Crossroads, First Trinity

Locked Up – Follow Up

Wow!  That’s the word that first comes to mind when I think about the LOCKED UP simulation for high school students at First Trinity yesterday.  For 12 hours, eight students from First Trinity and Grace-Niagara Falls gave up their identities and their rights to get a little taste of what it’s like to live in a country where being a Christian is illegal.

 

After hearing from Marty Doster about his experience in China, the students were processed into the prison and began to experience a VERY small taste of the reality that over 200 million Christians face everyday.  With guards yelling in their face, forcing them to do physical challenges, and mocking Christians any chance they got, the students began soon realized that this wasn’t an ordinary day at youth group.

 

One of my personal favorite moments from the day happened a couple hours into the simulation a few of the students couldn’t resist smiling.  As one of the guards were telling them to smile, they responded that even if they wiped the smile off their face, they’d still be smiling on the inside.  Each in push-up position while the other prisoners answered, they one by one confirmed that they were all indeed smiling on the inside because no matter what they were facing that day, they knew God was with them.

THAT, my friends, is the joy we have as Christians… not happiness that comes and goes with circumstances… but deep rooted joy in a God who loves us and cares for us and is good.

 

While I hope to write more stories throughout the week ahead, I wanted to be sure to share what a couple students posted on their Facebook page (for the whole world to see) as soon as they returned home from LOCKED UP last night.

“Had an amazing experience today… cant even believe christians around the world actually have to go through stuff worse than that everyday.. it was pretty [bad] but im now stronger in faith and in the bond with my “cell” mates.. love you guys and all the christians around the world!”

“I will never be able to fully explain what happened today. all i know i can express to you is that the events of this day have changed me. i, as well as a few other people, got the chance to really see what it’s like for a persecuted Christian in the world today. i feel so connected to God, my youth group, and all of the people throughout the world who are fighting and dying to keep their faith alive. today was really an amazing experience.”

 

Want to find out more about persecuted Christians around the world, or even write a letter to one who needs some encouragement?  Check out Open Doors or ask me for more information.

Thank you for praying for the youth that participated and the persecuted Christians we were thinking of all day.

More pictures of the event can be found on the First Trinity Facebook Page.

Crossroads, Prayer Runs, Running

More prayer than running, but a prayer run none the less…

I received the following post from a high school parent on Facebook:

Bekah I think that Williamsville North needs a prayer run

Somewhat “excited” (not the right word) that I had a clear answer of where my next prayer run should take place, I replied asking her to let me know if she had specific requests.

 

I soon found myself with the news that a North students had decided to take his own life that day.  After talking with the mom a little more, I was determined to do a prayer run near Williamsville North in the morning and I did.  It was kind of surreal to think that the very situation that prompted the idea for the prayer runs in the first place was now leading me to another high school in the morning only 3 weeks later.

I got to the school about 45 minutes before school and began running.  I ran over by the middle school behind the high school too.  After about a mile I made my way back to the school.  I wanted to just stand/sit and pray as students walked in for the day.  I also thought I might see some of our FT students and be able to see how they were doing with the news.  I think I saw two of them coming off the bus but I was still a little ways off and couldn’t catch them.

I’m not sure what I was expecting to see as I watched students file into the building today but it wasn’t what I saw.  It kind of just seemed like another day at a high school.  I wondered how many knew.  I saw tears forming in one girl’s eyes as she got out of a car… whether it was due to Jamey’s death or something else, I’ll never know.  But for the most part things seemed pretty normal.

The humbling part came a few minutes later when I was near the entrance when the morning announcements were made.  After the pledge the student giving the announcments simply said, “I’ll now turn it over to our homeroom teachers who have an announcement for you.”  It still sends chills through my body as I type this… right at that moment, the students were hearing the news.

If they didn’t know before, the would now…

there was no escaping it.

As I sat outside, only silence coming from the PA system, the students in classrooms all over the building were receiving the news.

No doubt many of them had probably heard it from each other before they got to the classrooms, but this was confirmation… it was real.  And if that wasn’t enough, a voice, most likely an administrator came  back on the PA system, “By now you’ve all heard about Jamey’s death…”

As I sat outside covering those students, teachers, and administrators in prayer I could almost sense the air get a little heavy.  “We know this is going to be a difficult day…”

 

I lingered a little longer…

 

… again, trying to wrap my own mind around the news the students just heard and imagining how they may be reacting.  Getting up to leave I passed a few classrooms.  Glancing in I could tell they were still talking about it… students facing forward, likely a more captive audience than the teachers had experienced all year.

 

A humbling way to start the day, “on-site” at the very moment the announcement was made.  There may have been less running and more praying on this specific prayer run, but what a privilege to be right there, on my knees asking God, our Father, to hold his children…. pleading that God would use this situation for good somehow, that people would come to know Him and the hope he has to offer… lifting up students who also may be reaching a point of hopelessness… praying …. and still praying… and inviting you to pray…

 

Emily, Justin, Josh, Jordan, Kaira, and Rotimi… you’re all in my prayers along with your entire school!

Crossroads, Prayer Runs, Running

Kenmore East Prayer Run

So I started this “prayer run” idea thinking that I’d be running with purpose.  However, I discovered that the opposite was true as well… having a purpose got me to run.  Nothing about this morning said, “looks like a great morning for a run!”  I had played volleyball for a few hours last night, which I love but, after not playing for a few months, my body used muscles it didn’t know existed and I felt them this morning.  Not to mention I was up later last night in order to play VB topped off with the cool, drizzly weather.

Yet, it was no problem for me to get out of bed this morning and drive over to my route… because I had a purpose…. I was on a mission and even if it started raining, it wasn’t going to stop me. 🙂  And I’m glad it didn’t.

Since church is less than a mile from Kenmore East High, I figured I’d park there.  Here are some of the things I passed and/or had the privilege of talking with God about this morning while I ran:

  • Kenmore East High School in general as they started their school year this week
  • Green Acres school
  • All of our FT students who attend Kenmore East and their families
    I was even able to include two of their homes on my route to/around the school.
    Even as I lifted up some of these students that I may not know as well, I found myself in awe of the fact that God knows every detail of their lives.
  • School buses and carpools making their routes.  I prayed for safety on the buses and for friendships that may be formed this year on the way to and from school.
  • Students saying goodbye to their parents as they left their home and began walking to school.  I prayed for them and whatever may be going on in their lives… that they would have  good day and would somehow see Jesus in this day.
  • Sports fields and prayed for safety in their practices and games.
  • I prayed for Principal Dunnigan, Assistant Principal Ginestre and all the teachers and staff at Kenmore East that they would have the strength and energy they need for each day of this school year.  I prayed that the Christian staff members would find ways to live out their faith as they interact with students and other even if they can’t boldly speak of Christ.  I prayed for wisdom among the administration.
  • I prayed for the family and friends of Julian, a KenEast student who died of cancer this summer.
  • I prayed for God to work mightily in Kenmore East this year; that Christian students would shine the light of Christ into a dark confusing world.  As I ran back through the neighborhood I saw students standing on corners waiting for buses and prayed for them.  I thought about all the people living in the homes I was running by and how many of them probably were getting up and getting ready for the day.
  • I prayed for high school ministry in general and specifically ministry to, with, and for our Kenmore East Students… that while I look at ministry on a large scale, that God would use things like these prayer runs to bring it back to each individual student and what we can do to encourage them in their relationship with God and challenge them to live out their faith.
  • I passed Jason and Jaime’s home and prayed for them while they’re away on vacation, that they’re having a great time with their family and that they make it home safely.
  • Back at my car, I wrapped up my prayer run lifting up the First Trinity Preschool … the students that will be entering this building soon to learn and grow… for the teachers as they finish preparing… for the parents/families.

I am excited about this opportunity before me and can’t wait to get into other neighborhoods.  I realized today that I was praying for things I would have never even THOUGHT of lifting up in prayer if I hadn’t been running right past it with open eyes.  Things I frequently pass were seen in a new light when I was on a mission to be watching for things I could pray about.  For example, I see school buses or the First Trinity Church Building constantly, but today when I saw these things, my first instinct was to pray.

Anyway, thanks for coming along on my journey.  I invite you to lift up the above things in prayer.

Lastly, here are some pictures from my run this morning:

My prayer list (or well, what survived the nearly 3-mile journey)

Green Acres School

Kenmore East Senior High School


KenEast Sports Fields

 

Bekah's Heart, Crossroads, First Trinity, Youth Ministry

Truly a Beautiful Sight!

Here is a glimpse into the beautiful sight I witnessed while I worshipped this weekend:  

  • Two middle school students working together to make sure we had light on the candles in the front of the Church to help us focus on THE Light, Jesus. 
  • Three high school student singing, playing, leading the congregation in praises to our King.
  • Four sisters in middle and high school greeting people as they came into worship, directing God’s sons and daughters to go receive His very body and blood, helping collect the gifts of God’s people and present them back to God.
  • A high school student, knelt down in prayer with a man at the altar railing.

 

I LOVE seeing youth involved in worship.  And no, for those of you who don’t attend First Trinity, this was NOT a special ‘youth’ service.  It wasn’t really a “special” day at all (well, minus celebrating Sue’s Master DCE Award!!!).   What I mean is this is not the first time I’ve witnessed young people in action here at First Trinity. 

Take Christmas Eve, for example, when a 4th grader stood up in front of the entire congregation for each service and recited, from memory, the entire Christmas story from Luke 2.  Hearing the story of the Christ child, proclaimed from a child… simply beautiful.

Or our New Years’ Eve lock-in where 7 of the 15 youth participating had some role in planning or leading a section of the event. 

It is such a beautiful thing to see the entire body of Christ working together.  And it wasn’t JUST the youth either that made these things (and so many more) so wonderful.  It’s the interaction between all those serving.

At that New Years Eve Lock-in, TEN adults helped with some aspect of the lock-in from set-up to serving breakfast and even a few brave souls who stay the entire night (mostly awake) with the students so they could enjoy bringing in the New Year with their friends.

On Christmas Eve, I’m sure there were many hours of practice with those 4th graders’ parents rehearsing and encouraging to each of them to prepare, not to mention the many others who served in that service.

And last week… those students I witnessed using their gifts weren’t alone!  Just for that one service alone, at least 25 other people worked TOGETHER to make that service possible… other band members, readers, people working sound and powerpoint, greeters, ushers, and the list continues.

THIS is what the Body of Christ is all about. … each person doing their part … no matter whether the role seems to be “in the spotlight” or no one but you knows it even gets done… whether you’re 9 yrs old or 90.  It is so encouraging to be serving and learning and growing and worshiping in a place who values each person for who they are and honors the gifts they bring to worship our King.

 

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27

 

“Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” ~ 1 Timothy 4:12 

 

Crossroads, Youth Ministry

Please Don’t Underestimate Them!

I read this yesterday as the Facebook status of a high school girl and got her permission to share it here: 

I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I don’t do drugs. I’m a virgin. I’m in high school, and I will not lose my self-respect just to "fit in".

Wow.

And the world says there’s no hope for this generation?!? 

Well, I think this girl just chose to stand up and say to ‘the world’, "YOU’RE WRONG!"

The coolest part about this, is that I know this girl is not alone!  Whether others are boldly posting their stance as a Facebook status or not, they state it with their lives!

Don’t underestimate our teens.  PLEASE!

Instead, remind them that they are beautiful and wonderful and creative and talented… that they are worth loving… just the way they are. 

Encourage them to refuse to change themselves to fit a mold and rather to just be who God created them to be.  Love them when they make mistakes, because we all do, and offer forgiveness.  I invite you to join me in showing them the respect they deserve.

Crossroads, First Trinity, Internship Highlights

Crossroads CONNECT – Fighting Satan’s Lies

Last week at Crossroads CONNECT (First Trinity’s Thursday Night Activity for High School Students) we talked about the lies Satan tells us. 

After playing a game of Jenga we connected the game with our lives.   The lies Satan tells us and the things he tempts us to do don’t seem like such a big deal… kind of like one block removed from the Jenga tower.  But, as Satan tells us lie afte lie after lie, we’re not who we were originally created to be.   And eventually, we’re so broken we crumble to pieces. 

 

 

 

Thankfully we have a God who sent his Son to dwell among us and build us back up the way he originally created us to be.

As part of our discussion last week the high school students identified common lies that Satan tells us or people who are struggling to believe in God, such as:

“You’re not good enough.”
“God could never forgive you for THAT sin!”
“God doesn’t love me.”

Then they wrote down the Truth about that situation, found Bible verses to support the truth, and wrote a prayer they could pray whenever they felt like Satan’s lie was actually real.

I thought I’d share just a few examples of what they came up with.  They really did an awesome job!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Lie: God is just a thing of the past.
Truth: God is alive and present, with us TODAY!

  • Matthew 28:20 – “I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”
  • Psalm 46:1 – “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

 God, help me know that you are always with me, through everything I see every day.  In Your Name I pray, Amen.

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 Lie: God is causing these bad things to happen in your life.
Truth:  God is good.  We may not understand what is happening in life, but He is good.

  • Genesis 50:20 – “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
  • Psalm 107:1 – “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His loving kindness is everlasting.”

Dear Lord, I don’t understand why bad things happen in life and why I struggle.  Remind me in these hard times of the simple truth that YOU ARE GOOD.   Even when that’s hard for me to believe, help me know it is true.  You can take the things people and Satan intend for harm in my life and make them into something good.  Be with me as I wait to see the good you have in these hard situation in my life right now. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Lie: If you don’t have _______ (a boyfriend, a girlfriend, the newest clothes/ipod, etc.) something is wrong with you.
Truth: God has made you perfect just the way you are.  You are completely whole in Him.

  • Colossians 2:9-10 – “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ…”
  • Genesis 1:31 – “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good….”

Jesus, it’s hard for me to look around and see everyone around me that has ______ (a boy/girlfriend, the newest clothes/ipod, etc.).  Help me to see that you are more than enough for me… that you have made me perfect and whole just the way I am and that I can find who I am in You.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Crossroads, First Trinity, Internship Highlights

Collision: Mend the Broken

Well we did it!  We survived the first “road trip” planned by Bekah. :)  As promised yesterday, I wanted to share a little bit about my experience this weekend at Acquire the Fire in Cleveland, OH with 16 teens and 2 other awesome adult leaders.  The theme this year for this conference was Mend the Broken.

 

DSCF7078 I guess I’ll just go through the weekend chronologically to give you an idea of what we experienced and learned.

 

The first session on Friday night started with worship led by a band called School Of WorshipThey led us in worship all weekend and it was always an amazing time to just enter into God’s presence and give him praise before hearing Mike Guzzardo share God’s Word with us.  FridayDSCF7088 night Mike shared with us that our lives are kind of like broken down cars that need refurbished.  First we have to let God take us out of the junkyard so that he can begin to take us a part and clean every little part of us…. it takes time and he has to get into every little deep place, but then, once we’re clean on the inside, he can begin to rebuild us in a way where we can think and live how he originally intended us. 

 

The night ended with a Newsboys Concert during which we got to be a part of the video recording for a music video.  They said they only use a live audience DSCF7060for a music video once every 2 or 3 years and they picked Acquire the Fire- Cleveland, OH to be that audience.  Watch for their video for the song “Miracles” coming out soon and see if you see any of First Trinity Crossroads group in  there!

 

After that we headed back to Lutheran High School West in Rocky Road, OH which was gracious enough to let us use their facilities to sleep and shower this weekend!  A youth group from Hosanna Lutheran Church nearby also joined us Friday night at Lutheran West.

Saturday morning started bright and early (for high schoolers) at 8:00 am and was broken into three sessions all including worship, a message, and part of a drama that continued all throughout the day. 

 

The first session Saturday tackled some difficult issues that teenagers (and all of us) face today regarding pornography, sex before marriage, same sex attraction and more. Teens were challenged to join “The Resistance” when they struggle with these or any sins in their lives committing to purity in heart, mind and body.  An organization called CovenantEyes.com also provided students with a 30-day trial of an internet filtering and accountability software that they produce.

 

The afternoon session was about failure and how we deal with it.  We were reminded that just because we’re Christians doesn’t mean we won’t fail (see Proverbs 24:15) it means that God helps us get up when we fail and that we don’t have to be defined by our failures. 

The afternoon also included 2 concerts, one by Young Joshua and the other by Jimmy Needham

 

After dinner we went back for the last session which was about how our world tries to get us to focus on The Me-World .. my problems, my stuff, my fun.   God calls us in our new refurbished  life to focus on the HE-World …. the things of God’s heart… whether that’s serving your neighbor next door or going overseas, we all can start now making changes in our lives to shift and “get away from ME”.

 

Our weekend wrapped up by attending St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Chesterfield, OH on our way back to NY.  They were very welcoming, had a beautiful sanctuary and there was some AMAZING scenery on our drive  between the high way and the church.  Think, curvy hilly roads with gorgeous houses lined with trees still dressed in autumn colors yet covered with snow.  BEAUTIFUL!  Definitely added meaning to the term “scenic route”. 

 77112_1553872458087_1573456026_31318919_3166107_n

Overall it was an AWESOME weekend filled with fun and, I pray, spiritual growth.  Those of you from First Trinity, take a chance to ask one of the kids about it… them sharing with you is one thing that can help continue the growth that began this weekend. Thanks again for your prayers and support!

 

 

 

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Here’s a video summary put out by the Acquire the Fire organization. (You can see some of our group members at around 1:42).