gifts of love

The winter months can be a bit tricky to find ways to be in our neighborhood; people stay inside often, sidewalks are not shoveled, and kids aren’t always dressed for the weather.  Despite these obstacles, one of our leaders suggested we bake cookies and deliver them to our neighbors on the weekend of Valentine’s Day.  So, we sent cookie dough home with all the kids with a note giving directions on how and when to make cookies together (note: most of the kids who are part of our missional community do not come with their parents, and we’re often looking for opportunities for them to show God’s love at their own homes).

When the time came for us to deliver the cookies, we bundled up and slipped down the snow-covered sidewalks together.  We chose to go to homes that were very near to our own houses; one of our leaders suggested one of his neighbors who is elderly and might be lonely.  She recognized us right away and smiled ear to ear when we offered her cookies.  As we were walking, we also ran into a woman we met when we first moved to the neighborhood.  She asked right away if we would pray with her; we prayed for peace among her family and a new sense of trust in God with her own life.  Once all the cookies were gone, we headed back to our house to find Nate and another young boy; they, too, had a story of love.  The pizza delivery man (who happens to be our neighbor) got his car stuck as he was leaving our house, and the guys were able to help push him out of the snow.

As we were faithful in finding ways to be out in our neighborhood, God gave us lots of opportunities in one afternoon to show His love in practical ways.

-Natalie

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new life

photo (2)Over the last six months, exciting things have been happening in the life of our church!  God has moved us to end our pilot Missional Community that has existed for the last year and a half to train, equip, and release leaders.  We saw this pilot MC go through many seasons, seasons of growth, of change, and of pruning.  Now, we get to see it bring about new life.

Three new MCs have been birthed from the pilot.  The first is called “Koinonia” which is the greek word for communion, unity, and fellowship.  The mission for this MC is “redeeming the Family.”  They exist to provide safe spaces for individuals and families to bring about conversations, fun, and restoration.  The second is called “GameOn!” which is geared around people who play and love games and value fun together.  (Look for blogs from and about Koinonia and GameOn! in the coming months!)  And the third is called “SOKs” which stands for Southern Orchards Kids; this is the neighborhood where Nate and I have put down roots.  We weren’t planning for a MC focused on children, but God was.  So, now that the pilot has ended, we have transformed that MC into one that is intentionally discipling children and raising up young leaders in this community.  We’re using the huddle format with them and inviting some of the young teenagers to begin making decisions and leading on a small scale.

We’ve seen overwhelming breakthrough in both MCs already, with people new to the idea of oikos jumping in and participating, children making plans based on what they’ve heard God say, and adults from the Southern Orchards neighborhood see deliverance from sin revolved around their parenting.  This is only the beginning.  We expect God to continue to do great things as we press in to being part of Him bringing His Kingdom to earth.

Natalie - blog signature (black BG)

stories


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Did they tell You [Jesus] stories ’bout the saints of old?
Stories about their faith?
They say stories like that make a boy grow bold.
Stories like that make a man walk straight.

(from Rich Mullin’s Boy Like Me, Man Like You)

We sat around the supper table last Sunday evening enjoying a meal together of fried fish and milk-soaked juneberry and strawberry shortcakes. The gathering was both spontaneous and planned. Aimee and I had already invited Phil and John and Emily and their two children over to help pick a bumper crop of juneberries, when Jay and Anita called to invite us over for wine and stories about Jay’s mission trip to Zambia. Knowing that Jay knew Phil and John from our mission trip together to Henryville last year, Aimee and I thought “What’s two more good friends over for company?” With anticipation of a wonderful evening of good friends, good food, and good story-telling we invited Jay and Anita to our place as well.

With genuine curiosity Anita started us off by demanding that we tell our stories from our mission trip.

So for the next couple of hours stories flew back and forth. Stories of twin mission trips…one to assist with micro-economic development projects at a pastor’s school at Kaffakumba, Zambia, Africa and one to assist with neighborhood service projects and a backyard Vacation Bible School for Soma Church in inner city Columbus, Ohio. Stories of how God used both groups to bless others and how God blessed us in turn. Stories of the faithfulness of God and our faithfulness to following Jesus’ call to make disciples.

From our weeklong trip, we recounted how we were used by God from the onset since the VBS almost didn’t happen due to a lack of adult workers from Soma’s missional community until our team of eight servants offered to help. We recounted how Phil used his growing “skill” at dumpster-diving at the local grocers to provide extra food for the host families and the neighborhood VBS kids. We recounted how John encouraged four young brothers who were attending VBS in the evenings to work alongside us during the day as we grubbed weeds and overgrown brush from the yard to make room for more play space and a vegetable garden. We told how Chelsea used her cheery disposition and winsome smile to help make VBS kids feel comfortable in the presence of us outsiders. We told the story of Mike and Jen’s conversation with the neighbor for whom we house-painted…how our act of service had restored his faith in humanity because he was still reeling from being robbed at gunpoint the week before. We told how the experience of being a participant in and recipient of acts of extravagant generosity and genuine love in action “raised the bar” for Zach, the newest follower of Jesus in our group.  And we told Aimee’s favorite story of how God was faithful and allowed us to experience eighteen VBS kids become our brothers and sisters in Jesus as they decided to “follow Jesus the rest of their lives”…and how after receiving personal copies of the Jesus Storybook Bible, they spontaneously sat in groups of three and four in the grass to read aloud to each other and to us adults God’s creation story as it had been read to them every night that week.

It was indeed a good week of good experiences and good risks. I was reminded how stories and storytelling play such a vital role in building our faith in God. And how they play a vital role in passing on the tradition of building his kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.  According to scripture, the faithful ones (Hebrews 10.39) tell stories of their and their ancestors’ faith (Hebrews 11). This motivates brothers and sisters in the faith to think of ways to carry out acts of love and good works (Hebrews 10.24).

And again:

Your faithful followers will praise you.
 They will speak of the glory of your kingdom;
they will give examples of your power.
 They will tell about your mighty deeds

and about the majesty and glory of your reign.
For your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.
You rule throughout all generations.

(Psalms 145.10-13)

Oh, and around that table we were enamored with and encouraged by Jay’s stories as well. Our twin trips and twin stories were very similar in theme but varied in detail. I do not wonder why. It is the story that God is telling…through people. First through faithful followers of old. Then through Jesus. And now through us. Yes, tell the stories of the everlasting kingdom.

-Nate (Simons)

faithful in silence – a short story

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERABack in the fall, I started praying everyday for Persons of Peace in our neighborhood.  I knew finding people was going to be difficult because I was in my first trimester of pregnancy and spent a lot of my time at home.  One of the families that is part of our Missional Community asked if I could help walk her little boy home from the bus stop, it was right by our home and she knew I was free at 3:45p.  I, of course, said, “Yes.” So, before I walked to the bus stop, I would stop at my back door and ask God to prepare me to talk to people.

The first week there was no one!  All the parents would magically show up in their cars mind you, as the bus pulled up.  I was discouraged.  The next week, some parents walked but they stood across the street and still managed to come right when the bus got to the stop.  I resorted to waving and smiling, this got me some funny looks.  I was giving up on speaking with anyone at the bus stop, so I resorted to bringing treats to the little boy I was walking home and figured we could get to know one another better.

Finally, I walked out of the alley one evening, turned the corner and there was a woman standing right where the bus stop is.  I got all giddy inside, “Woohoo!”  I walked over and asked her if she was waiting on the school bus?  She said, “Yep.”  I said, “Me too!  Hi, I’m Danielle!  I help pick up my friend’s kid.  I live right there in the yellow house; my husband and I just moved in back in January.”  She said “Hi, nice to meet you.  I’m Rebecca.”

After the greetings she asked why we moved down here to the ‘hood’.  I explained that my husband and I felt called to help start a church in the neighborhood.  She asked if we had a brochure she could read, I smiled and told her no, but we do have a website and a blog.  I told her that we have church out of our friend’s house and we live life together just like Jesus did with the disciples.  I invited her to come and see what I was talking about.  She was interested and I was elated to finally talk to someone.  I started to pray for her even before she had  come to our MC.  I knew it was not up to me to push her into coming.  In the following months, I managed to meet her mom, her boyfriend, her sister, and her nieces she helps get off the bus.  Our conversations were small talk most of the time about our baby, her family, her schooling, and I tried to fit God in the conversations but there was never enough time.

At MC one week, the mom that needed my help walking her little boy home said he had transferred schools and the new bus would be dropping him off right in front of her house.  Fall was coming to an end and I was somewhat relieved.  I had been by the bus stop a few times and hadn’t seen Rebecca and the girls.  After a few more months had passed, I started to feel that praying for Rebecca was not doing anything.  I had not seen her in the neighborhood and it was quickly becoming winter; our community does a good job of staying indoors when it is cold.  So I told God, “Okay, I’m done.  I will focus on praying for other things.”  I’m hardly outside since I’m pregnant and I figured this would be a better use of my prayer time.  The next day (seriously, not joking, the next day), my husband and I were stopping over at the house where we have MC.  I stepped out of the car onto the sidewalk and heard someone call out my name.  There was Rebecca and her sister with the girls just a block away.  She greeted me with a hug and asked how the pregnancy was going.  I was shocked; “clearly I’m not done praying for her,” I thought to myself.  We didn’t talk long because it was getting dark and they were walking home in the cold.  We stood there talking long enough for me to introduce my husband and point over to the house and say, “this is where we come for church, you’re all welcome to come Sundays at 4p.”  I spent the rest of the winter praying for her and her family.

I spend a lot of time with Nate and Natalie, the MC leaders.  One day I was over watching their boys while Natalie was working in the morning, I decided to stay all day since my husband and I were going to watch the boys in the evening to give them a date night.  Once we got the boys down for nap, I passed out on their couch.  Natalie later heard a knock at the front door and she started talking to someone and prayed with them.  I was half asleep.  Once she walked into the room, I asked her if she just prayed with the mailman.  She said no, it was Rebecca.  She was feeling like she has been being attacked spiritually and wanted prayer.  Later on in the evening, Rebecca came back to the house; she wanted to pray again.  So Natalie and I prayed for her again and she said she felt something leave her.  She asked to hang around the house and talk, so we did.  We exchanged cell numbers and she left for home.  It was now March and we texted, talked, and hung out with her regularly.  She was becoming part of the family.  This month, she told Natalie and I on separate occasions she felt ready to be baptized.  So, last Sunday we stood in a freezing cold kiddie pool and baptized Rebecca.  Afterwards,  we prayed in groups for one another and celebrated with cake!  All the kids helped in letting the water out of the pool and we played in the huge, muddy puddle together.  It was a wonderful day and I’m so happy I got to be a part of what God is doing!

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Danielle - blog signature (black BG)

Happy Easter!

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAQuestion of the week, how long would it take a group of kids to pick up nearly 1,500 Easter eggs?  The answer is less than 5 minutes.  This past Sunday we set up at our local park (Roosevelt Park), kids were itching and waiting for us at least an hour ahead of time!  After scattering the eggs, dividing kids into age groups (so the little ones didn’t get trampled by the older kids), we started our prayer and said we would do a count down.  The kids were so excited that right after our “Amen,” they raced towards the eggs.  With chaos, confusion, laughter, and egg shells in the air, in the blink of an eye, the field that was colorful thanks to the eggs was now an empty, green, grassy area again.  The kids showed off what they got, exchanged candies with their friends for their favorites, and played at the playground.  And of course we joined them.  It was great to also talk to some of the adults, learning of new neighbors, and the possibility of new relationships beginning.

It’s amazing to see how God works.  We remember this day as the day Jesus came back to us, three days after taking our death on himself.  Sometimes that escapes me, but I was reminded and filled with the Holy Spirit as we went back to our home afterwards and ate dinner together.  Before eating dinner we broke bread and had Communion.  We have had Communion a lot already, but sitting around the table, all of us discussing what it meant to us or what we have learned from it, it hit me that this is what true family is supposed to do.  Family is sharing communion around the table, sharing dinner, and sharing our stories from the day.  This is what Jesus wanted, sharing our lives together.  It truly excites me for the future, and all the future members of my family that will join us in our mission and in our lives, remembering Jesus and the amazing thing He has done for us all.  Happy Easter.

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from rest to work

imagejpeg_0Several months back, we entered a season of rest and pruning as a Missional Community.  It meant a whole lot of abiding, personally and as a family.  We all began reading the Moravian Texts together, found ways to connect with the Father on deeper levels individually, and spent lots of time just being together.  At our retreat at the end of January, we were all sensing the Holy Spirit preparing us to swing back to the other side of the pendulum, to work.  We weren’t sure when and what it would look like, but we were rested and ready.

The second Sunday of each  month, we gather for Family Worship.  As we sat down to begin, we were prompted to change our plans.  It was almost like a direct challenge, “you said you’re ready to work, so let’s get to it!”  Instead of carrying on with our order of worship, we decided to head to the local park to see what the Lord had in mind.  As we walked, we began attracting kids, kids, and more kids.  Some were kids we’ve been in relationship with, but most were brand new.  We ended up starting a pick-up game of touch or tackle (depending on who you were) football with the older boys once we got to the park.  The younger kids got pushed on swings, played chase, and started their own tiny version of football.  One little one asked, “are you family?”  Yes, yes we are.  We’re a family on mission to bring the Kingdom to this neighborhood.

So often, we have to be willing to throw our plans out the window in order to follow God’s plans.  And many times, we have to be willing to begin working in order to see what the work is.

Natalie - blog signature (black BG)

Worship His Majesty

This is just a glimpse into one of our Family Worship MC’s.  Most weeks, we begin by sharing what we have seen God doing lately and respond with a simple phrase.  It turns out to be a neat poem/Psalm to give God thanksgiving and praise.

He’s changing peoples’ lives; His majestic name fills the earth!

He helps me never give up on things; His majestic name fills the earth!

He gave mommy and daddy a new clock and they gave it to me; His majestic name fills the earth!

God is helping some of our friends find a house to purchase; His majestic name fills the earth!

God helped me get a new toy car when I gave all my money away; His majestic name fills the earth!

He gave us a warmer weekend so we could enjoy the outdoors; His majestic name fills the earth!

He gives us friends; His majestic name fills the earth!

He gave me and my family a peaceful and united day yesterday; His majestic name fills the earth!

He took away my bad dream so I could go back to sleep; His majestic name fills the earth!

Natalie - blog signature (black BG)