Do you remember heading off to college? I vaguely remember this event. Somehow, as it was 35 years ago now, a few of the details have faded. What is fresh in my mind is taking my own children to college for their freshman year. I remember not only the emotions of dropping them off, but pragmatically, I remember how much it cost (real caring, I know). Not only is college tuition expensive, but the “incidentals” are a killer. They add up, and add up fast.
This spring and summer, we once again helda very successful grad-pack drive for our ministry partner, Cristo Rey. As a reminder, Cristo Rey is a college preparatory high school committed to bringing an excellent education to some of the most vulnerable students in our city. With its teaching staff and the commitment of the business community in Kansas City, culturally diverse students with economic need receive a college prep education made meaningful through an innovative corporate work study program.
Our annual grad-pack drive seeks to provide many of the basic “incidentals” a student will need for their freshman year of college. From a high quality backpack to school supplies, to bedding, towels, and toiletries, each student receives nearly $200 in supplies. In addition, our drive provides extra funds for students who need additional help purchasing books and other last minute supplies when they arrive on campus.
This year we expanded our project to include contributions to Cristo Rey’s tuition assistance fund. This allows students who need assistance with their high school fees to stay in school.
Your generosity in this year’s drive provided $19,625. We provided various supplies to 78 graduates and contributed more than $10,000 to the tuition assistance program. Thank you for making a massive difference in the lives of these graduates, and the underclassmen who will be able to complete their education as a direct result of your generosity.
One of our great privileges as a church is that we can partner with brothers and sisters in Christ around the world who are also doing the work of multiplying churches, disciples, and leaders. Together we are advancing this mission to multiply across Kansas City and around the world.
Our partner Eleventh Hour Network, focuses on evangelism and church planting among Muslims in northeastern Kenya. Here is just one recent example of how God is powerfully at work. —
I recently witnessed a testimony that moved my heart so deeply, I had to share it with you.
Two nights ago at the Evangelical Outreach, a possessed young man entered the church where we camped around midnight. He had escaped from his parent’s home, running through thorny bushes in the dark until he collapsed inside our compound. We ran to see what was going on, yet were rightly afraid that the conflict zone surrounding us had erupted.
After the excitement quieted, one of the evangelists recognized the young man as a student from the nearby university who had dropped out a few years ago due to mental illness. The young man’s Muslim parents searched for healing among the well-known witchdoctors, healers, and by attending sacrifices, yet his situation worsened.
Finally, the Holy Spirit got a hold of him to break the chain his parents used to keep him from wandering away from home. It’s then that the Lord led him to run to the church where we were gathering.
We felt the Lord brought him to us at such a time as this for healing. We agreed to pray for him the whole night.
God, very rich in His mercy, set him free from the demonic spirit. For the past two days, this young man has helped set up Jesus film equipment and joined in morning prayer, fasting and sharing his testimony during fellowship.
Yesterday, his parents came to see him in the church. To their amazement, he told them he did not want to go back home. He wanted to stay in the church with Christian families. Remember, he is a Muslim.
Shortly after that, I lead this young man to accept Christ, and the Lord restored his health and state of mind. This afternoon, he went out with the outreach team as a translator.
Indeed, there is nothing too hard for the Lord!
Kindly continue to pray for safety as we travel, and more stories of the transformative power of God.
Thank you for your generosity that allows our church family to partner with the work that God is doing around the world. May we learn from these partners in ministry who are faithfully bearing witness to the good news that Jesus is alive, and that death has been defeated!
Guest Author: Eddie Wright, Principal Hogan Preparatory Academy
What does it look like for the church to partner with local schools?
Answering this question is often hard. Many people don’t know how to best plug in to a school if they don’t personally have students enrolled. Christ Community has done a great job of helping connect individuals and groups from the church to local schools. This year, the Downtown Campus partnered with two local schools: Crossroads Academy – Central Street, and Hogan Preparatory Academy – High School.
What are some of the best ways for a church to support its local schools?
First and foremost, keep schools in prayer throughout the school year.
Second, supply drives throughout the course of the year are extremely beneficial. The Downtown Campus hosts several supply drives for each school. The goal is to be strategic with the timing of these drives: school supplies are naturally in highest demand at the beginning of the school year, then, as fall and winter approach, hats, gloves, scarves, and coats are very much needed for students who don’t own these items.
Third, another thoughtful way that church groups can support local schools is by providing treats for the teachers.
Here are a few examples of Christ Community’s support of these local schools through their Downtown Campus:
THANK YOU NOTES – recently the H3 men’s group of the Downtown Campus wrote thank you cards to each of the teachers at Crossroads Academy, and dropped off a bunch of snacks at their teacher’s lounge along with the cards.
GOODIE JARS – Cultivate Community women’s group gathered and filled goodie jars for the teachers at Crossroads Academy.
MEN’S NIGHT – the H3 men’s group hosted a Men’s Night at the Downtown Campus where they watched a football game, wrote thank you cards, and put together packs of supplies for teachers at Hogan Prep. A “Thank You” card for hard-working educators with some goodies goes a long way!
Of course, time is one of the most valuable resources provided to the school. School events throughout the year welcome volunteers in a short term capacity. Events like school carnivals, parent-teacher conferences, assemblies, and other one-time volunteer opportunities are great places to plug in, both individually and as a group.
Schools often have other places to volunteer with a deeper level of engagement. Examples of these volunteer positions would be a weekly reading mentor, a student leadership mentor, or even a regular lunchroom monitor. Typically, the goal is to involve a person or group in the school community in ways that highlight their strengths.
In short, schools partner with many local groups, agencies, and organizations, but too often this doesn’t include the local church. Christ Community’s Downtown Campus has done a great job of changing that narrative. While it can be challenging to work with students, it’s my hope that the few avenues mentioned here (prayer, school supply drives, etc.), paired with some small examples from what we are doing at the Downtown Campus, will encourage you to continue to press into partnerships with local schools.
The outreach team at our Leawood Campus has been seeking a deeper understanding of God’s purposes as we commit to serving those in our community, city, and world with the love of Christ Jesus. To help us in this quest, we’ve been studying Christopher Wright’s book The Mission of God’s People.
Dr. Wright describes the church as “a missional community of those who have responded to, and entered, the kingdom of God by repentance and faith in Christ, and who now seek to live as transformed and transforming communities of reconciliation and blessing in the world.”
This beautiful description is captivating and deeply Scriptural. What does it mean to be a community of blessing?
The motif of blessing is woven throughout the pages of Scripture from Genesis 1 forward. God blesses his creation, meaning he bestows his favor, protection and divine empowerment to enable his creatures to fulfill their calling (to be fruitful and multiply) and to his human image bearers (to rule and to reign and to cultivate and keep). Most importantly, the state of blessing is found in a dependent, personal relationship with God…to be one of His children.
We know all too well that this original state of blessedness was shattered when sin entered the world. Curses resulted and relationships were fractured, including our relationship to the earth, with one another, and ultimately with our Creator. However, God’s desire to bless His creation remained and by Genesis 12, we enter into His redemption plan to redeem and restore His world to a state of blessedness.
God approaches Abram (Abraham) and commands him to go to a new land where he will be blessed. “And I will make you a great nation and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” [emphasis added]
God blesses Abraham, and in turn, Abraham’s family will become a blessing. This is God’s multiplication plan of blessing in this renewal of creation in Abraham. He and his descendants are blessed (find favor with God) and, in turn, as God’s image bearers, they will bless others. Blessing is missional!
God chooses to mediate His blessing to humanity through humanity.
Paul deepens this truth in Galatians 3:8-9:
“And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations shall be blessed in you.’ So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham the believer.”
How? Verses 13-14:
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’—in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
In Christ Jesus, we may experience God’s blessing. In fact, Ephesians 1 declares that God has “blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” (v. 3) Further, we are told that God will one day unite all things in Christ, bringing heaven and earth together (v. 10).
This is where we find ourselves in the story. We’ve entered the kingdom of blessedness, knowing the future of ultimate blessedness when Christ is reigning over all; but knowing, in the meantime, that we remain in the still fallen world, where we proclaim our King and demonstrate His righteousness.
“To be Christian is to be obliged to engage the world, pursuing God’s restorative purposes over all of life,” James Davison Hunter.
At Christ Community, we partner in our city and world with communities of blessing, such as: The Hope Center, who provides healthcare, education and leadership training for youth on our city’s east side; Advice and Aid, which brings emotional, practical, and spiritual support to women facing an unplanned pregnancy in the KC area; the Shyira Diocese, which provides pastoral care and community development in Rwanda; Mission Adelante, which serves immigrants and refugees in Kansas City by meeting their needs and sharing the gospel; and Eleventh Hour Network, which facilitates leadership training, relief and development, and church-planting in Kenya.
Find out ways each campus of Christ Community is seeking to partner with communities of blessing:
We invite you to pray and consider the call to be a community of blessing in your part of the city as we look forward to the day when “No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.” (Revelation 22:3)
In December of 2016, one Christ Community member took a bold step. She was convicted. And this conviction found its deepest pang not in how broken she saw the world but rather in how clearly she understood her calling.
Urban and underprivileged children should have opportunities to explore and experience music and the arts.
God is the ultimate Creator, who originally created a good and beautiful world for us to live in. As His image-bearers, we are also called to create beauty in our world.
Christians are called to seek the common good of our city.
And so Sara Forsythe gathered a team of Christ Community folks in collaboration with Mission Adelante staff to birth a weeklong Arts Camp.
For the past two years, this week-long camp has been a catalyst for discipling children in knowing our creative God and honing their creative gifts as image-bearers. Check out her recap of this last year’s camp here. It’s beautiful to see Christ Community volunteers and financial support leveraged in this common-good initiative.
Not only is the Arts Camp a beautiful picture of our robust partnership with Mission Adelante, but it keeps growing in impact. Now, throughout the year, children are growing in the arts, developing leadership skills, and finding their place to serve others in their community.
Gissell Vasquez is an associate ministry director at Mission Adelante. She leads the Adelante Arts Community year round, and one child who has been impacted through Adelante Arts is Prishmila. Gissell writes:
“When she began attending Arts Community, you could tell that she was one of those charming and shy girls that would not answer a question if not asked directly. Not only did she never miss a class, she was the first to arrive.”
But over time, something happened:
“…As I was helping the students one by one to remember the names of the guitar strings and naming the new chords we were practicing, this girl stepped in and said to me, ‘Do you want me to help you? I can work with my partner while you are doing it with the rest.’ It was a surprise and a joy for me having her offer to help. Immediately I said, ‘Yes, of course, go for it!’ That night and for the rest of the trimester she became not only a student but a helper. She is becoming an artist with a potential to be developed beyond our program and she is turning into a young leader with the most important leadership skill: a servant heart.
I’m blessed to have such an amazing group of students that come every Monday night to enjoy the arts, to share life together, and to learn about Jesus.”
It’s one of our great joys as a church to partner with such excellent organizations like Mission Adelante, influencing our community and world for Jesus Christ. If you aren’t familiar with their work, Mission Adelante longs to see “a growing multicultural community of disciples making disciples, where immigrants and others are thriving and using our gifts together to transform our neighborhood and the world for the glory of Jesus Christ.”
Whether helping immigrants and refugees sharpen their English speaking skills, cultivating the arts with emerging artists, cultivating a space for community support, sharing the gospel, or providing jobs through Adelante Thrift, Kansas City is better for it and Jesus is glorified in it.
Partnership is always more than just a relationship, but never less. And every relationship has to start somewhere. If you are curious about how you too can get engaged with the amazing work at Mission Adelante but you don’t have a ton of time, try this. One good first step would be to coordinate a time for you or a group to serve at Adelante Thrift. If you would like to schedule an opportunity to serve, you can go here.
If you’re looking for more robust engagement, whether in mentoring or teaching in ESL, check out those opportunities here. And if you have artistic gifts and hearing the story of Prishmila inspired you, Gissell is always looking for teachers and mentors in the arts. Reach out for information here.
Think about it. Can you imagine if a whole generation of immigrants and refugees were affirmed in their dignity as image-bearers? Imagine if the most vulnerable in KC were empowered to cultivate their God-given capacity to create where God has them today? It would make for a better city. A better tomorrow for us all.
May we not just be broken by what we see but convicted by who we’re called to be.
Recently my wife Liz and I attended the Advice and Aid banquet celebrating 30 years of coming alongside women who find themselves in the often-difficult realities of an unplanned pregnancy. For many years Christ Community has linked arms with Advice and Aid, and we continue to look for ways we, as a local church community, can be more involved and supportive in our advocacy of the unborn.
In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Pope Francis compared elective abortion justified by prenatal fetal maladies to Nazi eugenics. Pope Francis made the point that today we are doing the same thing the Nazis did although our destruction of the unborn is “practiced with white gloves.” (WSJ, June 18, 2018)
I am grateful for the courage and moral clarity of Pope Francis and I only wish more spiritual leaders would speak out in our troubled times. Although I have spoken out many times before on the matter of abortion, I want to again make it crystal clear where I stand and where Christ Community stands when it come to the destruction of the unborn.
I believe legalized elective abortion on demand is the most grievous injustice of our time, both in its unconscionable evil, as well as its massive scope. The numbers of the unborn that have and continue to be destroyed through legalized elective abortion is staggering. Somewhere around 50 million babies have been aborted in the United States since 1973. The landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision has unleashed an unimaginable holocaust of human destruction.
Behind much of the current cultural and political polarization lurks a wide and fundamental divide between those who assert “reproductive rights” of women and those who assert the “right to life” of the unborn. Many “pro-choice” advocates say they want abortions legal yet rare, but the inconvenient truth is the abortion holocaust continues to be driven by a relentless government lobby and a highly profitable death industry.
As followers of Jesus, one of our most compelling stewardships is to seek justice and to care for and protect the most vulnerable among us. While we must up our game in confronting other grievous injustices in our time, we must also keep in mind the most vulnerable human beings are those in the womb.
The 1973 Roe v. Wade decision is erected on a faulty legal, scientific, and a moral foundation. In a recent Christianity Today article, Matt Reynolds lays bear the judicial malpractice of Roe v. Wade:
“Taking the life of an unborn child is a sin against God and man. Roe, by contrast, is an offense against America’s democratic order, a renegade ruling utterly untethered from the text, logic, structure or history of the Constitution it purports to enforce. Supporters and opponents of abortion ought to find it equally indefensible.” (Christianity Today, October 2018, p. 28)
The legal architects of Roe v. Wade discovered a right to privacy as well as created an arbitrary determinate of personhood around the idea of fetal viability. The arbitrary line of fetal viability established in 1973 has been scientifically debunked as fetal viability is now seen much earlier in human development. Clearly, on scientific and moral grounds, the most compelling line of personhood is conception, not viability.
And even if there was a question as to when human personhood begins, with so much on the line, would we not be wise to err on the side of caution? Abortion on demand has provided a legalized mirage of a bankrupt situational morality. Let’s be clear, just because a human court deems something legal, does not mean it is morally right in God’s eyes. Clearly, this was the case for America’s dark history of racism where humans of African descent were legally deemed less than persons.
The Holy Scriptures remind us that every human person is made in the image of God and has intrinsic worth and value. The Bible points to God’s sovereign involvement in our lives even before we are born. In Psalm 139, we read David’s words of rapturous wonder,
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
The Bible’s advocacy of the unborn is anything but silent or clouded. Yet the moral confusion, obfuscation, and willful blindness of our cultural moment in regard to abortion is glaringly seen when, on the one hand the medical community pulls out all the medical stops to save a wanted premature baby, and on the other hand is performing a surgical abortion snuffing out the life of an unwanted baby.
In the midst of so much moral confusion, it is my prayer that we might, both as individuals and as a faith community, have moral clarity, compassion, and courage. So how should we respond to the ongoing holocaust of the unborn? How might we be Christlike advocates of the unborn?
First, we need to have moral clarity and conviction that elective abortion on demand is wrong and unjust.
Second, we need to pray for the hearts and minds of our fellow citizens to change and for the end of the legalized slaughter of the unborn.
Third, we need to look for ways we can care and support women who have had abortions, as well as those who find themselves in an unplanned pregnancy. Abortion recovery services, adoption services, and organizations like Advice and Aid need our prayerful and generous financial support.
Fourth, we need to consider ways we can work through legal and political processes to change abortion laws and to seek the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Fifth, for some, advocacy of the unborn will mean lawful protest.
May I also encourage you to make it a priority to see the recently released movie, Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer. This movie is not easy to see, but it captures the barbaric horror of abortionist Dr. Kermit Gosnell, and I pray it serves to awaken a nation to the white-gloves holocaust that continues unabated.
With humility and hope, may we heed the timeless words of the prophet Micah, “to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.”
Keyvan was an orphan in Iran and always wondered, “Who is my family?” At age 18 he began searching. He grew desperate and decided to pray to Jesus, “Who is my family?” Soon after, he found his family. This experience led Keyvan to give his life to Jesus.
There are literally thousands and thousands of people like Keyvan all across Iran. They have had some sort of experience that has led them to become a Christian. But this is not the end of their story. It is just the beginning.
In time Keyvan got connected with Elam Ministries and was invited to a conference. There he said, “I have believed in Jesus for two years now, but I keep sleeping around. I don’t feel this is right, and I am miserable.”
The leader looked at him with love and said, “Keyvan, Jesus loves you, and He is calling you to deeper repentance. You must give up your former life.” That evening Keyvan came forward for prayer and repentance. Later that night he was baptized.
This is discipleship. While it is wonderful that people are finding eternal salvation in Christ, without discipleship, people are left in their mess and misery.
There are now hundreds of thousands of Iranian believers all across Iran. Many more are in neighboring countries. This new season has many joys but it also comes with many challenges.
Elam Ministries is working in this region, and is an outreach partner with Christ Community’s Leawood Campus. Elam is at a critical juncture. Millions could be added to the Persian-speaking church. However, discipleship must keep pace with evangelism.
For this to happen, the whole church must be mobilized to be disciple-makers. Elam has given much prayer and thought to how they can enable ordinary believers to do effective one-on-one discipleship. Here is what is being done…
In January 2108, Elam launched a new one-on-one discipleship initiative called Safar (Persian for “journey”) to mobilize the Persian-speaking church on a larger scale than ever before.
The trained leaders serving on the ground are calling Safar a game-changer. Drawing on decades of experience in discipling Iranians, Safar pairs a new believer one-on-one with a hamsafar (co-journeyer) for the first 100 days of the new believer’s life. There are around 30 steps in the journey, one for every three to four days. The process is deeply biblical, relational, and practical.
Already, many have been mobilized as hamsafars, and this discipleship method is being used in Iran and other countries in that region, as well as among Persian-speaking refugees in Europe. Deep discipleship is taking place, and new believers are growing in their faith.
The impact has already been profound. “After just four steps in Safar, Reza opened up more than in the previous six months of discipling him,” remarked one hamsafar.
Now believers are reading their Bibles regularly. One pastor said, “It is encouraging to see so many engaging with the Scriptures.” People are grasping their identity in Christ, learning to forgive others, and overcoming fears.
Evangelism is increasing and Elam is regularly hearing testimonies of people coming to faith as those being discipled grow in courage and ability to witness to family and friends.
Will you pray for this growing church in the Persian-speaking region? Please pray that those who are new believers will be assigned a discipler to walk them through the 100-day journey to know the Lord Jesus Christ and follow Him as a disciple.
Coleman Barnes was a typical high school student. Involved in deep friendships, focused on class work, participated in extracurriculars, preparing for the future after graduation. Coleman was not so typical in the fact that, at the young age of 18, he had already begun to leave a legacy of lasting impact: Coleman worked to make a way for five kids in Jamaica to attend school for the next five years.
Coleman traveled with Student Ministries from Christ Community’s Leawood Campus in partnership with Won by One for two summers to Harmons, Jamaica. While there, he fell in love with the people, the food, and the kids they served. As he spoke with local parents, they shared how inaccessible education was for them. They shared how they had to decide whether to send their kids to school or put food on the table.
Coleman could not imagine the cost of such a choice. Food or education? If families picked food on the table, their children’s futures were limited; if they chose education, their children might starve. It was a dangerous cycle of poverty that represented heartache.
One morning Coleman was talking with a Jamaican woman named Sandra. She teared up as she told him the news that her little daughter had been sponsored for school. She was overwhelmed with joy that her daughter would have an opportunity she never had: to receive an education so someday she could be able to provide for her family and break this poverty cycle. As Coleman saw how much school sponsorship meant to this family, he knew he wanted to get involved.
Coleman left Jamaica after that week of serving, but the desire to make a difference didn’t leave him. Challenged in one of his leadership classes at school to make an impact on behalf of others, Coleman immediately thought of Jamaica and the idea of educational scholarships. As a high school student, he did not have the money to sponsor a child, even at $40 a month. So he enlisted a couple of friends, Laken and Jack, to help begin dreaming of a way for students at Blue Valley West High School to collectively make a difference in the lives of kids in Jamaica. Heart for Hope was born with the idea to have each class at school raise money to sponsor a child in Jamaica and make it a friendly competition to raise $5,000.
Coleman, Laken, and Jack had a three-pronged approach to getting five Jamaican students sponsored for two years of school. First, English Language Arts classes at every grade level would introduce, by video, the students to the Jamaican child their class would be sponsoring. These videos would provide a face, a name, and a story to build connection and motivate that class to bring their loose change and dollars to sponsor their child. Second, they sold Heart for Hope T-shirts for $10 and encouraged everyone attending the basketball game that week to wear them and make a schoolwide statement of hope. They sold over 450 shirts. Third, they put together a silent auction of donated items at that basketball game.
Watch the video that Coleman and his friends put together for their fundraiser.
Coleman, Laken, and Jack were blown away as fellow students brought more than loose change to the donation jars. Students gave $10 and $20 bills and the money began adding up. The ambitious goal of $5,000 in two weeks to support five kids for two years of education was completely shattered! Coleman and his peers were able to raise $12,000 to help five kids— Rahein, Atalia, Aleana, Victor, and Sashante—for five years each through school, which genuinely changed their lives.
Coleman said, “We were truly blown away by the response we had for Heart for Hope, and it’s been so cool for me to see our school come together and get behind kids they don’t know and will never meet.”
Coleman has seen God on display in the hearts of fellow students who said: I want to make a difference, and I want to provide hope to these kids and make a tangible impact on their lives. For Coleman, it’s been unbelievable to see the incredible generosity of his peers and God’s faithfulness through this whole process.
“Heart for Hope,” written by Dawn Heckert, originally appeared as an article in Homefront magazine, June 2018 edition, pp. 38-39.
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Our hearts break as we continue to watch the refugee crisis in our world unfold day by day. The situation feels overwhelming as we take in horrific stories, images, and issues that are bigger and more complex than any of us can truly comprehend. How do we begin to wrap our minds and hearts around these circumstances?
Over 20 million people in our world today currently have no country to call home; more than half of these are children. Beyond this, the UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency) estimates that over 65 million people have been displaced from their homes by war, violence, and persecution in our day, roughly one in every 122 people. In the face of such difficulty, with deep dependence on God, we desire to be a community of thoughtful reflection, fervent prayer, and courageous leadership. We want our love for these brothers and sisters to spring into action as we learn, lament, pray, and–with God’s help–personally engage.
Toward this end, we invite you to explore the opportunities available to us.
Care for Refugees in Kansas City
There are some wonderful local organizations serving refugees here in our city. Opportunities to serve include simple steps such as providing a welcome at the airport, training refugees on using our public transportation, or acquainting them with our city. There are more long-term opportunities for service as well, such as “adopting” a refugee family, tutoring, or volunteering in an organization’s office.
Here’s a list of RESOURCES for specific opportunities.
We invite you to familiarize yourself with the local agencies serving refugees in our city: