Pulpit Notes: The Incarnate Touch

In the darkness, Jesus, I reach out to You.

If I languish in the land of the living, it is only the hem of Your robe I need; and, if I die, it is only Your touch, which You promise, that will stir me from slumber. Jesus, help me this day to have courage, to be filled with hope, to reach out to others who are frightened or alone — not only with the Gospel but with the incarnate touch of Your Holy Spirit. May compassion be in my heart, justice in my mind, and charity evident in the work of my hands. Where I am this day, O Christ, may You come and be present: my heart, my mind, my hands administering Your healing balm in the world. Jesus, living Christ, touch me and grant me life, through service, to Your glory! Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Conrad

Reverend Dr. Conrad C. Sharps
Senior Pastor

Pulpit Notes: A Morning Prayer

A Morning Prayer

Father, soften our hearts, that we might love; still the chatter in our minds, that we might focus on Your Word; stir our imaginations, that we might be emboldened; and send Your Holy Spirit to abide in us, that every thought, word, and act be love: Christ in us, and we in the world to proclaim Your glory and salvation in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Conrad

Reverend Dr. Conrad C. Sharps
Senior Pastor

Mission Update: Mexico, March 16

Mission Experience in Partnership with ConeXión Mosaico

March 11–18, 2017

Today we visited the communities where ConeXión Mosaico has focused its ministries: Chimalhuacán, Las Palmas, and San Sebastián. It was so encouraging to see the immense progress in all of these places in just two years since we last visited. A previously rundown field in Chimalhuacán where crime was rampant is now a beautiful sports and recreation indoor/outdoor facility for the community. In Las Palmas, the water lines and water tank that were just being built and installed two years ago are now complete. The plans we saw before for a community center have begun construction. And youth in San Sebastián are asking and working for a library to be built in their neighborhood.

But the most significant moment for our team came when we visited the location of the project we worked on two years ago. At that time, community members wanted to clear a ravine of trash so that children could play in the grassy knoll and trees. It was – like this year – tedious and hard work, but the product was beautiful and deeply appreciated by the neighbors, who all joined in with the cleaning efforts. We learned that, after that, other areas of the neighborhood also decided to clean up their sections of the ravine to transform those areas into park spaces as well! However, soon thereafter, other neighbors rallied around, using these ravines as construction dumps, for which the neighborhood would get paid and could then sell the land to others for housing. When those who wanted to clear the space argued their position, they received threats against their safety and families. Consequently, the space we cleared two years ago has once again become a dumping ground for trash and construction fill. Seeing it and hearing these stories was both sad and good — sad because the efforts begun by the community and with which we aided are no longer happening. But it was a good reminder of two important things:

  1. Our work was not in vain. Others in the community saw the positive effect of their neighbors and emulated them, at least for a time; and
  2. This is why partnership with ministries like ConeXión Mosaico – who are present in these communities day after day – is so incredibly vital. Transformation cannot come through one-week efforts of visitors coming in and assuming they can fix the problems of poverty. As the Church, we need to work in mission partnership with our brothers and sisters who are on the ground, in the field, and in it for the long haul.

Today we are ever more grateful for the work ConeXión Mosaico is doing, and for our opportunity to partner with them in this important work.

Contributed by Rebecca Reeder

Mission Update: Mexico, March 14 and 15

Mission Experience in Partnership with ConeXión Mosaico

March 11–18, 2017

Work continued at CentroRenovar, where, in a nutshell, we did a hefty amount of moving heavy things from one place to another.  Among the things we moved: cement (up a forty-foot increase in elevation) to secure posts for a fence around the property, large bricks to be used in future walls (and moved to make room for the large machinery to dig out ground for a septic tank), dirt to make level ground for a future floor, etc. Some may view this grueling labor as tedious, hard, and pointless, but we see our work as creating space and added time for the skilled Mexican workers onsite to focus their energies on the tasks which we wouldn’t be able to do and by which they would be greatly slowed if they also had to complete the tasks we are doing.

However, in the midst of our work we began asking each other questions – some funny, some thoughtful, some personal. It has been a fun way of passing the time and growing in friendship with one another. Ironically (or divinely!), Jean-Luc Krieg (founder and executive director of ConeXión Mosaico) has chosen to use his devotional time with us to ponder some poignant questions that Scripture raises. The past two days we’ve focused on two questions in particular. First, the question of Genesis: “Where are you?”, which God asks of Adam and Eve after they have been tempted. It is not a question of anger, but of concern God has for his image-bearers. Where are you in relation to who God created you to be? Where are you in relation to the purpose for which God created you?

Secondly, we have looked at a question arising from God calling Abraham to go to Canaan. Abraham initially stops midway in Haran, and settles there for a time until God calls him again. It makes one wonder: What is your Haran? Where or how have you settled for “good enough” midway to where God is leading you? This week has become a time not only of working and catching up on the ministry of ConeXión Mosaico, but also of pondering – pondering our life stories, our dreams, our identities, our callings, our memories, and how God continues to speak to us through Scripture.

Contributed by Rebecca Reeder

Pulpit Notes: Seeking the Holy

During Lent, we often find ourselves searching for silence — searching for moments when our everyday lives intersect with the holy. Let us pray that our souls are attuned to God and experience that divine intervention.

Awake, O my soul; awake and listen. In silence take your place; in prayer pay attention, with dedication and discipline. Speak not a word if revelation is what you seek. Do not test God’s patience. Do not let your own cunning fascinate you. Do not let your own desires distract you. Do not let your own charity engage you. All that is worthy comes from above. But be cautioned: meditation is not a place of escape. Prayer is a divine invitation and obligation where truth invites conflict. Do not bring before the Lord what tops your agenda; allow the Spirit to pull what is necessary from the bottom of your heart and the corners of your soul. If it is the holy you seek, separate yourself and be silent. Awake, O my soul; awake. Empty yourself, and, in the holy presence of God, be filled for the journey this day demands.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Conrad

Reverend Dr. Conrad C. Sharps
Senior Pastor

Mission Update: Mexico, March 13

Mission Experience in Partnership with ConeXión Mosaico

March 11–18, 2017

Not much of an update today. It was our first day on the work site, and it was great to see the progress that has been made since we visited the site two years ago, when ground had yet to be broken. Jean-Luc Krieg (founder and executive director of ConeXión Mosaico) gave us a refresher on the purpose of CentroRenovar and explained the plans as we toured the property. With impending rain, we turned in early for the day after successfully leveling two huge piles of dirt to prepare for a future floor, and installing numerous poles for the construction of a fence around the property. We all are exhausted and headed to bed early tonight, aiming to pace ourselves better tomorrow. But, overall, it was a very productive and fulfilling day.

Contributed by Rebecca Reeder

Mission Update: Mexico, March 12

Mission Experience in Partnership with ConeXión Mosaico

March 11–18, 2017

Today was our tourist day. Since all five of us have been here before and have seen the Teotihuacán pyramids, Jean-Luc Krieg (founder and executive director of ConeXión Mosaico) arranged for us to visit the city center. It also just so happened to be the weekend of a huge car show and music festival, so it was definitely crowded, but exciting! We toured the National Palace and museum, and learned a lot more about the history of Mexico and its constitution and government. But even just driving and walking around the crowded metropolitan area gave us a new picture of the stark dichotomy between the wealth of the city center and the extreme poverty of the nearby slums in which ConeXión Mosaico has located its ministry. After having started our morning with an update on the ministry’s progress (which is truly amazing!) and the continuing need for transformation, our tourism was a further reminder of and a very visual encounter with the issues caused by urbanization.

We ended our day in worship with one of the house churches that is now fully self-sustaining in Chimalhuacán — an experience that renewed once again our hope in the power of Christ, who is bringing about true transformation in and through His people! Until tomorrow, buenas noches!

Contributed by Rebecca Reeder

Mission Update: Mexico, March 10

Mission Experience in Partnership with ConeXión Mosaico

March 4–11, 2017

Today, March 10, was our last full day in Mexico City. The day was very exciting and busy and included activities like visiting a massive white cross that had been built on top of a mountain, as well as purchasing merchandise (handmade soaps, hats, hand-stitched clothing and china sets) from local artisans and vendors.

The most significant part of the day, for me personally, was saying goodbye to the Mexican workers with whom we had been working for the week. Despite the language barrier that separated us, we still managed to communicate with each other and learn about each other’s lives. Humorous, kind, generous, and patient are just a few of the adjectives and characteristics I would use to describe the group of Mexican men with whom we worked. It was difficult to say goodbye to them, because of the connection I had felt with them while laughing with and learning from them. Although it was difficult to say goodbye, I am grateful for the friendships and connections I made with a group of people who I, without this opportunity, would have never encountered.

Contributed by Rebecca Stanton

Mission Update: Mexico, March 9 (Part Two)

Mission Experience in Partnership with ConeXión Mosaico

March 4–11, 2017

No matter where our adventure has taken us in Mexico, we have always been fed heartily by our abundantly generous hosts. (Some of us might come back a few pounds heavier!) But these feasts have paled in comparison with the “meals” we have been fed every morning by the founder of this work, Jean-Luc Krieg, as he has walked us through the theological and Biblical under-girding of this ministry.

But today was special. Today was a defining day. Today we took a break from the physically demanding labor of CentroRenovar and ventured into the slum communities of San Sebastian and Las Palmas. Today we saw it in the flesh.

We saw it in the 21-year-old young man who, after being trained by ConeXión Mosaico as a teacher, taught his mother to read and is now leading multiple literacy classes for adults in the community.

We saw it in two women from the community who, after being equipped by ConeXión Mosaico, started a small business making all-natural soaps and lotions–a business that is not only providing an income for themselves, but, in addition, is providing an income for a community member who makes the packaging for their goods and for one who goes door-to-door selling them.

And we saw it in a community member who, after being prepared by ConeXión Mosaico as a community activist (pictured here), labored for three years knocking on the doors of her fellow community members and convincing them to participate in the impossible task of overcoming severe oppression and corruption to bring water to the 3,000 families of their slum community. The $1,000,000 U.S. dollars’ worth of work has been completed. On April 1, the valve will be opened and the water will flow!

We saw it – in them and in others. We saw dignity in the midst of dehumanizing conditions. We saw pride in the midst of oppression. We saw the Light of hope pushing back deep darkness. We saw true community emerging out of the ashes of deep distrust. We saw the power of God, working through His church, awakening in a forgotten and abused people a belief in themselves, a belief in one another, and a renewed belief in the relevant love and power of Jesus Christ.

Today we saw, and were fed by, these towering examples of faith.

Contributed by Rev. Michael Stanton

Mission Update: Mexico, March 9 (Part One)

The co-op in Las Palmas led by Christina and a friend, who make soap and body care products.
Mission Experience in Partnership with ConeXión Mosaico

March 4–11, 2017

Today began with Jean-Luc Krieg (founder and executive director of ConeXión Mosaico) leading us in a devotion centered around two main questions we have to ask ourselves before and during our ministry to others. The first question is, “What are the groans of the people around you?” And the second is, “What’s in your hand?” These two questions are in relation to the story of Moses when he is called by God (who hears the groans of the Israelites) to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses tells God that he’s not the right one for the job, but God then pointedly asks him, “What is that in your hand? (Exodus 4:2), in order to show Moses the mighty power that God can display through Moses’ simple staff.

What we saw today as a group was that ConeXión Mosaico is answering those questions in remarkable ways. Carmen is a young man who helps teach children and adults literacy skills in Chimalhuacan. He started off in one of the programs run by ConeXión Mosaico and continues to this day–listening to the needs of the people around him, adapting to their levels of knowledge, and bringing people together to learn and grow alongside one another. The nearest library is 40 minutes away by car, and many of the people cannot afford to drive that far. So they use what they have at home, sharing books with one another and asking for donations from book shops.

Another example is a co-op in Las Palmas led by Christina and her friend, who make soap and body care products alongside other women in the area. They have heard the groans that they need money to help provide for their families. Many of them cannot leave their homes for long periods of time to work, because they have to make sure their children are taken care of and they have other responsibilities. Being a part of the co-op allows these residents not only to have the flexibility to take care of their homes and families; it also allows them to make income. In addition, it gives them the opportunity to connect with their neighbors and build relationships with buyers, because they sell their products door-to-door.

ConeXión Mosaico works alongside people here in Mexico, listening to their groans and then allowing them to use what is in their hands to make changes in their communities. Isaiah 41:6-7 says, “They help each other and say to their companions, ‘Be strong!’ The metalworker encourages the goldsmith, and the one who smooths with the hammer spurs on the one who strikes the anvil.” These verses describe how I see people here coming together in unity, just like the psalmist described how good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell in unity. Talking with Carmen and Christina, and hearing how they enjoy building relationships with people in their neighborhoods, shows how vital community is and how powerful relationships are. ConeXión Mosaico truly provides the platform for neighbors to come together as brothers and sisters, dwelling in oneness with God our Creator and in unity with one another.

Contributed by Natalya Mishkova