Monday, July 24, 2006

Impact Sundays:
Some may still not understand much about what goes on at Impact, and really, no amount of blogging can replace spending time involved with the various minitries. However, we hope that some of our posts will help. Maybe a "day in the life" will give some insight from my perspective. Being the bilingual minister, there is still so much on the English-speaking side that I miss out on, but I tend to get to touch on a variety of the Impact body life just by walking through the building sometimes. Here's what I know that goes on every Sunday.

Sunday morning: I drive in from Kingwood (35 minutes away) and try to do some prep-work for the upcoming activities. Sometimes I get to meet up with the worship team men at McDonalds to eat breakfast, but at least we unite in the prayer room to lift up some songs and put the days plans in God's hands, before getting busy. While some of the "hermanos" set up sound and computer equipment, making last minute changes to songs or PowerPoint items, the rest take off on our routes, picking up members in different parts of the city who don't have means of transportation. Already the building has been cleaned by the custodial staff, the chairs have been arranged by Alfredo and Xavier (who rent a small house on campus), Darrell Washington and Winston Bridges have started doing some things to prep the kitchen, Charlie Lott is setting up the tables in the main hallway to welcome everyone with coffee and a friendly word or two, and the technical team on the English side makes last minute adjustments. Greeters take their posts, ministers and helpers arrive in vans with members. The English worship team meets to go over plans as various bible classes begin. Kids classes for each age are available up through high school. Adults on the English side have a few options for Bible classes, while the Hispanic congregation begins with a time of praise before studying together in their auditorium. (Plans for more options are in the works at this writing. A "New Christians" class is to begin in the next week or two.)

Between class and main assembly is a 15 minute recess where parents gather up children and everyone has a chance to mingle. Assembly time begins at 10:30 or so as members are ushered into their respective auditoriums. Traditional worship services commence with a time of praise, prayer, participation in the Lord's Supper, a message from the Word, and body life announcements. (Once every 6 weeks, the entire congregation meets in the larger auditorium for a bi-lingual assembly.) At the closing of this time, those with special prayer needs are invited to meet in the prayer room where elders and ministers are on hand.

At the last Amen of the Hispanic side's prayer, those members exit as soon as possible to visit and wait in the hallway as their meeting place is rearranged into a dining hall. Several of the "outdoors men" help with the set up along with members and visiting congregations. The visiting group for that week, having come from an area congregation, has come to provide and serve food for the weekly Impact Sunday lunch. (From the beginning, Impact has made a point of having a fellowship meal following Sunday worship assembly. This not only allows those who really need a hot meal a chance to fill their bellies, but it also gives the Impact family a greater opportunity to get to know each other more.) This meal is an example of how Impact is more than just a campus specific entity. Several area churches of Christ are VERY involved in the ministries to the downtown community through Impact. After lunch is over, those with van routes take people home, as others help clean up and put things away. Amazingy enough, the building in fairly quiet by 2:30pm.

Once or twice a month, the Hispanic side invites the church to play soccer in a nearby park. Otherwise, the afternoon is pretty calm. Not much else happens on Sunday in large groups, but several small groups meet on Suday evenings. Where most of those meetings occur in houses where members pray, sing, and discuss scripture and its application before eating together, the Hispanic group meets in the Youth Development Center. The setting is still more informal and is generally followed by refreshments and fellowship or extra prayer. Like I said, this is from my perspective. So much more goes in to the preparation of classes for young and old alike, coordinating meeting areas, directing parking, special meetings, etc. God, however, knows all that goes on, and His hand is guiding it, thankfully.

"Up On the Mountain"
To kick off the Summer, High School minister, Dennis Yaeger took a group on their annual “trek” up a mountain in Colorado. The trip was made possible through funds given to the youth program to allow these young people a chance of a lifetime to see a side of God’s raw majesty like never before. When asked what the coolest part of the trip was, Dennis beamed with pride as he said, “They all made it up.”

All had some problem during the trip, and all saw the climb as impossible. Experiencing the summit helped them realize that they can do more than they can imagine. And now Philippians 4:13 has a powerful, new meaning.


Youth from the Impact Houston Church of Christ traveled to Salida, Colorado earlier this summer to take part in Wilderness Trek, a Christian youth camp that uses mountain climbing as a spiritual motivator for teens and college groups all across America.
The Impact group, made up of 15 teenagers and three sponsors, rappelled a 150 foot cliff and were able to summit a 14,000 foot peak.
The summit consisted of a 26 mile trek up the side of Mt Hope, a mountain in western Colorado, in just over 3 days.
At times the hike became so strenuous that many members of the group were compelled to sit down in the middle of the trail and refused to go any further. Forced to lean on God and each other, the young inner-city group valiantly pressed on, hiking as many as 10 miles per day.
On their second day of hiking as they approached their destination for the night, Kenneth (Ray Ray) O'Neil reached the campsite first. When he realized that some of the others were having difficulty moving up the trail, he immediately began to help the exhausted, by carrying their packs to the campsite. O’Neil said he recognized the situation and just wanted to help out.
“I saw some of the others struggling and just wanted to do what I could to help,” said O’Neil. “It was no big deal, I know they would’ve done the same for me if I’d have been in that situation.”
So much was made of his heroism that the High Camp area for Mt. Hope, was named Camp Ray Ray, in honor of his actions.
After a day of rest, the unified group hiked the remaining six miles to the summit of Mt. Hope. The wind, at times, was almost unbearable, reaching nearly 70 miles per hour. Although the conditions were less than ideal, the view from the top was worth it all, according to senior Sheena Jones.
“About halfway up I was ready to quit,” said Jones. “But once I got to the summit and saw the incredible view, it was totally worth it.”
The question of whether or not those that participated in this year’s trek will return again next year is still in doubt, however the experience gained from the incredible struggle is one that sophomore Jerald Varner says everyone should take part in.
“I think everyone should go on trek at least once,” said Varner. “I mean, it was tough on you both physically and mentally, but you come out it closer to God and closer to your group. It definitely made me a stronger person.”
Despite the incredible hardships faced by the Impact group on their journey, with God’s help they were able to overcome their adversity and accomplish their goals. Trek proved that according to Jeremy Varner.
“You can do anything with God’s help,” said Varner. “You just got to have faith in His power and He will be there when you need Him.”

Just in case you are new to Impact, like me, or are just “out of the loop” in regards to what happens in the summer at Impact, let me give you a run-down as I understand it. Through the generosity of many contributors, and MUCH prayer, Impact is able to have working with them an amazing amount of interns. These high-school and college-age young men and women decide that the best way to spend their summer is to devote all their time and energy to loving and presenting Jesus to the hundreds of local children that come to Impact for VBS. They are trained and led by the youth and childrens ministry staff to sing, play, drive vans and be ready to serve with glad hearts in the millions of different ways they may be called upon to help.
Each week they lend their hearts and talents to the different groups that come in to direct that week’s activities. (Those groups of up to 50 or more youth and sponsors, drive in from various congregations from several different states, often to camp-out for the week at Impact sleeping in the different buildings and classrooms.) Every Sunday a new group goes through orientation and redecorates the campus according to their plans, but all follow the same theme: “Who’s Your Hero? -JESUS!”
Though VBS includes skits, activity stations, songs, games, crafts, entertainment, field trips to cool places all over Houston, a reading program, and lasts for 4 weeks, the greatest part about the whole summer is that they get to spend so much time with people that show them lots of love and attention. The kids at the Impact VBS get to know a bunch of real heroes who don’t accept the credit for being heroes. All credit goes to THEIR hero, their inspiration, their guiding light, and their LIFE.: JESUS CHRIST!

Please pray not only for the remainder of this summer’s VBS, but pray also for the fruit that God will bring from the faithful efforts of so many that made this summer special. Thank you interns, ministers, all the various groups that came to put-on a VBS for us, and thank you all who support this work financially, prayerfully, and administratively.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I want to share with you an article about a special person at Impact. I asked one of our minsters, Les Rose, to write a member profile for the newsletter and was excited about his choice.

" 'Sanctuary: An Impact Memeber Profile'
His name is Lewis Bird. He’s at Sunday morning worship and has only missed maybe three Monday nights of his weekly Bible studies because of illness. Sunday after Sunday he makes his way to the Spanish worship services. Monday after Monday he sings three songs to our class: “Macaroni,” “Peanut Butter,” and he closes with “Sanctuary.”

Even though Lewis is not bilingual, and even though Lewis sings a couple of secular songs, and even though Lewis has the mind of a 6 or 7 year-old….there is something VERY special about him!!! He loves Jesus and he knows how to close our Bible study: “O Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary – pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living sanctuary for you.” Isn’t that the desire of us all? Shouldn’t that be one of our favorite songs, too? How I wish that we who hold down jobs, finance homes, raise children, vote and assemble every Sunday to worship had a simple, loving faith like Lewis Bird.

O Lord prepare US to be a sanctuary."
I know it must be frustrating to visit a blogspot only to find nothing to read there. I'm still learning how to do this, and trying to find time, but I think its worth it.

It is great to be able to learn about a ministry, a church, and a place where God is being glorified. Impact, as I am discovering almost daily, is an amazing place that serves a myriad of different needs (homeless, the poverty-stricken, immigrants, and people in desparate situations), it is a body of Christians learning more and more about living and growing in diversity, and in all that is done here, the purpose of putting God first is what sets Impact apart from other institutes that serve the community in downtown Houston.

To learn some more about what goes on at Impact, check out its website and look for updates of the newsletter:
I am in the process of updating this blog. Here is a brief report of happenings in May, sans photos.

Recent blessings at Impact within the last month (May).

* 3 more baptisms
* 1 more family to place membership on the Hispanic side
* Reeling from successes of Garage Sale and Celebration dinner
* The pleasure of a large, well organized group from Kingwood to serve one of the best Sunday lunches of the year: great food, great smiles, and kids with matching t-shirts!
* The beginnings of plans to implement small groups. (One group of ministers already in training to begin a “prototype cell.”)
* New children’s ministers selected (to be officially announced in two weeks.)
* New Distribution Center administrator selected: Barbara Mantooth
* 7 high school graduates honored
* Summer interns arriving as summer activities begin
* Recent visits from former Impact ministers, Calvin Henry and Steve Austin

These are highlights from a general perspective. God, however, is moving in the hearts and lives of families and individuals whose rollercoaster lives are filled with incredible struggles. The simplest blessings, in contrast, shine brighter when life seems bleakest. Faith grows stronger when the test is harder. Messages are sinking in, relationships are being mended, problems are being faced, hope comes alive, patient, persistent faith is being built even when God’s answer is, “Wait, and trust me.”

Keep praying for the people at Impact who need someone to reach out to them, and for those who are there ready to extend a hand.