Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Our second day of work and fellowship with some dear ladies made up today.

Once again we divided up into teams to spread the workforce and visitation.

Some photos from yesterday and today at the screen porch project:

One shot of the outdoor kitchen being built at the WWM bunkhouse complex:

And some of the ladies we visited today:
Ms Lily

Ms Bell

Ms Fleming, who had a staircase built by our team.

Ms Bowie and her caretaker, Ms Minnie

Ms Betty (right) with her niece Linda.  Betty suffered a fall yesterday, but was encouraged by some fellowship and singing!

A highlight of today was visiting Sadie.  Sadie is a bit of a legend among folks who have worked with WWM.  As is the case with so many of these ladies, visiting her today gave us a picture of God's excessive grace buoying a spirit, and enabling her to choose joy, service, and humility in a life that would breed resentment, cynicism, and anger in even the strongest who tries to live by his own strength.  Sadie has protected her children from the expectations of failure that have surrounded them due to their race and their neighborhood, and for the past several years, she has nursed a husband who has been severely debilitated by a stroke.  Rather than becoming self-involved and bitter, she spends her days ministering to others.  The God that Sadie serves is able to open the heart, may we all seek Him!  Here's some singing with Miss Sadie:

Monday, July 14, 2014

Widows Watchman Trip 2014

Greetings from Honea Path!

We arrived Saturday evening about 4:30 to meet our ministry partners and get settled into our home for the next few days.
Field and bunkhouse complex in the background

WWM (Widows Watchman Ministries) has a newly constructed set of bunkhouses to house visiting groups.  So, we're enjoying the great outdoors and getting to know the folks from Highlands ARP and Christ Reformed Church very well!

Saturday night supper
Sunday morning we worshipped with our brothers and sisters at Christ Reformed Church of the Carolinas in Anderson, SC.  Rev. Alexander Campbell taught from I Cor 10, focussing on our responsibility as Christians to surrender our Scripture-backed freedoms for the sake of love when we are called to do so.  An appropriate topic to be sure as we ask the Spirit to fuel us for service through long days, close quarters, and some nice July heat.
Heading into worship.

After worship, we were wonderfully fed by the folks at CRC (excellent eating has become a theme of our trip), and looked to the afternoon for some Sabbath rest.  "Rest" brings the image of quiet, peaceful respite.  Well, ours was peaceful, but not so much quiet, as we headed out to a local hunting club for some skeet shooting.  I'm pleased to announce WOARP had 100% participation, and everyone hit at least 1 clay.  No starving for us this week!
Jack lines up a shot
After shooting, Paul Patrick, RUF minister at Erskine, fed us some delicious pork BBQ before we headed back to our camp.

Today was our first work day.  Bill May (WWM Director, and our host) keeps a running list of widows in the area who need all types of service.  Today, we intermixed our churches into four groups.  One group stayed at our camp and began the work on a outdoor kitchen for future WWM groups.  Two groups went out to widows' homes: one re-screening a porch, and the other building a new set of stairs off of a handicap ramp.  The final group was on visitation duty, driving all over the area to sit and talk with the ladies whom we are here to serve.

Of course, this visitation is a big part of what these widows truly need.  We have experienced first-hand the hospitality, humble attitudes, and welcome of the ladies that we heard so much about before we arrived.

A few of our girls Frances May, 94 years old.

Prepping materials for the screen porch.
We end today tired from our work, pretty sweaty, and ready for rest.  Tomorrow we will have more projects to do and love to show and to experience!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Home: "How do you measure success?"

This final post is coming to you from White Oak ARP.  We are back from a wonderful trip.

Thursday morning saw another fantastic day at VBS.  We enjoyed singing our songs, making our crafts, and teaching our attendees about the design that is so evident in God's creation.  Once again, our youth did a fabulous job leading and teaching.

After VBS all our kids, their parents, and the Hill City pastor enjoyed hot dogs in the Park.  As we were winding down, I had a lady who had brought the large church group to VBS ask me an interesting question.  She asked, "How do you measure success?"

I thought for a brief moment before I responded.  How do we measure success in our ministry at VBS and at White Oak?  Is it some number, whether a number of attendees or a number of children who answer a question regarding their salvation in a particular way?  Is it how much we learned?  Is it how good we felt doing what we were doing?  Is it whether Hill City was encouraged?

My response was simple: our trip was successful if the Gospel was clearly proclaimed.  It doesn't matter if we saw any immediate fruit (even though it is always nice to see it!), it doesn't matter how many children came.  If one person was confronted with the saving reality of Jesus Christ, we did our job.  If we were faithful to the Great Commission, conducted ourselves worthily, and didn't shrink from the opportunities before us; we have accomplished what I would consider a successful "missions trip." Think about that next time you're considering a church event, or the "success" of Sunday morning worship.  Are you looking for a number?  Are you after a certain "feeling"?  May all of our ministries be guided by the simple presentation of the Gospel, which, as Paul tells us "is the power of God for salvation." May each day of our lives be "mission trips" where we seek to do exactly this same thing.

Thursday was a quick turn around, departing Rock Hill and heading down to Winnsboro to visit Pastor James McManus in his new charge at Bethel ARP.  We were able to enjoy some time in the pool with the Bethel youth, and we got to explore our ARP heritage.  The Old Brick Church, near Winnsboro, is the site of the 1803 formation of the ARP Synod of the Carolinas, which was the first iteration of the Synod that still exists today.  In the very old building, we sang of God's goodness, and shared a little about our trip with the Bethel folks.

Thank you for your prayer support during this weekend.  Keep your eyes out for a chance to hear more about our trip!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Over the Hump

Another wonderful day at VBS.  Today, we learned about Jesus' obedience to his Father in dying the death that his people deserved.  Please pray that the children who heard will have their hearts impressed by the Holy Spirit.

We had another providential meeting this afternoon.  After we played some very hot frisbee during which we didn't attract any attendees, we moved to the area of Cherry Park that is hosting our VBS in the mornings.  Despite their fatigue, our team took the initiative and invited some of the kids hanging around the park to join us for some wiffleball.  From this invitation, we were able to speak to a kind Mormon lady.  She was happy to hear of our Christianity, but also happy to tell us that our religion was incomplete without the additional revelation to which her sect holds.  After she told us that she was a Christian who believed in the Bible (but had "moved on" to Mormonism), we were able to share Revelation 22 with her, which clearly argues that the Bible is complete, and anyone who subtracts from it or adds to it will be cursed.  She didn't seem to have thought that one through.  While she continued on to give us some more facts about the LDS, hopefully the Holy Spirit can use that one little conversation to plant a seed of doubt in her mind.  Pray for her and the teenage girls with whom she was spending the day.

Hill City once again reached out to us this evening, hosting us for a bonfire and some s'mores.  We have felt a true sense of partnership with their church this week.

Tomorrow is our last day of VBS!  We will close the week with our normal program, and a cookout for the kids who attend.

Finally, here's our team's summary of the day in one word:

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

God's Providence

Today was a long day.

The comment was made during our devotional time tonight that we are tired, but a "good tired."  Today was jammed packed with emotional labor, spiritual labor, and physical labor.

Our numbers grew about 100% at VBS today.  As I mentioned, yesterday we spoke to a large group visiting the park, who came in full force this morning.  We managed to tackle the large numbers (literally, in the case of some of the males), and the day went very well.  Our youth gave some testimony this evening about kids who are asking hard questions, and parents encouraged us this evening that their children are learning and having fun.

Here are some pictures from VBS:

Here's a great example of God's providential work.  Yesterday, we took the Cherry Park Director up on his offer to find us a service project. He ended up passing us a name for a lady who served a homeless/community outreach called Renew Our Community (ROC).

Now, back up a week or two to a conversation I had with Andy Stager, the minister of Hill City.  Since our fellowship time with some smaller local churches fell through, we ended up agreeing to join Hill City for a "Bike Fixin Cookout" at one of their member's homes.  It turns out the member was a man named John, who hosted Rachel, Tracy, and I on Saturday night.  John is a bike mechanic, and explained to us that Rock Hill has a burgeoning cycling culture growing around a new velodrome (indoor race track for bikes) recently finished.  

Back to helping out ROC today...our host took us to an outparcel on their property that was filled with furniture and pieces of office cubicles.  She explained that they needed to reorganize and move the considerable amount of stuff to make room for a bicycle workshop.  As you can easily imagine, for a homeless person a bicycle is a great gift, providing faster transportation than walking.  ROC has received a pledge from the owner of a recycling location to donate the average 10 bikes that he receives each month, and the ministry needs a place to fix them up for their clients' use.

Here are some pictures:   

Now, move forward to our supper with Hill City tonight.  We didn't really know what we would be doing, but we knew that John and other HC folks had been collecting bikes to refurbish with some other friends from Rock Hill.

Have you connected the dots yet?

Before we ate, John stood up and announced that the ministry for which we had cleaned out that building was a ministry that he was leading.  He had taken the initiative with ROC, and one of the biggest roadblocks to their progress had been finding the time and labor to clean out the space that they needed to establish their work.  We had sort of put the pieces together before that point, but what an incredible act of providence that led us through a totally unrelated contact to clean out a room so a member of Hill City could help the community of Rock Hill!  Our God is good.  

Here are a couple views from supper tonight:

My mental energy is about exhausted for this evening, but here's one more exciting piece of news.  The Schroeder men had to go back to John's house (the location of tonight's cookout) to pick up a left backpack.  Upon their arrival, they discovered that one of the attendees tonight, who John and Hill City had been regularly inviting to their meetings, had admitted an interest in receiving Christ, and had the HC body pray with him tonight to accept God's offer of salvation.

Providential opportunities, large numbers at VBS, and a new citizen of the Kingdom of God... quite a bit to be thankful for.

Keep praying!

A quick update...

We invited a large group who was with us in the park yesterday. They joined us in full force this morning.  56 kids!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Rock Hill 2013

As always, this mission began at home.  We left the White Oak parking lot assured that the support and prayers of our families would coincide with God's perfect design for this trip, and we took off!  Eight students, five adults, and several helpful puppets took hold of I-85 north in hopes of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We arrived in Rock Hill about 5:30 on Saturday afternoon, and were thrilled to find what awaited us at Cherry Park.  The facilities we had reserved were swarming with families that had gathered to celebrate, eat, or just soak up the warm sun and cool breeze.  We knew that we weren't going to be working in some unknown corner of Rock Hill, but would be right in the middle of a hub of activity.

Saturday night gave us the chance to spend the night with several of families from Hill City Church.  Not only a great chance to get to know our hosts and ministry partners, but a time to build some friendships. Rachel, Tracy, and I stayed with a family who recently moved into a house built in 1896.  They had a very friendly three-year old boy, 2 friendly dogs, and 13 chickens in the backyard (15 before the aforementioned friendly dogs had a say in the matter).  We heard testimonies of God's grace in their lives, and got a better vision of Hill City's efforts.

Sunday saw morning worship with HCC.  They had a fantastic ensemble of musicians, and played hymns to tunes with which we are familiar, as we sing them in our youth meetings.  We celebrated the Lord's Supper together in a special and unique way, emphasizing the (literal in this case) table fellowship of believers.  Our youth had a great new perspective on the Sabbath, and we were all encouraged by Rev. Andy Stager's preaching.

After church, we hit the streets to canvas for VBS.  Andy and co. provided maps for us in order to focus on certain neighborhoods.  Our youth jumped right in.  There was no hesitation to invite people, regardless of (apparent) social status, race, or even openness to receiving an invitation.  Not to say they were obnoxious, but their excitement for the VBS was clearly evident.  We ate supper with our Hill City hosts, and closed the evening discussing evangelism and the day ahead.

Monday dawned with ideal weather, and plenty of energy. We welcomed 23 children to VBS, all of whom engaged quickly with the material... and with our youth.  Give Tyler V. an opportunity to flash a few magic tricks, and it won't be long before you draw a crowd.  Soon after we began, we saw a uniformed man approaching our crowd.  I'll admit, I was ready to be scolded for some minor infraction, but it turned out to be the Cherry Park supervisor, who was thrilled with our efforts.  He offered any service the park could provide, and even has worked his local connections to line up a potential service project.  Really a neat thing.

The park was swarming again (kind of a surprise for a Monday morning), and so we were able to invite several folks who arrived to play on the playground, or, in one case, whose children were wide-eyed and riveted to the games our attendees were enjoying. (Or, it may have been Haddon's umbrella-hat, who knows...)

We sent a team to bring some love and greeting to a local group home who sent some campers to the recent inaugural Camp Joy, SC.  Looking forward to a report from them and a delicious supper together.

Pray for continued hard work, and that the inevitable drop in energy won't result in a drop in performance.  Most of all, pray for the Holy Spirit to soften little (or big) hearts to the Gospel, so the Kingdom might press forward.

Now that I know this blog exists, I'll get some pictures up tomorrow.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Day Five (Wednesday)

Trying to do VBS on July 4th isn't very easy - it hasn't been in the past when we have tried to at Appalachia, and it wasn't this year doing it in Rock Hill. The 4th is a family holiday - so our numbers went from a high of 30 on Tuesday to about half of that on Wed, the 4th. However, we still had VBS and it was a blast (pun intended)! We enjoyed the smaller crowd and took the opportunity to do more small group/ one on one ministry with the children who were there. Some of them were even interested in joining us that night for 4th of July festivities! This year, the festivities consisted of us joining the Hill City crowd out at a farm for food, music and fireworks. The food was jambalaya made with fresh sausage and chicken, cooked in a iron cast pot over a wood fire! It was spicy and delicious! Other homemade goods were brought and enjoyed by our group. It was a warm evening, but we had a lot of good fellowship. One of the highlights for me was the hymn sing jam session. We gathered on the porch of the guest house, and played away with guitars, a banjo and a fiddle. What a blessing it was to play these songs! There is a video of the event that I hope to get up soon! Thursday is the last day of VBS for us and then it's on to Lake Greenwood for a night of rest and evaluation of the trip!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Day Four (Tuesday)

Day two of VBS is done with - and what a day! On Monday we had 14 children - which is about what we averaged at Appalachia. On Tuesday, we had 30 kids! They just seemed to come out of the woods! What a great blessing - it caused our team to test their flexibility, but it was worth it. It is awesome to see so many kids get into the lessons about Jonah, singing silly VBS songs, feeding the coy pond goldfish with their goldfish crackers ... just enjoying all the aspects of this year's VBS! We are doing this VBS at Glencairn Gardens and it has a really interesting history to it. It was founded by Dr. Bigger, who wanted to have a garden in his backyard. He had about 5 acres on his property, and went to work on creating a beautiful garden for him and his wife. He decided to name it Glencairn after his home place in Scotland. And, here we are today, a church from a denomination that comes from Scotland, helping a church from the same denomination, in a gardens named after a home place from Scotland. In my Scot-Irish Presbyterian mind, this is God's gracious providence shining through! Here are a couple of pics of the area:
That evening, we went out to Olivet Presbyterian. This is the church that Beth and I consider to be our home church. Here is why - it was my first ministry job; I graduated from college while there; Beth and I dated while there; Beth graduated college while there; we were engaged while there; we were married at the church; went to seminary while there; graduated seminary while there! So, a good bit of our life together is wrapped up in Olivet PCA. So, it was a special treat for me to take the WOARP group there for the evening. It was nice to come back and have so many folks from the church come up to the church to meet the group and see the work going on! The missions committee provided dinner for us - and then about 30 kids from the church and community showed up. We went down to the ball field to play a very large game of softball, and then we came back up to the church. Our WOARP group led the singing - and then we did the entire book of Jonah in 10 minutes. It was quite a skit! There is a video of it that may show up one day soon! This is a pic of the Olivet kids we hung out with:
It was a great day - and now on to Wednesday, the 4th!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Day Three (Monday)

Today was our first day of VBS - and many prayers were answered! The weather was just about perfect for the morning - not too ward, humidity was down and a nice breeze. It was one of those tangible ways of knowing answered prayer! Many of the kids who came to the opening festivities also came this morning. Here are some pics from this morning:
As you can tell, we have been pretty busy - and it can easily tire you out. For example:
Tonight, Filbert PCA's youth group hosted us for dinner and games, and gave us a chance to talk about the trip. Caleb and Rachael shared about our work, and then our music team led the whole group in singing. It was a great time! What was a poignant moment was all of us singing Psalm 133 together - and seeing it put into practice. Our God is a great God!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Day Two (Sunday)

Our day started later than any of our other days, mainly because church didn't start until 10 am, and it was only a 5 minute drive from campus! Thankfully, this allowed us to sleep in and get some rest for the week!
We worshipped with the Hill City Church this morning. The music was beautiful (visual evidence above) and the sermon was challenging about whether we were fully living for the kingdom of Jesus! I believe the most moving part was the end of the service when Andy had our mission group stand and the congregation surrounded us, laid hands on us and prayed for us and the trip! It was very special to have this time with the congregation and their prayers in a visible way! Then it was on to lunch and to canvassing local neighborhoods. Here is a pic that sums up our canvassing experience:
It was hot. Period. HOT! It seemed that every time we looked at the thermometer, it just got hotter! But, we drank a lot of water and remembered what a great work God has called us to! We canvassed a number of neighborhoods for about two hours ... which led to this:
We had a much better turnout for our little carnival than we anticipated! There were 15 kids, some from the church and some from the surrounding neighborhoods. We're praying that we will see all of them, and more, for the coming week! We spent the afternoon doing all sorts of activities with the kids - parachute games, corn-hole, face painting, three legged races ... and water balloons! However, what may have been the biggest hit was the popsicles we handed out! There were water bottles and popsicles all over the place! The kids seemed to have a really good time and were excited about VBS for the week! Now, we are back on campus, eating pizza and watching Veggie Tales "Jonah" - our way of preparing for the week! We are tired, sweaty, dirty - and thrilled to be here and doing this! We look forward to sharing with you about VBS starting tomorrow!

Day One (Saturday)

The Mission Trip has begun! Above is our mission group photo, taken right before we loaded up the cars and started our way to Rock Hill, SC. If you look closely, you may be able to tell how hot it was already at 9 am! But, we have known for a while now that it was going to be very, very, very hot for the first few days - and, by very, very, very hot, I mean with highs averaging around 105 degrees, with a 'real feel' of between 115-120 degrees! But, our Heavenly Father never issued a call to missions solely for those places that are mild! Thankfully, we had good travel that was uneventful. Of course, I have had to hear a lot of ribbing about how inferior SC is to GA ... but, I just chalk it up to jealously ;) Once we got here, we hit the ground running. We unloaded, went to Glencarin Gardens to get our bearings straight, made some minor adjustments to the weekly schedule and set up to accommodate a better group atmosphere - and then it was on to Wal Mart to shop for the week. After this, we came back to campus to get settled, hang out and figure out some details.
Our home for the week is Winthrop University, my (and Beth's) alma mater! So, of course, the youth have had to cope with my numerous jaunts down memory lane - dorms I stayed in, where Beth and I were engaged, where my major classes were, etc. So far, they have proven to be good humored about it, even to the point of wanting me to re-stage my proposal to Beth ... we are looking for a stand-in for my lovely wife! Our plans for Sunday include going to Hill City Church for worship, canvassing the neighborhoods surrounding the Gardens, and doing a VBS Carnival in the latter part of the afternoon, for which we plan on handing out a lot of popsicles and water! Please pray that this event would draw in a lot of children from the surrounding neighborhoods - and we would keep ourselves very hydrated for what is looking to be one of the hottest days of the year so far!
It's said that a congregation will take on the personality of their pastor. I think the pic above says something about me and my group. If you can't tell, this is a picture of the trailer as we were packing yesterday morning. It shows that we packed 5 guitars, a mandolin, a banjo and a hand drum ... and that, at least for a few moments, constituted the majority of our luggage! This caused me to chuckle - and to be thankful that we have many in our youth group whom God has given musical talent and desires to use for His glory. And, yes, there has already been a good bit of music played since we have arrived in Rock Hill!