God has blessed the last two days of Joy Camp tremendously. On Thursday evening we had our traditional site cookouts at Laytonia and Johnson’s Park. We cooked hundreds of hot dogs and were able to interact with the campers and many of their families. At the Laytonia cookout the campers were even able to come up and share the “Gospel Chant” they had been learning all week.
Friday was our last day with the campers. At South Lake they had a brief ceremony to celebrate the end of the week since they didn’t have a cookout. Parents were invited, and we called each camper by name to receive their Bible and camp t-shirt.
Friday was also our last day together as a team. We took time in the evening to recount God’s faithfulness by singing, listening to a short teaching, and hearing about how God worked at the different sites.
- Because renovations going on at Washington Square and Emory Grove, we weren’t sure how many kids would show up to camp. The leaders visited surrounding neighborhoods on Saturday and handed out flyers to tell people about camp. By the end of the week we were up to 54 kids.
- During one-on-one time one of the youth was explaining to a camper that in all the Bible stories throughout the week, each person had faith and God loved them. The camper responded, “Wait, God loves us? What if you don’t love God back?” So our volunteer was able to explain the gospel to him.
- We averaged between 40 and 50 campers.
- Many campers at Laytonia have professed faith throughout the years, so it is encouraging to go back and remind them of truth.
- Many of the campers have reached their middle school and high school years and have been coming since the beginning of Joy Camp. The experience is geared for younger kids, but by the second and third day the older kids were able to jump in and participate.
- Laytonia has a very diverse group of kids, but it's a tight-knit community with a strong sense of love.
- Because this site is an elementary school, our youth went into different classrooms and helped with summer school classes.
- We heard one first-time camper ask his friend, “Hey, do you believe in God?”
- Even some of the high school students expressed an interest in coming back next year to Joy Camp, not as campers but as volunteers.
- Many kids expressed that this was their favorite week of the whole year.
- During the upcoming school year we are going to partner with the school’s English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program by providing child care and mini Joy Camps. God is working in unique ways here at South Lake, so please continue to pray for us.
Overall, all of the leaders were encouraged by the youth who have grown up in the church their whole life and are very familiar with the gospel. But seeing them fully invested and being able to apply that knowledge to local missions was incredible. Our group demonstrated love toward each other as well as the campers and grew in unity. Many of the rising freshmen also stepped out of their comfort zones and were bold and courageous in sharing the gospel this week.
Now that Joy Camp is done, pray for each of the families and campers. Pray that they would be reminded of the gospel daily as they look at their Bibles and camp t-shirts. Pray that they would be able to share what they learned at camp with others in their community. Pray for the different churches in our area and around the world. Pray that they would send more laborers for the harvest and that the gospel message would go forth. The same Holy Spirit who helped us this week understand that faith in God’s promises leads to courageous obedience, is the same Spirit working throughout the entire world.
We are looking to do follow-up ministry throughout the year. Here are some ways to get involved:
-Monday nights (starting September 28), 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
-Fun, games, Bible study, friendship and help with homework
-To sign up, email Travis Earles
-Saturday, August 15, 10 a.m. - noon, at the Laytonia Community Center
-Fun, games and Bible study
-To volunteer, email Carlos.
-Saturday, July 25 and August 15, 10:30 a.m. - noon, at the Emory Grove Playground
-Fun, games and Bible study
-To volunteer, email Neal Stuckenschneider.
Lastly, we want to thank you for praying for us. This week could not have happened without you interceding for us. We are grateful for you!
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July 16 2015 at 1:47 pm 0 Comments
Today we focused on the life of Moses. The lessons started with a brief overview of Moses’ life: how he was saved at birth, ran as fast as he could away from Egypt, seemingly was content with his new life as a shepherd, and then came across the burning bush where God speaks to him. Campers read different verses from Exodus and continued to learn about Moses through different skits.
The story of Moses also references the Joy Camp theme: Faith in God’s promises leads to the courageous obedience of God’s commands. God commanded Moses to go to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let God’s people go. God promised Moses that he was going to deliver his people, and all he needed to do was go. Moses obeyed with courage even though his life might be at risk.
Planning is going well, and each site is doing a fabulous job reaching out to the kids and sharing the gospel. Despite our weary bodies God is giving us energy to persevere.
Tonight we had the privilege of attending the Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting. We gathered together with faithful prayer warriors from our church and took time to worship and pray. We prayed for our camp, for the specific communities, and for the glory of God to spread throughout the Gaithersburg area. It was refreshing to be together and be reminded of God’s faithfulness to hear and answer our prayers.
Tomorrow are our traditional site cookouts. We would love for you to come, participate, and see how God is working!. There will be many parents and families from each community to talk to, and opportunities to share the gospel.. The cookout locations are Laytonia (diagonally across the street from the church) and Johnson’s Park (behind the Flower Hill Starbucks).
If you are interested in coming, please feel free to email Corinne at the church office for directions.
As we enter our last few days of camp, here are some ways you can be praying for us:
- Physical and mental strength for leaders and youth
- Sufficient sleep, energy and joy to persevere through our last few days of camp
- Healing for minor scrapes and bruises that happened today
- That our youth would have clarity during the one-on-one times in the afternoon and be able to communicate the gospel effectively to campers.
- That God would send more laborers to the harvest in Gaithersburg and that the follow-up ministry of making disciples in our community would grow exponentially and thrive for the glory of God
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July 15 2015 at 10:12 am 0 Comments
It’s day two of Joy Camp, and God has continued to bless us. Today we focused on the idea that true faith is enduring faith by learning about Abraham. In the story God first calls Abraham and then gives him the promise of being the “Father of Multitudes." This promise to Abraham is repeated several times throughout the chapters in Genesis. Abraham believed and obeyed God, even as his faith was put to the test when God asked him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac.
Here are a few updates and prayer requests from each site:
- Praise report: There were double the amount of campers today and many teenagers!
- Pray for a young girl camper who comes from a home of mixed faiths.
- It was encouraging to see that many campers are bringing Bibles back to Joy Camp that they received previous years.
- It is encouraging to see younger campers bringing their older siblings and vice versa.
- There are many campers who are asking what it means to live an eternal life. A lot of the campers are believers.
- Pray that our volunteers will continue to have deep, biblical conversations the rest of the week.
South Lake Elementary School
- Praise report: There were a lot of new campers today. So it's evident that people are spreading the word.
- During one-on-one time, one of the youth spoke with a girl who has already given her heart to God and goes to church. Her mom works long hours to support the family. Pray that God would provide and that their family would be able to go to church more often.
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July 14 2015 at 10:22 am 0 Comments
It's Youth Local Missions week, and about 70 youth and adult volunteers from Covenant Life are out getting to know our neighbors! We are serving kids and their families at three sites, playing a variety of games, hearing short talks, singing, and acting out skits related to what is taught.
The Joy Camp theme this year is “Faith Leads to Courage.” Throughout the week we are learning that faith in God’s promises helps us to have courage to obey God’s Word. We will also be talking about how we can be courageous if we put our faith in Christ. We will specifically be learning about five examples from the Bible (Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, and Daniel) who courageously obeyed because they had faith in God’s promises.
God has already blessed us even on the first day of camp. Here are some specific ways God has been at work:
- A new site this year, pulling from the Washington Square, Emory Grove and surrounding neighborhoods
- We had about 20 campers today.
- We were blessed by many expressions of love from the kids.
- The campers were involved and excited to learn from the Bible.
- We had over 30 kids that came back today. This is amazing! Numbers are usually lowest on the first day of camp.
- There are a lot of new families in the neighborhood who are also new to Joy Camp.
- Campers jumped in and got involved right away.
- It started raining a little bit during the Noah’s Ark skit (right on queue!), and sure enough, it stopped at just the right part of the story, too!
- Sometimes it’s hard for campers to retain Bible knowledge from previous years, but as the lesson goes on, it all comes back.
South Lake Elementary School
- Campers were ready and waiting when we arrived.
- The volunteers were joyful and entered in with the kids despite the heat and not having air conditioning.
- There were about 30 campers today, ages 4 to 21.
Although God is already doing a lot, we would still love your prayers!
- Please pray for continued physical strength for the youth and leaders of Joy Camp. It is a very long, and busy week, and we all get extremely tired.
- Pray for courage and boldness in sharing the gospel to others, for our youth specifically.
- Pray for opportunities to share the gospel and that hearts would be softened.
Thank you! We look forward to sharing more about how God is working in our community.
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July 13 2015 at 1:09 pm 0 Comments
Because I've been on a Management Team retreat this week, I asked Kenneth Maresco to share a report on the Dominican Republic missions trip he led recently with our youth ministry. I hope it edifies and inspires you to consider participation on a mission trip in the coming year. —Mark
During the final week of June, I had the privilege of participating with 34 young men and women and several parents in the first of two short-term mission trips to the Dominican Republic. The team led Vacation Bible Schools, went door-to-door to share the gospel, and took part in other outreaches.
Let me share two reasons why do we do short term missions and how I believe this trip accomplished these goals.
1. To Fulfill the Great Commission
The mission of God to make disciples of all nations is the mission of his church in the world today. Jesus sends us out as the Father sent him, by his grace and for his glory. Demonstrating and sharing God's love with others is something we're made for. We are not permitted to keep the good news of the gospel to ourselves!
Can we serve God and others more effectively in Gaithersburg or Montgomery County? Quite possibly. But getting out of our comfort zone and working with fellow believers to reach the needy in their community often helps us see our lives at home through different eyes and better serve the people who live right next to us.
The first two days of our trip we worked with a church in San Francisco de Macorís, the country’s eighth largest city. The pastor of the church wanted to do an outreach in one of the poorest neighborhoods where many children are neglected and mistreated. Chris Maresco did an amazing job leading a Vacation Bible School with skits and music and sharing the gospel. We were told to expect 200 kids, but almost 350 showed up! Needless to say, our team members were stretched as we led the children in crafts and activities. A team of four sisters from the San Francisco church (the Amarante sisters) joined us all week in leading the outreaches.
Afterwards the team participated in door-to-door evangelism in a neighborhood where several of the church members live. Translators accompanied each group of teens. That evening as we met as a team, you could sense the joy as we spoke about the fact that we were actually sharing the gospel in another nation!
The latter part of the week we partnered with the Global Health Organization, a group of Christian medical professionals who led medical clinics with the church in Santo Domingo. We hosted VBSs for the children as they (and their parents) visited the medical clinics. Again we were told to expect around 250; this time over 450 kids attended the camp both days.
2. To Walk with God's People in Other Nations
Sometimes short-term mission teams are criticized for utilizing resources that could support long-term work and workers. Yet teams like ours work closely with local churches and mission partners in hopes of making a difference for the long term.
In Santo Domingo we partnered with Oasis Church along with the medical missions team they had invited. Our team was able to work alongside these global servants contributing to our shared mission. This kind of work gives us confidence that local churches in the community can harvest the seed we sow. It also enables our teenagers to gain a vision for what it is like to live and work outside of the United States. For many of our teens this was their first experience of life outside of the U.S.
On our final day our team visited a sugar batay (plantation) tended by migrant Hatian workers living in abject poverty. We brought clothing and food donated by members of Covenant Life Church, and we worked alongside the medical clinic. Our team hosted VBSs, and did personal evangelism in the lines (giving out Creole Bibles). It was humbling realizing that unless something changes, many of these Haitian workers would be deported by the Dominican government within the next 40 days.
In the weeks before the trip, we told our team members to prepare to be stretched. You would have been proud of how hard they worked and how effectively and generously they shared the love of Christ.
Thank you for your prayers and support,
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July 7 2015 at 1:15 pm 0 Comments
Long-time member Joe Giove sent in this encouraging testimony highlighting the long-term impact of being involved in a care group. Care groups are the backbone of our life together in community. Covenant Life members: Visit the Find a Care Group page to check out care groups that are open.
"I have noticed that I am most involved in the mission of the church, most consistent with my spiritual disciplines, and most on-fire and energized to live the Christian life when I am plugged into a good care group. Conversely, I am most apathetic and uninvolved when I am not.”
I have been profoundly affected by being involved in a care group over the years, and by the many things I have been able to participate in with the group. A few of them that come to mind:
- In 1998 our care group noticed that there were not as many opportunities as there should be to meet/fellowship with one another, especially to engage friends who may not be as comfortable in a church setting. So, our care group decided to plan an annual party. We called the party a “Bash” and we did it every summer. We borrowed a stage and had live music. We planned games and food and even “themes” where attendees dressed up to match the theme. It was a huge success. We had five of these parties between 1998 and 2003. I still occasionally encounter members who had their first interaction with Covenant Life through being invited to one of our Bash parties.
- In 2005 our caregroup observed that our Care group Assistant was taking the bus to work so she could support her parents who were having financial difficulties. She was having a much longer commute because of the sacrifices she was making and her example of selflessness was inspiring to those in the care group. Around that time, we noted that one of the members of Covenant Life was selling their car in the Covenant Life classifieds. So, we took up a collection, bought the car and gave it to her at a caregroup meeting.
- In 2006 we had a care group member who’s computer died and he had no money to buy a new one. Someone else in the group knew someone in the church who had an extra one they were selling. So, we took up a collection and gave the computer to them at a care group meeting. That same year we noted there were two single mothers in the church that were having trouble making ends meet – we took up a collection and presented each with a check. We also had a care group member who wanted to re-train for a new career and had no money to do it. We took up a collection to pay for two college courses at Montgomery College to help the individual return to college.
- In 2007 the members of our care group decided to bless our pastors and all chipped in money to give our two singles pastors a special gift.
- In 2008 our care group had two couples relocate and finances were tight for both of them. We took up collections for them to have some extra funds to help ease their transitions to Nebraska and North Carolina.
- In 2013 we had a needy member (a single mother) who was living paycheck-to-paycheck and had shown significant generosity by donating what little she had to several of her neighbors who were in need. We took up a collection which we presented to her at one of our care group meetings.
Beyond these examples, we helped countless people move, supported many missions trips and ministry events, worshipped God together, ministered and prayed for one another, studied the Bible together, and supported one another through the ups and downs of life.
I have been greatly blessed through “living life” with others in care group and see it as the “grass roots” of the church. Above all, I have noted that I am most involved in the mission of the church, most consistent with my spiritual disciplines, and most on fire and energized to live the Christian life when I am plugged into a good care group. Conversely, I am most apathetic and uninvolved when I am not. Thus, with respect to care group my position has always been: “How can you afford NOT to be a part of one?”
Covenant Life members: If you're not involved in a care group, visit the Find a Care Group page to get connected.
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