Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Discipleship via an Alarm Clock


It's tough.  It requires time, commitment, and lots of patience - on the part of the discipler and the disciplee. (Pretty sure I just made up those words)

Recently, James baptized a teen boy at church.  This boy had faithfully attended MBC's VBSs in the past year but never got plugged into "normal" church.  This year he professed faith at VBS and asked to be baptized.  His parents are unchurched so James has been very intentional about trying to reach out to them.  They say they are supportive of his faith, but aren't interested in Jesus or the church for themselves.  The truth is, they are not supportive.  Support involves doing what it takes for a person to be successful in whatever it is you are supporting.  They refuse to wake him up on Sunday morning, feed him breakfast before church so he isn't hungry, or even attend his recent baptism.  It breaks my mama heart.

So yesterday, while at Wal-Mart buying some of H's remaining school supplies, we purchased this young man an alarm clock.  All in all, he's done a good job of being up and ready for church on Sunday mornings to catch the church van.  One Sunday, he even left his sleeping BFF in his bed and came to church without him which showed real maturity.  But he does miss some worship services because he's asleep and with no phone or clock in his possession, it's hard to just get up in time. He is a teenage boy, afterall, and it is summer read: no schedule.

Purchasing this alarm clock got me thinking about how we need to support each other in our discipleship walk.  Sometimes that support is great; requiring much from us.  Sometimes, it's a $5 alarm clock.  May we be the church - be people who see a need and fill that need so a fellow follower of Jesus can follow his or her very best.

Image result for walmart mainstays alarm clock
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,
not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing,
but encouraging one another—
and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:24-25

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Ministry Update - Spring 2017

I love spring.  Everything awakens and is beautiful and just plain lovely.  We've had a rainy, but busy spring here in eastern Kentucky.

March 2017

During January and February, our WMU group collected gently-used purses and filled them with hygiene products for a local domestic violence shelter.  The first of March, we delivered those purses.  James, Hudson, and I went with three other church members.  We collected 61 filled-purses which was awesome!  We delivered the purses, toured the facility, talked and prayed with the facility's director, then ate a delicious lunch in Prestonsburg, KY.

The first Sunday in March was Youth Sunday.  I don't know if MBC has ever had a Youth Sunday before, but if so it had been in many years so this was definitely a new thing.  We utilized all the children, preschool and up.  Students taught the preschool and primary Sunday School classes, acted as greeters, took up offering, sang special music, counted people and offering as Sunday School director, and engineered the sound booth.  One of the best ways to learn is to just do it.  Our hope in Youth Sunday is that when these sweet boys and girls become adults and are asked to serve, they will be more than willing as they will feel confident in doing so, having done so as a child.

First meeting of Gathered: Moms in Prayer.  It had been on my mind since Hudson started school that our school needed a prayer emphasis.  I turned to Moms in Touch, which is now Moms in Prayer, that I remembered from when I taught school.  After some research, prayer, talking with a few other moms, and getting permission from the Principal - Gathered: Moms in Prayer began.  I named it Gathered in honor of the scripture M that says "where two or three are gathered, so am I." Our first meeting was on a Wednesday afternoon, about an hour before dismissal.  We had four ladies, including myself.  I'm super excited to see where the Lord takes this ministry. 

Oneida Baptist Institute is a private school in south-eastern Kentucky that is a part of the ministry of Kentucky Baptists.  Their president was the speaker and choir the special music at our homecoming in November.  At that time, their president and James exchanged information and James was asked to speak in their chapel.  James spoke from 2 Kings, the story of Namaan and the little servant girl who led him to Elijah for not only healing of his leprosy, but of his pride as well.  One of our church members, Dwight, joined us on the drive there and back.

It's not often that Christian concerts come to eastern KY.  When we heard that Casting Crowns was coming, we jumped at organizing a group to attend.  Our church had 20 to go!  (Disclaimer, 5 of them actually attend a different church though they live near our community.)  It was a wonderful time of worship.  For three of our group, it was their first concert ever!


James had the blessing of baptizing 4 men during April.  Technically 2 men and 2 boys.  It was the first time James had baptized a male - all of those he baptized while in MO were female.  The 2 men are both new husbands and are starting their marriages out in obedience to Jesus, which is such a blessing.  The two sweet boys both come from a Christian family so it wasn't a surprise that they professed faith at a young age.  It is exciting to think that they have their whole lives to serve Jesus!

April 2017

We had a new ladies' Bible Study begin in April.  A group of 7 ladies signed up to study True Womanhood 101.  We're almost finished, which makes me sad. 

Back when we started at MBC, I was told that our church desperately needed a church directory. 
Fast forward to the beginning of April and LifeTouch came to take photos to create a church directory for us.  Now, I could have easily done a church directory on Microsoft Word or Excel.  But we used the portrait event as a community outreach.  We had 33 families photographed, 1 of whom attend another church, and 12 of whom are unchurched.  Simply getting an unchurched family in the doors of the church where we can be friendly and kind to them was a big win!  The photos were quickly delivered (each family photographed received a complimentary 8x10) and now we wait for the directory proof!

The Saturday before Easter, we held an event just for the kids at church.  It was aptly named, One Day Youth Event. Haha!  It was basically a crash-course in what it means to be a Christian.  We had worship, three bible studies focusing on bible study, obedience, and the gospel, a prayer walk/scavenger hunt, lunch, and an escape room!  7 children attended.  I had hoped for 12, but was glad with our 7.   The day couldn't have been more perfect - the kids got along, there was a spirit of peace at the event, and everyone said they want to do another one.

Easter came - Jesus is alive!  We had a good-size group of about 80 at church.  We had an egg hunt afterwards which was enjoyable for everyone.

On a whim, we scheduled a Family Movie Night.  4 families, 12 people total came to enjoy the faith-based film, The Lost Medallion, and popcorn.  It's something we plan to do again, especially in the winter.

One of our church members had felt the Lord lead her to organize a Free Yard Sale at church. Church members donated clothing, books, toys, furnishings, etc... to be given away to anyone who wanted/needed them.  We held it on Saturday the 22nd of April which was a good date as the community center across the road was giving food away.  However, it was raining cats and dogs!  So icky outside.  But the Lord blessed and we had 27 people walk through the yard sale, only 4 of whom are currently in church.   Yay for prospets!

That following Sunday, we had a church potluck dinner after morning worship service.  Hotdogs and Hamburgers were grilled outside and church members brought many sides and desserts to share.

After the church potluck, we had a Sunday School Teacher brainstorming session.  Our Sunday School program is not strong.  Less than half who attend on Sunday morning worship attend Sunday School.  This meeting was to brainstorm ideas on how to boost growth - both numerical and spiritual. 

Second meeting of Gathered also occurred in April.  We had four again, but it was a completely different group of ladies (other than myself, of course).  We are now breaking until June where we hope to continue our Gathered prayer meetings at a local park so kids can play while mamas pray.

May 2017

Mothers' Day is always a bittersweet day during May.  So many grieve the loss of their mother or their motherhood.  But our church did a wonderful job at being sensitive to all women, emphasizing the ability of all women to be a spiritual mother to someone.

May marked the end of school for our community. H graduated preschool and is now a kindergartener!  Eek!  Two of our kids graduated 8th grade.  It's always fun to go to these events.

MOVE stands for Monthly Outreach Visitation (and) Evangelism.  James felt that after 8 months here, it was time to intentionally mobilize the church into the community.  Since February, on Wednesdays nights, James has been teaching about preparing and sharing your salvation testimony, how to share a gospel tract, and other outreach practicalities.  Our focus for our first MOVE was to publicize VBS coming up the first week of June.  To be honest, we had a super low turn out.  Only our family and one other person.  That was quite disappointing, but we have no where to go but up from there!  We are praying it was scheduling conflicts and not apathy that kept people home.

Back in February, we had our first Girls' Day Out where we studied the book of Ruth and ate at a local café.  This time, we headed to Huntington Mall to do a modesty scavenger hunt and eat at Olive Garden! 

Whew, it's been a busy spring. And the best part of all this busyness is that the community is starting to take notice.  One day at school, while picking up H, a teacher stopped me in the hallway.  I knew her face, but not her name.  She stopped me to say, "you guys are doing a great job!"  I was confused.  She went on to say how she keeps hearing about all the things our church is doing lately.  Then she hugged me and ran off after her little class.  That was super encouraging to know that someone is noticing what we're up to. :)

*New believers from this past quarter
*At our One Day Youth Event, I had 2 girls express that she felt ready to follow Jesus.  We are working slowly with them since they are young, but they are learning and growing.
*A spring full of lots of serving Jesus!

Prayer Requests:
*Summer plans: VBS, LoveLoud, Mini-Mission Trip to Love Packages, Camp, etc...
* So many lost and hurting in our community: TO, R&MC, B&CD, JLL, SN, JF, etc...
* James as he continues to lead and share the gospel in the community
* Next MOVE (June 17th) that more people will participate

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Me and Jesus

We have lived in eastern Kentucky for going on 9 months now.  That's 3/4 of a year, if anyone is counting.  During this time, when talking to old friends, I have been asked the same question multiple times: "What's the spiritual climate like there?"  (You must remember that many of my friends are seminary nerds like us - so these are normal conversations - haha!)

That's a hard question to answer; it is often difficult to make such a generalization.  Everyone is an individual, after all.  However, I have found that my answer came rather easily:  "Jesus and Me have my own thing going on."

If you are familiar with country music at all, you may remember Tom T. Hall's song "Me and Jesus."

The basic worldview of the song can be found in the chorus and bridge:

Me and Jesus got our own thing going.
Me and Jesus got it all worked out.
Me and Jesus got our own thing going.
We don't need anybody to tell us what it's all about.
We can't afford any fancy preaching.
We can't afford any fancy church. We can't afford any fancy singing.

After almost 9 months of knocking on doors, having gospel conversations, answering faith-based questions, etc... I have come to see that this is the major worldview here as far as spirituality - me and Jesus got our own thing.

We have found that those our age (mid-30s) and older, there is a church background.  At one point, they attended church.  Often, at one point they made a profession of faith.  But now, they are dechurched (fancy word being one is no longer in a church).  The families in this area struggle with many things: alcohol and drug abuse are rampant, domestic violence is common, few are married but rather choose to live together as if married, etc...  However, when you try to reconcile their lifestyle and behavior with any faith you get the "Me and Jesus got our own thing going" answer. 

Now, before you accuse me of throwing stones.  Yes - one can be a believer and struggle with those sins.  We are not a perfect people.  However, scripture makes it clear that the one who obeys Christ's commands loves him.  That means, the key is the struggle against the sin.  Struggle against substance abuse.  Struggle against desire for sex outside of marriage. Struggle against prioritizing work or pleasure over church.  One who is willfully living in those circumstances is not struggling against them - but has resigned to them.  That person may not be a true believer. 

Each time James or I have tried to talk to someone about their faith in contrast to how they are living - you hear the "I'm okay, I know Jesus loves me.  I'm baptized, I'm forgiven." Me and Jesus got our own thing going.  There is a disconnect between what is a person's spiritual condition and their present life.  It's like the two aren't connected. Like one's spiritual beliefs don't impact their day-to-day living. I'm sure some of my philosophy-minded friends can word that better. Add this disconnect to the Appalachian strong streak of independence and man, it is hard to convince someone that they need Jesus.

Faith in Jesus is a personal thing.  It is a Me and Jesus thing.  However, the Christian life isn't lived that way.  We live in obedience.  Jesus tells us how to live in his word.  We live in community.  He places other Christians and the church in our life to help us toward that end.  So while you and Jesus may have your own thing going, it may not be the thing you think/hope it is. 

So pray for James as he shares the gospel with those in our church and community.  Pray for our association here in this county.  Pike is the largest country in Kentucky and it's one of the most lost (percentage-wise).  There is a lot of work done to bring somebody and Jesus together in an authentic relationship.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Ministry Update - Winter '16/'17

And just like that, we've been in eastern Kentucky for almost 6 month.  Here's what's kept us busy this winter.

December started with the church's annual Christmas Dinner.  It's a catered affair, quite unusual from the typical Baptist potluck.  The best part of the day was that James went and got Brian to enjoy the meal with us.  Brian is a church member who is in the local nursing home due to Huntington's Disease.  He has a very sweet testimony of coming to faith in Jesus.  Back when he was healthy, he was instrumental in the church's visitation program.  Because everyone knows and loves Brian, if he showed up at your door with the pastor people would let them in.  Today he is not able to do that, but is still such an encouragement. 

December also meant Christmas Play!  This year our children, youth, and a few adults put on The Christmas Guest.  If your like me, you'll know this story from Grandpa Jones on HeeHaw.  It isn't the traditional Christmas play with shepherds and angels, but it is a sweet reminder to always be aware of ways you can serve Jesus by serving those people he places in your path.  See Matthew 25:35-40 for more information.

Hudson recited a 3 stanza poem from memory at the Christmas Play.
I was very proud. :)

One of the blessings of being in Eastern KY is living just 2 hours from Hudson's paternal grandparents. 
They came to the Christmas play.  It has been great to make up for lost time with them.
 Our church assembled and gave away fruit and candy baskets around the Christmas holidays as well.  We put together 14 baskets in total.  James and I had had the honor of delivering 5 of them.  They went to both church members and unchurched neighbors: shut-ins, families grieving, unemployed, etc...  Everyone was so thankful for such a small thing.

The church also participated in a local nursing home's angel program - we purchased presents for 20-something nursing home residents and delivered them to their Christmas party.  Our church goes to the nursing home once a month to provide desserts and to just visit and encourage the people there.

After Christmas, we had the children and youth over for a party.  We had 7 kids in all and it was a wild time for sure.  Lots of running around, playing, eating, etc... 

Love these kids. And the big one, too.

At the end of the year, our sweet church member J married her sweetheart B.  They are a sweet couple who both love the Lord dearly.  We are very excited to see what God has in store for them.

In January, we started a New Believer's Sunday School class.  It was open to anyone really: new believers, old believers needing a refresher, those interested in learning more.  In total there were 5 students plus the 2 teachers.  Everyone I have spoken to was so blessed by this class.  We have had one salvation come from this class, we're just waiting for him to make it public! We plan to do one for children/youth as a one-day Saturday retreat. 

This is the curriculum we used.  It is one of 6 books.  It is excellent!

In January, James began teaching about testimonies on Wednesday night.  Church members have worked diligently and prayerfully preparing their salvation testimony and practicing it.  His goal is to make people more confident in sharing what Christ has done for them.  The eventual goal is a monthly visitation program as a church to go into the community.  That will come later, of course.

The first Saturday in February, we had a Girls' Day Out.  E and myself took 3 girls to Mona's Café in Pikeville for lunch (it was super yummy) and then had a Bible study on the book of Ruth.  The goal of the study was to explore God's definition of beauty.  It's not what you look like, by the way.  We ate, did a craft, studied Ruth, and laughed a lot!  We hope to make this Girls' Day Out a regular quarterly activity.

That first Saturday was also the Men's Prayer Breakfast.  13 men and Hudson met at church to eat, pray, and encourage one another.  James was kind enough to bring some sausage biscuits home for me and it was delicious!


Mid-February, the ladies at church met for a potluck lunch fellowship and to watch the movie War Room.  If you haven't seen it, it is a must.  Several ladies have mentioned to me personally that our church needs some kind of mentoring among our women.  So please pray for us as we seek the Lord in how to accomplish that.

Throughout January and February, our WMU collected Handbags of Blessings.  These are new or gently-used purses filled with hygiene products.  We are going to deliver them to a local women's shelter the first Friday in March. So far we have collected 15 purses and a bag or two of miscellaneous hygiene products.  You'll hear more in my Spring Update after we visit the ministry.

- We are pretty much settled.  We've been here for almost 6 months.  Major stuff is done: drivers licenses, residency, etc... 99% of the boxes are unpacked and put away (there are a few rogue ones around), and we are fairly known in the community (it always feels like home when you see someone at Walmart whom you know).
- Winter is almost over!  It can be such a dreadful time: cold, little sunshine, general ick.  However, God is still God in winter.
- Our local elementary school has agreed to let me send home flyers about upcoming events at church.  This is huge!  I am so thankful.  Hudson's grandfather played Santa for the preschool's Christmas party and Hudson was a homecoming attendant so I feel like we have made ourselves part of the school family fairly well.  It is a wonderful way for James and I to minister to the community.

- Repairs at the parsonage have made life more enjoyable:  new gutters (yay for not getting rained on at the back door), plumbing issue (yay for new more sewer smell after showering), and a new heating element thing (yay for heat).  So thankful for a church that takes care of its property.
- Benevolence.  Our church does a lot of benevolence.  This past month, we went over our budgeted benevolence by 50%.  It was questioned at business meeting and the explanation of an urgent need arose for a church member and we met it was given.  And you know what?  Everyone was thrilled.  So happy that our church had the means to help those in need. Meeting needs so we can point people to Christ is part of the church's role.

Prayer Requests
- Looking ahead to Spring, we have a lot planned.  Trip to the women's shelter, Spring Executive Board Meeting, Portraits for a new Church Directory, Youth One-day Retreat before Easter, Easter, Church Easter Egg Hunt, and some new Bible Studies.  Whew - busy times ahead!
- Mr. M - through our New Believer's class, he has dedicated his life to Christ and has talked to James about baptism.  Pray for him as he makes that decision public to the church.
- T - T is not a believer and unchurched.  I (Melissa) met her through school as her son is in Hudson's class.  Pray for both of us - me as I share the gospel with her and for her heart to be open.
- Sickness!  So many people are or have been sick.  James, Hudson, and I have all been sickly this winter at various times.  School has taken 3 days off due to sickness and our church attendance has been down due to illness as well.  Come on, spring!  We need to get outdoors and away from these germs!
- James, as always.  Being a pastor is a tough job.  It's more than just preaching (though that is the most important).  He visits people at their homes, in the hospital, etc...  There is a lot of counseling with people on various issues and generally knowing what people are going through and guiding them biblically to handle it wears on you emotionally.  Pray for him (and your pastor) to have endurance to serve the Lord well.  Mondays, in particular, are difficult.

He says to the snow, 'Fall on the earth,' and to the rain shower, 'Be a mighty downpour.'
Job 37:6

Until spring :)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Ministry Update - Fall 2016

To say a lot has happened since our last ministry update would be an understatement.

First, James accepted a call to pastor Mouthcard Baptist Church in Pike County, Kentucky. So we loaded up and traded the flat Midwest for the mountains of eastern KY.

Second, my sweet Daddy passed away.  It was sudden and unexpected. 

Third, Hudson started preschool. 

And that doesn't include the day-to-day events of learning a new area and culture, ministering in a new church and community, and every day family stuff.

So here's an update in a nutshell.

Church Life

James has been at MBC now for almost 3 months.  It's been a great three months.  We've been blessed to see three join the church, two by salvation and one by transfer of letter.  We are stoked.  James preaches Sunday AM, Sunday PM, and leads the Wednesday evening service.  I am teaching Sunday School (grades 1-3).    James is out and about in the community daily.  Weekly, he goes out on "official" visits with another church member.  It's been wonderful for him to have a partner in ministry, other than me.  It's much busier here than it was in MO.  Here's some pictures of our ministry-related activities.

We attended Senior Night at the high school's girls' Volleyball team. 

Trunk or Treat! 
We had over 160 families register and come through to get treats.
James has been busy visiting each family.

Homecoming was the first Sunday in November.
Oneida Baptist Institute were our special guests. 
Their choir sang and their president brought a message.

Our sweet friend, Amy, lives and serves the Lord in South America.
She came for our missions night to share about her work in Peru.

I attended the Baptist Women Day of Prayer at one of our sister churches.

 Our kids from church attended the performance of Willy Wonka, Jr!

Operation Christmas Child!
I haven't heard an official count yet, but at least count we had over 50 boxes.

H being baptized.

NAMB Send Relief Christmas Backpacks were delivered to the Freeda Harris Baptist Center.
These backpacks will go to children in need right here in Appalachia.

In addition to this we've attended Executive Board Meetings, had several members of our church over for dinner, made hospital and nursing home visits, visited shut-it and delinquent church members, prayed with strangers, shared the gospel, etc...  It's been a good and busy 3 months.

Home Life

Moving to KY has been a much easier transition for our family than moving to MO was.  James is thriving here.  His hometown is about 90 minutes northeast of where we are so I often joke that these are "his people."  I am learning a new culture - Nashville ain't Appalachia, y'all.  I now know the difference between the mouth of a holler and the head of the holler.  (We live at the mouth in case you were wondering.)  It's been fun (and sometimes exhausting) to learn a new community.

Our new home is mostly unpacked.  It's HUGE!  4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths - way more room than we need.  It's been a lot of fun to decorate and find new homes for things as I try to have an organized home.  Hudson particularly likes our new home because the hardwood floors make a nice foundation for his train tracks!

Hudson started preschool about 3 weeks after we moved.  I know you're probably shocked we didn't homeschool, but it has been a great decision for our family.  Hudson LOVES school.  He has the opportunity to get out of the house, learn to obey non-parental adults, and make friends.  He is learning quite a bit and overall we're satisfied.  It has also been a wonderful ministry opportunity.  We have met families we otherwise probably wouldn't know.  The admin has been very welcoming to our coming in as the church to do things for the students.

My sweet Daddy

My daddy passed September 20th, just over 2 months ago.  It was a whirlwind.  He went for back surgery which was supposed to be very simple.  In the pre-surgery tests, it was discovered that he had some spots.  Those spots turned out to be kidney cancer that had spread to many places.  He had his surgery on Friday and passed away on Tuesday.  It has been very hard for me, my sister, and our stepmom. 

So that's what life has been like the past 3 months.

Please join us in prayer:

  • Safe move to Kentucky.
  • New ministry in Mouthcard.
  • Hudson's smooth transition to a new home, new church, and new school.
  • G and H's decision to commit their life to Christ and L's decision to join our church.
  • My sister, my stepmom, and myself as we continue to grieve my daddy.  Grief is weird, it comes and go like an unwanted guest.
  • G, H, and L - our new church members.  We are planning a new members class to begin after the holidays to help encourage them in their journey of faith.
  • The D family, James has been ministering to the husband/father. He is not a believer.
  • Christmas Events:  Our church has a dinner and Christmas play planned.  Plus we will be passing out fruit baskets to needy families.  It's a great time to share the gospel as people's hearts are typically more tender during the holidays.
  • Our transition to Mouthcard - the Lord has been so faithful so far and we ask him to continue to do so.
No matter what happens always be thankful,
for this is God's will for you who belong to Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18