Love All Offering Details

In our participation with Advent Conspiracy this year, we chose to work with our partners to provide water and wheelchairs in Honduras, Romania and Kenya. Thanks to your generosity, we collected $290,000. But there’s more great news! We had more than enough to meet the needs of our partners in those countries. In addition, then, to what we are able to do in Honduras, Romania and Kenya, we are able to provide water and wheelchairs to another country that has an obvious and compelling need – Haiti. Our relationship with the folks on the ground there ensures us that your gifts will be allocated to those most in need.

So what does $290,000 do? Check it out:

  • In Kenya, we will work with Living Water International and Beacon of Hope to provide four wells in communities there. We are also able to provide 550 wheelchairs to three Kenyan organizations through Free Wheelchair Mission.
  • In Honduras, we will work with Providence World Ministries and Water Missions International to provide clean water to La Providencia and Aguas del Padre communities, and to Orica and its surrounding communities. We are also able to provide 550 wheelchairs to 4-5 Honduran organizations through Free Wheelchair Mission.
  • In Romania, we will work with the Evangelical Free Church in Craiova to provide wells to four villages (Comani, Coteana, Lisa and Stoenesti). We are also able to provide 110 wheelchairs to the church through The Wheelchair Foundation.
  • In Haiti, we will work with Food for the Hungry to provide clean water and Free Wheelchair Mission to provide 550 wheelchairs to those most affected by the earthquake’s devastation.

Praise God! Thanks for your generosity and for your prayers for our sisters and brothers in these countries.

A Glimpse of Haiti

We pick up newspapers, turn on televisions, and click on computer screens seeking facts over fiction, images to help us see and stories to assist in our understanding of the devastation in Haiti. 

On February 3, 2010 Susan Demel, Director of Impact Ministries, traveled to Port-au-Prince, Haiti with Food for the Hungry. Here is a brief glimpse of Haiti from her perspective:

I remember wondering what was waiting on the other side of the border as we crossed into Haiti from the Dominican Republic by van. I anticipated the worst in my feeble attempts to prepare myself.  Observing painful scenes, hearing heartbreaking stories, smelling death in the air…could not be avoided. Even though I’ve traveled globally, this trip could not be compared to any other.

The estimates of the full devastation of the earthquake in Haiti keep changing daily.  On February 10 the Haitian government confirmed the death toll of 230,000, with the death toll still expected to rise. As many as 300,000 had been injured and an estimated one million Haitians are now homeless.  In addition, 250,000 residence and 30,000 commercial buildings have either collapsed or been severely damaged. Most hospitals and schools are gone.

The numbers are all staggering. The amount of people injured is overwhelming. I’ve never wanted to be a doctor until I was in Haiti wishing I had the ability to bring relief and healing. Many people survived but in a lot of cases limbs were crushed which has led to a lot of amputations. In the New York Times this week a doctor writes that she asked a little boy what he wanted her to bring back the next she came to help. He said toys…and a bicycle as he smiled big, until he looked down and realized one of his legs was no longer there.

The toll taken on the lives of survivors is immeasurable. The cameras will go away soon, the news coverage will wane, the statistics will stand in history as an immovable remembrance, the rubble representing homes and businesses will be cleared away. However, what won’t easily be removed are the memories of where each Haitian was on the day of the ‘event’ and the incurred. That’s what they call it, ‘the event’, not the earthquake.  Every person has a new reality, life as they’ve known it has shifted as dramatically as the earth did on January 12, 2010. The stories are all different from each other, but they are all relevant, important and significant.

Every statistic represents a life, a dream, a child, a family, a hope, a friend, a community. 

“I think with this earthquake many people realize that life is nothing. We are just sand and dust and mud. We are precious to the Lord, but houses, clothes, jewelry, furniture…all this is vanity. The most precious gift that we can appreciate now is the fact that we are alive. Personally I’m thankful to the Lord because my family is alive…I don’t know how.” Haitian aid worker who I met in Port-au-Prince.

In the midst of this calamity there exists a brilliant resilience in the people of Haiti.  Reports from individuals on the ground, share that following the earthquake, many people were praising God and hundreds were seen marching peacefully through the streets during the day, clapping and singing. Neighbors helped neighbors. It’s a picture for us to capture and remember. Many of the aid workers I met who are helping people through this are themselves Haitians dealing with their own personal heartaches and losses. Who better to know how to help than one who has experienced the same reality and tragedy?

I recently came across a quote made by a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, who was living and conducting research in Port-au-Prince. “I am telling you two things that seem contradictory: that people in Haiti are suffering horribly, and that Haitians are not sufferers in some preordained way. What I mean is that suffering is not some intrinsic aspect of Haitian existence; it is not something to get used to. The dead were once human beings with complex lives, and those in agony were not always victims.”

 

Daily Prayer Guide: Friday Dec 25

REVELATION 5:1-10

Have you ever been…

so full of love that you burst out singing?

so overjoyed that you could not help but laugh?

so grieved that all you could do was sob?

so overwhelmed that you could not stand up?

God has made us – heart, mind, soul and body – to respond to Him.

Read and respond to God in Rev. 5:1-10:

Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?”  But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it.  I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside.

What do you weep over? What do you see that causes you to despair? What feels impossible? Cry to God.

Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”  Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

Cup your hands like a bowl. Offer your prayers of thanks to God:

For his triumph and for his salvation through Jesus, the Lion of Judah, the Lamb who was slain

For his Spirit, who is present for us

For all the people of God who pray

For hearing our prayers

And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

Sing a song to the One who sits on the throne and to the Lamb! Sing a song that someone else wrote! Sing a song from your heart that no one has every heard! Or use the words from Rev. 5 to loudly praise to our God!

The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

You, too.

Written by Becky Stephen

Click Here to Download Week 4 Prayer Guide: Sun Dec 20-Fri Dec 25

Daily Prayer Guide: Thursday Dec 24

Scripture Reading

Luke 2: 1-20

“About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel. There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger. At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises: Glory to God in the heavenly heights. Peace to all men and women on earth who please him. As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed. Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!”

[Excerpted from Eugene Peterson’s, The Message]

The story is familiar, and the words from Luke 2 ring in our ears like the well-known voice of a loved one or lyrics from our favorite song. And when the angelic choir opens up to sing their song, God’s promise of shalom pours out onto a world in dire need: Glory to God in the heavenly heights. Peace to all men and women on earth who please Him. Through the birth of Christ, God births His plan to restore peace and shalom to the world, and it is that promise that we remember during this season of Advent. Today, thank God that through Christ we are given all  that we could possibly need to cultivate shalom.

Praise God for

  • the Story of Christ’s birth, and the chance we have to be a part of the Story of shalom each and every day of our lives

Imagine

  • that you were a part of that first heavenly host, proclaiming “Glory to God in the Heavenly Heights,” and consider how you might proclaim that same Glory to God in your life today, on Christmas and in every day following

Pray

  • that you might experience the promise of shalom in your own life, that it might inspire and motivate you to live out that promise in your home, work, relationships and most of all, in your heart

Written by Mariah Lefeber

Click Here to Download Week 4 Prayer Guide: Sun Dec 20-Fri Dec 25

Daily Prayer Guide: Wednesday Dec 23

Scripture Reading

Luke 1: 39-56

“Mary didn’t waste a minute. She got up and traveled to a town in Judah in the hill country, straight to Zachariah’s house, and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb leaped. She was filled with the Holy Spirit, and sang out exuberantly, “You’re so blessed among women, and the babe in your womb, also blessed! And why am I so blessed that the mother of my Lord visits me?” The moment the sound of your greeting entered my ears, The babe in my womb skipped like a lamb for sheer joy. Blessed woman, who believed what God said, believed every word would come true! And Mary said, I’m bursting with God-news; I’m dancing the song of my Savior God. God took one good look at me, and look what happened—I’m the most fortunate woman on earth! What God has done for me will never be forgotten, the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others. His mercy flows in wave after wave on those who are in awe before him. He bared his arm and showed his strength, scattered the bluffing braggarts. He knocked tyrants off their high horses, pulled victims out of the mud. The starving poor sat down to a banquet; the callous rich were left out in the cold. He embraced his chosen child, Israel; he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high. It’s exactly what he promised, beginning with Abraham and right up to now. Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months and then went back to her own home.” [Excerpted from Eugene Peterson’s, The Message]

Mary didn’t waste a minute sharing the good news of what God was doing in her life with Elizabeth. She was so filled with joy and with the power of the Holy Spirit that she could hardly contain herself. What a world we would live in, if we all could simply not refrain from bursting out with the uncontainable joy found in knowing God’s love.

Pause

  • and find a space of stillness; close your eyes, make yourself comfortable, pay attention to your breath, your internal and external sensations
  • in this space, reflect on a time in your life when you have been filled with the Holy Spirit; remember the genuine joy and truth experienced in this moment

Pray

  • that you might be inspired and awestruck by Mary’s faith, and in this inspiration that you might burst forth with Good News, dance and sing the song of your Savior, and embrace a sense of being the most fortunate person on earth because you are showered with the blessings of love, mercy and compassion

Before you leave your home

  • consider ways that you might bring the Good News into your daily actions and interactions, maintaining a sense of your partnership with the Holy Spirit when going out into your day and into the world

Written by Mariah Lefeber

Click Here to Download Week 4 Prayer Guide: Sun Dec 20-Fri Dec 25

Daily Prayer Guide: Tuesday Dec 22

Scripture Reading

Luke 1:26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth,  to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.  And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”  But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.   The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.  He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.  He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”  The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.  And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren.  For nothing will be impossible with God.”  Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Mary was a young Jewish teenager. While the angel’s announcement to her was certainly one of great hope for her people, it was for her a pronouncement of personal disaster. Here she was, engaged but unmarried, about to turn up pregnant by someone other than Joseph. Her excuse? “I’m pregnant by the power of God’s Spirit.” Right. Try that one on your parents and friends. As the angel speaks of a coming royal deliverer, I can imagine her mind is full of vision of her ruined social life. She’ll be misunderstood by family. Shunned by friends. Ostracized by village neighbors.

And that’s only the beginning. What else is in store for her? Well, for starters her son is going to grow up and become a source of deep division within her people, and within her own heart (see Luke 2:33-35). She will at one point think that her son has lost his mind (see Mark 3:21), and will have to endure his public execution by the Romans (see John 19:25). I cannot imagine this was the kind of life she ever dreamed of.

It is really quite amazing, then, that she responds to the angel’s announcement the way she does. Her first question involves the mechanics of “spontaneous pregnancy”: “How can this be? I haven’t slept with a man?” After a quick theological lesson in divine in vitro, her next response is jarring. “I’m your servant. Let it happen according your plan.” Woah. I’m certain I would not have answered in this way. But this young, imperiled teenager shows humility and openness to God’s plan, regardless of the great personal cost involved. I can only hope to imitate her exemplary hope and humility when my own life falls apart. The things this young teenage girl has to teach us are profound and challenging.

Reflect:

– Think through the social stigma Mary would face in an ancient, patriarchal, traditional culture when her pregnancy was made public. Think about the humility it took to respond to God’s plan the way she did. How would you have responded if you were in her place?

Prayer:

– How do you respond when life throws a major curveball your way? What is the most recent, unexpected upsetting of your life? How have you wrestled with God about it? Allow yourself to go there now.

– What would it look like for you to come to peace with God’s ways in your life? Ask God for perspective and hope in the midst of your circumstances.

Written by Tim Mackie

Click Here to Download Week 4 Prayer Guide: Sun Dec 20-Fri Dec 25

Daily Prayer Guide: Monday Dec 21

Scripture Reading and Meditation

LUKE 1:1-25

Is there something you’ve prayed for a long time? Something that seems impossible? Maybe you want it with your whole heart but it looks like it’s not going to happen.

You’re not the first.

With that prayer for the impossible in mind, read Luke 1:1-25.

In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.

Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

The angel answered, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.”

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

Reflection and Prayer

What does this account of Zechariah’s encounter with Gabriel teach you about God? About prayer? About faith?

So – that prayer of yours. Do you want to pray it again?
What do you need to do right now to prepare for that prayer to be answered?
When God answers, who will you tell about it?

Written by Becky Stephen

Click Here to Download Week 4 Prayer Guide: Sun Dec 20-Fri Dec 25


Love All

Act Local: Share gifts of time and resources with those in our community. At the Impact Tree in the Atrium, find opportunities available for individuals, families and life groups. All the information you need will be on the cards by the Tree. Take a card – put an ornament on the tree.

Give Global: On Sunday, December 13 during services, we'll take up an Advent Conspiracy offering (a direct result of spending less) to give towards clean water projects and wheelchair needs in Honduras, Kenya and Romania. If you won’t be able to join us at services on that day but still want to participate, just write "Advent" in the memo of your check and drop it in any of the offering boxes.