Snapshots of Grace

Men'sRetreat

1st Annual LHNC Men’s Retreat (pictured above): On the last weekend in April we had our first ever (but definitely will be repeated) men’s retreat at New Life Marina. 15 of us went and stayed together in a large retreat house that sits on the water. It was such a great time for all of us. We had great times of worship together, fishing and boat rides, and some phenomenal meals. We are praying that the momentum of the retreat will mobilize our men to engage in discipleship groups and serve in ministry.

TUMI Graduation in Solano State Prison: Over the last year or so I have been volunteering once (and sometimes twice) a month helping facilitate TUMI courses in a state prison, 1 hour north of us. TUMI stands for “The Urban Ministry Institute,” and is a seminary level, 16 course ministry training curriculum. On the last Friday in April I had the privilege of watching about 20 guys graduate from TUMI. It was such a powerful display of the transforming grace of the gospel. Singing “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)” with a group of men who have been “set free” was so powerful. Some of the men will get out of prison soon, and have aspirations to plug into churches and communities to serve the Lord. Others of them are serving life sentences, and will continue to serve the Lord in ministry on the inside.

Potential Project Group Shot

The Potential Project:  Each of the past 3 schools years I have worked with some teachers in our congregation on a student initiative called The Potential Project.  This year we received 66 student applications from throughout our school district.  We funded 29 projects from nine different schools (elementary, middle, and high schools).  These projects addressed issues such as the student drop out rate, literacy, English language learning, math scores, achievement rates, the correlation between athletics and academics, student health, college preparation, and cultural agility in the face of systemic injustices. A local online newspaper, The Richmond Standard, did a great article and short highlight video of the celebration on their web site.  You can read the article and watch the video here.  The above picture is from our end of the year celebration that we hosted at the church on May 12th.  The picture below is Tyler, Courtney, and I – the educators whom I work with on the project.

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Resurrection Sunday (part 1): – Most Wednesday mornings I gather with a group of pastors to pray with and for one another.  It is a multi-denominational, multi-ethnic group of men.  The group is an answer to prayer for me, since coming back from Rwanda last summer and seeing the pastoral unity there.  Every year at Easter these Richmond pastors collaborate to put on an Easter Sunrise service.  This year they asked me to preach since I’m the new guy.  It was a memorable experience to preach early in the morning to a packed mausoleum on a hill top cemetery (pictured below).  It reminded me that God’s Church is alive, even in the Bay Area!

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Resurrection Sunday (part 2):  We had the opportunity at LHNC to celebrate the resurrection through baptisms.  Rick, who is new to our church, and Rosa, who recently returned to our church, took this step of obedience and publicly proclaimed their faith in Christ!  Below is a picture of Rosa coming out of the water with great joy.

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AWANA:  We just finished our fifth year of AWANA at LHNC.  This year our theme was “Get Low” from Philippians 2:3-4.  The clubbers did a great job memorizing the theme verse and their gospel bracelets, and the theme of “Get Low” was a great practical theme that we could weave throughout the night.  Here are some pictures below of our ending ceremony.

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Faith & Finances – In collaboration with our good partners Christian Layman Church (who we also partner with to do Eye Screenings), we are doing a 12 week financial literacy/stewardship class.  Baniah (from our church) and Gordon (from CLC) are leading the effort and facilitating the class.  We have 8 students from LHNC going through the class right now (including Josie).  Each week the class gathers for dinner together at 6:30 before beginning any content for the night.  This helps provide a family atmosphere, as we learn together about God’s perspective on our finances.  We are also grateful to the Chalmers Institute who helped us secure a grant to make this possible.  Lord willing, this will be an annual class at LHNC.

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A Faith Adventure

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Josie and I got married in the fall of 2011 (November 5th).  At the top of 2012 we decided to start trying to get pregnant, as we were both 34 at the time and excited about a potential family.  2012 was a great year for us.  We dated each other, and got to know each other.  But at the end of the year there was no pregnancy.  When 2013 began, we asked people to begin  praying with us for a baby.  The year came and went, and still no baby.  As we headed into 2014 we asked more people to pray. During our Rwanda trip that year in April our brothers and sister there prayed over us, crying out to the Lord on our behalf, and asking the Lord to expand our family.  Continue reading “A Faith Adventure”

Looking Back & Moving Forward

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Last year I created this tool to help me look back and reflect on the previous year, and to think and pray intentionally about the year ahead.  I’m working on mine for 2017 as we speak, but thought I would share the questions with others.  I’m going to try to revisit this every month this coming year in order to check progress, adjust, pray more intentionally, etc.  Hope this might be helpful to you as well…

Continue reading “Looking Back & Moving Forward”

Slow Down

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At the end of June and beginning of July I was with a team in Rwanda. This was my 3rd time on this trip. We help coordinate a pastors conference with a network of pastors there called The Pastor’s Family Fellowship. For 5 days we are with them – worshiping, praying, teaching, learning, sharing meals, getting to know one another. It’s a rich time. One of the things I have been struck with on each of my trips to Africa, and certainly in this most recent one is their emphasis on prayer and fasting. These pastors regularly pray and fast together. They seek the LORD. They believe God for big things, and they trust God for basic things. They are trusting God for things that we in the West too often take for granted.  They are living a lifestyle of prayerful dependence.   Continue reading “Slow Down”

A Faithful Encourager

Mike Thompson(Mike pictured here w/one of his grandkids & his wife of 50 years, Sharon)

My first memories with brother Mike happened when I was a high school student at Paw Paw High School.  During that particular season of my life, my family and I did not attend church very often.  When we did attend, I can remember him being very intentional about coming up to speak to me.  He always asked how school was going and how the sport I was playing at the time was going.  As a shy teenager who didn’t know many people at the church at that time, his intentionality always encouraged me.  During my years at Albion College, my visits at EMC again were few and far between, but his interested and encouraging posture towards me continued. Continue reading “A Faithful Encourager”

5 Years Later

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(On the road – August 22, 2011)

5 years ago on this day I was part of a 2 vehicle caravan (my van and a moving truck) en route to Richmond from Chicago.  It was a huge move and transition for me.  The night before (August 21, 2011) Josie and I had gotten engaged.  She helped me make the move, along with my parents, and we had some extra adrenaline and excitement to help us make the difficult three day drive.  I also think the timing of the engagement was another evidence of the grace of God in that it helped soften the departure (I would grieve leaving Chicago over the course of 2012, but the engagement helped with the final day). Continue reading “5 Years Later”

A Special Place & Special People

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(L to R:  Joseph, Pablo, me, Josie, Meshaq, & Simone)

Our recent pilgrimage to Montana was our 15th annual gathering in Bozeman.  I can’t believe it’s been 15 years.  I’ve had the privilege of being on every trip, and the Lord has used each year’s experience in different ways in all of our lives.  As I have reflected and shared with others about this year’s trip, I realize that Montana has become a special place to me and the people of Springhill Church and Sunshine Gospel Ministries have become an extended family to me.

Although I grew up in the country, I have now lived in urban environments for 15 years.  I have grown to love cities – the activity, the noise, the diversity, etc.  However, I love retreating to places like Montana – with less noise, less activity, etc.  The beauty of the scenery in Bozeman – the mountains, the rivers, the sky itself – refreshes and rejuvenates me. I love being on the river (event when I don’t catch fish). I love hiking there, and taking in the views at different heights.  I love the sound of the water – whether it be a water fall, or a rushing river.  I say this every year, but I would love to spend time in Montana when there is no schedule or planned activities, just to take everything in and have some solitude in that environment.  Continue reading “A Special Place & Special People”