GraceConnect E-News, No. 79, Week of December 22, 2014
Merry Christmas!


The eNewsletter for the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches

Trees of Hope

Each year after Thanksgiving, the front lawn of East Side Grace Brethren Church in Blacklick, Ohio (Chip Heim, senior pastor), transforms into that enduring holiday motif: the Christmas tree lot. Open weekends in the afternoon until Christmas, Trees of Hope, a ministry of East Side Grace Brethren Church, brings the entire congregation together, combining ministries and talents to create a truly beautiful holiday tradition.
The proceeds from the Christmas tree sales go to a different international mission each year. This season, Trees of Hope is raising money for Design Outreach, to purchase a well pump for a village in Kenya. “It fills a gap," explains Becky Sager, coordinator of Trees of Hope. “It supports a project that [the ministry] wouldn't otherwise be able to complete: programs to feed their orphans, to help with vocational training equipment, to purchase solar panels to help with electrical needs…just to name a few.”
“The idea for Trees of Hope was born out of one of our young adult home groups in 2005,” she continues. From the men’s ministry taking a day to set up the trees in the lot, to the volunteers working weekend shifts selling trees, it has since grown into a church-wide ministry.  

But that’s not all. In addition to the funds raised for an international ministry (totaling nearly $55,000 in the last nine years), Trees of Hope also includes a community outreach element. Growing out of the church’s food pantry, the church gives out scores of Christmas trees to families who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford the simple holiday pleasure. Along with the tree comes a care package full of Christmas goodies: tree decorations, handmade ornament and cards made by art students at Grace Christian School, and a meal complete with a Christmas ham. 

On a Friday night a few weeks before Christmas, families come to pick out a Christmas tree. “Inside of our church, we have a room set up with hot chocolate and cookies and sometimes a craft for the kids to make," explains Sager. "They are encouraged to sit around and talk a little bit and just enjoy receiving something beautiful.”
It is a ministry that our whole church embraces,” Sager notes. “I enjoy just being able to show, in a very practical way, the love of Christ.”

For more inspiration on starting a ministry like Trees of Hope, visit or the ESGBC Facebook page. Send Becky a note of encouragement at

Spread Christmas cheer...share this story with a friend!

From Around the Web...

Here are a few links from Grace Brethren churches that you might find of interest…

Whether you call yourself an artist or not, this post by Tim Sprankle, pastor at the Grace Brethren Church in Leesburg, Ind., is a timely reminder, being as souls created in the image of God -- who is a Creator himself. In his post, Sprankle talks about the value of poetry in our quest to know God. "This Christmas I'm taking a cue from characters in the Nativity Story," he writes. "Mary, Zechariah, and Simeon each bring a poetic voice to the birth of Christ." Studying the Magnificat,the Benedictus, and the Nunc DimmitusSprankle encourages us to try a hand at poetry and gives some practical tools to get started. "These poems did not spring from the authors' lips spontaneously," Sprankle reminds us. "Rather, these were carefully crafted reflections on the nature and mission of God." Click here to read Unleashing the Poet Within -- Five Tips to Spark Poetic Creativity.*

Click here to share your thoughts with Tim about the value of poetry in knowing God.


Paula Ibach blogs at liftedbowl.blogspot.comPaula and her husband, Robert, have a history as librarians, some of their career at Grace College. They now live at Grace Village. Click here to read Paula's blog, where she writes about "daily lifting life's empty bowl to see what God provides to sustain, nourish, and strengthen His child."


We are happy to send you GraceConnect eNews at no charge. Our connecting ministry in the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches is that important. But it is a reality that the financial support from churches and friends allow us to build those bridges that encourage teamwork, prayer, and cooperation more effectively. Consider making a year-end, tax-deductible gift to the ministry of GraceConnect that will enhance the Kingdom-building ministries of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches. Click here to make an online donation to GraceConnect/BMH


*for further reading about Christianity and good art, click here

Events in the FGBC

January 16-17 WLS Class: Soul Care, Winona Lake, Ind. (WGUSA)
January 23-24
– WLS Class: Spiritual Formation, Long Beach, Calif. (WGUSA)
January 23-25  Kalahari Winter Retreat, Sandusky, Ohio
January 26-28 –  Southwest Focus Retreat, The Oaks, Lake Hughes, Calif. (FGBC)
January 28-30 – Fellowship Council, Seal Beach, Calif. (FGBC)
March 16-18 – South Focus Retreat, Florida FFA Training Center, Haines City, Fla. (FGBC)
March 20-21 – WLS Class: Women and Scripture, Frederick, Md. (WGUSA) 
April 24-25 – WLS Class: Women and Scripture, Cedar Rapids, Iowa (WGUSA) 
June 21-27, 2015  Great Canadian Adventure, Toronto, Ontario (GBC)
June 21-27, 2015 – Encounter Atlanta, Atlanta, Ga. (EWP)
July 14-19, 2015 – Momentum Youth Conference, Marion, Ind. (CEN) 
July 23-26, 2015 – Flinch Conference (national conference), Newark, N.J. (FGBC) 

CEN – CE National
EWP – Encompass World Partners
FGBC – Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches
GBC – Grace Brethren Canada
WGUSA – Women of Grace USA

Send events for the calendar to
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