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By Pastor Chris Popadich

   The incredible worship team was halfway through the second song during second service. For those unfamiliar with our second service routine, junior high students sit on the left and high school students sit on the right in the front two rows of the sanctuary.

   On this particular Sunday, the first row was packed! I mean it was elbow-to-elbow with junior high boys and girls squeezed into the first row. Then, a young woman arrived in a bright yellow shirt. Meagan, our Junior High director, was worshiping in the second row when she spotted the young woman approaching the very full row of students and invited her to join the second row.

   As one of the pastors who most often sits in front of these students, I knew she was new to the junior high. Something magical happened as the set of three songs finished and the students began to sit down. Like a giant centipede, one-by-one the guys inched over and a space opened up enough for this young woman to be called from the second to the first row.

   I could see it was clearly uncomfortable for most of them. Some of their arms were over the pew; some leaning forward to not bump shoulders; all were now squeezed next to their neighbors. But it didn’t matter. This row of 16 junior highers invited a new member into their community, despite the discomfort of adding a 17th person. It may have been awkward, but this is a powerful testimony to the incredible work of God in the lives of our junior high students. I am certain these things don’t come naturally, but only as a result of Gospel transformation that is occuring in the hearts of our students.

   Thank you Meagan Bergem and Jr. High leaders for discipling our students in the area of hospitality!

2JrHigh5.18

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Communications

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By Jerry McKneely

I attend the Neighbors aRe Us (or simply “NRU”) dinners each month on the last Thursday because of my passion for serving. Since my childhood, I recall my mother was a woman that cherished meeting the needs of others through serving in small ways, purely as an act of love. It is this passion that I have carried with me during my life that led me to invite my friend, Larry. Though Larry does not attend FPC, he has joined me and the team of volunteers that help at the event in serving the adjacent community at NRU not once, but twice!

   Truly, the joy that stems from an experience where we can serve one another is thrilling and must be shared. We all find small ways to serve that brings us much; and now I have had the pleasure of experience the joy of serving the community alongside my friend.

Communications
by Deborah Hughes
 
   Have you noticed that the best way to get to know people at First Pres is to become involved? Well, taking the Matthew class certainly did provide that! We experienced and enjoyed the lively interaction between the pastors on the panel with each other and with the class' participants. A growing sense of community was taking place each Sunday between all of us!
   Just as importantly, participants grew to understand Matthew's Jewish way of thinking and writing better through the help provided by the panel of ministers. We became better equipped to comprehend the intent of the original writer's message. As Pastor Paul Armstrong said last Sunday when he was ending the class in prayer, "We would not be your people apart from your Word & your Holy spirit."
   All the ministers reminded us throughout the study that at the heart of all of Christ's teachings in Matthew was our need to change our hearts. It is not our ethnicity, gender, education, social class, or even our religious practices God cares about; He cares about our hearts and that they are turned towards and open to Him. It is our hearts that make us God's community of people.
Communications
by Meagan Bergem, Director of Junior High Ministries
 
   Spring Break was a week of service and praising Jesus as 21 Junior High students and 3 adults headed up to Sugar Pine Christian Camp to clear trails, rake up pine needles, cut wood, pick up trash, and whatever else was asked of them.
 
   14 High School students and 5 adults participated alongside other local youth groups in "Break-Away" camping overnight at People's Church. They served by engaging with students on the playground of Lowell Elementary, cleaning up at Martin Park, planting flowers at Lighthouse Recovery Center, and working in the food closet and thrift store of Catholic Charities. We are excited about the ways God showed up in the lives of our youth, stretching them beyond their comfort zones and creating a real sense of community among them. 
 
Enjoy these reflections from some of our students on their experiences. 
 
Georgie Meadors, Freshman, Rooted High School Ministry 
   "I was so glad to attend this Spring Break trip. My favorite part of this trip was bonding with all of the kids at the elementary school we helped out with. I've always loved kids, but these children made me love them even more! God has blessed me with the opportunity to go on this amazing trip; we served at places I never would have thought I would volunteer, like Catholic Charities and the Lighthouse. We did a variety of work that completely changed my attitude towards service. Ever since the trip, I've had a more grateful 
and helping heart."
 
Rileigh Armstrong, 8th Grade, Ignite Jr. High Ministry  
   "I learned from my experience that when no one else notices your hard work, God sees your effort. God is pleased when we do work for His glory and kingdom. I also saw the importance of working with my Christian friends and community because God finds joy when we come together to work to bring Him praise. I learned that it is so much more rewarding to see the work we had done that will help others and knowing it was done for God. I look forward to applying this experience to school, my friend groups, and my sports teams by leading by example and being a quiet leader for God's glory and not to please man."
 

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Kate Vaccaro, Freshman, Rooted High School Ministry 
  "I experienced God through the worship. At the beginning of the week, it was overwhelming; the lights, loud music, crowds and fog machine was too much. Eventually, once I learned the songs, I would run up to the front with my friends and sing with full hearts. I felt pure joy during and after the worship."
 
Claire Predmore, 8th Grade Ignite Jr. High Ministry
  "I learned that God wants us to serve him in all ways without complaining and that 'I am a gift' and God put me, and all of us in this world for a reason, and we should use our gift to serve God. God is praised for the service we perform, so we should serve Him with our whole hearts and souls. I learned that we are stronger together. My experience taught me lessons on how to be more committed as a disciple, such as 'do everything without complaining or arguing,' and 'throw off anything that hinders me.' I can apply this at school, where I should not fall into gossiping with friends, and this verse can lead me to friends who don't make poor decisions." 
Communications

by Marty Martin & Josh Martin

...When I reach this point, I realize how faithful God was and just how amazing of an opportunity it is to be used by God on trips like these.”

Report from Marty  

 Last February, Marty and Josh Martin and John Verwey traveled to western Cambodia on a medical and dental mission trip. In eight clinic days, the team of doctors, dentists and the reading glass clinic saw over 4200 patients. People would travel and then wait for several hours to spend 10 minutes with a doctor or to have a painful tooth pulled.

   The most amazing thing on this trip was the “spiritual counseling component” of our team. We partnered with a team of pastors that were local to the clinic site for that day. These pastors are unpaid shepherds of small house churches and have little access to encouragement and training. Over 1,000 patients expressed the desire to become Christians, which totally overwhelmed the pastors who said, “This never happens in Cambodia!” After waiting all day for medical help, people were standing in line waiting to talk with a pastor!

Josh's Reflections

   My experience in Cambodia was spent working in the dental clinic sterilizing equipment, or as I affectionately like to call it, “baking cookies”, as well as fitting prosthetic arms on those with forearm amputations. This opportunity came up during a gap year between my undergraduate and medical education.

   In my role, I had an opportunity to see the work being done by the other medical professionals as well as the amazing working being done in spiritual counseling by the local pastors. During one day in the Bavel province of Battambang, we saw 483 patients, including 89 dental (a high for the trip), 250 medical, 144 eyeglass, with 326 salvations for Christ!

   I have been reflecting some on my nervousness and apprehensiveness leading up to the trip. Often times, the night before leaving, whether it be to Mexico, the Dominican Republic, or Cambodia, I find myself in a place where I question if I was ready or if i should have signed up at all; time and time again, when I reach this point, I realize how faithful God was and just how amazing of an opportunity it is to be used by God on trips like these.

    I ask you to fervently pray for all the patients we saw and all of those who have dedicated their lives to Christ. Pray that roots would grow deep into their hearts that would affect not only them and their lives but the lives of those in their communities. Pray also for of the local pastors who are now tending to these new believers. Thank you for your continued support!

 
Communications