By John Porter
By Dustin Damitz
Have you ever had an experience you go back to in your mind as a reminder of where you came from? Maybe it is a person that upholds strength and truth in your life and you can always count on them. For me, the answer to both of these questions is my parents. I’m not saying my family has had the roughest of pasts, but I know for a fact nothing has been handed to us. We have plenty of stories and I have plenty of experiences in life to draw from, but I want to focus on just one of those experiences in my family’s past today.
I was asked to write about a time in my past when my parents gave up everything to follow Christ. Let me preface this by saying, YES. Yes, I think my parents are the greatest people on this earth, so I apologize if I get a little gushy or passionate in this blog. 🙂 I also don’t want you to read this thinking I am looking for sympathy or that my parents are on some glorified status, because they aren’t. They just took a chance. A lot of the experiences we have been through have formed me into the person I am today and I would not change a thing. With that said, let’s go back to around 1988-1989 and I was around three-years-old. I have a horrible memory and a lot of my past is really lost in my mind, but an experience like this tends to stick with you. My parents were realizing life just wasn’t working. Living in Davenport, Iowa, three kids, dad was getting ready to lose his job, and a decision needed to be made. Make moves or make excuses. My parents never made excuses, they made moves…literally. They decided to give up what they thought was right and after a discussion with a friend, decided to sell everything, move and lead a mission in Indiana because they felt this is what God called them to do.
I don’t know about you, but I have a constant error in my brain when things go wrong in my life. I tend to try and work harder and lose focus on God…a lot and it is something I am constantly working on. But, here were my parents at an all-time low, deciding to do something crazy (although biblical) insane…right? Sell everything they own to move and help others in need. I was young enough to not really know how much trouble we were in, but I can only imagine how my two older brothers were thinking at this time. They probably thought my parents were nuts, but they were only doing what they felt they were called to do. So, here we were in a two bedroom apartment inside a five-story building in downtown Linton, Indiana. I take so much pride in my time there at The Mission. At three-years-old, I knew what was happening. Even at 29, I can still go back in my mind to those experiences. My family never asked for “wants” and we never went without “needs.” It was through these experiences I understood what it meant to see and feel the love of Christ. This was the Gospel…they gave up everything to help people they hadn’t met. I know of the cookouts at the park in order to form relationships with the homeless. Giving them a place to sleep and food in return, they would help clean and do various tasks in the building. The times dad would get up at 4AM every day, pray with the family, and go ask local business for continued support with food, clothing, and appliances. Not only were people wanting to help, they just needed the avenue. They wanted to help in abundance. There were countless times that families were given second chances and only through the love of Christ and reliance on him was this possible. Mom woke up early to make sure everyone was fed three times a day and constantly cleaning to maintain standards for the guests; never complaining but realizing Christ was changing lives and continually knowing they were following the call of Christ. Not only was this felt by my parents, but as I said earlier, this was an experience I go back to in my mind today. A foundation of who I am was built during this time at The Mission. I can remember the Saturday night sings. Before rounding everyone up for Sunday morning services at a local church, my parents would lead a worship service next to the kitchen in the open area, mom and dad both singing and dad playing guitar to songs like, “I’ll Fly Away” and “Old Rugged Cross”. Think about it…three years old hanging out with the homeless, people who have come straight from jail, liars, thieves, all singing worship and living the dream.
There is one story that sticks with me to this day. This is the time when I wanted a new bike for my birthday. It was an awesome bike and I would have dad go by the store when we could to see it. Because I know the full story now, I know dad didn’t have a dollar to his name, but you know what? Jesus got me that bike. At least that’s what I ran around saying when a wealthy friend of my dad who went to the same church, pulled it out of his truck one day and said, “Dustin, I want you to know that Jesus got you this bike.” It was because of the graciousness of others and the selflessness of my parents that I was able to know and see what true reliance on Jesus looked like. I know I was young, but I will be forever in debt to my parents for that experience. It was modeled to me, not just in this experience, but in my whole upbringing what it means to live a life devoted to Christ.
In all of our ups and downs and even to this day, the echoing of words I hear in my mind every time I go through a dark time is “Everything will work out.” If my mom said the sentence, “I love you,” to me most in life then, “Everything will work out” has to be second. It may seem like a simple sentence, but I know what is truly behind it….FAITH. My parents trusted Christ and what he had for their life. They jumped in head first for what he had for them and I wouldn’t change a thing. In that time and all of the hard times after that, we got through it. We had each other and The Mission would serve as the catalyst for the submission to Jesus. Let me be clear, as I get older, personally I am still trying to figure this out. Even though this was something I lived, I still have a very hard time applying this. Submitting and letting go to something you think is insane is extremely difficult, but I know I can get through anything today because Christ had my parents’ back then and I know he has mine now. Maybe you know what it means to submit to Christ and never see it as a negative. It is because my parents jumped, I know they experienced a true closeness to Christ that I hope to even comprehend, let alone experience one day.
To do something completely opposite to what the world tells you and leave everything you know to help people you haven’t met, is not exactly the definition of success in the world. So, I want to try something. I don’t know how it’s going to work, I don’t have all of the details yet, but in honor of the lives my parents changed in submission to Christ, I want to return the favor. I don’t have a building, but I know technology and I have an idea. I call it RISE and I need your help. I want to help people who I haven’t met yet. I envision the website as an area where people who need help can go and people like the man who was able to get me that bike for my birthday can go to give to those in need in the Des Moines area. I made a website and a Facebook, but I need your help in developing it. Do you know someone in need or would you like to be put on a list of people who can help others? If you have a need or want to help I want to post it to our site, www.risedsm.com. I would like to see this as an ever evolving Mission by helping people right where they are, just like my parents did. Not only that, but if you would like to get involved in helping people right now, I encourage you to contact John Porter at our church and ask to help. I see a lot of my past in John Porter and am thankful we have him at FFC. He is helping people right now, right where they are and could always use your help. I hope to develop RISE closely with John and consider this your invitation to do something crazy. Take a leap, join me and thanks for reading! Respond in comments or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to help or have ideas!
By Michael Howland
I am the first person to admit that I am no good at any sports involving a ball, with a few exceptions. As such, I wanted my son Josiah to have the opportunity to try out and learn the basics of sports while he is young. This is mostly so that if he were ever invited to participate, he wouldn’t be embarrassed to say “yes.” (Like I am speaking for myself)
We have been able to enroll Josiah is soccer and most recently have had Josiah enrolled in Upward Football and Upward Basketball. Josiah loves it. The atmosphere is positive and is a great place to learn the basics, while also learning about the Lord, encouraging one another and so much more.
This year we re-enrolled Josiah in basketball, we had him all registered and suddenly I get an email… “We are struggling to find a coach for this team…if no parents step up to teach this team, this team will need to dissolve!” I didn’t hesitate… and typed. One of the most painful emails I’ve ever sent. I admitted, very transparently, that I know VERY little about basketball but I did not want the team to dissolve, so if using me kept the team in existence, I would try my best to learn and guide.
Not a surprise, they wanted to use me. (Beggars can’t be choosers) They invited me to a training meeting and assured me that everything would go well and I would learn all I needed to know in the meeting and through their online resources. Well, the meeting went WAY over my head and the online resources do have training videos, but regrettably no videos for any of the drills I was supposed to lead the students through. Worse yet, the kids are all ranked according to skill and I looked at my son, who is the 2nd from the bottom on the skill level chart. I look at myself – seeing nothing but a willing spirit to help him. I knew in my own strength, I was not going to be of much help to my son. I NEEDED HELP!
God gave me the vision to ask the men who had taught the Summer Upward basketball camp kids at FFC if they would consider joining me for one night to help me teach the kids what I really couldn’t offer them myself. My theory was that it would be easier to get 8 men to take one week each, than to ask a couple men to help for multiple weeks. To my delight and in much answered prayer, several men stepped up and partnered with me! I was not alone. God even gave me an assistant coach to help out from Valley – who is VERY knowledgeable in basketball. (I feel like I’m really his assistant!) It seems that God just needed me to step out in faith and to surround myself with people who would strengthen areas I was weak in. I knew I could at least offer encouragement to the kids, minimal skill assistance and I could run the devotionals for every practice time.
Each week these men have come out, Jamie, Jason, Steve, Erik, Adam, etc… and each time the men have been so wonderful to connect with the kids, encourage them, guide them and give one on one coaching to students who needed some tips and pointers. One even came back a second week because he loved the kids and the sport so much! I couldn’t be more thankful and I have felt God’s presence very much beside me in this.
Do you feel God asking you to push your comfort zones? Do you feel insufficient, weak or inadequate? Maybe God is asking for you to take a leap of faith. Maybe there are men or women who ARE stronger that you can intentionally surround yourself with that can help you to achieve God’s call for your life. I am going to do what it takes to invest in my son, even if it means gathering a village to help raise him. God gave Moses and Aaron – when Moses was insecure about his speaking abilities. He reminds us that (2 Cor. 12:9) “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
I am so thankful for the men that have surrounded me , and for the strength the Lord himself has given to help make me a stronger father to my son, Josiah
By John Porter
What happens when Christians take the time to pour their lives into people who don’t know Jesus?
This is an actual story from, one of our FFC members.
Ever since I can remember while growing up, my parents would be inviting missionaries over to stay at our house and be sponsoring refugees from various parts of the world. The day before Ann and I went to Colorado for Christmas this year, my mom told me that there would be 2 ladies joining us for our family Christmas.
These ladies were at one time refugees from Azerbaijan and my parent’s church had sponsored them to come to the United States about 10 years ago. Through the years my parents took it upon themselves to invite these ladies over to their house for holidays and special occasions. They also took them on trips around Colorado, to dinner plays, to different restaurants around Denver, and invite them to church activities.
Last year, these ladies invited Jesus into their lives and were baptized as a result of my parents and others relationship with them, being obedient to the Holy Spirit and sharing Christ love and the gospel with these ladies.
It was great having these ladies with us this Christmas. I had never met them before, but had prayed for them and learned of them from my parents. They were so fun and interesting to talk to and they were so appreciative for what my parents had done for them and now they are part of the family of God, through Christ.
On Christmas day another lady and her family came over to my parents. Her name is Binh, she was a refugee from Vietnam that my parents sponsored in the mid 70’s when Vietnam fell to communism. When they came to the United States, they had never heard of Jesus, they were all strong Buddhist. My parents shared with them about Jesus, took them to church and developed intimate relationships with them. Several became believers in Jesus, one is now a pastor, and Binh started an orphanage in Vietnam which is helping thousands of children abandoned or who have aids, in the name of Jesus.
These stories show what can happen when we Christians just take the time to pour our lives into people who don’t know Jesus.
What impact will your life have on those that God brings into your life in 2015?
A while back I met a guy named Luis. In typical guy fashion, we talked while watching a ballgame on the plasma screen TV above our table. We talked about everything and nothing—sports, jobs, politics, and girls. Then, bit by bit, he began telling me his story. After awhile I asked, “Tell me, Luis, how do you handle the longing you have in your heart for meaning?”
“What are you saying?” he responded.
I said, “You told me that so many painful and traumatic things have happened to you, that you decided to stop believing in God. I get that, I hear your pain. So, now my question is, how do you now make sense out of life? Where do you go for meaning?”
As we talked about all kinds of attempts to find meaning, Luis said he ended up feeling all the more meaningless. The conversation was turning into a downer, so we got up from our seats and went over to shoot some pool. After humiliating me at the pool table, he asked, “How do you know these things about me?”
This was the beginning of a conversation—not a come on, set-up, or a sales pitch that resulted in Luis coming to know the God who created him. If we’re sensitive to the needs that others have, we can become more life-giving witnesses. By cooperating with the Father, who draws people like Luis to Jesus, we can be used by the Holy Spirit by simply being patient, compassionate and sympathetic.
As Christians we are not experts or the ones with all the answers. We need to be the one who is curious, the one who asks the questions that nudge the conversation deeper, the one who listens to the answers. Rather than directing the conversation to get it where we want it to go, we simply listen and discern the ways in which the Holy Spirit is already at work within the person we’re talking with. And the resulting conversations are natural and engaging rather than pressured and artificial. This includes not only how we engage with people, but where we engage with people.
Remember where I was when I met with Luis? Jesus met people where they were. He didn’t expect them to meet him at the temple. He socialized with sinners, tax collectors, radicals, and prostitutes on their own turf; he engaged them in conversation where they were comfortable. He even seemed to like it.
“As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” —Mark 2:14-16
When we become a part of other people’s world instead of expecting them to become a part of ours, we sometimes see a whole network of people experience the transforming power of the gospel. There is often one person who is initially receptive to the gospel—a Levi—who is then connected to a broader network of people. It’s not so much an individual process, but a relational one that gains in impact by allowing people the freedom to process the gospel in their own environments with their own natural communities.
When we know the contexts—because we are a part of them—we learn what are the most appropriate kinds of questions to ask. We understand where people are on their journey and what matters to them. We ask people about themselves, their hobbies and interests, their experiences, their dreams, hopes and fears, their disappointments and achievements. And we also ask how those things relate to the reality of the Kingdom of God, not in a pushy way, but in a curious, inviting way.
Questions are not to be asked all at once, of course… and not to people we have no relationship with. But when we know people, they often appreciate our curiosity and engagement with them, and that shows them that we care. Most people want to go beneath the surface—they just don’t know how. So be ready…sometimes to answer your own questions and sometimes to respond to others’ questions of you.
Wait patiently to share your story. Inevitably, after spending time together, this question, in one form or another will be asked of you. “What’s your story?” This is your opportunity to share, in the context of a trusting, mutual friendship, the hope that lies within you. Share, in an appropriate way, how the reality of the Kingdom of God has impacted you.
By listening to the Spirit of God, asking engaging questions, and listening well to others, we can establish a refreshingly different approach to evangelism. As a lover and follower of Jesus, what kind of difference do you think this approach would make in your neighborhood, school, workplace, and city? Imagine what kind of impact this approach to evangelism could have on the world!