We had the honor of hosting Bobby and Jenny Mihsill, our Living Link missionaries to Cote d’Ivoire, in worship this week. They preached on Luke 5:1-11 and called us all to join them in following Jesus, who calls us to “fish for people.” Listen to their message here!
Today, we honor and celebrate the ladies of our WCG group, the “Merlene Circle,” and its 64 year history of serving missionaries and missions work around the world. Listen in to Pastor David’s summary of the history of the national WCG organization and the various ministries in which we have been involved. Then continue to listen as he shares a few comments on Matthew 25:31-46, a passage in which Jesus urges us to serve the “least of these” among us.
I sit here on a snowy Thursday morning and find myself reflecting on how, just one week ago, several of us from Mt. Haley were experiencing different weather, a different language, a different culture, and a different sense of community.
We as a church have been building up for this Guatemala “Shack Attack” trip for quite some time. We gave over $2,500 toward expenses for the trip and, more importantly, for a house to be built for a family in Guatemala City. We joined hands with a neighboring church, Meridian Church of God, to bring about this experience, in which we shared the love of Christ with hundreds of children and adults and in which we learned a great deal about ourselves and our own way of life. I’d like to share with you a few of the lessons I learned on this trip.
- Though cultures differ greatly, family is universally important. The house we worked on will soon be home to a family of five, and yet it is very small – certainly smaller than our youth room at church. This family will make this newly constructed space their home, and that is quite significant. We also visited the home of a family whose house was built this time last year – a truly beautiful space that has quickly become their home in the past few months. Having a space for families to live life, to build relationships, to grow together – this is a crucial component of life both in the Guatemalan community we visited and for us here in the States. What is your family life like? What space have you created for those relationships?
- Though languages differ greatly, Christian love is universally understood. We saw this lesson most clearly when we attended a Sunday morning worship service in the church just a hundred yards down the railroad tracks from the house construction location. We witnessed laughter, greetings, and hugs among the Christian community there. We participated in tremendous worship of our Lord with familiar and unfamiliar songs sung in Spanish. We experienced a remarkable display of Christian humility through a public confession of sin, and we saw the body of Christ extend forgiveness to those who made that confession. Where do you see Christian love expressed in your life? How would your life change if you saw it more clearly?
- Though personalities differ greatly, relationships are universally meaningful.
Many of the children we met in Guatemala were gregarious, excited to see us, talkative, and very expressive. Some, however, were much more quiet and reserved – like me! While I watched the dozens of children we saw each day, I noticed that some children, just like here at home, tended to be in the center of attention, while others stayed on the edges of the group. And then, on our last day at “the tracks,” two young girls appeared at my side: Andrea and Julia. These two girls, eight and seven years old, respectively, were very shy and not very talkative. But they plopped themselves down next to me and were content just to be next to me or to be held on my lap for the bulk of the day. Who are the “overlooked” people in your daily life? Are you one of them? How can God use your personality to be a blessing to people around you?
Whether in the sunshine or in the snow, whether in 70 degree weather or 20 degree weather, God is at work in people’s lives. I am excited to continue bringing about the kingdom of God in our own community after seeing it at work in Guatemala City last week! Will you join me in our ongoing mission work?
On Saturday, September 22, five of us from Mt. Haley – four adults and one child – helped distribute food to people in the tri-county region at Dow Diamond. In the span of six hours, we filled the trunks and backseats of cars representing about 950 families! This massive food giveaway was organized by a group called Filling Midland’s Cup, which has grown out of the ministries of Messiah Lutheran Church. I was impressed by the quality of the food donations that came in from individuals and groups from around the area. People received a wide variety of healthy foods, including a good bit of fresh produce. (I’ve never seen so many onions in my life!)
The five of us from Mt. Haley served in a variety of capacities. Some of us were in the ballpark where people gathered to wait for their numbers to be called. We greeted, talked with, and encouraged those who came. We heard their stories and gave them the gift of our time and friendship. Others of us worked in the food distribution system, filling carts with groceries, taking the carts outside to the waiting cars, and filling the cars with the greatly-desired and greatly-appreciated goods.
As I reflect on this experience, I have a few thoughts to share with you:
- There are many needs in our community. I was amazed at the seemingly endless stream of cars – of people – that came to receive help with their personal groceries. From 9am until around 3:45pm, there were perhaps one or two moments when the line of cars dwindled down to one or two. The work was constant and unending. When the final cars had left the distribution area, I had trouble believing that the work was really done. I was struck by how many individuals within driving distance of Dow Diamond came for help with groceries. That made me think: do any of these folks live in the neighborhood of our church, so we might continue to reach out to them in Christ’s love?
- Some folks don’t have a car. This is easy for us to forget, especially those of us who have a car (or two or three) and have always enjoyed ease of transportation. Perhaps ten or twelve of the people who came through the line on Saturday did so on foot or on bicycle. I helped a couple pack their backpacks full of food supplies and load bags of groceries onto their bicycles’ handlebars. They made two trips before all their goods made it home, which thankfully was not far away. Others arranged for their groceries to be driven home in volunteers’ cars. That made me think: what do we take for granted?
- Everyone was grateful. I was blessed to serve at the main “point of contact” – where groceries and trunks met each other, where volunteers and guests met each other. Through the span of over 900 vehicles, I never saw at individual upset, angry, frustrated, or disappointed, either with the long wait in line (several hours for some) or with the food gifts. Some folks I saw were literally jumping up and down in excitement for what they were receiving; one lady called this “Christmas in September.” That made me think: how can we be more grateful on a daily basis?
- All of this was done in the name of Christ. We didn’t push the gospel on people; we didn’t ask people if they knew Jesus as their Savior; we didn’t even check to see if they really needed this help. This was a “come one, come all” event. Anyone and everyone was invited to come and receive a blessing from God, orchestrated and organized and worked out by the hands of fellow disciples of Christ. That made me think: how can we continue to share Christ’s love with people in the future?
Here’s a short video about this event. Please take a few minutes to watch it!
WOW! What a weekend! THANK YOU for the many prayers that covered our Chicago Mission Experience! The presence of the Holy Spirit and the sharing of the kids & adults with the people of Chicago were absolutely INCREDIBLE. We were all IMPACTED with how the Lord used us to His GLORY and the blessings have changed our lives! PRAISE GOD! Your prayers made a difference! That was how our month ended—on a great experience with God and each other. We are still in the recovery stage of catching up with sleep, but I still have a smile on my face and I must say, we were very proud of our kids.
We started off the experience early on a Friday morning at the Mt. Haley Altar with prayer for us by Pastor David and drove most of the day hitting Chicago in the midst of a traffic jam – the praise was that the kids got a close look at all of the downtown Chicago skyline. Friday night began with a meal at a Puerto Rican restaurant where the kids gobbled some great ethnic food, while we got acquainted with our CSM host, Taylor. After a great supper, we spent the next couple of hours on a prayer tour around the city of Chicago, visiting places of need, different neighborhoods and a chance to feel the atmosphere and picture of the people of Chicago. Many prayers were prayed that night, as we heard the joys and plights of people’s lives.
We were up early Saturday morning and by 7:00 AM at the Canaan Baptist Food Pantry on the south side of Chicago. We met and worked for a most incredible 70 year old lady named Ms. D that had a limitless heart for God & people as we help package and carry bags for families that lined up for two blocks for four hours to receive food for their families. We also had the opportunities to talk and share with people, pray for them and offer them a message of peace and hope. Beginning with this and throughout the day we were able to pray and distribute our green, glow in the dark bracelets that say “Prayed 4 and I am Loved.” We don’t know who was more blessed, the people we prayed for or ourselves.
From there we proceeded to a place called “Two Lil Fishes.” This is a lunch program that reaches out to the homeless in the Uptown neighborhood. Our group spent time talking & sharing with the patrons and serving the meal. We also met an incredible person named Isaac who shared his testimony of homelessness and someone we had a direct connection with because he grew up in Saginaw and even worked as an intern at Dow Chemical. He encouraged the kids to invest in people and share the gospel of Christ. After all that work at developing relationships and helping people, we had lunch and some slurpees from 7-Eleven.
We then took a walking prayer tour of the city and were totally fascinated with the needs, people and sights of the city. Our activity immediately following that tested our faith and courage as we engaged in “Meet a Need.” Each adult with a couple of kids were given $5 and challenged to meet & greet people on the streets of the city sharing prayers and the gospel of Christ. The students met the challenge as they bought water, hamburgers, coffee, etc to offer to people, but most important they offered prayer and hope to many of the people they met, as well as bracelets. We were blessed!
We finished our ministries by going to the Cornerstone Community Outreach’s center to help organize their huge rummage & clothing thrift store. Located on the sixth floor and very hot –we were happy to conclude our serving for the day.
The evening meal was unbelievable! We ate at a Thai restaurant called the “Siam Café” where we enjoyed a 7-course meal and lots of conversation about our day. Praises, debriefing and counting of blessings filled the evening as we thank God for the experience we had.
Sunday morning we attend and worshiped at the Lawndale Community Church – an African-American congregation that works to renew the Lawndale neighborhood community. Lunch was at a Mediterranean restaurant called “Dawali’s” where Lawrence & Jo blessed us with a rich dessert of Baklava. Thank you Adams!
We spent the long ride home, sleeping, laughing, counting our blessings and sharing with each other the experiences we had. The mission ended “At the Altar” of our church thanking God for being able to serve him and giving all the honor & glory to Him. Ask any kid and they will say they want to go back. God touched us and the stories will live in our hearts for a long time. Every one of us was impacted in our relationship with Christ, each other and the people we meet on a daily basis. We truly learned to “Love God, Love Others.” Thank you for your prayers and support.
This was a great experience to kick-off our new year. Youth starts up again on Sunday night, September 9th, hopefully in our newly remodeled Youth Room. (GREAT BIG THANK YOU) We will begin with post-lessons on our mission trip and a Church of God Youth ministry called “Spread the Word.” We will welcome new sixth graders into the youth ministry and hope to invite and bring many friends to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. New 2012-2013 Medical Release and Permission forms will be coming in the mail. What an exciting time in our youth ministry!
During class time on Sunday mornings (10:00-10:45) the Middle School students are meeting with Maggie Hyde and the High School Class is with Pastor Jerry & Connie. The High School students are studying the book of Romans and we are inviting YOU to come. Each lesson stands on its own; you are not behind or ahead, SO, join on Sunday mornings. (You just have to GET UP and COME.) As always, you are invited to church also at 11:00. One item of information for you, there will be NO youth on Sunday, September 16, 2012 because Connie & I will be attending the Baby Dedication of our granddaughter in Lansing. Thanks for your understanding.
Praise God for the AWESOME summer we have had! Your prayers have been felt in everything activity and lesson we had this summer! Let’s pray for a great beginning to a new year.
Love God, Love People!
It’s hard to believe that summer is going so fast! Fall sports are already in preparation for a new season and students will be back in school in a month plus our weekly youth meetings on Sunday nights will begin again on September 9th @ 6:00 PM. Where has the summer gone?
July was a good month for the youth as we finished up with a great weekend in Mio. We had great fun camping, canoeing down the AuSable River with the Mio Youth, then a cookout Saturday, plus attending church the next morning and a great meal at the AuSable River Restaurant. A special thanks goes out to Lawrence & Jo Adams for hosting us at their cabin in the woods. Great time, great fellowship! We are already planning for next year if we again have the opportunity. Unfortunately, the Meridian Church of God had to cancel out with the softball game and we were unable to have enough students for the Scavenger Hunt (this was postponed until sometime in Sept. or Oct.). However, we all had a great time at the Great Lake Loons game. Good times!
This is a BIG month and we will NEED your prayers! 14 people will be leaving early in the morning on Friday, August 24 to travel to Chicago for a mission trip with the Center of Student Missions. We will travel most of the day, arriving in Chicago that evening for an ethnic meal and a prayer tour of the city. All day Saturday we will be participating in planned local missions, enjoying another ethnic meal that evening plus some other spiritual activities. On Sunday, we will attend a local Chicago place of worship, have another ethnic lunch, and then be on our way home. This event is truly one of the most spiritual life-changing experiences of the year for our youth. Please pray for our youth, their counselors, the people and places we serve and the city of Chicago. We will be having a special meeting about the mission trip on Monday, August 20, 2012 at 7:00 PM at Mt. Haley that we ask all participants to attend. (Hopefully, this meeting is after all the summer events, fair, vacations, camps, etc.)
Also this month we will offer the opportunity to spend the afternoon at the Midland County Fair with your youth group on Thursday, August 16th. We will offer rides into town to attend the fair and we know several will already be there.
Our new youth room is getting closer to being FINISHED! New walls, new ceiling and fresh paint are completed. The flooring and lights still need to be done then we can move in. We have been garage sale shopping all summer. We have new area rugs, several different items of furniture and shelving, plus a mini-refrigerator. It’s going to be COOL! Thank you CHURCH for doing this for our youth! It is GREATLY appreciated!
A new youth year is coming and we will be welcoming in our new 6th graders and any other youth age student in the ministry. Please let us know WHO these students are, with their phone numbers and addresses. With a new youth room we want to FILL-IT-UP and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them! Also, September means we will be having all students and parents submitting new 2012-2013 Medical Release and Permission Forms. Watch for these coming to your home soon. We are also planning on having a special “Parent Meeting” for new youth in the near future. Watch for times and date.
During class time on Sunday mornings (10:00 -10:45) the Middle School students are meeting with Maggie Hyde and the High School Class is with Pastor Jerry & Connie. The High School students are studying the book of Romans and we are inviting YOU to come. Each lesson stands on its own; you are not behind or ahead, SO, join on Sunday mornings. (You just have to GET UP and COME.) As always, you are invited to church also at 11:00. One item of information for you, there will be NO youth on Sunday, September 16, 2012 because Connie & I will be attending the Baby Dedication of our granddaughter in Lansing. Thanks for your understanding.
Praise God for the AWESOME summer we have had! Remember to PRAY for our Mission Trip to Chicago! Know that you are always welcome at the Mt. Haley Church of God.
Love God, Love People!
Yesterday we had the privilege of hearing from David and Damaris Beam, missionaries to Guatemala. Since the late 1970s, David has worked as a missionary in Guatemala City, where he met his wife Damaris. A large portion of their work is to build cement block homes for families in a very poor district of the city. To help with this task, many church groups have traveled to Guatemala in recent years. Our youth pastor Jerry Graham and his wife Connie have gone on several of these mission trips, most recently this past February.
It’s exciting for me to announce that Mt. Haley Church of God will be partnering with a neighboring church, Meridian Church of God, to sponsor and to help build a cement block home in Guatemala City in February 2013! Our share of the construction expenses is $2500, and there are two ways that we will begin to raise funds for this project:
- Our “Mission Jug” is back! You know how quickly loose change will collect in your pockets and purses. Why not bring your change to church, drop it in the Mission Jug, and watch the funds for our Guatemala house grow?
- On Father’s Day (June 17), we will give a special love offering toward this project. That’s because we understand the importance of fatherhood, faith, family life, and affordable housing. By helping a family have a stable house structure – and by communicating the love of Jesus Christ to this family in person next February – we will help the family have a more stable home life.
This is an exciting time of involvement in missions for our congregation. I hope you’re looking forward to this as much as I am!
Automobile accidents can be very tragic events. We have been reminded of that truth with the recent death of Julie Kurrle and her son Timmy, part of a missionary family in Paraguay, in just such a collision. Many congregations around the country and, indeed, around the world are mourning the loss of this young woman and her very young son. Please continue to remember Norberto Kurrle (Julie’s husband) and their daughter Anahi as they rebuild the pieces of their lives, a process which will take a very long time.
This comes at a significant time of the year for me, personally: six years ago yesterday, a van full of Taylor University students and staff members was struck by an oncoming truck on an Indiana highway. Four students and one staff member died in that collision, which occurred while I was on Taylor’s faculty as a math teacher. Recently, the brother of one of these students wrote a good reflection on the aftermath of this difficult event; you can read his thoughts here.
Many inspirational stories can come out of these kinds of tragedies. For instance, one of the Taylor students who survived the collision was in a coma for some time. When she finally awoke, everyone began to realize that she was not who they thought she was; there had been a case of mistaken identity at the scene of the crash. The two families – one who thought they had lost a daughter but found her alive, and one who thought their daughter had survived but realized she was gone – have been drawn together by their common Christian faith. It’s a beautiful story of healing, sorrow, and the strength of Christian relationships.
More recently, Norberto Kurrle gave a moving speech at the memorial service for his wife and son. He spoke about searching for God’s plan for his family, trying to make sense of all that has happened, and being grateful for the many blessings of these two lives that God has shared with him. (You can read all about the memorial service here.) According to eyewitness accounts, Norberto’s faith in Christ shined through even in this darkest of times.
When Christians struggle with real-life situations, I hear people quote two verses very frequently, almost without fail: Jeremiah 29:11 and Romans 8:28. Look up those two verses and read them to yourself, even if you have them memorized. These verses seem to promise good things to those who trust in the Lord. So why do tragedies happen? Are we supposed to look at the hard times of our lives and search for meaning, value, purpose, and good in them?
I don’t know why tragedies happen. I do know, however, that they happen. And I do know that God walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death (see Psalm 23). I know that having faith in Christ is no guarantee that we will avoid trouble, hardship, loss, or tragedy. In fact, if we truly are following Christ, then we should expect to suffer for the cause of Christ (see Matthew 16:21-28). And that is not just idle suffering or having bad things happen to us or our families: it means actively giving witness to our faith in Christ even when the world is falling apart around us. It means denying our desire for good things (as we might believe Jeremiah 29:11 and Romans 8:28 promise for us) and giving glory to God for his faithfulness to us in all circumstances.
Are we able to exercise our faith in God during the good times and the hard times? Or are we only fair-weather Christians?