by Koby Johns

   First Pres. was the last stop in a church hunting tour that lasted the better part of 2006. At FPC, Stacy and I found a generationally-diverse community that had seemed to steer clear of the “Cult of Personality’ that is characteristic of so many evangelical churches. People here were genuine, engaged, and thoughtful. Word got out that I had a guitar and a heart for worship and before too long I found myself filling in from time to time with “Elleven,” one of the second service worship bands. This in turn gave way to regular playing and eventually... leading worship in 2nd service.

    Leading worship at First Pres. has been life giving to me in many ways. Perhaps the most of which is the bond I’ve formed with the various members of the worship band. There is an inherent risk when you decide to stand up in front of people and expose yourself musically. It could all go terribly wrong, and on occasion, has. Even though you’re in the company of a friendly congregation, humiliation is always a possibility. You may forget the lyrics, play the wrong chord, break a string, play in the wrong time signature, etc.  This potential for mishap lends itself to a deep level of camaraderie amongst band mates as each person must commit themselves to the task and accept the associated risk of embarrassment. I treasure the friendships developed while leading worship at First Pres. and have found them to be an anchor both spiritually and relationally over the last decade.

    The flip side of the riskiness of worship leading is the exhilaration of having a front row seat to the Holy Spirit’s movement among God’s people. It is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. In some ways it reminds me of sailing; how you can feel the strength of the wind when a vessel comes under the power of a full sail and the transfer of energy is felt directly in your hands. In that moment you are fully aware that you are under the influence of something tremendously greater. You grip the main line intently in one hand, the helm in the other, trying earnestly to stay in the groove cut by the wind’s phantom force. When the Spirit of God blows on the Church, you feel it. You hear it. You see it. The voice of the congregation becomes magnified, people’s body language changes, you hear spontaneous prayers and songs bubble up throughout the pews. It’s the complete opposite of how you can feel and perceive tension or awkwardness in room. When God moves within a worship service, you feel anticipation, acceptance, and gratitude. Over the last 12 years I’ve witnessed our congregation react to these divine movements many times and I am increasingly thankful for those opportunities.

   As many of you know my “day job” is that of a fire captain with the Fresno Fire Department. It’s a career that is both fulfilling and challenging. One such challenge is the amount of time spent away from my family and my church. Our work schedule is called a 48/96 shift, which means I go to work 48 hours at a time. This translates into the simple fact that at a minimum, a third of my life is spent away from home. Last year the time spent away at a fire house or fire camp grew to nearly six months. That is a lot of time to be away from the people you love most and combined with the demands of leading worship, it’s just become more than I feel that I can adequately handle. As our family has grown into an adolescent life stage, I feel an increased need to be present and engaged both as a husband and father.  I’ve been mulling this decision over for about a year and a half and come to this point in the confidence that I am being faithful to the Lord’s leading. I am however sad, as leading worship is something I love, but I am excited for the course I believe the Spirit of God is setting for our family and our church. Stacy and I have no plans to leave First Pres. To the contrary; we are in the midst of discerning where God would have us serve next. Thank you for the trust and vulnerability you’ve extended to me as one of your worship leaders, it has been a true honor.

 

 

Communications

by Lloyd Kim

  After attending First Presbyterian for nine years, we rejoiced in having Noel and Carolyn Hildebrand become members this past May. What you may not know is that the Hildebrands have been Good News Club leaders for 14 years, but after so many years of leading the club, they decided not to continue with the Lowell Elementary School Good News Club. Then, God used a sermon by Pastor Jeremy about stirring up our spirit to action (Haggai 1:12-15) which motivated them to return to the Lowell Good News Club.

  And talk about a rewarding project! Noel and Carolyn, of Sanger, are a blessing and are blessed by their ministry and have bore so much fruit. In the many years of their volunteer work with the Good News Clubs of three elementary schools, two in Sanger and one in Fresno (at Lowell), they have had great joy and won more than 1,000 souls of children for Christ. In their obedience to the Great Commission of Christ and for the love they have for Jesus, they've been blessed with joy in many ways and are happy after returning to this ministry.

  The Good News Clubs ministry is part of the Child Evangelism Fellowship and receives $500 a year from First Presbyterian Church. Lowell Elementary School is a public school, yet because of a 2001 Supreme Court ruling, a Christian ministry must be allowed there. The Good News Clubs were the first Christian ministry to start after school hours.

  The Hildebrands, now in their eighties, have not only been blessed by joy from their ministry but have enjoyed good health, no illnesses, for the many years since starting their volunteer work. Carolyn said that she and Noel received joy from the training of how to share the Gospel, which helped when they witnessed to her aunt, who was terminally ill, and she accepted the Lord two weeks before dying. Another joy came when children first accepted Christ, becoming saved, of course.  Noel said that even more joy is from the Holy Spirit, as it says in Galatians, since they are doing this for Jesus. Then on April 30th of this year, Noel's birthday, the last day before the Hildebrands took a break from their ministry, Noel got hugs from all the children in the Clubs.

  The three Good News Clubs, for children from 2nd to 5th grade, began with 20 children in it.  On the first day, 16 of the 20 accepted Jesus and were saved, and the other 4 had already come to believe in Jesus. The teacher then was helpful in setting up the seats for the Club in the classroom where the GNC met, Carolyn said.

  Although Carolyn has been very active in working with children, the Good News Clubs have been the most rewarding to her. They reach many more children in the Clubs than Sunday School classes in these opportunities to share the Gospel. The Hildebrands were also in a Bible Study Fellowship, Noel was a teaching leader, which had 350 members, 30 years ago.

  Why are public schools lacking Christian ministries? From lack of volunteers! Yet everything is provided for the volunteers, all they have to do is show up! The Hildebrands only have 2 helpers now and could reach twice as many children if they had just 4 more volunteers in the 1st and 2nd grade.  And volunteers can find the same great joy the Hildebrands found.   

If you would like to volunteer to work for the Good News Clubs ministry or would like to make a donation, contact the office of the Children's Evangelism Fellowship. You will not only gain joy and bear fruit, but will be showing your love for Jesus by obedience to the Great Commission. You will also be winning souls for God.

 

Anonymous

by Nathan Turner, Assistant Director of High School Ministries

   Our hope and goal with the youth is that they will grow rooted deeply in their faith and bear fruit. For this reason, four of our teens recited the Sermon on the Mount in its entirety on May 20th, followed by breaking bread with their families in celebration.

   When I was a high school senior, I memorized the book of James for youth group. This formative experience shaped my faith, and even today – 15 years later – many of those passages affect how I see my life and live out my beliefs. Memorizing scripture is one of the best ways to allow the Word to move from my head to my heart; and, I’m so glad the students were willing to take up the challenge. In their own words, read their responses to the experience:

   Allison Hartsell: Doing the verse memorization made me realize how many parts of the Bible apply to my life. The part about worrying and stress helped me realize that even stressing about the things that matter like food is unnecessary because God knows that we need them. Memorizing this big section really helps when you’re struggling; the most important parts will come to mind when you need them most.

   Susannah Ellis: By pushing myself to keep working hard on memorization, my eyes were opened in terms of how to discipline myself in my faith and complete a challenge I set my mind to. Some of the passages pop up in my brain because I know them so well. I’m so glad I decided to follow through with memorization of the Sermon on the Mount, and would encourage everyone to challenge themselves in the same way.

   Esther Dolan: Memorizing this passage has been life-changing and eye-opening in my walk with Christ. This scripture has given me so much more hope and reassurance in my faith and in God’s authority and justice over his creation. This challenge has made me reconsider how I live and how I treat people. I constantly have pieces of the sermon popping up in my head and reminding me of how God want his people to live. It has made me reconsider and reflect on my actions, leading me in the direction of becoming the best version of myself and the woman God has planned for me to be. This challenge has showed me the everlasting mercy and powers of the Lord. I encourage more disciples of Christ to take up the challenge of memorizing scripture and see how it will impact their lives.

Anonymous

 

by Meagan Bergem
Director of Junior High Ministries

  I was drawn to FPC because of the warm reception I received as a summer intern working with youth as a Networker (2010). My summer in California shaped the way I understood my call to full-time ministry and even opened doors for me to relocate to the west coast after graduating college. Eight years later, it is with great joy that I get to be a part of equipping and leading the next generation! We encourage you to find ways to invite them into your homes, lives and hearts, make room for them and see how God may grow you through them.

  These students are a visible reminder that there are people in our midst who are in need of an invitation to grow deeper in community here at First Pres. As we have the “Connect Time” between services this summer (9:35am-10:10am), be intentional about showing up, being open to meaningful conversations, asking good questions and enjoying the significance of our church community by becoming people of warm hospitality.

Kingdom Kids Children’s Ministry (Pre-School to 6th Grade)

Amelia Sanders:

  Përshëndetje! I'm from Clovis, California, although I've recently returned from living in Erseka, Albania. I am so excited to be one of the summer staffers! I​ am looking forward to challenging kids in their faith and seeing what we can find out about God together. My free time is usually spent reading, writing, praying, exploring, learning languages, or making music with my voice, flute, or ukulele. A crazy fun fact about me: I made a travel quilt for myself using airline blankets I took from my flights. (Emily Hartsell helped me fit them in my backpack.)

Emma Willis:

  I grew up in Fresno and am a Senior at Fresno State studying Child Development. I like to hike and read in my spare time. What I’m most looking forward to this summer is sharing Christ’s love with the kiddos through my actions and words and discipling them! One fun fact that I always share is that I can’t feel my chin and bottom lip so please tell me if I have food on my face because I don’t know it’s there most of the time!

IGNITE Jr. High Ministry (7th & 8th Grade)

Sheimeka Royster:

  Hello Fresno Presbyterian Church Family! I am from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I am a graduate from Edinboro University with a bachelors in Criminal Justice and I plan on attending law school in the near future. In my free time. I enjoy watching funny movies, cooking & trying new foods, shopping, spending time with family, working out, and last but not least; I absolutely love  reading!

    It is truly a blessing and honor to be able to come and celebrate the gospel with you and share God’s word! I excitedly look forward to fellowship and spiritual growth that comes from learning not only about who you guys are, but also learn about who I am in Christ. Fun fact: I am terrified of heights!

David Steffen:

    I was born in Goshen, Indiana and raised right here in Fresno. My family and I attended a Mennonite Church where I was very active in the youth group all throughout junior high and high school. I attended Fresno Pacific University, where I graduated with a BA in Contemporary Christian Ministries, while continuing to volunteer with my home church's teens. After that, I worked as a youth director for a small church in Caruthers. This year, I have just finished the Pink House and I'm working at my home church managing the food pantry, preparing to become a substitute teacher, and excited to work at First Pres over the summer with junior high students.  In my free time, I enjoy reading and video games. I'm especially excited this summer to become a part of First Pres and the mission they have in downtown Fresno. I'm looking forward to meeting you all!

ROOTED High School Ministry (9th-12th Grade)

Annie Johnson:

  I am SO excited to be working with the high school students this summer! I was born and raised in Fresno and grew up coming to First Pres and was actively involved in the youth programs. My grandparents attended First Pres and my parents are active members. After graduating from Clovis West, I moved to North Carolina to attend High Point University. I graduated from High Point in 2016 with a Bachelors in Human Relations with a focus in nonprofit leadership. After graduating I moved back to California for work. I have done fundraising and PR for the Central Valley Community Foundation and Ronald McDonald House Charities. Currently I am enrolled at Fresno Pacific University to get my teaching credential for Mild/Moderate Special Education.

    This summer I am looking forward to getting to know the students. I am excited to learn and grow alongside them in their walk with the Lord. Some interest of mine include running, hiking, camping, cooking and baking, traveling, coffee, and spending time with family and friends. A fun fact about me is that I have run in 5 half marathons. Or at least I think it is fun!

Hector Chavez:

    I was born and currently live in Fresno, CA with my wife Clara and 2 month old son Samuel Sebastian. I am a member of Bethany Inner-City Church as well as their youth director. My favorite two things to do are traveling and eating new foods. One fun fact about me is that I was in the Army for 6 years and have now become a missionary here in Fresno's Lowell neighborhood. I am looking forward to learning from our mentors and walking along side High school youth as they deepen their understanding of who Christ is.

Communications
 
by Dr. Julie Carter
Director of Worship and Music
 
   Many singers and instrumentalists from our church's music department presented a special concert to benefit the Evangelical Parish of Jühnsdorf in Germany (formerly East Germany) this past April. Last summer, the Reformation Choir sang at this same church and developed close bonds with the pastor and members. Their organ was destroyed during the communist regime following WWII and their congregation hopes to raise funds to rebuild and restore it in time for its 150th anniversary in December 2019.  Indeed, it was our hope to raise funds and send to them in support of our brothers and sisters in Christ there.
 
   The concert was a great success! It seemed appropriate to sprinkle the music of J.S. Bach, a German church musician, throughout the program. We enjoyed our organist, Dr. Margaret Licon, showing off our beautiful organ on several pieces. Other features of the concert included: Dr. Walter Saul shared two of his own compositions on piano as well as a piece by Bach; Jan Goyette, Dean Lloyd, and Walter Saul collaborated on a trumpet duet with organ; Chris Hatfield and Margaret shone on a Bach aria; Matt Maler sang a piece from "Messiah" with Dr. Julie Carter accompanying on piano; David White, our director of Full Court Pres shined on two spirituals accompanied by Walter Saul; Dr. Julie Carter, Max Hembd and Drew Quiring rocked on a Bach aria with trumpet and piano; the Chancel Choir reprised several favorites from this year including  "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" with brass and timpani and the spiritual "Ain't Got Time to Die".
 
   With the able assistance of Allan Knepper we were able to record the concert and share the link with Pastor Steffen and his church in Germany. All in all, it was a very special musical offering to show the love of Christ to Christian friends far away! I couldn't help but reflect that we're very blessed to have many strong musicians in our church and it felt good deep down to use our gifts to bless this wonderful German church. Soli Deo Gloria!  (To God be the glory!)
 
   If you were unable to attend the concert and would like to see the video, Click Here.
Communications