Dr. Jo Anne Lyon
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More Vision and Courage
Living in dry Arizona does have an advantage, but also a disadvantage of heat in the summer. Dusty Farmer is a church planter in the Tucson area. Foothills Community Wesleyan Church (the mother church) sent 30 people with a one-year commitment to begin building in an unchurched area. People were not coming in, so his core group decided to go to the people by setting up church services in a nearby park, which is in the middle of the community and quite visible. People who have been going to the park, which has a popular place to fish, are now coming over to the services. Summer is hot so this adds another level of commitment, but God is there! They are responding to the call to remove barriers between people and God. They averaged 92 this past month and had 154 in their service following VBS.
I have wondered about the prayers, which people have been praying for years, that prayer would return to the classrooms in the public schools. I believe God is answering those prayers in a greater way. San Bernardino County California schools have much violence. Trying everything, they decided to see if clergy would just come to the campus and walk around. The results have been so dramatic that Larry Orr, pastor at Christian Fellowship, Moreno Valley, Calif., has been asked to help implement this in public schools. They have named this program "Pastor on the Premises." Is this not the spirit of God present with His peace?
I expect a great future for the 16 persons ordained in the Pacific Southwest District ordination service. Suki Kong came from a Buddhist background. He heard the gospel from his older sister; he has been studying at Talbot Seminary. Suki is now planting a church in downtown Los Angeles. He said the teaching of Holiness is very impressive to him and helps him to have the courage to do this ministry.
It was thrilling to hear the stories from the church planters as they shared their journey of faith and where God is leading them now.
California is immersed in a resolution before the state regarding same-sex marriage. Jim Garlow is leading this effort, along with 1600 pastors and Christian leaders, to protect marriage. Jim has written an excellent document, "The Ten Declarations for Protecting Biblical Marriage". It is available on this site: www.ProtectMarriageSD.com. Another site with resources is www.ProtectMarriage.com.
Ethos is a new venue at Neighborhood Christian Fellowship Wesleyan Church in Covina. Calif. This venue, led by Dave Johnson, is reaching 20-30 year olds. They recently had a "surf camp" (probably couldn't do this one in Kansas). For more info, check out www.ethoscovina.org .
Well, I learned a new term in West Michigan—BREAD-2. Actually, the "2" should be at the top as it is BREAD to the second power. The folks from The Deep church, Muskegon, Mich., go to Panera Bread on Saturday, get the day-old bread, and give it away on Sunday morning where they are meeting in a Fitness Club. They tell the people, "If you are hungry take it or take it to a neighbor who is hungry. This is the bread of life and the Love of God." Every Sunday all the bread is gone.
The news and presidential debates are filled with the issues of health care for the poor of our country. I, too, am concerned as I know many stories of people without health care. Dr. Steve Edmondson of the Berkeley Hills Church, Grand Rapids, Mich., has organized a group of health care professionals who have been giving flu shots and other medical care to the schools in the inner city of Grand Rapids. This has been wonderfully received by the Grand Rapids Public Schools. They are now assisting with health care issues in a community where a new church plant will begin in a Hispanic Community.
I am just thinking, and maybe dreaming, but wouldn't this be a wonderful statement for Wesleyan Health Care Professionals to assist the poor in these issues? I know there are other efforts out there, and I would like to hear them.
Kentwood Community Church, Kentwood, Mich., has adopted an apartment complex next to the church. This is a mixed income and mixed race group. The church has after-school care in the community center of the apartment complex, provide all the children with backpacks, have had youth camps with the kids, train and mentor parents in many areas such as tax preparation services and parenting, etc. The list is as long as the needs. Colette Johnson is the director of this ministry. She is a volunteer and is a stockbroker by profession. I think the returns on this apartment ministry are exponential and eternal.
Many years ago, while pastoring in Grand Rapids, I had a great concern for migrant workers. I tried to organize something but failed! Well, years later, God has His person.
I was thrilled to hear the report of Carlos Santana (formerly of Colombia, South America), now of Oceania County of the North Michigan District. Carlos, pastor of Manantial de Vida (Water of Life) Church, has been working with fruit companies through LARED, which is a network that works with principles and values to the business sector. As a result, he is able to start programs with the court and police as it relates to migrant workers. The fruit companies have now allowed him to do ministry in the migrant workers' camps with church services, youth work, and children's services.
I have found it interesting in my travels to see how all the church planters have a similar look—young, energetic males generally have spiked hair of some kind. The women have a fire in their eyes. All are radically committed. However, at the North Michigan District I met a man who did not fit the image! Jim Gulish, a successful church planter on the district, (does not have spiked hair but wears the same kind of T-shirts, etc.) interviewed two new church planters, Wendy and Brian Sheets-young, good-looking, and energetic-are taking on the Charlevoix coast area with a vision of 100 house churches in the next few years. I am excited about this vision and believe it is the model for that area.
Rev. Vernon LeFeber is taking on the area of White Cloud. He has already done his homework, finding that 4200 are unchurched. These are hard areas, by the way. Meth labs tend to flourish in rural areas; cults love to be in rural areas, and people who are tough, independent, and think they don't need God are found in rural areas as well.
Rev. LeFeber does not have spiked hair, in fact, he doesn't have much hair, and what he has is gray. He does not have on a T-shirt with some type of message on it. He does not have on jeans with loafers and no socks. No, he has on a white shirt-sleeves rolled up, no tie, dress pants, comfortable black shoes with black socks. He has a fire in his belly about White Cloud. His voice and words are congruent with his body language in responding to the interview by Jim. It is evident the young church planters have respect and are learning from him. Why? It is because he is risking, as they are, with vision and courage!
May God increase their number.
Well, I am off again and will be writing excerpts next week on what I am finding in this journey of District Conferences in the West-Central area.
- The Blessing of Presence
- Called to Reconciliation in All Forms
- Fire at Midnight in Los Angeles
- What Else but Joy...Is Strength?
- Looking for Light in the Darkness
- Creative Generosity
- Mustard Seed Living
- God's Math
- Interlude to Africa
- Creativity of the Holy Spirit
- Vision and Courage Continue
- More Vision and Courage
- Vision and Courage