Costa Rica Mission Trip | Ripe 4 Life Ministries

by LeAnn Woodard

Day 9

The Festival – Esperanza en la Verdad
Divided We Fall

Today we had an incredible festival bringing communities from all over the surrounding areas together in one park to celebrate our Lord and Savior and introduce people to His amazing love.

We had praise and worship from several of the area churches, Christian artists Ricky Halley and Victor Zuniga. BMX stunt cyclists Vic Murphy and Dave performed tricks for the crowd and gave their testimonies, Evangelist Paul Durham preached, Justin Benedict and his amazing family performed and Ben Alva and I even got the chance to sing together.

Today reminded me of two, very important things. One, we are all one body in Christ, stronger when unified, all called to the same thing: To Worship our Lord and Savior, to edify His people and to Be and Make Disciples. Two, Jesus does not ask us to do it alone. He is with us every step of the way, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, guiding, assisting and empowering all that He has called us to. In Matthew 28:19-20, He tells us “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” We as the body of Christ, cannot do this alone. The church needs the power of the Holy Spirit which through prayer, word and worship, enables us to do all things.

I looked at that beautiful body of Christ before me and came to the realization that there were at least 7-8 communities represented there. That is 7-8 different communities, 7-8 different churches and 7-8 different pastors. What I saw was a unified body of Christ. I also noticed that there were people from outside the church that were seeing the love and glory of a Savior manifested in a festival about hope in the truth. Some of those people were lost and hurting, and searching for something. Today, they saw the joy and love of God’s Church and the proclivity for peace and hope through a life with Christ. Maybe, just maybe they found what they were looking for. Several in the large crowd would raise their hands and profess that they accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior. Thank you Lord that you used your church in such a mighty way today and thank you for the souls that were saved today. I pray for each of them Lord that they will live a life running fast after you and sharing your love with everyone they meet.

God, I pray that when the lost people of this world look at your church that they will see You. Let us, as a unified body, glorify you in all that we do Lord so that people may come to know You through the work of the Holy Spirit through us. Lead us, guide us and direct us in all that we should be, say and do. Lord let us be the vessel that leads a lost world to know you, bringing peace to your beautiful creation and bringing your children to their heavenly father.

As I think about returning to the states I am so humbled to think back on what God has accomplished through us. It is amazing what God can do when we are open to Him using us in whatever way He wants, knowing if He calls us to it, He will give us the “Holy Spirit” power to see it through. I am also excited to carry this new way of living back with me, a total surrender to what God would have for me. Not just on a mission trip in a foreign land and not just at a special time a year, but every day on any land. I believe that our life is one big mission trip. We are on a mission for Christ, a mission to love others, especially those that are unsaved, as Christ loves us and to show them how they can experience that kind of love through God’s one and only. We are all here to preach the good news, to give all people “Hope in the Truth.”

Costa Rica Mission Trip | Ripe 4 Life Ministries

Day 8

by LeAnn Woodard

Catholic Church Carnival/ Festival
Community Outreach in Busto Mante

  • Group from Nicaragua did some fun stuff with the kids and a dramatic piece, BMXers did their show, Benedicts did their show, and Ripe 4 Life’s Paul Durham preached.
  • Catholic Church Carnival and Festival happening at the same time

Church Services at Pastor Juan’s Church

  • This church worship was incredible. They had a female youth choir that closed their eyes the entire time they sang worship songs and only opened their eyes to sing praise songs.
  • We had an incredible dinner afterwards, just me, Paul and Frances as our CA and TX friends had gone to Pablo’s church where Ben Alva preached.
  • This church is home to most of Pablo’s family and Juan I believe is related to Pablo.
  • Met Pablo’s beautiful mother.

Spent the night in the Mountains

  • So nice to be in Pablo’s home
  • We had an ice cream dessert and then snuggled into our beds.
  • It was super nice to be so welcomed in Pablo’s home and he invited us all and our families back any time.

The Freedom of being a Christian: My personal testimony

As I think about the things that happened today I am reminded of the festival that we were
invited to participate in today. It was a festival put on by the Catholic Church here in Busto Mante. They invited us to come along and do our thing and we happily obliged. There was a great festival and carnival happening on the street and in the park adjacent and we were given the concrete practice field. It was kinda off by itself and it the sweltering sun, no shade, no seating, but it would work fine to at least have an audience only if it was an audience of one. It felt somewhat strange to me as I know there is some discord amongst the Catholics and the born-again Christians. I have always struggled with this as I have known many amazing people of God that are Catholics, some close friends and some relatives by marriage. I have always been perplexed as to why there is animosity and why exactly can’t we see the truth of God’s word as it is written.

I have never been a Catholic so I cannot profess to understand what it is like to grow up Catholic, but I will say that it seems very stressful to me. I know there all sorts of things that one must do at certain stages in their lives and certain regulations that must be followed. Anyway, as I was thinking about the possible lifestyle of a Catholic and my perception of their traditions I was reminded of my own up-bringing in the church and the constriction of my own traditions as a Baptist. Do not get me wrong, I see nothing wrong with the Baptist denomination, I am only making a reference to the traditions in which I was raised.

I was saved at ten years old and I absolutely felt the Holy Spirit pushing me forward. I knew that something beyond my own physical ability was at play when my reluctant body seemed to float up to the front of that small Baptist church. Right there, in front of all those eyes that had been watching me grow up, I made the decision to follow Christ. I was whisked away to a room at the back of the church where I was explained exactly what it was I was doing. I knew what I was doing, I understood perfectly as the Holy Spirit said to me very loudly that it was my time. I had come to the time in my life where I had to be accountable to my Father and the sacrifice of His Son. I had to make public a decision to knowingly follow Him and turn from my wicked ways and my life of sin. I was ten. Did I mention that? I understood what I know was the Holy Spirit calling me unto Himself but I suddenly felt unworthy and scared to fail.

I felt constricted by this decision I had made. I didn’t think that I could do it. I felt overwhelmed, closed off and hopeless. Now I know for many of you the revelation of a savior and a new life was something totally different but because I was so intent on making this decision stick that I was going to do my best to get it right. I was going to be perfect, do nothing wrong for the rest of my life, so help me God.

Needless to say, I settled into my mediocre existence, living my lukewarm life, following as many of the rules as I could bear, trying to be “good” and never being fulfilled in my Christian life. I would sing in the choir at a very young age and play hymns on my flute when I was asked as I knew this is what I should do. I never felt a calling on my heart to do this, I just did. I never felt the Holy Spirit calling me to a particular hymn, I just picked one that I thought I might be able to play, I sang whatever the choir sang. I was just going through the motions, following the rules, falling short, racking up guilt and finally I gave in. I gave in to the temptation that I should just do what felt good as nothing I was doing really felt good. In fact, I was always so worried about falling short that it actually felt bad. So, entering into the freedoms of being a college student, I took liberties where I might because I knew God had my back and that He was always there when I needed Him.

Even in my lowest moments He was there. He protected me, He loved me, He sheltered me, He showed me love and grace like only a father could. Fast forward a few years and I have graduated from college, working full time and all my friends are getting married. I knew that I had to do something. I was obsessed with the fact that I wasn’t even dating anyone and all my friends were in serious relationships and getting married and here I sit with no one. I was so depressed and desperate that I became someone I had never been before – Unhealthily unhappy. One night, while crying myself to sleep I suddenly remembered something from my days in that Baptist church. It had something to do with being worried and that it was a sin. We shouldn’t sin therefore we shouldn’t worry. And what should we do if we worry – pray that God would take away the worry and ease our minds because we as Christians should have faith that He is taking care of our every need. I prayed that night that God would deliver me from that worry, that I would have faith in the plans that He had for me and that I would no longer dwell on “when” and “if” and “Who,” but just abide in Him.

I should just trust that He is working all things out for my good. I did just that. I instantly fell asleep and slept peacefully for the first time in several nights. God took it away; the pain, the fear, the worry. All of it was gone. This was the first realization that there was freedom in being a Christian, that there might be more to this than just following rules. Maybe there was more to this faith thing. Maybe, just maybe I should talk to this Jesus guy more often. It seems like when I talk and when I ask Him things - He talks back, He answers me. This was also my first realization that there was more to this than abiding by the rules, maybe it was more about having a relationship with the one who lives within me.

Two weeks would pass and I would meet my first serious boyfriend. We were set up on a blind
date – a group date with friends where they would proceed to plan our wedding that same night. The second date, the next night, we would decide to have 4 children and then six weeks later we would become engaged. So, a little more than a year after I asked God to take the desire to have a husband and children away from me, I was married to the man of my dreams and pregnant with our first child.

I tell you all of this because I want you to understand that this was a pretty big thing in my life
and that it took this for me to figure out that our Christian Life is not about the “rules and regulations,” the “dos and don’ts,” the “must and must nots.” It is about laying it all before a Savior that is eager to have a relationship with you. He has the power to do anything for you – all He wants for you to do is ask…talk to Him, pray with Him, praise Him, worship Him. These things are so easy to do. When you seek Him and He does a work in you, day in and day out and you see the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life, you become hungry for Him and His righteousness. It becomes so easy to do those things that please Him because you are so in-tuned to who He is and what He has done that you want nothing more than to live for Him. Freedom. There is freedom in that. There is freedom in having a Savior that will never leave you nor forsake you. Freedom in a Savior, a Father that has His daughter’s back no matter what. There is freedom in knowing that you shall not want, that you will fear no evil, that you will never be alone because He is with you.

Psalms 121:1
I lift my eyes up to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord.

Costa Rica Mission Trip | Ripe 4 Life Ministries

Day #7

by LeAnn Woodard

Tell Somebody

landscape

As I continued to question God’s plan for me on this trip I remembered that I needed to ask God for affirmation.  It had been a new road for me and I wanted to make sure I was still on the right path.  Sometimes when we feel uneasy about something God could be speaking a new direction into our journey, other times it is the devil throwing a fork in the road to throw us off our game.  Even though I had a feeling it was the latter, due to the sheer impact God had been having on our every experience, I chose to reach for His map.  To ensure I am still on the right path, I reached for God’s word and prayed that He affirm that what I was doing was still in His plan.  On this trip, I had two amazing places that I liked to read and pray.  One was at our beautiful La Dehesa Inn in Heredia on the little patio area in the front yard overlooking the mountains.  The other place was on the side stoop of the church of Pastor Freddy overlooking the beautiful mountains of Santa Maria de Dota. 

Today, I would be at Pastor Freddy’s Beautiful Assembly of God Church.  I feel very much at home and at peace here and I relish my time here and look forward to a free moment to share it with our magnificent creator.  As I prayed I ask the Lord to affirm what I thought was His will and to re-direct me if I had strayed.  I opened my Bible, unsure of exactly where I wanted to search for direction.  I happened to open to one of my favorite places for wisdom, Psalms.  I love the Rhythm and Wisdom in the Psalms and noticed that here in my journaling Bible that there were no marks.  This of course, meant that I have not read these words so I thought I might give them a try.  Any word is a good word in this good book, right?  As I began to read, I knew right away I was in the right place.  As I read in several different scriptures within Psalms 107 and 108, God was literally answering my question.  You see, I was asking Him, Lord is it meant for me to sing on this trip?  I mean after all, I have never really sung behind a microphone before and yeah I sing in the choir but I’m really not a performer.  I am just a worshipper that loves to sing praises to her King!  I’m not that great and isn’t there anything else you would rather me do?  I have backed myself down this one-way road many times, you see.  Feeling conviction and then backing myself out of it because I wasn’t bold enough or confident enough in my abilities.  BUT…  This week, I had discovered it wasn’t at all about my abilities – it was about my obedience and trust in a Savior that is all powerful and all capable.  Why did I continue to think that this was about me?  OK, so back to my question.  Lord, is it meant for me to sing on this trip?  Psalms 107:22 And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving and tell of His deeds in songs of joy. Psalms 107:32, “Let them extol Him to the congregation of the people, and praise Him in the assembly of the elders.”  Psalms 108:1, “My heart is steadfast, O God!  I will sing and make melody with all my being.”  Psalm 108:3, “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations.”  Ok, so if God wasn’t good enough with the one verse, he gave me 4 and then to show off, He sealed it with that last one…  I WILL SING PRAISES TO YOU AMONG THE NATIONS.  It brought me to tears – it brings me to tears now as I write this.  Isn’t He amazing?  Thank you, Lord, for your living, life-breathing word!  Yes – I will sing.  I will sing to the nations.

These words were so impactful to me that I decided to read them again, and again…  And then again in another translation, again and again.  They never lost their power, moreover, they became more and more powerful the more I read them.  God Continued to use these words in my life and I hope to you they will bring to light the unmatchable power of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Tell Somebody

If his love has been your saving grace
If He has freed you from bondage
Tell Somebody
If He has quenched your thirsty spirit
And satisfied your lingering hunger
Tell somebody                               
At the very depths of death and dying
He has scooped you up and set you straight
Did He love you through your drought?
Does He still love you, even through your doubt?
Yes, He does for His mercy is sufficient
Indeed, He gives you more than required.
When will you stop, and realize
It’s only Him you need desire.
Are you imprisoned by your own determination?
Confused and contorted in the devil’s snares?
You know you are only there
Because you turn from His words like you don’t care.
You know that His word is the power
That gives you freedom in this hour…
So, it is you – you’re the reason you are stuck in this tower.
You are the only one around
You are the one keeping the key to the cell
Getting in the way of the word you know is real.
All you need is to send out a shout
Stop with the shame, stop with the doubt-
Reach out to your Father or you need not bother
As the key, will never work if He is not the lock. 
So, you think you are ill
Because you were sick once before?
You’re sick because you chose the wrong door.
You chose to feel sorry for the things you can’t do
Instead of remembering all that He got you through.
The battle my friend, was already won.
Please, if you will, put the struggle to an end.
Stand up, fight and brag about Him to the end.
For He is the Savior whose love won the war
Be quick to tell of his love
Once, twice, three times – more.
We have great plans in faraway lands
We see His works and majesty
In the creation, we explore
But if by chance or of poor choice
We choose that wrong door
The creation so beautiful becomes
A destructive force, one to be reckoned with.
We react in shock as if we weren’t expecting
The plan of Man and the way of the land
To intersect with our desire to do what pleases Him.
In our desperation, we call out to Him
To rescue us from our own navigation
And put us back on solid ground –
Ground that is free of worldly temptation
A path that is built on the only true foundation.
In an instant, the seas of torment will cease
When his breath speaks peace, be still
Can you believe that all that was keeping you
from this peace and calm was the way of your will?
Thank you, God for loving us down our darkest paths
And shining your light when we reach for the switch
Loving us so much that you care not
That we ended up in this ditch.
I will sing of your love to the ends of the earth
Making sure to give credit to this Father
That created me from that simple dirt.

Home Visits

·       We visited the home of Miss C, a 45-yr old lady dying of Lung and Brain Cancer.  She is the cousin of a Pastor’s wife.  We experienced something here we can’t explain.  While I was singing, and praying with Miss C I could hear some sort of white noise behind me which I thought was Ms. Frances speaking to the husband of Carmen but I couldn’t be sure.  I was just focusing on Miss C, worshipping the Lord and praying for my new friend.  When we were leaving, I spoke to the gentleman that Frances spoke with and their 17-yr old son.  They both spoke Spanish to me as I was leaving their home so that is the language I spoke back to them as I bid them farewell.  As we were waiting to leave Ms. Frances told me about speaking to this man and she told me a lot about the story of this lady and family.  We then split off to different cars and left.  As we were riding in the car I was trying my best to translate for Paul what the Pastor was saying to him and most of it was the details of what Ms. Frances had already told me.  I was quite relieved as it made it much easier to interpret.  We came to the knowledge that this lady was the cousin of Pastor’s wife. When we returned to their house I was telling his wife about Ms. Frances talking to this man…  I thought it was Miss C’s father but it turns out it was her husband.  As I am telling Pastor’s wife about Ms. Frances and her conversation with her husband, she said there was no way that we could be talking about Miss C’s husband because her husband speaks no English whatsoever and Ms. Frances spoke up and said well I speak no Spanish whatsoever.  So, we figure, somewhere along the way, we had the wrong guy.  The next day Pastor’s wife confirmed that it indeed was her cousin’s husband and he doesn’t recall how it happened but that he had spoken with Frances and that he understood her perfectly.  I am not sure exactly how this happened but I see it as just another miracle of God.

·       We also visited with a beautiful elderly couple and prayed with them in their home.  They were amazing and I will continue to pray for them as they have such a strong faith and love for one another as well as for Jesus.

·       We also met another couple, much younger that has encountered od a lot in their lives.  Mr and Mrs G.  Mr G was miraculously saved in an auto accident and believes it was God that saved him.  He rededicated his life to Christ today and he is well on his way to allowing God to deliver him from alcoholism.  They have 3 young children as well.

Night Outreach

·       We had an outreach at a local school with Juan and Pablo’s churches.  Everyone was there and we had a great time of fellowship afterwards.

Costa Rica Mission Trip | Ripe 4 Life Ministries

Day 6

by LeAnn Woodard

Unseen Miracles

Paul Durham
  • Lunch at Freddy’s Church
  • Café Dota – Bought lots of coffee for my peeps
  • Street Ministry in Frailes during the Coffee Festival – BMX, Benedicts and Paul – Several saved including young man in the crowd
  • Met Pastor Edgardo – from Frailes Church – 15 years of service so far
  • Met Pastor Eduard – from Busta Monte – 3 years of service so far
  • Sang in Pastor Eduard’s church, Hosana
  • Caryn gave her testimony – She did an amazing job

As I reflected on the things we experienced today I couldn’t help but think that nothing really huge and exciting happened today and then I remembered the face of the young man in the crowd in Frailes that raised his hand after Paul preached and said the sinner’s prayer. That really shook me because here I was thinking nothing really life-changing happened, no big miracles, no healings, no speaking in tongues, no out-of-body experiences happened today…Or did they… Just because I didn’t experience those things first hand, doesn’t mean they didn’t happen.

God was on the move and who was I to downplay the works He was doing? You see, that young man that was saved today, he experienced a life-changing occurrence and was moved by the Holy Spirit into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Is not JUST THIS enough to say I experienced a miracle today? For now, for that young man, he is a child of God and his life is forever changed. He is a part of the family of God and he will never be alone. Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” All the power of the Holy Spirit now resides in him. That my friend, I would say is nothing short of miraculous!

Thank you, Lord for all the many miracles that happened in peoples’ lives today. Those seen and those miracles that may forever remain unseen. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

 

Costa Rica Mission Trip | Ripe 4 Life Ministries

Day 5

by LeAnn Woodard

A Beacon of Light in the Darkness

                  I remember when I first heard the festival that we were putting on in Costa Rica was called Espernza en la Verdad. I remember thinking it was an interesting title as Jesus really is our only Hope.  The one prevailing truth during my Christian walk is that there is always hope. In our times of trouble, sadness, loss - if we truly believe that we are not walking it all alone and for no reason, there is Hope. Now Hope in the truth really struck me when I heard that…what does this mean?

                  I would come to not only understand the true meaning of that, but experience it firsthand. It would all unfold one gloomy January morning in the slums of San Jose, Costa Rica. He was child of God. He had been born to heroin-addicted, drug using, sex-trafficking parents and he had little to no hope of anything in his dark and depressing life. The slums of San Jose for him were full of sex, drugs, poverty, illness and evil. At an early age he was quickly assimilated into the lifestyle of his parents where he became a transvestite working in the sex trafficking business. 

                  Having hit rock bottom is his ever-dark and dreary world, he was introduced to Jesus Christ and with Him came Hope in the truth…The truth that he had a Savior who had given everything for him, the truth that He had indeed died for him, a kid trying to stay alive in the slums of Costa Rica. The truth that he was loved more than he could ever imagine and the truth that he was worthy of a life of peace and love, free of addiction – free of slavery. There was hope in the truth of a Savior that would walk with him every single day of the rest of eternity when he felt like he wasn’t enough, when he felt unworthy, when he felt he just needed just a little bit of something to get him through. The truth was that all he needed was Jesus Christ for it was Jesus who would be his strength in times of weakness and his courage in times of fear. Soon, he would be the words of encouragement that would be spoken through his mouth through the Holy Spirit speaking life and hope into others around him…and then finally the very hands and feet of Jesus in a community that knew nothing of God and the love that He has for His people. 

                  When we met him that dark, gloomy day in January all you could feel was the warmth of his spirit and the light of His people. In that tiny little shanty in the middle of the chaos where he praised the name of Jesus and worshipped and adored the One that had given him hope…the hope grows and the love of Christ swells and the truth is being told. What started out as a church of 6 people has grown to over 100. Compelled to tell the truth of Christ, he is a beacon of light in a dark world, sharing the word of God with all that will listen. He is shining his light for all of those that are drawn to the hope and light of Christ. 

                  Would you pray for this man of God and his church?  His requests are simple. He wants a building that will hold people – right now they are spilling onto sidewalks and into the streets. He wants warriors for Christ, people who will rise up out of the ashes of regret, sin and shame and bury it all at the feet of a Savior who is waiting. Warriors ready to fight for the lives of those that are hurting in their community. They are sending out a ray of light over their community of a Savior…A Savior who brings with Him hope – hope in the truth.

Another Incredible day!

  • Went to Pastor Daniel’s community today
  • Had first street ministry with the Benedicts, Vic, Dave and Ben and Paul Durham. Met my sweet friend Pamela and her sweet little sister Paula.
  • Frances – passed out bracelets and played with the kids
  • Benedicts brought candy for the kids
  • Slum Ministry – Miss A and her sister and their families – Prayer for a walkway to get to school and better terrain for when it rains. She is pregnant with child #5 and her sister has many children also.
  • Met Mr J from above story – International Church of Jesus Christ of Costa Rica
  • Met a lady from Nicaragua living on government school grounds in makeshift quarters.  She knows Christ and her faith is strong but she struggles to be bold for Him. Pray for courage and boldness for her, her family and also stability and a place to live for she and all of the other families there.
  • Back to the mountains this night to another church. They served us authentic Tamales and café and then Paul preached and I sang. The church presented us with hand-painted gifts in a basket.  Very touching. We then went to another church to eat dinner – really late.

Costa Rica Mission Trip | Ripe 4 Life Ministries

Day 4

It is Evident that God is at Work

It is Evident that God is at work by the desperate attempts of the devil to steal, kill and destroy. Yesterday we had an amazing opportunity to reach the world for Christ through a radio show. We were super-excited to be able to share Jesus with the surrounding community via preaching, prayer and worship. Evangelist Paul Durham Preached, Frances Mace prayed over the community and the upcoming festival and I sang. I sang a song that had touched my heart in a very special way the first time I heard it and hoped and prayed that it would do the same for others that were tuning in. I prayed and asked the Holy Spirit to fill me and that His glory would be evident through the words of the song. As the radio host pointed at me I knew that it was my time to go. I was a bit confused as I couldn’t hear the music and wasn’t sure when it had started or if it had started at all. As I strained to hear the music so I could sing for His glory I quickly realized that the music was playing and it had been playing. I could only hear a faint beat and I knew that everyone tuning in was experiencing dead space and that was the worst thing that could ever happen on the radio. I said a quick prayer and went for it. I tuned everything out around me and proceeded to just worship. As I began to sing I could hear that faint beat in the background and just sang as closely as I could to the beat. I knew I had to be off but I kept going as if there was no music at all, just me and the Lord. When we were finished, I was a bit discouraged and it struck me that I had no idea what had been heard on the other side of that radio. I thought I had surely failed and that I had somehow fallen short and had disappointed my Lord and Savior, the one I had so desperately sought to please. I forged ahead and vowed to make it through the rest of the show without falling to pieces over my failure.

As the radio show ended, I headed to the restroom and heard a loud voice saying to me to “tell him that I see him, I love him and I am proud of him.” I thought I was going nuts. Here I am sulking and in despair over my first ever and probably last opportunity to ever sing on the radio and all I want is for God to speak to me and comfort me. I wanted Him to tell me that He was pleased and all was good but all I can hear is “Tell Him I see him, I love him and I am proud of him.” At this point I am like – man I am really going nuts, this stress is making me crazy and now I am hearing voices. As I exited the restroom, I ran into Paul and the owner of the radio hour that had just hosted us and allowed us this crucial air time. I remember watching him as he videoed us while we were on the radio and remembering that Pastor Freddy had said he was legally blind and could barely see anything. I remembered thinking, “Wow, what a man of God. He is so eager to share God’s word and does it through his disability and with a passion few will ever know in their chosen paths.” It was then that God yelled at me. “Tell him I see him, I love him and I am proud of him.” Again, I pushed it to the back of my head and then, as I was about to walk out of the door, quite possibly to never to see this beautiful man of God again, I shook his hand and looked him straight in the eye and spoke to him. “God has been shouting this at me and he wants you to know something. He says He sees you, He loves you and he is proud of you!” I quickly apologized for being abrupt and telling him so passionately, but that I knew God had that message for him and He simply wasn’t going to let my hesitation get in the way.

After that encounter I was so touched that God had used me in that way that I quickly forgot about my self-doubt and went about my day. Later that evening as I got back to the hotel, exhausted and vulnerable, the devil crept in. I remember crying myself to sleep feeling once again like a failure. In the morning, needing a little extra time to pull myself together so I could be productive for His work I decided to bury myself in His word and look away from the feelings of yesterday. After reading and spending time with the Lord, He gave me some encouragement which I will include below. However, I am now realizing that if for no other reason than to deliver that message to that incredible man of God – I was NOT A FAILURE. Maybe my only purpose for being at that radio station that day was to deliver that message. Maybe my only reason for being in Costa Rica was to deliver that message. The world may never know, but God does and thank goodness He is the one in control! We are merely here to tell His story…

To Tell Your Story

Discouraged & Broken I came to You.
I know your words will get me through.
I did it all for Your glory,
Just felt like there was more to the story.
I feel like I have somehow let you down.
In deep disgust I feel I may drown.
I did it all for Your glory,
Just felt like there was more to the story.
I will continue to walk in you,
Doing all that you call me to.
I will do it all for Your glory,
Because I know there is more to Your story.
So, God, have Your way today
And help me listen to all you have to say.
Know that I am ready to do it all for Your glory.
To speak Your name and to tell Your story.

The rest of Day #4, After the radio station we went to the tv station where the producer of the tv station had just begun his position that day, was a born again Christian and decided to bless us with free and complete coverage above and beyond what we paid for. I spoke with Pastor Freddy at length and found out he has ties in the states in Morganton, NC and New York City, NY. We are hoping to see him again soon! We met the rest of the crew today, The Benedict Family, Vic Murphy, Dave and Ben Alva. We also met Carla and Caryn Jackson. The crew is now in place and we will continue to work everything out for the festival… and for His glory!

Costa Rica Mission Trip | Ripe 4 Life Ministries

Day #3

Hearts Will Be Moved

Today I am praying that the Holy Spirit will use me.  I pray he will fill me with wisdom, grace, compassion, love, boldness and truth as He uses me for His work. I now know that through your power I can praise Your name in public, corporate worship. How else will You use me today? Please prepare the hearts of those that we will see today, open their hearts to You so that they will see You. Open their hearts so that we may reach in and plant the seed of the Holy Spirit. We know that when we speak with love and truth on behalf of the Holy Spirit that You will be glorified and hearts will be moved and changed – forever and ever AMEN.

We visited in homes around Pastor Freddy’s community. His church is called Poder Divino.

#1.  Miss J – We met this lady and her mother and her seven children. Janet had been the victim of incest. Abused for years by her father and impregnated by her father, his guilt was finally exposed and he killed himself before being brought before the law. Her children suffer from mental illness due to the incest and they struggle to make ends meet. They live in a structure that barely keeps them from the elements. There is a dirt floor and no running water. I prayed over this young lady and the Holy Spirit was speaking so loudly that I couldn’t figure out what language to speak in. It was like the Holy Spirit was giving me words in Spanish but I was so moved that I couldn’t trust the words He was giving me. learned to just listen and be open to His voice and nothing else.

#2.  Miss V – I knew that the first experience with Janet was one that would change me and the way I listened to the Holy Spirit when I was praying but I had no idea that He would show up in such a big way with the next home visit. Her name is Andrea. She is 29 years old and she has 6 children by 4 different men and she is suffering from a sexually transmitted disease that is slowly killing her. She has the most beautiful spirit and seems to really trust in God’s plan for her life. I truly believe that God will heal her through her faith.  (Andrea and I are FB Friends and she continues to speak of how God has touched her through our meeting and she continues to have faith in His healing and provision.)

#3.  Miss A – I do not know much about Ana but that she has 3 children and prays for health and provision.

#4.  Mr, D – His mother was not home but his brother and several other siblings were. Juan was moved to speak to these young men about Christ and he planted the seed of faith in them. We gave all the kids candy and invited them to join us for the festival. 

We provided all the above families with the word of God, prayer, school supplies and food.

Though we had little to offer in the way of material things, we had so much in the way of intangible things!

Costa Rica Mission Trip | Ripe 4 Life Ministries

Day #2
by LeAnn Woodard

Dota – God’s Country
Today we traveled to Santa Maria de Dota where the Festival “Esperanza en la Verdad” will take place. This was my first experience drinking real coffee! I had never been a big coffee drinker but knew that if I spent too much time around here that I soon would be. That was the most incredible coffee I had ever tasted. I was honored to call it that and was thrilled to drink it. The poster in the café said it was third in the world – I couldn’t imagine anything better.

Pastor Freddy is the pastor that will host the evangelism training that Paul Durham will give today. We are meeting in his church and will learn what he is calling the people of this area to do. Paul taught us about evangelism and discipleship and how to impact the world around us for His glory. I learned some valuable things from Paul and the word of God as it relates to our mission here on earth.

  • We may not all be called to be evangelists but we are all called to evangelize and spread the word of God.
  • We are commanded to share our faith and make disciples. It is the great commission.
  • It is an active thing. “As you are going you are to make disciples.” As we are growing and learning we are to bring others to Christ. I like to make a note of this as I have often felt like I was not good enough or well-versed enough to teach people about Christ. I should remember that if I do nothing else but plant the seed of Jesus in someone’s heart that God can do the rest.
  • When we are born again, we receive explosive power from the Holy Spirit. In His power we should be confident and bold doing all He calls us to. We should also be kind and responsible, doing everything in love.
  • Fear is one of the main reasons that we do not share our faith. We should walk by faith and trust that God will use us for His glory if we let Him.
  • Since we are baptized in the Holy Spirit – we are empowered by the Holy Spirit and given fruits of the spirit. People will know you are Christian because you possess the fruits of the spirit.
  • As Christians, we are called to no longer live for ourselves, but for Him alone. He lives in me and it is His life. For this reason alone, we should keep our eyes ever fixed on Him and His will for every moment of our lives, seeking him through prayer, word and worship.
  • We come to Him because we are in Christ and seeking Him in everything, we a enjoying our lives in Christ and He is fulfilling us through His work. Because we seek to please Him, we don’t live governed by rules, rather, guided by light. We do things the right way because we love Him and because we are complete in Him.
  • If necessary, we can pray for love and compassion for the lost do that we are eager to spread the good news. This way we can spread the word from a place of love and not judgment or condemnation.
  • Pray for non-believers by name knowing that we can share with them and plant the seed but that the Holy Spirit has to move for them to be saved. Pray for God to open their hearts and be open to His word and ask God to provide the opportunity to share.
  • We must also pray for God’s protection over our lives for His work as the devil will come to kill, steal and destroy those that love Him.
  • 90% of people are shared the message of salvation and turn to Christ by a friend or close relation.

Before Christ I was…
Guilty of Sin
Had something missing
Was dead spiritually
Afraid to Die
In Christ I am…
Free of Sin
Satisfied and Fulfilled in Him
Alive in Christ and Empowered by the Holy Spirit
No longer afraid of Death
Darkness to Light
Fear to Peace
Loneliness to Love
Emptiness to Fullness

The lessons from “The Woman at the Well”

  • The Lord showed her how, when and where to worship – That it doesn’t have to be at a certain place at a certain time.
  • The Lord loved her enough to tell her the truth in love
  • No matter what your spiritual background, you can come to know Jesus
  • He will use us to change people’s lives
  • We can learn how to build important relationships with non-believers by visiting with them, praying with them, providing them with comforts such as food, clothing as needed, loving them and meeting a need. If you bless them, it speaks to their core, opens their heart to the love of Christ. What we do for the least of these, we do for Him.


To let people know about Christ we must

  1. Take the initiative/ Be obedient
  2. Love them enough to tell them the truth
  3. Pray with them and let the Holy Spirit move
  4. Build a relationship with them
  5. Share the gospel
  6. You have planted the seed – SUCCESS! Now it is up to God to make up the difference through the work of the Holy Spirit, to move in that person and work it out for His good.

Today I had spoke a short testimony of God’s calling on my heart for this trip and I had the privilege to LEAD worship for the first time ever. I sang “El Espiritu de Dios Esta en Este Lugar.” In was a humbling and spirit-filled experience to sing with a congregation in their native language. My only regret was that I didn’t linger on the song a little longer or sing it one more time through as it was like singing with the angels. It was a heavenly sound, one that I won’t soon forget.

It was minutes later that I would find out that we would be on a radio show in the next couple of days and that I would be singing live on the radio. I was honored, and humbled to tears. I remembered not being nervous at all because I knew I had so many praying for me and that the Holy Spirit would sing through me and His voice would be heard. I have had my share of challenges in life when it comes to self-worth and boldness in Christ. I must say these experiences have now been overshadowed by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit which has filled me while I have been here in Costa Rica. His provision and love have been overwhelming.

On this journey, we have a guy named Juan that takes us where we need to go and interprets for us when we need it. He is an insanely talented man of God who is going to do phenomenal work for the Lord. When Paul and Juan preach together it is like a well-oiled machine. I believe Juan was made to be a preacher, a worshiper, a teacher, an interpreter, a musician, a friend and so much more. We had the privilege of meeting his lovely mother and beautiful family. We had coffee and hung out for a while. I was nice enough to test my Spanish skills by telling his mom about the sweet thang that Juan has waiting on him back on the peninsula. Her name is Kengi and she seems to be very much in love with Juan. He resisted her charms when they first met but it didn’t take her long to profess her love for him and vow to make him hers. I will pray God’s will over the two of them.

There was a special moment shared by Frances Mace and Juan’s mother. Juan’s mother recently lost her husband and so they are both widows. Frances prayed over her and asked the Lord to give her renewed strength and courage in her new life without her husband. It was nice to meet such a nice, God-fearing woman. She has so much to be proud of in her handsome, talented son. Gracias a Jesus para un dia increible!

Costa Rica Mission Trip | Ripe 4 Life Ministries

by LeAnn Woodard

As I embark on this journey, day #1 of my first mission trip, I am suddenly nervous and anxious. I know what it is God is calling me to and I suddenly feel inept. I know that I cannot do the very thing I have been called to do. I can’t possibly do the very thing I have committed to do for this organization and for His work. I know that I am not worthy nor am I capable of any of it. As I search for truth in his word, He gives me the answers that I seek. He gives me Mark 1:1-4 and Isaiah Chapter 35 and Chapter 54. The words are laid out before me exactly how I need to see them and in the very moment that I need them. Thank you, Lord, that you always provide the words to empower me for your work. I knew in that moment that it was true,

The Lord gives you exactly what you need when you need it when your only desire is to do His will and live completely for Him. And from that moment on I have chosen and will continue to choose to walk in His truth for my life. Won’t you do the same? Below is an interpretation of how the Holy Spirit spoke to me in His words above.

You are my beloved

The devil is at work today - he has been for a while…
Planting seeds of doubt, distrust, disbelief in what you can do…
The thing is – it isn’t about what you can do
It’s about what you can’t do without Him
No, it’s about what He can do through you.
I know that Your word says that we are to be strong, to not be fearful.
Should we not step boldly with Him as He is the one that will be glorified
And He will have the victory.
After all, He comes with a vengeance!
And with Him – Everlasting Joy and Peace…
You, my brother
You, my sister
Are baptized in the Holy Spirit --
Will you not then execute the very will of the one that abides in you –
And you in Him?
Don’t you want to hear those words,
You are my beloved,
With you I am pleased.

The Lamb, the Shepherd, the Savior of Man

by LeAnn Woodard
Pastoral Administrator

Born in a manger, the lamb of God came
He grew into shepherd, then died on the cross to erase your blame
You know Him as shepherd and servant, all the same
He comes to show grace – not to throw blame
Eternal life he gives to you, not eternal flame.
 
I know it must have seemed strange that this one so small,
Would be the one responsible for the salvation of all.
But rest assured my brother, He will come when he is called-
To be your Lord and Savior – to be there when you fall.

 
Hello SCCC Families!
Come out and join us this Sunday, December 11 here at the church to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Festivities begin with an exciting lobby experience at 5:30. Then, in our sanctuary at 6:30, we will celebrate the GOOD NEWS of EMMANUEL, God with us!
 
This time of year, it is so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the world. Instead I ask you to stop and reflect, remember and honor the One that gives us everything.

This year’s theme is Through the Eyes of a Shepherd. It is about a Lamb, a Shepherd, the Savior of Man. A lamb so pure He is the ultimate sacrifice, a shepherd so loving and attentive He is the perfect father, A savior so forgiving, He is the eraser of all sin.  Come, discover what He means to you, come discover what you mean to Him!
 
The Lamb, The Shepherd, The Savior of Man
 
You’re the lamb, you’re the shepherd
You’re the Savior of Man
Here I am before you waiting
For new life to begin.
 
Out here on this journey
I am feeling all alone
When I feel beside me
A lamb guiding me home.
 
Where is it we’re going?
To see a gift our Father sends?
Bearing all our sin and shame
And life that never ends?
 
When you see the shepherd walking out amongst His sheep
Know you have a Savior that never ever sleeps
He is taking care of those sheep that are awake-
Knowing He’s the one that makes the ground before them quake.
 
Where is that shepherd going?
Where is that star that’s calling?
How does he know where to go?
It’s as if he has his own shepherd
Pulling him to and fro –
 
Could it be the spirit drawing?
Could it be a savior calling?
Unto the city where the new born babe
has come to be- The Holy Trinity?
 
He’s the Lamb, the shepherd the savior of man –
The savior of everyone.
Now I know you’re asking – How can it be?
How is this one – all of these three?
It is true He is the one –
The Father, Holy Spirit and Son.
He is the lamb, the shepherd and the savior of everyone.
 
Blessings to you and yours!

We are Bethlehem

by Marsha Gaulden
Women's Ministry Leader

It was one of the darkest 400 years in Israel’s history. During the time of Judges, God’s people, who were to reflect His glory, were becoming like their enemies, worshipping their gods and practicing their sins. Judges 21:25 sums it up, “every man did what was right in his own eyes.”

While the Hebrew people were fickle, God was faithful to discipline them and call them back to obedience and worship. However, the cycle continued, while many of the judges who were supposed to lead them in godliness were leading them into apostasy.

Oh little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by

Tucked into the middle of this egregious time period is the story of Ruth. The book of Ruth depicts a simple Hebrew family from a small agrarian community called Bethlehem. God has brought famine to the land because of Israel’s sin and this family leaves Israel to seek food and shelter in an enemy land - Moab. Elimelech, his wife, Naomi, and two sons struggle in Moab for ten years. The sons marry Moabite women. Then, Elimelech and his sons die, leaving Naomi a widow with two Moabite daughters-in-law. You know the story - the way Ruth clings to Naomi and pledges to follow her back to Bethlehem and claim Naomi’s God as her own.

Upon returning to Bethlehem, Naomi, the widow, and Ruth, also a widow and a foreigner, were not met with judgment and rejection, but with empathy, encouragement, and hope because of the leadership of one godly man, Boaz. His godly influence in the community creates an environment for redemption, restoration, and grace. This Boaz becomes the Kinsman Redeemer for Ruth and Naomi, but it is more than a marriage and perpetuating a name through a child. The child born to Boaz and Ruth is in the lineage of Christ! It is because of this lineage that Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem for the census.

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Micah 5:2

On Wednesday nights this Fall, over 100 women gathered to study the book of Ruth. The resounding themes of discussion were faithfulness, courage to obey, reconciliation, and trusting the loving hand of God when we experience loss, suffering, and disappointment. It was a beautiful experience as women in small groups shared their personal stories and supported one another through prayer, tears, and listening with compassion.

In our times, in our church, we need leaders like Boaz who engender faith, love, and courage to follow Christ in godliness and commitment to serve one another. We need people like Naomi, who teach, direct, and lovingly encourage those who are younger or weaker in the faith. And we need to be like Ruth, clinging unreservedly to God and faithful to the relationships God has placed in our lives.

Finally, the story of Ruth is the story of one ordinary family, but inside their little story we know there is a much larger story. Ruth, a Moabite widow became part of the lineage of Christ. And this small community of Bethlehem became renown! Your story, too, may seem ordinary. While we are humbled by the fact that we have been redeemed because God put on flesh and demonstrated his love for us by dying on a cross (Romans 5:8), we can also rejoice because our singular story of redemption is woven into God’s amazing story through the ages. Your world is the microcosm around you. Your family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors are your Bethlehem. We together at SCCC are Bethlehem.

Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.

 

 

 

Change: God's Most Precious Gift

by Brad Clarkson
Leadership Development & Worship Arts Pastor

The beautiful complexion of autumn is on vivid display around us. The cycle of life, death and change reminds us that staying the same isn't an option. Look outside. Look in the mirror. God is constantly remaking everything. Ultimately, you will either look like Christ, or that dying person you see in the mirror. If you truly believe that life in Christ is a life of abundance, then open your hand and release those things that aren't supposed to be held. We choose what we cling to, temporal shiny things in a passing landscape that hold us back, or God's guiding hand that leads us forward. Trusting God means embracing change.

In every election I can remember, politicians define their candidacy by describing the change they want to see in the world. Usually their success in politics depends on how widely their vision for change resonates. You'll never hear a politician say, "Elect me and I promise to keep things the same." A good leader will envision a better version of the way things are and convince others to make the the sacrifices necessary to get there. Unfortunately in this election, our presidential candidates struggled to cast a vision for the greater good.

The secret ballot is the most fearful and powerful weapon of our democracy, and every citizen owns one. However, contrary to what our American idealism would have us believe, our vote does not have the power to truly change this country or the world. It's ultimate purpose is to give us what we want, it will never solve the problem of our selfish heart. The ballot gives the majority their heart's desire, the minority is neglected by design. Only in our biblical response to God's great love, can the individual realize the desire of their heart (Psalm 37:4) And that's why politics is not the answer.

Change is a fickle thing. Each of us can quickly describe the change that we would like to see in others, but we are very resistant to the process of change in ourselves. Revelation teaches that God, the one who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, is the divine catalyst for change. The lone constant in the universe is calling us from darkness into light. That's change. His kindness compels us from sin to repentance. That’s change. Christ himself modeled change in His passing from life to death to life. That's change.

So let us commit to pray fervently for our country.  Scripture teaches that it pleases God when we pray for our leaders. Pray for Donald Trump as the governing authority for this country transitions to him. Pray for Hillary Clinton as she grapples with the heartbreak of losing the election. Whether you are celebrating or grieving the results of this election, do it with humility and in consideration of scripture's call to consider others higher than yourself. Let us move past pointing at one another and saying “the problem is them." The problem isn't them. it's not even us collectively, it's you and me. The problem is our sin that makes us selfish and resistant to God's most precious gift, true heart change through Christ. We have willfully wounded one another with our weapons of man-made change. It's time to change the change we seek.

Every morning I drive past two churches on my way to work. I'm certain that the first church is celebrating the results of this presidential election. I’m also certain that the second church is grieving those same results. Since 1995, Steele Creek Church of Charlotte has been deeply immersed in the mission of racial reconciliation. Come be a part of that mission with us every Sunday. No doubt, you will sit beside someone with a different perspective. This coming Thursday night, November 17 at 7:00 PM, the Worship Ministry is hosting a night of worship, prayer and reconciliation and you are invited to bring your neighbor and join us. Our plan is to love God, and love each other. Because that's what we do!

As you are surrounded by God's handiwork in this season of autumn change, be reminded that the God of the universe is beckoning you toward change. It's all around you. In the midst of the static hear Him say, “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Take comfort in this scripture as you consider what's happening all around you. I'll leave you with this:

Philippians 4:6-8
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.


Our church has been immersed in the mission of racial reconciliation since our first day in 1995. On November 17 at 7pm, the SCCC Worship Ministry will be hosting a night of prayer, worship and reconciliation in the main sanctuary. Come join us!


Christ Our Hope

by Brad Clarkson
Leadership Development & Worship Pastor

This coming Tuesday every eligible U.S. citizen has the right to walk into a voting booth and anonymously pull the lever for the candidate of their choosing. Stepping into that booth I am always reminded of the sacrifice that has hallowed the ground beneath my feet. It’s the most tangible connection I have to truly feeling a part of this ever-evolving American experiment.

As we consider the civic privilege and responsibility we have in this democratic process, let us be mindful of our scriptural mandate to honor those who are in authority over us. By doing so we can love our neighbor by joining in fellowship with them and respecting their right to vote their conscience. As Christians we have a deeper responsibility to consider what Scripture says regarding the political issues that face our country. Every day of every week at our church, we work to bring the light of Christ to the world around us because we believe the hope of Christ is the ultimate solution to every challenge we face.

If you attend Steele Creek Church of Charlotte this Sunday, you will see an incredibly diverse gathering of people. People that come from different backgrounds, different perspectives, different joy and different pain. Kelvin will be teaching from first Peter, chapter 2. Part of that text is below. Please read through that passage and join with us in prayer for our country and for the mission of our church to be and make disciples locally and around the world.

1 Peter 2:13-17
Submission to Government
Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.

See you Sunday.

A Simple Gift

by Paul Durham
Missions Pastor

My name is Paul Durham and I’m the Missions Pastor here at Steele Creek Church of Charlotte. My primary responsibility is to communicate with and care for our missionaries. In addition, I meet with new missionaries who are praying about going out to the field. As the missions pastor I encourage everyone who contacts the church concerning missions. We pray together, discuss mission organizations, strategies, systems, callings, spiritual gifts, fundraising and much more. 

On this occasion, I’d like to take this opportunity to share about one of the mission organizations and special projects that we are partnering with to reach the world for Christ.  We are participating in an endeavor to collect 1,000 special access shoeboxes for children in countries that are closed to the gospel. We partner with Samaritan's Purse – Operation Christmas Child to accomplish this task.

Imagine you’re a child (or the parent of a child) and you have never received a gift in your life. Life is hard and you’re just struggling to survive. You’ve been taught your whole life to follow and serve only Allah, the Islamic god. Furthermore, you’ve learned to be suspicious of Christians and the Jesus they speak about. Then one night, a man comes to your home and delivers a gift in a shoebox with many items that you and your family need, and perhaps even a fun toy or two. This man tells you that the gifts are from Jesus and that Jesus loves you very much. Then he proceeds to tell of the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross so that you can have a personal relationship with Him – a God of love.

Many children and their families are experiencing something like this through the love, prayer, and shoebox gifts that Steele Creek Church and Operation Christmas Child are going to provide. Thank you for your heart to serve in missions, and please pray for our missionaries and the many avenues God gives us to share the gospel around the world.

The Goal of the Festival of Nations

by Joel Da Silva
Latino & Brazilian Pastor

Four years ago, we started a new project called Festival of Nations, where we as a multicultural church become one body while at the same time we show the many cultures and nations that are part of our church. We’ve had the privilege of experiencing these cultures from many aspects. We see their traditional dress, their favorite dishes and their different customs. We are so pleased with the success of this project.

This year, despite the hurricane, we had about 2,000 people in attendance. The many volunteers who came to share their culture also shared God’s love with one another. We worshipped together in different languages, we ate many different types of foods, and we prayed for one another. But the most important thing is that we showed God's love to everyone who came.

It was amazing seeing how every single nation participated and worked hard to make us feel a little piece of their culture and country. We all made it happen, and I'm sure this day is written down in God's heart, as well as in the story of our church. We thank God for every person that contributed in any way to make this event happen and for everyone who attended. There is no way we could mention everyone who helped, but the most important thing is that together we accomplished our goal of being united as one nation sharing the love of God.

Benevolence & Care Ministry

by Dale Shields
Benevolence & Care Pastor

The Benevolence and Care Ministry is the Compassion Ministry of SCCC. The Bible teaches us that the church is supposed to take care of each other in crisis situations and when our family members are struggling (Acts 2:44-45). The Benevolence and Care Ministry is the major arm of the church that physically carries out this ministry. When there are needs that arise such as rent, power bills, water bills, etc., the Benevolence Ministry meets with our brother or sister and assesses how the church can help. We understand the struggles and hardships of life because everyone goes through them.

We also understand that there are many people who struggle with many different kinds of addictions. We are on the front line to help with counseling and rehab. Drug addiction has become an epidemic in our nation and in our city and we have helped many people find hope and freedom through Christian drug rehabilitation. When the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.

Because of the many mental and emotional struggles in life, people need a safe place to go to get help and work their way through their problems. We provide that safe place in our Christian counseling ministry. We also provide other Christion Counseling resources outside of the church for those who need it. You never need to feel like you are alone in your struggles. Jesus is always there and your church is always there.

The Benevolence Ministry has a Temporary Housing Program. This program will house families from six to twelve months in apartments close to the church. This is a program that uses prayer, biblically-based counseling, financial training, Christian mentoring, and spiritual discipleship to help families return to an independent living status with principles that will help keep their lives stable.

It is the heart of the Benevolence and Care ministry that the Gospel may be shared and experienced by all who come here. We recognize that the church has a mandate to minister to all people, so we minister to those who are non-members as well. Jesus Christ is the answer to all of mankind’s problems. Everyone needs to experience His grace and redemption. Our ministry team consists of Pastor Dale Shields, Pastor Mike Ingram and Sharon Lothian.

Reconciliation

by Ted White
Life Groups Pastor

On Sunday, September 18, Pastor Kelvin began a series on Reconciliation. He began the series focusing on reconciling our relationships in Christ. The world, the flesh, and Satan will tempt us to question, doubt, and embrace disappointment with God to the point of walking away from Him. It is God’s heart to reconcile all mankind to Himself through His Son, Jesus. We have questions, doubts, and disappointments in life and sometimes with God Himself. When these challenging times come in our relationship with God, may we not leave Him, but actually draw even nearer to Him. According to James 4:7-8, let us draw near to him daily. He is our source of life and hope.

Pastor Kelvin continued the series on Sunday, September 25, and we had a powerful and important day in our beautiful and diverse body. He shared that in order for us to be ministers of reconciliation, we must be ministers of empathy. As God’s children, we must continue to be sensitive and go inside the perspective and feelings of our brothers and sisters in Christ as well as the world. What people feel is real and we need to listen. We must be a safe place for all to be honest and transparent, and then enter into their suffering, even if we don't quite understand or even agree. At the same time, we must point all people to reconcile feelings and actions in the love and truth of Jesus Christ. That is the Ministry of Reconciliation. It is very costly, yet the alternative is distrust, alienation, and division. The very opposite of what our Lord expects of us.

In one of the darkest hours Charlotte has experienced, may we let our light shine brighter than ever for Jesus. He is the source of life and hope for all who will come. As ministers of reconciliation, may our example to reconcile others to Christ and to one another reflect the deep love and example of how Christ reconciled us to Himself. As Christ entered humanity through Mary, may we enter into the lives of others to listen and learn from them as an act of empathy.

Set aside time this week to pray about how God can help you show empathy toward others. God has given each of us the ministry of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:18-21 (ESV)
Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

 

What’s Happening in SCKids?

by Patsy Johnson
Children's Ministry Director

In case you were wondering SCKids stands for, it's Steele Creek Kids and it represents the Children’s Ministry within Steele Creek Church of Charlotte. SCKids exists to partner with parents and children in their spiritual journey of knowing and growing in Christ, being and making disciples. We help every family grow in our four Living on Target Foundations as we live in love and service to Christ, Home, Church, and World; as we aim to be well pleasing to the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:9). We offer opportunities for children to know Jesus and grow in His word while building a rock solid foundation to be and make disciples.  

Each week at 9:15 AM and 11:15 AM we offer age-appropriate experiences for kids six weeks through 5th grade. Our goal is to introduce your little ones (Infants-PreK)  to a God who made them, knows them and loves them. Our K-3rd graders are encouraged to commit their lives to Jesus and learn to grow roots in Him by going to God in prayer, reading His Word, obeying His commands (with a lot of grace), and worshipping Him as the one true God. The 4th and 5th graders begin their walk with Him as they learn to be and make disciples.

It is the desire of SCKids to model and teach how to become a disciple of Jesus and for every child to commit their lives to Jesus, have a daily relationship with Him, and make wise decisions that are well pleasing to Him. 

You are invited to come and serve alongside them and see firsthand how God moves in the lives of children! We love to have fun! For all ages we have great outreaches, fun events, family celebrations,  and so much more.  Let’s get involved together to impact your children and impact the world for His Glory!

 

A Ministry Culture of Care and Support

by Mike Ingram, Care and Support Pastor

“Church Member Engagement” “Open Door Ministry Policy” “Member and Attender Empowerment” Every Member a Servant”

We have all heard these buzz words and phrases for years – popular ideas that we hope are answers to help make our ever-changing ministry environments easier to manage. Many of us have pondered if any of these motivational words have lasting impressions.

How can we create a culture of support that lasts beyond the buzz words in today’s fast-paced, me-first, microwave world?

Definitions:

Simple definition of support: to agree with or approve of; to show that you approve of; to give help or assistance to.

Support can come in the form of tools and resources, as well as in how we behave. Another word that is worth looking up is culture. The beliefs, customs, arts, etc. of a particular society, group, place, or time. A way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization.

Culture at its core is about expectations. We expect behaviors to exist within a church, and those behaviors, good or bad, are chosen by the church community. We hope that our “core” helps to guide us in our behaviors. Culture is NOT just the way we do things around here. Culture is the way we feel about each other within our organization! If we truly want to see our churches filled with healthy serving leaders it begins by creating a culture that affirms the behavior that we are expecting.

Healthy Culture Building Blocks

APPROACH

The culture of your church will dictate the actions of your membership. There are two sides to creating positive, caring environments where lay leadership and general membership thrive.  Leadership must embrace that it all begins with them. If they cannot create a culture of support, thus begins a handicap. When we create a caring-supportive environment, healthy expectations for membership follow. How do we do this?

EMPATHY and TRUST

All relationships are built on two foundational concepts: empathy and trust. If either are missing, leadership stalls. The relationship either fails to progress or it ends completely. The key to ensuring success in this area is – one word – Sincerity. If the people God has entrusted to our care cannot reach a place they see sincerity, value what each bring to the table, and care for them when they fail or become ill…. trust is unlikely to follow.

THE “WANT TO” ENVIRONMENT

I remember several years ago watching a pastor as he went before the church to begin the offering time of the service. Before the plate was passed and business went on, he told the people, “Guys, I am thankful to the Lord for changing my “Have-to"  to a "Want-to”.  That makes it clear have-to is head and want-to is heart. That is a true culture shift. Many can argue that we as top leaders do not have much influence in matters of haves and wants. I disagree! Over time, changing from head-serving to heart-serving has profound impact in creating a want to environments.

CARING LEADERS

Here is where the “Law of Reciprocity” comes into play. People put time and resources into what they value. As the top leaders have embraced the approach that culture begins with them having the ability to exhale positive, caring culture vertical and downward, produce empathy and trust. The culture of your church will dictate the actions of your membership.

Here are 4 things to remember

  1. People first – Process second
  2. Lay Leaders and membership need to feel heard, valued, and have a place to give back or serve
  3. Providing a clear, caring process for growth, spiritually and otherwise, with freedom to fail is key
  4. When crisis comes and we are not there, it destroys the very culture God designed

SERVING-ORIENTED FOCUS:

Many times conversations I hear about this speaks about membership or lay leaders. We say things like "IF they would”.

This focus must begin at the top leader level. Churches sometimes forget some very, very basic things that great leaders know. Your direct reports both paid and volunteer are the ones to be served first. When both leader and lay leader alike create a sub-culture among themselves of serving each other across departmental lines, the result is an explosion of service. What members see modeled is generally how they serve.

PERSONAL COMMITMENT/OWNERSHIP ON THE OTHER SIDE

Up until now we focused on top leaders. What about "the other side of the coin?" If the culture loop is not closed in this final step, it produces frustration, low serving levels, and burnout. Lay leaders and church members alike must join hands and hearts with top leaders in making very personal commitments. We ALL own cultures we create, good or bad.

We ALL have the responsibility to shine the light in improvements and issues, but work together to find solutions that improve the culture we desire. Culture-building begins at the top, but unless it becomes the commitment across the board, then the organization will become unhealthy, unclear, unmotivated, and unfruitful.

TRUTH - No One Gets A Pass in the Kingdom of God  

Jesus said it this way:
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves[d] or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many.  If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.  And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.  If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts,[e] yet one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.  I Cor. 12:12-21

 

 

An Anniversary Message

by Pastor Kelvin Smith

Thank you for twenty-one wonderful, amazing years of ministry at Steele Creek Church of Charlotte! Whether you have been here from day one, or have just recently joined our family, together we are making tremendous impact locally and globally in advancing the Kingdom of God!

On the global front, we have several examples of your generous support and prayers.  Together we are planting churches around the world. To show unity with us, two new congregations have chosen to name their churches Steele Creek Church of Nigeria, and Steele Creek Church of Titanyen, Haiti.

You have contributed to providing clean water around the world, most recently in South Sudan with Tommy Zurowski, and among a large Pygmy tribe in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with Justin Wren.

Locally, in addition to giving faithfully to reduce our building loan, you have also given nearly $10,000 to support our own youth Mission Week and camp. 

Your generosity is changing lives!

Each year on our anniversary, I ask the church to bring a generous thank offering to honor God for His faithfulness to us – as did the Israelites of old.

This year we will, once again, be taking an anniversary offering.  There will only be one offering taken this Sunday on September 11.  From it, we will first set aside the usual amount for our church budget and our normal principal loan payment. Anything over and above that will be used for new playground equipment for our beautiful children, to complete our sports facility in the back of our property (already MUCH in use by our neighbors and church kids), and hopefully, for a new, greatly needed church sign on Arrowood Road. 

Thank you for prayerfully considering what you will give on this Anniversary Sunday! In the next four months, we will be making a concerted effort to guide our leaders as they continue to set apart ministry teams and serving leaders to fulfill our mandate of being and making disciples, globally and locally.

To God be the glory; great things He has done!