Sunday, July 29, 2012

Run the Race

The past week has been a crazy one and so cool to see God at work!  We had Olympic Week Camp at Kirkwood.  We had the sweetest kids and best time through worship, skits to introduce the theme for each day, recreation, Bible study, missions, Olympic Games, crafts and cooking activities.  The week centered on "running with perseverace the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2)".  The theme song for the week was "Shout Your Fame" and we taught the children about giving Jesus the fame in all that they do.  We looked at Olympic athletes who exemplify this as well as missionaries serving in various countries around the world.  We prayed for chaplains and others over at the actual Olympic games who would be sharing the eternal hope we have in Jesus, that He would be on display for many to see throughout the next couple weeks in London.  We had a couple kids accept Christ and others asking questions about making their profession of faith public through baptism.  We also had an opportunity to get to know many of the parents better at pick-up and drop-off each day.  At the end of the week we had closing ceremonies where we invited the parents and had the kids perform one of the songs they learned, showed a video highlighting what the kids did, presented each child with a Gold Medal and an individual award of something the coaches saw them do really well throughout the week, and then presented a message to the parents!

One of my favorite parts of the week was seeing the members of Kirkwood Baptist Church being reminded how much FUN it is to serve and share Jesus with others - each of them who helped with camp did a great job working with the children. Also, my dear friend Dawn Canniff, who I served with in Honduras in March and then a few weeks ago with the Judson team that came to help with VBS, was back in town and she was a HUGE help! It was such a blessing seeing others step into leadership roles and use the gifts He has given them for His glory.

Here are some pictures highlighting the week:

Snowball Dodge - one of our Olympic events

The stage!

Team Honduras

Some of the Olympic athletes and coaches having fun!!

In the couple hours we had on the side, Dawn and I were able to hike part of Bridger Bowl, the local ski resort just outside Bozeman, as well as a quick trip on the Drinking Horse Mountain Trail and a trip to the Lewis and Clark Caverns.  Here are some pictures of the fun:

Hiking Bridger Bowl

Scouting out ski runs

Drinking Horse Mountain Trail

Just outside the Lewis and Clark Caverns

Inside the caverns

Inside the Caverns

Please pray for:
- Rest!  The last week was a crazy one!
- Upcoming events including a visit from Pastor's friends from Utah, Russ, Lesley and their children (who I met recently when I was down there) and a mission team coming into town on a scouting trip who will be helping with our Back to School Bash on the 11th!
- The Olympic athletes and chaplains serving over in London over the next couple weeks - that they can be a witness for Christ!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ." 2 Cor 1:3-5

I first wanted to thank each of you for the prayers you have lifted up and support you have shown through this time.  From my church family in Nashville, to those I know in Bozeman, to former golfing, ski and school buddies, to friends serving the Lord all over the world, God has put so many incredible people in my life.  There is no greater comfort we can receive than that of Jesus and I just wanted you each to know the prayers you have lifted up have been felt as His presence has been unmistakable over the past few weeks.  God is so faithful in every season of life when we look to and put our trust in Him.

I was in Utah for five days this past week taking care of things surrounding my dad's passing.  In addition to all the business/legal stuff to take care of, we had a sweet celebration of life to honor my dad.  Many people came, from some of his high school buddies, to relatives, to neighbors, to some people I had never met.  It was great to have everyone there and as my dad wished, "have people talk about how cool he was."  Everything went as smoothly as could be expected and I am grateful to everyone who came and for those who helped with the preparation for the celebration.

Also, I got a sweet surprise when Phil (aka Poppy) said he was going to fly into town.  It was such a blessing having a slice of home there and his support meant so much.

With Poppy in Midway, UT
 I also got to spend a lot of time with my uncle as well as my friend Nikki who I have skiied with in the winter since we were kids.

With my Uncle Bill (in the back), my friend Nikki and her parents
While in Utah I also got to meet with Pastor Russ and his wife Lesley who are friends of Pastor James and Misty who I am currently serving with in Montana.  It was so sweet to have lunch with them and hear about what God is doing in and through their ministry.  We had a sweet time praying for each other, and I also was privileged to go to service at their church (First Baptist Provo) Sunday when I was in town.

I made it back to Bozeman Monday morning after the time in Utah and tried to rest up a little bit, but pretty much hit the ground running.  Pastor James and Misty's good friends from Tennessee, Natalie and Jonathan along with their two kids, are in town and they have been a great encouragement and help.  The biggest task has been getting ready for a week of camp I am directing beginning July 23rd (next Monday).  The theme is Olympic Week: Run the Race (Hebrews 12:1-2).    Please pray for the children that will be coming and their families that they will hear and respond to the Gospel, as well as for the workers that they will see God working in and through their lives.

Gearing up for Olympic Week
Please also pray for:
-The Youth Bash Cookout we have coming up this Saturday at the park! 
-Partnerships in the community - God has started to put people in our path that could potentially be great to partner with in the ministry in Bozeman and the greater part of Montana - grateful for that and please continue to pray for upcoming meetings and potential opportunties.
-All the work I will still have to do in the coming months in relation to my dad's passing.
-Continue to pray for Pastor James and Misty as they are expecting their 4th child in October!

No matter what season of life we are walking through we can always trust in the Lord and what He is doing.  His ways are so much higher than ours and His plans are always greater than ours.  Through each moment these past few weeks He has been present, and for that, I give Him all the glory... We serve a God who can relate to everything we are going through.  As it says in the Word, each moment it is possible to "cast your worries and cares upon the Lord because He cares about you (1 Peter 5:7)." 

I will post updates after camp next week!  Please drop me a line anytime with specific ways I can be praying for you!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

In A Flash...

A mission team from Oak Ridge, Tennessee was in town this week.  They helped with landscaping around the church, construction of a deck for a sweet elderly couple and held a three day "Backyard Bible Club" in the neighborhood where we have the kickball ministry.  That ended with a cookout, bouncies for the kids, and a gospel presentation for the children and families there.  We had a lot of great conversations and some of the children signed up for another week of camp we are hosting later in the summer.

There were 34 members on the mission team, about 20 of which were youth.  I got to lead their team devotion Friday night and shared the passage from Matthew 7:24-27 which says:

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had it's foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."

I spoke about the importance of knowing where our foundation lies, especially when the storms of life come.  Jesus Christ is the only sure foundation that can never be shaken.  Because of what He has done for us, no matter our circumstances, we can always say, "But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more (Psalm 71:14)."  I encouraged the youth to put what God has taught them in His Word into practice, using their gifts for His glory each day of their lives.

We had an exciting Sunday today too: Two boys, Keagan (6) and Cole (13), got baptized to show everyone they had accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  Also, Jacey, Nick, and Mason, the three brothers who have been coming to kickball club and also attended Vacation Bible School came to church this Sunday!  They are precious and I was able to take them to lunch afterwards.  It is so sweet seeing each of these children grow in their relationship with the Lord.

Cole getting baptized

Keagan getting baptized

With Mason, Nick and Jacey - LOVE them!

Please pray for the following:
-Conversations with families of the children we have been working with this summer.  As we meet their needs physically, whether it be through food, clothing, shelter or other necessities, please pray it opens the door to share the love of Jesus with them and their families.
-The outdoor worship service at the Covered Wagon on Sunday, July 15th
-The Mid-Summer Youth Bash Cookout at a local park, Saturday, July 21st
-Olympic Week Summer Camp - July 23-26th at the church

Dawn Canniff (from Judson Baptist in Nashville) is coming back to Bozeman to help out with Olympic Week!!  We served together in Honduras in March 2012 as well as on the most recent Judson mission team that came here to Montana, and she felt led to come back and help.  She is a dear friend and I am SO grateful to have a slice of Nashville return for that week.  Love seeing people step out in faith and have a desire to experience God working in a whole new way!

Shout out:
Also, a quick shout out to Duane Blasdel, the Youth Pastor at Judson who I heard via Facebook (where else?) is moving back to NY at the end of the summer to take over as a Camp Director there. You have blessed all the Youth at Judson in many ways and we are all excited to see how God uses you and your family as you transition to New York - I know you will be missed by all those in Nashville!

I am heading to Utah July 11th-July15th to take care of things surrounding my dad's passing.  We are having a celebration of life for him July 14th at my uncle's house in Midway (just outside Park City).  Please pray for the time I will be there and all the details surrounding that time.  For those that have asked, here is a link to my dad's obituary that was in the paper today in Utah:

Thank you to all of you who I have continually heard from through this time - no words can properly express my gratitude.  I send my love to all of you.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Father's Love...

What a week.  The Judson Baptist mission team (from my home church in Nashville, Tennessee) came in to town to assist with a Block Party, Vacation Bible School, the kickball club ministry and helping to prepare for another week of camp being held here in July.  They were such a blessing to have in town.  Our devotions each night centered on trusting God and giving Him control of our lives, as we heard testimonies of God doing extraordinary things through the lives of ordinary people who had surrendered their lives to Him.  Six children that came to VBS gave their lives to Christ and through the mission offering taken up, we received the amount necessary to purchase the facility for the orphanage that Kirkwood supports in Haiti, which will allow them to better use their funds to take care of the children who lost their parents in the earthquake down there a couple years ago.

Here is a link to a video with many pictures that highlight the mission team's trip:

It was truly such a blessing having the team in town for more reasons than just ministry...

Many of you have heard by now that my dad passed away unexpectedly this past week.  The following is just a small testimony to what God did through the tragedy.

"We must know sorrow to be able to fully appreciate joy."

We serve a faithful God.  I hope this encourages all of you who ever have or will walk through a hard time, that in all circumstances He will carry you and surround you with His presence if you trust in Him and fall into His arms...
On Wednesday, June 27th about 4:45pm I received a call we all hope to never get.  It was from my uncle telling me my dad had passed away unexpectedly (we later found out it was a heart attack).  It was about 45 minutes before Vacation Bible School was to begin and we were presenting the Gospel that night to the children.  I told two of my sweet friends from the Judson team about my dad and they prayed for me and I asked them not to tell the rest of the team until after VBS was over that evening.  After only by the grace of God making it through the evening and finishing up recreation time with the children, I walked back into the church and the first words spoken to me were, "Jacey (one of my favorite boys) accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior tonight!"  It was at that moment I lost it as I experienced the deep sorrow of losing my father, but also unexplainable joy in hearing of a boy I had grown to love so much coming to know his Heavenly Father, an eternal relationship that can never be shaken.  I learned there were a couple other kids who had given their lives to Jesus Christ that night as well.  As everyone from Judson and Kirkwood serving at VBS gathered after the children had departed, one of our other team leaders informed everyone about my situation.  Immediately the team of about 30 encircled me and prayed.  As we all cried, God's presence filled the room in an unmistakable way.  Over the final two days of Vacation Bible School along with family day Sunday at church, we continued to see God working in the lives of the children and I had a team of unbelievable people surrounding me in person, as well as so many of you I heard from via phone, text, Facebook and email... there are no words that I can express to thank you for the love and support so many of you have shown through this time. 

As I spoke to the team the next evening I shared the fact that we have choices each day that include:
1) putting our hope in His Word and what Jesus has done for us
2) to walk in obedience to His plan because His ways are higher than ours (even when we don't understand at the time)
3) to use the gifts He has given us for His glory because our time is short and we never know which day will be our last.

The following comes from verses in Psalm 33-34 and is written to reflect the promises of the Lord when we choose to stand on His Word.  May we all be able to say...

"We will wait in hope for the Lord and know He is our help and shield.  Our hearts will rejoice in Him as we trust His holy name.  His unfailing love will rest upon us as we put our trust in Him.  We will extol the Lord at all times.  His praise will always be on our lips.  Our souls will boast in the Lord, and those who are afflicted will hear and rejoice.  Let us glorify the Lord and exalt His name together.  We will hold fast to the promise that when we seek the Lord, He answers us and delivers us from our fears.  He tells us that if we look to Him we will be radiant and our faces will never be covered with shame.  We will taste and see that the Lord is good, and hold fast to His promise that those who fear Him lack nothing and those who seek Him lack no good thing."

The world we live in is not an easy one.  Unexpected things happen that threaten to take our breath away.  The importance of preparing daily and knowing where our hope lies has never been more evidenced in my life than through this past week.  No amount of works or religion can get you through these times, only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ can, for that is a foundation that can never be shaken.

Here is the latest:
Since my dad had stated previously he didn't want a funeral, but a celebration, my uncle and I have begun planning that.  It will be on Saturday, July 14th in Midway, Utah near where my dad lived.  We will be able to celebrate and rejoice in the years we had with my father and as he apparently stated to my uncle some time back that when he went we all needed to "get together and talk about how cool he was."  As his nickname was Old Joe Cool, I think it will be quite appropriate.

Please pray as I continue to deal with this news over the coming weeks and will be able to grieve appropriately while also reflecting on the sweet times my dad and I had together.  Also pray I will continue to put my hope and trust in God through each day. 

On the ministry side, there is another mission team from Oak Ridge, TN arriving this week to run a Backyard Bible Club in a local neighborhood, so please pray for them this week as well.

Thanks so much to everyone again for your love and support through this time.

Here are a couple pictures of the sweet people I was surrounded by this week here in Bozeman:

Judson and Kirkwood folks serving at VBS

Hyalite Canyon with part of team

With the Hammers family

With the Hayes family hiking to Sacagawea Peak (9665 ft)
in the Bridger Mountains

Praying for Bozeman after hiking the "M" trail
that overlooks the city

Third mission trip serving with Misty,
twice to Honduras and now here in MT, such a blessing