Wednesday, July 20, 2011

6 Months In:

1st off, I apologize for the period of silence this blog has had, fortunately, it's been due to being extremely busy!  The summer brings lots of events, trips, planning, VBS, etc.

A long and fast 6 months:

On one hand, it’s hard to believe that it’s only been 6 months since I came on staff, and on the other hand the 6 months have come and gone in nothing more than they blink of an eye!

What I can say for sure, is that it has been the best, most powerful, and most purposeful 6 months of our lives.  
We Love this new life (and ministry is absolutely a complete life style – 24/7) and thank God every day for placing us in this role!

NONE of this would be possible without the tireless work of all you - the volunteers, the helpers, the supporters, the strong shoulders, and the prayer warriors... we are all in this together!

In my opinion, the numbers game is a very dangerous one.  I truly believe that whoever God places in front of us is who we are supposed to minister to, and there will be seasons of retraction and expansion regardless of who is doing what sometimes – that said, God has truly done amazing, amazing things during this time that you can’t help but stand in awe of:
  • The pre-AWANA Wed night attendance from birth through high school was running 13 kids.  It is now running between 55 and up to 90 plus a group that averages 15 people meeting at our house for 2 hours on Wednesdays before we ever even come to the building (for “Dinner & Devo @ the Dodd’s).  Just as wonderful is the fact that we went from 3 adult workers on wed nights to almost 10 times that many – all loving it and getting as much fulfillment out of it as the children they are working with.
  • The Youth Group Sunday school class was averaging 3 kids on Sunday mornings and now runs 15-25 every Sunday.  I am asked nearly every Sunday “Where are all these kids coming from!?”  The beautiful answer is that most all of them are ours.  Most of the kids families are, and have been, members here at Highland View, they just simply hadn’t been attending our services.  God has stirred in them a burning desire to come and be a part of our group, and from there, they are bringing their friends and growing even more.
  • Our youth group trips have set record numbers as well, big and small trips (17 to UPLift for a week and 25 to our KY Splash trip last week).
  • VBS last year consisted of 11 kids.  This year, not only did we have more adult volunteers than we’ve had in years, we have also had 46 unique kids attend VBS this week!
  • Church in the park, our family nights at the building, and our 2011 Family Retreat have all been far and away the most highly attended in years and you can tangibly feel the excitement and the bonds growing amongst our families (of all ages!)
  • And though I don’t wish to pull a David counting ‘his’ kingdom, we all know of breathtaking number of baptisms that God has blessed Highland View with as well!

Erin and I have found ourselves more deeply involved in family ministry than even we could have ever imagined.  God has literally dropped people in my lap everywhere we go and then opens a conversation that allows Him to bring them to Highland View (from a waitress at a local Mexican restaurant to a cashier at Home Depot).  Additionally, God is using a huge percentage of our time in family and marriage counseling for the body here at Highland View.

The opportunity to preach is always appreciated and the congregational response is simply overwhelming.  We have many things in the works for the future (full calendar, Chicago next week, tweaking to AWANA, even more family events, family movie nights, new teen activities, mission trip for next summer, Christian sports camp in conjunction with other coaches and schools, etc. etc. etc.)

We feel so blessed by what God is doing around us and allowing us to play a small part in His plan.      
We feel so blessed to be a part of this body, to be surrounded by this family, and to be shepherded by this eldership.  We truly feel free to live ministry here – and that we are free to bless and serve as God intends and are unbelievably thankful for the support all of you show us in all of our endeavors. 

Thank you all,

-Levi, Erin, and Emily

Friday, July 1, 2011

Yay though I walk through the valley...

UpLift was amazing.  I got to personally baptize 2 girls in the Fountain (very cool experience), got to watch 5 kids out of my God Time classes be baptized, and got to watch a couple dozen others make the decision to be baptized with Christ over the course of the week.

I taught 3 classes each day and spoke to the kids about the fact that they are not the star of this movie (they are not the focus of this life), that our sole purpose on earth is to point (with our very being) to God.
The last day of class I asked them a simple question:  "has it been hard to be a Christian this week - at UpLift camp, on the campus of Harding University?"  of course, the resounding answer was 'no'.  Why?  There's no magic in the Harding campus (although I will say the campus is truly one of the most beautiful I have ever seen), instead, it's easy because we were surrounded by Christians.  Everyone around us was like us.

But, I warned them, it was now time to begin our descent.  See, we can't live on the mountain top, no matter how much we would like to, eventually, we have to come down.  Down to our jobs, our schools, our sports, our hobbies, and, for some of us, our very own homes and families.  Valleys.  So what do we do?  We can be clear of one thing:  we can not survive on our own.  No one ever claimed this life would be easy.  In fact, when asked what one needed to do to be a follower of Jesus, Jesus replied 'pick up that electric chair, strap it to your back, and come on' ("Take up your cross and follow me").  Jesus was being realistic.  He was telling us as plainly as He could what we could expect from this life.  So we must (must, must must) surround ourselves with other Christians - those who will love us, support us, encourage us, build us up, and understand us for what we are (imperfect sinners, who will continue to make mistakes our entire lives, but are saved by the amazing, unfair, crazy love and grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ).

I warned them that when they got home, reality, life, the enemy would be waiting to smack them right between the eyes.

My life, in every way, has lived out my sermons for the week - including that last one.  Though no one is immune to discouragement, pain, grief, sorrow, or angst, we (as Christians) have hope.  A hope that can be found by NO other means than the knowledge that comes from being saved.... no matter how low this world takes us or those around us, we Know how this story ends.  So, in the face of pain and adversity, we can have hope.

Rejoice always.  Put on the clothes of Love.  Pray without ceasing.  Have hope.  Be a light.  Point to God.