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Today I Saw God

The Body of Christ is Everyone, Including Middle Schoolers!

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The first email arrived in my inbox on June 20, 2017, from Floris' worship leader, Megan Gumabay as a general distribution email and read in part as follows:

"We have some exciting opportunities for volunteering with our student ministry. Ashley is currently seeking adult leaders for upcoming student mission trips, and she felt praise team members would be great in this role. Please contact Ashley or me if you want to discuss this in further detail with her."

I thought, hey I am pretty busy with my praise team and consulting / handyman work and family, so I just said to myself, someone else will step up.

The 2nd email arrived in my inbox on June 26th, 2017, merely six days later from a close friend in the Emmaus Community, again in a general distribution email, but with a little more urgent feel to it and read in part:

"Friends,

I just received a message from Ashley Allen saying that, sadly, all Floris Youth Mission trips may have to be canceled due to lack of a sufficient number of adult chaperone volunteers."

Again, I ignored the email. Hey, I said this time to myself, I have done more than 17 mission trips, and this trip would be with 6th, 7th and 8th graders what could they possibly do or for that matter, what could I do? I know can handle leading adults and High School age young adults on mission trips as I have done many times, but I'm sure someone else will step up.

The THIRD email arrived in my inbox on June 27th, merely a day later and it was directed to me specifically by our youth director/pastor Ashley Allen:

"Hey, Scott,

I hope this finds you well and enjoying the start of the summer!

As you know,mission trip time is fast approaching for student ministries! Unfortunately, we are at risk of having to cancel all of our trips this year.

This reality is painful to even think about. We have not yet had the leaders step forward this year that we need to honor our child protection policy for each of these trips which, as you can imagine is non-negotiable for us. Tim Wells shared your name as someone who is not only a willing servant but also might be available to go on one of these trips.

We are in need of one more male to be a leader on our middle school trip with the Jeremiah Project to Romney, WV.

I would be so grateful for your prayerful consideration of this opportunity. I know that you would be a blessing to our students and that you would also be blessed by serving with them. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Thank you so much!"

OK, OK, OK GODI hear you loud and clear! I need to put aside my pre-judging of what I THINK about leading a team of middle school youth and remember that I am being called to be part of something larger and that only God knows what that is, or will be. I picked up the phone and called Ashley – but only after extracting the splinters in my face from the 2×4 piece of lumber God hit me with and said to her – Yes I would go and lead the middle school youth.

Stepping up to lead this trip was truly difficult for me. I have been actively engaged in mission trips since my first mission trip just three months after Katrina hit in Mississippi in August 2005 and spent Thanksgiving week in Bay St. Louis gutting homes inundated by 20-30 feet of storm surge. Since that first mission trip 12 years prior, I have been on at least 16 more mission trips, including multiple trips where I served as the construction lead or co-lead for high school youth and other adults. Still, I kept thinking what can 6th, 7th, or 8th graders do in a week and how can they possibly be a part of the Body of Christ that I had "labeled" in my mind as only inclusive to older youth and adults. I have a bad habit of pre-judging individuals and work daily to fight this sin. In this particular instance, God had other plans.

I had a chance to present a talk at a recent Walk to Emmaus weekend about what makes up the Body of Christ and this trip to Romney, WV for the Jeremiah Project changed my view on who is the Body of Christ forever.

Let's start with what is the Body of Christ? When we became Christians, we became new persons (2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:14-16). We became part of a group of people with a common calling: to belong to Jesus Christ. No matter where we are or what we do or who we are, we are joined together like parts of a new body to reflect in the world the Christ in whose image we are created. This new body, comprised of all Christians, is known as the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12-20). You and I and all Christians everywhere make up the working parts of that body, the church universal.

The body of Christ is, however, more than the community of Christians everywhere. This term also describes the church fulfilling its mission in the world.

The body of Christ is the community of disciples united by faith in Christ and response to Jesus' call to "Follow me," to be the church wherever they are. The body of Christ continues Christ's ministry in the world today.

The body of Christ shows itself in various forms such as:

  1. a) a local congregation
  2. b) an ecumenical mission formed of different faith backgrounds
  3. c) a family seeking to live in faith
  4. d) wherever two or three are gathered in Christ's name.

Who makes up the Body of Christ? The church is more than its building, its' organizational structure, and institutions, or its' appointed leaders. Though all of these are important aspects and features, sometimes people mistake these for the church. Instead, the church refers to all the people of God who, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, seek to continue Christ's life and ministry wherever they are. The Body of Christ is comprised of both laity and clergy who are meant to support one another and work as a team. We should not expect pastors to carry an entire load of taking the gospel to the world.

Laity is those who serve by being witnesses to the living Christ and carrying the gospel into their homes, workplaces, communities, and institutions that shape the lives of people.

Clergy is those who serve by fostering Christian community, interpreting God's Word, administering the sacraments, and equipping the saints for doing ministry in their world.

Both Laity and clergy are never in competition.

Each individual Christian is an important member of the body of Christ. But it is important for individuals to form groups that can join resources to foster faith and act together to impact society.

In the Bible there is no limitation on the age of whom the Body of Christ is to be comprised.

Jesus was clear in scripture as well, for example, in Matthew 19:14 New International Version (NIV):

14Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

The Christian family is also an expression of the body of Christ. Strong churches need the involvement of families, not just individuals. Families have been called the "domestic church"the place where people's lives are most deeply shaped. The family of faith has always been seen as the foundational setting for Christian education and faith formation.

However, even though I was familiar with what Jesus had preached, I remained stubborn and continued to believe that middle-school youth were not really a part of the Body of Christ.

By now you are probably wondering how that mission trip to West Virginia with the Jeremiah Project turned out? Well, it was held in a 4-H center, but without any air conditioning in the middle of July and every day was at or above 90 degrees! Furthermore, it was REALLY loud with a total of 71 middle school youth at the camp from multiple churches, but going on this mission trip was the best decision I have ever made and forever changed my view of who makes up the Body of Christ and what we can do as part of that Body.

At the Jeremiah Project, they mix up the teams and leaders. I was assigned 5 youth for the week, but no co-leader. Normally, we rotate jobs Monday and Tuesday, with an off day on Wednesday, then work again Thursday and Friday and depart Saturday. Because of my experience in construction, our team was the only team that was assigned to work on one project for Monday and Tuesday while other teams rotated work sites daily. Our work included cutting pickets for railings, digging post holes, pouring footers, building stringers and supports to complete a 20' long ramp for wheelchair access from a deck to a gravel driveway.

We finished our first project on Tuesday. Wednesday night, after we had our team day off to relax, I was called in to the construction leaders' office to help design an urgently needed low rise 8' length of stairs for an elderly woman, 82 years of age, who was on oxygen and used a walker. She has not been able to leave her trailer without assistance more than 12 years due to not having a properly sloped/constructed ramp. Her grandson would have to carry her out of the trailer when she needed to get out to doctors appointments. We could not build the 40' ramp needed due to lack of funds, but we could build something.

I informed my team on Thursday morning that we were going to another location do build stairs/digging holes and framing and was greeted with "Mr. Scott, other teams are painting and landscaping.why can't we do these other jobs?" I said, we do what we are asked to do and serve as requested. We loaded up the van and headed to the home some 40 minutes away. During the trip I explained the project and the urgent need. There was silence for a brief second but immediately followed by grumblings about digging, rock removal, drilling and not being able to paint or landscape, as other teams were doing. When we arrived, we went inside this old trailer and were met by Ms. Emma (not her real name) and her grandson. She was seated in a chair with her oxygen tube and tank nearby. Introductions were given and then discussion started. She shared with us her life history, the medical and structural reasons for her confinement and thanked us for being there.

Then, without hesitation, she told us that 6 months prior she had "died". She remembers being put in the ambulance at the top of her driveway and hearing the medic saying "uh-oh, this is not good". She was clinically dead until resuscitated by the EMTs in route to the hospital — and awoke in Winchester hospital. She shared about her seeing a bright light, feeling warm and not being afraid of death ever again. In fact, she was truly looking forward to reuniting with her husband and other family members who have preceded her in death and are waiting in heaven.

Oh, and then she added that this was the second time she had died.the first time she died had happened six months prior. The entire room became completely silent (which was rare) as we, especially the youth, absorbed what we had just heard had been experienced by Ms Emma.

That day we built the stringers, posts and cut all the treads and the youth worked tirelessly and efficiently. The day ended and I knew we would leave without having finished the project. But I was grateful to know another team would be there tomorrow to finish. We prayed as a team holding hands with Ms Emma.

On the ride back to camp, my team, who earlier that day were begging to paint or landscape asked if I could request from the camp leaders if our team could return to finish the job on Friday. Our request was granted. We returned. We finished.

Ms. Emma

Here is the result of our labor as the Body of Christ. This is Ms. Emma stepping outside her trailer for the first time in nearly 12 years without having to be carried outside by her grandson.

I am so glad that God hit me with that 2×4 in the face because it is important to remember, we ALL are the Body of Christ. Age and grade do not matter to God, only what we can do for others.

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Becoming More Like Children

Our trip to Haiti was filled with new experiences, insights, and lessons of all types, but I found the children we met to have the strongest influence on me, and to be the most inspirational. I trust that God used us as a blessing to the kids who attend the Methodist School in Leon, but know with certainty that they were a blessing to me. We provided three-afternoon sessions modeled on VBS for the younger students. This included time for crafts, snacks, and Bible story readings and singing. We also gave each child a Polaroid photo of themselves. The kids were very well behaved and immersed themselves in what we offered.

The blessing they provided us included their gratitude for what we were there doing with them, but much more so in the lessons they taught us during our unstructured times together. While these children have very little in the way of material wealth, they radiate a warmth and happiness I seem to rarely see at home anymore. While their day may well already include carrying several gallons of water long distances uphill from the river to their very basic houses, they eagerly joined in to help us move rocks and gravel uphill to the construction site. One group of boys who didn't even go to the school whose facilities we were improving, showed upon Saturdayand spent the morning helping around the worksite. The kids happily played soccer with empty plastic water bottles as balls. They always greeted us with a smile, which exploded in mirth if you took a picture of them and showed it to them.

I could not help but feel that I was witnessing peace that passed at least my understanding. I can not see myself smiling, and offering to do extra manual labor in the Haitian heat if I found myself in their circumstances. Yet they were content, happy, and giving of themselves. Being with these children, brought new life and meaning to Jesus' message in Matthew 18: 1-6 'At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?' And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, 'Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me,…'. I hope you all find a chance to share time with kids like our new friends in Leon.

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How Long Does it Take to Grow Up?

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"Mommy, when you are a hundred, will you be as tall as the clouds?"

This, my little daughter asks me from her seat on the swing in our backyard. Her sweet up-turned face looks past me to the billowing clouds overhead. To her, growing up means growing taller so she can reach the monkey bars unassisted and ride all the rides at the theme park.Surely 100 years should be enough to reach those clouds, she concludes.

While our growing taller comes to an end during our teens and early twenties, our growth doesn't stop then; it merely goes undercover. Throughout our lives, our bodies are busy reshaping, remodeling and renewing themselves, not only to heal after injury or illness but as a regular practice. Cellular turnover is part of our programming.

This notion always came as a surprise to the students in my anatomy class who, though quite a bit more advanced than my small daughter, generally assumed that once they stopped growing up they started growing old. Actually, there's a whole lot of reconstruction going on.

Even our bones, which seem the deadest of things thanks to archaeological excavations and Halloween decorations, are active and changing our whole lives long. Even when they aren't growing longer, they're growing stronger in response to the pushes, pulls and pressures they endure. It's the beauty of weight-bearing exercise. We're designed to fortify ourselves.What breaks down gets rebuilt, only stronger, given sufficient time, good design and quality building materials. We are always undergoing renovation.

We call this maturation, and I'm pretty sure it's meant to be a total makeover of body, mind and soul.

Kids think that once they've grown up they're grown-ups, figuring they may have some "filling out" to do but are otherwise ready to take on the world. We, who have spent some time in the maturing phase, know that the growing never stops. Though we're not getting any taller, we're always remodeling and reorganizing: filling in gaps, replacing old notions and fortifying things in light of new information.

We who have reached our full height are meant to be filling in: building spiritual muscle, agility and fortitude as God reshapes it along with our minds, hearts and souls. We are clay in the hands of the potter, teaches Jeremiah 18. A contemporary retelling might call us plastic, hardened at room temperature, but pliable at God-temperature.

God's not done with us yet. That's such very good news. God's continually defining and refining, affirming and growing us, inside out, as we will let him. That's not just for our own good but also for the good of all of our relationships, including the precious ones we have with the generations to come.

They're sure to ask us in Sunday school or confirmation class, around the dinner table or after ball practice, on their graduation day or on their wedding day, "Mom and Dad, do your think you'll ever be able to touch the sky?" They ask, not because they really think we will, but because they want to. And they can't see ever doing it without us.

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." –2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Oh my yes, little girl, there's every chance I will reach those clouds because, thanks to God, we're both still growing.

This post originally appeared on "The Kinesthetic Christian."

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Reflections

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If you haven't been able to tell by the hyperactivity of your children, the longer and warmer days or the "senioritis" that seems to be hitting people of all ages, the end of another school year is quickly approaching. For many, December is often a time of year for reflection and introspection. But those with children or workingin the education field often save this transition time for the close of yet another school year.

As we move into the summer and begin making plans for next fall, I often find myself pausing. I pause to celebrate a wonderful year with wonderful children at Floris UMC. The children have learned so much this past year: how to read the Bible, why tithing is important and how to be better followers of Jesus.

When we began our school year in the fall, about 53 percent of students in grades 3-5 brought their Bibles on Sunday mornings, and only 22 percent tithed on Sunday mornings. But as we wind down the school year, over 76 percent of those students now bring their Bibles, and 56 percent tithe regularly. These students are learning habits and skills that will hopefully be with them throughout their lives.

I also pause to celebrate our incredible volunteers. Here in Children's Ministries, we have approximately 150 volunteers who serve as teachers, SIMs (Students in Ministry), Buddies (who working with special needs children) and check-in volunteers. And that's only on Sunday mornings! With each volunteer working an average of three hours each month, they've given atotal of more than 3,600 hours this school year alone!

And last, but certainly not least, I pause tocelebrate the parents and families who support all that we do here. We know how busy people's schedules are these days. Between school, work, sports, music lessons, scouts and family, it's hard to do it all. But in the month of April, 54 percent of our students came 2/5th of the time and 78 percent came 3/5th of the time!

Now at the end of this school year, as we enter into a period of (hopefully) rest and relaxation, the idea of spending more time reflecting on the past year may seem a bit strange and uncomfortable to some. But this is a wonderful time of year to look at how far we have come. Let's look at what we did, where we went, who we met, what we learned and how we made the lives of others just a little bit better.

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Surprising Moments of Grace

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Have you ever been surprised by a moment of God's grace? Maybe you haven't been bopped over the head by a tidal wave of undeniable grace, but what about a precious moment? Living with our hearts and eyes open helps prepare the soul for an encounter. I had one recently. It happened so fast; I wasn't prepared. But it was definitely God's grace.

I've been volunteering at Hutchison Elementary School with the PALS program since it's inception nine years ago. (This program matches elementary students with adult mentors once a week.) Five years ago, I began meeting with a young boy named Josue. He was in the fourth grade at the time and is now a freshman at Herndon High School.

After Josue moved on to middle school, I began meeting with his sister, Emily, and his brother, Jonathan. Josue had told them all about "Miss Becky," and they wanted the chance to meet with me too.

Emily is just finishing fifth grade, and Jonathan is moving to third grade next year. I meet with Emily and Jonathan on the same day but at different times. I bring LEGOS, crafts, books, games and drawing supplies throughout the year. I spend 30 minutes with them, and we talk about their life, struggles and joys. Their life is very different from mine in many ways. I feel fortunate to have been with the same family for so many years.

Recently the kids told me their mom works at Potbelly Sandwich Shop in Herndon. In between my meetings with the kids, I have often gone to Potbelly to get a sandwich and read in a booth until it's time to go back to Hutchison. The other day I decided to ask about their mom. I was early so the lunch crowd had not yet arrived, and I was the only one in line.

As I ordered my sandwich, I glanced at each of the workers behind the counter to see if I could spot a family resemblance, but I could not. As my sandwich glided through the toaster, I had to ask, "Is there a Martha who works here?" The woman who was about to put lettuce, tomato and mayo on my sandwich looked up and smiled at me. The woman next to my sandwich maker nodded and said, "That is Martha."

I smiled and said hello. I told her that I meet with her kids each week at Hutchison. And then I experienced that precious grace moment I was talking about: her eyes opened wide, and she said, "You?! You are Miss Becky?!" The recognition in her eyes was priceless. Her English wasn't perfect but she told me her kids' favorite day of the week was Tuesday, the day they get to see Miss Becky.

My heart warmed with her unexpected blessing. Showing up at Hutchison, week after week for nine years could be called obedience. But this meeting, while I was thanking Martha for making me a sandwich, is where God touched us both by a surprising moment of grace.

Submitted by Becky Kendall.

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