Authentic Relationships

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WordServe is amazing. It’s a small church with a family feel, and a big reason for that is community groups. Community group is where we have experienced the most depth, challenge, and growth in our faith. We have learned two big lessons in our five years at WordServe for thriving in community.

First, we had to have realistic expectations for authentic relationships. Sometimes the impression can be that as soon as you enter a community group, you will have an instant, fully-invested community. To be honest, we were not always perfectly thriving in our groups. Groups, like friendships, can be tough and take time to grow. Brand new groups, especially, struggle at first to find their groove. We were in a few different community groups, and while they were each wonderful, they were not yet home.

During this time, God worked on our hearts and developed us in exciting and unexpected ways. Meg, for example, works in a male-dominated field and was more comfortable talking to men than women for years! Through community group she formed strong bonds with the women she met and learned that her true home was with these wildly wonderful, faith-filled ladies. Through their support, she gained the courage and vision to begin attending seminary at Houston Baptist University. Matt entered community group young in his faith walk. When he started engaging with other men, especially in men’s group, and receiving the loving accountability, support, and encouragement that comes from their camaraderie, he made great strides in his maturity and his faith. Through their wisdom and support, he gained a stronger faith foundation and greater courage that ultimately led to him stepping into his role at WordServe as youth leader.

Our second big lesson… we realized we have to be courageous enough to ask for help when we need it. A dangerous, unwritten expectation can be that if we have a prayer request or discuss a need, people will automatically assume we need help and offer it. When we needed help the most, we were so busy trying to survive that we failed to ask for help from those who would’ve been most willing to give it. Outside looking in, we had it all together! This left us floundering instead of diving deeper into what community means – asking for help and being there for one anther in all of life’s circumstances in both struggles and celebrations.

God finally led us to our homes in the men’s and women’s groups. While these groups have grown and changed, their hearts for God and for each other have stayed the same. Even when we have had to step back from attending the group, we have kept our relationships with members and continued to engage them in our faith and personal lives. These men and women are people we feel we could reach out to with any need and receive support.  They are the body of Christ to us.

-Matt & Meg Lewis

 

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Get Your Bearings: Risk-taking as Sacrificial Worship–Pat’s Story

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Since October 19, Nolan and Bill have been preaching through a new sermon series titled “Get Your Bearings”, which focus on five core values that can calibrate your relationship with God to one that is vibrant, fruitful, and life-giving.  During yesterday’s service, Pat Penner, Executive Director of Sealy Pregnancy Crisis Center, shared a personal testimony of how God is using the value of risk-taking as sacrificial worship to strengthen and stretch her relationship with Him:

“Dave and I married in April of this year. The day I returned to work from our honeymoon I was told that I was part of the group of lay-offs, and would be on the payroll for 60 days starting the following month and could not accept a job during that time or I would forfeit my severance. I had worked for BP for almost 35 years and really hadn’t pictured myself as leaving in this manner. I was saddened, but I accepted it as a new chapter in my life about to begin.

My immediate thought was, to update my Linkedin profile and get my resume together as I had a list of 30+ recruiters in a spreadsheet in preparation for such a day as this. However, my wonderful husband suggested I take these next 60 days and listen to what God had to say, as maybe He had other plans.

I took that time and reflected, on my life, where I was and how far I had come. In looking back, I had seen Gods hands all along the way leading me. Each time it was for a specific purpose, as I was going through these trials, I would get angry or frustrated because I didn’t understand. But when it was all over, I’d reflect back and could clearly see that His purpose was obvious. For now I know and have confidence that my Father either removes me from the storm or will hold my hand and be with me through it. Either way, He has never abandoned me.

So I knew that I had to step out in faith by trusting that this was a new stage in my life and He had a plan for me. At the time, I didn’t know what that plan was, but I needed to be still and listen. That meant I had to trust God and walk that tight rope knowing that he had that protective hand just below me, in case I fell. And if I fell, it was because there was something for me to learn. That’s because I have total trust in God and know that He has my best interest at heart.

During that down time, I asked myself, what I found most fulfilling. Volunteering at the Pregnancy Help Center came to mind immediately. I thought well there are no jobs available there, the pay is too low and 52 miles was way too far to commute on a daily basis. So that thought was a big “No Way!” Within a day or two, I received a call from the center director Sylvia Johnson asking me if I would be willing to help out periodically during the week while I was off as they were in need of help. I gladly agreed to volunteer on Mondays and Saturdays. The commute on the weekdays was horrible. Eventually, I thought, I can’t keep this up; gas is expensive, wears on my car and it’s not bringing in any income. But supportive Dave encouraged me to continue.

A couple of weeks later I was in the grocery store in Sealy and was reflecting on some of the young ladies I had counseled that day and the issues she was facing. I felt God tell me “Look around. See, there are young ladies here in need. Where can they go for help? There is a need for a pregnancy center here. That’s what I want you to do.” Sadly, I said “Is this in my head or is that You speaking, God? Because if it is, I need you to prove to me that it’s really You.” Then I said, “Number one, starting a business is a lot of work. Number two, I can’t do this by myself, so if this is what You really want, I need Your help and your guidance.” I then thought, “I just got married, my salary would go to literally nothing, I can’t do that to Dave and I couldn’t dare tell him that I was going to start a pregnancy center knowing that starting a business requires a lot of time, money and no salary. Not only that, I’m a control freak: I had a job, owned my own home, and paid my own bills. That would mean in a few short months I’d go from total control to no control.” My entire life was being transformed before my eyes.

One evening, as we sat down to eat dinner, I had this nagging push to tell Dave and I kept pushing it back down thinking “He’s going to think I’m nuts.” Finally, I told him and his response was positive, supportive and he said ‘Who am I to stand in the way if God is calling you to do this. You have the time. See where God takes you with this.” I called Sylvia and told her the idea and that I was just thinking about it and immediately her response was excitement and she said that she was willing to help and work with me to get it off the ground and she was telling me all that I needed to do to get setup. My immediate thought was fear and “what if this isn’t Gods calling and it’s just in my head? I don’t want people getting too excited about this just yet. Let’s just keep it low and under the radar. I’m just thinking about it, not sure I’m going to do it.” The fear in me began rise higher and higher.

So what did I do? I prayed. “God, if this is what you want me to do, make it clear and obvious. I’m listening. I don’t know where to start and, I don’t want it to be a burden on my husband. Please help.” He has done just that.

With every step taken, I have clearly seen Gods hands. When I need help in any specific areas, He has brought the right person across my path at the right time and reason to answer any questions, give me guidance and offer assistance when needed, such as Cheryl, Marcus, Cathy, and others. I thank Cheryl for her help, as she has been giving me any spare time she has to pull data, look up information, you name it. She has become a wonderful friend. You see I have learned that we need others as we walk our walk.

I felt God tell me, “All that I have brought you through has been to prepare you for just this. All that you have learned up to this point prepares you for what I have in store for you, at this stage in your life.” You see over the years, I have worked in accounting, administrative services, HR, as an engineer, commercial analyst, project manager, etc. Many times I’ve looked back and thought, if only I had made better decisions I would have been so much further in my life and career. But God has taken these experiences and given me an opportunity to share them with others, offering encouragement not to give up and that it’s never too late and never beyond hope for them and their child. As I have progressed through this, I have met others that have this same passion and encouraging stories to share and they too are a part of this plan. So, I have learned through this process to be open so that others have room for their spiritual growth through this process as well.

He has been and continues preparing us for the betterment of His Kingdom. He wants someone to be there for the young ladies who are losing hope and don’t have anywhere else to turn, and I am so honored that He has chosen me as His vessel to do His work. You see what I haven’t mentioned is that I, too, was one of them. I had my son at age 16. He is now 37 and is an amazing intelligent young man of whom I am very proud. I can’t imagine him not being here or where we would be without the love and support I too received at that time. Through all of these experiences, my relationship with my Father continues to grow stronger and stronger.

I remind myself often that this isn’t about me; it’s about God and His work. I am just the tool He uses. And if I hadn’t said yes, He would have chosen someone else, as His work will be done, with or without me. I’m glad I said yes.”

Living Water International Trip to Honduras

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Over the summer, WordServe participated in several activities and projects that built relationships with members of the community and met needs, like FaithFULL Kids and Habitat for Huggins.   Though our mission focuses on reaching our own communities for Christ, we believe in the calling we have as Christians to reach the nations for Jesus.  From July 26-August 2, a team of servants from WordServe traveled to Honduras with Living Water International to help drill a water well for a community that lacked a source of fresh, clean water.  Through meeting a physical need for clean water, the team was able to introduce the community to the source of living water that will never run dry–Jesus Christ.  When the team returned, each member shared testimony of how they saw Christ at work during the time in Honduras.  In case you missed the Celebration Service, you can check out the videos below:

Chad Yelverton’s Christ Cam

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Bill Hogan’s Christ Cam

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Jason Zimmerman’s Christ Cam

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Kasey Hogan’s Christ Cam

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Leslie Wakefield’s Christ Cam

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Lisa Harp’s Christ Cam

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Marcus Dillon’s Christ Cam

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Matt Lewis’ Christ Cam

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 As you can see, this trip was truly life-changing for all who were involved.  If you have questions about the trip, please ask one of team members.  If you are interested in going on a short-term mission trip of your own, contact Nolan Donald or Bill Hogan for information about future trips.

Habitat for Huggins Update

Since December, WordServe has been involved in an on-going project called Habitat for Huggins.  WordServe was contacted through our adopted school, Huggins Elementary, about a family in need of major home repairs. The family has eight children, four of whom are currently attending Huggins. After meeting with school leaders, counselors, and other city officials, WordServe decided to commit to rebuild this house and make all the necessary repairs so that the family can return to their home.   Going into the project, we as a church realized that this was a great undertaking that could take up to a year to complete.The following video highlights the vision for the project, as well as showing the “before” condition of the home.

With the help of many volunteers from WordServe, a host of handy “Mikes”, generous donors from the community, and God’s gracious provision, much progress has been made on the home!  The house demolition and clean up was completed on May 10 and we have turned the project over to a contractor for flooring, framing, drywall, roofing, electrical, and plumbing.   Check out the current transformation!

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We are excited about the challenges still left before us and feel that this project is clearly in line with our vision of “transforming communities one relationship at a time.” This project is a direct link to our adoption of Huggins Elementary and represents our focus on changing the community through the schools. It is our hope that every person connected to WordServe will play some role in bringing this project to completion. We know it will take skilled workers for much of the construction, but it will also take people willing to serve through clean-up, painting, prayer, food for the workers, and in any other way that God might lead someone to serve.  We will provide updates when the contracted work is complete and we are able to schedule our regular Saturday workdays again.  We hope you will take part in what God is doing to transform our community one relationship at a time, through one hammer and nail at a time!

Lavi–a FaithFULL Kid in Action

Lavi Schwartz, son of Sabrina and Haim Schwartz, is one of our precious WordServe Kids who recently decided to take an active step to help others and demonstrate his faith.  Sabrina said,

“About two weeks before school let out for the summer, Lavi came to me and said “Momma, I want to do a lemonade stand for charity!” Surprised, I asked him “Why?” He said, “So that people who don’t have anything can have something!” Still curious about what he wanted to do, I asked “When?” and of course as expected from an impulsive young boy, he replied “Right now!” I explained to him that I didn’t even have a lemon to squeeze into a glass, so he would have to wait for me to get all the supplies. Lavi was not pleased with that answer and continued to beg. As a compromise, I asked him to start a shopping list and design some sketches for signs. When I saw his sign sketch, I noticed he was asking $40 for lemonade!   When I told him “Lavi, no one is going to pay $40 for lemonade!”, he simply replied, “Mom, it’s for charity; sure they will.”
Once I found a free Saturday morning, we made signs and prepared a table on the corner in front of our house. I posted Lavi’s stand on Facebook and friends, family, and neighbors came from all over–and you know what? Lavi was right!  Within three hours, he had raised $160 to donate to FaithFULL Kids.

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I can honestly say God was at work through Lavi with this because I can’t think of anything that could have sparked this idea. Not to say Lavi isn’t a giving child. He is. I just don’t know where or how he got the idea to do a lemonade stand to raise money for charity. In fact, while people were flocking over to him, he leaned over to me and whispered “I’m so glad I started this business!”

Lavi took a risk–most people really wouldn’t pay $40 for a cup of lemonade even on the hottest Katy day–but his faith that God could use him and his desire to serve others showed that even the smallest acts of service can have a great effect on the world.

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FaithFULL Kids–Sheila’s Testimony

Last week, Suzy Moore explained the impact FaithFULL Kids had on her life when she and her community group packed and distributed meals over Spring Break.  This week, Sheila Abel would like to share her experience of serving the recipients of the FaithFULL Kids backpack meals.

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“The biggest impact was the children. The children serving and the children receiving the help had only one commonality – GOD. Boundaries such as ethnicity, economic status, even age did not exist for that 30 minutes; they were all playing together enjoying each other, showing the adults that people of all backgrounds are the same inside; we want to love and be loved. For those children, playing tag and running with each other was how they loved on each other.

One child even came up to me and we created a beautiful bracelet for her out of tree bark and grass. Her little eyes were full of joy and gratitude mostly likely from the time an adult gave her. See, she plays with kids all the time; she stopped playing tag with the group and came over to the adults to join in our conversation.  Maybe to get attention that her little heart needed and our interaction gave her a little of God’s love. This I will remember because I am not in any way an “artsy-crafty person” so this was truly a God’s thing. (BTW that bracelet was really cute and would go with so many outfits, too. Next time I will be ready for her.)

The opportunity to have my kids go out and pack a few boxes of food and then hand it out provides them with a reminder of how blessed they are to always have access to food and how quickly something taken for granted could be taken away so easily. When we dropped of the food my kids were getting hungry, to provide an example for them of how it feels to be hungry, but to place others needs first. After the event they were very hungry and on the drive back home we had a delighted lesson on blessings and sharing those blessings with others.

The only risk I personally felt was how greedy I have seen myself become.  Returning home and viewing my pantry and freezer provided me with the realization that my family and I do not know truly know what it is like to ”be hungry”. Maybe we need to experiment during the summer, my children learn more by doing. 

If you are thinking about doing it, remember one thing – many of those truly in need want better they just need that hand to help them up. In all of the stories I can remember out of the Bible , God has always provided a hand from somewhere.  If He is calling you , ACT now–because the blessing you receive will have much more meaning now.”

If you would like to be a part of this awesome program, click here for more information, as well as the link to sign up!  Packing parties begin this week and will continue every Wednesday for the remainder of the summer.  Join in with what God is doing and bless children during these summer months!

Connecting with FaithFULL Kids

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Recently, WordServe hosted a Compassion event after Sunday morning worship for families to pack boxes of food for children participating in FaithFULL Kids, a program that provides non-perishable foods to kids on free/reduced lunch at Huggins Elementary.  Through this opportunity, families worked side-by-side to elevate others as God’s masterpieces, joyfully serving children who might not have otherwise had food over the Spring Break holiday.

One of WordServe’s community groups committed to greet and encourage families that came to pick up their food boxes before Spring Break began.

Cheryl Dent, Director of WordServe Kids shared, “We were giving the drop off locations a try with the hope that we could begin to build relationships with the families. It was wonderful to watch the kids that came to serve and the ones that came to pick up the food immediately connect and begin to play tag and hide and seek with each other.”

However, the children were not the only ones who connected on a deeper level.

Cheryl continued, “One of my favorite memories of that afternoon was watching the interaction of one of the kids there who came up to one of the adults. She showed her a hollow stick and the adult asked her if she would like her to make a bracelet out of it. It was special to watch the two of them interact as they found pine needles and tied them together and then looped the pieces of the hollow stick on it. The little girl’s smile and the lady’s smile as they worked together made this God moment a special memory for me. The next time our community group met, another adult there said she saw that little girl at her child’s school at lunch time. The adult was able to greet that child by name and hug her! It will be great to see how God will use just a small interaction to build relationships! God is at work as we transform our community one relationship at a time!”

If you are interested in participating in FaithFULL Kids, or have questions about this ministry, check out http://www.wordserve.org/faithfullkids for more information!

Here are a few pictures of WordServe Kids helping to make life different!

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Spare Change, Life Change

WordServe Kids at Living Water International

A group from WordServe Kids visit Living Water International’s headquarters in Stafford

Kynley and Avery were each saving money for something special–until a field trip convinced them to give money away instead.

“Before I went to Living Water International, I was saving money to buy an American Girl Doll,” says Kynley, 8.  Avery, 6, chimes in, “I was saving for a puppy.” Both girls realized they could save money for something even better. “We’re collecting money for Living Water so they can give it to people who don’t have clean water to drink,” says Avery.  Continue reading

We’re Thirsty, Too

When a group of guys from WordServe traveled to the village of Los Arcos, Nicaragua, they knew they were going to drill a water well for people who didn’t have access to clean, safe water. They knew that clean water would profoundly change the lives of the people of Los Arcos.

Then the group realized: God wanted to change them, too. Continue reading