Wednesday, August 1, 2012

VBS and Testimonies

Day 2 & 3
On Tuesday we did our first VBS at each site. We have three sites; Metro Alliance Church, The Family Ministry Center where we’re staying and the Westfall’s – a family from Metro who is letting us use their home. We have had about 50 neighborhood kids between the sites – give or take a few. Everything at each site has been going well and our kids have been doing a great job in leading at each site.
On Tuesday evening we got to hear testimonies from pastor Juri (Metro’s senior pastor) and his wife, Ed and Peggy who have been helping us all week, and Aaron Ruffin. Aaron is the most captivating of all because of his unique background. But as always, hearing stories of all the Metro Alliance Church members is rich and powerful.  Every single one of these people has the ability to live in the suburbs in higher paying jobs and nicer houses, but they choose to see the Ohio City (west Cleveland) area as their mission field, and this is why it is so important for our kids to meet and get to know these people and their stories. Mission work isn’t just in Cambodia, or Sisseton, or Cleveland, but when we get back to Rochester the mission field is all around us.

On a different note, something amazing happened while one of our groups was prayer walking. Kent Milligan was leading his group and a man and a woman were arguing in the street and it turned violent right in front of their eyes. The man grabbed the woman’s neck and her arms and was trying to get her back in their house. But it was clear that this woman was in danger. Kent stepped in between the two of them, non-violently, and broke them up and the group proceeded to call the police. Kent wasn’t harmed in the situation, God watched out for him, but his intervention helped this woman escape without injury as well. Talk about God’s provision for this woman…there just happened to be a group prayer walking at that spot at that exact time. God is good!

Tonight we will be hearing more testimonies around supper time. Tomorrow we will be partnering with the Bridge Ave. School to get some work done in their building, and Friday is Cedar Point day. Oh, I should mention this too… At Christmas time I had given each one of our LifeGroups $50 for their Christmas party. Our 8th graders decided they wanted to save that money and put it towards a good cause in Cleveland. That good cause is that we will be buying a bunch of books from a “1/2 Price Bookstore” and giving them to the Bridge Ave. School tomorrow. If I were you, parents and church members, I would be extremely proud of these kids and their amazing heart to be generous and share Christ with everyone they meet! As their pastor I couldn’t be more thankful for each one of them.

We do continue to appreciate your prayers. God is doing amazing things here in Cleveland that you are part of if you’re praying for us. Have a wonderful afternoon/evening!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Off to a good start!

Day One.
Monday was our first “regular” day during the trip. Once we woke up, and after we ate our breakfast of eggs, toast, bacon and a banana, we headed to a local favorite coffee shop called Gypsy Bean. Overall, everyone loved it! After Gypsy Bean we took a short driving tour of Cleveland. The area where we are staying is very run down with about 40-50 houses within a square mile radius that are in foreclosure. But on our tour we got to see the downtown area, including the Cleveland Art Museum, Cleveland Clinic (which is HUGE!!!), the Cleveland Orchestra Hall, Government buildings, sports stadiums and other places that give us an indication of how prosperous Cleveland once was. It was like being in two totally different worlds. It was good for our students and leaders to see the difference from one neighborhood to another.

After our tour we went to the West Side Market for lunch. They are celebrating their 100th anniversary and so much of the Ohio City area (the area just west of downtown Cleveland where we are staying) has been cleaned up. There weren’t nearly as many homeless as in years past because they have been chased from the area…which makes me wonder where people who have no home go when they are chased from the places they once considered “home”.  We then took our group photo in front of the market, which I am working on uploading. 

After lunch we went back to the Family Ministry Center (FMC) and prepped for our cookout. We sent teams to three sites, and total we have about 80 kids signed up for a Backyard Bible Club on Tuesday...but that number will likely grow from one day to the next. 

After our cookout we came back to the FMC and had a time of debriefing. All of our leaders were able to give similar feedback: our students were great with the younger city kids. They played, connected, listened to, and had fun with the kids who came from the local areas. We didn't have to ask anything of them more than once and it was a pleasant experience. We all were very proud of the way our students stepped up and we look forward to seeing them step up more and more. 

That leads us to today. We will be prayer walking and then doing our first actual day of Backyard Bible Club. Pray for continued boldness and that God would work through and in spite of us to reach this area!


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Counting down to Greenspace/Cleveland 2012

Tshirts are here... counting down the days to departure... Cleveland 2012

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

2011 Slideshow Video

Greenspace 2011 to Cleveland is HIStory, but God will continue to use our experiences and relationships to grow our faith.

Yo! If you are interested, here is the link to a video with some pictures from our trip. I just put some music to it. Praise God for all he has done in, through, and among the group that went!

And thanks for all your support!


Friday, July 22, 2011

Thoughts on an amazing week...

Growing up I went to a VBS once or twice. I went on one mission trip, and had a couple other short mission experiences during youth group. The first "big event" I ever planned at CCC was middle school mission week in 2007. Other than that...I have only been in Ohio twice - never to Cleveland - and I had never done inner city work. I am not exactly experienced in the things we did this week. Needless to say, this week in Cleveland was a challenge for me.

God is faithful! As leaders, we talked about how amazing this week was many, many times. We had very little drama. No messy boy-girl relationship stuff, and overall, the kids listened really well. We actually heard from the people in Cleveland that this was the most well run VBS yet, and best of all, our kids did almost everything. That speaks to their maturity and how they've grown over the past year.

This is my first group of 8th grade students as a pastor. I really could not ask for a better first year, first group of students, or first set of leaders. I could not be more proud of the entire group of people I served with on this trip.

This is the verse that was constantly in my head for the entire week. "But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me." 2 Cor 12:9


What a great week!

As i take some time to reflect back on this past week, one thing keeps sticking out in my mind: God showed up in amazing ways! Daily, as the students opened themselves up to the Spirit's leading, God worked through them in unexpected ways. God showed his faithfulness over and over again throughout this trip.

I have been so proud of and impressed by each student on the trip. They asked deep questions that I never thought of when I was their age. Even when they were at their most tired point, they were still willing to serve and get work done. Yesterday, a group of girls stopped and prayed for a woman who had fainted at Cedar Point. I could tell countless stories of how the students were able to talk to many people with amazing stories because they were willing to follow the Spirit's leading, but I will let the students share those stories with you themselves.

In closing, I will just say that I have been super blessed to be on this trip and be around this great group of students. Praise God for what He did in us and through us this past week!


What a great group of people!

This week has truly been a blessing to be apart of. All of the people that have been involved with this Cleveland Missions trip have been awesome. The people that have helped us coordinate from Metro Alliance church, TJ, Cathy, Peggy, have been helpful and fun to work with. The six families that hosted dinners for us for Wednesday and Thursday were fabulous. The camp that we are at has provided us with great breakfasts every morning, a bed to sleep in, and a roof over our head. The leaders, Josh, Mike, MeLea and Laura are a very talented, flexible and very enjoyable people. And well the kids are AWESOME. They have been stretched, they have worked hard and I think they have seen our God working through them, in them and around them. Families thank you for sharing them with us. We became one big happy Italian family that ate a lot of Mexican food together! God Bless from the Grandma of the family, Cindy

Thursday, July 21, 2011

VBS - Day 3

We all made it! The VBS at Metro Alliance has wrapped up for 2011. All we have left is a 97 degree day at Cedar Point (don't worry parents, we are taking precautions for the heat) and a 90-some degree day helping the Bridge Ave School and our good friends Dan and Amy McElwain move to their new building.

So, about the last day of VBS... We had a smaller turnout this year. There happened to be a soccer camp and another VBS going on this week at two other places, so I guess it isn't surprising that we've had a smaller turnout at ours. But...God isn't only concerned with numbers. We still have stories of our students and the kids in Cleveland connecting in awesome ways. For instance, one of our young ladies was talking to a little girl who asked her "what do I do if a guy calls me ugly?" and our student told her "never let a guy call you ugly, you are beautiful and made in God's image". People in the inner city don't hear things like that very often - especially young ladies.

Something I have learned here is that ministry to inner city people is not nearly the same as ministry to people in a community like Rochester, or to people in suburbs. We are very fortunate to have the inner-city kids at VBS that we have had. In the city, relationships are so much more critical, and so is pushing through barriers. In another story from one of our students, a girl came the first day of VBS and was very angry and mean with something she said to one of our students (who hadn't done anything wrong by the way). She came back to him yesterday and said she was "sorry for her attitude" on the first day of the camp. What a change!

I know we value relationships at Christ Community, and in Rochester, MN, but being in Cleveland and seeing what a HUGE role relationships play in inner-city ministry it puts a new perspective on it for me. Seeing a church full of stories like the ones I've told you about helps me to see how important it is to not take offense at something someone else says and continue to show them love no matter what.

Blessings to you. And thank you for your continued prayers!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

VBS - Day 2

It's hot in MN...It's hot in Cleveland! We have been going through gallons and gallons of water with a lot of walking and playing outside with kids because it has been hot and humid in Cleveland. Today is supposed to be 91 degrees, but a little lower humidity. However...

God continues to show himself in what were are doing in Cleveland! For example
- TJ (our Cleveland contact) and I didn't get much of a chance to plan together this year (with it being my first year and with him having a newborn), so most of what we were doing was what our group planned and he is just along for the ride. He was feeling like things would fall apart because of our lack of communication but God is merciful and everything has been wonderful - not to mention I seem to remember some verse in Scripture that says something like "when I am weak he is strong"...

- We have had to expand our age range because some of these kids that were here four years ago still want to come. We have a program designed for 5-11 year-olds...and 13 year-olds are wanting to participate! This just shows how much of an impact we have had in our 4-year partnership here!

Our first day of VBS went very smooth. No problems...but a great time was had by all. We wrap up our VBS today. Be praying that some of these kids (and parents)get connected with the people at Metro Alliance.


Monday, July 18, 2011

VBS - Day 1

Today was the kickoff of our VBS at Metro Alliance. Our morning started by heading into Metro Alliance and distributing fliers for the VBS...we covered a very good area and it was nice to see more of the area around the church.

After we handed out fliers we prayer-walked to the market. Prayer walking was good and interesting. If you're bold and outgoing chances are you would end up praying for someone right on the street - as many of our students did. If you were quiet you probably just ended up praying silently, but the key is to make yourself aware of your surroundings and situations to pray for. So, this was about a 30 minute walk to the market. At the market we each had $6 for lunch. Everyone ate plenty (except for me, because I gave part of my food to a homeless man) and it was delicious food!

We hurried back and started to set up for the cookout. We cooked burgers and hot dogs for anyone who wanted to come. Altogether we served for about 2 hours. Then we had worship time and then time to welcome the kids who came and invite them back for tomorrow. We then headed back to Beulah Beach where most of us went swimming for a while.

It was a good day and everyone is looking forward to tomorrow. And the picture was taken right outside of the market.

Good night!

Sunday, July 17, 2011


We started off our day by waking up at 7:30 (after an amazingly challenging day yesterday) and we ate breakfast at Beulah Beach. We then got ready to go to Metro Alliance and we attended their 11am service. The service was about two hours. I think you all should ask your kids what they noticed as different from Elevate (or CCC big church)and ask them what they liked and didn't like. They have some very good thoughts.

After church we attended the Metro Alliance picnic. We decided since yesterday was so eventful that tonight would be a good night for us to relax a little bit. So relax we did.

We came back to Beulah Beach, went swimming, and then we headed into Sandusky for dinner. We found the most amazing (and hospitable) Mexican restaurant I have ever eaten at! This is where we did our debriefing for the day. After that we made a pit stop on the way home for ice it! And now we are finishing up the night by heading to a free Phil Wickham concert here at Beulah Beach.

That sums up our day. Keep praying...VBS starts tomorrow! Good night!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

We're here!

Well, it took us a couple wrong turns and a scary trip through Gary, IN but we made it to Beulah Beach. Our cabins definitely remind us we are on a mission trip and we are in this for the Lord!

Be praying everyone gets enough rest and that we are all ready to serve Metro Alliance Church tomorrow. I will update the blog again tomorrow. By the way, there isn't wi-fi at the camp, so this is from my phone. I will be bringing my computer to Cleveland tomorrow so I can blog from there. Good night!

Friday, July 15, 2011

The day before...

Rochester was hammered with rain today. A lot of rain. Lucky us, we get to drive through that same storm again tomorrow on our way to Cleveland.

Well, I like to give credit where credit is due. In the past, we always had to pay for some of the tolls on the way to and from Cleveland. This year we had two people step up and loan us their ipasses and offer to pay for our tolls to and from Cleveland. I don't want to mention any names, but we really appreciate this as it will save us hundreds of dollars. God is an amazing provider!

More to come later. We leave at 7am tomorrow morning. Pray for safe travels, drivers to stay awake, and light traffic! Peace!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I'm going to Cleveland!

from a member of the 2010 Cleveland trip...

"We had such a good time being with each other and serving the Lord. God did amazing things in and through all of us. I love this place with all my heart and was so blessed to be a part of this trip."