College Ministry, Young Adult Ministry

A Mission Trip Without the Miles

The week before finals.

While this time frame is perhaps the most dreaded for many of my college-age friends, it has become one of my very favorite. First Trinity’s outreach ministry at the University of Buffalo (called UB Common Ground) kicks into high gear during the last week of each semester to serve and care for students. This means I get the joy to be on campus every day this week to offer a bottle of water, a smile or hug, a prayer, a “you-can-do-it” to whoever wanders in! It feels almost like a mission trip, except it’s just a few miles down the road. We prep, get our team together, gather supplies. I’m out of the office more than I’m in it. I soon forget what day it is and get so lost in what is going on that I might as well be on a different continent.

But no planes are needed here. Nope, just a few hours each afternoon, some coffee, and a couple dozen homemade cookies are all that it takes. While college life truly is another culture all its own, the cross-cultural experience doesn’t stop there. Within minutes I can leave my little cubical of Tonawanda NY and be transported to India or Indiana, Nepal or New York City, China, Iraq, and the list goes on. Sometimes God calls us to jump on a plane to another place in the world; other times He brings the world to us. In any case, His call remains the same:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew‬ ‭28:19-20‬‬

As I sat next to a friend Barry today, this verse came into a new light. In a few weeks this friend of ours will wrap up his time in Buffalo and return to Singapore. He will be greatly missed on Wednesday afternoons, but something really cool comes out of this too.

Through campus ministries, ours and others, Barry has grown in his faith, been discipled, taught God’s commands, and reminded of God’s presence with him always. He has been challenged in his faith and we’ve witnessed him sharing that and encouraging others. I’m pray those are things that continue as he leaves us soon.

Barry is not the only one either. On any given Wednesday afternoon we may interact with students from any part of the country or even the world. When we can show the love and grace to these students we meet on campus each week, they can in turn return to their cities, states, nations, knowing Jesus more and more equipped to share the Good News of Christ in those places. As First Trinity’s Mission states, we truly can “transform our WORLD one life at a time.”

Sometimes I think we complicate God’s commission too much. I am all about domestic and international missions and truly enjoy any opportunity I have to follow God’s command to “go” when it takes me far from here. I also have to remember that the physical place I may be called to could be as close as the friend across the coffee table, the neighbor down the street, or a group of college kids struggling to make it through the final days of the semester.

Go.

Near or far.

Go.

To all the nations.

Go.

Get on a plane or walk down the street.

Go.

The world needs hope and light and love to break through the darkness and despair. We have that to offer.

So, go.

And remember: God is with you, always!

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School of the Week, Uncategorized

Kenmore East {School of the Week 17-18}

This week we thank God for and pray for Kenmore East High School!

Fast Facts:

  • Founded 1959
  • Grades 8-12
  • Mascot: Bulldogs
  • Colors: Navy and Gold

Prayers:

  • Pray for all the students of KenEast, but especially our First Trinity high school students: Haley, Jack, Chris, Jaclyn, Chris, and Ethan. Ask God to walk with them each day and give them opportunities to live out their faith at school, in extracurricular activities, and in their homes.
  • Pray for their administrators, faculty, and staff.
    Principal: Mr. Patrick Heyden
    Assistant Principals: Ms. Elaine Thomas and Mr. Joseph Greco
    Ask God to give all who lead the students wisdom and grace.
  • Pray for the students who are sports teams or in music programs that they would perform to God’s glory, stay safe, and have fun.

SOTW - KenEast banner

Devotional, First Trinity

Truth IN Love

One technique our church has taught for studying God’s Word is to look at each word in a verse, emphasizing it and seeing how that gives insight to the verse as a whole. One place I love to use this study tool is on verses that seem well known to me already. When “Speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) popped up as the verse of the day during our recent Miracle of Mercy study I decided to use this technique.

In general with this verse, I feel like each part is one over which I could stumble when it comes to living it out.

SPEAK: I hold back and stay content to “let my actions show” when really I may just be afraid to speak up.

THE TRUTH: Other times I may speak, but what comes out isn’t truth or is only partially truth, not THE truth. Rarely is it a flat out lie, though we can all say that’s happened too. Rather, I’m tempted to beat around the truth or hide the truth in wishy-washy thoughts. If I’m going to speak truth, it needs to be the whole truth, unhidden.

IN (love): This is where the rubber hit the road for me in my recent reflections on this verse. To be in something meant it’s completely surrounded by something else. If I’m IN a house, from the outside, you’d see the house (and perhaps me peeking through a window). If an ingredient is IN soup, you may taste the individual ingredient, but overall, you just taste soup.

I think sometimes I serve up truth WITH love, as a side dish or a house with a garage. It’s much harder to speak truth IN love. When I can do that, what the person on the receiving end sees most, is love. When it’s serve as a side dish, I have a much higher chance tog hurting the other person, but if it’s all wrapped in love, the truth still gets communicated but in a way they can receive. Maybe it’s like parents who hid medicines in foods their kids enjoy.

LOVE: Lastly, love. I can stumble to love out this verse when I don’t have a heart of love. This means I have true and honest unconditional care and compassion for the other. I’m willing to sacrifice. This is where the shift can happen from “setting someone straight” and walking with a brother or sister into a better way of living. This is the place to stop and do a heart check.

Questions I want to ask myself next time I need to “speak the truth in love to someone”:

  • Am I actually speaking up?
  • Is the truth I’m speaking THE truth that needs communicated or just A truth?
  • Am I sharing the whole truth or hiding being some lies? Am I adding a bunch of caveats?
  • While getting straight to the point, is that truth also completely wrapped in love? How will the other person receive that truth… with a side of love or seeing love as the main dish cooked with truth all through it?
  • What is my motivation? Is it simply to set them straight? That’s not love! Love requires sacrifice. Does this require me to give of myself? How might I be able to sacrifice lovingly to walk with this person into truth?

Family, First Trinity

The Family of God – This Is Us

Last weekend at our church we started a series called “This is Us”. Awesome TV show aside, I’m thankful for a chance to step back and look at our family and what defines us as a church community.

At one point during the sermon we read together this paragraph from our core values:

We are an authentic community that celebrates the hurts and joys of life together. First Trinity is a vibrant community of people with varied backgrounds and experiences who are sharing life together. We are joyful people who laugh and rejoice in the highs of life and hold each other up through the lows. We are a family who supports and encourages each other on a lifelong journey of faith.

For some organizations, a core value sheet is more of “hoped for dreams of what we wish we were.” However, when Pastor continued his sermon after we read that paragraph by saying: “This is us.” I got goosebumps. It’s true. This IS us.

Our church does know how to celebrate well! (If you need proof, look back over our Facebook page of all the fun/funny celebrations we’ve had the past couple weeks as we’ve thanked God for the 15 years Pastor Chuck has been here.) Perhaps what I love more is that we live the “lows” part of life together just as well as the “highs”.

This weekend we also celebrated All Saints Day in the Church. One part of the service each year is a slideshow with pictures of church members and loved ones who have died in the past two years. As they scrolled past in each of the services this year, here are some of the things I caught out of the corner of my eye:

  • A young boy, seeing his cousin’s picture on the screen, bursting into tears, and being wrapped in the arms of his mom who didn’t try to quiet him, but just let him cry.
  • A woman say to her husband “Wow, she’s lost a lot of people lately” as if making note to check in later.
  • The realization of many that life is precious and has no guarantees as a middle school student’s picture also appeared on the screen.
  • A high school student shocked when she saw an older member on screen that she didn’t realize had died more than six months ago. A dad scooting closer to comfort.
  • Hands held.
  • Tears shed with zero shame.
  • Friends and family embraced.

This is us. What a gift! We laugh and play and worship (this week’s theme) and enjoy life together. But we also weep and cry and comfort as we walk through life. We help each other remember we’re not alone!

I love that when we talk about holidays, even ones that can be somber like this one, we use the word “celebrate”. We celebrate All Saints Day because these members of our church family are living ultimate paradise in heaven. We celebrate because we will see them again because of the hope in heaven. We celebrate together, yes even the lows, because that’s what families do.

This is us.

Crossroads, School of the Week, Uncategorized

Clarence High {School of the Week 17-18}

This week we thank God for and pray for Clarence High School!

Fast Facts:

  • About 1,600 students
  • Mascot: Red Devils
  • Colors: Red and Black

Prayers:

  • Pray for all the students of Clarence, but especially our First Trinity high school student: Nicholas. Ask God to walk with him each day and give him opportunities to live out his faith at school, in extracurricular activities, and in his home.
  • Pray for their administrators, faculty, and staff.
    Principal: Kenneth Smith
    Assistant Principals: Robert Coniglio and Julie Mampe
    Ask God to give all who lead the students wisdom and grace.
  • Pray for the students who are sports teams or in music programs that they would perform to God’s glory, stay safe, and have fun.

Copy of SOTW - City Honors Banner

School of the Week, Uncategorized

Christian Central Academy {School of the Week 2017-18}

Central Christian Academy

This week we thank God for and pray for Central Christian Academy!

Fast Facts:

  • About 400 Students (K-12)
  • Founded in 1949
  • Mascot: Crusaders
  • Colors: Blue and White

Prayers:

  • Pray for all the students of Christian Central Academy, but especially our First Trinity high school students: Brendan and Tommy. Ask God to walk with them each day and give them opportunities to live out their faith at school, in extracurricular activities, and in their homes.
  • Pray for their administrators, faculty, and staff.
    Head of School: Mr. Thad Gaebelein
    Assistant to the Head of School: Mrs. Lori Williams
    Ask God to give all who lead the students wisdom and grace.
  • Pray for the students who are sports teams or in music programs that they would perform to God’s glory, stay safe, and have fun.

SOTW - CCA Banner.jpg

Crossroads, First Trinity, School of the Week, Uncategorized

Canisius High {School of the Week 2018}

This week I’m kicking off a “school of the week” program connected with our High school ministry. Each week I’ll highlight one high school and our students that go to that school! I’ll spend the week praying specifically for that school, it’s students, teachers, and administrators, as well as the families of our students that attend there. Whenever possible, I hope to “represent” the school on Thursday by wearing school colors, or even better a school t-shirt if I can find it.  First Up:

Canisius High School

Fast Facts:

  • About 825 students
  • Founded in 1870
  • Mascot: Crusaders
  • Colors: Blue and Gold

Prayers:

  • Pray for all the students at Canisius, but especially our First Trinity students: Andrew, Jonah, Noah, and Wisken. Ask God to walk with them each day and give them opportunities to live out their faith at school.
  • Pray for their administrators, especially the principal Ms. Andrea Tyrpak-Endres, , that they would have wisdom in their leadership.
  • Pray for sports, music, and drama activities this week that the young men would do well, have fun, and be safe.

SOTW - Canisius.jpg

Crossroads, First Trinity, Youth Ministry

MOVE 2016 – Saturday – Heading Home

theme image

We’re heading back home today and it’s been an AMAZING week! Keep you eyes out here and on Facebook as students continue to share about their experience! Thanks again for your prayers!

Schedule:

  • Drive home
  • Arrive at First Trinity in the evening

 

Prayer Ideas:

  • Safe Travel and transitions back to “real life”
  • Rest and recuperation
  • Courage to act on the ideas of how we can build off this trip and live as loved, rescued, united, changed, and sent Kingdom Workers.

Pictures from Yesterday:

 

 

Crossroads, First Trinity, Youth Ministry

MOVE 2016 – Friday – SENT

Day 5 - sent

Today’s Theme: Kingdom Workers are sent.

When God changes us, He also sends us to be people who tell of the hope of change to others. Today we look and how we may be challenged to work in God’s Kingdom everyday of our lives and share that hope with others back home and wherever else we may be sent.  (Eph. 6:1-9)

Schedule:

  • Morning Session
  • Encounter/Small Group Time
  • Electives
  • Free Time
  • Evening Session
  • Youth Group Debrief

Prayer Ideas:

  • For the transition back to NY
  • For students and the group as they are encouraged to take a “Kingdom Worker” card which challenges them to do something big for God’s kingdom in the coming year.
  • For everything from the week to come together so that we can understand what it means to be a Kingdom Worker
  • For a restful night’s sleep for the adults who have to drive tomorrow

Pictures from Yesterday:

 

Crossroads, First Trinity, Youth Ministry

MOVE 2016 – Thursday – CHANGED

Day 4 - ChangedToday’s Theme: Kingdom Workers are changed.
Through Jesus, we are loved, rescued, and united, and the result of all of those things coming together is lives that are changed. In Ephesians 4, Paul tells us we can’t live like the Gentiles do anymore. We must put off our old self and put on a new self. Today we will think through how to apply being loved, rescued, and united in our lives so that we are changed people. (Eph. 4:17-32)

 Schedule:

  • Morning Session
  • Encounter/Small Group Time
  • Youth Group Breakout Games in Chattanooga
  • Evening Session
  • Youth Group Debrief

Prayer Ideas:

  • Pray that students be open to God’s life-changing truth today
  • Wisdom to know what true righteousness and holiness are
  • Events of the day would challenge us to put off our old self and put on a new self, created after the likeness of God

Pictures from Yesterday: