July 26, 2004
Dear Family of Friends,
A couple of weeks ago I returned from our annual trek through the Andes Mountains of Peru. Each year I lead a team of 30 to 40 people on a five-day trek through some of the most beautiful terrain this side of heaven. Our purpose is not sight seeing, however; dotting the countryside throughout the Andes are small villages that have never heard a gospel presentation. We trek from village to village and distribute Bibles in Spanish and the native Quechua dialect. Our goal is to eventually blanket the region with the Word of God. You can learn more about the Andes Blanket by visiting our web site, www.andesblanket.org.
On the home front, I am rejoicing in what the Lord has accomplished the past six months at Grace, and what we have to look forward to during the next six months. Just to give you a few highlights:
- God has tremendously blessed our teaching emphasis this year. Even though I am privileged to speak to you each Sunday, I must give all the glory to the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord has used the messages to change lives and impact families. From our series on prayer to our prophecy series on Sunday Nights, people have communicated to me time and time again how God is using these messages to impact them. Praise the Lord!
- In February, we experienced what was, in my opinion, the best missions conference I have been a part of. Our guest speaker, Jean Marc Desire again did an outstanding job of motivating us and encouraging us to have a “heart for the harvest.” Perhaps the most touching moment for me happened the Monday after missions conference ended. With his home country of Haiti in the midst of a civil war and the president of the country on the run, Jean Marc’s only concern was his church family at home. He was determined—even at the risk of his own life—to return to them and encourage them through this crisis. I saw real faith being lived out by a genuine, humble man of God.
- In March, it was our privilege to host the Baptist Convention of Iowa’s state evangelism conference with guest speaker, Dr. Henry Blackaby. Again, perhaps the person most impacted by Dr. Blackaby was me! What a gentle, kind, humble man of God. Through his powerful and passionate preaching, he highlighted the importance of God’s people living holy lives in a world that is openly rebellious to God. If you missed any of Dr. Blackaby’s messages, I would encourage you to pick up the recordings at the Resource Center.
- In April, we experienced God’s blessings through our Easter services. Our Magnification Ministry presented an outstanding musical, The Eyes of Faith, and we witnessed more than 2,700 people in attendance at Grace Church on Easter Sunday. That is by far the largest single day attendance in our church’s history. Again, I give all the glory to the Lord Jesus Christ!
- In May, we celebrated Mother’s Day with our annual kids’ choirs musical. This year the kids presented Holy Moses, a spoof off the popular television show, Trading Spaces. The kids did a great job of telling the story of Moses through song, drama, choreography and an incredible set. The month of May ended with one of Grace Church’s adopted sons, Ken Rudolph. Ken works for Lake Ann Camp in Michigan and has become one of our favorite guest speakers. Once again, Ken challenged us with solid biblical teaching sprinkled with his own great sense of humor.
- n June, of course, was VBS month. This year’s theme was SonGames, which played off the Olympics. What a thrill to see the church filled with kids each night, I want to thank Karla Kincaid and the more than 100 adult volunteers who made this possible.
These are only the highlights of the last six months. What I can’t put in here are the stories of lives changed through Celebrate Recovery, couples who have made the decision to stay together rather than divorce, families who are earnestly praying right now about where God may send them on the foreign mission field.
One of the more important processes happening behind the scenes the past six months involved the search for a gifted children’s pastor. We interviewed two men and received several more resumes before reaching the conclusion that the man God was leading us to was already in our church. As I announced in June, the elders have extended a call to Paul Dykstra to become our new children’s pastor, and he started serving in his new position July 6. Already, if you walk through the south doors by the nursery, you will see changes happening! We are looking forward to the many exciting enhancements in the months ahead as Pastor Paul and Karla work with our children.
As I have explained to many, in hiring staff I look for what I call the 4Cs:
- Character–these have to be men of impeccable character, fully qualified to serve as a pastor/elder as outlined in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.
- Competence–each of our staff has demonstrated expertise in the area of ministry in which they are serving.
- Chemistry–our staff must function as a team; working together is of critical importance.
- Commitment–we are seeking to build a long-term team. I recognize God may move us from time-to-time, but I also believe that one of the qualities of a solid, well-functioning team is longevity.
With the addition of Pastor Paul, we have completed what I am calling our “dream team.” If you look at our staff you will clearly see that our emphasis is on the Next Generation. We are committed to helping families raise their children to be strong voices for righteousness in a world sliding towards debauchery.
The next six months look to be just as exciting at Grace. On August 5-7, we will host our annual Share What You Wear event, providing clothing to the poor and less fortunate in our community. Each year this becomes bigger and bigger, and you can help by bringing in your old clothes and getting the word out. We are also going to host our first Child Safety Seminar on August 25, just in time for the start of the next school year. Our purpose with this event is to inform kids and parents of the dangers lurking just around the corner and to provide some basic self-defensive skills in case of real danger. We will have as our guests Sgt. Berry Arnold of the Des Moines Police Department and Master Don Wells of Martial Arts America.
During the month of September we will focus on evangelism. Mr. Bill Fay of Share Jesus Without Fear will be with us September 12 to equip us for the task of sharing the gospel with our friends, family, co-workers and neighbors, and on September 26 he will be back with us to share his own amazing testimony during one of the best opportunities of the year to bring unsaved friends and loved ones. On September 13, we will begin the fall term of Grace Evangelical Ministry School (GEMS). Let me encourage you to look into the classes being offered this fall. Our purpose for GEMS is to prepare and equip you for ministry here. If you would like more detailed information on GEMS, please visit www.graceministryschool.com. Also in September, on the 19th, we will give our annual Harvest Offering. This offering is for the ministry of Grace Church in general and goes towards carrying out the mission of Grace Church in Central Iowa and beyond.
In October and November, we will begin our annual Fall Campaign. Our theme this year is True Faith: Stepping Out of the Boat. For nine weeks we will find out how living by faith is not foolishness but the only way to please God, and the best way to make life itself pleasing to us. The key verse will be Matthew 9:29 “According to your faith will it be done to you.” I pray God can find you faithful as we focus on building your faith. We will kick it all off October 3 with “The Castaways Big Island Adventure!” You will have to be here October 3 to learn how to step out of the boat without becoming a castaway!
December is one of our favorite months at Grace. Pastor Phillip has already picked this year’s Christmas Musical / Drama, and the Choir and Orchestra will spend the fall months preparing. Our Adult Musical will be the weekend of December 3-5 and our Kids Musical will be the weekend of December 11-12. The Magnification Ministry will hold its first “Magnification Bash” on August 21 for all current members or those who are interested in joining the choir, orchestra or any other group within the Magnification Ministry. Of course, on a personal level, Bonnie and I are looking forward to December and to welcoming a new grandbaby into our family around Christmas time!
Let me remind you why we do what we do at Grace Church. Our goal is to
Bring people in so we can
Build people up so we can
Train people for something so we can
Send people out
All for the magnification of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Yes, there are a lot of activities at Grace Church, but they are for a purpose. As we recently studied during our series on Critical Issues, I believe America is facing a great threat. It’s not terrorism or economic collapse; I fear that unless America turns from its current path, God is going to say, “OK…have it your way,” and turn His back on this country. My friends, I am not a doom and gloom type of preacher, but I must be honest and say that in the last few years it seems our country is sliding deeper and deeper towards the abyss. It’s as if the small, tiny fractures in the dam holding back the tidal wave of immorality and human deprivation are breaking before our very eyes.
Starting in August, you will hear about changes at Grace Church that I believe are both necessary and unavoidable. From the day I became your pastor nearly three years ago, I have worked towards a church that is focused on the things that are important and is “on mission.” In order to accomplish our vision of truly reaching and equipping the next generation and building up the family of friends here at Grace, it’s time we begin shooting with a rifle instead of a shotgun. To learn more about the changes that will take place in January, please consider attending one of our church informational meetings. On August 11, we are going to have some fun and “Pig Out” with a hog roast and corn on the cob before we meet to discuss the changes. You can purchase a ticket for the dinner at the resource center, or if you want to come just for the meeting, show up at 7:15 p.m. in the FLC. We will also talk about the changes on Sunday, August 22. If you have any questions about the dinner or informational meetings, please call the church office at 265-0199. Everyone is invited and encouraged to attend one of these meetings.
Enclosed with this letter is your second quarter giving statement through June 30. While our giving has been below our budget need, our staff has worked hard to keep spending below budget. Let me challenge you as we go through the summer months to remain faithful to the Lord and to regularly tithe. Grace Church is a family, and it takes the sacrificial giving of each family member to accomplish the mission we believe God has given us. If you have any questions about your contribution statement, please contact Larry Jatho at 265-0199.
Thank you for allowing me to update you on where we are at mid-year in 2004. I cannot tell you how pleased I am to serve as the pastor of Grace Church. It is the thrill of my lifetime, and next to my salvation and my family, I count it among my greatest blessings.
Preaching, Teaching and Reaching the Lost,