To God be the glory as He continues to teach us how to love Fresno!
Dear First Pres,
I just want to let you know how grateful I am that so many of you adjusted your Sunday morning schedule to participate fully in our Reformation Sunday celebration. We started with a wonderful worship service. I've heard from many of you how meaningful it was to you. Then, during Education Hour, we had some great offerings. I continue to be so thankful for those who volunteer to lead in our Education Hour classes for kids and adults. Thank you! Finally, we celebrated with a great meal together. The Tri-Tip was exceptional (thanks guys) and your food was tremendous and plentiful. I was so pleased that so many of you stuck around to enjoy that time together. So, way to go, First Pres! Thank you for leaning in to our special celebration of the Reformation. I was blessed by you this weekend. And, you might as well start shopping for some tartan now, because October 28, 2018 is just around the corner.
During Sunday's sermon, I started by saying that it is good to remember. That's what we're going to be doing this Sunday as part of our worship. Yesterday was All Saints Day (November 1), and we're going to acknowledge that by remembering, in particular, those saints of our church who passed away over the last year. And while we look back in remembering the saints who have gone before us, we will be starting a new sermon series called Biblical Vision that looks to the future.
Also, during worship this last Sunday, I encouraged you to be praying the end of Psalm 139 for our congregation. The Psalmist prays, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23-24). Would you please join me in praying this on behalf of our congregation? If the Lord puts something on your heart, revealing an "offensive way" in our body, then please put that back before the Lord in confession and ask Him for forgiveness. As we do that, God will continue to bring His renewal among us.
I look forward to seeing you this Sunday. We are back to the regular schedule: 8:30, 9:40, 11:00. Daylight Savings ends, so be sure to set your clocks back.
Dear First Pres,
500 year anniversaries don't come around very often, but that's what we get to celebrate this Sunday. It was 500 years ago this Halloween that Martin Luther posted his invitation for dialogue and debate in Wittenberg, Germany. His post contained 95 theses (you can read them here). Originally, they were written in Latin and intended for an academic conversation. But they were translated into German and distributed broadly sparking a great movement of reform in the Church. It started in Germany, but soon this movement of reform, what we now call the Reformation, expanded all over Europe. The Presbyterian Church, as we know it, finds its roots primarily in the Scottish & English Reformation and a fiery Scottish preacher named John Knox. No matter what the heritage, every Protestant church owes some bit of gratitude for Luther's courageous stand for his biblical conviction.
That's why we're taking the opportunity to celebrate this Sunday. Please join your whole church family for one worship service on Sunday at 9:00am.Even if you normally don't come until 11:00am, I think you'll find it worthwhile to come early this week. After our worship service there are some great offerings for the Education Hour (kids & adults). If you're not normally here for the Education Hour, I hope you'll try it this week (look at the offerings below). And then we'll eat ... what else would we do for a celebration?!? There's going to be some amazing tri-tip offered to supplement your awesome potluck dishes. The meal is simply a chance for us to encourage one another in fellowship.
So, in review, Worship starts at 9. (Nursery & Preschool care provided & K-2nd grade depart part-way into the service for Kids Alive.) Education Hour starts at 10:30. The potluck starts at 11:30.
Please come and celebrate this important anniversary.
P.S. Since our Reformation roots are Scottish, I encourage you to wear some tartan (or the closest thing you have to it). We wouldn't want the bagpiper to feel awkwardly alone!
Dear First Pres,
It's not too often that someone in your neighborhood throws a party as epic as the one happening on Fulton Street this Saturday. The Fulton Street Party runs for most of the afternoon and evening. The main ribbon cutting ceremony starts at 3pm at the Mariposa Plaza. There are pre-ceremony performances at 2pm, and at 4 the party starts and runs all the way until 10pm. I encourage you to check out the details here. I'm so grateful for the way that many of you have signed up to volunteer with the Downtown Partnership to make the event happen. I love the witness that your service gives to our incarnational presence downtown. By participating, you're saying, "God cares about this neighborhood, and so do we." Even, if you're not volunteering, I hope you will show up and enjoy the festivities. There'll be music, food, drink, and opportunities to experience what Fulton Street has to offer. Feel free to park in our church parking lot and walk over to the festivities. We'll be providing a security guard to try to keep things secure.
In Jeremiah 29, the Lord gives a word through the prophet to the people of Judah who have been sent into exile. He tells them, in verse 7, "Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." This is a peace and prosperity moment for downtown Fresno. The hope, as you know, with the opening of Fulton Street is for the continued revitalization of our downtown. And, if we take on the mindset of the people of God who were sent into exile (a mindset which I believe is absolutely appropriate for the times we're living in), then the continued revitalization of our downtown is something that we pray for, participate in, and celebrate along the way. You know, officially our name is First Presbyterian Church of Fresno. But on Saturday I hope we can demonstrate that we are First Presbyterian Church FOR Fresno. And I pray that God will give us the opportunity to share why we care so much for the redeeming transformation of our city and world.
See ya at the party,
We've been sending teams to Albania since 1992. Not every year, but lots of years in lots of different configurations with a wide range of purposes. The church and mission team we partner most with is the town of Erseka, in the souther part of Albania. They've asked us to send teams every other year. So June of 2017 a team of 11 went to to assist the Udhekryq (Crossroads) summer camp staff prepare for their summer season and support their work the first week of camp. Four of the 11 have been to Albania before: Linda Osborne, John Goodell, Devon Samuelian and me. For these seven, it was their first time there: Susan Glover, Craig Hartsell, Emily Hartsell, Kelsey Kimball, Shannon Muzio, Ameilia Sanders and one friend of Devon's from Canada, Mikayla Banman.
I hope you enjoy the reflections below from one of our "newbees" and her father as well as a few photos and the video that Mikayla compiled. Watch the Video Here
This summer I was blessed to go to Albania with the FPC team on a trip that turned out to be the best decision of my life! We flew into Tirana, the capital city, and stayed the night at a very modern hotel, enjoying good food and some rest. We spent the next day in a van driving to Erseke through the beautiful countryside- it was like the hills in The Sound of Music!
After our arrival into town, we took a tour of the down-to-earth city lined with cobblestone streets where laundry was set out to dry and the children would laugh and play. The rest of the week we helped set up for the summer camp by painting posters and hanging up decorations with the theme of “Stërvitu” (Training, Luke 10:27). The training was focused on loving God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.
We spent the day working- but made sure to take our mandatory coffee break midday! Volleyball also became a daily thing, which I loved. After dinner, many of the staff and local youths would play soccer. It was super fun to watch the games with the beautiful sunsets in the background! Sports were a great way to connect and enjoy each other's company since we didn’t need to speak the same language.
I loved hearing amazing stories from each of the staff who did speak English; the fulltime staff come from all over the world; Germany, China, and Canada to name a few. One of my favorite parts of the experience was the walk to town each day for ice cream- it was delicious and a great chance to just sit and talk! Tomatoes, cucumber, cheese, and bread were served at each meal along with a main course- I was pleasantly surprised the food was so good and I could not thank the cooks enough!
The second week of our stay was the first week of the summer camps and the kids of Erseke came from 9am-4pm Tuesday through Friday. I was with the younger kids (7-8 year olds) and at first it was very hard for me to communicate with them due to the language barrier. But after the first few days they warmed up to me and I learned to use my actions and gestures to communicate. The girls soon figured out I could braid hair, so I quickly learned that a tug on their hair/or mine was their way of asking me to braid their hair for them- which ended up happening a lot! The kids had a blast at the above ground camp pool while I enjoyed the rock climbing with some of the older kids and staff.
We attended church on Sundays and it was beautiful to worship Jesus Christ in another language & country. Overall, I loved this trip and I didn’t want to leave! I hope to return soon as a staff member for the whole summer.
Thank you for your support in helping our team have this adventure in serving others! I am so blessed to have such wonderful support. Your time and investment in me have helped bless my life and I am very grateful to you for that gift.
P.S. Here are some thoughts from my dad, who didn’t treat me like his daughter at all on this trip, but as a mission team member:
I enjoyed playing the different sports, especially the human foosball and archery. I was totally exhausted afterwards! (Yikes!) I got to know a few of the younger Albanian men and spent time encouraging and supporting them. It was great to see the Foleza (Nest) house or orphanage and their work taking care of ten children off the street. We are now sponsoring one of the young children to help with schooling needs. We went to visit two houses that are for girls off the streets. It was awesome to see the girls’ faces light up when they were given new handmade dresses. I enjoyed listening to my daughter speak to them about her faith in Christ. Thank you for helping us to go on this mission trip. It helped us both to grow in your faith and to live outside our comfort zones and experience God’s love to this world in a new way.