These articles were published in The Church Messenger newsletter
A Season of Celebration (Sept. 2012)
The past few months at New Life Community Church have been filled with celebration. On June 24th we celebrated the completion of our mortgage with a family meal and the shredding of the mortgage. After the Elders had each ran a page through the shredder Pastor Tom invited all that were present to help with the remaining pages. Even the children joined in.
One of the annual events at NLCC is the Victorious Ministry Through Christ School of Prayer Ministry. The school itself was held at Camp Menno-Haven August 8-11. VMTC is an international ministry based in Florida, NLCC has been involved with them from our start. It is a ministry that seeks to bring the healing love of Jesus to the whole person through the breaking of bondages and the forgiveness of sins. This year’s school had 31 participants from across the United States. Most of the participants joined NLCC for Sunday morning worship and celebrated their freedom in Christ before heading home.
The most recent celebration was the Celebration of Life service for John Stash. John was an active member of our body that was diagnosed with bone cancer about 10 years ago. After his initial round of treatments he experienced several years of remission. During that time he taught himself how to play the guitar, joined the worship team, and eventually led worship. About 18 months ago they discovered that the cancer had returned. John endured many months of debilitating treatments. He went to be with the Lord shortly after midnight on August 14th. Since John donated his body for research a memorial held on August 25th to celebrate his life. There were about 140 family and friends that attended the service. John had requested that Pastor Tom present a message about eternal life. At the conclusion of his message about a dozen people responded to the call to accept Christ as savior.
In a sense each of these events is a celebration of freedom in Christ: freedom from debt, freedom from bondages, freedom from disease, and the greatest freedom – new life in Christ. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4, NASB95). More information about New Life Community Church is available at www.newlifeinchrist.com.
Breaking Bread for a Greater Purpose (Nov. 2012)
Raccoon, squirrel, deer, turtle – sounds like a list of Illinois road kill instead it was dinner. For several years NLCC has held a “wild game meal” as an outreach event. The meal would be advertised local paper and the church decorated in camouflage colors. The previous meal drew a crowd of over 120 and we were looking for ways to increase that number. That is until we got a letter from the Health Department a few months later saying we may be in violation. Not because of the wild game but because it was homemade and our kitchen did not meet regulations. For a while it looked like we could not have any meals unless the foods were catered in or prepackaged. That was upsetting news since we love our fellowship meals.
The church administrator, Mary Albrecht, met several times with the health inspector to determine what we needed to change and where the legal lines are at. Getting the kitchen up to code will take a major remodel, which is not possible at this time. However she did learn that we could still have a standard potluck kind of fellowship meal, we just cannot advertise it.
On Saturday October 27th we held this year’s version of the wild game feast. On the menu were the previously mentioned meats along with fried pan fish, hot dogs, barbeque, and other standard fare. About 80 attended the meal of which more than half were guests. One or two were driving by and just dropped in. They knew that we usually had the feast around this time. So, seeing all the cars they decided to see what was going on.
As this article is being written we have just completed another community outreach event. For the past couple of years we have provided turkey meals somewhere around Thanksgiving or Christmas. The first time we coordinated with the local food pantry and gave away all that was needed for a family Christmas dinner, a frozen turkey, a bag of potatoes and such. Last year we held it as a banquet where folks could come and we would serve them a hot meal. Because of the issues with the Health Department we choose to continue the event but go back to giving out a box with the ingredients. The congregation overwhelmingly supported the plan and gave abundantly more than was needed to meet the goal of 35 meals.
The way this works is that we purchase the various ingredients through our local grocers. We get the turkeys through a grocer in Henry and he also helps by providing storage space until pickup day. Invitation letters are prepared and given to the person in charge of the food pantry, he gives the letters to those he feels are the most in need. In the letter a pickup date is specified for the recipient to drop by the church and pick up their boxes. On Saturday November 17th, 26 of the 35 meals were given out. While the boxes were being prepared there was opportunity for fellowship and prayer with each person. The remaining meals have been given to the local food pantry for further distribution. Since this article is being written just after the event we cannot report on its effects. However, we do know that the community was blessed and that the gospel was shared.
Both of these events are a reminder of how the simple act of sharing a meal can be a bridge for the Gospel. Jesus modeled this on numerous occasions with meals large and small. From the feeding of the five thousand to dinner with Zaccheus to an intimate meal with his followers Jesus used these times to share important truths about himself and his mission. Blessings to you all, Pastor Tom Schrock and Elder Dale Heinold.
Ken’s Story (Jan 2013)
In January 2012 Ken Colwell was ordained as associate pastor for New Life Community Church. A few months later Ken dropped by his doctor to have them check out what seemed to be a small problem. What followed was a journey that few survive.
At the doctor’s office Ken described his symptoms to the nurse, simply put shortness of breath. After hearing Ken’s description the nurse called an ambulance to take him to the emergency room. After a battery of tests the doctors decided that Ken needed bypass surgery. In a classic case of hurry up and wait, Ken’s surgery was delayed for several weeks. On April 5th he had a triple bypass and began his road to recovery.
A couple of weeks after Ken’s release from the hospital on April 14th Linda, his wife, was awakened by a thump. Since his release Ken had been having trouble sleeping so it was not unusual for him to get up in the middle of the night. This morning however he was feeling dizzy and missed the bed when he sat to put his pants on. While Ken thought he would be fine, Linda insisted that they go to the emergency room. Linda thought it would be best at the time to take him herself instead of waiting on an ambulance.
Once there the hospital began to perform some tests to determine what was going on. As it happened his surgeon from his bypass surgery was available to oversee the tests. As they laid Ken back for a CAT scan his heart stopped. Linda, in the waiting room heard the Code Blue call but did not know that it was Ken. They were able to restart Ken’s heart but knew that something major was happening. The surgeon made the call to perform emergency surgery. Linda was informed of the decision but not given any details or even what to expect. Phone calls and text messages began to fly out and prayers began to be offered on Ken’s behalf. For six hours the only news was that the surgery was progressing. Eventually the chaplain relayed that the surgery was over at that they were in the process of warming Ken. A few hours later it was announced that he was in recovery.
Later it was revealed that Ken had a tear in his aorta. Because of the blood thinners he was on they were not able to operate immediately but had to use cooling techniques to bring his core temperature down, way down. The cooling had a severe effect on his brain. For several days afterwards Ken although awake and moving was not aware of his surroundings. He was easily agitated, always moving his feet, and did not react as expected to the people and things around him. At the time it was not known if this was permanent or not. But a few days later he did “wake up.”
Ken spent 15 days in the hospital and has been on the road to recovery ever since. The skeptic will see nothing more than a series of fortunate coincidences in Ken’s story. However, a person with faith will see the unmistakable hand of God. What if Ken had not stopped by his doctor? What if Linda had not woke up? What if the surgeon was not present when Ken’s heart stopped? Ken and Linda can tell you of many such “coincidences” that occurred during their journey. God’s handiwork is all around us; we simply need the eyes of faith to see it.
South Side Mission Mission (April 2013)
In a back corner of our sanctuary are two tables loaded with food items destined for Peoria’s South Side Mission. Throughout the first quarter we have been highlighting South Side Mission and providing ways for people to get involved with their work.
For many years we held a monthly special mission offering that was distributed to various ministries. To be honest, it became a kind of add on offering that was not well utilized. This year it was agreed by the Elders to take four mission offerings, one each quarter. Each of the quarters would have a designated beneficiary with their work being publicized in advance of the offering.
The South Side Mission is the beneficiary for the first quarter. Curt and Mary Albrecht had toured their ministry when they dropped of some of the extra food from our Turkey Giveaway. Curt and Mary came back very impressed with their ministry. South Side Mission is one of two major mission efforts in Peoria. Both work with the poor and those struggling with addiction. South Side Mission focuses on women that are struggling with addiction or are seeking escape from abusive situations. They also supply help for the poor and needy of the community by offering a food pantry and a warehouse with clothes and some household items.
On February 10th Steve Dunn, a representative from South Side Mission, visited our service and described the ministry. To be honest I have sat through several of these kinds of presentations, which generally come across pretty dry. However, Steve was a surprise and a joy. Very much of an evangelist, he described not only the needs but also the ways which they present the gospel while meeting those needs. For instance, before a family can go through the food pantry there is a church service that they must attend. Looking back on Steve’s visit it could be said that there was an instant family connection with our respective ministries.
Our support for South Side Mission is three-fold. The first is a food drive, which is taking place throughout the month of March. The second is an offering that took place on March 17th. The third, which is in the planning stage, is providing opportunities for our folks to volunteer at South Side Mission.
Blessings to you all from New Life Community Church.
The Flood of 2013 (June 2013)
Talking about the weather is usually a way to begin a conversation or a “safe-harbor” when you do not know what else to talk about. For those that live in our area this spring’s wet weather has caused anxiety and challenged our resolve.
Last summer was in the top ten for lack of moisture. The drought conditions dried up yards and significantly reduced the corn yield. Some farmers plowed their fields under since it would not pay for the fuel to harvest what little crop was in the field. This spring is the exact opposite. At first the rain was welcomed, however some of the storms that came through caused major problems.
April saw the worst flooding our area has seen since 1943. The flood was two pronged. A massive storm dumped seven or more inches of rain. This triggered flash floods over a wide area. Minor bridges, roads and via ducts were closed due to flooding. Some schools experienced a “flood” day since they could not run the buses due to the closed roads. Creeks that were normally shallow became raging rivers as the excess water rushed towards the Illinois River. Fields experienced both flooding and erosion. The force of the flood washed out railroad beds, leaving the tracks dangling in mid air. The water from the flash flood quickly subsided. The second prong of the attack was coming.
The massiveness of the storm not only affected us but those further north. All of that rain eventually made its way to the Illinois River. If you are not familiar with our area the Illinois River is like a great chain of lakes that runs from Chicago to St Louis where it merges with the Mississippi. It is large enough to support barge traffic and is a vital link between the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico. Henry sits on one of the narrows in the river and was once a dam site. Two bridges, one at Henry and another six miles to the south at Lacon service the area. The Hennepin bridge is 13 miles to the north. The next bridge to the south is 30 miles away at Peoria. Over the next few days the river rose to a flood stage that surpassed the legendary flood of 1943. This forced a closure of the bridges at Lacon and Henry. Henry bridge closed on a Friday and stayed closed for almost two weeks. Lacon was closed Sunday evening, reopening five days later. Several of us were planning alternate routes to get home from church that Sunday if the bridge closed. One of the larger effects was simply the extra time and miles that many experienced simply getting to work or driving their semi.
The cleanup and repairs from the floods are still continuing. And so is the rain, this spring is becoming one of the wettest ones on record. Several storms have triggered additional flash floods. Farmers in our area are fighting to get their crops planted because the rain keeps coming making the fields too wet to work.
In response to these events and others that our congregation has experienced in the past few years Pastor Tom has started a sermon series that asks an important question – do we pray for release from the struggle or strength to walk through it? To answer that we must take a deeper look at ourselves: Do we simply want to escape from our trials or be victorious as we go through them? ““When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.” (Isaiah 43:2, NASB95)