This family and ministry update is long overdue and we'd just like to say "Thanks!" to all of you out there who think about us, ask about us, and pray for us. And thank you to those who have faithfully supported us this past year as we relocated to Raleigh and have gotten established in this community. We are so thankful for you all!
"Mercy, peace and love be multiplied to you!" Jude 2
It's been a crazy year for us. Many trials and blessings running along side each other while God continues to carry us through. Our family is growing as we found out in September that Angela is pregnant with our baby number 2! We're super excited about this little one coming into the world, and are privileged that God would entrust another life with us. As we stumble through trying to be good parents we can only pray that God's grace will be upon both of our children and that He would carry them through this life and on into the next. The baby is due in May or June of 2012 and we'll hopefully find out in the next few weeks if it's a boy or a girl.
James just turned 3 in November and is growing fast. He's becoming a wild little boy with a big personality and I think he's got a great sense of humor. He has really brought life to his boring parents and keeps us on our feet. He's learning a lot as Angela home-schools him weekly. He's got a great memory, is very inquisitive and really pays attention to people. That is a huge answer to our prayer that God would make him a young man who loves God and loves people.
Until recently we have remained pretty healthy, but over the past month we all got sick and Angela has fought bronchitis for 2 weeks. God has taken good care of us financially, relationally and spiritually as we have met some wonderful people, made some good friends and Greg has been blessed with a steady job.
Work has proven to be satisfying and a real opportunity to learn a good trade and minister the truth and love of God to those who don't know Him and encourage those who do. This summer was very hot, humid and busy and led me to work a lot of overtime. I am blessed to serve my community with my hands as well as with God's Word. And I am thankful that I can teach James this trade as he gets older if he desires so that he too might be able to know a beneficial skill and serve his community. Heating and air conditioning are luxuries many of us do not want to relinquish, even in times of economic hardship. This trade has remained steady even through the hard times.
We are continuing to pray about adoption for the future as we feel this might be something that God would have us do as a tangible expression of His love for us. Please keep us in prayer about that and that as our family grows, so would our faith. Family has been a real theme this year and God is continuing to show us that genuine spiritual ministry must overflow from a healthy united family. Thank you to those of you who have modeled that for us because we are experiencing the difficulty of managing family, work and ministry opportunities.
This past year has felt like a huge spiritual science project gone bad. We came out to North Carolina in hopes of beginning a home fellowship Bible study and after a year that has not happened. While much of that could certainly be the result of my personal immaturity, lack of leadership and not "laboring" hard enough, we are also growing in understanding where God has and has not gifted each of us. This can be trial and error, and after a year our attempts to some degree have felt like a "successful failure". A "failure" in that what we had hoped would materialize has not, and a "success" in that we have learned much about ourselves, others and God's plan for us through it all. As time goes by we see God's wisdom and plan unfolding rather than our agenda or preconceived ideas. We feel confident that the "traditional church plant" is obviously not what God is calling us to, and we are somewhat back to square one with discovering where His gifting and blessing is and where He is leading us as a family and in ministry. Honestly, this has been a very difficult year, clouded with confusion, discouragement, and disappointment but we thank God for the living hope within that drives us to press on and trust in Him with our future and His will. Having been here a year now we definitely believe that God has called us here and we are exactly where He wants us even though ministry has been hard. With that said, we know for certain that no matter where we are or what we're doing we are absolutely called by God to:
1- Preach the Gospel 2-Make Disciples 3- Equip the Saints
While that might sound very general and not very specific, we have found that those 3 elements of ministry have given us great freedom and flexibility in how, and where and when we minister to others even though it might not take on the appearance of a church plant, regular Bible study or organized outreach. We do long and pray for opportunities that are more consistent and regular in regards to meeting and reaching out.
Through your prayers and support we have been able to preach the Gospel, make disciples and equip the saints in the following ways:
Preaching the Gospel:
Greg has been able to share the Gospel with nearly all his co-workers as well as many customers. We have been able to share the Gospel with the homeless downtown, with college students at the University, with a wide variety of people outside the downtown courthouse, people on the city bus, and even attend some gay pride events and reach out to the gay community with the message of Christ. James and Greg write the gospel on balloons and attach tracts and let them go. We have passed out Gospel videos to people at work and in the neighborhood. Angela has developed friendships with ladies and mom's in the neighborhood and share a variety of spiritual resources with them. When work is not busy Greg's boss gives him a weekday off to go to the university or downtown to minister to people. That has been a huge blessing! Please pray that God would give us more opportunities and boldness to share the Gospel with the lost and even see a positive response from those whose heart's are soft.
We have been so blessed to have formed a friendship with a young married couple here with a daughter and watch them grow in their relationship with Christ. Greg works with the husband and is often able to meet up to talk, read through the Word of God, pray, or even just live life together. Angela meets weekly with the wife for Bible study and they are able to grow together in applying God's Word. We are blessed to have a great Christian video library full of spiritual movies, training dvds, teachings, debates, etc. and this is one way we are able to help disciple others at their convenience. We can never underestimate the power of a great video when people do not have or take them time to read a whole book. And finally we are plugged in to a Christian Coffee Shop/Fellowship called "Hope Cafe" that affords us the opportunity to fellowship with other believers, hear God's Word and be part of the local Body of Christ. Hopefully should God develop a home fellowship through our lives it can be an extension of this local community ministry. Please pray that God would bless us with the opportunities to see people not only come to faith in Christ, but also be part of maturing and developing them in their understanding of God's Word, the Church and His will for their lives.
Equipping the Saints:
As I mentioned previously, our Video library has been a great resource to help others grow in a wide variety of areas: Understanding the Scriptures and various doctrines, apologetics, learning about false teaching and cults and damaging cultural trends, as well as church history, American history, and a many other areas beneficial to a follower of Christ. With the financial support given to us we have purchased Bibles to give away downtown, at the colleges and anywhere we go, a variety of tracts and DVDs and CD sermons to give away, and even Bible resources like "Evidence that Demands a Verdict" and Bible Handbooks. Thank you for the finances to accomplish this. Other ministries we're involved in through financial support and prayer are: Rainbow Village, Foster Connect, Gospel for Asia, 4KIDS of South Florida, Hope Cafe, as well as supporting other Christian families and individual ministries. We even print some of our own tracts and brochures that deal with a variety of topics. It's our desire that we would be a place where believers and unbelievers alike could find resources to have or borrow that could answer their questions or train them in certain areas. This is definitely a passion of mine. Our fellowship with other believers in the community has also proven to be outlet for us to encourage and equip others while we ourselves are also encouraged and equipped in many ways. This is the blessing to be experienced within the Christian community as people come together out of a mutual love for Jesus and a desire to pour into others and be poured into themselves. Would you please pray that God would continue to equip us to be equippers so that His people would become more and more confident and assured in the truth and reality of Jesus Christ.
Friends and Neighbors
I might have mentioned this in the past but our immediate neighbors on either side of us are both young adult Christians. We are so blessed by their friendships and occasionally get to have dinner together and fellowship. Also we have developed some sweet friendships with the pastor and other believers who fellowship at Hope Cafe where Holly works. Holly has also been able to establish herself as a faithful employee, receive promotion and more responsibility and encourage those who work at Hope Cafe as well as customers. In June Anthony and Melanie with baby Niah moved about 25 minutes south of us to a town called Fuquay Varina. Anthony has established himself with a company doing electrical work and he and Melanie are plugged into a church and are reaching out to the community through a prison ministry in Raleigh and children's outreach in their neighborhood. This past year we were so blessed to be visited by Vance and Michelle Shepherd from Las Vegas, Wayne and Marleen Champion who now live in South Carolina, the Strebe Family who live in St. Louis as well as our families. Thanks again to those of you who came to visit. I must also mention that we are forever grateful for the solid friendships we developed with those of you in Las Vegas and continue to cultivate through the phone and internet. We are so encouraged by every text, phone call, email and picture you send our way. We know everyone is busy with life and so we don't take it personally if we don't hear from you, but know that we love you tons!!!
Over the next few weeks I will be posting various blogs that touch on a variety of subjects from:
Biblical Interpretation, Apologetics, End Times issues and the Rapture, Mormonism, Islam, Same-Sex Marriage, the role of good works in the life of the believer, Authority and Submission, etc. While my understanding of all of these subjects continues to develop as I study and learn more, I hope these blogs will provide some thoughtful insight to these issues and encourage you to not be convinced or satisfied with "shallow or surfacey" answers to deep theological and cultural issues. The Biblical Christian worldview is completely able to address all of life's difficulties as well as meet the challenges of an ever changing culture and world. Please feel free to email me with any concerns or questions you might have about any blog or to dialogue about anything relevant at firstname.lastname@example.org. Oh yea, we'll also add blogs with pictures of James and the family for those of you who don't really like reading the "religious stuff." You can also email Angela at email@example.com.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all! And may the political and economic climate of our day not cloud out the Perfect leadership of our Lord Jesus Christ and His unending treasures for those who know Him.
Greg, Angela, James and baby Stephens
Our little gift from God.
This is North Carolina State University campus "brickyard" where they allow us to open air preach and pass out tracts and DVDs to students. You can easily draw a crowd to listen to the Gospel in this area where the students eat their lunch outside.
This is a picture of downtown Raleigh during a city event. Downtown here is nothing like Las Vegas, but it is a great place to reach out to all different kinds of people. The courthouse is also located on this street and has proven to be a great place to pass out tracts and talk with people.This is Moore Square, a park downtown where we hand out lunches to the homeless community and share Christ. There are many different Christian ministries that reach out to those in need here.
For Christmas this year we gave out almost 100 "180 Movie" DVDs to homes in our neighborhood. This 33 minute video is a powerful pro-life video and Gospel presentation. It also has 2 audio sermons that share the full Gospel and challenge people to be genuine followers of Christ.
James on his new bike he got for his 3rd Birthday. Yes, we finally got him a helmet moms.
James at "Monkey Joes" his favorite place to play.
These are some pictures Holly took of James.
Greg's mom, Hope, came to visit and we all went to the beach for a day to hang out.
The Strebe's came to visit and got Collin and James matching jammies.
Greg, James, Angela, Jason, Collin, Nancy and Preston in the stroller at the state fair.
James, waiting for rain.
This summer we went to the beach for the weekend as a family.
Wayne and Marleen Champion came to visit us for Thanksgiving. We love you guys!