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Dear First Pres,

   I'm only recently back from the Reformation Tour and personal time in Norway. It was a phenomenal time! The experience of walking in Luther's footsteps in Wittenberg, Eisenach, Leipzig and Erfurt was incredible! When I think of the Reformation, I realize that many, many people contributed to it. However, it took just one man, Martin Luther, at the appointed time, under the right conditions, to speak up and stand his ground (upon threat of death) when he saw things that were contrary to scripture. It took one man, Luther the Wise, who was sovereign of Ernestine Saxony to protect him in Wartberg Castle. The timing was right and Luther sparked an uprising that impacts each of us today! I'm humbled when I realize that men and women died for their faith so that we might worship God in our own language, be free of the tyranny of indulgences (pay money to be forgiven of sins), and know that by faith we are saved! I'm grateful for his steadfast belief in these and many other principles that have had such a positive impact and allow me to worship freely.
 
  To combine those experiences with singing beautiful music in awe-inspiring churches enhances it ten-fold! Our group was a wonderful group of people, some with musical experience, others with little to none, who worked hard, rehearsed, learned their music, then were rewarded with an unparalleled experience at the Berliner Dom and other Lutheran Churches. Throughout our time in Germany they bonded and became a choir! I can truly say they sang their hearts out for the Lord in many churches and proclaimed the good news of the gospel in song.
 
  As October 31, 2017 approaches, I encourage all of us to remember the events of 500 years ago with grateful hearts.
 
  At a time when often it's the "news of the day" that captures our attention, let's pause to reflect on these vital events of the past. More importantly, let's remember Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who came to be with us, died for all our sins, rose from the grave defeating death, sits at the right hand of God interceding for us, and will come again! Amen and Soli Deo Gloria!
 

Blessings,

Julie Carter

Audrey Arce

Dear First Pres,

  It was truly a privilege to watch the FPC Reformation Church Choir perform across Germany! Over the course of 8 days we bonded as we sang, napped through jetlag, ate currywurst, walked cobblestone streets, and experienced reformation history!
 
   One of the most memorable moments for me was joining a small German church outside of the city for Sunday worship. The FPC choir blessed the little congregation with beautiful melodies sung from the loft! Although the language might be unfamiliar, I felt kindred in spirit as I held a German hymnal and sat side by side in the pews. When it came time to celebrate communion, I stood to join in the familiar procession to the front of the church. I shuffled through the line and looked into the Pastor's faithful blue eyes as he spoke to me about the body and blood of Christ shed for me - these rituals needed no translation to invoke the meaningful power of the 
Eucharist. I sat and reflected on the beauty of Christians across the globe gathering to remember Christ's sacrifice, and dispersing to be salt and light in our dark world!

     This week, Pastor Lana will be preaching on the Eucharist. I look forward to participating with you in our congregation, and remembering with joy our connection to the global Body of Christ!

The Choir worshipping at one of five concerts; this one at Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Breitscheidplatz, Berlin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blessings,

Beth Paz

Audrey Arce

Dear First Pres,

I’m writing today from our denomination’s General Assembly. It is our annual business meeting, and we are gathered, this year, in Fair Oaks, California (yes, it is hot here too). There certainly is important business that we are attending to, but the feel of the gathering is much more like a family reunion than a business meeting. It’s one of the things I love about this family of churches to which we belong. Even though we are dealing with tough and important issues about the future of our denomination, we do so with a great spirit of unity and love.

That’s one of our goals for the Session (our church’s leadership board) as well. This month, at Session, we were able to say thank you to our outgoing elders: Stuart Conrad, Jim Cousins, Ron Dull, Laura Magnee, Tarry Rolf, Joel Wilson, and Ralph York. But before we let them go, we spent time together with these outgoing elders, the incoming elders, and the returning elders reflecting on 1 Corinthians 13. As you know, this is the chapter in which the Apostle Paul reflects on love. He says that even if someone has the most powerful and magnificent spiritual gifts, but doesn’t have love, their lives are like fingernails on a chalkboard to the church.  Then he describes love. You know it; “Love is patient; love is kind …” I encourage you, even if you already know it, to spend a few minutes reflecting on this chapter today (1 Corinthians 13). At our Session meeting, we charged one another to love well. We want our Session to be marked by love. No matter what comes our way, no matter how tough the issues, and no matter how strongly we might disagree on a particular topic, we want love to be our defining characteristic.

But love is hard to do. When we really love one another we become peacemakers with one another. That means we always pursue right relationship with each other. That means we carefully call out divisive behavior. That means we don’t turn a blind eye to a brother or sister’s sinful behavior.  And that means we have to let go of pride and our ego.  Loving each other well is not easy work, but it is so worth it. And the only way for us to really love well, is to receive God’s lavish love for us. It’s when we really learn to receive God’s love – love that is unconditional, fierce, and lavish – that we are freed up to love others like He loves us.

I’m so grateful for the love I’ve experienced here at the EPC General Assembly. I’m so grateful for the love on display in our Session gatherings. And I’m so grateful for the love of First Presbyterian Church Fresno. May we love more as we grow in God’s love for us. And not just for ourselves, but that the world may know what the Kingdom of God is like.

Blessing, 

Jeremy

Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor

Dear First Pres,

   Have you noticed all the sending we've been doing in worship lately? We sent the Men's Mexico Build Team (if you didn't see the story of their trip, click here ), the Reformation Tour Choir, and the Albania mission team. This Sunday we're going to be sending folks again. It feels like we're sending people every Sunday... and I LOVE it! In John 20:21, Jesus says, "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." Thus, every follower of Christ is a sent one of God. And, when we send particular mission teams during our worship services, it should remind us of that incredibly important truth.

   We are sent ones. We are sent by Jesus in the same way that His Father sent Him. That means that we're sent to be in the world; we're sent to be the salt of the earth and the light in the darkness. We're sent to be in relationship with the people God puts in our lives. We're sent to make manifest the Kingdom of God in our community. And we're sent to make disciples for the redeeming transformation of our city and world. First Presbyterian Church, if you are in Christ, you are a sent one of Jesus.

   So, what does that mean for you today? How does that impact your life this weekend? How does it intersect with your expectations for the coming year? For Jesus it meant living each day in perfect submission to the Father. He went where the Father told Him to go, said what the Father told Him to say, healed who the Father told Him to heal, etc. Jesus did what the Father wanted Him to do because it was the Father who sent Him. In the same way, in Christ, the Spirit has been given to empower us to do what Jesus wants us to do. 

   As we pray for another set of missionaries being sent from our church this Sunday, may it indeed inspire us to live as His sent ones every day, wherever we are, for His glory.
 

Blessings,

Jeremy

Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor

    We are excited to introduce to you the Summer Staff who will serve alongside our Children's and Youth directors and volunteers this summer.

ELEMENTARY SUMMER STAFF: Heidi Buller & Jesse Micu

Heidi Buller was born and raised in Fresno. She is a licensed cosmetologist who graduated from beauty school in October, 2016. She currently works in a salon as a hairstylist twice a week. Heidi is very passionate about bringing the gospel to children. She has served in her church as a preschool teacher for 3 years. She grew up doing several Good News Clubs in public schools across Fresno. Heidi enjoys getting outside and enjoying the Lord's work of art. She is looking forward to seeing kids be so eager to learn the Word of God and come to church each Sunday. Heidi cannot wait to serve God more through this amazing ministry! You can be praying that Heidi trusts more and more in God's plan for her life.

Jesse Micu is a born-and-raised Fresnan. He attends Fresno Pacific University, and will receive a B.A. degree for Church Music in August. Jesse has been involved in youth and worship ministries for several churches around the valley, most recently as the Junior High Ministry Director at The Bridge Church. Through the summer, Jesse is looking forward to how God will use his experiences and passions to love and bless children. He is hoping to acquire more guitar students and have time to perform locally with friends and family in coffee shops. Jesse is recently engaged to Sarah Cuevas. Jesse would appreciate prayer for full-time employment following the completion of his university education.

JR. HIGH SUMMER STAFF: Emily Alkire & Matai Lealaimatafao

Emily Alkire is excited to serve as a Junior High Summer Staffer! She grew up in Clovis and has been going to FPC since her birth. Being part of the church from an early age has contributed so much to the person she is today. Emily is really looking forward to serving in a church that feels like home. She is currently a sophomore at Wheaton College in Illinois, majoring in Business/Economics and English. At Wheaton, she serves as a discipleship study group leader and an event planner on student government. She calls herself a coffee-obsessed book nerd who loves her dogs a little too much. Emily is looking forward to building relationships with the Jr. High students while helping them progress in their faith. Emily would appreciate prayers for her heart to grow closer to God as she grows closer to students in the Jr. High youth group and for sustained energy. She can’t wait to see what God holds for her this summer!

Matai Lealaimatafao is seventeen years old and recently graduated from Sanger High School. He was born in Fresno, raised in Sanger, and currently lives in Clovis. Matai is a gifted track athlete as he has been named a two time 110 meter hurdle league champion, 300 hurdle league champion, a 110 meter hurdle section champion, 300 meter hurdle area champion, and a two-time Masters Championship Qualifier. Matai loves to run because it makes him feel free and he enjoys being with his peers. Matai will attend Fresno Pacific University this fall with a Track scholarship. Matai would love to double major in theology and sports medicine. He would enjoy being a youth pastor like his father because he believes youth are key in societies and the world's future success. Matai loves his Samoan culture. The Samoan way is “mua mua le atua” meaning family, love, and respect. He loves putting his family first no matter the situation; and will do anything for them. He was taught these ways at a young age; and would love to pass them on to the younger generations and his children.

HIGH SCHOOL SUMMER STAFF: Kaylene Norvell & Zach Oaks

Kaylene Norvell grew up in Fresno and started attending FPC when she was in the 4th grade with her parents and two older brothers. She just finished at Clovis Community College and will be attending Fresno State this fall as a junior, majoring in Liberal Studies with a concentration of Child and Family Sciences. Since Kaylene was in Jr. High, she has served at this church as an elementary Sunday school teacher, VBS leader/game coordinator, summer intern in the Dominican Republic and a high school advisor for the past 3 years. Honestly, in her spare time she loves binge watching Netflix and laying with her 3 cats or hanging out with friends and family. This summer Kaylene is most looking forward to building relationships with the high school students and helping them grow in their faith, and to grow in her faith as well. Kaylene would love prayer for handling the responsibilities as a Summer Staffer and balancing her other part-time job at Dress Barn. She is recently engaged to Douglas Joseph Durbin, which involves lots of planning! She loves this church and the support, love, and encouragement many of you have poured into her. She's forward to a life changing summer filled with the love of Christ and joy of serving! 

 Zach Oaks is excited to be working with high-schoolers this summer! He was born and raised here in Fresno. He loves to travel and play music, and life is even better when he  gets to do them together. Zach just returned from attending the Torchbearers bible school in Erseke, Albania and will be returning there in September to serve as the Resident Advisor for new students. He is looking forward to connecting to the youth this summer and watching them grow in faith and understanding of who our glorious God is more and more. Zach would appreciate prayers for his family's financial situation, for him to be responsive to the Holy Spirit’s work this summer and beyond, and for God to continue  preparing his heart for returning to Albania this fall.

 
Anonymous

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