Christmas decorations put away, all the college football bowl games are over and the NFL playoffs are in full swing (Go Ravens!), annual “State of the Church” message has been preached, discipleship classes have started, it’s cold, it must be January. We’re off to a great start at Calvary after a nice Christmas and New Year break from our regular schedule of events. Our Wednesday evening schedule has resumed with our AWANA ministry to disciple children and is cranked up and running again for the Spring semester. These children are hiding God’s Word in their hearts, they are studying to be Approved Workman who Are Not Ashamed (AWANA). We have some dedicated leaders who work with nearly 100 children weekly making disciples of grade school aged children. This is an enormous opportunity and responsibility God has given us to plant the Gospel, a love for Jesus and His Word deep into the hearts of these children. We have a number of children whose parents do not regularly attend Calvary but over the years we’ve seen several families come to Calvary because of our AWANA ministry.
Right now they are gearing up for the AWANA Olympics where our team will travel to another church in Maryland to compete in the games they play. If you’ve ever wondered about the red, blue, green and yellow stripes on the fellowship hall floor, that’s for AWANA games. Their game time is a lot of fun as I’ve been down there during our second hour helping out. I need to make an appeal for help in this critical ministry especially during the 2nd hour from 7:15-8:15, especially for our men to step up and help. Our AWANA commander (who happens to be this pastor’s wife) has her hands full during that period because this is when our Sparks group of Kindergarten, 1st & 2nd grades are doing their game time. There are over 40 children in the Sparks group and without enough supervision and adults providing instruction for the games… let’s just say I think it would be easier to herd cats from Maryland out to the West Texas prairie. I know that may not be the best way to recruit but it’s the current reality because we don’t have nearly enough adults in 2nd hour. Many of our volunteers work with the Sparks 1st hour but then head out to choir practice 2nd hour so there is a void during the game time. I know it may be hard for many of you to arrive by our early 6:15 start time but making it to church by 7:15 would be no problem for you. The games are simple and the kids are obedient and listen because they want to play the games. Because of their ages and attention span, we need a 1 adult to 2 children ratio for it run smoothly. What we have currently is about a 1 adult to 8-10 children ratio and we need to change that! It really helps if we have a number of men involved because you just have a way of being “large and in charge”. There is a game leader who gives clear instructions, your job should you choose to accept it, is to take those instructions and help line the kids up, get them ready for the game and cheer them on. (This tape will not self destruct in 5 seconds…I’ll keep repeating it till we get helpJ!) The children have a ball blowing off energy after studying God’s Word and memorizing Scripture; a well run game time sends them and our leaders home happy and encouraged about their night at AWANA. I can tell you I participated in AWANA when I was in grade school and most of the verses I have committed to memory I learned in the AWANA club. If you want to help, you need to call Cheryl Green to see how you can get involved.
January also means for myself, Michele Emerson, Patty Wackford, and Matt Cruikshank, we’re less than a month away from our trip back to the region of West Africa I went last year to explore mission partnership opportunities. Because of security concerns for our IMB personnel, I’ll not share more about where we’re going specifically in this context. There is a bulletin board from our Mission’s Committee by the Greeters Desk that explains this. We’ll be working with Hausa and Fulani people groups telling Bible stories in their language with audio recordings and picture books, helping build relationships so the Gospel can take root in a Muslim culture. We’re also taking equipment to help the missionary show the Jesus film for the first time in the villages he’s been working in which will be a huge opportunity to see many people turn to Christ. I’ve heard of many accounts where the Lord used this video in other contexts to reach entire villages with the Gospel and the response was tremendous. The need is great, the people are friendly and receptive to this good news and it speaks volumes to them that we Americans would travel all the way around the world to share this important news they have not heard before. We also desire greatly to be a big encouragement to our missionary personnel faithfully serving there.
The logistics of this trip are very hard. Getting there literally is the most difficult and expensive part flying commercial air as far as we can to the capital city and then taking a small missionary aviation plane out into the bush where we’ll be working. 4 days of the 12 day trip are consumed with travel. Our team has been training on what to expect, the culture of the people, learning some basic greetings, getting all the paperwork, shots and gear ready. What we need is your prayers because Satan certainly doesn’t want us to go. Pray for the logistics of travel, for our luggage to arrive in full and especially for our equipment as we have to leave our large luggage at a bus station overnight to be shipped out to the missionary house since the small plane cannot take it. Pray for health, strength and a flexible attitude for all of our team members so the work of sharing Jesus would not be hindered. It would be easier to stay home quite honestly, but when I think it would have been easier for Jesus to stay home in Heaven than to come to earth in order to reach this hard-headed sinner, I’m grateful Jesus came so I could be forgiven. I can’t wait to share that with these special peoples. Our church is fully committed to mission endeavors as we develop an Acts 1:8 strategy, in this case to the uttermost parts of the earth, to expand God’s kingdom. Thank you in advance for praying for this trip and for our team.
God has great plans for us at Calvary in 2012 and we’re off to a great start. Let’s be obedient, let’s be faithful, and let’s celebrate Jesus as we encounter God and experience life change each week. Let’s ask God to help us introduce others to Him and to make us sensitive to the people around us and especially the children God has brought to us. Looking forward to a great year of serving the Lord together, from my little corner of the world to yours…Pastor Ralph Green
Senior Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church www.calvarybelair.com