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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Drowning Girl

Imagine you bought yourself a new watch. It works so perfectly (and looks so good on your gorgeous wrist) that you decide to buy yourself a fancy shirt to go with it. Then, you talk yourself into buying a whole new outfit (because you have worked so hard recently and you deserve to treat yourself).

New shoes, fresh underwear, bling.

You look amazing.

And you feel amazing.

But while you’re out for a stroll around the lake (looking like a million bucks) you see a young girl drowning. You can tell that she’s exhausted… seconds from going under.

Tell me, what would you do?

Continue reading “Drowning Girl”

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Our Gift to You

Merry Christmas!

As we celebrate the birth of our Savior, may you remember that this King of Kings made his grand entrance in a smelly stable. Though fully God, he took on the nature of a servant and met us in our mess.

Quite a different picture than many expected, but exactly what we needed – a King who was not afraid to get in the mud along with us.  A King who was humble.  A King who associated with the least of these.  A King who was willing to suffer.

At Imagine 2017, Eugene Cho encouraged us to take a different path – a path less traveled. Remember the woman at the well? (John 4) Her great need compelled Christ to go to Samaria, just as our great need compelled Christ to come to Earth.

May Christmas be a reminder that as we grow in the likeness of Christ we must also be willing to humble ourselves, get our hands dirty, and go.

What was your “One”? Have you taken that first step? It’s never too late to begin changing your world with His great love.

May the brokenness of our world not deter you as you live out your extraordinary calling to love the lost, the least, and the last, just as He did.

To encourage you on your journey, we’re happy to make available to you some of the sessions from Imagine 2017.

We hope you’ll find them a blessing. Please share them with your friends.

For continued resources all year long, remember to subscribe to this blog.

Merry Christmas from all of us!

 

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How Can You Combat Human Trafficking?

At 14-years-old, K (let’s call her) didn’t have the easiest childhood. Adopted out of her birth parents’ home at age 8, she was removed from her adoptive family only 6 years later due to abuse. With nowhere to go, she was homeless, spending her days walking around town, trying to survive. There, she met a man who offered her help—a home, a friendly face, a place to belong.

Instead, she found herself in his house surrounded by other women and girls, all who were trapped in prostitution. K faced unimaginable atrocities until relief and rescue came when she was arrested for her own safety. The authorities took down her story, went after her traffickers, and worked to help her get aftercare services like counseling, healthcare, and education. Even now, she still struggles to live a normal life, but she has come a long way and is working to help other girls just like her.

At first, without context, it’s a little difficult to tell where this story is from—maybe Mexico or Moldova, South Africa, India, Germany. Maybe even New York City or Los Angeles. It seems like a story that should be removed from our everyday lives, happening far away in a place where crime is high, poverty is rampant, and prostitution is common, if not accepted by society.

The reality is that this story is about a girl who grew up in the city we call home—Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

This is a reoccurring story, running through the lives of thousands of people living in America, happening in our own backyards—not just in foreign countries, huge cities, or sweatshops and large-scale farms. The true scope of trafficking is impossible to measure, but in the first 6 months of 2017, almost 5,000 trafficking cases had been reported to the National Hotline, ranging from sex trafficking to forced labor. And that only counts the cases that were called in, investigated, and identified as trafficking—so many more slip through the cracks. The average entry age into sex trafficking is 12 to 14 years old, and about 75% of child trafficking victims are now being advertised for and sold online. Labor trafficking is less talked about but it invades our hotels, farms, factories, and even homes. Almost 1/5 of reported labor trafficking cases were in domestic work.

In truth, trafficking victims look a whole lot less like the girl from Taken, kidnapped because she was acting carelessly and wildly in a foreign country, and a whole lot more like young girls from broken homes (rich or poor) who just want someone to validate their worth and show them love. Or like the Latino man who came to America for menial work to support his family, only to find himself overworked and unpaid with threats of imprisonment or deportation chaining him to an exploitive employer.

Human trafficking stems from broken systems failing vulnerable people and broken people taking advantage of them.

So maybe now you’re asking, “What can I do about this?” It seems like such a huge problem, and in reality, a lot of things need to change in order to really make progress, but that doesn’t mean you can’t or don’t have a role. As Christians, we should care because we are called to care. We are called to live like Christ, who acted in justice and who loved and showed mercy to the most vulnerable. Micah 6:8 says,

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

There are so many ways we can do this! Here are a few other suggestions for ways that you can begin to make a difference in your own homes and everyday lives:

Think small.

This sounds counterintuitive to everything you’ve been told, but this is really one of the key points to not getting overwhelmed with these big, weighty issues. Keep in mind that you can’t do it all, but also remember that what you can do, however small, is extremely important. Educating yourself about human trafficking is a good place to start and can help guide you in the direction of taking action. It can also help you find ways to educate others in your life and to advocate for change and action regarding this issue. You can also give to reliable organizations who are combatting trafficking. Also PRAY, which is really thinking big—remembering that my God is bigger than any problem on this earth and that His heart is breaking for these victims!

Shop smart.

Many organizations have shops that financially support their anti-trafficking work and safe houses, and many companies exist to raise money to send to various organizations for this cause. Americans contribute a lot to the labor trafficking industry, and intentional shopping can make a difference. When consumers demand that the companies care, we can really start to change the lives of millions of trafficking victims around the world. Pay attention to who is making the things you buy. Are the clothes you wear made by children in sweatshops or women who are severely overworked and underpaid? Is your food harvested by unpaid workers who can’t leave because their employers have them trapped in debt? Almost every industry is affected by labor trafficking somehow. You can learn more about this at free2work.org and slaveryfootprint.org.

Volunteer!

Volunteer with a local anti-trafficking organization, or join a program that invests into the lives of local kids/teens or immigrant communities—show those who are most vulnerable to trafficking that you care about their well-being and that you think they’re worth something! Anti-trafficking programs often need volunteers in every area of their organization. Or find out how you can get trained to be able to teach others to identify trafficking and know what to do for a victim. Write to a congressman or sign an online petition about an anti-trafficking bill or policy. Whether you drive “taxi” for a safe house or are lobbying to your state politicians, volunteering is one of the most hands-on ways to make a change.

Below is a list of resources that can help you learn more and get involved.

Pick something; do something!

Whether you simply commit to praying for this issue once a week or decide to jump right in and volunteer, the one option we, as Christians, don’t have is to ignore it. In his book Real Christianity, William Wilberforce challenges the church to take action, saying,

You may choose to look the other way but you can never again say that you did not know.

Resources for local and global organizations (aka places to volunteer!):
globalmodernslavery.org
• Try a Google search for your local organizations!

List of educational & awareness resources:
polarisproject.org
traffickingresourcecenter.org
slaveryfootprint.org
free2work.org
notforsalecampaign.org
hopeforjustice.org

Shops that support trafficking survivors or anti-trafficking organizations:
Starfish Project
Love Gives Way (helps people find ways to have their wedding day support anti-trafficking efforts)
Thistle Farms (I can vouch for their lip balm and essential oils!)
Purpose Jewelry
UNCVRD Jewelry
The Hope Bag Mission
Elegantees
Freeset
Malia Designs
Sari Bari
Good Paper
Mulxiply
Sudara
To The Market (goods made by survivors of multiple tragedies, including human trafficking)
Made for Freedom
Made By Survivors
Relevee

Prayer guides, liturgies, & devotionals for human trafficking:
aheartforjustice.com
worldvision.org
overcomingviolence.org
globalfreedomnetwork.org
chausa.org


Allie Reefer
Freelance writer and Service Coordinator for Immigrant Services & Connections (ISAC) at Northern Area Multi-Service Center

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It’s Game Time: The End of Holy Huddles

Imagine getting tickets to see your favorite NFL team play.

You’ve invested your hard-earned money to buy the tickets, you arrive at the stadium, find your seats and anxiously await the moment when they’ll take the field for kick off. Excitement swells inside of you when they walk onto the field. They huddle up. You slide forward in your seat. Nothing happens. The only thing your beloved team does all night long is stand on the field in a huddle.*

Can you imagine your frustration level?

Did you ever wonder what God thinks when He sees His children sitting in church, worshipping His name, and reading their Bibles, but never doing anything with it?

You and I have full access to the playbook and the Coach, but do we get out of our holy huddle and put our skin in the game?

That’s what Imagine is all about.

We believe God was serious when He said, “Love your neighbor”.
We believe He left us here on earth to be His hands and feet.
We believe the world desperately needs followers of Jesus to live out His love.

Imagine: Living Out an Extraordinary Calling to Love

It’s not an ordinary conference. It’s something much larger. We believe that God wants to do something big in our city, our nation, and our world, and we invite you to pray with us.

In the remaining days leading up to the Imagine Conference, would you get in the game and pray with us?

1. Praise for the hundreds of individuals already registered to attend the conference and for the hundred plus speakers, volunteers, & exhibitors committing their time to the conference.

2. Pray that the Holy Spirit would fill the building and the hearts of each person attending with unity. Pray that He would speak one thing to each person and for them to obey. Pray that friendships and partnerships would grow that multiply the fruits of our efforts.

3. Pray that every pastor, leader, and individual already engaged in this front-lines love-your-neighbor work would be encouraged and equipped to continue in that to which the Lord has called them.

4. Pray for logistics, clarity and wisdom for every speaker presenting over the two days.

5. Pray that God would move on the hearts of every person He wants to be in attendance and make a way for them to be there.

6. Pray that all that happens over November 10th and 11th would bring glory to our Lord and King!

 

Thank you for joining with us! We can’t wait to see you on Friday!

 

The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

James 5:16, NLT

 

*Illustration courtesy of Priscilla Shirer

**Registration for the Imagine Conference closes November 8, so don’t wait!


Erin Brothers, Co-Director, OrphanCare Ministry of North Way Christian Community

 

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What to Expect at Imagine 2017

It’s Friday, November 10th, at 6:00 pm and you’re pulling into the parking lot in expectation of a great weekend at Imagine.

We’re ready for you! For SIXTEEN months we’ve been planning, praying, and preparing for an amazing weekend where people can gather with other believers, be equipped and encouraged in our call, and take a step of obedience to live out an extraordinary calling to love!

But do you really know what to expect?

 

A warm welcome!

First and foremost we are glad you’re joining us. You’ll find plenty of free parking, and warm welcoming smiles as you enter the Wexford campus of North Way Christian Community. Come right in. Pick up a registration packet, a cup of coffee, relax, and visit some exhibitors (more on our amazing exhibitors later).

At about 7:00 pm make your way to the sanctuary. We’ve designed an evening of worship that will roll out the red carpet for the Holy Spirit. We’ll share stories from people just like you who will encourage you to take that first step in living out Jesus’ love. You’ll also hear from our powerful keynote speaker who will challenge you with Biblical truth.

We pray that you will use this evening as a time to allow God to speak to your heart.

As Jesus followers we are called to live out His extraordinary love. This can be challenging, scary, tiring, messy and complex, but it is always worth it. We want this evening to be a time of refreshment for you, a time to have your heart broken for what breaks God’s, and a time of revelation as He reveals to you your part in His plan.

And we’re just getting started. Be sure to come back tomorrow!

 

Saturday: Dig Deep

After a restful night’s sleep, head back Saturday morning for a jam-packed day. We’re starting bright and early with a continental breakfast. Grab a plate and pull up a seat at a table. Join the conversation with a friend. Didn’t come with one? No problem, make one! Share your story and what God spoke to you last night. Join us in the sanctuary for some opening thoughts and to orient your day in prayer.

Now let’s head to the breakout sessions! There are over 20 breakout sessions to choose from.

This is your chance to dig deep. We’ve gathered speakers who not only know about their field, but are actively engaged in it. Whether you want to learn more about human trafficking, serving refugees, understanding some of the racial tensions in our world, adoption or foster care, what it means to be truly “pro-life”, short term missions, caring for children with incarcerated parents, parenting kids who have faced trauma, poverty, addiction . . . there’s something for you. Be sure to check out the list of breakouts now, so you know how to plan your day.

We’re providing you lunch too, and an opportunity to connect with people whose hearts are burning with similar passions as yours. If you prefer to eat quietly and process all you’ve been learning, that’s fine too.

After lunch join us for a special General Session. Because it’s really easy to be overwhelmed with fears and what-ifs, we invite you to hear the stories of four everyday people from the Pittsburgh region who God called to step out of their comfort zone. And because our God is faithful, you’ll hear how He’s met them, provided for them, and continues to walk with them on their journeys.

 

Exhibitors: Connecting God’s Call for You with a First Step
Between breakout sessions visit the Imagine Exhibitors. We’ve gathered over 45 amazing exhibitors for you to connect with.

To clarify, we don’t have vendors. We invite local and national organizations who are on the front lines of serving our neighbors near and far so that as God whispers a direction to your heart, you can connect with someone right there and step out in obedience.

If you’re on the front lines already, we recognize sometimes you’re the one needing some support – our exhibitors offer those services too. You will not want to miss the wide variety of quality organizations that are there to engage with you.

 

The end –just the beginning
As Saturday afternoon draws to a close, and you drive off the campus, it is our prayer that God has spoken at least one thing to your heart, and that you will respond by taking that one next step.

Can you Imagine the difference we will make in our city, country and world if we each live out this extraordinary calling to love?

We can. It gives us chills.

 

Be sure to register for the Imagine Conference!

 


Erin Brothers, Co-Director of OrphanCare Ministry, North Way Christian Community

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The Calling of Foster Parents

“Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
James 1:27

Family

A family is a wonderful gift to a child. A family provides so much more than protection and safety to the child. A child develops their confidence, social skills, emotional skills and more from their family. A family prepares the child for adulthood and helps to guide them in the big transition. Many people have fond memories of their family growing up. Memories include vacations, sports, games, family time, funny moments, and emotional moments. A lot of people can identify important lessons and skills they learned from their parents and family like hard work, financial responsibility, and self-discipline.

Sadly, there are thousands of children that are growing up without a family to love and guide them. The AFCARS report found that in 2015, there were 427, 910 children in the United States that were in foster care. Pennsylvania has the 7th highest amount of foster children with approximately 15,000 children in foster care.

What is Foster Care?

You may be asking, what is foster care? Foster care is the system set up by the state in which certified caregivers provide a home for children in need of care. Children enter foster care due to neglect, abuse (physical, sexual, psychological), or being orphaned. The foster parents provide the child with a loving family until they can either return to their parents, live with a relative, be adopted, or another permanent plan is identified. There is a shortage of families for these children and approximately 10 percent (23,000) of children entering the foster care system age out with no or very little support.

Our Role

These facts not only break my heart, but they break God’s heart. God was very clear about his love for the fatherless (Deuteronomy 10:18) and orphaned (James 1:27). These children entering the foster care system are hurting and broken. They need to personally experience the love of Christ so that they can heal from their pain and be prepared for whatever their future may bring. Who better to show them this love then the church? Is this a difficult and challenging responsibility? Yes. Is it emotional and heartbreaking at times? Yes. But, does Jesus not promise to strengthen us to accomplish all things (Luke 1:37; Philippians 4:13, Psalm 29:11, Isaiah 40:29, Isaiah 41:10)?

Leah

Leah is a 12 year old girl who at the age of 3 was removed from her parents due to alcohol abuse and physical and verbal abuse. She spent 3 years in foster care before she was adopted. Leah fondly remembers her foster parents and foster siblings and developed a strong relationship with them. She still stays in touch with them and visits at times. Leah feels that the most helpful thing her foster parents did for her was involve her in educational services and help her learn the importance of education. Leah explained that her foster parents were good for her because they cared for her, met her needs, and loved her.

Leah’s challenge to you is:

“There are a lot of kids who need you.”

Being a foster parent is an important responsibility and is a risk for our loving hearts, but the rewards for the child are great! You can help a confused and hurting child to find healing and develop the skills they need to succeed in life, no matter what their future holds.

 

Register for the Imagine Conference

 


Rachelle Regner, MSW

Bethany Christian Services

724-940-2900

 

 

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