Archive for June 2014

Adventures of an old Church Building

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     Every day is an adventure here. I imagine that church planting is always an adventure, regardless of what that look likes; having an old limestone building that seems to have not been cleaned thoroughly in 10 years+,  creates some unique adventures though.
     Friday and Saturday a pre-teen group from Duneland Community were here. Working with pre-teens after working with high school students was a learning curve. Every group of teens has their own uniqueness. They did accomplish a lot, and they played a lot too. It's always great to see our building getting use.
    One of the projects we worked on was cleaning out a very neglected storage area. We pulled everything out, and began organizing everything into piles of keep, rummage sale, and throw out. In our journey of cleaning things out, we discovered several mouse homes, and I discovered a weed growing up an air conditioning coil into the storage area. (I'm grateful the Freemont teens weeded all around the air conditioning units, which was a HUGE undertaking. I am sure that's why the weed I found was dead, and not continuing to grow up through the unit).

This is the weed I pulled. It seriously is an adventure every day. 

Vacuuming up a whole lot of "presents" left by mice

A small fraction of the stuff we pulled out of the storage area

Much better, and ready to store things without mice, weeds, and dirt everywhere. 

      Despite all the work our groups are getting done, it is truly a great blessing to have guests. I was trying to do the math of who has spent the night in our home, and I think the count is up to 36 right now, not to mention the many more who have had dinner here, the family that's helped us out, and the service workers (plumbers, electrician, a/c repair, etc.) that have been in and out of both our home and church building. Having people here truly makes us feel like we aren't alone. 
     We also had a surprise visit from 2 of our dear friends from Mundelein, who now live in Seattle. It was such a blessing to see them, and to share with them all we are trying to accomplish here in our little corner of the city. 
      Almost daily we are reminded that the kingdom of God is bigger than us. It reminds us often that if God is for us, who can be against us? That despite not having money, despite the struggles we sometimes face, the doubts of some of our neighbors, etc. that God is working, and that He is continuing to work here and around the world. 
     So, I continue dealing with the adventures. Weeds, mice, pre-teen hormones, etc., because these are such small things in light of all that the Holy Spirit seeks to do here. The best days are yet to come (and these days, are pretty good). 

A Dog and a Birthday

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     A lot has happened over the past few days. It's hard to keep a blog and stay as busy as we are, but I know many of you are praying for us, and excited with the news of what is happening here in Hammond.

     After the Fremont teens left, we were exhausted. After a few days of recovery, we went to visit my parents in Michigan. It was great to worship there on Sunday, and we got to bring our dog home! We were unable to have her in our last home, and she is adjusting pretty well to life in Hammond. 
    Living in the parsonage means I get quite a few unexpected guests throughout the day, and it's nice to have her around. Despite not having services yet, people show up quite often. The culture here is quite a bit different than the one we left. I discover all the time that it seems the Holy Spirit is moving, we just have to pay attention and reveal where He's working. 
     Our dog also loves the church. She goes over with me, while I sort through things, or set up for various groups. It's even nicer having here there. Being in a large old building alone can be a bit intimidating, especially since we discovered this week that we have no idea who has church keys. (We will have to get the locks changed). 
    We also celebrated Mac's 30th birthday! He deserved more than the small get together we threw together, but it was a great time. Just another reminder that it's nice to live so close to family. He's sacrificed a lot the past few weeks so we can start this church, and so we are taken care of. He works long days, and then comes home to work on projects around the parsonage and the church. I know it's exhausting, and I know it is hard financially since I'm not working this summer. I'm very blessed to have such a partner in ministry and life.
    When people ask what he wants for his birthday, I know his response is always "Nothing", and I know he means it. He values spending time with his loved ones, getting a card or a phone call so much more than anything. However, I also know how financially straining the past few months have been. We are close to exhausting all our alabaster funds for the house (they'll be used up with the purchase of a new furnace and air conditioning unit), and we still have work to do. A plumber is coming on Friday to fix an issue with our outdoor drain, an electrician is coming by to check everything in the house and make sure things are up to code, and those are just the issues we are aware of. That's just the house. That doesn't include the a/c needing to be fixed at the church, paying for utilities, trash pick up, cleaning supplies, paying for student loans, a car payment, and train tickets. We have been really blessed (which is why we don't bring this stuff up a lot). We're blessed to have a house and a church building, we are blessed to have city connexx groups that have paid for church projects thus far, and we are so blessed that we had alabaster funds. So, if you are looking for a way to celebrate Mac's 30th year, consider financially supporting our ministry. There's more information under the tab titled "Support our Ministry". Even more important than financially supporting us, say a prayer as you think of us. Pray for our neighbors, for the teens that are still coming this summer, and even for all of our interactions with service people doing work on our house. 
      We are grateful for your prayers, financial support, but ultimately your love. It's interesting being a missionary here in Hammond, but that is truly what we are doing. Planting seeds, building relationships, and hoping through our lives, we can share Jesus with those around us. 

FLY Trip

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   I wanted to blog every day that the First Lutheran Youth were here. That didn't happen. I was so busy working, answering questions, and just enjoying making awesome new friends. It still amazes me a bit that this is my life now. All of my loves and passions seem rolled into one. My love of youth ministry, my love for the Church, compassionate ministry, and on the list goes. It truly is amazing.
    The First Lutheran group were really amazing. They weren't here long, but I feel like I met them weeks or months ago vs days. The teens were so polite, hard working, and it was evident they are truly striving after the heart of Christ.
    To give you an idea of how much they have done, I have put together some before and after pictures for you.
    Thanks First Lutheran teens for your amazing hard work, and your spirits. It was an absolute blast having you, and our house feels empty without your laughter, conversation, and spirit. Come and visit!
      The Teen Space Before (the space is especially for the teen groups coming this summer to hang out during their free time)

 The Teen Space After

 The foyer/welcome center area Before


The foyer/welcome space After

 The Conference Room Before


 The Conference Room After

Garden Areas Before and during

Gardens After

This is just a small fraction of the work they got done, and I have a lot of after pictures to still take. There is still a lot to do, BUT it definitely feels a lot less overwhelming. With all the groups coming, we may have a new church/house by the end of August!
    However, one of the greatest parts of having such awesome teens do visible work, is that the neighbors have come out of the woodwork to meet us. They are excited that the house and church grounds look presentable. They are excited that something is happening in the big old church that's been sitting empty for so long. I have met 4 or 5 neighbors over the past few days, and the teens kept telling me stories of their interactions as well.
    The neighbor across the street has a pool, and he kept telling the teens they could use his pool, and how great the work they were doing was. A man came by today and said even though he isn't a teen, he'd love to help out sometime, and looked excited when I told him he should stop by the house for a cup of coffee some time. Another man came up to the teens and said he was so happy a church was going to start here. When we went on a prayer walk Sunday night, people waved, they asked what we were doing, they welcomed the teens from Nebraska to Hammond. Stories of thin places where God was so evidently at work.
      I also had so many amazing conversations with the teens. About resurrection, life, living a life of intention, and the kingdom of God.
     The great moments seeped into our fun trips as well, into Chicago, to the Dunes. The laughter, the joy, the experiences, have made things here seem less overwhelming. They've made this church planting thing some more like a reality and less like a dream.
   This week was just another example that the Church is in great hands. These teens are amazing, and I am blessed to know them.
    Lastly, there was a severe tornado near where these teens were from. One of the chaperone's home town was destroyed. Her childhood church is gone. Her family has suffered great loss. She flew here late, and actually was scheduled to come in the morning after the tornado. She still came. I'm astounded by her selflessness. She said there was nothing she could do at home yet, so she should still come. Pray for them as they recover. A great reminder that maybe you can't come here to Hammond, or head to Nebraska to help with tornado relief, but there is no shortage of needs, you can serve somewhere in someway and be a blessing to someone else.
    More stories and more pictures to come. Excited for the days ahead.

3 Days


   We have only three days until our first city connexx group comes!! I am excited to see all that we can accomplish together, and get to know these teens and adults. Being able to open our home is one of our greatest joys. My college roommate was our first official guest this past weekend, and this group from Nebraska will be our second official guests (there are just a lot more of them). 
    I feel extremely behind. My first week here, I ended up doing very little, so now I feel like I'm rushing to catch up with everything. I keep reminding myself, it will all work out. Things rarely go as planned, and that's OK. Things will be good, even if they don't go as planned. 
    Last night I put together a work board for them, with projects color coded by priority. Since there are so many people coming, I hope we'll be able to get a whole lot more done than I anticipate, but I've learned the past several days, that all sorts of things can come up. 
    Example: I went to set up for the group this afternoon and the air conditioning in the sanctuary isn't working right. Thus, it might be a very hot week. This was not part of the plan. However, even though this is outside of our plan, the air at the house works great, the air in the upstairs of the church works great, and water is plentiful. It'll all work out. 
    It was pretty amazing to see the sanctuary set up for the group. 

    I took a picture so you could check it out. Everything is dirty, the basketball hoop has to go outside, but it's so exciting to think that in just a few days people will be in here, worshipping. 
    One of the projects the teens will be doing, is to take the plexi glass off the stained glass windows, and clean them well. I couldn't wait to see what they are going to look like from the inside though, so I rolled up all of the shades that weren't broken. 

     This is what they look like from the inside with the light shining through. There is a lot to do, but I am so excited about the days ahead. 


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     There is a problem when you aren't making money as a pastor, and you move into an old house and church building, that problem is called finances. We are extremely blessed, because we were given alabaster funds for our house, and the district is reimbursing our moving expenses. We also have mission trip teams coming, who are paying for their own projects.
    We try not to complain, because we recognize that we are starting off in a much better place than a lot of church planters. Only, today we had the air conditioner and furnace serviced. Our house is in pretty great structural shape, but as a whole, it's been very poorly maintained. Everything is dirty, and there seem to be issues with a lot of things. The sump pump had to be replaced, the floors had to be replaced, the front door had to be replaced, and now the furnace has to be replaced. 
    The positives are this: 1) It's June and not November, so we have a little bit of time to get the furnace replaced. 2) It would make sense to have the a/c replaced at the same time, but it's not a necessity (at least as of today) 3) We have a little bit of money from alabaster to hopefully help with that. 
     The downsides: 1) There are still a lot of other projects that need to be done on the house. Painting, redoing bathrooms, fixing some window screens, cleaning everything, getting new light fixtures, etc. 2) I don't have a money making job yet. 
      There are definitely moments where I think "What in the world did we get ourselves into?!" But, there are other moments too. Like yesterday when I dropped my friends' marriage license in the mail after officiating their wedding this weekend, or when the random man knocked on our door because he heard we were affiliated with the church across the street. Those moments make it feel great to be a pastor, even if money's tight. Even if we are eating pasta and grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner each night. There's still an optimism in my heart, hope that God is up to something here. 
    Nothing has gone as we had planned. We moved, I got shingles. Boxes still aren't unpacked, we haven't even picked out paint colors, my truck is still sitting in Mundelein, because I haven't had time to go take care of it, we had to buy all new appliances, a new sump pump had to be put in, our furniture didn't get delivered when it was supposed to be (we've been sitting in folding chairs for what feels like forever now), and now we have to buy a new furnace before we can use it. And... we aren't even homeowners!!! 
     In the midst of all of that, there is still hope. Hope that as we work and clean up our home and church, that the Holy Spirit will continue to work through us to do a work in our neighborhood and city. Some days that hope is all we have to go on, but being in the midst of God's will, even when hope is all we have, is better than anywhere else we could possibly be. 


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     Since I was sick my first several days here (I'm almost completely healed), I feel like I'm playing catch up on everything. There are still a bunch of boxes that have just been placed places. Partly because we have to paint every wall in the parsonage and partly because it's overwhelming to get unpacked and settled in a new place.
    We got new appliances, so we are now able to cook and eat at home. Eating out is fun for only about 2 days, and being sick for those days made drive thru runs even less enjoyable. We are also able to do laundry, which is a bonus when you have neighbors to meet. We'll post before and after pictures soon. Our plan is to do one big post with the before and afters of all the rooms in the house, and as I said, we have to paint EVERYTHING, so that may take a while.
    In other news, we are an official incorporated church! On file with the secretary of state in Indiana! I'm still working on non-profit status, which is a much longer process, but shouldn't take more than a couple weeks if all goes well. We also have a bank account! This means that we are actually able to deposit all of your donations into our church account now. It seems small in a lot of ways, but is such a big step for us. That means, the money we get from City Connexx mission trips, we'll actually be able to access and use for projects. We are able to start trash service at the church, and we are able to access our alabaster funds for the parsonage more readily. Plus, it's just really cool to go to the bank with checks that say "The Mission Church of the Nazarene". It's like a dream realized.
     The official e-mail from the church of the Nazarene came saying we are a recognized organic church type mission, which was equally exciting. We are really here, things are really moving on the official end of things.
      This has all seemed a bit crazy and hectic, but the reality is, this is all the easy part. Filling out paper work, sending in notices that we are here, does not a church make. The church isn't filing with the secretary of state, or having a bank account, in fact we could be the church without any of that (though it's helpful in a lot of ways).
    Now the hard work begins. Now we have to meet people, walk places, interact with people, and part of me still thinks "How in the world do I do that?!" I'm a people person, and the interactions I've already made at the bank, restaurants, etc. have been great, but how do you really illustrate your love for a community and the people in it? I'm pretty sure it isn't just going up to strangers and hugging them, that is more apt to give me a restraining order than a church.
    So for now, I pray a lot. I pray when I drive Mac to the train station, by the high school and the city hall. I pray for the students that walk by on the sidewalks, and the homeless guys I see walking by the park. I pray for the kids playing soccer. I pray for the people at the train station. I pray everywhere I go, that I would have open eyes and ears to care for all of those around me. I pray for my neighbors. I pray for the crossing guards, and for the police officers I see around the city. I pray a lot, because I don't know how to start a church, not really, but I do know how to pray. That's got to be a good place to start.
      And so I pray "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, in Hammond as it is in Heaven."

Bleeding Hearts and Chocolate Ice Cream

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     I haven't been able to do much this week. Shingles is the pits. I never understood how bad it was until I got it myself. I've had to deal with the disappointment of unmet expectations on top of feeling horrible. However, the past 2 days I've actually been able to leave the house, which feels like a giant victory.
     There has been a bit of a buzz around our house, because the house has been so empty for so long, people are starting to notice that something is going on. In particular, the kids are. 
     Our neighborhood is full of children. We live less than a block from a large elementary school, and also an awesome ice cream store (I have had time to enjoy that, even in my invalid state). Thus, we have a large number of families and children walking and riding their bikes past our house and church. 
    We debated moving at the beginning of summer vs. the fall. We were leaning towards the fall for a variety of reasons, but a friend told me how foolish that would be. "People are outside in the summer". She told me. She was 100% correct. People seem to be everywhere, and school isn't out f
or 3 more days. 
     Today, on one of our many trips to run errands, I stepped outside and a little girl on her sparkly pink bike said, "I like your bleeding hearts." 
     I walked over and said "thank you very much. We just moved here on Tuesday, so there are a lot of weeds around them, but they look nice."
     She told me that she saw them while going to the ice cream store with her family. I was so glad this was actually a place I had been to. We held a short and sweet conversation about our mutual love of ice cream, and she pedaled away.

    Today I'm grateful for bleeding hearts and ice cream stores, because they were the seeds of the gospel. We didn't have a conversation about Jesus, I didn't even ask her for her name, but I know she loves chocolate ice cream and that school ends on June 4th. I know that she loves beautiful flowers, and I think she found out that these new neighbors aren't too bad. I truly think it's these conversations that soften hearts and that illustrate the love of God through the broken and imperfect people that Mac and I are. 
    I don't know when those conversations about Jesus will happen with her or the other children of our neighborhood, but I do know who will be interested in visiting when we start weeding the flower beds, and I think that's a pretty great place to start.