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!”

Share this with others!

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.

 

 

Share this with others!

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

Share this with others!

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

 

Share this with others!

A Walk Through Systemic Racism

Walking along North Avenue in Pittsburgh’s Central North Side and Mexican War Streets neighborhoods, I am surrounded by humanity. The beauty of God’s handiwork passes me on the left and the right on the wide sidewalk. Skin of every shade meets my eyes as a half dozen languages are picked up by my ears. The playground is filled with dozens of children from every background and socioeconomic group running around and giggling. Kids in boutique dresses play next to those in worn hand-me-downs while parents sit on the sidelines. Some are black, some are white. Some wear hijab, some wear yarmulkes. Some push expensive strollers. One has a shopping cart with all of their worldly belongings in it.

At first glance this scene encompasses everything about humanity Jesus calls us to hold dear. It sounds like the description of heaven.

“I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.” (Revelation 7:9)

Yet, Jesus also calls us to sometimes look beyond the surface and dig deeper. He calls us to challenge our thinking and break free of our safety zones.

Further observation of this neighborhood reveals that not everything is as it seems at first glance. The line for dinner outside of the Light of Life Rescue Mission is made up nearly entirely of black men. Just a few short blocks away, in sight of the line of homeless black men, is another place to eat a warm dinner. The patio of diners at Casellula, a fantastic- but pricey- new restaurant is nearly entirely a white crowd. This is not intentional on the part of either establishment. Both organizations are wonderful additions to this neighborhood. Light of Life is open to those of all races and backgrounds who are homeless and seeking a meal. Casellula is partnered with City of Asylum bookstore, which strives to elevate the voices of refugees, asylum seekers, and marginalized voices around the world. Segregation, especially in Pittsburgh, is rarely intentional. Yet it is ever present.

If we begin to reflect on this dinner scene, one looming question emerges that followers of Jesus must wrestle with. If these establishments are not actively segregating themselves, then what causes this visual divide?

Why are so many white adults able to afford dinner at Casellula, and so many black adults need to eat dinner at the rescue mission for free? We must ask ourselves a fundamental question as we analyze this evening meal. Do we believe that people of color do not work as hard, are not as smart, and are not as able to earn a living than their white brothers and sisters? Knowing that God created all of us in His image, we must reject this idea as false. Coded messages in society, in politics, and in this very neighborhood lead many to draw that conclusion. Those messages lead us to draw the conclusion that there must be something fundamentally “wrong” with the actions or inherent qualities of the individuals waiting for dinner at the mission that prevents them from being seated at the Casellula table.

Through reflection, then, we realize that if it is not an inherent character trait that makes one group less able to thrive, then it must be a systemic or societal reason. Once we conclude there is a societal injustice at play, we are called as followers of Jesus to stand against that. We are called to be on the side of justice, and of truth.

Pittsburgh has a long history with racial inequality, one that is often hidden and brushed aside. We did not have the public vestiges of Jim Crow nailed up around our city, but we had de facto segregation and inequality just the same. Even today, Black citizens of Pittsburgh who work for the city earn eighty-three cents on the dollar for every white employee, and this trend spills out into nearly every field in the region. So, even if the men outside of Light of Life work through the program with their mentors at Light of Life, they will be making less than their white counterparts.

Then we can examine the housing market in our city. Pittsburgh has a long history of discriminatory lending from days past, and the present. Today’s low income neighborhoods align nearly perfectly with the “redlining” map two generations ago. Those in a red neighborhood could not get a mortgage, and thus those communities remained largely renters and subsidized housing. Owning homes builds familial wealth. The people eating at Casellula- their parents probably owned their homes. The people eating at Light of Life- their parents likely did not own a home. Only four generations removed from slavery, black families have much less inherited wealth and stability than white families. The wealth of a child’s family is the single most accurate predictor of a child’s success in life (Dalton Conley, Princeton University sociologist). By the time these diners were a year old, one could likely predict what table they would be eating dinner at tonight.

So, as believers called to wade into the messy waters of racial reconciliation, what do we do? The first step is naming injustice when we see it. We don’t make excuses or shame the person in poverty with our idea of what they “should” do to overcome their circumstances.

We sit down and share a table with them. Maybe we ask them to join us at Casellula. Maybe we join them at Light of Life, or maybe we meet somewhere in the figurative middle. God calls us as believers to function on a potluck mentality, more than a soup kitchen line. He is most honored when his children sit down as brothers and sisters and break bread together across the societal lines imposed on them.

The next thing we do is lay our guilt and defenses down. God has freed us from the sin of guilt. He has set us free. Feeling guilty for the path our life has taken does nothing for reconciliation. Feeling defensive about our successes also hinders conversation. We must pray for open transparency as we hear the stories of our brothers and sisters in Christ in their pain.

And lastly, we speak up and work for change in whatever arena we are in. Banking, human resources, church leadership. Real estate agents, teachers, stay-at-home moms planning playdates. Decades, and generations of silence has led to this disparity in our society. We educate ourselves so that we can work for God’s justice in all areas of our life.

Some resources:

Waking up White by Debbie Irving

Why are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum

Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism by Drew I. G. Hart

Register for the Imagine Conference


Meg McKivigan, M. Ed., Freelance Writer

www.megstesprit.com

Twitter: @megstesprit

Facebook

Share this with others!

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word!