Crazy Good Vacation Bible School!

>> Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Vacation Bible School for children has begun and it's off to a phenomenal start!
More than 200 volunteers are serving between 300-400 children.  The goal is to plant seeds of God's truth into the hearts and minds of children.  VBS began in a completely new way this year.  The first session of VBS was our 10:45 a.m. worship service where 900 children, parents, volunteers and church attendees participated in energetic worship and inspiring learning.
 The VBS worship team brings energy, great modeling and authentic praise to God!

 Lunch is enjoyed by many, many families following our Sunday morning kick-off service.  This was billed as a picnic but bad weather forced us inside.  The meal was much more than expected!

The massive jumper created a fun atmosphere in the gym following the VBS kick-off worship service!

I want to thank the 200+ volunteers and staff who are making this a great week of mission.  Both Nazareth Lutheran Church and us are having great VBS weeks.  Touching these numbers of kids in the Cedar Valley has to have a huge impact for Christ in the years ahead.


Children Listen and Learn During Worship Service!

>> Sunday, May 26, 2013

At the end of Mike Brost's teaching this Sunday morning, he asked people to consider worshipping our Holy God by raising their hands during worship.  Some children were listening and responded!

Here are two children in the back row that wanted to participate and worship our Holy God with others.  So many incredible things happen in these little hearts.

This summer we are stressing the importance of families worshipping together!  Research (Sticky Faith) is clear that one key to having faith stick with our young people in college and beyond is the act of worshipping together as a family.

Our Family Worship Service begins in the sanctuary @ 10:45 on Sunday, June 16.  But, parents don't need to wait for that onramp to worship to begin.  Parents can bring their children in any worship service at any time.  Don't expect them to sit perfectly still.  They are kids and even I can't sit perfectly still.


Love Cedar Valley Demonstrates God's Love and Grace

>> Saturday, May 4, 2013

Forty-three churches partnered together to take God's love to our communities today.  It's called Love Cedar Valley and is led by Laura Hoy, Orchard's staff person who leads our partnership with Walnut Neighborhood in East Waterloo.

Orchard volunteers gave leadership to several of the projects including handing out lunches at the four corners of Lincoln Park in downtown Waterloo.  I stopped by there at noon and they had what appeared to be 40-50 people cooking hotdogs, putting  lunches together and then 5-6 people handing out lunches at each of the four corners.  One group of these volunteers comes to this outreach from Drug Court.  I had one of the lunches--they were delicious!

I also helped for 3 hours at a new outreach house that has been purchased by Mike and Laura Hoy on Almond Street.  A dozen volunteers in 3 hours made amazing progress by clearing this home of it's contents, cleaning, ripping up all of the carpeting and trimming trees.  It is so good for a neighborhood to have houses transformed, one house at a time.  This will provide a powerful opportunity for being a good neighbor in many ways.

Hundreds of volunteers, a nice morning, good worship, lots of energy and the Spirit of God at work--what could be better.  My prayer is that God will use this effort in the hearts of those who are on the receiving end of these kindnesses and that God will use this effort in the hearts of those who have been on the giving end of these kindnesses.

Congratulations to Mark and Haley Iehl, who were Orchard's point leaders for this event.  Good Job!  Thanks to the many volunteers that work this week and today to make this event such a success.

I was really inspired by the closing worship at Love Cedar Valley.  A worship band with participants representing 6 different churches led in worship.  The prayers and the video touched my heart.  It ended with a challenge to say to God....."Here am I to serve you!"  Powerful.




Strong Participation in Faithful Service

>> Monday, April 29, 2013

Today I was inspired by the strong and faithful work that occurred on our Cedar Falls campus during our Spring Work Day.  This day is sponsored and organized by our Route 55 Ministry which is a ministry of those who are 55 years old and better.   Between 60 and 70 people partnered to do everything they could to help us continue to be a prevailing church.  I reminded our staff early this morning not to simply see volunteers wiring, cleaning, cooking, planting......, but to see people who love Jesus serving Him in these very important ways--building His kingdom and serving our church.

Thank you for the great participation on this Monday.

 All kinds of cleaning and upkeep items are handled on this day.  I hope someone remembered to cut  the electricity!

 Following an early morning hailstorm, much good outside work was done around our campus--once the ice melted.
 The hospitality team for this day made certain that no one went hungry!
I celebrate the faithfulness of these great people.  Thank you!


Staff and Leadership Board Community Day!

>> Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Yesterday our entire staff and four members of our Leadership Board, invested our day in traveling by bus to different parts of our Community.  We enjoyed a day of getting in touch with people in our community who often are distant and unseen by us as we live our normal and everyday lives.

We visited the Waterloo's River Loop Public Market and the Plaid Peacock where our Youth Art Team has painted a huge and beautiful mural.  We heard from Jorge and Nuriz Lopez at the La Cosecha Hispanic Church.  We had a delicious lunch while visiting with many folks at the Salvation Army. 

In the afternoon,  we interacted with Chaplain Rick from the Tyson plant, got a tour of 316 Walnut House, Jobs for Life (led by Brian Carr, one of our Leadership Board members) and a home that Mike and Laura Hoy are buying to have roots in the neighborhood.

Our day ended with a time of worship in our own sanctuary.  God is at work beyond our wildest imaginations.  He is at work in places within our community that we aren't even aware of.  He is even at work within us in ways that we seldom recognize.

Armond Floyd (Fuzzy) leads us in worship as we close our day together!


Are you growing?

>> Friday, April 12, 2013

Physical growth spurts happen to many young people.  Our grandkids are one example!

For awhile they don't seem to eat much and don't appear to be growing.  Then all at once, they enter a growth spurt and they eat like a horse and it's almost like you can watch as they stretch taller and taller.  It seems to happen right before our eyes.  They are growing.

Our church mission:  Helping people become fully devoted followers of Christ requires that people grow in many ways.  It requires that people grow spiritually in their connection with Jesus Christ.  It requires that they grow in learning to obey God and following his leading in their lives.  It requires that we all learn to be more and more courageous.

As I've listened to several people who returned from our Haiti Mission trip in these last days, it seems to me that I am observing a spiritual growth spurt in these people.  You can almost watch them growing in their love of people, their courage and their understanding of the power of God.

On Wednesday I had the privilege to teach at Mom's Morning Out.  What an outstanding group of young moms and several mentors.  As I was interacting with them, I was reminded that raising young children at home can be a time of graduate level spiritual growth.  Classes in this time period include perseverance, lack of sleep, patience, gentleness, answering thousands of questions.  I thought I might be witnessing a spiritual growth spurt in these young women.

Just a question--are you growing these days?


Reflections on Easter

>> Friday, April 5, 2013

I'm writing this on the Friday following Easter Sunday.  After five days of reflecting upon our Easter celebration, I want to share 4 celebrations and brief thoughts--

1.  Jesus chose to go through such great suffering and pain because of love for His Father and for us.  John 10 17-18 says, "The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord."

2.  Easter is the source of our hope and the foundation of our faith.  The more I've thought about this, the more convinced I become that all of our hope, for this life and the next, are found in this empty tomb.  This is the foundation of our faith and the empty grave upon which we stand.

3.  Orchard people care deeply about declaring and demonstrating this truth.  Our volunteerism on Easter week is through the roof.  People volunteer to care for children, set up chairs, park cars, pass out bulletins, pick up donuts, make coffee, practice and play music, greet at the doors and so many other things.  They do this because Christ has touched their hearts and they want to respond to such a great love.

4.  We have some amazing young people involved in our ministries.  The Maundy Thursday service was entirely led by college students who shared their testimonies, led worship, washed feet and served communion.  The music and the message was amazing.  Good Friday's two services at Nazareth were also absolutely touching.  The fourteen senior speakers shared vulnerably and  reflected upon the last seven words of Jesus.  More young musicians led us in worship.

It was a great week celebrating the most compelling event in all of world history.  This man conquered death and His Spirit lives.


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