Family Missions Trips: “Fun & Flexible” is Only the Beginning!

Have you ever wondered what it’d be like to share a short-term missions experience in a counter-cultural context with those closest to you?  

How would your children, your siblings, your parents, or your spouse survive when some of the tight-knit control that defines our lives has been suddenly removed?  Or when nothing really goes as planned, nothing you eat tastes “normal,” and no one is even speaking your language?

I’ve had the opportunity to find out what it’s really like to serve alongside my husband and children not once, but twice in a developing country with many differences – and similarities – to life as we know it.  It’s extremely humbling, occasionally heartbreaking, absolutely hilarious, and overwhelmingly hopeful!

Continue reading “Family Missions Trips: “Fun & Flexible” is Only the Beginning!”

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Ordinary People Living Out an Extraordinary Calling to Love

Imagine 2017

Over 600 completely average people joined us for Imagine last weekend. We joined together because we believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ is that He came to seek and to save sinners just like us. We also believe that the whole of the Gospel is much more radical: it invites us to live as a disciple of the One who fed the hungry, clothed the naked, welcomed children, and spent time with those society deemed unworthy and outcasts.

 

This past weekend, over 600 ordinary followers of Jesus joined together to learn how to better seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). We recognized the fears that often paralyze us, and we leaned into the truths from Scripture: that the same way our Savior walked right into the “Samarias” of His world, we are called to the “Samarias” of ours…the places others would rather avoid: the streets, the group home, the orphanage, the prison, the abortion clinic, the rehab center, and the strip club. He walked in, bent down, and looked people right in the eye because relationships transform. He not only calls us to follow Him, but equips us as we do.

 

“Imagine made me realize that my fear of stepping out is normal, and reminded me that God can use anyone.”

“Some moments my heart was breaking and at the same time my fears are lessening. Opening my mind to what it means to truly love others as God loves us!”

“It gave me further conviction to open up to more possibilities that previously scared me.”

 

Throughout the weekend together we considered the idea of “What’s my one?” Our God is an intentional God seeking out the one lost sheep, the one lost coin, and the prodigal son (Luke 15). He has designed and equipped each of us with a different, yet complementary role to play in living out the Gospel (Romans 12:3-6). As each attendee prayerfully considers, “What’s my one?”, together we are able to make an impact in our world.

Here are just a few of the “ones” God led attendees to:

  • Haiti
  • Foster Dad
  • Short-term missions
  • Mentoring
  • Cambodia
  • Refugees learning English
  • Sex Trafficking
  • Strengthening a culture of life in our churches
  • China special needs adoption
  • Foster mom advocate
  • Homelessness
  • Encouraging adoptive families

 

Our prayer is that each person to whom the Lord spoke one thing would respond with prompt obedience to this call. Imagine what would happen if followers of Jesus took a stand for the hungry, the hurting and the fatherless. Let us bring that to life each and every day of the coming year!

Our deepest appreciation to each speaker, exhibitor and to the team of volunteers who planned and executed this event. Our time together was encouraging, refreshing, and equipping. We look forward to seeing you at Imagine 2018.

 

We’d love to hear your story of how God is using you, a completely ordinary person to live out His extraordinary calling to love.

Email us at connect@imagineconferencepgh.com

For encouragement and practical help living out this calling year round, be sure to subscribe to our blog.

 

 

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The Open Table

I heard about the Open Table model a few years ago through the OrphanCare ministry of North Way Christian Community.

It’s a national model for providing small group support to a Brother or Sister functioning without a network or resources to move forward. I saw it as an opportunity to mentor someone but with other adult support… meaning all the responsibility wasn’t solely mine!

“Igniting human potential is simple: Relationship.”

Our Table of 6 adults met weekly for 1 year with our Sister, a 19 year old woman who had been on her own for several years. Our Sister set the goals for what she wanted to achieve in our time together and then as a Table we worked with her to help her achieve those. Relationships grew out of our meetings and we became a family. We shared meals, birthdays, shopping trips, prayer requests, countless text messages and so much more.

Was it all perfect? No…but what family is!?

 

While our official time to meet as a Table has ended, our relationships have not.

“95% of Table participants have long term relationships with one or more of their former Table members.”

I couldn’t be more proud of our Sister and all she’s accomplished. She is so smart and one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met. She’s been through so much and yet she remains positive and loves to encourage others. I feel privileged to have been a part of her journey and can’t wait to see all that the Lord has in store for her.

Learn more about The Open Table at the Imagine Conference!


Debi Coglianese, Wexford Campus Manager of North Way Christian Community and Open Table Volunteer


“Open Table’s faith-based model draws together the community and relationship life of congregations around the country. It provides technical support, training, structure, process.
Each Table is composed of a group of volunteers that make a year-long commitment to act–through relationship—as a team of life specialists, encouragers, and advocates. Over the course of a year, the Table works together to set goals, foster accountability, and implement a plan to create change.”

theopentable.org

 

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Stale Bread

I looked down at the stale loaf of white bread in my hands.

Something happened here that I don’t understand, I thought.

I’m in a remote village in southwest China, a couple of hours by car from the nearest “foreigner store” that would sell white bread. I thanked my translator, feeling a mixture of shame, gratitude, exhaustion, and confusion. I’ve tried desperately to be laid back, fit in with the crowd, and go with the flow. What have I done to make my hosts feel that the breakfast that every other person in the entire complex eats every morning, isn’t good enough for me? I walked back to my room in the hospital dormitory, looking out over the dusty mountains as I ran back through every conversation I’ve had in the past 24 hours. The constant emotional drain of being misunderstood once again washed over me. Then it hit me like a slap to the face… I said too much. This is not the first time that my talkative personality would be my downfall.

Let me back up and provide some context. Four years ago I went to China on a long-term mission trip. I worked with an organization that provided medical services to low-income families. The organization was just starting to branch out and offer special education services as well; which was one of the main reasons I chose to work with this organization, being a speech pathologist by trade. During the time I was with them, I was offered an incredible opportunity: Train the first group of Chinese speech-language pathologists at this extraordinarily rural hospital. Ever the adventurer, I’m always up for a good challenge.

Due to the organization’s needs, I would go to the hospital on my own. My team… the ones whom had served in China for a number of years and understood the culture…they would stay in the city and continue their work.

Back to the bread.

I had been at the hospital a few days before the stale white bread showed up. The afternoon before, the hospital-provided translator and I went to lunch together. I stood looking at the food in the cafeteria and exclaimed how excited I was to eat. I told her that I didn’t eat much for breakfast, was hungry, and the food looked great.

That was it. That right there. It doesn’t sound like I was complaining, right? At least not to an American’s ears.

In America, if I wanted to say that I didn’t like the breakfast, I just come right out and say, I didn’t like breakfast. In general, Western society tends to engage in direct communication to get our point across. This is not as true of Chinese culture. If you didn’t like breakfast, you wouldn’t directly complain about it. That would embarrass your host and be rude. Instead, you would use an indirect form of communication. As I reflected on this interaction, I think my translator took my mentioning that I didn’t eat much for breakfast to be me telling her that the breakfast was inadequate for me. She must have sent someone out to pick up what she felt would be a more traditional American breakfast.

Ugh. So much for going with the flow.

This day and age a lot of people might ask why we need to learn about cultural differences? Do these seemingly small blunders really matter? I think they do matter. They matter when we want to honor, respect, serve, and truly love our neighbors. When I recount this stale white bread story, I can’t help but think about how Jesus had to cross socio-cultural barriers for us. I think about the way that God became man-how He came to us.

He was born as a human, assimilated to our world, ate the food we eat, and communicated to us in our language. He attended our festivities, sat and ate with us, and spoke in parables just so we could relate and understand.

We live in a global world.

All of us engage with people from cultures other than our own. It may be at work, at church, in our neighborhoods, or even on mission trips. People from all different cultures are all around us. But if we’re blind to our neighbor’s cultural differences, we could end up offending our neighbor in our efforts to show love.

I hope you’ll join me this year at the Imagine Conference. Amongst the various other break-out sessions, we’ll have speakers experienced in cross-cultural engagement helping to lead us through a conversation about culture and teaching us how to relate to our neighbors from different cultures. Let’s imagine what it looks like to love our neighbor in a way that will be truly meaningful to them…and avoid eating some stale white bread in the process.

Register for the Imagine Conference!


Becca Densmore, Mission Council Representative, North Way Christian Community – East End

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Perspectives: Understanding God’s Heart for the World

“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man.”
John Piper

Several years ago I had the privilege of taking a class at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary called “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement”. This class excited me personally, and I signed up with the hopes of gaining insight on engaging internationals right here in Pittsburgh. Missions is a great passion of mine, having received a Masters in Arts in Religion with a focus on missions at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA. My passion has led me to build relationships with my neighbors with Muslim backgrounds, work with Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) in Australia, engage with Pittsburgh Regional International Student Ministry (PRISM), and purposefully reach out to internationals in my neighborhood. I knew this class would only further ignite my heart for missions. I was right.

I was blown away by the class. We studied God’s heart for the unreached, the biblical call to reach the nations, the history of missions, missional approaches throughout the centuries, and we ultimately gained a deeper understanding of God.

The accessibility of the class was incredibly encouraging. The material was applicable to anyone who stepped through the door-whether a person had previous involvement in missions, worked at a church, was a lay leader in the church, or was a Christian simply wanting to learn more. I was very impacted by the class.  The content was straightforward, deeply biblical, and helped us move toward God’s heart for the world and Himself.

To my surprise several of the lessons were taught by mission-minded pastors and leaders that I had already rubbed shoulders with in the city.  I made new connections with people doing ministry in the city and learned practical next steps for engaging more intentionally with my Muslim friends in the city. It was also incredibly encouraging to see a fellow church staff member in attendance receive the nudge from the Lord to begin a prayer group for the church. They have been meeting for over a year now and have spread over to an additional church campus.

I was encouraged to hear that “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement” would be represented at the Imagine Conference this year. I want to strongly encourage anyone looking to know more about God’s heart for the world to consider participating. Do not let anything stop you from pursuing God’s call for you in this area. As I think of a Christian’s call to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9), I am also reminded of the promise made in Romans 8:31-39: nothing can “separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). As we serve God and our hearts align more closely with His, may we be reminded of the hope and security we have in Him.
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

Register for the Imagine Conference to discover more of God’s heart for the world and where you fit in.


Pat Michael, North Way Oakland Outreach Director (In Partnership with Didasko Ministries)
patm@northway.org

 

For more information on a Perspectives Class near you, click here.

Next year’s Persepectives course: January 22-May 7th 2018

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