I occasionally serve on our church worship team. Part of the process for me includes practicing the selected songs, printing out the lyrics and finding a possible part to sing. On one recent week that I was to serve I went to the website to begin working on the music. I was pleasantly surprised...
(This post is a follow up to Bonni Mace's thoughts before she left on her first international mission trip. If you didn't read it yet, catch up here!) Well, I’m back in Maryland after a wonderful warm nine days in the Caribbean! Before I left I shared a post about the things that made me...
As Barbara Martin walked into the church building on Sunday, she was approached by her husband, Youth Pastor Chris Martin. He made her aware that the youth team traveling to the Dominican Republic was in need of a female chaperone. She politely declined. Barbara Martin did not want to go to...
To live as followers of Jesus, we must not ignore the example Jesus set. Jesus didn’t talk about religion in buildings. He didn’t spend his time in Torah studies discussing the merits of this teacher or that. Those things have their place…but more often than not during his...
I occasionally serve on our church worship team. Part of the process for me includes practicing the selected songs, printing out the lyrics and finding a possible part to sing. On one recent week that I was to serve I went to the website to begin working on the music.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover a song I’d not heard for a very long time had been selected. It’s a beautiful song sung by Jenn Johnson. It’s message is sweet and the words are poetic. Phrases like, “Let me be filled with kindness and compassion for the one, the one for whom you love and gave your Son. For humanity increase my love.”
As I listen to and digested these words, singing them in my car as I drove home or during my lunch break, I thought, that’s it - this will indeed be my prayer for 2019. I was excited. I had been trying to find a theme for the year to focus on. This theme was so fitting for the times we are living in when love is often based on appearances. We judge need and people by how they look, where they live, the words they say, and the job they have or don’t have. I asked God to increase my love for humanity.
When I arrived at rehearsal for worship team later that week, I discovered that the song was no longer on the schedule. I was a little sad as I thought about those stirring lyrics that would not be sung that week. The congregation would not hear, “Help me to love with open arms, like you do. A love that erases all the lines and sees the truth. So that when they look into my eyes, they would see you. Even in just a smile, they would feel the Father’s love.”
Those thought quickly fled and I moved on. I figured a better, or more fitting song for the week had been chosen.
The rehearsal moved forward. A time of devotion and prayer starts us off. This particular week one of our worship leaders shared with the group something with which she had recently been challenged. She wanted to challenge us as well. It was quite simple actually yet it had the potential to be life changing. She simply asked, “If you had no fear, what would you do in 2019?”
She looked around at the faces in the group and repeated the question. I hoped she’d not planned for volunteers to share as my mind was blank. I egotistically thought to myself, “There’s not anything I am not doing because of fear.”
I was so very wrong and God was about to make that very clear to me.
I decided to continue to sing “For the One” even though it was off the schedule. It was going to be my 2019 theme after all and I loved the words, “Oh how he loves us from the homeless, to the famous and in between. You formed us, you made us carefully, ‘cause in the end we are all your children.” That would be how I’d live my life. It didn’t occur to me yet how much I needed to change.
During my lunch break the following day, I was humming these words as I drove to a shopping area near my work. As I approached a major intersection to make a left hand turn, there he was. He stepped off the curb and began walking amongst the cars as they waited for a green light to complete their turn. He held a sign, a sign such as we have all seen—usually made from a tossed piece of cardboard. As I glanced at him, not wanting him to see me looking, I saw the typical words:
- God Bless
An old recording from my past played once again, “Don’t give them money, they just want to buy drugs or alcohol. It’s better not to give them anything if you don’t have food to give.” I had once heard this from a director of a homeless shelter. It had been my mantra every time I saw a panhandler. I kept my eyes focused forward and drove past.
He had a slight limp and was dressed in ill-fitting clothing. I noticed he worn a winter hat and his sign dropped to his side as he walked back toward the intersection to wait for the next group of cars. He appeared to have not been very successful in his collection attempt.
As I drove through the stoplight, making my turn, some of the words I had been humming popped into my head. “Oh how he loves us, from the homeless to the famous and in between. Let me be filled with kindness and compassion for the one, the one...the one for whom you love and gave your son.”
I was stunned. What had I just done? I began to make excuses:
- It is too late now.
- He probably doesn’t even have a baby.
- He might even have a job.
- Maybe his next stop is the liquor store.
How wrong these thoughts were, and that and there was something completely wrong with this picture.
What was wrong was me.
Later that day, as I drove home from work, the image of the man and his sign came back to me and wouldn’t let go. That’s when it all came together. That was my fear and it would keep me from loving humanity like God does. I was so unkind and lacking compassion. How could I love those lyrics, commit to loving like God, and yet do nothing when I saw the man and his sign?
As tears welded up in my eyes, a list of fears poured into my mind. I was afraid of:
- Looking foolish.
- Being taken advantage of.
- What others would say.
- What they use the money for.
All very real and very ridiculous. Was the man today really looking for food or a fix? Did he have a baby? Was he sincere or guilting with “God bless”?
One might think God had finally gotten his point across to me. He was not quite finished.
In the church lobby the following Sunday he brought to my attention all the serving opportunities coming up for Winter Relief. I couldn’t miss the large display of information pamphlets. I took one home. I will be volunteering.
Again God was still not finished with me. On the following Monday, as I did my morning Bible reading, I landed on Matthew 25:45. Here Jesus is speaking in parables to the crowd and explaining what it will be like when we are before the king at the final judgment. Talking about himself he said “...‘ I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’”
I had refused to help. I had refused to help Jesus. How does 2019 change starting out like this?
I change by taking action. Feeling my fear and doing it anyway. Seeing Jesus in the eyes of everyone. It changes when I stop judging the worthiness of those in need.
Maybe these are your fears, maybe not. Whatever your situation, I challenge you too - what would you do in 2019 if you had no fear? Maybe you think fears are no problem like I did at that night at worship team rehearsal. Think about it, pray about it and see what God shows you. He just might have a plan to change you in ways you didn’t even realize needed changing.
(This post is a follow up to Bonni Mace's thoughts before she left on her first international mission trip. If you didn't read it yet, catch up here!)
Well, I’m back in Maryland after a wonderful warm nine days in the Caribbean! Before I left I shared a post about the things that made me nervous to go and meet our friends in another nation. This is the follow up.
Let’s jump right in.
A Foreign Language
So this one was pretty challenging but right off the bat I felt like I would be okay. At our first Sunday service in Consuelo, we were given in-ear translation devices and our guide, Tom, translated every word of the service for us. Soon after the service we met our next translator, Dioleica, who would hang out with us all week. A few days later we met Yissel who also translated. Between all these brilliant minds and broken Spanish I did alright communicating, but that’s not the best part. Many of you who know me know that I am terrible with names! I forget them almost immediately. While we were in the DR God graced me with something my mind never does which was remembering the names of each person I met and worked with. Even though I couldn’t say much I learned how to say “Great job!” in Spanish. I could tack on the name to the end of my one phrase and say enough. God transcends language friends!
Different Food and Water
This one I can straight up thank each of you who read my post and prayed for me while I was gone. Not once did I encounter indigestion and I didn’t accidentally drink the water (even though I had to throw away a toothbrush). God graced me with a clear mind and settled stomach for the entire trip. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was because of prayer! Thank you!
Fun fact: I was right about everyone on our trip, they were all awesome. In Consuelo I got to room with the one-and-only Patrice Lyle. She sang me to sleep every night. Ok, just kidding, she didn’t do that but she was still an amazing roommate and in her many bags she had everything I didn’t have. Even better, she shared with me.
Once we got to Santo Domingo, my roommates doubled and Patrice and I were joined by Vicki DeLair and Adrienne Castle. Though I had to scale the ladder of the world’s tallest bunkbed that swayed like a rocking horse, my roommates and I never tripped over one another in the bathroom nor fought over anything so that was cool. Our cozy nest of night owls was a harmonious place full of fun connections, laughter and crazy morning hair.
Being Away From My Family
My husband and I are so lucky to have parents who want to be involved in our son’s life. So while I was gone my mother-in-law came up from Texas to spend time with Marc and Caleb. While she was there I don’t think they even realized I was gone. Thanks to FaceTime and busy days, the time went quickly. While we all did miss one another, but I know it's an experience I was meant to have. Before I left my goofy toddler was holding out on saying “Momma” because he thought it was a funny joke when I begged him to say it. Well now he's saying “mom" all the time, so I will take that whole “absence makes the heart grow fonder” thing this time.
This can only be described as God’s timing, but it’s kind of a long story so bear with me.
Our first partner church, IBCC, already had plans to repaint classrooms so I was pretty comfortable with that project. Once we got started I learned that they also wanted murals which was intimidating, but it was for little kids so I thought my sketchy painting skills could handle that well enough. Once the mural day got started, we immediately hatched a plan to have lettering extraordinaire, Bekah Twardowski, start the school’s theme verse. I was going to try to figure out what my limited drawing skills could handle when Kim Roane piped up, “Oh I love painting, I have an Art degree from MICA!” AWESOME! Thanks to Bekah's and Kim’s structure work and vision and our other team members’ ability to paint by numbers, we had two beautiful classrooms as the project wrapped.
While I wasn’t too intimidated by IBCC’s projects, I knew ICC’s project would really be a challenge. You see, they were getting ready to demo this huge building where they plan to expand their Montessori school. They were selling a generator to finalize the funding to get started on the demo portion of the project We were showing up right on time to support them in this work. Until God said, “Not yet.”
We arrived and ICC had just learned that their buyer was trying to scam them and by God’s grace they were able to end the transaction before losing everything. But the ICC staff was discouraged, we were there to help them with this exciting new adventure and now we couldn’t. So the ICC staff purchased some paint and lumber. They then asked us to help them to build beds and refresh paint. When they learned we had three artists on our team, the ICC teachers almost lost their minds when we told them we could paint a focal wall in their school’s outdoor play space. They immediately pulled up Pinterest to show Kim their dream. Kim, Bekah, and the team were able to pull off a gorgeous tree mural for the kids to enjoy outside each day.
School leaders, Ruth and Claudinet, came out as we were finishing up and pulled out their phones to take pictures through their happy tears. When it was all said and done we had painted their outdoor area, 6 wooden locker-style shelves and a new bedroom for their homeless ministry. The carpentry team had also built 4 beds. Our team was also able to help serve lunch to nearly 60 homeless friends of ICC each day.
The Best Part Of All
I knew God was going to be up to cool things on this trip. I could sense it, which helped me overcome all of my fears about going. The most amazing part of the trip wasn’t the work we got to do, instead it was getting to hear stories of lives forever changed by Christ.
We heard stories from our Dominican brothers and sisters and we heard the stories from our Severn Run brothers and sisters. And let me tell you, our God is the same grace-filled, redemption-maker God in every country. It was amazing to see each Christ-follower embrace God’s role in changing their own lives and then God’s role through them to be the change agent in another’s life. One thing I learned from all of this story sharing is how to say “That’s how I helped bring a little Kingdom here to Earth now.” That’s how I was the hands and feet of God!
Severn Run, you are all living a beautiful God-story! God is using you to bring a bit of His Kingdom to Earth now as you follow him. Even if you feel like you’re just receiving, you are revealing. Let me explain…
At ICC, they have a medical ministry where they bring in teams of doctors from Chicago to perform minor surgeries for the homeless population that they would otherwise never get. Pastor Rafael introduced us to a man who’s leg used to be crooked and now, thanks to the team of doctors, it’s straight again. Our friend with the healed leg stood up, showed off his straight-as-an-arrow leg and gave God the glory! When he did that, he revealed Kingdom to me.
We don’t have to be some dramatic savior to reveal Jesus, friends. We just need to walk in step with Jesus daily and notice when He uses us. Sometimes He will use us by allowing us to serve, sometimes He will use us in allowing us to receive. What matters most is that we notice what He’s up to in our lives and that we tell the story of God’s amazing glory in and through our lives any chance we get!
Want to start telling your God Story? Submit it here and we will help you put it on paper!
Finally, be sure to save the date for Sunday, May 20. We are going to be practicing this idea of celebrating our God stories during each service. It’s an event we are calling “Story Sunday” and we want you to be there!
As Barbara Martin walked into the church building on Sunday, she was approached by her husband, Youth Pastor Chris Martin. He made her aware that the youth team traveling to the Dominican Republic was in need of a female chaperone.
She politely declined.
Barbara Martin did not want to go to the Dominican Republic (DR). She had no interest in the heat, the bugs, and the number of out-of-her-comfort-zone experiences there would potentially be on the trip.
She walked through the doors of the worship center and find her seat. Unbeknownst to her, God had called Pastor Drew to share about missions. During that time, Barbara felt the Lord tugging at her heart and knew that he was calling her to meet the need for a female chaperone. She walked out of the worship center that morning and into the commitment to go with the youth mission team to the DR.
The team spent their days in the Dominican Republic building a house for a woman and her children. Barbara said that children came from all over to witness the work being done. She and some of the team were able to love on the neighborhood children while work on the house was being completed. The children had dirty clothes and most had no shoes. The team handed out snacks to the children and to most, it was a precious gift.
Barbara saw dirty clothes, dirty children, mud walled houses, the heat from the stove where the fire was fed all day, more dirt, bugs, dirt that became mud when it rained, rain that did not cool the air but instead made it more oppressive, sewage that began to mingle with rivers of mud that flowed around and sometimes through the houses, more dirt, and more heat.
To be honest, little about the trip was enjoyable for Barbara.
However, God spoke very clearly to her about several things.
Sometimes, when we answer God’s call, like Barbara did to go on the trip, we believe that since we’re being obedient everything will be sunshine and roses. We think that beautiful blessings will flow out of God’s abundant love for us and it will be the best experience EVER because we are in God’s will for our lives! But, that’s not always the case – at least in terms of sunshine and roses. Paul, for example, was obedient to God’s call and he ended up in many uncomfortable places, not the least of which was prison.
But our work for God is not in vain.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you.Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
(1 Corinthians 15:58)
God used Barbara’s experience in the DR to teach her about gratitude and dependence on Him.
Barbara witnessed the woman’s house being built and saw how she and others in the community were so dependent on God for EVERY THING. Barbara realized that in our blessed, American lives where so much comes easily, she is often not dependent on God for 30 minutes, much less dependent on him to provide everything and meet all her needs.
“The more (stuff) I have, the more I take for granted and the more I don’t depend on God,” Barbara said.
Barbara does not want to go back to the Dominican Republic. It was not a “fun” experience, but perhaps her obedience enabled the Lord to reach her on a level, out of her comfort zone, that she would not have allowed him to penetrate from the comfortable surroundings of the familiar.
In the dirt, heat, and discomfort of a foreign country, God showed her she should be doing much more at home. Barbara changed her perspective on missions and learned that she doesn’t have to go to the DR to make big changes for the kingdom of Christ. There is much to do in her community and in the lives of people she comes into contact with every day that will bring others closer to Him.
If you find yourself serving in a way that you don’t enjoy, ask God what he is teaching you. Then seek out somewhere you can serve that better meets your gifts. And remember that nothing we do for the Lord is in vain.
To live as followers of Jesus, we must not ignore the example Jesus set.
Jesus didn’t talk about religion in buildings. He didn’t spend his time in Torah studies discussing the merits of this teacher or that. Those things have their place…but more often than not during his years of ministry, Jesus was right in the middle of crowds of people.
He was in the midst of the broken, but he wasn't telling them what they needed to do to get right with God. Instead, Jesus was lovingly addressing their needs first. Feeding the hungry. Healing the sick. Helping the poor. Holding the children. Loving the unlovable.
In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'
Acts 20:35 ESV
Although our world looks much different than Judea of old, we are the hands and feet of Jesus. Right here. Right now.
We are the ones who need to get close to the hurting. To help the poor. To hold the children. To love the unlovable. We are the ones Jesus is calling to shine his light in this broken and dark world.
When we put aside our comfort and reach out to show the love of Jesus to the uncomfortable, we are truly thinking Kingdom and living Jesus. There is no other way to do it. There is no way around it.
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
First John 3:17
Does your heart break for the oppressed?
Do you break down when you see the homeless on the street?
This is the Spirit telling you where God wants you to get to work.
Bear one another's burdens,
and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:2 ESV
Can you easily share some of your food or money or time with the poor?
Do you have a soft spot for children, the elderly, or the terminally ill?
This is where God wants you to serve.
Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse. Proverbs 28:27
Some believers have a Spiritual gift to do these things, so it comes easily and naturally—it is a passion. But passion or not, we all have the responsibility to do something to make things better for the broken and thereby point to the love of Jesus.
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Hebrews 13:16
The good news is, you don’t have to figure out how to get close to the broken on your own. The Church at Severn Run has many ministries and program partners in the Baltimore area where you can fulfill the calling Jesus has put in front of you.
Here are some ways you can get involved—Right Here! Right Now!
With Ministries Like:
The Transformation Center
Bringing about transformed lives and transformed communities leading to a transformed city. It is the hub for many of our ministry Impact Project including Lilies Place (clothing and food distribution), Celebrate Recovery, and Beautiful Feet (homelessness ministry). There will be many upcoming opportunities as well such as the building construction projects, the school they are starting called Hope Academy, and the GED/Jobs Programs.
Based in Curtis Bay, The Well is a community of women mentoring and learning identity, value and giftedness. Lives are transformed through long-term relationships and practical programs that offer community, give opportunity and promote responsibility to lead women to the purpose God has for them. They need volunteers to help the women of the ministry.
Morningside House of Friendship
The first Thursday of each month you’ll find a room full of youth mingling, talking and singing with the elderly guests of Morningside as they participate in Collide’s monthly missions program. Morningside House of Friendship is an assisting living facility in Hanover MD. that partners with Severn’s youth ministry, Collide.
The International Justice Mission
A global organization that protects the poor from violence in the developing world. Their global team includes more than 750 lawyers, investigators, social workers, community activists and other professionals who work at 17 field offices, one of which is close to our area.
Partnering with Local Organizations Such As:
Local Police Departments (like this Connect Group did)
Local Fire Departments
Or with Churches Including:
Grace Redeemer Church
Building lives is a work of art. It is the work of the Master Artist - Jesus Christ. Come see what God has been doing through Grace Redeemer Community Church and get involved in their great missions projects.
Elevate Church is a diverse community of people. Located in the Eastport neighborhood of Annapolis, we desire to be a church that makes a difference in the lives of the community. Elevate Church exists to elevate the name of Jesus, equip believers for service, and to engage the community with service projects and the message of the transforming power of Jesus Christ. They are always looking for volunteers to help with missions projects.
The Broken Wall Project
A community of faith in West Baltimore seeking to integrate the values of authenticity, community, advocacy, and transformation as they follow Jesus believing that diversity ethnically, educationally, financially, and relationally makes everyone better. They hold services on Saturday evenings and need volunteers to help with many different projects.
Captivate Christian Church
Founded in Baltimore, Captivate Church is focused on bringing life by connecting people to God through Jesus. They provide a very real place of healing, grace and forgiveness. They need volunteers to help with projects in the Baltimore area.
Of course there are also many ways to serve at Severn Run as a volunteer in any of our ministries listed at severnrun.com/serve or specifically helping with some ministries reaching the broken and based on our campus like:
The Christian Assistance Program
A coalition of Severn-Odenton churches that provides food and clothing to needy families in the community. Donations are welcome every Sunday (you can find the monthly need focus in the church bulletin). Volunteers are always needed.
The Kairos Prison Ministry shares the transforming love and forgiveness of Jesus to impact the hearts and lives of incarcerated men, women, and youth, as well as their families, to help them become loving and productive citizens of their communities. Volunteer opportunities include prayer partners, food support, and for those speaking to inmates in the prisons.
Companions of Hope
A support ministry for cancer patients and their caregivers. Volunteers are needed for helping with welcome baskets, card making and writing, providing transportation to appointments, making meals or phone calls, and prayer.
Blanket the City
Spend a Saturday morning giving blankets, prayer and encouragement to the homeless in the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area. This opportunity only happens once per year, but affects lives for much longer.
Volunteer to help Severn Run host homeless men and women for a week at the church during the colder months of winter. This event takes many hands to make it work right. Volunteer to bring and serve food, or help during the day or nights wherever you are needed to help make our guests feel welcomed and loved.
Operation Christmas Child
In partnership with Samaritan’s Purse, Severn Run is a collection station for OCC Christmas boxes collected each fall. Fill a box, or volunteer to help collect, manage, pray for and deliver the boxes each Christmas season.
And more exciting opportunities to come like Samaritan Women and Hope House.
It all makes a difference. It all shows the love of Jesus to a broken world.
Where will you get involved? And when?
Here’s what to do next:
- Pray to see where God is telling you to serve
- Choose a place to volunteer
- Contact the church office or Vicki DeLair ( ) to get involved!
Here’s what not to do:
Don’t ignore this opportunity to share the love of Jesus as you were commanded.