Friday, July 22, 2016

God Leads

God has done some amazing things in my life. He has set stepping stones before me even when I didn’t understand.  I have always heard stories about missionaries in Good News and 5-Day Clubs with Child Evangelism Fellowship. When I was five, God told me He wanted me to be a missionary. I thought that meant that I would become a missionary when I grow up, but that isn’t what He had in mind. My family is moving to Cambodia as missionaries in a few weeks! 
In 5th grade my parents told me they felt led by God to go on a short term mission trip to Africa for a year. I was honestly surprised, but I was ready for God to do whatever He had planned.  I went through many hard things, like culture stress and homesickness.  I was able to learn about a new culture and talk to other missionaries. I also learned that being a missionary is harder than I expected.  Missionaries have to do some scary things and they say “good-bye” often.  God taught me that I have to be willing to give 100% of my life to Him and that He will use it, not in the way I thought, but in a way so much better.  
This summer God brought me to Christian Youth in Action (CYIA) training camp and I have been teaching 5-Day Clubs.  I have been waiting for this since I was eight, and God definitely worked in me and taught me more than I expected. At CYIA I experienced some spiritual warfare, and as I prayed with my friends we were able to feel God’s presence and love as He brought us out of Satan’s attacks. We learned that we all fight together for God’s will on earth, and in the end we will have victory. I am thankful for the things I learned during CYIA.  My teaching skills were improved, but I also learned about the power of prayer and reliance on Him for help to do hard things.
I have been thinking about everything that I learned in Africa and at CYIA and I have come to a conclusion. I realize that I truly exist for a sole purpose:  to serve God.  I don’t have to worry about anything else; He is in control.  This month my family will say “good-bye” and move to a place where my school, church, and everyday life will be very different. I will need to learn to speak the Khmer language and then I hope to teach Bible clubs.  I know I can’t possibly do it on my own, but that with God, all things are possible.  I trust that He will work through me in Cambodia just as He did in Africa and at CYIA. I am ready for whatever He has in store, and Iwill keep my eyes focused on Him.
--Megan Brand

Friday, July 15, 2016


I had the privilege of volunteering for the Decision America Tour and was keeping busy with the preparations.  Joy Scott and I called 123 churches, snail-mailed and canvassed churches and our neighborhoods, and passed out information at church regarding the tour.  I also met with a prayer group every week to pray for the tour and our nation. Yet I was feeling pretty down and discouraged, but didn’t know why.  Every time I turned on the news, or saw the result of sin in family’s and friend’s lives, I would vacillate from anger to depression. I felt like I was running on empty, because I was focusing on these things. 

Finally DAT came to Salem.  Franklin Graham gave encouraging statistics: some drove 150 miles with 7 children to attend the rally; others are now planning to vote; others are considering running for office; one woman flew 200 miles in a private airplane to be there.  “Prayer is the mystery of God’s sovereign plan” and it impacted me that all these people were coming because they believed in the power of prayer and they trusted God to use their prayers.  While attending the rally, everyone was intently listening and then Franklin Graham asked us to join hands and pray to confess our sins, and the sins of our country.  Even though I was holding the hand of a stranger, I felt an instant bonding with the body of Christ.  There was a strong presence of God’s grace, strength and peace.  And I felt forgiveness.  I had been focusing on the wrong things and my lack of faith shamed me.  Franklin Graham then gave an invitation to receive Christ as Savior and again, I heard people all around me praying to receive God’s gift.  That day, 216 people in the crowd received the gift of salvation. The presence of the Holy Spirit was so powerful, that at the end of the rally when we sang “God Bless America,” all I could do was mouth the words, because my tears were flowing so much.

Many years ago, God used 12 disciples to change the world and build His kingdom.  That day in Salem, almost 4,000 came to pray and trust that God would use their prayers.  Almost 154,000 people have come to the rallies, and it’s not over.  Our job is to persevere, trust and focus on God, continue to pray and wait expectantly to see how He’ll answer.  It’s going to be amazing.

--Janelle Coakley



Pastor's Pick:  Book Recommendations


The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert  by Rosaria Butterfied. 
Rosaria Butterfield was once a tenured professor of English who identified as a lesbian and worked to advance the cause of LGBT equality. After her conversion to Christ in 1999, she came to see the sinfulness of having any identity apart from Him.

Rosaria is married to Kent Butterfield, pastor of the First Reformed Presbyterian Church of Durham, and is a home-school mother, pastor's wife, author, and speaker. She is helping Christians to better understand their LGBT neighbors and loved ones so that we can lovingly share the gospel effectively.

Friday, June 24, 2016

North Block

On December 29, 2015, when the papers were signed at the title company, the first chapter of the story of the North Block was completed. It is a chapter of faith and sacrifice by the many who gave towards the down payment and other funds needed. It is one of trust given to leaders by people who embraced a vision for connecting with Salem in a new way, and of waiting on God for His timing to see the purchase completed.

As we move to the next chapter, God is continuing to work and show us how to implement the vision He has given us. Chapter 2 opens with meeting, through one of our church members, Craig and Carol Morgan who are wonderful Followers of Christ. They own Salem Paint and needed a new location for their store. We agreed to lease the building on the northwest corner of the block and they were able to move in on the Saturday of Easter weekend. They are excited about this new home for their business.

A few weeks later, we had a spring cleaning party at the church. More than 80 people brought rakes, shovels and wheel barrows to not only work around the church and the CLC but to help clean up the North Block. Over 5,200 pounds of grass, dirt, tree limbs and other debris was hauled off as the North Block sparkled with clean parking lots, mowed lawns and new bark chips in the flower beds. It was a powerful statement to the neighborhood about how we want to be good neighbors and the enthusiasm in which our congregation works together.

We are now working to implement the vision of Enterprise Ministries as we prepare First Lube Plus for its opening day. Many of you have told me that you are ready to be its first customer. Thank you. We are looking for the right person to be its manager and look forward to announcing opening day soon. In addition we are determining what we can do with other pieces of the property based on city codes and the cost of making the other buildings usable. Thank you for your patience as we work through these issues.

All of the above has been exciting and encouraging to see happen and be part of, but what has impacted me the most is the way in which God has already used the North Block to create new connections in the community. My work on the North Block has given me the opportunity to meet with elected officials, public agencies and private businesses and tell them our story and vision. It is met with excitement and encouragement and, most often, their question of “What can I do to help?”

Many of us have been praying that God would show us how to use the North Block to bless our city. As I see it, that prayer has been and is being answered. Please continue to pray that God will sharpen our focus on how to best implement His purpose for the North Block and He will be the author of many new chapters in this ongoing story.

--Steve Hunter