The devastating Tornados in Texas and more recently Oklahoma City have brought an overwhelming sense of loss to those local communities leveled by natural disaster, and an overwhelming sense of compassion by the watching world. Where does one begin to put their life back together after such loss? How can the church – how can OUR CHURCH – be a part of God’s work of compassion, assistance, and reconciliation of all things in Jesus Christ? Maybe you and your family – like thousands of others – have been wondering how you can help.
First of all, don’t underestimate the power of prayer. Commit to pray for the communities effected, wisdom among the community leaders, safety for the first responders and relief workers, healing for the many wounded, comfort for the many grieving loss of life and livelihood, and for the grace and love of Christ to be shared powerfully through the united witness of local churches and believers serving together to help rebuild families and towns.
Almighty Father, Creator of Heaven and Earth, we ask your help for the people of Oklahoma. Comfort those whose loved ones have died, bring swift rescue to those who may still be missing, and strengthen all who have been injured or affected by this devastating tornado. In all of this, empower your people with your Holy Spirit to be agents of healing and reconciliation as they bring Gospel love and courage to their neighbors. All these things we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Secondly, be wise about your commitments of time and resources through reputable relief organizations. I’m including information from two (of many) emails I received over the past several days which may be helpful for your ongoing prayer and desire to serve:
1. A brief but helpful article summarizing 5 key ways to get involved in relief efforts.
2. The most recent email from Samaritan’s Purse to churches willing to assist. Several teams have served with Samaritan’s purse disaster relief projects over the years, and it would great to pull together another team for assistance in the nearby Texas communities or Oklahoma city. (Attached below.)
From blog post, “Oklahoma Tornadoes and Beyond: 5 Ways to Get Involved in Disaster Relief” by Ed Stetzer
5 key things to consider about disaster relief assistance:
1. Training BEFORE a disaster is helpful. (Check out some local Red Cross training here: http://www.redcross.org/tx/dallas-fort-worth/take-a-class/disaster-training; Samaritan’s purse volunteer support here: http://www.spvolunteernetwork.org/)
2. Giving can be more effective than going.
3. Support (& serve) through established reputable agencies
4. Giving to established agencies minimizes inefficiencies
5. Know what you are going to do and with whom you will do it BEFORE you go.
You can read the entire post here: http://www.edstetzer.com/2013/05/oklahoma-tornadoes-and-beyond.html
Most recent Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief information for Oklahoma and Texas: http://www.samaritanspurse.org/article/oklahoma-tornado-response/?utm_source=MayTornadoes&utm_medium=email#m_YS4G-000E_maytornadoes
Together in Christ Jesus,
How are you faring with the challenge Keith gave our body recently to meet and get to know our neighbors?
My first stab at neighbor-knowing took intentionality but admittedly little effort. I decided to stop rushing in and out of a fitness class I attend twice a week, and get to know my class “neighbors”. Those of us who are regulars have our staked-out territories, so I started getting there a few minutes early, and lingering a few minutes afterward. I now know several of my class “neighbors” –names, kids’ stories, work pressures, and vacation highlights.
Another opportunity came with no intentionality from me at all, at least initially. I met one of my neighbors yesterday. I walked out to get the mail and she had just pulled up to the front of her house. She walked over and introduced herself, and the commonalities we shared of being busy wives and moms took the conversation from there.
It was a Thursday, and I had time to chat. We talked about kids (her oldest goes to Emily’s school! and plays the tuba in the 8th grade band), about juggling school and outside activities (her kids do tae kwon do), and about being moms who drive a lot. I asked some questions, and learned that she’s a part-time student, and that she doesn’t feel comfortable with her spoken English (which sounded perfect to me) because her kids would rather speak Spanish in their home.
I liked her. I hope I see her again soon. In fact, I told her I’d really like to hear what her son decides about high school band, because we’ll be looking at that option a year from now, too. So there’s our next conversation right there.
Neighboring is easier than I thought, and easier than you might think. It happens when we slow down, and speak up. I don’t know where any of my neighbors are spiritually. But now I know some of their names, and their lives, and there is opportunity for more.
TFC Connections Minister
TFC Core Purposes – Witness
One of our core purposes at TFC is to witness to those around us. And in our witness, we reflect God’s glory (Matthew 28:18-20; Eph. 2:8,9).
This week TFC members Paul Schreiber and Bob Potts are reflecting God’s glory as they have journeyed to Joplin, MO, with Samaritan’s Purse to help rebuild more homes damaged in the 2012 tornado. Paul and Bob will be working with a team of others from the Dallas area rebuilding homes, and Bob will lead a devotion for the Samaritan’s Purse crew one morning.
Please remember both of these men in prayer as they minister to those in Joplin and share Christ’s love through their service to them.
In the path God has taken Steve and Laura Entz through their daughter Julie’s struggle with cancer, they have celebrated God’s faithfulness even at times along the way when the news was not what they hoped to hear. This week, the Entz family got some great news, and we invite you to joyfully celebrate with them through this message from Steve and Laura:
I have such praise for Him tonight
On this great day she called to say
The mean ole cancer has gone away
The praise I have for the One who plans
Are not confined to my own little hands
The heart that pumps so deep and low
Knows life from above He does bestow
The feet that stood to hear the news
Run quickly now to share with you
And eyes that shed those tears in grief
Drip wet with joy and sweet release
At first the thought seemed veiled and thin
But now drives deep to the soul within
I feel the words cannot explain
The grand appeal of the great refrain
WE FIND NO SIGN OF CANCER HERE
In your loved one you hold so dear
The sweet release of burdens borne
Give praise alone to the One of the morn
Why must I have been so low
To know the gift He gives to grow
The hope of life is all around
Yet begs my notice when only I’m down
His hope secure is found in faith
It draws us near no matter the fate
In life or death He reigns supreme
To call us home with suffering
The Hope that comes from Christ alone
And everyday His royal throne
Stands radiant in the dead of night
All eyes behold the glorious sight
For He above has made no change
In love He rules in joy or pain
His Kingdom come to bear the light
To shine upon our hopeless night
Amen and Amen
Steve and Laura Entz
Operation Oasis, a local ministry supported by Trinity Fellowship Church, is having a lasting impact on people in need of a “second chance”. Here are some of the ways they are sharing the power and love of Christ:
- 13 Oasis clients that have lived in the Leigh Ann Apartments for over a year without any problems have received eligibility to get housing vouchers through Dallas Housing Authority to relocate
- 16 employment opportunities were received by Oasis clients
- 6 housing opportunities were given by Oasis clients and 6 are pending placement within the immediate future.
- 20 clients and their families attending the Nutcracker Ballet courtesy of Oasis: A Second Chance Operation
- 8 Holiday Baskets were given to the Oasis clients and their families
Oasis has a new service contract with ANTHEM which works with individuals and families on building healthy marriages/relationships
Here’s a personal story of the deep impact of Operation Oasis:
Kelvin Johnson was acknowledged as the “Most Improved” Oasis client during the acknowledgement ceremony on November 1, 2012 Mr. Johnson was chosen because of the significant change in his demeanor, his mind set, his willingness to learn and do things different in spite of his negative relationship with his family, his unemployment, his legal status(Parole) and his outlook on life in general. He attributes his change to the classes he attended, and to the work and patience and additional resources he received from the staff. He is now been out on parole for a little under a year, but this is the longest period of time he has ever remained out, Hew paid his fines and now has his CDL and is employed. He is wiilling to continue classes as a support to maintain his progress.
Your giving makes an impact!
I hope you are encouraged by this brief update from Network Community Ministries of Richardson.
Just a few months ago TFC member and regular Network volunteer Lee Hastings challenged our connection group leaders and body to help stock the food pantry ministry, which had been running on empty to emergency status. Several CGs and individuals have responded with a significant impact.
Since Lee’s challenge, TFC has donated 926 lbs of food to the Network pantry – which is welcome news given the increased load the pantry experiences over the holiday season.
May God continue to use us and multiply the joy of our giving in these ways in more! Keep up the encouraging work.
Each fall now for this the sixth year, we host a Giving Tree project, which shares the love of Christ through helping out children and families in need over the holidays at nearby Richland Elementary School. Our Children’s Ministry leads this project, but we hope all our TFC Body will participate….and be blessed! Read on words from Children’s Diretor Kari Jane Smith about the Giving Tree:
Giving Tree…just the words make me smile. The school counselor at Richland Elementary, Laura Payne, is in the process of gathering information on children & families in need there that we can help out this holiday season. As we take a name and “need” off our Giving Tree which will be up in the Fellowship Hall soon, we hope we can truly make a difference for some very special children. The stories Laura has shared with me about the children chosen for our project cause me to pause and wonder. I wonder how I, we, can inspire hope to broken hearts with socks, underwear, coats and a toy?
Then, this image comes to mind: Trees—large and small—must have water or they will wither and die. Now, this is a bit of a stretch, but I work with kids and we love to imagine…so just dive in and imagine splashing love, hope and joy on all who come near those of us who are full of love, hope and joy because of Jesus Christ! In order to splash, what must happen? Either we are so full that we overflow, or we are all poured out and have nothing to give….which may mean we are broken. No matter how, will you ask God to overflow your heart, your life, with Himself this season and splash His Healing Love and Hope on struggling or broken-hearted Mama’s and children? Join the Trinity Fellowship family in this Giving Tree Project as we splash our neighbors with the Living Water, Jesus Christ! Be prepared to get wet!
Tuesday, June 26
Good morning from the Bowery Mission! We are right between finishing breakfast clean-up and lunch preparation, and we’re sipping on Powerade and coffee to keep moving. We’re starting to feel the weight of early mornings; some of our team will now be starting their day at 5:15am for donation pick-ups around the city with a Bowery employee named Will (that schedule started this morning).
Yesterday’s blog left off at preparation for lunch outreach at a nearby park, and the rest of the team staying behind to help with some projects at the Mission. I was on the lunch outreach team, and what an adventure it was! The Bowery sets this up at least three times a week, and they can have between 120-150 people show up each day for various kinds of bread, salad, sandwiches, hot soup, baked goods, and water. After setting up each food station, the team went around to greet and shake people’s hands who were in line. This made serving them more intentional, because we could continue conversations with them during and after serving food. Some of the people were inpatient and rushed the line, or starting grabbing things out of the crates without it being handed to them. That element of the outreach was a bit hectic, but not as surprising as some of the people who came through the food line. Many of these people would not seem like the kind of people you might assume would need meals from a Mission or soup kitchen…yet they were starving and thankful for what we gave them. I’ll come back to this aspect later.
The team that remained at the mission did a number of things, from cleaning the pantry and kitchen to moving and helping install new air conditioner units. My team returned from outreach, and we finished up some work assignments before resting for a little while. After the rain let up, I went and explored some interesting spots for the team in Chinatown on recommendations from Trinity members and Bowery employees. We took the students to Chinatown that night for dinner and shopping, and we walked halfway across the Manhattan Bridge to overlook the Brooklyn Bridge and lower Manhattan. We finished the evening back on the roof pondering our continuing expectations and fears for the week, along with people we meet and are praying for daily.
This morning, those who did not help with pick-ups were downstairs for breakfast preparation at 5:45 and serving at 7:00 for the residents and 7:30 for the community. Since that point, our team has been spread out in groups around the mission helping arrange, clean, or move items into storage. Our lunch outreach is heading out soon, and the rest of the morning/early afternoon awaits us! Please continue to pray for the health and well-bring of the students, and for their focus to be on serving and meeting those who have yet to place their faith in Christ. Thank you for those prayers…we need them!
Jeff and the NYC Youth Mission Team
The Tanzania team is in London for debriefing and a good night’s rest before we get on the plane tomorrow (June 25) at 11:45am for our last journey home.
Please pray for good health on the trip. All of us except one have had some form and/or degree of the same intestinal bug. This started 4-5 days ago so some are pretty much through it but a few are still dealing with it, and all could use your prayers for a smooth travel day tomorrow.
The conference in Tanzania ended on two great high notes. On Friday, we had a foot washing for the ladies. This caught them very much by surprise and they were overcome with emotion and gratitude, not just to us but to our Savior Jesus Christ (I heard His Name over and over in their audible prayers). And then they insisted on washing our feet. There were many tears of emotion and of joy. It was an amazing time.
And then, we ended the conference as we began it–we joined the men in the Pastors Training (husbands of the women at our conference) for a closing ceremony. The pastors and their wives had “secretly” been planning this for several days, and expressed words of gratitude and songs of thanks to God, together with much clapping and dancing. Then, they had us line up in front of the filled room, and while the Masai led in a traditional goodbye song, they tied African material around our heads and around our waists like a skirt. We each hugged all 60 women as they sang and filed by us, and every face was now a treasure. We were sad to say good bye but filled with joy at the time we’d had together.
Since then, it has felt a bit like a blur–a different hotel, a drive through an African national park where we saw all kinds of animals–pretty much everything in The Lion King, including lions! We then headed for Dar Es Salaam, and what is typically a 2-3 hour drive stretched to about 6 hours because of the traffic. We slept last night at a Catholic Center and for the first time had no air conditioning and no hot water. But it was very comfortable and by 9:00am, we were on British Airways Flight 46 to London.
We got to our hotel here just in time to have dinner, debrief a little, and go to bed. We’ve kept a pretty tight schedule up to the very end. Tomorrow morning (Monday, June 25) we arrive about 3:30pm.
Thanks so much for praying for us! We are so grateful for God’s work through us in Tanzania last week, and can’t wait to share more (including pictures) when we get back.
From the team,
TFC Director of Women’s Ministry
We just returned to the hotel from Day 3 of the conference. Yesterday (Day 2), I started the day with a devotional on the theme of water–how throughout the Bible, God used water to reveal Himself and His plan for eternity. I emphasized our mutual and universal need for water, both physical water and the living water who is Christ. At the end, I used the sponge illustration Keith used in his sermon recently. The ladies seemed to grasp the concept well, and it was a good start to the day.
By the way, Justin and Anna asked us about Keith and how he was doing. Almost all of the men at the Pastor’s Conference here (where these women’s husbands are studying this week) started their training with Keith and Randy Pardue (along with a few from Northwest Bible). Justin said, “Keith is passionate!” Anna put her hand on her heart and said, “Yes, passion.” They are very fond of him.
There was then more teaching on the spiritual life, and then Libby and I taught basic first aid. Libby showed them all how to wrap sprains with an ace bandage, and then we passed around the bandages and they practiced. They had never done this before and were so pleased that they were able to do it well and quickly. The lesson got more advanced when our male team member and Baylor ER nurse Randy taught the ladies a simple but thorough CPR. He teaches nursing there so he was very skilled at making it clear and the ladies were very involved, interested, and grateful.
This morning, I got to ask Anna all the questions I have been dying to ask and saving in my head. We learned a lot! Contrary to my American prejudiced-thinking, the Masai are considered very wealthy here. They used to dress in their native clothing at these type-meetings, but now they are more and more westernized. Some of them drive very fancy cars and fly to places like South Africa, etc. I also found out about Tanzanian weddings, and lots of other things.
At the conference today, Susan taught for about 1 1/2 hours on HIV/Aids. She did a great job and the women were very attentive even though the room was quite warm because the air conditioning was too cold for the African women! (It was turned on later, tho). Susan wanted you to know that she was very nervous beforehand, and was so grateful that she was able to teach well and trust God for help. She knows you are praying! She teaches again tomorrow.
Libby and I were mostly assistants today, but tomorrow we will probably do more teaching. We will also do some review of what we’ve taught, and we will be having the ladies practice teaching the concepts themselves to one another. Today the Northwest ladies explained “Story scarves”–large material scarves we had for each woman with squares of stories from the entire Bible in pictures. These are invaluable to the Masai women who cannot read or write. They poured over them! Many of them had never heard the story of Abraham and Isaac, or other Bible stories so it was so thrilling to see their reactions when these stories were told.
We have a team meeting now so I will close. Thanks so much to all of you for praying! Please continue! The ladies are getting tired from all of the sitting/learning, so pray for their mental alertness and our sensitivity to activities that get them up and moving. Pray for our alertness too!
For the Tanzania team,