When it rains, it pours

I know you have all heard the phrase “when it rains, it pours.” The phrase seems to have defined the past few weeks for our city, our family, and our little church. Here in the Burgh, we have experienced some crazy precipitation. Snow melts followed by rain and temperatures in the 60s are leading to problems for this town that generally knows how to handle winter weather. But what can you do when the Ohio River rises to its highest point in 13 years? Roads were closed, landslides have been affecting entire neighborhoods, trees and roofs are being damaged, and the power has gone out for many families.

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On the highway near the intersection of two of the busiest interstates in the city!   Photo Credit: Larry Gioia

For our family, the rain revealed some issues with our new house that needed resolved as quickly as possible. In one week, we realized our basement takes on water during heavy rain, our roof was leaking (which led to some damp spots on the ceilings in two bedrooms), and our dryer was no longer functioning. In order to get the dryer up and running again, strangely enough, our best option is to completely replace our breaker box, which apparently is so old that the manufacturer went out of business about 40 years ago!

Through all that we go through in life, it may seem like the phrase “when it rains, it pours” only refers to difficult situations. But during this seemingly crazy time, we’ve also seen it apply to blessings. Through the physical, financial, and emotional “rain” of all that has been going on, God has poured blessing onto us and our church! Let us share a just few of them with you:

  • During a small break in the weather this week, we were able to have a new roof completely installed, so we will not have to worry about it once #2 comes. The sun came out, and we had a chance to meet new neighbors and to interact with many neighbors we have not seen throughout the winter. We even found out about a few needs we hope to meet in the coming weeks!
  • God has provided jobs for members of our Bible study who desperately needed them.
  • We hosted a women’s event that rejuvenated many of the ladies in our group and introduced us to a new friend.
  • God gave us an incredible spiritual conversation with one couple we have been praying for fervently over the last 3 months.
  • We took a whirlwind road trip to NC and had a chance to visit friends and churches who partner with us in prayer, through mission teams, and by contributing financially to the church. Throughout the road trip, we were prayed for, encouraged, fed, housed, and loved in such beautiful ways. New partnerships were formed and old ones strengthened. It was refreshment for our souls!
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Visiting friends and playing at the museum!

You see, even in the rain, we are always reminded of God’s faithfulness! After all, He is the one who “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). Are the sun or the rain trials we cannot face? No! We serve the God of the universe, who is always working His plans toward the fulfillment of His promises and “for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). The promise we are holding to in this season? John 4:35b-36: “Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. ”

No matter what this life brings, we pray to remain faithful to Him who brought us first to His kingdom, then to this city and these people, that we may see the harvest brought in and see both sower and reaper rejoice.  

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Traction in the Snow

It is a cold, frigid winter here in Pittsburgh. Like a lot of places in the states, we are battling to keep snow off the roads and heat in our homes. One of the downsides of the winter season is the seeming lack of human interaction that can occur. For churches who want to reach out to others, the cold can thwart many outreach efforts. It’s really hard to get any traction going. BUT it’s not impossible.

Arlington Baptist Church sent up a college group at the beginning of the month intent on helping start some traction for us, and God greatly used their efforts and freezing feet. The very hour they arrived, I put them to work cleaning a child care room at the local church where we have just begun to host a community Bible study. This Bible study combines the core team of 412 Church with a group that had been studying together in the home of our friend Micah Lester (who is also a member of the core team). By meeting in a public location rather than our homes, we are able to invite even more people to join us and provide child care for the many kiddos our families have. Cultivate

God blessed this Bible study, and we are seeing great growth in this area of ministry. After cleaning the nursery, the Arlington team also provided childcare for the first week of the study so that all of us could meet together uninterrupted.

To help us form new bonds, the Arlington team learned a new strategy and put into practice what they learned by trying what I call “Eat to Exegete.” When we “eat to exegete,” the team and I maximize any time we spend eating out by engaging our waitresses with questions about their lives and asking to pray for them. On this trip, we were able to get to know some of the real problems a few ladies were facing–in one case, the suicide of a teenaged son. Practicing these humanizing habits in public settings is a great way to serve others in a situation where we often expect to be served. We also always make sure to leave a good tip!

The team also made meals for many not-yet-Christians Megan and I know to help us continue to build relationships. We delivered a ton (and I mean  a ton) of frozen chicken pot pies to friends who included Syrian refugees, Iraqi refugees, ex-drug addicts, ex-homeless, and some newcomers to Pittsburgh. A group of us guys got to sit down with the Iraqi family, eat with them, and engage them in conversation. Wow; not bad for the dead of winter!

Though six inches of snow and temperatures in the single digits may make the winter season seem like the worst time to gain traction in ministry, we are finding, unsurprisingly, that our God can do whatever He pleases whenever He pleases. Praise God for the work He is doing this winter!

Quitting my Day Job

I (Greg) have been working twelve-hour shifts on weekend nights for the past six and a half years. I often came home from Saturday night’s shift at 4am and then served at church Sunday morning. I also was working in Ohio, which meant long commutes and building relationships with non-Pittsburgh people I wouldn’t be able to invest in throughout the week. Although my job was a huge blessing in how it helped get us here to Pittsburgh and provide much of what we need physically, it became apparent over the last few months that something needed to change. Church planting responsibilities have ramped up, and it was beginning to feel like I was giving my spare time to the work God meant to be our full-time focus.

Although I see bi-vocationalism as a means to provide while being a viable part of the community, I clearly wasn’t in my community with this job. So here’s what you need to know:

  1. I quit my Walmart job. (Whoohoo!)
  2. I have been hired for a season (3-6 months) as a part-time interim associate pastor at Living Faith Community Church.
  3. I am in the interview process with Marketplace Chaplains to become a (really) part-time chaplain for a local Pittsburgh warehouse. This is a great opportunity for me to use my years as a forklift driver to speak into the lives of local workers in times of crisis.
  4. Additional funding for the work of 412 church has come in the form of a couple of great churches and individuals who have come on board as planting partners. We are thankful for the support shown by our partners in this way and will seek to honor their trust and confidence as we work together for the gospel in Pittsburgh!

Please pray that God will continue to provide all that I and our little family needs as we have taken this step of faith. Pray that we will be sensitive to His spirit and use this time to lean into the work He has for us. I am very excited for this new season. Thanks for praying alongside us. If many pray, many will be able to rejoice at God’s work. 

-Greg, Megan, and Graeson

 “On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.” 
2 Corinthians 1:10b-11

Summer Recap 2017

Hello from Pittsburgh!

 

I am so excited to tell you about our 2017 summer adventures. We had a packed summer for sure. Here are the big highlights…

June- Super Summer Sports Camp + Pleasant Garden Family Mission Team

Pleasant Garden Baptist Church came up for the week and hosted the Super Summer Sports Camp in the borough of Crafton. We had over 90 kids registered over the course of the week. Most of these kids do not come from christian homes. They all had a chance to have fun and hear the gospel story as told through the story of Joseph. It was a great way to introduce myself to the residents of Crafton right before Megan and I moved there later that month. After each morning of sports camp, the team quickly ate their (delicious) lunches and ran out into the community to serve in many ways. And for even more fun, we got a tour of PNC Park! 

July- We bought a House!

Megan and I found a house that fit our needs, was within the school district we are targeting as a church, AND is right next door to one of our core team families. We are so excited to call this place our home as we invest further in our community. Also, if you want to visit, we have a room just for you!

 

August- Arlington Family Mission Team

At the beginning of the month we hosted another mission team, this one from Arlington Baptist Church. They helped with serving food for gospel relationships we have made. They also made extra food for our core team members in order to encourage them to share the meal with non-believers. After a lot of food prep, They watched the core team kiddos so that we could go out as a church and escape an escape room! It was fun and since we had the best time we made it to the board.

Later that weekend, the team went door to door (Like Bay Leaf Baptist in May)  in Carnegie asking questions from our community survey. We had a lot of great feedback from this outing. Two ladies without a faith family are even coming to one of our small groups on wednesday nights because of this outreach. Please pray for consistent faith and growth for these two neighbors.

Core Team Start Up

We have started our first week of Core Team training at our home! I am so excited for what God is doing and I can’t wait to see this group grow on mission. We are going over the core values (What are Core Values (1)) of our church as well as sharing our testimonies and heavy duty prayer times every third week of training. Please pray for God to show off through our team and bring many people into the Kingdom. 

 

KNOCK, KNOCK

Last month, Bay Leaf Baptist Church (my church home for the 8 years I lived in NC) sent a team to help do some work here in Pittsburgh.

For the last year and a half, Megan and I have been getting to know our neighbors in the borough of Carnegie. In that time, we have been able to befriend our immediate neighbors, listen to the stories of those who live along our street, and share the gospel with a few of them. This relational work is vital to knowing who God has called us to and how best to serve them.

However, it has been slow-going work. We are only two people and can only cover so much ground in relationship building. That’s where Bay Leaf came in. Steven Madsen and a crew of college students came up to multiply our efforts ten fold.

The first night they arrived, we enjoyed some classic Pittsburgh baseball.  It was a great time to catch up with the Madsens and get to know the rest of the team.

 

The next day, I shared with the team a little about the city of Pittsburgh and what God is doing on the ground. We got lunch downtown and then quickly got into the action of surveying Carnegie. In the two days this team was with us, they covered more ground than I could have in a year. We tackled two major chunks of Carnegie, knocking on doors and asking four survey questions:

  1. What do you like about Carnegie?
  2. What would you change about your community?
  3. What do you appreciate in a spiritual community?
  4. How could a spiritual community best serve you and the community?

 

 

The answers to these questions help us understand the perception of an entire community. How do people feel about their lives and the role of spiritual communities?

The mission team’s efforts helped in a few ways:

  1. They proved that knocking on doors actually works in Pittsburgh! We went surveying on Saturday and a rainy Sunday. The Pen’s game was on Sunday, and we still had people answer the door. Many people were actually glad someone was asking them questions about their community.
  2. We discovered that there is a lot of hopelessness. The older generation wishes things could go back to the way they were, and the new generation wishes things were better than they are.
  3. We ran into a lot of people who found church to be either a place for nice events or something they rarely–if ever–think about. Although Pittsburghers are historically religious, there seems to be a generational divide between those who have at least attended church at some time in their lives and those who haven’t or who don’t give it a second thought.
  4. There are people here who are interested in spiritual communities. This was an exciting revelation and one we hope to capitalize on soon.

Overall, the team was so helpful and encouraging to us a planters. Planting can be slow and tedious work, but partners like Bay Leaf propel the work forward. Thank you, Bay Leaf!

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Training All Around

Hey Guys!

So these past few months have been full of travel and training, and it’s not stopping anytime soon. Last month I had the privilege of visiting with churches in North Carolina to share the vision of church planting in Pittsburgh. That trip was such a blessing. I even came back with gifts from Arlington Baptist Church, including Graeson’s current favorite instrument: the guitar. We are so thankful for the love and support we’ve seen come from people all over, and NC Baptists have been especially incredible. File_000.jpeg

Last week, I had the chance to go to a 3 day DPCI training intensive about the essentials of church planting. I don’t think in those three days they wasted a second of my time. I learned so much about waiting on God, planning for future Kingdom growth, and how to care for those God entrusts to us. I am sure what we learned will serve us well in the future, and I highly recommend attending a training if you are interested in discovering what it takes to plant a church. The training was graciously provided by the Annie Armstrong missions fund and the cooperative program of the SBC. Opportunities like this are just another reason I am proud to partner with like-minded churches.

We are still meeting together each with with a core group of families to continue to explore church planting. Our time together has been solidifying us as a family of missional servants. We are even starting to look ahead to outreaches and events that are headed our way soon. (I’ll share more about those in a future post.) I am so excited for the future and how God will grow His church! Thanks for following our adventure in church planting.