Bring on the Blankets

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As she walked around the corner at the train station, a man who appeared to be homeless, made eye contact and began moving toward her. He seemed to be inebriated. As he mumbled to her she heard, “I wan’t to be delivered from my addition today.” Walking to him, she placed her hand on his shoulder and felt God move.

 

Jill Poldervaart was at Union Station in the heart of Washington DC. She was handing out blankets to the needy and offering prayer to anyone who would accept it as part of her Blanket the City ministry. Over the years she had meet and spoken to many people living on the street. She knew immediately that this encounter was different than any she’d had in the past.

It begin in Colorado with a lunch-hour invitation. It seemed innocent enough. A co-worker invited her to join their group serving the needy and homeless that day simply by handing out food and offering prayer.  On one particularly cold and raining day the group was heading out at usual.  Jill considered not going due to the elements. The warmth of the office was inviting and comfortable. Despite the taunting in her mind, she choose to go. As they handed out food one of the recipients made it clear, it’s not just food that he needed, it was cold, he needed a blanket. He laid out where he’d be should someone such as Jill be willing to return later with a blanket. Circumstances as they were, a long drive home and a long drive back all while not knowing if the man would be traceable, made it impossible to  fulfill with the request.

That’s not where it ended as it was through this man, Filling the Void Ministry was launched. An annual event lead by Jill and her family to reach out to those who were cold and living in the streets. With a few volunteers to help procure and deliver, new blankets began being gifted on an annual basis to those in need living in the Colorado cold. Although the blanket is a tangible gift, some may recognize the gifts that are given of even greater worth - a conversation, an exchange of names, and a look into the eyes of the recipient with an offer of prayer.

The ministry in Colorado continued and impacted numerous people over the years. God then moved Jill and her family to Maryland. Not knowing the area, their first winter in their new home left Jill wondering if the ministry could continue not just in Colorado but could it come to this area as well? During the second winter, the Holy Spirit prompted Jill encouraging her to take a step into a new ministry in the area she now lived. This lead her and her family into Washington DC. January easily created a homeless population at Union Station of people needing blankets. People needing conversation, People needing prayer. Jill, along with volunteers from her connect group, boarded a train to their destination seeking out those in need.

It was on one of those trips that as she sought out people to gift with a blanket that she encountered the addict needing deliverance that day from his addiction. And that was the day, the power of God reach through Jill and into the man. Jill could feel the Holy Spirit move through her and into the addict. Jill’s husband who witnessed the event was certain he’d never seen anything like it.

A huge smile came across the addict’s face. He appeared to relax immediately and it seemed as though something had left him. They exchanged a few words and parted ways. Had God healed him? What became of the man? This we will never know, but God does know. There’s peace and confidence in believing that God has healed and that he has provided for the addict touched by the Holy Spirit through Jill.

Through this experience and many others Jill sees clear evidence of God's agape or unconditional love. God's love that is always giving and impossible to be taken away."God loves everyone and we should treat every person we meet in the same way,” explains Jill.

Blessed. Righteous. Selfless. These are just a few words that describe taking to the streets and gifting those in need. In Matthew 25:35-46, Jesus reminds us that when we take the time to feed, clothe, give drink, and visit the “least of these” we are doing these things to and for him, Jesus Christ. To those righteous followers, the Bible tell us in verse 46 that they will be rewarded with eternal life. Jill, her family, and the volunteers of Blanket the City are touching the lives of the needy.

Not only is this act of service changing the lives of those being served, it is changing the lives of Jill, her family and each person who participates. They are witness of God’s great love while being his hands and feet. As Jill explains it, "Those in need are more than the people who appear homeless…we are all in need, we are all broken."

 

Want to get involved? People can support the ministry by donating small, new, inexpensive blankets easily carried. Jill will also tell you, "If any other group would like me to take them out to do a Blanket the City they can rally their folks together and I will be happy to show them the way!"

For more information, reach out to our offices at The Church at Severn Run @ 410-551-6654 or  find ways to serve on our website at http://severnrun.com/serve/.

 

JW

#MyStory :: Pam Zangardi - VBS Changed My Life

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At the tender age of 10 Pam walked into a VBS all on her own and heard the very first and only Bible verse in her life, John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever should believe in him would not perish, but have everlasting life.” She memorized those words and clung to them for the next 30 years. “VBS is what started it all, its when the seed was planted,” Pam said.

Fast forward to July of 2009. Pam brought her children to VBS at the Church at Severn Run. “I didn't really care if they learned about Jesus, I really just wanted them to go somewhere for the day so I could get a break, but God got my attention.”

As Pam walked her kids into the doors that day the verse for the week was displayed on the screens...John 3:16. She knew right then and there that God was calling her back, calling her to have a personal relationship with him. Pam began coming to church and the following year she signed up to be a leader at VBS. “I was terrified that I didn't know enough, that I wasn't qualified or ready to lead children in the discussions, but God showed up every time and I realized that he doesn't call the qualified, he qualifies the called.”

Pam looks forward to leading at VBS now, and does it every year. “I don't only find satisfaction in seeing the kids grow and learn, but I grow and learn so much by teaching the kids and listening to them.” She tells anyone and everyone about how important VBS is.

“If you can speak into their lives when they are young and plant a seed, it could change their whole life.” She hopes that one day a child will look back 30 years from now and say, “My life was changed because of that week at VBS.”


If you would like to participate in VBS this year, you can get more information here.

Praying for your Pastor

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Every day I open up my favorite phone app. This app allows me to stay in touch with friends, family, and distant memories. Facebook is a friend to everyone. It is the first thing many do in the morning, keeping up with trends, reading the news, and sharing life's main events.

There is one thing on Facebook that continues to amaze me; it's the amount of my friends and loved ones asking me for the same thing at least once per week. PRAYERS.

No, it is not a specific call to me, but a call to their list of friends to do what Christians aim to do everyday when they pray--have a group of believers, their circle, all believing, desiring, and praying for the same thing at one time throughout the day. I know that every time I see a friends, acquaintance, or loved one type “just asking for prayers”, I respond and immediately say a prayer. This is easy, this is virtual, this is friendship.

Looking at the way we so easily intercede for others makes me think, wouldn't it be just as easy to pray for the one person who prays for us everyday, without fail, without ceasing? Why don't we pray for our pastor more often? He spends time talking to us, counseling us, and guiding our souls to eternal life in the kingdom.

Who has been tasked with the job of praying for the church's head?

The easy answer is, YOU.  

Jeremiah 3:15 says, “And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.”

Shepherds need many things in order to accomplish their jobs and those are the things we should pray for. Reminding ourselves that for one, our pastor is a man first. He is human and therefore needs to meet the basic human needs. After, he is a man of God, which requires strength, focus, love, patience, kindness, and a spirit of unbelievable faith.

The next time you see that request asking for prayers for a friend, also think about the one person who doesn't always ask. The one person who sees, hears, and responds to your every prayer request and is challenged by God himself to pray for you everyday. Know that he is strong because he has to be, but we can pray for that extra push.

Are you the one? Are you the person who will respond “prayers sent” when the leader of the church needs extra support?

You can start at any time, it only takes a moment.

Here are some ways you can specifically pray for your pastor:

  • Pray that he will be continually guided by the Spirit
  • Pray that he will hear God’s voice clearly
  • Pray that he will clearly deliver the message God has laid on his heart
  • Pray that he will be strong and avoid temptation
  • Pray that he will seek wise counsel
  • Pray that he will continually find rest and peace in Jesus

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—  for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3This is good, and pleases God our Savior…” -1 Timothy 2:1-3

 

Your Story : Your Witness


But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.

(1 Peter 3:15 ESV) 


Most of us claiming the resurrection of Christ act like we don’t have a story to tell. We might think we can’t be a witness for Jesus because our story isn’t “good enough.”

That is simply not true.

A witness is an "attestation of fact, event, etc., from personal knowledge;” (source) Witnessing has nothing to do with our goodness, or our imperfections. Each of us can speak with authority based on our personal knowledge of the situation.

Personal knowledge is an important element of a Christian witness. And personal knowledge is something God promises us as we pursue a relationship with him.

And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. (1 John 5:20)

What is your personal knowledge of Jesus? What is your personal knowledge of the hope that Jesus’ resurrection gives to you? This is your story. This is what you can share.

As a Jesus follower you have personal knowledge of what Jesus has done in your life. You have personal knowledge of how Jesus changes your heart. You have personal knowledge about why you trust him. You have a story about giving up your life and following after him.

Your story doesn’t have to be dramatic. It certainly won’t be like anyone else’s story because you’re unique. But you do have a story...a story about the day you invited Jesus into your heart...a story about how he reveals himself to you. This is what we must share.

Have you prayed prayers and seen answers? This is your witness. 

Have you seen miracles - even small ones? This is your testimony.

Have you seen Jesus revealed in and around you? This is your story.

Your witness, your testimony of fact from personal knowledge and relationship with Jesus, is your story about how Jesus is real to you. 

No one can refute it.

As a disciple you must share it.


And God will use it to bring glory to himself.

 


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Posted by Alane Pearce with

#MyStory : Convicted and Blessed to Tithe

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All my life I’ve been told what to do.

I grew up as a PK (Pastor’s Kid), so I’ve known what tithing is and why we do it for as long as I can remember.

The problem is, the humanity in me has told me that I had a million logical reasons not to. I’m also not afraid to admit that for a good portion of my life, I just plain didn’t care. This took me down a dark path my first five to six years in the military, and not tithing is the least of the transgressions I’d rather soon forget. But, my life changed a few years back and I finally found that what I knew my whole life was not only realer than I could imagine, but that it finally mattered to me. However, even though my heart was in a better place, tithing still wasn’t on my ‘to do’ list. I think that I started tithing more, but it was intermittent at best, and depended on what I had left instead of giving up front.

Fast forward two years and here we are showing up in Maryland. We had had an awesome church back in California. I knew that it would be tough to replace, but we began looking for a church immediately. The very first church we tried was Severn Run. I instantly knew that I was home, and my wife felt the same way.

As time has gone by these past two years since we started attending services here, we’ve plugged in to various outlets and groups of the church. I went to Fight Club for a little while, and my wife has been a big part of the Mom’s connect group. I joined the writing team (and of course, I’m still here), and my wife helps watch the kids every other Sunday. Despite that, it wasn’t until the “On the Road” campaign that started last year that we actually started tithing a set amount on a consistent basis. At that point, I committed to give more than I ever had before in my life, but the thing is it still wasn’t 10%; it still wasn’t as much as I could have been giving.

I like to think that I’ve always been generous with my money, but the funny thing is I was never generous to God; the one place where my money was fully deserved and where it’s use would go beyond a full belly or short-lived smile. Not that those things don’t matter, but I know that God can do a thousand times more of those things than I ever could, if only I would give to him.

Recently Pastor Drew had talked about “The Given Life” and his series of messages spoke to my heart. I knew what I needed to do, but week after week I struggled to do it. I looked at how much 10% would be, and it felt like a LOT to me. I thought that it was doable, but that perhaps some things might have to give if I was going to make it work. I put it off for a few weeks, but finally I broke down and knew that I couldn’t wait any longer. I knew what I needed to do.

So…I did it.

We use online giving, which is great because I’m super forgetful and don’t ever carry around much cash. There’s no way I could be consistent if that feature wasn’t available. So, I went in there and updated my giving to ensure that I was in fact giving away 10% of my paychecks on a bi-weekly basis. I didn’t quite know how it was going to look those first two weeks that it started to come out, but I trusted God to take care of us.

I also felt compelled to share what I had done, so before writing this blog post I shared what I had done on Facebook, and added a little challenge to the friends I had who went to Severn Run. I felt like I should do this because of Pastor Drew’s words on how our church’s average was well below the national average. I don’t know how much all our friends give, but that’s not the point. I did not want it to seem like I was boasting, but I felt that people needed to see that step of faith and feel challenged to do the same. And if what I did might do that, even for one person, then it was worth it.

So, April 1st came and the first installment of my tithe came out. I was sitting on the computer downstairs playing videogames, because that’s what I sometimes do on a lazy Saturday morning, when my wife comes down and brings me a letter she just got in the mail. Inside the letter was a rather large check that neither of us were expecting, along with a letter. The check was from a stocks fund set up by my wife’s grandparents that was supposed to be distributed evenly to all the grandkids. Instantly I was blown away. I didn’t even think for a second that this was by accident. I knew that only God could do timing like that. For so long I had avoided doing what I should, and when I finally did it and put my trust in God, he was already ready to take care of us.

I don’t think that it always happens this way, or in this kind if perfect timing, but I do know that God rewards faith. I don’t know that everyone will see as ‘tangible’ a result of their faith as I did, but I do know that in God’s perfect timing and ways, he is always looking out for us. Because only God could set in motion events years before the day that I would finally say that I had the faith to step out of my circle of safety and into the waves of uncertainty. I don’t fully know what lies ahead, but I know that if I keep my eyes on him, I will never have to fear sinking below the surface.

My only hope is that through my giving, others may come to know the peace that has transformed my life and has given me the strength to do what’s unnatural to my humanity. I know that it will make all the difference.

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