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ISSUE 09 | JANUARY-APRIL 2014

A HEART RESTORED P. 03 FEEDING THE SOUL P. 09 WHAT’S RIGHT? P. 10 WISE WOMEN P. 16


FROM PASTOR JESSE Welcome to the ninth issue of the COMPASS. I hope that you’ll find hope and encouragement in these pages to help you along the Path to becoming a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ.

EXECUTIVE EDITOR Mark Shetler

As we begin a new year, we chose as the theme for this COMPASS, “Joy in the World.” That concept is not merely a holiday greeting, but is what we at First Cov believe about Jesus. We know that as we look around the world, it’s easy to identify all kinds of things that are wrong, unjust, sad and even evil. But we also firmly believe that because of Jesus coming to this earth, living a life of service and sacrificing Himself for us on a cross, there exists a joy that cannot be extinguished. He gives us hope in our uncertainty, peace in the storms of life, and joy even in the midst of sadness. The stories that you are about to read are full of insights to help you discover that joy more deeply for yourself.

EXECUTIVE DESIGN Jessica Ripley

JESSE SMITH I also want to remind you that our church staff is here to encourage you in your faith. If you have questions about how you can get better connected to the church family, need information about children’s or youth programs, or simply need someone to talk to, please don’t hesitate to contact the church office. May God bless you with a joyful 2014!

SENIOR PASTOR

EDITOR Jennifer Raynes

PHOTOGRAPHY Christina Harrison, Jessica Ripley, Sandy Runner, Randy Wehner CONTRIBUTORS Cindy Boynton, Lindsey Edwards, Nathania Fuad, Jamie Gomez, Bryan Krenzin, Tim Layfield, Kirt Lewis, Elizabeth Melgoza, Ahn Powers, Jessica Ripley, Robin Waldron, PC Walker

THE COMPASS IS A PUBLICATION OF First Covenant Church of Sacramento 10933 Progress Court Rancho Cordova, CA 95670 916.861.2240 • www.firstcov.org

ABOUT THE COMPASS

HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM OUR FAMILY TO YOURS!

THE PURPOSE of First Covenant Church of Sacramento is to be a

MISSION S T A T I O N: To share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with every person everywhere and to grow and equip believers into fully devoted followers of Christ.

COMPASS Magazine is First Cov's quarterly publication. In a church our size, it can be an overwhelming task to meet everyone and know everything that is happening. The COMPASS serves as a platform to bring our church family closer together. Within its pages, you will find true stories about the people and ministries of First Cov. And, most importantly, it will help guide you farther along The Path to becoming a fullydevoted follower of Jesus Christ.

CONTENTS

03 • A Heart Restored 04 • Tragic Times, Generous Hearts 06 • Dare to Count Your Blessings 07 • Not So Random Acts of Kindness 08 • Love in Action 08 • Beauty in the City 09 • Feeding the Soul 10 • What’s Right? 12 • My New Friend 16 • Stories From a Slum 13 • Free to Learn 15 • Don’t Buy It 16 • Wise Women THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,19 77,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.


A HEART

Restored

ONE WOMAN’S AMAZING TRUE STORY OF THE POWER OF PRAYER BY CINDY BOYNTON

That day in 2007 began like any other, except that we had been visiting our daughter, Tanya, and family in San Antonio, Texas. Our return flight was scheduled to leave for Sacramento in the late afternoon, but the weather was unpredictable, with thunder and lightning storms across Texas. Apparently, the storm had affected the airplane's environmental control system, and we were on back-up generators for air quality in the cabin. I began to experience some pain in my right arm (not left, as is typical for a heart attack) and hoped to take some aspirin to alleviate the pain. Unfortunately, we were all told to "stay in our seats" and that no one was allowed to move around the cabin. Soon I was experiencing a heaviness in my chest which I attributed it to the storm and the air supply on the plane. About an hour later, we rose above the storm and I was able to get up to get some water to take the aspirin. When we arrived in Sacramento, Earl picked up the luggage and we waited outside to take the shuttle bus home. I began to feel better in the fresh air and made it home without incident. I took three aspirin just before going to bed and I felt wonderful as I awoke the next morning. Since I was feeling good, I went to my physical therapy session at 9 a.m. the next morning. And, for some unexplained reason (actually, I am sure it was a God-ordained divine appointment!), I explained to Susan, my therapist, my experience of the night before. She was calm, but clearly directed me to contact my physician and to let her know of this experience. At noon, my doctor called me and said that she wanted to see me at 4 p.m. She listened to my heart, and lungs, looked at my blood sugar readings over the last few days, and asked whether I was having any pain at that time. I replied that I was experiencing mild pain, but certainly not severe. She immediately had me take a nitroglycerin tablet, which began to work rapidly. Without delay, Dr. Chun called the EMTs to take me to the hospital. The Sacramento Metro Fire EMTs were outstanding in caring for me en route to the hospital. They followed their protocols for life support efficiently and effectively, without missing a beat in friendliness, care, and gentleness. I was most impressed! As it turned out, they transported me on three different occasions over the next two days. I enjoyed watching their teamwork and professionalism on each occasion. Following an extended time in the ER, I was told that "Yes, you DID experience a heart attack the preceding day on the airplane.” Amazingly, no significant damage appeared to have affected my heart function. Later, I was told that I had six partially blocked coronary arteries. I was very surprised at this report, since I had not been aware of any symptoms: No shortness of breath, pain or weakness. Approximately 3 months prior to this hospitalization, I had a stress EKG that was normal, and all other EKGs taken over the years never suggested anything of concern.

Eventually I was transferred to Mercy General Hospital for a six-way bypass surgery. Prior to the surgery, the cardiac surgeon ordered an ultrasound of my carotid arteries, which often are constricted through cholesterol induced plaque, but they were found to be in normal condition—a huge cause for joy on my part! That same evening, I proceeded to undergo the heart surgery. When I woke up from the surgical procedure in the cardiac surgery ICU, both my son, Mark, and my husband were at my side. What a thrill to see them both! I suspected that I looked frightful, but they didn't seem to mind. The first days in the CSICU were a blur, but I do recall that my surgeon said that he may have to take me back to the operating room again because I had a large blood clot in my chest. Two days later, that second surgery was performed. That night, I strongly sensed that I was very near to death, yet God was caring for me. I was under the distinct impression that if I died, I would come back to life again. So, I decided to let go of my concerns and trust my life once more into His hands. There I found the peace that only Christ can give. The next day my oldest son, Tim, senior pastor of Kingsburg Covenant Church, came to visit and pray for me. The reality of God answering our prayers is so very real when we are in desperate need. Thank you, Jesus! It is so amazing and wonderful to have a church family like First Covenant Church that prays and visits those who are desperately ill. Your encouragement through prayers for healing, phone calls, and hospital visits, certainly spur us on to faithfully live for Christ Jesus and to be a witness for Him. I WAS BLESSED TO HAVE NURSES AND OTHER HOSPITAL PERSONNEL GATHER IN MY ROOM JUST TO HEAR YOU, MY CHRISTIAN FRIENDS, AND FAMILY TALK ABOUT OUR AWESOME LORD JESUS AND TO JOIN US IN OUR TIMES OF UNITED PRAYER. Thank you, friends and family, for those amazing conversations that caught the imagination of believers and nonbelievers alike! We who are Christians always have a story to tell of Christ and how He works on our behalf. For me, He healed me and allowed me to live for Him. Never underestimate the power of prayer! Cindy Boynton is a wife, mother of four and grandmother of 14. She has been a member of First Cov for over 40 years! Cindy and her husband, Earl, currently serve as Growth Group coaches and Cindy helps coordinate prayer projects both at First Cov and throughout the state as a board member with “The Living Wall.” cdboynton@earthlink.net WWW.FIRSTCOV.ORG

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S T R A E H S U O R E GEN

THE REVIVAL OF THE AMERICAN SPIRIT BY ELIZABETH MELGOZA It’s easy to complain about the negative and evil things in our country. When I took on the challenge to consider the real blessings we have in America, I was reminded of times of great tragedy. It is when these tragic events occur, such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005, where the true “American Spirit” is shown. It is in the midst of strife and despair when people really show up to support total strangers in need.

We gain a firsthand look of how precious life truly is and how fast it can be taken away—that our lives can vanish in the blink of an eye. Events such as Hurricane Katrina allow us to see people for what they really are, people with true feelings and heartaches; human beings in need of a Savior. It is reassuring to see that this ability to comfort, love, support and give of ourselves is a common grace of God ingrained in each and every one of us—His love flowing through humanity.

Katrina was one of the deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States, causing massive destruction along the Gulf coasts and displacing countless people from their homes. The hurricane and its floods left people stranded and homeless, with their life possessions gone in an instant. It was known throughout the world that the victims of this hurricane needed desperate help, and fast. Millions of people, foundations and corporations rose to the occasion and responded in the immediate aftermath of the storms. Over seventy countries donated money or other assistance to help the victims. Thousands of people volunteered, provided shelter and hot meals. Billions of dollars were donated and pledged to assist those affected. Families across the country were opening up their homes for refuge to those without shelter. One of the stories* that personally moved me was that of a woman who was compelled to take immediate physical action to help the now-homeless victims. Although this lady and her family were themselves living paycheck to paycheck, they headed to the Houston Astrodome to do what they could to serve the victims. While there, her husband approached a young woman (who was carrying a baby) and an elderly lady to see if they needed help. What began as simply providing these women and their baby a safe place to sleep for the night, forever changed their lives as these victims came to stay with this lady’s family for an extended period of time. This story of hospitality blew me away. How incredible to hear that a family would open their home to complete strangers! This was clearly a love that went above and beyond what is considered conventional, or even safe. When we see destructive events in which precious human lives are lost, there is a change that comes about: Strangers connect with one another and it is then that we realize that we have something in common. We realize that it could have been any one of us that perished in these events.

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“It is reassuring to see that this ability to comfort, love, support and give of ourselves is a common grace of God ingrained in each and every one of us—His love flowing through humanity.” During tragedies like 9-11, Hurricane Katrina or even the unthinkable shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, we saw patriotism rise up again in our country, bringing unity and solidarity within our nation. During times like these, we see the image of God shine in humanity. These are the times when people put their differences aside. When citizens in a town, city, state, country, continent or the world unite, we tend to forget the things that were irritating us the day or week before. Suddenly, we are no longer Democrats or Republicans, or divided by culture, or race. Those resentments we had been so preoccupied with suddenly start to become not so important. We start to realize that the things we worry ourselves with day to day aren’t really that significant in the grand scheme of things. Life all of a sudden becomes more precious and valuable when we see how quickly it can disappear.


Think of how much better the world would be if everyone showed this amount of compassion, love and selflessness in everyday life. It is encouraging to know that there still are really good people in the world and that God is glorified when we love others like Christ does. Editor’s Note: The inspiring story Elizabeth referred to came from an article called “Hope and Faith After the Storm” and can be found at www.beliefnet.com/Inspiration/2005/09/Hope-And-Faith-After-TheStorm.aspx Lizzy Melgoza moved to Sacramento in 2003 to attend Sac State and has been attending First Cov for the last three years. Lizzy works in the environmental field and is wife to Mario and mom to her little girl "Elly" who just turned two. Lizzy loves loves loves the ocean, going to comedy clubs, photography and spending time with her family. lizzyrazmek@gmail.com

• Children learn about Jesus in a way they understand. • Lesson materials uniquely designed with your child in mind! • Environments based on the physical, mental and emotional needs of each child. • Fun way for kids to meet Jesus on their level! Photos courtesy of the Department of Defense.

Visit firstcov.org for more information about all of our Sunday morning programs and to learn about our seasonal events. WWW.FIRSTCOV.ORG

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A BOOK REVIEW OF “ONE THOUSAND GIFTS” BY ANH POWERS

Among the litany of demands from work, family, ministry and household chores, it’s easy to get distracted and allow responsibilities, people and obligations to steal my joy. As a follower of Jesus, it’s a real challenge to stay “fully devoted” when everything else is clamoring for my attention. I was looking for a way to help keep my eyes on God and to truly have Him feel a heartbeat away, but was ironically distracted by the plethora of wellwritten how-to books, daily devotions and studies that I had a hard time keeping up with. I knew God wanted a relationship with me, one that was filled with peace, joy, contentment and rest. But how could I do that on a momentby-moment basis and not feel guilty for failing to complete my full daily 60-minutes of “God and me” time?

What does it mean to find joy in all seasons? First Cov members Corey and Taylor Johnson, along with their children, show us how! Photography by Christina Harrison.

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My answer came in the form of “One Thousand Gifts” by New York Times best selling author Ann Voskamp. I must confess that when this book was flying off the shelf after it was first published, I too bought a copy… and then allowed it sit on my shelf as an ornamental holder of dust bunnies. After all, what could another touchy-feely book about gratitude and giving thanks offer me in a way I didn’t already know?


NOT SO RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS Quite a bit, apparently. Let’s just say that I will never look at a pile of shredded cheese the same way again. The premise of “One Thousand Gifts” is that we come into deeper relationship with God and find joy as we intentionally choose to see the blessings of ALL things. Through the lens of a farmer’s wife, busy mother of six and her Nikon camera, Ann recounts different chapters of her life, particularly seasons of deep, gut-wrenching sorrow and how, through the process of giving thanks, she was able to see and experience the presence of God through even the confusion and pain. “It is suffering that has the realest possibility to bear down and deliver grace,” she reminds her readers. The challenge was to count one thousand things she was thankful for in one year. As followers of Christ, we can suffer from what Ann calls “chronic soul amnesia” when we don’t keep track of our blessings—failing to remember the goodness of God. Ann’s thankfulness list started off scribbled on any blank surface she could find in the house, then moved into a spiral notebook she started specifically for this purpose, and finally graduated into a book of thanks. This daily exercise helped her to see and experience God in even the smallest things so that He could be magnified into the larger things, both “good” and “bad.” Ann challenges us to see that “thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance in whatever He gives.” As she began seeing the glory in something as simple as the sun shining through her kitchen window and illuminating a small pile of freshly shredded cheese, Ann began to focus on the beauty in the simple things of life. So much thanksgiving, she observes, can be summed up in just noticing things and not allowing the blessing to pass us by. “One Thousand Gifts” is a book that personally challenged me to begin a daily treasure hunt for God in some unexpected places that I regularly pass by. It helped me to keep my eyes, ears and heart open for glimpses of His blessings and the awe of His presence in little things. The warmth of my husband’s hugs, an unexpected visit from a friend, the formation of geese flying overhead in a perfect “V”, the smell of spiced apple cider on a cold day, that extra dollop of whipped cream and more…I too want to count one thousand things! It’s really not difficult to jot them down when I am intentional, but it’s the slowing down and looking that are difficult. The blessings I see are not all super spiritual (although caramel apple cider and whipped cream is heavenly!), but they turn my heart towards the undeserved gift of grace and love that God freely gives. As Ann reminds me, this simply stopping to notice God’s everyday gifts to us is an act of worship: “I pay tribute to God by paying attention.” Editor’s Note: Anh encourages you to check out Ann Voskamp’s “Joy Dare” printout at www.aholyexperience.com and get your friends, spouse and kids in on the “treasure hunt” of looking for God’s gifts all around us. Anh Powers has many things to be grateful for in this life. She has been attending First Cov for almost ten years and in that time has made a number of incredible friendships and relationships (this includes meeting and marrying her husband, Justin!) No offense to cats, but she is a dog person, likes steak fries, and has a special place in her heart for high school students. nguyenam@gmail.com

BY JAMIE GOMEZ

We all have those times when we are less than enthusiastic about our to-do list for the week. Those are the times we question why we do what we do, why we exhaust so much energy in things that seem to take more than we have to give. It was one of these weeks that I received a blessing I did not expect, from the most unlikely of people—a middle school student! Yes, middle school students have their ups and downs, but every now and then, one will completely surprise you, and you just have to write about it. So, this is me telling the story. My husband and I own a home on a corner lot with a lot of yard. I mean A LOT of yard. Mowing the lawn has taken me 3 hours before. 3 hours! Keeping a lawn mower in working order has not worked out for us as of yet, and when paying others to do the service for me, I have been bamboozled more than once. Like the time I pre-paid a neighborhood youngster to mow my lawn twice a month–then never saw him again! Ha! But I digress. It was several months ago that I jokingly told some of the middle school students that I would pay them to mow my lawn, but that it would take them 10 years to finish. I over-exaggerated how terrible the job was and needless to say, I didn’t have any takers at first! A few weeks later, I got a text from a student asking if he could mow our lawn. I said, “Sure! I will pay you $30 for the front yard.” I half expected him to come and quit part-way through, or not come at all. That day, his dad dropped him off and he worked for a few hours. I checked on him a few times, and then, suddenly, he was gone…and the whole yard was mowed! I quickly called him and said “Wait! You forgot to get paid!” “Oh no, that’s okay,” he said. Of course, I responded with, “No its not! I must pay you!” He continued to refuse payment and simply said “Thank you for all you and Peter do for the church.” I cannot tell you how much that little act of kindness meant to me that day—all the more coming from a 14 year old boy (highly unexpected)! It made me realize that not only can a small favor for someone really make a difference, but also that, CONTRARY TO POPULAR BELIEF, ADOLESCENTS ARE CAPABLE OF THINKING OF OTHERS AND BLESSING OTHERS WITH RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS, “JUST BECAUSE.” It’s encouraging to think that all of our efforts in training up students to be fully devoted followers of Christ really does make an impact. Our Middle School Pastor Darin challenges us as ministry staff to constantly be in prayer for our ministry and find time throughout our week to encourage our students or just simply check in with them. I truly believe that each one of us on volunteer staff are gifted by God to love and serve these kids. 1 Peter 4:10-11 says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms…so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ” (NLT). God has called me to use my gifts with youth. My obedience to this calling is also a light to the youth we lead every week. They are learning service to others by our service to them—and in that, God is glorified. Jamie Gomez has been attending first Cov for 15 years and serves in Identity Middle School Ministries with her husband Peter. They own five chihuahuas and are expecting a baby boy in March! Jamie is passionate about living missionally in the Rancho Cordova community and working with at-risk youth. jamieannbateman@hotmail.com

WWW.FIRSTCOV.ORG

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LOVE IN ACTION BY NATHANIA FUAD

Entering my first year of college a couple months ago, I had huge worries of finding a community of fellow Christian students whom I could surround myself with. The college party scene began quickly and maintained a high profile amidst the first semester. With friends choosing this scene, I felt somewhat lame staying in my dorm room on a Friday night to catch up on homework or watch the past week's TV shows. Roaming the club showcase fair a week before school started, I prayed that the Lord would lead me to a ministry that I could find community in for these next four years. Assuming there might be one or two small ministries, I was shocked to come across at least eight ministries, who in total, have over 1200 students actively involved. The ministries that I talked to were so passionate about reaching out to Cal Poly students, and they all had their own unique way of ministering to students on campus. In the midst of the intense college party scene, I saw a glimpse of God on my secular campus. Regardless of it being a public school, the Lord is clearly moving in powerful ways here at Cal Poly. Each ministry I have encountered has such a heart for reaching

out to students, both discipling believers and reaching out to non-believers. One ministry in particular really reached out to me in these first few weeks of college and helped strengthen my relationship with Christ. Cal Poly’s CRU (formerly known as Campus Crusade) is one of the biggest CRU movements in the nation, with over 800 students actively attending their events and weekly bible studies. They work tirelessly to plug freshmen into the ministry to grow in their walk with the Lord. One of the ways they do this is through their weekly dorm bible studies. Bible study leaders, upperclassmen from CRU, come to the freshman dorms regularly to lead small groups. These CRU small groups have not only allowed me to learn more from God's Word, but it has really helped me connect and create friendships with fellow Christians in my dorm tower! A CHILDHOOD FRIEND OF MINE HAD NO KNOWLEDGE OF WHAT THE SCRIPTURE HELD WHEN SHE FIRST CAME TO CAL POLY, BUT HAS LEARNED OF THE GOSPEL THROUGH OUR WEEKLY BIBLE STUDIES. She now owns her very own bible thanks to our bible study leaders!

God’s Beauty in the City BY JESSICA RIPLEY “The flowers of the field are crying to be heard/The trees of the forest are singing/And all of the mountains with one voice are joining the chorus of this world.” These are the lyrics of “Make a Joyful Noise” by David Crowder, a song that has stuck with me over the years. They are beautiful words, but a seemingly unobtainable reality. It is becoming an increasingly rare moment when an individual stops to take in the world around them—to truly appreciate the flowers, the trees, the mountains and all their beauty. I often try, but even if I close my eyes and focus, I still hear the beeping of alert tones, the ringing of cell phones, the honking of horns and a booming bass beat from headphones of a passerby. It seems the sound waves which I encounter daily are congested with these things; the cars, electronics and crowds of people block out the beauty of the flowers, trees and mountains to which these song lyrics refer. It’s not that these byproducts of our modern, technologic age are inherently bad. They are however, a distraction. It is difficult to take in the changing colors of the trees or treasure a sunset when your head is down, staring at a cell phone screen. Sometimes I want so desperately to escape the city life; to have a break from the hustle and bustle that comes with living where I do. I think we all could use time away to be refreshed, to surround ourselves with nature so as to be reminded of God’s true beauty. One of my good friends and I enjoy using days off from work to do just this. We wake up before the sun rises and set out for an early morning hike. We drive until we are just far enough out of town, to reach a place where we are more likely to spot a bird than another car. Once we arrive, there is no need to rely on electronics for entertainment. There is more than enough in our immediate surroundings to stimulate our eyes. Just by looking around at these scenic places, seeing the flowers, trees and mountains, I am inspired and comforted. I don’t need to be standing outside for long to feel God’s presence. Breathtaking

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In addition to these dorm studies and the weekly large group, CRU offers a variety of other events students can be a part of. From their informal worship sessions at 10 p.m. in the main campus parking structure, to their weekly "Real Talk" training where students who come from different backgrounds learn to reach out to and love people in a Christ-like way, I've really been challenged in my faith. CRU has several contextualized ministries within itself, one of which is EPIC; a ministry reaching out to Asian-American students. Their very first event this year, a dessert potluck,

views instantly remind me of my Creator and the fine work that He has done. It is a comfort to see that NATURE CONTINUES TO BE BEAUTIFUL EVEN IF NO ONE IS PAYING ATTENTION. Just because we are drowning in emails, stuck behind a computer, “too stressed to function,” makes no difference to nature; it will produce its splendor and beauty regardless. Life can sometimes become a long list of “to-do’s” and obligations, leaving little time for rest and seemingly few opportunities to experience the beauty God created for us. And while I typically leave town to see this, it is not impossible to see this beauty in the city. There is something to be said of the colors of a sunrise that can be seen from the freeway on an early drive to work, or the patterns on a bird’s molted feather in the grocery store parking lot. Likewise, the sounds of leaves rustling or the chattering of squirrels you hear outside your office window are also expressions of God’s creation right here in the city. They are all subtle reminders of the beauty God created. THE SIGHTS, SOUNDS AND TEXTURES OF NATURE ALL SERVE TO SHOW THAT EVEN IN THE UGLINESS AND BUSYNESS OF A TECH SAVVY, TRAFFIC LADEN, ON-THE-GO LIFE, GOD IS REVEALING HIMSELF TO US. After all, God did not create chaos, we did. He did not create cellphones, business meetings or sidewalks, but He did create an intricate beauty. Romans 1:20 tells us that “…since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” If we just take a moment to look past the power lines and smog, we can pick up on the subtle but breathtaking ways God’s invisible qualities can be found. And if we focus on these things, we can experience their refreshing and inspiring effects. God created the beauty; it is a way to calm and comfort us. Beauty reminds us that He is ever present. Jessica Ripley just started her second year working as First Cov’s Associate for Communication and Graphics. She is responsible for the layout and design of the COMPASS and jumped at the chance to write for this issue (another of her favorite creative outlets!). jripley@firstcov.org


Photo courtesy of Esther Ang.

brought together about 100 people at a small house off-campus. Upperclassmen who were part of EPIC were able to have conversations with freshmen that built vital relationships. From bonfires to weekend prayer and worship events, I've been able to have fellowship with other brothers and sisters in Christ. EPIC played a significant role in bringing a friend of mine, Siby (who graciously allowed me to mention him here in the article), to Christ. Siby is a third year electrical engineer major who grew up nominally Catholic, but through EPIC's Wednesday night football ministry, has learned what it means to have a personal relationship with Christ. After

conversing with someone from EPIC at one of the games, Siby learned more about his Father and is now learning what it means to walk faithfully with the Lord!

dinners for students and converse with them in hopes of building relationships. This creative and practical ministry has really displayed the love of Christ on our campus.

CRU and EPIC host several retreats throughout the year, as well as offer Summer Project global outreach trips for students. I attended their annual fall retreat in Ventura County earlier in the month. The theme of their retreat was #knowlove, and it encompassed the idea of who God is and how to live according to the love we have received from Him. The discussion groups and messages I heard challenged my faith. THE BIGGEST THING I TOOK AWAY FROM THE RETREAT WAS THAT AS A CHILD OF GOD, RATHER THAN COMPLETELY SUBMERGE MYSELF IN A CHRISTIAN BUBBLE, I NEED TO BE A LIGHT AMONGST NON-BELIEVERS ON CAMPUS AND LEARN TO LOVE THEM JUST AS PROFOUNDLY AS GOD LOVES ME.

Although it has only been a few weeks here at Cal Poly, I have truly felt welcomed by individuals from CRU, EPIC and Front Porch ministry. God answered my prayers in hope of finding a home away from home through the brothers and sisters in Christ who have exemplified God's love. These student ministry workers and student leaders have nutured my faith, and have given me a deeper, understanding of what it means to be a light shining my heavenly Father's love.

Front Porch is another ministry that reaches out to college students by providing one of the basic necessities of college life—caffeine! They created a completely FREE coffee and tea study cafe for anyone in need of a homey, warm environment. Whether students come for a bible study or for last minute mid- term cramming, there is always a volunteer with hot drinks and pastries there to greet them with a warm smile. Every Wednesday, they provide delicious free

BY LINDSEY EDWARDS

I’m fortunate that I have had friends and family willing to help me out of tough situations, but what about that man? Does his isolation come from poor choices, poverty, or just tough luck? Is he just panhandling to feed an addiction? My heart goes out to him, but the “rational” part of me says that throwing money out my window won’t help him live a better life. Feeling the need to help, yet hoping to do so in a responsible way, I sought out an alternative

nathania.fuad@gmail.com

Danny Vanek, UGM’s Data Specialist, says enthusiastically that “The Gospel is preached here 365 days a year, eight times a week—that’s twice on Sundays!” Vanek himself is actually a graduate of UGM’s nine-month rehabilitation program. Alcoholism and a bad relationship landed him in prison, and after his release, he found himself homeless and desperate. UGM introduced him to a life-transforming relationship with Jesus. Today, he says, his life is all about service.

FEEDING the SOUL

There’s a haggard man on the corner holding a stained cardboard sign: “Homeless, anything helps.”

Nathania Fuad is currently a first year business student at Cal Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Although she is five hours away, Nathania still calls First Cov home and can't wait to come back and visit. Alongside her studies, she's actively involved in the CRU ministry on campus and works part-time with the school's funding management team. In her free time, she is either fine tuning her barista skills at the free coffee house on campus or grabbing a bite to eat in SLO's amazing eateries!

means to invest in our local community: Through serving at the Sacramento Union Gospel Mission (UGM). UGM opened its doors in 1962 with the goal of providing food, clothing and the message of Jesus Christ to the homeless population in Sacramento. Over its 51 years of “caring for the least,” UGM has moved several times and now operates just northwest of downtown Sacramento at 400 Bannon Street. What started as a simple soup kitchen has evolved into a facility that now serves over 9,500 monthly meals, shelters up to 84 men nightly and runs a myriad of programs aimed at restoring dignity and transforming the lives of this struggling population in our city.

UGM Human Resources Manager Eileen Trussell says that UGM’s services are “always planted with the seed of the Gospel.” UGM programs meet physical needs, but more importantly, UGM believes that Jesus saves, which is “the hope of everything we do here,” says Trussell. UGM programs are about “breaking the cycle of homelessness” and “bringing Jesus’ promises to those who need them.” People who support UGM with their time, talents or money know that their efforts really are bringing change and restoration into the lives of people who desperately need the love and power of Jesus Christ. Every employee I met at the Union Gospel Mission was kind, sincere, and purposeful about his duties. Eleven current employees are actually graduates of its rehabilitation program. They all live out the message in Matthew 25:3540 of feeding, clothing and caring for those in need through their service and earnestly believe in the transforming power of a relationship with Jesus Christ. WWW.FIRSTCOV.ORG

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UGM is completely run by private donations and accepts no federal funding. All donations are processed in-house, and all items donated are given away, never sold. They even have a car donation program that benefits rehabilitation program graduates and needy families. Joyfully, First Covenant Church is able to periodically light candles that represent men from the UGM who have made commitments to Jesus Christ. In 2013, UGM has watched 34 men come to Christ through the ministry of volunteers from First Cov. Mike Villareal, First Covenant Church member, explains that First Cov is one of 68 local churches

that support the UGM financially and through volunteer service. Mike organizes volunteers from First Cov to regularly serve at the mission. On the third Monday of each month, volunteers help serve the evening meal, and on the third Tuesday, they assist with conducting the chapel service. Many of the First Cov participants are from the Wednesday night Men’s Ministries. On several occasions, members of our students ministries have also shared in the chapel services. One of the many reasons I appreciate the Gospel Mission is that they make it easy for us to help in a tangible way. Their website (www.ugmsac. com), lists items that they currently need for

What’s Right? Right? What’s

BY TIM LAYFIELD As a parent, it feels like all I do is point out what my kids need to fix or do differently. “Pick up your clothes!” “Clean your room!” “What do you mean you haven’t finished your homework yet?” “Stop hitting your brother!” “I asked you to take the trash out an hour ago!” “You did what???” Sound familiar?

The more I focus on what’s wrong, the less I see of what’s right. The truth is, always focusing on “what’s wrong” can have a very negative effect on my attitude and actions. Our perspective shapes how we live and how we live is a reflection of our faith. As a high school pastor to over 100 students and a parent of three, it’s pretty easy to always find the wrong. Sometimes it’s all I see. I want to jump right in and point out flaws. Now, I understand at times we need to correct and guide when we see young people going in the wrong direction. I am not saying throw caution to the wind. But what if we intentionally chose to alter our natural inclination to see what’s wrong—to purposely shift our gaze to see the good in our kids? To praise what is right instead of just focusing on punishing the wrong. My wife, Jessica, and I have two boys, Ethan (12) and Jacob (7) and two years ago, Mary (18), came to be a part of our family. We are a family of five now. That’s our family slogan, “5, not 4.” Each of the kids is in a different stage of life that requires different guidance and instruction. I

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donations, such as sleeping bags, blankets, and winter coats. Their mail appeals actually break down the cost of providing a meal per person. How can we not feel compelled to help when we realize that for less than $2, we can feed an entire holiday meal to someone in need? Lindsey Edwards has been attending First Cov with her husband and son since they moved to Sacramento in February. She's apparently allergic to almost everything. Lindsey loves serving in Worship Ministries, watching the original Star Trek series, and crocheting. mslmedwards@gmail.com

am reminded of a word of correction by a spiritual mentor, “You get further with sugar than you do with salt.” If I try to engage others with negative, harsh or condescending words (salt), I won’t get the results or reaction that I desire. However, if I approach a situation with words that build up and encourage (sugar), there is much more potential for real change. I’m choosing to see “what’s right” in all of my kids more often then what’s wrong. I am not always perfect in this area, but I am making progress. Let me tell you about my kids: Jacob has a great sense of humor—he loves music and loves to learn from me as I do tasks around the house. Mary is becoming a godly young woman who is making Jesus a priority in her life. She has a fiery spirit to accomplish things others tell her she cannot do. My son, Ethan, is a sensitive young man who cares deeply for his friends and others. But I remember a time that I went to pick up Ethan from school and was greeted by his teacher. The look on her face let me know that this wasn’t going to be a happy discussion. Earlier that day Ethan and his friends were playing, and at some point, things got heated. Ethan had pushed his friend and his friend tripped and fell—scraping his knees pretty badly. Needless to say, I was


4TH AND 5TH GRADE Wednesday evenings: 6:15-8 p.m. in the Gym

MIDDLE SCHOOL

Wednesday evenings: 6-8:30 p.m. in Room 213

First Cov offers a full spectrum of weekly gatherings, special events and activities to meet the needs of students wherever they are at on their spiritual journey.

COME CHECK US OUT!

HIGH SCHOOL

Tuesday evenings: 6-9 p.m. in Room 214

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pretty angry with Ethan when I heard that, and as we walked to the car, the tension was clear. We got home and I sat him down to discuss what had happened. I had this great plan in my head to come down hard on him. What was he thinking? I had taught him better than that! As we sat there in uncomfortable silence for a moment, Ethan began to cry. I asked him, “Are you crying because you know that I am very upset with you and you know you’re in big trouble?” His reply stunned me. With tears streaming down his face, he said, “No… I am upset because I know that I hurt my friend today.

I am upset because I might have lost a friend because of it.” That day, my plan was to point out just what was wrong with my son. Yet that day, I got a surprising glimpse of the right in my child. Ethan cares about his friends— that he is sensitive to how they feel. That attitude is exactly I want to see in my kids—and I almost missed it! The truth is, there are actually a lot of stories of “what’s right” with my kids. Like the time Jacob came to me to apologize for saying hurtful words without being told. Or the times Mary recognizes areas of weakness in her life and desires to make them right in order to please God. I’m encouraged that Ethan invites his friends to church events because he wants them to know Jesus. I smile when Jacob shares his goodie bag with us when he gets home from school. Mary’s love for her new little brothers and how they love having her as a part of our family is an amazing blessing. I am noticing that, by God’s grace, there is a lot of “right” in my family. When it comes to my kids, I want to encourage them to see their faults as opportunities to learn,

and fan the flames of their strengths, so that they can each become more of who God created them to be. This world is filled with so much hurt and pain. It can be overwhelming at times. What would our world look like if we started to notice “what’s right”? What if we started to encourage the “right” in others? I can’t help but think that my world, your world, our world would be different. There are blessings happening everyday around us—signs that God is at work. Take time to

notice “what’s right.” Start today: Keep your eyes open or you might just miss it. I almost did! “ Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8, NIV).

High School Pastor Tim Layfield has worked in Student Ministries for the last 15 years in various churches in Sacramento and the Bay Area. When not hanging out with students or his family, Tim makes some mean pulled pork and teaches martial arts. His favorite phrase? “If I do what is possible, I can trust God to do the Impossible.” tlayfield@firstcov.org WWW.FIRSTCOV.ORG

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and even good about the reality that refugees are coming to Sacramento. You might be asking what could be “good” about people fleeing unspeakable persecution and pain that will undoubtedly leave life-long scars. Well, we all know that in the midst of crisis lies an unparalleled opportunity to see God’s sovereign hand of redemptive love at work. We know from God’s Word that these individuals and families are not here accidentally but according to God’s plan (see Acts 17:26-27). By these families fleeing to the US, they are presented with an open door they don’t usually have in their home country: A chance to hear of Christ and see His love expressed through His followers. While I now have many wonderful experiences with the modern-day “stranger,” one moment stands out to me. A husband and father from Iraq named Salah arrived in Sacramento as a refugee about a year ago. I got the privilege of spending some time with this family in their first few weeks and quickly became Facebook friends with him and several of his kids.

M y New Friend

One day, I saw that Salah had posted a picture of him sitting in my car as I drove him to the BY KIRT LEWIS Department of Human Assistance. Under the picture was a short caption: “My new friend.” He had no idea how meaningful those three words were to me. My thoughts were drawn back to the words of Christ in Matthew 25. In that passage, Jesus essentially taught had been serving as a pastor in various staff roles for a little over a decade when I came to a sort of early “mid-life” ministry crisis. us that when we love those who are particularly vulnerable and hurting (the I looked at all of the things that I typically expended my time and “stranger” being one of these) He equated that with loving Him. Salah had energy doing in serving my church as a pastor. In addition I looked at all no idea that I heard those three words as if they were coming directly from of the things I was leading my church to do with their “time, talent and my Lord and Savior. treasure.” The conclusion wasn’t pretty: Most of what I was doing was focused on providing religious goods and services to consumer Christians. THERE IS SOMETHING Collectively, most of what we were doing was ensuring that the Sunday morning “worship” would “go well” and that life outside of that gathering (but still securely within our Christian culture bubble) would be pleasant.

I

unbelievably inspiring

AND EVEN GOOD ABOUT THE REALITY THAT

This was NOT what I got into ministry leadership to do! My wife and I agreed to make a radical shift, though for Christians it shouldn’t be a radical shift: Do what is most important to God! It’s an incredibly simple and spiritually liberating concept when applied to your daily life. It evokes one simple question: “What is most important to God?” In scouring the Scriptures, my wife and I found ourselves drawn back to simple things like not forgetting your “first love” (Revelation 2:4), to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) and to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). And again and again in the Scriptures, we saw God express a special heart for the immigrant (Deuteronomy 10:17-19; Zechariah 7:10; Jeremiah 7:6-7; Mathew 25:35-40). It so happened that God blessed us with two opportunities at that time to reorient our lives to the priorities of God. First, we launched out to start a new church in the community we lived in, with a renewed passion for the lost driving our decision. Secondly, I came on staff part-time as the regional Church Mobilizer for the Sacramento office of World Relief. Our primary mission was to equip and resource churches to love and serve the immigrants in our community, particularly refugees of whom over 1,000 arrive to the Sacramento region every year. The latter was a divinely orchestrated irony, given that seven years earlier, I served a tour of duty in Iraq. It has been over two and a half years since then and God’s heart and passion to see His people welcome the stranger has grown stronger and stronger in my heart. Simple experiences have reinforced and affirmed this Kingdom priority in my life. All of them have underscored what might sound odd at first—that is, that there is something unbelievably inspiring

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refugees are coming to Sacramento.

Fortunately for many refugees who have arrived over the last couple of years, they have found many friends at First Covenant Church. As I share with churches throughout the region, I inevitably bring up First Cov as a model church for the region and even the nation as one who “welcomes the stranger.” Your church has partnered with World Relief to befriend and assist dozens of refugee families seeking haven in Sacramento. Just know that as your church continues this good work, not only are these our newest neighbors claiming you as friends, Jesus himself is affirming His friendship with you. Every home you prepare for the weary sojourner is Christ’s new home. Every hand extended in welcome is embraced by Christ. Every ride to the Department of Human Assistance or Social Security office is shared by Christ. Every dinner you share has Christ seated at the table. “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when…did we see you a stranger and invite you in?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’” (Matthew 25: 37-38, 40, NIV).

Kirt Lewis has served as a staff pastor in various roles for over 14 years (other experiences include teaching in Christian private schools, working with the developmentally challenged community and serving in the US Army, including a tour of duty in Iraq in 2003). He currently serves fulltime with World Relief, mobilizing and supporting churches throughout the Sacramento region (like First Cov) in their ministry to immigrants. He also serves as Discipleship Pastor at The Pointe Church in Antelope, where his wife of nine years, Kristy, and their daughter, Melody, live. klewis@wr.org


FREE TO

LEARN

BY BRYAN KRENZIN

When I think of the many things that we can be thankful for here in the US, one often overlooked blessing comes to mind: our access to multiple levels of education and higher learning. This may seem strange, but when we think of the things that God has given us in this country, we should stop and thank Him for the ability to better ourselves through education. Too often we complain about our school systems, but think of the places in the world that don’t have access to any education in the way we do. Around the world, women especially are oppressed and have no opportunity for education. Basic literacy is something lacking in many developing nations, yet we have some of the best schools in the world. As humans, God has given us the ability to reason and learn. We can develop new skills, advance our knowledge, as well as gain inspiration for the next great invention. We can read a book that gives us new spiritual insights, or listen to sermons that motivate us to be more like Christ. Because of the myriad of resources available at our fingertips, we often take these things for granted. When it comes to education, I am speaking about more than just schools or higher learning, I’m also speaking of the vast teaching and innovative resources we have available to us in the church. Lately, I’ve been watching my 19 month daughter as she gains new comprehension, makes associations and expands her vocabulary more and more every day. It is amazing how fast we learn as youngsters. In watching this process, I am struck by the thought: What if Kate did not have access to education as she grows up? It’s a tragedy to think that a fertile little mind, ripe for learning and advancement might be unable to get the education it needs for that little boy or girl to grow up and make a difference in the world. It’s sobering to think of how many children fall into this category. How many little geniuses never got their chance because they did not have the opportunities that Kate will have? It drives me to pray for doors to open for education in other countries, but also makes pause to praise God that we do have that freedom.

“God is transforming society through education. He is inspiring people to invent, cure and create things to fill our world with joy.” In the local church, we are blessed to freely learn from God’s word and be “nourished” by sound teaching. Through the resources of the local church, we are able to, like Romans 12:2 states, “…be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (NASB). Books, software tools and audio material are all freely available for us to dive in, study, pray and learn more about living as a follower of Christ. Did you know that many people in the world don’t even have access to bibles? They live in places where they either don’t have a bible available in their Continued on page 14 WWW.FIRSTCOV.ORG

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native language or will be punished if they are caught with one (where possession of a bible is literally illegal). Here in America, we are blessed to hear and read and speak freely about the bible, but with that blessing comes a great responsibility to “pass it on” to others. We also have great choices in higher learning where we can become masters of our trade. This is not to say that we cannot become masters of our trade without education, but it is surely a great tool God has given us to excel at our chosen professions. With learning and mastery comes the inspiration for the next level of innovation! I believe God sovereignly directs our learning and “inventions” to better our existence on earth. When I was in college, I remember a professor once asking us students, “Where do you think the inspiration for the advancement of technology and medicine come from?” It was a thought provoking question and especially when he went on to say, “…but do you think the person who is going to find the cure for cancer will do so without a knowledge of how our bodies work, or at least a basic understanding of biology and medicine?” God is transforming society through education. He is inspiring people to invent, cure and create things to fill our world with joy. So, the next time you pull out your bible, pick up your child from school, or write a check to pay your student loan bill, say a prayer of thanks to the Lord for the ability to grow, change and learn through education. Bryan Krenzin is an elder at First Covenant Church and is passionate about getting the church to pray! Bryan is a graduate from Bethany University with a degree in Church Leadership and has served as an associate pastor in previous ministries. Bryan works as a software engineer and has been attending First Covenant for seven years, along with his wife Tami and his daughter, Kate. bkrenzin@csoftcorp.net

iPRAYER ENCOURAGEMENT POWERFUL PRAYING PART I When we come to the Lord with our requests, petitions and prayers, the “state” in which we approach God is important. As followers of Jesus, we are forgiven of our sins when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. That said, God has given us guidelines to follow that take our prayers beyond simply making requests and into receiving from God. This does NOT mean that we will always receive if we do certain things, or conversely, not receive if we don’t do certain things, but we must always be cognizant of God’s requirements when coming to Him.

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This month’s scripture is James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (ESV). This verse speaks of this two-part process. Notice before we get to the “power” part (God answering our prayers), there is an action of “confessing to one another.” When we tell others the things we have done wrong, it frees us from unforgiveness and removes the blockages to hearing from God. Psalm 66:18 states, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (NIV). It is a very important principle to forgive others if we want to have unbroken communication with God! If you are holding unforgiveness in your heart today, confess your sins to God (and someone you trust) and move into a place of power to receive from God.


DON’T BUY IT

REASONS TO BE HOPEFUL FOR THE FUTURE GENERATION OF THE CHURCH BY PC WALKER A local pastor friend of mine exhorted his congregation to “Turn off FOX News; it’s making you paranoid.” While it may or may not be great counsel, it is important to recognize the media is only one of numerous voices making Christians paranoid as it relates to living in our current culture and society. As the Church looks towards the future of the world, far too many of us have come to believe and accept our ticket to ride a certain hand basket on its way to a certain destination. Yes, the times are changing at the pace of the Internet, and our culture and society increasingly oppose the values and lifestyle of followers of Jesus. Even still, I see great hope for what will develop, by necessity, because of these painful realities. There are many reasons to exchange your ticket of bleakness for a more hopeful future.

1. THIS IS NOTHING NEW. God’s people have always had to live among a dominant culture that does not affirm their values, lifestyle, or their claim to One Truth. It may feel new to us who have lived through a more comfortable time, but we cannot disregard the reality John reminds us of; “this world is passing away” (1 John 2:17, NASB). We will not and cannot turn the world around, and we cannot pretend that this opposition is unique to our time. We stand on the shoulders of history in this reality.

2. THE LOCAL CHURCH IS VALUABLE. Beware you don’t buy every statistic portraying a declining church in America. Understand that correct statistics, misinterpreted, are false statistics. The Church is still and will continue to be quite large. The question will be whether its influence will be strong in the coming generations. The Church’s impact will be stymied if we continue to allow other non-profits to do the job of the church. The next generation needs a reason and a reminder to fall in love with the local church. We cannot continue to separate from “religious institutions” and wonder why they are not lasting.

3. COMFORTABLE TIMES ARE GONE. As circumstances grow less comfortable for the believer, it becomes more impossible for the Christian to simply float in and out and up and down on the waves of the culture. The tide is changing so rapidly I believe the future generation of believers will be stronger because they will have to be. The Christian will be increasingly marginalized in our culture, but that means the true believers will be exactly that; TRUE valiant believers. The days of lukewarm Jesus-following are swiftly drawing to a close. That is good news!

4. VISION IS UNHEARD; NOT UNSPOKEN. Young Christians want to be part of the visioning that brings new energy to the Church. There are young Christians prepared to keep up with the fast pace of the world with a commitment to truth. They are listening to the media saying our future is doomed. When we believe this perception, we devalue the voice of young Christians who are prepared to stand valiantly in this culture.

5. DISCIPLESHIP IS KEY. When you look at the Chinese Church, you will not actually see anything. The Chinese Church is growing by droves in a country where Christianity is criminal. By necessity, this underground Church has become unwaveringly committed to personal discipleship. As American Christians are increasingly marginalized, one-on-one discipleship is going to be vital in the spread of Christianity in the US in the future.

6. TRUST THE GOD-CARD. Ultimately, we must always trust in a sovereign God over and above whatever happens in our culture. I would close with the hope we all ought to have forever: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him—but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10, NIV). The opposite of love is not hate; it is fear, and love drives out fear. We are not given the spirit of fear. As we look to the future, we have no reason to fear if we have truly had an experience of the loving God, Who will remain sovereign, regardless of the paranoia you hear on television. PC Walker adores his wife, Tonya. After the birth of his two little girls, he began a lifelong dislike for every teenage boy. His two favorite toys as a kid were an orange Nerf football and a used word processor. He is our College and Young Adult Pastor here at First Covenant. pcwalker@firstcov.org

Who is your hero?

ON THE SPOT QUESTION

“My mother-in-law: She was wonderful to me all my married life. I was so blessed to have her!” —Charlotte Vujevich

“Jimmy Carter for his personal life and post-presidency activities.” —Ed Crandall

“My mom is my hero because she loves me and helps me every day.” —Emilie Cava

“My wife! She can do everything. Never has a negative thought; always positive thoughts.” —Don Zajic

“Jamie Grace and Brit Nicole; they are great song artists and have great faith in God.” —Makayla Schoch

“Pope John XXIII—the one so gracious in his terminal illness.” —Ruth Scherer

“My mom and dad because I love them and they love me” —Gaby Maduri

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WISE WOMEN

TITUS 2 COMES ALIVE THROUGH THE “MENTOR MOMS” OF MOM’S CONNECTION

BY ROBIN WALDRON

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B

eing a mom is hard! Being a mom who is a Christ-follower is even harder—especially in a culture that embraces immoral practices and ideas. Navigating through this rough terrain while trying to love her family, balance all of life’s activities, manage a household, and raise well-adjusted, godly children can sometimes leave a mom feeling helpless, hopeless, and alone. Thankfully, here at First Cov young moms have a resource to help them find their way. What began many years ago as a simple Tuesday morning Bible study for moms has now turned into a thriving ministry. Mom’s Connection, which launched in 2006, offers young moms an opportunity for personal and spiritual growth through regular fellowship and bible study. In addition, it offers a unique opportunity for gaining wisdom, direction and support from a group of very special women— the Mentor Moms. In Titus 2:3-5, Paul instructs Titus to encourage the older women of the church to serve as godly role models for younger women in both spiritual and practical ways. Mom’s Connection is a place where this principle is being lived out beautifully and is a great example of something “right” with the world today. Each week when the young moms meet in their small groups, they are privileged to have one

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or two seasoned mothers join them. During their small group discussions the Mentor Moms participate by sharing their lives and experiences in order to encourage and spur these young women on in their faith. As they build relationships with each other, the Mentor Moms offer their support, advice, prayers—and often hugs­—to mom’s newer to the journey. Once or twice a year the Mentor Moms also have a panel discussion on a particular topic where they each share about relevant experiences in their own lives and how God worked in and through them. November’s theme was “Let it Go.” Each woman shared very deeply and openly from her own life, telling the young moms of difficult experiences she faced and how completely surrendering to God brought her through. The Mentor Mom’s—Cindy, Marilyn, Chris, Barbara, Brenda, Kay, Marcia and Suzie—all desire to help the young moms along in their journey of faith and mothering, always steering them toward God’s truth. It is very important to Cindy , the Mentor Mom Coordinator, that the young women understand the true nature of God. “It's so easy to have misconceptions about Him, and when we do, we're apt to make poor decisions or hold on to destructive emotions and engage in dangerous thinking. I want Mom’s Connection to be a safe place where the women feel permission to share those thoughts and emotions so they can deal with their issues in light of God's grace and love.“ The moms recognize the value of these young women knowing they are not alone in their struggles and many express that they wish they had the same kind of encouragement when they were raising their children.

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“Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that honors God… These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good…” Titus 2:3-5 (NLT).

A POST ON FACEBOOK FROM ONE OF OUR YOUNG MOMS SAYS IT ALL:

I am thankful for Mom’s Connection at my church. It’s one of the reasons I have grown in my spiritual walk. I have made some lifelong friends who encourage and support [me]. I am thankful for the mentor moms and their willingness to share [that] life's hard but with God all things are

possible! I love my church family!

Holly is just one of the young moms who has been deeply impacted by Mom’s Connection and the Mentor Moms. She knew that she needed to raise her kids differently if she wanted them to know God. Before coming to Mom’s Connection, Holly had been extremely angry with God over her divorce and other difficult circumstances in her life. “I honestly felt like He abandoned me, so I abandoned Him.”

As for the Mentor Moms’ role in her life, Holly shares that they are an integral part of Mom’s Connection. “They encourage the young moms with a godly perspective and have experience and wisdom in child-rearing. That is so

Robin Waldron had the privilege of being the Coordinator of Mom's Connection for its first six years and loves going back for a visit now and then. She has very fond memories of her time there and is grateful for the investment of the Mentor Moms in her life. Who knows, maybe one day she'll return to Mom's Connection as a Mentor Mom (she'll need a little more "seasoning" first).

Because of her hurt, Holly wasn’t sure she wanted to attend Mom’s Connection. However, an invitation from one of the leaders compelled her to go. After her first visit, Holly knew where she wanted to be every Tuesday. She recalls that the warm, loving smiles of the Mentor Moms were a significant reason she continued attending. Having recommitted her life to the Lord through Mom’s Connection, over the last few years, Holly’s relationship with God has blossomed. She is currently a small group leader, her husband and mother-in-law began coming to church with her and her children are growing in their knowledge of and love for God. Mom’s Connection has been truly life changing for her and her family.

seem so overwhelming. The willingness of these dear women to give of their time, their lives, their whole selves, is such an inspiration. The investment they are making in the lives of young women has the potential to ripple out into our world—through marriages, family relationships, friendships, and the next generation these young moms are raising.

waldrontrio@att.net

important for us who are trying to raise children in a way that is counter-cultural to the world.” Holly’s words ring true for the dozens of young mothers who attend Mom’s Connection regularly. The world can be a daunting place in which to live, let alone a home for raising children. Yet, when we have godly influences around us like these women, the task does not WWW.FIRSTCOV.ORG

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WE BELIEVE IN JESUS. AND HE IS ALIVE! HE HAS DEFEATED SIN, DEATH AND FEAR. COME CELEBRATE THE RESURRECTION WITH US.


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