Thursday, April 15, 2010

A little love, human kindness, and prayer opens doors to Clothes Closet Bible study

Today we began having our a devotional time with our Clothes Closet customers. We divided the customers into an English-speaking and a Spanish-speaking group, and had each go to different a portable. Then Glenda Lopez, wife of Carlos Lopez, our Hispanic church planter, gave a devotional in Spanish, while I worked with the English-speakers.

By going into rooms, the customers were able to sit down. This immediately eliminated the "waiting in line," which can be dehumanizing. It certainly does not lead to interaction
I had those in the room introduce themselves and tell a bit about themselves. We then did a type of Discovery Bible study. I wrote up a verse on the board which covered the greatest commands. Then I asked them to rewrite this in their own words (they told me this orally). And then I asked them how they could apply it.

They said that the verse meant to love God with their whole being, and to love others--which they translated into praying for others. I also asked them for their prayer requests. These are what they shared:

Morayna – my cousin Oscar has cancer
Reyna – father-in-law has a heart condition
Terri – Family and mother
Shery – Cousin Tammy has cancer
Velma – son in California and sister that has cancer and diabetes
Diana – Mom just out of surgery – Dad has cancer
Tracy – Dad seeing heart specialist
Donna – Mom with diabetes

Prayers for the world, others, don’t judge people who are different, and prayers for our enemies were also requested.

One lady, Diana Brock, said that she didn't know where she was in her relationship with God, clearly feeling distant from him. But she said that she wanted to come and visit our church. She just needs a ride. (Please let me know if you can help give her a ride. She lives off 380 toward Princeton . Her address is1800 Private Road 5461, McKinney.)

I met another lady named Shery who was part of a cowboy church. The minister of this church set up a 30 day fast and a tent down in Van Alystine over Christmas. Shery had been Jewish, but after encountering this minister, she and her family studied and they were baptized--immersed--in a horse trough! She was very open and sincere about her faith.

Next week I'll seek to continue to build this group up to form a type of Christian community. Please be praying for this ministry, and especially Diana at this time.

Praise God for all that he is doing!

What ideas do you have about how to draw this group closer to God, one another, and the church?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Angels Unaware - Food Pantry Inspires People in Community to Give

Today, Linda Hardin, our church secretary and food pantry ministry leader, wrote this about her experience in a checkout stand while buying groceries for our food pantry. Here is Linda's story:

"Angels unaware. Do you believe in them? I sure do. God sends people into our lives to help or encourage us. Many times it's family members or friends, but every once in a while a total stranger delivers a message straight from God. And it seems to happen at the most unexpected time or place.

That was my experience one day this week after work when I stopped by the grocery store to pick up some sale items for the food pantry. My basket was stocked to the top and so heavy that a young man at the store pushed it up to the checkout for me. It contained 48 cans of spaghetti sauce, 48 boxes of mac & cheese and 96 canned vegetables.

A lady behind me asked me if I was going to feed an army. As the checker counted and totaled, I took a minute to tell her about our food pantry and how one afternoon a week we give a bag of groceries to approximately 50-60 families.

She asked me the name of my church and where it was located. By this time the checker announced my total - $128. As I was digging in my purse for my ATM card, this stranger quickly stepped in front of me and swiped her card.

At first I didn't realize what happened and thought maybe she was cutting in line, but then it dawned on me - she paid my bill. She stepped right up and did a good deed, no a great deed! God touched this lady’s heart and she wanted to be a part of our ministry. I grabbed this total stranger and gave her the biggest hug ever and asked her name. Then I told her I would say a special prayer of thanksgiving for her and ask God to bless her life. So, thank you God for Stacey, my angel unaware."

Isn't this amazing? I have always said that often times the people we reach through acts of service and benevolence is not the people that we are serving, but others who are touched by these acts and who want to be a part of a church/community that serves others in this way. In fact, many church plants begin by going around and asking people in the community to donate food or clothing. Not only does it raise awareness of this church, but it gives people in the community a chance to be generous--which is part of being a disciple--and helping those who are in need.

Thank you, Linda, for sharing this. And praise God for his mighty works!

Have you had people in your community give in response to something that the church is doing?

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Inviting the Community into Our Fellowship - Family, Faith, and Friends

For the last two years at High Pointe, we have been actively seeking ways to serve and impact our community. This has involved many different types of service outreaches, from Habitat for Humanity to FriendSpeak to singing in the nursing home. Three of our biggest service outreaches have been our food pantry, which gave out 2000+ bags of groceries last year, our clothes closet, which clothed over 4400 families, and our outreach to Vega Elementary School, where we help mentor, clothe, feed, and play with kids.

These outreaches have been hugely supported by our members with incredible generosity and active service in these ministries. And visitors to High Pointe and people in the community, from school officials to the local Red Cross, have noted High Pointe's service.

But relationships are the key to sharing the gospel.

So our outreach team, ministry leaders, and staff began to ask the question, how can we relationally connect with those that we are serving? We began praying for those who came in with needs. And then we decided to offer a fellowship meal, once a month on Wednesday night, and invite those from our food pantry, clothes closet, and Vega Elementary to enjoy a free meal.

Tonight was our first such fellowship meal, called "Family, Faith, and Friends." We really had no idea what to expect. We did not know if any would come, but we wanted to try.

Praise God--we had a great turnout of both members and people in the community!

The Hispanic family on the right came to us from Vega Elementary school. The mother's name is Maria Garcia. She said that she had been wanting to come to visit us on a Wednesday night for some time. She works on Sunday, but her husband had said, why not go to the church down the road on Wednesdays? Her husband stayed at home working with some homework with the fifth child. In their conversation, they said that this church was non-denominational, and the church that they had gone to some time ago was non-denominational. It sounded like she had said that this previous church was a church that they had helped start. Interesting--I will have to explore this more.

Maria had said that she was tired this night, but that her son Christopher had encouraged her to go. You have to love those kids! Maria, unlike many of the other Latinos who came on this night, spoke good English. I got her contact information and will follow up with her.

We had a great turnout of people from the community, and I was so glad to see our members mixing so well with those who came. In this picture is Bob Renfro, one of our shepherds, Mary Lou Lively (whose granddaughter was baptized last year) , and Laura Cooper (a mentor for Habitat).

This is Early B. Milstead and his wife Lena, daughter Holly, with an African-American family from the community. It was great to see these families sharing this meal and actively engaged with one another. What a great example to the world!

On the right of this picture is Mike Shuttlesworth, a former missionary to Hungary who just returned and placed membership with his family at High Pointe. Mike is sharing his table and meal with another Latino family from our community.

All in all, it was a great night! We'll follow up with more relationship building, prayer, and Bible study. Tonight was a vivid illustration of what it means to be a Christ-centered community that draws all people together--regardless of race, class, background, or gender--under the cross of Christ.

11Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)—12remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

14For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.17He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit (Ephesians 2:11f)

How can we build relationships with people in our community whom we serve?