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2015: 12 Highlights in 12 Months (part 3)

As the year draws to an end, we're looking back at one highlight of each month. This is the last installment--our hearts are full as we look back at all God has done this year in these thin slices of community life. Enjoy!

September: Launch of Antioch School  and New Interns

We launched a local cohort of the Antioch degree program for training church leaders toward the long term goal of multiplying Missional Communities throughout the city.  Mark and Michelle, two graduated interns with a passion for evangelism and discipleship, stepped in to shoulder more leadership responsibility as they work toward their Bachelors of Ministry.    

Four new interns began in September: Dan a natural leader with a heart for neighborhood transformation; Eddie, a young neighbor who is passionate to impact youth; Renee, who wants to see people walk in deeper healing through counseling; and Rebecca, who has recently been baptized and desires to live all of her life like Jesus.  

October: Love Feast at Stocking Elementary

We hosted our weekly community meal, the Love Feast, at the local Stocking Elementary School.  Almost all the families whose children attend Stocking Elementary live in our neighborhood.  This relationship with the school has grown over this past year as we’ve been asking the question, “How can we partner together to serve Westside families?”

Instead of our usual 75-100 people we have for our weekly Love Feast we had about 200 folks come through the elementary school gym to join us for a meal together.  Because two small groups graciously volunteered to provide and serve the food, the principal and other staff were able to spend time with parents in a much more natural environment than their office while our missional community had opportunity to develop new relationships with families.

November: Week of 24-7 Prayer and door to door Prayer Request gathering

We hosted a week of 24/7 Prayer for the churches and organizations on the Westside of Grand Rapids.  The name of the prayer week was Grace Abounds in which we focused on receiving the grace of God in thankfulness through repentance, reconciliation, worship and intercession.

Leading up to the Prayer Week we went door to door throughout the neighborhood asking folks for prayer requests.  We collected 104 requests that were prayed for throughout the prayer week.  We'll be following up with these families in the new year.  

December: Commission of first Missional Community

In an effort to move toward multiplication, this past year we have become oriented around the idea of the local church being made up of many Missional Communities---people who are committed to walking with one another as the family of God and seeking to minister to their neighbors together.  

As the year has come to a close, we have just completed the process of writing a Missional Community Covenant---a commitment for the entire family which brings unity and focus by honing in on foundational questions:

  • What do we understand the Gospel to shape us as a church family?

  • How do we practically live as spiritual family?

  •  Who is the people group God has called us to demonstrate and speak the Gospel to?

  • What specific things will we do together to live as missionaries in our neighborhood?

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On covenanting: “We bind ourselves to each other in times of strength so that in moments of weakness we do not become unbound.” 
― Ruth Haley Barton

We are excited for what the Lord has done to mature our community this past year and for how he is going to lead us in deeper discipleship and growing his family in the new year.  

2015: 12 Highlights in 12 Months (part 2)

May: Yard Sale and Bike Shop Kick-off

As the weather warmed up we did a little spring cleaning of the Boiler Room basement and had a Yard Sale as a chance to meet neighbors and kick-off the Bike Shop for the summer.  

It was a great time to chat with neighbors and there was a lot of interest specifically in the bike repairs.  One neighborhood boy, Augustine, came by and asked about getting a bike.  We invited him to come fix one up with some of the interns that would be around weekly to offer neighbors a chance to repair any issues they had on their bikes.  Augustine stuck it out through the entire summer, developing relationships with the interns and earned a bike of his own!  It’s fun to see him riding around the neighborhood with the satisfaction of having worked hard and earning something himself.  

 

June: Baptisms of Walter, Curtis, and Caleb

God moved in the hearts of three people to commit themselves to Jesus and his family through being baptized: Curtis, who we’ve known for years but recently decided he wanted to be completely transformed so his son could avoid his mistakes.  He hosted a Love Feast meal this year and continues in discipled relationship. Walter, who was formerly homeless, showed up on our front porch one morning as we were having a bible study, felt drawn into our family and desired to be baptized in recommitting his life to the Lord.  He has found a recovery program on the south side of the city and we are seeking to discern what it looks like to walk with him. Caleb, who came around a few years ago to help with the Bike Shop, has rooted himself more and more deeply in discipled relationship and graduated from the internship in July.  

July: 4th of July Community Breakfast and Parade

We hosted our annual 4th of July Parade where we made a pancake breakfast and invited our neighbors to not just watch a parade, but to come be the parade!  We taped up bikes and cars with streamers, got some drums to beat on and rolled around the neighborhood celebrating together. This year we decided to have a healing prayer and worship space available in the garage as the breakfast was going on. We invited folks to receive freedom from slavery of fear and sin that is available in Jesus. A few neighbors stumbled their way in and reported profound healing/reconnecting experiences with God. 

August: Wedding of Amy and Caleb

Every August we take a month of Sabbath to rest, celebrate what God has done, and remember that the Lord is the one doing the work in each life and family in the neighborhood.  
Caleb and Amy, who have been leaning into the family for a few years now with Caleb having graduated from the internship, got married at the tail end of August at the farm where Amy grew up.  It was a beautiful time for us to celebrate the love of this wonderful couple who have set their marriage on the foundation of Jesus.  

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2015: 12 highlights in 12 Months (part 1 of 3)

December is a natural time of year for reflection, and looking back to survey what God has done in the last year. We thought it would be fun to share a highlight from each month to remember and celebrate with you. This is the first of a three-part series (jan-april)--we will publich parts 2 and 3 next week and the week after. Enjoy!

January: Life Training School and Intern Baptisms

Each year our interns take a three-week pilgrimage to one of our sister communities in Kansas City, Now known as Navah Church (formerly the KC Boiler Room). There they participate in a Life Training School that establishes the basics of being a disciple, walking with Jesus, receiving healing from wounds in the past, and entering into the life of God's Family more fully. 

We were so excited to see God move in the hearts of two of our interns, Mark VanPoppering (a native Westsider) and Mark Thiel who came to the Lord in the years leading up to his internship season. Both continue to grow and mature into Christlikeness--and we are so proud of both of these sons. 

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February: Esther's Baptism

We had known and walked with our beloved neighbor, Esther, for three years before she decided that she wanted to put a steak in the ground and commit every part of her life to following Jesus--and to be confirmed as a member of the family. As we were planning her baptism, her mothers' health began to decline and she needed to make an extended trip to Texas to support her. She did not want to go before being baptised, so we planned  an impromptu smaller gathering of our core family in the prayer garage that turned out to be an incredibly sweet and beautiful time of receiving her and blessing on her journey. 
 

March: Welcoming A Tiny New Member of the Community

The birth of a child tends to eclipse all other activity and cause all who are involved to pause and celebrate the wonder of new life that God has brought. And the birth of Walter Solomon, Brooke and Tim's third child, was not anything less. We are incredibly thankful for the gift this little person is to our family and this neighborhood. 

 

April: Pearl Cooks for Love Feast

Every month in 2015 we had at least one Love Feast meal cooked by a West Side neighbor--and it has enriched this community meal experience immensely! They become the head chef, sharing a piece of their cultural/family heritage in a very tangible way with the community. Dignity rises up so apparent in everyone present as we announce and celebrate the origin of these special meals each night. In April, our neighbor Pearl cooked her famous enchiladas--and they did not disappoint!

Catch Parts 2 and 3 of this blog series in the coming weeks in December...

Humble Abode: an Intern Reflection

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September was a month of new beginnings for the Stockbridge Boiler Room. Four lovely young adults from different walks of life, became a part of the Boiler Room residence. Ready to press into a season of discipleship and service: Rebecca aka “Becks” (18 yrs old), Dan (22 yrs old) , “Eddie Spaghetti Get Ready” ( 21 yrs old) and myself, Renee or “Nay” (25 yrs old) officially began the 2015 SBR Internship.

"...there is no semblance of glamorous ministry here, but something far better, something raw and real."

You may have noticed that one of these age numbers is not like the others. Maybe I'm a late bloomer in the eyes of some, but to me, my age is one of the many reminders of how the lord has walked with me through a beautiful struggle in His perfect time. Let me give you a little back story of this process for me.

In the last year, I've had a growing hunger and conviction to establish roots and to really engage in kingdom family-life. Most of my adult years, however, I’ve been all about the whole being “a pilgrim on this earth” with “no place to lay my head” gig. I've genuinely connected at a deep heart level but uprooting time and time again made it difficult to really go deep in relationships. And unfortunately, beautiful truths can sometime be used to mask imbalanced thinking or cover up a broken heart as was the case for me.

"I've had a growing hunger and conviction to establish roots and to really engage in kingdom family-life."

In my early stages of this journey, in which my paradigm began to shift into the deeper realities of His kingdom, I decided with youthful zeal that I needed a tangible testament to symbolize how God was marking my heart. So I got a tattoo. The word “Abide”, pledged in ink on my right forearm, still stands as a reminder of this time that I began to understand this journey of remaining in Him (Just a fun fact, it was also the time I first sensed a pull towards the Boiler Room family). This is when I began to submit to His authority and leadership, to trust in His goodness, to believe His word as faithful and true, to wait expectantly for Him to fulfill promise, and to struggle with Him rather than to run away.

Then came a season of new lessons. God was revealing Himself as One who longs for a resting place, a sanctuary to dwell amongst His people. It was during this time that I grew much more aware of the Kingdom of God being released here on Earth. I started imagining what it would be like for my heavenly home to actually come down. To experience home in the here and now.

So, present day, here we are and here I am, being stretched far beyond all the other lessons prior. I so get that it's God's deep desire to reestablish time and space for togetherness with Him but also with His family. I get that He will invest all the time in the world needed to make room for this, for the settlement of community and for establishing roots in this humble abode.

"For far too long this has been a neighborhood where hope and beauty have been roughed up and beaten down."

All of this seems to take a vast amount of surrender and trust, and it's kinda terrifying. Maybe you can relate or maybe not but, the idea of family for me has been tinged by dysfunction and pain. It's hard to face but sweetly and graciously the Lord continually reaffirms that this is the very thing that He is committed to redeeming and restoring, here on planet Earth. It is what we were created to long for, and to enjoy. And I believe Him.

I believe that not only will this beautiful reality be unleashed in me but also the whole of the West Side of Grand Rapids. For far too long this has been a neighborhood where hope and beauty have been roughed up and beaten down. Neighbors have gone through hardship and heartache, completely comprehending what it looks like and what it feels like to see family tearing at the seams. And there is no semblance of glamorous ministry here, but something far better, something raw and real. Courageous embers glimmer all around the Westside as glimpses of what God has for this neighborhood. My desire in any small way, be a part of fanning of these embers , for the future to be so brilliantly lit with love. I know this cannot be initiated by man's might nor power but only by the Spirit of the living God. Only then will it be a fire that doesn’t burn out. I believe each one of us in this community and in this internship has been brought to the Stockbridge Boiler Room by the perfect will of the Father. And we are here to simply and humbly abide and abode; to create space for family, to commit to the Father and to commit to each other as we grow in grace.

He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

Please join me in prayer for the journey! I look forward to sharing more as the internship progresses throughout the year.  

:: Renee ::

 

What can God do with your gifts?

This month at the Love Feast we are doing something new.  

When we were asking God early in the year what He wanted us to focus on in 2015, one of the primary ways we sensed Him leading us as a community is in the area of stewarding our gifts well by intentionally naming, cultivating, and using them to serve others. This is easier said than done as it takes trust and vulnerability to speak out in front of others the things that are close to our hearts and say, "I want to pursue this."  Many of us can have fears and insecurities around these gifts that God has given us, and it is tempting to just keep quiet, not really do much to grow. We can tend to stay "under the radar" so that there is no risk of somebody saying something that could potentially hurt us. And sometimes we don't want anyone else holding us accountable through encouragement and exhortation when we just want to give up.  

we are free to explore, experiment with, and discover the ways He’s designed us to creatively bring His Kingdom to Earth

But in our hearts, we all have desires God has put in us to use the things we know, are good at, and care about. It is part of being human and created in God's image. And we actually live into our design when we first realize that we belong to the Father and His eternal Family, we have an unchanging identity as His beloved sons and daughters, and that we are free to explore, experiment with, and discover the ways He's designed us to creatively bring His Kingdom to Earth. Every person has a unique and meaningful contribution in the Kingdom. 

The project of making the cutouts was a fun collaborative effort among interns and leaders. 

The project of making the cutouts was a fun collaborative effort among interns and leaders. 

Anna, Michelle, and Elaine working on getting their gifts on the boards. 

Anna, Michelle, and Elaine working on getting their gifts on the boards. 

Head-Hands-Heart

We decided that a primary goal this year in the Boiler Room community would be to very intentionally pursue creating a safe space for each person to be vulnerable with one another by naming the things gifts that we carry, whether currently active or dormant in our lives, and then dream of ways to encourage each other to cultivate those gifts and serve each other and the community. We began by doing a Head-Hands-Heart activity with our core community that meets on Sunday nights as a missional house church. Every person gets sticky notes and writes on them 2-3 gifts of the head (What do you know a lot about?), gifts of the hands (What are you good at doing?), and gifts of the heart (what are you passionate about?). We then put our sticky notes on three corresponding boards on the wall--and get to see a visual of the wealth of assets that are present in the room. It's a really powerful perspective when you begin to see all the amazing things God has put in us.

as we sow these seeds and cultivate them in our lives, they will grow into big strong beautiful trees...

We begin to learn about each other and think and talk about how we can encourage one another. We ask if there are any projects we could pursue that could create space for using them. Around this time, Dan, who loves running, started a running club for people who want to discover the joy of running, and every Saturday morning they get together to run one mile and then have breakfast. Caleb, who is a creative type and a doer, saw potential in creating an art studio in the basement as a possibility for the other creative types in our community and neighborhood to use to practice and create together. These are just a couple of examples of ways we begin to experiment with these gifts--and we trust that as we sow these seeds and cultivate them in our lives, they will grow into big strong beautiful trees over time and display God's glory. 

Inviting neighbors to name their gifts of the Head, Hands and Heart.

Inviting neighbors to name their gifts of the Head, Hands and Heart.

This month we are taking the same Head-Hands-Heart exercise to the wider circle of our Love Feast relationships. For four weeks we are inviting people to name their gifts, write them down to stick on the cutouts, and talk about them over dinner.  As we do this, we expect to see the Kingdom break into our community in new ways. We hope to see people come alive as they realize what they have to offer matters, and they can serve others with their gifts as an act of worship. We hope that this will be a catalyst for new initiatives born out of the people who make up this neighborhood, and we will learn a lot more about what God is already up to among us. 

We hope to see people come alive as they realize what they have to offer matters

Please pray that we for us to be diligent about this posture of listening--to people and to God. Please pray for the Holy Spirit to drive away fear and reluctance in us and our neighbors, and that His Kingdom would come as we pursue the treasure in one another. 

:: tim ::