June 20, 2013

God at Work at the Hospital

She had lived a hard life. It was obvious the world had knocked her around a bit. Hers was a journey of hardships and desperation. Still, as she lay there in her hospital bed, a new softness came over her—a hope, a longing, a lightness. 

She'd visited Riverside Church the weekend before - for the first time. Moved by the message, she made an appointment to meet with Pastor Bob. But something unexpected happened, and she found herself stuck in a hospital bed instead.

When Pastor Ron learned she was in the hospital he felt compelled to visit her. She was pretty candid with him about her state of despair, her need for something more. As she continued to speak, he remained curious, truly caring for the woman. Eventually he was able to share the redemptive story of Jesus Christ with her, and she prayed, asking Jesus to be her own Savior. 

She has begun a new journey now, not without hardships, but never to be lost and alone again.

Pastor Ron reflects, “Only time will tell how serious she is about walking with God, but I’m so glad I went to see her. I’m so glad God allowed me to introduce her to Him.

Pastor Ron had met the woman and her landlord at church the previous Sunday. Her landlord was the one who brought her to church. He told Pastor Ron about the others he wants to bring to Riverside to learn about Jesus. 

It gets complicated when we start loving folks who are used to the ways of the world,” Pastor Ron says. “We’ll have to have more conversations and talk to some of them one-on-one to learn their sincere intentions. If we’re really serious about loving and living like Jesus, though, Riverside has to be a bit like a hospital too, open to the hurting, leading them to the Great Physician who can heal their hearts and lives.

Praise God He drew this woman to Riverside and revealed Himself to her at the hospital. Praise God He is using us to care for those who need Him!

June 19, 2013

God at Work through Hands-On Love

Sometimes being the hands and feet of Christ requires blood, sweat, and tears. Sometimes it requires power tools! When the Werley and Mueller Riverside Life Groups decided to help an elderly disabled woman, they knew she needed more than a few meals and encouragement. One of the obstacles in her daily life was simply accessing her home safely. Her ramp was old and unstable. She traveled up it backwards in her wheelchair with great difficulty, afraid she’d end up falling backwards down the ramp should it collapse. Riverside Church partnered with The Heights Foundation and Home Depot to replace the old ramp. It was a big project, but together they had the funds, man-power, tools, supplies and know-how to get the job done. 

A member of the Werley Life Group, George McMahon played a big part in the project, not only on-site, but also behind the scenes. As with any building project, plans and permits all had to be in order. He recalls how timid the elderly lady was when he first approached her to review some of the project details. He’d been cautioned that she was very private, and he wanted to be sensitive to her hesitancy to have a dozen strangers working around her home. By the time the ramp was done, though, she had warmed up quite a bit, even sitting in the doorway watching and visiting with the crew.

Pastor Chris recalls how excited the woman was—and her family—to see so many people caring for her, doing the things she could not do for herself. Over the course of 4 days, the crew not only built the ramp, they did a ton of yard work, trimming trees and bushes, putting down bark, and even planting some decorative plants around the ramp. One of Pastor Chris' favorite moments was when he realized that Beth Morford from his own life group knew how to seriously handle a chainsaw! Not only did this project help the members of the Mueller life group learn more about each other, he feels it really helped bond the group. It felt good knowing they’d joined resources to help someone from whom they never expect anything in return.

Julie Workman attends Riverside Church and is also the Chief Advocacy Officer of The Heights Center, an impressive facility and resource dedicated to helping at-risk children in the community and strengthening families. According to the foundation’s website: The foundation is a grassroots, hands-on organization that celebrates the strength and diversity of the community and has the goal of breaking the cycle of poverty. Its work supports community development programs for individuals, students, and families, and provides charitable outreach projects in the community. Julie is so thankful these Riverside Life Groups chose to take on this outreach project, helping a very special woman in the Harlem Heights community, an area with twice the poverty rate of Lee County. Together the live group crew put in 140 hours on this project. “What a difference [they] made...truly loving and living like Jesus!” Soon after the completion of this project, through the encouragement of a close friend, Julie and her husband Matt joined a life group close to their home.

George says it was so gratifying watching the elderly lady come out of her shell a bit, going up and down her ramp with confidence. Pastor Chris is sure this is just one of many projects the Riverside Life Groups will be able to do with The Heights Foundation and looks forward to seeing how God will work in others' lives and in our own hearts as we continue to reach out to “the least of these” in our own communities.

Praise God for the funds Riverside Church was able to contribute and for inspiring people from our own life groups to be a part of caring for the less fortunate in a very necessary and tangible way. Praise God that He is bringing glory to His own name and strengthening the church body through hands-on-love.

June 18, 2013

God at Work through Life Groups

Dave and Luann Flammia attended Riverside Church for over a year before it finally felt like “home.” They'd  been heavily involved in another church for years, but were burned out and became disconnected from the church entirely. Eventually they began attending Riverside. Sitting in the back, they enjoyed the worship, the message, and the people they met, but they still felt like something was missing - so when Bob asked them to consider plugging into a Life Group, they agreed. 

The Flammias tried several different groups before they found one that they really connected with. Dave admits that when he first heard about “the whole storying thing,” he was a little hesitant. But as the leader told a story from the Bible, the group re-built the story, checking the Bible for accuracy, and then discussed what God was showing them through the story, he could see that God was at work. “Somehow God seems to take [the story] and use it in incredible ways. It is definitely working.

After joining their Life Group, Dave and Luann immediately felt like they became a part of the church family. They found what they’d been missing! Now, they’re enjoying their new-found friendships and have just recently become greeters, giving them a wonderful way to both serve the church and meet even more people. In fact, they are now excited to see how and where God is going to use them next, as they continue their journey with the Lord.

According to Dave, the Flammia’s Life Group has been and continues to be a blessing in their lives. 
My wife and I are both growing spiritually closer to God and to each other. The [Life Group] has been an incredible experience for us, and we are so happy that we made the decision to check them out.