Hey, we made it to our final destination. We arrived in Ocean Springs, MS at about 2:00 p.m. The drive was long and pretty uneventful after our tire fiasco. I bought a GPS for Christmas this year and does that thing rock! It talks and tells you exactly where to turn. We got some laughs when we would make stops or drive a different direction. The lovely ladies would voice would say “recalculating” like she was annoyed. She even told us to make a u-turn and that there is a better route. Technology is truly amazing, how did I get around before? Well, to be honest I often get lost, so that is why I made the investment.
After arriving this afternoon, we got a short orientation and a tour of the facility. This is a great place. It is a large building that is split into several sections. One area is the sleeping quarters. Around six different areas that have rows of bunk beds. They can accommodate nearly 200 volunteers. There are around 60 volunteers here this week. The other areas include a food distribution area, a cafeteria and showers area, and a tool warehouse. There is also a small office area where the Camp staff works.
After we finished the tour I met with the construction coordinator. We got our job assignments for the first couple of days. We were assigned to a house that needs to have the shingles finished on the roof and some inside gutting and new drywalling. They also asked if we could work on a plumbing and cabinet job. We decided to go check out these sights today to see what to expect, so off we went. The roof is partially finished and the inside is a total mess. Very dirty and junk piled everywhere. I spoke with the owner on the phone at his workplace and he told me some of the work he wanted done. We then went over to the other site and happen to run into the lady that owns the house. She was originally from Ohio and moved done to MS in the 70’s. The house was nearly finished. We are doing some of the finishing touches so that she can move in. I hope we can get both of these jobs done in the next four days. It is supposed to be nice weather, in the 80’s and sunny the next two days.
We will start the day at 6:00 a.m. breakfast and then pack up our tools, shingles and head out to the Sizemore roofing job. I think I will work on the inside, tearing out drywall and insulation. I am not much of a roofer. We will work until 5:30 and then head back for dinner. Tonight we are watching a documentary about Katrina – Or maybe I will watch American Idol instead.
One last interesting thing I learned today is that the Lutheran Camp we are at has coordinated around 1500 work sites. They currently have 100 jobs going and have another 700 waiting. That is just one organization. So there is plenty of work to do the rest of this year and probably next year as well. I hope we can bring several more groups here to help impact this area. Some amazing things are happening. God is Good, All the time. I want to thank the great team that is here with me:
Todd Kandel – our construction expert
Chelsea Kandel and Nick Kandel – Todd’s children
Terry Jones – Comic relief
Terri Hupp – Fitness expert
Cathy Capuano – Friendly and fun
Randy Emler – The only one that can sing
Roger Bond – I think he is related to James
John Troyer – Most likely to get injured
Chad Stutzman – Food coordinator
Well, we left early Monday morning for MS. It was an interesting day as we found it was difficult to get out of Ohio. We discovered we had a nail in the rear tire of one of the vehicles at one of our stops, so we went to Walmart and bought a plug and plugged it. Well that didn’t do it, so we found a tire & lube at the next Walmart and waited for them to fix it. Well after about an hour there they told us they couldn’t fix it and sent us to a Tire Discount place. After checking all over we settled on the Tire Discount place with an hour wait. So we ate lunch and hung out until they installed four new tires on the Expedition (Todd Kandel didn’t want to take any chances). So we were back on the road and drove another 6 or 7 hours. We were trying to make Birmingham AL but we were too far behind. We decided to try for Huntsville instead. It was about 7:00 p.m. and we were all getting hungry. John Troyer was with me and he called his brother James to see if he knew of any good BBQ places in Huntsville (You have to try BBQ when in Alabama). James travels in the area a lot on business. Well he highly recommended Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ. We said it was world famous and is very very good. So off we went. It was amazing, we all ate BBQ of some sorts and were very satisfied. I guess the good news was that if we had not been delayed we would not have experienced Big Bob’s in Decatur Alabama. Two thumbs up on that call. Well we are getting ready to eat breakfast at our Comfort Inn and then on the road again for another 6 hours. That will bring us to Ocean Springs MS. We are staying at a Lutheran Camp in Ocean Springs. The ten of us have already had a good time and are getting to know each other better. I will keep you posted.
On Monday morning I am heading to Ocean Springs Mississippi with a team of ten people to volunteer in the hurricane Katrina relief effort. Nearly two years after this incredible disaster and the work to be done is still staggering. This will be my second trip down to that area. I am not sure why I am going this time. I just feel like God wants me to go with an open heart and mind. I am praying that I will be able to impact someones life. Serving is one of the most rewarding things you can do. When I have served, either in the church, community or on mission trips, that is when I have grown the most. Who knows what is in store for this trip? I am trusting God to show the way and do a work in me and through me. I will keep you posted from MS.
On Saturday night Scott Bell and I went to a local Hispanic Church in Dover. It was really an interesting time. At first it was a bit awkward as we got there and the pastor and our interpreter were not there. Scott was attempting to tell a few of the people why we were there, but I don’t think they understood. It was supposed to start at 5:00 p.m., but they are much more laid back than we are. At about 20 after most everyone had arrived including the pastor and we began to sing. There were about 40 people there. They love music and they played with passion. They had a full band; two keyboards, bass player, lead guitar, drums and singer. It was a little rough but they were giving it their best. Three women and two men took turns leading the singing. I didn’t have a clue what was being sung, but I did know they were sincere. The music was loud which created a sense of energy and excitement, it also allowed me to clap even out of rhythm and hum along. They would intermix some Scripture readings and prayer. When they prayed, most everyone in the room would pray out from their seats. The Pastor finally got up about an hour later and introduced us. At that point Scott went up and the pastor tried to interpret for him. Scott explained that we would like to partner with their church to reach the community for Christ. We left at that point because we couldn’t understand the preaching and we each needed to get home. I hope to go back again sometime with more people.
The reason I wanted to go was because this is a great mission opportunity in our back yard. I also love new experiences and learning about people groups. There are over 2,000 Hispanics in this general area (Or so I’ve heard). Those are 2,000 souls that God cares very deeply about. The reality is that they are here in our neighborhoods and God wants to use this as an opportunity to show them the Good News. I plan on beginning to study their culture, most are from Guatemala. This could be the beginning of something special. A few other people from NewPointe have been to this Church and to the Latin American center in Dover. Our own Jim Mason has reached out the them and built some friendships as has Jr & Ruthanne Yoder. Are you looking for mission opportunities. This may be it. Call Scott Bell or me if you are intrigued.
It is amazing how God is working in the lives of the individuals and families that are coming to NewPointe Community Church. As we continue to reach more people and lead them into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ the challenge becomes greater in caring for the many people that come to NewPointe. What does it mean for a church to care for the people within the church? Maybe you don’t feel cared for. Maybe you do feel cared for. So what does that mean?
From time to time we all need help. Sometimes we need a helping hand with chores and projects around the home, sometimes we need a shoulder to lean on, or someone to listen to our struggles and situations. All of us will experience loss and hurt in our lives at some point. At NewPointe Community Church, our small groups provide the relationships and leadership necessary to provide care for most of the needs of our people. It is impossible for the pastoral staff to care for all the people that attend NewPointe. I don’t believe that is the role of the pastors anyway. The role of the pastors is to equip and prepare the people of the church to care for and encourage one another. That is why the small group networks within our church are so vital. When someone in that group is hurting the group members are there to help, support, encourage, pray and serve in any way they can. The pastor shouldn’t have to always be there to care for the person. The people that you are doing life with should be the ones picking you up when you need it.
NewPointe does have a Care Ministry that exists to serve the emotional, spiritual, and physical needs of those who are in “special care” situations. It may be a person that is not in a small group or someone that has needs that go beyond the scope of what the small group can provide. The Care Ministry network is designed to serve our small groups and the people that are hurting for whatever reason. Here are the services that are available at NewPointe:
- Helps Funds – For people that have financial needs we have a process that we take people through. It starts with an application that is reviewed by a staff person. Then an interview with the person to determine the needs. They are assigned to a financial counselor volunteer that will meet with them to look at their financial condition and try to help put a plan together. Our goal is to help them make the necessary changes to avoid future financial problems. We also desire to get them into community and growing in their relationship with Christ.
- Hope Mentors – Pastoral and Lay counseling is available through the church. Individual, family, and marital counseling sessions are available by appointment only. There is an application that must be completed before a counseling session is scheduled. We also can refer people to local, professional Christan counselors.
- Helping Hands Ministry – This team of people provide help in home repairs for families in need. They assess the project and help to determine the needs and cost of the project. Then small groups are encouraged to volunteer to help with the labor involved.
- Hospital visits – Visitation in the hospital is available if you contact the church office to let us know your situation. Our visitation team desires to pray with and encourage those that are facing surgery or sickness. Our meals team is also available to offer three meals after you get home.
- New Moms – This team of volunteers offers your family three meals from our meals team members and will send a card to the new mother.
- Premarital Mentoring – We offer premarital mentoring to engaged couples. It is a requirement to go through mentoring to be married at NewPointe or by one of our Pastors. You will meet about 7 times with the mentor couple.
- Marriage Savers Mentoring – Mentor couples are available for couples that are having problems in their marriage. This is usually in addition to pastoral counseling or professional counseling. The goal is to restore the friendship and relationship in the marriage and grow spiritually.
- Weddings – We have a wedding manual that details all the requirements and gives helpful tips on planning your wedding.
- Funerals – If you are an attendee at NewPointe and have lost a family member we will assist you in the funeral or memorial service process. Our funeral team will also provide a meal for the family after the funeral.
- Grief Share Groups – These groups meet every other week to help in the recovery process of losing a loved one. There are 13 sessions.
God cares very much about all of us, but He works through people that take the time to notice and care for the people around them. If you have a need please call the church office because we do care.
I just finished a great book by Jarrett Stevens called “The Deity Formerly Known As GOD”. In his book he talks about destructive images we have about who God is and then describes constructive images that help us know who God really is. My favorite destructive image is Talent Show Judge, maybe a heavenly Simon? Many people including Christians have a wrong view of who God is, and because of those wrong views of God they have a wrong view of who they are. This book will help you understand a little better who God is; His character, His heart, and His view of little old us. I am not going to give you the cliff notes, go read the book. After reading this book I looked at myself in the mirror and asked myself Who are you?
Have you looked in the mirror lately, looked deep into your eyes and asked; Who are you? For many of us that is a scary thing to do. For one looking at yourself can be depressing (we are all getting older). Others of us may begin to talk to ourselves and make faces at ourselves. Isn’t it embarrassing when someone walks in on you when you are doing that? Anyway, it can also be scary because you may not like who you see. Maybe you don’t know who you really are or worse, maybe you don’t even like yourself. The identity crisis comes at that moment when you view yourself as a worthless sinner that can’t do anything right. You beat yourself up and put yourself down. Or maybe you think pretty highly of yourself and think you have it pretty well all together. I don’t need much help from anyone (including God). I am a good person that doesn’t hurt people and am pulling my weight. Let’s go back to the mirror. Who do you see? Who are you?
If you are a Christ follower the answer is very easy. If you have stepped across the line and decided to follow Jesus Christ as best you can then there is only one answer. You are a child of the Living God. God looks at you and sees a saint, a son, a daughter. If you are a parent you may have a small idea about how God feels about you. You love your children very much and you want them to be happy and succeed in life. Take that times 700 and you are a little closer to how much God loves and cares for you. It all starts with understanding who God is so that you can understand who you are. God desires to have a close intimate relationship with you and me. If you haven’t made that decision God still loves you and is waiting for you to come back to Him. Keep exploring and searching, because you will come face to face with a loving God that is pursuing you. So look in the mirror and tell yourself “You are a child of God”, that is the beginning of a beautiful new you, the one that God sees.
Many of you have heard about Group Link. We do this event four times a year to help people connect in community. On Saturday night I went to Group Link as a small group leader(I am starting a new men’s group). It was a great experience for me and I think for the others attending as well. There were around 50 people there and we had a lot of fun. John Bunn and Celeste Honigford did a great job hosting. As I talked with the folks there I realized how much people desire to get connected and build friendships. I am reminded how much small groups have helped me in my spiritual journey. I have been in several men’s groups over the years and have made some great long lasting friendships. I am excited about the new friendships I will be developing this year with other men and other couples. I look forward to Sunday nights of hanging out with my couples group. We laugh a lot and eat together. We share stories about our lives, children, pets and jobs. It is so easy to get distracted and busy with our lives and forget about building community with other people. Some times it is difficult to have community within our own families. The question to ask is what is making us busy? We make time for what is important to us, and I have discovered that community is vitally important. When we isolate ourselves we tend to not grow. We also miss out on incredible ministry opportunities. It is amazing how God uses community to minister and care for people. That encouraging word, knowing someone cares and will listen and having people on your side is a tremendous advantage in this world we live in.
So if you have been thinking about getting connected in a small group I encourage you to take the risk, take the plunge and see how God will work in your life.
I was listening to a message by John Ortberg yesterday about the Power of Compassion. It really challenged me because he talked about going from intention to action. I don’t know about you but I often have good intentions. I intend to call a friend, exercise, finish the three books I am currently reading, tell my wife I love her, volunteer at a community organization, work on my budget and on and on. Just because I think about it or decide that I should do that doesn’t always translate into actually doing it or saying it.
It makes me feel good when I see someone else doing something good to help people. That is why most of us like to hear about stories of people making a difference. I like that and think that I should do something like that. Because I have these feeling of compassion it must mean that I am a compassionate person. My heart breaks for the hurting people in Mississippi & Louisiana, the children in Africa and around the world that are hungry and homeless. Because my heart breaks that must mean that I am compassionate. I think about all the great organizations that are helping people and think about getting involved. Because that is a desire of mine I must be a compassionate person. Well according to Jesus that does not make me a compassionate person. In Matthew chapter 21 verses 28-31 Jesus shares the Parable of the two sons; “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered ‘ I will, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did what the father wanted?”
Wow, that hit me hard, because I am often the second son, I have good intentions but do not go. The vineyard is whatever God is calling you to do. Actions speak louder than thoughts or words. Take courage, go and do instead of just thinking about it or talking about it.
My small group had movie night recently. Every so often we have a fun night where we don’t have discussion or a lesson. On Sunday night was our latest fun night and we decided to watch Facing the Giants. I understand that a church actually produced this movie. A lady in our church gave me a copy of this movie and said that it really helped here, because she was going through a difficult time in her life.
I have to say that this was a good movie. It wasn’t great because the acting was average, but the story was amazing. I don’t want to ruin it for anyone so all I will say is that I got choked up a few times. This is a movie about how Big God is and that no matter what, we need to put our trust in Him. We all have giants in our lives and if we focus on the giants we can quickly be overwhelmed. If we put our focus on God, that changes our perspective and God can accomplish incredible things in our lives. Facing the giants in our lives drives us to our knees and causes us to cry out to God for help and direction. Sometimes it is the wake up call we need to make changes in our life, attitude, priorities and relationships. I give it a 7 out of ten. Go ahead and watch it.
You may have heard Dwight say this before; “People haven’t given up on God, but they have given up on the church.” I met with a woman today that is planning on coming to church with her four children this weekend. She visited us when we were at Sugarcreek about 4 years ago, and they occasionally go to a catholic church because their children go to the school there. Her husband will not come with her this weekend, but she is so excited about coming after the short tour I gave her. She talked about wanting to improve her marriage, finances, parenting and build some lasting relationships. I wonder if she will find any of that here? She said that church for her and her husband was so irrelevant that she would much rather let the kids sleep in on a Sunday rather than pack them up and go to church. The rituals and stuff have zero meaning to this family. After getting a brief tour she said “now this is my kind of church, with the band and the cafe” she hasn’t even heard a message yet.
This is only one sample of the stories that are being written every week here at NewPointe. It is so cool to see God bringing the people here. He does it in so many ways. Our job is to help remove any distractions and make sure they have an incredible experience and want to come back. I can’t wait to see how God will work in this family. The transformation started today. Every week someone is walking through our doors for the first time looking for something. Why do they do it? Usually because someone invested in them and invited them or they are going through a very difficult time and are looking for help. Once again today I was reminded why we do what we do.