Thursday, April 30, 2009

Haiti trip

This from Doug Tensen:
Although there haven’t been any formal reports back from the 2nd Haiti Team, I have been hearing bits and pieces from family members and friends that have been getting news. Sounds like everything has gone very well.However, some of us may be wondering if they actually made it there or just hung out in Florida for a week. To prove that they did go to Haiti, I’m attaching a photo of both the 1st and 2nd week teams. It was taken last week Thursday after the 2nd team arrived in Pignon and the 1st team was waiting to leave. It’s good to see so many smiles. As I write this, my guess is that Team 2 is waiting right now on that same grassy airstrip to board their flight back to Florida. Again, thanks for your prayers and support of this amazing experience.
Posted by Doug Tensen

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Love Cedar Valley Praise

God is so good! This picture above is of a young boy at the praise and prayer wall at Love Cedar Valley. We have God to thank for so much at Love Cedar Valley this year....

- 35+ churches represented
- Over 130 kindness outreaches and service projects took place
- 1200 or so volunteers reaching out in the name of Christ
- Thousands being touched with an act of God's kindness
- ONE God and Savior over all

check out Pictures and slideshow should be up on the website within the week. If you participated, be sure to provide some feedback here or on the website!

Love Cedar Valley Kindness Outreaches

Kindness outreaches provide the energy for Love Cedar Valley. They are the "spark" that
makes the whole day feel like a giant pep rally for the community! Kindness outreaches provide an opportunity for volunteers to reach out with an act of kindness, look someone in the face, and tell them, "God loves you- no strings attached." You'd be amazed at how many people feel as if they need to make a donation or do something to receive the kindness given. To receive a gift for free, no matter how big or small, within a context of love and kindness, moves people deeply. These are life-giving gestures that provide hope and communicate God's care to each person touched. The radical notion that God loves us without our need to earn God's love gets translated today in concrete ways.

(photo above) Nursing home visit where volunteers visited residents and gave them helium balloons.
(photo above right) One group of volunteers took popcorn and snacks to the police department and fire stations for Love Cedar Valley.
(photo below right)

Free lunches and giveaways were found at dozens of locations through out the community.

Love Cedar Valley Worship

LCV worship is something like I've not experienced anywhere else. We have a brief time of worship before the Kindness Explosion, and a time of celebration and worship after. The band, with 6 churches represented, does an amazing job of leading the people into praise and worship, and there's something so electric about being together...35 churches represented...all ages, races, denominations...coming together as ONE, the Body of Christ. You get a glimpse of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, and there is joy abundant as we pray and lift our voices, as we focus together on God, and as we focus together on sharing Christ's love in real tangible ways in the community in which we live, the community that God loves so dearly.

Love Cedar Valley Service Projects

Five years ago, when Love Cedar Valley began, it began with kindness outreaches only. A kindness outreach is something like a free giveaway at an intersection or possibly a free carwash or a litter pick-up at a local park.

Today, LCV includes a service project arm that is gaining momentum. This year, several churches organized several projects in the community that began that morning.

There were a good number of groups working on flood recovery at homes still in need from last summer's devastating floods in our area. The picture below is that of Heritage Farm in Hudson. A group spent the day mending fences and cleaning up flood debris from the acreage.

Other work included planting a garden at one of the middle schools, painting and organizing at Alternatives Crisis Pregnancy Center, bike trail clean up, work at a preschool, help at transitional home for homeless moms and kids, work at the local Boys n' Girls Club, and more.

It's great to watch how churches are looking for ways to serve and significantly impact our community for good. The city has also been very appreciative of the work done this day by the Church. And isn't this just the kind of relationship and partnership we should have as we work with God to redeem and transform His community?

pie = love

Love Cedar Valley is sparking the imaginations and passions of people. When we encouraged people to consider how they might be a blessing in the community that day, two gals sent out an email inviting people to bake pies that could be taken to the caregivers in our community who work at nursing homes and care facilities.

The response was so overwhelming that not only did this group take pieces of pie to every care facility in the Cedar Valley, but they also delivered to nursing homes in towns 20-30 miles away...Traer, Denver, Reinbeck!

One volunteer watched a nursing home employee bustle down the hall to give his piece of pie to a resident, because he knew it was the resident's favorite kind of pie.

What a great way to show appreciation and love to people who often work without being thanked.

At another church, a group of women decided to make Amish Friendship Bread over the past few months. You know, the kind that sits on your counter for 10 days, and you multiply the batter and pass it on? Anyway, this group ended up making and freezing 500 small loaves of friendship bread over the last 2 months and passed them out to many people in many locations of our community on Saturday...Hospice Home, retirement homes, a strip mall, and more.

The ideas are endless as to how people can demonstrate God's love and bring a little kindness into someone's day.

Monday, April 27, 2009

quote of the day

"One of the most effective ways to reach people with the message of Jesus Christ today is through real and relevant acts of service. Honest, compassionate service can restore credibility to the crucial message we have to share. To tell the truth, we must show the truth. It's the model Jesus used. He served. He met needs. People listened. Erwin McManus, pastor of Mosaic, a church in Los Angeles, stated this simple yet powerful truth about sharing the message of Christ today: 'People have given up on the truth because they don't believe anyone can be trusted.' The world is full of people who have been hurt by those who were supposed to love them- people they should have been able to trust. Before churches will be heard, they must re-establish trust. To establish trust, they must first show their ability to love."

- quote from The Externally Focused Church written by Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson

Saturday, April 25, 2009


That became the word of the day to describe how many of us were feeling as we worshiped today among about 35 churches and reached out in our community together with acts of kindness and service. It was LOVE CEDAR VALLEY today. A day in which area churches partner together to extend the love of Christ in real and practical ways into our community so that our community might take a step in being reconciled to God and one another.

It was a great day, though I wasn't so sure what to anticipate in the day as I drove out of my driveway at 7 a.m. in a downpour with thunder/lightning putting on a little show out in the country where we live. Yesterday, 85 degrees and sunny. Today, not so much. 55 degrees and rain. Our God, however, seemed to answer both the prayer of the farmer today who was asking for rain, and the Love Cedar Valley volunteer who was looking for dry skies. The rain stopped from 9 a.m. to about 4 p.m....just the duration of almost every project. Thanks, God! We lost a few projects due to the heavy rains early, but the majority of the 130+ outreaches and projects happened today! Hurray!

I'll be sharing some stories and pictures here on the blog over the next week. The feedback today was really positive. How could it not be? When followers of Christ begin to come together as one across barriers to worship and serve together, we get a glimpse of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. We experience the great joy in this. We get "juiced!"

Any blog readers participate in LCV and have a story or comment?

p.s. I wore my pedometer around today as I ran around organizing Love Cedar Valley. 15 miles logged from being on my feet with Love Cedar Valley all day! Not bad!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Group one's final Haiti report

There's a second group that headed to Haiti yesterday and will spend time at JeanJean and Kristie's. The first group is headed back to Florida tomorrow after spending a week in the Pignon area.

Hi to all from Haiti,Sorry it's been so long since an update - the Campbell's computer was down, so I'm at the hospital right now. I'm not sure when we'll be able to send another - probably not until we get to Florida tomorrow.I'm not sure where Jacy left off, but here's what the week has looked like: Monday, the men, Pat, Randy, Taylor and Joel went out to Gimby school to put the roof on a new addition. Meanwhile, the girls painted at the hospital - until we ran out of paint. We also cleaned a bunch of plastic shelves - a little tedious, but it went quickly. Then the girls went out to Campbell's orphanage while we waited for the guys to come back.That night we sang at the hospital.Tuesday, most of the crew went to Gimby school to work on the roof and paint the interior of the school. It was a long and tiring day. Last night we sang again and had a time of sharing.Today we are buying beans and rice. Beadle wasn't able to give us the best price this year, so we are buying the rice from another vendor, but we're buying the beans, oil, etc. from him. We are waiting for a driver for the truck so we can pick it up.This morning we spent time at the Campbells helping with their formula program. We helped weigh the babies and handed out clothing. The families were very grateful.It's hard to believe it's our last night here. It's been a wonderful week of building relationships and serving the people. Although we are excited to see all of our friends and family again, it will be hard to leave.Please pray for us as we spend our final hours here. Pray for the relationships we have built, the Campbells, JeanJean & Kristie, and safety as we travel. We have experienced much and are excited to share our experiences with you.Thank you for your prayers this week. And thank you for your support.Blessings to all of you.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Haiti report

Orchard Hill has a group in Pignon, Haiti right now. Here's a report from the team:

Greetings!Hi to all from Haiti!!!I'm sorry the e-mails have been rare! Without the cyber cafe, it is hard to find a computer to e-mail from. We are having a wonderful time! We wrote from Anne's Orphanage last and since then our days have been full!That afternoon Joel, Randy, Taylor, and Pat took on some Haitian boys in basketball, you will have to ask them about the outcome of that game! Later we were actually able to sing at the hospital... no rain!Saturday morning Kaylie, Sally, and Joel got up very early to climb one of the mountains just outside of town. They say it was a tough climb but the view from the top makes it well worth it! Jessie Campbell, whose parents run an orphanage here helped them on their climb! The rest of us - Marla, Randy, Jill, Jacy, Taylor, Pat, Diane, Natalie, Machaela, and Judy walked to the edge of town to watch the people from the surrounding countryside come to town for market! Lots of donkeys loaded with goods and women with baskets on their heads!After that we walked through the market, which can be quite intimidating if you don't know what you're in for! It's single file through the marketplace and if you get lost it would be extremely hard to find your way back out! Marla then did her negotiating for beans and rice with the big man in town named Beetle! That went pretty well for the most part!After leaving the market we had lunch and changed into our paint clothes to go paint some rooms for the hospital storage depot. We then came home to eat dinner but were not able to go sing at the hospital because once again it was raining!Sunday was a really good day for us here in Haiti! We woke up and went to a Baptist Church near where we are staying. We could not go out to Jean-Jean's church because they were having an election in Pignon for senator. No motor vehicles were allowed on the roads. Church went well a small Haitian girl even fell asleep for about an hour on Jacy's lap.. she then drooled all over her shirt!After church we had lunch and a little down time before heading over to the soccer field! Randy, Pat, Joel, Taylor, Jacy, Jill, and Michaela took on some neighborhood boys in soccer and get beat badly but had a lot of fun! Everyone one else painted nails and blew bubbles with the little ones on the sidelines!That night we had dinner and then were once again able to go to the hospital to sing! We must have done a really good job because we were asked for an encore and even had requests!! It is great to be able to go into the hospital and shake hands with all of the patients! Our time with them blesses us as much as it is a blessing to them!On Monday we all woke up for breakfast and the men left to go to Guimbi to start working on the roof at the school. The women stayed in Pignon and finished the painting at the depot. They also scrubbed storages shelves for medical supplies. There were lots of little ones helping which made for great pictures and a lot of fun!This afternoon we are playing with the children at the Campbell Orphanage but need to walk back to town soon so that we will not be late for dinner!Hope all is well back in Iowa! We are having an amazing time and are growing in our faith more and more everyday!God Bless,Jacy Kraayenbrink & The Haiti Mission Team

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Spring Break: San Rafael

One of the Spring Break trips was led by Enrique Ochoa who works at a church whom we partner closely with. Enrique, also known as "Q", leads this trip as an intergenerational option and has been in close relationship with Juan and family who base their ministry in San Rafael , Mexico. Pat Kress was on this trip and writes the following summary:

"One thing I will always take with me was how God worked the whole way through the trip, from crossing the borders to the sharing in small groups which consisted of elementary age kids up to middle aged folks, to the constant help everyone poured forth with zero complaints.
It was also amazing to see how God transcended culture and language through faith, love and service. I can't think of a better week to spend with your family than the one we spent in San Rafael with Q, Kimbo and the rest of the people there. Pastor Juan and Gaby were truly put there in the service of God. We look forward to a return trip."

Another person on the trip, Greg Harter, invites you to check out a photo journal of the trip at

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Though much of this blog is about faith in missionally, outwardly-focused lives...I cannot neglect writing about the recreation needed to refresh the soul and give sustaining power to our lives.

Spring is my most demanding season. I can often tell I'm in need of more silence and solitude and more recreation. I often think I don't have the time for these in the midst of the task list, but I know from past experience that if I'll intentionally engage in them anyway, I tend to live out my actions from a healthier center, more sensitive to the Spirit of God with more focus on His steps than my own.

We live on an acreage and have created a "campground" in one of the areas of it. Last night, we initiated campfire season '09, as the temps in Iowa were in the 70's yesterday. My husband, children, my brother and sister-in-law, along with hotdogs, hamburgers, and s'mores around the fire (as well as two salivating dogs at our side). Clear, starry night, great family, peaceful crackling of a warm fire...thanks, God, for the good gift of recreation. What do you like to do that refreshes you?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Update from Molly

Molly is on mission overseas. She is with Youth With a Mission and is currently doing some health care training that has taken her to the Philippines. Here's her latest update:

Subic Bay...the Philippines

Who would of thought, my travels have brought me to this lovely Nation! It's currently in the middle of summer here, so it's HOT, I think it's even hotter than Cambodia!

Our team of 13 people, from 6 different Nations, got down to business just 2 weeks ago. We've been workin along side a YWAM ministry called Project Life Subic Bay. We are working with 3 YWAM staff, who have committed themselves to a slum area on 12th street in the neighboring city of Olongapo.

Olongapo is where the US Military set up camp after kicking the Japanese out of the Philippines during WW2. The US sold it back to the Philippines and now it is called the "Free Port Zone" it's pretty much "on the right side of the tracks" We live on the other side:)

Olongapo is where we do most of our work. Every week we head in to town to teach a health care seminar to women who are interested in getting more basic training. Many of these women are single mothers who didn't have a chance at higher education, but have the desire to learn and make a difference! We have taught them about germs, hand washing, diarrhea, dehydration and next week is all about cough and cold. We use simple lessons and teach each lesson in variety, repeating over and over, to commit the lessons to memory and to give them examples of how they might teach it to others.

Some of the women who attend the seminar work at a Christian organization called CRU (Children's Recovery Unit) It started almost 10 years ago when an Irish Missionary saw the suffering in the local hospital and was compelled to help families to receive the health care they needed. Often times families can see the doctors, but can't buy the medicine. When they return home they don't know how to help the child recover and that in turn leads to more illness, sickness and even death.

We visited the hospital, did a small program for the children in there, I met a little girl named Eunice who had an abscess in her throat, it made it hard for her to talk, but we made bracelets together and she listened to stories. She is 8, and the only child in the hospital without a parent or sibling there. I also met a 2 month old baby girl with severe Pneumonia, I've never seen a child breath so quickly, the in drawing of her ribs was HUGE!, her mother was only 18 years old. I got to talk with her and pray for her child.

I've been visiting CRU to spend time with these sick children, they have a few who are healed and healthy. They receive severely malnourished children and keep them until they are healthy enough to be able to live, there are a few children with terminal illnesses. Iya is a little girl with down syndrome and a very weak heart, her lips and hands are constantly blue. A few that contracted Meningitis as babies and have permanent handicaps, a beautiful little blind 1 year old girl named Maria Tony.

I've spent time with these children and also encouraging the Philippino workers there in their job and sharing the Gospel with them.

The Philippines is mostly a Catholic Nation, but it is very different to our Catholicism in America. In their outward acts it seems more like Buddhism. Every home has a alter to Mary (we are talking big alter, with a place to kneel to pray) much like spirit houses. There are necklaces, bracelets, belts with tokens and small pictures of the disciples/saints on them. It's this strange twist, they use all the right names, but the truth is not present.

Evangelism here is so much fun! Most people know the stories, ie, the Easter story, but have only heard it as a story, often times I get to share my testimony about knowing the stories, going to church, but not knowing God, and how it's changed my life. How the stories are more than just stories now. We get to share at women's group in the slums, the women's prison, random clinics in villages, riding on the bus, walking on the beach, everywhere there are opportunities! God is moving here in Subic Bay, people from the slums are coming to know Jesus, drug users are coming to know Jesus and are being freed from drug addiction, I'm so glad to be here for the next 5 weeks to help bring truth and love in to the people's lives! This is exciting!

You can pray for our team as we continue with clinics, to have the wisdom to treat and to have the faith to see people healed.

Please continue to pray for Cambodia and the work that is getting down there, while I'm away. I have a million and two ideas about how to take what I've learned back to Cambodia.

Thanks so much ya'll.
Peace. Molly.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Love Cedar Valley

We're in the final stretch of plans for this year's Love Cedar Valley. The mission of Love Cedar Valley is a day to partner with area churches to extend the love of Christ in real and practical ways in order that our community would take a step in being reconciled to God and one another.

Currently there are 35 churches joining together and a whole host of projects and outreaches that you can check out at the website found at I listened to the LCV band practice last night...a band with 6 churches represented...and they sounded awesome. I can't wait to pray, worship, and serve together with everyone on April 25!

Monday, April 13, 2009

10x100 for World Vision

The phone was ringing off the hook today at church for Don Williams, on staff at our church but also coaching and organizing this "Iowans for Africa" team, a "sub-team" of Team World Vision. It's marathon mania! The momentum is incredible right now. Wow, do people like a challenge! Don told me there's around 50 registered today to run the Chicago Marathon as part of this Iowa team, and he's getting calls with more and more interest.

We're fundraising and running for World Vision (, a great Christian relief organization. World Vision is the group that brought the World Vision AIDS Experience to our church in November, and we've partnered with them for several 30 Hour Famines in the past with our students. I love the work that God is doing through them. One of the most valuable books I've read about transformational development, Walking with the Poor, was written by Bryant Myers, who was on staff at World Vision.

In high school, I ran 4 x 220's. Now, I'm going to run a 10 x100...campaign that is. I'm campaigning to receive $10 by 100 people. You can check out my link at If you look to the right on that page, you can also click on "join this team" just to get a gander at who all has joined the team. (It doesn't commit you to joining if you click that! :)) I'm up to 2 minutes of jogging at a time without collapsing (last week was one minute intervals). Oh, the distance I must travel in the months ahead!

With Justice for All ch. 10

I've been slowly going through the book With Justice for All on this blog. Author John Perkins is one of the founding leaders in Christian Community Development, and this book is largely his narrative. In this particular chapter, John talks about how an almost fatal beating by a group of police officers in 1970 was used by God to clarify his calling from God. After months of struggling with bitterness toward whites, God enabled John to forgive and seek reconciliation. He writes,

"If there was going to be any healing, it would have to take place in an atmosphere of love. I had been trying to demand justice. Now God was opening my eyes to a new and better strategy- seeking reconciliation. I could not bring justice for other people. As a Christian, my responsibility was to seek to be reconciled. Then out of that reconciliation, justice would flow.

Affirmative action, integration, and so on might be useful, but they alone were not justice. Real justice would never be achieved by passing laws or going to court. "Many seek the ruler's favor, but justice for man comes from the Lord (Prov. 29:26). True justice could come only as people's hearts were made right with God and God's love motivated them to be reconciled to each other.

...A hope began to take root. God could heal the bitterness of blacks and replace it with forgiveness. God could forgive whites. He could move them beyond guilt-motivated patronization to responsible partnership with blacks in working for justice. How that could be achieved I didn't know. But God called me. He gave me the dream. He would make it happen."

And God did. Almost forty years later, Perkins is in his legacy stage of leadership. Having mentored hundreds of leaders, he continues to speak prophetically and coach people in their own calls from God to live out reconciliation and seek justice in Christian community.

Friday, April 10, 2009

new tennies, a pedometer, and a training calendar

I signed up to do a marathon. I smile as I type that because that seems quite ridiculous considering that I've never so much as run a 5K, and the last time I ran an entire mile nonstop was in 1983, my senior year of high school.

But I am so excited! I get to fundraise for World Vision, a Christian relief organization I have a great deal of respect for. I get to train with a coach whom I trust and love, and I get to do this with several friends. Even more, I bought really cool new running shoes today, a pedometer to measure my steps, AND I got my awesome Team World Vision shirt in the mail the other day. AND I have every day of the next 8 week pre-training schedule on my daily calendar in red ink. I'm a runner now! I'm revved and ready for the big day Oct. 11!

Oh blast, I think I actually have to run and consistently DO the training schedule.

Isn't this just how we are as people? We buy diet books and gym memberships in hopes that the tools themselves will transform our bodies. We buy the latest cool looking journals and slick writing pens in hopes that these will make us journalers. We read lots of good Christian books in hopes that they'll be the spiritual growth we desire. I'm not saying that these tools aren't useful in helping to provide the means to an end, but if you're like me, we hope the tools themselves will create the end results we desire. No deal. To really know running, not just know about it, I gotta put my cool new tennies to the pavement...a lot....over the next months to become a runner. One day at a time. Consistent practice. Engagement in the act of running.

To really know Jesus and not just know about him, I gotta put my faith to the day at a time... consistent practice...engagement with Jesus.

Good Friday

Part of Isaiah 53 was quoted last night at the Maundy Thursday service. What a prophetic word from Isaiah who lived hundreds of years before Christ. And what an amazing God to offer up Jesus as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of your sin and mine.

1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
11 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Deuteronomy 15:11 "There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore, I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land."

We have a group heading off to Haiti for a few weeks this month. We spent a few Sundays at church collecting money for the group to buy rice in Haiti to help meet the desperate need for food there. Friends in our congregation gave $7,740 toward rice, and an additional $750 to help purchase some goats for families while there.

We also have some farmers in our congregation who are involved in FRB (Foods Resource Bank). From the website (, the mission of FRB is: "Foods Resource Bank's goal is to engage the grassroots agricultural community in the U.S., along with individuals, churches and urban communities, to grow solutions to hunger problems in our world. FRB seeks to participate in helping to alleviate hunger throughout our world by working to establish food security through sustainable development activities. Food security is achieved "when all persons at all times have the physical and economic access to enough food to provide the nutrients they need for productive, active and healthy lives." Orchard Hill members and friends joined this mission over the past few weeks by providing $5805 to FRB. Much of the work our farmers are involved with goes to a project in Haiti.

The openhandedness of this congregation is so encouraging!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Families serving together

A few weeks' back our children's ministry "faith at home" focus was on the importance of serving as a family. After talking some about why we would serve as a family, the third graders and their parents went into our commons and served together by decorating lunch sacks that will be used during a free lunch giveaway for Love Cedar Valley on April 25. It was great fun to see parents coloring alongside their children! And the sacks were very creative. Whosoever will get a free lunch that day will most certainly smile...not only from the kind gesture of a lunch....but due to the comments and pictures on those sacks! "Jesus loves you!", "Have the best day ever because Jesus loves you!", "Have a wonderful lunch!", "Jesus is your friend."...all with decorative pictures to boot.
By the way, I read an impact paper on the value of families serving together. Children who grow up in externally-focused families often have a faith life that "sticks" and grows in their teen years. They learn first hand what it means to be "blessed to be a blessing". Did any of you grow up serving together with your family? How did it impact you and your faith?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Spring Break: San Francisco

Ben Patterson, director of junior high ministries at Orchard Hill, led a trip to SF. He writes this post:

San Francisco was a fantastic experience, I know we’d do it all again.

A group of 23 students and staff flew out to California where we would spend a week staying at Youth With a Mission (YWAM) located in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. Why is it called the “Tenderloin” you ask? Well, years ago the area was run amuck with all sorts of crime that the San Francisco Police Dept. actually had to pay officers a premium salary to work that particular district otherwise it would not have been patrolled. With that premium salary, it was said that they could buy the “prime cut of meat” which is the tenderloin. Still even to this day the Tenderloin is run by drugs, violence, prostitution and homelessness.

Of our group of 23 we had fourteen high school juniors and seniors along with three staff and then six college students. The college students were able to branch off and do their own activities through the week which worked well. This mission trip is driven by evangelism and witnessing to the people on the streets of the Tenderloin. We did a few work activities like spending a morning at Glide Memorial Church serving breakfast to the homeless, as well as Bucket Brigade which we went to the area shops and businesses and offered our services free of charge for any custodial work; but a lot of our activities were walking the streets and talking to the people.

The Hot Chocolate ministry is popular with the missionaries at YWAM as well as the homeless on the streets. What we would do is each evening groups of four would take a canister of hot chocolate and some cups and roam the streets asking people if they’d like some hot chocolate. It is a great way to open conversation with someone, to ask them how their day has been and to learn about their life and possibly turn the conversation to spirituality. Many of the conversations ended with a prayer. It was amazing how many people asked that we’d pray for them and how much they enjoyed the conversation.

Another great activity we put on was the Love Feast. We made a spaghetti dinner complimented with salad, french bread and an amazing brownie and invited the people on the streets to come take part in the feast. We provided the entertainment (songs, jokes, and testimonies) and ate lunch with the homeless. Many of them were so thrilled to be able to eat a meal in which they had choices such as “regular sauce or meat sauce” and “ranch, french or thousand island on your salad.” Laughter roared through the building, yet every prayer was heard. It was an amazing event.

There’s so many stories from a powerful week in the Tenderloin. It’s likely that our group took more from the experience than we even offered but you could certainly say that God’s presence was evident. The whole group was inspired to come back home and “live faith out loud” like we did for that week in ‘Frisco. You can learn more about YWAM San Francisco at and please pray for a continued impact in the Tenderloin.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Wildwood Hills Ranch Camp

fun at camp!
We talk about partnering with churches and our community to help meet the needs of people in our community. The Wildwood Hills Ranch Camp effort is a great example of this kind of partnership. Orchard Hill Church, together with Cedar Valley Community Church, Waterloo Community Schools, and Barmuda restaurant corporation have been working together to send kids from the Cedar Valley to Wildwood for camp in the summer. Maribeth Boelts is a leader in this effort and writes the post below:

Eighty children from Waterloo will soon be heading off to Wildwood Hills Ranch in St. Charles, IA ( This is a faith-based, Character Counts camp for at-risk children, ages 8-12. This will be the third year children from the Cedar Valley have attended. Wildwood Hills Ranch is a beautiful camp, with a lake, horses, swimming pool, hiking trails, an arts and crafts center, and so much more. Children stay engaged from the minute they wake up, to when their heads hit the pillows at 9:00 PM. Besides being a total blast, children are offered the love and hope of Jesus by the young, energetic counselors. They are constantly encouraged and challenged in this safe and fun environment and as a result, they blossom and grow at Wildwood... You may want to make the drive to St. Charles (30 minutes south of Des Moines--Madison
County) to see for yourself-- the camp welcomes all visitors!
Children will be attending camp this summer, June 22th-26th. If you are interested in sponsoring a child for a week at camp, or would like to volunteer at the camp as some of our Orchard Hill folks have done, please contact Maribeth Boelts. (, 277-0981)

Spring Break: Nuevo Progresso

Tim Walsten is on student ministry staff at Orchard Hill. He and his wife Shelby and one other staff led 12 high schoolers on the trip to Nuevo Progresso. Tim writes the following for an interview that was in the local high school newspaper:
*What do you think is the most rewarding thing about taking high school students on mission trips? I think the most rewarding aspect of taking students on mission trips is giving them the opportunity to experience a different culture, build real and authentic relationships (no technology needed) with each other and leaders, and seeing God at work in their hearts and in the hearts and lives of those they witness to all over the world. It really pumps me up to see students having tons of fun actually serving on these mission trips that they pay to go on! It's not a burden and in fact for some it's one of the best trips of their life! They serve, they love, they learn, they grow, they're challenged, and they slow down to truly experience God in their life and in the location they are serving.
*What was your favorite experience from this trip to Mexico?My favorite experience this year was seeing God's work through an opportunity that we've never experienced before. A couple weeks before the trip a mom of a student going felt God tugging her heart asking her to donate a hundred dollars to help with whatever I thought was appropriate. During the house building process one of the retired men, Gary, who was helping realized that electricity would be available in the near future. He offered his electrical expertise to help us wire the house for electricity and lights! When I asked Gary how much it would cost, he said it would be about a hundred dollars! I was awestruck at how God works in amazing ways. It was so rewarding to see the students complete the construction of the house and be able to install some lights with a generator. Shelby, my wife, and I have never had the chance for students to install lights in any of the previous years of building. I found so much joy in seeing the families’ reaction to there new home with lights and electricity and getting the opportunity to pray for them and their future is such a neat experience year after year.
*Do you plan on taking another mission trip to Mexico next year? Yes! One of our mission strategies is to build long lasting relationships with those we serve and work with to serve. It’s our strategy to go serve in the same places year after year where we’ve built relationships with those living, working, and serving permanently in that location. While we may be serving different people every year, we work with those people who are experts in knowing the culture where we’re serving. To be able to continually work with these experts, it all comes down to the relationships we’ve built with them. For my wife and I, it’s truly a blessing and honor to partner year after year with Bob and Esther Scott and their retired friends who spend their winters in Pine to Palm RV Park and serving in Nuevo Progresso, Mexico.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

from death to life, from old to new

Colossians 2:9-15
"For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross."
Michelle, a friend whom I've written about several times before on this blog, was baptized today at Harvest Vineyard. What a great celebration of this Scripture above!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Spring Break: Rushville, MO

Kris Hoskinson, Orchard Hill's high school director, wrote this post about their Spring Break trip to God's Mountain, Rushville, Missouri:

About God's Mtn Camp (from the website):
In 1994, Johnny Williams (a Midland Ministries staff member) heard of an old boys camp located in the bluffs south of St. Joseph. This camp had been abandoned and was in a terrible state of disrepair. Yet, after much prayer Johnny and his wife Pam, started the process of fixing it up again. After much hard work and volunteer help , they were able to hold a week of guys camp in 1995. Since then , God has provided the means to do amazing things at God’s Mountain. Although there is still much to do , God definitely has his hands in the work and ministry of God’s Mountain.
This was the first time we have taken a high school group there but this trip has been happening for 10+ years within college ministry.
We took twenty-seven 9-12th grade students, eight leaders, two cooks, and five babies/kids. This trip is great because it is very family friendly!

We had an amazing week. We spent the week working at the camp to help with repairs, building, and other various projects as the God's Mountain Staff has been preparing to have the camp ready for when summer campers will arrive. We worked hard throughout the week and really saw a great deal of work accomplished. We spent the week focusing on different ways we can "experience God" with short teachings about surrender, studying God's word, experiencing Him through various pathways, our need for relationships, being thankful, sharing Christ with others, and more. We had an hour of quiet time each day to go off on our own and be with God and the weather was beautiful so it really allowed for us to be outside and enjoy God's creation.
One student I spoke with shared with me that although he doesn't always get excited to do work projects, he really wanted to work hard at the camp to make it ready for summer campers, as he realized the influence that our work could have on the lives of students that will be there this summer.
I love the idea that a mission trip is not just about the work that is done for a week at a certain place. It is also about the work done in the hearts and lives of people that continues after the week is over!

Friday, April 3, 2009

giving blood saves lives

I'm trying to keep record of ways our church is acting outwardly and impacting the community we live in. Ed Baker, on the left in the photo above, is one of our pastors, and he has been good about organizing blood drives at our church from time to time. Today was such a day. Right outside of my office door several people were waiting to climb up on a bed and donate blood. I've heard that giving blood helps to actually save 3 people's lives. That's a very wonderful thing. I've learned that 43 donors gave blood today in order to bless 129 lives. Way to go, Ed and donors!

Love In the Name of Christ

We have several churches in our Cedar Valley that have gathered together and will soon become an affiliate of Love INC. (check out In this way, the Church can begin to partner together to more effectively serve the needs of our community. Love INC coordinates and collaborates with existing agencies to help walk with a person to take steps forward in their life and faith. God is using Love INCs around our country in some pretty awesome ways to point people to Him and to help people walk out of hard places and into a beautiful network of relationships within the Church.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Whose job is it?

I don't have his book in front of me, but somewhere in Missional Renaissance, Reggie McNeal explains how after WW II, our society began to structure in such a way that people began to farm out things to specialists...families even began to assign spiritual growth as the job of the church. (He explains this much more intelligently).

The Church is guilty of this as well. We've assigned the role of caring for the poor to the government system, and we 've assigned the judicial system the role of determining justice and reforming prisoners. This is insane, really. Who could think that such systems and programs alone will really make the difference in people's lives?

I sat in a court room the other day with a judge, a county attorney, a defense lawyer, and the defendant, a friend of mine. I watched the three employed in the judicial system look through their files, make notes, argue a few points, and determine a sentence for my friend. This, before they moved on to their next case to do more of the same. All I could do as I watched this proceeding is think, "Come on, Church, where are you?" I considered the ratio of all the churches and followers of Jesus in town to how many are engaged and walking with the poor or the prisoners in town. There's some room for engagement. And a better path for reform.

With Justice for All ch. 9

"Our response to the poor is a crucial test of our faithfulness to the gospel.

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me," Jesus read, "because He anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, and to set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord. " (Luke 4:18-19)

The Church, as Christ' Body on Earth, is charged with carrying out Christ's mission. Jesus' example is our model, our biblical mandate, to proclaim the Good News to the poor."

These are John Perkin's words as he begins chapter 9 talking about God's special concern with the poor. He goes on to say,

"As God's agents on Earth, we are responsible to live out this special concern for the poor. You cannot be and you ought not be in the president's administration unless you are committed to the president's philosophy. Otherwise his program will not be carried out smoothly. In the same way, you cannot effectively carry out God's program unless you have the mind of Christ. To have the mind of Christ is to be especially concerned with the poor. It is to have a special compassion for the disenfranchised, for the aching in our society. And it is to act on that concern.

Whether we take the gospel to the poor, then, is not an incidental side issue; it is a revealing test of the church's faithfulness to Christ's mission.

How then shall we proclaim the Good News to the poor? Once again Jesus is our model: "The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14) . Jesus relocated. He didn't commute to Earth one day a week and shoot back up to heaven. He left His throne and became one of us so that we might see the life of God revealed in Him."

Perkins spends the rest of this chapter talking about the challenging idea of relocation. He speaks passionately about how we must live among the poor. We must be one with them. Their needs must become our needs. Do you have thoughts about the challenging principle of relocation?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Spring Break: Denver, CO

Jeff Mickey is Orchard Hill's college director and wrote this post. He and Karla Chestnut, who also works in college ministry, along with their families, led college students to Denver, CO, this Spring Break.

My family went on the Denver Spring Break trip with the Chestnuts and 27 college students. We partnered with Denver Urban Ministries and had the opportunity to learn a lot about the city and homelessness, and serve in a number of different capacities with a variety of compassionate organizations and ministries. We painted houses with Brothers Redevelopment (an organization that provides affordable housing and home repair/maintenance to people in need), visited with adults with neurological disorders at the King Adult Daycare facility, packed food and reclaimed salvaged items at the Food Bank of the Rockies, prepared medical supplies for shipment to third world countries at another cool mission, served meals with the Denver Rescue Mission and Catholic Worker Soup Kitchen, packed books for distribution at ARCO Thrift Store which serves the needs of the poor, toured the city and were educated on the needs and different organizations providing for those needs in LODO (lower downtown Denver), heard a powerful story from Andrew - a former drug addict and homeless man now serving the poor and homeless through Urban Peak Mission, and discussed the role of the church in advocacy with our local, state and federal government as a means to promote justice.
We also enjoyed a Denver Nuggets game, skiing at Loveland, and some fun time to play, worship, and build community in small groups. I think the web address for DenUm is
Our students and families were deeply moved by the stories of the people who live on the margins and are mostly forgotten. We were impressed and found hope in the number of people who are trying like crazy to reach out in love and provide mercy, and also do something to try to fix the causes of poverty and homelessness. We were challenged to consider how our faith compels us to go to hard places and to consider the values of justice and mercy in our own communities back home. I think mostly, when I looked into the faces of the 800 homeless people who came for a meal at the St. Francis Center on Friday afternoon, I was struck by the difference in attitude and spirit among the people. Surely external factors influence this. But some people were totally defeated, resigned to giving up. They were just there for a meal so they could survive another day. Others still had a spark in their eyes, a smile on their faces, hope in their hearts. And it just really hit me that while the food is really important and critical, we have something even more important to offer these people. We have the hope of Jesus. We need to bring both the physical and spiritual bread of life to these hurting people.