GraceConnect eNews, No. 115, Week of August 31, 2015

Communication-Conversation-Conservation

The eNewsletter for the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches
The Summer Reading Program at Whispering Pines distributes books, backpacks, crafts, and school supplies to children and provide opportunities for them to retain their literacy over the summers.  

Love Through Reading

Today's story comes from Tim Sprankle, pastor at the Grace Brethren Church in Leesburg, Ind.

A lonely blanket lay strewn with children’s books. The summer reading program at Whispering Pines (Leesburg, Ind.) was in session with a glaring absence. Not a single child came. I figured this third year of our church’s nimble outreach effort would draw hosts of them. The barren blanket told me otherwise.

I snapped a photo and posted it to Instagram as a communal lament, adding the comment: The kids’ reading club that has no kids. #ministryfails. Within minutes, several folks “liked” my picture. Their wordless endorsement did not improve my feelings. So I thumbed through Pete the Cat Rocking in My School Shoes while waiting for people to arrive.

Leesburg Grace’s summer reading program was born out of a passion for literacy, little kids, and giving witness to the love of Jesus. I had become aware of the alleged achievement gap for students while running a mentoring program for at-risk teenagers in Denver. Summer breaks were notorious for declines in literacy.

The situation grieved me, but a fix seemed simple. Getting books into the hands of children and reading aloud to them could stave off their literacy lapses. It would also build a relational bridge into their lives to show God’s care.

Sadly, this “simple fix” took five years to conceive, mostly due to my failure to launch. When I realized forward motion did not require a perfect plan, I quit stalling. I called the summer reading program an experiment and began recruiting volunteers, gathering blankets, and collecting books. A month later our book club came to term.

In its first two years, we engaged dozens of kids, numerous parents, several neighbors, and key faculty from the elementary school. We distributed books, backpacks, crafts, and school supplies as incentives. We provided opportunity for kids to read and celebrated their efforts. And we prayed for a few parents facing hard times.

Moreover, the reading club provided a service outlet for our church members. Diana Davis, a retired missionary to CAR, said, “I love children, and love the opportunity to encourage them to learn.” Twice a week she taught adorable Hispanic kids to identify letters, colors, shapes, and numbers.

“One of the highlights for me,” commented Sallie Hoy, a retired art teacher and volunteer, “was having a fourth grade student from our church (an original participant from our first year) become a 'reading helper' this year. Seeing his excitement and commitment to attending and helping with the 'little kids' was so rewarding.”

In fact, it was this fourth grader who rescued the reading program from its miserable beginning. When he saw the barren blanket, the boy asked Sallie to drive him around the park to knock on doors and make personal invitations. He rallied several youth, convincing them attend. Before the hour ended, our blankets were flush with students.

The reading program, Sallie noted, “connects the dots between our church’s outreach programs.” Diana called it “an extension of our English as a Second Language program.” I view it as an opportunity to promote literacy, close the achievement gap, and stay current on the misadventures of Pete the Cat.

Most importantly, our summer reading program shares the heart of Jesus. “Showing our love for [these] children, by taking time to help them with a critical life skill, opened the way for more potential opportunities for our church body to show God's love through our love to their families,” admitted Sallie.

Diana agreed. On the final day, observing the group of children sporting new backpacks, she said, “Remember… Jesus loves you.”

The sentiment was not a mere tack on. His love inspires our church to serve.

Click here to send a letter of encouragement to Pastor Sprankle. 
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[Your Turn]


[Listen:]

"We are to pursue the higher gifts that build up the whole body. But how do we share God’s presence with each other?"

In 
this message, Matthew Raley, pastor at Chico Valley Grace Brethren Church, preaches on How to Share God's Presence from 1 Corinthians 14: 6-19. Click here to listen. 

[Pray:]

Every morning Encompass World Partners emails one missionary team's current prayer requests to hundreds of people subscribed to the PrayNOW prayer network. Would you like to be one of these people who start their day praying for the world? God will use your prayers to strengthen the ministry of the Gospel and enlarge the harvest of Encompass staff all around the world. Sign up for the Encompass World Partners prayer list by clicking here. Or follow them on Twitter @EncompassWorld for a daily prayer update.

Also, check out this post by CE National on how God has been moving through the people involved in their ministries. 


[Read:]

"Taking up your cross each day and dying to yourself is hard.  And some days it is harder than others.  But we can resolve to keep moving inch by inch."

Keith Minier, lead pastor at
Grace Fellowship in Pickerington, Ohio, reminds us that continuing to move towards Jesus, no matter what. Click here to read his brief post. 
 
[Leader's Corner:]

Pastor Mike Yoder of Grace Polaris Church (Westerville, Ohio) shares his favorite reads in a recent blog post. Click here to read his top picks, recent reads, and most impactful books. 
 

Events in the FGBC

August 28-29, 2015  WLS: Biblical Foundations of Leadership, Winona Lake, Ind. (WGUSA)
September 21-23, 2015 – Northwest Focus Retreat (FGBC) 
September 25-26, 2015  Revive '15 Fellowship Forum, Indianapolis, Ind.  (WGUSA)
October 5-7, 2015 – Central Focus Retreat (FGBC)
October 19-21, 2015  East Focus Retreat (FGBC)
October 30-31, 2015  WLS: Principles of Effective Bible Study, Columbus, Ohio  (WGUSA)
November 2-6, 2015 – Charis International Leadership Encounter, Bangkok, Thailand (EWP)
November 13-14, 2015  WLS: Women & Scripture, Elizabethtown, Pa.  (WGUSA)
January 15-16, 2016 – WLS: Women & Scripture, Ocala, Fla.  (WGUSA)
January 22-24, 2016  Kalahari Retreat, Sandusky, Ohio (FGBC)
January 25-27, 2016  Southwest Focus Retreat (FGBC)
January 27-29, 2016  Fellowship Council (FGBC)
March 14-16, 2016  South Focus Retreat (FGBC) 
June 13-17, 2016  Encounter SoCal (EWP)
June 19-25, 2016  The Great Canadian Adventure, Toronto, Canada (GBC)
June 27-July 1, 2016  Encounter Atlanta (EWP)
July 22-25, 2016  Vision Conference Toronto (FGBC) 
July 26-31, 2016  Momentum Youth Conference (CEN)

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 lcgates@bmhbooks.com.
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