Monday, February 27, 2012

Cuba 2012

Recently, Tomoka Christian Church sent Rob Rodriguez on an exploratory mission trip to Cuba in order to establish a partnership with a local church in that country. Below is a summary that Rob wrote of his time in Cuba:

On Saturday I flew into Cuba with no trouble from customs and headed to the first home church, Dora E. Valentine Presbyterian Church in Varadero. On Sunday I attended church, which was two hours long in English and Spanish. Pastor Depeche is keeping the church focused on staying on the right path.

Sunday afternoon we visited a Mission church in Guasima. Pastor Delpecho leads worship there on Saturday night. The church has an outreach program of banana plants and an organic garden to raise money and to feed the needy. They also they have baseball outreach for the area kids. They don't own the field, but they cleared the land and placed a bridge over a large ditch that is 20 ft across and 10 ft deep so the kids would be able to access the field.

Sunday night we visited a house church named “All are Welcome” (more like a bible study group) in Bachichi. They meet Tuesdays at 3pm with about 11-15 worshipers. The group is a real fellowship of believers; the women are the “pastors” for the neighborhood helping all those in need.

Also on Sunday night we went to another house church named “Follower of God” (more like a bible study group) they meet every Tuesday night with 12-18 worshipers and they also have a time of prayer and fasting every Saturday morning. This house church is located in El Central, which is named after a closed sugar cane factory that has been shut down; subsequently, the area is very poor.

On Monday morning we drove to a church camp. The camp was built in1960 and has phone service. They are trying to move from just using the facilities for summer camp to year-round use. In order to update the facilities and expand to hold more than 80 campers, they are looking for people to partner with in order to help financially. The cost per child for camp is about $50.

Monday afternoon we visited Santa Clara Church, which has 100 members. This church is financially funded by two churches in the U.S.

Tuesday we drove to Matanzas and had lunch at a seminary where we were staying the night. I spoke with the director of the seminary and he said that the church in Cuba was dying until the 1990s. Unemployment is growing due to cost-cutting measures by the government. Private businesses are growing. Two years ago there were around 70,000 small businesses and now there are about 360,000 and growing.

Tuesday afternoon we visited a church in Sabonulla and I met their lay pastor, Ms. Mercedes, who is 82 years old. She was asked to feed the hungry one Sunday afternoon a month. She answered "No," and she instead chose to feed the hungry every Sunday. She is now feeding 50 people every Sunday as an outreach for her church. The cost is about $30 a week. I made a donation from the Wednesday night offering of $460. This will feed 50 people a week for 14 weeks, or around 700 meals. (Photos are of inside of the church and the kitchen. Notice the stove on which the meals are cooked every Sunday.)

Later that afternoon we visited a Church in Union of Reyes with Pastor Reyea. This church’s worship is accompanied by a 12 year-old girl Rosemary on piano and the drama and dance ministry for kids is led by a 12 year-old named Rebecca. She performed a poetry reading for us. I made a donation of $300 for the youth programs for the worship of God through the arts.

Thursday we visited the Cuban Council of Churches. I was able to meet with the president who said to expect 50% growth in churches in Cuba in the next 2 years. The fastest growing is the charismatic churches.

The Council is translating the Bible onto video for deaf Cubans by using Cuban sign language. While we were there the Vice Consular of PR for the American Consult, Mrs. Nancy Szawlwinski, and her assistant, Mary Gunderson, visited the Council of Churches. We asked and were granted a meeting with them and heard the state department party line on Cuba. I rounded out my trip with a tour of old Havana in a horse drawn carriage and saw the old city.

Summarily, I believe that Tomoka Christian Church should follow up and apply for a license so we can return to Cuba on further mission trips on our own. Additionally, it would behoove us to contact the Florida Counsel of Churches and see if they know of a church or churches with whom Tomoka could form a long term partnership. The fields are ripe and the harvest is ready, but the workers are few.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Why I Love Tomoka's Children's Ministry

1. Nearly 500 children a week are hearing God's Word and being shown the love of Jesus.

2. 280 servants work to help our children connect with God.

3. Our children's pastoral staff (Carrie Graham, Paula Anderson, Kathy Tran, Cara Haren, Don Haren) are amazing. Their commitment to our children and their parents is inspiring.

4. 38 children accepted Jesus in 2011.

5. Children bring passion. life, and energy into the Body of Christ.

But Jesus called the children to Him and said, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these." -Luke 18:16

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tuesday Church Update

I recently received a report from Pastor Ed on the success of the Tuesday Church service. We are excited to share in the growth and success of this service and encourage you to continue to pray that it will be a great outreach to the community in order to win others to Christ.

Tuesday Church will celebrate its seventh year in the spring of 2012.

· Tuesday is the sixth worship service featuring hymns and familiar choruses.

· Growth has been steady averaging over 100 for the last few years.

· 2011 average attendance was 117 *2012 so far is averaging 130*

· Tuesday lunch is one of the keys for the growth – provides a time of fellowship for our adult worshipers – 80 -90 lunches are served every Tuesday – they look forward to that.

· Recently there have more and more first time guests worship with us on Tuesday

· Several baptisms and new partners have come as a result

· Opportunities for service include the lunch crew, servers and hosts, tech people in the visual/sound booth and of course several talented musicians.

· Our second annual Tuesday Christmas featured several talented people taking part and a record attendance of 375. 260 meals were served that day. Tuesday Christmas in 2010 was the second highest record of 306 and over 200 meals.

· The recent series of messages on Galatians, Job, Philippians and currently Matthew are available on-line or CD.

· The Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5-7 will begin as a series on February 21, 2012

· Featured missions guests at the weekend service often return for Tuesday emphasis.

· Special music is often offered – Tom Shelton from Ohio was our guest for his third concert here last Tuesday.

· Hope Street is a local gospel group that has worshiped with us on Tuesday for the last several years. They are featured once a month for a special and have done two or three concerts for us on Tuesday morning.

· As for the future – Tuesday Church will continue when we move to Hand Avenue. There will be a smaller chapel for us to use.

· God has blessed this ministry and thanks to all those who have not only attended but have stepped up to help serve. We give you thanks.

It has been my pleasure to be your Tuesday Church Pastor for almost seven years.

Pastor Ed

Saturday, February 11, 2012

7 Ways to Make Your Marriage Awesome!

Plan right away to attend our next marriage seminar at Tomoka Christian Church on March 23 & 24. This will be a Friday evening and Saturday morning event. Our seminar leaders are Clint and Penny Bragg, members here at Tomoka who travel the country as marriage missionaries. The date is set so mark your calendars for the good of your marriage and be watching the Email Express and Bulletin for more details..

Here are some motivating marriage tips that Perry Noble, pastor at NewSpring Church in South Carolina, posted on his blog this week:

#1 – Stop Fighting IN IT and Start Fighting For It – as long as you see your spouse as the enemy your home will always be a battlefield, and EVERYONE loses when you fight with each other and not for one another.

#2 – Stop Asking God To Fix Your Spouse And Ask Him To Fix You – no one in any marriage is perfect…and when we stop pointing out all of our spouse's perceived inadequacies it really does make us a much better person to be around. (Psalm 139:23-24 is a GREAT prayer to pray when asking God to show you your very own “opportunities for improvement.”)

#3 – Ask For Help – you are NOT the first married couple that has ever struggled, you WON’T be the last. The problem is that (especially in church) we are so obsessed with what people may say or think that we will allow our relationships to implode. We cannot allow our desire for appearance to distort the reality that we need help!