The church I serve at, Wentzville Christian Church, is celebrating its 50th year of ministry on Aug. 7. We’re making a big deal of it by bringing back our very first preacher Lee Erwin and then having Thomas and Sharon Rudebeck perform their Illusionist act that night. All of that will be a great deal of fun but the part that really strikes me is a video I watched yesterday of our longest standing members- Carl and Wanda Vestal.
Some of you may actually know them. They’ve been a part of this church since the mid 60’s. In the video they talked about the struggle of the early days, about not being able to meet financial obligations and how sister churches helped them. They talked about the prayers for the church and how difficult things got sometimes. But they also spoke about God leading them here and how much they loved WCC. They spoke of never imagining what would happen over the years and how it moves them to see so many people here now.
As I watched the video I was struck with the paradox that is our faith. We all play such a small role in the overall life of His church but each little part is integral to His story being told in our communities. The fact that our Creator choses to speak through us at all is amazing to me, but then to see what He will truly do when we surrender everything is awesome.
Their words stirred my spirit and challenged my walk in Christ. I have been challenged to think about my legacy. To begin thinking about what am I doing now that will leave a lasting impression on my children and my community.
When we look at the life of Christ and those that followed him we are challenged by the singular focus of spreading God’s Kingdom on this earth. They did that in actions (Paul’s missionary journeys) and with words. We can look all around us and see the legacy they left us. I’m writing to you only because the early church withstood horrors I pray I never see.
In Acts 4 we see that in the first recorded prayer of the 1st century church was not for safety (no one would have blamed them) but for boldness to proclaim His word. In the midst of arrests and killings they prayed that God would make them bolder. And because of this faith millions have heard about the name of Christ.
As I play my little part in His story, I pray that those I influence and particularly my children look back on my life and see that singular focus as well. I pray that my life is worthy of the legacy given to me by this great cloud of witnesses before me. I pray that my ministry, along with all those serving Christ in this community, lives up to the prayers of Carl and Wanda Vestal.
Sunday, July 24, 2011
But we are very thankful and blessed to have him with us. See we never thought we were going to have another biological child after our first one. We experienced secondary infertility. ( Parenting Magazine) We tried for years to have another and with each failed pregnancy test we began to give up hope. We knew several people that had used different medications and medical procedures but we had decided that wasn't right for us. We reasoned that if God was going to bless us with another child, He would in His time.
But I'll admit it became very discouraging. We resigned ourselves that Jenna would be it. Not that we were saddened by this, she is an amazing young woman who makes our lives richer everyday. But we wanted so desperately to add to our little family.
Tori and I sat at Steak n Shake eating dinner while Jenna was with my parents and her cousin. Tori stopped eating and looked at me for a moment. I wasn't sure what she was going to say, so I just said "What?"
She said that she was "late" and asked if we should get a pregnancy test. Hope rose deep within my heart, but I tempered that and said it couldn't hurt just to check. It was only a little bit of money, and we would know for sure we weren't, then just move on like all the other times. So we hit Wal Mart and bought the test, took it home and the result was the same as all the others- negative.
After so many negatives you just get used to it, so it was no shock or big deal and we went on with our night.
The next morning was Thanksgiving day and we all sat on the couch watching the Thanksgiving day parades on TV. For some reason Tori quickly got up and left the room. She came back a few moments later holding something in her hand and looking like she had just seen a ghost.
"I wanted to go back and check the test one more time. Here, look."
I reached out and took the stick. I didn't understand what I was looking at because it now showed positive. My heart started beating faster and tears came to my eyes. We stared at each other in disbelief and Jenna was so confused she just kept asking "What? What? What is it?"
We started to cry and explained to Jenna that she was going to have a little brother or sister soon. We jumped in some clothes and quickly got several more tests that all came out positive! We still don't know why that first test initially showed negative only to show positive the next morning.
These last two years have gone by in a blink of an eye. But Tori and I are so blessed with the children God entrusted to us that we can't imagine life any other way.
Brock is our baby boy. He lives up to his name's meaning of badger. He's fearless, stubborn, energetic, sweet, rotten all at the same time. And as he blew out his birthday candles for the millionth time, I couldn't help but think back to that day and the joy we have on this day.
Friday, July 15, 2011
It's so late because God moves when He moves and there's not a thing we can do about it. After serving the Alexander family today and clearing a massive amount of debris, we ate some pizza and headed out to worship. There we sang of His amazing goodness and faithfulness. When we sang the words "If God is for us then who can stand against?" it sounded different. How does one reconcile the tragedy we worked in with the goodness of a holy Creator? The redemptive power of the cross is how. That work of reconciliation that is constantly working in and through us is how. The hope that we find in Christ's resurrection and the call to live that hope and restoration in our lives is how.
After a time of stories and fountain drinks we headed back to the college where something truly awesome happened; God moved. And as is His want to, He moved small at first. I talked about how this trip has the power to change us if we let it, then Brian spoke of Paul's call to serve in urgent need (in his letter to Titus) and then that small voice started speaking to one of the students.
Coleman raised his hand and asked to say something. He asked if the kids had fun and then if they were heartbroken. He then asked how awesome would it be to bring down another group, but instead of just 30- what would happen if we had 100 or 150 followers answering the call? What would happen if we did this back home? And the flood gates opened. Student after student talking of love and family, tears came and confessions made. One of our students is answering the call to baptism and yet another to changing the course of his life. Conversations started happening and well, here I am. Posting after midnight when this old man should be fast asleep.
This is the best trip I've ever had with a group of students and adults. I have been honored to play my little part in the discipleship of these young followers. My prayer is that when we return home that we don't leave the lessons learned in Joplin, in Joplin. But that they come home changed, renewed, focused on the call to our community. We have been called to Engage and I plan on doing just that.
Whose with me?
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
We've heard several survivor stories that have chilled us and challenged us. One couple made it through the tornado lying on the pavement of the Dillon's grocery story. Another woman survived in her bath tub. She pushed the wall that had fallen on top of her and looked out to see that she could look into her yard. This afternoon we went to the home of one of the CIY directors. He was out of town and his wife and 4 week old baby rode out the storm in the basement. We were able to look through it and see what people had been writing on the walls. Messages of hope and love sprawled all through the remaining structure.
We stopped by what's being called the "Joplin Hope Wall" and took pictures. It's a mural on the side of an abandoned building that just sprouted up. People coming together to restore their city.
It has truly been an honor to engage this community and to be able to play our little part of this unfolding story.
Please continue to keep us and all the other teams here in your thoughts and prayers. As they wear down physically, emotions can run high. We want to make sure that we are able to stay focused on what we are here to do- rebuild.
Yesterday, Dorothy Poe (the home owner) reminded us of that as she held my hand and looked me in the eye. She looked up and said that in the learning of her new faith, the Bible says that there are angels among us and that we just don't recognize them. She looked at as and said "You are all our angels".
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
We met the Poe's. That is the family we are serving this week. It's a single 50+ mom of 2 grown boys and a soon to be daughter in law. She had been working with AmericaCorp and was waiting on them to clear her property. 4 weeks later here we are, doing what needs to be done.
There was and still is a ton to be done here but we've gotten this one house. We are able to change things for one family and be Jesus to just them.
We cleared huge mounds of debris and broke down some felled logs. Tomorrow we'll finish up on the debris and start in on the back deck.
Our other group worked in a distribution center breaking down packets and sorting through mountains of clothes. They will be working with us in the front yard tomorrow as we race to get the Poe family's yard done.
I literally can't put into words what we are seeing/ feeling/ experiencing here. It is beyond comprehension.
Monday, July 11, 2011
We stood looking across the street at Joplin high school. It was a tomb. A cold, dark presence in the middle of what was once a thriving neighborhood. It was quiet as we huddle together and prayed for all the students, and staff of this large high school.
The students in the group began to come to terms with the massive destruction that took place here a few months ago. Tears began to fall as they placed themselves in the shoes of those that had lost so much. Prayers became a little more urgent and heartfelt, conversations took a turn for the serious, and the seeds of what God is doing here began to take root.
I’m with a group of 26 teens and 10 adults. We’ve come with Christ in Youth and Operation Blessing to be a part of the ongoing restoration of Joplin. I hold no comfort or glory in that statement. I will say this, I HATE why we are here. I love this city. Joplin has given me so much in my life and I loathe what has happened here. The storm has changed so many lives and taken so much.
But it is in that tension, that contradiction where we live as followers. The world is broken, but Christ’s message is one of restoration. We are called to be Kingdom workers and to restore earth to back to its original design. In the Gospels, when you see the phrase “Kingdom of God” or “Kingdom of heaven” Jesus or the writers weren’t talking of a far of paradise, they were referring to the here and now. To what God was doing in and through His people. We are called to restore.
So that’s what we are here to do. Like so many before us, and so many after us, we will do His bidding and restore what we can. We will leave this place better than it was before we got here. Just like all the others.
Colossians 1:20 says that everything is being restored back to Jesus through his work on the cross. If that is the case then our job as followers is to proclaim his truth in word and in our actions. And our actions are to be about being a part of restoring our communities and places like Joplin back to Him.
As I go to bed on this day, I’m challenged to begin thinking about what do in our community. What would happen if the church woke up and started serving? What would Wentzville and the surrounding areas look like in a year if we stopped fighting with each other and started working together?
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to find out.