Busy week with the Youth Group

So its been an incredibly busy week and a very rewarding one, especially where the youth group is concerned.

Last Friday night we did our Youth Group church lock-in. We had the kids get to the church at 6pm Friday night and told the parents to pick them up around 10 AM Saturday morning. We had 12 kids there total, and despite the heat, they were insistent on playing lots of different variations of tag out in the church yard. We brought them in and had snacks and soda out for them and then had a good lesson time on idols (both theoretical and practical) and prayer. We sent them out to have a half hour of individual quiet prayer time. After that we had good group discussion about what place in our priority listing we have God.

Once that discussion ended we played Sardines and other indoor games tell 3 Am when they got the itch to go back outside and play some more tag games. We came in around 430 and things started to wind down. We have a foosball table and air hockey table and a really cheap broken down kids pool table and they just entertained themselves for awhile. Around 530 some kids started to get ready to go to sleep. The girls moved over to the house with Hope and the Boys stayed with me. Some of the Boys laid down in their sleeping bag and the rest of us started a game of monopoly.

By the time the game ended, just about everyone else had gone to sleep or was going to sleep and it was right around 630 or 7. Hope and I were going to make breakfast for the kids in the morning, ut they were all asleep at that point. They were so tired that there was no way that we were going to wake them up.

All the parents got there right around 10 AM or so, and we went around waking up these walking zombies. The kids had a ton of fun and so did Hope and I. We were able to get closer to the kids and learn more about them.

Hope and I always say that quality time comes from quantity time. You cant force quality, you can just be there when it happens. Thats what has been happening lately with these kids. A few weeks ago, they did the worship for the service on Sunday and you could really start to see them come out of their shell. It took 6 months for them to be willing to do it once and now they are excited to do it more often. Our plan is for them to play every month when I preach.

So after the Lock-in, we had Youth group Sunday night. One of the ideas Hope and I had for the morning of the lock in was to do a prayer walk in the neighborhood of the church. There are about 15 houses or so within a ½ mile or so radius. Since the kids were sleeping, we did it Sunday night instead.

Our goal was two-fold. First was to show the kids how to do this and give them the support, confidence and know how. It really is quite simple and you can do it in a variety of involvement levels.

First was just walking the street, stopping at a house and saying a quick prayer for them. Ext was to talk to someone if they were outside and ask them if they had any thing specific they would like us to pray about. Third was going up to the door and letting people know we were praying and asking what they would like prayer for. The kids did great! And, there are a number of non-church going families in the neighborhood and they were all open to being prayed for as well. We even got to meet the family moving in just that day up the hill, that we probably wouldnt have met yet otherwise.

The second goal of this was to just let the neighborhood know that we were doing this and we got wonderful responses. One of the last houses we went to is the home of a wonderful couple in the church. He is a Vietnam Vet and has a whole host of medical problem because of his service and she is a wonderful saint who spends her life taking care of him. They are high school sweethearts and you can see the love in their eyes when they look at each other. With his health issues, many times visiting there is standing in the doorway talking to her with a few “Hi’s” and words of encouragement shouted in to him. This night we were able to pray for her and then she asked us in to lay hands on him and pray for him.

It was extremely obvious the effect this had on the kids. They were amazed at the power of prayer and while some of them knew this couple, it was an experience for them to see someone open up there home, being both vulnerable with the kids as well as enormously grateful.

After we got home that night, we saw the wife had made a facebook post about the visit. She posted this…

There is no limit to the blessings that are coming our way.
Just answered a knock on our door to find the youth group from the church. They wanted us to know we were constantly in our prayers.
First they all gathered around me outside to pray for us…then I invited them (all 16 of them) to come in. They gathered around Gary’s hospital bed, joined hands and prayed for him. What a blessing…I will never forget the power of that moment and the impact it appeared to have on Gary. Thank you Jesus, for your continued blessings and caring for us.

Well, needless to say that got us a little choked up, and then a got a message on facebook as well. I didnt immediately recognize the name, but she said this:

You may not know me but you have touched me in ways that words can not express… See I am (Their) daughter & tonight you took the youth group over to visit my parents and pray with them… You don’t know how much this means to them…

Simple hellos and anyone that can stop by to check on them is welcome – as they don’t get out of the house much anymore with how sick Gary is…

Thank you so much!

Blessings!

We shared these with the kids last night and it was a perfect oppurtunity to both praise God how he works through the actions you would never even suspect, but also to reinforce to the kids, how powerful prayer is. This reaction happened with (at that time) no prayers that the kids prayed, being answered. It was their presence, their love, their willingness to step up and let them know that they were praying for this house and their willingness to share.

God is the only who knows which prayers will be answered and which wont. But he tells us to pray about everything and to pray always. By doing this, the kids in our youth group were able to have an enormous emotional effect and be an encouragement on this family struggling with health issues. They were able to show the neighborhood that people love them and people are praying for them.

The positive effect was had bith on the individuals and households that they prayed for but on the youth themselves as well. These kids are amazing. They are going to grow up and do amazing things. Please keep them in your prayers and Hope and I as well, that we dont screw them up. Thanks all!

Casey

1 Timothy 4:12

Great things are happening!!!

Hi! We wanted to give you all an update about what God has been doing in our little valley in WA.  And, it was recently pointed out to us that we have not been posting or updating as much as we could/should be, so this is the first step in fixing that, thanks for the patience and understanding… now, on to the cool stuff!!!

I (Hope) have been teaching an after school bible club for the elementary kids every week, and this Thursday is our last day.  It has been wonderful teaching and learning from these kids the last 4 months.  One of our little guys, he comes faithfully, though his parents don’t come to church.  He is eager to learn, has the answers, and loves participating.  Recently, I got to have a great conversation with him about how when we are forgiven of our sin, God takes it away, never to return, as far as the east is from the west.  He was so happy to know that he didn’t have to keep asking for forgiveness over and over again.  What a great lesson for us all.

Another of my boys, who hadn’t liked coming, though he was encouraged by his mom, is now loving it, excited about the bible lessons and going home to share them with is parents, and is actually the encourager to his whole family to get up on Sunday mornings and get to church on time.  He is eager to hear about Jesus and His word.

Another girl, she just loves God.  She knows every answer, all the time, and melts my heart.  She hasn’t gotten the best hand in life, but she is leaning on her Heavenly father and trusting Him with a child’s pure faith that I pray carries her through her life, because life doesn’t always get easier.

When I started, there were siblings that came, but didn’t enjoy it as much.  Wouldn’t participate, sing with us, or anything else, for that matter.  now they are answering questions, smiling as they come in the door, and are right in the middle of the excitement.  I could go on about every one of these precious kids, but that would take forever.  Needless to say, I have been so blessed to work with them, learn from them, and be a better GNC teacher next fall when we start it all up again!  So during our final party on Thursday, if you hear some noise an mayhem, just know it’s us, celebrating another  Good News Club year on the books!

We also have lots of amazing things in the adult world!  We have a weekly prayer meeting with seperate men’s and women’s groups.  One such prayer has been for relatives of one of our dear friends here.  They have recently been contemplating a dangerous faith road.  Casey had the opportunity of making a connection with the man, invite him to bible study and church, and he has come to both!!!  And tonight, brought another of their relatives!!! He is searching and we are excited, knowing that God will meet him and do amazing things in his life and his family.  As an aside, the Men’s bible study, which normally runs about 10 guys has been growing, and is now at 16!!!  They are a really great bunch of guys, as Casey says, and loves that part of his job is to simply be with them, studying with them, encouraging, teaching, and learning from them.  Especially when it’s about smoking meats or learning where all the good fishing spots are.

With the sweets comes the sour.  It seems like everyone nowadays is touched by cancer one way or another.  We have a couple members of our church battling this and it is devastating to see such wonderful people suffer.  And yet in this hell they are going through, we can still see God working.  It has made our time with them all the more precious, and it reminds me of the Apostle Paul, when he talked of running the race and finishing well.  It’s easy to start strong, but these women are choosing to finish strong as well, showing faith and Grace in spades.  They are a constant testimony of God using evil for good, and trusting that true healing can only come through Christ, and physical healing may be here on earth, or when they walk with Jesus in heaven.  One of Casey’s aunts is fighting this battle as well, and is taking an aggressive faith filled and naturopathic approach, showing that only God knows when to stop fighting, and God, being the great physician, can heal us inside and out.

We are also blessed to continue working with the youth group, seeing the depth of faith and maturity in young men and women, being shown how old we really are when they don’t know who Sienfeld is, or thinking Def Leopard is classic rock.  We are getting our summer schedule together, and it is going to be awesome~ we are contemplating a weekend Christian rock concert with great speakers, as well as a overnight lock-in at the church.  We have been doing service projects around the community, weather permitting, and are about to kick off a prayer walk/ stretching our faith activity, asking people in our neighborhoods for their prayer requests, reguardless of church affiliation, belief in God at all, or anything else.  It’s part of what the ladies prayer group is doing in their individual streets, doing personal prayer while walking, praying for those around us.  We are excited to see how it challenges the kids and the neighborhood impact.

We are so blessed to be put here to help, encourage, grieve with, and serve our church and surrounding community in the Lewis River valley, and thank you all for supporting us in this, knowing that through your prayers, this is your ministry, as well as ours.  Thank you so much for all you do, helping us here, and in your own communities.

Love in Christ,

Casey and Hope

3 months in Yale!!!

I can’t believe it’s been 3 months since we arrived in Yale, WA!  The months have flown by, and life is changing quickly.  In our own family, Caleb is now 6 months and crawling, Rosie has decided talking is fun and is now speaking in paragraphs, and Finn turns 4 in just two days!  We all are enjoying being out in the country, and love being outside as much as possible.

Our ministry is growing and expanding.  Casey has preached a few times, and people are shocked that he’s nervous, because they can’t see it.  He’s been helping teach the men’s bible study, as well as the adult bible study.  We have a weekly prayer time with the men and women that is also amazing.  There are some mighty prayer warriors here in the valley.  I am helping with mom’s bible study, and am teaching an after school kid’s class until the end of may for the 1st – 5th grades.  These kids are amazing and sweet.  1/2 don’t go to church at all, and are hearing some of these bible stories for the first time.  Their questions and enthusiasm are wonderful and insightful, I am learning as well as leading.

We have really been pouring into the youth group, 7th-12th grades.  We’ve shared a little about them, but they hadn’t really had much for quite a while other than some sunday school.  We have an average of 15 kids, and are growing.  We officially outgrew meeting at our house this last week and are invading the church, which is fun. These young people have lots to contend with, between home situations, school, and just being teenagers.  They are eager to learn, share, and grow, meeting our challenges to them and really taking their faith into their own hands and making it their own, knowing what they believe and why.  We just took them to the Son of God movie, and that made for interesting discussion.  They saw they knew more of the bible than they thought, pointing out missing parts of the story or conflicting events.  They are quite smart and, well, just wonderful.

We are really getting to know others in the valley, as well.  A big part of our ministry is just being with the people, visiting with them, and sharing our lives together.  One family in the congregation just adopted their 6th son, and we were able to be there with them, which was awesome!  He quickly became one of Finn’s best friends here, and our families have become close, so it was extra special to be there to celebrate with them.

There are many we are becoming close with that do not attend church, some that aren’t that interested in faith, and these are the people we have to be especially consistent with,  caring, being there when they need, and living our faith in friendship.  This is when God reveals Himself and shows His faithfulness.

We would ask for prayer for our community in some different ways.  There is not really any direct employment in our community, so jobs are scarce and commuting to Vancouver or Portland is tough on people and on families.  The kids here can spend as much as 3-4 hours a day on the bus.  Many believing women in our church community have husbands who are either apethetic toward church or outright hostile, so they are having to carry the spiritual burden for themselves and their children.  As with other older congregations, many health issues plague our church.  Cancer, heart issues, and other physical ailments keep many home instead of having fellowship with friends.  I know these concerns are not unique to our area, and your communities are facing other issues that we would love to pray for as well.  We have a prayer request page link that you could write in, or just send it directly to us, letting us know if we can/should share it in our church prayer time, here, or keep it to ourselves. This is how we can be the body of Christ for each other, no matter where we are.  Thank you for your continued prayer and financial support, which helps us do the work we feel God is giving us to do here in Yale.  We thank God for you every day.

 

It’s all about the kids!!!

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  I, (Hope), have always loved this verse and sentiment, because it first shows how Jesus loved the children and that they were important to Him.   Also, and I might be reading into it a bit, but “there’s is the kingdom of heaven”  is true here on earth as well.  They will take over the earthly kingdom when we have all finished messing up what we can.  These children that come to youth group and good news club, or Awana, are the future financial planners, judges, real estate developers, teachers, doctors, bums on the side of the road…  what can we do to help or hurt???

Well, I have started teaching good news club weekly for about 20 kids that come right from school to the church for club.  The fun thing is that less than half of the kids actually go to our church, so it’s a fun outreach as well as an opportunity to work with the kids.  GNC is a part of Children Evangalism Fellowship.  It stresses the gospel with every lesson, and is VERY structured, which is great, but keeps me on a short leash, which might be a good thing!  We have to adhere to what is in place, because we will only be here a year, and then they take it over again, so it doesn’t make sense to change something and change it back.

The kids are great, of course!  We have the three boys in the back that like to roughouse, but have lots of fun answers.  The four girls who sit close on 3 chairs, whispering and answering for each other.  The shy boy in front who loves to be called on, but is nervous to raise his hand.  They really get into the lessons and games, but are shy singers.  They are from 1st to 6th grade, and every face that looks up at me during that hour I have them every week makes me want to pour more time and care into how I present these stories of Jesus’ life, and His work on the cross.  These precious children that Jesus loves choose to hang out at church after school, which means their hearts and ears are open to His word.  If only we were that open as adults, giving up time during the week to hang out and talk about Jesus with the excitement I get from them.

We also are starting the youth group up again after a year of nothing!  They will be 7th – 12th graders from the church and community.  We’ve been told to expect 20 on a good day.  They were used to the boys and girls going through separate studies, so we are really changing the format and getting everyone together for Casey’s teaching.  We are kicking off on Super Bowl Sunday, and watching the second half of the game at our house, and then seeing what the group wants to study by having them ask questions they have about faith, the bible, God, anything they want to know about.  We are praying that God will give us a clear direction for the youth group because there are really no parameters here, and the youth in this community really don’t have much to do, much leadership, not a lot of responsibility in the church,  and seem to be the age most in need right now.  You know when you get that fire in your heart when you see what God’s doing in a group or area, I don’t think these kids have had that for some time, and I am praying we can get that fire and vision, and show them that they matter to God and the church.

This church we are serving at does so much for so many ages and issues, and the kids are well loved.  I get to be a part of that with good news club.  Now we get to pick up the gauntlet with a small but important area that is less represented and create something new.  Pleas pray for God’s guidance and will, and discernment with where these kids are, who will be good student leaders, not just fake it well, which we have a few of.  Thank you for caring for the kids, both in our area and your own.

 

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