Thursday, June 26, 2008

Community Small Group Gathering @ Monroe Circle

Meet LeRoy King
LeRoy was taken on the task of launching the first community small group gathering at MC3. Monday was their very first event and here is the email I received.
“WOW! What a night. "The Gathering" was awesome. Thank you so much for all the hard work you put in to create a wonderful experience for those who attended the first weekly event. I counted approximately 28 adults/teens, and 3 kids 12 and younger. I was pleasantly surprised how engaged the guest were with the DVD format. They loved the food, the ambiance, and Mark's message. When asked if they would like to do this every week, everyone raised their hands. And I think they are planning on bringing friends. We may need more chairs...more helpers...more food...and more...”
Well, so much for a small group. Add the 8 volunteers to the mix and you have the average size of a church in America today! I am proud of LeRoy. He has trained and invested his time and talents very well. Watch out Monroe Circle – the train of hope is roll’n in!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Dan Adams is a STAR

This morning I had a meeting with Dan Adams and his management team at MTI/Adams Engineering. Dan and his wife Jen have been members at GCC for the last several years. Both are very high caliber people and Jen has been helping lead the food pantry at MC3 since last fall.

Dan wants to leverage his business for the kingdom and one step is to employ people stuck in the margins that have not been given the chance to break upwards. Next week we will begin the interviewing process for placing two people in their business. This is not a temporary position but a permanent one with career advancement opportunities where it is not far fetched to believe these employees could be making $20+ twelve to eighteen months from now.

We are building support systems and asking a few people that have been through the STARs program to submit an application for review. One of the critical pieces in helping men and women break free from poverty is a sustainable wage that provides enough “lift” to make the effort to leave behind the guarantees of staying on welfare.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Things Heat Up in Elkhart

Life Center
Last night I was invited to hear an amazing vision for a vocational training center birthed by a good friend Joe Wisler and Scott Tuttle. I’ve known Joe for many years and he is one of the best audio/visual tech guys in the country. A few weeks ago I had the chance to meet his partner, Scott Tuttle. Scott’s story is a story of obedience and faithfulness. Four to five years ago God began to stir a vision in Scott to start a vocation training center to help the marginalized of Elkhart county to be given the opportunity to financially provide for their family. Challenge. Scott did not have the resources to launch the program. Scott has been extremely successful in the RV business and five years ago God’s answer to Scott’s request was “start another business and you will never want for money.” So, Scott and two other partners started Hartland RV and began to manufacture recreational vehicles. Each of the last four years they had experienced a 4 to 500 percent increase in sales and in 2007 employed nearly 1000 people. On January 1, 2008 sold his share and walked away to start Life Center. Three days later he met Joe Wisler who had been praying for the opportunity to start an audio/visual training school. This fall they plan to launch Life Center at the Feed the Children facilities in Elkhart.

Both Joe and Scott were extremely interested in helping the people of Monroe Circle community learn a craft that would provide them a sustainable wage. Very exciting.

Jeff Bell
Elkhart Campus Pastor

Plus, GCC is launching its first multi-site this fall at Encore Movie Theatre on State Road 19. With over 200 people attending the first orientation meeting it’s my opinion that by September they may have a full house. Guess what? Encore is less than 2 miles away from FtC and Jeff Bell (pastor of Elkhart) is very interested in building a direct serve opportunity with not only FtC but potentially Life Center. Maybe we are going multi-site with MC3 and God just has not told us yet!

Monday, June 16, 2008

SonCity Summers

SonCity Summers kicked off today at MC3 with eleven (11) volunteers and twenty-five (25) kids from the Monroe Circle neighborhood. For the next 6 weeks hundreds of volunteers will pour into the lives of these kids. It is our prayer that it changes both the volunteers and kids of MC3.

It was interesting to watch new volunteers engage with kids that already have a bunch of anger and other issues even at 6, 7 and 8 years old. We try to remind them that engaging with kids from the inner city is somewhat like going to the gym for the first time – you walk away a little bit sore and not sure if you want to return but know if you do you will build muscle, flexibility and become more healthy. But sometimes you just don’t want to deal with the pain so you give up. I think the same can be said by many people’s faith – as long as you don’t need to push yourself everything feels fine even though you know deep down inside that it isn’t. As Christians we need to get “back into the gym” to stretch and grow our faith. It may at first be a little bit painful but over the long run we will be such stronger people of faith.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

DC Curry @ SonCity Kids

Remember the “I want to be like Mike” Nike commercials. Everyone wanted to be like Michael Jordan. Well, I want to be like DC – DC Curry that is. He is our very own and an inspiration to many. Last Saturday afternoon he took time from his hectic summer schedule (a week of summer camp [Camp Adventure] followed by a week of missions [local], followed by a week of teaching, followed by a week of summer camp [Camp Adventure II], followed by a week of missions [Chicago], followed by a mission trip to Mexico [Back2Back].)

So, the last thing he probably wanted to do is take a Saturday afternoon away from his wife to talk to a bunch of inner city kids. But that’s DC. Personal wants and comfort take the backseat to Jesus’ call on his life. He made the right choice even though it may not have been easy or convenient.

DC is the director of Youth Ministry at Granger Community Church. DC is leveraging his shape and gifts from God to Bring Kingdom. DC grew up in the projects of Houston, Texas. It was a tough environment but he had parents that cared. They didn't have much money but they used the currency they had (time, love and encouragement) to build into his life. He became a great athlete and received a scholarship to play football for Notre Dame. While at ND he attended GCC. He played (captain of team) and lead well and was drafted by the Miami Dolphins and played a couple of years in the NFL.

Back to last Saturday. So, DC shows up to a SonCity Kids event at Edison Gardens (housing project in South Bend). Hangs out, eats lunch, plays some b-ball, talks to the kids and signs some footballs that each kid gets to take home. You know ever little boy took that ball home and slept with it on Saturday night. They dreamed about one day playing football at Notre Dame and returning home to make their mom proud. Leo was one of those boys – he is 11 years old and just finished 4th grade. SonCity Kids has been investing his life for the last 5 years. Last year he made a commitment to do better in school. He shared with me that he finished the year with perfect attendance (didn’t miss a day) and got all A’s and B’s on his report card. Next year he is going into middle school or what they call Intermediate Center in South Bend. IC is the “black-hole” of education in South Bend. Kids go in and never come out the same. Over 75% of the boys like Leo will drop out of school before they graduate.

I told Shelley Templin that we needed to keep encouraging Leo and we’d find a scholarship for him to go to Camp Adventure next summer to hang around more men like DC. We are committed to change the destiny of kids like Leo because if Jesus would have came down in 2008 instead of 0028 it would have been what he would have done. Because as much as I want to be like Mike, or DC I want my team to be people like Jesus!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I Love "Pioneering Mode"

Last night the entire family came to the “Blacketor Compound” for some of Jo’s famous fried rice with chicken. I had gotten home before everyone started to arrive and took the chance to work on the soffit on the front porch. (Sidebar: I started renovating our 100 year old farm house 3 years ago and it is finally starting to look like the end is in site – at least for phase 1!).

Josh, our son-in-law asked a very profound question. “What are you going to do when you don’t have this house to work on?” Quite frankly, I can’t imagine not having something to work on. I love the start up. I love the dreaming of what might be. I love making something new from something not so new. I get very uneasy when things become too domesticated – I’m much more comfortable being in the pioneering mode.

This is why I am so excited about the launch of our first multisite in Elkhart this fall. GCC is returning to its pioneering beginnings – church in the holy cinema as we were tagged in the early days. Some people used it to express their skepticism we wore it as a badge of honor. Tonight, Jeff Bell meets with the start up team. It’s exciting to watch – it’s exciting to be a small part of it.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Meet Jill

Meet Jill
Someday very soon people will write books about her courage, her commitment to bringing Jesus’ Kingdom from Up There to Down Here. People will speak of the great women in the Bible – Ester, Ruth, Mary, the Mother of Jesus and then they will talk about Jill Ulrich.

Jill is a lawyer by trade but is running after Jesus with all she’s got. Before her deployment to Chennai, India to bring justice to people bonded in slave labor and forced prostitution she had a position of comfort within the Indiana State Auditor’s office. Life was comfortable for Jill but she wanted more. She wanted to allow Jesus to use her life for deep impact.

The reality is following Jesus is many times very hard, extremely challenging and very far from the rewards of the western world and the creature comforts of being near family and friends. It is one of those times for Jill right now – pray for her, read her blog or drop her a note on Facebook.

Several years ago Nike had a campaign with Michael Jordan – be like Mike. For followers of the way of Jesus – it could be like Jill.