This last school year at the College Place Village Church has been full of constructive activity and personal growth in ministry. My responsibilities this last year have included weekly visits to church members; preaching about twice a month at Village Church, the state penitentiary, or other churches; presenting devotionals for Blue Mountain TV, supervising the Youtube ministry for Village Church; attending weekly staff meetings; helping with the Collegiate Sabbath School; and playing music for church services and other church events. All of these duties have sharpened my public speaking, my interpersonal skills, my listening skills, my decision-making skills, and my creativity in ministry.
I have continued to hone the effectiveness of the Village Impact Youtube Channel by experimenting with different types of videos and looking into various marketing methods. We post Sabbath morning sermons each week, Gospel Outreach mission stories every other week, and promotional videos for church events about once a month. Facebook has been a very valuable asset in publicizing the videos, but I am also in the process of distributing pamphlets in the community. Through experimenting and observing, my team and I have found that short, casual video clips receive the most views. I find this insight encouraging, since it means that running a Youtube ministry is within the reach of the average, small church congregation. A church does not need thousands of dollars of equipment and a professional studio to attract people’s attention through internet videos. They can increase their web presence and spread the gospel with simple filming equipment and techniques.
One aspect of ministry at Village Church that has been very meaningful for me the past school year is the prison ministry. I found my first sermon appointment at the penitentiary to be a heart-warming, spiritually enlivening experience and one of the men testified that my sermon was a decisive factor in leading him to request baptism. Since then, I have preached there once a month and have found each visit a blessing. I have also enjoyed participating in the outreach team at Village Church. By making friends at the university and in the community, I have been able to meet with local residents, at the university and in the community, who have showed an interest in weekly Bible studies.
I have enjoyed the growth opportunities of this last year and, with the Holy Spirit’s help, I feel more capable to enter full-time ministry as a baccalaureate graduate this summer.
God has blessed me tremendously through my involvement with the Pastoral Mentoring Program this year. I have learned more than I ever expected from my mentor, Pastor Steve Walikonis, and have gained some wonderful experience through the various activities I did through this program — whether it was member visitation, participating in the Village Church staff meetings, giving Bible studies out at the Washington State Penitentiary, or the many preaching opportunities I’ve had, it has all helped me feel better prepared and equipped to begin a life of full-time pastoral ministry.
My time out at the penitentiary has had a profound impact on me. One recent incident in particular left me in awe at the way God can use our humble efforts to change lives. Back in December, early on in my ministry out there, I had the opportunity to preach in the Minimum Security Unit. It was a small group of men out there, no more than seven or eight guys, and for my sermon I shared some of my testimony with them.
After the service was over, each of the men came up to me and thanked me for sharing, but one of the men was particularly touched by what I had shared. His name was Robert and he told me that he had never attended any of our Seventh-day Adventist services before and had come to this particular service merely out of boredom. But he said that my testimony had struck a chord with him and he said he would come back to our service again the next week. I thanked him for his kind words and praised the Lord for touching people through my words. But because most of my ministry out at the penitentiary is in the West Complex, I didn’t get a chance to go back to the MSU until just a few weeks ago, when I was asked to lead out in their weekly group Bible study in place of another volunteer who couldn’t make it.
Going into the Bible study, I remembered this man Robert who said he would come again to our meetings and wondered if he would be there, but didn’t really expect it. When the men walked into the room at the beginning of the meeting, I introduced myself, not thinking that any of them would remember me and I noticed that Robert was there. After I introduced myself, all the men informed me in no uncertain terms that they did indeed remember me and the testimony I had shared back in December. Then Robert spoke up and said, “Your testimony got me hooked and I’ve been to every single Adventist meeting since that Sabbath.”
I was speechless. All I had done was share what God had done for me in my life, but the Lord used that to spark something in Robert that has led him to be one of our most regular attenders in the MSU. This is indicative of all the many, many times in which prisoners have told me that something I said touched them in a special way. Whether it was a Bible study on some topic that, unbeknownst to me, they had been struggling with or a sermon that motivated one of the men to make a change in their life, God has shown over and over again that He can and will take my meager efforts and multiply them greatly to touch others and expand his kingdom. I praise the Lord for what He has done and the things He was shown me. As I prepare to embark on full-time ministry at the Village Church, I can’t wait to see what God will do next!
Youth ministry is fascinating. Junior High ministry (what I have been doing this year) is even more interesting, It is primary evangelism in many ways because of where the kids are developmentally and spiritually. Many of them made commitments in 5th grade to follow Jesus. However, these commitments almost always are influenced by a family system or social pressure. This is not a bad thing by any means but as they grow their faith becomes more individualized. This is the key to Junior High ministry, the students are developing the capacity to think for themselves and now the gospel must be presented to them again in order for them to accept it as their own individual. Some kids are well on their way to a decision such as this and others are farther behind but we are ministering to all the best way that we can. High Five (the Jr. high group) is a worshiping community for Jr. high students.
Presence has been a huge part of the successes we have experienced this year. Knowing the students by name and greeting them as we visit the schools has made footprints which will last a long time. A big reason we do what we do with this age group is to give them the opportunity to be in community and have fun in that community which is explicitly “pro-Jesus”. In this way our students enter middle adolescents with a positive outlook on the Christianity in general and on the church. This is an invaluable asset as the world is beginning to throw at them all kinds of ideas good and bad about both of these entities.
Some fruits of this labor have been deep connections with students who realized for the first time that it was ok to share your feelings. That talking is a way of healing. We have also had several baptisms during this year and a few more coming. Overall the experience has taught me invaluable principles which I will carry with me in ministry for the rest of my life.
The mentorship program this year has been a blessing. Pastor Troy helped equip me start up a small group following along with his book Live Like You Mean It. Through this small group, we grew closer in our walk with God, became more intentional with our Christian lives, and built up a support system of friends. Within this group, there was one person who particularly was having difficulty with forgiveness. He and I sat down and talked quite a few times about it. We prayed with each other and I led a Bible study on forgiveness with the student. He wanted to forgive but was having a difficult time moving forward. We grew to a more clear understanding of what it meant for us to forgive through the parable of the unforgiving servant found in Matthew 1 8:21 -35. 1-le has since been able to move forward in fully forgiving the people who had hurt him.
I was also able to be involved in studying the Bible for purpose of baptism with a 7th grader from Rogers. He was interested in doing Bible studies, so we decided to pray about it. Pastor Troy and I began to meet with him twice/week—once with me and once with Troy. While ultimately it is up to each person to make their own decision for Christ, it was quite a wonderful experience to be involved in helping the boy more clearly understand topics he chose like the Bible as God’s Word, forgiveness, compassion toward others, and others. Through these Bible studies, he has chosen to continue with his decision to dedicate his life to the Lord publicly by being baptized Sabbath June 8,2013 in the Walla Walla University Church.
I joined the pastoral mentorship program rather reluctantly. However, my time with Pastor Johnson at the Umapine SDA church has been educational and enlightening. My main responsibilities have included working with the youth. Although our youth are not many in number (nor especially consistent in their attendance), it has been my privilege to be a little part of their journey. Throughout the year, I have been tutoring an eighth grader at Milton-Stateline school. While not a member in our district, his guardian lives a stone’s throw from our church. I am hopeful that he will join the Umapine pathfinder club next year.
I don’t have any big miraculous stories to share. My experience has been quiet yet meaningful. I have gotten to know the people, gone to potluck, taught pathfinder honors, been involved in the church’s revival series, and preached more than I thought I could. Board meeting, prayer meeting, hospital visits, social committee, outreach team — Pastor Johnson has been kind enough to encourage me to be an active participant in all aspects of this church’s life and ministry. Having always attended college churches, the family atmosphere has been an adjustment for me, but it is something that I dearly love.
Pastor Johnson is one of the mostly kindly men I know. He truly has a heart for people and for God. I will miss our weekly mentorship meetings. His insights, council, and guidance has been invaluable to me. I do not know if I will go into pastoral ministry, but if that is where God wants me, I could not have had a better model than Pastor Johnson.
The largest impact I have had this year with the Pastor Mentoring Program is my involvement with the Blue Mountain Valley Center in Weston. This building was pretty messy and sad from the few uses it had in the last year but it has so much potential for outreach to the community. Pastor Matt and I worked hard on cleaning the building up to make it ready for the public use. We also did a lot of planning and asking around to find out what the biggest need in Weston was. It was clear that the kids of the community needed a safe place to come, learn and have safe fellowship with others. We now have planned to open the Center once a week on Wednesday nights to provide skill building activities, stories, healthy snacks and games tbr the kids to enjoy. It will be opening next week and will be a great continuing ministry to the children and families of the surrounding community of Weston.
Much of the other involvement I had with the Blue Mountain Valley SDi Church did not produce current visible results but instead produced a significant amount of seed planting in the hearts of many people. I helped lead out the youth class many weeks, played with the kids down at Mission on Saturday afternoons and I preached a few inspiring sermons to the church. It was wonderful to be involved with a church and work side by side with Pastor Matt. There is much more I could talk about but I have mentioned those stories which I feel had the most impact on others’ lives.
My experience at the City Church this year was a journey of learning. I have learned more and more about my strengths and weaknesses in ministry from my time at the City Church. I have learned how important preparation is. Doug taught me that the more you have planned the more relaxed and “go with the flow” you can be. When you have the whole program planned out, the more room you have to switch things up. Some of my weaknesses are planning and communication and networking. I know that if I do become a pastor those are two things that I will have to keep working on. I think God has really blessed me with the ability to relate to a wide range of young people. I see it through my similar experiences and backgrounds. It has been really neat to see the way God has led this program, and the wonderful people He has brought to it.
The young people that come to IMPACT don’t have a Seventh Day Adventist background. They have either come because of our outreach program or they are foster children of Ginger, a church member. IMPACT, for many of them, is really the only time they spend in a church setting, and maybe the only time they ever have. John has been coming since the beginning, and he is always glad to help out. The way he has grown since he has first started coming is pretty amazing. He loves to come, and seeing him read aloud from the Bible, I’m sure brings a lot of joy to Heaven. He has opened up to me a little bit about his family. He is in deep need of a friend. Sometimes I wish this could be a full time job so I could give these kids more of my time, They really deserve it. They are a great bunch, and I believe that there were many seeds planted this year. I think many in this group will someday look back and see it. When I see a girl who was struggling with drugs make decisions on her own to go to Young Life and seek out her faith, that is when I see God working in mighty ways. I am really thankful for this opportunity and the impact that it has made on my life also. I am going to keep in touch with them, and I pray that there are more opportunities and influences in all of their lives to keep seeking after Him.
I have seen Christ work through myself as 1 ied youth Sabbath School with my girlfriend, Ray and his wife. At the beginning of the year the majority ofthe youth seemed hopeless. They were very disinterested in Jesus and seemed to only care about using drugs. They didn’t care about anything that was brought up in the classes and made sure it was known that they would rather be somewhere else.
Over time this has been changing. The youth still have some bad habits with drugs, but they are striving to get better and one of them has even checked himself into rehab. I have talked to Cry about this group on a number of occasions and he has noticed improvement in the group as well. The battle with bad habits and uninterested youth has not been fully won yet but we have made significant progress in getting them more interested in Jesus and less interested in drug use.
On one recent occasion the youth completely opened up to Rebekah and I and shared their feelings about the classes. They admitted that they were rebellious in the beginning on purpose to see if Ray would stick around, but he dii They also talked about how drug use is not a primary problem anymore for them. This climax has shown me that Jesus has been using me to reach the youth ofthe church and together we have made a significant impact on them.
Throughout the year in our IMPACT youth outreach program I built several great, strong friendships with kids I thought would never warm up to me when I began the program. Ministering to the local public high school was extremely strange to me—it was very unnatural to put myself out there and get to know perfect strangers. However, it was an experience that has helped me grow immensely and I now really enjoy getting to know new people.
IMPACT’s mission is not necessarily to baptize youth into the Adventist church, but rather to introduce them to Jesus. Many of the youth we spent time with had little to no knowledge of common Bible stories, so we kept our worship talks fairly basic. The coolest part about this was that it brought up so many challenging questions. One of the girls in our youth group also comes to Sabbath School, and she’s a foster kid living with one of the Adventist church members. A few months ago on a Sabbath morning in class, we were discussing how wonderful it is to have the hope of heaven in our future. The girl spoke up, “What if I’m not going to heaven?” Wow. What do you say to that? She explained that she was basically agnostic and that it just didn’t seem that important to her. The staff and I, as well as other youth in the Sabbath school class were able to share with her what our faith meant to us, and why we held onto it so tightly. She wasn’t very responsive, but I know that it is definitely something she’s been mulling over for quite some time.
To be bluntly honest, it’s difficult to simply introduce someone to how amazing a relationship with God can be and not really get to see any of the results. But I know that God is working in the lives of the youth we’ve spent time with. I know that they have been impacted by the staff working in the IMPACT program, even if it’s only been by a listening ear and a safe environment. And I know that I’ve been impacted by it as well.