Friday, July 18, 2014

Tom Campbell's Story of Haiti

As the “in county” trip leader for this year’s trip to Haiti my experience was quite a bit different than the previous year where I was a team member with Pastor Samuel as the lead.  In contrast to last year, this trip was more focused on the team and their experiences.  My self-reliance and introspection from last year was overtaken by keen observation of how the group was interacting and taking in the experience.  While traveling I was conscious of the safety of the group and our adherence to our “development creed”- “first, do no harm”.  We needed to consider fully the consequences of our actions – mistakenly creating barriers to relationship building, or fostering a dependency of the Haitians on missionary efforts.  Of course, I also wanted to ensure we were good guests and stewards of the CODEP facility and thusly we worked hard to keep the place clean and pitch in around the grounds while following the rules set forth by our host and CODEP Director, John Winings.  

During our small group meetings in the evening I enjoyed listening to what was learned and also how we were able to connect the daily devotional passage to the Haitian people or the experiences of the day.  The group was additionally blessed by having John Winings with us each evening during our group discussion.  John has a tremendous heart for the Haitian people and had become very proficient in Creole.  Additionally as a minister he had learned about the Haitian perspective of the Christian faith and the Haitian Creole translation of the Bible.  As an illustration of this, one evening while reviewing our devotional John pointed out a basic difference in our view of God versus that of the Haitian people.   For us our God is a God of Joy and Hope in contrast to Mercy and Justice in the perspective of the Haitian people.  To help us understand John shared this concept through the parable of the good Samaritan where in our culture the lesson shared by Jesus is to help those in need.  Because of the tumultuous history of the Haitian culture, including slavery and death from natural disasters, it is a common viewpoint that in the story of the good Samaritan the Haitians represent the traveler in the story.   In the Haitian perspective someone (missionaries) will come to help (charity, aid, development) them.  This hit me like a ton of bricks and cemented what we had been studying about “development versus charity” and also how cultural perspective can result in vast differences in how we experience our God.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Ashley Walters' Story from Haiti

To read the main article and other stories click here.

Where do I even begin? Human logic tells us things have a beginning and an ending. Our earthly logic has its limits. Many things of God,God himself, and the Holy Spirit far exceed our earthly understanding, knowledge, and logic. Perhaps we are designed to always be this way, after all it humbles us and grows faith. Maybe God has been preparing us and continues to prepare us for more and more knowledge and understanding. Like any Father, although wiser and greater than anything we can even imagine, he knows when we are ready for such things and when we are not. Just like a baby can not eat solid food, we are not born ready to understand abstract concepts first, only the concrete. All people at some point ponder this among many of God’s other creations, plans, and intents. All people at some point are likely to argue over such things because they have come to believe one thing over another based upon our earthly logic and understanding. I am far too small, far too ignorant, far too earthly, to try and fit such holy matters into my own logic for my own understanding and benefit. The more words I say, the more I am aware of how little I am and how Great my God is. I pray that God and the Holy Spirit guide my words so they do not make nonsense, but say or do not say the exact things they would will them to say.  

I am writing to share my experiences in Haiti. Thanks to God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit for they are present everywhere, and have provided me this opportunity through Trinity. I have been really growing and learning the past 2 or 3 years about God, Jesus, and the Bible. I use to open the bible and try to read it when I was younger. I even tried to break it down in small sections and try different versions to really understand and learn from it. I would open to a random page and say God speak to me! Finally with success in small group and life groups, I decided that I never was a reading enthusiast so reading the bible maybe was not the way for me to learn. A few days before my trip my husband and I had a wonderful day led by God, just as we had when we first met. Our conversation flowed and we talked effortlessly about the love of God and Jesus. That afternoon he went to work and I had an immediate desire to go and retrieve my bible. I opened it and read Ephesians 5:13 which says, “But all things that are exposed are made manifest by light, for whatever makes manifest is light.” This verse was so beautiful and colorful, I had to continue. So I read until the end of Ephesians falling in love word by word. After I finished, I went back and began from the very start of Ephesians and read the book in its entirety. I fell to my knees in prayer, the beauty, the color, the light, the truth, I thanked God and Jesus. Since then I have had a burning desire to keep reading the bible. Now that is another story, but directly relates to how I perceived things on my trip in Haiti. I fell in love from the time our airplane neared Haiti. I continued to grow in love the whole time in Haiti through the places, the people, and the Holy Spirit who guides and tends my heart. The bible says all things will be made new, or something along those lines in a few  different places. There is a direct connection to when we notice God and his presence, all things we once felt, thought, and saw become new in the light of God. The same is true for once we understand and truly accept Jesus and the Holy spirit. Matthew 9:35-38 says, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of Harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

I hope this does not seem unrelated to Haiti, for there are no other words or ways to describe it for me and do it justice. As far as CODEP the organization we are partnered with, I leave feeling that they are a rare, special organization that is being led by light and we should continue to be partners offering whatever the Lord puts on our hearts to them. They are bearing fruit, and their branches are expanding! For if it is of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, it will also be directed by. Praise God and may he bless, in Jesus name! Amen.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

McKenzie Simmler's Story of Haiti

To read the main article and other stories click here.

My experience in Haiti was amazing. I’ve always wanted to go to Haiti, and it was such a blessing to have had this opportunity. Each day I woke up smiling to the sound of children laughing and singing at the school next door.  Then through each day we met more and more smiling, happy, loving, welcoming faces. The Haitian people have taught me valuable lessons, and shown me what this life is really all about. They have taught me to accept anyone and everyone. I learned that no matter how many “things” you have, God will always be enough, and that the key to happiness is giving. The people are beautiful, the country is beautiful, and they have made a beautiful impact on me. What shocked me most was how giving they were. Even with what little they have they were always trying to give something. I would recommend this trip to anyone and everyone, no matter where you are in your walk with God.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Doris Stitt's Story of Haiti

To read the main article and other stories click here.

When the church announced in 2013 there would be a vision trip to Haiti I was ready to sign up. Unfortunately however the trip filled up very quickly and I was not able to go. You can imagine my surprise when in March 2014 I received an e-mail that a trip was scheduled for June. Without hesitation I quickly put together the documents needed and went to the church and signed up. As always is the case, God knows best when it comes to timing. I was in a much better place emotionally this year than last to experience a vision trip such as this.

Samuel and Tom did an amazing job preparing our team before our departure. We read the book Toxic Charity which in itself is a life changer but moreover dove deep into what community development really is. We were prepared to understand the philosophy behind CODEP and to understand why it works. The one thing I don’t think anyone could prepare us for was the actual experience of driving through Port-au-Prince. To see impoverished areas on TV or in magazines is one thing but to see the reality of it face to face is overwhelming. We drove for two hours and it just never seemed to end. The streets were crowded with people, there were vehicles (tap taps) going every direction overstuffed with people, there were makeshift tents with people trying to sell whatever they could, there were homes that looked like rubble and trash was everywhere including every river we passed by.

The CODEP compound was in a rural area so even though the poverty was still present, it felt more peaceful. Each day our nine team members along with missionaries John and Debbie, and CODEP’s Logistics Animator Clement would pile into a Nissan pickup truck and head up the mountain. On one of our day trips we visited 3 different CODEP sites. Each site was at a different stage of development based on when the initial planting took place (i.e. 3, 10 and 15 years). Clement explained the whole process including preparing the land, growing seedlings, planting and the development of fish ponds. He always got very animated when he spoke of the impact that the development has had on the people in the communities and how lives have been changed. Through hard work and dedication people are now able to earn incentives such as cisterns and homes. People are now able to earn money to be able to send their children to school. I was amazed by the entrepreneurial spirit of the Haitian people. It was apparent they are not afraid of hard work. The people of Haiti are doing all this. CODEP is merely the facilitator. Another demonstration of this was observed when we stopped and visited with Edvy, one of the key leaders in the CODEP program. He explained his roll as record keeper and his responsibility for disbursing funds. He explained a type of partnership with CODEP and another organization that provides the opportunity to grant micro loans to groups and individuals. Much like in the U.S., borrowers must pledge collateral or have a guarantor but what was amazing was that in a country with a 60-80% unemployment rate, the default rate on the micro loans is very low. Being a banker by career, this process was intriguing to me.

On our final trip up the mountain we headed to the demonstration forest. Our destination was the forest initially planted by CODEP some 20 years ago. The hike up was fairly rugged but worth every step. I have always longed to take a trip where I could be immersed in the culture of the people living in a foreign country however I never imagined it would be Haiti. What a blessing! On the hike up the mountain we observe all these beautiful people living their lives in what appeared to be peaceful harmony although with very little material possessions and none of the conveniences we so take for granted (electric, running water and sanitation). Reaching the forest was like reaching paradise. The trees were dense, the air was fresh and the shade cooled our bodies after hiking in the hot sun on a rugged dirt path while stepping over donkey . . . Well, you get the picture. Anyway, it was a beautiful way to spend our last day and was truly a gift from God.

On the plane ride home there was a young couple who had just adopted 18 month old twin boys. I remember feeling a crazy mix of emotions about it in that I was so happy for the couple who had been trying to adopt for years and thought of the opportunities the boys could have in the U.S.  On the other hand, I was sad because I couldn’t help think of the rich culture and the deep love of the Haitian people that the boys would miss knowing. It will be my prayer that the boys through the love of their new parents will come to know the love of God and will be taught and exposed to the love of their Haitian heritage.

I am so thankful to God, for our churches leadership and for the wonderful team I came to know and love during that one special week in Haiti. I pray God will use this experience in my life to touch others for his glory.

Tess Teurling's Story from Haiti

To read the main article and other stories click here.

One of my favorite parts of visiting Haiti was seeing the innocence of the people. One of the days, we were in the water playing with the kids when I decided to play a game where I cradle the child in my arms and, on the count of three, quickly stand up with them so they feel like they are flying. This little game seemed to be a hit, as I watched all the other children get in a line waiting for there turn to "fly". Kenzie joined in to help with the exhausting game and next thing I know I see a grown Haitian woman climb into Kenzie's arms for her turn to fly. Her innocence was so precious and I enjoyed seeing how these Haitians appreciate the little things in life. 

Leslie Potkaletski's Story from Haiti

Our vision trip to Haiti had an interesting effect on me.  As someone who has traveled some, originally for New York City, taught Social Studies for a time, there was a level of “I know what to expect”… that was totally blown out of the water almost immediately.  I expected to see poverty, I did not expect to see it everywhere we went; I did not expect to see Shanty Towns reminiscent of those that cropped up across the US during the Great Depression.  I expected to see devastation from the earth quake, but I expected to see more repair. 

More than anything, I suppose that what I expected was a country in disrepair; not a country that on top of natural disaster issues, had never really developed.  Within Port au Prince you could see buildings that looked like they may have had electricity, running water, indoor bathroom facilities, etc.  But those things appeared to have been destroyed, with some repaired in parts of the inner city. 

I did not understand the ramification of the nation’s history until seeing it for myself. A nation formed out of a slave rebellion, that was then, what I would imagine, blackballed from the affluent doing business, trading in the Caribbean.  Leaving the people of Haiti without exposure to modernization, without the income from trading, and with a social stigma that lasted hundreds of years. 

Once we were outside of Port au Prince, although there was less congestion, there were still buildings built very near the road, but with few intersecting roads.  The road system is very limited, and once you get off the few main roads, they are mostly dirt and most often only wide enough for a foot path.  Most of the buildings that we encountered that were still serviceable by local Haitians, were only small, perhaps two rooms, structures.  Cooking is done outside over fire and if you are fortunate you might have an outhouse.  These issues seemed to have more to do with the lack of modernization, i.e. no running water, no electrical service.  Again, if you are fortunate you might have a cistern to collect water, instead of having to carry it, as we saw some do, in 5 gallon buckets up very steep hills. The water is usually at the bottom. 

Many Haitians only eat 1 meal per day and with education a private venture, no centralized educational system at all; progress, if any will be long in coming.  Not because the people are not intelligent, they are, very; but because they are uninformed and ignorant.  They are making the best of a very difficult life.  Many have been trained by experience to expect a handout from the “blanc” white people who come to “help” in the way of mission work.  Unfortunately, many of those who take a short mission trip and think they are helping are doing just that, giving a hand-out, instead of a hand-up.  Much more could be accomplished if the proverb were followed.   “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”  This is exactly what CODEP is doing, teaching the Haitian people involved, how to restore their land.
The stark difference in topography between Haiti and the Dominican Republic was startling.  I knew that the Dominican Republic was much more lush and tropical; however, I somehow had believed that the deforestation was a result of the many natural disasters, not people stripping the land out of ignorance.  Selling the wood to feed their families, send someone to school, etc. 

I found CODEP to be a breath of fresh air.  Even in the USA there are many programs that merely ‘give’.  With no accountability and no personal investment, here and in Haiti the people in need only learn how to take not how to rise above their circumstances. 

CODEP is teaching Haitians how to re-forest their land; in so doing they are learning how to utilize their land for food and for other natural resources.  As each individual works to improve their land, their families benefit from the additional food source and begin to eat multiple meals per day.  As each group becomes prosperous they can afford to send their young to school. As land is developed and the rains come, the water stays on the mountain instead of flooding the towns and villages below.  So the work, not only helps the individual, the individual families, but also the communities.  Over the years, as CODEP has had success more and more people are looking to become a part of the CODEP project.  The light in the darkness, CODEP land stands out as a beacon to those around it that there is hope. Individuals approach CODEP asking to be partners with them, or looking for the ‘handout’ to fix their land.  The leaders with wisdom and foresight require individuals to have their own land to improve; they must show to the other Haitians involved that they are doing their part in making it a success.  They must have a personal investment in the process to be able to be a part of CODEP.  The only “blancs” are John and Debbie Winings, so it cannot be said that the success is that of an outsider.  The projects are monitored by those who have been doing it themselves and have reaped the benefits of their hard work and can therefore share the processes with authority. 

CODEP is taking Haiti one hill at a time and making a difference that will be felt for generations to come.  As you can see in the picture to the right, we were hiking through the forest that was started 20 years ago by CODEP.  Not just a quick fix, not just a Band-Aid, but a solution to a generational problem. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Chris Taylor's Story from Haiti

To read the main article and other stories click here.

We race up the mountain road chasing the Baskil (Big truck), carrying the doom (55 gallon plastic barrel) full of 160 tilapia being transported to Edvy's pond. We stop and pick up Edvy and then stop briefly again further up to pick up a helper with 3 5 gallon pails. We stop abruptly along the roadside seemingly in the middle of nowhere. We pull as far off the mountain road as we can to avoid being struck and we watch Claymont, our Haitian (Codep) partner pour the tilapia into the 5 gallon buckets from the doom. Fish fly into the bed of the Baskil. We toss them into the buckets. Quickly now we must make it down a steep, corn planted slope down into the valley below and over to Edvy's pond. The fish need oxygen. 

We traverse the mountainside with no clear path just hustling through the vegetation as quickly as possible. We arrive at the concrete poured pond and the fish are slowly introduced. The pond is remarkably close to the mountain road above. So we  ask the obvious question. Why is this pond so close to the road? The remarkable answer....because the visiting American's on their "mission trip" just had to have something to build, something to "help out the poor Haitians...But you see, the pond had to be built with rebar spaced so close together as rods sticking up in the bottom so no one could come along and get into the pond and steal the fish. The pond had to be built so close to the road so the American's could boast of how helpful they were in building this for the Haitians. The truth is, that this kind of helping hurts. The pond has to be drained completely to gather the fish. You can't net them or get into it to catch them for food. The pond would have been built by the Haitians farther into the forest, off the beaten path where it would have been secure. Then they could net the fish when it was time to harvest them for food.

Stories of Haiti, Stories of Hope

When CODEP, our mission partner in southern Haiti near the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake, began working towards a community that would be self-sustainable most of the Haitians that they encountered had little to no concept of passing on something, an inheritance, to the their children. Decades later, there is something that is sometimes difficult to come across in Haiti: self-respect, a sense of dignity, and a hope for a future not just for themselves but for their children as well.

About a month ago, a team from our faith community went on a Vision Trip to continue the relationships we have with the Haitians of CODEP, to gain a greater understanding of Haitian culture, and to be partners in a decades long mission project that aims to give a hand up rather than just one more hand out. While we continue to support a feeding program in Port Aux Prince through Fishers of Men’s Ministries because there are truly still emergency needs in Haiti, I hope that as a community we will gain a better understanding and ability to participate in long term redevelopment. This is one of the key aspects of this most recent trip to Haiti – to gain a vision for the kind of love and help that preserves dignity and allows our Haitian brothers and sisters to stand proudly on their own.

The team is safely back in town and sharing stories of the things they experienced and learned while in Haiti. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to speak to the team about their experiences. I encourage you to listen to their stories and gain from their experiences as family in Christ. Besides speaking to them personally, you can click on any of the names below to read one of their own stories:

Tom Campbell
Leslie Potkaletski
Dave Potkaletksi
Chris Taylor
Doris Stitt
Ashley Walters
McKenzie Simmler
Tess Teurlings
Ashley Powers

We limit these teams to 10 people and are already beginning our plans for next summer. It may be time for you to go, continue our relationship with Haiti, and to see yourself the vision we have alongside CODEP for Haiti. If you'd like to start that process just speak to Carla Carson in Mission Central on Sundays or send an email to her at

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Locked Out

Have you ever been locked out of your house? How about with your small children inside? I'd never had this experience until recently. I was at home taking care of our 5 year old daughter Sophia and our 1 year old son Ezra. Sophia recently had her birthday and received an elephant that blows butterflies out of its nose (don't ask). The problem with "Elefun" is that it required C batteries. I was excited to be a superdad and get this new toy up and running but didn't have an C batteries. Then I remembered we had a variety of gadgets in our garage that I might be able to pilfer batteries from. I opened the door to our garage and went into it and found just what I was looking for - an old machine that shakes a crib which Ezra no longer needed. I grabbed a screwdriver and opened it up and there were the perfect number of C batteries! Alright! Just as I began to celebrate I heard the garage door close. Ezra who has recently begun to walk quite well, also has taken the habit of making sure all doors, cabinets, dishwashers, pretty much anything he can reach, is closed. I laughed as I went to the door as Ezra began to get upset. He likes to close himself or others off but then gets bothered that he can't open the door. I grabbed the door knob was locked. I didn't panic I opened the garage door, went around to the front - it was bolted closed. The anxiety began to rise.

I went around to the back to the sliding door. It too, was locked. I'm in close to full panic at this point. Ezra has begun screaming and crying. He moved to the sliding glass door where he could see me, but this only made him more upset because he thought I had gone to play outside without him. Why won't dad let me go out and play with him? I moved to the windows, which also had been diligently locked. I looked inside through the window to see Sophia playing I-Pad, drinking some milk, watching TV, all the while sitting in her pink fluffy chair. I knocked on the window and yelled her name. She waved at me and went back to her activities. What was I going to do? I ran around to the front again to see if I could get inside through ingenuity. Nope. At least not without causing significant damage to the doors of the home we rent. On the way back and forth I ran into a neighbor who let me borrow his phone. I was able to call Benita and eventually got in touch with her. She was close by and was on her way home immediately. I wondered if this might be the end of my marriage. I set a hammer out just in case I really needed to break in and went around to the back again. I sat and tried to comfort Ezra through the glass until Benita got home. Everyone was safe, everything was ok. Ezra even calmed down after mom held him for awhile and I finally took him outside to play.

Do you ever have moments like this? Where things are completely and totally out of your control? Typically it's in these situations that our stress rises. I'm reminded of what Paul wrote to the Philippians in 4:6-7. "Do not be anxious about anything [really???] but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving make your requests known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." Prayer is always appropriate, but especially in situations we have no control whatsoever. We remember who is in control, who is sovereign, who "in all for the good of those who love him" (Romans 8:28). When we truly believe this, allow it to permeate and sink deeply into our hearts, we find that we don't have to be full of anxiety because God is in control. You may, like me,  have to return to the wellspring often and frequently to remember this and to find the peace that surpasses all understanding, that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Come to Haiti!

I'm really excited to report that we've already filled 7 of the available spots for this years trip to Haiti. So far those confirmed are Tom Campbell as team leader, Doris Stitt, Dave and Leslie Potkaletski, Marcella Polanski, and two intrepid teenagers McKenzie Simmler and Tess Teurlings. I'm hopeful that as some of you read this blog and consider that God might be calling you to go yourself that we will soon close the time to sign up with a full crew!

This is the third year in a row that we're returning to the same partner in Haiti. CODEP which stands for COmprehensive Development Project. CODEP is located in southern Haiti and is an excellent opportunity to connect with our Haitian brothers and sisters as we experience the global body of Christ and to learn about redevelopment mission. To get a fuller picture of CODEP I encourage you to take a moment to visit their website which provides this summary:

CODEP works with 30 small communities and 600 Haitian farmers (200 of whom are women) to improve the their lives and those of their families.  Accomplishments include:
Planting over 7 million trees since 2000.
Digging over 1,000 miles of contour ditches to prevent further erosion.
Installing/Building over 100 cisterns and almost 90 houses as incentive awards since 2000.
Installing and operating over 30 fishponds as aids to protein dietary enrichment.
Impacting the lives of over 50,000 people in the Léogâne Commune.
You can see pictures from our past visits to this community here and to read my own story and the stories of those who went last year click here!
The trip this year will be from June 06 - June 13th. You can download all the relevant documents (start with the informational sheet and vision trip covenant) by clicking here. I can't wait to hear your own stories as you gain a vision for God's kingdom and the renewal of Haiti through our partnerships like CODEP.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Lenten Season

Many joined Pastor Michael and I this last Wednesday to celebrate Ash Wednesday and begin the season of Lent together. Lent is a 40 day period (not counting Sundays) between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. The number 40, of course, is significant for the 40 days Jesus spent being tempted in the dessert and the 40 years that the Israelites themselves wandered the dessert before entering in the promised land. Many choose to use this time as a period of fasting. On Ash Wednesday, we reflected on Isaiah 58:1-12 and the type of fasting that God seeks from his people. Isaiah 58:5-7 says this:

Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? 6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

I hope that over the next 40 days of Lent we will all consider some way in which we can prepare for Easter and the celebration of Jesus' resurrection. It may be that you decide to fast from something or give something up for this time period. Remember the point of fasting is not to make yourself feel bad or deprived. It is to give ourselves a daily reminder and physical sign of the hunger we feel for God. Whatever it may be that you fast from when you feel the urge or reminder, set the time you would have normally used and dedicate it to God. If you give up lunch once a week, use that lunch time instead to pray to God, to meditate on God's Word, and to invite Him to change your heart that your heart might be more and more like His. Then as our hearts are change, aligned with God and His will, we manifest that in the way we live our lives and our fasting doesn't just become an external sign but an inward reality.

Jesus's first words in the Gospel of Mark, the oldest of the Gospels, are  "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. As we near the celebration of the good news, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, let us cultivate a heart centered attitude of repentance, of turning our hearts towards God.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Being Missional: It's as Easy as Up, In and Out!

When Jesus entrusted his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, I'm sure at least some of them were thinking: "What!? Really!? I hope he's talking to Peter and not me!" What an undertaking and what an incredible privilege that God has designed to use His people to gather the nations unto himself through the power and the work of the Holy Spirit within us. While this may seem like a daunting task, we take joy in knowing that while we are the body of Christ, Jesus is our head and he directs us as his servants in ways we are sometimes unaware to see His kingdom come to all areas of our lives and all parts of the globe.

As you consider how God might be calling you to be missional, to act as a missionary to your neighborhood, to your office, your family, or a group of people you spend time with, think of these three easy concepts: Up, In, and Out.

UP: As you attempt to reach others, how are you connecting them vertically to God and directing their attention up to Him? Sometimes it may be as simple as praying before an OUT or IN event described below. It could be a monthly gathering to talk about God. It could be sharing the story of God's redemptive plan in a way that is accessible for them. For example, reading the King James Bible from Genesis to Revelation is not likely to communicate in the language that a group of young surfers would understand! Somehow, you need to communicate the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, in a verbal way that your group can understand and access. If your not, then you are missing the "UP" of being missional and the core of what we are sent to proclaim.

IN: One of the ways in which people experience God is through being a part of His body and participating in life with people who live the gospel in their daily lives. As you seek to reach others, gather a small group of people to help you. We are each gifted differently and we are only the body of Christ together! When we develop relationships, care for one another, we are INvesting IN each other as brothers and sisters of Christ. Demonstrate God's love by particularly caring for those who are the core of your group that has decided to live missionally alongside you. This could be your life group, a few other Christians in your neighborhood, or your spiritual family here at Trinity. Jesus says by "this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." Why would anyone want to be a part of a community that doesn't exemplify what Jesus told us to exemplify? We have to invest in one another through gospel community in and off campus. You can develop relationships by caring for one another, praying for one another, and events that foster connection and INtimacy.

Out:: We are being made more and more into the image of Jesus and as He demonstrates, we were made to serve and be giving of our selves. The study we're doing right now has touched on this time and time again. When we give of ourselves, we connect with the image of God in which we were created, a God who gives lavishly, generously, and in abundance. We demonstrate this OUT in the world when we serve others. Sometimes it may be that we serve the group we've decided to try and reach, like our neighbors. Sometimes we actually invite those neighbors to come and serve with us so that they see what it means to be a follower of Jesus. OUTward focused events could be traditional service, like cleaning up the neighborhood, but you can also serve by helping foster community through social gatherings. For example, did you know recently there was a food truck night at the local community center? If you were interested in reaching young families in the area, you could go OUT and hand out blankets for warmth or to sit on and eat.

Individuals that focus too much on UP, can sometimes come across as only concerned about getting someone to make a commitment or sign on the dotted line. Groups that focus on UP are often mostly concerned about bible studies and how they themselves can grow in holiness but often neglect caring and reaching out to others. Those that focus too much on IN sometimes seem more like a support group that others have difficulty feeling apart of. Then there are those who focus so much on OUT that they serve but rarely ever talk about Jesus or really intend for those they are serving to join their community. In order to live missionally we must live our faith UP, IN, and OUT.

This is an easy way to remember and pattern your efforts either with your life group or a gathering of those who want to help you reach a particular group of people. Alternate between UP, IN, and OUT activities. For example, one week have an IN gathering where you and those closest to you get together to talk about how God might want to use you to reach others. Tell stories about how God has been working in your lives and how you can support one another. The next week go OUT and serve together by hosting a neighborhood party whose proceeds help someone in need. Invite anyone who seems interested to join you for a bonfire on the beach for an UP activity in the weeks that follow where you pray for everyone gathered and share a brief biblical story in an easy to understand way and then talk about it.

Hopefully, as you begin to think about how you are UPing, INing, and OUTing, we can together be faithful to Christ's commands to make disciples of all nations, all peoples, wherever we find ourselves.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Being the Hands and Feet of Jesus

You've probably heard this phrase before or something to this effect: "You are the hands and feet of Jesus." Usually people are referring to the statements Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 12 where Paul explains "[Y]ou are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it." (Verse 7). It's true! We, as brothers and sisters in Christ, unified by His Spirit, are the body of Christ with Christ as our head. When we act in the world to see "thy kingdom come" we do so because we participate together in God's mission. Jesus said "As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." (John 20:21)

Many of us are in week 2 as we go through the "God Provides" study together as a faith community. I want to encourage those of you in the study to not skip over the parts that call us to action OUT there in the world. I want to encourage those of you NOT in the study, to also consider these two calls:

1.) Consider a way in which you can serve others. Are you having trouble thinking of some things you could do? Let me name a few ways that you could consider reaching out and being a conduit for God's provision and blessing for others:

A. Local Mission Partners: We have a number of local mission partners that we work with on a regular basis. There are all sorts of needs that we can connect you with For example, Space Coast Center for Mother's with Children, our mission partner just over the causeway, is looking for tutors to help some of the moms. Do you know anything about the Principles of Economics, Developmental Mathematics, or Intermediate Algebra? Connect your skills with those in need! Our Service Administrator, Carla Carson, is available to connect your skills with many of our different mission partners. Feel free to email her (, call (321-777-2047) or stop by Mission Central between services on Sunday mornings to begin the conversation.

B. Your Life Group: Think about your own needs in your Life Group, or if your not in a group perhaps your own family or group of friends. Pray that God would identify a need that you could fill either on your own or together with your group. It could be helping with a garage sale, or getting moved in. Maybe someone in your group could really use a date night and you could volunteer to watch the kids for an evening. Don't miss the opportunities God places directly in your path.

C. Serving On Campus: There are so many different needs you are already connected to here at Trinity. Perhaps your group could help with The Edge one Wednesday afternoon. Your group might be able to help with the Youth or Children's ministries. Maybe you could provide by helping one of our Pastoral Care teams or reaching out to someone who you hear us pray for regularly on Sunday mornings. Again, our Service Administrator, Carla Carson can connect you to the various needs here on campus.

2.) Go on a prayer walk! As Pastor Michael pointed out in the second week of this series, God calls us to "Prosper where we are Planted!" and to seek the peace and prosperity of our city. We had a great chance recently to do this when we served at Sea Park Elementary. You can see a video of our Youth Director Luke Barnes getting some work done below! Week 2 of our study encourages you to go on a prayer walk and pray for your community. You can do this whether you are in a God Provides Life Group or not. I'm hoping my group will spend some time on a Saturday walking down Cassia Blvd. and praying at a few places. In a short walk you can stop at four locations: Pray for our civic leaders at the Satellite Beach City Hall, pray for our schools and children at Surfside Elementary, pray for our faith communities at Our Father's House, pray for those in law enforcement at the police station. Again all these locations are right next to each other. Get out there and pray!

I encourage you to join me and others to be the hands and feet of Jesus, to be the body of Christ sent out into the world to see His kingdom come and to seek the peace and the prosperity of our communities.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Importance of Prayer

Every Wednesday morning from 9:30 am to 10:00 am a small group of people come to the Oasis prayer room. We hear a short devotional from one of the pastors and then pray. It's also been great lately to have the "21 Eye Opening Days" Devotionals written by our own church family to use like we did this last Wednesday. We pray for the world, our community, Christ's Church, our faith community, and for those we know in need of God's healing and comfort. It's a great place to come and learn about prayer through the devotions and also through practice. It is always a great encouragement to me to know that we are a church of prayer. 

I know, through regular interactions with people, that not only do we pray together on Wednesday mornings but that our people pray without ceasing! People pray in life groups, in Children's and Youth Ministries, on their own, before, after, and during our services. We have a list of people that receive updates weekly on prayer concerns and those willing to be contacted at any hour of the night to pray!

Lately I've been reading through the book "Approaching God: How to Pray" by Steve Brown. It's the same book that Pastor Michael taught a class on Prayer from a little over a year ago and I highly recommend it. I recently finished chapter 5 and thought I would share two insights that Dr. Brown has:

 1.) "For some people there is a call - a drawing - for a deeper and much more intimate walk with God" and there are "those who have not been called to that kind of prayer." Sometimes we might feel guilty because we don't pray as much as we feel we ought to. It is important to remember there are different gifts and callings within the body of Christ. We're not called to be experts and deeply gifted in EVERY area! What a relief! "Prayer is, of course, a necessary part of one's Christian life but, for some, there is no felt need (other than the false guilt from other believers) to go any further. Simple prayer sustains and motivates, and it is as natural as breathing. That kind of simple prayer, for most Christians, is sufficient and adequate."

2.) Don't underestimate the importance and power of prayer. "It is said that when George Whitefield would preach (Whitefield was the 'spark' that ignited the Great Awakening in America in the eighteenth century), back in the hotel room there was an elderly crippled man who traveled with him and who was praying for him. Nobody knows the man's name. He isn't ever mentioned in the history books and those hundreds of thousands of people who were touched with the supernatural power of the ministry of George Whitefield weren't even aware of him. But if you are looking for someone, other than God, who was responsible for the Great Awakening, don't look so much to George Whitefield - look to the little man who prayed."

Why do I write all this? To remind us, and myself mostly, of the importance of prayer. I'm so thankful for those of you who have prayed for our family, prayed for the ministry of Trinity, and for those dear to us like Anthony Cerasale. Whether you are called to a simple or a deeper prayer life, "pray without ceasing"! (1 Thessalonians 5:17).