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!

VBS 2020 Highlights!

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

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

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

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

How you can continue to pray for VBS:

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

Update from Lebanon – August 24

Grace Point,

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

Here’s the update:

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

The four most important hospitals in Beirut were destroyed.

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

Five people recently accepted Christ in one neighborhood.

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

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

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

Horizons Ministry Partner

Source: Horizons International Facebook Page

June 14 Business Meeting Recap!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 Months Later – Water Wells in Cambodia

Many of you may remember that last year’s combined Thanksgiving and Christmas offering was designated to help build fresh water wells in villages in the country of Cambodia by partnering with Samaritan’s Purse. We had set a goal of raising $20,000 for these wells.

Not only did we meet our goal, but we surpassed it! In the end, we raised $60,000 for the fresh water well projects. Wow!

Many of you have been asking, “What happened? Did they build the wells? Is there an update?” I have good news! Last week, I received an update from Samaritan’s Purse, and it included a video from the village!

Over the last 12 months, the staff and personnel with Samaritan’s Purse have been actively working to build and complete the wells in three villages in Cambodia. Below is a video from one of the project leaders thanking Grace Point personally for our generosity in helping to build these wells, and bring much needed fresh water to these people.

Thank you for your generosity and for helping to bring fresh water to the 300 families (1,500 people) in three villages of Banteay Meanchey, Cambodia.

Dirty Water
Previous water supply for the village.

Completed Water Well
A completed fresh water well in the village.

Children from the local school who live in the village.

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