Friday Frivolity ~ Ecuador Style

A merry heart does good – even internationally.

We get to do the best things here on earth and you know they can be quite fun sometimes. Here are few pictures from our Ecuador mission trip that may or may not qualify for the official church report; however they most certainly do qualify for Frivolity.

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From The Center Of The World

 

 

rQAEexTNBBhikgvlAod4yzEK7MITk7kaAgfpU-Zt0eEA group of us returned recently from the center of the world (Quito, Ecuador) on a mission trip. We were literally at the equator and at 9,500 feet elevation! We spent 10 days serving alongside our missionary partners, the Davoll’s. God blessed our trip in so many ways.

We approach our mission trips with a partnership approach. We go where the  missionaries we support are. Once there, we do whatever we can to support them and the work God has called them to. Our vision is to see a very real relationship develop between our church and the church plants we are supporting. We not only want to pray for them; we want to pray with them.

This is why it is an extra blessing to receive an update like this from the Davoll’s:

(The first part references a day of sharing cookies baked by the ladies on our team and praying with area business people).

So, baking cookies and taking them to local business as a door-opener to pray with the people…any value? Good cookies! Well, I got a call today and met with a couple who asked us to pray for their son Edger who was on drugs and alcohol. I think Ashley prayed with her. They asked for help with their son who just “happened” to say on Thursday that he needed to get to a church for help. Please pray for Edger as things have gotten worse but he is asking for help. Go and make disciples. He will build His church! There were 2 new couples in church on Sunday who attended la Conexion the first time for Amor y Respeto (Love & Respect). Thank you for being a blessing here in our Jerusalem!

Praise God we could be of help and blessing to our partners. In return, they were a huge encouragement and blessing to us. The passion of the Davoll’s was unparalleled. The people of Ecuador were gracious hosts. The scenery was beautiful. God was good.

Here are few pictures courtesy of John Obert Baker IV from our trip:

 

From The Center Of The World

 

 

rQAEexTNBBhikgvlAod4yzEK7MITk7kaAgfpU-Zt0eEA group of us returned recently from the center of the world (Quito, Ecuador) on a mission trip. We were literally at the equator and at 9,500 feet elevation! We spent 10 days serving alongside our missionary partners, the Davoll’s. God blessed our trip in so many ways.

We approach our mission trips with a partnership approach. We go where the  missionaries we support are. Once there, we do whatever we can to support them and the work God has called them to. Our vision is to see a very real relationship develop between our church and the church plants we are supporting. We not only want to pray for them; we want to pray with them.

This is why it is an extra blessing to receive an update like this from the Davoll’s:

(The first part references a day of sharing cookies baked by the ladies on our team and praying with area business people).

So, baking cookies and taking them to local business as a door-opener to pray with the people…any value? Good cookies! Well, I got a call today and met with a couple who asked us to pray for their son Edger who was on drugs and alcohol. I think Ashley prayed with her. They asked for help with their son who just “happened” to say on Thursday that he needed to get to a church for help. Please pray for Edger as things have gotten worse but he is asking for help. Go and make disciples. He will build His church! There were 2 new couples in church on Sunday who attended la Conexion the first time for Amor y Respeto (Love & Respect). Thank you for being a blessing here in our Jerusalem!

Praise God we could be of help and blessing to our partners. In return, they were a huge encouragement and blessing to us. The passion of the Davoll’s was unparalleled. The people of Ecuador were gracious hosts. The scenery was beautiful. God was good.

Here are few pictures from our trip:

 

Kayla Coming Home

Kayla ImageKayla Underwood spent most of her summer college break serving on a summer mission internship in Madrid, Spain. Quite an undertaking for a freshman in college! This Sunday we welcome Kayla home. She will share 8 weeks of intense ministry experience in just 15 minutes; also an undertaking. To help, we offer you her last blog post (it is worth reading!)  from her time in Spain and urge you to go back farther and read more of her thoughts and meditations of God working in her and around her.

Here is a link to her blog site. 

Here is her last blog post:

COME TO ME AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST

I can’t begin to organize my thoughts enough to write them down…I am overwhelmed by my God. In all honesty, there have been some very hard moments over these past 2 months – but God remains and He is always faithful to me. I have learned from the hard times, and have had to remember that hard is not bad, its just hard. I’ve also discovered that when you run to Jesus – He truly does give you rest, and its a wonderful thing. I cannot begin to explain how important it has been for me to spend personal time with God every day…I am convinced that my time in the Word has been a sustainer for me. The things I have learned about God in my life has changed my perspective about Him in the lives of people around me, and His power to change lives around the world. Infinite is His might, boundless is His love, limitless His grace, glorious His saving name. We serve a great God…which means we can ask great things of Him, but it also means we can ask, what we perceive, as “little things” of Him as well. And so, that’s what I began to do…ask Him to give me a good night’s sleep…to help me understand a church service…to teach me how to pray in Spanish…to put something in my day that would make me smile to provide needed encouragement – and you know what’s awesome…He always answered me. Not always in the way I was expecting…but He always answered, and not because He had to, but because He cares for me as His daughter and wants me to know that He is and has always been there and will never leave me. When I needed rest, He gave me rest. When I didn’t have the words, He spoke for me. When I needed to smile, He made me laugh. My God is too good to me, and I don’t deserve any of it. How could I not want to serve Him? How could I not want to obey Him? How could I not want to love Him? …those are questions I remind myself of every day. Christ died for me – what am I willing to do for Him? Is Christ truly enough for me?…am I content and completely satisfied only in Him? I should be, I need to be…because He is the only thing is this world that will satisfy, and the only one who will never disappoint. For that I am forever grateful – to have a Savior who is there, ready to embrace me, even when I am distant.

Here I stand a child of Yours 
Broken and in need of You 
Break these chains and wash my guilt away 
Healer of my brokenness 
My weary soul will find its rest 
You are my strength, the lifter of my head 
You’re greater than my yesterdays 
You hold me close today 
You’re the Lord of my tomorrows 
My heart will always say 

Your mercy saved me 
Mercy made me whole 
Your mercy found me 
Called me as Your own 

- Mercy – Casting Crowns -

 

The “Enormidad” of God

One of the blessings of going on short term missions trips is seeing the enormidad (enormity) of God. His enormity is never more on display than when you travel around the world to see His gospel believed and disciples being made in other tongues and other cultures!

What joy the Ecuador team has already experienced in sharing Christ on the streets of Quito, worshiping, sharing testimonies and ministering to Ecuadorian children. Hey, even the spy guys showed up here in Ecuador!

The team has seen the blessing of God over and over already. We wanted to get a handful of pictures up to share just a small flavor of our mission so far. Our internet access is very limited so this may be the only time we can get anything here ion the blog. Enjoy some pictures!!

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I Will Prepare For Worship

I-Will-Prepare-for-Worship

 

The following was originally posted at thomranier.com 

 

I Will Prepare for Worship

This weekend I will attend my church’s worship service.

I will prepare for that corporate worship event;

I will not take the moments lightly.

I will see it as a precious time to gather with brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

I will prepare for worship.

I will ask God to prepare my own heart.

I will ask Him to help me hear God’s Word clearly.

I will ask Him to speak to me that I might be changed.

 

I will prepare for worship.

I pray that I will not be distracted by my own preferences:

By the style of music; the length of the sermon; the place where I sit;

Or anything that would cause me to focus on me instead of God.

 

I will prepare for worship.

I will pray for my pastor that the sermon will be anointed.

I will pray for strength for my pastor,

And for encouragement in a world that often offers little.

 

I will prepare for worship.

I will pray for other leaders in the church,

Leaders often unnoticed and unappreciated,

And specifically for those who sacrificially care for our children in the services.

 

I will prepare for worship.

I will pray that I will hear God’s voice in the music, in the prayers,

And in every moment we gather as a body of believers,

United in heart, focus, and purpose.

 

I will prepare for worship.

I will pray with my family before we leave to go the church service.

I will also pray alone for the services before we leave,

Even if it’s only for a few minutes.

 

I will prepare for worship,

As I see fellow believers enter to worship together,

I will pray for them and their families,

And I will pray for their own hearts of worship.

 

I will prepare for worship.

I understand I am blessed to be able to gather,

Because I know that many Christians around the world

Are being persecuted and banned from such times.

 

I will prepare for worship.

I pray I will understand that it is a foretaste of heaven,

And that I will never take such times for granted,

I pray I will truly rejoice in the house of the Lord.

 

I will prepare for worship.

Thank you, God, for your grace.

Thank you, God, for you goodness.

And for allowing me these precious moments to gather to worship You.

 

I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

—Psalm 122:1 (HCSB)

What Is A GUBA?

Guest post today from Pastor Jeff Bartz.

What’s a GUBA you ask? A GUBA is a kid who is Growing Up Born Again. In other words, it’s a kid who is growing up in church, perhaps even growing up in a Christian home. It’s easy for them to show up at church; they’re made to come.  Sometimes at church they feel like they’ve “heard it all before.”  It’s not hard to understand why GUBA Kids sometimes have a tough time owning their faith.  Because their faith was never their own, some leave the church and the Lord after they graduate. They were just going along with something they were made to do.

We went to Camp Bethany in Sinclairville, NY to devote a weekend to addressing the unique challenges our GUBA Kids face, like:

  • Motives for attending church
  • Having a vision for the church – Jesus’ bride!
  • Going to the right places when struggling with doubt
  • Honoring parents
  • Choosing influences
  • Having a genuine, consistent time with God
  • …and much more!

Our time was designed to invoke a passion for taking greater ownership of a walk with the Lord. We wanted to offer hope to students – that they can have a firsthand faith, and they can start living it this weekend!  With messages from God’s Word in 1 Samuel 1-3 we challenged them to throw away their secondhand religion that they wear on the outside and embrace Jesus Christ and the truth of God’s Word for themselves.

Several young adults (Danny & Aimee Dawson, Collin Cassidy, Taylor White, Meg Hurlbut, Emily Pelton, and BJ Greathouse), many of whom are former GUBA Kids, joined in on the excitement and served on a panel for two sessions, interacting with several questions, two of the biggest being, “How come some GUBA Kids don’t stick?” and “As a GUBA Kid, how can I insulate myself from a corrupt world?”  Their dynamic insights into the issues facing GUBA’s today, along with extended opportunities for personal time with God, greatly impacted our students!

That’s the spiritual content of the weekend in a nutshell.  The video captures the fun.

THANK YOU! to our youth leaders, young adults, and students for making this a memorable and spiritually rich weekend!

Imago Dei Of Motherhood

 

Mother and child - happy time

I miss my mom. She left us for heaven Mother’s Day weekend 6 years ago. It was sudden and unexpected. Life can be that way sometimes, sudden and unexpected.

My mom

My mom

I miss my mother-in-law. She left us for heaven just over 2 years ago. It was a long hard journey home for her. Life can be that way sometimes, a long hard journey home.

I am grateful for my wife and the mom she is. I see in her wisdom, grace, love, sacrifice and the willingness to face each day with the courage only faith can provide. Life can be that way sometimes, faith is all you have.

I am utterly amazed by motherhood. It is a complete devotion to build into another life. A mom so empties herself into her children that one wonders how she can never run out of love. She so sacrifices for her children, that one wonders how she can carry on for all her years. Surely there is an end, a limit, a bottom to her supply of love and sacrifice?

If there is, I have not seen it.

I did not see it in my mom, even in the hardest of times she faced. I did not see it in my mother-in-law, even in her frailty. I do not see it in my wife. There is no end to her love and there is no limit to her sacrifice.

This is the “Imago Dei” (Image of God) as seen  in motherhood. There is no end to the love of God and there is no limit to the sacrifice of God. A mother divinely reflects her Creator in her complete devotion and commitment to the well being of her children. God made a mom to reflect the tender compassion and unconditional care He has for His own.

This is why the Scriptures are clear in its’ command to honor our mothers. In so doing, we honor the Creator who designed motherhood to reflect something of Himself; namely, agape love.

The love of a mother is divine in nature. Of course sin has tainted this but nevertheless, the pure love of a mother is a picture of God’s love for His children.

I’m glad to have a glimpse into the divine in my own life. I saw it in my “moms” and I see it in my wife. The utter tenderness and selflessness, even at 3 am, even in the face of sin, even in the midst of heartache, gives evidence to the divine nature that is part of motherhood.

My wife, Doris, with 4 of our children.

My wife, Doris, with 4 of our children.

Take a moment this Mother’s Day and see the glory and beauty of our Creator in motherhood.  Celebrate God’s grand and beautiful gift of motherhood. We never know whether we are on a long hard journey home or whether something sudden and unexpected will happen. Life can be that way sometimes, you never know what lies ahead and faith is all you really have to face each day.

 

Church Rocks Because Our Children’s Team Does

Child Thank You

We have an awesome team at Grace that minister to the children God brings our way. I am humbled by their servant spirit and true joy in serving the Lord by serving kids.

At times children’s ministry can be a somewhat thankless role. Rarely do Sunday School teachers and children’s ministry workers end up on the platform giving testimonies of exciting happenings in the children’s department. Cleaning up after rambunctious munchkins and making sure everybody makes it back from the bathroom just isn’t the stuff compelling praise and testimony time is made of. Yet, seeds are sown. Foundations are laid. Parents who desperately need to be fed the Word are because their kids are safely being taught the Bible in another room. Even the dad who is far from faith can be exposed to Christians and the love of Christ because someone is willing to care for and share Christ with his child.

So, when something like this (picture above) comes from a “new to us” child like Kylee, we get excited. This is our (earthly) thank you.

And this is my thank you to all who serve in our children’s ministry. You are making a difference one little life at time!!!

Friday Frivolity ~ Mom Style

A merry heart does good…

Warning to moms from my wife: this will be more about tissues than frivolity.