Serving Christ in West Virginia

By Dan Curley

In June I was watching on the news about the devastation caused by torrential rains that hit West Virginia and felt God pull at my heart strings.  We are called to serve others in the name of Jesus, and here were thousands of people in need just a few hours away. It says in 1 John 3:17, But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?

I asked the Lord  how our church might do something to help these people. My first thought was to contact Samaritan’s Purse.  Four years ago, Hurricane Sandy hit the Jersey Shore and the 60 men attending our annual men’s retreat joined up with Samaritan Purse to help with the clean-up. So a week later, New Life Dresher was signed up to bring a team to West Virginia the last week of July.  Many people inquired about going, but getting time off from work was difficult.  God was good in providing two servants, and on July 24, Ken Johnson and I left for West Virginia.

Ken and I were able to serve four households in White Sulfur Springs, WV. The first home had 12 inches of water wash through the first floor. A single tenant woman, Barbara, needed our help to evacuate her home in order to be repaired. Our job was to move salvageable items to a storage facility. This was more challenging than first expected. Barbara found it difficult to part with many items that had been ruined by the flood waters. To us, many of these items had little or no value, but to Barbara they had sentimental value. God worked in our hearts during our time there, and we filled two large storage units with her memories. The Samaritan’s Purse chaplains later shared the Gospel with Barbara and she opened her heart to Christ.  Our team found this unexpected and it reminded us that God always has a plan.

The last house was just down the street from the first house and belonged to another woman named Barbara. This job was defined as a mud-out. Significant water damage meant we needed to tear up the floor and remove the bottom half of the walls in every room. This was quite a job and after a short time our team lead indicated that we were going to get some help. Well, it turns out that the New Orleans Saints hold their training camp in Lewisburg, WV, and a busload of New Orleans Saints pulled up and walked into the house. These men did about two days’ worth of work in four hours. Even the general manager, Mickey Loomis, was there tearing out a really smelly bathroom. At the end of the day, we all prayed with the homeowner and presented her a Bible that was signed by all who helped in the effort. (https://www.samaritanspurse.org/article/bigger-than-the-big-game)

Samaritan’s Purse brings help to those who have suffered tragedy in a Gospel-centered way.  Volunteers are often asked, “Why did you come?”  For Samaritan’s Purse, the answer is always the same. “We have come to help you in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” For Ken and I, this was a humbling experience and a wonderful opportunity to show Christ’s love to others.

Counseling at Kids in Motion

By Merideth

Kids in Motion is by far my favorite camp to be a part of. It’s one of the best feelings in the world to run around with a bunch of kids and teach them about the word of God! One might end up with a stampede of rambunctious boys, or have half the group not speak at all because they’re shy.

This year I counseled about sixteen third-graders who were a great mix of sweet and sour. The counselors would check up periodically on the more reserved kids and ask them to join, but they would continue to say no (or nothing at all). Then we would turn around to see them running, eager to play because everyone was having so much fun. One thing that pushed them to join the group would be the constant chatter about how cool Coach Todd was or the chanting of, “Coach Casey runs like a gazelle!” I can’t help but smile every time I see these kids use teamwork or cheer on a friend as they score a point. I don’t remember a time when the losing team walked away feeling discouraged, because all they could focus on was having a blast together (and how silly they looked doing the chicken dance).

The most encouraging moment of the week was the Thursday afternoon lesson. This is the hardest time to handle the kids because it’s difficult for them to focus, but they were really interested in this lesson. We learned about Jesus’ death on the cross and it was a tough note to end on. We told them that the story gets better and they continued to ask questions that even I hadn’t thought of. These questions led to some great discussions. They all asked about being sons and daughters of God and why He would send His Son to die for us. We continued to tell them about how much God loves them, and the Holy Spirit was so present, it was almost palpable. The next day, two of the boys sat out during soccer, the group’s favorite sport, and talked to Todd about joining God’s family.

Working with these kids and teaching them about Christ’s love for us reminds me to run to God with blind faith and the innocence of a child, which lifts a huge weight off of my shoulders because I know my Father is in control.

Easton: A City Experience I’ll Never Forget

By Katie Humphries

First off, I will admit that I am not a city person. I can take them in small doses, but I prefer mountains, woods, rivers and lakes. I honestly wasn’t sure if I would be up for going to Easton, but with a little push from my good friend Tim Gorbey, and God pointing me in the right direction, I decided to take on the adventure.

I have really enjoyed working with the junior high youth group this past year, but was scared of leaving my niche. I was scared of meeting new people, scared of high schoolers, and a little scared of the city. But I felt I needed to go and leave my comfort zone, so I did!

I had the joy of running our “Cross Fit Training” courses on the boiling-hot blacktop every day. It was a challenge, having never done this before. The worst day was our first day; I became extremely dehydrated and already wanted to quit and go home. But as I lay on my air mattress with ice all over my body, people that I had just met continuously checked on me, talked with me, and cared for me. I also talked to my mom that night, and she told me how the devil was the one trying to make me quit. I realized in that moment that God wanted me there and that he was not leaving my side.

The rest of the week, I stayed hydrated and was able to finally see why God sent me to Easton. I saw these high schoolers and middle schoolers just pour out all of their love for these kids. So many of the campers there came from broken homes, and these young teenagers shared genuine kindness with each and every one of them. I heard stories throughout the week about how they were able to share Jesus, and pray and talk with some of these kids, and it was so uplifting to hear.

It filled my heart with joy to see the tears running down the faces of the campers and their young counselors on our last day. They truly showed them God’s love, and I learned that God always prevails. Even when we feel like quitting, he puts people in our lives to lift us up and show us His love.

When an IT Guy Sees a Flood

By Ward Shope

When I was 18, I was worried that Jesus would come back before I had an opportunity to be married or to participate in some other visionary and adventurous earthly exploit. Now, many years later, I’m pretty certain my vision of the coming Kingdom was too small, and my estimation of what could be accomplished on earth too big. Heaven waits, and I wait with anticipation for Jesus’ return.

And yet waiting is active. Matthew 24:45-51 provides an encouragement and a warning for us to remain busy with kingdom endeavors even while we wait. True heaven-created faith must express itself in some earthly, tangible acts of compassion, or we’re fooling ourselves about the origin of that faith. Paul says, “The only thing that counts is faith, expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6).

That’s why I was so encouraged by our IT guy, who, when he heard about the opportunity to do cleanup in West Virginia after the lethal and devastating flooding this summer, decided to take a week of vacation to join in. New Life wasn’t running a team down there. And I don’t believe anyone was recruiting Dan. He just saw the need and realized Samaritan’s Purse provided an opportunity, and he went. He even recruited another congregant, Ken, who is a policeman, to go with him.

Personally, it takes me several months just to process the possibility that I can help. But Dan and Ken left within a few short weeks, spending precious vacation time on a true and desperate need. Never mind that Dan works on computer networks all year – what some might consider intangible work. He didn’t fix the world, but his life-changing faith did change the worlds of those overcome by the floods this summer. It’s evident that he has been changed by Jesus, and that he wants the lives of others to be changed as he expresses his faith.

One might say he had an earthly reward. The New Orleans Saints just happened to send a group to help when Ken and Dan were there. But I appreciate his day job. He rescues me a lot around here when the network goes down. I’m even more impressed by the incredible work God has done and is doing in Dan – and Ken – and so many others in our congregation. So many are serving in so many different ways.  Daily they (should I say “we”?) are joyfully living out our faith in tangible, down-to-earth ways. And apparently, according to Jesus, this is one of the best ways to be prepared for heaven.

To see a video of this project and snatches of Dan and Ken in the video, click here.

Communion Clarity

By Ward Shope

You’ve heard the proverbial story where a mother always cut off the end of the ham being offered for Christmas dinner each year. When she was asked why by her precocious 6-year-old daughter, she replied that her mother always cut off the end. So grandmother was dutifully consulted. It turns out that her pan was just too small for the average-size ham, and the tradition began.

If there is any institution known for passing down tradition, it’s the church. So why does New Life, at our monthly communion celebrations, alternate between passing trays of the elements through the congregation, with going forward to receive bread and to partake of the fruit of the vine using a “common cup”.

Actually, we didn’t use to do it that way. Our practice changed about six years ago after some careful discussion by the Session. We discovered that each method of sharing the Lord’s Supper emphasizes complementary truths about the gospel.

As we pass trays, we emphasize that we believe in a gospel of grace. God loved us first and initiates our redemption even while we were dead in our sins. To receive the elements is a passive act, very much the way we received Jesus. God does the work in Jesus Christ, and we receive Him by faith. In response to receiving the gospel in the elements, we also turn to serve others. So grace is not without effect, but transforms us into Kingdom servants.

The method of passing trays also emphasizes the corporate nature of the gospel. We eat the bread and drink the cup together with everyone else. As John tells us, through Christ we have fellowship with one another, just as we have fellowship with the Father and the Son. (1 John 1:3 cf. John 17:11).

The method of sharing in the common cup also emphasizes the corporate nature of our body. We share in the same body and blood. But as we come forward, we emphasize our active response to the Gospel. Faith drives us to pursue the Father, to want to participate in his redemption and leave all else behind.

At the same time, the common cup method is intensely personal. Each person is served individually and often called by name, just as the Father saves us personally and calls us by His Name. It often gives us more time to reflect on our personal need for redemption, and the riches of redemption that we receive in Christ.

In using both methods, our desire is to enhance the strengths of both for the good of the believer and the good of the body. We encourage you to take advantage of both methods for your deeper growth in Christ.

Summer Discontent

By Charlotte Gleason

Discontent and I spend a lot of time together in the summer. He typically moves in after our family travels to somewhere other than here. I started the summer on the coast of Maine, where I could walk to Acadia’s rocky coast and smell the wild roses. Discontent quickly pointed to things my life lacked, like the fully equipped kitchen in the vacation home. You know – the kind where the refrigerator blends into the cupboards and the gas range could simmer soup for a small army.

In July, I traveled to my husband’s hometown in northern New York. I left the sweat-all-day heat of Philly and drove to a place where sweatshirts are not just worn to prevent hypothermia in grocery stores. I swam in the lake, ate ice cream next to corn fields, and mentally moved myself into small-town America.

And while I always love to return to my space and the familiar, discontent never failed to remind me that somewhere else could be better. Like any lifetime Christian, I could hear Paul’s admonition to “be content in any and every situation” (Philippians 4:12). But this admonition rang like a parent reminding her child to make his bed: I blocked out the voice and shut the door.

Shortly after our return from New York, I heard my daughter reading under her breath from Matthew 6: “Do not worry about tomorrow” (vs. 34). Her words stopped me in the midst of worrying to God and presenting my wish list for the future, the fallout of housing discontent in my heart. I turned to Matthew 6 and read through Jesus’ reminder that he cares for the sparrows and dresses the flowers. But I noticed that Jesus also redirects the focus of his audience toward the close of the chapter. He offers a replacement thought: his kingdom and his righteousness.

I recently finished reading Alexander Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo to my two older children (please know it took forever and required much interpretation). At the end, the Count writes these words in a farewell letter to his dear friends: “Until that day when God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words, – ‘Wait and hope’”(Dumas 478). I think these words rightly express what we as Christians must do when we wake up, walk through each day, and lay down at night. And discontent has no home in those who anticipate heaven while trusting in God’s daily and present provision.

Lessons I Learned in 11 Years of Marriage

By Jane Highley

July is our anniversary month, and this year is our 11th. It may not be what popular culture considers a “landmark” year. You won’t find a Hallmark card or bling inside a small blue Tiffany box for 11 years of matrimonial bliss. Still, T.J. and I still celebrate as we have done every year prior. So besides the three bouncy and loquacious children to show for this marriage, I offer a few “lessons” that God has specifically assigned me to learn thus far in our marriage (in no particular order).

Love my in-laws: We each said something about “your people becoming my people” on our wedding day, but I had no idea what that really meant in living color. I am learning that loving my in-law family from the heart is an act of loving my husband. Their choices are their decisions, but they are all part of T.J.’s life and have shaped the man I married.

My husband is not my best friend: I may be an outlier here, but being a husband is a plenty burdensome role, I think. I don’t want him to assume the role someone else should play. My closest friends are all women, and that is the most obvious reason that T.J. is not my best friend. I hope he’s relieved because of that.

Parenting is the longest test of teamwork: Now that our children are beyond the stage where the burden of childrearing fell disproportionately on me, parenting feels more like real teamwork where we equally shoulder the labor. And now that our children are old enough to catch on to our non-verbal cues and secret looks, I am learning that we have to be completely united in our parenting decisions and strategies.

Our kids need to see us kissing: I want to my children to see a marriage with random kisses in the mini-van, one that shows physical affection, attention, and devotion. In a world with widely divergent views of relationships, I want them to witness a marriage borne out of a covenant, where they will see physical acts of affection as part of a very happy, healthy marriage.

Some alone-time is necessary. T.J. loves board games and Star Wars and I love stationery and calligraphy. He gathers with his game group once a week while I dive into my own hobbies, obsessions, and projects. I relish the alone-time. But when he returns, we share our respective play-by-play of the night. The sharing encourages us to be excited for the other.

PB & J is an acceptable dinner: T.J. means it when he says, “I’d rather have PB & J or cereal every night for dinner if it means I can have more of you.” He would rather come home to a wife who is at ease because dinner will take all of 5 minutes to prepare and therefore, will still be happy to see him.

I married a sinner. This has been the most important lesson. I need to re-learn this truth and its implications every day. Forgetting it explains all the frustration, bitterness, and disappointment that I’ve felt whenever T.J. fell short of my impossible expectations. The poetic irony is that as I see his sin I often see more of my own with jarring clarity. Paul says in Romans 5:20, “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” Sin can lead to pointing fingers and keeping records by both of us. But God’s grace, when I slow down long enough to receive it, has a gobsmacking effect on me. Jesus welcomes us both as we are, and moves us both toward repentance and obedience. His grace has the power to transform the trajectory of our marriage from utter disappointment to unspeakable delight.