Crossway Church of Lancaster and Kingdom Life Church in Nassau, Bahamas have worked together and grown closer over the past number of years. Our churches became knit together when we sent Keith Bunting to Sovereign Grace Pastors College so that he could, with his family, relocate to Nassau to serve on the pastoral team. Since that time, Keith and his family have returned to the states to serve another sister church in Florida.
Because of our partnership in the gospel and in Sovereign Grace Churches, we have, for a number of years, wanted to serve Kingdom Life Church by sending a short-term team from Crossway to the Bahamas. This past May, we had a chance to do that.
Here is a recap from one of the team members, Lisa Evans:
Fourteen of us from Crossway Church traveled to New Providence Island, Bahamas, in May to serve in many capacities. The major project that faced us was replacing the roof at Kingdom Life Church. A crew of nine, with limited roofing skills but unlimited determination, worked tirelessly in the heat for four days straight, replacing about 40% of the roof and focusing on the areas that were in desperate need of repair.
While the roof team was sweating it out at Kingdom Life, the remainder of the team served at All Saints Camp. The Next Step Ministries website describes this camp best when it says, “The crumbling sidewalks and dilapidated cabins…tell the story of a neglected community, suffering from AIDS and HIV. Shunned for their illness, the residents have been placed in an area on the Island separate from the hustle and bustle of Nassau’s tourism and commerce. Despite the dreary conditions, many of the residents still find time to praise God for each and every day. Gospel music can be heard from almost every cabin.” It was a privilege to serve at All Saints. They are in the process of replacing housing for their 30 residents, so, under the able direction of Tim and Felicia Ryan (members at Kingdom Life Church), part of our job was to finish some of the last painting and help with the lunch program.
We also shared the gospel during our weeklong trip on one of the local beaches with members from Kingdom Life Church. It was wonderful linking arms with other believers to tell lost souls about Jesus Christ.
God certainly used our time together to build our faith. It’s wonderful to know that there is a sister church in the Bahamas proclaiming and advancing the gospel of Christ.
Partnership is sweet. Cedric Moss is a man of faith and faithfulness. Please pray for him and the church in Nassau as they continue to do the tireless work of gospel advancement.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. —Ephesians 4:15–16
Watch this slideshow to see more photos from the trip:
Kurt is a pastor at Crossway Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Barbara, have six children.
One of the reasons I love being a part of Sovereign Grace is because of our shared desire to reach the lost with the gospel through church planting. I want to tell you how God is using our small church plant in the Wissinoming section of Northeast Philadelphia to do just that.
God gave us favor to host 500 people for our Easter celebration at Grace City Church-Wissinoming. He provided a unique platform for us to listen to our neighbors as they shared their concerns for our struggling neighborhood. And he gave us the opportunity not only to listen, but also to speak the hope of Christ. We have already seen fruit from these conversations, as a few young believers have been faithful participants in our church family.
We also strive to serve our neighborhood. Recently, we took part in a cleanup day in which we helped our local elementary school. We received a big bundle of handwritten thank you cards from the kids, and we are continuing to develop relationships with some of the teachers and volunteers.
Likewise, I couldn’t be more encouraged by what God is doing in our church family. We have several young parents—many of whom are young believers—who are so eager to know what God says about parenting. We have started to gather together to discuss these matters and explore what heart change looks like personally as well as in parenting. It has brought tremendous joy to hear that these parents are actually doing what they are learning, by God’s grace. And they are finding joy in doing so!
The constant flow of unbelievers into our gatherings has also given us great delight. People are coming in the most unexpected ways. For instance, one teenage girl who has struggled through a difficult family situation has recently brought most of Pizza Hut’s evening shift with her. And each of her friends from work have commented on how they want to know more about how she leans on God to get through her difficulties because, of course, they are suffering similar pain. On Sunday, a few of her coworkers were in tears during the songs, and they were eager to ask me questions after the service about forgiveness. What incredible opportunities!
Besides all of this, we have needed to baptize numerous people. So we are getting ready to celebrate God’s amazing grace in the lives of several new believers, and we can’t wait to do so!
While God has been working in so many ways, much of what he is doing he is making possible through Sovereign Grace. There is no other way around it. Without our family of churches, this wouldn’t be happening. God is changing individual families and individual people as we continue to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ!
If you’re interested in supporting work in our Northeast Region like this, prayerfully consider giving to our Mission Fund and designating your gift for “US Regional Church Planting.”
Thanks to Chris Graves of Cornerstone Church for his help in gathering the information for this post.
For the fourth time in four years, Cornerstone Church of Knoxville is sending a team to support gospel work in South Korea starting this Monday, June 2.
A partnership began between Cornerstone and Lord’s Grace Church in Seoul when senior pastor, Bill Kittrell, went to Seoul with Larry Malament in 2011. Larry introduced Bill to Songhwan Kang, who pastors Lord’s Grace Church, and his wife, Miran, and they quickly hit it off.
Cornerstone Church has since adopted Lord’s Grace Church by taking up special offerings to help their ministry, and Songhwan has preached twice in Knoxville at Cornerstone. Even at Cornerstone's most recent members meeting, Songhwan sent a video message about the trip. Both churches work hard to make the partnership more than name only.
Cornerstone is sending 17 people on this year’s team, including Bill and his wife, Cheri. They will host a conference focused on the gospel while they also lead an English camp for the children and youth.
Please pray for safety as the team travels to and from Seoul, for the church conference and English camp which will be take place from June 5–7, and for encouraging and fruitful times with church members at Lord’s Grace Church.
If you’d like to support gospel work like this, considering giving to our Mission Fund and designating your gift for South Korea.
+ original header photo from Flickr user Emmanuel DYAN.
On Sunday February 9, Christ Community Church celebrated our first year of public meetings. In the fall of 2012, around 35 faithful servants (adults and kids) moved to the “north shore” of Lake Pontchartrain, which provides a natural barrier to the north of New Orleans. We were sent from Lakeview Christian Center in New Orleans where many of us had been established for 20 years and more!
We were drawn to the Mandeville/Covington area of St. Tammany Parish (on the north shore) to plant a church with some folks who had been commuting to attend Lakeview. St. Tammany Parish is an affluent area but also an area desperate for gospel hope and healing. The parish has maintained the highest suicide rate for the state the past couple of decades. Churches marred by splits have left believers disillusioned and wandering from church to church.
We began our public meetings at a church on Saturday evenings and, after six months, we signed a lease for the building that we met in on Saturdays. We have had front row seats to experience the faithfulness of God in astounding ways. Since we moved into our own church home, we have been well received in the surrounding community. We have gone door-to-door introducing ourselves to the community on numerous occasions and have sensed a unique opening for the gospel that we are seeking to be used by the Lord to advance in the coming months and years.
In planting Christ Community Church, we prayed to see conversions. And the Lord has answered our prayers for conversions in ways beyond our imagination!
Our first conversion was the sweet moment when my daughter, ten years old at the time, came to the awareness of her own sinfulness as we continued to cast the vision of our family's involvement in planting a church to see people come to trust Christ for salvation. We had spent months before and after our move envisioning our five kids still at home about God’s call on us to plant a church to see people come to repentance. My daughter began to ask deep questions about her relationship with God, and she prayed with us in her room, surrendering her life to Christ. A couple of months later, the same thing happened to my younger daughter, who was eight years old at the time. I never anticipated our first converts coming from my own house, but I am overjoyed!
This past October, we moved into our own church building, allowing us to move our worship gathering to Sundays. We spent a couple months renovating and personalizing the building in preparation for an Open House Sunday on December 22. A mom in our church had been praying for years for her two daughters to come to faith in the Lord. She invited them both to the Open House, and they both came. The married daughter brought her husband as well. That Sunday, we had a couple share their testimony of coming to Christ during the service, and then I preached a message targeted to the lost. The invited couple couldn't stop crying the whole time. Benny, the husband, shared that when they came, the emptiness they had been trying to deal with and fill was finally gone after God touched them both. They haven’t missed a Sunday since.
Our most recent conversion occurred in late January. The men of the church met to discuss our study of The Godly Man's Picture. Ten minutes into a discussion on forgiveness, a guy named Brad interrupted me. Brad had come to church the previous two Sundays with his family as a result of an outreach in his community about two miles from church. He was sitting right next to me and asked for prayer because of the hatred and anger he had for his dad. He said that if he died that night, he knew he would go to hell because of his anger. I asked him a series of questions about his salvation, and he prayed with us all on the spot to repent of his sins and trust Christ for salvation as the men gathered around him. It was a glorious moment indeed!
The new believers added to our church family has served to reignite passion and zeal that reminds us of the sweetness of our own conversion experiences. We pray for more conversions. We pray for our growth as disciples. We pray for Christ to be preeminent in all things!
Jeff Ehrhardt is the senior pastor of Christ Community Church in Covington, Louisiana.
If you’re like me, there are certain verses that stick with you because they call you to live your life in a certain way. One of those verses for me, and I believe for Sovereign Grace is 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” This verse calls us to remain steadfast in the work of the gospel. The faith-stirring truth is that our labors for the gospel are not in vain!
As the Executive Director of Sovereign Grace, I have the unique vantage point of seeing how God is using our family of churches in the steadfast work of the gospel. I want you to see what I see, because our labors for the gospel are not in vain. So here are some snapshots from my last few weeks. As you read these stories, I hope they not only stir your faith to continue to labor for the gospel, but also remind you of the mission we share as a family of churches.
A few weeks ago I attended Grace City Church in the Wissinoming section of Northeast Philadelphia. This church plant, led by Dan Birkholz is meeting in a 90+ year old church building that they were given last year. The church building gives them a presence in the community from which they can reach out to the people living in the surrounding neighborhoods. Through the faithful labors and outreach of the members on the Grace City church planting team, this church has grown in attendance from 30 to 60 in the last couple of months! On the Sunday I was there I met Doug, who is from Northeast Philadelphia, and was attending for the very first time. As we talked he told me about the rough life that he had lived, and that he decided to come to church because he had been invited and because he “wanted to come back to Jesus.” I told Doug if that’s what he wanted, he was in the right place. You see, that morning we sang the truths of the gospel, and Dan clearly preached the gospel in his sermon from Ephesians 1. The labors of Grace City Church are not in vain because Doug heard the life-saving message of the gospel that morning. I drove home that afternoon reminded again of one of the reasons Sovereign Grace exists. We exist to plant churches as a means to proclaim the gospel to those who don’t know Jesus!
Two weeks ago I received an e-mail from Jeff Ehrhardt. Last year Jeff was sent from Lakeview Christian Center in New Orleans to plant Christ Community Church in Covington, LA. In his e-mail Jeff told me of a man who recently was born again. This is how Jeff recounts the story: “Our most recent conversion occurred last Thursday. The men of the church met at church to discuss our study of The Godly Man's Picture. 10 minutes into the discussion on forgiveness, Brad interrupted me. Brad had come to church the previous two Sundays with his family as a result of an outreach in his community about 2 miles from church. He was sitting right next to me and asked for prayer because of the hatred and anger he had for his dad. He told us that if he died that night he knew he would go to hell because of his anger. I asked him a series of questions about his salvation, and he prayed with us all on the spot to repent of his sins and trust Christ for salvation as the men gathered around him. It was a glorious moment indeed!”
Why did Brad attend this study? Because the members of Christ Community Church were abounding in the work of the Lord by reaching out to their community. As I read Jeff’s e-mail, tears filled my eyes because we serve a God who still saves!! And Brad’s story reminded me again of the mission we share in Sovereign Grace; to reach those who don’t know Jesus with the good news of the gospel.
This past week I had a phone call with my friend Carlos Contreras. Carlos is the Sr. Pastor of Iglesia Gracia Soberana de Cd. Juarez, Mexico. One of the reasons we scheduled a call is because in a couple of weeks Carlos is traveling to Spain, on behalf of Sovereign Grace, to talk with pastors about planting churches in Spain and the Canary Islands. We don’t know if those churches will ever be a part of Sovereign Grace. We simply want to serve them, and I know we have much to learn from them. I’m telling you about this conversation for a couple of reasons. First, please pray for Carlos as he makes this trip. In particular, ask God to give Carlos wisdom in knowing how to best serve these pastors as they consider how to plant churches in Spain. Second, Carlos told me that only about 1% of the people in Spain are evangelical Christians. That statistic alone is a reminder that we are living in a post-Christian world which only makes our labors for the gospel more necessary and more urgent. You see it is vital that our family of churches remain steadfast and immovable in our labors for the gospel.
I hope these stories remind you that God is at work all around us. I hope these stories also encourage you to remain steadfast and immovable in your labors to make the gospel known. Let us not grow weary in abounding in gospel work because our labors are not in vain!
Benny Phillips has been part of Sovereign Grace since it began in 1982 and planted Redeemer Church in Lake Nona, Florida, in January 2012. Enjoy getting to know Redeemer Church as you hear from Benny about what the Lord has been doing since the church started.
How did Redeemer Church begin?
It was an unusual start to Redeemer Church. Metro Life Church, which is located in the northeast section of Orlando, has always been a sending church, starting a number of churches throughout Florida and Georgia. Through a series of challenging circumstances, the church was facing a financial crisis related to pastoral staffing. We had discussed planting a church in south Orlando in the next few years but decided that if the money could be raised independently (Sovereign Grace was not in a position to contribute at that time), we would make the move.
So in August and September of 2011, we raised the funds from individuals and began the planning in October. By January of 2012, we had our first public meeting. It has been a very fast-paced start, but God has been with us, and we are grateful for the vision and generosity of those who participated in the financial backing of this new venture.
What does partnership with Sovereign Grace mean for you as pastor and for the people in your church?
I have been a part of Sovereign Grace since the beginning in 1982. I was the pastor of Fairfax Covenant Church (now Sovereign Grace Church of Fairfax) for almost twenty years. The relationships that my wife, Sheree, and I have developed over the years have been so beneficial to us. The encouragement, sense of unity and common vision with other churches, and leadership training have been just a few of the aspects of our relationship that have been so rewarding.
How do you partner with other Sovereign Grace churches in the Orlando area?
The Florida region of churches related to Sovereign Grace is relationally strong. We have historically done so many things together to reach our community in Orlando. We have regularly combined for seminars, outreaches, and special events such as youth conferences and children's programs. Also, Metro Life church has run a homeschool covering private school that has served the many families in the regional churches.
What about your church brings you the most joy as a pastor?
One of my greatest joys as a pastor is seeing the mostly young families that we have throwing themselves into the life of the church, serving and giving their lives away. Their willingness to follow an older man and his wife into this new, risky church venture is such an encouragement and builds my faith for the future of this church.
What are you currently preaching on Sunday mornings, and what is the Lord showing you through it?
We are currently doing a series titled “Who Are You? Discovering Our Identity in Christ.” We are realizing that most of the challenges that we face as Christians are related to mistaken identity. Addictions, same-sex attraction, materialism, racism, and so much more, are temptations and sins that we fall into when we are not secure or aware of who we are as sons and daughters of God and place our affections and devotion in something or someone other than our Savior. We are very excited about this series, and the preaching team is trying to tackle some of these key issues by bringing Scripture to bear in practical ways in our lives as a church.
What is the Lake Nona area like, and what is your vision for reaching people in your community?
Lake Nona is a new and growing area in South Orlando that features what is called “Medical City.” Lake Nona Boulevard is lined with six major medical facilities, two that are operating, two that are about to open, and two still under construction. This is creating many new jobs and a constantly growing housing market and retail market. People come to Lake Nona with the promise of a new start and new hope. We are attempting to make sure that the community knows that their only real hope is in Jesus Christ.
How can we be praying for Redeemer Church?
One prayer request that we have right now is for a new facility in a better location, particularly one that would provide a better children’s ministry situation.
Benny Phillips and his wife, Sheree, grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. After leading a youth ministry called Saturday Night Alive, Benny founded Fairfax Covenant Church. After serving there for 20 years, the Phillips family moved to Orlando in 2000 where Benny served on the pastoral team at Metro Life Church in Casselberry. In late 2011, Benny and a team of people from Metro Life started Redeemer Church of Lake Nona. Benny and Sheree have been married for 39 years and have seven children and eleven grandchildren.
This past August, Gracia Soberana de Ciudad Juárez said goodbye to one of its beloved pastors, Ricky Ramos. Ricky and his wife, Lory, decided on an early retirement to be able to join Jon and Lory Payne—their daughter and son-in-law—to plant Redemption Hill Church in Austin, Texas. It was both a joyous and tearful occasion for our church, since this couple made a deep and significant investment in our church over the 16 years they served here.
Saying goodbye to Ricky was a joyous occasion because we all had the opportunity to review the gift that a good pastor is to a congregation. It took a whole week of celebrations to give everyone an opportunity to express their appreciation and love to Ricky and Lory. And there were many reasons to be thankful.
A Good Pastor
Ricky is a good pastor. He was excellent, along with his wife, at caring for people through counseling and instruction, but also in giving of themselves to those they were called to serve. They were full of love and kindness toward a congregation they loved, leaving a mark on our church that cannot be erased.
As they taught and discipled others in family matters, they served as excellent examples of a godly couple, pursuing growth in their marriage and their parenting. Many younger couples expressed their goal of one day “being like Ricky and Lory.”
Ricky and Lory embodied the apostle Peter’s admonition to pastors to serve by being examples to the flock. What a distinct privilege it was to honor them publicly, and in the presence of their children, by referring to them as true examples to all of us. Ricky’s example in these areas is a definition of what a “good” pastor should be.
To me, having served alongside Ricky for all those years, I can truly say Ricky is a good pastor because he was always my faithful friend who cared for me and the other pastors on staff. He wasn’t just my fellow elder; he was also my pastor, faithfully caring for the health of my soul and my family. And he was a wise counselor and a prudent elder in his role as a church leader. He was a good pastor because he guarded the gospel with zeal and helped us always keep the main thing in front of us. I have missed him being at my side almost every day since they have left.
Thankfulness to God
During their going away party, our production team designed a banner that read in bold letters: “Thank you, Ricky and Lory, we will always be grateful for your contribution into our lives.” The background of the banner looked like a brick wall. But what looked like bricks were actually words. Those words included ”kindness, generosity, instruction, friendship, counsel, care, help, nurture, correction, patience,” and many more that described some of the elements that Ricky and Lory had built into our large church family through the years. Ricky was a good pastor because the master builder used him to help edify the church.
Ricky and Lory were good gifts to us, as all God given gifts are. They were a true expression of the love of our Father in heaven to his church in Juárez. And because they were such precious gifts, a large void is felt in our hearts as they have left. But even that void is good, for it reminds us what a good pastor is and gives us reason to be thankful to God.
We rejoice and are thankful they are now being a good gift to their children and grandchildren, as well as to our new brothers and sisters in Redemption Hill Church of Austin, Texas.
Thank you, Ricky and Lory! Our Lord was good to us by sending you here to Juárez for all these years.
Carlos Contreras has attended Iglesia Gracia Soberana de Cd. Juárez for 34 years, and has served on staff for the last 22 years (15 as senior pastor). He and his wife, Kena, have been married for 30 years and have four children.
We asked Eric Turbedsky to share what the Lord is doing in Sovereign Grace Church of Orange, California. Enjoy "getting to know" this church as you read about evidences of God's grace in Orange.
How did Sovereign Grace Church begin?
Sovereign Grace started more than five years ago as a partnership between two churches and a group of friends. Their first meetings began in a living room, then grew with the addition of the Davis family to include Saturday night services. Back then, the Pasadena pastors and worship leaders would travel over an hour to preach and lead before returning home to their own services. We were called the “OC Extension.”
In time, I was sent from Grace Church San Diego to lead a church-planting team already established and set to go. I was the last to join the group, and I love this part of the story. It reminds me that God was here first and that this ministry belongs to the members. I’m here to serve.
What does partnership with Sovereign Grace mean for you as pastor and for the people in your church?
It’s difficult to be a small church in a big city, and even more so when you’re alone. I think this is why I often hear of pastors and congregations longing for just one committed partner outside their walls. Just one friend.
Conferences and associations and schools and books meet this need to a degree. But Sovereign Grace is something more. Sovereign Grace means we’re not alone. It means our world is bigger than Orange. It means our work with others isn’t going to stop when the contract runs out or the event is over or the latest trend fades. It means that when we need help, there will be someone there to help us. And it means our church isn’t just in it for what we get out of it. Sovereign Grace means we exist to help other churches. It’s in our DNA. We are family.
Can you tell us about one or two members of your church who God is particularly using these days to serve in the church, work in a particular outreach context, or share the gospel with friends and neighbors?
We rarely make a big deal about this, but one of the best-kept secrets at Sovereign Grace is the Petty family. When Jason is on the road, he goes by his artist name “Propaganda.” He performs spoken word and rap and teaches at conferences. Around us, however, he’s just one of the guys. A husband and a father. The guy who packs up gear on Sundays and shares first at small group.
Another story is about Alex Reyes, a young guy who hasn’t been able to work or drive until the recent Dream Act. When his papers went through, the ministry he’d been serving in since he was a teenager immediately offered him a staff position. It’d be his first job and his “dream” job. The only catch was that he’d need to leave us and join the sponsoring church.
Alex decided to stay at Sovereign Grace and trust the Lord for the future. Today he has another “dream” job working with another ministry, is enrolled in our Preachers Club, and is engaged to be married. Alex is building a bridge with us to a whole other segment of OC that we desperately want to reach with the gospel.
Is there a conversion story from the past year that you could share with us briefly?
Ali and Mina arrived on our doorstep recently from Dubai. They had converted from Islam and couldn’t return to Iran. They were practically homeless, unable to work, and far from familiar friends they could trust. I still remember his first few words to me. He kept repeating over and over again “I think God has saved us. I think God has saved us.” Ali wasn’t just talking about a spiritual salvation. He was talking about their very lives.
As you could imagine, their baptisms are a memory we won’t soon forget. Broadcast live via the internet to Dubai, tears were shed thousands of miles away as this husband and wife confessed their faith publicly and joined the church. Today they serve on ministry teams, are passionate about telling people about Jesus, and can be found every week out front of the church welcoming guests.
What are you currently preaching on Sunday mornings, and what is the Lord showing you as a church through it?
We’re currently working through the book of Revelation, being reminded again and again of the bittersweet message of the gospel. Salvation always comes through judgment. God is good towards those who trust him and terrible towards those who don’t. The end is coming soon, and Jesus is mighty to save.
Revelation, along with our recent study through Joshua, has produced in us a new compassion for the lost and for the suffering. The message of new life, sins forgiven, peace with God, and eternal rest is sounding better and better! We must share this good news. It our only hope.
What is the city of Orange like, and what is your vision for reaching people in your community?
We’re actually located in the heart of Old Towne Orange, which is a city within the city, a large historic district with a strong sense of community that is more urban than suburban. It’s is very hip, very expensive, and very troubled all at the same time.
Churches come and go here, and the new ones rarely stay for long. They outgrow the small facilities and the difficult parking. They tire of the challenges of urban ministry. Old Towne becomes a stop on the way to something else, somewhere else, with other people. Our plan is simply to stay here and grow roots. Live in Orange. Love Orange. Watch God save Orange.
How can we be praying for Sovereign Grace Church?
- Our city is a place of transition and constant change. Pray for the core of our church, those called to be as good at welcoming new people as they are at saying goodbye. They’ll be known more for who they send, not who they keep.
- We’re reaching the young and the marginalized in a very expensive city. Pray God would provide the finances we need to persevere.
- We want to plant more churches in Orange County, and God is sending us gifted men and women. Pray we would excel at discipling future leaders, build strategically with other churches in the area, and experience the Spirit’s power for courage and witness. California is an exciting mission field.
Eric Turbedsky is senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church in Orange, California. He graduated from the Pastors College in 2001 and served on the pastoral team at Grace Church San Diego prior to church planting in Orange County. Eric and his wife, Kirsi, have four children.
September 30, 2013 by
Categories: Church Updates | International
At Sovereign Grace Church in Bloomington, Minnesota, we love being on mission with other Sovereign Grace churches. Be it planting a church plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota or seeing our gospel influence move beyond our borders, we are thankful that we do not labor alone or detached from the resources, connections, and care of Sovereign Grace. The story of our growing partnership with Casa de Esperanza (House of Hope, CDE) highlights everything that we love so dearly about our family of churches.
Jameson and Deidra Nass are members of our church with a heart to serve in international missions. We knew that we wanted to do everything we could to help them fulfill their desire, but we also wanted to keep them connected to Sovereign Grace. Through reaching out to folks in our family of churches, we were connected with Johnny Dueri, a pastor of one of the international Sovereign Grace churches in La Paz, Bolivia. Johnny directed us to an opportunity to serve at an orphanage he helps to lead in Caranavi, Bolivia.
Through Johnny’s connections, Jameson and Diedra spent over a year serving at CDE, an orphanage that serves over 80 children. During their time there, Jameson and Diedra prayed and interacted with the pastoral staff here at Sovereign Grace Church and shared their desire to see our partnership grow. We could never have imagined then some of the things God was going to do.
First, the Lord stirred the hearts of a couple young women in our church to serve there for an extended time. Then, in 2012, 18 folks from our church participated in a ministries trip to serve at the orphanage. This past summer, one of the women in our church returned to care for children at the orphanage full-time. And the elders at SGC recently decided to financially support the ministry of CDE on a monthly basis. What began as one couple’s faithfulness to respond to God’s call has now turned into an ongoing opportunity for our church to serve and care for orphans. God is good.
Last month, we were blessed to have the directors of CDE visit with us and other Sovereign Grace churches in our region. So not only does the relationship continue, but it is also growing.
Sovereign Grace Church in Bloomington will be leading a construction team to the orphanage in March of 2014. We’re hoping to be joined by members of other churches in the region. Our hope is to replace roofs on several of the buildings, to update some of the plumbing, and to begin remodeling one of the seven individual homes used to house the children. It’s a big job, but we serve an even bigger God who will provide both the finances and the skilled laborers to get the work done.
The gospel tells us that sin had separated us from God and left us orphaned. But God in his grace through Jesus Christ adopted us as his daughters and sons. Now he has commanded us to care for those in need, especially orphans and widows. Through our growing partnership with CDE, we have a practical opportunity to fulfill the call God has given us and to show how the gospel has changed our lives to love others as we have been loved by God. And all of this has happened because of our partnership with Sovereign Grace churches!
For more information on CDE, visit www.boliviamissionsfoundation.org where you learn more about the ministry of Johnny Dueri’s church and give directly to the work of CDE. Hear the story of Lily Fluharty, a church member who serves full-time at CDE, in this video.
Jon Hansel serves as an associate pastor of Sovereign Grace Church (Bloomington, MN). His primary focus is on community and care in the life of the church. He oversees the small group, counseling, youth, and singles ministries of the church. Jon and his wife, Tonya, live in Burnsville and have four children.
Grace Church (Peoria, AZ) was planted out of Sovereign Grace Church of Gilbert almost four years ago. We asked Chris Daukas to answer some questions to introduce you to the church and share what the Lord has been doing there.
How did Grace Church begin?
Grace Church was born out of Sovereign Grace Church of Gilbert. As a team, we had a strong desire to see a church planted on the other side of Phoenix where the gospel could be preached and disciples made. God quickly brought confirmation, and a core team was assembled. We left in the spring of 2009 and had our first public meeting on the last Sunday in August. We are now coming up on our 4-year anniversary!
What does partnership with Sovereign Grace mean for you as a pastor and for the people of your church?
There is great strength in partnership. Our partnership communicates to the church that we are not alone in our mission but are standing side by side with others who are like-minded. As a young church, that's important! I have benefitted specifically through my relationships with the other pastors in Sovereign Grace who are a resource and a sharpening tool for my leadership at Grace Church.
What's one thing you love about pastoring your church?
I'm sure that most pastors feel this way, but I love pastoring Grace Church because I love the people of the church. I love their humility, I love their zeal and passion, I love their compassion to those in need, I love their receptiveness to the preached Word. Like the prophet Jeremiah, some are called to preach to those who are difficult. I have the opposite assignment!
What are you currently preaching on Sunday mornings?
We've had an interesting summer! We had been preaching through Ephesians until July, when my daughter and I and two other families were able to partner with a couple of churches in our city for a missions trip to Uganda. What a fantastic experience that was! We were able to minister to over 900 children with a Vacation Bible School program as well as preach the gospel to the neighboring villages at night.
As of September 1, we are back in Ephesians. God has used this book to teach us about the glory of the gospel expressed in the local church.
What is the city of Peoria like, and what is your vision for reaching people in your community?
Peoria is a sprawling extension of the city of Phoenix. Our church is in the northwest section of Peoria, which is filled with growing families. Many people would claim to be Christians by virtue of their occasional attendance at one of the mega-churches in the area, but many don't know or understand the gospel.
Our vision for reaching the city is to show them Christ in our gospel community—we are committed to living authentic, grace-driven lives for Jesus as we share the gospel with those that God brings into our paths. God is faithful to use his word and our lives to reach Peoria, one person at a time!
How can we be praying for Grace Church?
We are in a season of growth, so our prayer is that God would help deepen our unity in the gospel and our commitments to the mission of our church. We want to make disciples who treasure, live, and proclaim the gospel of Christ in northwest Phoenix! Additionally, we have just sent our first student to the Sovereign Grace Ministries Pastors College. Please pray for Dale and Megan Bischof and their two children as they are equipped for gospel ministry.
Chris Daukas serves as the lead elder at Grace Church. After graduating from the Pastors College in 2004, he served at Sovereign Grace Church of Gilbert before being sent to Peoria in 2009 with his family to plant Grace Church. Chris and his wife, Tara, have four children.