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An Oaxaca Thanksgiving!

Over Thanksgiving a team of nine, including five people from the Lincoln Park Campus and four of their family members, traveled to Tlacolula, Oaxaca, Mexico to serve Thanksgiving Dinner at a children’s home.  This dinner provides an opportunity for the home to thank those in Tlacolula for the help they have provided over the past year (everyone from the mayor, to the person who helps service the IT needs, to those who minister alongside the home in their community).

As we were leaving to go grocery shopping on Wednesday morning we were told about some budgetary constraints this month that left the food supply for meals at a bare minimum.  For dinner they had bread and hot chocolate one night last week – things were that tight!  We were also told the number of guests may be closer to 200 rather than the 150 we had planned for.  Additionally, we were shopping with a much smaller budget than we had used last year.

We were only able to get 1/2 of what we needed for some of the recipes including 1/10th of what we needed for the sweet potatoes, we were short 3 turkeys based on what was needed for 150 people (closer to 5 turkeys for 200 people), we purchased only 1/3 of the russet potatoes needed and we thought we were still a bit over budget.

Before we began to cook on Thursday morning, we prayed as a team asking for patience during the cooking process, reminders of why we were serving, and that He literally multiply our meal to allow for enough to feed the group we were serving.  As we were cooking there did not seem to be nearly enough food.  In fact, the phrase of the day seemed to be “Oh well, I am not going to worry about it, it will all work out.”

As we were serving the food we noticed it literally wasn’t depleting!  Someone mentioned that when she was walking by the stuffing that the quantity was not getting any lower.  Then, someone else noticed the abundance of potatoes – we did not even deplete the first vat of mashed potatoes and there were two large vats left as well.  A third person noticed the same with the drinks – the amount in the serving buckets did not seem to be disappearing much from where we had started even though she was serving almost 200 guests.  This continued item by item.  Even the 1/10th of the sweet potato recipe ended up lasting to feed everyone who came through the line for first and second helpings.  We realized while we were packaging up the left-over’s that not only were we able to feed almost 200 people but there was enough food left to feed the home for at least a week if not more.  We also had ingredients left over that we had not even needed to use, such as 2 bags of cornmeal that the home can use over the next few weeks.

It was truly amazing!  The girls and I walked back from the dining hall completely awestruck!   We just witnessed Him answering our prayers and multiplying the food not only for the meal but for days ahead!   We just witnessed a loaves and fishes miracle!

But the answers to our prayers did not end there.  Based upon the exchange rate when we left, we figured we had been over budget by about $100.  However, when we totaled the receipts with the currency rate adjustments they totaled $0.32 less than our total budget!   All was provided for EXACTLY as we needed!

Turkey Team 2011

This year we sent two teams to Turkey to work with the locals in order to spread the Gospel. This is the story of our teams and the work that God accomplished through them.

Joplin Update

When the fatal tornado struck Joplin, MO as a church we decided to help those whose homes were destroyed and were left with nothing. We sent a team immediately to help those in need, while we also extended the invitation for donations. Below is a letter we have received from the church to whom our donations were received. Continue to pray for this community as they seek to rebuild what has been lost.

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your generous gifts to the tornado relief fund of Forest Park Baptist Church. Much of my city lies in ruins, but the concern and love shown by people like you has made a powerful difference.

My church has 104 families whose homes/apartments were destroyed or damaged. About half of these were not insured or under-insured. Your gift has helped these families get into rental housing, obtain basic necessities, and put food on the table–even if that table is borrowed or donated. In addition, through our new Mission Joplin ministry, we are serving about 150 families each day. We have turned our bus barn into a distribution center with food, clothing, hygiene items, housewares, cleaning products, etc. Those hit by the tornado are welcome to take what they need…for free. It is the store with no cash register! For more information visit missionjoplin.tv.

Each person who goes through Mission Joplin is assigned a “personal shopper” to assist them. In addition to helping them find what they need, we share the Gospel with them and pray for their needs. Yesterday I took three people, all of whose homes had been destroyed, through our center, and I had the joy of leading one to pray to receive Christ. We have seen that meeting physical needs opens the door to meet spiritual needs.

We ask for your continued prayers. This is the biggest challenge I’ve faced in 29 years of pastoring. The need is enormous. But God is always bigger than our need. Thank you again for your generous gift.

Much love,

Dr. John Swadley

Received – $3,690

Reflections from Istanbul

Merhaba! The past two and a half days we have been able to see the
historical side of Istanbul. We have packed our things from Uskudar and
moved over to Sultanahmet. The two areas couldn’t be more different.
Uskudar, where Jen and Armando live, is a more conservative area with many
homes and big, fresh produce markets. Then Sultanahmet is rich in history
and is where most of the tourists stay. Many of us had a chance to visit the
Ayasofia Mosque, the Blue Mosque, and experience the Grand Bazaar. All are
unique experiences while in Istanbul!

With our final day in Istanbul coming to a close, our family of eight came
together to reflect on what God has done and how He has made Himself known
throughout this trip in Turkey. As we debriefed about the trip, we started
off sharing the one word descriptions that came to mind about the Turkish people. A couple that
came to mind:

Hospitable: The Turkish people are so incredibly hospitable and many of us
have had first hand experiences with this. Julie and Kat met a covered
Turkish woman named Fatma on that ferry early on in the week and finally had
the opportunity to meet up with her on Saturday in Sultanahmet. The day was
full of Fatma showing them many of the different historical sites in Turkey
and then taking them out to lunch. From those walks and visits, many doors
were opened for them to discuss faith on both ends. They are excited for
what this relationship will bring in the future!

Generous: Bret, Joe and Chris had the opportunity to meet up with one of
Joe’s friends who he met three years ago. The conversation was amazing as they
were able to talk through what trusting God looked like. They talked for
hours and after a while, as they were getting ready to make arrangements for
heading home, their friend was so kind to ride with them on the ferry home
and then arrange a cab for them. He had gone out of his way to spend not
just time with them for dinner and tea, but also to help them on the way
home when he lived in the opposite direction.

As we closed the night off with our team dinner, we all reflected on a few
different things. This trip was eye opening and thought provoking. It
was also a challenge to follow God even closer as we realize His heart for
the nations. Lastly, it is a chance to invest in the lives of the refugee
children in hopes that they might see Christ one day.

We begin the journey home tomorrow with more than just an experience of
Turkey, but a piece of Turkey in our hearts forever.

Julie and Kat

Joplin Relief Team Update

Last month the Midwest was rocked by the worst tornadoes we’ve experienced in the last 50 years. The devastation is simply staggering. We have reached out to College Heights Church in Joplin which is acting as a local coordinator for response and supply efforts. A team from Park has also traveled to Joplin, MO to support in the relief efforts.

Below is a video update of what our team experienced in Joplin, and some things that were done to impact that place with the Gospel…

Turkey Team Update

Hey Park!

Our team (Joe, Donna, Bret, Kat, Julie, Katie, Beth, and Chris) has arrived
safely in Istanbul, in the neighborhood of Uskudar! Thankfully, our travel
was uneventful for the most part, and we arrived around 5:30pm Saturday
evening. We were greeted at the airport by Donna, who had arrived here a day
earlier.

We have been blessed by an amazing host couple, Armando and Jen Robles, who
have generously offered their home to us for the next 6 days. They work here
full-time with refugees and with the Union Church of Istanbul. They have
three (really cute) sons who have love playing, dancing and wrestling with
us! On Saturday evening after arriving, we went to dinner together at a
local restaurant down the street and ate some incredible Turkish food. We
finished the night off with some great dondurma (Turkish ice cream).

On Sunday, we took the ferry to the European side of Istanbul and went to
the 11am service at Union Church where Armando preached on Psalm
39. We then spent some time walking through the city and seeing the various
markets and restaurants. On the ferry ride, Donna began a conversation with
a young Turk who told us about the restaurant where he works which is also owned by his family. Joe and Chris began talking with him and he enjoyed practicing his English with us. His English is very good, and we told him that we would come to his restaurant to see him this week. We did have to clarify at certain points, as he thought that Joe was 60 years old! We stopped by the restaurant after church and he treated us to chai and fresh fruit. The guys are planning to go to dinner at his restaurant on Tuesday
evening and will hopefully meet up again this week to help him practice English.

Today, we held the first day of our VBS at the church. Approximately 40 refugee children from various countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa attended. The day went great, although a bit chaotic at times, so we just need to make some tweaks so that we accomplish our goals for the week. We will be leading this each weekday from 11am-3pm and it should be a great way to share God’s love for them! Please pray for flexibility in our approach, wisdom and patience with the children, and clarity of our message. Also,
please pray for our making connections with local Turks here and starting conversations each day – that they would lead to relationships and the opportunity to share our faith.

It has been a great few days already, and we are looking forward to a great
week in Istanbul! Please look for another post on Wednesday and continue to
keep us in your prayers.

-Joe and Chris

Update from Joplin Relief Team

Hello Park!

We arrived in Joplin, MO late Wednesday night after a long but safe trip with 11 Park volunteers and a truck full of supplies to donate. When we first arrived, we had no idea what to expect and were eager to help after spending time in prayer. We had seen photos of the devastation and got a glimpse of the destruction on our way to the work site early Thursday morning. We signed in at the Americorps location at Southern Missouri University in Joplin with about 100 other workers. We were then were bussed to the work site. It took a while to sign in and get everything organized, but when we eventually got out to the site, it was overwhelming to see the destructive force of the tornado in the neighborhood. There were houses that had been nearly flattened to the ground and belongings were tossed everywhere in heaps. My initial reaction was to question: How could anyone survive this? Scott Clifton describes it well when he compares what took place here to someone coming in and picking up your house, flipping it upside down, shaking everything out and then just throwing it back down on the ground. Trees were stripped bare and many were completely uprooted. When we first arrived, it seemed like it would be difficult to make an impact as the damage was so extensive. It reminded me of the task of Christian ministry which can seem daunting on our own. But through the work of volunteers from across the country we came together as God’s hands and feet to make a significant difference in the cleanup effort. After spending our day on the cleanup crew, we spent the evening working with Forest Park Baptist Church in Joplin. This church has very effectively organized a food and supply depository for those in need. The depository holds everything from clothing to toiletries to Bibles and of course, an army’s supply of canned food. This depository has already been a blessing to many victims of the tornado, and will continue to serve them for many months to come. As Christians we are not alone, and this trip has encouraged us through seeing our brothers and sisters in Christ coming together to support each other in a time of great need.

Please continue to pray for the community here!

Molly


East Asia Team Return

The team is back from East Asia!  It was an incredible 10 days of seeing God move in the hearts and minds of the students we met.  It was also an incredible 10 days of seeing God moving in the hearts and minds of each of the team members too.  After we taught the university classes we all had several opportunities to meet up with students and begin to build relationships.  God was faithful in giving each of us ways to share the gospel as we spent time with the students in cafeterias, coffee shops, at dinner, playing sports.  Some team members even experienced one of the students’ favorite things to do… Karaoke!

Doing life together with the students over the 5 days allowed for some great relationships to form and technology will allow us to continue to foster those relationships as we water the seeds of the gospel that were planted.  Several of us have already been emailing back and forth with the students since we have been back in the states.

Here is an excerpt from an email sent to one of our team members from a student they spent time with:

“Thank you for the reply my letter! I am so happy! I think this time you have in Chicago. Are you miss you home so much? Every day I always study English at school.  I always talk about you with my friend. I recently I was reading the book. This book was you sent me. Do you remember? This book can give me a lot of about west knowledge. Sometime I can talk about this book with my friends.”

The book she is referring to is called “The Life of Jesus.”  It is a compilation of the four Gospels and was written in their language and English.  That way the students can learn about the life of Jesus and practice their English, which was exciting for them.

We ask for continued prayers for the people we shared the gospel with as well as the friends they will share our conversations with.  As you can see from the student’s email, conversations are being sparked with their friends!  Also, please pray for our team members – that we stay engaged with these students and that the Holy Spirit guides us as we continue to communicate through email.

After arriving back in America, many of us are feeling the full impact of the trip as we unpack our experience.  It is very moving and humbling that God enabled us to be His hands and feet.  What an awesome privilege to be stretched and refined as we shared our lives and the gospel with people half way around the world.  To Him be the glory!

- Lisa B.

Update from East Asia Team

This just in from our team currently serving in East Asia:

Hey all,

Just a quick check in. The team is doing great.  Between the 10 of us, we have been to several universities and have taught over 40 classes, mostly to Freshman and Sophomores.

It has been a pretty cool experience interacting with the
students – the main objective was to use teaching as a means to meet the
students in class and then have a chance to meet up with them again during
the week to build relationships.  This has been working out great – God
has been faithful in bringing people to us that we can share His Truth
with.

Last night, a couple of us met up with 4 girls from a class we taught.  One accepted Christ! Amen! Her American name is Kitty – please pray for her that her faith takes root and grows!! Two of the other girls are still asking very good questions and the team has been great at continuing to meet with them – please pray for them as well.

A guy on our team and I met with some guys after a class and one has been reading the Bible since high school  – he does not get the full impact of the Gospel message and salvation but he too is asking good questions and is a very good critical thinker – please pray for him -his name is Jammy in English. The other guy Christi started reading the Bible about a year ago because he wanted to learn English.  Great place to start!  Please pray for his heart to accept Christ too!

Tonight a few of us met with 7 students and hung out for about 5 hours at a coffee shop – we had great conversations about Christ and many seeds were planted.

Many of the other team members are building relationships with the students as well so please pray for their conversations. Most of the people here do not really have any kind of belief or faith – at least the kids we are talking to.

As the team continues to meet up with several students in the next 2 days – please pray that those meetings are fruitful.

Hope all is well on your side of the world.

Who You Were Made to Be

At 26 years old, I moved to Chicago to lead my Fortune 5 company’s 
Midwest portfolio. I was to lead 100 contractors, clients, and 
teammates in a male-dominant industry; none of these associates directly
reported to me and I had to quickly learn to lead by influence rather 
than just by direction of my authority. Still, I felt pressure to be 
aggressive to meet a 9-figure budget, obstacles as large as our business
 goals, and was far away from the security of corporate headquarters and
 mentors who nurtured me. God made me a strong-willed, assertive, and a 
bit tom-boyish female, but also with a deep care to connect with people, 
enable their efforts, and nurture their gifts.  In 2006, He gave me a 
clear vision to not seek to become great, but to seek to make others
 great.  I wondered how I would balance these characteristics in my new 
environment when executives put me in the spotlight.Working hard to meet our goals in a grueling, fast-paced environment
 required great time and energy from my team; they needed to be 
encouraged, helped, and enabled daily while they were away from their
loved ones during consecutive long work days and under great pressure. 
They also needed to produce excellence and be held accountable.  God 
used this role as a pivotal point to teach me the freedom and
opportunity I had of being a woman in the workplace.

Leading through influence and enabling my teammates in their expertise 
became vital to my and my team’s success.  I never thought about being
 female as an advantage or disadvantage in the workplace.  It just was 
what it was.  However, my managers and clients continued to give me high
 marks for not only “what” I accomplished, but “how.”  It appeared to me
 that some of my more ‘feminine’ and “Christ-like” traits of building
 close, trusting relationships, taking care to engage in teammates lives, 
and seeking to come alongside them with help versus direction were
 nurturing the health of the team and increasing the quality of ‘what’ we 
delivered.  Because I could not lead from the knowledge and experience I 
lacked, I learned to lead by listening, enabling, and influencing.  I
 became the teammate people would call in times of trouble, when they 
needed a trusted ear.  It felt natural AND it produced results.
 WIN-WIN!

This observation was particularly insightful by learning early on what 
NOT to do.  I admit there were many times when, in insecurity, I threw 
the weight of my position around in directives; this was when I was
 afraid of not knowing the answer or not being taken seriously.  I 
withheld help or support when I didn’t feel supported by a colleague and
 I ‘nagged’ associates who weren’t performing instead of addressing the
 root cause of their behavior in love.  In a male dominant world where I
 didn’t want sexuality to be on the table, it was tempting to be more
 masculine in the way I talked, joked, dressed, and even thought; seeking 
man’s approval began to strip my real personality and sense of identity.

Fear was a powerful force in realms of high expectations, and I started 
to see myself as one of the frantic, domineering, over-committed and 
detached workforce women I swore never to become (this can happen as
 much to men or non-workforce women).  Frankly, I believe these women are 
seeking to be seen just as men are seen, overlooking the great value they
 bring as a strong, wise female, and looking to society’s measure of a
 woman’s worth rather than God’s. I now had compassion on these women for 
why they developed these distasteful traits, and deep down, I knew that this was not God’s design for me or them as His daughters.

God began to show me that behaving in those ways is counterproductive in
 His Kingdom (and to my company in the long run), to the peace, unity, 
help, and life that I could bring my teammates. The more I sought to
 serve my team and colleagues in truth AND in 
grace, the better results we produced.  It was NOT easy!  The more I
 served, the more they and God became great.

I left this corporation 5 months ago to follow God’s call to start a
 socially-focused business.  Friends see starting a business as a woman
 as a sure death-trap to my marriage eligibility and you may agree. :) 
Yet I see this calling as distinctly feminine: God has called me to
 design and create a workplace that ENABLES entrepreneurs to make the
 marketplace their ministry and builds UNIFYING PARTNERSHIPS across
ministries to better serve the poor, orphaned, enslaved, etc. through
 marketplace business. In understanding my identity in Christ and His 
design for me, I can be free to lead as a woman and not try to be a man.
 I can encourage people’s gifts by creating a space for them to share,
 explore and deliver marketplace results while still balancing the need
 to be decisive, drive results, and hold them accountable.  I can 
proactively initiate an environment that seeks to respond to their needs 
in wisdom, strength, and biblical truth.  It is my prayer that men and
 women of God may take Christ’s words in John 15:4 to remain in Him and
 He will remain in us to produce lasting fruit just as we are.

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