Staffing Changes

On Sunday, September 15, after second service, I provided a detailed explanation of several important staffing changes happening over the coming months. Here is a summary of the most significant changes:

organization-chart-1989132_1920.pngGP LEAD Team – the staff is being restructured into four ministry areas, overseen by:

  • Pastor of Discipleship (future hire – for now overseen by Dave Wolf)
  • Arts & Communication Pastor (Steve Weir)
  • Outreach & Mobilization Director (Joan Zeberlein)
  • Operations & Finance Director (Bill Wright).

These four supervisors will meet regularly with myself as Lead Pastor to set key goals which spur our church to win and grow disciples who make disciples.

Joan Zeberlein transitioned to full time at Grace Point August 1, and has been working hard to build the Hospitality Team. As noted above, Joan will be working her way toward oversight of the entire Outreach & Mobilization area, but not until Women’s Ministry has a solid leadership team in place.

Steve Weir will be handing off missions and giving more concentrated attention to our complex communication needs. In addition, he will be championing creativity in all areas – for example, he will now be able to devote more energy to video production to promote our various ministries.

Chuck Arnold is looking to reduce hours significantly and enjoy a greater degree of retirement by July 1, 2020. To that end, he will be handing off several areas of his responsibilities such as attendance tracking and new guest follow up. We are working to ensure that there is no lapse in the excellent care Chuck provides to our church family.

Jay Button will remain full time until May 2022 at which time he expects to continue part-time in ministry at Grace Point. For now he is continuing his vital work with Groups and Men’s ministry, and is now providing oversight of the College & Career Ministry and working on several mentoring & leadership development initiatives.

Tony Batres continues to do a great job as interim Student Ministry Director and has agreed to continue until we have identified a permanent Director or Pastor over this area. A search team will commence around early November and will thoroughly consider Tony for the position, before looking at any other candidates.

For those who contact the office with administrative needs, please note the new roles of our admin staff:

Cyndi Kern is our part-time Ministry Administrative Assistant and has taken over most of JoAnn McDowell’s receptionist responsibilities (after JoAnn retired at the end of April) and provides support to Cassandra DeWitt, Chuck Arnold, Jay Button and Dave Wolf.

Sharon Sloan has stepped into a newly-created, full-time role as Ministry Administrative Team Lead as of June 1, 2019. Sharon takes care of Calendar and Building Usage Requests and supports Steve Weir in Communications and Special Events, and Tony Batres in Student Ministry. She also serves as liaison to ministry leaders.

Please join me in expressing your support for our great staff, and pray with us for a smooth transition through these changes over the coming months.

Dave Wolf, Lead Pastor

Serve: Step Up to Grow Up!

As we learned from Ephesians 4:11-16, there’s an awesome WIN-WIN when we choose to step up and serve using the gifts God has given: we mature as individuals, AND we build up our Grace Point community of faith.

Serve

So take a risk, step out of your comfort zone, and get off that spiritual sofa to see what God has in store…link over to our webpage that shows areas of ministry you might consider – and take a test drive!

SERVE opportunities online

FOCUS Survey Trip Prayer Requests – Thailand

Thank you for praying for our FOCUS Survey trips! We had a great trip to Lebanon and now we look ahead to our Thailand Survey trip. Here’s how you can pray for our team!

Prayer Requests for Grace Point Survey Trips
Thailand Trip / August 21-28

  1. Pray for the FOCUS Selection Team as they get better acquainted with the ministry of Converge in Thailand. Pray for the director of the Thai Buddhist Initiative, Rick Berry.
  2. Pray for the spiritual preparation of the survey team going to Thailand: Steve Weir, Dave Wolf, Denise Nichols, and Ellen Livingood. Ask God to give them spiritual discernment, clean hearts, and minds yielded to the Lord. Pray for good health and safety before, during, and after the trip. The weather will be hot and humid, so pray for endurance during long days.
  3. Pray for each of the missionaries and national Thai pastors and leaders with whom the GP team will meet. Ask God to use the GPers to encourage and be a blessing to these men and women. Pray that each conversation will help to give a clear picture of what God is doing and how partnership might contribute.
  4. The team will leave on Wednesday morning, August 21, for Newark airport and a non-stop, 16-hour flight to Hong Kong. After a 2½ -hour layover, there will be another three-hour flight into Bangkok, arriving Thursday evening at 11:30. Pray that each person can get some quality sleep on this long trip.
  5. Pray for stamina for the team on Friday, August 23, as they spend the day seeing English centers with Converge missionary Steve Cable and then attend a church service in the evening. Ask God to give each person the ability to focus and absorb lots of new information despite jetlag. Pray that the GPers will be guided to ask insightful questions.
  6. On Saturday, August 24, the team will meet with leaders of the ministry that is teaching English to women who have been caught in the sex trade. Ask God to give the team the ability to understand some of the complexity of ministry to women caught in this vast evil that unfortunately is a trademark of Bangkok. Pray that our Grace Pointers can be an encouragement to those who work with these women.
  7. On Sunday, August 25, the team will take a short flight to Udon to see a training ministry that Converge is involved with there. Pray that our GPers can begin to understand the leadership needs for the new house churches that God is raising up all across this land and what the opportunities are like to be a part of serving church leaders in training.
  8. On Monday, August 26, the team will spend the day learning about the background of Thai culture and Buddhist religious beliefs and practices. Pray that they will be able to see the implications for ministry in this nation where only an estimated ½ of 1 percent are evangelical believers.
  9. On Tuesday, August 27, the team will spend a portion of the day meeting with local Thai leaders. Pray for good translation and clear communication. Ask God to help GPers grasp the big picture as they are exposed to so much new information.
  10. Shortly after midnight on Wednesday, August 27, Steve, Dave, and Denise will start their journey home. Pray for the connection in Hong Kong and for rest on the long journey. Ellen will take a short flight to Singapore where she will spend the next three days doing training with a number of sending-base leaders, board members, and volunteers who serve with the mission agency World Outreach. Pray that each of these sessions will be highly valuable to these people who are mobilizing sending churches in places as different as South Africa, the Netherlands, and Malaysia.

FOCUS Survey Trip Prayer Requests

As we look ahead to our FOCUS Survey trips, we invite and need you to pray for our teams and for God’s leading in the FOCUS process.

Prayer Requests for Grace Point Survey Trips
Lebanon Trip / July 25-August 1

  1. Pray for the FOCUS Selection Team as they meet on Wednesday, July 10, to prepare and to get better acquainted with the ministry of Kinship and its partners in the Middle East: Horizons International (HI) and Ananias House (AH). Pray for an expanded understanding of the complexity of the context as well as the exciting ministry opportunities.
  2. Pray for the spiritual preparation of the survey team going to Lebanon: Steve Weir, Amie Kiryluk, Denise Nichols, and Ellen Livingood. Ask God to give them spiritual discernment, clean hearts, and minds yielded to the Lord.
  3. Pray for the staff of the Kinship partners in Lebanon as they prepare to host our survey team, specifically Christine, the HI visit coordinator; Khalil, in charge of developing church partnerships across Lebanon for HI; Louis, HI’s director of expat ministry in the Middle East, and Maggie, onsite AH ministry coordinator.
  4. Pray for good health and safety before and during the trip. The weather will be quite hot, so pray for endurance during long days. Pray that the team can stay focused despite jet lag and weariness.
  5. Pray for good translators and clear communication everywhere the team goes. Pray for good communication within the GP team too. Ask God to help them be discerning as they are exposed to so much and to encourage each other all along the way.
  6.  Pray for each of the pastors in Lebanon with whom the GP team will meet. Ask God to use the GPers to encourage and be a blessing to these leaders who are always stretched thin by the demands of their congregation as well as the immense physical and spiritual needs around them. Pray that each conversation will give a clear picture of the church’s vision, the current ministry, the potential for partnership, and concrete ways GP might contribute.
  7. Pray for the day trips that GP will make to tent camps in the Beqaa Valley and to children’s camp ministry in the Tyre area. Pray for a good understanding of the diversity of ministry that is based on the diversity of needs and opportunities.
  8. Pray that the GP team will be able to enjoy worship with Arab brothers and sisters, sensing the joy of their spiritual life that is deeper than the daily problems they face.
  9. Pray the team will be able to gain an understanding even of ministries that they will not have the opportunity to see firsthand. For instance, the School of Hope that provides an education for dozens of very poor refugee children will be on summer vacation.
  10. Pray for the time the team spends with two church leaders who will be coming out of Sy_a to meet with them. Pray that these men’s hearts will be encouraged by the interest of the GP team. Pray for the ability for the GP team to grasp the difficulties and the opportunities that describe the situation inside this war-torn country today.

6/9 Business Meeting Recap!

On Sunday, June 9, 2019, Grace Point held our semi-annual business meeting for church members, with approximately 90 in attendance. Below is a summary of what we covered and the items that were up for vote.

Scott Leuz, Elder Chairman, honored Phil Anders’ 12 years of service on the Elder Board before his home-going to heaven. Scott announced that Glenn Ely will be taking a one-year sabbatical after serving over eight years on the Elder Board. Thank you, Glenn!

Scott also introduced a vote to reinstate Jack Edmond to the Elder Board, having just finished a one-year sabbatical. The subsequent vote was unanimous.

I gave an update on the FOCUS process by starting with a brief overview of the many steps involved. I shared that it is our hope and prayer that through the FOCUS process we can unite all of our mission initiatives locally, regionally and globally. I’d love to see a common thread through each area of ministry, as we consider the Acts 1:8 regions (Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth). Lastly, I shared that we have narrowed our potential FOCUS partnerships down to two areas of the world: Lebanon and Thailand. Each area will include potential new missions projects, short-term trips and church-wide engagement. Survey trips are currently being planned and more details can be found here.

As a side note: our 2019 Easter offering was designated to help offset the costs of our FOCUS survey trips. A total of $12,255 was given and will be a huge help in funding these trips.

Dave Wolf, Lead Pastor, reported on staffing changes and updates as follows:

JoAnn McDowell has begun her retirement! Please welcome our new Ministry Administrative Assistant Cyndi Kern and our Ministry Administrative Team Lead Sharon Sloan, who are getting up to speed and providing great support to the staff.

Our interim Student Ministry Coordinator Tony Batres has dived in and is doing a great job leading our teens. Just as Tony came on board, the Haiti missions trip had to be cancelled due to political upheaval in that country; as a result, Tony and Steve worked hard to find an alternative and have been busy planning the Navajo Nation trip for July. In addition, Tony is courageously leading a four-week teaching on dating and sex with our students, while offering a simultaneous parent session to facilitate good conversation over this vital topic.

Tony will continue as our part time coordinator into fall, as staff and elders take time to look at Student Ministry as a whole and determine if and when to search for a full-time director/pastor.

Stepping back to look at the bigger picture of our GP staffing, in February Dave Wolf began exploring the question “Are we staffed properly to achieve our Mission, our Vision and our new FOCUS?” with a group of several advisors, including an outside church consulting firm.

As a result, we will be making several changes over the coming year, including the transition of Joan Zeberlein from part-time to full-time beginning August 1. Joan has been faithful in Women’s Ministry at GP for nearly 12 years, and we are excited to have her training and equipping expertise available to impact more of our ministry areas.

As Joan transitions to full-time, she will be adding to her plate a new emphasis on our Guest Experience, looking at ways to enhance our “culture of belonging” as part of our vision of building bridges for life change through Christ. Eventually, as our new Missions FOCUS is identified, Joan will become more involved, as we are prayerfully expecting that this new FOCUS will be more than I, Steve Weir, can handle in his multi-faceted role.

There is much more to say about staffing changes and the multiple staff members who will be affected. We will offer an informational meeting in late August or early September to give more details. For now, please welcome Cyndi, Sharon, Tony and Joan to the crew!

Bill Wright, Director of Operations, provided an update on the church finances, including the many ways our church family has been generous beyond giving to the General Fund. Bill mentioned that a new restricted account was created for funds given for “Strategic Global Projects” and that significant gifts have already been received for those purposes. Lastly, copies of the proposed 2019-2020 budget were distributed, and Bill reviewed some of the changes and proposed increases. With an overwhelming majority vote, the members approved the budget as presented.

Pastor Jay Button recognized Chuck Arnold, Pastor of Congregational Care, for his five years of ministry and service to the church family. I had the opportunity to recognize Josh DeLeo, Sunday AV Coordinator, for his five years of service, and Holly Ames, Missions Assistant, for her 20 years of service.

Pastor Jay Button was delighted to welcome new members to the Grace Point family, Dave Ferri and Tom and Barb Cummings.

Finally, Scott Leuz shared the results of the votes (noted above) and closed the meeting in prayer.

We are grateful for all that God has done in our church and we look forward to a great summer of ministry at Grace Point!

Steve Weir
Pastor of Missions and Communication

GP FOCUS Process – Update

Thank you to the many folks who have been praying for the FOCUS process! It has been an exciting journey seeing God work and lead us over the last several months. A lot has been happening behind-the-scenes and it’s time for an update!

First, I thought I should give you a brief overview of the FOCUS process and what we hope it will accomplish for our church. We hope and pray that the FOCUS process will allow us as a church to bring some clarity and focus to our missions efforts, and address how we can engage in missions – locally, regionally, and globally.

FOCUS is an acronym that stands for:

  • F – First Priority – The selected FOCUS project and/or initiative will be the missions project that we talk about the most – whether that is from the stage on Sunday mornings or in our regular publications. When it comes to mission-related opportunities, we’ll consider our FOCUS first, then look at other ideas. This will include short-term mission trips, potential new missionary candidates, special offerings and other opportunities.
  • O – Objectives Oriented – The FOCUS will be based on specific objectives that are established by our global partner(s) and/or missionaries. A major aspect of a FOCUS is to come alongside them and help them accomplish their ministry goals and objectives.
  • C – Collaborative – We will select and work closely with ministry partners to help them accomplish their goals and determine what we can learn from them in true partnership. There is much we can learn from this process as well.
  • U – Unleashed Potential – We have many people within our church family who are highly-skilled and gifted in a number of areas. We hope that our FOCUS will provide multiple opportunities to engage and mobilize our people for significant missions impact using their gifts, skills and expertise. That may include you!
  • S – Strategic – We don’t ever want to engage in any missions project without a strategy. Our FOCUS will have a determined strategic emphasis that will help us all to stay on task and prayerfully focused on what God would have us to learn and accomplish through this process.

The FOCUS process began last fall, and in January the FOCUS Selection Team was assembled with the specific task of selecting GP’s next missions FOCUS project. Over the last several months, the FOCUS Selection Team wrestled with a number ideas and issues, attempted to map our missions DNA as a church, conducted research and narrowed our many, many options down to two.

While there were many worthy missions projects from which to select and with which to engage, we had to evaluate multiple factors and make a decision based on what we believe would be a good fit for Grace Point at this time. It was not an easy task!

The FOCUS Selection Team has narrowed the potential projects down to the following:

  • Lebanon – working with the Kinship Network to equip church leaders and reach refugees and Muslims from both Lebanon and Syria.
  • Thailand – working with Converge International missionaries in Bangkok to help start and support English schools – each of which are tied to a local church. Other opportunities may include assisting with a ministry that helps victims and those rescued from the sex trafficking industry.

Personally, I’m praying that our FOCUS will engage our entire church in meaningful and impactful ways – so much so that all of us become more missions-minded to reach our friends and neighbors and to help us accomplish our FOCUS, and live out our vision of building bridges for life change through Christ.

What’s Next?
The next step in the FOCUS process is to send survey teams to each country with the goal to evaluate things on the ground, meet with the national leaders, identify national facilitators, and gain a clearer understanding of what God is already doing in their ministries. We will be sending two small teams made up of members from the FOCUS Selection Team this summer. While some logistics are not confirmed at this time, we have the dates for our trips.

  • Lebanon – July 25 to August 1
  • Thailand – August 21 to 28

For now, you can join our prayer team. You can sign-up online using this form, in the foyer at the Missions Wall or send an email to “go@gracepointpa.org” to be added to the list.

I don’t know about you, but I think this is exciting! I’m thrilled with the progress we’ve made and look forward to what God has in store for us as a church!

Lastly, I’d like share our appreciation for Ellen Livingood, who has led our FOCUS Selection Team and really helped us prayerfully wrestle with the key ideas and issues related to missions. Ellen is a tremendous asset to us as a church and many other churches through her ministry. You can learn more about Ellen’s work with Catalyst Services on their website here: https://catalystservices.org/

Thank you, again, for praying! More details to come!

Easter Greetings & Activities

Dear Grace Point Family,Easter Flowers

The world is slowly shifting once again from gray-brown to Technicolor! I love Spring! As life begins to burst around us, we are reminded of our Savior bursting free from the tomb. I hope you will join us in these opportunities to celebrate:

Pray and Invite
Pray for neighbors, friends, and co-workers you might invite to join us at Grace Point on Resurrection Day – that they will witness our worship, have ears to hear the Good News of Christ, and respond to God’s gift of forgiveness and eternal life.

Passport to the Cross: Your Guide to Understanding Good Friday
On Good Friday, April 19, beginning at 6:00 pm, we will host a new experience to help us appreciate more deeply the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. As groups we will visit three stations that remind us of key events of Passion week, culminating in a time of reflection together in the Commons. Help your children experience the meaning of Good Friday for the first time, or come for your own refresher. Childcare is available for children under four years old. Register at http://gracepointpa.org/events for this unique experience.

Celebrate Resurrection Day
On Sunday, April 21, 9:00 and 10:30 am, we will celebrate Christ’s victory over death with powerful music and a continuation of our sermon series called “Crushed for Us, Raised for Us.” If you are bringing guests on Easter, please attend the service with them and help them feel welcome. Because we expect a large crowd, we will also provide overflow rooms for both services to make room in the Commons for guests. Children’s programs (Nursery through 6th Grade) will be available in each service.

Support our FOCUS Process
This year our Easter offering will fund survey trips for our GP FOCUS Process. I am excited to see where God directs us for greater impact as we endeavor to work together on a church-wide missions project. To learn more about the FOCUS process and the survey trips, please refer to this document. Please consider contributing financially toward the trips, and continue to pray for this important decision. I encourage you to continue pursuing steady stewardship with your tithes to our General Fund, and consider this an “above and beyond” gift demonstrating gutsy generosity. (When donating online or via check, be sure to mark your gift “Easter.”)

May you be filled with hopeful expectation, as we look to Christ for new life in this special season!

Celebrating with you,

Dave Wolf
Lead Pastor

1/27 Business Meeting Recap!

Hello, Church Family!

On Sunday, January 27, 2019, Grace Point held a semi-annual business meeting for church members, with about 75 in attendance. Below is a brief summary for those of you who were not able to attend.

PrintPastor Jay Button was delighted to welcome three new members to the Grace Point family: Lark & Heidi Perez, and Meredith Brown. If you have an opportunity to introduce yourselves to our new church members, we are sure they would be encouraged and blessed.

Cassandra DeWitt, Director of Children’s Ministry, gave an update on the aesthetic improvements in the Children’s Ministry wing, which help make the families and children feel well-served, comfortable and welcome. She also shared that a new community outreach event called “Family Fun Fest” will be happening on June 7. Allyson Kliefoth and Michelle Piccioni are volunteering to oversee the Family Fun Fest.

In Pastor Steve Weir’s absence, he prepared a video presentation outlining the FOCUS (First priority, Objectives oriented, Cooperative, Unleashed potential, Strategic) process introduction. He shared the vision and purpose of FOCUS and updated the members on the process and timing.

Dave Wolf introduced several staffing changes, including title changes for Greg Shelton (Pastor of Student Ministries) and Bill Wright (Director of Operations.) He also announced the retirement this year of JoAnn McDowell (whose service has been much appreciated and will be missed!) and the hiring of two new administrative staff members: Cyndi Kern and Sharon Sloan.

Dave and I then introduced a vote to change the Grace Point Constitution to reflect a title change for Dave Wolf from Senior Pastor to Lead Pastor. Dave felt it important to make the change to reflect his heart for shepherding and leading the staff and congregation, rather than suggesting seniority over others. With an overwhelming majority vote, the members approved to change Dave Wolf’s title from Senior Pastor to Lead Pastor.

Bill Wright, Director of Operations, recognized Ryan Burke for ten years of faithful service on the Grace Point staff. Ryan serves as the part-time custodian and is a great blessing to Dave Crist, Facilities & Grounds Supervisor. Ryan fills this role behind the scenes, usually at night and on the weekends.

David Kneller informed us of a newly-adopted policy Affirmation and Policy on God’s Design for Human Sexuality which incorporates material from and supersedes several older policies including several on marriage and divorce. His work, along with that of other elders, to update our church policies is much appreciated, so that the church can function with integrity and efficiency.

Bill Wright reported that the finances are healthy after a strong giving month of December. Specifically, the water well initiative through Samaritan’s Purse for Cambodia exceeded the expected giving such that six wells are being installed instead of the original goal of two wells. The surplus of the Thanksgiving and Christmas offerings was allocated by our church leadership to the general church fund.

The meeting concluded with a closing prayer.

God bless,

Scott Leuz
Elder Chair

Happy New Year 2019!

Dear Grace Point family,

Happy New Year! As we turn the calendar and begin 2019, I’m excited to celebrate with you some highlights of God’s work among us in 2018, and also look forward with expectation to the months ahead!

img_5552We start by celebrating 16 baptisms in 2018, including one special Sunday when we saw eight people take this step of faith! I am thrilled to see this number increase dramatically over the last few years: three in 2016, and five in 2017. To God be the glory for the way He is stirring in hearts and changing lives!

Praise the Lord for great participation in One Winter Night (including so many of you who volunteered to make it happen) and our Christmas Eve services! We know of at least one family whose first time at Grace Point was One Winter Night, and they have returned on Sundays in December. Let’s continue to pray for long-term life change as a result of the amazing outreach at OWN.

turn-on-the-tapAnother celebration from this past Advent season is the amazing movement of generosity among our church family, following our Advent Conspiracy study on “spending less and giving more,” and what a response! We set out with a goal to provide two wells (costing $10,000 each) to villages without clean water, and you responded so incredibly, we FAR EXCEEDED that expectation! We will give more specifics soon, after the year’s finances have been closed out, but for now I’ll say that we at least doubled our goal!  Let’s pray that these wells meet both physical and spiritual needs, as Samaritan’s Purse does this ministry in the name of Jesus.

I also want to take this opportunity on behalf of the staff to thank those who contributed to the staff Christmas gift – we are truly humbled and grateful to serve here!

Before leaving the topic of generosity, we can also celebrate that we finished 2018 in the black, as our General Fund giving has caught up to budgeted need. This positions us for some very exciting ministry in the year to come:

A dedicated FOCUS Team under the direction of Catalyst President Ellen Livingood and our Pastor of Missions Steve Weir will be examining our outreach strategy and working to flesh out what it looks like to “build bridges for life change through Christ” both locally and globally. If you are not part of our GP Prayer Team, please email vision@gracepointpa.org to be part of our 21 Days of Prayer for GP FOCUS, which begins Monday, January 7.

gp central logoOur staff is devoting new energy to our strategy of “creating a culture of belonging” as we read a book together called Fusion by Nelson Searcy. As part of our efforts we are upgrading our database, which will allow more personal and robust follow up with our guests. It will also facilitate better communication among our church family, including our Groups, which are the heartbeat of our connections with one another.

Toward that goal of improved communication, our pastors want to offer a new forum for conversation, “Coffee with the Pastors,” to give you the opportunity to share any constructive feedback or new ideas for our consideration. The inaugural conversation will be on January 27 (the day after the next business meeting) – you can choose to participate at either 1pm or 7pm in A5-6. The pastors look forward to talking with you about what’s on your mind.

I could go on, but you have your own New Year projects to tackle. Praying that God bears much fruit through us together, for HIS glory, in 2019!

In Christ,

Dave

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?