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Dear First Pres,

  When I think about praying for something I am worried about, I often think of a quiet solitary moment shared between myself and God as I pour out my heart to him. At times I may even have thought that these lonesome moments are the most powerful and effective. I don't want to say that that are not, but instead remember that God's people many times have prayed together and God has answered just as well. In the story of Esther, we see a woman who calls her people, the people of God, too fast and pray before she goes before King Xerxes on her people's behalf. People all over the land are moved in prayer, asking the Lord to give favor to Queen Esther as she comes before the king. Favor before the king is granted and God's people are delivered from the hands of their enemies.
   In Acts 12 we see the story of a group of faithful believers who, in hiding, prayed that their friend Peter may be set free from the prison in which he was held. And yet comically when he shows up at their front door they are surprised at the expediency of God's work.
   And there are other examples when God's people have prayed together corporately and interceded on behalf of those they love, believing our good and mighty God can work and move powerfully in the minds and hearts of families, neighborhoods, school districts, cities, states, and nations.
   There is a phrase going around, "The youth are the leaders of tomorrow but we as teachers, parents, grandparents, (etc.) ... are the leaders of today." It comes out of a place that is calling adults to act as leaders of our children instead of the other way around.
   Yet when I think of us as a church leading our children, I can think of no better place for us to be than in prayer together, interceding for our youth before God. For as we pray, every worry that we might have about what our students are learning, seeing, experiencing, and being tempted by; each worry is counterpointed by faith in our mighty God who "began a good work in [our students] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" Phil. 1:6.
    

Blessings,

Chris

Audrey Arce

Dear First Pres,

   In the last six days, I've had the privilege of sitting with three of our mission partners ... and I am so encouraged about what the Lord is doing.
 
   On Saturday night a small group of FPCers gathered with Bob and Jan Blincoe. Bob is the president of the U.S. office of Frontiers, a mission sending agency focused on reaching the parts of the Muslim world where there are no missionaries. According to Bob, as I've heard from other sources, this is a season of unprecedented response to the Gospel by Muslims. We give praise to God for this, of course, but Bob was quick to add that there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done. For example, according to Frontiers, 86% of Muslim people in the world have never even met a follower of Jesus. Frontiers is working to change that with all the energy the Lord gives them, and they're praying the Lord of the harvest to send workers into the field. God is at work among the Muslim people, but they need witnesses who will share with them the Good News about Jesus.
 
   On Tuesday night another small group gathered with the Stoscher family. Mark and Ruthie Stoscher are mission partners in Erseke, Albania. You might remember that we just sent a team to Erseke this summer. Unfortunately, the Stoscher family wasn't able to be there while our team was in Albania, but the gathering on Tuesday made up for it as the stories were shared of our team's experience in the Stoscher's mission field. God has done an amazing work in Erseke (and in Korce, where our other partners are working). When Mark and Ruthie moved to Albania some 23 years ago there was almost no Christian presence in Erseke. Now, Erseke is home to a thriving and active church, a Christian summer camp, an international Bible school, and an orphanage. It's amazing what God can do through his people when they obey His call.
 
   This morning I sat with the leaders of the Pregnancy Care Center here in Fresno. They are getting ready to make a significant upgrade in facilities (moving to a building at Olive and College) that will allow them to care for more women and their families. It was so good to hear about the way the Pregnancy Care Center team lovingly builds relationship with the women (and men) who walk into their office at such an important moment in their lives. Many lives have been saved because of their work, and many have come to faith in Jesus through the center's ministry. Praise the Lord.
 
   So, today, I'm just reminded about the incredible work that God is doing in our city and around the world. Remember, beloved, no matter what the circumstances may be in your life right now, God is bringing His redeeming transformation to our city and world. That's what happens as disciples of Jesus yield to His leadership in their everyday lives. May, then, you yield to His leadership today that His Kingdom will come and His will be done.

Blessings,

Jeremy

Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor

by Margie Nunez and Marsha Wilson

 City Bible Adventure was a week of learning and fun as we welcomed 135 children and 83 volunteers here at FPC. These children spent the week learning who Jesus is: The Promised Fulfilled, Our Lord, Our Rescuer, Our Redeemer, and With Us. They also enjoyed dining together, worshipping and praying together, learning Bible stories and truths, getting soaked with water games and dividing into various tribes to explore biblical truths in a variety of learning styles (construction projects, science experiments, drama, sports, jamming with homemade musical instruments, and creating works of art).

   It was our 2nd year of doing this collaborative program for children in the evening in partnership with World Impact, Youth for Christ, Martin Park, On Ramps Covenant Church, Hope Now Bible Church, Bethany Inner City Church and FPC. 

   The greatest joy came on Thursday evening, when 50 children gave their hearts to Jesus for the first time. Let me share with you Marsha Wilson’s account of her experience that evening.

   I was honored all week to be participating in CBA, but this was something that was the highlight of the entire week. During our closing time together in the sanctuary, Miss Daisy Flower, Agent 777 (aka Elizabeth Rooney) talked to the children about things that were serious. She told them that we all need a Savior. She reminded them of the liquid demonstration she did the night before where dirty water (representing our sinful lives) was made clean when Jesus gets poured in. That’s how she explained that Jesus is Our Redeemer, shedding his blood to make our lives clean again. Miss Daisy Flower told the children that we all need a Savior to be forgiven. The children were invited to ask Jesus into their lives and if they wanted to do that, they could take their name cards out of the name tag holders and bring them to the cross. 

   I worked with the preschool children and was sitting with one of the little girls.  As children were going up to put their names on the cross, the Holy Spirit told me to ask this little girl what she wanted to do with Jesus.  So I asked her, then she looked down at her name tag and pulled the card out of its holder. I walked with her to the cross and she taped her name to it. All the children who did this prayed a corporate prayer with Elizabeth, asking Jesus Christ to be their Lord and Savior.

   This is what we prayed and worked for during the week. My prayer for the children who made new or renewed decisions is that they grow in a deep and loving relationship with Jesus, the Son; God, the Father; and are led by the Holy Spirit to share this good news with others

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Terry Jaurena
Mission/Outreach Director

Dear First Pres,

   If you weren't here on Sunday, you missed a great celebration of what the Lord is doing through the people who gather for worship on M Street between Calaveras and Stanislaus. We had a combined worship service with Bethany Inner City Church and Hope Now Bible Church, and it was wonderful! It was wonderful because it really was a shared service (not our service with them as guests). It was wonderful because we heard and experienced a taste of what God is doing in these partner ministries. It was wonderful because it gave us a picture of what it might mean for FPC Fresno to become more diverse. And it was wonderful because the Holy Spirit was at work among us to draw our hearts together in grateful praise.
 
   So, the combined worship service was wonderful, but so was the combined service of loving our neighborhood together. I know that there were many who weren't able to stick around for the shared ministry after the service, but those who did were blessed ... even though it was hot. They split up into groups (mostly made up of a mix of folks from each church) and walked the streets around our church to pick up trash and offer prayer for the people they encountered. It was awesome. Most people were eager to receive prayer, the streets looked cleaner than they did before, and (once they got a Popsicle and some cold water) our teams came back with a smile.
 
   One of our Core Values as a church is Transformational Partnership. I can hardly think of a seven day period throughout my time at FPC Fresno that more explicitly exampled that core value. From Sunday night through Friday we partnered with six other ministries to run a fantastic week of City Bible Adventure. Then on Sunday we gathered with the two other churches that meet on our campus to worship. Finally, we capped it off with a shared project to show the love of Christ to our neighborhood. Yet, these seven days form just one example of the many ways that we are partnering with other ministries and organizations every day for the advancement of the Gospel.
 
   Why do we value partnership? It's because we are not simply trying to build the First Presbyterian Church of Fresno kingdom. We are participating in the coming of God's Kingdom. It's so much bigger than our congregation. Plus, when we partner, even though it can make things more complicated, we gain so much more. We learn new things. We allow others to learn from us. And, we show the world that though there are many expressions of the local church we are united in Christ. Finally, as we experienced on Sunday, partnership can be really fun and encouraging. Partnership, when done right, is transformational.
 
   So, I hope you were encouraged on Sunday by what the Lord is doing. I hope you were moved to remember these two partner churches in prayer. I hope you were inspired to be a disciple, empowered by the Spirit, who is fishing for people. And I hope you were motivated to keep loving the neighborhood in which God has placed us.

Blessings,

Jeremy

Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor

Dear First Pres,
   I'm so thankful that God chose to put our congregation in a building in Downtown Fresno. Whether we walk or drive to our physical church building, we can be thankful for the Lord's placement and for the wisdom of those past elders who decided years ago to remain in our current location.
   There is a consistent refrain of those who have been around the church for a long time: the landscape around our church is always changing! Even as we walk out our front door we have brand new townhouse apartments to our south and west, less than a football field away.
   We also have two wonderful campus church partners: Hope Now Bible Church with Pastor Roger Feenstra and Bethany Inner City Church with Pastor Jonathan Villalobos. Both of these have such a pastor's heart for this city, just as years ago our elders had a heart for this city.
   This coming Sunday we have the amazing privilege of demonstrating the body of Christ by uniting with Bethany and Hope Now for a joint worship service (9:30am) in our Sanctuary followed by an opportunity to love the Lowell neighborhood to our north.
   Together, we'll form teams to spread out across this downtown area. As each group walks our streets with friends from Hope Now and Bethany Church, we demonstrate that God's Church is all those who believe in Him as Lord and Savior. Our churches will be united in love for Christ and our neighbors. As one, we believe wholeheartedly in the transformational power of the Gospel and incredible movement of the Spirit, inviting Jesus to minister to people we pray for along the way.
   I'm reminded that our churches together believe in one Faith, one Hope and one Baptism. And because of the transformational partnership we have with Bethany and Hope Now Church, we get to demonstrate that we worship one Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
   I invite you this Sunday: bring your walking shoes and dress in cooler clothes so you're ready to join with our brothers and sisters, walking the neighborhoods to the north and praying for God to bring His kingdom upon the streets!
    As God strategically took Lisa and me from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to FPC in Fresno, California, He also strategically placed FPC, Bethany & Hope Now on this M Street block between Calaveras and Stanislaus Streets. Our God is a God of location and purpose. As it says in His Word in Acts 17, "God determines the time set for every person and the exact places where they should live." I believe that also applies to the exact place where He put First Presbyterian Church.
   We are here as a strategic act of God as He moved in the hearts of those who came before us. I believe part of what we're doing this Sunday is an affirmation of our call to remain downtown and minister to the surrounding community.
   Let's continue with gladness and thankfulness for the Lord's placement of us in and amongst our community with Bethany Inner City Church, Hope Now Church, the Lowell neighborhood and all the developments that are happening around us. To God be the glory.    

Amen!

Chris Popadich

Audrey Arce

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