Hearts Filled with ThankfulnessOctober 29, 2015 by Tori Greaves
Text and photos by Val Roark
Val and her husband, Rick, spent part of their family vacation this summer visiting and thanking churches who partnered with Empowering Lives through their Vacation Bible School programs this year.
Have you ever experienced a moment when you remember there are others out there on your same team? A moment when you realize your team members may have different backgrounds, different languages and cultures, but foundationally you are the same, bound by the same belief, purpose and hope? My husband and I had the joy of experiencing some of these precious moments this summer. It all started with a list of churches that had requested mini-grain sacks from Empowering Lives International for their 2015 Vacation Bible School Mission Project. Our task was to contact the churches to share more information about ELI, take prayer requests and simply say, “Thank you!”
What a privilege to talk to so many inspiring people! One was the VBS director at a Vietnamese church in California. As I listened to her heart, I couldn’t help but picture precious Vietnamese children bringing coin donations to benefit African children. Imagining each church and its setting was exciting as I talked with people from all corners of our country and everywhere in between. I loved the variety of voices and accents as well as the similarities. Our teams have similar needs – for more workers and renewed energy, as well as a deep desire for children to come and find Jesus.
More moments came when my husband and I had the joy of making a cross-country trip this summer. During the course of our travels, we had the pleasure of stopping at a few of the churches on our list.
August 5: Illinois and Indiana
Geneseo, Illinois is a beautiful farm town surrounded by cornfields, not far from the Mississippi River/Quad-City area. We admired the quaint town as we made our way to the First United Methodist Church. Visiting with Jan, we learned that their VBS had been a great success, and the kids loved the mini-grain sacks!
Our next stop was at William Chapel Church of God in Christ in Gary, Indiana. Across the street from this little church stood the burnt-out shell of a house, marking the struggling state of the neighborhood. The church itself stood as a light amid the darkness of this depressed inner city. Although we were unable to meet with anyone, we were reminded of the real ministry battles many on our team face.
August 9: Ohio
We had the privilege to stop at three churches in Ohio. We visited Collins United Methodist and talked to Donna, Chicky and Pastor Josh. Excited about our visit, they shared that Pastor Josh had only been at the church since July. He, like many on our team, finds himself amidst the challenges of transition. Our “thank you” came at a time when a thank you was refreshing to hear.
The next stop was at Lakewood United Methodist Church, which sits in a suburb of Cleveland. Shannon, the Children’s Director, was busily checking on Sunday school classrooms and helping in a class, like other dedicated children’s workers I know. My heart was struck by the need to lift up our team members around the world in prayer.
In Andover, we found the First Baptist Church of Dorset. A little white country church stood tall amid the fields of the small farming community, and I was reminded of another small church outside Ilula, Kenya that also stands alone in the countryside.
August 29: New York and Pennsylvania
We met Pastor Milton Cruz at the Memorial Park in Shrub Oak, New York. His congregation at the Taconic Christian Church has a heart for missions and desire to give. Listening to Milton’s heart for his people and for teaching the truth of God’s Word was humbling. After sharing gifts and praying together, we realized that our visit to say thanks had stirred our own hearts.
We drove west across the Hudson River through New Jersey and into Pennsylvania. We arrived in Ono where we met Mark, Cathy and their daughter, Abby, at the Ono United Methodist Church. Cathy is the Children’s Coordinator for the church. She showed us a VBS display board made for the church that highlighted children involved in various activities and highlighted the ELI 2015 VBS Mini-Grain Sack project. Her joy and enthusiasm were infectious, and when we saw her interact with some local children riding bikes in the parking lot, we knew the kids felt her love! We visited with her family and heard their prayer request for the church to carry on the work while their bi-vocational pastor was away ministering to military families. We drove away with thanksgiving in our hearts for fellow believers who work with faithfulness and passion, so grateful to know we have a Father who makes us all one.
There are so many more stories and bodies of believers to thank for the moments that have reminded us we are part of something big, and we are on the same team.
Your gifts strengthen children and families in East Africa, and your hearts of service impact every visitor who gets the chance to knock on your door. Keep a lookout for updates on our 2016 VBS missions program early in the New Year. If you are interested in receiving these updates or more information, please contact Tori Greaves at firstname.lastname@example.org.