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Showing items filed under “September 2012”

Trying to keep up with a move of God

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Wednesday Night Tutoring Program Gets a New Name, New Structure

Every Wednesday night we're pleased to welcome to Zion nearly 200 children who are either refugees or the children of refugees.  Many are reading at grade level and speak English well and they are incorporating themselves into WOW, our “regular” Wednesday night program for kids, or the junior high or high school groups.  For the others, we try to work on homework or English reading.  This is our third year.  We've been blessed with tremendous growth, we started 3 years ago with 4 kids, and that fast growth has always been an organizational challenge.  Over the summer a group of committed people met to revamp the program.  Out of those meetings, which continue even now, came the new name.   We continue to try and "organize" in a human way what the Holy Spirit is doing.  

Instead of calling the tutoring program, Whiz Kidz, the new name is STARs.   Whiz Kidz came out of our beginnings as the first church based manifestation of the tutoring and discipling program of Freedom for Youth. We’ve never been able to keep up with the student/tutor ratio of that very good program, so we’ve decided that we have to go our own way.

STAR is an acronym which stands for the four purposes of the program:  

S - Serve.   We serve these children as if we are serving Christ himself.  Jesus wanted us to welcome the little children and in his name we do.  Many have needs for the basics of life and we try to meet those needs: food, clothing, shoes, coats, etc.  Many simply need a friend or role model and we try to be that as well.  

T - Teach.  Thanks to an influx of tutors from many different churches and a great number of Des Moines Christian High School students, we are now able to offer better opportunities to do homework with the kids and help them read.  Our content continues to be in the hands of a professional educator and we work closely with Samuelson School to discuss needs and techniques as many of the kids are in the ELL program there.  

A - Advocate.  Many of the parents of these kids don't know how things work in our country.  So we advocate for the kids in order that they might have the best opportunity to acclimate to our society and thrive in this good land.

R - Reach.  Everything we do is motivated by the love of Christ for us that pushes us beyond ourselves and into the lives of others.  We desire more than anything else to see these kids in the kingdom of God and so through song and drama and teaching, we seek to invite them to follow Jesus.  Our evangelism techniques are sometimes subtle and sometimes very overt. We try to match the approach to the activity and to the kids. Some are Muslim and some are Buddhist and some are Animist and some attend other churches and some now attend Zion and many have no faith background whatever.  It is a mission field ripe for harvest.  

Here is what a typical evening looks like: Vans leave to begin collecting kids at 4 p.m.  We have 2 full vans from an apartment complex about 20 minutes away.  By 5 p.m we are collecting kids from local complexes.  The kids play outside or, when it's cold or inclement, watch a movie inside.  At 5:45 everyone lines up for dinner.  At 6:20 we go to the sanctuary for our opening worship as a church together.  Afterwards, WOW kids go off to their activities and STAR kids stay for a presentation.  Then it's time to break into small groups and begin the learning phase.  We usually finish about 7:45 and start the buses running back home.  The last vans are back at Zion about 9 p.m. It is a day full of joy for those of us who volunteer.  

Would you like to help?   We can always use help as the number of kids continues to grow.  Would you like to work as a homework or reading helper?  A group leader of six or seven kids?  A van driver? (We especially need help in the late afternoon, 4-5:30 p.m.).  We need your help in the kitchen - there are many mouths to feed and many plates to wash.  We need your financial support as well.  It costs money to pay for the gas for the vans, for the food bill (about $1 per plate - amazing!)  We also need your prayers.  Please pray for the continued safety, success and salvation of these priceless children and that they may see Jesus in us.  Thanks for reading. God bless you. PJ

3 More New Things Happening At Zion

3 More New Things at Zion

 

1.)  A Movement to Work Together as Churches for the Sake of the Kingdom

In June, thanks to our reputation in the community as a church that is doing something incredibly positive, I was invited to share our testimony at the United Way Urban Core initiative (see my blog from June 2). 

 Now let me tell you what happened next.   Borrowing liberally from my friend, Pastor Al Perez’s comments:  As a follow up to that meeting, last month 16 pastors and Christian ministry leaders from diverse backgrounds and denominations met at Zion and had an open dialogue on how the church in Des Moines should move forward. This meeting was to bring together the best diverse group possible so that we could pinpoint our identity, our objectives, and how often it should meet. Needless to say, it was awesome! The bonding and relationships that were fostered left many of us excited and very confident of how we should move ahead.  We learned about some history in Des Moines that allowed us to understand why we have the division we have in our city. Soon, there will be opportunities opening up to hear from many different churches and ministries about what we will do together and how we can support mission and ministry together in our city.  This was the meeting that we wanted to have from the beginning but had no definitive direction or purpose for meeting. I am thrilled at what the Lord is doing with Pastors and Christian leaders. Please be praying also that the evil one will not thwart our plans.

 

Our third meeting was just a couple weeks ago and we met together with members of the former Black Ministers Alliance, now the Pastors/Ministers Alliance and other Black pastors.  There was a lot of truth telling and reconciliation began to break out.  I think we’re all conscious of the fact that before we can do ministry together as His One Church in the city of Des Moines, all of our pastors and churches need to publicly confess our sins and repent in a very public way together for a not so glorious past.    

 

I am personally excited and optimistic that with the leadership of Pastor Perez and others we will see a new attitude amongst the churches of Des Moines. 

 

 

2.)  Working with Johnston and Des Moines Schools to Create a Neighborhood Education Plan

When we began getting involved in our neighborhood intentionally about two years ago with the battle cry, Jesus Says, “Go!”, we created a list of 25 possible projects to work on that would immediately impact our community in a positive way.  One of those was “Create neighborhood education strategy.”  That sounds very impressive and it was one of those items that people had a hard time wrapping their minds around.  Why would a church seek to create an education strategy for the local school?  For the simple reason that we have so many immigrants in our local schools that the ability of those schools to provide English Language Learner (ELL) services is over taxed.  We haven’t enough money as a church to pay for more ELL teachers, but we thought we could seek to find ways to move some of the new students to other school districts.  It’s a long shot, to be sure, but we’ve met all the major players we need to make it happen and so far no one has said no.  Our current plan involves enrolling at least 10 ELL students in the preschool at Zion, called WEE.  Since Zion is in a unique position, being in the city of Des Moines but actually in the Johnston School District, we thought that if Johnston would agree to take those 10 kids after preschool at Zion into Kindergarten at Johnston, that would be a victory.  The big challenge is for the Des Moines schools to let go of those ELL students and the federal money tied to them.  So I ask for your prayers.  If it’s successful on a small scale, perhaps it could serve as a pilot program involving more suburban districts and perhaps even as a model for other districts.  We believe the most important thing is the education of the children rather than the money.  Please pray that everyone might have that same goal.  

 

3.)  Refugee Roundtable

Being a follower of Jesus is more than sharing the Gospel and welcoming people into the new community which is the church.  It’s also about helping them to meet their physical needs.  

 

At Zion, we subscribe to the philosophy that it is better to teach a man to fish than to give him a fish.  At least in the long term.  We believe that we need to honor the dignity of every family by helping them provide for themselves.  Many of our new immigrant families need jobs.   So we convened the first meeting of what, for now, we’re calling the Refugee Roundtable.  It is an idea we had two years ago and we’ve been joined in bringing it into reality by Nick Wuertz at Lutheran Services of Iowa who chairs the meetings.  

 

People new to this country need a lot of things but the most important thing they need is a job (a way to fish).  The idea is simple: let’s get those who serve refugees like the settlement agencies and those who support the new arrivals, including churches, together with employers and representatives of the immigrant community. 

 

The first meeting was a great success.  We’re now working on our second meeting which will take place at Zion before the month is over.  I’m looking for great things to come from these meetings.  Employers in Iowa are looking to hire, the new immigrants represent a large labor force looking for work, if we can find out how to teach the necessary skills to fill the jobs and figure out how to bridge the gaps, like transportation or translation, we’ll be able to work together to provide for the welfare of many, many families.  

 

I’m so optimistic about this Round Table.  I’m amazed at the quality of the people who are giving their professional lives to serve others.  I’m confident that God will use this group for His glory and for the benefit of all. 

Thanks for reading.  God bless you.  The Lord continues to amaze and impress.  PJ 

Three New Things Happening at Zion

What’s Happening at Zion:  Three New Things

 

Wanted to draw your attention to three new things we’re involved with this year.

 

1.)  Marriage Class:  How Do We Think?  Men, Women and Marriag
Everyone agrees that men and women just think differently-right? Emotions and decision making are part of a marriage-right? Know any “Christian” marriages that have grown apart?

 

Join Dr. Richard Newkirk as he presents an overview of just how the brain impacts our thought process - both men and women. Dr. Newkirk will discuss some of the common problems experienced in marriage as well as the importance of encouragement and communication. Learn how to keep your current or upcoming marriage strong and vibrant. This class is for all (not just those married) who desire to learn more about healthy relationships.

Dates: Sept. 12  and 19 2012
Time: 6:30 - 7:45 p.m.
Cost: None
Presenter: Dr. Richard Newkirk

 

We started this class last week on September 5.  The feedback has been amazing.  As a church we hope to offer more to our community about how to have a healthy, successful marriage.  When I think about what would really impact our community for good, strong marriages top the list.  Strong marriages produce healthy families and healthy families make our whole society better.  Feel free to come to the last two sessions.  You are most welcome.  

 

2.)  58: The Film

Coming to Zion September 23

5:00 potluck dinner, 6:00 showing

I’m really excited about showing you this film.  It shows followers of Jesus all over the world doing things that impact their communities for good.  I’m particularly fascinated by the suggestion that we could end extreme poverty globally in this generation.  When I see the how much the participation of the church in the AIDS crisis has done, I really do believe that this idea is more than pie in the sky.  Come and see the movie and find out.  

 

Here’s the promo information:  

58: THE FILM is the inspiring true story of the global Church in action. Witness bravery and determined faith in a journey from the slums of Kenya to the streets of
New York. Confront the brutality of extreme poverty and meet those who live out the True Fast of Isaiah 58 and create stunning new possibilities for the future.

Travel from the sun-scorched plains of rural Ethiopia to British shopping centers, from Brazilian ganglands and the enslaving quarries of India to western churches, businesses and conferences.

58: invites audiences to discover the incredible work of God through His people in our hurting world. Meet ordinary people, hear their stories, and see their struggles and their victories as 58: shows the relentlessly loving God at work through His Church bringing hope to the darkest challenges of our day. Experience eye-opening reasons to lift our expectations of the future.

Woven with Biblical truth, this film draws audiences into life-changing examples of the True Fast of Isaiah 58 - a young British woman prevailing over the pressures of consumer society, Ethiopian Christians working to restore their environment, an American business owner promoting Fair Trade coffee and connecting his local community with the work of ending poverty, a local pastor in India working to be a Good Samaritan to those enslaved by bonded labor, and the sacrificial generosity of New York youth giving up their own food for the sake of those with even less.
These impatient revolutionaries and ordinary prophets present viewers with an empowering vision of the Church rising up to its remarkable potential to end extreme poverty, by bringing God's words through Isaiah to life in our time, in our day.

 

 

3.)  Unpacking Atheism Seminar/Webcast

Coming to Zion October 14th at 6:00 p.m. 

Increasingly, our own neighborhood is becoming the mission field.  The days of counting on people to at least know their Bible stories or even what a church does are gone.  We need to train our congregations to be able to engage the world and people around them.  And increasingly, this means training them how to respond to those who believe there is no God.  I really hope that you’ll attend this seminar and that if you have teenagers, you’ll bring them along also.

 

Here’s the promo:

Join us as Lee Strobel, Mark Mittelberg and William Lane Craig as they offer a balanced and accurate assessment of Atheism through their own personal experience, interviews, and the riveting stories of Atheists that have converted to Christianity.

What could be more important than arming your congregation with clear and compelling answers to the questions of our times?

Atheism is on the rise! If you haven't been confronted by it, you will be! 

 

Your children are already being challenged by it. Here are some sobering facts:

 

• 1 in 4 Americans under 30 now describe their religion as “atheist,” “agnostic,” or “nothing in particular”

• young people are dropping out of church at 5-6 times the historic rate, often because of intellectual doubts

• books by the New Atheists have gone mainstream, many becoming international bestsellers

 

Even if you and your church have not yet run into militant atheism head-on, the effects of it are seeping into our culture and, increasingly, into the church. We must confront this challenge! We need to be ready — and help our church members become ready — to not only “give an answer” (1 Pet. 3:15), but also to “take every thought captive” for Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).


Thoughts on Hospitality

Mother Teresa said that Jesus travels the world in distressing disguises and that when you minister to people and welcome them you minister directly to him and welcome him.

 

The book of Hebrews tells us that followers of Jesus should provide hospitality because by so doing, many have entertained angels “unawares.”  

 

If people come to our worship services and don’t feel welcomed, no matter how good the music or the sermon or the programming or the class, they won’t be back. 

 

Hospitality is huge in Christian life.  But I don’t think we’re very good at it.  I think we’d all prefer to keep to ourselves.  Bringing in other people is always risky.   

 

The Apostle Paul, in Romans 12:13, commands the followers of Jesus to “practice hospitality.”  Besides welcoming people to our church, how do we, as modern day followers of Jesus practice hospitality?

 

Pastor Tina and her husband Mark opened their home to a young lady in recovery who desperately needed a home and parents.  This is a hug risk, of course, but Jesus calls us to come and die to ourselves and to our fears and trust him in radical acts of love.  Some of which are as simple as opening up our homes. 

 

Zion recently opened up the entire church facility to about 50 people who had a fire in their apartment building.  They were supposed to stay with us for 3 or 4 days max.  It turned into weeks.   While we had to make some changes around the church, it gave us all the opportunity to serve Jesus in this special way.  

 

I received a great gift of hospitality this summer.  Friends of ours took my wife and kids to the beach for a couple of days and left me  alone in their house with nothing to do but sit and pray and read my Bible.  Even the simple act of letting someone use what we’re not using can be a blessing and an encouragement.  

 

What am I saying?  Simply this.  As Christian we often tell people we love them.  But when we invite them in, open our homes, give them our food to eat, when we sit with them and listen to them and open all that we have to them, then, those words, “I love you,” mean something.  

 

It’s one thing to open our homes to those we know and love already.  But it’s a higher calling to open our homes, our lives, our church to those whom we don’t know yet, but who, through us, might encounter Jesus face to face. 

Ramblings about God, the Church and Everything.

  • after Jesus’ own heart, 
  • with relevant, Bible based teaching,
  • with passionate and authentic worship,
  • of prayer,
  • with a heart for our city and the world,
  • where the love of our Lord is evident in the way we live and minister together. 

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