New Huddle Leaders

July 12, 2009

We are excited to announce our new huddle leaders for our up and coming Freshman class.  They are Paul & Lenda Jensen, Chris & Cathy Moore, John & Jackie Powell and Landon & Whitney Sheets.  We are eagerly anticipating how the Lord is going to use them in the next four years and we are confident it will be in powerful ways.  Please lift them up in prayer, along with our other huddle leaders, whenever you think of them.

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What a day? What an awesome day? We began at 7:15 am and traveled to the warehouse to pick up tools for the day. We loaded shovels, wheel barrows, nail pullers, crow-bars, hammers, safety glasses, masks, sledge hammers, and more. We traveled to our worksite and were ready to gut a house. The worksite was right where the levee breached from Lake Pontchatrain. We pulled up to the house and a few of us went inside the house after meeting the owner to see what needed to be done. The house had already been gutted and we were told that the house needed to be torn down. However, they needed the owner’s permission and it was looking like we were going to be sent back to the cemetery. I had set the students up to gut a house and I was pretty upset that I was letting them down. But I knew that we would do whatever we needed to do. Fortunately, the owner agreed to having her house (which could not have been remodeled due to city codes) torn down. So we stayed and got ready to work. We pulled off siding, pulled out windows, took off the roof, downed a fence, and eventually at the end of our day as one large group we pushed a section of the home down to the ground. We loaded the debris in a dumpster container and our day finished in the rain. All that stands of the house now is four walls and the flooring. Another group will come along and finish the task. We grabbed some ice cream from the ice cream truck and got on the bus to go back.

In the midst of tearing down a house, the owner Patricia was at her other house next door (which has been rebuilt). A few students at a time spent some moments with her hearing her story and visiting with her. She is a fascinating lady that has overcome such diversity. Even though she is currently confined to a wheelchair due to a car accident she managed to make it outside to see our progress. She was smiling and I can imagine that hope was restored. Pray for Patricia!

Of course we had Honey Baked Ham Sandwiches. We took a vote yesterday and turkey won, so we had turkey sandwiches. We took a shorter lunch so that we could get as much done as we could.

Everyone was filthy from the work and we all had to use plastic bags so that we wouldn’t ruin the bus seats. We came back to the hotel and got cleaned up for dinner. We walked to Pierre Mespero’s and enjoyed authentic New Orleans cuisine. Their food was fabulous. We took a scenic route back to the hotel and saw the diverse culture of New Orleans. Following our time out we loaded the bus and went to St. Jude’s Cathedral and met in their meeting room.

We held our devotional there where we talked about John 13 and Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. In the scenario Jesus shows the importance of showing love by serving and when we serve we place ourselves last or in our case, “Third!” We handed out our shirts and as we washed the feet of the students and blessed them. When we truly serve we keep God, Jesus, Holy Spirit at the forefront, others important within the kingdom and ourselves third. At first this seemed to be still me focused since the shirt was 3rd. However, it really is the great reminder of our place. After the adults had finished washing the feet of the students, then all were welcome to join in and bless others. After two hours we had to stop the blessing because we were out of time.

We began the day with some disappointment and uncertainty turned that into a wonderful working experience, and ended with filling a room with blessings and worship. What a day indeed!

Tomorrow we are leaving New Orleans at 6:45 am. We should be home somewhere around 7:30 pm. This trip has been a real blessing to me and the other adults. The students have impressed us over and over again. Our kids at Highland grow up on the principle that other people are of importance and serving them is directly serving God. It is a blessed community of faith that we have together.

Pray for our safe travel tomorrow. Pray for Nicole and her journey. Pray for Fridella, Jeaneva, Landry, Sean, and Tyrie and their family as they rebuild. Pray for Patricia and that she can be healed of her injuries and find closure from this terrible experience. Pray that God continues to restore and redeem New Orleans!

-Mercer

Day 4 began with a later morning. We let the students sleep an extra 30 minutes. We headed to the same worksite we were at yesterday. So today we continued to scrape, paint, and hang drywall. We had a shorter day today so that we could experience New Orleans in the afternoon. While we worked some of the guys continued to talk with Landry. It was great to go around and see exactly what we had painted and how much progress we had made on the two houses. After cleaning up we headed over to Fridella’s house, where we ate lunch.

On the menu again was Honey Baked Ham sandwiches. This time it was Roast Beef on Ciabatta bread. The students have really loved having these sandwiches all week. You would think that they might groan about having sandwiches all week, but instead it is something they have looked forward to. Today we were able to give some sandwiches to Landry and his family. Following lunch we gathered around Fridella and Landry, lay hands on them, and pray over them.

We came home and cleaned up for our day around town. Everyone went together to the Aquarium and we greatly enjoyed seeing all the fish, sharks, seahorses, and more. It seemed that everyone had a really good time. We broke into groups and went around the French Quarter seeing the sites of New Orleans. I’m not sure what every group did, so you will have to ask them when you see them. We gathered back together at Cafe Du Monde and enjoyed Beignets.

Back at the hotel we had our devotional. We talked about Psalm 23 and 24 and how the Psalmist when writing 23 changes tenses about God. From the version I was reading and every version I have except for The Message it starts with God being talked about in third person until the author begins talking about the valley and changes the tense to the end to second person making the relationship during trouble more intimate than the protection or path-clearing God in the beginning. Also in Psalm 24 we find that the King of Glory is the Lord Almighty. As we serve in his name he clears the path for us and leads the way, while standing close in the troubling times, and in the end we serve the Lord Almighty who is the King of Glory.

Tomorrow we have been given the task to gut a house. It will be a messy tough experience, but one where we will truly understand the devastation of this storm and how God makes all things new.

Please continue to pray for Nicole from our first day at the cemetery, Fridella, Jeaneva (Fridella’s mom), Landry, Tyrie, and Sean from the second and third day of work, and for our work we will endure tomorrow and the people we might encounter. We appreciate your prayers and I have been reporting to the students when one of you mentions that you are praying for us in response to the facebook or this blog. We are a mighty force together linked through the Holy Spirit.

-Mercer

Another great day in New Orleans. We rose early and left for our worksite at 7:15 am. We traveled not too far to two different houses that were flooded from the storm. Both were relatives. Following the storm they fled to Marshall, TX and there were 65 family members in all who survived. Fridella’s house has been completely gutted at some point and is now in the remodeling phase. We hung sheetrock on the inside and scraped and painted the outside. The other house was Fridella’s mother. There were scraped and painted. All the students worked extremely hard and with joyous spirits. Everyone was working together as Micah and Andrew entertained with puzzling word riddles. We had lunch together at Fridella’s house. The two houses were a mile apart. It was somewhat unfortunate that our group had to be split, but we made the best of the situation. After having our honey baked turkey sandwiches we got back to work. Fridella’s mom had quite a surprise for us. She came home with pizza, juice, and oatmeal creme pies. Even though we had just finished lunch we all took a break and enjoyed her generous hospitality. She was wonderfully gracious. Her response to our thanks was, “I just want to treat people like they deserve to be treated.” Landry one of the grandchildren in the family was near the age of our students so Kirk, Ryan, and Seth spent time with him talking and encouraging him. Those three provided such an awesome ministry to Landry and they may never understand its powerful effects.

Following work we had some treats for the students. Unfortunately the hotel we are at doesn’t have a pool. It was damaged in the storm and has yet to be fixed. So we took the group to another hotel with a working pool near the airport and gave them the chance to swim, eat pizza and enjoy their first treat; an IBC Rootbeer for each. The puzzling word games continued and everyone had a great time. We loaded an arrived at our second treat; Ro-Bears Sno-balls. It is like a cajun cone, but you can also have it stuffed with soft serve ice cream. Since it was Ryan’s birthday and Kimberly’s from Sunday we sang happy birthday and theirs was free.

We made it back for our devotional where we talked about John 12:23-26 where Jesus speaks of the wheat and grain and serving Him. You have to read this in the message, because the wording he uses makes this scripture come to life. At one point Jesus encourages them to live a life or “reckless love” rather than control. He asks them to serve Him and then follow Him not the other way round. When we do this we can be ready at a moment’s notice to serve his people. This can definitely make us think about what serving the Kingdom means. We serve not in any old way, but in such a way that Jesus would actually be serving so that we would then follow Him. Another point we made was that serving others in the name of Jesus is not something we simply do, but it is who we are. We live in a Kingdom that serves with reckless love because we are people of that nature. When Jesus is who we are and not what we do, then we will compel others through the Holy Spirit to want to serve and follow Him and join God’s Kingdom.

Tomorrow we are returning to these two sites. Wednesday is a short day for work so that we can have some time here to enjoy the culture and have some fun. I can’t wait to see the reunion between Landry and those boys, Fridella her grandsons and that group of students, and Fridella’s mom and her hospitality.

Pray for these families as they rebuild their homes and their lives. Add Sean and Tyrie to your list. They are grandsons of Fridella and are precious boys who have humble spirits.

-Mercer

We had another great day today! We began at 7:15 am with Orientation with Operations Nehemiah. Following our direction we picked up our assignment for the day. Our assignment which we had found out yesterday was to go to Hope Cemetery, a Pauper’s Cemetery where even before Katrina hit was in poor shape. Our job was to dig a drainage trench, clean out weeds and debris, and clean out another ditch that was for drainage. We had a great lunch with sandwiches from Honey Baked Ham, chips, cookies, and drinks. We were all really refreshed and it helped us continue until our stopping time at 3pm. The students raked, shoveled, hauled, and trimmed. They not only worked hard, but also worked together!

Following our hard work we had some down time until dinner. After cleaning up some stayed in their rooms while others wandered the hotel. Dinner was such a treat since we ate at Acme Oyster House. They had plenty of Oysters, but all kinds of fish, gumbo, shrimp, and even hamburgers! The most fun was watching our boys cheer loudly when the Texas Longhorns would score against the LSU Tigers. This was much to the dismay of our Louisiana friends. Of course in the end we had celebrated too quickly! Thank goodness we were already back at the hotel by then.

We all crowded in a small Ben and Jerry’s and some of us had delicious Ice Cream! We headed back to the Hotel for our evening devotional.

We talked about the idea of God being the potter and we being the clay from Isaiah 64:8. We are people who not only follow Jesus, but have the hands of God placed on us in order for Him to be an artist with our lives. He sits down at the wheel and shapes an ugly lump into a beautiful masterpiece. God doesn’t just simply sit and go to work, but dreams of how he will craft this piece. He dreams of a people that will live in His kingdom now striving for reconciliation, overturning injustice, and reaching with hope and still are able to live for a day when perfection reigns and everything is fulfilled. As we serve this week not only are we being shaped more in His likeness, but the people we come into contact with are being shaped as well and we are growing together through the work of the Holy Spirit to mirror His holiness.

Today we met Nicole. Nicole was walking around the cemetery and Randy approached her. She shared with him that her mother was buried in the cemetery, but she wasn’t sure where. Randy asked us all to halt our work and encouraged us to look for the head stone. We all began to look at every head stone (an unbelievable task). I had a chance to speak with her and 30 years ago when she was three her mother died and soon after her older brother. They are buried together somewhere in Hope Cemetery. Today was the anniversary of her death and through the encouragement of her fiance she came to find the grave. Although we scoured the cemetery we never found the grave. There are way too many and some have been destroyed. Nicole was touched by our generosity and willingness to drop everything to find this grave. I hope you will join us in prayer for Nicole and her family and how God is shaping her story and ours.

Tomorrow we have another adventure and a different project…painting houses. What will be tomorrow’s story?

-Mercer

Well we began to load at 5:00 am and before you knew it we had everything loaded, Mike Cope lead us in prayer, and we loaded and were out of the parking lot at 5:30 am. It was the fastest we had ever been at getting on the road.

The road trip was great and smooth. We made 3 stops along the way to stretch our legs and our stomachs. In between stops we all kept ourselves busy with books, conversation, movies, and plenty of Ipods. There were few complaints if any regarding our 13 hour trip. What a blessing!

Once we arrived we hit the ground running. We all got checked into the Hotel and Jim T. and myself went and turned in the paperwork for Operation Nehemiah. After we all got settled in the hotel we walked just a few blocks to go eat at Mother’s. This is a great place to eat. They serve mostly Po Boys and other southern delicacies. After stuffing ourselves and mingling with the staff there we headed back to the hotel.

We then gathered for our devotional for the evening. We talked about the idea that we are all in this together linked by the Holy Spirit. The fact that we are linked together makes us sharers in faith with those in New Orleans, Abilene, TX, and even places far away like Zimbabwe. We are all together in this mission for the Kingdom of God and when we come around the table to commune we are one. If there was any doubt amongst our team about whether we are suppose to be here, the Body (bread) and Blood (Juice) of Jesus drives out doubt and instills confidence in our mission to serve in His name.

We are now all heading to bed…well at least the adults are heading to bed and the students are sequestered to their personal rooms.

We look forward to tomorrow where we will be working in a cemetery cutting down weeds and digging trenches.

Praise be to God who cherishes all or our offerings of love no matter how big or small we may feel they are.

-Mercer

Bullying

January 30, 2009

I grew up in a family where I was the youngest sibling and the youngest of all the grandchildren on my dad’s side and near the end on my mom’s side.  So you can imagine as a child I took my share of teasing.  Teasing seems cute and fun, but teasing will become bullying and that becomes dangerous.  The teasing became bullying to me and I responded with fits of rage and anger.  Then not only would I get bullied, but then I would get in trouble for my inappropriate retaliation.  Later on I learned that in order to keep from being bullied, I would bully first.  That began a trend of many years of bullying other kids my age, younger, or older.  These kids were chosen because they had certain visible or knowable weakness.  Thank God that something changed in me and in my life where I chose to respond to the bullying of my childhood by defending those bullied rather than adding to their injury.

There are students in our ministry who are being bullied every day at school.  There are students in our ministry that are bullying others.  It is time for us to heal our wounds by studying how Jesus handled bullies (chief leaders and Pharisees) and how story after story calls us to be community together and stand together and defend one another.  Encourage your children to treat everyone with the heart of Christ and model the Golden Rule!

-Mercer

Making A Difference

January 24, 2009

This past week has been one of the most memorable of our time.  Not only were we able to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. and his famous movement and speeches, but we were able to witness the inauguration of the first African-American president.  One has changed history in overwhelming ways and in ways that have yet to be realized, while the other has the hope of an entire nation on his shoulders.  It made me ponder what kind of difference I have made or will make in the future.  I want to make a difference in the world, whether my little world or over the entire globe.  I want my two boys to make a difference.  I know they are only 11 months, but we spent Monday morning watching the youtube video of Rev. King’s I have a dream speech.  I want them to know that his speech is still making a difference today and that the way they conduct their lives could do the same. 

I also thought that to want to change the entire world is really crazy and too much to ask.  However, as I meditated on these thoughts, it came to my mind that God is much bigger than anything we could possibly dream and through our tiny efforts he can change the world. 

How can you and your family change the world?  How can people be changed through Christ because of what you do or who you are?  Ask the question to your teenager and dream together of what could happen.  Then make a plan of two to three things you will do this year!

 

-Mercer

This has been an incredible beginning to a new school year and now that our calendar year is new, I can’t think but how wonderful this year will be.  God is doing some amazing things in the life of this church and the families that represent our youth ministry.  We have much to be thankful for and much to anticipate in this new year.  We are so thankful for all of you and your support of this ministry.  We hope that your 2008 was blessed and that your 2009 will be even more blessed.  Whether times are good or bad, easy or a struggle, we know that God’s promises are eternal and that He will always be with us.  May we live in the hope of things to come while we serve his kingdom today.

 

Mercer

This beatitude is one of the most straightforward of any.  The idea of mercy here is in direct contrast to justice.  Not that justice isn’t something Christians should desire, but personal justice so that someone else gets there’s is not our goal.  The pursuit of justice follows with the pursuit of punishment, while the pursuit of mercy follows with the pursuit of forgiveness.  As Christians we should be consumed with not just receiving forgiveness, but extending it as well.

When someone shows mercy there is no better blessing than to be able to receive mercy back.  We give not to receive, but when we become people who practice extending mercy, we will be blessed with God’s mercy.

As Communal Christians when we stand on our “rightness” and our ability to prove others wrong we stand along with justice and we will stand alone from God.  When we stand in our pursuit of mercy with other Christian denominations, other religions, and others not seeking God we stand with God.  It isn’t that we choose a different way than Christ.  It is that we choose to extend mercy over retaliation.  Jesus humbled himself and took accusations and punishments for things he didn’t do, thus choosing mercy even while on the cross with the criminal and the crowd.  What will we choose?

 

-Mercer