Today the Daily Post Topic is Playful. We just started Vacation Bible School at our church and for the third year my wife and I are leading a class for teens. Unlike many churches we have a large group of youth and there is a definite need for a more grown up approach. We have a video series lesson from J.D. Greear we are teaching, but we started the day yesterday with some time at a local park.
Our original plan involved a local Kayaking, tubing and rafting attraction, but due to some locally heavy storms and dubious weather forecasts we had to alter the destination. After more than one secondary choice we finally settled on a local park that provided just what the kids were looking for.
I rely on my camera phone because it is much less obtrusive and accordingly I cannot always take multiple shots rapid-fire, so I missed the interval between the first shot and the second, but you can see the result well enough to know what occurred.
By now the group had made the choice to walk down stream and had just made their way beneath a bridge. It was not something I had planned to do with them, but eventually I realized if I was going to document any more of their adventures I had to join the crowd.
There is only twelve of the eighteen that took part in this adventure pictured, but you tell me, have you ever tried to get eighteen teens together all at one time? It is much harder than you think.
We will have five more days of opportunity to have fun and learn about assurance of salvation, our topic for the week. I hope you enjoy the Playful theme I chose for today’s daily post topic.
Are you an acceptance seeker? You know, the kind of person that wants people to acknowledge what you do and reaffirm you are worthy? It is okay, we all have this innate desire to matter. I hear some people say, with attitude that they really don’t care what people think of them. I think that is malarkey, because humans go to great lengths to change who they are all the time. In fact, there is a multi-billion dollar plastic surgery process to improve looks in many, sometimes drastic, ways.
What we don’t fathom in our human and vain states, is that the real changes that will serve us during our brief time on God’s green earth come from within. We are so much better served by the relationship and understanding we have with God. God made each of us exactly as we are for a reason. We discuss this with our Middle School Sunday School class regularly. With the experience of two children, a boy and a girl behind us we know how they struggle to find their place in the grand scheme of things.
The media and advertisers scream at us, trying to convince us about what is the acceptable body type, face decoration for women or how we can “improve” what the master craftsman of the universe blessed us with. I can remember having similar feelings when I was a teen. Thankfully God’s influence came in the form of my neighbor and Christian mentor Minnie Bryan, who helped me see the commendation that matters the most of all is that we get from our relationship with Jesus Christ. I invite you to read this blog post, The J.O.Y. Principle, to see how Minnie helped me understand this idea.
I’ll tell you something I learned a long time ago. When you lie down at night and conduct a review of your day, if you do such, the one you must make happy is yourself. Worrying about what others think or fell is a tiring and unnecessary task to add to your load. God tells us to give him our burdens as he is all powerful and never tires. God will grow you if you allow to where you will seek his approval or commendation as you make your way through life.
I am just as human as anyone who will read this post, I am not anxious to end the life I am living on earth. I have a wife and two children I dearly love and work to make happy and feel loved and provided for every day. I look forward to the chance to enjoy many more years with them. However, I know that the only resolution for a mortal life is a mortal death. But then I get to experience the eternal life with God promised the day I followed John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
We will all face Jesus in heaven to account for what we did or did not do on earth. I, just as many others, have many missed opportunities that will be recounted on that day, but I know through the instruction I have received that I also will have many positive encounters that Jesus will acknowledge. To me His commendation will matter the most.
It was December of 2012 when I finally stepped on an airplane and jetted off to a foreign county for my first international mission trip. I had wanted to be a bigger part of God’s kingdom and knew there was more waiting for me. My only other mission trip was a domestic based one in Callaway, Florida where I joined with a dozen and a half others from my church to replace and aging shingle roof with one made of metal.
Traveling the fourteen hours to the Sunshine State through Tennessee and Alabama was certainly a good step in the right direction, but it did nothing to quell the desire I had to go on an international mission.
While this was certainly a great trip and helped to confirm the desire I had to do more, it was the next big spiritual leap that opened so many more doors. Many of you remember when the Prayer of Jabez book by Bruce Wilkinson was popular. I read this little book and prayed that prayer. If you would like to read about my experience following that please click here: Prayer of Jabez Experience
When the call came for interested parties I felt God speak to me that I needed to take part. I never regretted that choice. It was the beginning of a another chapter in my life of faith that I could never have imagined.
In our first year we took shoe boxes for the children we served, much like the ones packed and delivered by the millions through Operation Christmas Child. By year two we were fully involved in helping Carol Heath, a missionary in Belize with a place called Heart House build a library for the children she serves.
Carol in December 2012 standing where the library would be less than 1 year later.
Men from the Lebanon Baptist Association of Meadowview, VA building the shelves.
One of the Heart House kids sitting for a photo in the new library.
By this year we had take on another project to benefit the children and families of Heart House. As part of the long term plan for Heart House a kitchen was constructed to allow a meal to be prepared to feed the boys and girls that visit this place of love. As a partner my church collected metal silverware to send to Heart House as a way of reducing their day to day cost. It was so great to see your efforts paying dividends that make a real difference in the experience of not only the kids, but Carol and the others that run this mission.
But undoubtedly my greatest joy was sharing this eight day adventure with my daughter, Meredith. At 17 she experienced her first mission trip of any kind three decades younger than I. What she does from here is in God’s hands as she has shown she is willing to follow his lead in her spiritual life. But the sheer joy of serving with her is one of my greatest gifts from this trip.
When you have children and are a Christian your greatest desire is for them to be exposed to a Christian education so that they can understand the importance of having Christ in their life. Over the last year I have seen such an amazing amount of growth in Meredith’s Christian walk and this mission trip served as the capstone of 2015. In the follow-up to this post Belize Mission Trip 2015 (Part 2), you will get to see the ministry opportunities she was exposed to with Carol at Heart House. Also, in Belize mission Trip 2015 (Part3) you will see the way we were able to minister with puppets from our church on our last day with the Heart House kids.
This is a continuation of my description of our 2015 Mission Trip to the Central American country of Belize. For me it was the third time to this country, but it was my daughter’s first foreign country, excluding the Bahamas. If you did no read the first chapter in this series you can click the link that follows: Belize Mission Trip 2015 Part 1.
On previous trips we had worked with other churches in our area to assemble shoe boxes and then backpacks to deliver to the hundred or so children impacted by Heart House. But for 2015 the decision was made to re-focus the effort on an idea of creating a store for the benefit of parents needing to stretch their dollars as far as possible. This “store” was a collection of items we felt the children would desire, such as remote control cars, puzzles, soccer balls, shoes, clothes and other inexpensive (in America) items.
We set up this store on Saturday, the day after we flew in to Belize. Part of the challenge was grouping the specific items by their perceived value. The reason for this was so that when the mothers came to shop on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday they were able to buy 1 high priced value, 2 lower priced or three lowest tier items for each child.
Following this our ladies offered to wrap the gifts for the mothers and then offered to pray with them about any prayer concerns. My seventeen year old daughter called this one of her greatest opportunities to minister during this trip. To hear the mothers of the children blessed by Heart House share their concerns and hopes was something she likely will not quickly forget.
In Belize Mission Trip (Part 3) I will share the opportunity to minister to the children directly that we completed. I hope to see you come back for that.
To Edify means to instruct and improve especially in moral and religious knowledge. I use to think it was the same as being a person who encourages other. I chose to encourage others and give them positive feedback to try to add positively to their day. Why not take a moment out of your day to encourage another, to show them what they do matters.
1 Thessalonians 5:11King James Version (KJV)
11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.
But to edify you must be making an effort to instruct someone with the idea you are adding to their knowledge and understanding of a moral or religious topic. My wife and I are enjoying our fourth years leading the middle school Sunday School class at our church. We try to mold the young minds based on bible principles as we were taught by those before us.
We are fortunate in that the majority of our students come from strong Christian homes and we are merely supplementing the work of the parents, who should be the primary teachers. Of course we have some students from not so solid circumstances and this may be the main opportunity to put the Word of God into their young minds.
We consider it a privilege to share God’s love and teaching with all kids, whether in our class, in the Children’s Church class or during Vacation Bible School. I have even had the blessing of teaching kids at a tutor center in the Central American country of Belize. The opportunities are endless and we must be aware and ready to share all the time.
It was a very warm day 1,300 miles from my home, nestled within the mountains of Southwestern Virginia, (not West Virginia mind you) in December of 2012 that my idea of putting my faith in action got a supercharge. For the first time I was enjoying an opportunity to enjoy a close relationship with God in another country. Yes, God is present wherever you are, but we don’t always allow him in. Our usual day-to-day routines easily crowd him out.
Ahead of this trip I asked God to empty my heart and mind of myself as well as all the distractions that would prevent me from seeing what he wanted me to see on this trip. Basically, I wanted one on one fellowship with Him.In other words I wanted to hear God’s leading. I could feel his presence when I exited the bus and got my first view of Heart House. From within it was like God said “Here you go, pay attention now.”
When I walked into Heart House and past the mural that described what the purpose was I stopped at a nook that served as the library. Keep in mind that up to 100 kids share this space and the books within. Carol Heath was gracious enough to let me button-hole her and inquire about her wishes for a bigger space for the library.
Again God’s voice was so clear. He said you know what you must do. You must lead the effort at home to gather books to fill the new library. I asked Carol to show me the intended space for the library and began to scope out the need.
The goal was simple, enough books to give the library a start. So the matter at hand was to set a goal. I had a former pastor say if you never aim for a target you will miss every time. Enter the wildcard in the equation, the way to get children’s books from Virginia to Belize. Thankfully we were already in the process of gathering backpacks to send to the kids from Heart house. This is actually a step up from the shoe boxes like Operation Christmas Child sends around the world. So adding boxes of books was just some more work and thanks to Terry Stinson, a missionary from the USA living in Belize at the time, this was made possible.
So when we arrived at Heart House for my second trip in December of 2013 the shell of the library was complete. But a library isn’t a library without shelves and books, right? So God blessed our team with the resources to be able to but the lumber necessary to construct the shelve s and the know-how of Tim Heath, Terry Stinson, Ron Gilbert and others to get it done.
This is where I must insert the funny story about the photo that follows. In order to show what the new library would look like we had to kind of stage a photo. I mean you have to understand organizing, cataloging and readying all these books just required much more time than we could devote.
So instead i enlisted the help of a Heart House kid named Ivan and asked him if he wanted to be famous. I had a pocketful of Belize coins that I could not use once I left the country so I told him I would share them with him if he would post for a photo in the library.
He was obviously pleased with the agreement, so much so he shared his good fortune with his friends when they arrive a short time later. I know because it wasn’t long before another young one came up to me and said “I want to be famous!”
Since December of 2013 Carol and the others have managed to get the books categorized and cataloged so that the children can use them. I recently got this photo of them with books enjoying their library day.
Here is another picture I took in December of 2013. The library is directly behind the white wooden doors which are the new bathrooms.
The library is not by full by any means. We continue to work on that and welcome anyone who wants to take part. I look forward to returning to Heart House this summer to see the library in person.
Acts 1:8 Ye shall be witnesses…unto uttermost part of earth
Mat.28:19,20 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations
Some of my favorite verses in the bible talk about going into every nation and sharing the love of God with all you meet. Of course this verse says nothing about involving the children of your church. This is no job for children. Or is it? Why not teach them early about sharing their most precious gift with others?
My family got involved with wrapping shoe boxes with Samaritan’s Purse and their Operation Christmas Child several years ago. Even as young as my children were then they could appreciate the effort we put into blessing others in countries around the world. For many countries targeted by Operation Christmas Child it would be the first mention of Jesus. That shows we have either failed to go everywhere in this world or stopped spreading the word in every way possible.
First of all we worked with shoe boxes that would be sent to any area of the world. This was a less exact process because we had no idea where the shoe boxes might go The kids were willing to pack whatever was before them so it was up to the adults to put the best things in front of them. That is one of the things about kids, their enthusiasm drives them to complete the process much quicker than adults.
Then a couple of years ago we got a chance to go to Belize and establish a one to one relationship with some missionaries that can better direct our efforts. It is important to me to reduce the distance between our church and the missionaries as much as possible. If they know them by name they are more likely to care about them.
WE were blessed this past summer by a visit from Tim and Carol, not only to our church but to our home where we got to know each other on a more personal level. The connections moved our interaction to another level and will pay great dividends in knowing how to minister to Heart House in the years to come. Already with that possibility in mind I am trying to ge the kids to identify as well.
When I was at Heart House last in December of 2013 I had the HH kids stand in front of a whiteboard with a thanks to the kids at my church for all they had one to stuff back packs in the preceding 3-4 months. I felt like it was a great way to “make it real” to our kids.
Some of you will remember a fad a couple of years ago called Bandz where kids wove together colored rubber bands to make bracelets. I felt like this would be another way to connect the kids and had 3 or 4 of the kids at my church make about a hundred to take with us to Belize. On the day we gave them out their was a lot of buzz about it. This last picture shows everyone in attendance sporting their friendship bracelets.
As I prepare to take my daughter on her first mission trip to Belize this year I am laying out more plans to connect the kids. I know she will find this experience as rewarding as i do because as my wife says “She has a heart like you do.” We all want our life to matter and serving God while searching for that end is a wonderful adventure.