“But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.” Philippians 3:20-21

The gospel is the unifying force that crosses cultural and socioeconomic boundaries. Through the cross of Christ, we all have the same hope. Poor or rich, hungry, lonely, overworked or underpaid, incompetent or talented, drowning in debt, mentally unstable, overweight or athletic- all of us are hoping and longing for new, glorious bodies in which we will be like Him. All searching, longing, struggling, and striving will be satisfied in Him. And the displacement we all feel at times in this world will be no more, because we belong with Him.

We will see His ultimate redemptive power in the world, and we will experience true life through the resurrection of these tired, old bodies. The result will be an unending celebration of His glory and power. “Behold, He is making all thing new.” Oh, what a day when we can stand before Him and say, “You have made all things new!”

All things will come under His benevolent, compassionate, omnipotent rule. There will be peace. There will be justice. The world will be made right. We will rejoice over the work of His hands; work that, even now, is beyond our wildest imaginations. We will fully understand the depth and damage of sin because we will revel in His new, perfect world- a world where all glory is rightly placed on the Creator.

The light and joy of that coming day makes our current struggles dim in comparison. (Lord, keep our eyes and our hearts focused on this future hope!) Since we can place our trust in the hope of the promised, glorious return of our Savior, we can rejoice in our sufferings and even help to carry the weight of suffering for others. This means that today we can move confidently into the difficult,  challenging circumstances of others. Jonathan Edwards once said, “If our neighbor’s difficulties and necessities are much greater than ours and we see that they are not [likely] to be relieved, we should be willing to suffer with them and to take part of their burden on ourselves. …[or] how do we bear our neighbor’s burdens when we bear no burden at all?”

By living in the now, but hoping in the not yet, we can willingly and humbly lay down our time and our resources for the good of those around us. When our hope is rightly placed, we can help the single mother next door by providing free childcare. We can donate our professional skills to a local nonprofit. We can spend less of our money on ourselves and more on those in need. All because the day of ultimate redemption and restoration is coming. The sacrifices we make now will be revealed as light, momentary afflictions in comparison to the eternal weight of glory that is coming.

“So we don’t look at the troubles we see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things the we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

-Megan Gaminde


read more

When I learned about the mission trip to Eleuthera, I felt a little skeptical.  I heard from leadership that the trip would be an incredible experience, but every time I told a friend or family member about the upcoming trip, I received the same sarcastic but well-meaning response, “A mission trip to the Bahamas, how’d you get forced into that?”  The idea of a mission trip to a beautiful location like the Bahamas is difficult to initially understand because American culture usually thinks of nothing more than 5-Star vacation resorts, white sandy beaches, and crystal blue waters. Rarely considered are the lives of the inland locals.  I’ll be the first to admit that I fell into this trap, and I started to look more forward to the adventures on the island rather than the expectations of how God could use our team to help the Doster family and the surrounding locals.  However, my focus quickly changed once the team landed in Eleuthera and I saw firsthand the local poverty and how God uses the Doster family to bring the Word of God into a corrupt system.

Our Eleuthera Bible Training Camp schedule was simple: we worked hard, played hard, and had sessions (worship and discussions).  Initially, it appears our itinerary could have been altered to increase our productivity by removing adventures from a day or two.  We could have easily traveled to Eleuthera, worked every day, never laid eyes on a beach, and completed a monumental number of tasks for the Doster family.  However, the trip was about more than just work; it was about fellowship, discovering more about our Creator, and learning about how Christian leaders can make a difference in our own communities back home.

During our various excursions on the island, like snorkeling, cliff diving, fishing, and spelunking, we witnessed God at work.  Every experience we encountered pointed us back to God.  His beauty is everywhere, and, if one takes the time to slow down and observe it, the glory of the Creator is most evident.  At the Glass Window, the narrowest point of Eleuthera, both the Atlantic and Caribbean are seen in full array.  The Atlantic, raging and powerful, is a perfect example of God’s wrath and judgment, while the Caribbean, calm and peaceful, reveals to us His mercy.  Another influential metaphor was revealed while we were exploring the caves.  At one point, all lights were turned out and we all sat in complete silence.  The silence and total darkness made me keenly aware of the constant noise in our culture. There are so few moments, if any, when we aren’t absorbed in the everyday noise of iPods, phone calls, or text messages. This experience was a perfect reminder of the importance of taking time out of my busy schedule to sit in silence, pray, and listen for God’s voice.

Perhaps the most powerful image of faith on the trip came from a small, Haitian church on the island. This church service was all in French Creole, a language that most of us could not comprehend; yet, we all were moved by the power of the locals’ worship and the encouragement in their words. In the congregation, there was a man named Gilbert who recently suffered a terrible tragedy.  His son just died that week, and his wife, who traveled back to Haiti to bury their son, he learned, would not be allowed to reenter Eleuthera. This man, living in poverty, surviving at the low end of a flawed hierarchy, and suffering the recent loss of his son and wife, had the biggest smile on his face that Sunday morning.  After all of his pain and suffering, which would cripple many strong men, Gilbert continued to put his faith in the sovereignty of God.  He took comfort in the knowledge of God’s perfect plan. His story reminded me that the Lord is always with us, even when life is unfair or painful, and that we can always find comfort in our Father’s embrace no matter the circumstances.

Looking back, I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to go on this mission trip.  I had the privilege of meeting twenty God-fearing men who taught me so much.  Getting to know these men and their stories, each one unique in its own way, provided me with godly insights in relationships, friendship, work ethic, and patience that I can use in my everyday life.  I enjoyed every moment of this trip, whether it was working in the hot sun, relaxing on a beautiful beach, or arguing about the rules of corn hole. I am so thankful for this wonderful opportunity and all the valuable lessons the Lord taught me through it.

I would also like to thank the Doster family for their hospitality.  Keith, Lori, Sarah, and Emory, you guys are awesome!  I know I didn’t have too much time to speak with you all, but I enjoyed listening to your stories and realizing how much you love to serve others.  It is obvious that you all have a strong desire to reach out and spread the Word of God to the Bahamians, but God is also using you to provide a powerful testimony to everyone that you come in contact with at the Eleuthera Bible Training Camp.  Thank you again for everything!

-Eric Williamson | CE Cultor House Intern


read more

Planting for Empowerment

DSC_0017

 Imagine that you are a working woman in rural Kenya. Your husband is either   not around or not interested in working (or perhaps both). You try to provide      for  you and your children by doing odd jobs, but you rarely have enough money  to  buy the food needed for well-balanced meals. You rent a small apartment  that is surrounded by concrete. You would be a good candidate for Koinonia  Baptist Church’s kitchen garden program.

 

 

The program in Kenya focuses on empowering the surrounding community by providing the knowledge and resources necessary for gardens to be planted and maintained. Those in the community who have no access to land are taught to plant vegetables in large sacks filled with soil and manure outside their front doors.

IMG_3138.JPG
A pastor from Konionia instructs each gardener on the basics of planting and maintaining crops. The church gives instruction and some manpower for the project, but the weight of the planting and the continued maintenance is placed on the shoulders of the gardener. The willingness and effort put forth by the gardeners will ultimately determine the success of each garden.

IMG_3139.JPG

Robert is working to pilot a new version of the kitchen garden right now. He discusses his plan, “In the original kitchen gardens, we used cloth sacks because the sacks are common and very accessible for people. However, I am piloting these new gardens in large metal cylinders. These will be easier to transfer in case the gardener moves and will last for multiple planting seasons.” Robert drills holes into the sides of the metal cylinders so that both the sides and the top of the soil can be utilized. For now, these portable kitchen gardens feature spinach, onions, and kale, but Robert hopes to test some other crops in them as well.

IMG_3140.JPG

Space for a garden is not always an issue for those who rent. For some, they simply lack the knowledge to grow successful gardens. Irene was one of those individuals. Irene’s husband spends most of his time drinking instead of working to provide for his family. Irene tried to plant a garden herself in the past, but she made a few key mistakes that kept her from yielding a plentiful harvest.

A few from the church staff came by one afternoon and explained to Irene the concepts of plowing, spacing, fertilizing, and mulching. They worked with her on a small section of her land. The next week when they returned to her home, she had already expanded her garden to twice its original size!

DSC_0025

Today, Irene grows more than enough vegetables to provide for her family. She sells the rest of her crops to her neighbors at her vegetable stand. Her garden has grown from simple provision for her own family to a business in itself.

As we spoke with Irene about her garden, several other women from the neighborhood stood by and observed. They have seen the positive results that Irene is reaping from her garden, and they want to be able to do the same for themselves. Robert is hopeful that the next step of growth for the kitchen garden program will be a community-wide class and demonstration.

Over the years, Grace Church has helped to provide resources in support of this program. As leaders in Kenya pursue holistic community empowerment, they can use initiatives such as kitchen gardens in coordination with OVC to help eliminate the multi-faceted issues that many Kenyans face.

Potentially vulnerable families may not earn sufficient wages each day to cover costs for both food and the other basic needs of their children. However, as parents gain the knowledge needed to grow their own food for their families, they can use their finances to purchase clothing and to pay school fees and monthly rent. When their children are also part of the OVC program, they receive further support and development through the monthly gifts of advocates. The futures of these children are being directly impacted by these programs as more opportunities for growth and development become available to each.

Click here for more information regarding our partnership in Kenya and  the OVC Kenya program.


read more