Don’t Lose the Wonder–Swaddling Cloths

Growing up in a Christian home, I heard the Christmas story every year. We did advent calendars and Scripture memory together, which I treasure nowadays as an older believer.

Ashamedly there were some years I coasted through Christmas season with a “yeah, yeah, I got this Jesus’ birthday stuff” mentality, without truly pondering the “reason for the season.”Jesus, our King, was welcomed into this world with no fanfare, no Facebook post, no fancy birthday announcement, no Pinterest-worthy outfit.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

However, one year in seminary, a professor camped out with one phrase of the Christmas story that we naturally skim over with each reading: “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).

Swaddling cloths? Like the nice, linen-type receiving blankets that all newborns are placed in? Not exactly…

In the days of Jesus, it was customary for those traveling to wear “swaddling clothes” underneath their garments in the event that they would pass away. This way their body would already have the necessary covering as to not make someone “unclean” in touching a dead body.

So why would Mary and Joseph wrap their newborn child, who they had just given life to, in such a morbid exterior?

Because they knew He was born to die. Both Mary and Joseph had been told this child would be the Savior of the world, God’s chosen Son, to be the ultimate sacrifice and bring redemption to His people (Luke 1:32-33; Matthew 1:21-23).

But it doesn’t end there. Another mention of swaddling clothes is found as the angels triumphantly proclaimed Jesus’ birth to the shepherds in the fields nearby.

“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12 NKJV

Why would swaddling clothes description be an important enough detail to share with the shepherds? You would think a baby laying in a manger, outside of an inn would be obvious enough.

These shepherds only job in life was to watch sheep. They were to care for dumb animals. Dirty animals. They never darkened the doors of the temple to offer worship or sacrifice. They most likely never heard the Law of the Lord or any part of the great Scriptures read aloud.

Instead, they took care of the pure, spotless lambs that would be chosen and used as sacrifices in each year of the Atonement. These lambs that roamed at their feet could have been the ones that were chosen to take on the sins of the people.

In order to choose these lambs, they had to be carefully inspected to not have a blemish or imperfection. How do you think they were able to inspect wiggly little lambs with four limbs and loud mouths baa’ing? They would wrap these lambs up in swaddling clothes to inspect for any spot. Death clothes, because sheep were born to serve a purpose through their death.

And that first Christmas night, “there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock” (Luke 2:8) when they were the first to receive the news that “a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11) was born for them. The one, perfect, saving Lamb of God had arrived!

Everyone who heard the story from the shepherds were left in wonder (Luke 2:18). Here I am – left in wonder – that God would make it so clear to the least of society that He had come, just as prophesied (see Isaiah 7:14, Micah 5:1-2, Genesis 49:10, Isaiah 11:1-10, Jeremiah 23:5).

Jesus, our King, was welcomed into this world with no fanfare, no Facebook post, no fancy birth announcement, no Pinterest-worthy outfit. He was wrapped in death clothes and welcomed by shepherds, the lowest in society. That is the wonder of Jesus. The most unlikely of people and places. Yet that is where the greatest glory is received – in the individual hearts of those who seek Him out.

Today, don’t lose the wonder – that Jesus was born to die, which He makes known so that we will go tell others!

At the Christmas Eve Services, We Will Sing to Him!

When I think of Christmas, I think of “Silver Bells” by Bing Crosby and Elvis’ Christmas album.

Since about age 5, we have always played “The Chipmunks’ Christmas” while we decorate the tree in Marion, Ohio, my hometown.

All secular music!Christmas Eve Services at McLean Bible Church Loudoun

But for me, these are the sounds of Christmas. They initiate a feeling and emotion that begins to draw me into the real sense of magic.

Even though they’re secular songs, they still are in the spirit of love and giving.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

The week before Christmas, it’s all classical for me. Handel’s “Messiah”–things like that.

The night before Christmas, I get alone and listen to several different version of “O Come O Come Emmanuel.” It has a haunting melody–both mysterious and celebratory.–“Rejoice! Rejoice!”

It’s a lament. So very few songs are laments, crying out “O come o come Emmanuel!” It has a very Messianic feel to it. It’s my favorite sacred Christmas Song.

Music is the emotional gateway to memories. It’s universal.–Music is universal. Everyone, no matter where in the world, sings.

We are commanded to sing to God. God loves it when we sing!

Whenever I would visit my Grandma, who was not a Christian, she would make me sing to her. Now imagine God asking me to sing–It gives us keen insight into God seeing us as His children, loving it when we sing to Him.

At the Christmas Eve services, we will sing to Him!

At the 4 and 6 pm services, it’ll be a family party! “Joy to the World!“, “Hark, the Harold Angels Sing,” “Christ Has Come” by Big Daddy Weave. All amped up!

At the 8 pm service, we’ll sing “O Come O Come Emmanuel” and “Silent Night.”

What music draws you into the real sense of Christmas magic? Comment below–I want to know!

10 Reasons God Allows Suffering

God wants our trust more than our understanding.Why does God allow His children to suffer?
Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?
How can God condemn anyone to hell?
Why do innocent people suffer?

All of these questions seek to answer one question, “Why suffering?” This is probably one of the hardest questions in all of theology for us to wrap our minds around, even if we are not in the midst of suffering.

I myself have asked this question many times. Here are ten things that have comforted me and helped me to better understand suffering.

1. There Are No Good People

According to Scripture:

  • We were all born in iniquity (Psalm 51:5).
  • We all have sinned and fall short of the God’s glorious standard (Romans 3:23).
  • Every man and woman is personally responsible for their sin (Isaiah 53:6).
  • There is no one who is righteous in God’s eyes and every aspect of our humanity is tainted by sin (Romans 3:10-18).

This means that we are totally depraved (unable to come to God of our own accord). Regardless of whether or not we believe we are good, God tells us that we are not and that the penalty for our sin is death (Romans 6:23). In essence, we reap what we sow.

But this leads us to the Good News in that while we were sinners Christ died for us, demonstrating His great love for us (Romans 5:8). God knew there was nothing we could do to be reconciled to Him. He knew we could never live up to His standard. The law reveals this to us.

If we confess and repent of our sin and believe in our hearts that Jesus is the son of God and died on the cross for our sins, was buried and arose on the third day, you can become righteous in the eyes of God (Romans 10:9-10; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

2. To Remind Us That the World is Broken

Just as suffering reminds us all of the severity of our sin before God, it also reminds us that we live in a world that is broken and is groaning for redemption (Romans 8:20-23).

3. Suffering Produces Spiritual Maturity

James tells us that suffering produces steadfastness and is used by God to sanctify us (James 1:2-8). A believer’s experiences are not by accident (Romans 8:28). God uses our trials to perfect our character.

4. Suffering Teaches Compassion

There are some levels of Christian maturity that we can never reach except through the doorway of suffering. God can use our affliction so we can learn how to comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). Compassion is a learned skill and the way God teaches compassion to us is by sending us affliction. Suffering teaches us how to connect with people’s pain.

5. God Wants Our Trust More Than Our Understanding

Our God is not only a loving God (1 John 4:8), but He is a sovereign God (Job 42:2). There are times when the godliest thing we can do is say with Job, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15). We all live in all kinds of ambiguities where we do not know the mind of God–and we dare not act as if God owes us detailed explanations. As Oswald Chambers said, “Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.” God knows us, but we won’t fully know Him until we are face-to-face with Him (1 Corinthians 13:12).

6. Afflictions Draw Us to God

God can use our afflictions to draw us to Him (John 16:33) and keep us dependent on Him (Hebrews 12:6-7). Trials, pain, and suffering are not unusual to this world as they are a part of what it means to live in a fallen world. Our suffering draws us closer to God because we don’t have the worldly comforts to rely on. When earthly pleasures, things, and people are stripped out of our lives, it reveals where we have mistakenly placed our hope.

7. Sufferings are a Part of the Life of a Christ Follower

God told us that we would go through trials and we need to rejoice in them (1 Peter 4:12-13). Followers of Christ are to “take heart” or “have courage” because Christ has “overcome the world” (John 16:33). Suffering changes us, it transforms us to become more like Christ. “…if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering” (Romans 8:17).

8. Some Suffering Results from the Sinful Action or Inaction of Ourselves and Others

For example, people look at a famine and wonder where God is, but the world produces enough food for each person to have 3,000 calories a day. It’s our own irresponsibility and self-centeredness that prevents people from getting fed. We chose to be selfish, arrogant, uncaring, hateful, and abusive for we all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

9. Our Situations are Temporary Compared to Eternity

God also reminds us that our afflictions and everything we bear in this world are nothing in the comparison to the eternal glory that believers will receive when entering heaven (Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17). Our trials in this world are only a slight moment and are light in weight compared to what we will experience for the rest of eternity.

“We must meet the uncertainties of this world with the certainty of the world to come” – A.W. Tozer.

10. So Christ Will Get the Glory

Our situations are temporary compared to eternity.In the midst of our trials, Christ will get the glory in being our strength (John 9:3; 2 Corinthians 4:7). As Christ followers, everything we do should be for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

The Bible stands high above any other teaching on pain and suffering and goes beyond other answers to the suffering problem because Christianity alone offers a person in the name of Jesus Christ.

There are many other worldviews and answers out there that may help us navigate our suffering, but only through Christ can we persevere and grow in Christlikeness through them (Isaiah 41:10).

Additional Reading

NOTE: Many of the links below are to Amazon.com. They are not commission links, so McLean Bible Church will not receive any money when you follow the links. If, however, you would like McLean Bible Church to receive donations from Amazon from your purchases (whether they are the resources below or anything else you might purchase), then you can choose to participate in the Amazon Smile program. Read more about Amazon Smile to see how it works.

Turkey Outreach 2015 in Pictures

Even if you can’t see it, material poverty is a growing issue in Loudoun County.

On Saturday, November 21st, 250 MBC Loudoun volunteers of all ages delivered boxes to 925 Loudoun County families. Check out the photos of our volunteers in action in the video below.

Making Turkey Outreach More than Turkey Outreach

Turkey Outreach is not a just one-time event. It’s an opportunity to build relationships with families.

In Loudoun County, we have the opportunity to build relationships with about 950 families on November 21st simply by delivering Thanksgiving meals.

Guy Goddard“Most people don’t understand that there really is a need,” said Guy Goddard, MBC volunteer. “There are people even in this area who cannot afford to go all out and get everything for one meal. Then when we deliver the meal,” he said, “we have the opportunity to say, ‘This is why we’re doing it.’”

Outreach Pastor Dave KroezeOutreach Pastor Dave Kroeze said, “The reality is, I don’t have enough time in my day to personally engage every family in relationship.” Ideally, Dave would be able to determine each family’s needs and dreams and begin to point them in the direction of a relationship with Jesus.

Sign up to impact Loudoun!

 

Discovering Needs and Meeting Them

When we deliver the meals, we offer to pray for families. “I can think of one situation where McLean people were invited in,” said Denise O’Kane, retired parent liaison at Catoctin Elementary. “McLean found out that the home needed repairs and did them.”

Denise O'KaneMBC Loudoun partners not only with schools, but also with the Loudoun Adult Detention Center and other community organizations.

“There was one year of Turkey Outreach that I’m sure we saved a life,” said John Donahue, MBC volunteer and former Assistant Chaplain at the Loudoun Adult Detention Center. “I delivered a box to a woman whose son was incarcerated. While talking to her, I said, ‘It’s cold in here.’John Donahue

“She said she didn’t have any heat for 3 days because she couldn’t pay the bill. ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do,’ she said. ‘My son was providing a lot of the income.’” John called the police and stayed until she was able to get a grant to get the heat turned back on. “I got a phone call from her later saying, ‘Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!’”

When a need is discovered, the Holy Spirit moves volunteers to act.

Turkey Outreach Can Lead to Gifts of Joy

For example, Meredith Kroeze, Resource Teacher at Creighton’s Corner Elementary and MBC Loudoun volunteer said that while playing kickball with one of the kids, “we found out what the kids wanted for Christmas. That led to McLean providing Christmas gifts through our Gifts of Joy ministry.”

Meredith Kroeze, MBC Loudoun VolunteerGifts of Joy is MBC’s gift giving ministry at Christmastime (formerly called “Angel Tree”). You choose a tag from the tree and purchase the requested item. Volunteers then deliver the gifts to families before Christmas.

The Parent Liaison and the counselors at Creighton’s Corner had identified 29 students for whom they wanted to provide Christmas gifts. Another church provided for 10, and the school was trying to figure out how to support the other 19 using their liaison budget. But McLean, because of their relationship with the school for Turkey Outreach, discovered the need and provided for the other 19. Not only were the students blessed, but the school staff were taken aback by all the gifts that were coming in. “The staff notice what McLean is doing and were really touched,” said Meredith.

“Because I work there, I knew what each student was getting for Christmas,” Meredith said. “A third-grade girl wanted Scrabble so that she could get better at words. She came back after the break and said, ‘I can’t believe that I got what I asked for!’ She was just so excited to come back to school to tell me!”

Turkey Outreach Becomes Year Round

As Denise said, “You know, people come out of the woodwork at Thanksgiving and Christmas to help (those less fortunate), but come January, it’s ‘See ya.’ But kids and families need things year round. McLean helps year round.”

“For example,” Denise explained, “our summer school was canceled a couple years ago. McLean helped us make our own summer school. It never could’ve happened without McLean volunteers. Turkey Outreach becomes year round, making Turkey Outreach more than Turkey Outreach.”

Families, Discipleship Groups, Individuals—Everyone Volunteers

It’s not just the receiving families who benefit from Turkey Outreach. Volunteers benefit, too.Watch The Channel (2016) Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

“We have brought our kids (with us to volunteer) for the last two years,” said Brian Nyugen, MBC Loudoun volunteer. “Our oldest is 5, and the youngest is 2.”Brian Nyugen

“Last year was our favorite year,” Brian said. “People from our small group served together. It’s a very accessible volunteer activity. It’s low commitment. It’s easy for people who are not used to serving.”

“We were there for the very first Turkey Outreach,” said Pam Harris, MBC Loudoun volunteer. “We always brought our son, who was 6 years old that first year.”

“Now he’s 26,” Pam’s husband Ron Harris said. “He still serves.”

“Last year we served with our discipleship group,” Pam said. “It was moving to them, so they wanted to serve again this year.”

Ron and Pam Harris“Our group has been trying to serve together,” Ron said. “We serve together at the homeless shelter. As a group, we feel called to action.”

Claudia Rabe, Caring Connections Coordinator for Embrace Catoctin (an MBC Loudoun volunteer), said that through Turkey Outreach, she is “able to pray with people and find out what their needs are. When we’re at school, we’re careful not to mix school and church. But because we’re able to deliver the turkey boxes to homes, we can have a more open conversation.”

Being involved in Turkey Outreach just might change you.

“Turkey Outreach has developed me in a way that I’ve grown to understand the importance of interacting with people,” said Greg Lilly, MBC Loudoun volunteer. “It’s a growth process. I started out packing and then eventually got out on the front end, meeting and talking to people.”

“To me, it’s being Jesus with skin on,” Pam said. “We’re not just praying. It’s love in action.”

Turkey Outreach—“It’s anointed. It really is!” John said.

Sign up to impact Loudoun!

Seeking the Welfare of Loudoun County through Turkey Outreach

As citizens of heaven, we are to seek the welfare of the city where God has sent us, for in its welfare we will have welfare.(see Phil 3:20a & Jer 29:7)

Join me for Turkey Outreach so that together we can love like Jesus did. Check out my video below.

Turkey Outreach is our Thanksgiving-time ministry to the DC community. The Loudoun campus of McLean Bible Church in partnership with schools, other churches, and non-government organizations will provide about 950 boxes to families throughout Loudoun County on Saturday, November 21st.

Sign up to volunteer!Watch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)

Sign up to volunteer!Watch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)

Previous blog post: Turkey Outreach—Impacting Loudoun Families with a $33 Box of Food

Turkey Outreach—Impacting Loudoun Families with a $33 Box of Food

This year, McLean Bible church (MBC) celebrates its 20th year of loving families through Turkey Outreach.

Turkey Outreach is our Thanksgiving-time ministry to the DC community. We provide whole thanksgiving meals to hundreds of thousands of people. This year alone, we will provide boxes to 65,000 people in the DC area.

To rejoice in MBC Loudoun’s participation in Turkey Outreach, we wanted to hear from our volunteers and community liaisons about how they have seen families impacted by a $33 box of food.

Pam Harris, MBC Loudoun Volunteer

“(Here in Loudoun County), we are so abundantly blessed with food that we take it for granted,” said Pam Harris, MBC Loudoun volunteer.

Meredith Kroeze, Resource Teacher at Creighton’s Corner Elementary and MBC Loudoun volunteer, points out that turkey dinners are expensive “with all the fixings and everything” she said. “Families don’t celebrate because they can’t afford it.”

Meredith Kroeze, MBC Loudoun VolunteerThirty-three dollars doesn’t seem like much to most of us, but for a family devastated by the loss of income, providing a Thanksgiving meal to their family feels like it’ll cost a million dollars.

“One of the fathers (at our school) had lost his job,” said Lisa Figeroa, Parent Liaison at Creighton’s Corner Elementary School. “Money was a huge, huge issue. (The Turkey Outreach box) just made their Thanksgiving. We were able to give them two boxes—because you can never have too many leftover sandwiches!”

“You can just see the thankfulness in their faces,” said Chaplain Ron Sage, volunteer at the Loudoun Adult Detention Center. “Turkey Outreach lets them know that someone out there really does care. It could be the very reason people come to church.”Chaplain Ron Sage, Loudoun Adult Detention Center

“The impact has been so positive,” said Lisa. “Knowing that someone out there cares. It’s comforting to them.”

Dave Kroeze, MBC Loudoun Outreach PastorThrough Turkey Outreach, MBC Loudoun is able to give many of these families a hand up and help move them from crises to self-sustainability. “This is why each and every one of our volunteers is vital in this endeavor,” Outreach Pastor Dave Kroeze said. “God is on the move through the local church, and it is a blessing to play a small role in mobilizing God’s people for God’s work.”

If you would like to witness families blessed by Turkey Outreach, sign up to deliver boxes on Saturday, November 21st.

DR Update 4

“What really struck me the most about this trip was the abject poverty these people lived in. Yesterday we visited a village that was described as a dump mixed with a water filtration plant. These people lived in a literal dump, and earned money by allowing people to put trash there for payment. But this led me to realize the total strength of our team. We pushed through it and did ministry for those people. And I realize how truly spoiled we are, but that God being in a personal relationship with us is one of the greatest riches of all.” – David Harrop

This is day seven of our trip, and our last day of ministry. It’s almost impossible to believe. Each day has been so full of new things and experiences, opportunities to adapt and moments we failed to. By God’s grace, we have had each other and Him in all of those moments, the beautiful and the ugly.

Monte’s Team:

This morning we headed  over to Spring in the Desert a daycare in San Pedro. There we hosted a VBS for the preschoolers and spent a lot of time holding and playing with them. The children were so sweet and were a beautiful example of how Jesus calls us to have childlike faith.

After a delicious lunch of tacos and nachos, we went back to Quisqueya to complete door to door evangelism. We walked to many houses sharing our testimony and the good news of Jesus. All in all it was an effective and good last full day on the field. God has taught us so much this week and we are excited to bring and utilize what we learned back in the United States!

Nick’s Team:

We went out this morning a few people short; several members of the team were sick and it was best for them to stay back. They’re feeling a bit better (I just asked), praise God. Please pray for their healing continued and full recovery.

Our morning ministry was to the leprosy house, which is my personal favorite place in the DR. Some of us who went last year were able to see the same people we met before, which was really sweet for us.

Later today we held our last VBS at a small church out in the country. Many of these kids were a little bit older than the ones we’ve worked with previously, but they were just as excited to participate in games and worship. We sang “Down by the Banks” I don’t know how many times, and some of our guys wrestled a bit with the older boys. It was especially sad when we had to go because this was our last village. The people here just find their way into your heart and it feels like you’re leaving a bit of yourself behind. It’s a good hurt though, because you know that you’ve made a difference, even if it was just to one kid whose hand you held during a prayer.

LAST YEAR and THIS YEAR:

DRimage1

DRimage2

DR Update 4

“John Piper said ‘You never know what prayer is for until you know that life is war.’ And I think that’s really true, especially on a trip like this.”-Cam Florence

Day six of our trip was pretty emotional for everyone. A few of us are sick or exhausted or both, but despite the discomfort I haven’t talked to a single person who is ready to go home quite yet. There is so much work to be done in this country and it’s easy to feel as though we aren’t making a difference. But if we are able to lead even one person to Christ, it was all worth it. By God’s grace we have seen dozens of people realize that they are in need of a Savior and give their lives to Him.

Nick’s Team:

We spent the day in the same community you read about from Monte’s team yesterday. It’s a series of villages located in Santo Domingo, right along the river. Most of us weren’t prepared for what we saw. It’s pretty indescribable, so we will include pictures at some point. But the thing that stuck out most to me was not the poverty or conditions. It was the spirit of the people who lived in what was basically a dump. One woman was growing flowers, and the kids, for the most part, were relatively well-dressed and clean. These people have almost nothing, but they have a sense of pride and self respect that is admirable.

For the first part of the day we helped to run a VBS for the kids, ate lunch with them, played hard for a couple hours, and finally distributed hundreds of pairs of shoes. For those of you who don’t know, Matt Kim (Rock student, plays the drums upstairs) has spent the last year collecting used shoes to give to the kids down here. Matt wasn’t able to make it down here this year, but his work blessed a ton of kids. The pastor of the local church was in tears, thanking us for the impact we were making. It’s all because of Christ, but it was awesome to be a part of. We spent the last two or three hours walking around the village and evangelizing.

Monte’s Team:

We started off the morning by boarding the busses and taking the hour and a half trip to the leprosy hospital. When we got there we were instructed to invite all of the patients to the cafeteria by saying “vamos a comedor.” In the cafeteria we sang, shared testimonies and the gospel with the patients. They were beautiful and their joy was infectious. We got to touch them and sing to them and we were experiencing something that Jesus did while he was on earth.

Afterwards, we went over to San Pedro and hosted another VBS. We performed our skits, shared the gospel and danced with the children. We continually see Jesus in the children. Although, it is our mission to love on them, they continually surprise us by abundantly loving on us.

Tonight at score was an awesome time of fellowship and fun. We had handmade pizzas and music, courtesy of Hector, one of the Score staff members. It was nice to get a chance to just chill for a couple of hours and bond as a team during this last brief stretch of the trip. Please pray for health for all of us and a lasting impact from our team.

DR Update 3

“I have been on this trip six times and have never seen the Spirit move in the way it has this week! Today was a day of great service to the local church. A focus of this trip has been to serve and empower the local church so it can grow and make a lasting impact in the region. The Lord is using us to display His love and intimate care for his creation.”
– Noah Byre

Every day is truly a gift from God and we don’t live like we know that. If you’ve ever been on a short term mission trip, you’ve definitely thought something along the lines of Wow, I can’t believe the incredible spirituality of the people who are full-time missionaries here! What we don’t seem to realize is that we are all called to be full-time missionaries. Some are called to serve a thousand miles away from their family and friends, and some are called to minister in their own communities. Our mission in life itself as Christians is to make disciples of Christ. This trip is stretching all of us in dozens of ways, but a major part of our struggle has to do with the fact that we don’t act like missionaries when we’re at home.

Nick’s Team:

We spent the morning at Waters in the Desert, a ministry located in San Pedro and headed by one of our favorite translators, Dioser (Dio for short). WitD is essentially a day care facility for children of various ages. The ministry is staffed exclusively with volunteers. These ladies have huge hearts for the Lord’s work and they show it by sacrificing their weekdays to care for the village’s poorest children. We helped feed the kids during lunchtime and spent the rest of our time there performing skits and worshiping with the children as part of a VBS. They were mostly two to four years old, very energetic, and every single one was gorgeous!

The second half of the afternoon was more laid back. We got to visit the church of one of the SCORE volunteers and assist with their VBS. The teachers were fabulous and it was a joy to see the kids participating and having fun. The VBS was held in a former palace for a dictator that the DR had a few years back, but now it’s a church and is being used to spread Jesus!

Monte’s Team: 

Today we were supporting a local church in one of the poorest communities of Santo Domingo.  We arrived by bus at the church location to find this church to be one of the nicest we had visited to date.  The morning plans were to hold a VBS style worship event for the local children.  We started the worship in song.  The children of this community were absolutely darling.  They were incredibly active, attentive and so energetic.  It was obvious the church does a fantastic job preaching the word of God to these kids.  They have a love for the Lord that radiates from them.

The theme of this event was the “Soldier of Christ.”  Multiple times they chanted “We are soldiers for Christ” as they marched in place, proud salutes and smiles on their beautiful faces.  As we have seen at every VBS like service, the children quickly picked up the songs we were teaching them.  They jumped up and down, smiling and singing with all their energy.  We presented the gospel, led them in assembling bracelets that symbolize the gospel and even put on a skit about Noah and the Ark.  All the while, these beautiful children sat attentively.  Some on the laps of Rock students, others holding hands of adults.

After lunch, the local pastor took the MBC team out in the community.  We walked about a half mile or so from the church through one of the incredibly poor locations in the town.  The conditions these people were living in are almost indescribable.  The best way I can illustrate how they live would be to tell you they live in a landfill that has rivers of raw sewage flowing through it in places.  Even though it would seem the residents of this area have little to be grateful for, they welcomed us as though a parade of dignitaries were coming to visit.  We could hear them shouting in Spanish “here come the Americans!”

It really hit home when we arrived at the central point of the homes.  Children came running out of the shacks wearing bracelets we helped them make in the morning.  Those darling kids we held and sang with lived in these conditions.  The very same children that were smiling and singing at the top of their lungs walked home from church to their homes in what I can best describe as a trash dump.  On top of one home there was even a cross proudly displayed high in the air.  Most of us  from MBC were overcome with emotion.

We did some door-to-door evangelism in the area shortly thereafter.  Four people came to Christ as a result of a gospel presentation we gave.  We connected these four new Christians to the local church staff so they may help disciple them and help them grow in their new-found faith in Jesus.

Upon returning to the SCORE facility, some of us were discussing what we had witnessed.  For some of us, the reality of the living conditions was quite a lot to emotionally process.  One person offered a simple thought….Today, we made a difference.  Today we loved their children.  We may not know today what affect that has on their lives, but even dropping one pebble in a pond will send ripples to farthest edges.  Perhaps loving the children and assisting the local church will foster hope in those people.

After a long but well-spent day, both teams joined the other church groups for SCORE night. We worshiped together, heard a great sermon from one of SCORE’s missionaries, and got another opportunity to support the Lily House (a ministry of SCORE towards rehabilitation for ex-prostitutes). There were baked goods, jewelry, and lots of great souvenirs. Please keep praying for us, that the last few days of this trip will be spent most effectively, and for growth for all of us.