Wednesday Reflections - Milwaukee Mission Trip 2019

Hi Church! This is Quinn (Freshman), Adelyne (Senior) and Colin (adult leader) here. We’re here to tell you about our day today – Wednesday, July 24th.

This year we are spending the week serving in Milwaukee. Next Step Ministries organizes the mission trip (www.nextstepministries.com), setting up our work projects, housing, food, and worship experiences.

What surprised you?

(Quinn) Probably what surprised me was how occasional the work is - for example we have some times when everyone is working while sometimes two people are and the rest are just talking and hanging out.

(Adelyne) I think it’s the way this group has gotten to grow and get along so well in only three days.  I was a little curious about this group because we aren’t all old friends but we’ve all bonded and broken down walls which is really, really cool to see.

(Colin) I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been to Milwaukee in my life, but both times I’ve come on mission, there has been a noticeable connection I’ve felt to people and places here.  Personally, I’ve always been much more of a country person, but after visiting again, I would not be surprised if God calls me to live in Milwaukee at some point down the road.

What did you enjoy?

(Quinn) Well, I got to pet a dog today – it was a pit-bull.  Petting a corgi is better than petting a pit-bull, but it’s still a dog.

(Adelyne) Overall I’ve been really enjoying this trip.  The group, the leaders, the Next Step staff, the work…  So much!  God’s been showing up a ton in the people and my own attitude; it’s been an absolutely amazing trip.

(Colin) I have really been brought a lot of joy by hanging out with my small group and getting to know the Next Step crew member leading our site.  Going into the trip, I had never met two of the students in my group, and only knew the other two on a surface level.  But I’ve formed several strong connections over the past few days that feel like they’ve been around much longer.  This is also the first NextStep trip I’ve been on where I was able to really connect with our site leader and form a friendship.  

Where did you see God?

(Quinn) Yesterday, me and the boys were talking about our favorite words and my first word was “corridor” but then I remembered the coveted word “aperture”, which is my favorite of all time.  So I said aperture is my favorite word.  Then, the next day at the worksite, I got to make an aperture as part of the deck building project, and I was like “Yay, God.”

(Adelyne) I see and saw God in worship.  This worship team is SPECIAL, they are talented and enthusiastic and anointed.  The energy they bring and the praise they bring is truly an experience only God could ordain.  I’ve been on a few Next Step trips with awesome worship teams but THIS one is truly beautiful and that’s where I’ve seen God.

(Colin) I have been blessed to see God continue to guide me as get ready to start college this fall.  Between several conversations and experiences I’ve had so far, I’ve felt His reassurance that my next step (no pun intended) is exactly where He wants me to be, and that He truly does works all things together for His glory.

 

Each night of the mission trip, Emily is going to ask a few other people from the mission trip team to share some reflections. Stop back to hear how God is continuing to teach us and shape us this week. Also, you can check out the Church’s facebook page for pictures and other updates. You can also leave your questions and comments for the mission trip team here.

 

 

Tuesday Reflections - Milwaukee Mission Trip 2019

Hi Church! This is Christian (Junior), Aden (Junior) and Brian (adult leader) here. We’re here to tell you about our day today – Tuesday, July 23rd.

This year we are spending the week serving in Milwaukee. Next Step Ministries organizes the mission trip (www.nextstepministries.com), setting up our work projects, housing, food, and worship experiences.

What surprised you?

(Christian) We’re working on re-doing a garage, and have been installing a door, putting up siding and painting. I’ve been surprised by how long it takes to put up the siding. The siding boards are super hard to nail through and it takes a long time to attach each board to the garage side. Also, the weather has been perfect – it hasn’t been hot or rainy or humid – really great for working outside!

(Aden) I’ve been surprised by how close we are working to the other group from our church, just a few houses down they are rebuilding a back porch. It’s been nice to see them during the day. Also, it was surprising how quickly our group painted 3 sides of the garage.

(Brian) The passion of the Bridge Builders group that we are partnering with here has been so amazing, and it’s exciting to see how much they love their community and want to make it a better place to live.

What did you enjoy?

(Christian) I’ve enjoyed our lunch time, when we get to take a break, eat, and share a group devotion along the theme of the week, which is “Beyond the Shadows”.

(Aden) I’ve enjoyed seeing the progress on our garage project, seeing how nice it looks with fresh paint and new siding.

(Brian) I enjoyed today’s lunch, in which got all the guys together (all the girls met together in a different place) and shared scripture and thoughts around Jesus’ revolutionary love. Great to sit on the grass in the shade on a nice day, eat, talk about Jesus and swap ideas.

Where did you see God?

(Christian) Bridge Builders has a “hub house” in the neighborhood where they have their offices and this is also where we go to use the bathroom (we don’t have one at our site). They’ve been very kind and helpful, happy to let us use their house – today we cleaned up really messy paint brushes in their basement sink.

(Aden) The next-door neighbor of the house we are working at, Wally, is very nice, great to talk to, and lets us use his electricity for our job site. And he has a great garden! He loves his neighborhood and is very proud of it.

(Brian) Mike is the Next Step staff member who is leading our construction project. Mike is from Rwanda, came to the US to go to school and recently graduated (Texas) with a degree in Construction Management. Mike has fascinating stories to tell about his country’s history (you recall the 1994 civil war genocide) and how beautiful of a country it is today. He’s great with the students, great with Emily and I, and a real pleasure to be around all day. He loves Jesus and loves to share his faith with us. And he’s really good at teasing the kids, actually quite funny (in a loving way!)

 

Each night of the mission trip, Emily is going to ask a few other people from the mission trip team to share some reflections. Stop back to hear how God is continuing to teach us and shape us this week. Also, you can check out the Church’s facebook page for pictures and other updates. You can also leave your questions and comments for the mission trip team here.

 

 

Monday Reflections: Milwaukee Mission Trip 2019

Hey everybody!! Liberty (sophomore), Peggy (adult), and Ashley (senior) here from the high school mission trip. Emily asked us to share some insights from our first couple days on the trip.  

This year we are spending the week serving in Milwaukee. Next Step Ministries organizes the mission trip (www.nextstepministries.com), setting up our work projects, housing, food, and worship experiences.

So far we have enjoyed 2 evenings and 1 full work day at our site. God is already teaching and stretching us. Here are some of our initial reflections:

 

What surprised you?

(Ashley) I think the thing that surprised me the most was probably the sheer amount of energy and love that the Next Step staff have contributed to the experience so far. I was scared going in that I would have a hard time connecting and spending time with others but the staff has been very helpful in connecting us all.

(Liberty) The thing that surprised me the most was how friendly the people at our worksite are. When we were working the neighbors were very friendly. When we were working in the front, cars would drive by and honk their horn and wave to us. The neighbor to our worksite was very nice and let us use his electricity to power our tools.

(Peggy) I was surprised by how some of the rules and some of the things we had always done on Next Step mission trips had changed. So I guess I was surprised to find how comfortable I had become with routine. It made me look at our daily routine differently and with fresh eyes which I think was great after 7 previous trips. This was reflected in our first morning devo, “Are You Awake Yet,” which asked us to open our senses to see God in new and exciting ways.

 

What did you enjoy?

(Ashley) I have loved the interaction with both new friends from the Church and outside Church. I truly have seen love in every person I have come into contact with so far. At just our worksite we have created a great atmosphere of people all willing to help and contribute which makes me feel more confident to be myself in every way.

(Liberty) I really enjoyed meeting new people, both people in the community and people who I came on this mission trip with. I also enjoyed working on site and doing what I can do to help people.

(Peggy) James, the nephew of Shelby [the owner of our house], chatted with me for about a half an hour about his passion for composting and gardening. He shared how he is working to get his neighborhood to care about using the things around them to make their lives better. He had even built a great compost site out of pallets!

 

Where did you see God?

(Ashley) I saw God in the people I have met in the last two days, including my team, the neighbor to the house we’re working at, and our worksite leader (Mike). Everyone has been so kind and welcoming in each and every way.

(Liberty) I saw God in the people I have been meeting - the people in the neighborhood and the Next Step staff and the people on my worksite. Everyone is so kind and they are trying to help where they can. Even the people in the neighborhood help us out by letting us use their electricity and their bathrooms. Everyone is kind and friendly and welcoming.

(Peggy) I saw God today in the teamwork and energy the kids brought to our work site. They jumped right into new and challenging tasks and were very encouraging and respectful of each other while having a lot of fun!

Each night of the mission trip, Emily is going to ask a few other people from the mission trip team to share some reflections. Stop back to hear how God is continuing to teach us and shape us this week. Also, you can check out the Church’s facebook page for pictures and other updates. You can also leave your questions and comments for the mission trip team here.

 

 

Says Who? Living in Dystopia

Living in Dystopia

Looking at my unmown yard, I’m reminded of something gone horribly wrong.  5-10 years ago it seemed you couldn’t see movie previews or hear about trending books without at least one telling the story of a dystopian society.  The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Maze Runner series, as well as remakes and their original versions of Robocop and Mad Max are all examples.

Dystopia, which is the direct opposite of utopia, is a term used to describe a utopian society in which things have gone wrong.” – cliffsnotes.com

*year old, vague spoiler alert, if you haven’t seen Infinity War, skip the next paragraph*

Watching Infinity War, and then End Game, we see a form of dystopia.  At first glance, and even living in it for a while, you might not know what went wrong, exactly, but something did.  And for those that remember, the signs of what is missing are a constant, haunting, and even debilitating reminder of what should be.  But without knowing the one who made the change, and how, there is no real way to know how things are supposed to be, especially once you get a generation or two past the change.

*end spoiler*

If something went wrong here, in our universe, thousands of years ago, that fundamentally changed things for the future, how could we possibly know how things are really supposed to be?

“…the ground is cursed because of you.  All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.  It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains.” –Genesis 3:17b-18

When Adam and Eve sinned, everything changed.  Work became difficult and painful, including yardwork.  Everything now dies.  We all sin.  We can’t even imagine a realistic utopia, because we know that something is wrong, and something will always be wrong as long as human beings are involved.  It’s this imagining of utopia, and then imagining real and sinful people involved, that leads to the imagining of a dystopia.  As horrifying as these imagined futures are, they are easier to imagine for our future, because it’s what we know.  Something went wrong.  Something isn’t right.  Even my yard (and neighbors) know.

Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. –Romans 8:20-21

Living in Dystopia we can’t discover Utopia, creation as God designed.  All we know and see, all we can observe, measure and experience is distorted under the curse of sin.  Living by what we see, experience, hear and observe, apart from God’s Word, causes us to be conformed to the cursed wisdom of the world.

2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. – Romans 12:2

The true revelation of reality is only given by God, in His Word.  As we live missionally, we must be changed by God, by His Word through His Spirit, instead of being formed by the curse.  His Word is Truth. 

Join me, in re-committing to reading God’s Word every day from now through the summer.  I’m going to start with a Gospel, then Acts and Romans.

Please share a story of how God is changing your thinking through His Word. Send stories and questions to mwipperman@livelifetogether.com

Let’s see what He will do!

 

 

Says Who? Biblical Literacy and Children

This month we are examining the idea of worldview. Where do we find our source and understanding of truth? Adults and children alike wrestle with this question. From a very early age, children begin to adopt their own worldviews from their experiences and what they are taught. Our job as parents, teachers, and mentors is to help them develop that worldview from a Biblical perspective.

 

Raising my children to be Biblically literate -- to truly know Scripture in a holistic way, and see it as foundational to their engagement with the world and as their primary source of truth -- can be overwhelming.  Because in order to do that, I need to teach them the entirety of God’s story: not only the popular “Bible stories,” but also how stories and themes connect, and how they can see themselves, as broken and redeemed, fitting into God’s story.  And I need to foster in them an emotional connection with Scripture -- to desire, seek out, and digest God’s Word in a life-giving way. Honestly, I often feel ill-equipped for that. So what do we do when we feel ill-equipped? Avoid? Excuse? Pass off the responsibility? That might be what we want to do. Instead, in those moments when we realize that on our own we are not enough, we pray. We admit our weakness. We ask God to grant wisdom. And we give ourselves a whole bunch of grace as we experiment.

 

Here are just a few ideas on how to promote Biblical literacy in your home:

 
  1. Model - Children learn what is modeled. As parents, we need to understand God’s Story, how to search for answers in Scripture and apply it to our lives. And we have to know truly what is in the Bible - not what we think is in the Bible. The only way to do that is to be in the Word on a regular basis. Let your kids watch you read your Bible, listen to you question, and think aloud about what you read.

 
  1. Consistency - Create a rhythm in your home where you and your children are reading Scripture on a regular basis. The best way to help your child know what is in the Bible is to give him/her ongoing, regular access to it.  Repeat, repeat, repeat. God’s Word cannot be read too much. We don’t ever “master” a specific story or passage.

 
  1. Read in Context - As often as possible, choose to read the larger story or passage with your child instead of the isolated verse. Read about the entirety of Joseph’s life over a week or two. Or read through an entire Gospel together. Set a goal to read a children’s Bible from beginning to end together.

 
  1. Teach Truth - Don’t teach things now that need to be undone later. Ex: Jesus will take all the bad things away. It’s an idea that sounds nice for a child, but isn’t accurate. Also, teach children that the Bible is truth even when they don’t like what it says or don’t agree with it. Talk through those emotions with your child and then point him/her back to Jesus.

 
  1. Connect the Dots - Help your child connect stories and passages to other ideas and themes in the Bible. Currently, Oliver and I are reading “The Story for Kids” together. We happened to read the story of the passover the same week as Easter. It was a very tangible way for him to connect the stories of Moses to God’s plan of salvation.  

 
  1. Focus on skills - Knowing and understanding Scripture is a life-long journey. Turn your focus into teaching skills that help the Bible be accessible to your child. Give your child a Bible of his/her own. Teach them to look up passages. When your child has a question, turn to the Bible before giving an answer of your own.   Most importantly, teach your child to apply what they are reading to their own lives.

 
  1. Ask the right questions - When we talk with our children about Scripture, it is easy to resort to questions about time, setting, people and fact recall. To encourage Biblical literacy, try questions like this: “What characteristic of God do you notice in what we read? Why would Jesus have said that? Does this passage remind you of anything else in the Bible? What questions do you have after reading this? How might we use the Bible to answer those questions? How does this passage show us what it means to trust Jesus?

 
  1. Focus on the Gospel - The goal is not for your child to be able to recite the books of Bible or to have 100 verses committed to memory. (Although there is a definite place and usefulness for these things). The main goal is that your child knows who he/she is within God’s plan of redemption and that he lives out that understanding in his life.

 

These suggestions really apply to any of us, at any age. When we have Homes Built on Grace and Truth, we see the world through the lens of a gracious and loving Savior, and we are equipped to bring that grace to our world. Share your ideas and questions with me at epowers@livelifetogether.com.