Loving Strangers: Providing Help to Families in Crisis

The Need is Real

A momma goes to the ER with her four children. She has no one else to watch them, but she needs medical care. The doctors agree, and she is admitted to the hospital; the children roam the halls and nap the first night, but by the second day when it is clear that momma needs more care, the children need someone to watch them as well. She pleads with the hospital staff that there is no one to watch the children. The hospital social workers are at an impasse: the county is called; the children need to be turned over to their custody.

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Better Together

Recently I stood above a dance floor to take a photo and was taken back by the scene.

I spent a brief moment there, allowing myself to soak it all in. The song, “Shout!”, by the Isley Brothers was playing loudly. It was a crowd favorite, and it showed!

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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?

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At the Intersection of Human Trafficking and Immigration

In recent days, our news feeds have been flooded with images of children separated from their parents and debates about how open our borders should be. Regardless of where we stand politically, we can’t ignore the fact that there are refugees gathered at our backdoor. They aren’t from the other side of the world, and these refugees are fleeing a different kind of war. It is a war that demands the blood of their sons and the innocence of their daughters.

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7 Things to Know About Working with Refugees

Refugees face many challenges when they arrive to the US. The cultural, linguistic, and institutional differences can create significant barriers for them, but as Christians, we can help them overcome those barriers and adjust to their new lives. Welcoming refugees in our city is the first step, but here are some tips for communication and compassion for those looking to get more involved.

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Supporting Foster Families: Act Instead of Ask

Questions, questions, and more questions.

When you step into the world of foster care, you’re stepping into the great unknown. You don’t know when the phone will ring asking you to take a placement. You don’t know how much time you’ll have to prepare for that placement. You don’t know the child, the case, the issues, or the outcome. You just don’t know.  And for those of us who have said yes to being foster parents, we’ve learned this is a part of our journey.

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L-O-V-E

L-O-V-E.

Arguably, the most powerful word in existence, and even more so in action. Love is a force like no other. It covers a multitude of sins and darkness, including hatred, racism, fear, and indifference. Love gets so watered down, as we use it to describe our emotions about one thing or another, but true, pure, unconditional love comes from the Father and can only be felt when we give ourselves over to the Creator (who Himself is love) and made us in His image. Continue reading “L-O-V-E”

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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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Wall-Breakers

The day’s light was just beginning to dim at the onset of a crisp, autumn evening.

The cool air made for perfect weather for a walk around the neighborhood. Children’s laughter echoed down the car-lined streets as friends gathered to play in the grass beyond the sidewalks. Some parents and other adults, recently returned from a day at work, trickled outside to share in the enjoyment of the beautiful evening.

As I strolled down the road, another gentleman was just reaching the sidewalk. We exchanged names and pleasantries and briefly talked about the nice weather, work, and family before our paths took us in different directions. I rounded the bend and squeezed to the side of the pathway to allow space for two young women, one of them pushing a baby stroller carrying a bright-eyed infant, to pass by on my left. They smiled warmly and said hello in passing.

I noticed one of my son’s friends playing soccer with some other boys from the neighborhood and stopped to greet him. I asked how school was going and listened as he told me about a recently acquired Pokémon card. His mom, a friend of our family, invited me in for tea, but I had to decline. I already had plans and couldn’t take her up on the offer this time. We said goodbye with the promise of getting our kids together to play sometime soon.

It is a wonderful neighborhood filled with loving families, friendly faces, energetic children, and joy in life.

But, how did you picture that neighborhood?

What did those faces look like in your mind’s eye? Where would you find this place? Who are the people who live there, what do they do for a living, and what is their background?

This brief story is an account of one evening walk that I had through a neighborhood in Pittsburgh. What I didn’t tell you is that the people I mentioned were from the Congo, Syria, and Nepal living in the United States as internationally displaced refugees. I did my best to paint a picture through my words, but they are not at all embellished or untrue in their description. This neighborhood is a welcoming and friendly place where I and my family love to spend time.

Is this what you would imagine as a description of a community largely comprised of diverse refugees?

These are our neighbors, and though they are typically very welcoming, hospitable, and generous, many of these people have never had an American friend or even had an American visit them in their home or apartment.

It’s not actually there, but you can almost see the wall that divides this neighborhood from the rest of the surrounding community.

Not long ago, I sensed the Lord speaking to me as He said,

people are building walls that are making it harder for others to get to Me.

My heart was broken at this thought! To the contrary, it is our responsibility to be wall-breakers, to bridge the gap, and to welcome our neighbors with Godly love and compassionate friendship.

Take a step out in faith and go for a walk…it’s amazing where God will lead you!


Adam Gebhart, Founder and Director Agapao Refugee Ministry

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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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