CFA Summer 2010 Newsletter

View the CFA Summer 2010 Newsletter (PDF).

From ESL to Advocate

Ana Martinez started attending ESL classes in Montana Vista about a year and a half ago.

Since then her self esteem and confidence level have increased to the point that she is now involved in the community and speaking publicly on behalf of the community. One such instance took place on March 8. As the community of Montana Vista is becoming involved in the political process, they have engaged the department of Justice to effect true immigration reform. On March 8 Ana worked with the “Red Fronteriza” (The Border Network for Immigration) and spoke to community members as well as Justice Department personnel. In addition to this, they are currently organizing an immigration rally that will take place on April 10, 2010. It is awesome to see Ana involved in this as she is also encouraging others to seek justice for the community.

In addition to this, Ana is encouraging the young adults graduating from High School as she has gone with them to fill out applications for study grants and acceptance into the local community colleges.

Ministers

Chad and Kathy first came to the NL for our Easter Service. They came with Kathy’s niece, a former student of our youth ministry program. Chad pulled me aside that Easter morning to ask if I would marry them on July 4th. For me, this was a concern, as I did not know them first of all and I knew that I did not want to do a wedding on the fourth of July.

The next week a woman who I knew well was telling me how shocked she was to see two of her former drug dealers in worship and alluded to the fact that it had to be a joke. However, Chad and Kathy began to meet with Terry and Laura Perkins (one of our Elders and Deacons who oversees our premarital counseling) and somewhere in that process their lives began to change in very obvious ways.

Chad and Kathy now are married and regularly attend the NL and have learned to become givers. They are also servants. Often on Sundays they help set up tables between services for the Story of God. Even more often they are the ones wiping down the tables or helping to clean up the kitchen at the end of the services. Currently, Chad can be found running the soundboard and is also a co-teacher with one of our classes offered on Sunday mornings.

A few months ago Kathy came with a need for a friend who was in fear that she might have cancer. Her friend’s mother had died of the same kind of cancer they were afraid she might have. To make things worse, her friend did not have the money tot pay for the biopsy. Kathy shared her concern with us, and, with the help of another person in our community, the biopsy was paid for.

Why does this story excite me so much? Because both Chad and Kathy, who once were drug dealers, are now learning to become dealers of God’s grace to others. They are both learning to be ministers to the people that God has placed in their lives, including their children.

“Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.  1 Corinthians 1:26-28”

Inmates and the Northern Lighthouse

For years now, the Northern Lighthouse has been known for its inmate ministry. In fact, sometimes too much so, in that we are referred to as an “inmate church.” Although at one time the inmates made up 50% of our community, they now represent approximately 15% of our weekend attendance.

What is fascinating about this change is that we see a lot of people come and go through that one glass door on the NL’s worship center. Each week there are new people from the Center and there are often people who have been paroled or jammed (jammed, meaning they did their time and are free to go without parole) who then do not return.

Some of these inmates go home to other parts of the state or even other states all together. To be honest, we do not always know what impact we have had on them during their time with us. But sometimes we do. Sometimes they come back to visit and share about the church that they now attend. One recently called and asked Pastor Sam to come and start a Reintegration program in their church for recovering addicts. Another one recently attended and emailed us the next week.

“I was able to once again attend service at N.L., once again the experience of being there meant so very much, to be able to enjoy hearing about our Savior. I want to thank you, as well as the congregation at N.L., for being the wonderful people that you are. You, helped me to be where I am today…very strong belief in God, as well as myself.”

Yet more and more are sticking around. It is great to see those who do stick around become active in ministering. Here are a few examples of what I get to enjoy:

  • Two inmate alumni now drive the van to pick up people from the community (we pick up an average of 8 people a week from the community.)
  • Two inmates are currently serving with Christian Reformed World Relief Committee in Cedar Rapids rebuilding homes destroyed by floods in 08.
  • Former inmates help to run or cook meals for the guys from Charity Autos.
  • Former inmates help to run or teach the Lincoln Nebraska Reintegration program (affectionately called RIP).
  • Current inmates now play on the worship team.
  • Former inmates are now sponsors, fulfilling a serious need to bring inmates to church events.
  • 6-16 inmates come out each week to clean the church, care for the NL property and fix, on average, 5 cars for people from the community who are in need of minor car repairs.

(Maybe I do understand why we have been called an inmate church.)

The fact is for us inmates and former inmates are a vital part of the NL family, and they are not just those we minister to. They are the ones who minister to us as well. We are all part of God’s family.

We do not always know how the story will end when they get out, for there are the tragedies as well. But we know what to do while they are with us. We love them and provide a place where they are accepted and given direction just like anyone else.

Discipleship at Northen Lighthouse

A recent conviction that God has given to me is that our call as followers is to make disciples and that He is the one who will build the church. This may not be new in our understanding, but it is new to me in practice. I have spent a lot of time in ministry developing a “better” program and worship service that I hoped would make disciples, while putting little if any time into intentionally making disciples.

One of the changes for me was to get together with a group of men once a week for intentional discipleship. I did not know what to expect or if anyone would be interested in getting up early (we gather at 5:30 AM), but the results have been more then astounding.

I thought that I could handle getting up at 4:30 one morning a week, but the result was that once the first group got started I felt a need to start a second group as well. Currently there are 7 men besides me who are a part of these groups.

The focus of the group is to learn what it means to be a disciple and then to help each of them to begin to make disciples on their own. We do this by listening to each other, share our struggles, pray, learn what God is calling us to as a community. My hope and expectation is that within a year that each of these men will branch off and start their own discipleship groups where they will begin to meet with and share their lives with others in the same way.

One of the highlights for me is that on one morning when I could not make it to the group they all contacted each other and met without me (only 3 weeks into the group).

I am excited to see what God does at the NL as each of us learns to follow God together.

Clusters

A newer concept within Home Missions is the idea of clusters. Clusters are groups of people or churches that are working together in a geographic area to start new ministries and churches.

Characteristics of a cluster include:

Kingdom Focus
Shared Ownership
Relational Vitality
Cluster Leader
Shared Vision and Values
Peer Development
Strategic Dreaming
Leadership Development

The Northern Lighthouse has become a developing cluster.

Approximately two years ago we began working out the cluster concept, which resulted in the planting of a church Waverly (a bedroom community to the east of Lincoln). David and Joey Best willingly came to serve at the NL, and David began working in a part-time position to start up the church. One of the greatest benefits is that David, being young and new to church planting, is able to work with a team of pastors for support and encouragement as the Oasis church takes roots.

Recently, John and Brooke Knoester have come to join our cluster. John is an ordained minister in the CRC and left his church in NW Iowa to do a one to two year residency with us. He is here to learn about church planting and ministry in our specific context as well as discern his call to ministry for  the future (John recently took a call to Mt. Vernon CRC in WA). John is raising all of his support through personal contacts as well as through grants from Home Missions.

Currently, I am working with a young man, Ryan Dudney, from Lincoln who has a heart for ministry and many great gifts for ministry including preaching and teaching.

Pastor Sam is feeling led to ministry in Nebraska City, a small town located about an hour from both Lincoln and Omaha. At first it was just a word spoken, and Sam being faithful to follow that call. Today, God seems to be opening doors there, as a small community is forming on Saturday nights for worship.

Other functions of our cluster are that we meet together with eight ministry leaders monthly for development of the 5 C’s: Our relationship with Christ, defining our Calling, relational development in our Community, ongoing development of our Character, and refining our Competencies. We also will be starting a Leadership Development component as well to train up local leaders of the NL and other churches in our area.

As you can see there are many exciting new opportunities as we work with the idea of clusters here at the N.L.

Community Organizer Honors Motel Hero

There was a police report about what happened back in March at an Aurora motel. Now Karen Cirulli, a community organizer along the Aurora corridor, salutes the brave motel manager who broke up the sexual assault and subdued the suspect until police (lots of them!) arrived:

This past year I have been delighted to meet new faces on Aurora, some of whom have become friends. Samantha is one of those folks that I have had the honor of getting to know. “Sammie” is a twenty-something office manager at the lovely Everspring Inn on Aurora Ave. She is a very dedicated and hard working woman who takes great care of the Everspring office and guests, and has a heart for the community. Sammie helped host the Everspring BBQ back in November. Yes, November. Despite the slightly cold and rainy weather the community came out to listen to music, eat burgers and hang out. Aurora is not exactly a place to just hang out, let alone in a motel parking lot, so this was a beautiful picture of hospitality and light in a sometimes dark neighborhood. Sammie helped connect me to the motel owners (who, by the way are lovely too) and get the ball rolling for the event. Sammie also recently participated in one of the Asset Based Community Development workshops that I attended along with many other community leaders.

The other night my husband Kevin and I were driving past the Everspring Inn and saw about 10 cop cars surrounding the motel. My heart skipped a beat as I wondered what had gone down there. I quickly texted Sammie to find out if she and the rest of the office gang were okay. She called and said she was okay, and that she had a story to tell me, but I’d have to wait until the next day.

The next day I got to hear how Sammie essentially saved a woman from serious injury or worse. There was an altercation between two of the motel guests upstairs. Sammie went up to find out what was going on.  When she came out of the elevator, she saw a man pinning a woman down. He was assaulting her. Sam quickly ran and got her pepper spray.  When she came back, she pulled the man off of the woman. As a result, the victim was able to get away.  Meanwhile, Sammie had the guy on the ground. She sprayed the mace next to him to make sure it worked and to threaten him. Another employee, Becky, called 911. Sammie was able to keep the guy down with the threat of the pepper spray but was also dealing with her eyes and nose dripping from the little bit that had been released in that narrow hallway. The cops thankfully got there in a good amount of time and took the guy away.

Whew… what a night!  I feel like if this heroic act had happened just a few blocks up in Greenwood, Sammie would have gotten much attention. So that is why I’m telling this story, to tell as many folks as possible about the heroic act of Sammie and her sidekick Becky… here to save a victimized woman – and the day!

Thanks for reading,

KarenAurora|Seattle is a blog site committed to telling the stories of Seattle’s Aurora Avenue – the good, the bad, and the absolutely bizarre. Yes, Aurora Avenue is an old highway (aka, 99) and a boundary between neighborhoods (Greenwood and Licton Springs, Green Lake and Phinney Ridge), but it is also an emerging neighborhood with its own networks and dreams and stories to tell.

Neighborhood Association Leaders Social

Our church had a great meeting and dinner for Neighborhood Associations. We had two neighborhoods attend the meeting.  Although small in number, I think we made great impact on them.  We something called “the sticky exercise” for identifying assets. We had everyone talk to each other about the sticky notes and then put them up on chart paper under the appropriate question.  Next I broke them up into small teams for each question and sticky.  They then had to determine the top two or three.

We then as a group went to each question and had a summary report.  I used the report from the over 500 survey’s we had collected as a teaching tool as to how the data could be used.  (I color coded the questions, the stickies, and the chart paper header to coincide.)

Afterwards, we shared reduced data from the two neighborhoods and used that as a teaching tool also.  I think they got it – especially one neighborhood.  Once we finished one neighborhood’s leaders stayed at least another half hour discussing.

Great evening!

They are back in their neighborhoods deciding what topics that trainer/facilitators might start with in their neighborhoods.

Ted Cates
Local Outreach Director, Pantano Christian Church

Living Faith Church Catches the Vision

Living Faith Anglican is a church of about 400 where all the church leadership is catching the vision and beginning to apply the concepts throughout their congregation. They have identified three neighborhoods, the oldest one is a poor one about 2 miles from their church where they have been doing things for 5 years. They are also just starting to do outreach in the upper middle class neighborhood where the church moved about a year ago. They will also start across the road in a lower middle class neighborhood in 6 months.

Rambing Up to a New Future!

The word ‘community’ gets used a lot these days, in many ways, and with a variety of meanings.  The story that follows reflects an example of how a small ‘community’ within a larger community of faith can respond to the needs of its neighbors when the need is discovered.  In this case, that discovery was aided by Volunteers In Service, a Grand Rapids nonprofit with over 20 years of helping communities of faith connect with their neighbors.  This story is representative of a typical outcome churches and recipients of their care experience when obedience meets need.

It was so new it seemed like he didn’t even want to touch it.  Chris Mullennax was a bit hesitant as his wife, Bonnie, guided him down his new ramp for the first time.  “Wow, this is really nice,” he said, as he reached out to touch the railings on the ramp which had been completed just minutes before at his house on Cleveland Street in Wyoming.

The ramp was donated and constructed by members of Messiah Christian Reformed Church in Hudsonville.  They were connected to the project through Volunteers In Service who became aware of Chris’ need from St. Mary’s Home Care.

“We have done other building projects in other parts of the country, Biloxi, Mississippi for example, but we wanted do one closer to home, Harold Leep, Director of Outreach at Messiah noted.  Leep said that because they had to wait for better weather, the project didn’t happen until the end of March (2009).  Mullenanax, 57, has suffered multiple strokes and a heart attack.  He has been disabled since 1994.  Thanks to Messiah CRC, he and his family now have very much improved mobility through the use of the new ramp.

“We view what we’re doing here as just being obedient to what God has commanded us to do,” said Leep.  “We’re using our skills and abilities to make life better for Chris.”

Those skills and abilities were put to the test early in the project when the crew had to deal with the roots from two large trees located in the front yard.  A Friday morning filled with cutting and chopping finally ended with about half of the initial framing complete.

The crew was back at it early Saturday morning as they used a gas-powered ‘digger,’ instead of manual labor, to remove the remainder of roots and dirt.  “That saved us lots of time.”  The ramp was completed about 4:00 p.m. and Chris came out to venture out on the new construction for the first time.

“This is really something,” he said as he navigated down the ramp that now encompasses the entire front yard.  “Thank you for it.”

Leep understands the importance of projects like this and hopes that this is just the beginning.  “We [at Messiah] get to make the initial contact by building the ramp.  I’ve already contacted the pastor of Lee Street CRC just down the road, and we’re hoping the can continue the relationship we’ve started.”

And Leep knows these projects are important for the team from Messiah also.  They not only get the pleasure of knowing they have really helped a neighbor in need, they also get to enjoy the long term camaraderie that has developed within the group.  When people of faith simply offer the things they love to do, so that the lives of others can be better, joy flows both ways.  It’s contagious, and brings them back for more.

The team is already looking forward to its next project – another ramp, this time in Jenison.

The Best Things About Spring: Worms

The snow has melted and the tell-tale signs of Spring are all around us here in Chicago.  Spring does strange things to Chicagoans as we come out of hibernation from the Winter months.  Whereas 60 degrees was cold in the Fall now that Spring has arrived 60 degrees seems warm enough to wear shorts and sandals and head to the beach.  There are certain signs that we Chicagoans look for to know that Spring is coming, outdoor seating at restaurants and cafés pop up and baseball becomes the talk at the water-cooler however the surest sign of Spring is the flowers.  Suddenly the gardens and street planters that looked barren and forgotten are filled with bright flowers.

The students of Jordon and Gale schools in the Roger’s Park neighborhood had a hand in ushering Spring in this year as they became gardeners and planted all the flowers in the street planters.  The excitement of warm weather (well 55°) and the promise of working in the dirt excited the students as they began their day of planting.  The adults are excited too, they are teaching the children the importance of hard work and community beautification.  They are using experiential teaching to help the students understand that the way they treat their neighborhood makes a difference, that they have the power to transform their community.  The learning will not stop at the planting, watering and beautification; the students are also earning money as they plant to go on field trips to organic farms to further expand their understanding of the growing process and healthy eating.
As the adults enjoy the Spring day surveying the important learning that is going on with the students they hear a shout and are reminded of another blessing of Spring, worms.  One student has found a worm in his planter and, of course, the other students cannot be outdone so become determined to find worms in their planters.  The flowers are forgotten for the time being as worms take over the conversations and attention of all.  At the end of the day if one of the students were to be asked the best part bout Spring, easy answer, WORMS of course!
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