A down payment, or…

To be honest, we’d been talking about the capital campaign for some time before it really dawned on me: ‘Oh, right… This includes me, too.’ (Sometimes I’m not the quickest one in the room.) And then I started to get a little bit nervous.

It wasn’t the idea of giving money that made me hesitant. For years, I’ve been giving regularly: ten percent off my paycheck to the church, plus a little more to support missionaries and organizations dear to my heart. I had no trouble giving away that money… But wasn’t the rest of it mine?

And so I started to pray. I literally sat down in front of my laptop with my bank accounts open on the screen, and said, “God, tell me what you want me to do with this.”

A funny thing happened: over the next days and weeks, a number kept coming to mind when I thought about the capital campaign. It was a number I was excited about giving; it was also a number I had no idea how I would give. I am well compensated for my work at Restoration, but no one goes into ministry to get rich. Taking the amount I was thinking of out of my month-to-month income over the next three years felt really hard.

So I went back to God and back to my bank accounts. And another funny thing happened. I started thinking about this separate pot of money I have in its own designated account. It’s money I was generously given by some family members, with the intention that it would be used for “something significant.” Something like part of a down payment on a house.

I’d considered that money off-limits as I’d thought about the capital campaign. Because I knew what that money was for: that money was going to help me buy a house. Someday. In a place with much lower housing costs than Arlington. But still — a house.

But I felt God nudging me; maybe this money was part of how he wanted me to reach that number I had been thinking of giving. As I thought about it, I felt both resistant and eager. Or, perhaps more honestly, I felt scared and thrilled.

The scared part was easy to explain. It’s hard to imagine replenishing that account anytime soon. And as a single person, mine’s the only income from which an eventual downpayment would come. To give that money up felt like giving up my only shot at owning a home, at least anytime soon.

And that’s when it hit me. I had been using that money as a sort of shield: a shield against the fear that I might never have a husband with whom to buy a house together; a shield against the self-doubt that said I had to own a home in order to be a “real” grown-up. As long as I had that money sitting there, I didn’t have to face any of that fear or doubt. But I became pretty convinced that God wanted to use this capital campaign to get me to do just that.

To my surprise, that’s when the excitement kicked in. Not just excitement over the new building and how my contribution could be a (small) part of making it a reality. But excitement over the freedom I felt like God was offering me: freedom from fear, from self-doubt, from the exhausting and unending effort to try to take care of myself. “Let me take care of you,” I felt like God said to me, and my heart leapt up: “Yes, please do!” I don’t know how God will take care of me in this way. But I have new, God-given confidence that he will.

So my contribution to the campaign, my way of responding to God’s graciousness to me and to Restoration, entails giving much of that down-payment money to the church. (A sort of down-payment on God’s house, maybe?) I also wanted the discipline of making regular, ongoing contributions; to practice the habit of saying no to some good things in order to say yes to this very, very good thing. And wouldn’t you know that amount of the one-time contribution and the amount of monthly contributions I wanted to make added up to that number I’d been excited about in the first place?

On Sunday, we’ll all turn in our commitment cards, reflecting our prayerful response to God’s grace. It’s been such a privilege to see the way God has worked in me and in many of you as we’ve walked through this part of Restoration’s life together. Witnessing people’s lives be transformed as they give sacrificially for the building of God’s kingdom… This is the good stuff. I’m so grateful to share it with you.

– Erin

Photo by David Sawyer. Used under Creative Commons license.

Participating in God’s Generosity

A group of us gathered on Wednesday night to talk about what God has to say about immigration.  Unlike the debates we are hearing on TV and the Radio in the build up to the election, this was not a moment to talk about our different political views, but to have a discussion about what unites us by learning about God’s heart for the stranger among us.   And God gives a surprising amount of instruction about this!   

When I think about vulnerable people, those that need to be protected, I think of the poor, the widow and the orphan.   However when God talks about caring for the vulnerable in the Bible, there is a fourth category – the foreigner.  Throughout the Old Testament God reminds the Israelites “do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt” (Exodus 22:21).  If he mentions it so many times, it makes me think I should be paying a little more attention – is the immigrant more vulnerable than the average citizen?  Do they have the same access to justice, services and wealth?  There must be a reason why God says that he “watches over the alien” (Psalm 146:9), that he needs to be their protector.

Jesus was keenly aware of the needs of the immigrant, having himself lived as a foreigner in Egypt when a child. In Matthew 25 he makes clear that it is those who feed the hungry; clothe the naked and; invite the stranger in, that will inherit the kingdom of God.  But what does all this mean for us today?

It is not easy to respond to the needs of the people around us, not least because these aren’t necessarily people that we see everyday. For many of us these people are not our friends or neighbours.  But as we discussed on Wednesday, perhaps we need to be a little more intentional about reaching out.  This doesn’t have to mean moving into a different neighborhood (although for some people in our congregation that is exactly what they’ve decided to do) but may simply be making the effort with foreigners you do meet, whether in your workplace or in the supermarket.  Research from the Bllly Graham Center has found that less than 1 in ten immigrants will ever be welcomed.into the home of an American, to say nothing of a Christian.  Maybe this is an area where we could start to make a change.

As one of the people at Wednesday’s study so beautifully put it, this is a wonderful opportunity for us to participate in God’s generosity.  In Acts 17 it says, “From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” So it may be that God has brought people to live alongside us so they can reach out for Him and find Him. How wonderful if we could set aside our own fears and anxieties to join these people in this most divine journey.

Sarah Beaumont

Serving at AFAC

AFAC Farmers’ Market Runs are a great way to serve our community!

 

Sunday, July 1, Restoration volunteers collected $3,680 worth of fresh produce.

 

 

Sunday, July 8, Restoration volunteers collected $3,200 worth of fresh produce.

 

 

Sunday, July 15, Restoration volunteers collected $4,320 worth of fresh produce.

In three weeks of serving, we moved a total of 7,000 pounds of food worth $11,200.

There’s still time to join the fun! Sign up here.

Thank you!

Have you ever:

  • served greeted, served communion, ushed, read scripture, or run the sound board at a Sunday worship service?
  • volunteered at AFAC, A-SPAN, Casa Chirilagua, or the Sunrise assisted living center?
  • led a small group?
  • been part of the worship team at Sunday worship?
  • worked in the nursery?
  • gone to West Virginia or Moldova?
  • led a kids’s small group?
  • worked around the church?
  • planted a seedling for our Plant-a-Row-for-AFAC garden?
  • baked communion bread?
  • brought snacks for fellowship time?
  • come to a parish meeting?
  • prayed for Restoration?
  • served on a committee?
  • SHOWN UP FOR WORSHIP ON A SUNDAY????

If you’ve done ANY of those things — and that’s all of you — then we want to say THANK YOU! Restoration is a church full of amazing people. You offer so much of yourselves — your time, your presence, your prayers, your gifts — and our church wouldn’t be the amazing community it is without you.
So come on out to a picnic this Sunday from 1:00 – 4:00 pm. We’ll have BBQ and drinks, face painting and a moon bounce. You bring a side or dessert to share, a chair or a picnic blanket, but most of all– bring yourselves!

Please take just a second to RSVP here so we can be sure to have plenty of food for everyone!

See you Sunday — and thanks!

Swords or marshmallows?

It’s June … thunderstorms and showers and the temperature is ramping up. So much is happening it can be a bit overwhelming: help here, do this, write that, serve them, watch those…. What do we choose when there are so many voices? So many needs? How do we listen to the one voice we need to hear? What is it that we are called to ‘do’?

Living our lives as God-worshipping people in Arlington is sometimes very easy – we are unlikely to be martyred for our faith, nobody is going to burn our house down or stone us.  But somehow where there is no conflict or challenge our inclination towards comfort can make us a bit more like a marshmallow rather less like a sword, where we live quietly and without fuss in our cultural setting. How do we remember what we believe when we don’t talk about it?

It can feel really awkward talking about what you believe – dropping Jesus’ name into the conversation doesn’t always come easily; but the aphorism ‘Preach the gospel at all times, if all else fails use words’ can be a bit of a cop-out. Certainly our actions are important and can speak loudly of who we are and what we care about – like parking at W-L on a Sunday or cleaning up Oak Grove Park this afternoon (June 2nd, 2.30pm -5pm) but what about those words? Where have you seen Jesus this last week – and who can you tell all about it?
As we head into the weekend (God save the Queen!) how about using some words, as well as your actions as you reflect the image of Christ in our neighborhood.

Pastor Pearl and the orphans

The little girl standing next to Fiona in this picture was fascinated by her skin – she stood and stroked it for ages – eventually saying “your skin is so lovely, it is white like the mug” – Fiona had been hoping to acquire a tan whilst abroad so this didn’t come across as the huge compliment that was intended! Isn’t it funny how different our perspectives and dreams can be?

Pastor Pearl is ethnically half-Chinese and half-Burman, and we met her in a township just outside Yangon. Ethnicity is always one of the first things you are told about someone in Myanmar as both historically (the government recognizes over 135 distinct ethnic groups) and geographically (they are surrounded by 5 countries), ethnicity is a significant source of identity, but one thing became clear as we visited a number of different pastors, ethnicity was no barrier to adoption! I’m not too sure how many orphans Pearl cares for – or widows – but her house was FULL: she is a walking, living, breathing Prov 31:20 woman, She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.

Orphans is a term which is often used quite broadly – Pearl’s orphans could have lost one or both parents or be ‘economic’ orphans (abandoned permanently or temporarily because the family can’t afford to keep them) – but what is true about all of them is that they need care. Pearl welcomes them all – and feeds, clothes, loves them and teaches them about Jesus, whilst also pastoring a church and caring for a number of widows, and other poorer families. The development term often used for children like these is OVCs (orphans and vulnerable children) and in May OVCs are our focus at Restoration. The Weekly Good Ideas on the bulletin each week will run with the theme and we will spend time at the Tuesday prayer meetings interceding for children.

As a church community we try to support a few things well – Casa Chirilagua (and Dawnielle, the Hoppes and others) www.casachirilagua.org and World Orphans (and the Blaines) www.worldorphans.org are our two major connections in this area. Within the congregation many individuals are involved in other organizations: e.g. Cindy Darnell is an enthusiastic board member for David’s Hope http://www.davidshope.org , Jade and Melanie Totman advocate for Compassion (Simon and I also support five children through Compassion) http://www.compassion.com/ and I expect that friends in your circle of influence can recommend similar organizations. We also have a number of families in the congregation who have adopted children, or who are fostering. Look out for them, talk to them and ask them their stories! And, please tell me your story. How are you involved? How are you walking or would you like to walk with the poor, the widow and the orphan?

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:27 ESV)

Next Thursday, May 10th, 7.30pm come to church and hear from the Blaines about their imminent departure for Cambodia. It will be a great opportunity to listen to their story, learn more about Cambodia, and what God is doing to reach orphans in a different land. Bring your friends – and expect to hear from God!

 

Homeless Care Packages

If we did a word association test on Arlington County, ‘poverty’ and ‘need’ probably wouldn’t rank very high. Consistently ranked by Forbes magazine (alongside neighboring Fairfax, Loudon and Montgomery Counties) as among the nation’s most affluent places, it’s possible to live in Arlington and forget that there are still a large number of needy residents here.

Cardboard sign-bearing men at intersections and panhandlers at metro stations remind us that we still live in a broken place with hurting people. How would Jesus have us respond to the destitute and needy?

St. Matthew writes in chapter 25 verses 37-40 of what we are to do:

37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

This stands in stark contrast to common responses to the homeless: ignore the panhandlers (walling ourselves off from others in our community), give out spare change (potentially exacerbating the substance abuse that plagues homeless populations) or politely decline to give out money on the street and pray for them instead (leaving a physical need unmet). A potential fourth option is to carry a homeless care pack that can be distributed to those in need, filled with items that advocates for the homeless list as beneficial.

This Sunday (March 25) members of our Restoration family are invited to bring donated goods (from the list below). Small group volunteers will collect and sort the items into individual care packs, which will then be made available for the congregation to distribute starting April 1.

I don’t claim that these care packs are the solution to long-term homelessness in Arlington, but they do enable us to connect with our neighbors in need. In addition to the donated goods, we will provide a list of resources for Arlington homeless persons, as well as scripture.

Prayer For the Poor and the Neglected (BCP pg. 826)

Almighty and most merciful God, we remember before you all poor and neglected persons whom it would be easy for us to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the old and the sick, and all who have none to care for them. Help us to heal those who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy. Grant this, Father, for the love of your Son, who for our sake became poor, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Please consider bringing any of the following items to the church on March 25:

  • Wet wipes (preferably individual anti-bacterial wipes)
  • Nutrition bars (soft, chewy cereal bars rather than hard granola bars)
  • Fruit or pudding cups
  • White socks
  • Toothbrush / toothpaste
  • Chap stick
  • Small New Testament
  • Bottle of water
  • Soap / shampoo / conditioner / deodorant
  • Poncho
  • Razor / shaving cream
  • Gloves
  • Comb / brush

Questions? Contact Jeff Walton at jwalton[at]spu[dot]edu.

– Jeff Walton

 

Operation Christmas Child

Can a gift change a life?
I recently watched several of the videos on the Operation Christmas Child website showing joyful children all over the world receiving Christmas gifts in shoeboxes.  They are amazing!! In one of these videos titled “Blessing Children and Churches in Sudan” something said by James Abdella in Lainya, Southern Sudan caught my attention.  He said:

“A child, from America, or Canada or somewhere, sending a box to a specific child in Sudan and [the children] pray for him.  That is a turning point in the life of that child.  That child will never be the same.  That’s why it’s not just a gift.  It is changing the lives of the children.”

I stopped to think about this some.  I thought about the shoeboxes we sent last year, one from my then 6-year-old son to a boy in his age category one from my then 3-year-old daughter, to a girl in her age category.  We had filled those boxes with markers and crayons, soap and toothbrushes, candy, and a few new small toys like slinkies and kazoos.  Surely, the children that received those shoeboxes must have been thrilled, especially considering those were probably the only gifts they received at Christmas.  But could those gifts have changed their lives?

In pondering this question I was instantly reminded of a time that I too was a child in need when seemingly out of the blue, I received an amazing gift.  My need was not the same need as an impoverished child living in difficult circumstances, but life certainly felt pretty dark and without much hope at times.  The gift I received was from someone I thought was a stranger but who, in reality, had been loving me my entire life, I just didn’t know it.  When I think about the Lord’s grace, really think about it, it is entirely upending to me – generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved.  And for a needy child, isn’t it possible that their perspective and openness to being loved could also be completely altered when they receive a shoebox gift from a complete stranger?

Also, wherever appropriate, the children receiving shoeboxes are offered a copy of “The Greatest Gift of All” booklet in their own language by local churches and ministry partners.  Thus, OCC is not just providing shoebox gifts for children living in dire circumstances, but is a tangible expression of Jesus’ love and an opportunity to tell children we have never met that Jesus is their Lord and Savior.  Will you join me in sending some more shoeboxes this year?

Mt. Olivet is serving as the OCC shoebox relay center for our area and has asked for volunteers during collection week – Nov. 14 through Nov. 21.  If interested, you can sign up here.

Packing a Shoebox:

1) Use an empty shoe box (standard size) or a plastic container about the same size. You can gift wrap the box (lid separately), but wrapping is not required.

2) Use the label from the Operation Christmas Child brochure (on the table in the back of the church) or print out a label from Operation Christmas Child’s website.  You can also print a label after making your online donation ($7 per box).  Using this latter option will enable you to “Follow Your Box” (or find out where your shoebox was delivered).

3) Once you have your label, determine whether your gift will be for a boy or a girl, and the child’s age category: 2-4, 5-9, or 10-14. Mark the correct age category on the label, and tape the label to the top of your box.

4) Fill the box with a variety of gifts that will bring delight to a child. Need ideas? Check here.

5)  If you did not use the “Follow Your Box” online donation option, please write a $7 check to Samaritan’s Purse (note “OCC” on memo line) and place it in an envelope on top of the gift items inside your box.  If you or your family are preparing more than one shoebox, please make one combined donation.

6)  Place a rubber band around each closed shoe box and drop off at Restoration this Sunday, Nov. 20.  We will deliver them for you!

Have questions? Please send me a note at cara.voth[at]gmail[dot]com

– Cara Voth

Caring for Moldova’s orphans

Over the summer, Restoration member Kevan Hayes spent 7 weeks traveling in Moldova, looking at ways to help the country’s many orphans. You can read Kevan’s report below. And come to church on Sunday, when we’ll hear more from Kevan about his trip and about how Restoration is making a difference in the lives of orphans in Moldova!

I have just returned from two months in Moldova, traveling the country and speaking with village church pastors, orphanage directors, and directors of non-profit organizations that are seeking to address the needs of orphaned children and children in at-risk families.   I want to thank Restoration for its encouragement and support during this trip.  It was certainly an educational experience that I will long remember.

First, let me tell you about how Restoration is serving to meet orphan issues in Modova.

As many of you know, Restoration directly partners with Jesus Savior church in the Moldovan village of Soldinesti (pronounced Sholdinyesht).  This church runs a home for girls who graduate from the state-run orphanages after the ninth grade.  Girls who have no family members to take care of them once they graduate are left to survive on their own and are at greater risk of human trafficking.  The church’s pastor, Vasile, and his wife Lucia, take care of these girls in a boarding home behind their own house.  Currently there are seven girls in the home, including Michalia, who is newly arrived.  Vasile, Lucia, and their three daughters have taken these girls in as part of their family.  These girls are getting attention, love, an education, and spiritual leadership that they would never get if forced to live in survival mode.  The results are apparent in the quiet confidence they demonstrate and the hope and aspirations these girls have for their lives.  Currently Restoration is helping to fund greenhouses that will provide fruits and vegetables for the home throughout the year and to sell in the local markets for additional financial support. Our church has also funded the construction of a tailoring shop, where the girls will learn a trade and earn wages, and the shop will also help support the transition home.

I also traveled throughout the country. My access to church pastors, heads of orphanages, and directors of non-profits gave me a comprehensive view of the varying opinions of the issues at-risk children face in Moldova and what should be done.  Here is a summary of what I learned:

  1. Orphan numbers are decreasing while children-at-risk numbers are increasing. In response to European Union mandates, the Moldovan government has a goal of closing orphanages or reforming them into child placement centers by 2014.  While the intentions are noble – a child better off in a family environment than in an orphanage environment – the government is often meeting this mandate by refusing to place new children an orphanage, thus reducing orphan numbers but not addressing the true needs of these children that are resigned to live in unloving and often neglectful or abusive conditions.  As a result, the number of “orphans” is decreasing but the number of at-risk children is increasing.
  2. Many churches hold camps; few build enduring relationships. For the most part the Moldovan churches want to help meet the needs of orphans in their communities.  But often their support is limited to summer camps and Bible studies.  While this is important, relatively few were taking an active, relational role in the lives of orphans and at-risk kids.  These children are desperately in need of life guidance to help them as they move from adolescence into adulthood, preparing to lead their own live, raise families, and pursue the skills, talents and desires that God has given them.
  3. There is a race to engage the local church. Orphanage directors spoke about the budget cuts they are experiencing and the concerns they have that children are left in or placed back into risky home situations.  Orphan numbers in the orphanages I visited have dropped by one-third already in the past couple of years.  With increased urgency, many NGOs are shifting their efforts away from investment into orphanage facilities and toward meeting the needs of at-risk children and child placement assistance.  All of the NGOs (primarily Christian organizations) I spoke with see the local church as the appropriate implementer of their strategies — especially given their own resourcing constraints and the timelines they are working against.
  4. There’s a need for increased coordination and information. Although there is increasing awareness among NGOs that no single organization can meet the breadth of orphan needs, few are actively seeking partnerships with each other.  Sadly, I heard often that this lack of partnership is due to constraints put on organizations by Western-based donors.   Sharing information and coordinating resources will be increasingly critical as the number of at-risk children increases.

 

Happy Labor Day!

Happy Labor Day! I hope you are enjoying a day of rest and refreshment as the summer draws to a close.  Often, holidays feel like moments of grace in our very busy lives–  special visits, sleeping in, special food.  Elizabeth Boesen reflected on a moment of grace from this summer.  I found it to be beautiful and encouraging.  Enjoy!

-David
 
 
Recently, the leader of a small group that I am blessed to be a part of suffered the passing of her mother-in-law.  As part of her grieving process, she gave each of us in the group a bar of rosewater-scented soap, a smell which she associated with her mother-in-law.  It was a beautiful and symbolic gift, and I carefully put it in the cupboard to be used at some future, equally symbolic time.

Well, yesterday, in the middle of a busy summer and some tumultuous personal times, I was about to get in the shower and noticed that we were out of soap.  So I looked under the sink and saw, next to the lined up boxes of Dove, the box of rosewater soap.   And this dialogue happened almost instantly in my spirit:

“Oh, no, definitely can’t use that one!”

“Why not?”

“It’s special!”

“And why isn’t today special?”

“Huh? Well, but…but…it’s glycerin—that’ll get used up too fast in the shower! I should use it as hand soap.  Someday.”

“Is there a scarcity of good things in the world?  Do you think this is the last good gift you will receive?”

“But I could enjoy it longer if it were hand soap!”

“Maybe you will enjoy it more knowing it is fragile and precious!  LIKE YOU ARE…”

Breath caught.  Long pause.  Stare at soap.

“And what if there is no vague, special day out there to come, and the soap never gets used and just stays gathering dust under your bathroom sink?”

“Well, I know it’s only soap, but somehow that’d be tragic.”

“Isn’t there is a lot of stuff you are ‘saving up’, Elizabeth?  That you’re afraid, somehow, to enjoy now? That you think you don’t deserve?”

My arm starts reaching out—calmly, gently, with joyful power not its own—toward the soap.

“What if today is your last day? That’d make it pretty special, wouldn’t it?”

Grab the soap, smiling inside and out, unbox it…

I enjoyed the lather like none other in my life–the feel of the glycerin, and the rose smell, of course.  But perhaps most of all, the bright color of it, as it sat against the white shower wall—all red and symbolic and abundant and celebratory and GIVEN.

As I continued to turn it over and over in my hands, I thought of all the amazing things God has been doing in my life in the past few weeks and months, and felt grateful and joyful and almost as if it was the day I’d given birth to one of my children, or a momentous anniversary, or a day of great accomplishment.  How did I miss that this Thursday in July was a special day?

And then I thought—no, more like I breathed in—the miracle of this whole life of mine, and the infinite price at which it was purchased, and I knew in a fresh way that, indeed, every day is “special”.

Is there anything that you are “saving up”?

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
(John 10:10)

“This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
(Ps 118:24)

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