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 ddamitz@firstfederated.org if you would like to help or have ideas!

Pushing Past Comfort Zones

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.image

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.

imageEach 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.

imageDo 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

Better Late Than Never

By David Bush

biblical manhood1

I’ve had the privilege over the past few years to be a part of the Men’s Fraternity classes on Wednesday nights. As the leader of a breakout group, I would have the opportunity to facilitate discussion and encourage men to apply the lessons that were taught via video by Pastor Robert Lewis.

One of the points Pastor Lewis made repeatedly was the fact that boys today are missing out on a significant rite of passage that used to be imbedded in the fabric of nearly all cultures. In past generations, the transition from boyhood to manhood was overseen by fathers and the men of a tribe, clan, or village. It was sometimes conferred ceremonially, at other times by inclusion in adult activities.

In the void of this kind of cultural affirmation, today’s adolescents and young men are left to wonder if they possess what it takes to be a man. Our culture is often filling this void with suggestions that manhood is comprised of things that are associated more with rebellion, violence, and unsafe or unhealthy practices than virtue or maturity.

As the father of four boys, I was convicted that I had a responsibility to not only define what a biblical man was, but to affirm to my sons that they were on their way to achieving this goal. I shared with the men in my breakout group my desire to take action in this area, and started to think about what a “manhood ceremony” would look like. Weeks turned to months, and months turned to more than a year. When my oldest son graduated from college, my second son got engaged to be married, and my third son was approaching 18, the realization came to me that it was “now or never” to fulfill my responsibility and commitment.

Manhood Ceremony BUSH

With all of my family home for Christmas break, and my two oldest son’s girlfriend and fiancé in town as well, I executed my plan. Along with one set of grandparents, we all went out for a nice semi-private dinner. Retiring to our home for dessert, I read to all a list of the things that I thought comprised biblical manhood, and contrasted this with what our culture suggested manhood meant. I then affirmed to each of my three oldest where they had met the qualifications of biblical manhood, shared something of the heritage they would now be a part of sustaining, and expressed my love and pride for each of them. I concluded the speech by presenting each with a special commemorative gift.

Will this be a game-changer for my boys? I don’t know for sure. What I do know is that I have had the opportunity to publically express my thoughts, God’s word, and my love and pride in a memorable and tangible way. My boy’s grandparents were able to see how their faith and involvement in their lives was bearing fruit that will pass to another generation. Two likely future wives of my oldest sons were able to hear a biblical definition of manhood and see ways that their men were achieving this. And a youngest son was given a picture of manhood and a goal to strive for.

All this, plus I got to fulfill a commitment I made to my band of brothers. Better late than never.


What’s on My Bookshelf?

Anonymously submitted

read-bookshelf (1)

Recently, I sent out an email to our staff asking the question, “What are you reading lately?” The responses came pouring in and are all over the place in terms of genre. You can learn a lot about a person by what they read, and if you could be a fly on the wall at FFC on any given day, you would hear staff having conversations here and there about what they are reading, suggesting books to one another, or laughing about a book they never expected a person to read. Books bring about conversations and an opportunity to connect.

I really wanted to title this post, “You Are What You Read,” as I found it interesting that so many of the books listed were a great representation of the reader or the phase of life they are in. Either way, I think you will find it interesting to know what FFC staff are reading these days. Maybe their list will spark an interest and give you an idea for your next read. Take a look at their list…their answers may (or may not) surprise you!

Sherri Stufflebeem: stufflebeem

*Currently reading: Gone, by James Patterson;  Interrupted ,by Jen Hatmaker

*Favorite book of all time: Chronicals of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis

*Favorite author(s): Teri Blackstock, John Grisham, James Patterson, Karen                                             Kingsbury


Dustin Damitz:

*Last Read: The Social Media Gospel, by Meredith Gould

*Currently Reading: Radical, by David Platt

*Favorite book of all time: Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

LIGHTNER-DANNY-3 (1)Danny Lightner:

*Last Read: Gossamer, by Lois Lowry; Generous Justice, by Tim Keller

* Currently Reading: The Testing, by Joelle Charbonneau; The Legacy      Journey, by Dave Ramsey

*Favorite book(s) of all time: The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis; The                                                   Circle Series, by Ted Dekker; Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis; Let The                                                           Nations Be Glad, by John Piper

Deb BoscaljonDeb Boscaljon:

*Last Read: Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand

*Currently Reading: Follow Me, by David Platt

*Favorite Book of all time: Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo


Tracy Griess:

*Last Read: Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell

*Currently Reading: True Series of Crime and Detection, by Gill Harvey (with her son)

*Favorite book of all time: Just Give Me Jesus, by Anne Graham Lotz

ROSE-MIKE-456.jpgPastor Mike Rose:

*Last Book : The Divine Conspiracy, by Dallas Willard

*Currently Reading: The Kingdom of God, by John Bright


Tom Clegg Executive Pastor

Pastor Tom Clegg:

*Last Book: The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer; Flatland, by Edwin Abbott

*Currently Reading: The Universe Nextdoor, by James W. Sire; The Bible Tells   Me So, by Peter Enns; The Will of God as a Way of Life, Jerry SittserTime and the Art of Living, by Robert Grundon; Contentment: The Secret to a Lasting Calm,  by Richard A. Swenson M.D.

jessica moen2.2Jessica Moen:

*Currently Reading: Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy, by Jane O’Connor; Bible Promises for God’s Precious Princess, Jean Kavich Bloom (with her daughters)


Now that you know what we’re reading, let’s turn the question over to you. What are you reading these days? Let us know in the comments, or share on the FFC Facebook page!



Living Beyond the Walls…

December 11, 2015 | Anonymously submitted

beyond the walls

A few weeks ago, Pastor Mike gave us all a challenge from the pulpit: invite someone into your home who is not in your normal “friend circle”. my wife and I love receiving a challenge to get into each other’s lives and homes, so we were pleasantly surprised when two families beat us to the punch.

A young family with kids of similar ages to ours invited us over for lunch and we had a great time. We quickly learned we had common interests in music and Star Wars (our son is a HUGE fan) and our kids formed quick friendships. We were so grateful to spend time with a family that we had said “Hello” to many times in the hallways of FFC, but had yet to form a friendship. They were warm and hospitable, and we are thankful to count them as friends.

Most recently, we were invited into the home of a couple whom we’ve known for many years, but had yet to get into each other’s lives outside of church. They welcomed us and our children and are even becoming like second grandparents to our kids as we have no family in town. They took Pastor Mike’s challenge, and our family has been so blessed because of it.

Sometimes all we need is the encouragement to step out of our comfort zones (and the walls of FFC) to build relationships. Those deep, bonding friendships aren’t always going to form in passing on a Sunday morning, but they will when we actually connect and get into one another’s lives.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to take Pastor Mike’s challenge, I encourage you to do so. We have found that when we extend the invitation, most people are pleasantly surprised and eager to share a meal.

Last Sunday, we invited a former co-worker (from my architecture days) and his wife over for dinner. We bonded over sharing stories about parenting (they are welcoming their first child soon), favorite meals and holiday traditions, shared in their excitement of their very first home purchase, and there was even a light saber battle thrown in at the end of the night! We didn’t have a deep theological discussion; we simply opened our home, shared stories and food, and loved them. Though my path does not cross daily with my friend like it used to, I now know that there will be many more meals like this one in our future.

Sometimes the hardest step is the first step: inviting someone in. You don’t have to plan a fancy meal, have a spacious home, or set the table perfectly. Keep it simple, the conversation light, and enjoy getting to know fellow church friends, acquaintances in your neighborhood, or coworkers. Your life will be richer for it.

Out and About

I love how Des Moines is small enough that I run into people I know as I am out and about in our community!  Lately, my family has seen several FFC families while we are enjoying community events and frequenting our favorite restaurants. After the initial line of, “Hey, what are you doing here?!”, I find myself consistently thinking and saying, “It’s so much fun seeing FFC people doing normal, fun things in our city! We do exist outside the walls of our church building!”  Yes, of course, each of us do, but in years past I have typically seen my church friends only on Sundays for worship service, Wednesdays for Awana, designated Life Group nights, or scheduled FFC events. To be honest, I didn’t think anything of it, until I started seeing our FFC family outside the prescribed schedule and location. Chalk it up as another God-intervention. He gets all the credit for this new-found realization and joy!

Last month I took our two oldest kiddos out to the Des Moines Open Streets event (dsmove.org). The Des Moines Move website describes the event as: “a safe public space in a car-free setting where communities can connect, families and friends can exercise and play, and businesses can engage the public.” Sounds like a perfect match with FFC’s mission statement! For this event, University Avenue was shut down to vehicular traffic from 23rd Street all the way to 42nd Street, creating a safe environment for people to ride their bikes and community organizations to set up stations. As my kiddos and I took a stroll down University with $1 cotton candy fueling our systems, a familiar face came into view.  Clayton Kennedy? I should have known – Clayton has been recommending this event to me for a couple of years. We had a great time discussing highlights of the event and where the best vendors and free stuff was located. Clayton teased my kids, which they always enjoy, we shared a few laughs (most likely over the unique array of individuals filling the street) and we continued enjoying this unique opportunity to interact with our community. I can’t wait until the next Des Moines Move event! We should totally set up a station and bring our bikes!


A couple of weeks later, my family took advantage of Gateway Market’s Tuesday night special: kids eat free with the purchase of an adult meal (gatewaymarket.com). We are self-admitted foodies, and if you tell us we can eat incredible food and fill young, hungry bellies for free, we are there! Shortly after receiving our meals (you have to try the blackened tuna sandwich!), I noticed a pastor friend of mine from Walnut Creek Community Church at an adjacent table. God has been connecting me to brothers and sisters outside FFC, and there has been a special joy in spending time with other people in the Kingdom who are not part of FFC. Both our families were fully engaged in keeping the familial peace at our dinner tables, but we had a moment to mention our favorite Gateway dishes and provide some encouraging parting words, including a, “hope to see you soon!”

gateway market

Most recently, my family attended the Downtown Farmers Markets (desmoinesfarmersmarket.com), fulfilling our kids’ craving for kettle corn while my wife and I drifted between stands offering fresh veggies, flowers, ethnic food and pastries from La Mie pastries, and the honey stand and…did I mention I am a foodie? While standing in line waiting for an Indian potato cutlet, I noticed Ashley Griffin walking up to say hello, with her family following a minute later. Our kids love Ashley (as do we) and we have developed a friendship over the last couple of years while together in the Shift ministry. We traded tips on where to get some great food and most of the Griffin family entered the Indian food line right behind us. Both of our families were drawn to the same place because we share common interests. At the market we shared in each other’s joy, and this joy occurred within the natural rhythms of life: walking, eating, recreating. We all like to eat and recreate!  We have found those activities are most fun when shared with people we know!

des moines farmers market

Now God is telling me to take this experience to the next level.  All of my stories exclusively involve people who are already following Jesus. God has been telling me lately that many of my friends enjoy these same activities, and many of these friends have never experienced the joy of Jesus. So, the next step, which again God has initiated as He continues to transform my heart and life, is to utilize my family’s interests as opportunities to spend more time with my friends who need Jesus.  I know we will have fun together, regardless of our spiritual similarities or differences, and hopefully in the process, Jesus will begin a similar transformation process in their lives too.

So I have to ask, where do you like to eat?  What do you enjoy doing in Des Moines?  Maybe God will have each of us invite someone from FFC and someone who is not yet part of the Kingdom of God to join us in having fun in our community!

The Importance of Building Relationships

Tom Clegg Executive Pastor

Tom Clegg
Executive Pastor

I’ve had the wonderful privilege of realizing that my life has made a life-or-death spiritual difference to others. When we were first married, Jodi and I lived in Illinois, where we shared a four-unit apartment building with three other newly married couples. We got to know the others quite well, especially the guys, because we usually ended up out in the hallway…

“Hey, what’s up?”

“I’m doing the laundry.”

“Liar! You had a fight with your wife, and you’re in the doghouse.”


“We heard you through the walls. Do you want to guess why I’m out here, too?”

It was a significant bonding time for us guys. Our downstairs neighbors, Kenny and Tiffany, were active Mormons. She’d grown up in that faith. He had Christian roots but connected to the Mormon religon when they were dating. We shared a growing friendship with Kenny and Tiffany.workout1

We regularly ate pizza as one big family, shopped for Christmas trees together, our wives prepared their Sunday school lessons together, and Kenny and I often played racquetball or worked out together. We had a lot in common. Kenny and I came from loud, boisterous families where the importance of an issue was measured by the decibel level of the discussion. We both discovered that our respective wives came from families where their parents never had arguments in their presence. My first disagreement with Jodi devastated her. I couldn’t understand what was wrong–all I was doing was making my point! At times like these, as we sat in the hallway, Kenny and I tried to help each other figure out our wives, or at least admit to each other that we just didn’t have a clue.

Kenny and Tiffany seemed more interested in how we lived than in what we said. They wanted to know about the struggles in our marriage. We talked as couples about how we handled money, time, intimacy, and other adjustments.

They accepted invitations to church with us half a dozen times and went with us to a marriage conference, concerts, and other special events. But in conversation, discussions about religion seemed forced or unnatural–even on our special pizza nights.

Jodi and I tried going through various pamphlets and formal presentations. We watched the Jesus video with them. We probably tried a dozen other “techniques” to help them become authentic and devoted followers of Jesus, and we prayed all along. Nothing connected.

A year and a half later, Kenny and Tiffany helped us pack our boxes as we prepared to relocate to another city. On the night before we moved, Kenny said to me, “Ok, would you explain it to me one more time?” I was so shocked that I asked him why he was interested.

“I’ve seen how you live, and I want that, too,” he said. None of the “programs” made the connection as much as how we lived. What we said had credibility not because of how we delivered the message, but how we lived it.


I had believed that humanity’s basic problem was a lack of information. If I just helped people understand, they’d certainly turn away from their sins and receive salvation through Jesus Christ. But I learned a better way from Kenny. His responses confirmed that no one wants or deserves to be my project, but many people would like to be my friend.

Nothing works better than a personal relationship that addresses a person’s needs and interests in a relevant way. The most important first step you can take is to make sure your friends know that you personally care for their well-being. You’ll be surprised at how true relationships naturally lead to conversations about faith, and even more surprised at how God uses you when a friend makes a spiritual decision to accept Christ as Savior. As much as we might love our churches, we can’t simply hope people will somehow make their way through the doors of a church to find their way back home spiritually. The greatest impact on the unchurched begins friend-to-friend.

**This blog post is an excerpt from Tom Clegg’s book, Missing In America: Making An Eternal Difference In The World Next Door

missing in america