Wears Valley Ranch (October 19-21)

October 21, 2018

Saturday dawned with steady rain, causing us to wonder whether the planned projects would be delayed. We enjoyed a hearty breakfast prepared by the kitchen team heard testimonies from the JFBC team.  By the time we were ready to begin the projects the rain had not stopped, but since some of the painting and staining was in the covered outdoor gym and in a cabin we went ahead with those projects.

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The rain ended before lunch and so we were able to complete the other fencing, landscaping, and tree removal projects, in spite of the rain delay!  

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Hearing the testimonies of some of the children at the Ranch was certainly a highlight of the trip. Many of the children and staff joined us for meals, giving us a chance to hear various testimonies and often to share ours as well. At one dinner table, two 11 year old boys shared how they had come to Christ recently here at the Ranch. Sunday morning another young man shared with the whole group how he had come to the Ranch from a troubled home and had also come to Christ here.  It is a joy to hear how the Lord has used the Ranch to bring children to faith in Him and to help them handle some of the difficulties from their backgrounds.

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The kitchen team ministered to both the JFBC team and the ranch with their ‘ministry of meals’—drawing the staff and children to share wonderful food and fellowship with us.  Not only did all of us enjoy eating the food, but the project load seemed lighter with such great meals to look forward to!

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We shared a great time of worship and observance of the Lord’s Supper on Sunday with the congregation that meets there in the new chapel. The Ranch does not take on debt to build, but rather does the work as the funds become available, so we have watched the chapel take shape over the past couple of years. It was great to worship in it for the first time on this trip! After a fellowship meal with the church we headed home, blessed by being part of this ministry to children.  

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Facing Goliath in Tanzania

While our team shared numerous treasured experiences while serving with e3 Partners in Tanzania, I would like to share just two. Both show the steadfastness of the Lord, and through both experiences our team learned valuable lessons about Him and grew in our relationships with Him.

We were under trees, in a village school yard, an hour from the nearest town, deep in the heart of Tanzania, sharing Bible stories. Our team presented a skit on David and Goliath to about 40 men and women. A few were churched Christians, but most were unreached people of the Zamaro people group, many of whom are Muslims. Naturally we cast the tallest lady on our team as Goliath and the shortest as David. The rest of us played Children of Abraham, Philistines, and King Saul. The reception of our “performance” caught us so off guard that we could hardly keep from splitting our sides with laughter!  Crowds gathered, curious children crept in from the dirt road, translators were recording on their phones, and laughter erupted along with loud clapping and shouting; they loved it!  Our audience screamed for our Goliath, who roared, flexed her arms and wore a costume made from aluminum foil and poster paper! David shot ping pong balls at Goliath with a sling shot, and the king wore her paper crown proudly. Our scribe and her interpreter narrated the story from a “scroll” on a paper towel roller, and the rest of us shouted our lines, giggled, and basically acted crazy. The next day when we arrived at the ministry site, everyone cheered and flexed their arms when our Goliath walked up! 

What did we learn?  We didn’t need expensive costumes to get the story across.  God told His story through us; we just went where God sent us and acted on the stage He provided, for the audience He prepared ahead of time.

 A small group plans the pictures they will draw from the story of Nehemiah.

A small group plans the pictures they will draw from the story of Nehemiah.

The second experience I want to share with you happened on the second day at our ministry site.  Our team had been divided into teaching teams of 2, and the class had been divided into small groups of 7-10. Each small group included at least one Christian national, and Muslims comprised the rest of the group. On that day we were teaching Creation, Fall, and Redemption.  While I certainly wanted to finish strong and present the full Gospel, I didn’t want my manner of presentation to deter the Muslims (and one Muslim man in particular) in our group from returning to finish the week of Community Transformation classes. I wanted to speak with love, gentleness, and respect, and as I spoke, I prayed in my mind and heart, “not too strong not too soft.”  My partner spoke of Creation, I spoke of the Fall, and as I began Redemption the one Christian lady in our small group interrupted me and said, “My name is Amelia. I, myself, choose to follow Jesus.  He is the Son of God and came to die on the cross for our sins.”  All I could say was, “Thank you Lord.” I truly believe that God placed Amelia in our group to share the Gospel in a way that this Muslim man could really hear. As a member of his community and culture, Amelia has a kind of credibility and influence that we did not, and she remains a point of contact should he have questions. Later, I encouraged Amelia and thanked her for sharing her testimony in our small group. 

 Sharing with one of the small groups.

Sharing with one of the small groups.

This experiences really brought home the power of prayer. Prayers whispered in the moment as well as before you arrive are truly heard by our God.

 Here, we are learning how to make batik—a fabric dying technique.

Here, we are learning how to make batik—a fabric dying technique.

 The finished result!

The finished result!

Romania

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Our trip to Romania began with a wonderful time of fellowship and outreach. We helped Harmony church put on a picnic to bring together members of the community, believers and non-believers.

Before the picnic, our team built four picnic tables, and of course we all helped prepare the delicious menu of barbecued ribs and chicken, fresh corn, delicious Romanian cole-slaw, home grown fruits and veggies, and yummy, homemade sweet treats.  

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We were privileged to share testimonies and visit with our guests. We pray that our message of God’s faithfulness and his power to transform gave hope and encouragement.

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Our team was also blessed to worship alongside our Romanian brothers and sisters in Christ. We were honored to encourage these church bodies by sharing our testimonies with them.

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Vacation Bible School was a blast! 

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 Shelves were built at the Poppy shop where the proceeds support Hospice patients

Shelves were built at the Poppy shop where the proceeds support Hospice patients

Throughout the week, two of our team members have tirelessly aided and encouraged local hospice nurses. They held a two day seminar to share palliative care methods and accompanied the nurses on home visits. We were all humbled to hear about how these Romanian hospice nurses doe so much with so little. Not only do they care for the physical needs of the patients, but they also tend to the spiritual needs of the patients and families, through prayer, love, and encouragement.

Meanwhile, our food distribution team visited fellow Christians who are homebound due to chronic illness. They sought to offer encouragement and care, hoping to provide physical and spiritual sustenance.

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The whole team had a wonderful experience visiting the orphanage in Blaj. The parents of these children brought them to the orphanage because either they cannot or will not care for the child any longer. Even in the midst of these heartbreaking circumstances, the Lord provided us with abundant joy as we played and spent time with the children. Please join us in continued prayer for them.

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We are so thankful for our opportunity to share Kingdom work with our ministry friends in Romania. We ask God to use all that we said and did for His continued glory.

Albania Update

Hello from Albania! Team America has been at English Camp on the beaches of Vlore since Monday, and we all agree that it is a privilege to serve alongside the Cru team in this outreach ministry to college students. I just escaped Albania Night for a few minutes so I can tell you what is happening on this side of the world.

We have four classes of fairly proficient English speakers from the University in Tirana, so several of us have had to increase the level of our lessons significantly. Beyond teaching article adjectives, contractions, and conjunctions, we are playing lots of games and having deep discussions about God.

On Monday we had the students fill out a form which identifies their worldview. On Tuesday we read through Genesis 1 in order to discuss creation based on our worldview and theirs. Today we went over to Genesis 3 where they learned about sin and separation from God from a Biblical perspective. This led to many thoughtful questions, which we continued in the afternoon by taking individual students to “coffee” (a generic term describing a time of socializing with friends). We, of course, do this in order to know the students on a more personal level with the hope of sharing the Gospel and them making a decision to follow Jesus.

On Tuesday night, we hosted America Night. We attempted to explain the great diversity that exists in our country through a skit, team games, dancing, and a few boring statistics (Darin’s words…not mine). The kids ate brownies and ice cream, enjoyed our photo booth, and went away with their very own American T-shirt. The one thing that surprised us all is that none of them had every played BINGO. They are a very competitive group, so you can imagine how serious they took this game!

And now for some hi-lights from team members about the exciting things God has done thus far:

Jim~ “The students in our discussion group have really enjoyed and engaged in the Bible topics. My student helper and I met with two students. One has begun to understand what it means to be a true Christian, while the second desires to know who God is. She said she would study the Bible so she can hear from God.”

Pam~ “I had an amazing conversation with a girl who has never heard anything about the Bible. Both of her parents have a Communist background, so they never talked about God in her family. I was able to share a clear presentation of the Gospel with her, but she said it will take time to process. At this time she believes there is a God, so I explained His promise that if she seeks, she will find Him. I also encouraged her to get involved with Jetmira, one of the Cru staff, in order to navigate all of this new information.”

Zoya~ “I had a good conversation with a young man who said that he believes in God. I shared my testimony with him, and he has many questions about God. I am going to give him a devotional so he can read every day and know God more. I also talked with another student who believes in God, but he wants to have a more personal relationship with Him.”

Darin~ “I have liked everything about this mission trip so far. I’ve enjoyed getting to know the kids and the culture, and I am realizing that missionaries work really hard! One of the students I’ve talked to about God is receptive to hearing the Gospel and my beliefs, and is open to share the differences with his beliefs. I was able to share my testimony for the first time since being here, and we were able to connect over that. He is interested in learning more, so I hope to have more one-on-one time with him before we leave.”

Rick~ “I had good discussions with two students and was pleasantly surprised with the interest one of them showed. When the other left he said, ‘I need to go think.’ Hopefully that is a sign that God is working on his heart.”

Ashley~ “I have had promising conversations with two boys who believe in God but have misconceptions about who He is. Their main struggle is with the question of suffering. As they ask very good questions, I have had to take a step back and really think about how best to articulate a clearly defined response. I believe that God is working through these discussions to address their concerns, but in doing so, to continually redirect them back to the cross where it all make sense. I hope to continue these conversations and pray that both will develop a personal relationship with Jesus.” 

Kelly~ “After class, I was able to get into a good conversation with one of my students who believes in God but doesn’t understand forgiveness. I am hoping to have ‘coffee’ with her tomorrow to continue our discussion. I also spoke for several hours with a young lady who has a worldview unlike anything I’ve ever heard. She is highly intelligent and has created a theory based on an algorithm in our brains which enables us to function in this world. She is very curious and allowed me to explain my beliefs. She also asked many questions and left the conversation saying that she would continue to learn about Christianity, though she really likes what she believes.”

Lucy and Charles~ “The students in our class acknowledge God in one way or another. We have one that has been influenced heavily by Islam, so he doesn’t believe in the Trinity or that Jesus is God. We also have one that leans very much toward Pantheism, believing that ‘everything’ is God. Another approaches this topic from a philosophical and intellectual mindset. He has quoted Nietzsche, and yet is not an atheist. A couple are medical students who are looking for a way to reconcile ‘science’ with Christianity. None are Atheist. None are hostile. All are actively and eagerly asking questions and re-evaluating their worldviews in light of the Gospel.”

Blessings and love from all of us!

Albania (July 19-29)

Thank you for joining us on our journey to Albania and partnering with us in prayer. Our mission will be to share the love of Christ with college students from the University in Tirana, while teaching English. We will be working alongside a team of seven Cru staff on the southern coast of Albania.

Camp begins Sunday, July 22, with registration and testing to divide participants into beginner, intermediate, and advanced classes. Monday through Friday mornings will include English lessons, games to promote learning, and Bible discussion. In the afternoons students will have free time, during which our goal will be to have one-on-one Gospel conversations over coffee and/or gelato. In the evenings Cru and American teams will host fun, group activities.


Prayer Requests:

·         Pray that God would go before us to prepare the hearts of each student who will be at  camp.

·         32 students have signed up so far, including 28 nonbelievers and 4 believers. We can    accommodate 36 students, so please pray that God will bring students with receptive hearts to hear and receive the Gospel.   

·         Pray that true disciples of Christ will come from this group of students, and that they will impact many for the kingdom of God in the future.

·         Pray for the team’s boldness and for opportunities to share the Gospel.

·         Pray for flexibility and unity among the believers.

·         Pray for our safety and the safe arrival of the luggage and teaching supplies.

·         Pray that we would serve the Cru staff well.

·         Pray for the health and strength of the team members.  Most of the Cru staff are finishing up another week of language camp just before we arrive.

·         Pray that we would build relationships that will continue to grow even after camp is over.

·         Pray for the protection of our loved ones while we are away.

·         Pray that God will remove all roadblocks and distractions, so that we are fully focused on our mission.

·         Pray that God prevents the enemy from gaining any foothold in or influence over the minds of the lost students.

·         Pray for humility and that all glory goes to God.

Clarkston Rocks!!

Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good.
I know the Lord is great,
That our Lord is greater than all gods.
— Psalm 135:3a & 5a
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Beginning June 11, thirty happy and eager servants traveled daily to Clarkston, Georgia.  It is difficult to imagine so many people groups—sixty languages in a one-mile radius—live in this small Georgia town.  It was an honor to be a part of this week’s Camp Encounter where children could receive academic tutoring, be a part of sports camp, or art and music camp (a.k.a. Clarkston Rocks). Of the 150 registered campers, approximately 70 attended our Clarkston Rocks music and arts sessions, which included Art, Crafts and Musical Instruments.

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Each morning began with a chapel session, during which Pamela taught songs about God’s goodness, greatness, everlasting love, and power to the children.  Lauren McCook taught the children to sign the memory verse and each day Pastor Eric, from Clarkston International Baptist Church, taught a different attribute of God to the children.  So, every day all of us learned something new of God’s Glory and Wisdom, that He is Almighty and sovereign.

What a blessing it is to hear the children’s sweet voices singing praises to the Lord!

You have set your glory in the heavens through the praise of children.
— .Psalm 8:1-2
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At art and music camp, the kids had a great time learning how to play instruments and how to make them too!  They also got quite good at reading and playing different rhythms. 

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Boot camp and music bingo taught the kids to read the many symbols that are found in a musical composition, while we all exercised, ran, hopped, and jumped to the music. We really got our steps in each day while having so much fun! 

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Have you ever tried to balance an Oreo on your forehead and get it in your mouth without using your hands?? Try it....great family fun and lots of laughs. 

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We also expanded our repertoires with Chinese art techniques. Adults and kids alike became quite adept at managing the brush to create fish, flowers and birds...truly works of art.

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Throughout the week, our team members remained alert for possible opportunities to have gospel conversations with the children.  During art classes, team members were especially sensitive to praise each individual’s artistic ability, instead of focusing on our “mistakes.” We used that opportunity to talk about how, through Jesus, God can see each of us as His perfect children.

Friday’s highlight was having the families join us for celebration and sharing of all that the children had learned and built in camp: scripture, sign language, worship through song and playing of instruments, arts, crafts, new friendships, and so much more. 

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Looking into the eyes of these beautiful children from so many corners of the world is a precious reminder of how diverse Heaven will be.  Our daily prayer was, and is, to be an instrument in sharing the Good News!

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To God be the glory. Our God is in the Heavens; He does all that he pleases.
— Psalm 115:3

We pray that the Lord was pleased with our efforts and will multiply them and those of Clarkston International Bible Church and the Proskuneo School of the Arts that is housed there. 

 

 

Clarkston, GA (June 11-15)

JFBC is sending another team to Clarkston, GA, this time for five days. We will be helping with the Clarkston Rocks summer music camp. Since the team will commute back and forth from Clarkston every day, we would really appreciate prayers for safe and easy commutes, as well as for health and energy. We are so excited to share our passion for the Lord with these children as we teach them about music—not simply for its own sake, but as an expression of worship. Music can be such a powerful tool to share about the Lord and to lead people into relationship with Him. Please join us in prayer as we show love to these children and their parents and as we serve as the instruments of the Lord in His mission to seek and save the lost.  

Here is an outline of prayer requests specific to each day’s events:

June 11: Transportation safety driving from JFBC to Clarkston, GA daily, as well as good health of team members

June 12: The spiritual songs, Bible stories & scriptures we are teaching to penetrate the children’s hearts

June 13: God’s joy to be captured by the students as we learn about His gift of music & art            

June 14: Divine appointments & God’s power as the team has opportunities to share with the music camp participants – perhaps encouragement, a testimony, a prayer, or the gospel message

June 15: Parents that come to the parent performance will understand and know the One True God about Whom we are sharing                        

We thank you for your prayers and support, and we cannot wait to share with you what all the Lord has in store over the upcoming week and beyond!