Top Ten Reasons to Love the Church Fam

I’ve been thinking a lot about the body of believers, the local church, of which I am a part. When I interact with Ridgecrest Baptist Church, I see the Lord Jesus “with skin on.” So in February, the month of love, it’s very fitting I include a post about them.

TOP TEN REASONS TO LOVE THE CHURCH FAM

10.  Because Christ loved and died for the Church, so I ought to feel the same way about them. . .

9.  Because I realize they are simple sinners saved by grace. . .  .hallelujah, they’re just like me!

8.  Because they will pray you through to the other side, until God gives an answer. . .

7.  Because they will extend comfort to you from the Holy Spirit, as they themselves have also been comforted by Him. . .

6. Because God plays no favorites. . .  there’s neither Jew, nor Greek. . . neither male nor female. . we are all the same in God’s eyes.

5. Because  though as human beings we have definite preferences, as believers we should appreciate those differences and not allow them to divide us. . . .

4. Because God’s visible work in someone else’s life builds up my personal faith like nothing else does. . . .

3. Because God has equipped us with special gifts within the Body. . .to serve each other and to be His witnesses. . . .

2. Because without my brothers and sisters in Christ, I would be missing so much that’s valuable and lovely on this earth. . .

AND NUMBER ONE–

1.  We’d best love our church fam, because we’ll be spending an eternity in heaven right alongside of them!

Do you appreciate the great blessing of your local church family? Let us know!

Lookin’ up,

Sislyn

Haiti In My Heart

photo credit: Haiti Outreach Ministries

This post is about a country which I’ve never seen . . . but have carried in my heart for some time.

My home church, Ridgecrest Church, has been taking short-term mission trips to Haiti since 1999, once or twice a year.  Many times I wanted to go but could not, due to family issues or work issues. I have longed to see and touch and experience this country for myself.

But hallelujah, this time I’m going! Along with 26 other adults and teens (many of them seasoned veterans), we will be flying from Miami, Florida, into Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on April 7th and will be gone seven days during Easter week. We are going to assist Haiti Outreach Ministries, our partner organization in Haiti headed by Pastor Leon Dorleans, his wife Jacky, and daughter Nadege, to do whatever construction projects or other tasks they assign to us. (That’s Jacky’s and Nadege’s picture up there to the left.)

Haiti, as you can imagine, still carries devastating scars from the massive 2010 earthquake. Many of its buildings are toppled. High unemployment and a scarcity of food are great problems, especially in Port-au-Prince, its largest city with  1.25 million people squeezed into a 15-square-mile radius. Many Haitians still live in tent cities, constructed of whatever materials they could salvage to sleep under. It is in the tent cities where a cholera outbreak post-earthquake further decimated the population. Haiti’s fledging government, struggling under the newly-elected President Michel Martelly, is trying to stay afloat and strengthen the country’s fragile, almost nonexistent infrastructure.

I went looking online for a news update on Haiti and found what seems to be hopeful signs. A recent article by Laurent Dubois and Deborah Jenson (The New York Times, January 8, 2012) relates how Haiti can be re-born through its rich heritage of rural farming. “It is easy to forget that, for most of the 19th century, Haiti was a site of agricultural innovation, productivity and economic success,” the reporters stated. They went on to detail how this could happen:

Municipal governments should construct properly equipped marketplaces for the women who sell rural produce. The Haitian state should develop trade policies aimed at protecting the agricultural sector, and take the lead in fixing roads and ports, confronting deforestation and improving systems of water management. Foreign organizations working in the country can help simply by making it a policy to buy food and other goods from local producers.

The return on the investment in the rural economy would be self-reliance, the alleviation of dangerous overcrowding in cities and, most important, a path toward ending Haiti’s now chronic problems of malnutrition and food insecurity. As Haitians look to rebuild in 2012, the best blueprints will come from their own proud and vibrant history.

We pray for Haiti’s new economy.  May the people boldly return to their agrarian roots, rehabbing deforested wasteland into verdant farmland and self-sufficiently feeding themselves.  May their new government truly serve the people, instituting needed social structures to make its citizens’ lives better. May Haiti’s children grow up to be adults instilled with hope and pride in their future.

We believers continue to pray for great spiritual revival upon Haiti, too. May the ministries like those of Pastor Leon’s continue to reach and touch lives, leading souls to know the Bread of Life, the Living Water of Jesus Christ.

Would you join  me in prayer? Heavenly Father, we acknowledge You as Sovereign God. We pray that You create inroads for the revitalization of Haiti, Father. May You put into place everything needed for Haiti’s citizens to again flourish and grow their own food, to be a self-sustaining nation. May you continue a mighty spiritual revival, that many souls come to know You as Savior and Lord.  May You bless the contributions of those who go to be Your hands and feet. May whatever is left behind in Haiti lead to Your bigger Kingdom goals, Father. We ask all these things through Jesus’ name and though His authority only, Amen.

Lookin’ up,

Sislyn

P.S. The school featured  in the YouTube video below is one of the ongoing projects of the Haiti Outreach Ministries that we will visit, Repatriote School. Blessings!

Contentment: Guest Blog by Pam Vaughan

Contentment…that is the word that I believed God had for me in January of 2011.  I now imagine God smiling at me and saying to Himself, “Oh, you will be content, but not at all like you think!”  The Bible says in Jeremiah 29:11“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I believed that then, but what I did not know, however, was just how that plan would unfold.

What I did know is that I did not want my life to be defined by the divorce I had been through in 2009-10.  I wanted people to look at me and see my faith.  I prayed that God would still use my life somehow for Him and His glory.

I can now look back at that time in my life and see God’s hand in amazing ways.  That road was the most difficult I have ever traveled.  God carried me every step.  Never could I have walked it alone.  His provision for me strengthened my faith in so many ways as He took me to peace and contentment using His word.

He also gave me provision through family and friends:  loving Christian friends provided a home for me to live in with laughter and a “soft place to land”;  other friends stepped in and did everything from calculating my taxes to fixing my vacuum cleaner; and on Saturdays, different friends would call and ask me to eat dinner or come to a ball game.  Also, my career as an elementary school teacher flourished as I was given the opportunity to teach other teachers.  God also provided a friend to exercise  with me several times a week and give  me wise council.  My dear childhood buddy gave me words from the Bible to strengthen my soul. My family loved and supported me every day.

I later found a place to move into that I called my “place of peace”.   What a Savior!  I could not have asked for more.  But then, God is not at all bound by our imaginations!  The Bible also says in 2 Corinthians 9:8 “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

I decided in April of 2011 to come home to North Carolina during my spring break at school.  My mom arranged for she and I  to attend  a monthly meeting of the women’s ministry of my home church, Ridgecrest Baptist in Durham, called “Ladies’ First Tuesday”, to hear a testimony about my friend Joan Francis, who had passed away in 2010, given by her husband Marc and their daughter Rae.  Of course, I wanted to be there.  Joan, Marc and I were longtime friends.  I loved them dearly.

After the meeting, Marc and I connected and decided to catch up on each other’s lives.  I could never have imagined what would come next! Our catching up as friends turned into dating, and dating has now turned into our coming marriage in March of 2012!

Beginning in the spring of 2011, God began to move in the most unexpected ways!  From the opportunity to move back to North Carolina and find a teaching position at a time when hiring freezes were taking effect to returning to my home church and to the family that I love, He has brought amazing blessings to me.

Neither Marc nor I would have said on the day we sat down to catch up that it would lead to our relationship today! Out of pain and sadness in each of our lives, God provided love.  I could not have even imagined that God would bless my life more than He already had in taking care of me and assuring me that He would indeed continue to use me.  My plans were so small compared to His plans!

I hope that my testimony will convey that God has unfailing love in our darkest days and gives grace beyond our understanding for difficult times.  And praise goes to Him that He blesses us beyond measure when we least expect it!

Pam was raised in Durham, NC, where she has now returned to live.  Her parents, Wayne and Adele Alford, live in nearby Hillsborough, NC. She graduated from Gardner-Webb College with a degree in elementary education and is now teaching in Durham Public Schools as a third-grade teacher. She has two young adult children, Jay and Jordan. Pam’s warmth and infectious smile endears her to all who meet her and she’s quick to give God the praise for the blessings in her life.