Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The $20 Challenge

Tim Paneitz, our interim youth pastor, recently coordinated a very special summer activity for both middle and high school students called the $20 Challenge. Students struck out in small groups, each of which invested $20 to bring the love of Jesus to complete strangers. Below are some amazing highlights.

Random acts of kindness. They can bring smiles to a mother’s face, joy to a young child and tears to the eyes of a homeless man.

All of these reactions where shared by our youth during the Summer 50 $20 Challenge. Our youth were split into groups and sent into the community with very simple instructions: “Share God’s love with someone else.” The highlights of the day were amazing.

One group of our youth made their way to Wal-Mart where they blessed people in different ways. From handing out cash to families in line checking out to buying some little toys that they passed out to the children in the store and the parking lot, they made an impact that day. Mothers were thrilled beyond words to receive some cash just as they went to check out.

At the Dollar Store, another group bought soap, toothpaste, sunscreen, snacks, ponchos and a backpack. The money that wasn’t used was put onto a gift card for McDonald’s. On that very hot summer Sunday, they didn’t even mind sweating as they spent a good deal of time looking for the right homeless person to bless with the bag. After some prayer, they found a man walking solo on the side of the road. As he received the bag, the tears started rolling. He shared an amazing story of being kicked out of his house, of years of addiction and of God’s healing power.

For a third group, the dollar menu at McDonald’s was the starting place. Bags of double cheese burgers in tow, they went out into the town to bless anyone they came across. The students brought smiles to the faces of many people.

The creativity and passion the youth had for this project was awe-inspiring.

When we really think about the amount of money we spend on little things throughout our day, why couldn’t we do our own $20 or $5 or $50 challenge every day? Maybe we could do something simple, like pay for the next person in line at Starbucks, or pay the toll for the person behind us on the road.

God has blessed us with it all to begin with, so why not just share it?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Largest City in the World

A team from Tomoka Christian recently spent a week at an orphanage in Mexico City called Ninos de Mexico. Bryan Maynard was a member of that team. A report from him is here.

I was a late addition to the Ninos de Mexico mission team after someone else canceled. It was my first mission trip, but hopefully not my last! I really did not know what to expect, except for long busy days with lots of work to do. Our work project included work at the houses and at the church helping with Vacation Bible School.

We arrived in Mexico on Saturday afternoon and met some of the staff: Matt, Tiffany, and Erin. Such young people doing great work at Ninos! We also met the kids of Esperanza House and toured their facility. Afterward we played a nice game of supposedly non-competitive volleyball. We failed miserably against those teenagers!

A friend had given me Philippians 1:2 for our journey. During our devotion time Saturday night I read Paul’s words in Ephesians 6:19. I would pray this verse at the start of each day during our trip.

Sunday morning we went to the church and met the pastor and attended the worship service. It was different hearing songs we sing at Tomoka translated to Spanish. It actually made the worship service very comfortable for me. The building sits beside a busy street and sidewalk that was very noisy all morning. However, one thing that really struck me was when the worship leader began to pray before communion the street became very quiet. At that moment I felt that the Holy Spirit was in control. After the worship service two young ladies were baptized. Could this day get better?

Sunday afternoon the church staff invited us to dinner at the church. We met more of the staff and also planned some of the activities we would use during the week for Vacation Bible School. After our dinner we broke into two vans and went into the community to parks, playgrounds, and a grocery store to hand out flyers to children inviting them to VBS.

VBS was an amazing experience. We arrived early Monday morning only to find a few children running about. Soon after, the vans started arriving with many children. When everyone was finally counted the Monday total was 150. We thought that it couldn’t get any better. We were wrong! It wasn’t up to us. Tuesday’s total was 162. Wednesday’s total was 170. Thursday was 210, and on Friday they counted 230. By Friday there were not enough chairs for everyone to sit. The room was filled! It was a great feeling just being in the room.

Our team was very busy all week. We took care of the games at VBS. We also helped with the arts and crafts, in the nursery. Anywhere we were needed we did our best to help.

We had the opportunity to visit each of the four houses, meet the children and the house parents. We also met Dr. Noe and saw the medical clinic.

Ninos and the church are a tremendous outreach to the community there. They do so much with so little, in contrast to the U.S. culture that has so much and does so little.

As for me, it was definitely an eye-opening experience. I look at things differently than before. I can still see the look on the kids’ faces, the smiles. I remember the way they had trouble communicating with me, and me likewise. I must learn how speak some basic Spanish before going back!

I hope to have the opportunity to return to Ninos, and also have my wife and son share the experience with me.

May we give God all the glory. Adios for now.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Mission trip memories

Earlier this year, I led a team of nine on a mission trip to Egypt. We spent a lot of time ministering to people of that region, then took some time for sightseeing. Want to see a video of our time there? It's online here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tomoka adds new missions

Pat Bolles recently published a post on Tomoka Christian’s Missions blog that introduces new additions to the 200+ that TCC financially and prayerfully supports. These newcomers are from the Philippines, Ecuador and the south side of Chicago. Pat’s post is online here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

God-Style Camping

A Tomoka Christian mission team recently returned from Camp Chenaniah in Honor, Michigan. They ran a week of summer camp there. Two members of the team, Scott Hale and Ryan Houser, shared some of the trip highlights.

From Scott:

My experience at Camp Chenaniah in Michigan was unbelievable. My beautiful wife and our three kids (Jay, 12; Kieran, 6; and Riley, 2 1/2) started our trip at 4:30 a.m. in the TCC parking lot and arrived at camp by 8:30 p.m. that same day. This was their first mission trip but they were all troupers!

Now I've been on mission trips overseas before, and while I'm not at all lessening those experiences, the realization that some of the same occurrences are happening here in the states just ate me up.

After you get past the "rustic" atmosphere, I thought the camp itself was an incredible scene. The reason that Camp Chenaniah may not have the latest living conditions or best of modern technology is because the owners, Mike and Belva, do not charge much for the campers to be able to come. Part of this is due to the economy, but mainly this is because the surrounding area just does not have a lot of money. In some cases they don't charge anything. They may have kids who are allowed to attend on a volunteer work basis, say, to help in the kitchen, or take out trash. The philosophy there is that Mike and Belva would rather have the kids there learning about Christ than not.

I would have to say that my favorite part of the week was the worship. The camp's chapel collapsed last winter due to weather and age. So we met in an old Army surplus tent. It was damp, dirty, and dusty and had wooden pews nailed down to two-by-fours. But the worship was pure. These kids let it pour straight from their hearts. These kids are truly looking for Christ; they are clinging to the hope of His promises.

Being out at Camp Chenaniah with these kids reminded me that it's not about the building, it's not about the facilities, it's not about how many are in attendance. It's about offering God our hearts and getting back to what is pure.

My family and I are already trying to plan our trip back for next year!

From Ryan:
I was nervous about Camp Chenaniah at first. I had never been there, and I wasn’t sure what the campers would be like. I had to trust in God that he would use me however He needed to that week.

Chenaniah turned out to be one of the best and most “Seriously Ridiculous” weeks I’ve experienced all summer. I loved every minute of it. From the team, the campers, the games and everything else, God was under control of every aspect. By the end of the week, I didn’t want to leave — despite the spiders and moths everywhere — and I wished I could have stayed longer.

The team from Illinois and Michigan were great to be with. I am blessed to have met them and still be talking with them almost a month later. It was fun to hang out with not only the new counselors I met, but the ones from Tomoka, as well, especially knowing that we all shared the same goal of reaching the kids and showing the love of Christ to them.

One of the most incredible experiences I had with the campers was on the last night. It was about 11 at night, and some of the kids were still up. They were talking with each other and just playing around. I thought it was funny and eventually they began to talk with me about salvation and baptism for a while. They had a lot of questions to ask and I just talked with them and tried to answer their questions. A lot of them didn’t know much about different Bible stories and how to get a close relationship with God. It was powerful to see such young people desiring God and wanting to know more about Him.

The last day, we all went to the lake and saw 11 baptisms! It was such an amazing experience to see the kids I had been with all week accept Christ as their savior and be baptized! Even one of our staff got baptized!

I went away from camp knowing nothing that had happened this week happened because of us. Everything was under God’s control and it was comforting to know that. I pray that the campers and even the staff take the lessons we learned and grow closer to God each day. I am excited to go back next year and see them again, and I can’t wait to see what God has in store next July!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Real Religion

I received some statistics about the worldwide orphan crisis from Duane Hull of Orphan’s Lifeline International.

  • Around the world, 42,000 children become orphans every day.
  • Nearly 150 million children are orphans worldwide.
  • The number of orphans worldwide is expected to grow to 250 million in five years, and about 400 million by 2015.
  • 10.8 million children under age 5 die each year from preventable causes (30,000 each day)
  • Almost 41% of all child deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • 50% of worldwide deaths in children under 5 occur in six countries (India leads with 20%, followed by Nigeria, China, Pakistan, Congo. Statistics show that 90% of child deaths occur in 42 underdeveloped countries.
  • Orphan children in poor nations are suffering through malnutrition, disease, abandonment and neglect. They are victimized, exploited and abused.
My question to you: Is God asking you to do something about it? Tomoka Christian's Bringing Children Home ministry helps with adoptions. Find out more about it by calling the church office.

FYI: A portion of every dollar given to Tomoka Christian goes toward this ministry.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A glimpse of the providence of God

One of our missionaries in the Arab World shared an inspiring story related to Bibles that Tomoka Christian donated. Our missionary’s account is here:

I was speaking at a lecture recently in Alexandria, Egypt. During one of the breaks, a Sudanese man came up and introduced himself. He expressed appreciation for the work of Christian Arabic Services, which I lead and which Tomoka Christian supports, then proceeded to share a story with me that is so unusual that it could only be the result of God’s hand.

The Sudanese man told me an unbelievable story that happened to the Bibles which Tomoka Christian donated and shipped to Sudan. The man chosen to deliver the books, Mongo, is a Sudanese evangelist trained by Christian Arabic Services years before. He planned to take them to the Nuba Mountain region and use them to begin mission work in that area of few Christians. But on one leg of the trip, which was by boat, he suddenly realized that two of the 13 boxes he was certain he had left with was missing or had been taken. The boxes held about 250 Bibles!

Mongo kept on with the boxes he still had, well aware that the area he was headed was full of extremists who had slaughtered (together with the government troops) thousands of Christians in the last 40 years. After a short visit with family living nearby, Mongo headed to the area where he had a vision and a plan to evangelize and start a church. Upon arrival, he stopped by to visit the Sultan of the area (like a president for the tribe) just for acquaintance — though he was strongly warned by friends not to go because the Sultan was very prejudiced.

Surprisingly, after a few minutes of getting acquainted, Mongo found a few of the missing Bibles in the Sultan’s office! He deduced from the number of questions the Sultan was asking him about Christianity that he had been reading the Bible, at least for a few weeks, and that he knew about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

To Mongo’s astonishment, the Sultan allowed him to evangelize in his area and allowed him also to start a church in the Nuba Mountain region — where there are no churches of any denomination at all!

Please pray for Mongo’s safety, because since that report no word has been received from him. Prayers also are needed for mission work in Sudan and the Arab World.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Report from the Haiti mission field

Members of our Haiti mission team are back, still catching their breath from a whirlwind two weeks of serving. Melonnie Kelly, our lead missionary to that region who now lives and works part of the year at the Northwest Haiti Christian Mission, shared an inspiring personal account of the weeks. Some highlights included a baptism, distribution of shoes, and an emotional experience during prayer time at a voodoo temple as animal sacrifices were taking place outside. Melonnie's blog post is here.