat to be outside of the hotel and experience some local flavor.

One of our teammates description of the day was very appropriate and resonated with each of us: “church picnic/family reunion!”

Day 5 – Sunday

Another amazing day in Bolivia!  We boarded two separate buses—going to two different churches—for worship this morning. Grace Point headed to Unidos en Cristo while Restoration Church headed to Iglesia Cristiana Evangelica Marquina.

The GP Crew at Unidos en Cristo

We were warmly welcomed by the congregation at Unidos en Cristo and as the worship music began to play, the church started to fill.  With a God-inspired message, Steve Weir shared from the heart to trust God in and with ALL things. There were special musical performances by the dear women of the church and the youth.  And yet another special, impromptu musical performance by our team when asked/told, “Grace Point, don’t you want to sing us a song or something?” Sure we do!  And we did. To end the service, all 16 of us were asked to stand in front of the church to receive a heartfelt prayer from Pastor Angel and a beautiful, colorful vest as a gift, as well as kisses, hugs and handshakes from the entire congregation.

The RC Folks at Iglesia Cristiana Evangelica Marquina

Restoration folks had a similar experience today as we visited the Marquina church.  This is the first time that a team has ever visited this center and church.  The smiles, hugs and kisses, tears of joy, and overwhelming warmth of welcome was something that I will truly never forget.  We had the opportunity to listen to Pastor Jhonny [different from the Pastor Jhonny at Unidos en Cristo] preach from God’s Word as well as play the guitar during worship (remind you of anyone we know at RC?!).  Our entire team was greeted by every member of the congregation – from the smallest babies to the kindest little old ladies you have ever seen.  Our entire team was so blessed to be a part of this church this morning.

We enjoyed a delicious and filling lunch with the pastors and leaders of both churches before we headed off to visit the Cristo de la Concordia statue.  The views of this beautiful city were absolutely stunning and it is certainly a scene that will never leave our memories.

The Team at Cristo!

This evening our team continued to prepare for the two sessions of VBS tomorrow.  We are so excited to share God’s love with the children – sharing the message that “When you worry… Jesus rescues!”

Day 6 – Monday

What an amazing last day in Bolivia!  We showed God’s love through a day of VBS at Unidos en Cristo. We broke into four stations – Music, Bible, Crafts and Games – in a morning and an afternoon session.  There were about 40-45 children in the morning, ages 6-9, and the afternoon session had about 80-90 children ages 6-12.

Music Team Having Fun!

The Music Team taught a Bible verse in Spanish, Psalm 34:19, which says in the kid-friendly version: “The Lord comes to the rescue each time.”  They also taught two songs with motions.  The theme for today was: When We Worry, Jesus Rescues.

The Bible Team taught a lesson about Mary and Martha.  Katie Beth was able to deliver the story in Spanish. The Craft Team made a toucan out of foam and feathers.  This was the Bible Buddy for the day. The Games Team was able to use the beautiful turf field a block away from the Project.  The kids enjoyed playing dodge ball with multiple beach balls.

Games Team on the Turf

We gathered back as a large group to perform the songs together and create a rainstorm using only our hands.  And then it was time to say goodbye to sponsored children and new friends.

The team traveled back to the hotel in our two trusty buses and some tears were shed as we said goodbye to some of our beloved translators:  Jacob, Evelin, and Peter.

Thirty minutes later, we headed to the hotel restaurant and enjoyed our final dinner in Cochabamba with Pastor Angel, Pastor Jhonny and their families.  One of the Compassion translators, José, created a highlight reel of our time here in Cochabamba.  It included almost everything we did, everywhere we went, and every cheek kiss we received!  This video reminded us of all the ways that God is at work here.  Yes, there were a few tears as we relived our experiences in a place that we will hold forever close to our hearts.

The evening also included comments and prayers by Pastor Jhonny, Pastor Angel, Pastor Angel’s wife Dina, and Steve Weir.  Each one expressed their gratitude and appreciation for our mutual love for the children and service to the Lord.

Day 7 – Tuesday

Tuesday morning we headed to the airport to begin the first leg of our journey home. After a short flight from Cochabamba to Santa Cruz, we ate lunch at our hotel and headed out for some sight-seeing and souvenir shopping. It was quite the experience to learn about the rich history and architecture of Santa Cruz, and to get to try on some traditional Bolivian attire. After a fun-filled dinner out, we headed back to the hotel for the last remaining hours in our beloved Bolivia.

Cathedral in Santa Cruz

Twenty-four hours before our final bus delivered our team to the Grace Point entrance, two Bolivian buses left with our team members heading for the Santa Cruz airport.  Every connection on this trip was smooth, every passport and visa in order, all of the means of transportation on time (or very close—our bus was delayed at the beginning on July 17) until the very end.  We had some delays in customs upon our return to the U.S. (it seemed that most of the airplane-riding world converged on Dulles at the moment that our plane landed) and then the “monsoon” weather in the DC area led to flooded roads and accident-related delays.

Flooding on I-495 Getting Home

So, ultimately, we arrived at Grace Point at 11:00 pm, which was a few hours later than we had hoped for.  Having traveled over 4,000 miles in the past 24 hours, we were all ready to be climb into our own beds and get some much-needed rest.

You could say that the trip is over and that our arrival home is the last of this tribe of very close sisters and brothers.  But that would be wrong.  We are already planning get-togethers and reports to our sending churches, Restoration Church and Grace Point.  And I can tell you from being a part of this Spirit-unified, cohesive team that we are going to be looking for fruit of transformation that will come from the seeds that have been planted in two relatively small churches perched on the sides of the hills surrounding Cochabamba, Bolivia…and in the hearts of each of our team members in the process of serving Jesus faithfully.

Thank you for supporting and praying for us!

Bolivia Team Update – Part 1

In the wee hours of Tuesday, July 17 a team of 26 people (a mix from Grace Point and Restoration Church) headed to Bolivia for 8 days; and it was amazing. It is difficult to share all that our team experienced while in Bolivia – including the many God-sightings and the emotional roller-coaster ride of visiting our sponsored children and their families, our friends at Unidos en Cristo, and making new friends at another Child Development Center. Our trip with Compassion International was incredible beyond words. Our schedule was full and hectic at times, but we had a great team that was flexible and willing to adapt.

The Team is Ready to Go!

Compassion’s mission statement is to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name, and we saw that firsthand. Below are small snippets from our daily prayer updates, in case you weren’t on our list, or you simply want to relive our trip with us. 🙂

Day 1 – Wednesday

Lots of Letters to be Translated and Processed!

Today was nothing short of amazing, encouraging, emotional, and inspiring. Cochabamba is a fantastic city and sits at the feet Cristo. After arriving at the hotel and grabbing some lunch, we had some time to refresh before we made our way to the national Compassion office for all of Bolivia.

Our team split into three groups and heard all about the ministry, philosophy, and process that Compassion employs in Bolivia. Each of these wonderful Compassion employees view their work as a much-needed ministry to not just change the lives of these children, but to ultimately to bring about life change to their entire country. Next was dinner at which we were joined by Pastor Angel and a few members of the governing board at Unidos en Cristo. After dinner, Pastor Angel shared his vision for ministry and church planting. He closed by providing an update on his and his son’s recovery from an automobile accident several weeks ago.

It was long day, but worth it.

Day 2 – Thursday

Today we visited Unidos en Cristo,  the first of what will be many gatherings planned for this week. Here we received a warm welcome complete with waving flags and handmade welcome signs! We had a service together in which we sang and prayed. A young lady at the age of 13 spoke to us of her favorite verse (Rev 2:10) and how we must be faithful to God in all circumstances. Then, the pastor’s wife prayed for us, their visitors, asking that God bless us and protect us. She gave thanks to God for our love of her community and home country of Bolivia. She prayed all of this through tears of love and appreciation. It was truly humbling. We came here in hopes of being a blessing to the community and these people beseech the Lord to bless us!

A Warm Welcome at Unidos en Cristo!

There were two teaching opportunities this day. The first was for the women of Unidos en Cristo in which Barb Brown spoke about the importance of living in community as Christian women and developing relationships that provide support and spur one another on to growth in Christ.  Then Sherri Wolf spoke candidly about the kinds of things women and mothers struggle with and how we can seek forgiveness and ask the Lord to help us sow good seed into our children and families.

Pastor Chuck Teaching the Adolescents

The second teaching opportunity was led by Chuck Arnold who spoke to the teenagers about what it means to be an adolescent and how to succeed even while they face many pressures growing up.

The Ever-Enthusiastic GAP Students in Concert!

Dinner tonight was pizza spent with fifteen of the 48 students enrolled in the GAP program.  GAP is a selective program in which students, age 18-22, apply to develop leadership skills.  These young people were so excited to meet with us.  They greeted us with music, provided a concert for us during which they implored us to dance.  We later met in small groups and learned about the various experiences of these sponsored children.  GAP provides small group connections and support. It was awesome!

Day 3 – Friday

The Kids at BO-707 Welcoming the RC Crew!

Today was the first day we split teams; Grace Point went back to 703 (Unidos en Cristo) for a service day, and those of us from RC had the amazing opportunity to visit a center that has never received a visit before. As they pulled up to the gates of Iglesia Cristiana Evangelica Marquina, we could see the children and staff had made a beautiful welcome banner they strung along a second floor balcony. The children all ducked behind it when they saw us approaching and when we got off the bus they all popped out to shout “BIENVENIDOS! (Welcome!)” As they walked down the stairs, each child holding a brightly colored balloon, they sang a song for us. They let the balloons go as they reached out to embrace us each, one at a time. It was a beautiful, heart-warming welcome!

The RC folks had a day filled with home visits, a special opportunity to tag along with the Compassion staff for a home-based program visit for mothers and infants. Then, they had a chance to meet with the staff at BO-707 and enjoy games and activities with the children.

The GP Crew Hard at Work
The Newly Installed Computer Lab

The GP folks helped to sand and repaint the furniture for the classrooms at Unidos en Cristo. We also installed a new computer lab for the students, with 12 desktop computers. Additionally, we brought seven laptops with us for the students to use for homework and other computer training. The staff and students who were there on Friday were extremely grateful and excited about these new resources!

 

Be sure to read more about our trip in “Part Two.”

Why Short-Term Missions Trips Matter

I went on my first missions trip in 2003. I was 23 years old and was headed to Naples, Italy to help one of our missionary families and their church. My experience in technical theatre and professional audio had uniquely prepared me for accomplishing a complete overhaul of the sound system at the Naples church.

“How to Use the Board” – struggling through Italian (2003)

Two years later and now a newly-wed, my wife and I and one other team member, Andrew, headed to Tokyo, Japan to assist with English classes and essentially close out a 5+ year international focus with a different missionary family and Japanese church planters. Over the course of the partnership two churches were planted and many from Grace Point prayed, supported, and traveled to help and participate with this unique partnership. Many, many Japanese people heard the gospel, in a country where less than 2% are Christian.

Sarah & I teaching English at Tama Church, Japan (2005)

“Short-Term missions changed the direction of my life.” That was what one person recently shared with me. You see, she grew up at GP, and engaging in short-term missions trips helped to firm her faith, steer her towards Christ, and has since developed a heart for reaching more people with the gospel.

As a missions director, I believe that short-term mission trips are a vital part of our missions strategy and can be a huge faith-builder in the life of a believer. The Great Commission wasn’t given to just church leaders and missionaries. It was given to all of us to make disciples of all nations (literally all people groups). Each of us are called to be engaged in missions and the Great Commission in some way.

Yes, we need people to go – people who will be obedient to the call that God has placed on his/her life to either become a missionary or to go on a missions trip. We definitely need “go-ers.” If you feel God might be calling you to go, I would love to hear from you! 🙂

For every “GO-er”, however, we need even more “SEND-ers” – people who are committed to:

  • Pray for missionaries, short-term teams, and missions endeavors
  • Disciple and prepare missionaries and short-term teams to go on the field
  • Support missions financially

We need many more “SEND-ers.” Will you be a SEND-er?

This summer we are sending out three short-term teams from Grace Point. Each trip is strategic in helping to accomplish certain ministry goals and strengthen existing partnerships.

  • Lebanon Team (June) – mentoring and discipling women who live in a nearby worn-torn country and working with our friends in a kinship partnership
  • Bolivia Team (July) – a combined team of 25 people (10 from our sister
    Unidos en Cristo (2011)

    church Restoration Church) heading to Cochabamba, Bolivia to help finish a newly built classroom addition, encourage the local pastors, and to strengthen our relationships with our sponsored kids through Compassion International and our partner church, Unidos en Cristo.

  • Bridesburg, Philly (July) – working alongside long-time partner ReaLife Church our team will be assisting and facilitating a week-long daily Vacation Bible School program for the kids and families of the Bridesburg section of Philadelphia.

My dream and prayer is that Grace Point would continue to be a church with a strong missions focus; not just because of these trips, or by simply supporting 20+ missionaries. But, that our entire church family would be engaged in missions and what God is doing in our community, region, and around the world. (Read Acts 1:8)

I encourage you to join our summer trips prayer teams. You can sign-up here.

We are currently raising financial support for our missions teams. You can give on Sundays in the offering plate (mark your check/envelope as “missions”), using the Giving Kiosk in the foyer (select the Short Term Missions fund), or online at giving.gracepointpa.org (select the Short Term Missions fund).

We have two Missions Team fundraisers coming soon. Learn more on our events page.

Will you join us and what God is doing? I believe that you’ll be glad you did and it may just change your life! I’m hoping it changes mine!

Women’s Outreach & Fellowship

At Grace Point we have a stellar group of ladies that work tirelessly to advance the gospel in very tangible ways. Our Women’s Outreach & Fellowship group has been working over the last 12-18 months creating, quilting, collecting and assembling thousands of items that are given out and used by local, regional, and global ministries.

We give God the praise for what He will do through the ministry of our Women’s Outreach & Fellowship!

Here’s a snapshot of their work for 2016 and 2017:

8 meetings & 5 quilting meetings

Total Meeting Hours:

  • 32 Women’s Fellowship
    22 Quilting

Total Items: 6,857 Made or collected

OUTREACH PROJECTS

  • Child Home Community
    • 5 Baby blankets, knitted/crocheted
  • C.E.F.
    • 2000 “wordless” zipper pulls
  • Esperanza Medical Center
    • 460 Christmas – Stars; Happy B-day cupcakes
    • 685 Easter crosses
    • 576 Spanish stickers: Jesus Loves Me
    • 300 English stickers: Smile God Loves You
    • 535 Back-To-School bookmarks – Fruit of the Spirit
    • 62 Children’s books donated to their library
    • 88 Travel hygiene kits assembled
    • 200 Memory Verse Packets (in envelopes)
    • 34 Fall favors: Give Thanks
    • 6 Children’s wooden puzzles
  • Good Shepherd Ministry
    • 50 Cans filled with cookies
    • 100 Candy favors
    • 28 Walker bags
    • 25 Lap Robes
    • 21 Knitted slippers
    • 9 Knitted shoulder wraps
    • 206 Assorted Sunshine Bag items (2 boxes)
    • 166 Christmas cards/envelopes
    • 18 Toys
    • 5 Stuffed Animals
  • Philadelphia Bible Clubs
    • 270 Tree Christmas party favors
    • 43 Jewelry and jewelry boxes
    • 77 Misc. household gifts/ornaments/etc.
    • 31 Baskets filled with travel/cosmetics/gifts
    • 60 Christmas bracelets for mothers
    • 16 Hats/scarves, knitted
    • 13 Towels/sheets/blankets
    • 47 Small toys for prizes
    • 7 Christmas wrapping paper rolls
    • 2 Christmas ribbon
    • 1 Box assorted treats for volunteers
  • Pickering Manor (Bible Study)
    • 10 Fall Favors (Give Thanks)
    • 10 Christmas Favors (Happy B-day Jesus cupcakes)

Grace Point Ministry Projects

  • On Eagles’ Wings
    • 60 Christmas favors (foam nativity)
    • 60 Valentine’s favors (anchor for my soul)
    • 65 Easter favors (crosses)
    • 64 Summer favors (Patriotic)
    • 64 Summer favors (C.O.F.F.E.E. – ladies)
  • Quilting
    • 97 Quilts for kids
    • 2 Flannel quilts for Kyrgyzstan
    • 43 Handmade stuffed animals
    • 6 Knitted/crocheted Preemie Hat & Bootie sets
    • 30 Knitted/crocheted hats
  • Sunday School – Rising 7th Graders
    • 10 Wordless bracelets w/explanation cards
    • 10 Wordless key chains
  • Vacation Bible School
    • 180 Prayer Journals assembled

Use Your Clout – Stop Exploitation

At the end of Sunday’s message on Confrontation, an opportunity was mentioned to Raised From Ruins“use your clout to help someone out.” We are privileged to live in a country where we can petition our law-makers to encourage them to do the right thing. Please consider using your voice to help those who are being exploited.

The following information on the progress of PA Bill 851, the Safe Harbor Act, is copied from the website of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, dated November 2016. You can find more details about Bill 851 here.

The 2015-2016 session of the Pennsylvania General Assembly officially closes on November 30. Here is the status of the several high priority bills that were on the legislative agenda of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference.

Human Trafficking – Senate Bill 851 would have ensured that juvenile victims of human trafficking are not prosecuted as criminals and that support services are made available to them. No action was taken by the end of the session, but legislation may be reintroduced next session.

 

How to write a letter to your PA State Senator, to encourage him or her to reintroduce and pass this legislation:

To find the name and address of your State Senator, please visit “Find Your Legislator” and fill in the relevant information.

Click on the name of your Senator to be taken to their personal page.

You may email your Senator by clicking on the image of the envelope under your Senator’s picture.

If you prefer to mail a letter, you can find your mailing addresses for your Senator’s offices listed on the lower, left-hand side of the page.

You may also want to contact Senator GREENLEAF who was the prime sponsor for this bill.

In your letter, let your Senator know you support them in doing all they can to stop the exploitation of innocent victims.

 

Why I Attend the GLS

For the last several years, I’ve had the privilege to attend the Willow Creek Association’s Global Leadership Summit simulcasted live at Bethel at Philadelphia Mills. Even though I’ve attended via satellite simulcast, it has become a highlight of my year. I’ve assisted with some of the technical aspects to help Bethel’s GLS event run smoothly. Bethel has a great tech team, and it’s a pleasure to work with them.

Here are five reasons why I look forward to the GLS:

  1. Serving alongside other churches – We’re all in this together and I love the
    Photo from Instagram.com/wcagls

    opportunity to serve alongside fellow Jesus-followers and help leaders become better leaders. These men (and fellow technicians) are awesome!

  2. Great content every year – From Bill Hybels to leadership experts Patrick Lencioni and Dr. Henry Cloud, the Global Leadership Summit always brings the best speakers to share lessons for leaders in all spheres of life.
  3. The Local Church is the Hope of the World – Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church has been known to say from time to time that the local church is the hope of the world. That’s because we have the gospel of Jesus Christ, who can change lives and change the world. We need to stop playing church, and be the church. Each year, this is a great reminder of our calling.
  4. Seeing outside the box – I love to see the technical artists at Willow and at Bethel at work. From the stage lighting to the set design, these artists understand what it takes to create environments that draw you in, and hold your attention. Their careful use of lighting, color, and effects is inspiring.
  5. Photo from Instagram.com/wcagls
    Photo from Instagram.com/wcagls

    Investing in my own leadership – This may go without saying, but we are all leaders. We all lead in various capacities from the home to our work, from our community soccer leagues to our churches and ministries. Everyone benefits when a leader gets better. I want to be the best leader I can be, and the GLS helps me do that.

While I’m often managing multiple screens, the weather, technical liaising, and other duties while I serve during the GLS, it’s always great to attend and serve at the Global Leadership Summit.

When was the last time you invested in yourself as a leader?

Would you consider attending the GLS next year? I’m sure you’ll enjoy it and come out a better leader!

It’s not about numbers…

Often times in ministry we hear the phrase “it’s not about numbers.” I whole-heartedly agree with that statement – ministry is about people, relationships, and helping others learn more about God and the gospel – not numbers.

But…there’s a number of extraordinary ladies who love ministry, and have collectively completed a multitude of projects. The number of projects and people who have been touched by their ministry is impossible to count. I’m talking about the faithful ladies of the Women’s Fellowship.

Below is a summary of their work from last 12 months or so, and these are impressive numbers. We praise God for these faithful servants of the Lord and the many lives who have been impacted by their work.

OUTREACH PROJECTS

Child Home Community
11 Baby blankets, knitted/crocheted
3 Baby hats, crocheted

Child Evangelism Fellowship (C.E.F.)
2000 “wordless” zipper pulls

Esperanza Medical Center
748 Christmas – Jesus “stockings”
1000 Wordless Zipper Pulls – Easter
140 Easter crosses
1440 Spanish stickers: Jesus Loves Me
198 Various Summer handouts
623 Back-To-School bookmarks – God’s Rainbow Promise
128 Children’s books donated to their library
Toured facilities

Good Shepherd Ministry
42 Cans filled with cookies
333 Candy favors
50 Sunshine bags
54 Walker bags
23 Lap Robes
29 Knitted slippers
8 Knitted shoulder wraps
55 Pair Men’s white socks
154 Assorted Sunshine Bag articles
605 Christmas cards/envelopes

Philadelphia Bible Clubs
275 Tree Christmas party favors
32 Jewelry and jewelry boxes
32 Misc. household gifts
27 Baskets filled with travel/cosmetic items
60 Christmas-craft kits for mothers
16 Hats/scarves, knitted Towels/sheets/blankets

Pickering Manor (Bible Study)
10 Fall Favors (Fall in Love with Jesus)

Restoration Church
90 Fall favors (Fall in Love with Jesus – Kids’ classes)

Money Collected and Donated
$57 sent in memory of Marian Taylor to Immanuel Mission in Arizona.

GRACE POINT MINISTRIES

Short Term Trip to Bridesburg, Philadelphia, PA 
100 Wordless Bracelet Kits assembled

On Eagles’ Wings (ministry to Nursing Homes)
60 Winter favors (snowmen)
62 Valentine’s favors
62 Spring favors
60 Summer favors (Patriotic)

Quilting
47 Quilts for kids – St. Stephen’s quilt project
64 Homemade stuffed animals
27 Purchased stuffed animals
12 Preemie Hat/Bootie sets
32 Knitted hats

Short Term Trip Unidos en Cristo, Bolivia (Compassion Int’l)
350 Necklace kits (Fruit of the Spirit) assembled

Money Collected and Donated 
$168 given to GP library for children’s books in memory of Helen Jones.

Bolivia Team Update

Many of you have been praying for our team in Bolivia. Below is an abbreviated update that came in earlier today.

Hola from Bolivia!

The team is having a wonderful time in Cochabamba and have had so many great experiences. God is doing beautiful things through us.

Photo Credit: Joan Zeberlein

Saturday was our fun day and the team and our sponsor kids had a day full of sweets, rides, and play! The team definitely bonded with families. It is amazing how the relationships with the families were built in such a small amount of time. At the end of the day we debriefed and talked about how great God is and the things he is doing in Bolivia.

Praise God! During a home visit on Friday, it was discovered that the father of one of the sponsor kids had left 2 months prior and hadn’t been seen since. A member of our team prayed the salvation prayer with the mother and the mother accepted Christ. The team gathered at that home visit then prayed for restoration of the family. Sure enough, God provided! On Saturday morning when the children arrived for the fun day, the father was with the mother and the children! The power of prayer and trust in the Lord was certainly revealed from this experience. What a blessing to the family and our team!

Sunday we attended church at Unidos en Cristo. We were welcomed by a group of kids playing drums and trumpets. The service was very nice, Pastor Dave gave a message how we are all the same which was very moving.

Grace Point then stood up and received handmade bags and plates. We sang lots of songs throughout the service too. We have a worship pastor with our team from Minnesota and he led our team in the performance of two songs to the congregation. We planned for one but they asked for an encore. We laughed as we weren’t sure we even had a [good start] to begin with but God provided the words and the time was very special.

The team is all happy and working very well together. We appreciate your prayers. Please continue to pray for our health as a few on our team are battling upset stomachs. Nothing that is keeping us down but would enjoy being delivered from the feelings.

We start VBS today! Pray for the interaction with all of the children and these special moments that we have with them.

Through Him,

A.Z. on behalf of the team

10 Years in the Making

This is a monumental year for our Urban Mission Project.  Ten years ago this summer we took our first group down to the Bridesburg section of Philadelphia to partner with ReaLife/Soma Church.  This project consists of various work projects during the day and a Kids Club program in the evenings.

Throughout the years our teams have had a major impact on the kids and the community.  This partnership has also had a profound impact on one particular student who ten years ago attended his first missions project with Grace Point.  The impact has been so great that the student eventually completed his student teaching in the local elementary school and now currently lives next to the church in Bridesburg.  Mike Nichols fell in love with this community and its people during his first visit to the community.  Ten years later it is a privilege see Mike lead this Grace Point team in continuing efforts to impact the community on so many different levels.

Photo Jul 10, 10 02 23 PM (1)

Every year we spend a portion of our time serving the Recreation Center in Bridesburg.  This past Monday, as I and other students were weeding the sidewalks and playgrounds, a small car radically pulled up next to a section we were working on.  She rolled down her window and motioned me to come closer.  Very cautiously I approached the vehicle and smiled hoping that what was about to happen would be positive.  To my delight the woman in the car talked about how much she and her family appreciated what our group did every year.  She proceeded to tell us how much better the Recreation Center and community is because of our work.  She said that her daughter went to Kids Club as a teenager and now brings her child to the program every night.  She bragged on how the community Facebook page had various people anticipating our teams’ arrival and the Kids Club program.

Photo Jul 10, 7 06 02 PM

In the moments of pulling weeds, singing songs, and playing games the work we do seems so minute and unimportant.  But it is moments like the interaction with the woman in the car that give us hope and restore confidence in that no small act of service goes unappreciated by someone, somewhere.

I have been on this project for six of the ten years and it has been a privilege to see this partnership grow to the tremendous impact that it has on the community.  Not only are the people of Bridesburg impacted but our students come away personally challenged and stretched as well.

What small acts of service are you engaged in this summer?  Who are you personally impacting? How have you been challenged to invest into someone else’s life?

Things to pray for as the team comes home Saturday:

  • Many team members are sick. Pray for their health and rest so that the team finishes strong.
  • Pray for more moments of encouragement as our team serves the community.
  • Our goal is to help Bridesburg families connect with ReaLife Ministries through Kids Club. Pray that many connections will be established and that others will be strengthened.