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Sunday, September 3
Happy Sunday Everyone:
We will gather today at our First Colony campus at 8:30 and 11:00 for worship. We need a time together to worship, receive communion, reflect on our Christian faith, and pray over our collective experiences. I’m sorry that our Foster Creek campus is closed today but, if possible, I hope you can join us at First Colony. By the way, today has been declared as a national and statewide Day of Prayer by President Trump and Governor Abbott.
I hope you will sign up and participate in our First Colony Hurricane Help Network. It’s a simple way to connect needs and solutions. Get the word out, please.
A most helpful PDF booklet called Repairing Your Flooded Home has been produced by The Red Cross and FEMA.
My friends, I do not rejoice in the hardship Harvey brought to our state, but I do rejoice in the steadfast faith, unquenchable hope and genuine love I have seen displayed in countless ways, large and small, over the past week. We’ll see more of that grit and serving spirit in the days, weeks and months to come.
The Lord is good and I pray for God’s very best to you,
Saturday, September 2
We have established the First Colony Hurricane Help Network and you can sign up for it HERE. This is an email network designed to communicate both needs and solutions related to Harvey. Some of you need help and some of you are eager to provide help. This network is designed to broker information. Get the word out and let’s connect needs and solutions.
Our First Colony Church building is open today (Saturday) from 10:00am-5:00pm and if you know anyone who needs anything (tools, food, water, diapers, etc.) we have plenty at our building. Tell them to come by and we are glad to assist. We will also continue to receive donations (see my previous emails for suggested items) and we also need baby bottles, baby formula and deodorant. You and our community at large have been incredibly generous.
I have asked the following people to serve on our Harvey Response Leadership Team: Caryn Wolfe, Greg Stirman, Rocky Hudson, Brady Burgett and Bret Gowens. They are all eager to serve. This team brings together leadership, insurance, construction, finance and compassion experience. They will pay close attention to our church-wide responsiveness and distribution of resources. Their working mission is Galatians 6:10 – Let us do good to all, and especially to those who are fellow believers.
Do you know someone who wants to donate money to Harvey relief? They can do so easily on our website at http://www.firstcolonychurch.org. 100% of those donated funds go for hurricane relief.
HERE is the absolute best information I know for those who need to do some quick flood repair.
All of these initiatives are part of our plan to do the following four things well:
1. Faithfully receive in the name of Jesus donations for hurricane relief.
2. Faithfully and wisely distribute in the name of Jesus donated funds, goods and services.
3. Humbly partner with others for maximum effectiveness.
4. Be a broker of helpful communication and information for intermediate and long-term hurricane relief.
Remember, only 8:30am & 11:00am worship services at First Colony campus this Sunday. Nothing else. No services at Foster Creek tomorrow, September 3.
Blessings everyone, Ronnie
The First Colony Church of Christ will be open from 10am to 5pm Thursday through Saturday to receive donations for Harvey victims. You can also bring these items when you come for Sunday worship.
We specifically are asking for the following items:
Disposable diapers (any brand or size)
Children’s socks and underwear (new)
Toothbrushes and toothpaste
Small toys (the size of a shoebox or smaller) for infants, boys, or girls
Get the word out. Thanks, Ronnie
Dear First Colony and Foster Creek Church Families:
I don’t know that I have ever cherished the sun breaking through the clouds as much as I did Tuesday afternoon! I know we are not out of the woods just yet as we watch the upcoming cresting of the Brazos River.
I want you to know I, and so many others, continue to pray for you and strive to be of help and support. Let me share just a few components of what we are doing to respond to this current crisis.
First, we opened our church building as a haven and shelter to those in need. Over 100 people have been served over the past two days with about 40 spending Monday night in our building. The incredible response of our church family in providing a welcoming presence or food has been so encouraging. I’ve been here since Monday morning and have had a front row seat watching our church serve so well. I’m writing this around 10:00pm Tuesday night. I just finished a walk through of our facility as most, but not all, of our “sleep-overs” have either gone home or gone west. But outside our front doors was an additional 10-plus bags of helpful items left to give away. Thank you for your prayers and practical support.
Second, if you know of someone still in high flood waters anywhere in our city who needs help, have them contact the Coast Guard at 202-372-2100 for help. Be ready to provide name, number of people trapped, address and telephone number. Tell them to put out a white towel or some flag that is visible. Additionally, you can call the Emergency Operations Center at 281.342.6185. Also, here are two names and cell numbers of volunteers who have airboats and are ready, willing and able: Michael Walker (361.793.1598) or Aaron Duff (956.358.2885). I met them today and they have the right stuff to help.
Third, we are establishing the First Colony/Foster Creek Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. The purpose of this relief fund is to help those in our city who have experienced damage to their home or have great financial needs because of this storm, beginning with those in our church family. That help will include basic needs to living (food and clothing) and asistance with other needs in coming weeks. We will receive a special offering this Sunday, September 3. We will also make this giving opportunity available online once our office is back up and running.
Fourth, in coming days we will form a Harvey Response Team as we try to help people in very practical ways over the next several weeks. Sometimes, our urge to help gets in the way of really helping. The real help for many is often days or weeks down the line after needs are prioritized and resources, including governmental resources, are appropriately directed. Long after the cameras are gone, some needs remain and so we understand the longer term nature of our Hurricane Harvey response.
Fifth, if you know someone in need, I urge you to be the presence of Christ to that person in a very personal way. The practical ways you have served one another in recent days is heartwarming to say the least. You’ve opened your homes to one another. If our church can help with some future need, please contact Tara Le-Nguyen at 281.566.3196 or firstname.lastname@example.org and she can begin the process. Actually, feel free to contact any of us and we’ll send the word along.
Sixth, great volunteer opportunities are available simply by contacting the Red Cross ( 1-877-500-8645) or just show up at the George R. Brown Exhibit Hall E.
Seventh, we do plan to hold services this Labor Day weekend Sunday at both 8:30am and 11:00am at our First Colony campus. We will communicate with you regarding Foster Creek later in the week. At First Colony, we will not have any 9:45am classes or programming for children, students or adults, but we will gather together for worship, Lord willing.
Eighth, I hope you are doing well. Martha and I have watched our neighborhood turn into a lake with water rising to within ten feet of our front door. That’s what happens when our city gets 51.5 inches of rain in a short span of time. May the God of all grace give you peace my friends.
3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
Being hated and hating. That’s how the apostle Paul describes the natural trajectory of a life untouched by the kindness, love, mercy and renewal of God.
How can a person walk into an Orlando nightclub and start murdering people one by one just because of their sexual orientation? How can a person walk into a Wednesday night Bible study and prayer meeting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina and murder nine innocent people simply because of their race? How can someone kill five Dallas policemen through sniper-fire who were protecting a peaceful protest –targeting them solely because of their race? How can someone walk into an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut and murder innocent children and teachers?
These are but a few of the high-profile expressions of hatred and darkness of heart. They make me sad and angry and long for all things to be set right in God’s new creation.
There are many other expressions of hatred that occur on various scales all around us everyday. Everything from slander, gossip, verbal abuse to violence. Let’s call it what it is: the natural pull of this fallen world is into the abyss of being hated and hating.
But the good news is that in the midst of the darkness of hate stands the bold and bright light of God’s love, kindness and mercy that is available to all. And right along with God’s love is the renewing and reshaping influence of the Holy Spirit who is pushing us into the character of Jesus.
Will you be the peculiar one who will embrace the love of God into your own life and then ask, “how should the outrageous love, kindness and mercy of God influence my words and actions today?”
Events of the past several months have reminded me that generalizations about other people and groups of people are so very dangerous. These generalizations can look like racism, bigotry, prejudice or classism.
God doesn’t generalize and neither should we. God doesn’t hold us accountable as a group, as a team, as a race or a nation. He doesn’t look at people from Texas and paint us with broad, generalized strokes. He looks at each of us individually and we will all stand as individuals before the judgment seat of Christ. (Romans 14:12) We will be accountable in the last day on an individual basis and we should be held accountable in this day on an individual basis. If I’m at fault, hold me accountable but don’t blame all preachers because of my missteps.
Labels are libels. Life is more nuanced than generalizations allow. Generalizations tend to target people negatively who have nothing to do with past issues and misdeeds. Here is the action point: do not project your generalized attitudes toward any race – and I mean any race – or group, including policeman and preachers. This is not easy to do without a major work of the Holy Spirit’s love and discernment in your heart because this world will pull you in the direction of generalized hatred.
Racism, bigotry, pride, condescension and classism are ugly and unchristian. There should never be a hint of these among the people of God. I’m not so naïve as to think it will never happen, but when it does, it should be specifically and appropriately addressed and corrected. It breaks my heart to think that some of our brothers and sisters in Christ will find themselves under negative assumptions simply because of their race, ethnicity or socio-economic status.
Even the apostle Peter had to learn the hard way some of these very important lessons about favoritism and generalizations as recorded in Acts 10: But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean… I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.
The church can set the pace and show the way as a community of robust inclusion. It is the will of God that we love and respect all people in our communities. It is the will of God that we open our homes, tables and hearts to one another and that we intentionally and proactively embrace fellow believers and “potential believers” who are racially, ethnically, generationally and socio-economically different from us. This will not “just happen” – we must and we can make it happen.
If your friendship group looks just like you and you live in the most diverse city in America and in a very diverse church, it’s time that you take action to open your own tables to those who are dissimilar in terms of race, age or paycheck and yet so very similar because of our common bond in Jesus Christ. Stop thinking that this is a wonderful concept and start making this a wonderful reality one conversation, one meal, one opportunity at a time.
It’s important that we talk to one another from a viewpoint of mutual respect and love. Philippians 2 teaches us to consider the viewpoints of others before our own. And so, when we love people, we try to understand life from their perspective and as we dialogue we move closer to one another in understanding. Good listening helps us to recognize people in their specific pain and their specific perspective.
And so, how shall we respond to the hatred that may be directed towards us for whatever reason? Shall we personally escalate the situation? Shall we personally return evil for evil? Read the Romans 12:17-21 counterintuitive teaching from Scripture and then read the quote below from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who in 1955 received his Ph.D. degree in Systematic Theology from Boston University: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
The gospel of Jesus Christ, teaching a message of grace, love and renewal, is our bold proclamation both within the church and from the church to the world at large. Love really can be greater than hate; prayer really can be stronger than evil; and hope really can be greater than despair.
Disclaimer: My views and opinions reflect my own personal stance and do not necessarily reflect the views of the First Colony Church of Christ.